World Heritage Site to celebrate anniversary in Belper

Belper’s place at the historic heart of the modern world is to be celebrated with an action-packed day of free and family-friendly festivities this spring.

It is now 15 years since the Derwent Valley Mills complex was awarded World Heritage Site status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recognising it as the birthplace of the factory system which drove the industrial revolution.

The official anniversary passed in December 2016, but the heritage team is inviting the community to mark the occasion at the Strutts Centre on Derby Road, on Saturday, March 11, between 11am and 4pm.

Heritage co-ordinator Adrian Farmer said: “We want to invite everyone in for a taste of what we do at the site - what we’ve accomplished, what we do, what our plans are for the future and what challenges we have to face.

“We want people to appreciate what the site is all about, and all the ways they can enjoy it even more.”

The event will draw together representatives of organisations and attractions from right across the 15-mile site, which stretches from Matlock Bath in the north to Derby city centre in the south.

Adrian said: “It should be a cracking day for visitors. The site is so big that a lot of people struggle to take it all in at once.

“So we’re putting the whole thing in one building with stalls, talks and activities so people don’t have to spend a day driving along A6.”

Some of the talks on the programme will cover successful projects such as the restoration of Cromford Canal and the Darley Abbey complex, and the development of the site’s Northern Gateway at Cromford Mills.

The latter proves that the valley is still leading the world in some respects: “Cromford was an old paintworks, and it’s now officially the most contaminated building ever to brought back into use.

“It’s really impressive, an amazing achievement, and a fascinating story to learn about.”

There will also be a presentation on the new tearooms planned for Belper’s River Gardens, and the multi-million pound transformation plans for the Silk Mill in Derby.

Adrian said: “The plans for the Silk Mill are dazzling. It’s going to be a Museum of Making, bringing together every part of the region’s industrial history.

“It shows that from the factories to Rolls-Royce and the railways, we’ve been part of every technological advance in the last 500 years.”

Children will find plenty to occupy them too, with quizzes, costumes and craft activities which celebrate the valley’s creative past, and refreshments will be served all day.

For anyone who wants to explore on foot, there will be two walking tours of Belper.

Adrian said: “It’s one of the best parts of the job, showing people the hidden histories which lie all around them.

“We’ll be taking people into the town, and showing them things they might never find on their own.”

To keep up with all the latest announcements about the event, follow the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Facebook page at www.fb.me/DerwentValleyMillsWHS.
For volunteering opportunities, email the team via info@derwentvalleymills.org.