Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Keeping it up

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's poster tells us to look up. There are peregrines nesting on the East Mill, finding a habitat that suits them in an unlikely place. When you look up you can't help but notice the soaring floors of the red brick mill.
There are old black and white aerial photos of the site, a bird's eye view from a plane or helicopter flight. Nowadays you are just as likely to see aerial photos taken by drone cameras and shared on the internet. It's strange to connect this with Samuel Slater's story. He served his apprenticeship with the Strutts, who built the North Mill, and then took off to the USA to pass on the secrets of cotton spinning.'Pride of the West' muslin from his mills covered the wings of the Wright Brothers first flying machine! The construction of the North Mill paved the way for skyscrapers in New York.There is even what is said to be the oldest passenger lift shaft in continuous use in the North Mill building.
It has a modern lift in it nowadays, but visitors who are in the know come to marvel at it. The metal plates on the support pillars in the basement can adjust to weight and vibration, essential in a mill with working machinery. The same technology is used to protect buildings from earthquakes in Japan.
Warm air rises, as we all know. The heating system in the mill made use of a cockle and air shafts to distribute the heat.
Ever wondered the origin of the expression 'warming the cockles of your heart' ? Now you know! This was an effective central heating system later put to use at Derbyshire Infirmary, built by William Strutt in 1810. Unfortunately it did spread diseases along with the hot air. And finally, what about your socks. They wouldn't stay up without their ribbing. Jedediah Strutt developed and patented a way of knitting rib on a machine in 1759.
So it's all about keeping it up here at Belper North Mill.

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