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News from the Derwent Valley Mills

December 2021
Cromford Mills
News from the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site
Trustees wanted for Friends of Cromford Canal

Applications are being sought for new Trustees to help the charity to accelerate its restoration and development aims. We are looking for enthusiastic and energetic individuals who can work cooperatively with existing trustees and volunteers and contribute to monthly meetings.

Ideally we are looking for people with a background and interest in canal restoration and preferably who have specific skills to bring to our team. We are particularly short of engineering and finance skills.

Please see for more detail on our canal and aims. Interested parties should contact the Chairman at

A Century of Change

In 1921, the earliest aerial view of Belper was taken from a hot air balloon. It focussed on the town’s mill complex, including the Round Mill and Jubilee Clock Tower, but also their surroundings, including: on the hillside, Bridge Hill House, home of the Strutt family who built the mills from 1776.

100 years later, in 2021, thanks to grant support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnership was able to recreate this historic photograph, to illustrate the changes made over the past century. The Round, West and South Mills have gone, and a single-storey factory (now unused) sits on the west side. Bridge Hill House has also gone, and the site redeveloped for housing. But the North and East Mills are still there, as are the River Gardens.

New Booklet from Friends of Cromford Canal

The Cromford Canal’s Leawood Arm: A History has recently been published by the Friends of Cromford Canal, as a companion volume to Cromford Wharf: A History.

Read more about how and find how to order this new booklet here.

Autumn Tours of the only World Heritage Site in DerbyshireHigh Peak Junction

Discover the beautiful valley that changed the world with a special autumn discount! Choose from two escorted tours of the Derwent Valley and discover the stories that put the area on the map.

The full-day Derwent Valley Highlights is now £25 and starts from Derby at 9.30am, returning at 5.15pm. The Half-Day Explorer is now £12.50 and starts from Cromford Mills at 10.30am and 2.30pm, returning at 1.00pm and 5.00pm. Tours are available on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Half Day Explorer: High Peak Junction and Belper North Mill

The Half Day Explorer can be booked on the day at Cromford Mills if tickets are available. Starting at Cromford Mills, the first water-powered cotton-spinning mill in the world, the Half-Day Explorer includes:

  • Guided tour of High Peak Junction, on the Cromford Canal, visiting the oldest railway workshop in the world to discover unique relics and curiosities of this pioneer railway.
  • Guided tour of Strutt’s North Mill and Derwent Valley Visitor Centre, looking at the original machines and hearing the stories behind them. The North Mill was rebuilt in 1804 as an iron-framed, fire-proof building, using the pioneering building techniques that gave birth to modern-day skyscrapers.
  • Your knowledgeable guide will also point out other locations of interest along the way.

Derwent Valley Highlights

Taking in the major sites of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The tour includes:

  • Visit to the Arkwright Experience and Visitor Centre at Cromford Mills to hear the story of the valley and how it changed the world.
  • A guided tour of Cromford Wharf and the Cromford Canal aqueduct; an unspoilt example of 18th century engineering within an amazing seting.
  • A guided tour of High Peak Junction, visiting the oldest railway workshop in the world to discover unique relics and curiosities of this pioneer railway.
  • A guided tour of Strutt’s North Mill in Belper, where a disastrous fire led to innovation in building technology and the rise of modern skyscrapers.
  • Walking tour of Belper Mills and the adjacent Edwardian River Gardens.
  • Drive through tours of Milford and Darley Abbey to discover the special features of these other early water-powered mill communities.

Tours are limited to 10 guests in a 16-seater minibus. To protect our guests, tour guides and driver we will continue to apply a number of Covid precautions.

Derwent Valley Tours logoTo find out more and book your place, please visit:

Plans for Derby Riverboat Trips take significant step forwardOutram

Plans to stage trips on Derby’s River Derwent have moved a step closer after a purpose-built boat was recently launched on the water by the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust.

Recently, the boat, named Outram, was lowered into the river by crane from Cathedral Green, outside the Museum of Making, after receiving permission from Derby City Council.

Following its test launch, the Outram will remain moored in the Derwent over the winter while more trials are carried out, volunteer crew members are trained and safety measures are installed along the river.

The trust will launch return passenger trips from the city centre to Darley Abbey in Spring 2022, following on from a successful test with passengers at the recent Shardlow Inland Port Festival.

Trust chairman, Chris Madge said: “We are delighted to be able to get our boat onto the river. At last, we can look forward to the prospect of welcoming passengers and exciting them with the technology on board, the story of Derby and our canal, and providing a tranquil journey on a beautiful river in a lovely setting.”

Named after the famous Derbyshire engineer who created the Derby Canal, the Outram has been designed and built by a local boatyard and canal trust volunteers.

The 16-tonne craft was built from scratch in just over 6 months, but its launch was delayed by the pandemic.

While it is built in the style of a traditional narrowboat, it is wider than normal to accommodate wheelchair users.

It is an environmentally friendly boat, fitted with solar panels to top up its power source of lead carbon batteries. And working with graduate manufacturing engineers from Rolls Royce, the trust has developed a small remote-controlled boat called ARTEMIS, which can be operated from the Outram to collect harmful plastic waste from the river.

Outram will be able to carry up to 12 passengers on a 45-minute round trip on the River Derwent.

With a commentary by Sir David Suchet promoting Derby’s historic role in the cultural and industrial development of the country, the focus will be on entertaining families with a number of interactive displays.

Chris said: “Being able to offer passenger trips will be an important step for us.

“Our vision for the future includes making the river navigable south of the city centre into Pride Park, with the creation of the Derby Arm, a huge lift which would transfer boats from the River Derwent to a restored Derby Canal.

“We are a volunteer organisation that depends on support from the local community and businesses.

“This venture will enable us to garner greater support and promote our longer-term aspirations to make Derby a destination for boaters and tourists alike.”

The city council has been supporting the trust in launching the Outram on the River Derwent – and is looking at the river in conjunction with its regeneration plans.

Councillor Ross McCristal, cabinet member for leisure, culture, tourism and wellbeing, said: “Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust has great ambition and I’m pleased to be supporting the testing of the new riverboat.

“A river can be a city’s greatest natural asset, but historically, as a city, we’ve not embraced the River Derwent and have certainly not made the most of it.

“That’s changing, with major regeneration projects like Our City Our River underway. Projects like this will help Derby embrace and turn towards the river.

“I believe they have the potential to fundamentally change our city centre – making Derby a more vibrant place to be, and opening new spaces and opportunities for residents, visitors and businesses.”

Bringing our Missing Nightwatchmen back to the Derwent Valley

Nightwatchmen book open

An invaluable nightwatchmen’s logbook detailing nightly goings-on in Belper during the 1830s has recently been re-discovered, and thanks to a Crowdfunding campaign, returned to the Derwent valley.

The book, lost for decades, was secured in a fundraiser by Derbyshire Record Office working in partnership with Belper Historical Society. It took just three days for donations to bring these missing nightwatchmen’s records home.

By 1833, the cotton spinning company of W G & J Strutt employed 2,000 people in its Belper mills. With so much invested in the town, it also ran its own mini police force in the shape of half a dozen nightwatchmen. As well as checking the water levels and the new-fangled gas lighting, the nightwatchmen also silently patrolled the town to apprehend any ne’er-do-wells.

This original book of nightwatchmen reports from 1833-1836 gives a revealing glimpse into what went on in Belper after dark, and how these men tackled many a confrontation armed with just a trusty truncheon.

A big thank you goes to everyone who supported the campaign and donated towards it.

The book will now be kept safe at Derbyshire Record Office, where it will be available for everyone to study it.

Celebrating 20 years as World Heritage Sites

Three of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, comprising globally significant textile mills, and their industrial villages, are celebrating 20 years of UNESCO inscription this year. Taken together, these three sites show how Britain moved from cottage industries to a factory system which changed the world. The Derwent Valley Mills are where the factory system began; New Lanark is where a paternalistic system developed into a utopian community; and Saltaire is a large and complete complex which prepared the way for other future industrial model villages.

World Heritage Site status is one of the most powerful international tools for heritage preservation and one of UNESCO’s most successful programmes. World Heritage embodies the great humanist idea that people of all cultures and faiths can unite around the conservation of places of Outstanding Universal Value.

Over time, the World Heritage Convention has become the most universal instrument in heritage conservation globally. Thanks to the Convention, hundreds of communities have preserved their natural environment and enhanced their cultural heritage, in order to pass it on to their children, and to honour their ancestors. Heritage unites us regardless of our background and culture. Today, we unite for heritage, as the challenges to preserving our heritage becomes more complex. As a driver for robust economies and stronger societies, sustainable development provides citizens with decent jobs and a future to look forward to.

World Heritage is not just a list of marvellous sites – it is a vision for peace with the power to change the minds of women and men and to shape a sustainable future for all. It is about mobilizing heritage as a force for creativity, innovation and sustainable development.

Heritage is not a luxury – it is a precious asset. Everyone should be encouraged to make their best efforts for the promotion and preservation of our shared heritage. Every tourist and visitor should respect and cherish these irreplaceable World Heritage Sites. There will be no global sustainable future for humanity without the engagement of each one of us.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of World Heritage status for the Derwent Valley Mills and Saltaire in England and New Lanark in Scotland. To commemorate this milestone, the three sites have joined together in a programme of shared celebrations over the course of the year. More information on all events can be found on the respective sites’ websites.

New Lanark Mill Complex











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