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Building 17



Arkwright Society

The Arkwright Society is an educational charity and Building Preservation Trust devoted to the rescue of industrial heritage buildings and helping to preserve the precious built and natural landscape in and around Cromford, Derbyshire.  It was formed in 1972 and has been engaged in the practical conservation of industrial monuments ever since.  It has also helped countless numbers of people access training and work, and has transformed Cromford Mills from a derelict site doomed to demolition to one of World Heritage Status, with over 100 people employed in numerous small businesses and attracting over 100,000 visitors each year. The Society has adopted its own green code and is actively involved in recycling waste materials. 

In 1979 The Arkwright Society purchased Cromford Mills, by that time a redundant and contaminated industrial site. Its key charitable objective states that the Society is committed to the regeneration of the site and to the reuse of the buildings in ways that will provide them with a sustainable future and which offers year round employment that will contribute positively to the local environment.  


The Cromford Mills Masterplan Phase 1a 

The mill complex at Cromford has been described as the most important preserved textile heritage site in the world, as shown by its World Heritage Site status. It is from these buildings that Sir Richard Arkwright developed technology that changed the world we live in, giving rise to the industrial revolution by creating the modern factory system. The Arkwright Society is regenerating the site by creating sustainable new uses which contribute positively to the local environment and economy. With more than £5 million raised and spent, approximately half of the site has been brought back into economic use and now has two restaurants, several meeting rooms, office accommodation for rental, a gallery and several shops. However, over half the site remains derelict, which is a drain on resources and the charity carries relatively high levels of core debt.  Grant income is required because:

  • income generated by existing activities is insufficient to fund the capital works required to return to use the remainder of the buildings;
  • and capital costs involved exceed the market value, so a commercial solution is not an option. 

Without a solution to this drain on resources, long term sustainability of the site is fragile; in 2009 a new management team was commissioned to create a financially secure future through a number of key methods, including the creation of a holistic development Masterplan.  The vision of the Masterplan is ‘to create a multi-use sustainable heritage and cultural tourism attraction which reflects the key principles, and outstanding universal value, of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site’. 

This project is the first of four Masterplan phases which will ultimately allow the site to generate the income it needs to be self sustaining; it brings back into economic use Building 17, an iconic five-storey mill building, Grade I Listed within the World Heritage Site, unused since the 1970s and on the English Heritage “at risk” register. It will be repaired and converted to create on the four upper floors a “Creative Cluster” of managed workspace units aimed at the creative industries and on the ground floor a visitor “Gateway” centre for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.  The Gateway centre will provide information, visitor orientation and interpretation about Cromford Mills, and the 15 mile long World Heritage Site, to help visitors appreciate its importance and encourage them to visit the other 16 heritage sites along the valley.Without this project the building and the Cromford Mills site are at serious risk. Visual and performing arts are expected to feature amongst tenants supported within the Creative Cluster managed workspace and amongst heritage-based activities developed as a key element of the visitor Gateway.  

The building contract features training for young people, with links to nearby colleges and universities, and this is also a key focus of the plan for heritage-based activities. Removable floor-to-ceiling partitions on floors one to three of the Creative Cluster will enable secure workspace units to be created to suit changing tenant requirements, providing units of approximately 16 to 37 square metres (175 to 400 square feet).   The fourth floor will provide space for approximately 30 workstations for people who prefer to work within an open-plan format.  A manager and shared reception/administration service will provide on-site support for tenant businesses, including signposting to relevant business advice services and links with the University of Derby.  Added value will include networking with similar businesses and use of existing facilities at Cromford Mills; e.g. meeting, conference and catering facilities.  Cromford Mills is already a well established mixed-use complex comprising tenant businesses, retail outlets, two café restaurants, conferencing and meeting room facilities.  

In addition to already being a base for a number of tenant businesses, its historical significance attracts over 100,000 people to visit per annum; this is predicted to rise to over 150,000 when the visitor Gateway opens its doors thanks to an enhanced range of heritage-based activities and events made possible by new roles of education officer and volunteer coordinator, in addition to an expanded events and membership officer role. The total cost of the Phase 1a project is approximately £4,555,062 made up broadly from capital costs at £3,378,782, interpretive fit-out £445,797 and activity costs £730,483 (including the first 3 years of operation).  The anticipated contribution from volunteer time and other non-cash contributions for the Phase 1a project are valued at an additional £932,400. Following detailed project development work that has included extensive public and stakeholder consultation, there is broad support for the scheme and statutory consents have been obtained.  The Arkwright Society Trustees have authorised the commencement of preliminary works as the level of funding secured to date (£4,206,262 primarily from the Heritage Lottery Fund and ERDF) provides sufficient confidence to proceed, confirmed by an independent financial assessment in accordance with Charity Commission requirements.  

These preliminary works are dealing with a residue of contamination from previous industrial use of the building, in preparation for the main building contract which is programmed to commence in September 2013.  The ongoing fundraising campaign is focussed on raising the balance of funding required for both capital costs (including fit-out) and heritage activity plan delivery (including staff costs), with the aim that the remaining funds will be fully secured by autumn 2013.  Provided the balance of capital costs funding is secured within that period, the current programme schedules both the World Heritage Site Gateway and Creative Cluster to open by autumn 2014. None of this would be possible without the magnificent support of our funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, J P Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, the Architectural Heritage Fund and Derbyshire County Council. We also thank the visitors, members and supporters who have made individual donations to the project fund.

See Project Summary with Drawings (file size 3.6MB)



The Building Contract first phase