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ALMA MILL

Alma Street

Walsden

Map Ref SD 933221

 

List of known occupiers

1855-1867

Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Company

1867-1901

ORMEROD, Abraham & Brothers.

1907

Cotton mill on 25” OS map

1971

Jeremiah JACKSON Ltd. textile engineers

1979

FIELDEN, H Ltd., textile accessories

19----

WEBSTERS Ltd.

Partly demolished

2006

Part for sale

 

The illustrated story

 

Alma 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.

   

John Travis

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.
   

A 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 purchased.

   

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.

Alma Mill at Hollins Lock

   

Alma Mill

John 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.
   

When 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).

The 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.

Despite the lack of money, the building was completed, and the rearing dinner was held at the PAROCHIAL SCHOOL in Walsden on 1st. January 1856.

   

The 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.

   

The 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.

The 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.

On 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

2 throstles

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

plaiting machine

etc. etc.

   

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.

The Golden Lion

   

On 8th October 1898, the following report appeared:

 

"A 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."

 

 

In 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.

 

During 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.

After 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.

 

Additional sources

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.

 

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