A Textile Tour of Derbyshire

Derbyshire's textile industry changed the world, but also many of its towns and villages

Derby Rib Machine patent (1767-08-15) by Jedediah Strutt and William WoollattDerbyshire Record Office

Derby - Milford - Belper - Cromford - Matlock

Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the world's first commercially successful water-powered factories were established along the River Derwent by industrialists such as Sir Richard Arkwright and Jedediah Strutt, making a significant contribution to the Industrial Revolution

Photograph of employees outside John Smedley Mills (1910) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office


Also known for its connection to Florence Nightingale, John Smedley established his factory in this tiny village in 1784

John Smedley Ltd is now the world's oldest manufacturing factory in continuous operation, currently producing high-quality knitwear

Page from Wages book from Richard Arkwright and Company's Lumford Mill in Bakewell, Derbyshire (1786) by Richard Arkwright and CompanyDerbyshire Record Office


Sir Richard Arkwright's Lumford Mill opened in 1783 but the machinery that powered the mill affected the fishing further downstream and interrupted the supply of water to a corn mill owned by the Duke of Rutland resulting in legal disagreements for decades

Page from Wages book from Richard Arkwright and Company's Lumford Mill in Bakewell, Derbyshire (1786) by Richard Arkwright and CompanyDerbyshire Record Office


This book gives total wages for those employed as Day Spinners, Night Spinners, Workmen, Cotton Pickers, Youlgrave Pickers, Youlgrave Reelers, Waste Pickers and total for Overtime work. Youlgreave is a village just outside Bakewell.

Abstract of returns of apprentices in cotton mills (1840) by Derbyshire County Quarter SessionsDerbyshire Record Office


Litton Mill became infamous following the publication in 1832 of the “Memoir of Robert Blincoe”, a London orphan who was apprenticed there aged 7. The 1833 Factory Act placed various limits on child labour, but conditions remained bleak for decades

Sample of Penistone cloth (1783) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office

Working conditions of children paled in comparison to the inhumane treatment and torture millions of enslaved Africans were subjected to as European traders transported them across the Atlantic to toil on plantations, including to provide cotton to the Derbyshire mills

Extract from 18th century copy of the Eyam parish register (1700) by Parish of Eyam St LawrenceDerbyshire Record Office


Eyam will be forever associated with the Great Plague of 1665-5 when over 260 people died. The first victim was tailor George Viccars. Now believed to be a myth, or misunderstanding, the story persists that the plague arrived on cloth from London where the disease was widespread

'Excelsior for value Corsetry and Brassieres' illustrated brochure cover (1950/1955) by Richard Cooper and Company (Ashbourne) LtdDerbyshire Record Office


For 125 years, this Georgian market town was the home of corset makers Richard Cooper & Company, whose popular corsets, and later brasseries and girdles were worn by everyday women

Sample of lace from R Granger and Sons Ltd (1940) by R Granger and Sons Ltd of Long EatonDerbyshire Record Office

Long Eaton and Sandiacre

On the back of the booming industry in Nottingham, the manufacture of lace transformed Long Eaton from a small agricultural village to a town of 13,000 people by 1900. Several of the industries large buildings can still be seen in both towns

Calico printing pattern book sample number 134, Edmund Potter & Co, John Colley Humohrey, 1850, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
Calico printing colorist or chemist book sample numbers 84 to 88, Edmund Potter & Co, John Colley Humphrey, 1850, From the collection of: Derbyshire Record Office
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In 1821, a new invention in New Mills made calico printing commercially viable. A few miles away in Glossop, Edmund Potter’s printworks (established 1825) was later said to be the largest calico printing works in the world, admired for its designs and use of new dyes

Price list of Pink Tape from Haarlem Mill, with samples attached (1902) by George H Wheatcroft and Company Ltd of Haarlem Mill, Wirksworth, tape manufacturersDerbyshire Record Office


Although the term "red tape", referring to excessive regulation, may be as old as the 16th century, the product itself was often pink. Several mills in this mid-Derbyshire town produced narrow fabrics and 'tapes' primarily used for tying together bundles of documents

The site of Haarlem Mill in Wirksworth was the location of a mill since the medieval period. About 1814, the mill was converted for the weaving of tape - in the 21st century it is used as a wedding venue

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