Britannia mill was built in 1887 and was a further venture of the owners of Bridgefield mill. As it was driven by steam engine, it was built on the canal in order to take full advantage of the available water, instead of having to construct a special lodge or reservoir.
Robert Clayton's weaving shed of 1887, was leased to John Whittaker & Co.
At the peak of production, the mill had 580 looms and wove sateen's, twills and poplins. In the old days, the employees worked a 55 ½ hour week, half time for children of 11 and full time at 13. Sateen's, twills and poplins were woven.
378 calico looms and 113 sheeting looms were worked by an 1887 Ashton, Frost & Co., horizontal tandem engine (rope drive) at the close of the nineteenth century.
On the 25th January, 1902, a fire broke out at Britannia mill.
In 1908 Whittaker's creditors, the Melrose Manufacturing Co. Ltd., took over the mill.
John Whittaker & Sons Ltd. incorporated 1914, succeeded by the Britannia Mill (Rishton) Ltd., in 1927. 564 looms were installed producing shirting's, sateen's, and fancy cloth, and employed about 200 employees.
On the 18th March 1933 a fire broke out at the mill causing over £10,000 worth of damage, as well as affecting the 200 plus people that were employed there at the time.
Up to its closure in 1967, the mill was owned by Rishton fabrics Ltd who wove unprocessed grey cloth.
In previous days, the cotton came from Liverpool and was bought at Manchester stock exchange. Prior to closure, yarn in thread form came from Oswaldtwistle, Bolton and Oldham, spun raylon from Bolton and Oldham, nylon from Macclesfield, filament from Bolton and Coventry, Nuneaton and Flintshire.
The grey cloth was sent to finishers were it was processed and made into shirting's, dress cloth, lining cloth, shoe cloth and nylon overall cloth. It was sent to Manchester, London, Leeds, Bradford, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and from Manchester it was exported to New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East and sometimes the Far East.
Transport was always by road, as many of the firms dealt with had their own transport facilities.
The building was adequate and the single storey gave good lighting. As it was built for 550 looms and only 210 were operating in 1967, there was also plenty of room.
65 people were employed at closure; most of the employees living in Rishton but young people are not interested in the cotton industry.
It should be noted here that Bridgefield and Britannia mills, both cotton mills, employed mostly Rishton people, although other firms had to bring in people from outlying districts.
Unfortunately profit margins were too narrow to cater for the ever-declining standards of raw materials and fluctuations of demand. Britannia mill was still in production because it had changed its basis of production. The management agreed to introduce synthetic fibres and so diversify production. They also decided to drop large single orders in preference for regular small ones, but there was no guarantee of better times.
The company later manufactured dress fabrics and a wide range of rayon and cotton piece goods. The mill closed in 1966 and was used between 1967-77 by Scapa Mouldings for expanded polystyrene production. Now Lancashire Batteries Ltd.
As of 1980 there remains a weaving shed, principally built of random stone, which survives intact. 20th century boiler house and brick buildings at northwest of shed, steel chimney. Former offices dated 1689, on corner of Bridge and Spring Street.
Of course, the mill has now closed down completely, and was last used by Lancashire batteries. The buildings still exists, but little use is now made of it.
Planning permission was applied for to build 50 new homes on the former mill site. (More to follow)
Industrial Rishton by Kathleen Broderick
A North east Lancashire Town by Marian Sleigh
A Chronology of Accrington and Men of Mark, by R. S. Crossley, Published 1924.
The pictures below show the workers in the Britannia mill celebrating the 1937 coronation of King George VI. The celebrations lasted for an entire month.