More often than not, the places I go are dead. Not just as a building, but the companies that inhabited it have also died, along with all the traditions, products and culture that was unique to that enterprise. Technology and commerce move on, budgets shrink, new companies with lower costs come into the market, older companies get bought up for their order book and then shut down, and umpteen other eventualities.
Vernon Carus’ Penwortham Mill was one of the few exceptions. The company had relocated to a brand new factory about a quarter of a mile away from my home, consolidating its old Penwortham Mill and Hoddlesden factories into one purpose-built unit. The Penwortham site was a sprawling mill complex next to the west coast railway mainline, and the only access to the mill was under the railway, through a narrow tunnel which massively limited HGV access, and was cited as one of the reasons for moving. Although I passed the mill on the way home from work, it’s not visible from the road, and so I hadn’t realised it had shut. It was only after reading reports online from my friend Pixilulu, did it dawn on me where it was.
So one Friday afternoon on the way home from work, I nipped in for a quick look. A quick conversation with the friendly security guard enabled me to wander round unhindered, which was awfully generous of him.
The mill was a traditional brick-built Lancashire cotton mill over four storeys, once common across Preston, but now one of the few survivors as Preston’s planners have allowed many more mills to be demolished than in other local towns. However, Preston maybe wasn’t as reliant on the textile industry as other bits of Lancashire, so maybe there were fewer to begin with, I don’t know.
As the business had relocated, they’d taken nearly everything with them, and the only remaining machinery was in a bit of the mill that I just couldn’t find access to. But what was left was all the personal effects and memories of the place. I’ve spent my career working in and around factories, and it is the people who work there that are what make the place what it is. Take them away and you just have a shell.
Most of the photos from this place are of the artefacts that were left behind, not least because the absence of decay and machinery and the difficulty of getting external photos, meant that there wasn’t much else to look at. It makes an interesting change from the rest of the mills in this series.
Tracks – I didn’t check the gauge, but it looks to be standard. I’m not sure as to what they were used for, I can only think there was a siding off the old ‘East Lancashire’ railway line which runs along this side of the mill (as opposed to the West Coast Mainline on the other side of the mill), and small wagons were used for moving bulk materials from the railway to the mill.
I wonder how many footsteps have their been up this staircase over the past hundred years?
And for the second time – ?!?!?!?!?!??!?!
Memories of a big night out
And while I’m on the subject of Vernon Carus………
On the way back from somewhere else, I called in to see the mill at Hoddlesden. Unfortunately, 90% of it had been demolished, leaving just one three storey block standing, presumably with the intention of being converted to flats or something. Security with a big dog was a bit of a deterrent, but I wasn’t really equipped for exploring or in the right frame of mind, so I took a few snaps and decided to come back the following week. The following day the place was burnt down. As someone once said to me, opportunities pass, they don’t pause.
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