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

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.

W.G & J Strutt’s Macrame Twine

Belper North Mill have bought this twine in its original packaging from Ebay. It dates from 1913 and the box shows a picture of the the Mill – it is amazing that it has survived untouched and in such good condition.

Jedediah Strutt started developing the Mill at Belper in 1776.  Subsequent generations of Strutt’s continued to develop and improve the site and build the workers houses and local infrastructure.  The Mill continued as a working textile mill until its closure in 1991. 

It is one of the oldest surviving examples of an industrialised water powered cotton mill in the world.   Details of opening times, events and more information about the mill’s history can be found on their website.


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.

Enlightenment! exhibitions

The Strutts & Innovation Exhibition

Belper North Mill

20th April – 2nd May 2011

The exhibition highlighted the importance of the Strutt’s family contributions to the development of Belper, Milford and beyond.   Pupils from three local schools got involved in the exhibition which was staffed entirely by volunteers.

The exhibition was opened by Lin Ryan whose grandfather George Herbert Strutt gave Belper the Strutt’s school, swimming pool and River Gardens.



An unexpected (but very welcome) outcome of the exhibition was a new acquisition for Belper North Mill.   A visitor to the exhibition spoke to Stephanie Hitchcock  about a wooden box that she had purchased from an antique shop in Ashbourne 10 years ago. 

The box is inscribed with the words ‘W.G. & J. Strutt, Belper. Established 1780, manufacturers of sewing, knitting, crochet, merino yarns &c.’ The top of the box also shows an image of the Belper Mill complex with the mills at Milford in the background.

 After some discussions the visitor decided to sell the box to Belper North Mill so that it can be put permanently on public display. 


Belper North Mill hank of cotton – W.G&J Strutt

 After scouring eBay Belper North Mill managed to purchase a hank of Belper ‘cotton’ in its original packaging.  The packaging is stamped ‘W.G & J. Strutt, Belper’.   We would really like to acquire more items like this so if you know of the whereabouts of any similar items then please let us know!

Stockings for Belper


Belper half hose 1

We were particularly pleased to track down these stockings, as they are typical of the kind maufactured in the Belper area in the mid nineteenth century. They will become part of the collection currently held at Belper North Mill. The Enlightenment! team are hoping to find more items that relate to manufacturing in the Belper area. This could include hosiery like these stockings, or ‘half hose’ to give them their full title, or samples of the kinds of sewing thread made at the mills at Belper and Darley Abbey.