Dating from the early seventeen hundreds The Silk Mill bills itself as England’s first. It was built for the Lombe brothers to house machines copied from the Italians for doubling or twisting silk into thread. Previously this work had been done in the workers homes but these machines were too big for that. This location beside the River Derwent provided the power they needed. Today only stone foundations remain of the original building.
As the oldest silk mill, this place has been a tourist destination for over 200 years and the people who visited were not always complimentary about the conditions at the mill. A devastating fire in 1910 destroyed a great deal of the building which was rebuilt around the tower but to only three stories, not the original five. There are gates done by the local Robert Bakewell in wrought iron.
The building is visited on a self-guided tour. There is an elevator, take it to the second floor. Here you will learn about the beginnings of the silk industry in England. There is a mannequin of John Lombe who after you push a button will tell you the story of how he went to Italy and stole the design for their machines and brought it back to England.
After this section, you will find many more exhibits on other industry in Derbyshire. There is an area that deals with the clay industry. This covers everything for clay piping to pottery.
A particularly interesting section of the museum dealt with health and medicine in Victorian Derby. Some of the popular cures seem very strange to a person in the 21st century.
If you have ever dreamed of being a railroad engineer you will have the ability to try your hand at it. Called “A Drivers Eye View” you get to sit in the driver’s seat and see the rails from that view. I personally could not stand it, it gave me motion sickness. Even a quick glance was more than I could tolerate. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it.
For the miniature rail enthusiast, there is a room with lots of track and some very interesting trains. They are not moving but still worth viewing. Al was fascinated by the signal box recreation. I found it interesting as well, I guess I never though about how this was done.
After this, you go down the stairs to the first floor. The first exhibit there is the Power Gallery. It features a water wheel, animal power, gas, steam, wind and electric. It gives examples of each and their many uses.
Entrance to the museum is free. 2016 will see big changes to the museum see their website for updates.