Legend has it that Oldham once had over 360 mills chimneys – ‘one for every day of the year’ which meant that it had at least as many mills. Indeed, Oldham was the centre of the world when it came to cotton production – in 1913, 10% of the world’s production came from Oldham and the town had more cotton spindles than the entire French and German industries. Yet, like all the other northern textile towns, cotton production is now virtually extinct and the number of mills is a mere fraction of what it once was. In fact the numbers continue to diminish, with Hartford Mill going in 2020, and Vernon Works (Fir Mill) in Royton going in 2021 while Lily Mill in Shaw is being demolished as I type this.
Meanwhile, Lees Brook Mill is still in use, albeit as a warehouse and distribution depot for a toy company. It is a listed building, although the degree of protection this affords is of course limited and just makes any proposals to demolish it more drawn out, not that this is on the horizon I hasten to add.
These reflection photographs were somewhat fortuitous – the lane I was photographing from had a very large, very frozen puddle in the middle of it. Or it did right up to the point a large 4×4 came crashing through it, shattering the ice and creating more of a small pond. As the ripples settled I noticed that a reflection of the mill was more or less visible so I composed a few different photographs, some of which worked out and some which didn’t. These were taken on my phone and seemed to work better than the ones from the camera. I’ve flipped them as they work better the ‘right’ way round.
I took a walk round the surrounding area to see if I could find any other compositions. The adjacent Lees Brook Nature Park is a sort of linear park that follows the river so I had a brief wander in there but the height of the woodland obscured the mill for the most part. However I noticed that the trees formed a kind of archway through which I could see the mill tower. I couldn’t quite make it work as well as I envisioned but it does provide an alternative perspective.