Derby Telegraph looks back at plans to renovate Cromford Mill in 1981

In today’s issue of Derby Telegraph, MACE’s Rights Administrator, Eliza Richardson writes in ‘Bygones’ about an ATV report from March 1981 about the redevelopment of Cromford Mill.

This week Derwent Valley Mills holds its Discovery Days, when more than 100 events across all of the valley’s heritage sites are laid on for the whole family to enjoy and learn more about the rich industrial heritage of Derbyshire.

To coincide with the event, we take a look at a news report about the redevelopment of Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mill. Built in 1771, it was the first successful water-powered cotton mill in the world.

The combination of machinery, water power and skilled labour force enabled mass production and it is for this reason that the mills at Cromford are widely considered a model for the modern factory system.

Arkwright became known as one of the founding fathers of the Industrial Revolution as he not only profoundly influenced the cotton industry but also the industrialisation of the world.

The ATV news report opens with a shot of a painting of Sir Richard Arkwright by Joseph Wright of Derby. A voiceover from the late Derby-born ATV Today reporter Terry Lloyd introduces some of the history behind the mill and its creator.

The camera then moves briefly on to pictures and photographs of the mill and its inner workings. We then see shots of the mill itself, in disrepair with broken windows.

Cromford Mill 1

Terry explains that the mill was last used for colour processing back in the 1970s. He goes on to explain that historians feared this unique factory system could be lost to the nation as generally held beliefs felt it was best to demolish the buildings.

The tone then brightens as the camera pans out to reveal running water, a stark contrast to a previous shot of stagnant, murky pools. It is at this point that the narration moves on to the redevelopment of the mill.

Terry explains that the Arkwright Society has bought the mill for £70,000 with the intention of bringing it back to life. He goes on to say that the Government’s Manpower Services Commission has taken an interest in a project to renovate the buildings and previously unemployed people are now working there to recreate history.

Terry highlights the cyclical implications of this and suggests that Arkwright, who provided jobs for dozens of locals centuries ago, has come to the rescue again.

After shots of two young men pushing wheelbarrows piled high with rubble, the report moves on to an interview with the project director, Paul Simons (pictured below). Mr Simons begins by explaining more about the programme: “Arkwright started here with an available labour source and got the factories going and now we have a present labour force available to us through the Manpower Services Commission, using the unemployed people at the moment.”

Cromford Mill - Paul Simons - Project Manager

His words are illustrated by background shots of the surrounding buildings and workers on a rooftop. Mr Simons goes on to explain that they are trying to bring the complex back to life and to show how the mill might have been used all those years ago.

He also mentions that there will be multiple uses for the mill in order to make it commercially and financially viable.

Terry then comments: “It does appear to be an enormous task, though.”

Mr Simons answers: “It is, as you look around I’m sure you’ll feel that it is a massive project and many years’ work ahead but we’ve made a start. We need a lot of support but I hope we’ll be able to achieve our aims.”

Cromford Mills - Employee

The camera switches to a young man (pictured above) who has been employed by the Manpower Services Commission. “So, how does it feel to actually be recreating history?” Terry asks.

The young man replies. “Well, a job is a job, you know. As the chairman of our committee has already said, if we weren’t here we’d be home watching the horse racing on the telly but this is… you get something out of this.”

The report gives us an insight into the hopes and aspirations behind the redevelopment.

Some 20 years later, on December 16, 2001, Arkwright Mill became a World Heritage Site as part of Derwent Valley Mills and the public this week can experience a guided tour around the site as part of its Discovery Days.

Visit for more details.

Were you involved in the redevelopment programme?

What are your memories of the mill?

If you have any memories or photos you would like to share with our readers, please get in touch with Derby Telegraph at


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