The textile mills of West Yorkshire were the original Northern Powerhouses at the centre of the Industrial Revolution. These impressive structures still shape the rural and urban landscapes of the region but they are taking on new roles as desirable homes, offices, funky bars and chic restaurants and even an NHS Centre for Outpatients (at Acre Mills, Huddersfield).
Many of these amazing places have been successfully and creatively adapted but more remain underused and awaiting a new purpose. We have chosen some of our favourite conversions to show just what new dreams can be stitched from the historic fabric of the mill.
We’d love to hear about your favourites, whether you live or work in a mill or just admire them from afar.
1. Sunny Bank Mills, Leeds
The famous red suit that Lenny Henry wore for Comic Relief in 2005 came from Sunny Bank Mills in Leeds, which was still producing high-quality wool cloth until 2008. In 2010 the 6th generation of mill owners, the Gaunt family, set about adapting the mill to re-establish its role as a major employer in the area. Today the mills are home to sixty companies ranging from creative businesses, architects, a gallery and café and a children’s play gym as well as their own archive museum open to the public.
2. Lister Mills, Bradford
Once the largest silk factory in the world, Grade II* listed Lister Mills stands proud on the skyline. The striking and unique campanile chimney stack that rises 76 metres high is a reminder of the city’s textile heritage. It now hosts silver-coloured pods on the roof of the Silk Mill as part of its conversion to mixed use residential, office and leisure use. The mill played a vital role in the Second World War, producing 2,140 km of real parachute silk, 457 km of flame-proof wool, 80 km of khaki battledress and 7,130 km of parachute cord.
3. Pecket Well Mill, near Hebden Bridge
During alteration works in 2005 on the 19th century Grade II listed Pecket Well Mill, developers found a Victorian stash containing a bottle of Halifax Pale Ale and two racy novels. The mill owner offered to create an equivalent time capsule with a Heat magazine and Bacardi Breezer! The three-storey mill building with rusticated quoins, ashlar chimney and the weaving shed was successfully converted into high-quality 2,3 and 4 bed houses and apartments.
4. Dalton Mills, Keighley
Dalton Mills boasts unusually ornate ironwork that is more than simply functional in design. The mill complex has had a starring role as the location for multiple series of Peaky Blinders, the BBC’s epic gangster tale set in 1919 that has been captivating the nation. In real life, owner Paul Harris has been hard at work bringing the mill complex into the 21st century with part of the site now a thriving business park and plans to regenerate the rest of the site.
5. Salts Mill, Saltaire
Salts Mill was built by Titus Salt who also created the surrounding village of Saltaire to house the mill workers. It ceased production of cloth in 1986 and was among the earliest major industrial reuse projects in the country providing space for culture and businesses. Saltaire is now a World Heritage Site and home to one of the largest collections of David Hockney’s art.
6. Woodhouse Mill, Todmorden
The fortunes of Grade II* Woodhouse Mill, Todmorden were turned around when demolition man, Charles Moran, hung up his hard hat and sold his demolition business. Instead of knocking things down, he decided to restore the mill. Moran, a local resident, had become fed up of looking at the derelict landmark that had suffered a devasting fire in the 1990s and he took its future into his own hands. Today the mill hosts twenty stunning apartments.
7. Red Brick Mill, Batley
Originally a producer of ‘shoddy’ (recycled scraps of rag to produce cloth), Red Brick Mill is now at the opposite end of the spectrum of style and design as it is home to high-end interiors stores like Heals, Made.Com and BoConcept. This conversion creatively incorporates escalators to transport shoppers from one floor of luxury goods to another.
8. Titanic Mill, Huddersfield
Titanic Mill was originally called Lowestwood Mill, but become nicknamed Titanic because it was built the same year as the fateful ship. For the opening of the mill, members of a local brass band were hoisted in a large bucket to play on a platform specially built on the top of the 100feet high mill chimney. The noise and grease of the working woollen mill has been replaced by luxury apartments and the UK’s first Eco-Spa.
Written by Deborah Wall, Historic England, Yorkshire.
Reblogged this on Historical Tours Ireland.
Pity Dalton Mills in Keighley had such a big fire 🔥! They suspect arson I believe
Fascinating! I lived in the north many years ago and it’s so good to see those wonderful buildings being used so successfully – not destroyed. It’s so important to remind us of our industrial heritage.
What about the mills at Dean Clough, Halifax? There are several converted mills which house a restaurant, theatre, art gallery and various offices of local businesses.
#Batley Recently Taylor’s mill in Batley received a blue plaque from Batley History Group, another conversion bringing back life into the old buildings. Ellis’ mill at Batley Carr is converted into living accommodation and the Redbrick Mill mentioned, Newsome’s old mill. Stubley’s mill at Batley too is back in use. All this is very positive but there is still so much to do in this deprived area of Yorkshire. Hard to believe that with all the money put into these great developments, Batley has a food bank, people are still poor and the library is under threat of closure due to the lack of funds given to the council in Kirklees. Parts of the town centre are in dire need of restoration but the council always runs out of money. Business seems good for the traders and the big names you mention seem to thrive, let’s hope things improve for the people in the future and there will be money from somewhere to save the libraries. Museums struggle to survive and it would be lovely to have more of those before history is lost forever, our archives need funding too. The mills you feature are a snapshot of how many there are, so much history, so much work and many resources, the coal to keep the production going and the country going and now we can’t even afford park keepers or libraries and our hospital was closed at Carlinghow the remaining one at Staincliffe is threatened next with closure. I hope this makes the government think of the poor people more and fund our area better in the future.
Very interesting blog. We have some fine mills in the Stroud area of Gloucestershire as well as some fine industrial warehouses in the Gloucester docks..and one almost untouched in the Sharpness Docks at the end of the Gloucester canal. Worth a look if you are in the area.