Derby's Heritage Part 32 - The Silk Mill Museum
w/e 26 August 2012
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
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WARNING: In April 2011, the Silk Mill Museum closed its doors to the public and it was mothballed "for two years" as part of a cost cutting exercise in a difficult economic climate. At the time of writing the museum is still closed so I would advise anyone contemplating a visit to the Silk Mill to contact Derby City Council to ascertain the current situation. Telephone: 01332 641901

Silk Mill MuseumAlthough not currently open we visited the museum towards the end of March 2011 just days before it closed which is when all of the images below were captured. I was aware then that our route around the city would eventually reach the Silk Mill but was not sure when that would be or whether it would be open again. It would be a travesty for a project such as this Derby Heritage Walk to omit the museum altogether as within its walls much of the industrial heritage is encapsulated. So I make no apology for including the pictures here although they only give a glimpse inside and a little flavour of Derby's industrial history. The museum is well worth a visit but please take heed of the above warning and check before visiting.

Museum Model

On entering the museum we were directed up to the first floor to begin the tour and were greeted by a table filled with wooden blocks which could be assembled in order to show the development of the different phases of the Silk Mill complex. As the wall display behind shows the Silk Mill was the world's first factory. It now stands at the southern end and is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
Silk Winding Machine

The museum is very much a "hands on" experience but some exhibits are protected in glass cabinets and others like this historic silk winding machine protected by a simple barrier.
First Floor View

We found the museum to be interesting, educational and entertaining with many interactive features on the first floor aimed at younger visitors but still very informative for older generations too. Among the displays are a mock up of a Victorian pharmacy and also of a framework knitters cottage (see left of image above).
Derby of course grew as a railway town and a large section of the first floor is devoted to that industry.

Railway Section

Signal BoxModel RailwayA large model of a modern InterCity train leads into the Railway Engineering Gallery where levers can be pulled in a signal box that overlooks the ultimate big boys' toy, a working scale model railway layout. Another part of the Gallery includes the cab of a modern train where young drivers can experience the thrill of driving a high speed engine courtesy of a video playing in front of the controls.
Grasshopper Engine

We made our way down to the ground floor where one section is devoted to engines using various power sources showing their development over the years from wind, steam and gas through to electricity. The Grasshopper beam engine (pictured) was built about 1850 by George Fletcher, a Derby born engineer who used it to power machinery in his London workshop. It was moved later (1863) to his new Masson works in Litchurch Lane, Derby where it operated there until 1911. The engine has been a feature of the museum since 1975 and was restored to steam power in 1993/4.
Rolls & Royce

As well as railways of course Derby is also famous for being the home of "The Best Car in the World" and a display containing a model of an early design of that said car is accompanied by busts of the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce, co-founders of Rolls-Royce.
Griffon Engine

Rolls-Royce forms a major part of the ground floor area and one of the engines on display is the famous Griffon which was named after the bird of prey, the Griffon Vulture. The liquid-cooled aero engine was designed and built by Rolls-Royce at the request of the Fleet Air Arm in 1938 and was adapted a year later for use in the Spitfire aircraft, going into production in the 1940s. Although production ceased in 1955, the Griffon engines are still in use today in restored Firefly and Spitfire aircraft and in the Royal Air Force service with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight among others.
The RB211

The RB211Perhaps the pièce de résistance in the museum though is the Rolls-Royce RB211 where a high level platform allows visitors to get up close and personal with the engine. Development of the gas turbine engine almost brought about the bankruptcy of Rolls-Royce but nationalisation by the government allowed work on the engine to be completed and the company became a major commercial player on a global scale supplying engines to many of the world's airlines. Further development led to the Trent family of engines and the RB211 was superseded in the 1990s but this example in the Silk Mill museum is still an impressive piece of work.

There are many more engines on the ground floor of the Silk Mill and a whole website could easily be devoted to the Museum but in the next part of the Derby Heritage Walk, we'll continue along the River Derwent by the side of the Silk Mill.
 Back to Part 31
 The Derby Heritage Walk Index
Continued in Part 33

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