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Listed Building record MDR4561 - Lombe's Silk Mill, now Derby Industrial Museum, Silk Mill Lane, Derby

Type and Period (5)

  • (Former Type) (Victorian to Late 20th Century - 1850 AD? to 1974 AD?)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1718 AD? to 1900 AD)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1717 AD? to 1900 AD?)
  • (Former Type) (Georgian to Victorian - 1718 AD to 1850 AD?)
  • (Late 20th Century to 21st Century - 1974 AD to 2050 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

SK 3534 3662. Old Mill (Silk) (NAT). (1) The Derby Industrial Museum occupies the site of the first silk mill in this country, established in 1717 by John Lombe. The present building, rebuilt in the late 19th century is in red brick and of three and four storeys with octagonal tower block having octahedral slate roof. It retains some brickwork of the 18th century. Built on arches on an island in the river. Converted to a museum in 1974. Grade II. (2-4) John Lombe's Silk Mill built between 1718 and 1722. This building was 39' x 110' with five storeys, plus the underworks, furnishing eight large apartments lit by 468 windows. Driven by an 18 ft. diameter water wheel. The present building more or less replaces Lombe's Mill, of which only parts of the original underwork survive in visible form. The mill stream, which returned the water used by the mill to the Derwent, has now been infilled and the bridge across Silk Mill Lane has now gone. (5) The Old Mill, Full Street. All that remains of Thomas and John Lombe's pioneer factory of 1717-21 is the stone foundation arches of the main mill and the repositioned wrought iron entrance gates by Robert Bakewell of 1725. The present mill dates largely from 1910 when, after a destructive fire, it was rebuilt on its original foundations. (7) Archaeological excavation for Derby City Council was undertaken in 2007 by ARCUS at Cathedral Green, in advance of landscaping of the public space and construction of a footbridge across the River Derwent. The 18th century bridge crossing from Silk Mill Lane to the island on which the silk mill stood was found to be preserved in good condition. In general the structure survives up to the roadway level, with fragments of cobbled road surface. Both eastern and western edges of the mill stream were located, although in places these were inferred from the edges of buildings shown to be aligned directly along the mill stream edge on historic maps. Parts of the main doubling shop were located, although the southern part appears to have been disturbed during the 20th century. (8) Silk Mill. Brick-built mill, constructed in 1910 following catastrophic fire. Original building of 1721 survives at basement level only with large stone arches visible on embankment. Originally five shallow storeys, it was rebuilt with three tall storeys. Distinctive belfry (originally added to an earlier staircase tower) was a 19th century addition. Extension 1 - St Mary's Bridge. To the north of the Silk Mill were historically located the Town Corn Mills (incorporating the corn warehouse and flour mills). These were rebuilt as part of the Silk Mill complex following the fire of 1910. A large weir was created alongside the Silk Mill. The weir (since removed) enabled water to be diverted via mill leats to the west side of the Silk Mill, where the working machinery was located. It also enabled the creation of a flat body of water and a wharf alongside the corn warehouse. Boats could approach the mills directly from the Derby canal, a short distance upstream, just to the south of St Mary's Bridge. (9) The Old Silk Mill combines all the processes of manufacture under one roof with a common source of power. It was England's first factory. (10) The first successful water-powered textile mill in this country was the silk throwing mill built on the Derwent at Derby by John Lombe, assisted by the engineer George Sorocold, in 1721. Lombe's Mill may be seen in many ways as the prototype for all subsequent textile mills and became an object of admiration to contemporary observers. The compact, five-storey, 15-bay brick structure proved an effective and adaptable solution to the basic problem of mill design- how to maximise the number of machines housed without over-extending power transmission systems, while providing natural light for the performance of delicate manual tasks associated with machine operation. In order to counter the risk of flooding on a low-lying island site, the brick-built mill was raised on a series of stone arches. (11)

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1882. 1st Edition 25" OS Map of 1882.
  • <2> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. List entry number 1287508.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Smith, D. 1965. Industrial Archaeology of the East Midlands, 1965.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Nixon, F. 1969. The Industrial Archaeology of Derbyshire. pp. 143, 180-3.
  • <5> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Lombes Silk Mill.
  • <6> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1896-1900. OS County Series, 2nd edition (1st revision), scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile). Derbyshire L.9.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 2003. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part VII. City of Derby.. p. 22.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Baker, S (ARCUS). 2007. Archaeological evaluation and trial trenching at Cathedral Green, Derby. pp. 9-11.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Morris, M (Mel Morris Conservation). 2004. Study to Identify Candidate Buildings for Grant Assistance and a Review of Conservation Area Boundaries, Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Gazetteer: 15-003; Derby City Centre - Conservation Area Boundary - Extension 1.
  • <10> Bibliographic reference: Derby Civic Society. 2004. Derby Heritage Buildings.
  • <11> Article in serial: Menuge, A (RCHME). 1993. 'The cotton mills of the Derbyshire Derwent and its tributaries', Industrial Archaeology Reivew.



Grid reference Centred SK 3534 3661 (21m by 41m)
World Heritage Site Derwent Valley Mills

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR3895
  • EDR2410

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Record last edited

Feb 2 2024 8:28PM

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