Map Ref SD 933221
List of known occupiers
Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Company
ORMEROD, Abraham & Brothers.
Cotton mill on 25” OS map
Jeremiah JACKSON Ltd. textile engineers
FIELDEN, H Ltd., textile accessories
Part for sale
The illustrated story
Mill was the first to be built in Todmorden by a Limited Company
following the 1855 Companies Act whereby the amount of money an
investor could lose was limited to the amount the person had invested.
(Previously an investor could lose all his money and personal possessions
in the event of the failure of the business). The company concerned
was the Todmorden Commercial Spinning and Manufacturing Company,
registered in late 1854 in anticipation of the new Act. The company
was composed mainly of ordinary working class men, managed by a
board of Directors, and the first Secretary and Manager was William
Barker of Todmorden.
The company began business
at Shade Mill, recently erected by Messrs. Dugdale and Mills,
which the company furnished with looms and other machinery.
Within months, William Barker left to start his own manufacturing
business and JOHN TRAVIS
,(later to become an author on local
antiquarian matters), took over his job. It was at this time
that the company contemplated obtaining its own premises rather
than paying rent on SHADE MILL
potential site was found at Hollins in Walsden, owned by John Crossley
of Scaitcliffe. It was a strip of land alongside the canal at Hollins
Lock, Walsden. After some problems relating to the precise ownership
of the land were sorted to everyone's satisfaction, the lease was
The purchasers were given special permission to construct
part of the building alongside the Hollins Lock. Under normal
rules, this would only be allowed providing there was a space
of at least 27 feet between buildings and lock. However, there
is considerably less than 27 feet as can be seen from the
photographs. The nominal capital was £10,000 in £25
shares that could be bought in instalments as and when more
capital was needed.
Mill at Hollins Lock
Crossley cut the first sod on 7th April 1855, followed by
a celebration at the Hollins Inn. The mill was christened
"Alma Mill" at this celebration, after the famous battle of
that name in the recently ended Crimean war. It had been decided
to erect a weaving shed, engine and boiler houses, chimney,
scutching room and warehouse. The building work commenced
and for a few months everything progressed satisfactorily.
the time came for the engine and boiler to be installed, the company
required more capital. A meeting was arranged for shareholders at
the Waggon & Horses Inn at Redwaterfoot in the Burnley valley
with the intention of asking the men of the Burnley Valley to increase
their share holdings. Instead of agreeing to advance more money
to the company, the Burnley valley men broke away, deciding to form
their own company (Calder Vale Company).
25th August 1855 saw the celebration of the completion of the mill
chimney with a party at the Hollins Inn. The crowning stone of the
chimney was fitted earlier in the day, measuring 10 feet at the
base, 5 feet 7 inches at the top, and 40 yards in height.
the lack of money, the building was completed, and the rearing dinner
was held at the PAROCHIAL SCHOOL in Walsden on 1st. January 1856.
engine house was designed for two engines, but only one was
installed at this stage. Joseph Knowles, a retired druggist
and treasurer of the company, was invited to start the engine,
which he did by turning a valve and cracking open a bottle
of wine on the crank shaft, declaring: "I name thee Reliance".
The weaving shed and other works were finished and furnished
with machinery by June 1856, and the business of spinning
and weaving was up and running at Alma Mill.
company was still dangerously short of capital, and to attempt to
solve this, a meeting was called in October 1856 in the scutching
room. During the course of this meeting, there was a serious disagreement
amongst the directors and shareholders relating to the employment
of a particular carder. There was some "plain speaking" resulting
in the resignation of John Travis as secretary and manager of the
company. However, this gave some publicity to the venture, and caused
an influx of investment, saving the company from failure.
In June 1857, William Barker, the manager at the time, was summonsed and convicted of employing Mary Hiley and others without a school certificate. Mary, who was under the age of 13 years, was working more than the allowable 6.5 hours. The firm was fined £1 plus costs.
company began to see success with the mill, and by 1859 it paid
a dividend of £10 per £25 share, which is a remarkable
return. Such was its success that it began to think of expanding
by buying another mill at Square, a little higher up the Walsden
valley. Square Mill was fully furnished and a going concern at the
time, and such was the prosperity of the company that one director
said, "we could buy and pay for two or three such small places as
Square Mill and still have money to spare." The purchase went ahead,
and the newly acquired premises were used in conjunction with Alma
Mill as one concern.
This was the pinnacle of success
for Alma Mill, but failure was just round the corner with
the outbreak of the Civil War in America giving rise to the
Cotton Panic as it was known in Todmorden. It was a dire time
for the cotton industry. Raw cotton supplies from America
dried up. The import of cotton from India trebled, but this
was of a very inferior quality.
The Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser carried an advertisement on 9th November 1861 as follows:
For sale - 179 power looms, half new and rest nearly new. Apply Thomas Lacy, Alma Works, Walsden.
This was the beginning of the end for the Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Company at Alma Mill. By
1862, most of the mills in Todmorden were on 2 or 3-day weeks, throwing
the workers into poverty. And not just the workers, the Masters
suffered equally. The Alma Company also suffered a reverse in fortune
and the dividends fell to nil.
16th February 1867, there was an extraordinary meeting of shareholders
of Alma Mill with Mr. John Crossley in the chair. Three liquidators
were appointed: Samuel Jackson, Abraham Wild and Joseph Baume.
On 6th April 1867, the Halifax Guardian carried the following advertisement advising of the forthcoming auction of:
... the cotton mill called Alma Mill. Weaving shed, engine and engine house, warehouse, grinding room, boilers, boiler house, office etc. The property, lately in the occupation of the Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Company Ltd., is nearly new, stone built, adjoining the Rochdale Canal. Leasehold for remainder of 999 years. Commenced 1855. Ground rent £39.9s.4d. Site of mill area 4015 square yards. The pecuniary position of the proprietors renders a sale absolutely necessary and inevitable.
On 1st June 1867, the Halifax Guardian carried the advert for the auction, to include the following machinery:
1 beater cotton opener by Taylor & Lang
3 beater lap machines by Taylor & Lang
3 beater finishing lap machines with patent regulator by Lord Bros.
10 single carding engines 48" on wire with coilers by Jacksons
2 drawing frames by Walker & Hacking
1 stubbing frame by Walker & Hacking
1 stubbing frame by Harley & Todd
4 roving frames by Walker & Hacking
1 roving frame - Mason's patent
1 grinding frame with emery rollers
10 throstles by Harling & Todd
1 winding engine by Harley & Todd
warping mill 14 yards
120 power looms by Graham & Shepherd
1 piece press by Marland Bros.
2 pairs self acting mules, 580 spindles in each mule
1 pair self acting mules with 600 spindles
2 twisting in frames
1 winding on frame
On 12th June that year, the
mill came under the hammer at the Golden Lion Inn with Mr.
Shoesmith of Halifax as the auctioneer. It was knocked down
to Messrs Abraham Ormerod and Brothers for the paltry sum
of £7,200. The Ormerods already owned the neighbouring HOLLINS MILL and others in the district. They ran the mill
continuously until early in the 1900's.
8th October 1898, the following report appeared:
party of about 30 persons of the card room employees at Alma Mill
partook of tea at the Hollins Inn Walsden and after full justice
had been done to it a presentation consisting of a black ebony
walking stick with silver hoop, and a silver mounted pipe, was
made to Mr. William Fielden of Alma Street who had worked in the
card room of this mill for 21 years, for his urbanity and kindly
disposition as overlooker for a period of 8 years."
1905, the mill had been closed for a good while, but in February,
work resumed under the newly formed Walsden Mill Company. Joseph
Heaton of Claremont Place in Todmorden, who had previously worked
at Derdale Mill, was appointed Manager. In 1934, the mill closed down, being owned at the time by the Lancashire
Cotton Corporation. Many people in Walsden were left unemployed.
the 1970's the mill was occupied by Jeremiah Jackson Ltd., a firm of textile engineers first established in 1796 by Jeremiah Jackson. By 1900 it was run by five Jackson brothers, the third generation of Jeremiah's family and was still operational in 1971.
this, H. Fielden Ltd. Textile Accessories occupied the premises.
It is now Webtex Ltd.
Webtex started as Jeremiah Jackson & Co. They did corduroy finishing machinery up to about 50 years ago. They now manufacture textile machinery for narrow fabrics, employing about 12 persons.
Rates Book 1860-66
Owned and occupied by Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Co. Alma Works, shed, 23hp., RV £168.0s.3d. (1861 additional RV £12.12s.3d.; 1865 mill £160.10s.0d.)
Road Tax 1861
Owner and occupier Alma Works, office. £3.2s.8d.
White's Directory 1866
Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. cotton spinners & manufacturers.
Rates Book 1867-1890
owned and occupied by Ormerod Brothers, Alma Mill, mill, shed, power. RV £334.15s.0d. (1869 empty; 1871 new shed etc. £73.4s.9d. 1880 RV £413.10s.0d. 1883 extension RV £25, 1885 RV £377.10s.0d.)
Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser 1st Aug 1879
Ormerod's Alma Mill, 17,700 spindles, working 4 days a week.
Halifax Courier 13th December 1879
Notice of reduction in wages, cardroom hands a further 5%. Ormerod Bros. Alma Mill.
Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser 6th Feb 1880
Two large mills in Walsden and one in Todmorden, A. Ormerod & Bros. working full time again.
25th March 1881
Owned and occupied by Ormerod Bros; mill and power; Alma Mill, gross estimated rental £551.9s.7d.
Halifax Courier 25th Feb 1882
Spinners at Alma Mill set to work again, having been stopped due to action of weavers at Hollins Bottom who resumed work at old rates after a dispute lasting 2-3 weeks.
Halifax Courier 5th Jan 1884
Death of Peter Ormerod of Pex House, aged 70, principal partner in firm of Ormerod Bros. of RIDGEFOOT and Alma Mills. Served on Local Board, President of Liberal Club, employed about 600 people.
Halifax Courier 21st June 1884
Another breakdown at Alma Mill, closed for a week to repair.
Halifax Courier 5th July 1884
Todmorden trade bad. Ormerod Bros. to run 4 days a week.
Manchester Examiner 22nd July 1887
Ormerod Bros. (all mills) 48,000 spindles, 1300 looms, working full time but for past 3 months a quarter of the machinery stopped.
Todmorden 75th Anniversay Book (1971)
Jeremiah Jackson Ltd. textile engineers, Alma Works, Walsden, established 1796.