Saturday, 21 June 2014

No Trouble at t'mill.

I have just spent my annual week in the Peak District in Derbyshire. This year I visited Strutt's Mill in Belper. The North Mill is practically all that remains of an immense industrial complex whose origins go back over two centuries. 

All the mills on the site drew their power from the River Derwent which was managed by the construction of a weir to create a pound of water. 

The cotton was mostly imported from India and spun on iron-framed machines driven by the mill wheels. One of the specialist products was this style of hand embroidery on cotton stockings.

The present North Mill was apparently constructed in about twelve months to replace the previous building which was destroyed by fire. The owner, Jedediah Strutt, designed what he hoped would be a fire-proof building by erecting a framework of iron girders, instead of the traditional timber beams, and building the walls of brick.

 In this idea, it seems that he had invented the technique for building the skyscraper buildings which followed decades later. The brickwork stands as a monument to the craftsmanship of the builders of 200 years ago.

Looking at the factories that we build today I am reassured by the thought that they will have difficulty standing up for two decades and will certainly not be a blot on the landscape two centuries hence.

When the 'trouble at t'mill' period arrived in the history of industrial relations, with mobs attacking mills and destroying machinery, two firing loops were carved in the stone gateway bridging the public road, so that muskets could be fired at the expected mob. They were never used.

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