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The man who transformed Belper from a small village to an important industrial centre was Jedediah Strutt. From a young age he had an obsessive interest in machinery, but when his uncle died and left him a small holding, he took it over and married Elizabeth Woollatt who he had met when in apprenticeship as a wheelwright. His brother-in-law, who worked for a hosiery firm in Derby, knowing of Jedediah’s interest in machinery, told him of the problems they were having in trying to adapt their machines to make stockings in a ribbed pattern. Everything they had tried had failed. Immediately, Jedediah set about the task of finding a solution.

He spent many hours in his attic experimenting, neglecting his farmwork in the process. At last he succeeded and the closer fitting stockings that resulted were a great success. He went into partnership with his brother-in-law opening a stocking factory in Derby and patented his ‘Derby Rib Machine’. Wishing to expand his business further, he went into partnership with Samuel Need and they later asked Richard Arkwright to join them and together built mills at Belper, Cromford and Milford.

Using the power of the River Derwent to drive the machinery, Jedediah built his first cotton mill, the South Mill, at Belper in 1776. Milford was chosen as the second site for a mill four years later. Soon after that the partnership was dissolved, with Strutt retaining the mills at Belper and Milford. From then until 1827, mills were built every few years along the banks of the Derwent. After Jedediah’s death in 1797, his eldest son, William took control.

William, was a brilliant engineer and architect and established a considerable reputation. He designed the bridge at Milford, created new systems of ventilation and sanitation and even a central heating system. Most important of all he ensured Belper mills were the safest in the world, by introducing a fire-resistant iron framed building.

A guided tour of North Mill provides the visitor with a fascinating insight of how the Strutt family transformed Belper. From a village of 500 people in the 1770s to a town with a population of 4,500 by the start of the next century. Another 40 years later the population was 10,000 and Belper at that time was the second largest town in Derbyshire.

Belper is a town so rich in industrial heritage that it is not only of national importance, but occupies a pre-eminent position on the - world stage. As an important part of the Derwent Valley, which is universally recognised as the Cradle of the Industrial Revolution and now holds World Heritage Status.

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Situated in Strutt's, North Mill where superb displays of hand spinning wheels, Hargreaves’s Spinning Jenny and many more exhibits bring this old mill back to life.  Further information available (Tel. 01773 880474) The nearest Tourism Information Centre is at Ripley, which can be contacted on telephone number 01773 841488.



St. John’s Chapel Heritage Centre (Tel. 01773 822116) dates back to about 1250, contains an interesting collection of old photographs of Belper and memorabilia. Open weekdays  9.30am to 12.30pm. Also open the last Saturday in the month. See feature.

Belper River Gardens (Tel. 01773 880474/841488) are tucked away behind North Mill and hide from the A6 behind a high brick wall. The result is that many people miss seeing these delightful gardens. Where you will find flowerbeds, an arboretum, a bandstand, water gardens, children’s playground and boating facilities. See feature.

Heage Windmill (Tel. 01773 853579 - when mill closed telephone 01773 853136) a Grade II listed building, is the only working, stone-towered, multi-sailed windmill in England. Spectacular views across the Derwent Valley. Visitor Centre and shop. Light refreshments. Open every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from 31 March to the end of October 2007. See feature.






Provides a wide range of features  with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.


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