Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Preston Wigmaker

Today's post nearly didn't happen. You would think, wouldn't you, that a new computer would be reliable for a good while. I got my new PC just before Christmas and, on the whole, I've been happy with it. However, over the last couple of weeks, strange things have been happening with it. I found that I couldn't load programs that I had been able to use before and one new program kept crashing. I would have thought it was a virus, but I run Norton 360 and I've never had a problem with it in the past. The obvious thing to blame was the new program, the one that kept crashing, so i tried to remove it using System Restore, and it failed. It claimed to have moved the computer back by 10 days, but all the software was still the way it had been that morning. So I bit the bullet and this morning I wiped the Hard Disc and reinstalled Windows. At the moment the only thing running is Office, but Pat neded to do something that only needed Word and the Printer, so I picked up the laptop that is Pat's and here I am.

The day after my walk in Manor Park that is described below, we set off for a weekend at Willersley Castle near Cromford in Derbyshire. Here is the view out of our bedroom window on Saturday Morning.

It wasn't the best weather in the world that weekend, but I still wouldn't mind waking up to that view every day. I won't bother describing our weekend much for we went for a Parish weekend with people from our Church. Had a really good time, listened to some interesting talks, ate some very good food and had a good, quiet and interesting time.

The point of the blog, though, is not to talk about our weekend, but about Cromford Mill. The mill is about a half mile from the Castle and I think it is really special. Here is a picture:


So why would I think that this scruffy little pile of bricks is in any way important. Well, in 1732 in Preston, Lancashire, a young man was born who, to my mind, was going to change the world. He is no hero of mine, I actually think he was an unprincipled rogue, but at least he was no Adolf Hitler, just a rogue. His name was Richard Arkwright and he grew up to be a wig maker. I always thought that being a wig maker was an odd sort of occupation to be a world changer. But around about 1765 Richard Arkwright invented an ingenious Cotton Spinning Engine called "The Water Frame". Up until that point all the machines that had been invented to speed up the process of making cloth had been operated by human power or animal power. Machines like the Spinning Jenny were small enough to be used in the home. The water Frame was not. It was a big machine and it needed an external power supply, running water (hence its name). So it made more economic sense to have a lot of them, all together in one place, and use one water source to power them all. So Arkwright borrowed money and set up the very first "manufactory" in the history of the world.

This is him, Richard Arkwright, the Preston Wigmaker who changed the world. The reason that I don't particularly like him is not because he became rich and famous, good luck to him. Not because he built his mill at Cromford in Derbyshire, that he became Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire (I think) or that he built, and lived in Willersley Castle. But I rather think that his Waterframe was actually built by someone else, a man called Lewis Paul, whose name does not feature in the History books at all. So it goes, I suppose.

I have one other gripe really, and this is not about Arkwright. The mill he built at Cromford is in a pretty dire state. It just strikes me that in this country we want to preserve our heritage, but we are quite selective about the heritage we want to preserve. Go to Styal Mill and it is well preserved and draws in crowds like nobody's business in summer. It's a pretty mill you see, and Cromford is not.

And that is just about that, for this evening. Jasper, by the way, spent his weekend in a doggy hotel in Denton, Manchester. Poor dear, he was loved to bits. Jasper's fan club extends to Denton as well. See you soon!

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