Oak Bank mill was built in 1784 by George
Antrobus as a cotton spinning
mill. In 1806 it was occupied by Orme and Rogers. In the 1850s John
Brier bought and demolished the mill in order to build a five storey
cotton mill. In 1882 the mill was part occupied by George Holden,
and in the same year there was a major fire (see witness description
below). Around 1900 the mill turned over to cloth bleaching, dyeing
and printing and this led to the formation of the Bollington Printing
Company. Later, this was taken over by GUS (Great Universal Stores)
who may well previously have been an important customer to the mill.
The mill was extended
in the 1960s by demolishing the cottages
on the east side of Queen Street.
Later the mill lay unused and became increasingly derelict.
Part of it was used by Chesne Orme to develop his plastics recycling
business, but this use ended after a fatal accident on the site.
In the 1990s the remainder of the mill was demolished and domestic
housing developed in its place. It is now known as Hamson
The mill was originally water powered with a large mill pond beside
Shrigley Road. More on mill ponds. The
Harrop brook is of limited capacity, so a large pond was necessary
to hold enough head of water to power a mill this size. The site was
not an easy one on which to develop the mill or housing - the Harrop
brook runs right through it and was put into a large stone built culvert.
The mill was built over this, but modern housing cannot be built over
a river like this and that explains why there is so much green space
in Hamson Drive.
Later, steam power was introduced, at one time in the 20thC consuming
250 tons of coal per week! In the early days the boiler chimney was
created by building a flue in the ground up the side of Beeston, the
high ground behind the mill, and exhausting it through a short chimney
on top of the hillside. This can still be seen in the winter (no leaves
on the trees) by standing in Hamson Drive and looking up the hill.
This type of flue had its problems and so in 1912 a new 200ft tall
brick chimney was built beside the boiler house. This was felled when
the site was cleared for housing.
When the original mill was built in 1784, it is apparent that Queen
Street went from Bridgend to Defiance mill, as it does today, then
across the Oak Bank mill site to join Ingersley Road where the roundabout
is today. It seems that at some stage this road was closed and became
part of the mill premises. Queen Street then
passed up what was known as Defiance Brow to
join Great High Street - Palmerston
Many of the successful mill builders also built themselves a fine
house. One time owner of Oak Bank mill, John Brier did just that. He
built, in 1858, one of the biggest houses in Bollington on the hillside
overlooking his mill. The house suffered a fire and became
derelict in the early 20thC and was demolished after WWII. The site
is now occupied by Oak Bank Drive.
|Much of the following
is taken from a document published in 1964 by the Bollington
Printing Company Limited. The document was a handout at an exhibition
about the mill and its products put on for the 1964 Bollington
Festival. The dress lengths used in the display were later sold
at the Fabric Shop in Bollington on Monday 21st September 1964,
the proceeds being given to the Festival Committee fund.
Oak Bank Mill was possibly the first cotton mill built in Bollington in 1784. The brothers Philip and George Antrobus built and developed the mill.
In 1850s John Brier opened
his cotton mill at Oak Bank Works. In those days spinning, weaving
and printing were all carried out under the same roof.
The firm suffered a setback in 1882 when a large part of the works
was destroyed by fire. Jesse Beard1 was
a small boy at the time and recalled his father calling out to his
mother "Elizabeth, Oldham's is on fire!" Oldham's is what
the business was known as then. Young Jesse stood on the bank2 and
recalled seeing the roof falling in and the pipes hanging from the
walls. The firemen were calling out for help because those who were pumping3 were
A Mr Wilson was the next proprietor of the mill and formed the Oak Bank Printing Company in the last years of the 19th century. However, it was not until 1910 that the Bollington Printing Company was formed. From 1910 to the late 1960s the company was involved in the progressive use of cottons and was one of the leading producers of roller printed British fashion textiles.
The cloth was received from the weaver in the 'grey'. It was bleached or dyed in preparation for printing. The printing machines had multiple chromium plated copper rollers each adding its own colour to the cloth. Above the rollers were colour boxes and brushes to provide dyestuff to the engraved rollers.
The cloth went through many processes to ensure fast bright colours.
After printing, the cloth was steamed, aged, sprayed, oxidised,
washed, dried, resinated, stentered, calendered, rewashed and dried,
examined and rolled before it was ready for sale in shops or to
the making-up trade as the finished article.
Although the Bollington Printing Company printed nylons, spun rayons, terry toweling and furnishings among other cloths, the principal fabric was fashion dress cotton which was then treated in finishing to give it whatever special qualities were required. For example, the ease of a drip dry fabric for washing or the warmth of a brushed surface, the silky look or the constant freshness of a crease resisting summer dress.
Do you know?
The yardage of cloth going through the printing machines in one year would stretch 40 times to Brighton and back, would provide dresses for three million people and curtains for a million windows!
The soap used each year to ensure our colours are fast would provide the average household with stocks enough to last 36,000 years!
If all the bales of cloth received each year were piled on top of each other the pile would be more than ten times as high as the Cat and Fiddle!
The electric power produced for running the works was enough to
light the centre square mile of Bollington. Although modern [in
the 1960s] oil fired plant was operated, the consumption of coal,
when that fuel was used, was over 250 tons per week!
During and after the second world war a stockpile of coal, more than 1,000 tons of it, was kept on the site of Oak Bank House, where the houses are on Oak Bank Drive today.
- Jesse Beard's memories are taken from a newspaper article probably published by a Macclesfield paper in the 1960s.
- 'bank' probably referred to Pool Bank.
- In those days pumping for the fire hoses
would have been done with a manually operated pump having a cantilever
action with one or two men on each end. The water would have
been taken from the river Dean or the mill pond next the Shrigley
23/04/2008: We had a visitor at the Discovery
Centre this afternoon making enquiries as to whether
anyone had any information or pictures of a Langbridge & Co
Diagonal steam engine reputed to have been installed at 'Bollington
Printworks'. The engine is described as twin cylinder (axes at
45 degrees to the vertical), 9 inch bore with slide valves and
12 inch stroke. Apparently it had no governor as it was normal
practice to throttle the supply to control the engine speed. Apparently the engine
is being reconditioned in Bolton and the visitor is thinking of
making a model version of it.
The gentleman was also asking for information about Bollington Printworks.
I was able to tell him that Bollington Printing Company closed down
sometime in the late 1970s, and up to that time it was tipping drums
of dyes/waste onto the land that lies between Springbank and Hall Hill,
off Henshall Road [Hall Hill
fields]. The only photographs we could
find at the Discovery
Centre that seemed relevant referred to Oak Bank
Print Works. It happened that Barbara Whitehurst came in later and
said that she had worked at Bollington Printing Company in the 1960s,
and it was known locally as Oak Bank Printworks.
Do you have any information that I might pass on to the visitor?
In particular, was Oak Bank the only printworks in Bollington? Did
Oak Bank works have steam engines and do you know of any photographs?
Is there anyone else you can suggest who would have knowledge of any
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.
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