My ways and by-ways – Colne Valley mills in pictures – Bankbottom

A jewel in the crown of Colne Valley mill buildings, the mighty Bankbottom Mills of Marsden, underneath four reservoirs of the Wessenden valley and once one of the most thriving mills in the village. A huge landmark, and reminder of our textile heritage. At one time, 1900 people were passing through the gates after being summoned to work by the six a.m. buzzer which sounded throughout the village.

Originally on the site of Top Bank Mills, Bankbottom was built at the turn of the nineteenth century, and soon boasted 680 looms and 43 carding machines on a 14 acre site.

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The mighty Bankbottom mills taken last year

Originally, Bankbottom was a fulling mill, which pounded woolen cloth in vats to scour and thicken it.

In 1869, John Crowther and sons was established, the sons being Joseph, William and Elon. The Crowther family owned other mills in the Colne Valley and have left their mark in the village up to the present day.

On the site of the former George inn, 1905 saw the opening up of the dining room . This was considered something of a very successful prototype, a canteen ahead of its time famous for leading the way in decent grub at reasonable prices. A role model for works canteens today.

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The dining room is now locked behind gates

Hidden behind rhododendron bushes, the old clock and date stone can still be seen.

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The office

John Edward Crowther was in charge by the early twentieth century, and business was thriving. It was so good, in fact, that King George V and Queen Mary came visiting in 1918 to praise Bankbottom’s success in the war effort, with production of army, navy and air force uniforms.

Although I have never worked in a mill, or even entered Bankbottom, my family have a history of working at ‘John Ed’s’: Dad, Grandad, Grandma for a time, aunts, uncles and numerous acquaintances. My Uncle Graham left school at 14 and was given a choice of Flints farm or Bankbottom. He chose the mill, a decision he regretted ever after. But there he stayed for his entire working life.

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What remains of the scouring sheds
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These mossy steps once led to another part of the mill. Now given over to ferns and vegetation

 

After the steady decline in worsted and textile production, many mills in the area ceased to exist. Many were demolished. Bankbottom closed its doors for the final time in 2003, laying off most employees. Today, the office is still open as ‘John Ed’s’ still has property in the village, and rents still need to be paid. Sadly no-one is allowed inside the sandstone carcass of the immense mill buildings which once heaved with the buzz of heavy industry and the colourful characters of those who worked there. Now, the weeds and rust are the masters, but if you listen really carefully, you can still hear the sounds of the past, and the machinery whirring away, imprinted upon and within the stone.

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Every mill needs a mill pond

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You shall not pass!

 

 

 

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