#211 – Derelict Mills – Part 1 Bradshaw Works

Printing & Steaming Building.
Much of the foreground was cleared of buildings in the 1960’s. The buildings here were the Making Up, Stitching & Damping Room, and the Colour and Roller Store

Growing up in the magnificent Lancashire town of Bolton, I was surrounded by the derelict and decaying remnants of the towns textile industry. Textiles brought vast wealth to Bolton, or at least to some people in Bolton, to the rest it brought a poorly paid job, and probable deafness due to the incredible noise on the shop floor from the machinery and line shafting. The textile industry, like many other northern industrial towns shaped the urban and rural landscape of Bolton, with great multi storey mills, huge brick chimneys, vast jagged roofed weaving sheds and street after street of terraced housing. And like many other northern towns, textile wealth bought a grand civic centre, Bolton town hall and the adjacent Le Mans crescent (named after Bolton’s twin town in France), is as grand an example of the vernacular as you are likely to find.

But by the 1950’s the industry was in trouble, threatened by cheap imports. A great consolidation of the industry in the late 50’s saw many mills close, and many stayed empty and were demolished in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Others remained in use by catalogue companies as distribution warehouses, others were sectioned off into multiple occupation industrial units, which generally meant a long slow decay. Eventually, the majority of the great chimneys that belched out smoke over the town for generations, were brought crashing to earth, many by local steeplejack turned celebrity tv historian, the late Fred Dibnah.

It’s against this backdrop that my visual literacy was formed, and influenced. By the 1980’s, Bradshaw Works, an old bleachworks near the estate I grew up on, was largely derelict and many an hour was spent mooching round the sprawling site that once employed over 800 people. Memories also of drawing the old Cotton mills that overlooked our art classroom before they fell before the swinging iron ball of the demolition contractors.

Printing & Steaming Building.

So, I’ve still got a bit of a fondness for textile mills, and I’ve explored quite a few derelict ones over the past few years, so I’ll be posting a few images over the next week or two of some of my better snaps.

These first ones are of the place that probably most influenced my interest, the aforementioned Bradshaw Bleachworks. It was originally intended by the developers to retain the two large stone buildings and convert them to apartments, but they were in such a poor state that they ended up being demolished, and a single new apartment block was built vaguely in the position and style. I took these photos in 1989 for my GCSE Geography project on the urban environment, just as the demolition contractors were moving in.

Three storey Stenter Building of 1871. The boilers were in the basement.

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