Cromford Mills wins 2017 Europa Nostra award

Sam Wilmot, digital apprentice
Sam Wilmot, digital apprentice
Cromford Mills has won the 2017 Europa Nostra award. Sam Wilmot, the digital apprentice, describes his experiences working on the project.

Out of 202 applications and 39 countries across Europe, little old Cromford Mills has taken home a prize that our Chief Executive said at the time was ‘the Oscars of Heritage!’. The more longwinded title is the 2017 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/ Europa Nostra Award.

Here at Cromford Mills we were delighted to have won - and very excited to host an award celebration. Getting here has been an exhausting process with a lot of determination and hard work from many different people.

A derelict state

It took real vision to take Building 17 (B17) at Cromford Mills from its derelict state to what it is now. It would also not have been possible without the tremendous support of our funders, National Lottery funding and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Arkwright Society bought Cromford Mills in 1979. B17 was near derelict when the Arkwright Society took the site on, and had many challenging problems to overcome. But today it is transformed into a heritage information centre and creative business hub.

The Europa Nostra Jury were impressed with the process and stated that: “the adaptive reuse of this building, which incorporates respectful and reversible interventions, addressed problems of contamination with innovative research. The result is a building with a social function that offers the perfect gateway to the World Heritage site of the Derwent Valley Mills."

The Visitor Centre at B17 has brilliant exhibitions including interactive displays, games and puzzles for our younger visitors. There is a short film providing you with all you need to know in order for you to make the most of your visit to the area, narrated by non-other than the booming voice of Brian Blessed.

From here the visitor goes through to the uber-cool Arkwright Experience. It takes place in Building 18 which was Sir Richard Arkwright’s very first mill and the first mill that the Arkwright Society managed to fundraise enough money to start to turn it into what it is now.

B17 also has a fully functioning Business Centre aptly named ‘Cromford Creative’ which in three months was completely full with businesses.

A firm foundation for the future

All that we do here with our education visits, events programme and our volunteer offer would not have been possible without the support of HLF and National Lottery players. They are enabling us to build a firm foundation for the future of Cromford Mills and they have also given me personally the opportunity to do an apprenticeship and to continue into a full-time job!

The Europa Nostra Award really is a great achievement not just for Cromford Mills but for Derbyshire and the UK's heritage in general.

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