St Nick’s

Parish Church of Our Lady & St Nicholas, Liverpool

When you sail into the Mersey estuary towards the city of Liverpool, the chart indicates as a landmark the distinctive tower and lantern of the Church of Our Lady & St Nicholas, still prominent alongside newer and higher structures.

“St Nick’s”, as it’s commonly known in the city, dates back to a time when the little riverside port was a remote corner of the medieval parish of Walton. 

Though there was a church on the site by c1360, and nearby an earlier church, St Mary-del-Key, dating from at least 1257, the existing building is much later. 

The tower was designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester (1811-5) after its predecessor collapsed in 1810 killing twenty-five people;  the body of the church is a post-war replacement for the burnt-out shell destroyed in the Blitz.

In 1699, the Parish of Liverpool separated from Walton, and under an unusual arrangement Our Lady & St Nicholas was paired with a new church, St Peter’s (consecrated 1704) and served by two ministers of equal status who were required to preach in each church alternately.

In 1714 the tower of Our Lady & St Nicholas was embellished with a distinctive spire that acted as a waymark for vessels on the river.  In the late eighteenth century the church was described as “ruinous” and it was rebuilt, but the medieval tower remained unaltered until its collapse in 1810.  It fell as the congregation were entering for morning service;  of the twenty-five fatalities, seventeen were girls from Moorfields Charity School.

The replacement tower was designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester (1744-1829), surmounted by “an elegant and appropriate Lantern” topped by a ship weathervane possibly retrieved from the ruins of the old tower.

St Peter’s became the Pro-Cathedral for the new Diocese of Liverpool in 1880 and was demolished in 1922, superseded by the partly-built new Anglican Cathedral.

An air raid on December 21st 1940 burnt out Our Lady & St Nicholas, and on the night of May 5th-6th 1941 a further bomb left only the outer walls, the tower and the adjacent parish centre. 

Services continued in temporary structures or in the open air throughout the war, and the new church, designed by Edward C Butler, was consecrated in 1952, a simple Gothic design in which the interior was reoriented to place the high altar at the west end.

The Maritime Memorial Chapel in the north aisle was dedicated in 1993.  It contains a statue of Our Lady of the Quay, commemorating the very first church on the site, the work of the revered Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley (1929-1994).

Our Lady and St Nicholas has high status in Liverpool.  Though its actual parish boundaries, embracing a population of 16,000, embrace the river-front extending to Lime Street, Liverpool ONE and the Albert Dock, it serves the wider city as Liverpool Parish Church and its minister is the Rector of Liverpool.

The present Rector, Father Crispin Pailing, is the author of God’s Town:  Liverpool and her Parish since 1207 (Palatine 2019), which traces the history of the church and its ministry through the centuries.

There can be no-one better qualified to show how the parish has adapted and responded to the community’s needs up to the present day:  Ministry/Outreach/Projects – Liverpool Parish Church (livpc.co.uk).

St Nick’s welcomes visitors and is usually open during the day.  Music is prominent in the life of the parish [Bells – Liverpool Parish Church (livpc.co.uk)] and art – inside and outside the building – is an aid to contemplation:  Music and Arts – Liverpool Parish Church (livpc.co.uk).

Anhalter Bahnhof

Anhalter Bahnhof ruin, Berlin, Germany

When you emerge from the Berlin S-bahn station, Anhalter Bahnhof, you’re confronted with the vestigial remains of the late nineteenth-century inter-city main-line terminus of the same name, a reminder of a different Berlin that’s largely disappeared.

The earliest railways to reach Berlin each terminated at their own station – Postdamer Bahnhof (1838) from Potsdam and the Anhalter Bahnhof (1839) from Anhalt.   These were followed by the Frankfurter Bahnhof (1842), the Stettiner Bahnhof (1842) from Stettin (now Szczecin) and the Hamburger Bahnhof (1846-47).

The Berlin rail system went through frequent and radical realignments during the nineteenth century and the original Anhalter Bahnhof was completely and magnificently rebuilt in 1876-80 to the designs of Franz Heinrich Schwechten (1841-1924) as a major terminus under an iron-and-glass trainshed, said to be the largest in continental Europe though smaller than St Pancras.

The bombastic glazed brick façade was decorated with sculptures — figures representing Night and Day by Ludwig Brunow (1843-1913) flanking the clock, and International Traffic by Emil Hundrieser (1846-1911)  crowning the central pediment.

Albert Speer’s 1930s scheme for a world capital [Welthauptstadt] called Germania to celebrate the anticipated Nazi victory in the Second World War would have severed the approach tracks to the station, which Speer proposed to convert into a swimming pool.

After the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 inaugurated the Final Solution plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews, Anhalter Bahnhof, unlike the other Berlin stations that transported Jews in freight wagons, provided ordinary carriages with armed guards, attached to scheduled services, to give the impression that elderly Jews were being taken to a well-deserved retirement.  

The terminus was practically put out of action by Allied bombing in November 1943 and February 1945, and although the Allies restored services from 1946, the East Berlin authorities took a dim view of trains from East Germany arriving at a terminus in the American sector, and diverted all traffic to the Ostbahnhof in 1952.

The station stood empty and unused until 1960 when most of it was demolished.  In response to public protests the central portion of Schwechten’s façade was retained and cleaned.  Brunow’s statues were replaced by reproductions so that the originals could be shown at the German Museum of Technology built on former railway land nearby.

The footprint of the station platforms and tracks is occupied by an all-weather football pitch and a concert venue, Tempodrom.  Alongside, a vast bunker constructed as a shelter in 1943 houses the Berlin Story Museum, an exercise in dark tourism from which no-one emerges feeling cheerful, telling the story of twentieth-century Berlin warts and all:  www.dark-tourism.com/index.php/germany/15-countries/individual-chapters/230-anhalter-train-station-ruins-and-bunker.

Seldom Seen

Seldom Seen Engine House, Moss Valley, Derbyshire

The Seldom Seen Engine House is indeed seldom seen, because it lies in dense woodland off a private road along the Moss Brook valley west of the village of Eckington, Derbyshire.

Though it’s only a few yards from the road, leaf-cover makes it practically invisible except in winter.  Indeed, for most of the year it would be hard to find but for the sign provided by Derbyshire County Council Countryside Service.

The name is apt, because though the site is surrounded by villages – Eckington, Mosborough, Renishaw, Marsh Lane – it’s out of the way and frequented only by walkers.  Even to local people the place has been out of sight if not out of mind for more than a century.

It forms the sole remaining vestige of Plumbley Colliery, which operated from before 1875 until shortly before the start of the First World War, connected to the Midland Railway at Renishaw by the private “Penny Engine” railway.

The brick-built engine house is an imposing structure and sufficiently significant to be designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  It stands something like forty or fifty feet high, its interior empty and inaccessible.

It’s thought to have served as both a winding-engine and a pump, but there doesn’t seem to be any record of the now-vanished machinery.

Plumbley Colliery suffered repeated mining accidents, some of them fatal, but one particular tragedy stands out.

On March 16th 1895 three Eckington children, Esther Riley (9), her brother Percy Riley (8) and their friend Rebecca Godson (8 or 9), were skating on the frozen engine pond when the three-inch-thick ice broke.

Their screams brought the engineman, Alfred Williamson, aged 23, who jumped into the pond, knowing that the water was at least six feet deep, in an attempt to save the children’s lives.

Two youths, Rowland Taylor (14) and Edward Redfern (16), had heard the screams and attempted to assist Alfred Williamson with the rope he’d tied to himself and left on the bank, but he went under. 

He and the three children he tried to rescue all drowned.

Taylor and Redfern ran to Eckington Police Station to summon police officers who, accompanied by the local doctor, Dr West Jones, and various colliery managers, with great difficulty and the practical assistance of two young miners, Arthur Fairley and James Silvers, eventually retrieved the bodies.

These four unfortunate young people had no memorial until 2020, when the Natural Eckington organisation raised funds for headstones in Eckington Churchyard, and yet there’s nothing to show the site of their demise and to commemorate the heroism of those who attempted to rescue them and at great risk retrieved their bodies.

The Hole in the Road

Castle Square, Sheffield (1993)

Nineteenth-century Sheffield was a town that thought it was a village.

After Sheffield became a city in 1897 it was a city that thought it was a town.

Sheffield folk don’t take easily to the idea of grandeur.  They make things.  Predominantly Nonconformist, truculent and quietly proud of their skills and products, they look upon other Yorkshire cities as brash.

The Blitz of December 1940 flattened much of the city centre and the city planners took advice from (among others) Birmingham City Council’s City Engineer, Herbert Manzoni, himself notorious for rendering his own city unrecognisable.

Their plans saddled Sheffield with a plan for a “Civic Circle” road centred on the Town Hall, together with an Inner Ring Road and an Outer Ring Road.

One aspect of this scheme, to be picked up by Sheffield’s City Architect, Lewis Womersley, on his appointment in 1953, was that as far as possible pedestrians and motorists should move around the city centre at different levels.

Womersley’s Castle Market (1960-65) happily achieved this, taking advantage of its sloping site to provide access on three levels to shops, clear of motor vehicles at ground level.

At the traditional Market Place, however, the idea didn’t work out. 

A dual carriageway, Arundel Gate, swept across the Duke of Norfolk’s grid of Georgian streets, and came to an abrupt halt at the top of Angel Street, where a roundabout directed traffic downhill along Commercial Street towards the Parkway.

Against Womersley’s wishes, motor vehicles negotiated this tight turn at ground level, and pedestrians were pushed below ground into a dramatic space with a circular oculus open to the sky, opened in 1967.

Though the planners called this circle Castle Square, Sheffield folk obstinately labelled it the Hole in the Road

The only decorative feature was a 2,000-gallon fish-tank which became a popular meeting place, replacing Coles Corner which had lost its raison d’être after the Cole Brothers’ department store moved to Barker’s Pool in 1963.

Despite the subway-level entrances to adjacent shops and a couple of sad little stalls for buying newspapers and cigarettes, this memorable piece of townscape proved to be dead space and as the years passed it became more and more grubby and threatening.

Promotional literature for the proposed Sheffield Minitram, a driverless elevated people-mover, showed its track supported by a single pillar in the centre of the Hole in the Road as it climbed High Street.  The project was quietly dropped in 1975.

When the full-size, standard-gauge Supertram was planned, it was quickly obvious that the Hole in the Road would have to go. 

It was closed and filled in, possibly with rubble from the demolition of Hyde Park Flats, in 1994.

There’s a story that when the fish tank was emptied the only remaining fish was a piranha. I can’t vouch for it.

The generation of locals who met their date by the fish tank may regret its demise but even Lewis Womersley would probably agree that Castle Square was a dubious idea in the first place.

The story of Castle Square – the “Hole in the Road” – is featured in Demolished Sheffield, a 112-page full colour A4 publication by Mike Higginbottom. For details please click here.

Streets in the sky 2

Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield: demolition (1992)

Sheffield’s Park Hill development, completed in 1961, has remained popular, though the flats and maisonettes overlooking the city centre are by no means everyone’s idea of an ideal dwelling.

The bigger Hyde Park complex, prominent on a steep bluff above the Don Valley, was inevitably vertiginous and became generally unpopular.  I wonder what the Queen Mother made of the place when she opened it in 1966.

The sanguine hopes that Corbusian decks would provide an adequate replacement for the dirty, rundown streets and backyards of the industrial East End soon faded.  Working Sheffield families were glad at last to have indoor sanitation, space, light and central heating, but not at the price of high winds, isolation and loneliness. 

High-rise housing was a nightmare for families with young children, and as the children grew Hyde Park and Kelvin became bywords for vandalism and crime.   At Hyde Park in particular, furniture and – on occasions – desperate inhabitants came over the balconies:  on one occasion a falling television killed a seven-year-old girl.  At ground-level, hatched areas of tarmac indicated where falling objects were a likelihood, and entry-points to the blocks were eventually given awnings.  Police as a matter of course parked their marked vehicles away from the buildings.

Lionel Esher, in A Broken Wave: the rebuilding of England 1940-1980 (Pelican 1981), describes the context of Womersley’s work:  he concludes, “[In] Hyde Park….Womersley had overreached himself….”  

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s condescending assumptions, in The Buildings of England, about what used to be called “slums” eventually gained a bitter irony. 

After years of social problems and misery, the inhabitants of Hyde Park were rehoused in 1990-91 when the World Student Games adventure provided the funding and motivation for a sumptuous upgrading of two of the Hyde Park blocks. 

When the students departed, the two blocks once again housed local people, one block still administered as City Council housing, the other by a housing association. 

The biggest unit, B Block, having been cosmetically redecorated for the Games, was condemned, and its distinctive crusader-castle outline disappeared from its bleak hilltop site in 1992-3, to be replaced by unobtrusive low-density housing. 

A surprising number of Sheffielders expressed regret at its passing.

It’s a pity that Hyde Park, itself such a magnificent piece of townscape, turned out to be unusable.

The story of Park Hill and Hyde Park Flats is featured in Demolished Sheffield, a 112-page full colour A4 publication by Mike Higginbottom. For details please click here.

Streets in the sky 1


Park Hill Flats, Sheffield (1982)

Few decisions about listing buildings have caused so much controversy as the Grade II* award to Sheffield’s Park Hill Flats in 1998.  Opinion remains divided about whether the late-1950s “streets in the sky” are emblematic of post-war optimism, or an abomination that should have been torn down long ago.

J L Womersley was appointed City Architect for Sheffield in 1953 with the responsibility for redeveloping the bomb-damaged city centre and coping with a massive housing problem. 

Neighbouring authorities, particularly Derbyshire, opposed Sheffield’s threats to invade their territory with boundary extensions, yet overspill populations from densely-packed inner-city areas couldn’t be decanted away into the city’s Green Belt. 

After the mid-1950s development of the attractive low-density Gleadless Valley and Low Edges estates there was nowhere else to build.

As well as the tower-block developments common to many British cities, Lewis Womersley experimented with two deck-access developments, Park Hill (1958-60) and Hyde Park (1962-6), followed after his departure to Manchester by Kelvin (W L Clunie, 1966-9), each a development of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation street-deck concept. 

In execution Park Hill was easily the most successful, partly because of its relative proximity to the city-centre, but mostly because the steeply-sloping site permitted ground-level access at one end to each floor except the topmost. 

The development offered a range of accommodation – one- and two-bedroom flats, interspersed with two- and three-bedroom maisonettes.  Among the up-to-the-minute conveniences, the Garchey waste-disposal system, flushing kitchen waste to ground level, reduced the need for dustbins.

Pubs, shops and a newly-built primary school provided local amenities, and the site is a short bus-ride from the city centre.

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in the second edition of The Buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding (revised by Enid Radcliffe, Penguin 1967), made a complacent but prescient comment about Park Hill, that they would be slums within half a century, and he hoped, with breathtaking arrogance, that they would at least prove to be a cosy slum “which people will feel to be their home”.

When Park Hill was listed Grade II* in 1998, the Head of Listing at English Heritage, Dr Martin Cherry, described it as “likened to a medieval fortress, a glittering cliff-face of windows….a magnificent structure of which many of its residents and Sheffield Council are rightly proud”. 

A comprehensive refurbishment by the developer Urban Splash, started in 2009 but stalled in the face of adverse economic downturn, is still not concluded.

When it’s finished, Park Hill will be cosy, and it certainly won’t be a slum.

Gladstone’s Library

Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire

It’s not everyone’s choice of holiday, but a couple of times a year I like to book myself into comfortable accommodation some distance from home, take my laptop and a couple of paperbacks and spend the better part of a week writing.

It’s my opportunity to write up Sheffield local-history material that will never justify the expense of publishing, but can rest in the Archives as a legacy for future researchers.

Before the pandemic I spent an enjoyable, crisp winter week at the Raven Hall Hotel at Ravenscar in North Yorkshire, followed the same summer by a heatwave on the North Norfolk coast at Sea Marge Hotel in Overstrand where I found a cool, shady corner of the north-facing patio.  At both locations I hardly left the premises all week.

The pandemic prevented me taking up my booking at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire, until March 2022, and it was worth waiting for.

The library was founded in 1894 by the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) to “bring together books who had no readers with readers who had no books”.

He endowed it with £40,000 start-up capital and twenty thousand of his own books, which he transported in a wheelbarrow from his home, Hawarden Castle, to a temporary building, assisted only by his valet and one of his daughters.

After his death £9,000 was raised to build the present building, designed by the distinguished Chester architect John Douglas (1830-1911), and the Gladstone family provided a residential wing which opened in 1906.

No other British prime minister has a memorial library, though the USA has a tradition of presidential libraries back to George Washington.

John Douglas provided a galleried library which, apart from its visual appeal and vast collection of books, has two welcome attributes – a strict silence rule and the facility to reserve a work-place throughout the day and keep it overnight.

The residential rooms are small but comfortable, and during the pandemic all have been fitted with en-suite bathrooms.

The restaurant, Food for Thought, provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, and refreshments throughout the day, 8.00am-8.00pm.

In four days, I produced seventeen thousand words about the parish of St Cecilia, Parson Cross, Sheffield and its remarkable first vicar, Richard Roseveare.

I wouldn’t have accomplished that at home, having to cook my own meals and load my own dishwasher.

Booking details and other information can be found at Gladstone’s Library | the UK’s finest residential library (gladstoneslibrary.org).

What’s not to like?

Palace fit for a lemur

Eltham Palace, London

Stephen Courtauld (1883-1967) had plenty of money, as a member of the family that introduced the world to rayon and, with no need to work, he spent his life as an art connoisseur and philanthropist, financing expeditions with the Royal Geographical Society, and co-founding Ealing Studios.

He met his wife Virginia (née Peirano) while mountaineering in Italy after war service with the Artists’ Rifles.  They married in 1923.

During the 1930s Stephen and Virginia Courtauld leased the derelict royal palace at Eltham in east London, and commissioned the architects John Seely (1899-1963) and Paul Paget (1901-1985) to restore the surviving medieval Great Hall and construct a discreet but modern fourteen-bedroom residence alongside.

Seeley and Paget resolved the sharp contrast in scale of the huge royal hall and the practical 1930s residence by setting the new house at a sharp angle, linked by a low entrance front which makes a point of revealing three original Tudor timbered gables behind.  The house is French Renaissance in style, punctuated by three copper-capped towers defining the hinge of the angle between the old and the new buildings.  The tapering copper roofs are an echo of the lost Tudor buildings of the Palace.

Virginia Courtauld had very definite ideas about interior design:  though Seely & Paget did most of the bedrooms and bathrooms, the fashionable designer Piero Malacrida (1889-1983) created her bathroom (green onyx with gold-plated taps) and boudoir, and collaborated with the firm White, Allom to devise the dining-room (maple, black marble floor and fireplace, and silver ceiling) and the contrasting Italian-style drawing room.  The principal feature of Mrs Courtauld’s dressing-room was a wall-map of the Eltham district in appliqué leather.  The triangular entrance-hall, top-lit by a dome, was decorated by the Swedish architect Rolf Engströmer (1892-1970) in blackbean veneer in the style of Ragnar Östberg’s Stockholm City Hall (1923).

The Courtaulds were devoted to their pet ring-tailed lemur, Mah-Jongg, purchased from Harrods in 1923.  Mah-Jongg had his own architect-designed, centrally heated quarters and was allowed access, by means of a bamboo ladder, to all areas of Eltham Palace until his death in 1938.

Mr Courtauld suggested adapting the basement billiard-room as “habitations” in the event of enemy attack, and in this underground sanctum the Courtaulds lived through the Second World War, often joined by Stephen Courtauld’s niece, Sydney, and her husband, R A Butler, who drafted parts of the parliamentary bill that became the 1944 Education Act at Eltham.

The house was hardly used as a residence in the way it was designed, for towards the end of the war the Courtaulds went to live in Scotland and eventually moved out to Southern Rhodesia, where their estate, La Rochelle, is now a property of the National Trust of Zimbabwe.  Stephen Courtauld died there in 1967;  his widow moved to Jersey in 1970 and died there two years later.

When Eltham Palace was taken over by the Institute of Army Education in 1944-5, the only fittings left in situ were the wood panelling, the two principal bathrooms and the lacquer dining room doors by Narini. 

The Institute moved out in 1992, and two years later English Heritage began an ambitious programme of restitution, recreating the décor and furnishings of the Courtauld period from the 1937 Country Life photographs and a 1939 inventory taken as a precaution against air-raid damage.

The house opened to the public in 1999 – one of the most modern houses open to the public, but actually more modern than it looks: Eltham Palace and Gardens | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk).

Eltham Palace is one of the houses featured in Mike Higginbottom’s lecture ‘English Country Houses – not quite what they seem’.  For further details, please click here.

Derby Silk Mill Museum

Derby Silk Mill Museum

After five years of work, Derby’s industrial museum, rich in exhibits that commemorate the huge and varied heritage of the city, is now open to the public, with free entry, as the Museum of Making.

It occupies the much-altered Silk Mill building, on the site of an early mill dating from 1704.  What survived of Thomas Lombe’s 1722 building was destroyed in a fire in 1910, and the rebuilding carefully replicated the five-storey original as a three-storey building attached to the surviving distinctive tower.

Using the best of modern display techniques in a variety of ways, the Museum draws together the varied contributions Derby has brought to the world.

Visitors walk into a new atrium beneath a suspended exploded Toyota Corolla Hybrid car, manufactured south of Derby at Burnaston, and look towards a seven-tonne Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 aero engine, also suspended above the staircase.

There are close-up views of the Trent 1000 upstairs, with an opportunity to compare it with the earliest Rolls-Royce Eagle engine that began production in 1915, one of the type which powered Allcock and Brown’s pioneering non-stop Atlantic crossing in 1919.

There’s a bewildering array of objects and images relating to Derby’s involvement in iron-founding, railways, engineering and textiles, and its association with such diverse figures as the physician-inventor Erasmus Darwin, the painter Joseph Wright and the clockmaker and scientist John Whitehurst.

The pinnacle of this cornucopia of Derby memorabilia is the ‘Railways Revealed’ exhibit, which includes the latest version of the Midland Railway model layout, the grandchild of an original which has delighted Derby children and enthusiasts since 1951.

The Museum is an appropriate gateway to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site which stretches northwards as far as Cromford, which ties together an astonishing variety of historic monuments of the early Industrial Revolution.

In view of the quality and significance of the Museum’s collection, it’s odd that it’s been given the vapid branding ‘Museum of Making’.

It could be anywhere.

I choose to call it the Derby Silk Mill Museum, so that people know where it is.

Derby Silk Mill

Silk Mill, Derby

Though Sir Richard Arkwright is rightly credited with establishing the first successful water-powered cotton mill at Cromford, Derbyshire, in 1771, his was not the first industrial innovation in the Derbyshire Derwent Valley.

On an island on the Derwent in the centre of Derby, Thomas Cotchett had commissioned the engineer George Sorocold (c 1668-c1738)  to build a three-story water-powered silk-mill, using inefficient Dutch machinery, in 1704.

Cotchett’s business failed, and the site was taken over by Thomas Lombe (1685-1739), a Norwich-born London silk-merchant who had had the foresight to send his half-brother John (1693?-1722) to work for Cotchett as an apprentice. 

Thomas then travelled in Italy, where he is said to have worked incognito in a throwing-mill and covertly sketched the machinery.

Lombe took out a British patent for the Italian-designed silk-throwing machinery in 1718, and Sorocold built the Italian Works, on twenty-six arches oversailing the waters of the Derwent, to accommodate the machinery.

The main building contained the twelve circular throwing-machines, eight 12ft 7in-diameter Torcitoii and twelve 12ft 11in-diameter Filatoii, both types 19ft 8in high, on the lower two storeys and 26 winding-machines on its upper three floors.

George Sorocold’s previous experience of water-supply machinery can scarcely have prepared him for the mechanical complexity of the 4,793 star-wheels, 10,000 spindles, 25,000 spinning-reel bobbins, 9,050 twist bobbins and 45,363 winding bobbins of Lombe’s patent-design.

The Mill was completed in 1722, and immediately became an object of exceptional interest to visitors, including Daniel Defoe, James Boswell and John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington.

After the patent expired in 1732, other silk mills were built in Macclesfield, Stockport and Congleton, and though the trade experienced periodic periods of depression, by 1830 Macclesfield had seventy silk-factories employing 10,000 people.  There were seventeen silk-factories of one kind or another in Derby in 1840.   

Though the silk-trade continued to flourish into the nineteenth century to the north-west, in Derbyshire it declined in the face of the profitable growth of cotton-spinning and the difficulty of importing raw materials during the French wars, and tended to diversify into the specialised manufacture of ribbon and tape.

The Derby Silk Mill operated,  with one short break at the end of  the  eighteenth century, until 1890, when it suffered a partial collapse, then in 1910 the whole of the Italian Works was destroyed by fire and shortly afterwards the adjacent Doublers’ Shop was demolished. 

The present Silk Mill building was rebuilt on the original stone river-arches to a different design, but with a similar belfry, as a chemical manufactory. 

A coal-fired electricity power-station, notorious for its filth, was built on the landward side of the site and the mill building was occupied by the borough electricity department. 

When the power-station was replaced by a more discreet sub-station for the National Grid the Silk Mill building became the Derby Museum of Industry and Technology, opened in 1974, and Robert Bakewell’s Silk Mill gates were returned from the Museum & Art Gallery at the Wardwick, to stand near to their original site.

The Industrial Museum closed in 2016 for a major refurbishment, and reopened, in spite of the pandemic, in May 2021 as the Museum of Making.