Cromford mill restoration lands top European heritage award

Past and present members of the Arkwright Society with the Duke of Devonshire, project architect Ben Freeston, Europa Nostra UK chairman Peter Collins and pupils from South Darley Primary School.
Past and present members of the Arkwright Society with the Duke of Devonshire, project architect Ben Freeston, Europa Nostra UK chairman Peter Collins and pupils from South Darley Primary School.

A heritage restoration project in the heart of Cromford’s historic mill complex has been awarded Europe’s highest honour in the field.

The Arkwright Society’s work on what is known as Building 17 is this year’s winner of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage or Europa Nostra Award.

Arkwright Society president the Duke of Devonshire receiving the Europa Nostra Award from Peter Collins, chairman of Europa Nostra UK.

Arkwright Society president the Duke of Devonshire receiving the Europa Nostra Award from Peter Collins, chairman of Europa Nostra UK.

It was presented at a special ceremony in the village on Thursday, October 19, attended by society president the Duke of Devonshire.

Chairman David Williams said: “To win this award is a phenomenal achievement and testament to the hard work and dedication put in by many people over many years.

“We are proud to take our place amongst the 28 other projects from 18 countries across Europe.”

The Grade I-listed building, the largest of 20 in the complex, was in poor conditon due to lack of maintenance and past work which compromised its structural integrity.

The conservation was further complicated by contamination due to its previous use as a colour pigment works.

It now houses a visitor centre for the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and space for tenant businesses designed to foster a new generation of creativity and innovation.

David said: “Being at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, this is one of the most culturally important buildings in the UK. It will continue the entrepreneurialism, innovation and creativity that characterised Arkwright’s mills.”

The award judges said: “This project represents a good adaptive reuse of a notable site of industrial heritage and a key part of an important ensemble of buildings.

“The result is a building with a social function that offers the perfect gateway to the World Heritage Site. The interpretive activities and materials for children are a great addition and its educational function is significant.”

The society secured a £4million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant for the project, a £1m European Regional Development Fund grant, and contributions from several charitable trusts.

Jonathan Platt of HLF East Midlands said: “I’m really pleased the excellent work undertaken by the Arkwright Society with help from lottery players has been recognised.

“As well as being an important heritage project, the finished product is very engaging and well worth a visit.”

Matthew McKeague of the Architectural Heritage Fund added: “The project shows the great potential for regenerating redundant industrial sites. The award is much deserved.”