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History

A Brief History of the Valley

Visitors to the Valley can find out more about the history of the Valley through volunteer-led guided tours and also through the educational information boards sited in the Valley.

In the part of the valley owned by the Arkwright Society at least six mills remain, all of which were powered by water from the Bentley Brook.  Work in the Valley was at its peak in the mid-19th Century but there is evidence that it was used for industrial purposes for many years before that - possibly as early as the 1600’s.  The mills had various uses over the years, including cotton spinning and bleaching, and grinding corn, bone and minerals for paint manufacture. Industrial use of the site continued until the 1930s.

As the buildings in the upper section of the valley fell out of use, they were abandoned and allowed to become derelict.

In 1938 it was purchased by Arthur Mills and inherited in 1964 by his widow Marjorie.  It was her passion for Lumsdale that ensured its survival. Despite many offers for the building stone she refused to permit demolition of the mill structures, preferring to keep them as they were, surrounded by trees and undergrowth, offering a home to a wide variety of wildlife.

However, by 1976 she had recognised that she could not protect and manage her property single-handed. The buildings near the road were in danger of falling onto the highway; the dams which once retained the mill ponds had either to be pulled down or repaired; and these issues now had to be considered against a background of an increasing awareness of the archaeological significance of Lumsdale’s derelict mills and water courses.

Accordingly, the Arkwright Society was offered the lease of much of Marjorie Mills' Lumsdale estate for a nominal rent, provided it was prepared to undertake the preservation of the valley and on the understanding that it would inherit the area leased on Mrs Mill’s death (1996).  

In 1979, a committee of Lumsdale residents and Arkwright Society members was formed. At the heart of the Arkwright Society’s strategy for the valley, following the wishes of Marjorie Mills, there were three guiding principles:

  1. The mills and other buildings, for the most part, would not be restored but be frozen in their picturesque decay.
  2. The public was to be offered access to as much of the site as could be made safe by means of paths, stiles and fencing.
  3. The charm of the wooded areas was to be retained wherever the trees were not endangering structures or public safety.

Today the Society continues to develop this management plan for the Valley, not only maintaining the buildings and public access but also safeguarding the Valley's woodland and wetland habitats which now form part of an important conservation area.

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