RepositoryDerbyshire Record Office
Archive Reference / Library Class No.D5991
TitleArkwright family of Rock House and Willersley Castle, Cromford
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Archive CreatorArkwright family of Rock House and Willersley Castle, Cromford
Administrative HistoryRichard Arkwright (1732-1792), the textile entrepreneur, established Cromford as the family home, first at Rock House and then at Willersley Castle, both in Cromford. His son, also Richard (1755-1843), developed the banking side of the family's business. Richard Arkwright junior's grandson, Augustus Peter Arkwright (1821-1887), joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12 years and served until the 1850s, travelling extensively. He wrote to his parents in Derbyshire from many ports including: Barcelona; Valencia; Malta; and Marseilles in the Mediterranean, Barbados and Jamaica in the West Indies, Rio de Janeiro in South America, Sierna Leone and Bathurst in The Gambia. In 1842 he was part of the British fleet pursuing slave ships off the west coast of Africa. Arkwright on his vessel 'The Prompt' did succeed in capturing a slave ship and received a commendation from the Admiralty for his 'zeal and courage'.

An usual item is a copy letter written in 1845 to Captain William Kelly of the British frigate 'The Conway' by a member of the royal household in Madagascar. At this time the island was closed to Europeans. Its Queen , Ranavalona, was extremely hostile and enslaved any Westerners who landed. Captain Kelly was sent to demand redress for a shipwrecked British subject who had been made a slave. when this was refused, he attacked the capital Tamitave in June 1845.

The collections also includes letters from several members of the Arkwright family as children and two letters from Erasmus Darwin to Richard Arkwright junior.

Rock House in Cromford was the family home of the Arkwright family until they acquired Willersley Castle in 1782 to use as their main residence. Richard Arkwright died at Rock House in 1792. In 1796 his son, Richard Arkwright Junior, moved from Rock House into the completed Willersley Castle after its renovation. His son Peter Arkwright continued to live at Rock House until he inherited Willersley Castle in 1843. The Arkwright family continued to live at Willersley Castle until 1922. The estate 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 documents were donated to Derbyshire Record Office by a private individual in March 2003.
Organisation Sub-TypeFamily and estate
RelatedMaterialSee D967, D978, D2387, D4476, D5464, and D6128 for other Arkwright family papers.

The 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.
Forced labour
Ethnic groups
Slave emancipation
Abolition of slavery
Archivist NoteCatalogued April 2003, MOS. Updated July 2004. Updated January 2021 BS.

Show related Persons records.

Related Names
Name (click for further details)
Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site; 2001-
Arkwright; Sir; Richard (1732-1792); knight, inventor and engineer
Arkwright; family; Cromford and Willersley Castle
Arkwright; Augustus Peter (1821-1887); Commander
Place (click for further details)Type
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