The Belper Mills complex lies at the northern entrance to the town on the A6. Jedediah Strutt and his sons, William, George Benson and Joseph, developed the mills from the last quarter of the 18th century until it was the world’s largest mill complex under single ownership. Sadly, many of these buildings were lost through demolition in the early 1960s.
Strutt’s North Mill Museum
Belper North Mill now houses a museum, ‘Strutt’s North Mill’, and a visitor centre serving the Derwent Valley. Explore the museum to find out how Jedidiah Strutt helped introduce mechanised cotton spinning to the Derwent Valley, sparking the Industrial Revolution, and transforming Belper into the world’s first cotton mill town.
See inside one of the earliest iron-framed, fire-proof, multi-storied buildings in the world. Understand how the North Mill inspired the construction of skyscrapers.
Discover the factory system’s social impact on ordinary people’s lives. Experience what life would have been like for a mill worker in a Strutt Mill.
The displays also include a temporary exhibition space, original spinning and framework knitting machinery, locally ‘chevened’ stockings, the life of a Belper nailer, and the unique story of how Belper’s Samuel Slater, became the ‘Father of the American Industrial Revolution’.
Derwent Valley Visitor Centre
Belper Mill is also home to the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre, where you can find a wealth of local and tourist information. There is also a small gift and book shop, and light refreshments are available.
With Belper evoking history around every corner, make sure you see its different mills and original water courses, the beautiful River Gardens, historic mill workers cottages, schools and chapels, and a unique railway line running through the centre of the town, all influenced by the wider Strutt family. Tours of the museum and the town itself are available from Strutt’s North Mill.
Pre-booked guided tours are available for groups, and can include the Strutt’s North Mill Museum, the original water courses and wider mill site, as well as walks around the historic mill town of Belper.
Find out more about the Strutt’s North Mill museum, including its opening times and admission charges.
What makes them special?
- The oldest surviving mill on the site is The North Mill, one of the world’s first fireproof buildings. William Strutt used cast iron instead of timber for the internal structure.
- This innovative use of cast iron marked a major step in the use of metal in building construction, which eventually led to the modern-day skyscraper!
- It was in Belper that the world’s second water-powered cotton-spinning mill was built by Jedediah Strutt, following his work with Arkwright at Cromford.
What is there to see and do?
- An arched footbridge crosses over the road, linking the two sides of the former Belper Mills complex. This also served a defensive role and has gun embrasures positioned to protect the West Mill counting house.
- The impressive horseshoe weir was built to create a head of water to power the West Mill.
- Buy a copy of the Town Trail from the Mill and set out on a walk to discover Belper’s 18th and 19th century townscapes.