Vice-chairman of Todmorden Antiquarian Society, Robert Priestley, gave the second part of his study on the Mills of Todmorden.
This instalment travailed the Halifax valley from Eastwood, and the Burnley valley from Portsmouth, into Todmorden.
Robert began by screening a slide showing the close-packed mills at Eastwood. The picture depicted the buildings almost tiered up from beside the canal up to the railway track and former Eastwood Station. The oldest dated back to 1627 when Wood Mill was used for corn grinding. Perseverance Mill, rising gauntly above the Halifax Road, was once a picker works and still produces synthetic fibres to this day.
Travelling up the valley we saw slides of Stoodley Bridge Mill and Ridge Royd at Springside. The complex around Shaw Wood included the modernized Nanholme Mill - now used for canal barge building. The mill owners residence was the Calderbank House. The bungalows at Shaw Wood were built in the 1960s and were probably the first residential development on a former mill site in this area.
Lobb Mill dates from 1711; it had many different occupier, and was often redeveloped until demolition took place. A riding school now uses that land and the stables were previously a small rope-makers factory. Robert showed us a picture of the bottom end of Woodhouse Road with it’s smoke blackened buildings. Nowadays, the stonework of the working mill is cleaned up, and Woodhouse Mill provides a complex of canalside apartments. Cinderhill Mill began in 1805 and was working until the 1990s - it is now empty and awaiting development.
At Millwood there was a mill of that name directly behind the Shannon and Chesapeake; and Phoenix Mill alongside was later used by the bus company. It is difficult to imagine Stansfield Corn Mill towering over where now stand Hallroyd flats; the first mill on that site originated from the 13th century. Sandholme Mill by Kilnhurst Bridge is still in production.
Robert then progressed to the Portsmouth area, showing many mills built within the close confines of the narrow valley. Portsmouth Mill is now a furniture outlet, but within our members memories produced leatherette for car interiors until a disastrous fire gutted the place. Across the road, houses are being built where once was a timber store.
Wilson’s Bobbin Mill was a huge enterprise, built both sides of the road with a connecting clock-faced gantry just above the railway bridge. Bus drivers had to steer most carefully under the low bridge until demolition took place. Bobbin Mill flats now occupy that site. Frostholme Mill dates back to 1861; it now trades as Sutcliffe’s furniture.
Next came “before and after” slides of how Vale Bobbin Works was cleared in 1895 for the creation of St Michael’s Church. Coming down the valley you can still spot the remains of goits which channelled water to the various mills.
Reaching Lydgate, Robert showed another jumble of close-packed small mills, overshadowed by the huge Robinwood Mill. This building was planned by Thomas Ramsbotham in 1835, but taken over by the Fielden family a decade later and they continued trading there until the 1960s. Again, this mill suffered a huge fire - though reduced in size, the mill is still occupied for work.
Drawing to a conclusion, Robert showed the stages of demolition of Mons Mill. Built in 1907, it was known as Hare Mill until renamed after the World War 1 battle of Mons. It was used for spinning until 1985, then diversified into car parts. Current plans are to develop the site for a complex of housing for older people.
Robert thanked Malcolm and Freda Heywood for informative work on mills collated by them and pupils of a WEA class in the 1960s and 1970s. The third and final part of The Mills of Todmorden will be next October, when Robert will attempt to untangle the multitude of mills in the central town area.