Bank Bottom Mill

 

From my studio window I look out onto Marsden Mill, formerly Bank Bottom Mill, an old woollen weaving mill which dates from 1824. It's an incredible site with the slope of the terraced workers cottages in front and the imposing chimney rising up behind.

By the end of the nineteenth century the mill was one of the largest cloth producing mills owned by a single individual in the world. The floor space of the mill was 57,592 square yards and contained forty three sets of carding machines and six hundred and eighty looms in production in the early part of the twentieth century.

The mills employed a number of children, some below ten years of age. Boys and girls under ten were paid three shillings a week, about half what an adult might receive and were employed in piecing for slubbers and mules and feeding scribbling and carding machines. A regular working week for all workers was sixty nine and a half hours with days off on Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday and about six other half days during the year.

My home would have belonged to one of the overseers at the mill and all the houses around me would have been filled with entire families working at the mill. It's a strange feeling as I sit in the comfort of my warm studio, working on my woven designs looking out onto a reminder of the impact and importance of the woven wool industry to the area but also of what a hard life it must have been for the workers.

The mill closed in 2003 with the loss of 275 jobs. The Yorkshire textile industry has shaped the landscape and the people of this area and the companies that remain have struggled through the difficult times to keep the skill and craftsmanship here alive.