Poetry Workshops

Debjani Chatterjee reads one of our poems

Debjani Chatterjee reads one of our poems

The project has been lucky enough to have enlisted the help of Hindu Samaj member Dr. Debjani Chatterjee, a well-known story-teller and poet, to help us with the creative contributions we’re collecting for the project legacy. Over the last few weeks Debjani has held several workshops where we’ve had a go at writing poetry that reflects on the project, the links between India and the Peak District, and the history of cotton. Over the next few weeks I will be publishing some of the poems we have produced!

By Vignesh Rammohan

Long days we laboured in
Arkwright’s amazing mills.
Boredom would numb
Our minds and trigger accidents in
Unhealthy working conditions,
Rewarding Britain with the Industrial Revolution.

© Vignesh Rammohan

ByVibha Shanbhag

Driving force of industry,
Energy powering the valley’s mills in a
Rural scene of tranquil beauty,
Wonderful river flowing
Ever so peacefully,
Nodding a ‘hello’ in the Summer haze
To us tourists from the towns.
© Vibha Shanbhag


Vibha and Romy contemplate acrostic poetry

Vibha and Romy contemplate acrostic poetry

By Vibha Shanbhag

Marvellous buildings
but, for 18th century
child workers, death-traps.

© Vibha Shanbhag

If you are inspired by them please join us for our next workshop which will be held at the Hindu Samaj building in Burngreave on 26th July. If you would like to come please email me to book a place – Esme Cleall: e.r.cleall@sheffield.ac.uk


First poetry workshop


BBC One Countryfile 6th July 2014






Part I

Helen Skelton: This beautiful landscape provides quiet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities that flank it.

A third of Sheffield is actually in the Peak District, which makes it the only UK city to have a National Park within its boundaries.







Chamu Kuppuswamy:   I do a walk called Elephant in the Park walk.

HS: right

Chamu Kuppuswamy: This year it is on the 2nd of August.

HS: When Chamu Kuppuswamy first moved to Sheffield she began looking for connections between the Peak District and the country of her birth, India. What were your first impressions of the Peak District then?

CK: oh, one of..wonderful countryside and I thought it was very very quiet, compared to cities I have lived in India, of course.

HS: And what about you in terms of your friends, your family and your culture – why did you think it was so important to find links with India?

CK: In some of these places kind of my memory was jogged of.. you know.. about having read something about India about this place. That kind of said well actually there must be a lot of different links that will be really interesting to find out in which case I can have my own sort of global interpretation of the National Park and that really sparked the whole thing off.


HS: One of the most exciting links that Chamu found was here in Millthorpe.




Edward Carpenter was one of the village’s former residents. Socialist, poet and philosopher, he had a fascination for Hinduism that led him on a life changing journey to India. So he was sort of a pioneer in that he went to India, he liked what he found about Hinduism and he brought it back here.

CK: Absolutely. He went to India because of all that he had heard about India. And he also visited a guru over there. So he really strengthened his knowledge of Hinduism.





HS: This is Carpenter’s former home in Millthorpe, where I am meeting Helen Smith. Fascinated by the life of Edward Carpenter, also known as the Saint in Sandals, she’s researched his life extensively for her Phd.


HS: Helen, these look intriguing! Tell me about these.



Helen Smith: They are, I think. I think people would have been very surprised when these appeared in this area in the 1890s. These sandals actually represent sort of Edward Carpenter’s relationship to India, and the things that he liked about India, things that he brought back from India. These sandlas representative of something that was freedom for him, freedom in terms of dress, and also the freedom of understanding that he found in India and brought back over to the Peaks with him.

HS: And this is something that people wanted him to sort of spread the word about.

HeSm: Yes, absolutely.

HS: I believe this is a letter from Gandhi.


HeSm: It is, yes. A little bit later on Carpenter had been working into the early 20th century trying to spread these ideas. And that brought him to the attention of Gandhi and Gandhi’s circle. And Gandhi was very keen to write to Carpenter to ask him to sort of take his ideas out into Gandhi’s wider circle. And to spread the word even more. So that highlights its importance really, in sort of things like the Indian independence movement as well.

[Indian music]

HS: Carpenter’s connection to India flourished on his return home. His walks in the Peak District were now further inspired by ideas of Hinduism and soon it influenced his writing.

[Indian music background] [voice] You are not to differentiate yourself from nature. It is only under such conditions that the little mortal creature becomes gradually aware of what he is.



HS: But there is an even more colourful local character who brought these two cultures even closer together. Thomas Wardle was a silk dyer.


From 5000 miles away in the Peak District he made a breakthrough that changed the livelihood of Indian silk dyers bringing new vibrancy to previously near worthless fabric.



As expert dyer Glen is hoping to show us.



G: The fabric when it first come to him, it weren’t useful. When the silk is woven it goes through with gum so it doesn’t break.

HS: So when you say there was gum on it, they put that on to strengthen it?

G: strengthen it, so they could weave it

HS: So he found a way to get that gum off it and that it could take dye?

G: yeah, yeah. And what he did was he prepared the fabric with soap, alkali and then bleached the fabric, then he could get the range of shades he wanted to get like pink, lighter shades of blue and so on. If it wasn’t, we would be looking at dark greys, or browns or blacks or

HS: So initially people were looking at Indian tussur silk and saying, that is useless, that’s no good to me. And Thomas Wardle said.. ahn.ha..we can make this work.

G: Well, what he did was pretty remarkable really

HS: So Thomas Wardle has left a legacy among silk dyers, has he left a legacy in India?

CK: I think he absolutely has. He gave the Indian silk industry their new market , which is there were more and more people now who were interested in tussur silk.

HS: And Wardle found another use for tussur silk, producing a fabric called seal cloth, which became a huge success when used to make waterproofs. And where would the Peak District be without them?

Absolutely no need for waterproofs today. But what about the rest of the week – Countryfile Weather Forecast.


Part II                                     

Rugged moorlands, picturesque dales, the Peak District was Britain’s first National Park.



And one of our most accessible. Around 20 million people live within just an hour’s drive. 10 million people visit the Peak District each year. And it is surrounded by diverse northern towns and cities. But 1% of the people who come here are from ethnic minorities.

Earlier we met Chamu Kuppuswamy, she has discovered some surprising connections between the peaks and her native, India. In an area synonymous with the right to roam movement back in the 1930s, Chamu is at the forefront of a new kind of campaign – encouraging people from ethnic minorities to get out and enjoy what the area has to offer.







CK: This place is just amazing in terms of being actually able to walk in it, and actually get anywhere you want, and with the help of a map you are able to explore so much of the countryside, which for me was unprecedented.

HS: So walking and rambling isn’t something that you would have done in India?

CK: No, certainly not. I mean, we do a lot of walking but in cities, but nothing like in the countryside. The countryside is really offlimits. And there’s lots of dangers, hazards, and also there isn’t a map you could use. Therefore it is not somewhere you would naturally do to go for a walk.

HS: What do you think is stopping people from ethnic minorities coming out and enjoying the Peak District?

CK: A number of different factors. Information about the fact that there is access, and there is the right to roam in this area is one of the least known bits of information, I think, because National parks are looked at more as conservation areas, where people don’t actually inhabit. Because that’s the kind of Parks people encounter in India.

HS: So why do you think it is important for people to come out here?

CK: oh! I think, for anyone to come out into nature is really really great. I think you can experience the sort of tranquillity, and experience the sort of pleasure that you can’t get from any other activity.










HS: Once she was out and about, Chamu couldn’t get enough. You trained to be a ranger yourself. What do your parents back in India think of this strange sort of hobby of yours?

CK: First of all, they asked me- Is it safe? You know, if you go, do you actually patrol on your own?

Chamu’s regular walks reveal the links with her Indian heritage and are a great way of getting more people from ethnic minorities into the Peak District.

Debjani: I love cities, that on a nice day like this, I can be out in the Peak District.


Vithal Patel: My principle is the world is my school, and nature is my book. You learn lot of things from the nature really, lot of understanding through the nature.


Pragya: I guess I like everything about the Peak District. Its green, its peaceful, its calm and I am like pretty much into the flora. Everything I come here I find something new to look at.




HS: There is no end to Chamu’s passion for this area. Researching links with India, becoming a ranger, leading walks, and one more thing – dancing.


These ruins of a house from 500 years ago provide the perfect stage for Chamu’s performance.

Annapoorna Kuppuswamy sings – Sarasi jaakshulu jhalakha made ..with dancers bells sounding

HS: Chamu has written, choreographed and is now performing this dance, inspired by nature and her connection with the Peak District.

AK sings: Sarigha cheerulu mela




















CK: the techniques are replete with inspiration from nature. This is the sort of first ever time we have actually done it together as a group outside. It is absolute fascinating, just walking up on the grass and feeling the stone over there, is a completely different experience to sort of being in a classroom where the surface is very different.

AK sings: ..tharuvu neekita

HS (whispering): I am going to going on a limb here, but I am pretty sure that this is the first time we have done Bharathanatyam, Indian dancing in the National Park on Countryfile. I think Tom Heap should do all his reports like this from now on!

AK sings: Sarasi jaakshulu…

With moves like this, it’s no wonder word seems to have gone around!





s91AK sings: tharuvu neekita joothus chuntuta dharma ..aaa…aaa.


HS: From the John Craven School of Dancing.

John Craven: laughs

HS: That was impressive. Thank you. What a fantastic way of ending the show.

JC: It was wonderful, wasn’t it?




Transcribed by Chamu Kuppuswamy

Our 100th blog post!

In search of peace

by Aishu Hari

I thought I had lost my Saturday morning sleep when I agreed to go on a walk in the Peak district along with few friends. I did not know what was in store for me. I thought to myself- “It better be good because I had sacrificed my sleep for it!” What I experienced was nothing short of a paradise.

The previous day before the peak district walk my favorite team had lost a very crucial match in the Indian Premier League that was going on at that time. I was upset and I thought I would just bury myself inside my pillow and vent out my feelings all day. I was nothing close to doing what I was thinking I would be doing since the entire day I spent was worth each minute. It all started with a bus ride from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj temple. I had heard a lot about Peak district and it is even in the list of the ‘to-do’ things when you are in Sheffield. But being the more of an indoor person that I am, I never pushed myself to explore the place. I am so glad that I finally did and that experience took away all the worries and stress I was facing the previous night. Firstly, the place by itself is very beautiful and is a sight to behold. But what takes away the cake is that it is one place where four of the five elements meet. I saw the clear blue sky, pure sparkling water and could feel fresh air on my face every time the wind blew. It is something that one must witness to understand what it really feels like to be at this wonderful place. At that moment, I understood why exploring Peak district was in the ‘to-do’ list of every student who was studying at the University.

aishu 1

It was not just the scenery and the greenery that I witnessed that day, there was more to it! I tasted a different cuisine which was very interesting, I visited a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Derwent Valley Mills World), had a look at a very old cotton mill, saw colorful ducks swimming peacefully not worried about anything happening around them, understood what it means to walk through the woods along with friends. It was as if we were all going for an adventure trip, only it was an adventure mixed with a lot of additional information. All this felt like a welcome change, from the monotonous routine of typing away to complete all the assignments to spending time with the environment. A different experience altogether, a nicer one at that!

aishu 2

There came a point where I just closed my eyes and stood there just to see how it felt when interacting with nature. Then I thought to myself, never mind the lost sleep, never mind the lost match, never mind the stress of an upcoming deadline. I knew I had found peace in this place and then nothing else mattered!

Aishu is studying Masters in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield

New connection discovered! Professor Robert Home’s research on Edwin Richards

Following the Radio 4 programme on the heritage project, I received an email from Professor Robert Home, Professor in Land Management at Anglia Ruskin University. Professor Home has researched the history of town planning in the British empire, and he writes that Captain E.P.Richards was a key figure in the early 20th century planning of Calcutta. In his email, Professor Home said

His (Richards') huge report on Calcutta (1914) is being reprinted, & I did some research about Richards for it at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, which revealed his Derwent 
connection, so I attach the short notes I made last year. The Derwent/Birchinlee connection I found most interesting, as no doubt you will too. 

Note on Richards

Edwin Percy Richards was born on 9 September 1873, and was the third generation of public works engineers in his family. His grandfather was ‘a builder engaged in railway and other large works’, his father E.Melville Richards worked on main drains and sewers, canals and other works in Manchester, Wolverhampton and Burslem before becoming municipal engineer of Warwick. The young Edwin attended Warwick School (1882-90), then trained as an engineer in his father’s office, and followed him into the Incorporated Association of Municipal and County Engineers in 1899, becoming a full member in 1910. He served for three years as an engineering assistant to contractors on main drainage schemes in Manchester, Glossop, and Newbury, and worked in local government, in Rochdale (1897-1900) and Southend (1900-1).

Between 1901-8 he worked for the Derwent Valley Water Board, as ‘one of the senior engineers and personal civil engineering assistant’ to the Chief Engineer. The Board had been constituted by Act of Parliament in 1899 to supply water to the cities of Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield from new reservoirs in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The project offices for the great new Howden and Derwent dams were in the village of Bamford, and, to transport the million tons of masonry needed for the dam walls, a temporary Bamford and Howden railway was laid between 1901 and 1903 connecting the Howden dam some seven miles to a new stone-quarry. Richards worked on the railway design, but more important for his later activities in India was the planned worker housing at Birchinlee, known locally as Tin Town (after its corrugated iron structures). Public concern over the poor living conditions of navvies on public works projects, which were high-lighted by casualties on the Woodhead tunnel project high in the Pennines, combined with the idea of ‘model settlements’ built by philanthropic employers such as Cadbury at Bournville and Lever at Port Sunlight, so that the provision of worker housing was included in the Derwent Valley Water Board’s statutory responsibilities.




Navvy settlements were to enter into local folklore, with many reservoirs and railways having their own ‘tin towns’, as they were known to local residents. The model village of Birchinlee was laid out on formal lines, with dormitories for single men, huts for married men with families and separate huts for foremen all arranged in formal rows separated by trackways, with three stone-revetted platforms as bases for the houses. The best building, at the physical centre of the village, was the recreation hall with its high pitched roof, decorative gables and tower, while the canteen became a dedicated drinking hall (to the annoyance of the local temperance society), and the police station was strategically located overlooking the village approach road, ensuring that all visitors could be monitored. Other buildings included hospitals, school, post office, shops, public bath house, railway station, and waste incinerator. Birchinlee Tin Town at its peak had a thousand residents, but was always intended to be temporary, and after the dams were opened was dismantled in 1913-14. (During the Second World War RAF crew used the Howden reservoir to train for the famous Dambuster raid in 1943. The Board was abolished in 1974 and its responsibilities transferred to the Severn Trent Water Authority.)

The stone-laying ceremonies for the dams took place in June 1907, and Richards moved on within the year, to India and a position as executive engineer in Madras. By the time the Derwent dams were opened in 1912, he had been promoted the previous year the post of city engineer to the Madras Corporation. In January 1912 he was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the higher status professional qualification opening further opportunities for his advancement. In his membership application he listed his responsibilities in Madras as city engineer over 440 miles of roads, 15 bridge widenings, 25 miles of main sewers and 600 manholes, electric lighting and tramways, and storm water schemes. He also applied his inventive mind to designing and patenting new drainage machinery.

In British India it was a time of discontent and pressure for change. The partition of Bengal in 1905 had resulted in widespread public agitation, leading to the attempted assassination of Governor-General Hardinge in 1912, and the British to move the capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911. In Madras Governor Lawley was promoting civic improvements, and reforming the legislative council under the Indian Councils Act of 1909 (the Morley-Minto reforms), to admit the election of Indians to membership. Richards could contribute through infrastructure projects and urban , as other engineers were doing, urban improvements, especially in the Presidency towns of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, seeking to demonstrate the tangible beneficial aspects of colonial rule.

Soon after adding MICE to his name, Richards was appointed to the newly constituted Calcutta Improvement Trust, and before taking up his duties there in September 1912 seems to have toured Europe visiting improvement schemes and absorbing the fashionable and emerging town planning movement, becoming a founder member of the Town Planning Institute which was created in 1913.

Richards may have moved jobs from one single-purpose authority to another via Madras, but there was a big difference between them – the one in a remote valley in the High Peak, the other a teeming tropical port-city – and he seems to have had little grasp of the political realities of Calcutta or his place in the official hierarchy. In the Derwent Valley the engineers were in charge, the masters, but in British India the ICS officials saw themselves as the natural rulers, conceding only grudgingly to the political pressures from the Indians and regarding technical staff like Richards – and Dr.Simpson before him – as very subordinate – on tap but not on top. Richards may have embraced with enthusiasm the new town planning approach, but under-estimated the inertia and cautiousness of British officials in India. His grand designs for a comprehensive improvement approach were just too ambitious and expensive for chairman Bompas and the trust members to accept, and were an undisguised accusation of past neglect. What he called the streetless state of Calcutta was ‘a giant defect, and of extreme gravity’.

Parts of his report could hardly be expected to make him friends with his employers. who had presumably been involved in drafting the Calcutta Improvement Act which he accused of being ‘almost useless for the great task set’, having been ‘not created under a Town Planning Act, but only under a local Housing Act (based upon the 1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act)’ xiv. Other statements could hardly have endeared him to the Trust members: ‘Calcutta and her suburbs cannot possibly be town planned, or controlled, or be moderately improved under the existing Improvement Act’. He attacked the modest improvement schemes that were proposed: ‘What a farce and a disgrace and acknowledgment of failure would it be at Calcutta – to spend all the money on one suburb, or, which it would really come to, on one half or so of suburban land’ 307.

Richards returned to England. The circumstances of his leaving India are unclear, but, given the statements in his book, it seems probable that he was dismissed by Bompas. In 1914 he was living at Hawkhurst, Belle Vue Road, Ware, Hertfordshire.

There is no evidence that he ever returned to Calcutta after producing his 400-page report, and it is likely that his technical advice and physical presence were probably unwelcome. There are other examples of technical advice being unwelcome and unacceptable to colonial administrators: Lanchester’s Zanzibar report, planners in Nigeria, Geddes. Nevertheless, when Bompas wrote a short note on his own retirement, he claimed the road improvements that Richards had promoted 13 years before.

Meanwhile the First World War intervened, and Richards was employed as an army captain with the Leicestershire Regiment and the Gordon Highlanders, serving in France on the Western Front, although he reached his fortieth birthday when the War was one month old. After the War Richards returned to the East as chief engineer and deputy chairman of the Singapore Improvement Commission 1920-27, but left before the Singapore Improvement Trust came into being in 1928. Now in his mid-fifties, he finished his career as a consultant engineer.

The energy and enthusiasm with which Richards approached his Calcutta brief seems to have been typical of the man. As a young engineer working in Newbury he became a member of the Geological Society, and wrote a paper on the geology of the district. In later life he was an active mountaineer and ski-er in the Alps, and when mainland Europe was open to British visitors after the Second World War climbed the Matterhorn at the age of 75. He enjoyed a long retirement on the south coast at Worthing, and died at the age of 88, on 14 November 1961. His Asiatic colonial service in the three port-cities of Madras, Calcutta and Singapore had occupied barely ten years of his working life.


Membership lists of ICE & IMunE. Richards’ obituary notice is in Proceedings of ICE 23 1962, p.540-1.

Brian Robinson, Memories of Tin Town: the Navvy Village of Birchinlee and its People, Northend,Sheffield, 2001

Bevan, B. The Upper Derwent: 10,000 Years in a Peak District Valley Stroud, Tempus Publishing, 2004.

Bevan, B. Tin Town: An Archaeological Survey of Birchinlee Village, Peak District National Park Authority, 2000.

Folklore of the Santal Parganas. Translated by C.H. Bompas [the Editor of Material Collected by the Rev. O. Bodding]. London; printed in Holland, 1909


Chamu Kuppuswamy

Shooting for BBC Countryfile in the Peak District National Park

I had a really good experience on Friday with the BBC Countryfile programme makers as I travelled with them while they worked on making a piece for their episode on the 6th of July 2014. They captured my work as ranger on the heritage project, talked to those who have researched for many years on the themes we are working on, recording artefacts, places and people and then entered the grand finale recording dancers at work in the beautiful surroundings of the Peak District on a bright sunny and warm summer’s day!




It was great, but I am really not sure what the storyline is going to be, and I led the project that Countryfile has just filmed! I am a bit trepiditious about the final product. There are subjects that need to be sensitively handled.

The most exciting part of the filming for me was the opportunity I got to introduce my dance students to the Peak District National Park, in their ‘dancer’ mode! This has opened up an amazing opportunity to start working seriously on internationalising and bringing exciting new additions to the repertoire of Bharathanatyam! I think it will be great to incorporate Britain’s Nature into Bharathantyam – don’t you? As a ranger/peak district mosaic champion, it gives me the chance to create new directions in minority/niche engagement in National Parks and to strengthen the legacy for the project, involving young people in it. It builds on heritage (remember Edward Carpenter already brought Hinduism into the National Park a hundred years ago) and builds a new contemporary understanding of heritage. For those of you at the Hindu Samaj last year, you would have watched my students perform at the Hindu Samaj premises, now you watched them perform outdoors – thank you all!




As Helen Skelton, the presenter of our piece said, it was Groundhog Day! Well, not quite! Every material shot for the programme was shot numerous times, from various angles, with and without sound, peppered with capturing atmos. I wish I could do this sort of thing whenever I shoot a photo or video! Setting off early at 7.40 was a good idea for this sort of thing! We overran by three quarters of an hour, but that was not too bad at all. Most people were in high spirits! The power of the camera, eh! Or the sunny weather and the dance?  the BBC brand perhaps? Well, I better not start my IP brain up!

I need to hone my skills as a ranger. After all that careful research to identify locations suitable for the various bits of the heritage story, I had gone and plonked us at a spot for which we needed special permission to shoot in. Bugger 😦 And this was what caused all the delay and phone calls. #dentedpride. Next time, I know to be more careful, when working to the pace and fickleness of a TV shoot!

I was extremely pleased that the researcher managed to get Helen Smith (our Carpenter expert) on the shoot. I thought that was the best interview of the day. Great questions from Helen, and great responses from Helen 🙂 Pity we couldn’t have Dr. Brenda King who has spent years researching Sir Thomas Wardle. Without her, the result is always going ‘to be a weak version of a strong history with many aspects to it’. I hope I am proved wrong!










Thanks to all for spending the time and taking part in the day! I hope you all like yourselves on TV when the programme is on!

Chamu Kuppuswamy

Poetry Workshop – 28 June

British Raj in the Peak District: A Hindu Samaj Heritage Project

In our project’s second phase, we continue to discover fascinating links between India and the Peak District through landscapes and characters. We can all explore the stories of connection through ourwalks,talks,photographs,paintings,crafts and more.

We now invite you to an inspiring POETRY WORKSHOP on ‘PEOPLE & PLACES’ with award-winning poet-storyteller Debjani Chatterjee, who will help you capture in words your tales of shared landscapes & peoples.


Date: Saturday 28th June

Time: 2 – 3.30 pm

Venue: Mappin Board Room, Mappin Building University of Sheffield, Mappin Street, S1 3JD


This is a FREE workshop,

but please book your place by 26th June.

To reserve a place, please email e.r.cleall@sheffield.ac.uk

This workshop is open to all.

No prior knowledge is required.    


For information on ‘British Raj in the Peak District: A Hindu Samaj Heritage Project’, see https://heritagehindusamaj.wordpress.com/

Cottoning on to new ideas, and people!

The project has now gained momentum in the second phase. The contours of the project are taking shape. It is becoming clearer how and who we will be working with. I like the spirit of the Nottingham group, the indignation, passion, vigour and curiosity that some members of the group bring to the project. We look forward to getting to know them more and interacting with them more. On the 31st of May 2014, our trip out into the Peak District region was a short but packed one. Our first stop was Calver Weir and Calver Mill, deftly managed by Tom Lewis, ranger from the Peak District National Park. Calver Mill was a place that was identified in Phase I of the heritage project as having received cotton from India, it is somewhere we didn’t manage to fit in on our tours. We took in Bakewell Old House museum where cotton was worked on by workers but this was our first opportunity as a group to explore Calver mill area. In the short time we spent there, we took a walk along Calver Weir, which has been restored and in its full grandeur, the biodiversity that the industrial heritage has spawned was interesting to note. Tom spoke about a prehistoric fish called Brook Lamprey that chose to mate and reproduce in the Calver area, harvest mice and water voles also inhabit the area. The National Park is lush around this time of the year, the vegetation sparked interest amongst the group and the short weir-side walk was an enjoyable one. We finished at Calver Mill, looking at it from across the river and then going over to see the new interpretation board that had been recently installed.



DSC01405  DSC01403






At the end of this short walk, I got chatting to a new member of the project and it was interesting to hear what he thought about living in the Peak District National Park. What do young people growing up in the peak district do? He asked. He was alarmed at the lack of entertainment available to them and I thought that was funny! I expect the landscape might help capture some youth and not others. At least they have something different to turn their energies to. It was an entertaining conversation!

Our next stop was Cromford. We were going to a UNESCO world heritage site, the Sheffield group had already spent some time here, and been on a guided tour and talk, but this was the first time for the Nottingham group. We didn’t have much time, this was our lunch stop, and an opportunity to explore aspects we hadn’t explored before. We heard there was a cottage that pre-dated Arkwright’s row of houses on North Street and went looking for it, but also walked on North Street, looking at the workers cottages, with the multiple windows on the top floor, where they sat and worked till last light. I also discovered that one of the cottages is a Landmark Trust property!

DSC02584 DSC02581 DSC02580   DSC02573

It was nice to hear from Michael Ledger, Education Officer for Arkwright Society who came and gave the talk about Arkwright to our group at our cotton workshop last summer. It was heartening to hear that they are now inviting us to provide new knowledge that they could incorporate into the site and its various activities. Michael invited us to feed into the content that tour guides use to introduce the place, to display something on the history of cotton production and its route to the mill in the venue where we sat for our lunch, and a host of other possibilities were opened up.

It was with interest that I listened to a conversation that took place after Michael’s brief talk. A new member of the group was indignant about what had been said – about the lack of information on where cotton from and how it got here – in this day and age, in 2104? His disbelief was writ large on his face. It was interesting to compare his reaction to ours from last year, when we came to Cromford for the first time I do hope it is not the same in 2024! And that projects like ours brings some change to fill in the gap, and to change perceptions.

After lunch some of us walked up to the little cottage with the red doors. This was a small place, with a door on the top floor, with seemingly no way to get to it! It seems, back in the day, there would have been a ladder and the family that lived up the stairs would have used it to get up there. They lived in that one room, cooked and slept in the same space. Animals would have been kept underneath on the ground floor. So in comparison, Arkwright’s three storeyed cottage with a basement, must have been a big step up!







DSC02516 DSC02542 DSC02519 DSC02518


On this walk, I got chatting to another new member of the project, who turned out to be an avid traveller with interesting stories and also very familiar with Cromford. We had a cheerful conversation, but soon parted as our mini buses came to view and we set off to go to our next and last stop for the day – Belper Mill, further down in the Derwent Valley heritage area.

Our two groups are of a category – ethnic minorities. But with different specific histories and cultures, our real commonality is that we have made a choice to geographically place ourselves here, to live and to work! But it is fascinating to discover shared histories, shape histories and addresses pressing problems. Not long ago I came across a connection I had not known about, and I suspect many other Indians would not know about too, as it is not common currency. A group of people called the Sidi people, live in the north western part of Gujarat and have descended from Africans who were brought over as slaves to that part of India. As our cotton project is also looking at slavery and the production of cotton, this seemed an opportune discovery to make. It demonstrates that we, as peoples have moved around, and shared a lot more than what we focus on!

It was great to travel down the road of industrial revolution – along the stretch from Cromford to Belper. I must say, that prima facie it seemed like Belper, our next stop, was a bit more globally oriented in how they presented the story of the industrial revolution. I am also curious about whether the whole valley is a UNESCO world heritage site or whether only Cromford Mills has that distinction. In the short time we spent at Belper, we seemed to have found references to India and the Americas. There was a map lying about as we made our way to the first set of displays that the guides had chosen for us to partake. There were pictures of cotton and an interesting take on the ‘bullock-cart’!






Cotton mills really were established only on the top of the experience gained from silk mills! Our silk and cotton themes meet! Honestly, I was more impressed with Jedediah Strutt than with Arkwright. So should silk be the place where the industrial revolution began? Cromford Mill is not that illustrious after all? Questions, questions! It would be great to go back to Belper and spend more time at the mill.

New learning from workshop One of Phase II

On the 16th of May 2014, we had our first workshop as part of the Phase II of the project.


Susanne presented work that researchers from Nottingham University have done on the Strutt archives. The Strutt family co-invested in Cromford Mills along with Arkwright. They went on to build other mills, including Belper. Suppliers of raw cotton to the Mill between 1970s and 1810s included Brazil, the Caribbean, the Guyana/Surinam area, the southern states of America, India and southern Europe.

cotton 2 snip

cotton 1 snip

cotton 3 snip

We wondered where Bourbon took its name. Shweta thinks it has something to do with Punjab. There are other ideas bandying about.

It was interesting to learn about the possible routes cotton took to come to the Mill. Two routes have been identified. One via London, the other via Liverpool, both routes led to Derby. From London, the cotton would have come either via canal to Derby or by sea to Gainsborough, then via canal to Derby. The main brokers operating in London were George Greaves (1794-1800); Roger Hunt (1798-1827). From Liverpool, the cotton would have come by canal to Derby. The main brokers at Liverpool were Nicholas Waterhouse (1794-1806); Samuel Hope (1803-1817); George Holt & Co (1812-1823)

Most yarn was sold to Derbyshire, Tewkesbury, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, London and Manchester between 1794 and 1830 (see Fitton, 1958: 297,299). Some direct overseas sales of hosiery went to Europe, New York, Charleston and Rio de Janeiro. Further research avenues in the Strutt archives on the raw cotton side would be to connect the London and Liverpool brokers to importers and then to connect importers to plantations/producers. Later ledgers do not appear to have survived but some letter books have. On the market side for cotton threads, Nottingham and London could be explored. The list of customers of Nottingham agents (1809-1887) can be identified, trace in trade directories: hosiery? lace? Agents in London included Thomas Shipman (1804-6); James Peirce (1814-15); Thomas Marshall (1817-26); Burkinshaw & Gande (1865), the list of customers could be followed up, traces found in trade directories.

There is some more research time left in the project, we are looking forward to getting more new information. However, this phase of the project ends in January, and there other visits and a conference planned.









Sustaining the project activities beyond the project

One of the first things I did when I wanted to go out walking was to check routes and events on the internet. In fact, I’d say my first stop enroute to the countryside was google! There is a lot of information out there on walks, routes, walking festivals in the Peak District, but I have hardly come across anything that is similar to our walk activities in this project. I would like to see a leaflet with walk routes from this project, designed in a unique, Indian template, to project the global interpretation that is part of this project.

Designing self-guided walk leaftlets, like the one that Calver Weir restoration project did for the Calver Mill area and its surrounds, will actually provide a good set of guided walk leaflets that would go with the ones that already exist for the Calver area. This is a fantastic holistic interpretation of the area of the National Park.


There is not always a walk leader available to take people on walks, the self-guided walk leaflets would be very useful to people who would like to follow a trail by themselves and would like to

A podcast or an audio trail would be fantastic as this would provide information in an exciting, easy, accessible way and technologically versatile manner.

Another idea that has been presented is to look at incorporating our findings into walks that are promoted by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). The programme is called Discovering Britain http://www.discoveringbritain.org/ and the story of British landscapes can be discovered through the detailed set of self-guided walk routes that are available to download from their website. They are inviting ideas for new routes and they also propose that we do walks, which link Britain to other parts of the world! The website is really nice and attractive and the walks themselves are very informative and interesting. It would be great to apply for this scheme and get our research out to a greater number of audiences, probably global. This is something we should work on.

Walking and experiencing the outdoors is a highly valued part of the project, especially on the Carpenter side of the project. Carpenter’s emphasis on understanding nature and to live with nature involved going on walks. If we are impressed with what we have discovered about Carpenter and his Hindu ideals, then handing down a legacy of walks drawn from the stories we have uncovered in this project would be ideal. It would not just create a legacy but will go a step beyond that in addressing the purpose of such projects.

In itself, uncovering heritage is great, and has promoted the aims of a group like the Hindu Samaj, but the purpose of doing it in the National Park was to use the heritage as a lever to promote more use of the National Park, and thereby to engender a friendly feeling towards the National Park and its aims by experiencing the National Park directly. There is nothing vicarious about walking. The development of a modern environmental consciousness is a central facet and not a side-effect of the project. Hindus and Indians in the UK can contribute to the larger debate on the environment and its protection if they know the landscape better, have experienced it through stories that are linked to their heritage and become interested in connecting to the landscapes and the National Park more.

In discussing and deciding suitable legacy work, these are the main factors that need to be taken into account. Watch this space as our future plans unfold and we are discussing other legacy ideas too.

Thanks to Vibha for providing me with some of the material about Belper. Thanks to Vibha and Uday for sharing their photos with me.

Chamu Kuppuswamy