Cromford Mill

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Cromford Mill
Arkright's Mill - Cromford 29-04-06.jpg
Cromford Mill
Cromford Mill is located in Derbyshire
Cromford Mill
Location within Derbyshire
Spinning Mill (Water frame)
Structural system Stone
Owner Arkwright
Coordinates 53°06′32″N 1°33′22″W / 53.1090°N 1.5560°W / 53.1090; -1.5560
Built 1772
Employees 200
Floor count 5
Design team
Awards and prizes and listings Grade 1 listed

Cromford Mill was the first water-powered cotton spinning mill developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771 in Cromford, Derbyshire, England, which laid the foundation of his fortune and was quickly copied by mills in Lancashire, Germany and the United States. It forms the centrepiece of the Derwent Valley Mills, now a World Heritage Site. The mill structure is classified as a Grade I listed building, it was first classified in June 1950.[1]


Following the invention of the flying shuttle for weaving cotton in 1733 the demand for spun cotton increased enormously in England. Machines for carding and spinning had already been developed but were inefficient. Spun cotton was also produced by means of the spinning jenny but was insufficiently strong to form the warp of a fabric, for which it was the practise to use linen thread, producing a type of cloth known as fustian. In 1769, Richard Arkwright patented a water frame to use the extra power of a water mill after he had set up a horse powered mill in Nottingham.[2]

He chose the site at Cromford because it had year-round supply of warm water from the Cromford Sough which drained water from nearby Wirksworth lead mines, together with Bonsall Brook. Here he built a five-storey mill, with the backing of Jedediah Strutt (who he met in a Nottingham bank via Ichabod Wright), Samuel Need and John Smalley. Starting from 1772, he ran the mills day and night with two twelve-hour shifts. [3]

He started with 200 workers, more than the locality could provide, so he built housing for them nearby, one of the first manufacturers to do so. [4] Most of the employees were women and children, the youngest being only 7 years old. Later, the minimum age was raised to 10 and the children were given 6 hours of education a week, so that they could do the record-keeping that their illiterate parents could not.

Water frame[edit]

Initially the first stage of the process was hand carding, but in 1775 he took out a second patent for a water-powered carding machine and this led to increased output and the fame of his factory rapidly spread. He was soon building further mills on this site and others and eventually employed 1,000 workers at Cromford. Many other mills were built under licence, including mills in Lancashire, Scotland and Germany. Samuel Slater, an apprentice of Jedediah Strutt, took the secrets of Arkwright's machines to Pawtucket, R.I.,[5] America, where he founded a cotton industry. But Arkwright's success led to his patents being challenged in court and his second patent was overturned as having no originality. But by the time of his death in 1792, he was the wealthiest untitled person in Britain.[6]

The opening of the Cromford Canal and the associated Cromford Wharf in 1793 linked Arkwright's Mill to the major Midland and Northern cities, although use of the canal was to decline as traffic moved onto the railways.[7]

Gateway to Arkwright's Mill

The gate to Cromford Mill was shut at precisely 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day, and any worker who failed to get through it not only lost a day's pay but also was fined another day's pay.

The cotton mill finally ceased operation in the 19th century and the buildings were used for other purposes, finally a dyeing plant. In 1979, the Grade I listed site was bought by the Arkwright Society, who began the long task of restoring it to its original state.

The importance of this site is not that it was the first but that it was the first successful cotton spinning factory. It showed unequivocally the way ahead and was widely emulated.

Today, the mill is open to the public every day, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Facilities include a visitors' centre, shops and a café. A major exhibition with working machinery is planned, with the addition of meeting rooms for educational groups, a library and a study centre.[8]

The nearby Cromford Canal towpath to High Peak Junction, and onwards towards Ambergate, is listed as a Biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).[9]


Cromford Mill has commissioned a replica water frame which was installed in April 2013. Considerable problems occurred in obtaining suitable roving which had to be a low twist 0.8 count cotton. There are no companies spinning cotton today in the United Kingdom. Roving was supplied eventually by Rieter in Switzerland, who had some experimental stock. Rieter are the world's largest manufacturer of textile manufacturing machines.[10]

Restoration in progress 2009[edit]

Condition in 1995[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Cromford Mill (1248010)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Cooper 1983, p. 65.
  3. ^ Cooper 1983, p. 68.
  4. ^ Cooper 1983, p. 66.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Richard Arkwright (1732-1792)". Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Cromford Mill and Sir Richard Arkwright". Derbyshire Guide website. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "Cromford". Derbyshire UK: Guide to Derbyshire & The Peak District. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "Cromford: SSSI citation" (PDF). Natural England. 22 August 1986. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Cotton Rovings Saga". Sir Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mills. Arkwright Society. March 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  • Cooper, Brian (1983), Transformation of a Valley: The Derbyshire Derwent (New, Scarthin 1997 Reprint ed.), London: Heinemann, ISBN 0-907758-17-7 

External links[edit]