Mill Workers and Owners

Working Conditions in Arkwright's Mill

In Victorian times, most people who worked in the mills, including children, worked twelve-hour shifts, from 6pm to 6 am or 6am to 6pm. This would include a one hour break at midday and a short break in the morning and afternoon for breakfast and tea.


At Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill, the bell for work would start ringing half an hour before the start of the shift. Anyone arriving after the bell stopped ringing would not have been allowed to work.


Much of the work was hard and dangerous with many safety risks such as hair and clothing getting caught in fast moving machines. Hands could be trapped, the air was laden with dust and there were dangers of slipping into fast moving water. Because of the noise in the factories, the workers were expert lip readers and developed their own sign language to communicate with each other.


However, the conditions in the Derwent Valley Mills were seen to be favourable to those in the North of England at the time. Arkwright was viewed well locally and considered to be a model employer.



Look at the images of Masson Mill , Strutt’s North Mill,  and Cromford Mill  featured on this page. In pairs, think about what questions you would like to ask the people who worked in these mills.

Download the worksheet Belper Mill Workers, and write your questions into the speech bubbles.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site | 
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