Wheatfield Mill, Wheatfield St

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Wheatfield
Visible Image - The original mill building in July 2001.
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Hidden Image - A Drawing of the only remaining building at Wheatfield Mill.

This was the second mill to be erected in Rishton and dates from 1860. When built, by Duckworth, Parker & Co, it contained 1,012 looms weaving plains, poplins, twills and saleen's. 294 looms were installed, built principally by R. Booth of Church in 1864.

The Cotton Famine ruined Duckworth and Parker and the shed was leased to Duxbury & Noble, in 1865.

Just 10 years later in 1875, Edward Eccles and Sons acquired the mill, enlarging it in 1880 to fit 700 looms, with 250 loom operatives by 1885. Manufactured goods included printers, mulls, dhooties, fine shirting's and cambric's.

In 1900 it still contained 700 looms, but closed in 1930, again because of the depression. The mill had a good site, being on the canal, next to Rishton mill, therefore near the main road and also near coal shafts.

Advert for Broadloom from 1959 UDC guide.
Visible Image - Advert for Broadloom from 1959 UDC guide.
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Hidden Image - The original section of the mill in January 2001.

In 1903 the Wheatfield Manufacturing Company Limited, was formed to take over the mill from Eccles and Sons. Extensions took place during 1905 - 06, increasing the number of looms again to approximately 750.

A fire on the 18th October 1932 caused extensive damage to the property.

The Wheatfield Manufacturing Co., Ltd., ceased operations in 1934 and although there were attempts to form a new company in the August of the same year,  the mill remained idle. In 1936 the premises were converted to felt manufacture, but only 25% of the available floor space was used.

In 1949 Broadloom carpets limited installed 6 carpet looms and ancillary equipment in the remaining 75% of the building. Three men who had decided to form a subsidiary branch to the parent company in Kidderminster founded the Rishton Company. They had travelled north to Rossendale in search of premises suitable and second hand looms. Wheatfield mill suited their requirements as regards site, sound buildings and space for expansion. The felt industry could conceivably be run in conjunction with carpet manufacturing. Also government restrictions meant building permits for new premises were not available. Eventually the felt manufacturers were bought out and Broadloom also acquired the derelict property and site of the adjacent Rishton Mill.

The company manufacture woven Axminister carpets and rugs. The carpets have a surface pile of a mixture of wool and nylon with a backing of jute and cotton. The rugs, which are machine made imitations of the Scandinavian Rya type, have a surface pile of all wool and a backing of jute and cotton.

Dispatch and Loading Bay
Visible Image - The dispatch depot which was added in 1963, seen here in July 2001.
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Hidden Image - The loading bay with the original mill behind it in May 2001.

The pile yarn was obtained from spinners in Yorkshire, Scotland, and Southern Ireland, the wool being a blend of home grown blends of Australian and New Zealand wools. The Bri-nylon is manufactured was this country.

The jute was obtained from manufacturers in Dundee who purchase their raw materials from India and Pakistan. The cotton was purchased from spinners in Lancashire.

All raw materials arrive by road and the finished products are distributed in this country by road transport. Approximately 20% of the output is usually exported by sea.

Since its formation, the company has gradually expanded. Extensions are in progress and in 1963 a new dispatching depot was added.

The firm now employs approximately 180 people and of these about 100 live in Rishton. Although the type of weaving required was new, the workers very soon proved their adaptability in becoming skilled at the many operations peculiar to the trade. The average age of the workers is 32 to 35 and 5 or 6 school leavers per year find employment and there are through training schemes. Now the firm has full employment and 3 shifts maintain a 24-hour working day.

Wheatfield mills loading depot built in 1963.

On Wednesday 25 March 1998, Police were investigating a £36,000 raid on Gaskell Carpets Ltd.

Thieves broke through gates and hitched up and drove away a trailer loaded with carpets. The trailer was valued at £6,000 and its 70 pieces of carpet at £30,000. They were plain tufted carpet in assorted colours and some were loop pile carpet.

Police said an engine was heard revving and lights were seen at around 10pm on Sunday.

Sales administration manager Steve Green said: "The gates were broken and a tractor unit reversed to the back of the trailer, which had carpets on board. It was then driven off."

On Tuesday 16 November 1999, GASKELL Carpets, of Rishton, held a dinner dance at the Stirk House, Gisburn, for employees with more than 21 years service with the firm.

Guests included Michael Hargreaves who has clocked up 50 years' service, Margaret Byrne who is about to reach 42 years and husband and wife Peter and Sonia McDonough, who have more than 60 years' service between them.

In total 26 employees with a combined service of 758 years attended the event.

On Friday 19 November 1999, NEW jobs were set to be created in East Lancashire after a local carpet firm took over a rival.

Gaskell, based at Altham and with sites across Hyndburn, is cutting around 130 jobs at a mill in Skipton following its recent takeover of Tomkinsons but said the move would lead to new a number of new jobs at its Rishton plant.

The Lancashire-based group said it planned to close its Carleton Mill near Skipton and centralise distribution to cut out duplication created by the takeover.

At the same time weaving operations will be moved from the Tomkinsons plant at Bloxham, Oxfordshire, to Gaskell's site at Rishton in Lancashire. And the firm said the reorganisation would lead to new jobs at the Rishton site.

All distribution will be consolidated at Tomkinsons' warehouse at Kidderminster, Hereford and Worcestershire.

Around 130 jobs will be cut at Bloxham and Carleton as a result of the move.

The reorganisation is due to begin early next year and will take around six months, the company said. Gaskell announced it was buying up Tomkinsons in September for £12.2million.

On the 20th December 1999, EAST Lancashire businessman Jerry Daw died a week after being involved in a road accident.

Mr Daw, who was 48, and managing director of Gaskell Carpets, Rishton, was trapped in the wreckage of his Jaguar car after it was involved in a head-on crash in Lytham St Anne's on Sunday December 12.

He suffered multiple fractures to both shoulders, broken ribs and a head injury.

He spent the week in intensive care at the Royal Preston Hospital where he died at the weekend.

Mr Daw, of Applecross Drive, Burnley, was a keen sportsman. He had played both cricket and football at Lytham, where he was brought up, and had also played cricket at Lowerhouse for a short time.

Richard Hopkin, finance director of Gaskell, today paid tribute to Mr Daw.

"He was very personable, outgoing man who had made a lot of friends at Gaskell and he will be sadly missed by us all.

"He was also well liked by our customers and suppliers."Mr Daw was married to Liz and they have four children, Kelly, Alex, Millie and Laurence.

Mr Daw first started working for the Gaskell group at Bacup and had also worked at Bamber Bridge. As managing director at Rishton he was also responsible for the company's mill at Carleton near Skipton.

The accident occurred when he was taking his mother, who still lives on the Fylde Coast, out for Sunday lunch.

Passengers in the Jaguar XJS were his son Laurence, 13, who suffered a broken leg and his mother Vera Daw, 82, of Berwick Road, Blackpool.

Police said Katherine Raven, 18, of Lytham St Anne's lost control of her Vauxhall Monterey which crossed the central reservation of Ballam Road and collided with the Jaguar.

In April 2006 the mill closed its gates once more. After a management buyout in 2004, the company shut down, and all 134 employees were made redundant. The looms were sold to a company in China, and other items were destroyed.

It was announced on Thursday 20th April 2006, that RISHTON carpet firm, Gaskell Mackay, had closed with the loss of 134 jobs.

Staff based at the company's Wheatfield Mill site, in Parker Street, were told that the company was going into administration.

Leaving work there for the last time, a worker, who did not want to be named, said: "Everyone is very upset. We knew the company was having problems, but this has come as a huge shock. I have no idea what I am going to do now. A lot of people have worked here for a long time."

The administrators, BWC Business Solutions, said they were called in because there were insufficient funds to cover trading losses.

They said strenuous efforts had been made by the directors and financial backers to dispose of the business as a going concern, but those attempts had failed. Joint administrator, Gary Blackburn, said: "Regrettably, the company had to close its doors and all its workforce had been made redundant; the union was consulted. We are exploring the possibility of an early sale of the major items of plant and machinery, including stock, and a number of approaches were made to interested parties. The directors and financial backers made strenuous efforts to dispose of the business as a going concern, without success."

Hyndburn MP Greg Pope said it was a difficult time for the manufacturing industry. He said: "I am really upset to hear this terrible news. My heart goes out to the people who are losing their jobs and their families. It is a difficult and worrying time for them. The only small silver lining to what is a very dark cloud is that unemployment in Hyndburn is very low. There are jobs out there and the Job Centre has a good track record of helping people find alternative work."

The company emerged from the ashes of Gaskell Plc, which went into administration in March last year.

Remains:

The name plaque in the wall of the building.

There is a small section of brick built weaving shed with a random stone horizontal engine house attached. The gable has an infilled round-headed window and a stone plaque inscribed "Wheatfield Mill".

To the South is a range of modern single storey sheds erected by Broadloom Carpets Ltd. Two-storey office at main gate.

The mill was fully demolished by 2010.

Associated Housing

Moorside House, Blackburn Road, was built about 1881 and was the home of Edward Eccles. The house stands in its own grounds and has a distinctive steep roof. A number of the terraced cottages in Parker Street were apparently erected in the late 1850's by Henry Parker.

References

Council Minutes

North East Lancashire Town by Marian Sleigh

Industrial Rishton by Kathleen Broderick and M Rothwell

Lancashire Telegraph, November, December 1999.