For over eighty years
Arkwright's Masson Mill was powered by Wren & Bennet's massive
double water wheel. The mill's manager, Joseph
Warburton, is standing beside it, perhaps supervising its
removal. This wheel was cast in 1847 by the Manchester
machine makers Messrs. Wren & Bennet, tenters and
millwrights, of Newton-street and
replaced the second of two earlier wheels.
It was given the approval of the local press in 1890 when
it was said that "The water wheel at these Mills (i.e.
Masson Mill) is doing good service yet, as in the days
of 1790, when Sir Richard Arkwright first erected the mills.
For motive power, without smoke or steam, water is next
to electricity where it can be obtained."
On close examination it becomes obvious that the wheel has
been repaired. For example, there are a couple of straps
over a noticeable crack in the casing to the right
of the lettering and partly obliterating it. In fact the
wheel is rather a hotchpotch at this stage in its life; the
two main spokes being of different construction, one being
part of the original casting, the other bolted to the hub;
the smaller spokes are not spaced evenly around the rim as
one might expect; and no two spokes are fixed identically
to the rim.
In the centre foreground we can see the outer end of the
wheel's shaft in its bearing. The shaft would have passed
through the wall to drive the machinery inside the mill building.
Water would have passed down the goyt, or mill race, from
the River Derwent.
In the second photograph the mill's wall shows the outline
of an earlier roof that has been removed; it would perhaps
have covered the wheel. The brickwork of the wall
itself is quite varied, with a mixture of standard 'modern'
brick with less mortar and some quite small bricks that
are bonded with much thicker sand and cement courses.
It also shows us that this was an undershot wheel, with
the water entering from the right and then dropping down
to a lower level on the far side of the wheel. We know from
various drowning accidents that a grid or grating was fitted
just in front of the water-wheel to prevent river-borne debris
- or people - from getting into the mechanism ("the
wheel is guarded by iron fixtures").
This photo also provides us with clues about how the wheel
worked. On this side of the wheel there are control
rods which regulated the rise and fall of the sluice gates.
The two vertical bars would have been attached to the sluice
gates in the water below, which would have been raised or
lowered by the rotation of the chain driven operating mechanism.
We can see chains on either end of the long rod. About half
way up the picture, on the far right, is another rod, likely
to have been part of the gearing arrangement and connected
to a hand-wheel inside the building to control the speed
of the wheel.
In December 1928 it was reported that "Masson Mills
... are contemplating considerable alterations and extensions
to their premises" and
in September 1930 that "the engineering department of
the English Sewing Cotton Company are introducing turbine
water power at Masson Mills, Matlock, harnessing the River
Unfortunately for the mill and its workers, the following
year 300 workers had to sign on at the Employment Exchange
as the sluice which worked the turbines was completely wrecked
Flooding wasn't new and in 1890 the water wheel had been
unable to be used because of floods with, unfortunately,
300 or 400 hands thrown temporarily out of employment.
Joseph Warburton, who was born at Elton, Bury, was the manager
of the Masson Mills for eight years. During his time
at Matlock Bath he took a great interest in the public life
of the village, and especially in
the welfare of his employees. Whilst
he was the mill's manager a large canteen and welfare hall
was erected for the benefit of the workers, the mill was
considerably enlarged and a new wing added.
He and his family lived at Highfield.
He retired in 1932 owing to ill health and died at Blackpool
on 13 March 1934, aged 56.
One of his daughters, Jessie Warburton, remained in Matlock
Bath for some years.
Both Highfield on Guilderoy Road (Upperwood Road) and Glenside
on Clifton Road clearly belonged to the mill as in 1937 the
English Sewing Cotton Company of Manchester offered both
properties for sale.
The former became the home of the Aspey family whilst Glenside
was owned by the web mistress's mother (Mrs. Clay) in the
Ken's photograph of a raft race on the river (no date)
shows the outflow from the goyt back into
 Wren and Bennet were producing
machinery at the time of Chartism in the U.K. when there
were petitions and riots over suffrage for men, secret ballots,
etc. One reference to the firm dates from 1842 and was published
in the "Taunton
Courier and Western Advertiser", 24 August 1842. "Manchester,
--- and Millwrights, Newton Street ... consequence of
the hands being either ----d or privately intimidated from
continuing at labour. This establishment of Messrs. Wren and
Bennet, tenters and millwrights, Newton-street, who recommenced
working this morning. During the forenoon about 100 mechanics
and millwrights went up the street, and one or two of them
asked to speak with one of the hands. A short conference took
place and shortly afterwards most of the hands left the works".
Not easy times for workers. The Wren and Bennet partnership
was dissolved a few years later.
 From: "The
Derwent Valley & Its Mills" and other sources.
 "Derbyshire Advertiser
and Journal", 9 May 1890. Whether the paper thought
this wheel had been at Masson Mill since Arkwright built
it is unclear.
 "Nottinghamshire Guardian",
13 August 1892 and quote from "Derbyshire Advertiser
and Journal", 19 August 1892.
 "Derbyshire Times",
29 December 1928.
 Whilst it is generally thought
that the turbines were installed at Masson Mill in 1928, the
only newspaper reference to the installation of turbines was
published in the Hull Daily Mail, 30 September 1930
which is quoted above. It refers to the turbines being introduced
as opposed to them having been installed.
 Reports on the 1931 flooding from
"Derby Daily Telegraph", 7 September 1931
and "Nottingham Evening Post", 7 September
 "Derbyshire Courier",
25 November 1890.
 Obituary notice, Derby Daily
Telegraph, 15 March 1934. Death of Mr. J. Warburton.
Public Work. Matlock Bath.
 Joseph Warburton is shown at Highfield,
Guilderoy Road in Kelly's 1925 Directory and Kelly's 1928
Directory. In the 1911 census he was living at Swinton and
employed as a Cotton Weaver's Mill Foreman.
 Will calendars on the GOV.UK,
Wills, probate and inheritance web site.
 The "semi-detached villa
known as "Highfield", Holme Road was first advertised
by Manchester solicitors in 1935 (Derbyshire Times,
18 January 1935) and in 1937 the Glenside was also included
with both being sold on behalf of the English Sewing Cotton
Company via the Matlock auctioneer Marchant Brooks (Derbyshire
Times, 17 September 1937).