Home | Contacts | About | Local History | Links | Gallery | News



Ickornshaw Mill
Craven Herald & Pioneer - 3rd December 1937.

Dear Sir,

It was with a feeling of regret (that I read last week in the columns of your paper that the old water-wheel at Ickornshaw Mill was dismantled.

As my forefathers and myself had an-exceedingly long and interesting connection with Ickornshaw Mill, I thought it might be of interest, especially to Cowling people, to give more of the history and the people and purposes that the old wheel has served since 1791. For it was in that year the mill was built, and the wheel installed for the manufacture of candle wicks.

The owners at that time were of the name of Binns, and one of this family, Abraham Binns, was the founder of Ickornshaw Sunday School, entirely at his own expense. There is a tablet in the School inscribed to that effect.

The wheel 'itself wan erected under the supervision of my great-grandfather, at the age of 18 who then resided at Bashal Hall, Clitheroe, and whose father and brothers carried on an engineering business there, erecting water-wheels in various parts of the country. As the people in Cowling at that time were not seen on taking in lodgers, ho had to stay at a public-house in Ickornshaw, and ho fell in love with, and married, the barmaid. For this breach of family discipline, ho was disinherited and never returned to Clitheroe.  When the erection of the wheel was complete, he stayed in the village and acted as "tenter" of the wheel, blacksmith and general mill-mechanic, and remained there for the rest of his long life.

In 1811, the mill was taken over by Peter and William Watson for spinning and weaving purposes. (At that time, they also owned a spinning mill at Scar Top, which received its' motive power from a water-wheel similar to the one at Ickornshaw). With the advent of the power-loom, a steam engine and boiler wore installed, and the boiler was one of those which were "let off" by bands of hand loom weavers from Lancashire, who visited Cowling and Lothersdale for the purpose of arresting  the growth of the, power-loom'. The agitation against this now textile mechanism which, it was feared, would deprive them of their liveli­hood, was then widespread, and these visits from over the county border were at that time frequent.



Fell Into Wheel.
In later years, the mill was divided and used solely for weaving, the firms then being Messrs. Wm. Watson & Sons Ltd. and, Messrs. John & David Pickles, the latter eventually removing to Keighley. It was during this period that the only accident of any consequence which happened in connection  with the water-wheel occurred The victim was Mr. James Watson a member of the firm of Wm. Watson & Sons Ltd., and this is the account that has been passed on to me. He was sitting with others on the top of what proved to be a very insecure covering of the water-wheel in the second storey of the old building and, when he was rising from his seat, the covering boards gave way and he fell through right on top of the wheel, which had just been started after the dinner hour. However, he was seen by my grandfather, who promptly shut off the water and brought the wheel to a standstill. If he had fallen a second or two later, my grand-father would have been out of sight, and would not have seen the accident. Mr. Watson was found jammed between two doors which, at that time, opened from the mill yard into the wheelhouse, and he was released with much difficulty. During his release, he asked for his pipe.

How he escaped death, is difficult for anyone knowing the position in which ho was found, to imagine.   At the time, his injuries appeared to be nothing more than a fractured leg and severe shock, but I think it is true to say that he never fully recovered. In 1880, part of the mill was totally destroyed   by fire but the weaving shed was untouched, and an old lady was heard to remark when she saw the huge volume of water being poured on the lire by the Keighley Fire Brigade, "the poor horses might well sweat, trailing all that watter fra Keighley."    The old wheel, although it was in the same building, by some miracle emerged from this disastrous fire undamaged, despite the fact that it was completely covered by broken, machinery.

After this fire, the mill was re-built, but with only two storeys, as at present, instead of the previous four storeys, and weaving was carried on solely by Messrs. Wm. Watson & Co. Ltd. and later still by Watson's Ltd., who went out of business in 1902. At that time, I myself was in charge of the engine and water-wheel. The mill then stood idle for two years, when Joseph Shuttleworth, who 20 years before had loft there as a loom overlooker and gone to "tackle" looms in Colne, returned and bought it. My father resumed his old duties there for four or five years, when he finally retired. Up to the time of his death, Mr. Shuttleworth ran this mill quite successfully.


Three Generations.

From 1791 to 1906, with a only five years, the family of were "engine tenters" at Ickornshaw Mill which; I think, must be a record. The years that my father, grandfather and great-grandfather put into this work totalled 110, ray father's contribution being over 40 years. My grandfather when in charge of the old wheel, engine. and boiler, used to act as wheel tenter, gas maker, blacksmith and general mill mechanic, for which his remuneration was 15s. per week. However, he augmented this income by clock dressing, soldering kettles and pans, glazing, and the curing of birds and animals. He also found time, for & period to play the harmonium on Sundays at the old chapel at Ickornshaw.

One amusing incident which happened over 50 years ago is, I think, worthy of mention. At that time, the mill whistle had to be blown ah 5-30 each morning, and my father, probably thinking that this was an unearthly hour to get up and perform the duty, invented a contraption. from old clocks, picking bands, a weaver's beam, pieces of wire and a few loom weights, which, in his opinion, would perform the duty for him whilst he slumbered a little longer. He tried this out on several  occasions (always, of course, being on the spot in case it failed) and at last. decided that it was useless to have this invention and also be there himself. So the following morning he thought he would walk quietly to the mill and listen to his invention operating on its own it started off all right at the correct time (how pleased he felt about it), but this pleasure did not last very long, for he soon realised that it was not going to stop. His leisurely step was turned into a run in order that he might stop the whistle as quickly as possible It is recorded, however, that the incident did bring the hands to work earlier that morning, as they were anxious to know what all the noise was about. But it is only fair to say that the contraption worked quite well long after this, and was only terminated when Messrs. John Binns & Son took over the responsibility of rousing the neighbourhood with their own whistle, which made a much louder sound.

Could Run 180 Looms

And now to revert to the old wheel. I should like to say here that it was capable, when water was plentiful, of developing 50/60, h.p. equivalent to the running of 150 to 180 looms. I have witnessed this performance on many occasions for hours at a time with the engine completely stopped. It may be added that no repairs whatever were done to the wheel, except by those who were in charge, until Mr. Shuttleworth had it overhauled in the year 1910, which testifies to the material and workman-ship which had been put into it 119 years before.

With the engine and boiler having long since gone, and now the old wheel the connection which I and my forefathers had with Ickornshaw Mill for so many years is now at an end.

Yours faithfully,
Brunswick Road Morecambe.

(Mr. Dawson is a director of the Creban Manufacturing Company, Ltd. West Gate Mills, Morecambe.)


Credits - David Hoyle for providing this news cutting


 Home | Contacts | About | Local History | Links | Gallery | News