The Arkwright Spinning and Fibrecraft Group was founded in 1989 at Arkwright Town (actually a small village near Chesterfield, North Derbyshire).
In May 1988, Yorkshire Television staged Telethon 88, a fund raising event for many charities throughout the region. Among many other activities taking place in Queens Park, Chesterfield, Chan Brown demonstrated hand spinning during a 6 hour sponsored spin.
After voicing desires to learn the craft, a couple of ladies were invited to Chan's home regularly for tuition. After a few weeks, more people wanted to join in and there was not the space. Chan's first pupil, Gladys Shawcross, lived a couple of miles away in Arkwright Town and arranged permission to meet fortnightly for two hours at the community school there. The following spring, clergy of neighbouring village, Calow, asked if the little group would demonstrate at a fundraising day and needed a name for the group to enable advertising the event. As the history of the word spinster had recently been discussed, the title of The Arkwright Spinsters was agreed.
The success of this public demonstration gave each person pride and confidence in their craft. Realising how much "I do know" rather than how much "I do not know"came with their ability to answer questions asked. The questions that spinners could not answer on the day brought a determination to research and find out for the next time.
The aim of the group became to promote the ancient craft of hand-spinning and related fibre crafts whilst broadening their own knowledge and skills. The objectives are to demonstrate and exhibit to the public through organisations, schools, and other interested parties. Arkwright Town faced major changes and the community school became unavailable for the Spinsters meetings. The Arkwright Spinsters had demonstrated several times previously at Sir Richard Arkwrights Cromford Mill at Cromford, near Matlock. The setting of a historic cotton spinning mill with the name of Arkwright could not be more fitting. In 1991 the Spinsters were provided with space to get together at the mill in return for demonstrating to visitors. A very happy relationship has been enjoyed between the two parties ever since.
On-going demonstrations take place on the third Sunday of each month from 11am to 4pm in the Gothic Wharf building at Arkwright's Mill, Cromford. Anyone, of any age, is welcome to come and watch the spinning and any other demonstrations and discuss them with our members. If you prefer a hands-on experience, come and have a go at spinning with a drop spindle or, if you have your own wheel, bring it along and either spin with us or learn how to spin on it. If you do not have a wheel but would like to learn to spin, do not despair, by prior arrangement you can learn on one of our wheels.