After walking the Derwent Valley Heritage Way I am now on a continued mission to educate myself in all things Arkwright. The next location on my list was Masson Mill, I have visited before many years ago but that was only to browse the shops that are now part of this diversified mill. Masson Mill sits in between Matlock Bath and Cromford at the northern end of the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, It is the crowning jewel in Sir Richard Arkwright’s cotton milling achievements and I knew I had to go and check out this fantastic looking mill.
I arrived at just after 10am on a very misty autumnal morning, the leaves were falling, the mist had descended so the warmth of the mill building felt very welcoming. I visited his very first Mill last week and wrote a blog post which can be found at Richard Arkwright – Cromford Mill.
As I mentioned earlier there is a wealth of shopping and dining facilities at Masson Mill. I did quickly sample some coffee from the cafeteria on the ground floor before I heading off to the museum to learn some more valuable history lessons. You enter the Mill Museum by descending down the slope which is just to the left of the shopping entrance and car park. I paid the very modest entrance fee of £3, quickly stopped to take a picture of the original Mill bell from 1785 and then headed down stairs to begin soaking up all that was on offer.
As it was approaching 11am I headed straight for the Weaving Shed and Dispatch. A machinery demonstration takes place at 11am & 2pm Monday to Saturday, if you visit on a Sunday the demo is 11am and 4pm. I had a great chat with Kevin Gilbert who works at the museum, he very kindly answered a few quick questions while I recorded it for Peak Routes via AudioBoo. In the Boo which is embedded below you can hear our discussion and the sound of one of the Yorkshire Looms that dates back around 130 years.
I was totally fascinated by all that was on offer in the Weaving Shed, the live demo of the machines was excellent and it was great to see them working. The noise of the Yorkshire and Lancashire Looms was at a bearable level today, it does make me wonder what it must have been like to work in the mill when all the machines were weaving, spinning, carding and doubling all at once.
After the great demo by Kevin I moved on to the Spinning and Carding section of the museum. The huge “Mule” spinning/drawing machine looked very impressive, It wasn’t in operation today but I can imagine it must have required great skill to operate as it moved backwards and forwards.
Next I wandered through the Mechanic’s shop to the boiler house. when Arkwright built the mill it was originally powered by water until the steam boilers were fitted around 1911. They are absolutely huge and I imagine this room must have been particularly warm when they were in use.
After the boiler house I wandered outside to have a look at the weir on the River Derwent that was built by Arkwright in 1783. one of the reasons he built Masson Mill is due to the great power that could be harnessed from the River Derwent. His original mill down in Cromford had suffered from water flow issues as it was using the power of Bonsall Brook and Cromford Sough. The Derwent which begins high up in the Peak District at Swaines Greave has a much larger flow.
The mill was first powered by the water wheel, then by steam and is now run by hydro electric power. Thanks to this, the site is totally self sufficient and when the mill is closed the hydro electric power is channelled back into the national grid. I then wandered through the Bobbin Room which house the worlds largest collection of bobbins, according to the signs there they have around 680,000, needless to say I didn’t take the time to double check their count 🙂
Next was the Doubling Room which is in the oldest part of the mill, I was particularly impressed by what is attached to the wall in this area. It is the original ring where Arkwright tethered his horse when it was raining. being the fanatic that I am I had to grab hold of it and imagine what it must have been like in the room all those years ago. I was once again left fascinated by the working cotton doubling machine that is housed here. I recorded an AudioBoo while I watched it working the strands of thread, twisting them together and giving double thickness to the final yarn.
After the Doubling Room I had one more look in the Weaving Shed before concluding my very brief visit. There is a vast wealth of things to see, hear and experience at the museum. I will definitely be returning again very soon to spend more time exploring and learning. If you would like to find out more about the museum at Masson Mill you can do so by visiting http://www.massonmills.co.uk/Museum/. They have a great website which is full of information that will make you want to go and have a look for yourself. Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope to bring you another instalment in my Derwent Valley Mills visits very soon.