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Thursday, 2 April 2015

A Strut(t) Around Belper I

North Mill, Belper
My poor blogs have been neglected for a little while, as I've been working hard on my new book for Pen & Sword, Regency Spies, but I hope to be posting more regular updates now. Continuing my series of blog posts on some of the fabulous places in Britain which I visited last year, today's post is on Belper, a Derbyshire town with some amazing industrial heritage.
Belper nailmaker, North Mill.

Belper was traditionally home to the framework knitting and nail-making industries. North Mill, Belper has a wonderful collection of textile machinery, so do take the time to explore it if you can. 

The museum has many more machines than I've been able to show you here, and some social history displays.
Stockings were formerly knitted from silk on machines, but the Strutt family invented an improvement to the frame so that ribbed stockings could be knitted from either silk or cotton (the Derby rib). Ribbed stockings were more elastic and easier to wear than former designs.

Spinning Jenny, North Mill.
Good quality cotton yarn was needed to knit stockings, however, so Strutt helped to bankroll Richard Arkwright's initial forays into cotton spinning - Arkwright's waterframe was a great improvement on James Hargreaves' original spinning jenny.

Arkwright's first cotton-spinning mill was built at Cromford (1771);  Jedediah Strutt's own cotton-spinning mill (the South Mill) in Belper, powered by water, was founded in about 1776; the North Mill was completed about a decade later.
Stocking frame, North Mill.

Arkwright's waterframe, North Mill.
In my next blog post, I'll take a look at conditions in the Belper mills for their women and child workers.

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