A plan of August 1805 by James Hicking indicates that it was the intention to build 32 cluster houses in eight blocks of four houses each. In the event only five blocks were built and with some significant variations from the original plan. The plan does not indicate the provision of privies or pigsties, nor is it clear that each block is to have a lean-to outshut at each end. The houses are designed on the innovative plan first implemented in Darley Abbey of one block divided north-south and east-west to form four back to back houses. Each block is sited in the centre of a large plot and, as they were built, each house has a building in the garden incorporating a privy and a pigsty. The term 'Clusters' was in use by 1820 and the buildings may have borne this name from the outset, although this is not clear from Hicking's plan on which the words have been added by a later hand. (1)
The Cluster houses were built after 1803 by William Strutt in co-operation with Bage of Shrewsbury. Since Bage's similar houses of 1790s no longer exist, the Clusters in Belper are believed to be the oldest surviving example of this particular housing type which was subsequently copied in many other parts of the world. They have the innovative plan of one block divided north/south and east/west to form 4 back to back houses. Each block sited in centre of a large plot similarly divided so that the northern 2 houses in each block are on one street and those to the south on another. Eight blocks or 'Clusters' were originally envisaged but only 5 actually built. They were intended as houses for mill foremen and managerial staff. They are built from coursed stone, with a slate roof sloped down the hillside, and end and centre chimney stacks. They are two and a half storeys high with flanking 2-storey, one bay recessed wings. There is one sash window each with a stone lintel and a small ground floor window to the left of the door. Originally there were skylights and attic windows in the gable ends. The doors have voussoirs and cambered arches. The internal plan is of a living room and kitchen separated by an inside coal house and cellar stairs. There has been some modification and additions to several houses. The garden walls are coursed stone rubble. (2)
Unpublished document: Derwent Valley Mills (DVM) Nomination Steering Panel. 2000. Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage List Nomination Document. p 67.
Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. List entry numbers 1100604, 1087362, 1109225.
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