Foreword & Preface

The following text appeared as the Foreword and Preface to the published edition of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Research Framework


The United Kingdom is fortunate in having 29 World Heritage Sites. They reflect the complexity and diversity of our history and national identity and also illustrate, through their outstanding universal value, the impact that our small islands have had on the world stage. The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site is significant for its pivotal contribution to the development of the modern factory system and the workers’ communities that grew alongside the mills in the late 18th century. What took place here changed the way people lived and worked across the world and the effects of these elements of the Industrial Revolution remain with us today.

The UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention encourage States Parties to make resources available to undertake and encourage research into the Sites. It recognises that knowledge and understanding are fundamental to the identification, management, and monitoring of World Heritage properties.

I am therefore delighted to welcome the publication of this Research Framework, which will help to fulfil this ambition. Building on the success of the Research Framework for the Historic Environment of the East Midlands, it is the result of real partnership working. As a funding body, we wished to see the full spectrum of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnership engaged in its production and the partners have risen to the challenge. This document is, therefore, a true collaboration, incorporating the work of individual researchers, university academics, local authority staff, museum curators, local societies and other organisations within the World Heritage Site. The result is a document which has been made with the partners, rather than being done for them.

This document will be disseminated to the Derwent Valley stakeholder community and also to a range of universities and research organisations. I am sure that they will find much here that will inspire and direct future research into this remarkable area.

Duncan Wilson

Chief Executive, Historic England

A Vertical Section of the Strata looking North across the High Peak Hundred in Derbyshire, published by William Phillips in 1824: detail showing a section across the Derwent Valley at Hathersage, upstream of the World Heritage Site. The Derbyshire element of this section, which stretched from Liverpool to Doncaster, was produced by Elias Hall: a mineral surveyor, collector and geologist living in Castleton who was a pioneer in the geological mapping that transformed understanding of the physical landscape of the Derwent Valley and its environs (reproduced by courtesy of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery; source: Westwood, R and Rhodes, A [eds] 2013 Enlightenment! Derbyshire Setting the Pace in the 18th Century. Buxton: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, 103)


The Derwent Valley Mills is the only World Heritage Site in the East Midlands. It contains globally important industrial sites within a well-preserved rural landscape, much of which has changed little since the late 18th century, and local people and visitors are drawn to this rich mixture of history and landscape.

Tourism is an important part of Derbyshire’s economy and, since the Site’s inscription on the World Heritage List in 2001, the Derwent Valley Mills Partnership has worked to deliver many successes in this area. It protects the Site by working with stakeholders to enhance the facilities for visitors and promotes the area via a range of initiatives and through its website. Recent developments at sites such as Cromford Mills, the Cromford Canal and Derby Silk Mill provide clear evidence of a significant body of organisations with a drive to develop and collaborate.

Research has been central to the work of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site (DVMWHS) since the partners began the application for inscription on the World Heritage List. This process required a review of past research and new work to build a convincing case for presentation to UNESCO. Since achieving inscription, the commitment to research has continued. The DVMWHS has an active Learning and Research and Publications Panel, which liaises with the partners and reviews publications and interpretative texts to ensure accuracy. Its work is greatly aided by the DVMWHS Educational Trust, which has supported the publication of existing and new research. Over the past five years, the Trust has funded the reprinting of the seminal works on the Strutts and the Arkwrights by Fitton and Wadsworth, a second printing of The Derwent Valley Mills and its Communities and publication of Cromford Revisited by Doreen Buxton and Christopher Charlton.

One of the aims of the current Management Plan is to promote public understanding of the Site by facilitating research. A key objective within this is to produce a research framework that, by defining strategies for research, will encourage further work by independent researchers and members of universities, community groups and other organisations. We are grateful to Historic England for supporting this work.

The Partnership has been fortunate to work with David Knight of Trent & Peak Archaeology (York Archaeological Trust), who has led the process over the last three years in a calm and collaborative manner. David compiled with colleagues the Research Framework for the Historic Environment of the East Midlands, and this document complements and builds upon that work. Production of the framework has been a truly collaborative process involving engagement with many members of the Partnership. A Steering Group was formed from the members and from universities and other organisations with interests in the Derwent Valley. The workshops gained enormously from a mixture of local historians, archaeologists, leading academics, museum professionals and archivists. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those people who have contributed to this document and shared their expertise so generously. Special thanks are also due to Dave Barrett, Derbyshire County Archaeologist, Mark Suggitt, Gwen Wilson, Adrian Farmer and Sukie Khaira of the DVMWHS Team, and Tim Allen, Dan Miles and Paddy O’Hara of Historic England for providing invaluable support.

The result is a volume that outlines agreed priorities for research and measures by which we may advance understanding. It is not intended to be prescriptive, recognising that additional topics of interest may be identified and that further research may open unexpected but rewarding avenues for enquiry. We intend, therefore, for this to be a living document which will be added to the DVMWHS website and updated periodically. With this aim in mind, it is planned to review its impact and influence over the next five years. I hope that it will be a valuable tool for shaping future research into a unique and fascinating location that has had a huge impact on the way we continue to live and work.

Cllr Ellie Wilcox

Chair of DVMWHS Partnership

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