Historic Derbyshire mill goes back to the future with bid to return water power to the World Heritage Site

Derbyshire's historic Cromford Mill is going back to the future with an initiative to return water power to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, while addressing climate change.

By Chrsitina Massey, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 29th July 2022, 12:14 pm

The Arkwright Society, which works to conserve the historic landmark, has secured £330k to install a water source heat pump and state-of-the-art hydro-turbine at the mill, as well as reinstate a waterwheel, thanks to funding from Severn Trent Water and Derbyshire County Council (DCC).

Operations director Simon Gill said: “It’s probably the most significant thing that’s going to happen here to return water power to the original mill that created the first factory system at the start of the Industrial Revolution.”

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The historic mills at Cromford

Richard Arkwright built Cromford Mill in 1771, revolutionising industrial practices and making him the richest man in Britain when he died.

His invention of the waterframe to spin cotton transformed the manufacture of cotton into England’s major industry and created a system of factory production that spread throughout the world. The cotton industry was a cornerstone of the industrial revolution.

Mr Gill said an aspect of the scheme that was ‘close to his heart’ was the reduction of the site’s carbon footprint and emissions.

The funding will pay for the installation of a Francis turbine, generating 15kW of electricity, as well as a waterwheel, which will replicate the one of the original waterwheels and produce 1kW of energy.

Belper firm Vaillant is providing the water source heat pump that will capture heat from water and use it to provide heat and power to one of the buildings on site.

Using additional funding from the Wolfson Foundation, the Arkwright Society has been working with Cromford Parish Council to restore a dormant hydro-turbine at Cromford Cornmill that will create 12kW of electricity and generate income for the village, which was built for the mill workers.

DCC’s contribution of £133k was awarded through its Green Entrepreneur Scheme and when the project is completed it will be exhibited as an example of a green initiative to educate people about renewable energy sources.

“We will share our work and demonstrate what we’re doing on a challenging Grade One listed site,” Mr Gill said.

Work on the scheme is expected to start in September with the hope of it being fully operational by June next year.