Publication on the historic global connections of cotton in the Derwent Valley mills

A publication based on the historical research aspects of the GCC project was published in autumn 2015. The chapter by Susanne Seymour, Lowri Jones and Julia Feuer-Cotter, entitled ‘The global connections of cotton in the Derwent Valley mills in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’, was published in The Arkwright Society volume, The Industrial Revolution: Cromford, the Derwent Valley and The Wider World, edited by Chris Wrigley (2015). It is based on a presentation given by Susanne and Lowri at The Arkwright Society’s conference on The Industrial Revolution, hosted at Cromford Mills in October 2014, attended by a range of academics, publics and staff and volunteers from the mills. We are grateful for the audience feedback on the paper received at the event.

book image

The chapter itself focuses on tracing the raw cotton supplies brought to the Derwent Valley mills from around the globe. It also considers the attitudes of the mill owners to enslavement and its abolition since most of the raw cotton used in the mills in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was produced by enslaved Africans in the Americas. There is an in-depth case study of the Strutt family which also considers their cotton product markets. The chapter includes maps, statistics and contemporary descriptions of raw cotton supplies.

This publication re-contextualises older published material and analyses original archival sources, drawing on recent scholarship on British colonial and enslavement histories.The materials it presents have been used to inform discussions with the community groups involved in the GCC project, the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group, with one of the cotton source maps appearing in the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group film, Global Cotton Connections: Untangling the Threads of Slavery. These findings have also been presented at a range of conferences in the UK (Nottingham, Lincoln, London).

A pdf version of the chapter can be accessed on the link below. (Please note that this version includes the correct label for Figure 3 which is wrong in the original printed version)

Seymour et al 2015 ch scan

The chapter is free to download but if you wish to use any material from it we would be grateful if you would reference the publication:

Seymour, S, Jones, L and Feuer-Cotter, J (2015) ‘The global connections of cotton in the Derwent Valley mills in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’, in Wrigley, C (ed) The Industrial Revolution: Cromford, The Derwent Valley and the Wider World (The Arkwright Society: Matlock), 150-70.

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AHRC Connected Communities Festival Event: Global Cotton Connections: creative reflections – Feedback Summary

A range of feedback was collected at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival events associated with the Global Cotton Connections project held at Cromford and Belper Mills on 20th June 2015.

Community participants

Firstly written feedback was gathered from 44 of around 55 community participants brought to the Festival events from Nottingham and Sheffield (21 responses from Nottingham group; 23 responses from Sheffield group). Of these 14 (32%) (5 Nottingham; 9 Sheffield) had not visited Cromford Mills before and 20 (45%) had never previously been to Belper North Mill Museum. The feedback form included 5 open questions. S refers to Sheffield and N to Nottingham participant comments.

Most liked aspects

The most liked aspects of the day were the mill tours (15 mentions): “Story tellings at both mills” (S); “The guided tour at Belper” (S); “Having a tour round the mills” (S); “Cromford Mill discussion and Tour” (N). One Nottingham participant who had previously been on a tour highlighted:

  • “The tours in both venues were much improved and very informative. I enjoyed the tour guide’s info at the Arkwright site and the visit inside a Strutt family house in Belper.”

Participants also liked the opportunities to participate, share and meet people (13 mentions): “Sharing of legacy” (S); “Engagement with others of like mind … Sharing ideas and concepts” (N); “Walking around together. … Mixing with new interesting people. Happy atmosphere (S)”; “Being part of the trip & on the friendly bus” (S):

  • “Being able to show the film and tell the people about the cotton connection” (N)
  • “Visiting Cromford Mill with the Slave Trade Legacies Family” (N)
  • “Seeing the positive improvement our project has given to the future presentations of the mill” (N).

The poetry &/or film sessions (11 mentions) were also popular: “Live poetry” (S); “The morning’s poetry, film + talks” (S); “the video because it was inclusive and informative” (N):

  • “Seeing the other project’s film and work” (S).

People also enjoyed visiting the mill sites and their environs (11 mentions): “Visiting the Mill & seeing all the machines” (N); “Walking around the Mills” (S) “Visiting the Workers House” (N); “touring around” (N).

Eight participants highlighted that they liked everything on the day: “Everything” (S); “All of it.” (S & N); “It was a good experience all together” (S). Most participants highlighted more than one aspect that they liked.

Main things gained

Participants were also asked to identify the main things they gained from the day. Most (61% or 27 out of 44), 10 from Nottingham, 17 from Sheffield, referred to gaining new knowledge of the cotton mills or cotton industry more broadly: “Information” (S); “Knowledge” (N); “Knowledge of the Cotton Mills” (S); “Learning more regarding cotton” (N). Some made particular reference to learning more about cotton connections (6 mentions):

  • “Knowledge about the mills & the cotton industry & how they affected local people & people further afield” (S)
  • “Broaden my education about the cotton mills and cotton connection” (N).

This was sometimes linked to connections between the mills and India (4 mentions): “Knowledge about cotton mills, history about cotton industry & how it was related to India” (S).

Some participants explicitly highlighted learning about cotton origins (2 mentions):

  • “Knowledge about the cotton where it comes from, how it is utilised, etc.” (S)

and the role of the slave trade (2 mentions):

  • “A positive perspective on the contribution of slavery to this [textile] industry” (N).

A number of participants (7), mostly from the Nottingham group, highlighted gains from sharing, solidarity and meeting like-minded people: “Socialising & like minded people” (N); “How reaffirming it was” (N); “We are very strong together” (N):

  • “Satisfaction & pride to be part of this project” (S)
  • “The love showed to each other in the group. Two women from Birmingham joining us.” (N).

A small number (3) felt the main gains for them were the rewards of seeing the impact of their research projects in the mill venues:

  • “Learning how the project has influenced the heritage site” (N)
  • “Seeing the accumulation of all the work done and putting it into the ‘context’ or place” (S).

Suggested improvements

In terms of suggested improvements, most related to the need for more time for the activities (8 mentions): “More time” (N); “We need more time to look around” (S); “Needed longer at each site” (S);  Much too much to take in on one day” (S); “doing more touring” (N); “I like to take more people” (N):

  • “The whole day was enjoyable, however there is so much to see that we could have spent more time at different places” (N).

A few participants highlighted a need for clearer information on the day (5 mentions) or more pre-event information (2 mentions). While printed itineraries were prepared it would appear that some, particularly from Sheffield, did not receive a copy – apologies to those people. A few participants (5), particularly from the Sheffield group, commented that the free food could have been better with more provision for vegetarian diets.

A number of participants pointed to a need for more interactive elements (8 mentions): “Historical interactions in museum” (S); “Join with other group and communicate” (S); “more interaction” (N). Suggestions included working machines:

  • “If some of the cotton machines worked for us to see” (N)
  • “it would be amazing if they was someone showing us how to use the machine practically and having a go ourselves.” (N)

and role play for children: “Role play, child friendly” (N); “Chance for children to dress up as mill workers” (S).

However, five participants felt the day needed no improvements and many made further comments related to the positive experience of the day (7 mentions) and the free provision (2 mentions):

  • “Feeling uplifted and positive about the progress made by the groups. DVM has listened to us & heard our voice” (N)
  • “Excellent day – time & effort well spent by providers and audience” (S)
  • “The entire trip including coach was free” (S).

A few suggestions (3) were made as to how to develop the initiatives further:

  • “I think it would be useful to use the video in school youth centre etc to allow more inclusivity” (N)
  • “Could be repeated for new folk to have the experience” (N)
  • “- What next? – More research into the mills ethnic workforce. – More research into Nottingham’s links with cotton. – A publication from the project.” (N)

Overall the feedback from the Sheffield and Nottingham participants was very positive and constructive. Any future events will endeavour to take the suggestions for improvements on board. Further information on the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group experiences can be found at
https://slavetradelegacies.wordpress.com/projects/global-cotton-connections/606-2/

Wider public

Around 25 members of the wider public (including some volunteer mill guides) attended the film and poetry events. An opportunity was given to them to comment on the events via a feedback book in the Exhibition room. Although only four written comments were made and it would have been good to have more feedback from this wider group, all were of a positive nature: “inspiring”; “excellent experience … interesting & informative”; “wanted more!”:

  • “it’s great to hear the ‘hidden’ histories”.

This feedback suggests that the Festival events had a strong appeal to visitors to Cromford and an appetite for more activities of this type.

Many thanks to all those who made written and verbal comments relating to the day. It was great to have so much positive and constructive feedback. If you have any further comments please do let us know.

AHRC Connected Communities Festival Event 20 June 2015: Global Cotton Connections: creative reflections – Part II

The wider activities of the Global Cotton Connections Festival day

Hosting the film and poetry events was just one part of the Global Cotton Connections Festival day.The wider groups from Nottingham and Sheffield, including family groups and children, made a day trip to the Derwent Valley, where activities available to them included attending the film and poetry performances, guided walks around Cromford and Belper North mills and exploring the wider context of the mill sites at Cromford and Belper. People were recruited  using the wider contacts of Bright Ideas Nottingham and the Slave Trade Legacies group and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj. Everyone set off early on coaches for the day long visit the Derwent Valley mills.

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

All of the Nottingham and Sheffield participants spent the morning at Cromford where they had the opportunity to attend one of the film and poetry performances and take a free guided tour of Cromford Mills provided by a volunteer guide from the Arkwright Society.

Cromford is the site of the world’s first successful water-powered spinning mill and a main centre of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

2267 Cromford Mill guided tour

Sheffield and Nottingham visitors on a Cromford Tour hosted by an Arkwright Society guide. Photograph provided by Debjani Chaterjee.

Around 35 members of the groups from Sheffield and Nottingham went on guided tours of Cromford Mills provided by The Arkwright Society guides.

There was also a chance to look at the wider context of Cromford Mills and several people visited Cromford Church and looked at the Arkwright family mansion, Willersley Castle.

A free lunch was provided at Cromford then most of the group took a short coach journey to Belper further down the Derwent Valley and another key site of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

2279 Guided tour at Belper

On tour at Belper North Mill. Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

In the afternoon at Belper, the groups had extended free tours of Belper North Mill Museum, led by volunteers from the Belper North Mill Trust. North Mill was one of a number of mills developed by the Strutt family, leading cotton entrepreneurs in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

2290 Romina & Brian in North Mill, Belper

Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

The visit gave the group the chance to look at cotton machinery, gain information about cotton histories and the role of Strutt family as well as to view the North Mill building.

2283 Romina Janet Brian chat with Belper staff

Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

The tour guides were happy to answer questions from the group as well as to take people around the mill.

Long Row, Belper

Long Row, Belper

The tours continued outside with visits to the workers’ housing provided by the Strutt family. Many even had the chance to see inside one of the cottages, the home of one of the excellent guides

2292 Group at North Mill, Belper

Some of the group from Sheffield after their visit to Belper. Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee.

2299 Return journey from Belper

Sheffield group on coach journey home. Photography provided by Debjani Chatterjee.

The Sheffield Hindu Samaj group returned safely to Sheffield after a good day in the Derwent Valley, laden with copies of their new poetry collection.

2301 Tired & happy at journeys endFront cover Poetry Collection

kemetFM_LogoBright Ideas Nottingham, who facilitated involvement of the wider Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group in the day, also commissioned Christine Belle, radio presenter on 97.5 kemet fm, to make a programme of the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group’s experiences. Using sound recordings made on the day she hosted a special programme to share the group’s experiences with the wider community. This reflection on the whole day can be found on:

https://slavetradelegacies.wordpress.com/projects/global-cotton-connections/606-2/

AHRC Connected Communities Festival Event 20 June 2015: Global Cotton Connections: creative reflections – Part I

The setting

The Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities Festival fortnight provided an excellent opportunity to bring the work of the Global Cotton Connections project, particularly that undertaken by its associated community groups, to the historic mill venue of Cromford Mills, Derbyshire, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. So on Saturday 20th June 2015, the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group, facilitated by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group came to Cromford to share and celebrate key creative outputs arising from their involvement in the Global Cotton Connections project.

Poster ppt

The events were publicised at Cromford and Belper Mills and virtually by a number of organisations, including the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, The Arkwright Society and Derbyshire Record Office, as well as the Global Cotton Connections project itself and its associated community groups.

The day involved the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage groups, together with the Global Cotton Connections project, hosting three events open to the public at Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills. Each session lasted just under an hour and started at 10am, 12noon and 2pm.

The day involved the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage groups, together with the Global Cotton Connections project, hosting three events open to the public at Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills. Each session lasted just under an hour and started at 10am, 12noon and 2pm.

Entrance to Exhibition room with banner 2

The new Global Cotton Connections project banner outside the Exhibition room at Cromford

The venue was the Exhibition room at Cromford Mills, kindly made available to us by The Arkwright Society. This room also hosts displays relating to the history of Cromford Mills and is the starting point of Mill tours. A banner highlighting the overall work of the Global Cotton Connections project was prepared especially for the day and placed at the Exhibition room entrance.

This banner is now available for use by all those involved in the project. Please contact Susanne Seymour if you want to borrow it.

A wider group of people from the local cities of Nottingham and Sheffield and associated with the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage groups also signed up for a whole day trip to attend the events and undertake further activities at Cromford Mills and Belper North Mill Trust museum. These included free guided tours of Cromford Mills and the Belper North Mill Trust Museum. The people of Sheffield and Nottingham came to the Derwent Valley for the day!

The film and poetry events and the Global Cotton Connections project

Each of the advertised events, lasting just under an hour, included a brief introduction to the Global Cotton Connections project, a showing and discussion of the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group film and poetry readings from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group.

Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham), lead coordinator of the Global Cotton Connections project, welcomed the audience and gave a short introduction to the project activities and to the forthcoming presentations by the community-based groups.

Historical research banner vertical

Poster showing historical connections of Strutt family’s cotton business with slavery

In her introduction to the project she highlighted various items in the room available for the public to browse throughout the day or to take away with them. Alongside the new project banner and the poster prepared by the Sheffield Hindu Samaj group on their research on the British Raj in the Peak District and cotton, she drew attention to a poster outlining the project’s historical work on the slavery connections of Strutt family of Belper. An earlier version of this poster was presented at an international conference on The Business of Slavery organised by the University of Nottingham’s Institute for the Study of Slavery in September 2014.

Film Show: Global Cotton Connections: Unravelling the Threads of Slavery

The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group and Bright Ideas Nottingham hosted a showing of their short film, Global Cotton Connections: Unravelling the Threads of Slavery, produced as part of the Global Cotton Connections project.

Film showing - Veronica Barnes

Audience watching one of the film showings, with Slave Trade Legacies group member Veronica Barnes on film

This thought-provoking film reflects on the learning journey of the group as they came to know more about cotton histories and the connections to the slave trade and their experiences of how such histories are presented  in the Derwent Valley mills. The film focuses centrally on the perspectives and experiences of the Slave Trade Legacies group members, particularly in terms of their encounters with cotton mill heritage venues in the Derwent Valley.

Film showing - Mark Suggitt

Mark Suggitt speaking on the film

Film showing - led by Clive Henry

Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group member, Clive Henry, introducing the film, with Lisa Robinson from Bright Ideas Nottingham

It also includes historical perspectives on slavery and the Strutt family’s cotton supplies and interviews with Mark Suggitt, Director of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, and Dr Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham) as lead coordinator of the Global Cotton Connections project.

Different members of the Slave Trade Legacies group introduced the film, reflecting on their experiences of making it.

There was also time for some questions from the audience.

Earlier versions of the film had been shown in Nottingham in March and April 2015, but the Festival premiered the final edited version.

A free copy of the final film, can be accessed directly on Youtube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2QmVmXqP6g

We all hope it will be shown more widely in cotton mill heritage venues in the Derwent Valley and further afield.

Poetry reading: British Raj in the Peak District: Threads of Connection

As their contribution to the events the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group hosted poetry readings from their new collection, British Raj in the Peak District: Threads of Connection, which was launched at the Connected Communities Festival on 20 June.

Front cover Poetry Collection

The volume includes 26 poems written by 15 different contributors and reflects on the group’s activities in their Heritage Lottery Funded project, British Raj in the Peak District, as well as the Global Cotton Connections project.

The editor of the collection, Debjani Chatterjee, introduced the poetry readings and various members of the Sheffield Hindu Samaj group read their own contributions. Many of the poems had been prepared during a series of poetry writing workshops in summer 2014 led by Debjani and funded by the Global Cotton Connections project.

2261 Debjani reading her poem

Sheffield Hindu Samaj member, Debjani Chatterjee, reading her poem, Masson Mill, one of three contributions she made to the collection. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

2265 Dr Marium Nesha reading

Dr Marium Nesha, another member of the Sheffield Hindu Samaj, reading to the audience her poem, Derbyshire Path. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

2260 Geoff Roberts reading

Geoff Roberts, also from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj, reading his contribution to the collection, aptly titled, Arkwright. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

2274 Esme reading

Dr Esme Cleall, the Global Cotton Connections coordinator from the University of Sheffield, reading her poem included in the collection, also entitled, Arkwright. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

Debjani answering audience questions

The group also fielded questions from the audience, each of whom received a free copy of the poetry collection.

2268 Hindu Samaj poster at Cromford Mill rotate

Photography supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

In her introduction to the poetry readings Debjani Chatterjee also outlined the wider activities of the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group, undertaken as part of their HLF project and the Global Cotton Connections collaboration. Key highlights of these have been made into a poster specially prepared for the Festival event. A framed copy of the poster has also been made for permanent display in the Sheffield Hindu Samaj premises in Sheffield so all members can see and celebrate their research.

Audiences

2255 Audience at Cromford

Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

Audiences were buoyant at all three performances and included about 25 people of mainly Hindu and Indian heritage background and around 30 of mainly African Caribbean heritage brought to the events from Sheffield and Nottingham respectively. In addition around 25 members of the general public, including some of the volunteer guides based at Cromford and Belper mills, attended the events.

Celebrating the cotton heritage legacy materials of collaborating community groups

The Global Cotton Connections project is delighted to celebrate the production of key cotton heritage legacy materials by its community based collaborators, the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group, facilitated by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group.

The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group, made up of Nottingham people of mainly African Caribbean heritage backgrounds, has produced a short film, entitled Global Cotton Connections – Untangling the Threads of Slavery. In this thought-provoking film members of the group reflect on their learning journey as they came to know more about cotton histories and the entanglements with slavery and, through their visits to Derbyshire, how these stories were told in the Derwent Valley mills.
STL film graphicA free copy of the film, can be accessed directly on Youtube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2QmVmXqP6g

The film can also be found alongside a second film made by the group as part of its Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘The Colour of Money’, on the Slave Trade Legacies blog: https://slavetradelegacies.wordpress.com/time-line-our-year-the-colour-of-money/

Earlier versions of the film were shown in March 2015 at the Slave Trade Legacies, Colour of Money, celebration event at the Broadway Cinema, organised by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and at the Global Cotton Connections International Cotton Workshop held in Nottingham in April 2015. The final version was screened at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival events hosted by the Global Cotton Connections project and Slave Trade Legacies group at Cromford Mills, Derbyshire on Saturday 20th June 2015. We hope the film will be shown more widely in the future in mill heritage venues in the Derwent Valley.

The Sheffield Hindu Samaj cultural group is a Hindu faith group made up of Sheffield people of mainly Indian heritage backgrounds. Drawing on both its involvement in the Global Cotton Connections project and its previous Heritage Lottery Fund project, entitled ‘British Raj in the Peak District’, it has produced two key cotton heritage legacy outputs. The first is a rich collection of poetry, entitled British Raj in the Peak District: Threads of Connection, edited by a member of the group, Debjani Chatterjee.

Front cover Poetry CollectionThe poems in the volume are written by members of the group, many of whom attended writing workshops in the summer of 2014, run by Debjani and funded by the Global Cotton Connections project. The collection was launched at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival events hosted by the Global Cotton Connections project and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group at Cromford Mills Derbyshire on Saturday 20th June 2015. Free copies were distributed to audience members at the poetry reading events. Further copies are available while stocks last at Cromford Mills and Belper North Mill Trust Museum or from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj.

Hindu Samaj leaflet view 1

The second is a leaflet of three Indian Heritage Walks in the Peak District, one of which is a cotton route focused on Calver, Cromford and Belper mills. The leaflet design and script was led by Chamu Kuppuswamy, a volunteer ranger with the Peak District National Park as well as Hindu Samaj member, with production input from the Peak District National Park design team. Free copies of the leaflets are available in a range of Peak District and Derbyshire venues, including Cromford and Belper Mills, while stocks last.

Funding for the production of the above heritage legacies materials has been provided through the Global Cotton Connections project. Thanks to all the volunteers who gave so generously of their time, effort and skills to make these outputs possible.

Global Cotton Connections of the Derwent Valley: creative reflections

Poster for CC Festival vers2

On Saturday 20th June 2015, the heritage legacies materials produced as part of the Global Cotton Connections project by the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj groups will be presented and celebrated at Cromford Mills, Derbyshire. This event is part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities Festival Fortnight 2015.

This free event is open to anyone interested in reflecting on the global connections of the Derwent Valley and its World Heritage Site. It presents and celebrates the heritage legacy materials produced by two community groups of African Caribbean and Indian cultural backgrounds as part of the Global Cotton Connections: East Meets West in the Derbyshire Peak District, UK project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group has produced a short film on cotton and its connections to the slave trade and their experiences of the presentation of this history in Derwent Valley cotton mill venues. The Sheffield Hindu Samaj group has created a selection of poetry and photos reflecting on Peak District cotton histories and legacies, and a guided walk. The 45 minute sessions will involve presentation of the film and photos and poetry readings, together with Q&A discussions with a panel of Slave Trade Legacies and Hindu Samaj group members. The venue will also host other materials related to the Global Cotton Connections project, coordinated by the universities of Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester, including historical research information.

The sessions will be held at 10 am, 12 noon and 2 pm in the Exhibition room at Cromford Mills, Cromford, Derbyshire.

For further details please contact Susanne Seymour: susanne.seymour@nottingham.ac.uk

The Connected Communities Programme aims to build powerful collaborations between researchers and communities to generate distinctive research insights on the changing role of communities in sustaining and enhancing our quality of life and to produce legacies of value for both future research and for communities. The Programme is led by the AHRC in partnership with other Research Councils and a range of other organisations.

Touring the Derwent Valley Mills, dipping into the archives

A tour through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

A few weeks back on a fine day in late February, Lowri and I were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of some of the key sites of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site by its Director, Mark Suggitt. This proved an excellent way to discuss the project with Mark and start thinking about the sites and landscapes of Derbyshire’s cotton connections.

Darley Abbey

Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

We met at Derby’s famous Silk Mill before driving a mile or so up the river valley to the first of the cotton mill sites, Darley Abbey. This well-preserved site was first developed in the 1780s by the Evans family, an established landed family with iron and banking interests It was then only a small, though industrialising, village – the Evans family lived in the Abbey surrounded by parkland. Powered by the River Derwent, the early mills produced yarn from raw cotton supplies sourced from the slave-worked plantations of South America, particularly Brazil, the Caribbean and the southern states of America (Lindsay, 1960; http://www.derwentvalleymills.org/). In a later visit to Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock we identified source materials for further study of these connections but their condition means they will be a challenging read!

Belper & the Strutt family

Strutt's North & East Mills, Belper

Strutt’s North & East Mills, Belper

We drove on a few more miles up the valley to the now substantial town of Belper. It was here that the Strutt family, by 1815 the largest producers of cotton yarn in England, developed a series of mills from the late 1770s. These also sourced their much larger requirements for raw cotton in the late 18th and early 19th centuries from slave-worked plantations in South America, the Caribbean and the southern states of America, with smaller amounts coming from India (Fitton and Wadsworth, 1958).  Our subsequent visit to the Derbyshire Record Office revealed a magnificent though water damaged raw cotton ledger confirming these sources. We will be examining these and additional related correspondence further in future archive visits.

The most prominent remains of the Strutt family mills are North Mill (rebuilt in 1804) and East Mill (1912). North Mill now houses the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre, which we hope to include in one of our Peak District visit days. Some textiles are still produced in Belper by Courtaulds who make lingerie there at West Mill.

Textile factory, West Mill, Belper

Stockings in the window of a textile factory, West Mill, Belper

Long Row, Belper

Long Row, Belper

Belper was also a small rural village, with a nail industry, before the Strutts started building there but grew rapidly into the second largest town in Derbyshire by 1801 (Fitton and Wadsworth, 1958). Besides the mills and associated industrial premises, the Strutts developed many new streets of houses for the mill workers and their families – Mark showed us round several streets of different housing types. In the early days, mill workers were mainly children; their fathers constructed and maintained the mills and their mothers picked the raw cotton clean.

From Smedley’s Mill…

John Smedley factory shop

John Smedley factory shop

We next headed further north to the Lea Valley, just off the main Derwent Valley. Our destination was the more secluded Smedley’s Mill, the site of which was originally developed for cotton spinning by the Nightingale family (a member of whom was Florence Nightingale). The Smedley family took over in the early 19th century and began producing cotton and wool yarns.  High quality knitwear is still produced on the site and sold via a rather tempting factory shop! The company has its own archive and archivist and we plan to make contact (http://www.derwentvalleymills.org/).

…to Cromford, site of the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

Our last stop for the day was Cromford, home to the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill and probably the most famous place in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. There is much to see at Cromford, including the original mill and its associated buildings, Masson Mill, a larger site developed later to harness the power of the Derwent directly, and the village itself with its specially-designed workers’ housing, market place and substantial inn. While the first cotton factory developments were made by the partnership of Richard Arkwright, Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, a wealthy hosier from Nottingham, the Arkwrights later took over. They amassed an enormous industrial fortune and moved into banking and landed property. Unfortunately there are few surviving records relating to the Cromford mills but we hope to piece together what we can from a range of sources.

Connecting Threads exhibition

‘Connecting Threads’ installation, Carolyn J Roberts. Cromford First Mill, 2013.

Cromford will certainly be included in our Peak District day visits. Rooms are available at Cromford where we could meet and have lunch on our visit days, either next to the Cromford Canal, an important route south to traders and markets in the Midlands and London, or in the main old mill complex. Cromford also provides an opportunity for our project to engage with the Arkwright Society whose volunteers guide visitors around the site. We might also use the exhibition space available in the old mill building to display the project’s heritage legacy materials. An interesting cotton-inspired exhibition has run there in the past during the special Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days. It would be great to take part in some of these.

The trip revealed a host of possibilities for the project in terms of cotton mills and businesses to study in the archives, sites for our groups to visit and places where we might make a new contribution to public histories of global cotton.