home > the
town > waterhouse mill site | demolition
Demolition of the Kay Metzeler factory
This was a major project taking about four months from mid 2013
to end February 2014. It was carried out by specialist demolition
contractors, ADM Regeneration.
||Much of the Kay Metzeler factory has been
reduced to ground level. The office building has gone (it
was on the extreme right of the picture).
||A culvert was found under the centre of the
site. It was not obvious what this had been built for, but
looking at its shape, and the fact that it still had water
in it, we concluded that it might have been a stream running
across the site to join the river at the far end.
Where you see water the stone culvert has already been removed.
||The remaining culvert, showing how deep it is
below ground - about 4m.
||Everything manmade had to be excavated and replaced
Mountains of stone and concrete were moved around
the site to be crushed and used as back fill. Hundreds
of tons of steel was cut up and sent for re-cycling.
There was almost no pollution found on the site. The small
amount found was carefully removed and disposed of elsewhere.
Diggers and dumpers! A whole variety of diggers and
dumpers spent months moving the material on the site to
get at all the underground parts that had to be dug out
and then to relocate material so that the right kind of
soil was buried or on the surface as required - and, of
course, all to the right levels.
Great trouble was taken to ensure that the ground that
would be under a building was all built up in the same
material, in order to avoid any differential subsidence.
Hundreds of truck loads of soil where brought
to the site to raise the ground level in order to prevent
flooding of the new estate - only time will tell if this
The soil came from Ringway Road, Manchester, where there
were major excavations for the new tram line to Manchester
||There were plenty of subterranean remains of
the original Waterhouse mill. All had to be discovered and
The Water Wheel pit
The water wheel pit was constructed in the early days
of the original cotton mill. It was part of the big mill
building which probably dated from the second incarnation
of Waterhouse mill built in 1800 - after a fire destroyed
the 1789 mill.
The pit was re-discovered almost by accident! We knew
roughly where it would have been but expected it to have
been filled in. However, it turned out to be un-filled
and covered over by a very flimsy construction of odd steel
joists and not very thick informally reinforced concrete.
The demolition machinery and the 40 ton tipper trucks had
been driving over it for weeks! How it continued to support
them we will never know!
||Once to top was removed we could see that the pit
had been re-used once the mill had changed over from water
power to steam power. A dam had been built across the pit
and a large number of pipes and valves installed.
||All of this metalwork had been buried for more than 50
years, since the wheel house was demolished in 1962, and
yet it was in extremely good condition with very little rust.
The pit was full of water which could be drained by opening
the valve. After all this time the screw valve worked perfectly
and without any difficulty!
Once all the metal had been removed it was possible
to see the wheel pit more clearly. It was about 24ft long
by just under 10ft wide. So the original water wheel would
have been a similar size, c.24ft diameter x 9ft 6in wide.
The top half (the above ground part) had long gone, so
we are looking at the bottom, a bit less than half the
original chamber. The wheel shaft would have been mounted
a few feet above the remaining walls. The wall across the
pit at the bottom of the picture was modern concrete and
not part of the original structure.
The near end of the
pit is immediately below the nearest bit of rubble and
is a vertical wall. The far end is a radiused wall which
is almost vertical at the top and declines to horizontal
at the bottom. The wheel would have fitted closely within
the pit and against this radius in order to keep as much
as possible of the water on the wheel paddles for the full
drop to obtain the maximum energy from the water.
The feed to the wheel originated in the Recreation Ground
- the weir was put there to feed water into a leat (now
visible but blocked off) which passed through a culvert
beside the cottage (it used to leak into the cellar), across
the road and opened into the ditch still visible between
the river and the industrial buildings. This went through
a viaduct arch and along the other side to a small mill
pond approximately where the electricity substation is
today. The water was then fed to the top of the wheel,
probably via a siphon, but we have no certain evidence
Once the pit had been excavated it was possible
to see the exit culvert at the bottom end of the pit. The
wheel would have been located immediately in front of the
camera and would have been turning towards the camera.
When the water reached the bottom of the pit it would race
away down the culvert to the river at the far end of the
site - actually close to Garden Street bridge.
All of the stonework was notable for its great quality
of both stone and workmanship - after more than 200 years
it remained in really excellent condition!
The culvert required occasional inspection and repair.
It was about 6ft wide and 4ft 6 inches high, more
than 200m in length, an arched structure built out of stone,
no mortar, and with a stone invert (floor).
The last person
known to have undertaken this very unpleasant task was
Bryan Holmes, left. He worked at Waterhouse mill after
WWII and, as a young and fit lad, got all the nasty jobs
to do! He crawled through the culvert inspecting the
arch above him, never able to stand up straight, often
having to lie on his back in the water, dragging his lamp
and his tools with him, re-fitting any stones that had
fallen out of place! And when he got as far as he could
go - when the water got too deep - he could turn and crawl
all the way back!
||This long culvert had now to be dug out. The stones visible
in the bottom of the trench are the top of the stonework.
||Time to break through - it was so strong that the tracks
of the digger where lifted off the ground before the culvert
||It was almost full of sandy water.
||Now see how big the culvert was! Compare it to the site
manager standing by the digger.
Once the stone culvert had been removed it was possible
to see that it had been built within a trench carved out
of the solid sandstone rock! Remember that must have been
dug 4m down and cut out of the solid rock entirely by hand!
No huge hydraulic diggers in 1800!
Before the demolition work began the site was surveyed
by geologists to ascertain its suitability for re-development.
Their drawing shows a line across the site at this point
- marked as a previously unknown earthquake fissure!
The final leveling
||By February 2014 most of the material was in
its final position. The future roads were becoming obvious
in the mud, top soil was being spread where gardens would
one day flourish.
In March 2014 the road builders and drain layers had
moved in and construction work began to take over from
In the lower part of the picture the foundations for the
new Co-op store have been laid and construction of the
building is about to begin.