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Matlock: Cromford Hall (Willersley Castle), before 1791
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Arkwright family pedigree

Arkwright & His Cotton Mill

Willersley Castle


Elsewhere in this web site:

St. Mary's Church
and the Bridge

Cromford Hall
Copper engraving by Tookey from a work by Malcolm.
No date, but before 1791.
Published in "The European Magazine" 1782-1826

Whilst the engraving is called "Cromford Hall" this image is clearly a picture of Sir Richard Arkwright's Willersley Castle. Curiously, the house has neither roof nor chimneys and where there should be a front door is a black hole. Both these factors probably indicate that his mansion was still being built, rather than in the final stages of completion - so neither immediately before before nor after the fire that occurred in 1791.

Below is one of the newspaper reports of the day describing what happened during the fire:
"On Monday se'nnight the new mansion house belonging to Sir Richard Arkwright, at Cromford, near Matlock Bath, in Derbyshire, was discovered to be on fire, occasioned (as it is supposed) by the fire in the stove being made rather too large ; the heat of which was communicated by tubes conveying the heat through various rooms. Every assistance was given by the people of the country, with a couple of fire engines ; yet, notwithstanding their endeavours, that stately fabrick that has been years erecting, and nearly finished at the expence of upwards of twenty thousand pounds, was demolished in the space of a few hours. Some of the furniture in the lower apartments was saved. 'Tis truly a great trial to any person to see such a noble edifice destroyed after such labour and expence, yet we have heard that Sir Richard beheld the fatal conflagration with great patience, fortitude and resignation, to the wonder and surprise of the company assembled on so melancholy an occasion"[1].

Enlargement of the main house.

Neither the house nor its chapel were finished when Arkwright died the following year, but in his Will he left clear instructions to his son:
"It is my express will and direction that my said son [Richard Arkwright] shall with all convenient speed after my decease complete in a proper manner the mansion house I have lately erected and also in a like and proper manner complete and finish the Chapel I have lately built ..."[2].

The buildings in the bottom right corner of the engraving belong to Cromford Mill,
although they appear to be on the wrong side of the river. It is probable that they
were included in this position because the artist considered them to be of
significance to the image[3].

An early description of the first view of Willersley Castle when entering the dale of Matlock Bath from the south was written by John Hutchinson in 1810. His tribute to Arkwright reflected the great respect for Sir Richard at this time:
"One minute's ride conveys you from Cromford [Marketplace] to the first opening into Matlock Dale, which is immediately observed on passing between two rocks, through which the road has been cut, with indefatigable labour and perseverance. Here, turning the eye to the right, the elegant villa belonging to the family of the late Sir Richard Arkwright appears to more than common advantage. The beautiful freestone of which it is built, with its modern castellated front, causes the mind to contemplate the happy taste of its first founder. - A gentleman, who, by his extraordinary mechanical talents, raised himself from the lowest to the highest scale of commercial importance ; and who has undeniably been of more real service to his country than the greatest heroes of ancient or modern history. Let his triumphal arch, therefore, be erected on the gratitude of his country, and his memory be ever dear to the Briton who wishes its commercial prosperity and welfare"[4].

It is unclear why the mansion was named as Cromford Hall here although it could be because the house didn't then have a name.

A description of Sir Richard Arkwright's funeral by J. P. Malcolm was published in "The Gentleman's Magazine" in 1793 (scroll down to Matlock, pp.45-6).

We see a somewhat different Willersley Castle in the engravings below, published in "The Beauties of England and Wales", 1802. The house had been finished by then.

Willersley Castle : Seat of Richard Arkwright, Esq

Cotton manufacture, Willersley & Sir Richard Arkwright

Also of interest is:

Cromford, about 1773. This also shows mill buildings.

Copper engraving of "Cromford Hall" in the collection of and provided by and © Susan Tomlinson.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.
References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] "Stamford Mercury", 19 August 1791.

[2] Extract from the Will of Sir Richard Arkwright held at the National Archives (ref: PROB 11/1222 234).

[3] There was a smelting mill at Cromford Bridge that pre-dated St. Mary's chapel (see Buxton, Doreen and Charlton, Christopher (Nov 2013) "Cromford Revisited", The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Educational Trust. ISBN 978-0-9541940-6-2) but there are no chimneys here, hence the assumption that these are cotton mill buildings. So artistic licence rather that 100% accuracy.

[4] Hutchinson, John of Chapel en le Frith (1810), "Romantic Beauties of Matlock", pub. M. Wardle, Manchester.