In March, Postgraduates from the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage went to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site in Derbyshire. Here are some of their thoughts about the day.
”The Valley that Changed the World’. I mean, what a tag line?! My expectations for visiting Derwent Valley Mills were not the highest. But it’s safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the profound history of the valley. The valley was the first of many notable moments in history, for example Cromford Mill was the world’s first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill. The outcome is famous… Therefore, I think the cold hard facts are what they need to get across to the public so others can learn how profound the site is. They haven’t beaten around the bush with their World Heritage Site status, but then why should they? It’s their main point of strength and can be used to entice visitors to the site. The CGI technology of Arkwright in the Arkwight experience is a great addition to the mills – perfect amount of information about who he is and what he did – I couldn’t fault it.
One of my favourite places was the Strutt’s North Mill in Belper, it was small but quaint and interesting. It was also full of machines that told a narrative of the mill and the Strutt’s family. Again, more and more ‘first’s in the world’ came up! The town of Belper was also very quaint and the history can still be interpreted from the buildings and the park.
There was just so much to see, I look forward to visiting again.’
by Grace Patient, MA International Heritage Management
‘Every now and then, a product comes along that fills a void you never even knew existed. Something that simplifies your days in such a way that you can barely remember a time in your life when you were made to go without its convenience. For every age, there are inventions which come along and ameliorate a current mode of operation. Think, for example, of the washing machine (put in dirty clothes, press button, wait, pull out clean clothes), the microwave (fast food chez you), and the smartphone (no more whatever people did pre-smartphones). Likewise, it was so in the 18th century. In the middle of the 18th century, many people had attempted to improve upon William Lee’s century-old invention: the stocking frame. Enter Jedediah Strutt. His idea to reconfigure the stocking frame was to place an attachment in front of the frame; this attachment comprised a series of barbed hooks which moved in a perpendicular direction from the needles on the original frame, thus enabling the two frames to work in conjunction to create a rib stitch (see: every jumper your gran has ever made for you). Not only did this attachment frame revolutionise factory work, but the rib stitch itself provided tension within the fabric edge which enabled it to stay put (see: the tops of your granddad’s socks) and mitigated the need for things like sock suspender belts. This attachment frame, named the Derby Rib, was patented and Strutt’s hosiery business expanded. Despite the poor weather, it was a pretty neat and informative day at the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.’
By Veronica Troy, MA World Heritage Studies
‘The World Heritage site of Derwent Valley Mills is famous for its early pioneering of the industrial revolution. Heavy traffic on the motorway meant our trip was cut short by a couple of hours and presentations had to be rushed so the site could explain their aims and messages in their interpretation of the mills. However, we were able to get to all three of the mills on our tour and it provided a good insight into the challenges faced by the management of large sites when the ownership is split between multiple organisations. It was most evident in the interpretations of each mill and how they were presented to the visitor in different ways depending on funding, narrative and use of the mills.’
By Cameron Arthur, MA World Heritage Studies
‘I didn’t know much about Derwent Valley Mills and it was my first time going there. As a foreigner, on the journey there it was very nice to see the picturesque settings and villages. There were several redbrick buildings and the displays inside them were reminiscent of the past of the site. It was interesting to know how the cotton business and industry of the site was run and how the real spinning and weaving machines looked. Moreover, old photos and drawings in one of the buildings about the workers in the cotton industry reminded me of the division of the class in terms of skin colour, which is that white women and children were working mainly in the well-systematized factories and the black slaves were mostly picking cotton. In the beginning of the trip of the Mills site, we could appreciate the drama-style video with the main character who was the owner of the factory. I evaluate that it is very worthy and pleasurable as one of the ways of interpreting and introducing the site. It was also good to wander around the housing area of the past workers.’
By Jinhee Oh, MA World Heritage Studies