Map Ref. SD919256
"Robinwood Mill occupies a flat site beside the River Calder in the narrow valley bottom of the Burnley Valley, two miles from Todmorden, eight from Burnley. It lies within a settlement that grew around it and a few other textile mills during the 19th century, some of the housing built by the mill owners …"
RAMSBOTHAM Thomas & James
HAMMERTON Thomas Edward
Woodmac Ltd., woodworking machinery
Extracts and notes from the report by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England 1986.
In 1801, Anthony Crossley of Todmorden Hall, leased what was to become the site of Robinwood Mill to John Ramsbotham and his sons James and Thomas, cotton manufacturers of Stand, Prestwich in Lancashire. The site, beside the River Calder, together with its water rights, was leased with liberty to dam the river and divert its water through any necessary goits etc. to any “mills or factories or other works hereafter to be erected on the said premises …” Permission was also given to build a bridge at the lower end of the site to give access to the mill.
In 1804, following the death of their father, James and Thomas Ramsbotham respectively of The Stand and EWOOD MILL, and described as cotton twist spinners and co-partners in that trade, bought the site outright from Anthony Crossley, and also the adjacent Robinwood Farm and cottages. They also bought some extra land at the upper end of the site from Edward Dearden to preserve their water rights.
Thomas Ramsbotham was the head partner in the firm of cotton spinners at Knott Mill, Manchester, before transferring his business to Todmorden, and together with his brother James and his son also James, he owned or occupied several other mills in the district, notably LINEHOLME MILL, EWOOD MILL and NAYLOR MILL amongst others. Despite acquiring this site, and the creation of a reservoir before 1823, no mill was built until the 1830’s when the U-shaped 6-storey stone built spinning mill, which lies at the centre of the site, was erected to drawings by William Fairbairn of Manchester. This mill, intended to be steam powered, was probably never used by the Ramsbothams. James Ramsbotham died in 1835, followed by his brother Thomas in 1839, which slowed things down within the Ramsbotham family. James left his properties and mills to his brother Thomas. In his will, Thomas left his properties including Robinwood Mill to his son James and his friend and solicitor Thomas Edward Hammerton. So James the younger and Mr. Hammerton came into possession of the whole Ramsbotham estate, and neither had any interest in continuing with the mill. Robinwood mill at that time was not finished or furnished, and had not had its roof slated.
In 1844 the two men advertised the mill for sale. It was bought at auction on 7th November 1844 by John Fielden the elder of the firm Fielden Brothers, cotton spinners and manufacturers of Todmorden. John Fielden paid £3,900 for the mill; £300 immediately and the balance by 15th February 1845
John Fielden MP
Whether the mill was ready for occupation is not certain as the conditions of sale in 1844 record the “iron beams there and 3,000 feet of unglazed window frames”, and the sale details make no mention of any steam engine or boilers. James Ramsbotham was recorded as the owner of the freehold farm and mill at Robinwood but lived in the Isle of Wight, clearly content to retire from the rat race that was the cotton industry.
The sale advertisement described Robinwood Mill as a newly erected cotton mill with engine house, pan house and other buildings, a waterfall of 15 yards on the River Calder and a reservoir or dam. The mill, six storeys high, is described as “built in a most substantial manner” and as “built under the superintendency and from the plans of one of the first engineers in the Kingdom”.
There are references to the mill “possessing a waterpower for a considerable period of the year equal to 30 horses and being not more than a mile and a half from Portsmouth Colliery.
The Fieldens, who were based at WATERSIDE MILL, during the course of the 19th century owned or occupied at least 12 other mills in and around Todmorden. On completion of the purchase the Fieldens were evidently responsible for installing a steam engine in the original spinning mill, and adding sheds incorporating a water wheel house before they could commence spinning, which they did in 1848. The mill was
John Fielden's personal property, but he rented it to the firm of
Fielden Brothers, of which he was the senior partner.
the next 10 years, Fielden Brothers spent £34,000 finishing
the building and installing steam engines. They equipped it for
the preparation and spinning of cotton, added a carding shed and
then running it as an out-mill for their main concern at WATERSIDE in Todmorden.
Fieldens built a terrace of houses adjacent to the mill for
some of the workforce, and a villa behind the terrace for
the Manager. The terrace, known as Robinwood Terrace, is perched
on the hillside above the river, and boasts magnificent views
over the valley. The houses are well built with a footpath
running to the front, separating them from pretty gardens
that overlook the river.
House perched above the houses of Robinwood Terrace
would have been expensive to rent compared to other workers' cottages,
and would have been out of the reach of most of the working folk.
The manager's house is set back, higher up the hillside, reached
by a long and steep flight of stone steps from the mill yard - or
a much longer route via a lane that runs down to the Burnley Road.
firm built many other workers' houses in the vicinity, occupying
row after row of streets, but none so comfortable or attractive
as the ones on Robinwood Terrace. The old photo shows the
Burnley Road at Lydgate with the mill prominent in the background.
A list of hands employed at Robinwood Mill on 23rd June 1851 indicates that breaking, mixing, scutching, carding, throstle spinning, drawing, winding, doffing and warping were all carried out at the mill.
During the rest of the 19th century, the Fieldens enlarged, added and rebuilt buildings on the site, though without changing its function as a spinning mill. By the end of the century, the mill was one of three large works in which the Fielden Brothers concentrated their operations. WATERSIDE MILL was devoted to weaving, Robinwood Mill to spinning warps, and LUMBUTTS MILL to spinning wefts.
1856, the mill employed 106 children under the age of 13 years,
154 women and 49 men. The mill boasted 24, 000 spindles. A man by
the name of John Lord was the manager in 1851. He lived with his
wife, Eliza, and six children in the manager's house, known as Robinwood
House. Jonathan Greenwood was the stoker at the mill at this time.
He was 23 and lived with his widowed mother on Robinwood Terrace.
His brother and sister also worked at the mill.
Law, a son of Samuel Law who co-owned RAMSDEN WOOD MILL in
Walsden, was also at Robinwood Terrace in 1851, with his
second wife, Esther, and seven children. Samuel was a blacksmith,
undoubtedly employed full time by the mill to make the necessary
iron accessories for the machinery, keep the horses well
shod, and maintain the iron parts on the carts. He and his
family worked and lived there over 20 years. In 1851, five
of his children worked at the mill, including 9-year-old
Sarah who was a doffer. His son, Samuel jnr., was initially
a scutcher at the mill, but later followed his father in
to the blacksmith trade and moved over the hill to the Whitworth
area. Samuel retired after 1871 and returned to his native
Walsden where he died aged 71 in 1875.
Law jnr. Photo provided by Ernest Law
next door to Samuel in 1851 was the Hamer family. Joseph Hamer,
aged 57, was one of the overlookers. All eight of his children were
part of the workforce. Another large family on Robinwood Terrace
was the Pickles family. Father John was a 55-year-old coal miner,
but his six children and two grandchildren were workers at the mill.
In 1861, Joseph Crabtree lived on Robinwood Terrace. He was an engine
tenter at the mill. His 15-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son
were cotton workers at the mill. George Tidswell also lived on the
terrace with his wife Betty. He was a labourer at the mill, and
six of his children worked there, including 10-year-old William.
Photo provided by Anne Field
manager of Robinwood Mill from about 1862 to 1887 was Thomas
Wrigley, son of Edmund Wrigley of WATERSTALLS MILL. Thomas
joined the firm of Fielden Brothers aged just 8 years old
in 1842 when he worked at Waterstalls Mill, Walsden, at
a time when his father was manager there.
progressed within the firm to become one of the youngest managers
at the age of 25. He was given the responsibility of managing Robinwood
Mill. By that time, he was married to Mary Fielden, daughter of
Robert Fielden and Susan Haigh, and they had two daughters, Christiana
and Jessie. The family lived at Robinwood House for maybe as long
as twenty years. Thomas continued to impress the Fielden Brothers
with his enthusiasm and ideas, and when a vacancy arose for the
job of overall manager of all the Fielden mills about 1887, he was
promoted to that situation.
and his family moved away from Robinwood to set up home at
Waterside House. Thomas died in 1896 at the age of 63 after
a lengthy illness. He had been a Freemason being a member
of Prince George Lodge, Bottoms, Eastwood, and had passed
the degrees of Master, Arch and Knight Templar. He is buried
at St. Peter's in Walsden.
next manager was John William Greenwood. He was a Todmorden man,
born about 1859 and married to Sarah. He worked his way up in the
firm, becoming the book keeper and later, the manager at Robinwood.
Initially, they lived on Robinwood Terrace at number 1 before taking
over at the villa. It was during John William's time as manager
that the mill celebrated its 50th birthday on 20th January 1898.
The following extract from the Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Almanac
of 1899 describes the event and gives an interesting insight into
the wages earned by the workers. (Sent to us by John William's granddaughter,
Jubilee of Robinwood Mill, Lydgate, near Todmorden
20th January 1898 work had been running at the Robinwood Mill
just half a century, for on that day in the far away year of 1843,
the late Mr. John Fielden MP started the engine on their first
---- efforts, and by way of celebrating the jubilee, the firm
of Messrs Fielden brothers Ltd. Treated the work people to a tea
and dance on Saturday January 22nd 1898. Tea was served in Lineholme
School by Mr. Walton, Cornholme, 347 persons, including a number
of work people from Waterside Mill who work in connection with
Robinwood Mill, being present. Eight veterans who worked in the
mill 30 years ago attended in response to the invitation. Afterwards,
the company adjourned to Lineholme Shed, kindly lent for the occasion
by Mr. Chadwick, where dancing took place, preceded by a meeting,
which Mr. J.W. Greenwood (manager at Robinwood) presided over,
and on the platform were Messrs. G. Windsor (secretary to the
firm), Mr. John Walton (Waterside), Mr. George Hindle (weaving
manager at Waterside), Mr. John Midgley (manager at Lumbutts),
Mr. Barker Russell (book keeper) and Mr. J. Greenwood (Overlooker
at Robinwood Mill). Telegrams were read from Mr. E.B. Fielden
and Mr. Coates (one of the Directors) expressing regret at their
inability to be present.
Chairman, in his usual able and descriptive manner, gave a history
of the mill from its commencement down to the present time. He
said the number of persons engaged at the mill at the commencement
was 30 but the business had so much increased that now there were
no fewer than 330, which was about as large a number as had ever
worked at the mill at one time, which said much for the prosperous
condition of the firm. Contrasting the wages of the card room
hands 50 years ago with the wages paid at the present day he said
they averaged between 7s and 9s a week at the commencement, and
now they averaged between 14s and 15s. He spoke of the great interest
taken in the concern by members of the Firm, mentioning the fact
that of late years considerably improved machinery had been added
to the mill, and the work was now done with increased competency.
He also had in his possession a piece of cotton, which went through
the machinery 30 years ago, and he gave a description of it and
defined its qualities in contrast with the grades and growths
of cotton now used. In conclusion, he advised the work people
to do their work well, and to keep up the prestige of the mill
in being able to turn out work as well as, if not better than,
other firms. (Applause).
Windsor gave a capital address, in which he bestowed great praise
upon the employers for their generosity and liberality in furnishing
the work people with such a treat as they were then enjoying.
He dwelt at length upon the history of cotton growing, and spoke
of the slavery people were under in the United States, where the
piece of cotton shown and described to them by Mr. Greenwood (their
manager) was grown, and contrasted those times with the freedom
of the people at the present. (Applause)
then the amusements had to be seen to, and none of them were allowed
to escape. "Clear decks and prepare for action" Where were the
1908, a decision was made to dispense with John William's services
to make room for a man with a more dynamic management style. The
man responsible for the dismissal wrote:
have been convinced for a long time he was the wrong man, but
being such an old servant it was very difficult to take action.
It is one of the unpleasant duties you have to put up with in
situations such as ours."
William and his family left Robinwood House and went to live in
a large house in Horsfall Street.
replacement was John Midgley who had followed his father and
his grandfather as manager at the Fielden owned LUMBUTTS MILL.
John, born in 1866 in Lumbutts, was married to Betty and had
two children, Ronald and Hannah. It was a controversial move
as the workforce had liked John William, and he was still
a relatively young man when he was dismissed.
Midgley's lack of tact with the workers was seen as a matter for
concern. Nonetheless, he remained manager at Robinwood and became
responsible for a major expansion programme during 1889. John took
early retirement in 1929 on a pension of £450 a year. The
partners of the firm, unhappy with his decision, commented at the
time that he was "a bit young for a pension".
mill continued in full use by the Fielden family until 1960 when
operations closed. The Fielden family was forced into this decision
when it became clear that in order to make a decent profit to combat
the competition from low labour-cost countries such as India and
Hong Kong, they would need to upgrade and replace all their outdated
machinery at enormous cost, which in turn would mean building a
new mill. Mr. Watson, the Manager at the time, reported:
buildings, although in good condition, are more than 100 years
old. The disposition of the machinery over 6 floors of small area
interferes with the material flow resulting in excessive labour
costs for material handling and supervision . In spite of all
its handicaps, the mill is running at good efficiency, about average
for a ring mill with old machinery."
textile mills nationwide were in the same situation, and the Government
was offering compensation for those firms who chose to close down.
The shareholders agreed the proposals and the workforce was offered
compensation payments. This was the end of a family textile dynasty
that Joshua Fielden started 180 years previously in a row of three
Mill has continued in use until the present time. Part of it was
destroyed by fire in 1992. Mr Stephen Walker, a director of the
furniture making company, Index Isle Limited, one of the tenants,
and another man, were convicted of plotting to claim £5,000,000
insurance. Mr Walker fled the country before he was sentenced.
researched, recorded and referenced by Mrs Sheila Wade
Hebden Bridge WEA Local History Group
Extracts from the Fielden family papers
21st April 1801
The Governor of Halifax Free School to Anthony Crossley, lease of watercourse at Hartley Royd.
17th November 1801
Mr. Anthony Crossley to Mr. E. Dearden, copy of release of Barewise Estate and waterfall
31st December 1801
Mr. Anthony Crossley to Messrs Ramsbotham, lease of waterfall and premises at Robinwood
Abstract of purchase deed, James and Thomas Ramsbotham
13th February 1804
Grant of waterfall and liberty of erecting damstones and extending goit, Edmund Dearden to James and Thomas Ramsbotham
8th November 1844
Robinwood Mill – conditions of sale
Abstract of title to Robinwood Mill and dams, land and waterfalls to same
22nd April 1846
Messrs Ramsbotham and Hammerton to John Fielden Esq. conveyance of Robinwood Mill
15th November 1960
Duplicate conveyance and assignment, Robinwood Mill, house and cottages, Redmires, Catholes and Fiddlers Dams etc. Fielden Bros. to Thornber Bros.
Todmorden Township map 1823
Shows Thomas Ramsbotham Esq. as owner of Robinwood land of 20 acres, 3 roods, 6 perches, which includes Lineholme Mills and the 2 dams. Included on the land is the field on which Robinwood Mill was later built, but there was no building there at all in 1823.
List of Todmorden voters 30th July 1842
James Ramsbotham; living on Isle of Wight; freehold farm and mill; Robinwood.
Todmorden Township map 1843
Building shown on the site.
Halifax Guardian 2nd November 1844
Advertisement of sale by auction.
Cotton Mill called Robinwood Mill on the south side of the Todmorden to Burnley Turnpike. Waterfall of 15 yards on River Calder, and reservoir or dam called Robinwood Dam, damstones and goits. Mill is 6 storeys built from drawings prepared by William Fairbairn of Manchester, 137 feet by 51½ feet; south wing 60 feet by 29½ feet; north wing – separate from main building by circular staircase – 38 feet by 29 feet. Waterpower for considerable portion of year equal to 30 horses. Premises may be viewed on application to William Helliwell of KITSON WOOD MILL.
Todmorden Rates Book 1860-1890
Owned and occupied by Fielden Bros; mill and power; rateable value £790.19s.6d.
1866 – includes gasometer £595.13s.0d.
1880 - £708.5s.0d.
1881 - £689.15s.0d.
1885 – mill, water and steam power, £606.5s.0d.
1888 – additions to mill £41.5s.0d.
1890 - £539.
Halifax Guardian 26th September 1868
Mr. T. Wrigley, manager of Fielden Brothers’ Robinwood Mill has had granted provisional protection for certain improvements in furnaces applicable to boilers.
Halifax Guardian 16th July 1870
Dam of Robinwood Mill, the property of Fielden Brothers, has burst its banks.
Halifax Guardian 9th March 1878
There is no town fire brigade at Todmorden, but the brigades of Fieldens of Waterside, Fieldens of Robinwood and Lord Bros. of CANAL STREET WORKS meet monthly for practice.
Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser 1st August 1879
Trade depressed. Robinwood Mill running 4 days.
Halifax Courier 25th November 1882
Fielden Bros. Robinwood, issued notice that female operatives’ wages will be reduced.
Halifax Courier 24th November 1883
Robinwood Mill – engine breakdown. Not expected to work again this year.
Halifax Courier 2nd February 1884
Robinwood Mill – work resumed after stoppage of several weeks due to breakdown
Halifax Courier 25th April 1885
Robinwood Mill – another engine breakdown
Stansfield Rates Book 1889-1897
Owned and occupied by Fielden Bros; part new warehouse; Robinwood; rateable value £21.15s.0d.
Todmorden Advertiser 10th January 1890
Letter from Fielden Bros. concerning the closure of Robinwood Factory School
Todmorden Advertiser 7th February 1890
Robinwood Factory School. Accommodation 155. Average attendance 68.