(LOW MOOR MILL)
Map Ref. SD931238
c1817 - warehouse built by the Sutcliffe family for their water-carriage business, (John, Henry and Robert Sutcliffe), converted to weaving shed after 1841.
BAMFORD John Hill & STELL Joseph
DUGDALE William & MILLS John
Todmorden Commercial Spinning & Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
DAWSON George & Co.
(partner - John Fielden)
HELLIWELL Young & Son
HOLT Fielden & sons
In the days before the Rochdale Canal, there
were just 3 cottages in the area now known as Shade. During the
construction of the canal just before 1800, the contractors built a
smithy and a carpenters yard behind these houses, to be used as
workshops, calling it Wood-shade. It is thought this is the origin
of the name of the area.
Once the canal was finished, additional
cottages were erected on the site of the smithy and wood yard, and
then John Sutcliffe, a successful carrier by water, built a large
storage warehouse on the site, with stables and more housing,
occupying all the land from the road to the canal tow path.
His brother Henry Sutcliffe
continued the carrying business after John finished, and then
Henry's son Robert took over. Robert was there in 1841. With the
arrival of the railway about that time, the Sutcliffe family
business dwindled as far as carrying by water was concerned. Robert
altered the warehouse, stables and two of the cottages to make them
suitable for weaving looms on two of the floors. An engine, boiler,
and other necessary equipment were added, turning the original
storage depot into a weaving mill. This was the birth of Shade Mill,
also known as Low Moor Mill.
photograph shows part of Shade as it was in the 1970's. These
back-to-back cottages were built to house the workers at Shade
Mill and other nearby mills. Photo by kind permission of Roger
The first tenants of the
new mill were John Hill Bamford and Joseph Stell. These men were
sons-in-law of one of the Messrs. Sutcliffe. They remained at the
mill just 2 years, selling the machinery and stock as a going
concern to George Howarth of Bacup. George stayed for two or three
years and then left. All the machinery was cleared and the mill
Soon afterwards, William Dugdale and brothers
Henry and James Shepherd took over the mill. The three men were
neighbours in the Shade area, and this was their first venture into
business on their own accounts. They furnished the mill with new
looms and machinery and began to manufacture cotton. However, there
was an unforeseen problem with the partnership. The Fielden Brothers
employed the Shepherd brothers as loom tacklers at WATERSIDE MILL,
and when they heard about their employees' new venture they were
unhappy, stating that the brothers could not be masters and men at
the same time.
Henry and James were given the choice of remaining in
the employ of the Fielden Brothers at Waterside and giving up their
newly formed partnership at Shade Mill, or parting company with
Waterside Mill. The Shepherds decided on caution and continued to
work for the Fieldens, rescinding their partnership with William
Dugdale. Ironically, another employee of the Fieldens, John Mills,
filled their shoes immediately. The new firm was launched as Messrs.
Dugdale and Mills, which partnership grew from strength to strength.
In 1853, William Dugdale and John Mills leased land at Bottoms in
Walsden and built a new purpose-built mill. (More about Dugdale and
Mills HERE). They
sub-let the vacant premises at Shade to a new company, the Todmorden
Commercial Spinning and Manufacturing Company, registered in late
1854 in anticipation of the new Companies 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
The Company furnished Shade Mill with machinery and
commenced the business of cotton manufacture. William Barker
left the Company almost immediately, and was replaced by John
Travis who was later to become a well-known local
No sooner had the Company
started than the Directors made the decision to build their own mill
rather than pay rent on the one at Shade. This they did, and as soon
as the new mill was ready, the Company transferred its business over
to ALMA MILL in Walsden.
When the Todmorden
Commercial Spinning and Manufacturing Company abandoned the
premises, no further tenants came forward, and the buildings stood
empty for a while. Someone then advised the owners, still the
Sutcliffe family, to demolish the old buildings and construct a
small three storey building along side the canal tow path and make
it more suitable for a manufacturing mill. The Sutcliffes did just
that, making a compact factory with ample room for a boiler and an
engine, far more suitable than the old wool warehouse, stables and
cottages. The new purpose-built mill attracted the attention of John
and weaving sheds about 1962
permission of Roger Birch
|He was one of the most successful tenants of William
Clegg on the Room and Power system at VALE MILL in Todmorden.
John purchased the place and also leased all the back land at
Shade from Dr. Hardman, which at that time was virgin land. On
this land he erected a new weaving shed for over 200 looms,
with a large warehouse, plus beaming and twisting rooms. There
was access to the premises via three near-by streets.
John was a native of Hebden
Bridge, and he began in a small way at Shade, employing just 25
people in 1861. In that year, he and his family lived on Raglan
Street in Todmorden. However, during the following ten years he
prospered well. He added spinning machinery to the mill and leased
out that section to Thomas Hey, also of Hebden Bridge. Thomas held
the lease until about 1880.
In 1871, John was living at Stones Villas, which he
purchased from the Wild family. He also bought Woodbottom Farm
and cottages in Walsden, starting a new career in farming. He
stocked the land with cattle, leaving a carter in charge
whilst he attended to his manufacturing concerns.
According to John Travis, a
contemporary of John Stephenson, John remained modest and mild
mannered despite his obvious wealth. He lived his life calmly, was
never stressed and always a laid back sort of chap, giving the
impression that his businesses were doing well. He was married with
a young family to whom he was very close, and was always seen with
them about town.
However, working life was not without problems
for John, as he was prosecuted on at least one occasion for
having wilfully made a false entry
in the register of young persons, thus contravening the Factories
Act. For that offence he was fined £10, a huge sum of money in 1866,
with costs of £1.7s.0d. This was followed by a complicated
prosecution in 1867 for "having neglected to send a notice to the
certifying surgeon of an accident to a young person employed in the
factory, which caused bodily injury and prevented the said young
person from pursuing her regular employment". On this occasion, the
Magistrates dismissed the case against him without cost, but allowed
the Factory Inspector, Mr. Lakeman, a right of appeal to the Court
of Queen's Bench, to be heard on the 9th November 1867.
The following report
appeared in the local press on 22nd January 1868:
"The case Lakeman v.
Stephenson was heard in the Court of Queens bench. The appellant
was the Inspector of Factories for this district, and the
respondent Mr. John Stephenson, manufacturer, Shade. This was a
case under the Factory Regulation Act 1841. The respondent was
summoned upon the following charge, namely: that he had neglected,
by himself, or his agent, to give notice of an accident that
occurred in his factory to Jane Greenwood, who was under 18 years
of age, under the provisions of the Factory Act. The accident
happened by the girl falling over a rope tied across the passage
between the looms as a practical joke. The girl was injured in her
right wrist and arm. She remained at the mill to await the return
of the respondent from Manchester. On the following morning, she
again came to the mill. No notice was sent to the factory surgeon
on the ground that it was not necessary as she returned to her
work on the following morning before 9 o'clock as pointed out by
the Factory Act. The sub-inspector contended that the meaning of
the words "return to his work" was the returning and performing
continuously the proper amount of regular work. The magistrates at
Todmorden, when the case was heard before them, dismissed it on
the ground that as the girl did actually return to her work on the
day following the accident, no notice was required to have been
sent by the respondent to the certifying surgeon. The Lord Chief
Justice was of the opinion that the case was within the meaning of
the Act, and judgement was given for the appellant."
On 13th February 1868, the
Magistrates re-heard the case. This time, John Stephenson was found
guilty and fined £3 with costs of £2.4s.0d.
In 1879, his health was not
good, and he went to stay in Buxton where the air was reputed to be
healthy. One day whilst out for a walk near Poole's Cavern, he was
drenched by a sudden downpour of rain, resulting in a chill. He
rushed back to Stones Villas in Walsden to his wife and children,
but never recovered. After a couple of days of suffering he died a
relatively young man of 57. He was buried at St. Paul's Church at
He had clearly continued to
prosper as his family remained at Stones Villas for many years to
come. His widow, Mary Ann, took over the running of the business,
helped by her sons Albert and Fred Stephenson. By 1891, the family
is still at Stones Villas and the members are living off their own
The next tenants were
George Dawson and John Fielden, who occupied the weaving sheds.
George was the senior partner of the firm, which traded as George
Dawson & Co. Manufacturers, Low Moor Sheds, Shade.
George leased the weaving sheds for his operations
from about 1890, whilst Young Helliwell occupied other parts of the
mill for his picker making concern, and Samuel Starkie used part of
the buildings for his machinery business.
George Dawson was a self-made man, the
eighth child of James Dawson, a quarry labourer. He was born
in 1840 at Butcher Hill, Walsden, and earned his living as a
In 1865, he married
Sarah Sunderland and by 1871, he was working as a cotton mule
overlooker. In 1881, he was a cotton manager and he and his
family lived on Industrial Street in Todmorden. He may have
received little formal education, but through sheer
determination and endurance he climbed his way up the ladder.
By about 1890 he had made enough money to risk
all on his new venture with partner John Fielden at Shade weaving
An unfortunate event
happened in 1892, as reported in the Todmorden Advertiser of the
LOWMOOR SHED BROKEN INTO
On Sunday the office of Messrs. George
Dawson and Co. Lowmoor shed, was entered by thieves, who,
disappointed in their search for money, did as much mischief as
possible. The place is in a quiet corner of Shade adjoining
the canal bank and entrance was affected by the smashing of a
window 26in by 16in. The drawers were thoroughly ransacked,
and invoices, memorandum books and other papers were strewn over
the floor, which was so littered with these things that those who
were first to enter on Monday morning has difficulty in opening
the door. No cash had been taken (being concealed in a place
of absolute security), and only a few post cards and half a dozen
boxes of matches were missed. The worst was that the
rascally visitors, chagrined at finding nothing substantial after
the pains they had taken and the risks they had run, revenged
themselves by maliciously committing unmentionable abominations.
In June 1896, Todmorden
became a Borough in its own right, and in November the people of
Todmorden and Walsden voted in their first Borough Councillors.
George Dawson was one of those elected to the new council,
representing the people of the Todmorden Ward. A special edition of
the local newspaper listed the businesses of the time, and the
following paragraph appeared:
MESSRS. GEORGE DAWSON AND
CO., COTTON MANUFACTURERS, LOW MOOR MILL. Telegraphic
address: LOW MOOR TODMORDEN.
Amongst the numerous
firms devoted to the manufacture of cotton in its various
commercial forms, a position of some local importance is held by
Messrs. George Dawson and Co. of Low Moor Mill, Todmorden.
This business has been established for the past seven years.
The principal goods that the firm manufacture comprise what are
known in the trade as Wigans, domestics, twills, drills, and one
or two other sorts. The machinery at Low Moor Mill is, like
that in most Todmorden factories, of the most approved
description, and includes 180 looms. Employment is given to
an average of about sixty hands. The output of manufactured
goods totals up to about £20,000 a year, and Messrs George Dawson
and Co. have a widespread connection and an excellent reputation
in the trade.
On 4th July 1898, George's
partner in the firm, John Fielden, died after a brief illness. The
local press reported:
Mr John Fielden, aged
40 years, of Copperashouse Terrace, died after a very brief
illness. He was a partner in the firm of Messrs Geo Dawson &
Co. of Low Moor Shed, and one of the Directors of the Bridge End
Equitable Progressionists Society.
George continued, but on
17th January the following year, he also passed away at 116 Rochdale
17 Jan 1899
At an early hour this
morning, Mr. George Dawson of Dobroyd, who had been a member of
the Todmorden Town Council since the town's incorporation in 1896,
passed away after a rather lingering illness, aged 57 years. He
was well known in the district, and at various times took part in
public matters. Mr. Dawson was head of the firm Messrs. Geo.
Dawson & Co., Manufacturers, Lowmoor Shed, Shade, but more
especially he will be remembered by reason with his long and
honourable connection with Patmos Church and Sunday School.
At the same time that
George Dawson & Co. were running a successful weaving business
at Shade Mill, a man by the name of Young Helliwell was continuing
to make his mark in the Picker Making business in another part of
the mill. Young began at FRITHSWOOD PICKER WORKS as a boy apprentice
under Martin Holt about 1860 alongside Martin's son, Fielden Holt.
THE HOLTS had a long time connection with picker making. In 1881, Martin
Holt handed over the concern at Frithswood to his loyal employee,
Young Helliwell, who ran the business until 1890 when he left to set
up at Shade Mill.
In 1891, Young and his family are living at 42
Shade between Lewis Street and Vernon Street. He stayed at Shade
Mill about 8 years at which point, his old friend Fielden Holt took
over. Fielden was the son of Martin and Elizabeth Holt, Martin being
one of six brothers involved in the picker making
Fielden and his father had a disagreement
at some point, causing him to set up on his own at Shade,
trading as Fielden Holt & Sons. His father left him
nothing in his will, declaring:
"My son Fielden Holt has been excluded
from the trusts of my will in as much as he has during my life
time enjoyed certain pecuniary benefits derived from my
Holt, by kind permission of Sally
Fielden married Emma Sutcliffe and they had 7 children,
four daughters and three sons who followed him in to the
picker making business. Arthur Holt married Maudetta Gaukroger
and they had 3 daughters. Walter married Annie Sunderland and
had no children. Fred married Emily Cockcroft and had 2
children, Clifford and Edith Annie. In 1901, Fielden and his
family are living at 11, Garden Street in Todmorden.
His grandson, Clifford,
carried on the business until the early 1960's when the mill was
purchased under a Council Compulsory Purchase Order. He was the last
of the Holts to be involved in picker making. Fielden died in 1927
and is buried at Cloughfoot with his wife Emma who died in 1931.
was demolished to make way for a block of flats, which still
occupy the site today, as can be seen from the
I am indebted to Sharon Trewhitt for the
information about her ancestor George Dawson and his time at the
mill, and also to Sally Hinchliffe for details about her ancestor