A tale of two families and the textile industry. Before the mills were built, the Turner family had been involved in textiles. Three of the six brothers made their living from wool in Martholme and three from cotton in Blackburn. In 1789 the brothers built Higher Mill on a green field site in the parish of Musbury as a woollen fulling mill but the cotton brothers soon dropped out of the enterprise. It was the son of one of these original six, a William Turner (1793–1852) who built the larger mill in the 1820s. This was a wool carding, spinning and weaving mill. Some of the cloth would have gone to the fulling mill next door. Turner instructed in his will that the mill should be sold on his death, which occurred in 1852. This mill was destroyed by fire in 1857, and was rebuilt in 1860. It switched between wool and cotton several times. In the 1920s, the mill was bought by L.Whitaker & Sons who installed cotton condensing equipment and the mill continued in that business until Christmas 1978. Higher Mill came to operated by Lawrence Whittaker in 1875 still using Turners machinery, and his descendants continued to run it as a fulling mill until June 1967. The two families may have been distantly related but by the 1920s the Whittakers were a well known local family while the firm of L.Whitaker & Sons no longer had any Whitakers working for them. The freehold of both mills in the Helmshore Mills Estate was bought by Lawrence Whittakers family.
The museum divides its collections into three themed areas, representing the wool story, the cotton story and the spinning floor. The wool story: This shows the water wheel and fulling stocks and clay pots used to collect urine from the local cottages, that produced the ammonia needed for fulling. It goes on to show the later box system. There is a tenter frame, with the tenterhooks to show how the cloth was dried without shrinking and how teasles were used to lift up the nap. This was of course later mechanised and there is a teasle holding frame. The cotton story: This illustrates firstly the hand weavers cottage, with a frame loom with a hand thrown shuttle, mannikins represent the weaver and two women spinning the yarn on different types of wheel. A child is shown hand carding. It is here we see a 16 spindle spinning jenny that would have dated from about 1760, and a 50 spindle improved jenny. There is a replica of Arkwrights first carding machine. There is a complete sequence of machines that would have taken the bolls from the bales, opener, scutcher, breaker card, finisher card, draw frame and finally a waterframe. Sharing the floor at Whitaker's Mill is the equipment needed to prepare the waste cotton for the cards in the room above. There is a single cylinder pisker for soft waste and a six cylinder devil for the hard waste. The spinning floor: This was one of two at this mill and has all the equipment to breaker card the shoddy (recycled cotton) and to finisher card the slivers into rovings, these go onto the 714 spindle Taylor Lang spinning mules. Opening, scutching and mixing happened on the floor below. Assistance dogs are very welcome; there is ample outdoor space for the dogs to use for toilet needs and water bowls are available. All areas are fully wheelchair and accessible and there is clear contrasting signage (and crockery).
Location : Holcombe Road, Helmshore, Rossendale, Lancashire, BB4 4NP
Transport: Rawtenstall (East Lancashire Railway), 3.7 miles away. The local bus services are the X41 (Manchester – Helmshore – Accrington) & the 244 (Blackburn – Haslingden – Rawtenstall), which stop on Broadway near Gregory Fold (about 800m away but with in parts, a very steep approach) and are mainly half hourly, as well as the 11 (Helmshore – Rawtenstall circular), which stops on Holcombe Road (about 100m from the property) and is hourly.
Opening Times: From 14th February. Monday to Friday 12:00 to 16:00
Opening Times: From 14th February. Saturday/Sunday 12:00 to 17:00
Tickets: Adults £4.00 Concessions £3.00 Children Free
Tel: 01706 226459