The Cotton Works and Bridge at Cromford by William Day

In my last post I mentioned how few depictions I had found of the Derwent Valley Mills, both in travel diaries and in amateur sketchbooks.  This isn’t to say that the mills were completely ignored by artists, as Joseph Wright’s oil of Cromford Mill shows.  William Day also sketched the mills on his 1789 tour of the County.  Derby Museum holds this lovely watercolour.

Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill (Derby Museums)

I have been tracking down the  Day watercolours from 1789 that aren’t in public collections.  Here is The Cotton Works and Bridge at Cromford, Derbyshire which went through Sotheby’s auction house in 1975 – sadly this black and white scan is the best I have found.  It has an unusual composition which shows Cromford Mill on the right and Cromford Bridge on the left, seen through Scarthin Rock.

Day Cromford Mill (private collection)

Enlightenment! exhibition heads to Strutt’s North Mill

Enlightenment! exhibition at Buxton Museum, photographed by Nick Lockett

The Enlightenment! exhibition comes to an end at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this Sunday, 14th April. 

Although it will be sad to see it go, the next part of its journey begins at Strutt’s North Mill.  ‘Derbyshire in the Age of Enlightenment’ opens in Belper on the 20th April and runs until 27th May.  The exhibition incorporates loans from Buxton Museum and Derby Museums and is accompanied by an events programme which includes guided walks of the town, a tour of Strutt’s Ice House, and a Night at the Mill evening event. More details can be found on their website.

Strutt's North Mill poster

Richard Arkwright’s brandy pan

Matt Edwards, Derby MuseumsFrancis Hurt

We had recently been outbid on an ivory tea caddy with an Arkwright & Hurt armorial. This was given by Richard Arkwright to his daughter Susannah who married Charles Hurt in 1780. This would have been a lovely accompaniment to the portraits of Mr and Mrs Hurt by Joseph Wright that we are currently raising funding to purchase.

 However, we were tipped off about a collection of Arkwright silverware at the same auction house by Nicholas Shaw, a specialist in fine silver collectables.

 Richard Arkwright's brandy boat

Derby Museums are now the proud owners of this George III silver brandy pan, by Henry Chawner, 1787, engraved with an armorial of Sir Richard Arkwright. The armorial has an eagle crest holding in its beak an inescutcheon bearing a hank of cotton proper.

Richard Arkwright's amorialWhen Sir Richard was knighted and was made High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1787, he commissioned WillersleyCastle and acquired a full dinner service of silver, of which this is a part, to embellish his table.

 Although working in London at the time the excellent silversmith, Henry Chawner, was a member of a local dynasty from Church Broughton, Derbyshire.

 The quality of this piece, its relative rarity and weight in silver alone will make a great exhibition piece.

World Heritage Site Discovery Days 2012

Matt Edwards is giving a talk about the Enlightenment! project on Friday 2nd November, 1pm – 2pm at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

There will be a chance to see some of Derby Museums’ purchases up close and personal at the end of the talk.  It is FREE but places are limited so please call Gwen Wilson , Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Administrator, during office hours on 01629 536831.

The talk is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Discovery Days.  The festival is in its eighth year and there are over 160 events happening up and down the Valley between 27th October and 4th November.  You can see the full programme here.

I’ll just flag up a few events that might be of particular interest:

Joseph Wright’s Derby

Saturday 27th October

11.00am -12.30pm, starting from the Joseph Wright Gallery at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. FREE. Suitable for adults. Booking is essential on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Internationally respected 18th century artist, Joseph Wright, had a strong connection to Derby – the place he lived, worked and died. Join the Assistant Head of Museums, Jonathan Wallis, for this fascinating walk around Joseph Wright’s Derby.


Joseph Wright’s Life and Work

Thursday 1st Nov

1.00pm – 2.00pm, Derby Museum and Art Gallery. FREE. Suitable for adults. Booking is essential on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Join the Assistant Head of Museums, Jonathan Wallis, for his ever-popular talk on the life and work of the internationally renowned 18th century artist, Joseph Wright.


John Smedley’s Mill – 228 Years of Production at Lea Bridge

Saturday 3rd Nov

7.30pm at the Gothic Warehouse, Cromford Wharf. FREE. Pre-booking recommended on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Illustrated talk by Jane Middleton-Smith, to include the history of the mill, the Smedley family and the project to catalogue the company’s unique heritage.

Arkwright Housing – From Cottages to Grand Houses

Sunday 4th Nov

2.00pm – 3.30pm, from outside the Greyhound Inn, Cromford Market Place. FREE. Pre-booking recommended on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Barry Joyce reveals recent research on Alison House, one of the lesser known Arkwright Houses, on a walk from Cromford Village, past the housing built for the mill-workers on North Street.

View of Richard Arkwright’s Mill, Cromford – Derby Porcelain saucer

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has bought a Derby Porcelain cup and saucer dating from 1795. The saucer was the main attraction as it shows a named view of Sir Richard Arkwright’s Mill in Cromford.

The painting in a naïve style appears to be a simplified copy of the Zachariah Boreman watercolour of ‘The Lower Mill’ painted eight years earlier in 1787. The A frame in the foreground is intriguing and after various discussions it is thought to be a frame for bleaching yarn in the sun. Other thoughts were that it might have been linked to a tannery (although no tanneries are thought to have been in the area) or it could have been a tenter frame (although the size is all wrong for this).

You can find out more about the Lower Mill on the DVMWHS website .

The cup shows a view near Little Eaton. We haven’t done much research into this piece but 1795 was the date that Benjamin Outram opened the Little Eaton tramway linking the village with Derby. This might have sparked an interest in the village or it could of course just be coincidental.

William Day – View at Cromford, Derbyshire, taken from the Bridge

William Day (1764 – 1807)

View at Cromford, Derbyshire, taken from the Bridge

 After a couple of false starts we have bought this William Day (1764 -1807) watercolour of Cromford. The view is particularly interesting as it shows the view from the bridge with the smelting mills on the left hand side. This is an unusual and rare view as the mills were soon to be demolished to make way for the building of St Mary’s Church – Arkwright’s private chapel.

We know the watercolour was painted in 1789 while William Day was on a tour of Derbyshire. Day was a geologist and self-taught artist who showed work regularly at the Royal Academy as an ‘Honorary Exhibitor’ between 1783 and 1801. He visited the County with his friend and fellow artist John Webber (1751-1793), who was the official artist for Captain Cook’s third voyage.

This purchase adds to the ‘pair’ of Webber and Day watercolours of Castleton that Buxton Museum and Art Gallery bought in 2011.

Derby Lecture: Mines, Mills and Machines

Thursday 31st May, 7:30pm to 9.00pm

Derby Local Studies Library


Enlightenment, industry and tourism in eighteenth century Derbyshire .

Join Che Binder as he explores the Enlightenment in Derby and Derbyshire. The birth of the scientific method and early emphasis on its application to industry led to the world’s first factories and other wonders such as the purpose-built technological marvel that was Strutt’s General Infirmary in Derby.

Philosophers, scientists and industrialists travelled from all over England and Europe to view these achievements in order that they might emulate them at home. Charles Cotton ‘Wonders of the Peak’ and Defoe’s work also encouraged people at this time to begin to view the natural landscape as a spectacle in its own right, rather than as a resource to be exploited.

Learn about the voyages of discovery taking place in eighteenth century Derby and the along the Derwent. Count the world firsts as they stack up and find out more about the men who laid the foundations of the modern world.

Tickets cost £6 and early booking is advised.  Tickets are available by calling Derby Local Studies Library on 01332 642240 or email For more information visit –

Cockpit Hill mug – “Clarke for Ever Huzza”.

 Derby Museum and Art Gallery have bought a Cockpit Hill mug dated 1768.  It has the painted inscription ‘Clarke for Ever Huzza’ and depicts Godfrey Bagnall Clarke (1742 – 1774), MP for Derbyshire.


Clarke beat the sitting MP for Derbyshire Sir Henry Harpur in a contested election in 1768.  He went on to be re-elected unopposed in 1774 but died only a few months later. 

He was great friends with the historian Edward Gibbon, who wrote ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’.  They first met in Lausanne in 1763 and spent time together on the Grand Tour.  . 

 Clarke’s father Godfrey Clarke helped finance his son’s political campaign and when he died in 1774 he left Godfrey Bagnall Clarke in debt.  Gibbons mentions this in a letter to John Baker Holroyd (later Lord Sheffield), April 13 1774:

  ‘If my esteem and friendship for Godfrey had been capable of any addition, it would have been very much increased by the manner in which he felt and lamented his father’s death … He is now in very different circumstances than before; instead of an easy and ample allowance, he has taken possession of a great estate, with low rents and high encumbrances.’

Courtesy of Miss Frances Webb and

The great estate was Sutton Park (Scarsdale Sutton Hall) which Godfrey Clarke Senior bought in 1740.  Today it is in ruin, but at the time it was one of the finest houses in Derbyshire.  It was later owned by Richard Arkwright Junior and stayed in the Arkwright family until 1920.

Scarsdale Sutton Hall in 1980 (Courtesy of

Godfrey Bagnall Clarke fell ill in 1774.  On 17th December Gibbons wrote ‘I know not what to say about him, he is reduced to nothing, and his disorder is attended with every bad symptom.’  Clarke died 9 days later on 26th December.

 An elegy was written for him and printed for J. Bradley & T. Trimer at Derby; and J. Gregory at Leicester.  I haven’t managed to look at a copy of this yet, but it is on my list.

The Gibbon letters are taken from John Brooke’s article on the History of Parliament website.


Enlightenment! trip to Lancashire

16 people from 8 organisations came on the Enlightenment! study trip in early December.  The trip was a chance for new faces to get to know people and for us all to see what industrial sites in other regions are doing.

Our first stop was Helmshore Textile Museum in Rossendale, Lancashire. On arrival we were met by Suzanne and Louise who gave us an introduction to the site and a much needed cup of coffee. The museum consists of 2 mill buildings which are packed full of original machinery and informative, yet accessible, interpretation. Together with its sister museum, Queen Street Mill in Burnley, the museum holds Designated Collection status.

We were really impressed with the hands-on low-tech interactives and it was fantastic to see the original water wheel in motion. Another highlight was seeing Arkwright’s 96 spindle water frame – the only complete one in existence.

Louise gave up a whole morning (and some) to show us round which was really appreciated. We picked her brains on operational issues and have come away with lots of ideas for our own sites.

After a (very) quick lunch we got back on the minibus and headed to Bolton Museum’s off-site store. Erin and her colleagues showed us their textiles, local studies section and their textile machinery. Of particular interest to us was the original waterwheel shaft and a finisher carder which both originally came from Cromford Mill.

It is always nice to have a poke around another museum’s store and at Buxton Museum we have been inspired to re-pack some of our costume collection, so a big thanks to the staff at Bolton Museum for showing us around.

Derbyshire Bank copper plate and bank note

 The Enlightenment! team has recently purchased two bank notes and a copper printing plate.  

The  bank note was drawn at Wirksworth on the Derbyshire Bank for Richard Arkwright, John Toplis and Co.  This refers to Richard Arkwright junior, son of Richard Arkwright the mill owner. 

When Richard Arkwright senior died in 1792 he left much of his manufacturing business to his son Richard.  Richard decided to move away from the mills and instead focus on property and the banking industry.  Richard gained most of his wealth from his banking business Arkwright, John Toplis and Co. of Wirksworth.  


 This twenty pound bank note was issued from Derby and Derbyshire Banking Co.

Richard Arkwright Junior with his wife Mary and daughter Anne. Joseph Wright. Derby Museum and Art Gallery.