RepositoryDerbyshire Record Office
Archive Reference / Library Class No.D445
TitleArkwright family of Willersley Castle, Cromford
DescriptionPapers re Cromford Institutes and other Properties
Extent17 items
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Archive CreatorArkwright family of Willersley Castle, Cromford
Administrative HistoryRichard Arkwright (1732-1792) was born in Preston, Lancashire to parents Thomas Arkwright and Ellen Hodgkinson, and was the youngest of 7 surviving children. In 1750 he moved to Bolton and worked as a barber. He married Patience Holt on 31 March 1755, and together had a son, Richard Arkwright born on 19 December 1755. Patience died on 6 October 1756, so Richard married for a second time to Margaret Biggens on 24 March 1761. Together they and had a daughter, Susanna Arkwright born on 21 December 1761. Two other daughters died in infancy. Once Richard was able to take on an assistant wig maker he could travel the country to buy women's hair for wigs. Richard took an interest in mechanics and knew about issues facing the textile industry, so by 1768 he had designed and built a spinning machine model. In the same year Richard moved to Nottingham, took out a patent for his machine and found new premises to convert into a mill. By 1771 Arkwright and his business partners, Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, decided to use water power instead of horse power to power their mill so found an ideal site in Cromford, Derbyshire to build their new mill along the river Derwent. Arkwright lived at Rock House in Cromford and transformed the village for his workers to live in too by building new homes, a pub, a corn mill, a market, St Mary's Church and his own home Willersley Castle. Originally named Willersley Hall, Arkwright purchased the estate from Thomas Hallet Hodges in 1782, and had architect William Thomas design him a Georgian style castellated house. In 1791 as the house was nearly complete, fire damaged the interior and Arkwright died the following year so never saw it completed. Yet in 1796 his son moved in and made in the family seat. Richard soon expanded Cromford mill and built neighbouring Masson Mill. By 1781 Arkwright owned shares in mills at Wirksworth, Bakewell, Lancashire and New Lanark in Scotland. In 1786 he was knighted, and in 1787 was High Sheriff of Derbyshire. He died on 3 August 1792 and his remains are now in St. Mary's church, Cromford.

Richard Arkwirght junior (1755-1843) inherited his father's estate and wealth. He spent his youth living at Rock House and was educated to become a businessman. By his mid-twenties he bought his father's mill in Manchester and entered into partnership with the Simpson brothers. Richard went to live at Bakewell and continued to invest in other mills. He married Mary Simpson of Bonsall in 1780 and had 11 children together. After his father's death in 1792 he sold most of his mills and turned his attention to property and banking instead, founding the Richard Arkwright & Co. bank of Wirksworth, which made him one of the wealthiest men in the country. In 1796 he moved to Willersley Castle in Cromford and concentrated on renovating the gardens. The Arkwright family continued to live at Willersley Castle until 1922. Richard continued to buy property including Darley Hall, Skerne near Driffield and Skerne Hall Garth, Normanton Turville in Leicestershire and estates at Crich, Hampton Court, Harlow, Dunston Hall in Staffordshire and Sutton Hall in Temple Normanton. In 1801 he was High Sheriff of Derbyshire. Upon the death of Walter Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde in 1824, Richard purchased Sutton Scarsdale Hall in Chesterfield. After Richard's death in 1843, his son Robert inherited Sutton Scarsdale Hall.

After the Arkwright family moved out of Willersley Castle in 1922, it was later bought in 1927 by Methodists and converted into a Methodist Guild holiday centre. During WWII the house was used a maternity hospital by the Salvation Army, after they had to evacuate their hospital in London. Today it is a Christian Guild Hotel.
Custodial HistoryThese items were deposited in the Record Office via the British Records Association between 1967 and 1987.
Organisation Sub-TypeFamily and estate
RelatedMaterialThe records of the Mothers' Hospital of the Salvation Army 1862-1986, including in relation to Willersley Castle, are held at St Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, under reference SBHF.

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Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site; 2001-
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