Milford has an incredibly rich industrial heritage, and is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, since its former mills were some of the first mechanised industrial spinning factories in the world at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Jedediah Strutt and his successors built almost all the stone buildings in the village in the period 1780-1850 to provide accommodation and facilities for the workers in their huge mills, which dominated Milford.
The potted history of Milford & Makeney further down this page is the one that appears on the village interpretation board which can be viewed in the ‘triangle’ opposite the Strutt Arms. To see the board itself – with full text and historical photos – click here Milford Interpretation Board
The Strutts North Mill run monthly historical guided walking tours in the Belper area, and there are usually several covering Milford in any year. In 2021 there are two, on the 6/6/21 entitled “Milford Mills & Industrial Remains” and on 11/7/21 entitled “Milford’s West Side”, led by Milford resident Jane Whitaker. For more details of these tours and others, and to book tickets for the tours, see here.
There are other pages on this website covering the past, links to which are highlighted below. There is a page covering the Derwent Valley Mills, including a fascinating animation from the 1950’s of the Milford mills. There is a page covering some surprising historical firsts for the village, and another explaining how Milford got its nickname of “Treacle City“. There is a page full of the memories of present and former residents, including a detailed account of a large Edwardian wedding between two residents in 1907, which give fascinating insights into what life was like for the residents in the past. There are two Derbyshire Life articles from 2011 and 2015 which cover the history of the village and a page giving details of the 57 Milford men who lost their lives in World War 1.
More recent history is covered in the archive of The Treacle City News, a village newsletter which ran in the 1980’s, there is a photo archive of recent Milford & Makeney May Day parades, and an article reporting the burst of the main aqueduct from Ladybower Reservoir which flooded the village in 2019.
Summary of the History of Milford, copied from the The Triangle interpretation board
Milford was named for its river-crossing, on an ancient route from Derby to the Peak District. The power of the Derwent was used from medieval times to run a corn-mill, dyeing and fulling mills, and iron and scythe forges.
Jedediah Strutt, a farmer turned hosier, recognised the potential of the site. Inventor of the Derby rib machine, Strutt owned a Derby silk mill, and had set up cotton mills in Belper. In 1781, he bought land in Milford to build a cotton spinning mill. It was one of a series of textile mills constructed on the Derwent between Matlock and Derby during the Industrial Revolution.
These pioneering developments, which included the creation of new communities to house and cater for the workforce they required, are now recognised as being of international importance. The Milford Mill complex eventually included spinning, bleaching and dyeing mills, as well as foundries, joiners’ workshops, a gas-works and a corn-mill. The Warehouse, constructed in 1793, was an early attempt by William Strutt, Jedediah’s eldest son, to design a fire-proof multi-storey structure. Later, and more successful, attempts at fire-proofing are embodied in the Dyehouse building, near the bridge.
Whilst almost all the early mill buildings were demolished in the 1950s and ’60s, much of the associated industrial housing has survived. Many of these houses were built by the Strutts, from the late 18th century onwards, transforming Milford from a riverside hamlet into a company village. The Strutts also built the school, created several farms to supply produce for their workers, and helped establish the village’s various religious and social buildings.