Coordinates: 53°49′N 2°12′W / 53.81°N -2.20°E / 53.81; -2.20
Queen Street Mill
Queen Street Mill - - 528581
Queen Street Mill
Lancashire UK location map
Shown within Lancashire
Weaving mill
Architectural style Single storey
Queen Street Manufacturing Company
Further ownership Burnley Borough Council ()
Current owners Lancashire Museums
Coordinates 53°49′N 2°12′W / 53.81°N -2.20°E / 53.81; -2.20
Built 1894
Completed 1895
Floor count 1
Date 1894
Construction Firm William Roberts of Nelson
Engine Type Tandem compound
Valve Gear Corliss valves operated by Dobson trip gear
rpm 68
Type of transmission Direct drive to line shafts
Boiler configuration
Boilers Twin Lancashire, coal fired
Pressure 140
Date 1894
Manufacturer Pemberton, Harling & Todd
No. of looms 990 (now 308)

Queen Street Mill is in Harle Syke, a suburb to the north-east of Burnley, Lancashire. It was built in 1894 for The Queen Street Manufacturing Company. It closed on 12 March 1982 and was mothballed. It was taken over by Burnley Borough Council who maintained it as a museum, and then in the 1990s passed to Lancashire Museums and is unique as the worlds only surviving steam driven weaving shed. It received an Engineering Heritage Award in November 2010. It is open for visitors and still does weaving demonstrations.

Location Edit

Queen Street Mill lies within Harle Syke, a suburb of Burnley, 4 km from the town centre, in the civil parish of Briercliffe with Extwistle. It lies 22 miles (35 km) north of Manchester and 26 miles (42 km) east of Preston. Harle Syke is on high ground to the south of the River Calder near the M65. The hamlet was built on a grid-iron layout and housed seven cotton mills, or weaving sheds.

History Edit

The Queen Street Mill Manufacturing Company was established in 1894 as a workers co-operative. It was capitalised with ₤20000 in £5 shares. The first board of Directors was listed as Brierley Edmondson (weaver), William Kippax (weaver), George Lane (builder), John Nuttall (glazer), Thomas Pickles (foreman), John Taylor (weaver), Whitaker Whitaker (weaver), and James Corrin (Headteacher, Haggate School) who became the first company secretary.[1] The company built the Queen Street Mill between 1894 and 1895. As money was scarce only one Lancashire boiler was installed, and it was six years before the second was bought. The weaving shed was single storey, and the mill frontage was three storey. All the looms were bought from Burnley companies, Pemberton and Harling & Todd, and have not been replaced. The mill was originally equipped with 900 single shuttle Lancashire looms capable of producing grey cloth. When this was not enough, the company installed a further 366 looms at Primrose Mill, Harle Syke which was the 'room and power mill' immediately adjacent but slightly downhill. To the workers it was known as the bottom shed.[2]

The completed cloth would be taken by horse and cart and train to finishers for bleaching and dyeing. Around 1910, the hauliers, ex-employees of the mill invested in two steam driven flat bed lorries. These wererequisitioned in 1915 for war work, and horses briefly returned.[2] In April 1913 quotes were sought from William Roberts to upgrade the engine which mainly included replacing the slide valve cylinders with more efficient Corliss valve cylinders. This work was carried out during the following Wakes Week (annual holiday shut down).

The financial structure of the company inhibited change, and the original equipment was not improved again or replaced but the company continued to weave when other firms had closed. Mains electricity was only introduced in 1947.[3]

Harle Syke Strike 1915.

Weavers are paid by piecework, a good four loom weaver would be paid 24s a week slightly less than the tackler but not much. Harle Syke workers had always been paid slightly below the list; management explained that this was due to the additional carriage costs down to Burnley. In August 1915 there was a strike that lasted for several weeks triggered by this injustice. As Queen Street Mill was a workers co-operative, many workers were also shareholders and took a dividend from the profits of the mill, so they refused to join the strike. Leaflets were printed by the 'Weavers' Union' accusing them of scabbing and being 'Knobsticks'. It was resolved in December 1915 when the War Bonus came into effect and weavers were persuaded to see this as the rise they had wanted. Cotton Control was introduced in 1918 which led to a four day week.[2]

The Fire 1918

There was a serious fire in October 1918, which did not affect the boilers or engine and the mill was operating again 10 days later, but the mill frontage was damaged and then rebuilt, though this time as a single storey building. While this was being done, looms were relocated at the bottom shed. Prudence,the engine was not damaged in the fire. After the fire the decision was taken to rename it Peace, in respect for the fallen soldiers.[2]

The Museum 1983

By early 1982 the mill was only operating 440 looms and was no longer financially viable. It finally closed on 12 March 1982, and the mill was mothballed. The mill was rescued by Burnley Borough Council in 1983. It was reopened in April 1986 as a working textile museum.

It passed to Lancashire County Council Museums Service who carried out major refurbishments assisted by English Heritage, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. It re-opened again in 1997.[4] The mill again produces cloth as a result of the demonstration, and the machinery is deemed a collection of national importance. It is opened to the public at least three afternoons a week between March and November.[3]

The mill Edit

Architecture Edit

The mill was of four storey construction, with a large single storey weaving shed. After the fire in 1918 it was remodelled into a single storey building, space being taken from the weaving sheds for a new preparation area. On closure in 1982 it was reconfigured by Burnley Council, the weaving shed was partitioned, about a third being used for rentable industrial units, and a similar area being used for visitor facilities. The 37 metres (120 ft) chimney and the 60m X 25m lodge lay to the south. The boiler house, the engine house and chimney are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.[5]

As originally built the weaving shed was about 170 metres (560 ft)by 160 metres (520 ft), with the typical north facing roof lights (windows) giving natural light, the shed housed 990 looms. On the Queen Street side was the boiler room and engine house, and the four storey warehouse. The ground floor was the weft department, the first floor was offices, the cloth warehouse and temporary storage beams, the second floor was the winding and beaming department for beaming and drawing in, and the third floor was the preparation department for tape sizing. After the fire the ground floor of the frontage was rebuilt and used for winding and preparation, 100 looms were removed and part of the Harrison Street end of the shed became the new warehouse. Rowland Kippax who worked there however reported "there were now 1040 looms, there were nine tacklers looking after 130 looms each".[2]

Weaving shed, Queen Street Mill - - 680867

Power Edit

Steam is raised by two Lancashire boilers built by Tinker, Shenton & Co, Hyde, Greater Manchester. The first was installed in 1894, and the second in 1901, when a 120 tube Greens Economiser was fitted.[6] Now feed water is supplied by a Weir pump fitted in 1956, Both boilers were stoked manually, though a secondhand Proctor automatic stokers were fitted in 1962. Boiler No.1 had the Shovel type and the coking type were fitted to No.2 Today the manually stoked 1901 boiler is the only one used.[4]Coal was obtained locally from Bank Hall Pit but now with pollution controls being stricter it has to be imported. At its peak it burnt 6 tonnes a day, but now uses only 10 tonnes a month. The steam raised to 100psi in the boiler house, drives the original tandem compound horizontal stationary steam engine. The high pressure cylinder (HP) is 16 inches (41 cm) and the low pressure (LP) 32 inches (81 cm). It uses Corliss valves. The engine drives a 14 feet (4.3 m) flywheel running at 68 rpm. The 500 horsepower (370 kW) engine was built and installed by William Roberts of Nelson in 1895.[7] It has never been moved from this location and runs perfectly true. Power is taken from the crankshaft by a series of directly driven line shafts.[3]

Equipment Edit

The glory of this mill is its completeness. When yarn enters a weaving mill, it is on different size cops and cheeses, and these had to be wound onto pirns to fit in the shuttles used by the looms installed. The equipment is here and used. For the weft, there are two remaining banks of pirn winders manned by one operative.[3]

The warp needs to be taken from 300 bobbins on V-shaped frame and wound onto a beam. Four or five beams are merged to make the 2000 end beam that is needed, and they are placed in the Cylinder Tape Sizing Machine. The threads pass through the size to stiffen them and reduce friction. The size is a mixture of flour, soft soap and tallow: specific to this mill. They are dried over steam-heated cylinders and wound onto the final beam, the weavers beam.

The weavers beam is now placed on the Drawing-in frame. Here each end is passed through the healds, and then through a reed. This job was done by a Reacher-in and a Loomer. The Reacher-in who would be young and usually a boy would pass each end in order to the Loomer. The mill still has two Drawing in frames. Alternatively, if the loom had already run that cloth, a short length of warp thread could be left on the healds and reed, and a Barber Colman knotter could tie in warp threads to the new beam. This process took 20 minutes, considerably faster than starting afresh. Spare healds and reeds are stored above head height for that purpose.[3]

The loomed weavers beam would be taken into the weaving shed. One weaver would tenter 6, or 8 Lancashire Looms, which would be kept working by a Tackler. Today there are 308 looms from 1894 built by Pemberton, or Harling & Todd of Burnley. These would require 65–80 weavers and 3 tacklers. At its peak there were 990 looms. All of these are driven by overhead line shafts.[3]

Museum ExhibitsEdit

In addition to the original machines, Lancashire museums also displays other textile machines that they own or are restoring and weaves some specialist commissions.

One of the commissions is a blue and white shirting that is sold exclusively to 'Old Town' of Holt, Norfolk, who produce Victorian workware. Another is weaving woollen Jewish prayer shawls. There is a large Hattersley Standard Loom, and a treadle operated Hattersley Domestic Loom. There is a Sulzer, and a Saurer telescopic rapier loom that operates at 180 picks per minute. There is a collection of shuttles and machines used to make and maintain them. In addition, there are machines for making reeds and healds.

Notable events/mediaEdit

The weaving shed was used in a scene in the 2011 film The King's Speech. The museum has also been featured as a "working" mill in the BBC series North & South and Life on Mars.

See also Edit


  1. "Queen Street Mill Textile Museum:People". Lancashire County Council (2011). Retrieved on 20 March 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Kippax, Rowland (Tuesday 1 August 1978). "Village had eleven flourishing mills", Briercliffe Society (Burnley, Lancashire), Burnley Express. Retrieved on 22 March 2011. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "The last remaining steam powered mill in the world", Lancashire County Council. Retrieved on 19 March 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dunkerley, Paul (2008). "Engineering Timelines-Queen Street Mill". Engineering Timelines reg. charity no. 1128041. Retrieved on 26 March 2011.
  5. "Queen Street Mill Textile Museum", Lancashire County Council. Retrieved on 19 March 2011. 
  6. Date uncertain, the current Economiser dates from 1934.
  7. Ashmore 1982, p. 190
  • Chapman, S.J. (1904). The Lancashire Cotton Industry, A Study in Economic Development.. Manchester. 
  • Haynes, Ian (1987). Cotton in Ashton. Libraries and Arts Committee, Tameside Metropolitan Borough. ISBN 0-904506-14-2. 

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