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The looming question of housing the workforce: early workers' housing in the Derwent Valley

Author(s): Suzanne Lilley

Year: 2017

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Often cited as the archetypical expression of industrial accommodation, textile workers’ housing has provided a lens through which the social effects of industrialisation have been examined. Such houses have often been interpreted as either exploitative hovels or wholesome patronly investments. Within this polarizing discourse, the lived experiences of occupants frequently remains divorced from analysis of form and function. 


Using a buildings-led approach, this paper investigates workers’ housing connected to the first water-powered cotton spinning mills in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Traditionally seen as examples of early paternalism, a closer reading of these houses has revealed a more complicated picture. Elements of occupant-led design and influences from older housing traditions sit alongside notions of millowner omnipotence and domination. Through an exploration of extant building fabric, this paper examines the design and use of these properties in light of the interaction between occupant interests and patron agendas. 

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The looming question of housing the workforce: early workers' housing in the Derwent Valley. Suzanne Lilley. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Fort Worth, TX. 2017 ( tDAR id: 435168)


Temporal Keywords
Post Medieval

Spatial Coverage

min long: -8.158; min lat: 49.955 ; max long: 1.749; max lat: 60.722 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 379

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America