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Derbyshire heritage - spotlight on Derwent Valley Mills

Experience a charming blend of breathtaking natural scenery and fascinating industrial heritage in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site. The perfect backdrop for artistic interpretation over centuries!

Designated as a World Heritage site in 2001, the Derwent Valley Mills have been described as the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

It was here in the Derwent Valley that the essential ingredients of factory production were successfully combined. Water power was applied and successfully used for the first time on a relatively large scale. Not only was textile production revolutionised with dramatic consequences for the British economy, the Arkwright model also informed and inspired developments in other industries. 

Each mill has its own story to tell. Theirs is the story of pioneering engineers and entrepreneurs who put Britain on the map and set off a chain of events which ushered in the Industrial Revolution. 

Arkwright’s 1783 showpiece Masson Mills complex includes the finest surviving and best preserved example of an Arkwright cotton spinning mill. 

Built between 1771 and 1791, Arkwright’s Mill at Cromford was the world’s first successful water powered spinning mill - a true blueprint for factory production. Visit the mill, the village and the church and discover Arkwright’s legacy, or enjoy the grounds of Willersley Castle, the impressive family home Arkwright built but never lived in. 

Along the Cromford Canal visit High Peak Junction to see some of the world’s oldest surviving railway workshops. 

At Belper and Milford see the remarkable mill settlements built by the Strutt family, meander through the River Gardens and marvel at William Strutt’s pioneering North Mill - one of the earliest iron-framed buildings in the world. 

Enjoy a tour of the factory village of Darley Abbey, created by the Evans family and see one of the most complete early textile mill complexes. Then delight in Darley Park, formerly the grounds of the Evans family home. 

At Derby you can see the Silk Mill where the first stages of the factory system were set in motion by the Lombe brothers, or find out more about Joseph Wright, the 18th century artist who befriended and painted important entrepreneurs, scientists and thinkers of the day. 

The mills and the industrial settlements around them, the churches, millponds, weirs and watercourses provide the perfect backdrop for art installations and interpretation!

Visit to see what has been achieved so far. 

Featured artists

Angela Thompson

Angela Thompson

Paula Sharples

Paula Sharples

Richard Bett

Richard Bett


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