About Cromford Mill

Cromford Mill

The Cromford Mill is a former water-powered cotton spinning mill located in the village of Cromford, Derbyshire, England. It went into history as the first cotton spinning mill to be powered by water as well as the first successful industrial-scale cotton production factory. The Cromford Mill had a tremendous influence on the cotton industry as well as the Industrial Revolution and is considered one of the first modern factories.

The cotton spinning mill at Cromford was built by English entrepreneur Richard Arkwright and his business partners in 1771. It started operating one year later, however, the work in the mill is thought to be mostly experimental until Arkwright filled a patent for carding machine in 1775 which also reveal a few documents from that time. And it was this carding machine which enabled to turn raw cotton into yarn and Arkwright’s water frame (he patented it in 1769) that launched mass production of cotton and made Arkwright and his business partners a fortune. The entrepreneur later built or leased a number of mills throughout the country, while his cotton production process was soon adopted by other entrepreneurs in Britain and abroad. Arkwright later lost his patents but most of the water-powered cotton spinning mills worldwide were built under license.

After Arkwright’s death in 1792, the Cromford Mill passed to his son Robert Arkwright Junior. The Arkwright family owned the Mill until the early 20th century but it ceased to function as cotton spinning mill in the late 19th century. The Arkwright’s machinery was either sold or donated to museums but most of it was unfortunately destroyed. The buildings of the former cotton spinning mills were used for other purposes, while a part functioned as a dye factory which operated until 1979. The mill buildings were largely rebuilt and altered in the 20th century but a large part was beautifully restored to their original appearance in the late 20th and early 21st century. After the dye factory closed its doors, the buildings of the former cotton spinning mill were bought by the Arkwright Society which was established in 1971.

By the late 1970s, the building of the Cromford Mill obviously reached the end of their usability and were in a state of disrepair. But in contrary to general conviction that it is best to demolish the buildings, the Arkwright Society decided to restore them and preserve the legacy of the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in the world. The Society initiated a long and costly restoration process which has cost about four million pounds so far. They have succeeded to restore the former Arkwright’s mills and in 2001, UNESCO declared the Cromford Mill and other cotton mills in the Derwent Valley as a World Heritage Site of Derwent Valley Mills. None of the mills longer functions as cotton spinning mill but they testify about the technological progress during the early phase of the Industrial Revolution and about their impact on social-economical life in the area.