See conservation in action at Derbyshire’s historic Lumsdale Valley 2017 SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings)

Working Party

For one week in July, conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts will carry out vital consolidation repair work to an impressive and complex time capsule of the Industrial Revolution ‘lost’ in a wooded valley

Public Open Day Wednesday July 5 (10- 3.30pm)

Free coaches from the Arkwright Society’s Cromford Mills

Nestled at the heart of a steep and densely wooded valley, the Lumsdale Mills, near Matlock in Derbyshire, are a unique time capsule of industrial heritage with structures dating from the 17th century and earlier. In July (Sunday 2nd  – Friday 7th) Britain’s oldest heritage body, SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) will take its annual Working Party to the Lumsdale Valley, enabling volunteers from all walks of life to gain hands-on experience of conservation while carrying out essential consolidation and repairs at a unique heritage site.

SPAB’s 2017 Working Party has won significant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of a wider Arkwright Society application for the Lumsdale Valley. Thanks go to the National Lottery Players who make these grants possible.

The project opens to the community on Wednesday 5 July (10-4pm) when the public are warmly invited to come along to see our hands-on conservation work up close. To make it even easier for people to tour this hugely evocative site on the open day, SPAB will be running a free shuttle coach to and from Sir Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills, where parking will be available and where stone mason Richard Hickton will be demonstrating the craft of stone dressing.

After travelling from Cromford Mills into the valley, visitors will be dropped off close to the mill ponds and then led down through the stunning and mysterious landscape of ruined, ivy-clad buildings where SPAB’s experts will be guiding volunteers as they work. It promises to be a fascinating opportunity to see a live conservation project in action in an extraordinary and challenging setting.

How to visit the SPAB Working Party

From 10am on July 5th the free shuttle coach will run between the sales kiosk at Cromford Mills, Cromford, Matlock to a drop off point in the valley. At the end of their tour, visitors will be taken by bus back to Cromford. It is envisaged that guided visits will last around one hour. The last bus to the Working Party from the Visitor Centre will depart at 3.30pm. Visitors are advised to wear practical footwear.

Nb. This is the only way visitors can access the Working Party site on the open day.

The Lumsdale Valley is a Scheduled Ancient Monument owned by the Arkwright Society.

 During the week, more than 60 volunteers and 10 SPAB specialists will be working – at the invitation of the Arkwright Society’s local Lumsdale Committee - to:

  • carefully remove ivy where required
  • repoint and consolidate the ancient stone walls throughout the Lower Bleach Works.
  • provide a 'soft cap' to protect newly- repaired ruinous stone walls using locally cut turf
  • carry out piecemeal roof repairs to two buildings in the Lower Bleach Works.
  • introduce sections of new oak into the original and rotten oak window frames (at the Bleach Works).
  • repoint the site’s original 15-metre high chimney stack using rope access and a hot lime mortar mix.

Julian Burgess, Chair of the Arkwright Society Lumsdale Committee, said: “We are absolutely delighted that SPAB has chosen the Lumsdale valley for their volunteer week. This will enable us to protect the romantic ruins of the early 19C bleaching and grinding industries for the enjoyment and education of future generations.”

Public tours through the site will be guided by knowledgeable volunteers from the Lumsdale Committee.

With its beautiful landscape of ruined mills, ponds and waterfalls, the Lumsdale Valley is a gem of the Industrial Revolution, but it is also the most ambitious site yet for the Working Party. Each year SPAB decamps from its London HQ to put its advice and expertise into practice at a building in need.  The annual summer working party has become an increasingly popular event attracting volunteers ranging from heritage and architectural professionals, to those with an informed amateur interest in buildings and history.  For one week they are united in their efforts to help a specific building or site.

Sharing skill and knowledge is at the heart of SPAB’s work all year round, but the Working Party week enables the Society to:

  • offer those starting out in their conservation career a unique experience working alongside master craftspeople
  • inspire schoolchildren about their local history
  • involve local communities with their past (and a historic site’s future).

On Tuesday July 4th, the Working Party will welcome around 60 year 5 pupils from All Saints School, at nearby Matlock, for a unique history lesson. SPAB aims to inspire children to think differently about old buildings and believes that 'hands-on' is the best way to learn. Young visitors will be invited to ‘have a go’ at traditional building skills including wattle and daub and slate roofing, and they will learn about water-powered milling through a fun practical demonstration on site.

Jonny Garlick, SPAB technical officer and working party organiser, says: “This is a wonderful site and we are hugely grateful to the Lumsdale Committee for inviting us and for making us so very welcome. Obviously, we take great care to ensure that everyone will be operating in a safe environment and that the work we will be doing is essential.  But the week really is great fun too for all concerned. It’s a very sociable and enjoyable involving – for our adult volunteers! - evenings at the local pub and group activities. It’s definitely something that we at the SPAB all look forward to each year. It’s a fantastic chance to get out of the city and to put our knowledge into practice.”


Notes to Editors

For further information contact Kate Griffin, SPAB press office: 0207 456 0905 / 07963 900939 Email: 

Alison McClary, SPAB press office: 0207 456 0908


SPAB welcomes photographers/interviewers/media to the School Day or Public Open Day.  For more information please call the press team as above

Please note that open day visitors will only be able to gain access to the Working Party via the shuttle bus transfer starting at Cromford Mills Visitor Centre, at Cromford  Mills Mill Lane, Cromford, Matlock Derbyshire, DE4 3RQ

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF):  Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.

The Arkwright Society is an educational charity devoted to the rescue of industrial heritage buildings and helping to preserve the precious built and natural landscape in and around Cromford. Established in 1972, the Society has been engaged in the practical conservation of industrial monuments (notably in Lumsdale, Cromford and Slinter Wood), in publishing, and educational activities. It has also helped countless numbers of people access training and work, and transformed Cromford Mill from a derelict site doomed to demolition to one of World Heritage Status, employing over 100 staff in numerous small businesses. The Arkwright Society is a registered charity No 515526. @CromfordMills

During the week our Working Party volunteers, specialists and visitors will also have the opportunity to view repair work being undertaken by Stone Edge on the Lower and Upper Bleaching Mills funded as a separate project via a generous Historic England grant.


The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded by William Morris 140 years ago to care for and preserve the UK’s architectural heritage. Since its foundation, SPAB has been committed to maintenance matters, in line with William Morris’ exhortation to: “Stave off decay by daily care.”  Today it is a dynamic organisation, and registered charity (no. 231307), taking building conservation into the future.  To find out more visit

HANDS ON HISTORY – SPAB’S summer working party comes to the aid of a gem of the Industrial Revolution in Derbyshire