Tansley Village

Lumsdale - a treasure of industrial archeology

A guide written and illustrated by Peter Drabble     Peter Drabble 1997

Lumsdale - is the name given to the valley which extends from near Highfields School on Chesterfield Road (A632 from Matlock to Chesterfield) to the A615 Matlock to Alfreton Road, 1 mile from Matlock and is approximately 1 mile long. The name probably comes from ‘Lums’, the Scottish name for chimney. The valley of the chimneys. The valley is a veritable treasure of Industrial Archaeology.

Why industry came to the valley in the first place is not known but obviously the fact that there is a stream running down it which was available for driving water wheels was an important factor. There is some controversy about the course of the stream near the top of the valley. The present course near the top is not along the valley floor and there is discussion as to whether the course was altered by man for some reason or whether the course followed that line originally.

The Lumsdale Project began in 1976 when it was seen that action should be taken to preserve the complex of ruined water mills and ponds. Lease of the area was given by Mrs M.H.Mills of Lumsdale House to the Arkwright Society which began to prepare the project in 1979. Work began on the project in 1981 and is still continuing today.

The trail starts from the lay-by at the top of Lumsdale Road opposite Highfields School and is marked by arrows on the map. Each part of the trail is numbered on the map (Click here for Map).

The Trail


Walk down the road from Highfields school towards Lumsdale. Just before you come to the first cottage, follow a track on the left, over a wooden bridge which leads to the ‘Pine Woods'. The site of the TOP DAM (1), built in 1785 is on the right hand side of the track although there is no dam there now. In the site is a large stone which fell off a horse-drawn wagon from the quarry when two wagons tried to pass.

Stone Pillars - entrance to the Bone Mill
Stone Pillars - entrance to the Bone Mill

Now retrace your steps to the road, turn left along the road past Ivy Cottage which is of Paxton origin and fork left along a minor road which takes you past the side of the Top Dam. Turn Left below the dam, noting the Shuttle which was used to control the level of water in the dam and to feed water to the BONE MILL (2) on your right.

This is the oldest of the mills, dating from the 1600’s and was fed by a ‘Leet’ or stream before the dam was built. Note the pit in which the waterwheel turned. Bones were calcinated in crucibles and depending on how long they were heated made bone-black or bone-brown which were used as pigment for paint. The mill closed in the 1920s and was then owned by Mr White. In the wall of the dam is a metal pipe which was the overflow from the dam. There is also a tunnel and a shuttle which was used to empty the dam. Note the place where the dam burst its bank in 1947.

Retrace your steps past the Bone Mill and follow the path to the site of the MIDDLE DAM (3) which was built in 1785. Then follow the track which is alongside the dam to POND COTTAGES (4).

The building which now comprises Pond Cottages was originally a Cupola for smelting lead. The Counting House is the cottage on the right. This Lead smelter was built on land known as East Moor in 1749 and had a 999 year lease. The building was changed into cottages in 1813.

Bridge and lower Dam
Bridge and Lower Dam

Adjacent to Pond Cottages is the LOWER DAM (5) which was constructed in 1830. The floor of this dam, unlike other dams, is stone lined. A drain in the centre of the dam allows the dam to be emptied for cleaning. This was done in 1982 and 1995. The sluice at the far end determined the height of water in the dam and regulated the flow of water to the mill below. The large iron pipe in the dam wall fed the water to the Saw Mill (6) below.

A new path takes you from the dam down to other mills. Below the wall of the dam are the ruins of the SAW MILL (6)which was used for sawing timber. You will notice a millstone lying on the ground on the left-hand side of the path below the Saw Mill. This is of French origin and is constructed in sections bound together with a metal band.

Pan Tiles Saw Mill, Lower Mill Dam
Pan Tiles Saw Mill, Lower Mill Dam

Follow the new path which leads past a number of other mills.
The next mill you come to was originally a BLEACH MILL (7) and later on a PAINT MILL. When it was a Bleach Mill, the material was bleached in large stone troughs, then taken through the tunnel across the stream and into the field above to dry.
When it was a Paint Mill, Barytes (Barium Sulphate) was heated (calcined) on metal floors supported on bricks in a kiln-like structure and was used as a pigment for paint manufacture. The waste was again taken through the tunnel and dumped on the fields which are known as the Belland.

The next mill (8) was probably a corn mill. Notice the large size of the pit in which the waterwheel sat. Try to estimate the diameter of the wheel (from the axle point to the bottom of the pit). A large amount of power must have been required by the mill to need such a large wheel. The observation platform is a recent addition.

Follow the path down the steps which were constructed in 1989. Part way down a wooden trough used to carry water to a tank in the Stable Yard to feed a water wheel between the grinding mill and the Upper Bleach Works (9). Notice the large millstone on the ground in the Grinding Mill at the bottom of the steps which can be seen through the window. This may have been used with another millstone to crush limestone which, when heated, produced slaked lime. Passing chlorine gas over dry slaked lime made bleaching powder. Look back and see the waterfall. When the mills were in action much of this water would be diverted into channels to drive the various waterwheels.

The path now leads to the road. Walk down the road a short way and on the left-hand side in a lay-by is the loading and unloading ramp and a little further down was the weigh-bridge and a small building. On the opposite side of the road is the SMITHY and LOWER BLEACH WORKS (10). Through the gate (normally kept locked) is the Smithy with its original hearth. The building was rebuilt in 1987. Behind the Smithy is the Lower Bleach works and Spinning Mill which had a ground floor, first floor, second floor and an attic room above. Inside the building there are still two stone Keirs or troughs which were used for bleaching. The troughs or Kiers were made of large slabs of stone fastened together with metal bands.

Smithy and Lower Bleach Works
Smithy and Lower Bleach works
Kiers - Bleach works
'Kiers' - Bleach works                   Mill Stone
Kiers - Bleach works
Smithy Hearth
Smithy Hearth

Between the Lower and Upper Bleach works there was a tramway with trucks which carried the materials to the Upper Bleach Mill drying room. The trucks were hauled by a cable and a winding drum which was situated in the Upper Bleach area. The incline is still clearly seen. In the Lower Bleach area there were two Lancashire boilers and a large wheel. Two boilers were in existence in the 1880s but by 1929 there was only one. The boilers were removed during the second world war to privide steel for munitions.

Retrace your steps but this time keep to the road past the loading bay. In the Upper Bleach area, just past the first bend notice on the ground on the right, two stone tracks in which the wheels of the ‘tubs’ used to travel between the mills, and above a ‘dolly’ trough. The ‘dolly’ trough is made from stone and is now lying on its side. When in use, a wooden ‘dolly’ was rotated in it to wash the material. The next building on the right above the tracks was the drying room in which materials were hung on racks over a metal floor with holes in it so that hot air would rise and dry the materials.

The Tramway
The Tramway

Continue up the hill and on the left is LUMSDALE HOUSE (11) (which was the Mill owner’s house) with gardens by Paxton which are not open to the public. Higher up and on the same side as the house where a bungalow now stands were the kitchen gardens (known at the time as Cusworth’s garden) belonging to Lumsdale House.

On the right, near the third bend is the STABLE YARD (12) which used to have a cottage within it.

Go through the stile on the right, just past the stable yard and up the rather steep slope. Near the top notice the hole in the ground which shows the flu which runs from the lower Bleach House to the CHIMNEY (13) at the top of the hill. The flu was cleaned periodically by young boys who crawled along it. It is thought that the flu might have picked up flu’s from some of the other mills on its way up to the chimney, although there is no evidence at the moment to substantiate this. The chimney was probably sited at the top of the hill to provide a good draught for the furnaces.

This is the end of the tour. We hope you have experienced to some extent the thriving industrial nature of this part of what is a somewhat remote valley in the 1800s. Further down the valley there are more mills which are still working, although some of them have been turned into small industrial units. Proceed up the track to the lay-by near the school to complete the walk.

The chimney
The chimney

Some historical bits
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