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!

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