A Working Steam Driven Cotton Mill – History Alive

by David Murray on 9 July 2013

in East Lancashire, Industries, Lancashire, Museums, Textiles

Personal Note:
Regular visitors will have noticed the lack of new articles recently. Shortly after this one was published I suffered the first of a series of mini-strokes. Although there is no permanent brain damage it became very apparent that I was seriously overworking. I’m planning to keep “Around-England” and other sites going but there will be a delay before more appears here while I do some reorganising of the workload.
– David Murray –
Returning August 2014

Burnley, in East Lancashire, was once famous not only for its football team (“Up the Clarets!”) but also, maybe primarily, for its cotton mills. Burnley and its immediate neighbours were chiefly weaving towns in contrast with spinning town elsewhere in Lancashire.

As a child I recall looking down onto the town from the surrounding hills and seeing nothing but “cotton wool” with dozens of black “pins” sticking upwards out of it. Such was the polluted air; the pins were the mill chimneys. Looking down from the moorland around Crown Point, Healey Heights or The Ridge on the other side of the town it was relatively rare to see much apart from this white cloud except in the second week of Burnley Fair in July when the mills had been shut for more than a week.

Now all has changed, and much of it for the better although in nostalgic moments I feel that I’d like to go again down to Plumbe Street and throw another bit of coke down at the boiler man to catch his attention then run away. (Yes, as kids we used to do that kind of thing! Now we’d probably get an Asbo.) But there are no boiler men on Plumbe Street today. No boiler, and no working mills; no cotton! It’s all changed.

On Queen Street (at the Harle Syke end of the town) though, there’s a working mill with its steam engine still functioning. It’s said to be the only one of its kind left in the world. Today I came across this video today. I hope you enjoy it.

By the way, there’s a museum at the mill. If you’re in the area make your way up to Harle Syke. Don’t miss this important slice of Lancashire history. The link above gives more details of opening hours but in the Summer months it’s open in the afternoons, Tuesday to Saturday.

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