Sir Richard Arkwright 1732 – 92

Sir Richard Arkwright by Joseph Wright of Derby (1789)

Richard Arkwright was born in Preston, Lancashire, a self-educated man whose career began as a barber and wigmaker, for which he was reputed to use genuine human hair. His industrial knowledge led him to adopt the idea of a water-powered spinning machine that he patented in 1769. Called the water frame, the machine allowed mechanisation of what had previously been a cottage industry and brought spinning into the factory age. By 1782 he employed more than 5,000 workers in his cotton mills.

In 1775 he patented a carding engine, based on a hand-worked machine that had been invented earlier by Lewis Paul. Arkwright’s machine incorporated a crank and comb mechanism that drove the comb up and down and lifted the combed fibres onto a cylinder to create a continuous fleece for spinning.


His first mechanised mill was built at Cromford, south of Matlock in Derbyshire. The site was developed only two years after the patent for the water frame was taken out and was the first water-powered mill in the world. The complex of workshops was powered by wheels driven by the Bonsall Brook, which flows into the River Derwent close to the site.

Arkwright was also generous to his workers, in common with other industrialists of later times, and built a number of houses in the nearby village for his staff. North Street is one of the best-preserved terraces, built in approximately 1777. One of the homes is now preserved as a Landmark Trust property and is available for holiday lets.

1905 – Einstein’s miracle year

Almost everyone has heard of e=mc2 – the formula behind the Theory of Special Relativity – but very few people realise that it was just one of Einstein’s significant scientific breakthroughs of the year. It might also be worth considering that this was just 4 years after the death of Queen Victoria. Few people would think of Einstein as being an eminent Victorian but in fact he was.

The first scientific paper that Einstein published in this year was on the photoelectric effect. It showed that light sometimes behaves like a stream of particles with discrete energies called “quanta” and sometimes behaves like a wave of energy. The paper earned him a Nobel Prize.

The second paper was on Brownian motion – a random motion that can be observed when very light particles (such as Indian ink) are suspended in a liquid (such as water). It is caused when the molecules of the liquid collide with the particles and propel them in different directions. The paper included an experimental test for the theory of heat.

The third paper was the most famous – the Theory of Special Relativity – that included the famous equation quoted above. Behind the equation is the idea that mass and energy are actually two versions of the same thing and the amount of energy contained in mass is related to a constant (c). And the other key idea is that space and time are related.

Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford 1757 – 1834


Menai Bridge

Thomas Telford was responsible for the early 19th century improvements to the main line canal at Birmingham. Having surveyed the original Brindley contour canal across the Birmingham Plateau he declared it “little better than a crooked ditch” and set about carving a straight line across the route. The result was the largest earthwork in the world at the time – a little over 70 feet deep and a mile long – now known as the Galton Valley. It was crossed by the magnificent Galton Bridge, at the time the longest single span bridge in the world. Among his other improvements to the canal system were the Engine Arm feeder canal that crosses the new line and carries water supplies to the old main line across the dramatic, cast-iron Engine Arm aqueduct, a scheduled ancient monument.

Telford is also known for his audacious improvements to the old Roman road of Watling Street (the A5) that led from London to Wales. His engineering feats include the masterpiece of the Menai Bridge, a suspension bridge that carries the road across the Menai Strait and onto Anglesey to open up the western port of Holyhead. The Menai Bridge was built between 1818 and 1826 at a height of 153 feet, a length of 1388 feet and a main span of 580 feet.

Waterloo Bridge

Another of his A5 works is the magnificent Waterloo Bridge over the River Conwy at Betwys-y-Coed inscribed: “This arch was constructed in the same year the Battle of Waterloo was fought. 1815”

See also: Cantlop Bridge


Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882

Darwin’s theories scandalised the Victorian world when he first suggested his ideas of evolution. The theories challenged the religious view, at the heart of church belief, that the world was created by god in six days. They also had little to do with the scientific views that held sway at the time and thus the “Origin of Species” alienated him from large sectors of society.

He formed his first ideas about how species develop while he was voyaging on the HMS Beagle on which he was employed as – unpaid – naturalist. His studies of the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands made him realise how each species develops to exploit particular resources and therefore become most “fit” for its habitat. The idea of Survival of the Fittest is often misunderstood to mean the strongest, rather than the best adapted.

Without earlier work by people like Lyell, who had already realised the vast expanses of time necessary to undergo the geological processes that had formed the earth, Darwin might have faced a tougher struggle to have his ideas accepted. But the tides of thought were already changing. Others were starting to consider the possibility that natural forces might drive species development and Darwin himself always credited biologist Alfred Russel Wallace with having discovered very similar ideas independently.

Down House

His ideas were not without opponents, however, and the overriding opinion among scholars of the day was that Darwin’s theories were mostly conjecture and that there was very little evidence in his publication. There was a special meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science a year after “On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection” was published in 1859. It was at this meeting that Darwin’s great opponent Bishop Samuel Wilberforce challenged “Darwin’s Bulldog” T H Huxley by asking whether it was through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed decent from monkeys. Huxley’s reported reply was that he would rather be decended from two apes than be “a man afraid to face the truth”.

Darwin’s home in later life, and where he wrote “Origin of Species”, was Down House in Kent. The beautiful property stands overlooking the Kent countryside and is surrounded by woods and farmland. Around the house was Darwin’s “thinking path” where he often walked to gather his thoughts before retiring to his study to put them on paper. His experiments were all over the study and often spilled out into the kitchen, drawing room and even on to the billiard table if he needed more room.

The Arts and Crafts Movement – A Brief Explanation

Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Wassail c.1900

The Arts and Crafts Movement was a reaction to the mechanisation that had grown out of the Industrial Revolution and got its name from its promotion of art and handicraft in place of machine production. All kinds of arts and manufacture were influenced by the movement, which reached its height between 1880 and 1910. Among the key names involved in the movement were William Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Pre-Raphaelites and even garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.

As a group of reformists the Arts and Craft Movement were also concerned with the division of labour and the way that an assembly-line process had developed from industrialisation. Workshops, post Industrial Revolution, tended to have staff who carried out only one task required for the production process and the movement members were concerned that it would spell the end of the master craftsman, capable of creating a piece from scratch.

The gardens at Hidcote Manor nearChipping Campden in Gloucestershire are recognised as a fine example of how the design principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement could be applied to non-manufactured items.


Stainsby Watermill

Stainsby Mill stands on the Hardwick Hall estate in Derbyshire and is fully restored and in working order. It has a kiln, drying floor, three pairs of millstones and is driven by a cast iron waterwheel. The 17 feet diameter wheel is high breast shot, meaning that the water is delivered to it slightly above half way up so that the weight of water in the buckets drives it through gravity. The wheel in turn drives a wheel attached to the main shaft. Unusually the gearing is on the inner circumference of the wheel.

The mill leat is supplied by water from Stainsby dam as well as from Millers Pond in Hardwick Park and Stainsby Pond, which was built in 1762 specifically to boost supply to the mill.

The leat is supplied from a head on the opposite side of the road, controlled by means of the valve shown on the left. Flow through the leat – and hence the wheel speed – is controlled by means of a curtain valve across the wheel itself and worked from a handle inside the mill.

There has been a flour mill on or close to the site since the 13th century and from 1593 it was owned by Bess of Hardwick, the celebrated lady of the manor. It fell into disuse in the 1840s but was restored to working condition in 1849/50 when the present wheel, made by Kirkland of Mansfield, was fitted.

There were three pairs of stones, one of which is shown on the right. The bell on the front of the hopper was fixed to a strap thatwas released as most of the grain was milled. So the bell rang to tell the miller when the grain needed topping up. He was on the floor above and could fill the hopper through the cloth sleeve visible above the hopper.

The mill is currently owned by the National Trust.

Heage Windmill

Photo taken during restoration work with two sails removed.

Heage Windmill is the only stone towered, fully working, six sailed windmill remaining in the UK. It isn’t very tall, but at 410 feet above sea level it doesn’t have to be. It stands on quite a windy brow just above the village of Heage in Derbyshire, north east of the town of Belper. Although the photo shows it with only four sails it is, in fact, a six sailed mill but rot was found in one in early 2005 so a pair had to be removed to keep the balance. (If one of a pair is removed it makes the mill uneven.)

The first mention of a mill in the village is an advert in the Derby Mercury for 16 June 1791, which calls on any interested mason “inclined to undertake the stone building” to turn up at the site. The ad went on to say “all materials laid down in place” which basically means that stone for the tower was dug out of the side of the hill. Within seven years she was up for letting and in 1803 was put up for sale with an adjoining house, barn and six acres of land. By 1816 she (according to the guide book all mills are called “she”) was up for rent again, this time with only four acres alongside.

In the late 1840s the mill was bought by a pair of Sheffield brothers, Isaac and John Shore, who also bought a water mill in the valley below. They fitted a steam engine to that mill and so ensured that milling could go on in any weather – even if it was too dry to keep a mill leat running or if the wind fell. Heage is believed to have been the only village in the UK with wind and water mills owned by the same company. The Shore family still owned the mill when it closed in 1919. Heage is still used today to grind wheat and make flour but it is for tourism and not for commercial reasons. The mill is open to the public and it is possible to see the machinery in action.

Cantlop Bridge

A single span iron bridge built to a design approved by Thomas Telford.

Telford was county surveyor of bridges for Shropshire from 1787 to 1834 and was responsible for 42 bridges in the county. Cantlop Bridge is the only one still remaining in its original position.

It is no longer used by road traffic, however. It was replaced by a nearby concrete bridge in the 1970s.

Reproduction of the plan, dated 1818, submitted to Telford for approval before the bridge was constructed

1. Flat deck
2. Cast iron beam
3. Lattice spandrel
4. Cast iron arch rib
5. Abutment
6. Iron deck plate

The Pre-Raphaelites

Founded in 1848 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood originally consisted of seven members: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) his brother, art critic William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) painter James Collinson (1825-81) painter William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) painter John Everett Millais (1829-96) sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825-92) and art critic Frederic George Stephens (1828-1907). Dante Rossetti was a pupil of Ford Madox Brown (1821-93) who was also involved with the movement. Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was one of Rossetti’s pupils and is included in the Pre-Raphaelite group.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti’s portrait of Jane Burden –
Mrs William Morris.
The typical Pre-Raphaelite woman

Born London 1828, the eldest son of Gabriel Rossetti, professor of Italian at King’s College, London and Frances Polidori. Attended King’s College School from 1836. Moved to Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy in 1841 and became a probationer at the Royal Academy in 1844. In 1848 studied under Ford Madox Brown and introduced himself to Holman Hunt after seeing his works at the RA Summer Exhibition. September that year the Brotherhood was formed. Met Elizabeth Siddal 1850. Met Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris 1856 and the following year worked with them on the Oxford Union Murals. 1860 married Elizabeth Siddal but she died two years later and Rossetti’s poetry manuscripts were buried with her. However, they were later recovered from the grave in 1869. At the same time Rossetti began his relationship with Jane Morris. A year later started taking medication for insomnia, which led to addiction. Between 1871-74 shared Kelmscott Manor with the Morrises. Died 1882.

William Holman Hunt

The Scapegoat 1854. Represents the Jewish ritual where a goat is driven into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement to carry away the sins of the congregation.

Born 1827, Cheapside, London, eldest son of warehouse manager William Hunt and his wife Sarah Holman. Appointed clerk to estate agent who was an amateur artist in 1839 and encouraged to take up art. Took drawing classes at the Mechanics Institute. In 1843 Hunt’s father gave permission for him to take up art full time and he became a Royal Academy probationer a year later. In 1848 he was working in Millais’s studio. Also met Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. Following year toured

Edward Lear 1857. One of two portraits donated to Liverpool city and now in the Walker Art Gallery.

parts of Europe with Rossetti. Exhibited at Royal Academy 1850.

Toured Holy Land 1854-5 where he found inspiration for several worked including the Scapegoat. 1865 married Fanny Waugh but she died in childbirth within a year. 1869-72 made several visits to Europe, Egypt and Jerusalem. 1873 married his sister-in-law Edith Waugh. By the late 1890s his eyesight was failing. 1907 exhibited 125 works at Liverpool and donated two to the city’s art collection. Died 1910.

John Everett Millais

Lingering Autumn. 1890
Now in Lady Lever Gallery,

Born 1829 in Southampton, youngest son of John William Millais and Emily Hodgkinson, the family moved back to Jersey, where Millais’s parents were both born, in 1833. He moved to London in 1838 to study at Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy and then moved to the Royal Academy as a probationer in 1840. Exhibited at the RA in 1846. 1848 began close friendship with Holman Hunt and became Brotherhood founder member later that year. Married Ruskin’s ex-wife Euphemia Gray 1855. 1870s began work on a series of portraits and in 1878 was awarded the Medaille d’Honneur after a very successful exhibition in Paris. Bubbles used 1886 by Pears Soap to advertise the product in magazines. Created Baronet 1885. 1890s returned to landscapes, including Lingering Autumn. 1896 elected President of the Royal Academy but was already seriously ill and died in August that year. 1898 posthumous exhibition at the RA.

Ford Madox Brown

Self portrait 1850 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Born 1821 in Calais. 1830s family moved to Belgium and Brown studied in Bruges, Ghent and at Antwerp Academy. 1839 moved to live with sister in Antwerp after the death of his parents. 1840 visited France to study works in the Louvre and began exhibiting at Royal Academy in London. Married cousin Elizabeth Bromley. 1844 entered contest for decoration of Houses of Parliament. Wife died 1846. Settled London 1847. 1848 Rossetti asked to be a pupil. Brown was sympathetic to the Brotherhood’s aims but did not officially join when the group formed that year. 1850s married second wife Emma. Exhibited in Liverpool and went to the city 1856 to meet Pre-Raphaelite supporters there. By late 1850s had several Liverpool patrons. 1874 daughter Lucy married William Michael Rossetti. Died 1893, three years after Emma. (Other works Work/Last of England)

Edward Burne-Jones

Born in Birmingham in a house on Bennett’s Hill. Burne-Jones studied under Ruskin and carried out many sketches of the works of the great masters, an influence that can be detected in his later work. For part of his career Burne-Jones designed for William Morris. Fine examples of his art can be seen in St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham, which stands just a few hundred yards from where he was born. The building boasts four huge stained glass windows designed and installed between 1885 and 1897.

Another church where Burne-Jones’s work can be seen is Wilden, near Stourport in Worcester. The tiny church there has several of his designs, although they were all installed after his death. The windows were all of a modular design and it was possible to order saints and holy figures, backgrounds and surrounds in a kind of mix-and-match way. The figures found at Wilden can also be seen in other churches in different combinations.

In the picture above, from Wilden, there are two panels. The left-hand one is a foliage design by William Morris but the right-hand one is Burne-Jones’s Joshua. In the background of the panel it is possible to make out trumpeters (from the bible story of the Walls of Jericho) It was possible to order other panels to stand beside this one that showed more trumpeters.

Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial is one of the best known monuments of the Victorian Age. Architect George Gilbert Scott wanted to set up something similar to a Medieval shrine and is believed to have been influenced by the Eleanor Crosses set up by King Edward I after the death of his Queen. Those crosses were built at all the places her coffin rested on her funeral procession. Few remain but there is a fine example at Geddington in Northamptonshire.

The memorial to Albert, Victoria’s Prince Consort, has 169 carved figures on a frieze as well as sculptural groups at each corner representing Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering and Manufacture. Other groups represent Africa, America, Asia and Europe. The figure of Albert himself, sculpted by John Foley, is seated at the centre and is covered in gold. The enormous edifice is highly ornate and typical of the overblown High Victorian design of its time. The whole thing is more than 170 feet tall.

Materials used in the construction include glass, stone, cast iron, lead and bronze as well as the gilding on Albert himself. The statue was re-gilded as part of a major overhaul of the monument in the 1990s and was officially reopened in October 1998.