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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 5:00 pm 
Spider Lady
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Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:23 pm
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Location: Staffordshire
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11 August 1906


We believe that it was Mark Twain who suggested that the presence of ruins was an indispensable adjunct to man's conception of the picturesque in nature. There are not many of us certainly that would deny that a ruin does really add charm to the landscape. As we sit on the edge of Swinden Clough, above the ruins of the old mill, and look into the valley below on this glorious summer's day, one would not cavil at the statement. Behind us and before, on the hillside, the people are making hay, and the fragrant breath of the meadow fills our nostrils. To the right the moors show clear in the freshness of summer. Below us lies the ravine, stretching to right and left, filled with a tangle of verdant foliage of varied shades. The trickle of running water comes up, faintly blending with the song of birds and the sound of poultry. the rocks cropping out of the opposite side of the ravine form a background of jagged suggestiveness. The bushes are dotted with pink and white roses in wild profusion. And in the midst of it all rise the ruins of the old mill, walls sinking to decay, huge beams twisted and warped and apparently hanging in the act of falling, heaps of fallen debris, grass-grown mounds where the mill pond once glittered and where buildings once stood, green patches where once were the yards of the mill, grass, bramble, and wild rose gradually creeping over the ruins. It all tells of destruction and desolation. The only signs of life about it are the poultry on the sward beside the ruins, and a couple of poking pressmen, gathering wild roses in the lane just beyond the gate. None of the valleys in our hills can quite provide such a scene as this, save only Swinden. It is picturesque in a sense. The walls are grey and battered; they fit into the picture, but after all they are rather too eloquent of destruction. Cast your eyes upwards to where stands Extwistle Hall. Here also is decay, but the effect is not the same. At Extwistle you get rather a suggestion of a peaceful old age, of senile decay, work having been done, of a building having finished its duty being left to fade quietly away, a memorial of byegone days. There is romance about it. You can picture past generations of men and women moving about its rooms. It is different with the old mill. The suggestion there is of a violent ending when life has not yielded of its best, of wasted energies, of uncompleted usefulness. The visions that rise to one's mind concerning it are sordid and unromantic. It speaks of ruined hopes, of a violent end. The house dominating it, in which our old friend Tattersall Wilkinson lately dwelt, bearing traces of newer destruction in its blackened walls, deepens the air of violence. The aspect of the whole place is a little too modern, too closely associated with 19th century mills and machinery to be entirely romantic.


We have to thank Mr. Williamson, the Waterworks Manager, for his courteous correction concerning the engineer who constructed the reservoir at Hecknest, whom we erroneously supposed to be the late Mr. James Emmett. Mr. Williamson has informed us that they were made from the designs and under the superintendence of the late Mr. Cawley, afterwards M.P. for Salford. These valleys running deep into the heart of the hills, surrounded by moorlands, have played a very important part in the development of Burnley, as they have provided the town with gathering grounds for a plentiful and excellent supply of that most indispensable of all requirements in a large town, water, and that almost at our doors. Three of these eastern valleys have been utilised, Cant Clough, Swinden, and Thursden, and the last-named may at no distant date be further called on to yield of its stores for our use. Swinden was early captured for this purpose, and three sheets of water in its upper reaches add brightness to the scenery. One of these was constructed in 1850, at the same time as those at Hecknest, presumably under Mr. Cawley's direction. It was then used for compensation and storage purposes. The Lea Green reservoir will always serve as a memorial of the most terrible time which has ever fallen upon Lancashire, at any rate in modern times, the Cotton Famine. It is over forty years ago, and among the mass of the people it is getting to be little more than a haggard, grisly name. There are still a good many, however, left who can recall the poignant distress of that time. Red war, the war between brothers, had closed most of the Lancashire mills, and starvation and gaunt hubger stalked abroad. This is no time to retell that old story. We merely remark that this Lea Green reservoir, constructed in 1865, will always serve as memento of that period, for many out-of-work operatives were employed in the construction. One does not suppose that mill-hands thus changed to navvies found the work either easy or congenial. The second reservoir at swinden was made in 1870, and the embankment raised at a later date, being completed in 1876. It was these waterworks that led to the disuse and decay of the Extwistle Mills.


Mills have always been a very necessary part of industry, and they seem also to have been very early the special perquisite of the Sovereign or the great landowners. The holders of the lands were compelled to take their grain to be ground at the lord's mill. There was, of course, a charge for the work, the charge varying, and being levied in the form of a deduction from the grain. This toll was called "multure." The obligation of the inhabitants of a manor to grind their corn at the lord's mill was the "soke," or "suit." we find in a suit between richard Towneley and Lawrence Towneley, in 1623, that the multure taken at carr Hall was less than that charged at the Padiham mill. At Padiham it was one measure of the whole meal before sifting, and half a measure of fine meal out of every thirty measures of corn or meal, and at Carr Mill it was only one measure of corn in every twenty-four. It was the duty of the Halmot Court to take into consideration all those cases where the tenants transgressed in having their corn ground elsewhere, and the Clitheroe Court Rolls contain many cases where the Courts inflicted fines on erring tenants. In 1516 there is record of a complaint from the miller of Worston that Christopher Nowell had withdrawn his grinding for a year, by which the miller had lost 13s. 4d. The jury fined the culprit 3s. 4d. It would seem that the obligation to grind only at the soke mill became exceedingly irksome to the inhabitants. It is obvious that there was a pretty good opportunity for a dishonest miller to exact a very unjust tribute. If we are to juge by the picture which Chaucer gives of the miller, they were not held in very high repute. The miller and the reve seem to have had no love for each other. The miller was a coarse, brawling drunken brute. The reve, who conceived himself insulted by the miller's story, retorted with an even coarser tale of a miller, and between the two we get a very disgusting idea of the race of millers of that day. Somewhat modernising the language of old Chaucer, we learn of the miller:
"Great soken hath this miller out of doubt,
With wheat and malt, of all the land about."

"This miller stole both meal and corn,
An hundred times more than before.
For therebefore he stole but courteously,
But now he was a thefe outrageously.
For which the warden chidde and made ado,
But thereof set the miller not a tare;
He cracked aloud and swore it was not so."

Extwistle Mill

We have to confess that we know very little of the history of this old mill. It was one of the old soke mills, and the records prove it to have been in existence for centuries. Mr. Tattersall Wilkinson, in "Memories of Hurstwood," says: "In the township of Extwistle there stands a site of an ancient corn mill, long ago demolished to make room for the present mill: and the goit and bywash, and also the mounds on which formerly stood the headings of the waterwheel, are still visible. In the Duchy Pleadings are found the proceedings of an action brought by the lessee of the King's or Soke Mill against Edmond Tattersall and others to contest the grinding of their corn at the old mill at Extwistle. The King, as Lord of the Manor, claimed the exclusive right of soke and mouttre of all corn grown within the said manor." A little further the writer refers to the Parkers of Extwistle leaving the mill two hundred years ago. The latest use of the Extwistle Mill was as a cotton concern, and there are still living people who had connection with it in its later years. Not long ago there was laid to rest in St. Peter's Churchyard an octogenarian, who in his boyhood lived at Lea Green. He used to tell that in those days, on one occasion the mill wheel became choked and stopped, and he as a boy was lowered into the mill race by ropes in order to set the wheel free. To-day the place lies in ruins, the walls falling, the "goit" grass-grown, and decay is setting its seal on everything.


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