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Monday, 9 January 2012

Hoghton Cotton Mills

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In the nineteenth century, three occupation were dominant in the village of Hoghton, namely, farming, quarrying, cotton weaving.

In 1851, it is recorded that 123 local people were employed at the three Cotton Mills,

of which, there were  38 men - 44 women - 11 boys - 30 girls.
In 1861 - 125  Employees.        In  1881 -  139  Employees.

The Higher and Lower mills were owned and run by the same family for some 50 years during the nineteenth century.  This was the Walmsley family living at Hoghton Hall.

During this period  Hoghton Valley had two mills and a factory, all powered by water from the River Darwen.

To derive this power, a horseshoe waterfall was built upstream, which diverted the water along a sluice , known locally as ‘the cut’, to the Higher Mill, as shown in the Higher Mill photograph,  where the large waterwheel provided power to drive the weaving looms.

The spent water entered a lodge/reservoir, which reached from the mill to Vale House Farm. This was drained many years ago, the land now forms the gardens to the row of cottages.

Water from this lodge passed next along a sluice, to the second mill, known as ‘Liveseys Factory’, first a weaving mill, then this factory produced shuttles, which were used in the weaving industry.  known locally as ‘The Shuttle Shop’. Again a water-wheel provided the power.
Work ceased during the late 1880’s and the buildings became derelict, around 1900. My Great Grandfather, William James Windle, who worked on the de-Hoghton Estate, helped to convert some of the buildings into three cottages, known as The Willows - some 15-20 years ago these three cottages were converted into one dwelling. On the top photograph ‘Hoghton Valley 1950’, the barn-like structure to the left of Vale House Farm is part of Livesey’s Factory !

Spent water from this factory entered yet another, and larger, lodge/reservoir, and after passing under the water-wheel of  Lower Mill re-entered the river. 

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It was found that during periods of dry weather during the summer months, there was at times, insufficient water in the lodge to power the large mill.

This meant that the looms were idle, people unable to work, so low wages meant poverty.

Eventually a steam engine was purchased and installed, the lodge drained, and to this day, the low-lying land alongside Valley Road bottom remains the site of the lodge.  This can be seen in the foreground of the Lower Mill photograph.

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In 1904, a severe fire damaged part of Lower Mill, the resulting closure, it is said, reduced many families to poverty, due to loss of wages.

The two factories produced plain white cloth, the production of which continued until the 1970’s.

For generations the mills provided employment, and the only source of income, for many Hoghton families.

The world situation dictated the end of cotton weaving in Lancashire, the two Hoghton mills suffered the same fate as many in the towns, when cotton production was no longer profitable.

The decision was eventually taken to close the mills, the weavers cottages, most in the valley were owned by the mill proprietors.

These were all sold off, the sitting tenants given the first choice to buy, some bought them, the remainder were sold later.

Lower Mill, Hoghton Bottoms was put up for sale in 1970.

H Miller-Crook


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