Three UK heritage sites celebrate two decades of global recognition

May 24, 2021 Published by Beth Thomas

Three of the UK’s World Heritage Sites comprising of globally significant textile mills, are celebrating 20 years of UNESCO inscription this year.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of World Heritage status for  the Derwent Valley Mills in Wales, Saltaire in England and New Lanark in Scotland. The sites were three of 13 inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001.

To commemorate this milestone, the three sites have joined together in a programme of shared celebrations over the course of the year.

Derwent Valley Mills held an open-air exhibition along the Cromford Canal in April and are holding their first Georgian Derbyshire Festival – in conjunction with the newly restored Buxton Crescent- including walks, talks and family activities in September. This year will also see the re-opening of the Derby Silk Mill as a new Museum of Making, as it celebrates its 300th anniversary. Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills will also be celebrating their 250th anniversary with special events over the summer.

Leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Barry Lewis, who chairs the Strategic Board for the Derwent Valley Mills, said: “This is an important year for us, with Cromford Mills commemorating the 250th anniversary of industrialist Sir Richard Arkwright arriving in the valley at one end of the site, and Derby Museums Trust celebrating the 300th anniversary of the building of the Silk Mill with its transformation into a Museum of Making. 

“The twentieth anniversary of inscription pulls that all together in recognising the importance of capitalism and the role it played in shaping modern commerce with the establishment of the world’s first factories, and of the innovators who created those factories, and gives us a chance to celebrate as we open our doors to the public once more.”

Saltaire is also running a series of events, including a Foundation and Legacy exhibition on Saltaire’s founder, Titus Salt and immediate successor James Roberts.  There will be several Saltaire inspired arts events.  A video screening of a tour of the model village of Saltaire at Bradford’s City Park Big Screen and a Heritage Open Day in September giving public access to Mr Salt’s Dining Hall.  Saltaire Institute (Victoria Hall) will be celebrating 150 years of leisure and learning provision from December 2021-2022 by presenting performance, tours and events.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport for the City of Bradford, said: “We are looking forward to celebrating local events at our Saltaire World Heritage Site.  It’s hoped these events will help people learn about the site, appreciate and understand its special qualities and bring income to help businesses in the area.  These are some of the many benefits that World Heritage Site status brings to the district.”

For New Lanark, the anniversary of the accreditation coincides with marking 250 years since the birth of Robert Owen, New Lanark’s most famous owner, and marks the completion of the restoration of the former millworkers’ housing in the village. The site is holding a three-day conference, starting on 12 October, looking amongst other things at the life and legacy of one of the renowned fathers of socialism.

Jane Masters Head of Heritage and Development at New Lanark Trust said: “Celebrating 20 years of this coveted status for places of historic and cultural interest is particularly important in the current climate, both in terms of lifting the spirits of the local and heritage communities and in helping to boost the tourism industry which has suffered significantly from the impact of COVID.”

“All three sites are fundamental to the history and heritage of this country and touched many aspects of life when they were thriving industries – economically, socially, politically, educationally and culturally. Knowledge of our history helps us to understand who we are and how our society has developed the way it has. It helps us to make sense of the world we live in today.”

“Achieving and maintaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status was and is a significant achievement and one that deserves to be celebrated and shared.”

Photo credit: New Lanark
(Crown Copyright HES)

More information on all events can be found on the respective sites’ websites.