The Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills is a museum of industrial heritage. It includes collections of textile machinery, railway equipment and heavy engineering amongst others. The earliest record of Armley Mills dates from the middle of the sixteenth century when local clothier Richard Booth leased 'Armley Millnes' from Henry Saville. A document of 1707 describes them as fulling mills. One contained two wheels and four fulling stocks, while another was used to grind corn mill and two fulling stocks'. The mills expanded and by 1788 were equipped with five waterwheels driving eighteen fulling stocks. Fulling was a necessary but dirty process where woven wool is felted. The bundles of cloth are hit repeatedly by large hammers, the fulling stocks, while soaked in water, urine and a clay known as Fuller's earth. The urine which is a source of ammonia was collected from neighbouring houses, who specially saved it for the purpose. The mills were sold in 1788, ten years after the new canal opened. It was bought by Colonel Thomas Lloyd, a Leeds cloth merchant who expanded it to be the world's largest woollen mill. In 1804 Benjamin Gott bought Armley Mills from Colonel Lloyd. Benjamin Gott was a major figure in the history of Leeds and the wool industry. He became Mayor of Leeds in 1799 and was also a patron of the Arts. Gott faced disaster in November 1805, when the mill was almost entirely destroyed by fire. He re-built the mill from fireproof materials, using brick and iron wherever possible and his version of the mill survives largely intact to this day. Gott died in 1840 and was succeeded by his sons John Gott and William Gott. They introduced a steam engine to supplement the water wheels in 1850 but it was in the 1860s that the waterwheels were phased out. By 1907 part of mill had been let out to tenants in a room and power agreement. The mill closed in 1971, a victim to the changing technology, loss of market and the prevailing economic conditions.
The buildings are principally from Benjamin Gott's 1805 construction, with some 19th century infill and a little of the 1795 corn mill that hadn't been destroyed in the fire in 1804. The mill is l-shaped on sloping ground so varies between four storey and two storey. The main range runs north-south over the millrace and is 23 bays wide, build of ashlar stone with a hipped slate roof. It has a six bay easterly projection (downstream), known as the Corn Mill, built into the sloping ground which is thus two storeys high. The mill was built to a fireproof design, The cast iron columns are circular and support brick floors build as shallow arches. In the earlier work that did survive the fire, wooden joists are isolated with sheet-iron which has been nailed to them. The roof structure in the main range was replaced in 1929 and is no longer to fireproof standards. The mill race flows under the main range of the mill and at water level are 6 finely detailed arches with wrought iron grills. The 1788 mill was powered by 5 waterwheels. The 1805 mill was powered by two metal wheels, named Wellington and Blucher, heroes in the current fights against Napoleon. They were suspension wheels with rim-gearing as pioneered by Thomas Hewes. These wheels were rated at 70 horse power. A beam engine was introduced to supplement the wheels in 1855, The wheels were replaced and removed in 1885 but photographs do exist of them in situ. A further older wooden wheel that powered the cornmill is extant, but in need of attention.
Textile gallery: The gallery attempts to show the complete woollen manufacturing process in what was a woollen mill. There is a carding machine, 1904 Platt Brothers & Co., condensor mule that is in working order; a warping machine with creel; a Hattersley Standard Loom; a Hollingworth Knowles of Dobcross Jacquard Loom - this loom was built to the design in the firms 1909 patent, it was in use until 1980 at Kaye and Stewart's in Huddersfield; a Blanket Loom; Fulling stocks; a Raising gig - the nap on a blanket is raised by scouring it with fine hooks, this involves a drum containing rows of teasels; a Cropping machine - when the nap is raised it is irregular so it must be sheared to a uniform height; a Cuttling machine - woollen cloth is heavy and is damaged by rolling, it must be folded, this is done using a cuttling machine; and a Pressing machine - there are two varieties, this one is a hydraulic rotary press. The museum has an extensive collection of standard gauge and narrow gauge railway rolling stock. The collection was started in 1956 when the Leeds City Museum acquired Barber from the recently closed Harrogate Gas Works Railway. A short display line is installed at Armley allowing some of the collection to run.
A large proportion of Armley Mills is fully accessible. There is a single chair lift to Millspace and the temporary exhibition gallery. There is a single chair lift from the temporary exhibition space to the lower ground floor exit by the waterwheel Wheelchair access to the lower floor display areas of the Mill and the Victorian Schoolroom is via a large goods lift. Access to the Mill cottages and colour garden is via a flag stoned/cobbled path. The Mill is situated between the River Aire and the Leeds/Liverpool canal The paths around the outside of the building are gravel, flagstone or cobbled in places. The pathway around the building is steep as you head back to the museum entrance from the lower galleries and locomotive shed. If you speak to a member of staff they will arrange for you to get the goods lift back to the entrance in the lift. There is an accessible toilet on the upper floor of the museum and another in the locomotives gallery. Facilities in the accessible toilets include emergency alarms and fire alarm with a flashing light. These toilets are not RADAR key operated. Guide and assistance dogs are welcome and they can provide dog bowls on request. Tailored handling sessions or touch tours on a group-specific interest area for groups can be organised. To get online, just turn on your Wi-Fi service and select Leeds Free Wi-Fi.
Location : Canal Road, Armley, Leeds LS12 2QF
Transport: Leeds (National Rail) then bus. Burley Park (National Rail) 1 mile. Bus Routes : 5 stops outside; 15, 33, 33A, 60A, 508 and 757 stop nearby.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Saturday + Bank Holidays - 10:00 to 17:00; Sunday 13:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 0113 378 3173