Community spirit in heritage village

Cromford Mill, Arkwright Society tour Guides Helena Williams and Peter South
Cromford Mill, Arkwright Society tour Guides Helena Williams and Peter South

Visitors to Cromford for the first time may not realise that they are walking through one of the most important villages in Britain’s industrial heritage.

Steeped in history and often called the cradle of the industrial revolution, Cromford has been firmly put on the map thanks to the achievements of one man – Sir Richard Arkwright.

On Your Doorstep: David Booker (centre) of the popular Scarthin Books shop in Cromford with staff members Les Hurst and Beverley De'Ath.

On Your Doorstep: David Booker (centre) of the popular Scarthin Books shop in Cromford with staff members Les Hurst and Beverley De'Ath.

Arkwright began building in Cromford in 1771 and created the world’s first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill

In 2001, being named as a World Heritage site provided the ultimate confirmation of Cromford’s place in the industrial history of the world.

Cromford Mill, which represents Sir Richard’s most important legacy, is owned and managed by the Arkwright Society.

The Society was formed in 1972 and is devoted to rescuing heritage buildings and preserving the landscape in and around Cromford.

On Your Doorstep: The Cromford Community Band.

On Your Doorstep: The Cromford Community Band.

Almost half of its staff are volunteers who play an essential role in all aspects of the society’s activities.

Peter South, who has been a tour guide for the society for seven years, said: “The story of Sir Richard Arkwright is so important in the history of the world. That is what motivates me to be a guide.

“It is a hobby, but it makes me feel that in retirement I’m still making a worthwhile contribution.”

Helena Williams, who recently joined the team as a tour guide, added: “I’m really enjoying it. I meet lots of different people from all over the world.

On Your Doorstep: Kath Wilson of Bracken End Farm Donkey Sanctuary with one of their eldest donkeys Dulcie Grey.

On Your Doorstep: Kath Wilson of Bracken End Farm Donkey Sanctuary with one of their eldest donkeys Dulcie Grey.

“I work in an office and I’m sitting at a desk all day so it is nice to be able to do something where you are out and about.”

But there is a lot more to Cromford than just its impressive heritage – the bustling village is also home to many groups and organisations, including a popular community band.

Formed in 1996 by cornet player Stephen Walker and his wife Jayne, the band welcomes all ages and all musicians from violinists to guitar and keyboard players.

Jayne said: “Ours is a very relaxed band. Some people who maybe have not picked up an instrument for a long time slot in very well and it gives them a new found confidence.”

On Your Doorstep: Carol Easton of Cromford Post Office.

On Your Doorstep: Carol Easton of Cromford Post Office.

Cromford also boasts one of the oldest cricket clubs in Derbyshire. Formed in the early 1800s, the club meets on Thursdays from 6.30pm at Cromford Meadows clubhouse.

Chairman Martyn Buswell said they were always seeking new members.

He added: “We are trying to get more people involved with community sport. I think clubs like ours are important because they bring the village together and it is a social event too.”

A favourite with book lovers from across the world is Scarthin Books – a quirky, ramshackle shop bursting with thousands and thousands of books.

Cited as one of the best bookshops in the world it is regularly featured in national newspapers and magazines.

Last year Dave Mitchell, who set up Scarthin in 1974, withdrew from the day-to-day running of the bookshop and David Booker has taken over its general management.

On Your Doorstep: The Cromford Cricket Club first eleven pictured before their home match against Eckington.

On Your Doorstep: The Cromford Cricket Club first eleven pictured before their home match against Eckington.

David has made a few subtle changes to the shop including creating a new gift room. He said: “When you walk in to the shop it looks like we are still in 1974. The front of house has a very old fashioned charm akin to something out of a Harry Potter movie but behind the scenes we are not shying away from technology. We are on Facebook and Twitter. We are managing to do this without changing the character of the shop.”

Despite the recession, business is booming at Scarthin and the village also has a selection of popular and interesting shops and facilities.

Villagers proved how much they valued their local amenities last year when they fought to save the threatened post office.

Residents formed an action group in a bid to buy the building and the threat of closure was quickly lifted while post mistress Carol Easton, who helped lead the campaign, was crowned the Mercury’s Super Server last year.

Carol, who was delighted at picking up the accolade, said Cromford was a unique village with a strong community spirit.