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Slave Trade Legacies: The Global Cotton Connections of the Derwent Valley Mills On Friday 31st October 2014 Susanne Seymour will be giving a free public lecture as part of the University of Nottingham’s Black History Month programme. For further information see Susanne’s blog post on the talk and link to the University of Nottingham event listing for the talk. Date: 5.15pm, Friday 31 OctoberLocation: Senate Chamber, Trent Building, University ParkContact: Register by emailing Claire Henson Please note that the email address to sign up should be: claire.
email@example.com Advertisements In recent months Susanne and I have attended a number of conferences to give presentations on the Global Cotton Connections project. This year’s aptly-themed RGS-IBG Annual Conference concerned with ‘Geographies of Co-Production’ offered us the opportunity to reflect on the collaborative element of our project, while two very different conferences on i) the ‘Business of Slavery‘ (17-19 September 2014, University of Nottingham) and ii) the ‘Industrial Revolution‘ (3-4 October 2014, Cromford Mill) allowed us to present on some of our research, a summary of which we give below: Cotton Spinning and Entanglements with Slavery: Tracing the Slavery Connections of the Strutts At the Business of Slavery conference, Susanne and I took the opportunity to present our research during a poster session.
The materials below are reproduced from the poster: The Strutts at Belper, Derbyshire By the early 19th century the Strutts were the leading cotton thread spinners in Britain with their main cotton spinning mills at Belper in the Derwent Valley. How far did this business depend on systems of slavery? Slavery and Raw Cotton Supplies While the Strutts were not slave traders or plantation owners, in the early years of operation their mills relied heavily on raw cotton produced by enslaved African people in the Americas.
From 1794-1817 their main sources of raw cotton came from Brazil, the West Indies, Guyana and Suriname, with smaller amounts from the southern United States and India. Origins of raw cotton supplies bought by the Strutts, 1794-1817 Slave Cotton Plantations & the Slave Trade A 1799 account shows that the Strutts dealt with Liverpool merchants who were well-known slave traders, including the Boltons, Earles and Tarletons who also owned slave-worked plantations.
In supplying the Strutts, Thomas Tarleton likely drew on raw cotton from his 509 acre Mount Pleasant plantation on Carriacou, worked by 227 enslaved Africans in 1790. ‘Picking cotton on a Georgia plantation’, 1858. Courtesy of Library of Congress. Hosiery and Lace Goods Nottingham was one of six key areas in Britain supplied by cotton thread from the Strutts’ Belper mills. Leading Nottingham lace manufacturers and more significantly hosiers (including Heard & Hurst, Hine & Mundella and Morley & Co) were key customers who supplied local, national and international markets, including the Americas, with their goods.
Key sources Chapman, S (2006) ‘Industry and trade, 1750-1900’ in Beckett, J V (ed) Centenary History of Nottingham. Fitton, R S and Wadsworth, A P (1958) The Strutts and the Arkwrights 1758-1830. LBS Database :http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/ Ryden, D B (2013) ‘An analysis of C18th Carriacou’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 43(4) 539-70. Strutt archives: DRO D6948/2/5, 66-68. TAST Database: http://www.
slavevoyages.org/tast/ database/search.faces Apologies for the break in posts – we’ve had a busy few months of archival research, stakeholder meetings and community events. Having just got back from holiday, which meant a break from work email and our project’s Twitter feed, I wanted to take the opportunity to get back to blogging with an account of some of our recent activities. More to follow soon.
Connecting with other organisations Collaboration is central to our project, and shortly after our last blog post, Susanne and I made two important new connections – with the Arkwright Society, who own and manage Cromford Mill, and with a thriving community-based business in Nottingham called Bright Ideas. Arkwright Society – working with heritage stakeholders Our first meeting at the Arkwright Society was very positive.
On Friday 4th April we met with Michael Ledger, the Society’s Education Officer, who received our project and its aims for community-based collaboration with great enthusiasm. Most importantly the meeting opened up an opportunity to engage with the current development of the Cromford Mill site, which in part aims to increase the heritage provision for the whole Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site through the creation of a ‘Gateway’ visitor centre at Cromford Mill.
Although at this initial stage it sounded as though we wouldn’t be able to contribute to the permanent displays in the centre itself, other opportunities to help shape the interpretation of the site were welcomed. Options we discussed that would enable visitors to explore the global connections of the cotton industry, including its colonial and slavery histories and legacies, included: creating a new guided walk; producing a set of temporary exhibition panels and leaflets; developing an object handling/memory box; contributing to the site’s on-line blog.
This was a great start, but we weren’t naïve enough to think it would be plain sailing from herein out. Bringing a new set of interpretive perspectives, a new set of voices, to a site that is typically heralded for its role in Britain’s so-called ‘industrial revolution’ was never going to be easy. How to challenge a Whiggish history of ‘great men’ such as Arkwright? How to widen the horizons from a view centred on the Derwent Valley to its position in the truly global network of the cotton industry? Importantly, Susanne has been involved in thinking through some of these questions through her participation in the series of Derwent Valley Mills Research Framework meetings that took place March-May 2014.
Funded by English Heritage as part of its programme of regional research frameworks, it aims to provide a Research Agenda and Strategy for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and its wider Buffer Zone. Connecting with communities – Hindu Samaj Sheffield & Slave Trade Legacies volunteers Key to our plan for shaping interpretation at Cromford and the wider World Heritage Site are the local communities and community groups in Nottingham and Sheffield.
Our Co-I Esme Cleall had previously worked with the Hindu Samaj on a Heritage Lottery Funded project called ‘British Raj in the Peak District: Discovering, Recovering and Sharing Colonial History’. This collaborative partnership was extended to the Global Cotton Connections project to enable the participation of members of Sheffield’s Indian community in exploring aspects of colonial history that link the physical and cultural heritage of the Peak District and Sheffield to their Indian heritage.
Our hopes to connect with members of the Black British communities of Nottingham through our project so as to explore some of the slavery legacies of the cotton industry were boosted when Helen Bates, a freelance community historian working with us, introduced us to Lisa Robinson, Director of Bright Ideas. Offering a wealth of experience in community engagement in Nottingham, especially with those of African-Caribbean heritage, Bright Ideas has been an invaluable partner for the project, even though managing the expectations and needs of a University research project alongside those of a community business has not always been straightforward.
As part of the partnership with Bright Ideas, the Global Cotton Connections project teamed up with a Heritage Lottery Funded project that is also concerned with slave trade legacies and the ‘hidden histories’ of so much of Britain’s heritage landscape. Focusing on the heritage of the Black British Caribbean community, the Colour of Money project enables volunteers from this community to investigate how the lives of their ancestors were affected by the transatlantic slave trade, as well as considering how their enslaved ancestors contributed to the building of modern Britain.
You can read more about the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies project activities through two blogs and a Facebook page: http://slavelegacies.wordpress.com/ – for updates on the research side http://slavetradelegacies.wordpress.com/ – for community volunteers’ updates https://www.facebook.com/cottonslavelegacies – please like! A tour through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site A few weeks back on a fine day in late February, Lowri and I were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of some of the key sites of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site by its Director, Mark Suggitt.
This proved an excellent way to discuss the project with Mark and start thinking about the sites and landscapes of Derbyshire’s cotton connections. Darley Abbey, Derbyshire We met at Derby’s famous Silk Mill before driving a mile or so up the river valley to the first of the cotton mill sites, Darley Abbey. This well-preserved site was first developed in the 1780s by the Evans family, an established landed family with iron and banking interests It was then only a small, though industrialising, village – the Evans family lived in the Abbey surrounded by parkland.
Powered by the River Derwent, the early mills produced yarn from raw cotton supplies sourced from the slave-worked plantations of South America, particularly Brazil, the Caribbean and the southern states of America (Lindsay, 1960; http://www.derwentvalleymills.org/). In a later visit to Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock we identified source materials for further study of these connections but their condition means they will be a challenging read! Belper & the Strutt family Strutt’s North & East Mills, Belper We drove on a few more miles up the valley to the now substantial town of Belper.
It was here that the Strutt family, by 1815 the largest producers of cotton yarn in England, developed a series of mills from the late 1770s. These also sourced their much larger requirements for raw cotton in the late 18th and early 19th centuries from slave-worked plantations in South America, the Caribbean and the southern states of America, with smaller amounts coming from India (Fitton and Wadsworth, 1958).
Our subsequent visit to the Derbyshire Record Office revealed a magnificent though water damaged raw cotton ledger confirming these sources. We will be examining these and additional related correspondence further in future archive visits. The most prominent remains of the Strutt family mills are North Mill (rebuilt in 1804) and East Mill (1912). North Mill now houses the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre, which we hope to include in one of our Peak District visit days.
Some textiles are still produced in Belper by Courtaulds who make lingerie there at West Mill. Stockings in the window of a textile factory, West Mill, Belper Long Row, Belper Belper was also a small rural village, with a nail industry, before the Strutts started building there but grew rapidly into the second largest town in Derbyshire by 1801 (Fitton and Wadsworth, 1958). Besides the mills and associated industrial premises, the Strutts developed many new streets of houses for the mill workers and their families – Mark showed us round several streets of different housing types.
In the early days, mill workers were mainly children; their fathers constructed and maintained the mills and their mothers picked the raw cotton clean. From Smedley’s Mill… John Smedley factory shop We next headed further north to the Lea Valley, just off the main Derwent Valley. Our destination was the more secluded Smedley’s Mill, the site of which was originally developed for cotton spinning by the Nightingale family (a member of whom was Florence Nightingale).
The Smedley family took over in the early 19th century and began producing cotton and wool yarns. High quality knitwear is still produced on the site and sold via a rather tempting factory shop! The company has its own archive and archivist and we plan to make contact (http://www.derwentvalleymills.org/). …to Cromford, site of the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill Cromford Mill, Derbyshire Our last stop for the day was Cromford, home to the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill and probably the most famous place in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
There is much to see at Cromford, including the original mill and its associated buildings, Masson Mill, a larger site developed later to harness the power of the Derwent directly, and the village itself with its specially-designed workers’ housing, market place and substantial inn. While the first cotton factory developments were made by the partnership of Richard Arkwright, Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, a wealthy hosier from Nottingham, the Arkwrights later took over.
They amassed an enormous industrial fortune and moved into banking and landed property. Unfortunately there are few surviving records relating to the Cromford mills but we hope to piece together what we can from a range of sources. ‘Connecting Threads’ installation, Carolyn J Roberts. Cromford First Mill, 2013. Cromford will certainly be included in our Peak District day visits. Rooms are available at Cromford where we could meet and have lunch on our visit days, either next to the Cromford Canal, an important route south to traders and markets in the Midlands and London, or in the main old mill complex.
Cromford also provides an opportunity for our project to engage with the Arkwright Society whose volunteers guide visitors around the site. We might also use the exhibition space available in the old mill building to display the project’s heritage legacy materials. An interesting cotton-inspired exhibition has run there in the past during the special Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days. It would be great to take part in some of these.
The trip revealed a host of possibilities for the project in terms of cotton mills and businesses to study in the archives, sites for our groups to visit and places where we might make a new contribution to public histories of global cotton. The ‘hidden histories’ of Derbyshire Peak District’s global cotton connections Cromford, Derbyshire, site of Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mill, built in 1771.
Photo by Sam Styles, 2005, licensed under Creative Commons. Nestled among the small towns and farmland of the Derbyshire Peak District lie sites of the earliest water-powered cotton mills in the world, several of which form the heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Now partly designated a National Park, this rural part of Britain was once central to the cotton textile industry – an industry closely associated with the ‘Industrial Revolution’ for which Britain is famous.
Yet the global connections of this important cotton textile heritage area typically remain hidden to those living in or visiting the region. Heritage sites rarely identify the mills’ sources of raw cotton, which was grown in places like India and Egypt, as well as on slave-worked plantations in the Americas, e.g. in Brazil, the Caribbean and the southern states of America. Which markets these mills served also tends to be hidden from view.
Importantly, cotton goods were not only produced for domestic markets but also for colonial ones, including the slave trade and plantation supplies. Broadside advertising auction of “178 Sugar and Cotton Plantation Slaves”, New Orleans, 1855. Our new project is interested in these global and colonial histories of cotton and their marked absence from the heritage landscape of the Derbyshire Peak District.
Concerned that such absences contribute to feelings of exclusion and alienation amongst Black and Minority Ethnic heritage communities already poorly represented as visitors to such heritage sites and the wider countryside, our project sets out to reconnect this important world site of industrial innovation with the people and places involved in cotton textile production in the past and now. Project aims and activities Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through its Connected Communities Programme, the project, which runs from February 2014 to January 2015, combines archival research with active community engagement.
Re-examining archives typically used to tell histories of such prominent English individuals as Richard Arkwright, the project hopes to shift attention to the global and colonial networks of people, places and things on which the business of the Derbyshire Peak District’s mills, and the success of Arkwright and others largely depended. Drawing on archival materials, we will be working collaboratively with individuals from different communities living in and around the Derbyshire Peak District so as to consider how global, diverse heritage perspectives might be better represented in the heart of the Peak District.
A key aim of the project is to work together to produce interpretive materials acknowledging cotton’s global and colonial connections to be used in the local heritage landscape of the Derbyshire Peak District.
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Title: Cotton District Arts Festival