Be aware that this is a noisy one. With all the machines going the mill-girls had to find a way to communicate. Mee-mawing was a form of speech with exaggerated movements to allow lip reading employed by workers in weaving sheds in Lancashire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The noise in a weaving shed rendered hearing impossible so workers communicated by mee-mawing which was a cross between mime and lip reading. To have a private conversation when there were other weavers present, the speaker would cup their hand over their mouth to obscure vision. This was very necessary as a mee-mawer would be able to communicate over distances of tens of yards. It was said that each mill had its own dialect. The Queen Street Mill Manufacturing Company was established in 1894, capitalised with ₤20,000 in £5 shares. The company built the Queen Street Mill between 1894 and 1895. As money was scarce only one Lancashire boiler was installed, and it was six years before the second was bought. The weaving shed was single storey, and the mill frontage was three storey. All the looms were bought from Burnley companies, Pemberton & Co. and Harling & Todd Ltd., and have not been replaced. The mill was originally equipped with 900 single shuttle Lancashire looms capable of producing grey cloth. When this was not enough, the company installed a further 366 looms at Primrose Mill, Harle Syke which was the room and power mill immediately adjacent but slightly downhill. To the workers it was known as the bottom shed. The completed cloth was taken by horse and cart and train to finishers for bleaching and dyeing. Around 1910, the hauliers, ex-employees of the mill invested in two steam driven flat bed lorries. These were impounded in 1915 for war work, and horses briefly returned. Weavers were paid by piecework; a good four-loom weaver was paid 24 shillings a week, only slightly less than the tackler. Harle Syke workers had always been paid slightly below the list, which management explained as being due to the carriage costs to Burnley. In August 1915 there was a strike that lasted for several weeks triggered by this injustice. Many workers were also shareholders and took a dividend from the profits of the mill, so they refused to join the strike. Leaflets were printed by the Weavers' Union accusing them of scabbing and being "Knobsticks".
Steam is raised by two Lancashire boilers built by Tinker, Shenton & Co, Hyde. The first was installed in 1894, and the second in 1901, when a 120-tube Greens Economiser was fitted. Feed water is now supplied by a Weir pump fitted in 1956. Both boilers were stoked manually, until secondhand Proctor automatic stokers were fitted in 1962. Boiler No.1 had the Shovel type and the coking type was fitted to No.2; the manually stoked 1901 boiler is the only one used today. Coal was obtained locally from Bank Hall Pit but now with pollution controls being stricter it has to be imported. At its peak it burnt 6 tonnes a day. The glory of this mill is its completeness. When yarn enters a weaving mill, it is on different size cops and cheeses, and these had to be wound onto pirns to fit in the shuttles used by the looms installed. The equipment is here and used. For the weft, there are two remaining banks of pirn winders manned by one operative. The warp needs to be taken from a 300 bobbins on V-shaped frame and wound onto a beam. Four or five beams are merged to make the 2000 end beam that is needed, and they are placed in the Cylinder Tape Sizing Machine (made in 1919 by Howard & Bullough Ltd. of Accrington). The threads pass through the size to stiffen them and reduce friction. The size is a mixture of flour soft soap and tallow: specific to this mill. They are dried over steam-heated cylinders and wound onto the final beam, the weavers beam. The weavers beam is now placed on the Drawing-in frame. Here each end is passed through the healds, and then through a reed. This job was done by a reacher-in and a loomer. The reacher-in, who would be young and usually a boy, passed each end in order to the loomer. The mill still has two Drawing in frames. Alternatively, if the loom had already run that cloth, a short length of warp thread could be left on the healds and reed, and a Barber-Colman knotter could tie in warp threads to the new beam. This process took 20 minutes, considerably faster than starting afresh. Spare healds and reeds are stored above head height for that purpose. The loomed weavers beam would be taken into the weaving shed. One weaver would tenter 6, or 8 Lancashire Looms, which would be kept working by a tackler. Today there are 308 looms from 1894 built by Pemberton, or Harling & Todd of Burnley. These would require 65–80 weavers and 3 tacklers. At its peak there were 990 looms, all driven by overhead line shafts.
In addition to the original machines, Lancashire Museums also display other textile machines they own or are restoring, and weave some specialist commissions. One of the commissions is a blue and white shirting that is sold exclusively to 'Old Town' of Holt, Norfolk, who produce Victorian workware. Another is weaving woollen Jewish prayer shawls. There is a large Hattersley Standard Loom, and a treadle operated Hattersley Domestic Loom. There is a Sulzer, and a Saurer telescopic rapier loom that operates at 180 picks per minute. There is a collection of shuttles and machines used to make and maintain them. Also, there are machines for making reeds and healds. Assistance dogs welcome. Water available, please request from staff. Main access to the Engine house is up a flight of stairs. There is a public operated platform lift which can be used to access the engine house to see the engine. If visitors have any issues operating this, a member of staff is on hand at reception to assist. The site is wheelchair accessible but the floor is flagged so uneven in places. There are accessible toilets. Ear plugs provided if necessary.
Location : Queen Street, Harle Syke Burnley, Lancashire, BB10 2HX
Transport: Burnley Central (National Rail) or Manchester Road (National Rail) then bus/taxi. Bus routes 4 and 5 stop at Queen Street, Harle Syke.
Opening Times: Tuesday to Thursday 12:00 to 17:00
Opening Times: May to Sept. - Friday/Saturday 12:00 to 17:00
Tickets: Adults £3.00 Concessions £2.00
Tel: 01282 412 555