Cromford Mills, Derbyshire

What’s So Special About This Place?

The mill has been described as the most important preserved textile heritage site in the world. It is from these buildings that Sir Richard Arkwright developed technology that gave rise to the industrial revolution by creating the modern factory system.  

Why Was The Building Under Threat?

It was generally believed the mills had reached the end of their useful life and must be demolished – all of the key buildings had fallen into disrepair and many of the historic features of the site, including the principal watercourse, had been obliterated by modern development. The colour works that was the last industrial use had left significant contamination. So degraded had the site become that the Local Authority believed it had lost too much of its original integrity and that it was no longer historically important.

How Was It Saved?

The Arkwright Society purchased the mill site in 1979 supported by a loan from AHF as an act of rescue, and in the early 1980s began to implement its long-term economic plan. The strategy identified the buildings that were not required for the Society’s own uses and so could be repaired and leased to tenants. The aim was to create a rental income to cross subsidise the Society’s overheads and the costs of delivering services to the general public visiting the site. The society was also able to implement a programme of repairs and conservation, and once some of the more modern buildings were removed the true significance of the complex was revealed, leading to the inscription as a World Heritage Site.  

Project: Cromford Mills, Cromford, Derbyshire, England

Client: Arkwright Society

Grade I and II buildings

Mill complex inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

New Uses: Arkwright Experience – visitor centre; Cromford Creative – managed workspace units

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Professional team
Architect: Purcell Miller Tritton
Quantity Surveyor: Rawlinson Associates
Structural Engineer: Eastwood & Partners
Valuation Surveyor: Smithies
Project co-ordinator: David Trevis-Smith

Other project funders
Heritage Lottery Fund £4,095,400
ERDF £1,059,445
Monument Trust £250,000
AIM Biffa £112,500
Garfield Weston Foundation £100,000
JP Getty Charitable Trust £100,000
Headley Trust £60,000
Others £182,055
Volunteer time £823,300
Total £6,782,700

How Is The Building Used Now?

The Arkwright Society have a popular visitor centre, the Arkwright Experience serving as a gateway to the site including a 3d interactive model and virtual reality show. In the early 1990s the Society developed further income streams from a restaurant and shops run by its trading arm, Cromford Mill Limited. Many of the buildings have now been brought back into economic use and the site has creative industries managed workspace, two restaurants, several meeting rooms, office accommodation for rental, galleries and several shops.

How Did The AHF Help?

The AHF’s involvement with the project goes all the way back to 1979, when it first offered a loan enabling the Arkwright Society to buy Cromford Mills. This makes the Arkwright Society AHF’s longest-established client.  More recently AHF provided a project development grant of £25,000 and a loan of £510,000, supporting the Arkwright’s society’s ambitious four-phase masterplan for the site to become self-sustaining.