Mill Workers and Owners

Reading Portraits


This activity should be teacher-led and use an interactive whiteboard to display the portraits of Strutt and Arkwright (on the right of this page) along with the Key Facts documents for Arkwright and Strutt. It is important that the subject of each portrait is not revealed until pupils have examined the paintings and key facts to try and identify what the portraits suggest about the characters. The portraits can be annotated with pupils’ ideas on screen, using a white board marker, or editable word versions of the portraits can be used.


Display the portraits of Mystery Portraits 1 and 2. Do not reveal the identity of the mill owner in each painting.


Pupils should use the key facts about both men to try to guess the subject of each portrait. Pupils then reinforce their choice by examining aspects of the portraits such as posture, expression, clothing and other items in the painting to look for evidence of the characteristics of each millowner. Editable versions of the portraits can be annotated with pupils' ideas.


Examine these ' Songs written about Richard Arkwright' – what do they suggest the workers felt about him?


Extension activity

Ask pupils to recreate the sounds of the machines, orally or by tapping. Ask them to all make their sounds together and imagine how they would feel working for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week with that noise. Some pupils could practice lip reading.

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