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Photograph of Lister's Mill in March 2010
Photograph of Lister's Mill in March 2010

Lister's Mill (otherwise known as Manningham Mills) was the largest silk factory in the world.[1] It is located in the Manningham district of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England and was built by Samuel Cunliffe Lister to replace the original Manningham Mills that were destroyed by fire in 1871.[2] The mill is a Grade II* listed building, built in the Italianate style of Victorian architecture.

At its height, Lister's employed 11,000 men, women and children – manufacturing high-quality textiles such as velvet and silk. It supplied 1,000 yards (910 m) of velvet for King George V's coronation and in 1976 new velvet curtains for the President Ford White House. The 1890–91 strike at the mill was important in the establishment of the Independent Labour Party which later helped found the modern-day Labour Party. On completion in 1873, Lister's Mill was the largest textile mill in North England. Floor space in the mill amounts to 27 acres (109,000 m²), and its imposing shape remains a dominant feature of the Bradford skyline.

The chimney of the mill is 249 feet (76 m) high, and can be seen from most areas of Bradford. It cost about £10,000 to build, and its total weight has been estimated at 8,000 long tons (8,100 t). Samuel Lister called it "Lister's Pride."[3]

Until the arrival of electric power in 1934, the mill was driven by huge steam boilers. Every week the boilers consumed 1,000 tons of coal brought in on company rail wagons from the company collieries near Pontefract. Water was also vital in the process and the company had its own supply network including a large covered reservoir on-site (now in 2006 that area is a piazza and underground car park).

During the Second World War Lister's produced 1,330 miles (2,140 km) of real parachute silk, 284 miles (457 km) of flame-proof wool, 50 miles (80 km) of khaki battledress and 4,430 miles (7,130 km) of parachute cord.[1]

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  • ✪ Addingham: Founding of the Yorkshire Textile Industry
  • ✪ Ebor Mills Time Laspe Demolition - HD


Addingham was at the forefront of the industrial revolution - especially with regard to the mechanisation of weaving worsted cloth. These cottages in Addingham, known as The Rookery, at first sight don't look unusual. But to the west end a loom shop has been built across them. They were built in 1805 by John Cockshott, a local cotton manufacturer and grocer, who had started to control the local textile trade. He saw the economics of people working together, instead of one cottage with one loom. Here there were eight pairs of looms. Why did Addingham develop and not Ilkley? The answer is simple: The Vavasours sold all their land round here between 1619 and 1621 to individuals, whereas Ilkley was completely under control of one family: The Middletons. Addingham was very protective of its industry. If you moved into the village, you would have had to have found work within 40 days and be interviewed by the Village Overseers, to ensure that you wouldn't be a burden on the village. If they were satisfied, you would have received a settlement document such as this of Henry Battison and his family from Cowple in Bedforshire. George Bland and his family did become a burden to the parish of Addingham and were removed back to Keighley on the 22nd December 1768. Another part of the Overseers job was to look after the poor and orphans. 13 year-old Thomas Mason of Addingham was orphaned and he was apprenticed for the next eight years as a farm labourer to Ellen Spencer. Probably not the best start to your working life! John Cockshott went into partnership with John Cunliffe of Ilkley and built Low Mill in 1787 - the first textile mill in the area - later known as Old End. They successfully spun worsted here. In 1788 Cockshott took part of the new extension at High Mill. Although High Mill pre-dates Low Mill, it was used solely as a corn mill until then. Two other mills were built around the same time: Townhead in 1800 and what we now call the Sawmill in 1802 by Anthony Fentiman for spinning cotton. From the 1850's it was used as a sawmill and for furniture manufacture by William Brear & Sons, which closed in 2000. The mill has just been converted into housing. Other trades associated with textiles grew up in the area. This was a Bleach Mill - it stands between Menston and Burley. Nearly all of the textile processes demanded water - and the soft local water is perfect for washing, scouring and bleach processes - whether from streams, such as those running through Addingham, or harnessed from the moor in millponds like this here. The works closed in 1927. Roads barely existed, and if travelling, especially on the moors, you had to look for waymarkers: Cowper's Cross was probably erected as one. And this one on Middleton Moor gives a general idea of the way to Ripon! There were few bridges to cross the Wharfe as they kept being washed away in floods. However, Ilkley Old Bridge still stands from 1673. Look closely and you can see the mason's marks and the flood levels - this one recalls the flood of 1936. Tired of building bridges at Addingham, you had to use a ferry to cross here, before the suspension bridge was built - even the first of these was washed away! To get across the Wharfe to Denton you would have had to use these stepping stones, before the more modern bridge was built. Your only choice to cross the Wharfe between here and Otley Bridge is by the stepping stones to Askwith at Burley. And it doesn't take much to cover them! There are calls to build a footbridge here. Cloth would have had to have been carried to the main cloth markets in Leeds or Bradford - which started around 7am - a very long journey in those days. To overcome this problem Cockshott built a Piece Hall, somewhere where the weavers could come to trade their cloth, on Main Street in the early 1800's. The ground floor was a shop and the upper floor a cloth warehouse. The Rookery was a success, as was Cockshott's Place, built in 1817, where a loom shop extended over the whole of the top floor. The next project was to build much bigger premises - the Loom Shop on Chapel Street around 1817, which held 62 looms. Although it guaranteed a regular income for workers, the work was hard and the pay paltry. The new machinery did away with the old skills - and many made unemployed joined a movement called the Luddites that aimed at smashing the machines that put them out of work. One such incident took place at Low mill in May 1826 - the Luddites were repelled, but one drowned in a tank of urine! Addingham's population by 1800 had grown to 550 and by 1830 had reached 2,000. Ilkley's by contrast only grew from 426 to 897. But after 1840 this would change. The reason why? Water.



The Lister's business decreased considerably during the 1980s. Stiff foreign competition and changing textile trends such as increased use of artificial fibres were the reasons. In 1999 the mills were closed.[2] Being a prominent structure the mills attracted a great deal of attention and several regeneration proposals came and went. The sheer size of the buildings being a major difficulty. However local residents, former workers and notably Reverend George Moffat never lost hope that the mills would rise again. They campaigned hard to save the mills.


Lister Mills in 2010, from Lister Park
Lister Mills in 2010, from Lister Park

In 2000 property developers Urban Splash bought the mills. They planned to renovate the existing larger buildings and build new ones. Apartments, workplaces, shops and public spaces were planned to be part of Listers. A deal was finally struck whereby remedial work on the structures and removal of industrial waste would be part-funded by Yorkshire Forward, Bradford Council and English Heritage. In September 2004 Freda Watts, a former silk weaver at Listers, cut a ribbon across the entrance to the mills – construction work had started.

The next landmark for the £100 million project was the sales launch of the first phase. In late 2004 over 2,000 people queued (some overnight) to buy one of the 131 apartments being created in the south mill, now renamed Silk Warehouse. It was a sell out and a great boost for the project and the wider regeneration of Bradford [4][5]

New residents started moving in during 2006. The next phase, regenerating the second large building is to be called Velvet Mill. It is planned to replace the existing roof on this building with a glass and steel structure housing two storey apartments.[6] David Morley practice are the architects. The new homes went on sale in early 2007. The plan is to create a new piazza with the huge mill chimney at its centre.

See also


  1. ^ a b Sebastian Oake (April 2012). "The eccentric benefactor". Dalesman. pp. 70–73.
  2. ^ a b Pearman, Hugh (14 November 2004). "The ultimate conversion". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  3. ^ Mitchell, W. R. (1987). "Looking for Dick Hudson". Dalesman.
  4. ^ "myManningham". Archived from the original on 12 September 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  5. ^ "Welcome to Bradford Centre Regeneration". Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  6. ^ "This is Bradford". Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2009.

External links

This page was last edited on 11 December 2018, at 23:34
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