Spectacular bid to transform Derby's Silk Mill
DERBYSHIRE'S historic place at the centre of British industry will be celebrated in a spectacular £15 million revamp of the Silk Mill, if a bid for Lottery grant cash is successful.
The city's Museums Trust says the revamped attraction would explore the county's extraordinary past, from being the home of the world's first factories to its place as a hub of modern innovation in engineering.
The trust's departing executive director, Stuart Gillis, said: "This will be a living study of the county's world-changing advanced engineering over the past 300 years. What we are intending to build here is one of the world's greatest science museums that inspires the makers of tomorrow."
A trust application for "major funding" from the Heritage Lottery, which uses money raised by the National Lottery, will be made by the end of the year, with the organisation already positive about the scheme.
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If the bid succeeds, doors to the revamped museum would be opened in 2017.
Mr Gillis said displays in the museum would trace Derbyshire's industrial history starting from the building of the world's first factory on the site of the Silk Mill between 1717 and 1721.
It would then look at how Derby's Midland Railway Company drove railway technology forward in the mid-19th century, before focusing on modern success stories such as innovations by Rolls-Royce, Bombardier and Toyota.
Mr Gillis said exhibits would be "interactive and hands-on".
Hannah Fox, the trust's development manager, said displays would include ceramics, iron, brick production, steelworks, and modern games technology.
The revamped building would include open science workshops for young people, a new cafe and shops on the site.
The trust wants to open up more than two of the site's four floors to the public for the first time since it first began as a museum in 1974.
And pride of place would be given to two of its most important artefacts – the Eagle Engine, Rolls-Royce's first aero engine, built in 1915, which was used in the first direct transatlantic flight in 1919, and the Rolls-Royce RB211, built in the early 1970s.
The latter cost so much to develop that it drove the company into bankruptcy and nationalisation by the Government but was the predecessor to the Trent family of engines which now power planes around the world.
Mrs Fox said the engines would become "centre-pieces", making them into "something inspirational" instead of being tucked away at the sides of the building.
On the workshops, Mrs Fox said: "The idea is to interest people, especially young people, in industry, and technology so that it inspires future careers.
"We might have an engineer in residence, perhaps from the university or Rolls-Royce who'd run the workshops supported by the exhibits.
"They could, for example, run a session on clocks, explaining the technology behind how they work and then getting them to redesign their own clock. Those taking part would be developing their technology, science and maths skills."
She said the Heritage Lottery Fund would not be the only source of cash as the trust could also look to other grants, "partners in local industry" and Derby City Council for cash.
She said the Heritage Lottery would be "a major funder" but that the total amount being bid for had not yet been finalised. An application setting out the trust's vision for the Silk Mill's 4,000 square metres of space will be made by the end of this year.
HISTORY OF BUILDING
THE original Silk Mill building was built on the site of the current structure between 1717 and 1721 by George Sorocold for the Lombe Brothers.
It housed machines, run by water power from the Derwent, for "doubling" or twisting thread.
During the 18th century it developed to become the home of the first factory system in the world – turning raw silk to fine-quality thread – but workers' conditions were poor.
By 1777, however, it was already a tourist attraction for people from Britain and abroad.
November 1833 saw the beginning of industrial unrest in Derby which led to the formation of the Grand National Trades Union in February 1834. The civil unrest is commemorated by a march organised by the Derby Trades Union Council annually on the weekend before May Day.
During the 1920s the ownership passed to the Electricity Authority which used it as stores, workshops and a canteen. It was adapted for use as Derby's Industrial Museum, which opened in November 1974. Derby City Council mothballed the museum in April 2011 to free funds for the redevelopment of other museums in the city.