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Lumsdale Valley Mills

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Lumsdale Valley, hidden away and unknown even to many locals, has a charm and magic recognised by all who see it. Although falling into disuse in the 20th century, the Arkwright Society has stepped in to "freeze" the remains of a series of water mills, enabling us to glimpse the work places of our ancestors and to wonder at the ingenuity of people who, without the advantages of modern technology were able to turn a remote and narrow valley into a centre of production which was to be the forerunner of the more famous developments at Cromford.


Bentley Brook, a narrow but fast flowing and powerful stream, starts up behind Matlock Golf Club and flows down the valley until eventually joining the river Derwent at Matlock Green. The harnessing of the power of this stream has enabled successive generations to develop a series of mills in the valley which have operated for several centuries using ingenious systems of ponds and water courses to drive a whole variety of water wheels.


Heading down the valley from Highfields School, one can see the overgrown remains of Bone Mill, probably built in the 16th century and finally abandoned in the 1920's having been used to grind bones for fertiliser. Thw wheel pit is quite easily seen as is the tail race leading back into Bentley Brook. Following the path down, past a couple of ponds and some cottages is a dam wall below which stands a second mill, built in the 1850's, whose most recent use was as a saw mill at the beginning of the 20th century. Initially it was a grinding mill and close to its tail race can be seen a large mill stone imported from Massif Central in France.


The footpath leads on to the third mill in the series known as Paint Mill because of its use in grinding barytes for the paint industry. This is one of the oldest in the valley and in it's long life has been used as as a lead smelting mill, to grind corn and as a bleaching mill. The Arkwright Society has successfully halted the decline of this mill and it is possible to find many clues as to its past - thw wheel pit, old bleeching vats, white barytes and the underground heating system with chimneys to dry out the mineral.


Close to Paint Mill is a fourth mill, quite spectacular, built by Bonsall School Trustees in 1770. It has in its time, been used to grind lead and as a corn mill. It is built against the rock face worn away by the waterfall closeby. The wheel pit is large and the main pipe which carried the water to the wheel is clearly visible. The Arkwright Society have built a viewing platform here.


The footpath contines down to a fifth mill known as Upper Bleach Mill where one can see the remains of bleaching vats. This mill was linked to the last of the series, Garton Mill, by an ingenious train system which carried loads of heavy cotton between the two and turning right as the footpath reaches the road, it is still possible to see the remains of the train lines which were cleared by Highfields School volunteers some years back.


Garton Mill is the largest and best preserved in the series. It was built around 1785 by Watts Lowe and Co as a cotton spinning mill. The whole water system of the valley was altered to support this mill but it was not a commercial success and in 1813 the company went bankrupt. The valley was then sold to John Garton who converted the mill into a bleach works which remained its function along with other textile finishing until the early 20th century.