As well as the North of England being a good site for the cotton industry, there were several reasons why Arkwright chose Cromford to house his mills.
Arkwright had a ready workforce in the wives and children of the lead miners of this upland village. Other workers moved to Cromford, mainly from Derby. Often the women and children worked in the factory, while the men stayed at home weaving the cotton into cloth – this took place until the middle of the 19th century when the power loom took over. Arkwright built houses for his workers; these had large rooms on the upper floor, with plenty of light, where the weaving could take place. Examples of these can still be seen on North Street in Cromford.
An advert by Arkwright calling workers to his mill
One of the most attractive features of Cromford for Arkwright was the power provided by the streams running down from the old lead mines in the hills above. A water wheel and complex gears could power hundreds of spindles – a vast improvement on horsepower. By bringing all his spinners together to work in one place and by using machinery and a power supply not dependent on humans or animals, Arkwright had opened a new age of factories.
By the time of his death in 1792 not only had Arkwright made a fortune but he had set the textile industry on a path that would utterly change both its location and its working methods.
Cromford in Derbyshire is a place many people simply pass through on their way to the Matlocks, Bakewell and other northerly places, but Cromford is steeped in industrial history and often called the cradle of the industrial revolution. Before 1770, Cromford was a small rural hamlet and had only 16 households and local lead mines. It was once little more than a cluster of cottages around an old packhorse bridge and a chapel where travelers gave thanks for a safe journey. All that was soon to change with the arrival of one man, Richard Arkwright.
Source 1 – “A view of Cromford, near Matlock Bath 1749”
Source 1 (above) shows us a painting of a view of Cromford in the year 1749. The painting shows us that Cromford was very isolated, and not hugely populated, shown by a few small living cabins. I believe that this source is quite very reliable as the artist has no reason to lie about the true scenery of Cromford. This Source can be supported by Source 15 which indicates that the remoteness of Cromford may have been one of its advantages. Source 15 is from a school textbook, meaning the author had no reason to exaggerate the truth, although it may be simplified.
The water was first diverted from the Bonsall Brook. The Bonsall Brook rises on the upland and flows S. E toward Cromford where it proved significant in Richard Arkwright’s choice of site for his mill. This was used to power an undershot waterwheel, providing the mill with power. Several years later, the Greyhound Pond was converted to a damn, so that on Sundays the pond would fill with water rather than wastefully continuing to drain off water. Also it was made so that the Cromford Sough could run into the Greyhound Pond. Including the greyhound pond 5 of these ponds were made to stock the water, used to power the wheels in Arkwright’s mills.
One of the other ponds Arkwright used to store water to power his mills.
In 1785 Arkwright also adapted a drainage sluice from the lead mines. It was named the Bear Pit and Arkwright used it to control the flow of water from the Greyhound pond and other reservoirs. It also allowed the Greyhound pond to be supplemented with water from the sough. Sough water was pushed back into a new underground channel that connected the sough to the Greyhound pond. In the middle of the site there was a large water basin. The water from the sough and the brook converged here and then the water could be diverted 3 ways: 1.) To power the second mill and from there, via the Cromford meadows to the Denwent, 2.) Under the road to the Cromford canal, 3.) into the River Denwent near St. Mary’s church – this is where surplus water went.
The photo below shows North Street, one of the remaining houses built by Arkwright. These houses are still in use and desirable, after many years, shown by the ‘Sold’ sign on the right of the photo. The houses were built by Arkwright to house his workers and also their families.
All of such houses were three-storey and a significant number of windows notably on the top floor, for maximum light to enter the home and help the weavers. These houses were relatively small in size. As expected, these houses were situated relatively close to the mill. (See map at the bottom of page). Each house had an allotment and a pig sty.
Amongst housing for the workers and citizens, Arkwright created a market outside the hotel for the village people. Arkwright educated Cromford’s citizen’s children with lessons in Sunday school, in the Church which he built, and is also still in use today. Richard Arkwright did not actually build a school (his son did this). He made invitations to families to come live and work in Cromford, which increased the size of the town greatly.
A photograph of the ‘Greyhound Hotel’ built in 1778
Arkwright built many pubs, including “The Boat Inn” in 1772. This was originally the “Cap in Hand” as when workers came to this building to collect wages in their caps. He also built the Greyhound Hotel in 1778 (which is still very popular today) with the intention from Arkwright of entertaining nobles who came to inspect the mills.
The Second Part of the Question
How useful are the site and other sources in showing what changes were made in the mill site during the period 1771 to 1800?
The First Mill
The first mill was built at Cromford in 1771. Contemporary pictures seem to suggest that it had five floors; it was made from grit stone and was well lit by windows. In the mid 1 780s it was expended and the join is still visible today. Two new waterwheels were also added. The two top storeys of the mill were destroyed by fire in 1929. The machinery was driven day and night, not all the machinery could be driven at once because there was not sufficient power from the water wheels but other jobs such as spinning and carding could also be done. The employees would work twelve-hour shifts.
The first wheel was most likely positioned on the end of the mill and was an undershot wheel, powered by the Bonsall Brook. However this was removed so that an extension could be made in its place. Due to this extension there is no evidence of the wheel being there so the belief of a wheel being there is based on pictorial evidence. The wheel was then placed between the next building and the first mill. We can tell this from the whole in the wall, which was used to hold it. Also there are indents in both buildings where such things as winding gears were placed. The most important thing though is the aqueduct above the wheel. Plenty of construction work was required to produce it and it made the wheel and overshot, meaning that it produced more power.
The 1789 artist’s impression has the extension intact; however the modern photo does not. Also, the artist’s impression still has the top two floors, which were later destroyed in a fire, and of course the modern photograph does not. The artist’s impression is most probably reliable, as he had no reason to exaggerate the truth.
The Second Mill
After the extreme success of his first mill, Arkwright spent some time perfecting his machinery. Having already mechanized the final part of the spinning process he introduced mechanization to carding and cleaning the cotton. In 1776 Arkwright began to build a second mill on the Cromford site and it was in production by 1777. This mill was 1 29 feet long and seven storeys high.
There was great confusion over whether there was one wheel in the pit or two, the reason being that there is a stone divider in the pit. Daryl Clark of the Arkwright Society says that it was definitely one wheel. Although he didn’t consider the stone divider, the guide believes that it was added after the site had stopped working as a mill. The fact that both the guide and the head of the Arkwright Society agree on that there was only one wheel makes the statement more reliable.
The pit for the Second Mill’s waterwheel, which has led to much debate whether there was 1 or 2 wheels
There is another building which was probably an extension of the Second Mill, which still stands today- it is often called the LL-shaped building”. It is four storeys high and was built 1790-91.
Bow Fronted Building
There is much speculation over what this building was used for, as all that remains of it are ruined foundations. However many believe that it was built so that the workers, in honour of George III, could hold parties. One belief is that the building was the house of the mill manager as he could look over the site from here. Another belief is that it was used to house single men who worked at the mill. This way they wouldn’t have to take the walk from town to the mill. It has been interestingly referred to as a “barracks”. This is a Term for the housing of the soldiers. This gives the impression that the men it housed may have been called to arms to defend the mill in case of attackers, for example the Luddites.
Mill Manager’s House
Beyond the aqueduct stands an urbane, three-storey, 3-bay building. Its iron railings and lamp holder, together with the nearby limestone sett paving and cannon-pattern cast iron stoop, gives texture, interest and counterpoint to the plain cliff-like walls of the mill. Overlooking the entrance to the mill yard it provided added security to the site.
This large stone building of 5 storeys is believed to have functioned as a mill with powered machinery on the four upper floors. On the ground floor, there was a storage area at the end of the building nearest the gate associated with receiving and opening bales of cotton. The cotton was cleaned in a sealed working area inside the large doors towards the middle of the building. A space with an underdrawn ceiling, doorway to the road and enlarged windows would seem to have been an office.
The aqueduct in its present form, with a cast iron trough resting on stone piers, replaced an earlier structure which is known to have had a timber launder. The aqueduct carried water from the Cromford Sough to power the first mill.
I believe that now I can conclude how useful the sources were in explaining the changes that were made to the site during the period 1771 to 1800. In my opinion, I believe that both the sources, the guide tour of the mill, informational notes and videos of Cromford were epically useful in explaining the changes that were made to the mill site.