The Conservation Officers of Derbyshire and members of DHBT had their bi-annual meeting at Darley Abbey last week. The meeting was preceded by a fascinating tour of Darley Abbey Mills, by West Mill Founder, Andrew Rose.
Andrew talked to the group about the historical context of the privately owned mill complex and the lengthy process of restoration to ensure the special character of the area is preserved and enhanced.
Darley Abbey Mills, the village and Park are historically entwined and reflect the impact of the industrial revolution on the region. With the support of Richard Arkwright, Thomas Evans founded the Boar's Head Mills in 1782 with the building of Long Mill. This was followed by Middle, East, West and North Mills. These massive mills were surrounded by ancillary buildings used for cotton preparation, storage, bobbin spinning, a saw mill, coppice stores and stables.
The mills are included within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, inscribed in 2001. The mills and stables also lie within the Darley Abbey Conservation Area.
The mills complex is surrounded on three sides by the River Derwent. Much of our tour was focussed on the West Mill, which was added in two phases beginning in 1821. It incorporates part of any earlier wheelhouse. Andrew has successfully developed this part of the building into an exclusive wedding venue, which has encouraged the physical and economic revitalisation of the area.
The group were shown around the four floors of the West Mill - from the Cotton Quarter on the very top floor (where the ceremonies take place); the Breakfast Room on the second floor; to the Spinning Room on the first floor (where wedding guests can dance the night away) and a spacious Gallery/Reception Room on the ground floor.
Andrew continues to work closely with Derby City's Conservation Officer to ensure the ongoing sympathetic development of the site.
The group were particularly fascinated to look inside the old school room dating from the 1790s! Hopefully this space will become offices in the future.
The meeting then took place in The Mill House, which is situated just across the road from the West Mill. This unique and stylishly furnished house is now available to rent as wedding accommodation, with 8 en-suite double bedrooms! The Grade II listed house was originally constructed in 1799 as the Mill Manager's house. Sadly, the building had not been used since the 1970s and, before Andrew's restoration project, was in a very dilapidated state. It is now a boutique house where the Georgian architecture of the 1800s house has been combined with the industrial style of the West Mill.
Unfortunately there was no time for a lie down as there was a lot to be discussed! Find out more about the West Mill Wedding Venue here.