The industrial history of the Lumsdale Valley
The Lumsdale Valley is a scheduled monument because it is a site of national archaeological and historic importance. It is owned by the Arkwright Society, an educational charity devoted to the protection of the industrial heritage buildings and associated landscape. The mills and the associated water management features form one of the best examples in Great Britain of a water-powered industrial archaeological site.
The Valley’s uniqueness comes from seeing such an extensive use of water power in a relatively small area. Over several centuries, the water power was used for processing lead, textiles, barytes and corn.
The smelting of lead in Lumsdale applied the latest technologies: first the ore hearth - used in two smelting mills in Lumsdale from the 1580s or 1590s – then the cupola, or reverberatory furnace, used from 1749 on the site of what is now Pond Cottages.
There were also other cupolas operating in the Valley, together with red lead smelting works and slag mills but by the end of the 18th century the cotton industry had become a much more attractive investment.
The Watts, Lowe and Co. consortium which built the three storey cotton mill in 1783 did so on an area of land which had included a corn mill. The new mill, situated at the southern end of the Arkwright Society estate, probably used fourteen water frames – only two fewer than Richard Arkwright had in his first mill at Cromford.
For over 20 years the consortium apparently operated successfully but in 1807 the six remaining partners dissolved their partnership and the building went up for sale in 1811. Although two of the former Watts, Lowe & Co. partners had been bankrupted as individuals, the firm itself was not insolvent. However, it was time for industry to move on in Lumsdale.
Bleaching and grinding
By 1821 the cotton mill had been resurrected as a bleaching mill - an industry which survived for almost a century. Lumsdale was again keeping abreast of new technology under the Gartons who owned the business for most of this time. John Garton was also a “manufacturer of sulphate of barytes” in the Valley. The latter was a mineral found in this area which was used in the manufacture of paint and is the reason why one of the ruins in the valley is referred to as the Paint Mill. The Bone Mill higher up the valley was so called because its last use was grinding bones for fertiliser.
On the death of Edward Hall Garton in 1906 the Lumsdale state was put up for sale and conveyed to Ernest Richard Farnsworth in 1907 whose family had owned bleaching works further down the valley. In 1829, however, the bleaching business and estate were put up for sale, marking the end of industry in the Valley. Personal inadequacies played their part but the sad truth was that Lumsdale by the 1920s had more disadvantages than advantages as a place of production.
If you would like to find out more about the history of the Valley see the following book which is available in the shop at Cromford Mills:
A. Piper and C. Piper Lumsdale, The Industrial Revolution in a Derbyshire Valley (2019, Bannister Publications).