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The Arkwright Society The First thirty years

Thu 25th Nov
The Arkwright Society the first thirty years
The Arkwright Society: The First Thirty Years 1971 – 2001
Online Talk

From Derelict Chemical Works to Grade I Listed World Heritage Site

Fifty years ago so much was so different. Industrial Archaeology was just emerging from its anorak shell and in 1971 it was the Arkwright Festival’s good fortune to ride this cultural wave. Such was its success it presented the organisers with money, property in Cromford, the newly minted Arkwright brand and a huge pool of local goodwill. There was really no alternative. There had to be a Society to manage and develop the vision that had been glimpsed that summer, during the festival. Christopher Charlton was at the centre of it both as secretary of the Festival Committee and as Honorary Secretary of the new Society. He will describe what the Festival delivered; how the Society was formed; the ethos that developed from the Society’s early association with government schemes for the unemployed and the influence this had shaping the approach to the rescue of the Cromford Mills site when it began in 1979. Just a handful of founder members of the Society survive. This is a rare opportunity to hear about the Society’s first thirty years from someone who helped create the Society and to shape its approach to the formidable task of saving the Cromford Mills.

Christopher Charlton came to work in Derbyshire in 1963 as a warden of Tawney House Adult Education Centre in Matlock and resident tutor for Mid-Derbyshire. The University of Nottingham Department of Adult Education had employed him for a year but it was to be thirty years before he left the University and came to work for the Arkwright Society as its Secretary and Director of the Cromford Mills project. His association with the mills began in 1967 when he and a colleague and close friend, Dr Patrick Strange, began to research the history of the site. The Colour Company allowed them more or less complete freedom on the site but only on Saturday mornings. Each week they would emerge lightly powdered with green dye and it was probably the regular sighting of this grubby green figure in Cromford on his way home that prompted two local residents to approach Christopher in 1969 with a plan to celebrate the bicentenary of Arkwright’s arrival in Cromford; would he be available to help? As secretary of the Arkwright Festival committee, it was almost inevitable that in the autumn of 1971, the festival over and a huge success, he would be elected Honorary Secretary of the newly formed Society, a post he held until 1993. Then, through the initiative of the late Duke of Devonshire Christopher was able to work full time for the Society, a post he held until his retirement in 2008. Following the visit to Cromford by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in January 1996 Christopher spent much of his spare time over the next twenty years as a volunteer member of the team the Prince established to run Regeneration Through Heritage and subsequently the Prince’s Regeneration Trust establishing heritage projects and advising others, across the UK. Christopher and his wife Dianne now live in Somerset. Christopher spends much of his time in retirement writing and is currently editing and contributing to a book on Belper in the Nineteenth Century to be published by the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Educational Trust. This follows his co-authorship, with Doreen Buxton of Cromford Revisited and Matlock Bath, a Perfectly Romantic Place.

This online talk will be run by the Arkwright Society.

Cost: £5.50 (inc booking fee)
Tickets are available at:

Zoom opens: 6.45pm. Talk start time: 7pm

Zoom Details: We Got Tickets will send you a Zoom link to join the session prior to the event.

Tech Requirements: You will need a laptop/desktop/tablet computer with video and audio. You will also require a reliable internet connection. Please make sure your set-up satisfies the technical requirements before joining – refunds cannot be offered if you discover your device or broadband connection is not suitable for this event

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