AN iconic mill, long abandoned and neglected, may one day soon take its rightful place in Huddersfield’s industrial heritage.
The first stirrings of action to tell people about the history of Farnley Mill, one of the Huddersfield’s earliest wool processing mills, have just taken place.
The Farnley Estate, owners of the site and mill ruins, hosted a history workshop which aimed to raise interest in the importance of the mill, which was also one of the first in this area to employ steam engines.
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Huddersfield was a small market town on the way to Manchester.
Its leading citizens quickly realised that a prosperous future was to be had by embracing inventions that enabled wool processing to be brought out of the croft and weavers’ cottages and given a factory setting.
Soon, because of the massive demand for Huddersfield cloth (sheep, moorlands, soft water, rushing streams – an impressive combination) William Roberts built the mill in 1792 to process wool for the cottage handloom weavers in Farnley Tyas.
Their children worked the machinery which was powered by a ‘modern’ steam engine because the water supply in hilltop Farnley was unreliable.
Domestic weaving was a very important way of life for people in the 1800s. For example, of the 157 families living in the village in 1821, 113 were domestic weavers while only 36 were employed in agriculture.
Up to 23 boys and girls worked in the factory with the permission of their parents who paid for the machine processed wool then wove it into cloth which was sold to America.
Their parents would not allow them to work overtime.
Sadly the mill closed its doors forever in 1886 and has dilapidated over the decades as nature has taken its course.
Farnley Estates is collaborating with the East Peak Industrial Heritage Programme in order to raise awareness of the importance of this mill, to restore and preserve what remains today so that future generations will benefit.
Last month a group of about 20 local history volunteers visited the site and were given a talk by eminent Huddersfield industrial historian Alan Brooke.
Also in attendance were representatives of the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society, Kirklees Countryside Unit and the West Yorkshire Geological Trust.
Organiser John Sykes said: “Clr Robert Barraclough from Kirkburton Parish Council has been instrumental in obtaining funding for an interpretation board that will explain the origins of the mill to walkers and school parties who wish to visit the site.
“Dr Bill Bevan then gave an interesting talk at the Farnley Cock as to the best way of putting the history of the site onto the comprehensive interpretation board.
“It’s hoped in due course to clear the site of much of the surrounding woodland and perhaps even to open up and restore the old mill ponds which drove the water wheel.”