Cromford - birthplace of the Industrial revolution
...a rich history
The story of Cromford is inextricably linked with that of Richard Arkwright, the semi-literate genius who transformed England from an agricultural country into the leader of the Industrial Revolution in the latter years of the 18th century.
Had it been a little easier of access and not situated deep in the remote Derbyshire hills, Cromford might even have rivalled Manchester as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Its distinguished industrial past was recognised by UNESCO when it was designated as part of the Derwent Mills World Heritage Site in 2001.
Another famous name connected with Cromford was the childrens’ book author Alison Uttley, who was born at Castle Top Farm, where she lived until her late teens. Village life in Cromford in the late 19th century is recalled in her books The Farm on the Hill, and The Country Child, although she is perhaps best known for her Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig stories.
WHERE IS IT?
Two miles (3 km) south of Matlock on the A6 Derby road
Arkwright, a Preston-born wig-maker and barber, came to Cromford in 1771 to build the world’s first water-powered cotton mill at what is now known as the Old Mill, just off the A6 in Mill Lane, now part of the Derwent Mills World Heritage Site and open to the public. This fortress-like building was designed to deter would-be Luddites who wished to destroyed the new machinery which they thought would take work from what had traditionally been a cottage industry.
The bright red-brick and Venetian-windowed Masson Mill, on the A6, was built in 1784, and until recently was still used for textile manufacture. It is now home to the Masson Mills Megastore shopping outlet.
Arkwright also built the mock-Gothic Willersley Castle just over Cromford’s famous 15th century bridge across the Derwent, complete with its rare bridge chapel and 18th century Fishing Pavilion, between 1782-88. Unfortunately he didn’t live for long to enjoy it, for he died in 1792.
Arkwright provided for the welfare of his emplyees in a way never seen before in Britain. He built good quality accommodation for them, such as the fine, three-storeyed stone-built terraces in North Street, and a village school in the main part of the village west of the A6 across the limestone cutting known as Scarthin Nick. In Greyhound Square he provided the grand façade of the Greyhound Inn as somewhere for his workers’ recreation. Behind Greyhound Square is Cromford’s millpond, known as The Dam, a tranquil spot away from the rushing traffic of the A6.
Alongside the river is the restored Cromford Canal, which linked with the ambitious Cromford and High Peak Railway (now the High Peak Trail) completed in 1831 to cross the high White Peak plateau to Whaley Bridge at the beginning of the Railway Age. Both canal and former railway are now enjoyed by walkers and riders.
PLACES TO GO
The Parish Church
Cromford’s Parish Church of St Mary is another feature of the village heavily linked with Arkwright.
Every Boxing Day (December 26) the annual Raft Race takes place along the River Derwent from Cawdor Quarry in Matlock to Cromford Meadows. More than 40 teams, most in fancy dress, enter the race. This is one of the area’s most popular Christmas events, as flour and water bombs are thrown at spectators and vice-versa. The event raises funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
THINGS TO DO
Cromford Mill (Tel: 01629 823256) in Mill Lane, Cromford, off the A6, is thesite of the first water-powered cotton mill in the country, and the centrepiece of the Derwent Mills World Heritage Site, which was designated in 2001. It was here in 1771 that Richard Arkwright set up his original mill in the fortress-like buildings of Upper Mill, ultilising the might of the River Derwent to power his machinery – and so ignite the first spark of the Industrial Revolution. Guided tours take you round the fascinating site, which is still in the course of restoration.
Tiny Scarthin Books in the narrow Promenade behind the village dam in Cromford, is a treasurehouse of books old and new. Although it’s crammed into a tiny space over three cramped floors, there’s a café and you’re almost bound to find something of interest.
The Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Working Textile Mills Museum (01629 581001) is in the Masson Mills Megastore shopping complex. The mill was originally built by Arkwright in 1783 and was the showplace for his revolutionary use of water power. You can still see the mill machinery in situ, and be taken back two centuries to the days when cotton was king.
FOOD AND DRINK
Real ales are a popular feature at the 18th century Boat Inn in Cromford (01629 823282), which holds three beer festivals a year, has a wine/tapas bar in the basement and a beer garden. Sadly, at the time of publication (May 2010), the Boat Inn was looking for new owners but we hope this situation will soon be rectified.
The vegetarian café at Scarthin Books in The Promenade, Scarthin, Cromford (01629 823272) uses organic produce wherever possible, and there are also vegan and gluten-free options available. The Regent House Tea Rooms in Dale Road Matlock (01629 583660) is a traditional, comfortable tea room with table service, and
The Balti in Dale Road, Matlock Bath (01629 55069/01629 760069) offers a warm welcome, friendly service and freshly prepared food.
SELECTED CROMFORD ACCOMMODATION
Choose from the selection of accommodation in Cromford - whether you’re looking for a b&b, a holiday cottage, a pub or a hotel, you’ll find it in Cromford.
Cromford is full of history and fittingly Tinsmiths Cottage dates back to around 1765. This pet-friendly, detached holiday home sleeps up to six people. Cromford Cottage is also dog friendly and sleeps 4.
Bed & breakfast is provided at The Greyhound Hotel, while the Willersley Castle Hotel is a Georgian, Grade II listed building of over 200 years of age.
Cromford bed & breakfasts
Cromford self-catering cottages
Matlock Tourist Information Centre, Crown Square, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3AT; 01629 583388; www.visitpeakdistrict.com; open daily.
Bakewell TIC, The Old Market Hall, Bridge Street, Bakewell, DE45 1DS; Tel: 01629 816558; www.peakdistrict.gov.uk, open daily.
Public toilets and car park
Near the Pavilion.
Editor, Let's Stay Peak District & Let's Stay UK
© 2010 - Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015