Latest News | 19 January 2023

Preserving the past while looking to the future

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In the latest edition of Marketing Derby’s Innovate Magazine, we meet Eilis Scott, the recently-appointed chief executive of the Arkwright Society, the organisation which works to conserve and regenerate Cromford Mills.

Cromford Mills is one of the most important symbols of Derbyshire’s industrial heritage.

Built by Sir Richard Arkwright in the 18th Century, the works were the first water-powered cotton-spinning mills in the world and helped spark the Industrial Revolution.

They now form part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site – attracting the same status as Stonehenge, the Tower of London and the Forth Bridge.

But as Innovate discovers, if it wasn’t for a 40-year labour of love by members of the Arkwright Society, this site of international importance might have crumbled into the Derbyshire dust long ago.

Eilis told Innovate: “This was the birthplace of the factory system – the first water-powered cotton-spinning mill in the world.

“It started in this little place and then went over to America, Germany and all over the world. Internationally, that makes it very special.

“People are interested in that story, and they’re also interested in the stories of the families – not just Arkwright, but the Strutts in Belper, the Nightingale family, which included Florence Nightingale, who was born and brought up just down the road in Lea, and the families who worked at the mill.”

But as well as preserving the past, under its stewardship, the Arkwright Society is keen the mills are not just a place where people look back.

As well as providing an impressive visitor experience, the mills are also home to a successful business centre, called Cromford Creative, which is part of the society’s plan to make the mills sustainable economically.

And plans are also in place to make the mills more sustainable environmentally.

The society has secured £379,000 from funders including the Rural Community Energy Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, Severn Trent Community Fund and Derbyshire County Council to reinstate a six-metre water wheel at the mills and install a 15kW turbine to provide power to the buildings.

Eilis told Innovate: “We are guardians of something special here – this rural landscape, this sleepy place, which was transformed into a thriving, bustling community.

“I think there is real potential to further tap into the local audience and certainly our recent events are now drawing more locals in to experience what we have to offer.

“I think there is great potential for Cromford to promote itself on a much greater stage as a key ingredient of the World Heritage Site.

“But our priority is around local people because it’s more sustainable and it’s a part of everyone’s history who lives around here.”

To read the full article visit here.

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