Derwent Valley Mills, England

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983

Our tour of Derwent Valley Mills offers a unique opportunity to experience an industrial landscape that would become the model for textile factories throughout the world in subsequent centuries.

Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001, the site runs along 15 miles of the river valley, which stretches from Matlock Bath to Derby. The Cromford Canal and the High Peak Railway are also included in the World Heritage Site.

A view along Cromford Canal
Cromford Canal

The complex of buildings at the site provide some well-preserved examples of the world’s first modern factory buildings. Although the buildings have undergone restoration work, this has been done with detailed research in order to ensure the integrity of the site and authenticity to its history.

Though initially the area was dominated by the throwing of silk, it was not until Richard Arkwright’s first cotton spinning mill was built in 1771, harnessing the local water power, that the cotton industry was truly established, ensuring the socio-economic development of the district on a great scale.

Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill at Derwent Valley Mills
Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mill at Derwent Valley Mills

The importance of the industry to the local community is further demonstrated in the construction of watercourses, canal network, the local railway, and Ladybower Reservoir, all built to serve the community working in the textile industry. Ladybower is surrounded by beautiful countryside and visitors can enjoy a stroll or cycle around its many walking routes.

Whilst the site benefitted the wider community, there were of course individuals who benefited specifically from the area’s wealth; the Evans Dynasty saw several generations of the Evans family develop interest in Derwent Valley’s milling community, specifically at Darley Abbey, from the 18th century right up until the 20th.

This fascinating site is further complimented by other nearby landmarks showcasing the heritage of the Midlands. Natural water resource is further exploited in nearby Buxton, home to St. Ann’s well, fed by the geothermal spring bottled and sold by Buxton Mineral Water. The county town of Matlock, which appears in the Domesday Book, has also benefited hugely from its natural thermal springs.

St. Anne's Well, Buxton
St. Anne’s Well, Buxton

Haddon Hall is a combined Medieval and Tudor building, dating back nine hundred years. The National Tramway Museum at Crich runs its collection of trams through a reconstructed village setting, demonstrating tram heritage and history from cities across the UK in the early to mid-20th century.

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