Stott Park Bobbin Mill, the UK’s only remaining working bobbin mill
PUBLISHED: 00:31 09 July 2013
Ben Barden Photography Ltd.
Bobbins were crucial to the cotton industry and Lancashire has the only working mill left in the country. Mike Glover reports
PHOTOGRAPHY: BEN BARDEN
The humble bobbin, so crucial to the development of the cotton industry, is being celebrated at a newly rejuvenated visitor attraction.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill, nestling in the hills overlooking the Lancashire side of Windermere in the Lake District, is not just a tribute to the region’s industrial past but also a reminder of poverty and child labour. There is one particularly moving story board.
It reports: ‘Edward Mashiter (1852-1930) came to Stotts Park from Ulverston workhouse in 1865, a penniless boy of 12, separated from his family, although his older brother John was put to work at a blacksmiths at nearby Newby Bridge. Having served an apprenticeship of six years, in October 1872 was at his trade. He married Agnes and their first born Thomas Edward Mashiter followed him into the mill. Father continued to 1930, son to 1937. Edward made a place for himself in the world against all the odds.’
Much of this has been gathered by historian Paul Pattison who interviewed local experts and former workers, notably Jane Martin from Finsthwaite, who provided family connections and images.
A lot of workers, like Edward, were probably originally from overcrowded workhouses in places such as Liverpool and Manchester. Names like Mashiter and Fitzackerly, still prominent in the Lake District, are remnants of this cruel and challenging world.
Visitors will also meet modern day workers like David Steeley, aged 66, who began his wood turning career back in 1962, aged just 15. He retired in 2011 but comes back to help and give talks.
Also worth seeking out is Tracy Shaw who started as site supervisor 12 years ago, attracted by the opportunity to work with wood. She has gradually picked up all the skills, from harvesting the coppiced wood to caring for the boiler which produces the steam power than drives the lathes.
This trim lady shovels seven 25 kilogram bags of coal a day but she says this is less demanding physically than the coppicing, carried out during the winter when the mill is closed. She cuts and gathers 30 tons a year of ash, hazel, sycamore and alder.
Tracy says the new exhibition gives a better sense of the working people and a lot more information about the history. ‘It’s the machinery that brings the place to life with the sights, noise and smells’
Last year the mill attracted 7,000 visitors. The new facilities are expected by site owners English Heritage significantly boost that.
The only fully operational bobbin mill in the country is also gearing up to supply the revived trade in sustainable wooden tools and other products.
Manager Mick Callaghan said: ‘After months of preparation we can now celebrate the life and times of this beautiful mill that has produced millions of bobbins and other turned wooden products for over a century in Finsthwaite.
‘The mill has some of the most beautifully restored and intact interiors and with the help of our historians, curators and oral histories from local people we are now able to share more about the workers and the bobbin business in the Lake District.’
Kevin Booth, senior curator for English Heritage in the North of England, said when cotton was king there had been phenomenal demand for bobbins from the Lancashire textile industry with each town using millions.
There were up to 80 bobbin mills in the Lake District alone, attracted by the availability of coppiced wood and steep-sided becks to drive water wheels.
Visitors can now see those double-acting boring machines being operated during guided tours. ‘It is the industrial revolution encapsulated,’ said Mr Booth.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill is near Newby Bridge, Windermere, LA12 8AX. The site is open 10 a.m. to 5p.m. Thursday to Monday until November 3, except in August when it is open seven days a week. Guided tours are hourly from 10.30 a.m. The last tour is at
4.30 p.m. It closes from November 4 to March 13, 2014. Tickets cost £5.40 for adults; £3.80 for children; £5.80 for concessions and a family ticket is £16.60. For more information, see: www.english-heritage.cor.uk/stottpark