Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Helmshore Mill Museum

I'm hoping to squeeze in a couple more posts before 30 days wild starts next Monday, so here's the first of them.

When we visited the Halo and Rawtenstall recently, we'd intended to visit Helmshore Mills Textile Museum but ran out of time. So, after our walk through Sunnyhurst Wood, we headed over. First up was lunch in the cafe which I'd highly recommend. Lovely food and cheap too.

There are two mills on the site, Higher Mill, built in 1789, and Whitaker's Mill, built in the 1820s.

This is the older Higher Mill which houses the wool exhibition.

If you look at the brickwork on the left of the archway, you can see where a building was once attached, though I forget now what it was used for.

Inside we watched a couple of videos (disturbed by a very loud, inconsiderate group of pensioners!) and had a go at carding the wool. There were other hands-on activities to take part in too.

A flying shuttle hand loom.

An early power loom.

This is the wheel which powered the mill from 1848 right up to the early 1950s. At this point we listened to a talk about the cloth making process and how urine was used to remove the natural grease from the wool. Apparently villagers in the area were paid 1 penny for a pot full. Methodists were given more because, as non-alcohol drinkers, their urine was better! Have you ever seen a TV programme about the worst jobs? Well, the man who collected the pots had to check it to make sure it hadn't been watered down!

Moving on...

Have you heard the expression about being on tenterhooks? Well, these are tenterhooks. The woollen cloth was stretched on big frames to dry and teasels were used to brush it to raise the pile. Hundreds of people (mainly women and children) were employed to brush cloth with teasels! It could take days to complete each piece of cloth.

Of course, nothing stays the same and the process was mechanised. These rollers contain 4000 teasels and could do the same work in a few hours.

Outside is the mill pond.

I think this was my favourite bit. It was so beautiful and the still water made for wonderful reflections.

We then entered the cotton exhibition in the larger Whitaker's Mill.

Lots of creepy mannequins in this one!

Though I did like this one because of the quilt!

Anyone who fell in love with Richard Armitage (Mr Thornton) in the TV series of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (guilty!) will be interested to know that they filmed some of the mill scenes here.

As we finished the tour of the museum, it was unfortunately almost time for closing and therefore too late to get a drink in the cafe.

Instead we headed to Clough Head which we'd passed on the way over and noticed signs for the cafe.

There are a few footpaths to follow from here. Chickpeas and her boyfriend chose to walk through a small wood but I decided to head up the hill behind the Cafe, sure there would be great views from the top.

Boy, was it a lot steeper than I thought! But all good things come to those who make the effort.

The views were definitely worth the aching legs. The water is either Calf Hey or Ogden reservoir.

I thought the stone wall was unusual with its triangular pattern.

Here's one of the reasons for climbing the hill - I knew these windmills were just the other side as we'd passed them on the way over.

Wow, that view again.

I've really fallen in love with this part of Lancashire and am sure we'll be back again. Now though I'm off to watch Springwatch! Back soon. x


  1. Nice post Julie, how pretty is that mill pond! I like the countryside photos too which reminds me that I must upload my Pendle Hill walks photos that me and my daughter did on Saturday.

  2. A wonderful and interesting day out for you! I knew about the teasels, but it still amazes me that something which appears to be so fragile can do such hard work, it is incredible isn't it. Glad you had a great time! xx

  3. It sounds like a great day out - I loved the outside-y parts of the visit, but no matter how hard I try, I can never muster much enthusiasm for inside old buildings etc!

  4. What a good post, just love the old mill and the pond, and the views were definitely worth it...
    Amanda xx

  5. That looks an interesting place to visit and the views from your walk up to the top are fab. Makes the climb worthwhile! xx

  6. I've been to Cromford Mill in Derbyshire, but walked around outside. Your tour was very interesting. Great photos of the mill pond and views from the hill.

  7. I pass helmshore mill every time we visit my in-laws, but I've never visited!!! Maybe it's time we stopped and had a look. Your photos are lovely, it looked like a great day out. Sarah

  8. Love this post. The reservoir you saw was Calf Hey - Ogden Reservoir is in Newhey, near Oldham. And the windmills you can see beyond the reservoir are by Knowl HIll, we were underneath one of those eating a picnic on Saturday! I remember going to Helmshore Mill as a child, I wonder if my children would find it interesting? The mill pond is beautiful x

    1. Hi Rachel, There's an Ogden Reservoir near Haslingden too next to Calf Hey - must be a common name. Thanks for telling me where the windmills are - there are lots in that area -it seems to be windmill country! x