Sir Richard Arkwright's Masson Mills
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Notice the key word in that last sentence; 'working'. Unlike many historic mills, a large number of the machines on show at Masson are still working, and are used to create textiles for sale and in demonstrations for visitors. Some of the equipment is original to Masson Mills, and some has been brought in from other historic sites around Britain.
You can also explore the original Museum Office, with a model of Arkwright's pioneering waterframe, an 18th century hand-powered pirn winder, and an 18th century gear-cutting machine that may have ben used by Arkwright himself.
HistoryMasson Mills stand on the west bank of the River Derwent, south of Matlock Bath, at the entrance to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The cotton-spinning mills were built in 1783 for Sir Richard Arkwright, who used water from the river to power his looms.
There was already a paper mill on the site, but Arkwright had big plans, and built a large weir across the Derwent to build up a head of water for the paper mill and his new cotton mills. The design of the weir is unusual, for Arkwright built it in a convex for rather than the more typical concave.
The weir fed water to a single waterwheel. In 1801 a second wheel was added. Arkwright's original water-powered design has since been modified, and now the river powers hydroelectric turbines which supply renewable, green energy to the entire Masson site.
More mill buildings were added by 1835, though some were later torn down. The iconic tower that looms over the main mill building was erected in 1907 and was built by Farnsworth Brothers of Bonsall.
In 1897 Masson Mill was absorbed into the English Sewing Cotton Company, and later transfered to a subsidiary, the Sir Richard Arkwright and Company Limited.
VisitingMost of the focus at Masson Mills seems to be on the shopping village, which is directly beside the historic mill. That's a bit of a shame, as the Mills are really very impressive and deserve more attention.
The whole site is dominated by the striking cylindrical chimney that towers over the surroundings. Once inside, you receive a pamphlet with a map of the site, with numbered rooms. You are free to wander, and there are interpretive panels throughout the site to explain each part of the milling process and how the various rooms were used.
One area that I enjoyed was the collection of wooden bobbins. The signs in this cluttered chamber suggest that it is the largest single collection of bobbins in the world, with many unique designs made as one-offs for specific companies around the world.
Do take the time to visit Cromford Mills, Arkwright's first mill, just down the river, and his family home of Willersley Castle, on the hillside overlooking Cromford.
About Masson Mills
Address: Working Textile Museum, Derby Road, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, England
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: On the A6 between Matlock Bath and Cromford. Well signposted. Paid parking.
Website: Masson Mills
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Cromford Mills - 0.4 miles (Historic Building)
Peak District Lead Mining Museum - 0.5 miles (Museum)
Peak Cavern - 0.7 miles (Family Attraction)
Heights of Abraham - 0.7 miles (Family Attraction)
Cascades Gardens - 0.7 miles (Garden)
Bonsall, St James Church - 1 miles (Historic Church)
Crich Tramway Village - 3.6 miles (Family Attraction)
Winster Market House - 3.8 miles (Historic Building)
Nearest Accommodation to Masson Mills: