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Queen Street

Queen Street Characters

Good profits in workers Co-op

Burnley Express & News

19-04-1983

Queen Street Mill at Harle Syke, probably the country's last steam-powered cotton mill when it closed a year ago, is set to become the first working mill to be run as a tourist attraction. Its famous old steam engine, Peace, will be back in action next year. Here ROWLAND KIPPAX, who worked at the mill for much of his life, writes his personal view of the mill in whose shadow he had, quite literally lived.

Queen Street Mill was founded in 1894. The share capital was 20,000 made up with 4,000 shares of 5 each.
It was to some extent a workers' co-operative, as most of the shareholders worked in the mills or lived in the village.
The original building was a four-storey warehouse and had departments as follows:
GROUND FLOOR - with entrance into the weaving department through it. This floor was used as the weft department.
FIRST FLOOR - comprised of offices, cloth warehouse and a few sets of beams temporarily stored prior to use.
SECOND FLOOR - Winding and beaming departments. I am not sure whether there were eight or 10 winding frames, but I can only remember four beamers with two frames each.
During the period 1915 to the fire in 1918, when this part of the mill was destroyed, World War One was in progress and cotton manufacturing was controlled by a Government authority called Cotton Control and you couldn't work just as you wanted.
THIRD FLOOR - This was the preparation depot.

No Dole

There would be about six men and one or two lads. The men were called "loomers". The lads were called "reachers in" and worked with the loomers.
When I commenced there in July, 1915, all the work was done by hand, but I couldn't have been there many weeks when they got a Barber and Coleman knotter which put them out of work.
No redundancy - not even any dole for them - just an expression of thanks for services and regret they were forced to do this because of the competition.
A few years afterwards the "reachers in" were done away with. Someone invented some mechanism that sorted the ends out for the loomer by means of a foot-worked pedal.
There was a lift working from the ground floor which was used for carrying warps, skips and beam. This was worked by a shaft and pulleys connected up to the engine. All lighting was done by gas.
There were 1,138 Harling and Todd looms in the mill which, I believe, cost less than 10 each.
Financially the shares were very profitable to the shareholder. The accountant for the company until the 1930's was Walter Moorhouse, of Nelson.
Accounts were audited every six months, and balance sheets with directors recommendations as to dividends were sent to shareholders.
The shareholders meetings were held at Haggate School. Only shareholders outside the village received their balance sheets by post, those in the village were delivered by Ezra Berry or myself. I took from Queensgate to the Craven Heifer and Ezra took from Queen Street to Lanebottom.
The engine was originally christened "Prudence" - that being the christian name of the engineer's wife who was Mrs Edward Crowther. Mr Crowther was also a director in the company in the early days.
He left in 1915 to begin a haulage business in partnership with Mr Jess Brierley, bringing yarn into the village and taking cloth out to the warehouses in Manchester.
Just before peace was declared in World War One, the whole of the warehouse including the preparation department was burned down by fire which started in the engine house.
The reason for only building one storey was that of fire insurance. It was much cheaper than to rebuild as before.
I would just like to mention two families who worked there during my period. First Richard Thornton, director at one time, and a teacher.
He was followed by his son Tom on the same set of looms. Tom was killed in the war and the youngest son Walter took over the set.
The oldest son John and his three sisters - Jane, Betty and Clara all worked as weavers during what I would think was all their working lives.

Tackler

Another family was Roger Greenwood's brood of 12 children. I am sure 10 of them worked there at one period of their working lives. James Henry was a tackler and the rest were weavers. James Henry lived to be over 90.
At first all yarn was brought by rail to Bank Top Station (now Central). There it was collected by our own two carts - we had four horses - or, if there was too much, by Mr A Hargreaves, who had a large number of horses and lorries, and their stables were in what is now Briercliffe Working Men's Club.
Cloth out was loaded on flats belonging to the railways. These were lifted onto lorries and then cloth was loaded on them sheeted up with linen sheets and then tar sheets on the outside to make the load waterproof.
The flats were then taken to the station and lifted onto railway bogies and the railway took the cloth to Manchester and they delivered it to our customers.
In my 20 years experience of loading and transporting of cloth by railways and later by Messrs Brierley and Crowther, and Messrs John Stanworths, the carriers we used, we never had one bundle of cloth stolen. That's how honest people were in those days!

Transport

In 1915 or 1916 when the carriage was taken over by Brierley and Crowther, Harry Green took over as engineer and was still there when I left.
Sometime during 1916 or early 1917 we went back to railway transport as Brierley and Crowther's two steam wagons were taken over by the Government for war work in Wales.
I think that we were on railway transport until the 1920's when the mill was restored. At the same time the engine was rechristened "Peace", because the armistice was declared one week after the fire.
There was no weaving to stock or speculating at Queen Street. Immediately an order was taken the yarn and weft was bought at the price quoted when the price was calculated.
Many times I heard it said - there was no profit at that price...but it kept the looms running!
In the 1930's, when trade was poor, I left the mill.

One name which is inseparable from Queen Street is that of Clifford Burrows, who, as company secretary, ran the mill from 1957 until it closed.
From 1900 to 1957 the mill had been run by his uncle Mr Willie Burrows.
The company's first boss, a Roggerham stone mason Thomas Pickles, was Clifford's maternal grandfather.







Mr Burrows >>

Arthur Martin closing down Peace, the steam engine. Soon it will be working again.











Peace >>

Before the closure - Gwen Latham at work at the mill











Gwen Latham >>

With kind permission of The Burnley Express

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