Review of ‘Cromford - A History’, by Peter J. Naylor

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 13th January 2003, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Peter J. Naylor
Published Locally (2003)

Peter Naylor's Celtic Derbyshire was my first purchase of a local book, to be joined over the years by others from the same author, each one still in regular use for providing elusive details on all manner of subjects. Cromford - A History will be no exception. It is the story of the village Peter chose to live in and which, he declares, he does not intend to leave.

So what is it that makes Cromford so special? For one thing, this was the first industrial village in the world, forever associated with Sir Richard Arkwright. The author tells of another Cromford Mill, this one in Germany using machinery invented by Arkwright, giving that country too a foothold in the factory system. Naturally enough, the inventor and his legacy take central stage in this book, including a surprising revelation of the true reason why the great man received a knighthood. But Peter Naylor investigates his village both before and after Arkwright. He points out that the Roman Hereward Street ran through Cromford, and tells of Roman pigs of lead discovered in the churchyard and of a skeleton found with a hoard of Roman coins.

Moving forward to the Domesday Survey, the author takes issue with the very name of Crunford, as it was then recorded. Have scholars been correct in identifying the actual ford as lying on the Derwent near Willersley? Willersley was once an individual hamlet under its own name so it may make sense to consider another proposed location for the ford.

The story of Cromford is deeply interwoven with that of lead mining, to the extent that mining terms can still be heard locally, where the waste from a sink is a sough and the gutter round the eaves, a launder. One cottage actually has a lead mine in its backyard! And oatcakes, that mainstay of a mining family's diet, are still made and sold in the village. One term connected with mining is the Lord of the Field, still invested in the Duke of Lancaster - whose identity may catch the reader completely unawares.

Cromford feeds the imagination far more than many a prettier village, making it a fascinating place to explore. This book will ensure that the visitor misses nothing, from a link with Little Grey Rabbit to fine ideas for walks taking in places of interest: Scarthin with its mill pond and water-wheel, the old cotton mills, Cromford Canal and Leawood Pumphouse, the Cromford and High Peak Railway and local oddities from a lock-up to a 'bear pit'.

Review by Julie Bunting

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