Cromford pond

Cromford

near Matlock, Derbyshire

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Cromford is a village in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District and now at the centre of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. It was the place where mill pioneer Sir Richard Arkwright opened the first water driven spinning mill to exploit his water frame, a machine he perfected in partnership with John Kay and patented in 1769. The machine mechanised what had previously been a cottage industry and made Arkwright’s fortune. He set up the first Cromford Mill in 1771 and began to expand the village to provide ideal accommodation for his workers.

North StreetHe built a number of houses, including a terrace at North Street, that consisted of three-storey homes with a kitchen on the ground floor, a bedroom on the first floor and a workshop on the top floor with enough height for a loom. There, his workers wove the yarn that was produced in the nearby mill. The first cottages were built soon after the mill in 1771 and had continuous mullioned windows on the top floor to allow enough light for the weavers to work. North Street is peculiarly wide to ensure that one side of the street did not block light from the other.  North Street remained in the ownership of the Arkwright family until 1924 but it was not until 50 years later that their worth as industrial housing was recognised and six of the houses were bought by the Landmark Trust for just £3,000. By 2004 they were selling for more than £145,000 apiece! Now the homes are listed buildings at Grade II*.

PigstyBehind the houses were ideal plots to ensure that staff lived well.  As well as a paddock there is land for allotments. There were pig sties, also known as pig cotes, on land known as Swift’s Hollow. The sties were very well equipped with stone troughs for the pig food and water built into the side wall. These too are listed buildings, dating from the late 18th or early 19th century and ranked as Grade II. But it is perhaps Arkwright’s control of the water flowing into and out of Cromford that is most impressive.  With a water powered mill it was vital that he ensured an adequate supply to turn the mill wheel that drove the spinning machines. He harnessed flood water from the nearby lead mines at Black Rock, above Cromford. The water from the mines flowed into a channel called Cromford Sough, which passes close behind the houses in North Street.

Bear PitIn 1785 he constructed a huge sluice, known locally as The Bear Pit, to ensure that the supplies fed into the village pond, known as Greyhound Pond. It takes its name from the grand hotel that Arkwright built in the centre of the village to entertain clients and fellow businessmen in style. Arkwright also looked after his workers by founding a Saturday market outside the Greyhound, with purpose built stalls, now a row of small shops. Market traders were encouraged to attend regularly by the offer of prizes to those who were most consistent. There was also an annual village festival that culminated in a candle-lit parade and feast of buns, ale, nuts and fruit for all.
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