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A wooded gorge of outstanding natural beauty with stone ruins, waterwheels, ponds and waterfalls.
The Lumsdale Valley is a small wooded gorge of outstanding natural beauty tucked away high above Matlock. With its crumbling stone ruins, waterwheels, ponds and waterfalls, nature has melded with the industrial remains of the past to create an oasis of romantic decay. Lumsdale is also one of the best examples of a water-powered industrial archaeological site in Great Britain and it is unusual to see such extensive use of water power in such a relatively small area.
In the part of the valley owned by the Arkwright Society at least seven mills remain, including a bleach works, all of which were powered by water from the Bentley Brook. By the 1600s there was at least one mill in operation, yet it was not until the late 18th century that the demand for water power reached its height. This followed Arkwright’s successes at Cromford as the valley attracted investment on a substantial scale as entrepreneurs fought for sites on which to build their own cotton mills. Subsequently the mills were put to various uses including cotton spinning, bleaching, and grinding corn, bone and minerals for paint manufacture. Cottages, situated near one of the Valley’s ponds, were created from a single building which once housed two lead cupolas with a counting house and smithy on the other side of the track. Industrial use of the site continued until the 1930s.
As the buildings in the upper section of the valley fell out of use, they were abandoned and allowed to become derelict. The valley, which once had been known for the stark beauty of its rocky outcrops, well-manicured ponds and its waterfall, became thickly wooded, dark and forgotten.
In 1939 it was purchased by Marjorie Mills whose passion for Lumsdale ensured its survival. Despite many offers for the building stone she refused to permit demolition of the mill structures, preferring to keep them as they were, surrounded by trees and undergrowth, offering a home to a wide variety of wildlife.
However, by 1976 she had recognised that she could not protect and manage her property single-handed. The buildings near the road were in danger of falling onto the highway; the dams which once retained the mill ponds had either to be pulled down or repaired; and these issues now had to be considered against a background of an increasing awareness of the archaeological significance of Lumsdale’s derelict mills and water courses.
Accordingly, the Arkwright Society was offered the lease of much of Marjorie Mills' Lumsdale estate on a peppercorn basis, provided it was prepared to undertake the preservation of the valley and on the understanding that it would inherit the area leased.
In 1979, a committee of Lumsdale residents and Arkwright Society members was formed. At the heart of the Arkwright Society’s strategy for the valley, there were three guiding principles:
1.The mills and other buildings, for the most part, would not be restored but be frozen in their picturesque decay.
2.The public was to be offered access to as much of the site as could be made safe by means of paths, stiles and fencing.
3.The charm of the wooded areas was to be retained wherever the trees were not endangering structures or public safety.
Today the Society continues to develop its management plan for the Valley – maintaining public access and retaining and improving the Valley's woodland and wetland habitats which now form part of a conservation area.
The Society has received awards for its work in Lumsdale:
- The Civic Trust Pride of Place Competition – 2nd Prize, 1981 and 1986
- The Times / RIBA Community Enterprise Award, 1986 (presented by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales)
- Derbyshire County Council Greenwatch Award – Commendation, 1990
- The Mills are to be scheduled as Ancient Monuments