Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Time for Work

I am a member of the White Peak Writers group and recently some of us went on a visit to the museum. It was a very interesting visit and I was motivated to write the following. I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone born and bred in the country, who had worked on a farm, to suddenly move into Belper and start work at the Mill. What about that situation would they find strange and maybe disorientating. I hope you enjoy it. Errol Butcher. Time For Work. Before I came to work at the Mill in Belper I used to live with my extended family near the village of Windley. When I was fifteen I moved to Belper with my parents and three sisters as we did not have much money. We’d heard that Mr Strutt looked after his workers and treated them well. I started work at the Mill in June but it took me a while to get used to it. I was used to being in the country with only a few people about but in Belper there were so many people crowded together. The Mill was strange at first too, there was dust everywhere, it got in the eyes, blocked the nose, coated the back of my mouth and made my hair feel dirty. We couldn’t take time to drink much, though, ‘cos that would have stopped us working. Another bad thing at the start was we had to walk around barefoot and the floor was covered with oil and dust that got ground into the feet. Also, it smelt horrible, though you got used to it quite quick. There were also loads of rats about. The hardest thing I found to get used to was how to keep time. The shift started at 6am and if I wasn’t on time the gates would clang shut and I would have my wages docked. We then worked ‘til lunch and the afternoon session went on ‘til 7pm. I was used to long days on the farm so hard work wasn’t a problem but keeping time was. When I worked on the farm time was fluid. If the weather was bad I would wait and start work later. When I finished a particular task I could stop, have a drink or some food. I judged time by the Sun and the seasons. Time was imprecise; all that mattered was getting your jobs done. Not at the Mill, Being on time and working to time was very important. When I first started I was often late, particularly if it was raining as I would hang around waiting for it to stop before going to work. I often had my wages docked early on. It also took a while to get used to having lunch at the same time every day and finishing every day at 7pm. Also, I used to be able to mess around with my sisters on the farm but things were much more serious at the Mill. I often had to pay small fines, or forfeits, for doing things like, ’looking out of the window,’ or ‘riding on someone’s back,’ or ’neglecting my work to talk to someone’. I don’t think I was a very good worker to start with but as I got used to things, especially the new version of time, I became a better worker, seldom late, used to set times and being less frivolous.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Our Marvellous Mill Maintenance Team

Colin Williamson and Ian Longden are members of the fantastic maintenance team, who do so much valuable work at the Mill. They met up with Sid Ellicott three years ago at a Volunteers' meeting and discovered a shared love of the practical and a wealth of relevant experience between them. Sadly Sid is no longer able to work as part of the team due to ill health, but his hard work is still very much in evidence and appreciated. Colin comes from a textile industry background. He worked for the Sir Richard Arkwright Company, Spinning Division, English Sewing from 1966 until 1980. He was Works Manager at the West Mill where they produced industrial thread. He also volunteers as a guide. Ian volunteers on reception, but with his working background he realised he had something practical to offer too. He has worked in aircraft and vehicle engineering as well as running his own model engineering business for twenty years. He then went into teaching, running BTEC building and construction courses for nineteen years. Sid comes from a knitting technician background, so between the three of them they cover a wide range of skills and experience invaluable to the Mill museum. Not only did their skills and backgrounds add up to a greater sum of the parts, but their sense of humour also gelled, creating a fantastic team. There's a real sense of pride and achievement in the work they do for the Mill, not least because they are able to do the work that falls within their remit at a low cost, offering their considerable skills, experience and labour for free. Volunteers at the Mill really are worth their weight in gold!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

A new recruit

Over the next few months we are hoping to share some of the stories of the wonderful people who volunteer here and keep the museum going. We are always looking for new recruits and if you are interested contact us at the Mill by phone or email, 01773 880474 or manager@belpernorthmill.org.uk. Patricia is one of the most recent volunteers to join the team and she has written this piece to set off this new topic for the blog. My name is Patricia Mayborne and I am a new volunteer at the museum at Belper North Mill. For the last 8 years I was running a property business while living in Portugal and prior to that I worked in Support for Learning at a secondary school on Orkney, in Scotland. I am also a qualified homoeopath. On my recent return to England I have become a lady of relative leisure with the time and good fortune to be able to indulge my interests, and l am enjoying exploring the many opportunities that are opening up to me. I moved to Belper in the summer of 2015, knowing very little about the area. I always like to find out about the history of the place I'm living in, and in the Derwent Valley the history leaps out at you at every turn. I started just by talking to people about the distinctive streets and buildings of the town and reading anything that came my way, then in October I heard about the Discovery Days and spent a wonderful Sunday participating in guided tours around the town and visiting as many sites as I could fit in. After that I was hooked and wanted to get involved in some way -⁠ so I did a quick internet search and was delighted to find that volunteers were needed at the museum at Belper North Mill. My email enquiry was responded to warmly and immediately, and a few days later I was down at the museum meeting Tom over a cup of tea as he explained how everything works, and we discussed what part I could play. My initial interest is in working on reception, building up to giving guided tours round the museum as I learn more about it, so it was agreed that I would come down for a number of sessions to shadow the regular volunteers as I learn the ropes. I am now included in the volunteers' monthly meetings and have several training and information sessions coming up. Everyone I have met has been remarkably friendly and welcoming, and I am learning so much about this fascinating part of the world and its historical and cultural significance. For me it is particularly the impact of working practices on people's daily lives and thinking that I find most interesting, and I hope I can contribute to ensuring that future generations value the role that industry here in the Derwent Valley has played in shaping the world.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Bear's Tale

Thanks to Christine Smith for this piece on how the Mill worker bears became a very exclusive souvenir in our gift shop.
What makes a good souvenir? That was the problem faced by volunteers trying to raise money for Belper's North Mill. A group visit to Statford-on-Avon gave the answer: everybody loves a bear! However, our souvenir bears had to be something special. Our museum, Strutt’s North Mill Museum, is housed in the first fireproof cotton mill in the world. It is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site in Belper, UK. It tells the story of the Strutt family and how their enterprise and vision changed the town and the lives of their mill workers. It was this proud tradition that we wanted to celebrate and promote. The first task was to find suitable bears to use, so the project leader, Christine Smith, set about careful research. The bears would have to look traditional, be a sensible size and price and most importantly, look attractive. Then we had to decide on the costumes. Each male bear would have an open-necked shirt, scarf or neckerchief, waistcoat and butcherboy cap. Each female would have a skirt, apron, shawl and cap. Most importantly, they would have names and personalities. Christine researched the local census records from the 1840s to 1860s and found the names and ages of real people who had lived in Belper and worked in the Mill. These were the people who were to be remembered.
Our main costume specialist was Jean Bellaby, who had made theatrical outfits for many productions in the town over the years. Other needlewomen pressed into service were Dorothy Griffin, who produced costumes by the score on her sewing machine, Liz Bolton and Ann Martin who made dozens of shawls and scarves, Pam Lloyd who worked on aprons, and many other volunteers who searched out materials. Christine assembled the items and created labels, as well as sewing many shirts, skirts and aprons. We made a point of using recycled fabric such as old shirts and cut off pieces from other craft projects. Cotton was of course our material of choice. We looked for small checks and floral patterns, thick cotton Oxford for shirts, and even silk from old ties to form neckerchiefs. Many local people gave generously from their patch bags to help us get started. We took personalisation seriously: bears representing older widows might have a black button to secure their shawl, following the Victorian tradition of mourning jewellery. Bears which represented teenage girls might have a jaunty bow in their cap. Small children were commemorated with shorter skirts or outsize caps. As the project developed a new link to past skills was included. To recognise the craft of chevening, or embroidery on stockings, which had been a cottage industry in the town, many of the female bears had an embroidered motif in one corner of the apron, usually with a floral or leaf theme. This allowed many of us to revive our old skills and use some artistic freedom. At last the bears were ready to go, to be launched at a winter craft fair. They sold well, with some being sent off to friends and family as Christmas gifts. We know some bears have ‘emigrated’ as far as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. The bears are on sale in the gift shop all year round, and will also be available at local craft fairs this Christmas.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The geese are getting fat

Christmas is coming... the geese may not be getting fat, but the shops are full of gifts, the adverts are on the TV and thoughts turn to those special gifts. The gift shop at the Mill has some exclusive presents - from tea towels and mugs to the specially dressed millworker bears.
There's a great range of local books too, including this one, now out of print - just a few copies left!
And there are some lovely traditional toys - perfect stocking fillers.
The mill is open at weekends between now and Christmas. Just call in. And look out for our pop up shop at Christmas events and fairs in Belper. We'll be at the Christmas light switch on on the 27th November and both the Strutts and Christ Church fairs on the 28th. We will also be at the Food Festival on December 6th.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Wakes Weeks

Back in the day there were traditional holiday times. As the pumpkins are sold off cheap, Christmas decorations begin to fill the shops and Father Christmas scales Masson Mill it's interesting to think about holidays. Wakes Weeks were - and sometimes still are - a significant time in the calendar year. Originally connected to religious feast days they became associated with fairs and carnivals, a time to let your hair down and take a break from routine. In mill towns Wakes Weeks were also a time when the mills could be shut down for maintenance, the workforce laid off on an enforced holiday. The mill towns of Lancashire headed for Blackpool, filling the guest houses week after week as different towns took their breaks. Even school holidays were altered to fit in with the mills' working pattern. I know Belper has had a Wakes Day in recent years, and well dressings and sports days were all part of the festivities. I don't know of any Wakes Weeks in November, though of course we have just celebrated Halloween and the fair has been to Belper. In spite of the lack of a Wakes Week, I am about to go on holiday, so there will be no post from the North Mill next week. When I come back I am hoping to share some of the stories and experiences of our great team of volunteers. See you soon!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The clocks have gone back. Christmas decorations fill the shops. Father Christmas is scaling Masson Mill. Summer really has gone, in spite of some of the lovely weather we have had in late October. We can only look forward to the spring. November means that the North Mill only opens at weekends. Less time for the great team of volunteers to get together. Inevitably it means fewer visitors too, until we pick up the weekday reins again in March. It is always possible to book a group visit during the winter months, so do get in touch if you would like to. We are also hoping to have some outings and events for volunteers over the winter months. There will also be events through the winter to keep us in the public eye, so do check out the website. Winter is a great time for creating. We have the spinners here on November 1st to demonstrate their skills. The designers of the new Derbyshire tartan will also be here to talk about their inspiration and plans for this lovely colourful fabric. In the next few weeks I am hoping this blog will be taken over by a local writers' group, who will be sharing their stories inspired by the Mill. Winter is also a good time to catch up on all the essential work involved in running the museum and visitor attraction, from updating policies to historical research, via hoovering! Don't lose touch!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sweet memories - come and share them!

This weekend a new exhibition opens at the North Mill, celebrating Belper's great retail heritage. Sweet Memories will be running a pop up sweet shop in the reception area on Sunday 25th October. The exhibition is also at No 28 and will then stay at the Mill over the winter weekend opening. We'd love it if visitors got involved, by sharing their own memories of shops in the town. There'll be post it notes aplenty for you to write down your thoughts. These are a couple of my favourite images!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Sew and Sew

Tracey Harris, fine art student at the University of Derby, worked with the mill to produce some wonderful interpretation material for the basement. Material is the right word! Photographs and words are printed onto Victorian nightdresses, bolster cases, pinafores and fabric to provide colour and interest.
There are also memories of learning to sew from our visitors, displayed hanging from bobbins, written on fabric. Men and women, old and young, everyone who visited that day had a tale to tell. I have just come back from visiting the Art_Textiles exhibition at the Whitworth in Manchester. It's an amazing opportunity to see where art and craft meet, and to see how fabric, embroidery, quilting, felting and all forms of needlework can be used to tell a personal and a political story. Items range from Tracey Emin's appliqu├ęd blankets, to a traditional Malian warrior's tunic. One of Grayson Perry's tapestries is on show too. Well work a visit. It also made me realise how lucky we are to have such innovative work at Strutt's North Mill. Tracey was one of the University of Derby interns over this summer. I look forward to seeing future projects from her.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Back to the Future

This week we held an induction evening at Strutt's North Mill. Intended for our recent and new volunteers, all were welcome. As we come to the end of our summer opening hours, I realise I can look back over more than half the season. From November through to March the Mill is open at weekends only, though groups and schools are very welcome to book private tours during the week. Earlier this year we celebrated twenty years of Strutt's North Mill as a volunteer led visitor attraction and museum.
We have also received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a governance review and Arts Council England funding through the Museum Resilience Fund for a new Fund Raising and Volunteer Support Officer, Tom Wyke. He will be sharing some of his thoughts and progress on this blog soon. There's a wealth of enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication here at the Mill, thanks to volunteers past and present, new and old. As we all look to the future, we can only say long may it continue. If you are interested in volunteering do get in touch to find out more by calling 01773 880474 or emailing tom.wyke@belpernorthmill.org.uk

Thursday, 1 October 2015

On Deaf Ears

Earlier this year, not long after I had started working at Strutts North Mill, I visited Bletchley Park. There I saw a reconstruction of the Bombe equipment and read interviews with young women who had worked there. The noise, the movement and the urgency with which those tapes had to be looked after made me think of parallels between the working environment there, and spinning and weaving sheds in the cotton industry. I lived in a Lancashire mill town when I was at university, and there were older neighbours who recalled working in the mills. They learnt to lip read so they could have conversations across the factory floor. They even had sing songs, not that anyone could catch the tune! When the BBC started their successful series'Who Do You Think You Are', one of the early episodes featured someone who had been brought up in a Lancashire mill town. Both his mother and his grandmother had worked in the mills. His childhood had been blighted by the death of his younger sister as a baby. It was a heartbreaking story. His sister's death had led to his mother's breakdown and those problems affected the rest of her life and his. He blamed his grandmother, who had told his mother in no uncertain terms to leave the baby crying. The mother knew it was a different type of cry, but hadn't had the confidence to go against the grandmother's advice. I guess it must have been meningitis or something similar. It was one of those situations where you are trying to shout at the television. The grandmother would have literally been deaf to the pitch and urgency of the cry. How terrible. I do hope someone pointed this out and he managed to forgive her.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Getting Stronger

Strutts North Mill has been accepted onto East Midlands Museum Service's 'Stronger Museums' programme, supported by Arts Council England. Tom Wyke, Fund Raising and Volunteer Support Officer, and myself as manager have just spent two days in the beautiful surroundings of Launde Abbey in Leicestershire.
This residential start to the programme has given us a chance to meet people from the other museums included in the programme and the mentors we will be working with.
It has been an inspiring and interesting couple of days. Lots to process and think about. We even have homework! The Abbey is normally a retreat centre, and the peace and tranquility was emphasised by the absence of phone signal and wifi, though there were some hot spots for those who really needed them. I was sent to a tree stump across a field of sheep to find one! The food was fantastic, including the afternoon break's cream scones.
Not only was there a ha ha, but there was also an honesty bar.
On a more serious note, a lot of hard work was done and I know we came away with a clearer focus for the future and a better understanding of how we might achieve that.
And the buzz word for the two days was 'friend-raising' alongside fund-raising.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Busman's holiday!

On September 15th we went on a coach trip organised by the North Mill's Volunteers' Association. The morning was grey and drizzly when we set off, but by the time we got to our destination the sun was shining. First stop was the Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich. Linking the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal, it's an amazing feat of engineering, with an interesting history as it adapted to electricity in the 20th century and oil hydraulics more recently. It's still used by canal boats. We went on a boat trip down to the river, and then took a short cruise as far as Northwich. There's a wealth of history there, as well as wildlife interest. Salt mines and the development of polythene, herons and otters, engineering and building techniques to cope with the subsidence caused by salt mines and sink holes.
There's a fantastic Visitor Centre, with a cafe, gift shop and some great interpretation for all and activities for families. After lunch we headed for Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse. The Museum is based in old workhouse buildings and it tells the story of the workhouse. It also has galleries that share and interpret all aspects of Northwich's long and fascinating heritage, including boat building and salt mining.
North Mill volunteers are drawn to machinery wherever they may go!
Making a beeline for the Workhouse! It's always interesting to see how other heritage attractions do it, looking at their interpretation, facilities and interaction with visitors. This was a very enjoyable day out, with lots to inspire.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Watching the wheels go round

Stage 6 of the Aviva Tour of Britain, from Stoke on Trent to Nottingham, will be coming through Belper on Friday afternoon, 11th September. There are painted bikes by the roadsides all along the route, and I have noticed some special shop window displays too. There's going to be a special market on the Market Place in Belper. We will be here at the North Mill, watching the wheels go round. What a wonderful invention!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Heritage Open Days

On Sunday September 13th Belper North Mill will be taking part in the national Heritage Open Days event. One of our volunteers will be leading a free walk to housing on Long Row. Built as part of the Strutts development of the town, it's a fascinating insight into social and historic housing. We will be holding a special book stall in the mill. We have a great selection of local history and special interest books in our gift shop. Volunteers will be on hand to talk about how these books might help you with family or local history research. You will also be able to see a fantastic exhibition created by Tracey Harris, fine art student from the University of Derby, celebrating sewing memories in a very unusual way. The Mill will be open from 11am until 4pm, usual admission charges apply. Heritage Open Days is the country’s largest heritage festival with over 4,600 events, around 40,000 volunteers and some three million visitors taking part last year. Celebrating local history, architecture and culture, the four-day event offers everyone the chance to explore hidden places and experience something new - all of which is completely free of charge. Heritage Open Days operates as part of the National Trust with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Historic England. Established in 1994, it is England’s contribution to the European Heritage Days, which is held annually in September in 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention. For more information and to find out about events across England: www.heritageopendays.org.uk

Monday, 31 August 2015

School's Out

Belper North Mill is a great place to study local history, whatever your age. Not only can it tell the tale of the Strutts family and their impact on the development of Belper as a town and a community, but it is also part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. There have been changes in the National Curriculum recently, and some of these changes have helped us to develop our relevance to local schools. We can offer the opportunity to learn more about an aspect of history or a significant site because the Mill is where the Industrial Revolution developed into the movement we recognise today. We can also explore significant people and places in the locality through the contribution of generations of the Strutt family in Belper. Physical and human geography, environmental awareness, social housing, economic activity, trade links and town planning are all topics that can be explored through the heritage of Belper and the Mills, coming right up to date with its success in the Great British High Street national competition. As schools head back to the classrooms at the beginning of September, don't forget this rich resource on the doorstep. Learning outside the classroom can inspire students and teachers alike. We even have volunteers at the Mill who are keen to show their own homes, houses built in the nineteenth century, to visiting groups. Young students can get a sense of what it was like to live and work in a factory through role play, dressing up and stories. Older students can start to think about the physics of water power and the corporate responsibilities of the mill owners and employers. If you want to bring history and geography to life in this way get in touch with us at the Mill. We can arrange visits all year round.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Industrial archaeology revealed

Derwent Hydro are currently working on the turbine house at the side of the East Mill. They are clearing out mud and silt, replacing stone steps, traps and beams to make the turbine efficient and viable for the future, a contemporary use of water power. There are times in the last week when it must have seemed anything but 'clean' energy as the workmen waded in the sticky smelly mud! If you come and take a look, you will see aspects of the Mill site that will no doubt be hidden from view for years to come. It's fascinating to see the supports for the East Mill building and the channels that run underneath. This week we have had a team of experts in the North Mill basement, assessing our problem with water breaching a corner of the foundations. Again it has been a real insight into the industrial archaeology of the site. Historically Mills have come and gone, tunnels and sluices have been blocked and old ancillary buildings, including garderobes or lavatories have been demolished.Some of the mortar contains clinker and coal dust. Drainage channels and pathways within and outside the buildings have been covered over. Looking at the site as a whole, there's a sense that all the buildings are on islands, with water courses around them. Not quite Venice, but you get the idea! Each discovery seems to lead to another query at the moment, but modern technology and new types of surveys should help us get some answers.

In the news

The North and East Mills have been in the news this week. BBC Radio Derby and East Midlands Today came to interview one of the Belper North Mill Trust trustees, Mary Smedley. The mills made it into the news because the local authority, Amber Valley Borough Council,are working with the owners, First Investments, over the state of the listed buildings that make up the site. The North Mill visitor centre and museum tries to share and spread the very significant story of the heritage of the site and the Strutt family. This significance is very important locally, as a place of work and in the light of the development of the town of Belper. It's also significant on a global scale,as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The factory system, enlightened employment conditions, mass production, workers' housing and welfare, skyscraper technology, cotton industry developments, fireproof and earthquake proofed buildings, and the development of a hosiery fashion industry can all trace their heritage back to Belper. It's an amazing story. The condition of the buildings is always a topic of conversation with visitors to the Mill museum. I overhear conversations on the bus on my way to work about them. Hopefully the recent news items on TV, press and radio will alert the public to some of the questions and part of the answer. We definitely seemed to have more visitors the day after the Mills hit the news. It would be good if it raises interest and concern for these amazing survivals. The North Mill is open throughout the Bank Holiday weekend, including Monday August 31st.If you have always intended to visit, come and see what the fuss is about. Find out why the story is so important, not just in the past but in the present and future too.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A good read

There's a fantastic selection of local history books for sale at the Mill, including titles of interest to local historians. We often have visitors who are investigating their family history too. Some of the titles are hard to find elsewhere. In fact a team of volunteers have been investigating what's available on line, and it has proved that we have a specialist collection.
There are popular walking guides alongside local author Adrian Farmer's very popular compilations of local photos. Some titles have been published by the North Mill Trust or the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Come and browse!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Six degrees of separation - approximately!

Mr Potato Head has returned to Belper, appropriately making his triumphal reappearance in time for the Belper Food Festival last month. Invented by Hasbro in 1952, he features as a character in the Toy Story films. He was the first toy to be advertised on television. He was given to Belper in 2001, incidentally the same year that Belper became part of the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The American Adventure theme park gave him a home when Belper rejected him. He went missing in 2008, after the theme park closed its gates. But recently he turned up at the Drop In youth centre. They have given him a facelift and he now welcomes the world to Belper from the garden of the Methodist Chapel, opposite the bus station. He has always been a figure of controversy, loved or loathed by the town. But there's more to his life story than might meet the eye. Hasbro, the toy company, are based in Pawtucket, USA, twinned with Belper because of their shared cotton connections. Those cotton connections can be traced to Samuel Slater, who was born in Belper in 1768, and apprenticed to Jedediah Strutt at the North Mill. He then took his trade secrets and familiarity with Strutt and Arkwright's working practices to America. In Pawtucket he helped set up successful cotton spinning mills. In the USA he is described as the 'Father of the American Industrial Revolution'. In Belper he is known as 'Slater the Traitor" So if it wasn't for Strutt there wouldn't have been the North Mill for Slater to work in. If it wasn't for Slater, Pawtucket wouldn't have developed as a mill town. If Pawtucket hadn't developed as a mill town, it wouldn't have been twinned with Belper. Throw in Hasbro and the development and success of mass produced widely advertised plastic toys in the 1950s and you have the story of why Mr Potato Head came to Belper. You can either blame or thank Samuel Slater for him!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

And now for something completely different

Some of us were glued to the television last weekend watching the Tour de France. It's very exciting to hear that the Tour of Britain will be coming through Belper on Friday September 11th, in the afternoon. They will come past the North Mill over the bridge. There are sprint stages through Belper too. They will be fast, but it won't be a case of 'blink and you miss them' ! The North Mill and the Triangle will be a good place to watch from. Hopefully the TV helicopters will be flying over the iconic East and North Mill buildings.I wonder if we will get a mention! Belper will be making the most of this chance to celebrate world class cycling in style. Save the date!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A visit from the Duke of Devonshire

On the 22nd July the Duke of Devonshire made a visit to the Mill. Following in family tradition - his father the late Duke visited in 2001 and his mother the late Dowager Duchess visited in 2005 - he came to celebrate 20 years of the Mill and the Trust with the volunteers, trustees and local councillors. He chatted with the volunteers in turn, taking a great interest in all the hard work that goes on here at the Mill. He unveiled new interpretation screens in the Gallery, funded by HLF and designed by Mike Mulliner.
We are so lucky to have two people associated with the Mill who are also residents of Strutts historic housing. Brian Deer took him for a tour of his house on Long Row - a bit different from a tour of Chatsworth, but the Duke was really interested in the ideas behind the housing and the development of Belper as a community around the Mill. He then took coffee and cake at Pat Vayro's Cluster house, again taking a tour of the house and learning the rationale behind its unusual design. He had the privilege of being the first to sign her visitors' book!
He was able to meet representatives from the Cluster Roads Group, discussing road and path surfaces with them because of his experience at Chatsworth with the garden paths. He was intrigued by the surviving Telford road surfaces.
His visit finished at the Station, where he met members of Belper Transition group. He admired the art work and the wild flower planting, and again was able to discuss sustainability and environmental concerns because of his understanding of those issues at Chatsworth.
It was a short but very successful visit. His real interest and understanding of issues, from the politics of heritage to workers' housing and sustainability was really appreciated by those who met him. I think it gave him an insight into the active and lively community of Belper too. Adrian Farmer told us about Chinese visitors who are amazed to realise that the Strutts houses are real homes, not museum pieces. Interestingly, having worked as a guide at Chatsworth, that's something we always said about the house - that it's the family's home not a gallery or a museum. I know some useful connections have been made by his visit. We are all looking forward to inviting him back for a proper tour of the Mill!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Outstanding Universal Value

The phrase 'outstanding universal value' is the catch phrase for World Heritage Site status. It takes a bit of thinking about. Universal is used in the sense of world wide importance. The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site is one of 29 in the UK. It was added to the list in 2001. The 18th and 19th century mills, running from Masson Mill all the way down to the Silk Mill in Derby, changed society forever. They created the first factory system, the ability to mass produce quality goods, and social housing especially designed for mill workers and their families. The change from water to steam power,developments in cotton spinning technology and mill architecture are all represented in the sites along the valley. Roads, railways, canals and water management systems are also part of the picture. As the mills and factories closed, tourism became increasingly important to the economy of this part of Derbyshire. In the last couple of weeks we have had two film companies filming at the North Mill, one German, the other Japanese. Our fame spreads far! They visited other mills in the Derwent Valley too. An episode of Tony Robinson's series of Walking Through History showcasing this area was repeated recently on Channel 4. On Monday Adrian Farmer of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site team, based with Derbyshire County Council, took a group of us on a training tour. We all had some connection to sites, as enthusiasts, volunteers or employees. We discovered the beauties of Darley Abbey, the history of Milford, the exciting plans for Cromford Mills and the allotments and weavers' cottages of Cromford Village. We also visited the North Mill and took lunchtime shelter from the rain in Strutts' lovely Unitarian Chapel in Belper, eating our sandwiches as we learnt about the the crypt below us. We stood where Oasis had their photo taken on Cromford Station. We discovered a 'bear pit' in Cromford Village as well as some great looking pig sties. We now know where Milford schoolchildren learnt to swim, and what part Sangers' Circus elephants played in delivering the new boilers to the East Mill.We know the secrets of Willersley Castle's bookcases too. In spite of the rain, it was a great opportunity to find out more about the area and to get to know what other people are busy doing to preserve, develop and publicise the Derwent Valley. It really is the Valley that changed the world.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

First shift at the Mill

Introducing Tom, fund raiser, volunteer supporter and handy with a mop and bucket!
My name is Tom Wyke and I arrived this week at the Strutt’s North Mill ready to start work as the new ‘Fundraising and Volunteer Support Officer’. On approaching the building I was struck by the thought of the large numbers of Belper residents, just like me, that must have arrived at the Mill for over two hundred years. My first couple of days have been good ones, meeting new colleagues and volunteers who each showed their passion for the Mill and helped to highlight again, through their enthusiasm, the importance of the heritage of the Mill. It was encouraging to see the different roles volunteers have, as on arrival there was a maintenance team fixing doors and cleaning carpets. It was also great to be shown around the Mill site again, by Mary, and get a feel for the place, as well as discuss further my new role and ideas with Nicky the Mill Manager. I even leant a hand with a couple of volunteers as we tried to clean up a flood in the basement, which showed me just how dedicated and flexible in their roles Belper North Mill volunteers are. Moving onto what I’m here to do. The priorities for my new role are: 1. Scoping fundraising opportunities and developing a sustainable fundraising strategy 2. Supporting current volunteers and recruiting additional volunteers, through developing the volunteer experience at the Mill. 3. Working with the Trust, the staff and the volunteers to develop ideas of how to raise funds independently. I’m excited to be involved in such an important project, and even more excited to be in a position to encourage more people to get involved in a variety of ways. I’m grateful to the Arts Council England for funding this role, as we seek to develop a more sustainable and financially secure museum that is embedded in the community, and a place that continues to be enjoyed by visitors, staff and volunteers alike.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Reelin' in the years

This weekend Tracey Harris, a University of Derby intern, textile artist and fine art student, is going to be in residence at the North Mill. She has been sharing her ideas and work process with the Mill through her blog on wordpress, Strutts North Mill Internship. This weekend she'll be there in the hope that people will come in and share their personal memories of sewing and will donate a cotton reel to one of the displays. I'll be choosing a reel from my trusted old sewing basket. It's full of colours bought for hemming a particular garment or sewing on a certain button. There are spare buttons for clothes that have long since gone to the charity shop. Needles, pins, bits of ribbon, safety pins, crochet hooks and scissors. I can turn up a hem, sew on a button, mend a tear, do blanket stitch. When I was married my husband was in the fashion business and I lived the seasonal life of A/W and S/S collections. But my confidence in my sewing abilities was destroyed by a needlework teacher who used to throw our below standard sewing out of the window and into the River Irwell below! She also had a habit of throwing scissors across the room!. No wonder I never mastered the art of threading a treadle sewing machine. Luckily my children have inherited their father's talents for making clothes. What part has sewing played in your life?