Sir Richard Arkwright: English Heritage updates entry about Derbyshire mill owner’s links to slavery

An entry on English Heritage’s website about Sir Richard Arkwright has been changed to highlight his links to slavery.

Friday, 4th February 2022, 2:15 pm

The entry now states the fact the 18th century inventor and businessman’s Derwent Valley mills in Derbyshire used cotton supplied by the slave trade.

The Arkwright Society acknowledged this may not be easy for some to read – but said it was an ‘important story to tell’.

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Derbyshire mill owner Sir Richard Arkwright. Picture by the Print Collector/Getty Images.

According to the BBC, an English Heritage spokesperson said: “In keeping with the Government’s ‘retain and explain’ policy, these online entries aim to tell more of the story behind the person, including any uncomfortable aspects.

“In the case of Arkwright, we highlight the pioneering role that ‘the father of the factory system’ played in the early Industrial Revolution.

“We also cover the fact that his cotton mills involved harsh working conditions and relied on raw materials produced using enslaved workers in the Americas.”

The Arkwright Society’s chief executive, Simon Wallwork, told the BBC: “I think it is an important story to tell.

“The cotton industry in Britain was historically fed by the slave trade and I think this story is one that needs to be told and needs to be realised and people need to recognise that is part of the story of Britain.

“It is not very palatable and the slave trade was appalling and abhorrent but it is a story that needs telling and we do try to tell it here.”

Arkwright, born in 1732, patented a machine to speed up the processing of cotton in 1769, subsequently starting mills across northern England.

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