Weaving some magic moments at the Queen Street Mill


Some images and thoughts from Alan Dearling

Living these days in Todmorden, this old market and mill town lies in the heart of the old weaving counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. About a dozen miles away, three miles outside of Burnley, is the Queen Street Mill – now a textile museum which includes a massive weaving shed built on an epic scale. This awesome weaving shed has been often used in film and TV sets including the recent Mike Leigh film, ‘Peterloo’, and the 2010 film, ‘The King’s Speech’. Queen Street Mill was also used to represent the Milton Steam Mill in the BBC series, ‘North & South’, and featured in ‘Life on Mars’, also appearing in the 2015 BBC adaption of ‘An Inspector Calls’. The museum was formally opened by the then Prince of Wales, Charles, in 1986 seen here in a silent film:


Trailer for ‘Peterloo’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj5h1kKjVYc

Back in the late 1800s, a weaver would be operating and supervising at least four looms and the most experienced operators would be in charge of six looms in an incredibly noisy, vast humid shed. Flying shuttles had to be dodged and they flew at up to 30 miles an hour. Injuries were frequent and sometimes life threatening. Thousands of bobbins had to be hand-threaded and the cotton threads were frequently swallowed with nasty consequences. Six days a week workers toiled long hours in industrial sweat shops powered in those days by steam. Queen Street still has its steam beam-engine, but for more normal demonstrations the looms are run by electricity, utilising leather drive belts. Fascinating glimpses of the old days of the Northern Powerhouse!

It is unique in being the world’s only surviving operational steam-driven weaving shed, and it received an Engineering Heritage Award in November 2010. At its peak it was equipped with 900 single-shuttle Lancashire looms made by two local Burnley companies, Pemberton & Co. and Harling & Todd Ltd. Many are still in the textile museum and many are fully functional.

There are two huge coal-fired boilers housed in a shed and these are still occasionally fired up to provide power for the mighty stream engine which runs the impressive 4.3 metre flywheel.

Tours and demonstrations take place most weekends and include an experienced weaver running two impressive and noisy looms, which look really rather dangerous! The safety fencing didn’t feel all that ‘safe’, if a shuttle was to take flight…

Hope you enjoy some of my images! Here are a few more:

Queen Street Mill: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums/queen-street-mill-textile-museum/

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