Monday, 21 July 2008

Cotton and Steam

Still moored at Great Northern Basin.

We had a wee walk to the Langley Mill bus depot to catch the first bus of the day this morning instead of outside the basin. This took us back to Ripley, which we are getting to know quite well. The plan was to catch another bus to Butterley and the Midland Railway Centre but as there was a delay of 40 minutes we decided that we could walk it just as fast. In fact we beat the bus by 10 minutes.

The first train of the day was a class 421 DMU with which I was unfamiliar as they only ran in the North of England. This took us to both termini of the system before we alighted at Swanwick which is where the centre's storage, repair, and maintenance buildings are. This is another of those places that there is so much to see and do but not enough time to do it all. There are so many different railways on site ranging from model, live steam garden(42mm), live steam miniature, narrow gauge and full size. The latter 3 all carry passengers. Even though we negotiated the whole site in a rather hurried manner there were still exhibits that we didn't get to see but we had another bus to catch at 1.45pm

The train from Swanwick back to Butterly had been hauled by a class 5 steam loco but on the trip I chose to join it the steamer was taken off in favour of a 47 diesel. Still I had seen the steamer in action which was nice.

The next 2 bus trips were to take us to Belper to visit the North Mill which as well as being a cotton spinning museum it is also a world heritage site. Belper, before the arrival of the spinning mills was renowned for it's nail makers but the industrial revolution put pay to this cottage industry.

North Mill in Belper

Mill workers houses

The mill is built on the river Derwent because of its sheer volume of water which was ideal for running a mill of this magnitude. The original wooden mill was destroyed by fire which would have been started by all the dust, cotton spinning is a very dusty process, and candles or oil lamp lighting. Fires in early mills was common place so children were employed to constantly clean up the dust fibre's to alleviate the problem. The owners son rebuilt the mill using an iron frame and brick structure which was a new innovation of the time making it more fire proof and this became the benchmark for other mill owners.

The 15 mile Derwent valley was the home to many mills but the owner of North Mill was renowned as the best employer by building homes, a school and hospital for his workers. He also started farms to produce food for his workers.For all this he was fair but expected his pound of flesh in return. There was to be no tom foolery, ideal chit chat or waving at soldiers through the windows and their work was to be perfect or they would be financially penalised.

After all this history over the week-end it has become very clear how the industrial revolution had bought about canals, railways, mining and mass production and how they were all entwined with each other, more than many people realise.

It took another 2 bus trips before we were back on the boat so our bus passes have really been good value this week-end.

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