u3a logo Ashby de la Zouch U3A U3A Group Logo

Monthly Meetings


We meet at 2 pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Congregational Church, Kilwardby St, Ashby.
There is normally a guest speaker or, in December, musical entertainment.
This is followed by tea, coffee and biscuits and a chance to meet and talk with other members.

We remind you that we cannot guarantee that all members or other participants at u3a meetings or gatherings will have been vaccinated nor that they are virus-free and that it is up to individuals to decide whether or not they are comfortable with the risks of mixing in groups when the virus is still very much at large.


Future programme
DateSpecial EventsSpeakerSubject

Tue 24th MayDr Ann Featherstone"Sand beneath my toes" - Seaside holidays etc.
Tue 28th JunSteve ShortThe story of Morecambe and Wise
Tue 26th JulAGMJoan HarthanThe meaning and interpretation of dreams.
Tue 23rd AugCream TeaNo speakerOur 12th Anniversay celebrations
Tue 27th SepSandy Leong"Hey diddle diddle" - The origins and meanings of nursery rhymes
Tue 25th OctIan Maber"Laughing my way around the world"
Tue 22nd NovJulie EdeMarilyn Monroe
Tue 20th DecChristmas specialGresley Male Voice ChoirChristmas music followed by mince pies, tea and coffee

Tea Rota, Meeters & Greeters, Reporting Groups

MonthTea GroupMeet & GreetReporting Groups
Tue 24th MayScience & Technology, Drawing & Painting
Tue 28th JunShort Walks and Supper Club
Tue 26th JulGroups Co-ordinator
Tue 23rd AugLonger Walks, Wine Appreciation and Social Events
Tue 27th SepArts & Crafts and Bridge
Tue 25th OctCalligraphy and Computers
Tue 22nd NovGardening and Family History


26th April - 'Knitters, Nailers and Traitors' by David Skillen

When our booked speaker was suddenly taken ill, our speaker from last month, David Skillen, stepped in at very short notice to give us an entirely different talk to last month. This time it was on the history of Belper entitled Knitters, Nailers and Traitors.
Belper has a good claim to be at the very forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Because of deposits of iron and coal, nail making was practised as early as Roman times. The Ferrers family were given lands around Derbyshire and Leicestershire by William the Conqueror. They came from Ferrieres Saint Hilaire in Normandy, an important iron working area and were Farriers to Williams army. Belper was part of their lands and so nails for horseshoes became an important trade for Belper with men working from home. Men expected to make upto 1000 nails a day. It is said hat America's cowboys rode on Belper nails. This cottage industry lasted until the early 20th century.

In 1589 the Rev William Lee thought that his wife was a slow knitter and that she spent more time knitting than spending time with him, so he devised the first ever knitting frame for making stockings which all men wore at the time. Queen Elizabeth refused him a patent on the machine as she feared it would put many people out of work, so he took his invention to France. On his death, his brother returned to Britain and set up business in Nottingham. The machines on made flat panels of cloth which had to be cut to shape and then sewn together into stockings, But they couldn’t make the ribbed stocking tops which held them up and these were still made by hand.

Meanwhile one Jedediah Strutt married a woman whose family owned a hosiery business in Derby and in 1759 Strutt devised an attachment to the knitting frame which would do ribbed knitting and became known as the Derby Rib. When he came to build his first frames, the skilled nailers of Belper were an ideal workforce to help make them.

Some 10 years later Strutt was wealthy enough to give financial backing to Richard Arkwright who wanted to develop his “Water Frame”, a water powered cotton-spinning machine. Their first factory the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill was set up at Cromford in 1771 and a second mill was built in Belper in 1776. This was the beginning of the association of the Strutt family with Belper, and the impetus for this small village to become, by 1801, the second largest town in Derbyshire.

Strutt’s mill burnt down in 1803 and was replaced by North Mill which was one of the world’s first fireproof buildings, designed and built by Jedediah’s son William, and made from iron columns and brick floors. Because cotton needs to be kept warm and damp for successful spinning he incorporated hot air ducting, heated by coal, which ran throughout the building. All the machines were powered by a large water drum fed by the Derwent waters. The river was dammed upstream to ensure a steady flow of water.

To attract and keep good workers they built the world’s first industrial housing pre-dating Bourneville and Saltaire. They also built a workhouse and grammar school for the town. However to make sure that the workers worked hard they worked 6 days a week but were only paid for 5. Regular bonuses were paid from the 6th days pay but there were deduction and forfeits if they were late, unruly or mis-behaved in any way.

The Strutts were great benefactors and William designed and built Derby Infirmary which incorporated his fireproof construction and his novel heating kept the patients warm.

To process cotton, Strutt used Richard Arkwright's water spinning frame which meant he could deal with huge quantities 24 hours a day. At the time, the US was the world's biggest exporter of cotton but did not have the technology to process it. Britain knew this and passed laws in 1774 banning textile workers from travelling to America. The US offered bribes to English workers for their knowledge.

Samuel Slater was an apprentice under Jedediah Strutt and he couldn’t resist the temptation. In 1789 he left Belper with plans of the water-powered spinning machine and in disguise, took a ship to America where he sold his knowledge. By 1835 the US was producing £80m of cotton a year. In 1790 it had been just £2m.

‘Slater the traitor’ as he became known, is credited with kick starting the whole US manufacturing industry and is a well known name in America.

Belper is now a shadow of its former glorious self and we heard that Strutt’s North Mill, which closed in 1991 but remained as a museum to the start of the Industrial Revolution, has just had its £50k funding removed by Amber Valley Borough Council and will close in September, despite it being a World Heritage site. A sad end to a historically important building. And thank you to David Skillen for stepping in at such short notice to tell us all about it.