Whew! It’s been 20 days since I last wrote a blog post! Where to start? Lots of good things have been going on, not least a holiday in Derbyshire (if you have a map of England in your mind, Derbyshire is pretty much in the centre). We just happened to be away at the right time to enjoy the Summer ‘heatwave’. On the hottest day of the year we visited Chatsworth House, one of the most impressive stately homes in the country.
The site has been the home of the Dukes of Devonshire since 1549. If you’ve seen the film ‘The Duchess’ you may recall Keira Knightly playing the part of Georgiana Spencer who in 1774 married the 5th Duke of Devonshire. The House and surrounding gardens and parkland were used for scenes in the film.
We stayed in a little village called Cromford in the Derwent Valley, just south of the Peak District National Park. I thoroughly enjoyed being in a beautiful part of the country that is steeped in industrial history. The river valley is home to the first water powered cotton mill, built by Joseph Arkwright in 1771 – basically the first factory and the start of the Industrial Revolution, where people were employed to work machines doing the tasks they would previously have carried out at home.
The Cromford Mill buildings have been restored and are now a museum, housing modern businesses including Quiltessential 🙂 A quilt shop within ten minutes walk of our holiday cottage – what was my husband thinking of? 😀 And how wonderfully appropriate to have a shop packed full of beautiful cotton prints situated in the first ever cotton spinning mill?
A short walk up the Valley is Masson Mill, this Arkwright built in 1783 to harness the waterpower of the River Derwent. The mills were built to house the belt-driven machinery that manufactured thread from raw cotton. The village of Cromford contains rows of mill workers cottages built by Arkwright’s company. Some are three stories high, not to provide extra accommodation but space on the top floor for a loom. Weaving was still a ‘cottage industry’ often involving children as young as seven.
The raw cotton, finished cotton thread and the coal required by the later steam powered factories was transported on the newly built canals and later the railways which began to criss-cross the country. We walked up the hill behind Cromford and found an old building at the top that had housed a static steam engine hauling wagons from the railway at the bottom of the valley for over 1000 yards up a 1:8 gradient to a railway line at the top! Nothing got in the way of those early Victorians and industrialisation.
I can’t help myself when it comes to history so there will be some more holiday photos in another post showing the machinery inside the cotton spinning mills and a few other things quilt related.