mill was the first in Bollington to be built for steam power. It
was therefore the first to be built away from the river. Indeed,
it stands proudly on the hillside over-looking much of the town.
It was built here for just one good reason - the canal. The
Macclesfield Canal was
being built between 1826 and 1831, and Joseph Brooke and Martin
Swindells I, who were already renting
other mills in the town, saw the opportunity to build their own
mill and take a giant leap of advantage ahead of their competitors.
Martin was also a Proprietor of the Macclesfield Canal Company.
The picture (right) shows the mill in 1920 when there were still
three chimneys but before a number of improvements were made
to the building.
Transport of raw cotton to Bollington and finished thread and
cloth away from Bollington must have been one of the biggest difficulties
facing the mill owners in this town. No lorries, no railways, no
canal - nothing better than mules and horses to carry the goods
upon their backs or on trailers. The roads were very poor so hauling
trailers wasn't really as productive as it might sound. Individual
loads on individual animals moved along in trains of half a dozen
or more was the best of a bad job.
Brooke & Swindells were determined to maximise their
benefit from the canal by building right alongside and to have
the mill ready for business as soon as the canal came into operation
in 1831. The first phase of the mill was erected by 1830. It stood
at the top of a newly built road, Clarence
Road, and extended along the
canal side about one third along the length of the present mill.
Success was marked by an extension further along the canal side
in 1841, and in 1857, immediately after completing Adelphi
the brothers Martin II and George Swindells extended Clarence
again, reaching the limit we see today. In 1877 the first phase
was demolished and the present mill, up to the staircase, was built
in its place. This was five floors in height and extended away
from the canal more than twice the original, making Clarence an
altogether enormous mill, much the biggest in Bollington.
A number of additional buildings were put up in the space behind
the spinning mill. these were for weaving and other activities,
but spinning was always the main activity.
The power of steam
Steam provided the power and a boiler house was built behind the
original mill. The extensions required more power and an additional
boiler house was built, also at the back. In the early 20thC there
was a need to modernise the power system, and a new boiler house
was built together with a new
brick chimney (1914) at the end
of the mill - the chimney is still there and the boiler house was
beside it. There were two steam engines, named Success and Perseverance.
The building is constructed of local stone. The floors are vaulted,
supported by cast iron beams and pillars, surfaced with stone -
a building system known as the fire-proof mill. One of the biggest
causes of serious fires in old mills was the oil dripping from
the machinery which soaked into the timber floors. Unfortunately,
oil still got into the stone floors of Clarence mill, and seepage
can be seen today in some ceilings.
The mill was first built by a partnership of Joseph Brooke and
Martin Swindells; Martin Swindells I died in 1843, his son Martin
II continued the partnership with Joseph Brooke. Brooke had retired
and was dead by 1872, Martin II retired in 1869 and died in 1880.
After Joseph retired, the Brooke family dropped out of the partnership
and the enterprise was continued by the brothers Martin II and
George Swindells. George died in 1897 having re-established the
business of Brooke & Swindells
as George Swindells & Son Ltd., and handed the two mills,
Clarence and Adelphi, over to his son George Cawley Swindells.
In 1891, his son, Geoffrey Hillier Swindells, began at Adelphi
and later took charge. In the 1890s, the cotton industry was in
decline and many of the mills in Bollington, including Clarence
and Adelphi, became, in 1898, part of the Fine
Spinners & Doublers
Association Ltd. All the resources of the mills were pooled,
as well as their supplies and sales. Geoffrey Hillier Swindells
answered the call of the nation and served in WWI. He was killed
The end of cotton
ceased by 1970. Luckily the building was saved although for many
years it was largely unused. Throughout the first years of the
21stC, more of the building has been brought back into use. The
top two floors have been converted into very popular apartments.
An additional floor has been created on the roof and a transparent
roof has been put over the central atrium. Lower down there are
many flourishing small businesses and on the canal side the Café Waterside is
a very popular venue. The Civic
Society's Discovery Centre and
the Kellico furniture workshop and showroom are also located
beside the canal. A two story car park has been constructed
in the yard at the back of the mill. A further floor awaits
conversion to apartments (2016).
The picture above is of a drawing produced by architects in 1920
showing a birds eye view of the mill after proposed improvements
would be made to the building - such as the embellishments to the
stair tower. This picture shows a number of interesting features:
- It shows two boiler house chimneys in use. The furthest one
was later demolished.
- One can see the immense size of the 1877 re-development of the
south (near) end of the mill relative to the original 1841 and
- It shows two canal swing bridges. The further one had rails on
it and was used to convey boiler ash across the canal to the ash
dump where the woodland is today. One can still see the tracks
crossing the towpath at this point. The near bridge was a pedestrian
bridge which enabled the workers who lived across the valley to
cross to the towpath and get to and from the mill without having
to descend to the valley bottom and climb up again.
- In the canal is a very unusual double-ended narrow boat. At this
time both Clarence and Adelphi mills were in the same ownership
and there was a fair amount of material that would have been conveyed
between the two. Use of a double-ended horse-drawn boat avoided
the need to turn the boat at each end of the journey. Unseen is
the horse stable beside the towpath, and there was another at Adelphi.
- Finally, we can see the huge gate houses that controlled access
to and from the canal side, designed, no doubt, to ensure that
no product was removed from site without proper authorisation and
paperwork. In front of the gate house stands a 1920 motor
lorry - the first indication of the end of dependence on the
canal at Clarence!
Notice that the business is still called George Swindells & Son
Ltd. despite the fact that they were a part of the Fine Spinners
& Doublers Association Ltd.
Site security - keep the blunderbuss loaded!
The following story comes from a history
of the Waterhouse mill ...
"A blunderbuss hung on the walls of the [Waterhouse mechanic's]
shop. This weapon was still in its place up to 1900, but about
that time it disappeared. Other mills in the village were similarly
armed against any attempts on life or property. The use to which
it might be put for this purpose may be illustrated by an incident
which happened at Messrs. Swindells' Mill [Clarence or Adelphi].
A new watchman, an Irishman, was engaged and Mr
Martin Swindells gave him [among] many other instructions
for his night duties; that if he heard any suspicious noises
he was to shout three times, 'Speak, or I'll shoot'. Mr.
Swindells did not quite trust the pluck of the new man, so
to test it, he hid himself behind some barrels and packing
cases. When the man came round, Mr. Swindells set up a violent
commotion in his hiding place. The Irishman yelled out 'Shoot
or I'll Shout three times' and
let go in the direction of the noise. It was fortunate that
Mr. Swindells was well hidden so he escaped injury."
My thanks go to those who researched and discovered the history
that is presented in these pages. Please
read the full acknowledgement of their remarkable achievement.
Your Historic Documents
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