The fight to save Farfield Mill near Sedbergh
PUBLISHED: 16:25 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:25 17 December 2018
Sandy Kitching sandykitching.com
Historic Farfield Mill faces an uncertain future but the local community is fighting to save this centre for arts and crafts.
FARFIELD Mill is many things to many people. To some it is an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful objects made by traditional methods from natural materials. To the 60-odd makers of these treasures it is a showcase for their skills.
To others it is the last woollen mill in the region to make customised cloth and a place where visitors can have a go at operating hand looms. To 20 designer-makers and artists who have studios there, it is their place of work. To art lovers, it is the home of some unrivalled exhibition space and for historians, it is a living heritage centre.
Now ethical investors are flocking to buy shares in the unique arts, crafts and heritage centre to fend off the threat of closure.
Just three weeks after an appeal was launched, £150,000 had been raised for Farfield Mill, a four-storey Victorian Mill with quaint tea rooms, half a mile outside Sedbergh.
Chair of trustees, Peter Rothery, said: ‘We have had a fantastic response to our appeal to the community to buy shares, but we still have some way to go. We need to keep up the effort to ensure that this wonderful visitor attraction is not lost to the community.’
For almost 200 years the mill was engaged in weaving, but in 1992 the then owner Bryan Hinton closed the business, Pennine Tweeds. The following year a local committee was set up to save the mill from dereliction.
It attracted funding from Rural Regeneration Cumbria, local authorities, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council. But in recent years the money dried up and the mill has been running at a loss, only keeping going by donations.
A new board of trustees took over in January and they decided the only solution to the money troubles was to convert from a charity into a Community Benefit Society. A business plan was agreed and it included raising £365,000 through a share offer.
The money will be used to pay off the mortgage so that the mill belongs to the community, make badly-needed repairs, modernise the way it runs and spread the word about its charms through a marketing campaign.There is also a plan to renovate a floor devoted to the history of wool in the Dales and the impact the industry has had locally. National charity trust Power to Change, set up by the Lottery Heritage Fund, agreed to match the first £100,000 pound for pound, meaning £75,000 was raised from 144 investors in the three weeks after the September launch. The target set by trustees of the mill for their fund-raising campaign, called Let’s Share Farfield Mill, is £365,000 by the end of this year.
The share issue is being handled by Ethex, a financial services company which acts as a conduit for ethical investment, on www.ethex.org.uk/FarfieldMill .
Peter added: ‘If the campaign does not reach the minimum target, then everyone gets their money back and the mill will close, which would be disastrous for the local economy, the people who work and sell their goods there and for the heritage of the Dales. That is why it is so important that the Let’s Share Farfield Mill campaign reaches its target.’