THE Huddersfield skyline is changing dramatically as the old mill chimneys are demolished one by one.
The once-familiar forest of tall dark stacks which graced every photograph of the town is no more.
But instead of lamenting the demise of the mill chimneys, textile bosses have welcomed Huddersfield’s new horizons and cleaner environment.
Taylor and Lodge’s 80-foot chimney at Lockwood, built with Rashcliffe Mills in 1883, is scheduled for demolition next month.
But managing director Brian Haigh is not mourning the passing of the well-known monument.
He said: “I am not a lover of old mills. We are obsessed with keeping old buildings, but there is not room for them all.
“The chimney demolition is a sign of the times. Things move on and we should modernise the town.
“We don’t burn coal or churn out the smoke we used to. In the old days, all the mills were burning coal furiously. The bottom of Lockwood was smog-bound and the buildings were all black.
“We have spent a lot of money restoring the sandstone to its original condition.”
He added: “The chimneys are symbolic of the dinosaur era, but we have to move on. We have a modern, clean textile industry now.”
Members of Huddersfield Textile Society agree.
Their secretary Adrian Smith said: “The disappearance of the mill chimneys from Huddersfield reflects the changing nature of our industry.
“Modern mills use cleaner sources of fuel, rather than the coal-fired boilers of yesteryear. And as such, the chimneys have become redundant.
“We now have a cleaner environment which we all enjoy.
“We have a proud history of industry and it will continue to adapt to all the challenges it faces. Textiles in Huddersfield is very much alive and kicking.”
During his research local historian Alan Brooke counted some 368 mills, most of which had chimneys, in the Huddersfield district south of the River Calder and including the Holme, Colne, Fenay and Upper Dearne valleys.
Today less than 10% remain, with more being demolished every year.
Huddersfield town centre, once a haze of coal-fired smog littered with chimneys belching out black smoke, now has only two chimneys left. One is at Bates and Co at Fairfield Mills, Milford St, (on the left of our photograph) and the second, at Firth Street (on the right), has been restored and preserved, along with other old mill buildings, by Huddersfield University.
Huddersfield’s wealth was founded on its textile industry. In the 19th century, dozens of mill chimneys began sprouting up in the town and surrounding valleys. They were a sign of the town’s prosperity.
In the early 20th century, 22,000 people were employed in the town’s textile mills and there were reputed to be more Rolls Royces in Huddersfield than anywhere else in England.