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Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Arkwright’s Derbyshire Mills
We recently braved the uncertain weather to visit some of Sir Richard Arkwright’s mills in Derbyshire, which I’ve wanted to see for a long time. First we went to see the textile museum in the Masson Mills built by Arkwright in 1783. The museum has a very fine collection of textile machines, which was extremely interesting, especially as I hadn't seen some of them before.
Later in the day we explored Arkwright's mills at Cromford. His first mill on this site was built in 1771. When a parliamentary select committee looked into conditions for factory children in 1816, it discovered that this mill (then owned by Arkwright’s son Richard) worked a thirteen hour day, although no children younger than ten years old were employed. Over 260 children under the age of 18 worked in the mill, which ran from six in the morning until seven at night, with an hour for lunch, but no breakfast time.
The Cromford mills did not employ parish apprentices. These child workers were ‘free’ labour, and went home to their parents each night, unlike parish apprentices in mills such as those at Quarry Bank, Styal and Litton mill.