Imperial Mill, Blackburn

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Massive spinning factory of 1900-01, the only purpose built ring mill erected in Blackburn. Imperial Mill (Blackburn) Ltd., promoted by John Whittaker of Rishton, Charles Dixon, Henry Higson, Frederick Hodgkinson and others. Capital of £120,000. The architect was Sydney Stott. 70,000 ring spindles and all preparation by Howard & Bullough, three 30 k. w. generators by Clarke, Chapman & Co., Gateshead, Yates & Thom 1700 i. h. p. triple expansion engine, 25" + 381/2" + 42" + 42" x 5'6" stroke, corliss valves and rope drive, boilers and gearing by same maker. Extended to over 90,000 spindles 1906-07. Lancashire Cotton Corporation took over 1929, later becoming part of the Courtauld Group. Products included medium counts American and Egyptian yarns. Modernized 1967, spindles reduced to 33,000. Spinning ceased 1980, 307 employees made redundant.

Opening Of Imperial Mill Blackburn, 12th May, 1900, Blackburn Weekly Telegraph

THE NEW SPINNING MILL. CUTTING THE FIRST SOD. The project for reviving the spinning industry at Blackburn was carried a step further on Monday, when the ceremony of cutting the first sod in connection with the erection of the Imperial Mill at Greenbank was performed by Mr. John Whittaker, of Rishton,in the presence of a small but very interested gathering. Amongst those present were Messrs. Henry Higson, J. Whittaker, J. E. Ashworth (of Rochdale), C. Dixon, F. Hodgkinson, and W. Wilson (of Rishton), directors; Mr. Joseph Watson, secretary; and Messrs Gregson, A. S. Porter, A. Birtwistle, R. Birtwistle, E. Butt, J. Partington (builder, of Midlleton), S. Stott (architect, Oldham), J. S. Pollitt, J. Newton (Howard and Bullough's, Accrington) and E. Norris.

Mr. Higson, who presided, said they had met to perform a function that was unique in the recent history of Blackburn. He did not remember an occasion similar to the present one having taken place in Blackburn. They had had departures in the cotton industry, but they had mainly been private ventures. Up to now there was not a single instance on record where the public had been enthusiastic and had made an undertaking a success. He supposed they would have to say that there had sprung up a new generation which had forgotten all the difficulties and misfortunes of the past, and which intended in the days to come to create a new industry. He hoped the departure would redound not only to the credit of those who had been instrumental in commencing it, but also to the town itself. All would agree that the time had come when most of the outlying districts ought to be supplied with works and mills for the purpose of providing proper and legitimate labour of a renumerative nature. (Cheers.)

Mr. Stott presented to Mr. Whittaker a handsome silver and ebony spade, bearing the following inscription: "Presented to John Whittaker, Esq., on the occasion of cutting the first sod of the Imperial Mill, Blackburn. May 7th, 1900. Sydney Stott, architect, Oldham; John Partington, builder, Middleton Junction." Mr. Stott observed that the directors had entrusted him with the preparation of the plans of the structure and the motive power. It might interest the people to know what a great responsibility they had thrown upon him by asking him to carry out the work. They had entrusted him with the expenditure of between £60,000 and £70,000, and he took that public opportunity of thanking the directors for the confidence they had reposed in him. He trusted that the spade would be to Mr. Whittaker an emblem of the time when the revival of the cotton industry in Blackburn was initiated. (Cheers.) Mr. Whittaker said the spade they had kindly presented to him was the most beautiful he had ever seen, and he hoped his children would never be so hard up that they would have to part with it, even for a short time, by taking it to one of their uncles. (Laughter)

This was the first time in the history of Blackburn during the past thirty-five that such a ceremony had been witnessed, but he hoped a similar period of time would not be allowed to elapse before it was repeated in connection with another new mill in Blackburn. (Hear, hear.) He believed they were on the eve of a change in Blackburn as regarded the sentiments of the people towards matters of that kind. For some reason or other, which they would not discuss that afternoon, spinning for the last twenty years had been a decaying industry in Blackburn. A few of them could not see any real ground why it should be so, and therefore they had made up their minds to try and "stop the rot". There were those who said they were making a mistake. Well, they were prepared to stand by it and to put their money in it. If they lost the money it was their own loss. They were prepared to back their principles, and notwithstanding all sorts of adverse criticisms, they honestly and firmly believed they were doing the right and proper thing. They had every confidence in Mr. Stott's ability to give them one of the finest mills in Lancashire, if not in England. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Stott had had very great experience in that class of work, and they had no hesitation whatever in selecting him to carry out the work. As to the builders, he believed the firm of which Mr. Partington was a member had built more mills than any other firm in Lancashire. He believed he was right in saying that the family had erected close upon a hundred mills, and that was the reason the contract for building the Imperial Mill had been given to an outsider. Some of the best machinery the world could produce would be put into the mill, and it would enable them to compete most successfully with their rivals in Oldham, Rochdale, and other places. They believed that the great saving which would be effected by being right on the spot and in the centre of distribution would enable them be successful.

In fact if they could not make it successful it would be a bad look-out for outsiders. (Hear, hear.) They would have a mill of which all of them would be proud. The rooms would be supplied with the electric light; they would be well-ventilated, and everything would be done by the directors to make it in every respect a model ill, and one conducive to the health of the workpeople. They sincerely trusted in that respect that their example would be followed by others. They were not only witnessing that day the cutting of the sod in connection with the Imperial Mill, but also, he believed, the beginning of a new era in the prosperity of Blackburn as a spinning centre; and in regard to taking advantage of the Limited Liability Acts for that purpose it was so expensive nowadays to build big spinning mills that he did not think they would find any individual in the future who would do so on his own initiative, Blackburn had been behind.

Other towns such as Oldham, Bolton, Stalybridge, and Stockport had big limited liability companies which had erected large spinning mills. The Imperial Mill would be the first in Blackburn, but he hoped it would not be the last. (Cheers.) Jocularly remarking that he would proceed to perform a little navvying, Mr. Whittaker took off his coat, and in a business-like way cut the first sod, completing the work by wheeling it some distance away in a barrow amid cheers. On the motion of Mr. Newton, seconded by Councillor Wilson, a vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. Whittaker, who in his reply, said it was his intention to take the sod and place it in his garden at home. Mr. Higson having been thanked on the motion of Mr. Whittaker, seconded by Mr. Joseph Watson, success was drunk to the undertaking, and the company dispersed. In the evening a dinner was held at the White Bull Hotel, Mr. J. Whittaker occupying the chair. Several toasts were honoured, including "The Queen" proposed by the chairman; "The Imperial Mill Company", submitted by Mr. J. S. Pollitt and responded to by the chairman; "The machinists" by Mr. F. Hodgkinson, responded to by Mr. J. Newton; "The visitors", by Mr. Henry Higson, responded to by Mr. Clegg (Littleborough); and "The chairman, directors, and secretary", by Mr. J. S. Pollitt, to which Mr. Joseph Watson replied

23rd November, 1901, Blackburn Times

STARTING OF THE IMPERIAL MILL.- The new Imperial Mill, erected at Greenbank, Blackburn by a company of which Mr. John Whittaker, of Rishton,is chairman of directors, commenced running on Tuesday morning. The mill was floated at £120,000. It contains 67,000 ring spindles, and will employ nearly 300 workpeople. The formal opening and christening of the engines will take place on Saturday, December 14th. Mr. E. C. Broughton, of Edenfield, Manchester, has been appointed secretary to the company.

New Looms Compared to Blackburn, 18th November, 1911, Blackburn Weekly Telegraph

New Weaving Enterprise. The cutting of the first sod on the site of the new mill to accommodate 650 looms, which is being built on a piece of land known as Hastonlee Farm by the Blackburn Mill Building Company Ltd., recently formed, took place on Saturday. Mr. Thomas Gregson, of Great Harwood, the chairman of the directors, who performed the ceremony, said the Company was embarking upon a system of mill building which was altogether new to Blackburn but had been a great success in Burnley, Nelson, Great Harwood, Barnoldswick, and other towns. During the last week or two, in connection with the municipal elections, a great deal had been said about the progress and prosperity of the town. Years ago Blackburn was known as the Cottonopolis of Lancashire, but during the last few years it had been a deteriorating town, and had now taken second place by 10,000 looms to the neighbouring town of Burnley. During the last twelve months, whilst Blackburn had put down 700 looms, Nelson had put down 3,000, Barnoldswick with a population of 12,000 had added 4,000 and Great Harwood and Rishton had each put down more looms than Blackburn. The shed now to be erected had been let to a well-known Blackburn manufacturer on a 14 years lease, at a rent already fixed, and which would pay good interest. When completed it would employ 250 hands, and pay £300 a week in wages.


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