Updated 25 Jul 2009

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Photo 332


Cromford, the first Cotton Mill

This was the world's first factory and began the Industrial Revolution. Built in 1771 by Richard Arkwright, it used water power from the River Derwent and from Cromford Sough to turn a large waterwheel which drove the cotton-spinning machines inside. Around 1788 the mill was extended from 11 windows to 15. The mill was a great success, a canal was built at Cromford to supply raw materials, and the mill was copied in many other countries. Cotton spinning was ended here in 1846 because of failure of the water supply.
Read more about this amazing story on The CROMFORD MILLS.
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Posted 1910.

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Text on rear of above tinted engraving, removed from an [unknown] early 1800s leatherbound book.


SIR RICHARD ARKWRIGHT was born at Preston, in Lancashire, on December 23rd, 1732. His parents moved in an humble walk of life, and, therefore, it may be supposed that the amount of school-learning which he received was exceedingly scanty.

Little is known of the steps by which Arkwright was led to those inventions that raised him to distinction. His first effort in mechanics was an attempt to discover the perpetual motion. This direction having been given to his thoughts, it may naturally be supposed that the circumstances of his living in the midst of the linen and cotton manufacture, would lead him to consider the possibility of contriving some machine, by which the disadvantage of slow production might be overcome; and after much labour and application, he succeeded, in the year 1760, in obtaining his first patent for spinning with rollers.

The first mill erected for spinning cotton by this method was at Nottingham, and was worked by horse-power: but, in 1771, he built another at Cromford, in Derbyshire, to which motion was given by water.

Willersley Castle, the noble home raised with his well-earned wealth, stands on the south side of a commanding eminence, that forms the eastern boundary of the Derwent in its course through Matlock Dale: the river flowing at the foot of the hill, in a grand sweep eastward. The castle consists of an oblong, square building, with a circular tower rising from the centre of the roof, and a semicircular tower projecting from the front on each side of the entrance; and two wings, with a round tower at each angle: the whole structure is embattled, and the exterior walls are of white freestone.

No man ever better deserved his good fortune, or has a stronger claim on the respect and gratitude of posterity. His inventions have opened a new and boundless field of employment; and while they have conferred infinitely more real benefit on his native country than she could have derived from the absolute dominion of Mexico and Peru, they have been universally productive of wealth and enjoyments.

Sir Richard Arkwright died at his Castle at Cromford, August 3rd, 1792, in the 60th year of his age, leaving a fortune estimated at little short of half a million.

Richard Arkwright, Esq., his son, continued the manufacture established by his father. In him were blended the high characters of the British manufacturer and country gentleman: he was much esteemed for his munificence. He died in 1843.

Stuart Flint writes:
You may know already how Sir Richard Arkwright built his first Mill at Cromford, but if not I have the information in my records some of it taken from the Arkwright Papers which I have access to.

In 1686 Samuel Greensmith and then Andrew and Robert his sons were partner's with my 6X and 5X Grandfather's William and Thomas Hoades at Ravenstor Founder Orchard Founder and Ratchwood Mines Colehills and Rise End Middleton

Samuel Greensmith on the strength of the minerals mined purchased a Manor House at Steeple Hill (somes known as Steeple House) nr Wirksworth which was known as Steeple Grange (where the name Steeplegrange gets its title from) believed to have been purchased from a member of the Blackwall family which was a gritstone built block stone Manor House with a Gritstone Walled surround the stone I believe quarried at Bolehill Quarry near what was known as Stonis or now known as Black Rocks

It is recorded that Robert Greensmith purchased Steeple Grange from Samuel Greensmith and extended the building in 1714. He was granted a coat of arms which consisted of 3 pigs of lead and 3 doves argent with an ear of corn in their bill

In early 1771 Sir Richard Arkwright purchased Steeple Grange from Robert Greensmith Beard who lived at Stancliffe Hall and then Breadsall Priory.. Sir Richard demolished the estate and used the gritstone blocks to build his first Mill, which is possibly how he was able to complete the build within a few months as the stone was already dressed.

The site of Steeple Grange was sold to William Lovett of Matlock New Bath House with approx 16 acres of land for £630.00 Thorntree House and 24 Steeplegrange are now on the site where the original Grange was built .. Some of the original masonry is believed to be built into Thorntree House and the Greensmith Stone was found face down as a paving stone at 24 Steeplegrange. It is now to be seen built into the wall at the junction of New Road and Steeple Grange Road opposite The War Memorial.

I have a pedigree of the Hoades family of my kin.. My 4XGrandfather Isaac Hoades married Anne Shaw of Oker near Wensley at St Helens Church Darley Dale in 1771. Shaws are also my kin via Frosts of my Flint family .. Isaac ands Anne Hoades dau Betty married George Land of Bolehill whose daughter Hannah married James Smith of Carsington, Jmes and Hannah's daughter Sarah married Thomas Cauldwell whose daughter Annie married John Walker of Bolehill they my Grandparents. he Shaw family of my kin went on to own Quarries at Matlock, Colehills, Middle Peak and Hoe Grange nr Longcliffe..

Regards Stuart G Flint

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