By Adrian Farmer
Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site
For over 230 years, Belper has had cotton mills clustered around the bridge on the Derwent.
In recent weeks I’ve been helping put together a temporary exhibition to celebrate that fact.
Strutt’s North Mill is rightfully regarded as one of the most important historic industrial buildings in the world. For the start of the new season, the museum in the mill has a display of historic images, showing how the mills once dominated the landscape of the town – even more than they do now. We lost some incredible buildings from 1959 onwards – the ground-breaking Round Mill, the massive Jubilee Clock Tower, the mill chimney (tallest in Britain when it was built) and others. They’re all celebrated as part of the new exhibition. But we should be grateful some of the mills were lucky enough to survive, including the North Mill, which you can see for yourself during a visit to the museum. Of course, museums like Strutt’s North Mill couldn’t operate without volunteers.
My links with the World Heritage Site started as a museum volunteer over 12 years ago – it’s been a lot of fun, and I learnt new skills and discovered new abilities I never knew I had. There are lots of options for people considering giving time for volunteering, and at Strutt’s North Mill there’s training available, whether you want to become a receptionist, a guide, or help out behind the scenes. To find out more contact manager Sarah Skinner at email@example.com or ring 01773 880474. One of the benefits of being part of a larger World Heritage Site, running from Matlock Bath to Derby, is the chance to meet volunteers from other mills and visitor attractions – we have regular visits along the valley and further afield, and working together has created a wider, friendly, World Heritage family. My favourite duty as a volunteer at the North Mill is leading some of the history walks around Belper on the last Sunday of the month, from March to October. Those walks start again on March 30, with a Mother’s Day themed family walk at 2pm from the mill. On April 27, a food-themed walk from the Market Place ends with a little taster session at Strutt Street’s Fresh Basil. There’s a busy programme of events for 2014 – not just for the mill, but across town, and in the wider World Heritage Site. It’s going to be busy – but fun!