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)

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.

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.

Derby Mechanics Institute, Cromford Bridge & Smedley’s Hydro

We have recently bought four items from Grosvenor Prints in London. Derby Museum and Art Gallery have added a trade card and memorial poster to their collection and Buxton Museum have an engraving and piece of headed stationary.

Exhibition memorial

The memorial is to the ‘splendid exhibition of works of art and productions of nature in the Animal Vegetable and Mineral Kingdoms’ which was opened in the Mechanics’ Institution in Derby on May 13, 1839.

‘This truly splendid Exhibition by bringing together into one focus such a vast assemblage of wonderful and interesting objects, it affords to thousands an opportunity of viewing and examining…’

‘The Derby Mechanics’ Institution was established April, 1825, under the auspices of Joseph Strutt, Esq, the president, the late William Strutt, Esq, and several patrons of education in the town and neighbourhood, who liberally entered their names as donors and annual subscribers to the Institution’.

This broadside poster was printed by J Chadfield at the institution during the exhibition. The image of the printing press toward the bottom of the page is a Columbian ‘Eagle’ Press with its trademark Eagle counterweight. Broadsides throughout history have been one of the most popular printed formats. Printed on single sheets of paper and printed on one side only; broadsides were used to inform the public about current news and events.

This purchase nicely compliments an engraving of the Mechanics’ Institution by Samuel Rayner, 1839 that Derby Museum already has. Some of the objects in the picture are still in the museum’s collection today namely ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Joseph Wright which can be seen on the far wall on the left.

Trade card

Inscribed ‘O. Jewitt, Engraver on Wood, Duffield, Near Derby’. The scenes depicts Orlando Jewitt’s house in a border of flowers. He was born in Buxton in 1799.





Headed stationary, 1860

Headed stationary from Smedley’s Hydro Establishment, Matlock. There is a hand written note on the reverse relating to the transfer of £1000.



Cromford Bridge at the entrance to Matlock Vale, 1830.