The Cotton Industry

    Burgess Ledward's Wardley Mill, Manchester Road, c.1920
    At its peak in 1922 it had a dyehouse and 1,500 looms.
     Decline came in the late 1950, weaving ceased in 1968,
     just before the firm became part of the Courtauld Group.
    The mill closed in 1985 and the chimney was demolished in 1990.

    Prior to WW2 Walkden’s economy was based on coal and cotton, the mills and mines employing a large percentage of the working population. The land and mine owners, the Bridgewater Trustees encouraged the building of cotton mills to provide jobs for miners wives and daughters. As happened in other parts of Lancashire, Walkden’s cotton industry began a slow decline in the 1930’s which accelerated in the 1950’s and 1960’s, until today the mills are just fading memories.
    In 1909 there were eight cotton mills within half a mile of the centre of Walkden. On Manchester Road, opposite Old Clough Lane was two weaving and dyeing mills, Rothwells' Linnyshaw Mill of 1874 and Burgess Ledward’s Wardley Mill of 1878.

    The weaving shed at Burgess Ledward's mill.

    Off sandwich Street there two weaving mills each begun in 1879, John Booth’s Bridgewater Mill and also Hope Mill, better known as ‘Lane’s Mill’ after its owner, Mr Edwin Lane.
    The third group of mills lay between Bolton Road and Brackley Street. Fronting Bolton road was Granville Mill, Walkden’s first mill built to spin cotton in 1861 by a Mr Whittaker. It was taken over by John Faulkner in 1879 whose company occupied until it closed in 1985. Next, in 1862 was the Walkden Mill, but known locally as “Boatshed Mill” because of its proximity to the Boatshed Yard where boats used on the underground canal were built and repaired. It rented floor space and power to small entrepreneurs who supplied and ran their own looms within the building. An early form of managed workshop!

    The Park Mill floated by the Farnworth Cotton Spinning and Manufacturing Company was a Co-operative venture whose spinning mill of 1865 was doubled in size in 1914. They ran it until an explosion of the boilers in 1932 caused its closure. Burton the Tailors bought the building in 1935 to use as a clothing factory in conjunction with their Burtonville factory on the then New Road, the A580. Next of this group was the Primrose Mill, Andrew Rothwell’s Campbell Street weaving shed of 1869. He left in 1874 to his new venture and Primrose Mill was sold to Ryland (of Library fame) who ran it under their trade name Dacca Twist Company. It was in this mill that the 5th Dragoon guards had been billeted during the miner’s strike of 1881. In 1888 Rothwell Brothers re-purchased Primrose Mill but fell out, leaving Andrew junior with Primrose Mill, brother Edwin keeping Linnyshaw Mill.

    Walkden New Mill
    The last of the five mills in central Walkden came when the owners of the Walkden Mill re-capitalised and promoted the NEW mill alongside the old, both to be run under the grand title of The Walkden Spinning and Manufacturing Company. Viscount Brackley performed the ceremony of cutting the first sod on 13th December 1905. The neighbourhood of the monument was hung with streamers and bunting, Walkden Band played martial airs and workers from nearby mills turned out to cheer Lord and Lady Brackley, who arrived in a motor car. Lord Brackley performed the ceremony with an engraved ebony and silver spade, speeches were made and the official party adjourned to the Co-op Hall for a cold luncheon. Lord Brackley returned to the completed mill in 1907 to officially start the mill engine and to name it ‘Violet’ after Lady Brackley.
    The mill stood six storeys high and the chimney, with ‘Walkden’ lettered around it, soared to 186feet (approx. 62 meters). It accommodated 86,000 spindles, including 24 pairs of twist and 12 pairs of weft mules, and was specially adapted for the production of the finest Egyptian cotton super quality yarn.
    It became a branch of Combined Egyptian Mills Ltd. in 1925. Mothballed during WW2 it was degreased in 1945/46, electricity was introduced 1948/50, but it closed down in 1959. Demolished in 1966 the Tesco supermarket was built on the site.