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The Derwent Valley Mills are the birthplace of the factory system. It was for this reason that they were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.
The Derwent valley, upstream from Derby on the southern edge of the Pennines, contains a series of 18th and 19th century cotton mills and an industrial landscape of high historical and technological significance. The four principal industrial settlements of Cromford, Belper, Milford, and Darley Abbey are articulated by the river Derwent, the waters of which provided the power to drive the cotton mills.
Much of the landscape setting of the mills and the industrial communities, which was much admired in the 18th and early 19th centuries, has survived. In terms of industrial buildings the Derwent Valley Mills may be considered to be sui generis in the sense that they were the first of what was to become the model for factories throughout the world in subsequent centuries.Official website
Jedediah Strutt, who funded Richard Arkwright’s first water-powered cotton mill at Cromford, made his money from the patent for the Derby Rib – the gadget used to make your socks stay up! The same technology is still used today.
Richard Arkwright started out as a wigmaker, travelling across the country, buying poor people’s hair to make wigs for the rich.
William Strutt, son of Jedediah, developed fireproofed iron-framed mills – the fore-runner of the modern skyscraper. There’s still a 200-year-old lock of his hair preserved in the Derbyshire Record Office.
Some of the UK’s earliest commercially cultivated carrots were grown in Belper from about 1800 – they were highly prized, although they were grown in the raw sewage from 50 millworkers’ cottages that stood on the hillside above.