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Barrow Bridge

In the 1820's at Barrow Bridge, an industrial village was started by Thomas Bazley and Robert Gardner. By 1835 there was a cotton spinning and doubling mill. in 1836 there was a co operative shop managed by a committee of workmen from the mills. Wages were paid on Friday evenings and Saturday half-day closing was applied in the mills to permit shopping by the mill workers wives. It turned into a self contained economic, social and educational community, and was visited by Benjamin Disraeli in 1840, who incorporated into his novel "Coningsby", under the name "Millbank". On October 11th 1851 the Prince Consort visited the village. The mill closed in 1877, the mill demolished, but many of the cottages remain in this beauty spot, along with the mills' chimney.

[cottages and stream]

116k JPEG March 1996

This shot is taken in a direction which would have been facing the mill. The cottages remain, but the mill is long demolished.

I am grateful to John Stephenson, a former resident for the following:

The mill closed in the 1847, but it was not demolished immediately. It survived in an increasing state of disrepair until at least 1905. The building between the two mills is the engine house which would have held the engine to drive both mills. The keystone of the entrance arch of this building can now be found in the centre of the bus terminus. The chimney shown in the web site as being part of the mill is too far away from the engines it would have served.

It actually served a bleach works situated off Smithills Croft Road. From the chimney, go down Smithills Croft Road, down the hill until the sharp right hand bend at the bottom and turn right following the road. The bleach works occupied the site to the right of the road now occupied by new housing for about 250 yards.(Advertised in the image and just visible bottom right.) The bleach works was used in its final days by the Brytallium Foundry, a thriving aluminium casting business until the late 1970's when it closed. The scaffolding around the top of the chimney is the work of Fred Dibnah who was commissioned to patch up the top of the chimney. There is now a small mortar plaque on the side of the chimney to record the work.

I can remember, as a child, large stoneware ceramic holes about 9 inches to a foot in diameter in pairs around the site situated just under the eaves of the buildings. The fabric that was being bleached travelled continuously through these holes from one part of the site to another.

Do not mix 63 steps with the steps which leads to the millworkers houses. The workers lived in First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets which are accessed by the steps on the left leading west about 50 yards short of the bus terminus. Here there are 35 not 63 steps. The 63 steps access the remains of a few ruined buildings at the top but also access two public footpaths.

As an aside, the river you mention as being fast flowing, was not always so. It used to be the same as that above the waterfall, i.e. stone/pebble base, until the mid 1960's when a torrential downpour brought down a tree trunk and jammed it under the bridge. The following debris got caught behind it and the river flooded the area. The houses on the left of the stream ended up under about a foot of water. One of the occupants of the houses was a Councillor, Mrs. Marian Howarth, who created such a stink over it in council circles that it was concreted in a few years later, leaving us with the US style storm drain we have now.

[cottages and bridge]

202k JPEG May 1996

This is further up from the site of the mill.


182k JPEG May 1996

From centre to bottom right, the stream is quite fast running here, and on the left is the start of the mill owners' cottages.


183k JPEG May 1996

This chimney remains, once a part of the mill at Barrow Bridge.

[stone steps]

215k JPEG May 1996

These are the famous 63 steps. The millworkers would descend these every day to the mill, and go back up after their days work. At the top outside the village was a public house, as one was nt allowed to be built in the village itself.

[autumn leaves against a house]

37k GIF 129k JPEG Russian Vine on a house in Barrow Bridge October 1996

One of the houses in the picturesque area in the fall / autumn.

I am grateful to Jane Howarth, grand-daughter of Marian mentioned above for this:

There were 3 mills in Barrow Bridge, one being 6 storeys high, and numerous cottage for the mill workers. It had its own school (now converted into flats), shops, and even a boating lake which is now filled in due to potential flooding reasons. It was described as a "model village" and Prince Consort visited there in the 19th century. My grandmother, Marian Howarth (check spelling on site), lived in the village for over 50 years. She lived in what was the cotton mill Manager's house, although when she bought the property it was a farm. My parents converted one of the barns on the farm into a house in the 1960s, which you now refer to as house covered in russian vine. We stand corrected on this, I have been told that it is covered in virginia creeper! Anyway, the stream which powered the mills, Deanbrook, would routinely burst its banks and flood many local properties, my grandmothers being one of the worst hit as her house was slightly below ground level. After losing many personal possessions, she campaigned for a safer stream not only for herself but also for fellow villagers. The current US style drainage system was built in 1976 and since then "touch wood" there has been no more flooding. I would be really grateful if you could change the wording on the site to suggest that the stream was built out of necessity. I am aware that my grandmother had a "strong personsality" but there were good intensions behind what she did.

It would also be a nice addition on the site to mention that Barrow Bridge has been entered for the Beautiful Britian in Bloom competiton on several occasions. The plaques are mounted on the house which is to the right of my parents and are shown on the photo.

I had an email in 2006 from David Carter, who says: The vine covered cottage in Barrow Bridge looks like Ivy Cottage, the first house on the LHS looking upstream. It was originally two cottages. My grandparents James & Lucy Carter lived there in the early years of 20th Century. My father & uncle attended Colliers Row School.

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