Lumsdale Falls in the Lumsdale Valley

Lying just outside the pretty town of Matlock, on the edge of the Peak District National Park, the Lumsdale Valley is a hidden gem.  It’s a place of fascinating history and stunning natural beauty, with romantically overgrown ruins standing beside cascading waterfalls which tumble through a wooded valley.

Lumsdale Falls in the Lumsdale Valley
Lumsdale Falls in the Lumsdale Valley

Past Industrial Greatness

Designated a scheduled ancient monument because of its historic importance, the Lumsdale Valley was once a bustling centre of industry, with a collection of mills all powered by water from Bentley Brook.  The brook rises on Matlock Moor and has never been known to dry up. 

The Lumsdale Valley 1
Lumsdale Falls

The Lumsdale Falls and Lumsdale Valley was used for industrial purposes from as far back as the 17th Century, although it reached the height of its production in the mid 19th Century.  Some mills were used for cotton spinning and bleaching, and some for grinding corn, bone and minerals.  The site was used until the 1930s.  The Lumsdale Valley is now one of the best examples of a water-powered industrial archaeological site in Britain, unique in such an extensive use of water power over such a small area.

The origin of the name Lumsdale is open to debate, but it is most likely to be derived from the Scottish word ‘Lum’, meaning chimney, with Lumsdale therefore the Valley of Chimneys.

The Lumsdale Mills

The ruins of six of the mills in the Lumsdale Valley remain, all in various states of disrepair.  The last private owner of the site refused to sell the buildings, despite lucrative offers for the stone, preferring to keep them in their ruinous state as a testament to their heritage and as a habitat for wildlife. 

At the top of the Valley stand the ruins of the Bone Mill, which operated as early as the 17th Century.  As the name suggests it was primarily used to grind bones for making pottery and fertilisers.  It was abandoned in the 1920s. 

Moving along the path the next remains are those of the Saw Mill, built in the 1850s, featuring a large burr grinding stone imported from France.  A further three or four pairs of millstones were originally located inside the mill.  Water from the Saw Mill directly powered the mills below. 

Lumsdale Valley Mill Ruins
Lumsdale Valley Mills all powered by Lumsdale Falls

The third mill is the Paint Mill, the oldest in the Valley, built in the early 1600s as a very early lead smelting mill and bleaching mill.  Behind the Paint Mill a circular stone trough can still be seen, once used for bleaching yarn. 

The Lumsdale Valley 2

The fourth mill, the Grinding Mill, built in the 1770s, is situated beside the waterfall and features an impressive wheel pit.  Water would have been fed on to the wheel from a cast iron pipe.  The mill was probably built as a corn mill but was also used for grinding red lead. 

Lumsdale Falls
Lumsdale Mill Ruins and Lumsdale Falls

The final two mills at the bottom of the Valley are the Lower Bleach Mill (or Garton’s Mill) and Upper Bleach Mill, built in the early 1700s.  The two mills were originally linked together by train to transport cotton from one to the other, and the remains of the track can still be seen.

The Lumsdale Valley 3
Lumsdale Falls and historic Lumsdale Valley

The Lower Bleach Mill was originally built as a cotton mill.  It required a huge amount of water to power the wheel, which was enclosed within the building and powered from the waterfall.  A number of the bleaching vats and the smithy still survive, as does a circular trough used to cool down the large iron rims of cart wheels.  The bleaching vats are believed to be the last surviving examples in the country.   

The Upper Bleach Mill most probably dealt with the final stages of the bleaching process, including drying, finishing and packing.  A drying room was heated by a boiler, the position of which is still evident, although the actual boiler and other metal parts were removed from the site during WWII.  

The Arkwright Society & Lumsdale Falls

The Lumsdale Valley is now owned by the Arkwright Society, a charity devoted to the rescue of industrial heritage buildings.  A committee made up of Lumsdale residents and Arkwright Society members manage the site, maintaining the buildings in their state of picturesque decay, allowing public access to the area and safeguarding the important woodland and wetland habitats.

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Wildlife in the Lumsdale Valley

The Lumsdale Valley is a haven for wildlife.  The overgrown buildings, woodlands, flowing water and pools provide a perfect habitat for a diverse range of bird, animal and plant life.  Visitors can see finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, kingfishers and heron, as well as bats, badgers, foxes and frogs, and varieties of moss and lichen.

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Lumsdale Valley | Lumsdale Ruins | Lumsdale Falls