Mill Complex 1

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site


Belper sits within the beautiful Derwent Valley, significant in world history as the birthplace of the factory system. Here, new types of building were erected to house ground-breaking technology for water-powered manufacturing. The system developed here was copied across the globe which is why the Derwent Valley Mills were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.

At Belper, key elements of the World Heritage designation include the North Mill, which used William Strutt’s ground-breaking fire-proofing technology and is essentially a major step forward in the development of skyscraper technology. The magnificent Georgian horseshoe weir was built to create a head of water to power the mills. The red-brick East Mill is prominent – a 1912 steel framed building. Nestling at the side of the East Mill are the River Gardens created by George Herbert Strutt which provided an attractive setting for millworkers’ leisure and is still popular for Sunday concerts and boating on the river in the summer.


The community built for the Strutt workers is also an important element worth seeing (but remember these are people’s homes). A walk up Long Row and back through the Clusters shows the best features.  If you stand on the railway bridge in Long Row you can see the railway cutting which slices through the town, spanned by eleven bridges.

To the south is Milford, where the Strutt mills have now been demolished, but the community of millworkers’ houses has survived.

In both Belper and Milford there are now wayfinding and interpretation boards as well as a heritage trail of waterwheel-shaped plaques with QR codes for extra information. More details on the wayfinding scheme, including a map of their locations, can be found here.

The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site is by no means just about mills and industry. It is one of the most important locations for wildlife in Derbyshire, and where much of the county’s ancient woodland is located. The ‘relict’ landscape setting of the mills and communities which has survived is an important part of the UNESCO designation.

To find out more about the East Midlands’ only World Heritage Site, visit www.derwentvalleymills.org. A management plan for the Site, endorsed by the UK Government and UNESCO, is available on-line at https://managementplan.derwentvalleymills.org/.