Cromford Mills: Building 17
Cromford Mills is a large complex of industrial mills set in the beautiful Derwent Valley in Derbyshire, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It consists of 20 buildings, the earliest and most substantial of which were built commencing in 1771 by Sir Richard Arkwright, the inventor and entrepreneur. Arkwright, with his patented water frames, revolutionised the manufacture of cotton from a small cottage industry and created what is now regarded as the world’s first successful factory at Cromford Mills.
The project to recover Building 17 of the complex was initiated by The Arkwright Society, a small voluntary organisation. The organisation bought the building and secured substantial funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund to redevelop this Grade I listed site into a gateway to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and a centre for creative industries on the upper floors.
“This project represents a good adaptive reuse of a notable site of industrial heritage and is a key component of an important ensemble of buildings. Had it been demolished or left to further deteriorate, it would have been a scar on this World Heritage site”, said the jury.
The building, the largest of those in the complex, was in a very poor state due to a complete lack of maintenance and the unsuitable interventions added by a previous owner. These additions compromised the structural integrity of the building and presented a great challenge.
The conservation works were further complicated by the extensive contamination of the site due to its previous use as a colour pigment works. The dedicated team were forced to resolve this and the other constraints on the conservation with ingenuity and strategic phasing. The jury noted this aspect of the project, stating that “the adaptive reuse of this building, which incorporates respectful and reversible interventions, addressed problems of contamination with innovative research. The result is a building with a social function that offers the perfect gateway to the World Heritage site of the Derwent Valley Mills”.
The jury noted the high quality of the visitor centre and stated that “the interpretive activities and materials for children are a great addition to the site and its educational function is significant for the entire World Heritage site”.