“ Derbyshire, East Midlands, England „
Cromford is a small village that is tucked away on the Southern edge of the Peak District. We live in Derbyshire and consider ourselves very fortunate to have easy access to some of the most stunning countryside in the British Isles.
Cromford is only a 20 minute drive from the M1 and a stones throw from Matlock and Wirksworth.
As the Spring commences and the countryside comes alive there is every reason to go out and explore what we have surrounding us.
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Many years ago the principal employers in Cromford were mill owners and much of the village comprised of stone cottages that were built to accommodate the mill workers. Cromford itself has a beautiful setting, the village sits in a lush green valley. The River Derwent borders the East of the village and the massive Dene quarry lays to the West of Cromford.
Cromford was the birthplace of Alison Uttley, the children's author.
Because Richard Arkwright played such an important part in the history of Cromford we cannot ignore him. During the late 1700`s the villagers relied on lead smelting, agriculture and mining to make a basic living to support their families. Little did they know that only a few miles away in Nottingham Richard Arkwright had developed a mechanical spinning machine that was set to bring about great changes for the inhabitants of Cromford.
Arkwright initially used horse power to propel his machinery but he soon realised that water power would be far more effective. He soon discovered that Cromford was the ideal location for his new venture and in no time at all the first water powered mill was up and ready to run.
The newly installed machinery was only the start of the venture, Arkwright needed labour. He advertised for wood turners, Smiths, clock makers and weavers. Many of the weavers he employed were either women or children and the village of Cromford began to thrive
To ensure that goods could be transported in a more efficient manner the Cromford canal was constructed and in time this was superseded by a railway.
The Industrial revolution was an important part of our history and Cromford is said to have some of the best examples of industrial housing in Britain. These buildings are all protected by conservation orders. Cromford Railway Station will please any visitor who is searching for architectural beauty.
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So lets stop talking about the past and see what Cromford has to offer to any visitors today. For those who may only want to dip their toe into the historical side and then move on there are a few smaller shops, which include Scarthin Books ( new, second-hand and antiquarian ),
The Shop In The Yard, which sells books and souvenirs,
Beautiful Days, selling a selection of Fairtrade clothing, cushions and bags,
Arkwright's Stores, an Off License and General Store,
Carlines Family Butchers,
The Print Works, for Local Arts and Crafts,
Country Colours, for cards and gifts,
Mystical Crystals, selling oils, minerals and crystals,
The Posh Shop, a fashion and textile gallery,
Antiques and Hardware Store, Arkwright's Attic, a local charity shop,
Home Products, who sell wonderful home made basketwork,
Leonards Ivy, a florists,
Malcolm Smith, a furniture craftsman,
Nicholas Hobbs, a furniture maker,
Quintessential, a shop that specialises in the art of patchwork.
Seymour Interiors, offer bespoke paint finishes for your home,.
Also a Post Office, a Newsagents and of course that great garden centre.
Masson Mill is within easy walking distance of the centre of Cromford and there you will find four floors that house a wide range of goods. Masson Mill has a Textile Museum on site and a family restaurant.
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Walkers and hikers just love this area, it is unique and offers hours of leisurely entertainment. Along the way there is so much to see, cobbled yards, stone pig sties and troughs, the old village cells, the village school which has stood since 1832, stone barns, almshouses, Dene Quarry ( still working ) Willersley Castle ( now a Christian Centre ), The mount Tabor chapel ( now used as an engineering works ), The Scarthin War Memorial, Cromford Dam, the Methodist Church ( still used as a place of worship ), the Memorial garden, the Parish Church Of St Mary, the Railway Station and the Stationmaster's house and the Rose End Meadows Nature Reserve.
When you are standing in Cromford Market place you will see The Greyhound Hotel, a wonderful Georgian building, standing behind the hotel is the large mill pond complete with the old water wheel.
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There are a number of self catering cottages available for rent and there is also Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
Willersley Castle is now owned by the Christian Guild Holiday Group and they run special interest breaks and have conference facilities. The hotel can accommodate up to 90 people.
Alison House is available for group holidays. The 16 bedroomed holiday centre can be used for anything from an activity holiday to a wedding venue.
Wharf Shed Residential Centre provides accommodation for 28 people and is owned by Derbyshire county Council.
Cromford Venture Centre is owned by an educational charity called the Arkwright Society. It provides self catering accommodation for up to 24 young people (aged 8 and upwards ) and allows for four adult leaders to stay.
The closest caravan site, which is within walking distance of Cromford is on the Wirksworth Road, Whatstandwell. Birchwood Farm caters for caravans and tents and does have a few static caravans of its own.
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As you may have noticed for a village that has a population of less than 2,000 Cromford seems to have a lot to offer. Granted it may not be for everyone but Cromford is a superb stopping place for walkers and day trippers.
Last time we visited the garden centre we called in at Cromford Mill to have a look at the shops. At that time there was an art exhibition running, a collection of textile work that had been carried out by a local artist.
The Patchwork shop was in full swing, they had a group of ladies in all beavering away on their projects.
We popped into the small café for a light lunch, the menu was extensive and healthy and many of the dishes were home made.
I always enjoy any time spent at Cromford and always look forward to another visit.
If you are visiting Derbyshire this year then maybe you should add Cromford to your list of places to visit,
I live in Chesterfield in Derbyshire. This puts me in an excellent location I am near to the countryside, pretty close to Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby and am also within public transport distance of some lovely villages. Another one of these villages is Cromford.
~~~WHERE IS CROMFORD?
Cromford can be found in the East Midlands; it is in Derbyshire and is on the south edge of the Peak District. Located just off the A6/A5012 junction, not far from Matlock and Matlock Bath and around 17 miles from Derby, this decent sized village is deep in the heart of the Derwent Valley. I usually get there either on our CAMRA branch trips via minibus or get a bus to Matlock Bath, from Chesterfield town centre and walk to Cromford (about 20 minutes away). If you are driving you will find a public car park in the village and there is also some road-side parking around and about.
~~~A BIT OF HISTORY.
Cromfords location in the Derwent Valley is the main reason for it being founded and for its name. Cromford built up on a bend in the river, where it was shallow enough to be forded and crossed. The name Cromford is from the Old English Cruneford, which actually means Crooked Ford the place though is much older and the ford was used as a crossing point for transporting lead along the Derwent and onto the River Trent.
The high point of Cromfords history, however, comes many years later, during the 18th Century. It owes much of what you see today to Sir Richard Arkwright; the industrialist and great mill owner. There were cottages and buildings in Cromford prior to Arkwrights time, but a great many of the buildings you will see in Cromford on a visit these days were built to either house the mill workers (and Arkwright himself), or to provide services for them Arkwright was quite forward thinking and built a school, cottages, pubs, chapel and shops for his workers in the Cromford Mill.
~~~WHAT IS THERE TO SEE IN CROMFORD?
Cromford Mill is perhaps the major attraction that Cromford has to offer. You will find the Mill, not surprisingly, on Mill Lane just outside the village itself. Its owned by the Arkwright Centre and is a great place to visit! The Mill was founded in 1771, after Richard Arkwright deemed it to be a suitable site for the worlds first successful water powered cotton spinning mill. He had previously learned that a mill had been powered using the water from the Derwent and decided that the river was so powerful it could work as a commercial venture previously mills had been powered using other means, such as horse power. The mill at Cromford worked so well that similar mills started to spring up around the country there are local examples at Wirksworth and Matlock Bath.
A visit to the mill is well worth it there are tours every hour on the hour and there is a choice of two different length tours. If you have time I would recommend taking the longer tour, but this is entirely up to you. The tour of just the Mill costs £1.50 per adult (if you book in advance and a couple of quid if you turn up on spec) and lasts about an hour this is interesting and includes a look around the mill, an exhibition, following an introductory talk. The full tour is better, but does take a couple of hours. It is like the mill tour, but also includes a look around some places in the village and is more interesting. A guide needs to be booked and costs £15 for the shorter tour and £20 for the full one well worth doing if you are in a group (there are maximum group sizes and you may end up there when theres a school party loud!).
A walk around the village is a reminder to the work of Richard Arkwright. After using local labour from the village farming and mining workforce, he decided that increased production warranted the need to bring in workers from elsewhere. He advertised for families to come and work in the village and built amenities and housing for them. If you have a wander around you will see the terraced 3 storey houses on North Street that were specifically built as mill housing this is actually the first planned street constructed in the Derbyshire area and is worth a look. Arkwright also commissioned the local school, chapel and hotel. These can still be seen and at the time were cutting edge in design industrial towns nationwide took Cromford as their model!
Cromford Canal was also constructed in the late 18th Century to transport goods from the mill and there was also the railway, which came a little later in the 1830s, that now forms the walking path on the High Peak Trail.
The village centres around the millpond (which was made to direct the flow of water to power the mill), the Market Square (where the car park now is) and the Greyhound Inn (a pub which is still operational). The main streets lead off of this central area and a short walk from this base will take you to the mill and the church.
There had been a chapel in Cromford for many years, but the present church again owes its existence to Arkwright. St. Marys was built to provide for the spiritual needs of the mill community and the first service there was in June 1797. Arkwright is buried in the church and you can go and see his tomb (beneath the chancel) if you are in the village. Unfortunately, as with many churches today, they dont keep the building open a sign of the times and lack of security. The church is open on Sundays for services and you can arrange to go inside by getting in touch in advance. It is worth a look around the churchyard (you will find the graves of other members of the Arkwright family) and inside look out for the excellent wall paintings of apostles and prophets down each side of the church.
On a more secular note, you wont be surprised to learn that the majority of my visits to Cromford are on tours of the local pubs. There are three in the village that we visit The Greyhound Inn, The Bell (on Cromford Hill) and The Boat (in the Scarthin area of Cromford near to the millpond). All serve real ale (varying quality) and the Boat has a good restaurant. There are also two decent fish and chip shops one next to the car park and one on the opposite side of the road. Of the two, the best one is the smaller one near the car park (built in the old blacksmiths shop), but both serve good chips. Unfortunately the best one shuts very early!
Cromford is also quite well served for shops. There is a Post Office, General store, book shop, a few gift shops, butcher, baker, chemist, garden centre, antiques and furniture shops and a good few other businesses. My first dealings with Cromford date from my university days Scarthin Bookshop (http://www.scarthinserver.co.uk/index.html) is an excellent second hand and collectors shop which got hold of some books I really needed for my courses. You can visit the shop (they also open Sundays which is very useful) and they now also do online ordering that would have been handy for me! There is also a café in the bookshop, along with some small exhibitions and occasional special events.
One thing you wont find is a Tourist Information centre but information is always forthcoming in the local shops, pubs and at the mill. The nearest TIC is actually over in Matlock if you want more detailed information.
Cromford isnt the prettiest village in Derbyshire, but it is one of the busiest and perhaps one of the ones with the best amenities. A visit here is well recommended and it is possible to spend a whole day here without getting too bored (providing the weather is on your side). The mill is great for the history fan (or anyone who likes interesting buildings) and the members of the Arkwright Society are so enthusiastic and dedicated that the desire to learn more is infectious. The shops are varied and offer a little more than some village shops (theres even a beauty salon!).
If you plan your trip to coincide with some of the special events that happen from time to time (probably where a trip to the website of Scarthin Books, or a call to the TIC at Matlock will come into play) you will have an even better day out. For example they have an Apple Day (in October), a nearby Steam Rally, the Celebrating Cromford Festival (a yearly event in June) and there are some good places for walking in the nearby countryside. I recommend looking at the Cromford Village website (http://www.cromfordvillage.co.uk/index.html) which is actually an excellent resource for finding out whats on in the village pay particular attention to the page with the five suggested walks around Cromford. All of the walks are very good, interesting and worth printing off prior to a visit as they actually serve as a guided history lesson to the village.
Cromford is well worth seeking out and definitely worth a few hours of your time during a visit to this part of Derbyshire.
It was Richard Arkwright who built his cotton mill to make use of the Water Frame a development of a spinning machine produced by Thomas Highs (1718-1803) that pre-dated, and was probably the prototype for, the spinning jenny pioneered by James Hargreaves.