A BRIEF HISTORY
Leigh Spinners Mill is one of the largest cotton-spinning mills in Greater Manchester from the last generation of cotton mill building. It is a Grade II* listed building and notably, it is still partly in use as a manufacturing mill, having been owned by Leigh Spinners Ltd since the construction of the first of two mills on the site in 1913. While beginning as a purely cotton-spinning mill, Leigh Spinners Ltd has had to adapt to survive, and began manufacturing carpets in 1969 and laterly, synthetic turf.
BRADSHAW, GASS & HOPE
The architects behind the designing of Leigh Spinners were the renowned firm, Bradshaw, Gass & Hope, founded in 1862 by Jonas James Bradshaw. Among the many apprentices of J.J Bradshaw was John Parkinson, who would go on to be a prolific architect in America, designing buildings such as Los Angeles City Hall and the National Bank of Whittier Building, the site of Richard Nixon’s first office.
Leigh Spinners Mill was one of the final projects J.J Bradshaw worked on as he died in the year of its construction, and the firm changed its name slightly to Bradshaw Gass & Hope. The firm would go on to design buildings such as the Royal Exchange in Manchester and more recently, the Reebok Stadium in Horwich, Bolton.
GROWTH OF LEIGH SPINNERS
By the time of the construction of the first half of Leigh Spinners Mill, the east mill, chimney and boiler house, in 1913, there were no fewer than 10 mills in Leigh with approximately 15% of the town’s population working in the textile industry. Leigh Spinners Mill demonstrates that there was still a demand for cotton spinning, as the textile industry had the largest workforce in Leigh at the time.
The mill’s machinery was supplied by the Platt Brothers, the largest textile machine company in the world. The success of the mill in its early years and the cotton industry on a national scale enabled Leigh Spinners Ltd to construct the slightly larger west mill in 1923. This addition makes Leigh Spinners Mill unique, in that it may be the only double-fronted mill still standing in Europe and possibly, the world in an intact condition.
Whilst the engine to the original Number One Mill was destroyed in an explosion and has been lost, the engine to Number Two Mill, with its two cylinders, named Mayor and Mayoress, ,has survived. This was supplied by Yates and Thom, and was among the largest they constructed. The engine is still complete and with comparatively little effort could be brought back into working order and is one of only four of its kind still in existence today.
Just as Leigh Spinners Mill followed the national trend of the cotton industry’s boom, it also reflected the decline. However, unlike many other mills in the region, it managed to survive. In 1950 the decline was at such a rate that the Lancashire Cotton Corporation merged 105 companies, leaving Lancashire with 53 operating mills but due to its size, Leigh Spinners avoided merger with other companies and retained its spinning operations.
The Cotton Industry Act of 1959 further attempted to rescue the cotton industry but this failed to halt the decline. While other mills continued to close or faced demolition, Leigh Spinners managed to adapt, and in 1969 began manufacturing carpets as well as continuing to spin cotton. Leigh Spinners continued cotton spinning until 2005, and its spinning machinery was either stripped and scrapped or sold to the emerging Indian market.
Leigh Spinners Ltd has since turned its attention to synthetic turf as well as carpets, greatly downsizing its workforce. As a result of this, large amounts of the mill have become disused which has allowed the building to deteriorate into its current condition.
Whilst not derelict the mill complex is suffering from a lack of investment in the building maintenance. The building requires urgent attention which if not undertaken shortly will lead to major failures and potentially an irretrievable decline in the building’s condition. An assessment of the building’s condition has recently (2013) been undertaken by architect’s LEP. A copy of their study is available. This identified major problems with the original roofs to the building as well as defects with the guttering and drainage. It is noticeable that several large trees and shrubs have established with their roots penetrating the brickwork.
Water penetration is beginning to have an impact in some parts of the building most notably the engine house which is closed due to the dangerous condition of the roof.