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.