Our first trip of our 2017 season was to Arkwright Massom Mill in Matlock. 53 hungry souls descended on the café, arriving at lunchtime. The staff were surprised by our later than expected arrival, but coped admirably. Having refreshed themselves the members set out to walk down to the “Heights of Abraham” or avail themselves of a shopping opportunity.
Promptly at 2:45pm the tour of the mill commenced. Kevin, the guide, dressed appropriately for the period, showed a short film then gave a potted history of Arkwright, his life, inventions and the mill itself. Built in 1783 on the site of a former paper mill, the mill is situated on the banks of the River Derwent, which supplied the water to power the machinery. Soon there were 2 huge water wheels driving the mill engine. Over time, these were replaced by coal, then later oil fired boilers. Now there are water turbines which supply electricity, sufficient for the mill’s activities and the excess power is sold to the National Grid. The looms were started and the noise levels increased until all 6 were running at full speed. It would be difficult to imagine the sound of one thousand looms in a site. The group were also shown a jacquard loom working. The dangers of the operatives, both young and old were explained; moving machinery, cotton dust in the lungs. One sign declared that no young or female person should operate that particular machine ! The star of the show was the mill engine. The fascinating massive machine with giant pistons moving slowly and the huge flywheel turning, which would have driven all the mill’s looms, by a series of shafts, wheels and belts. The mill finally closed in the late 1980’s and was, at that time, the longest continuously working mill in the world.