Richard Arkwright and his partners established a mill in Cromford in 1771 and without delay set about perfecting the machinery and production methods for water - powered cotton spinning.
The first mill was modest in size, but in 1776 a second and very much larger mill was established using the same water supply. Soon after, the mill site expanded again and massive engineering work was undertaken, to create the system of ponds and underground culverts which maintained Arkwright's increasing need for water to drive his machinery.
The mills at Cromford became models which were copied bt Arkwright's partners and by his competitors. Mills sprang up in various parts of the UK and despite the legistation forbidding the export of technology, in other countries such as Germany and America.
By 1790 all the principal buildings on the Cromford site had been completed and with the exception of the second mill and the "bow fronted" building, all have survived.
The Arkwright family sold most of it's cotton spinning interests at an early date but retaines the Cromford Mill and the nearby Masson Mill. After around 1840 the value of the Cromford Mills seriously demished. A shortage of water caused by the diversion of the main source for lead drainage limited production and during the second half of the 19th century parts of the site were put to other uses. Some buildings housed a laundry, others a brewer, then during the 1920's most of the site was purchased by a company manufacturing colour pigment for paint, production of which continued until 1979.
Cromford mill is now a world heritage site. Restoration of the old mill has been carried out by the Arkwright society which purchased the site in 1979. Most of the smaller modern day buildings have been demolished and the huge task of cleaning walls and floors, heavily contaminated with chemicals and paint from the sites more recent users are well under way. The whole restoration project is supported by the Derbyshire county council and the Derbyshire Dales District Council. The mill is open everyday and attracts visitors from all over the world. It has a visitors centre, shops and a cafe and plans are in hand for a major exhibition with working machinery, meeting rooms for schools and other educational groups, a library and a study centre.
Close by, on the A6 towards Matlock Bath is one of Arkwrights other mills, Masson mill, built in 1783. It is still operated as a cotton spinning mill, though on a much smaller scale, Most of this mill has been taken over by shops.
More on Cromford, Arkwright and the mills on Cromford
Also on www.cromfordmill.co.uk or www.massonmills.co.uk
Belper North Mill
Lumsdale Valley mills