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Crimble Mill: spinning mill, attached engine house and fire-proof warehouse, and attached warehouse

A Grade II* Listed Building in North Heywood, Rochdale

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Latitude: 53.6013 / 53°36'4"N

Longitude: -2.2056 / 2°12'20"W

OS Eastings: 386492

OS Northings: 411653

OS Grid: SD864116

Mapcode National: GBR FV1S.9S

Mapcode Global: WHB8X.2RZ2

Plus Code: 9C5VJQ2V+GQ

Entry Name: Crimble Mill: spinning mill, attached engine house and fire-proof warehouse, and attached warehouse

Listing Date: 15 December 1967

Last Amended: 2 August 2019

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1187124

English Heritage Legacy ID: 358842

Also known as: Crimble Mill

ID on this website: 101187124

Location: Crimble, Rochdale, Greater Manchester, OL11

County: Rochdale

Electoral Ward/Division: North Heywood

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Bamford St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Manchester

Tagged with: Mill

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Cotton spinning mill, later a woollen mill. Built around 1825 for Charles Stott. Engine house and fire-proof warehouse built in the 1850s; 1886 mill renovations relating to conversion to woollen textile production and an 1880s warehouse attached to the north gable of the mill.

The altered 1880s long shed, the early-C20 north light roof shed with the 1948 lift tower and remains of a high-level bridge, the 1924 boiler house, 1930s shed, 1948 shed, mid-C20 connecting building, small mid-C20 ancillary building, 1956 reinforced concrete shed and 1973 shed are excluded from the listing.


Cotton spinning mill, later a woollen mill. Built around 1825 for Charles Stott. Engine house and fire-proof warehouse built in the 1850s; 1886 mill renovations relating to conversion to woollen textile production and an 1880s warehouse attached to the north gable of the mill.

MATERIALS: brick, stone dressings, Welsh slate roofs.

PLAN: the mill complex is located in a tight bend in the River Roch to the south-west of Rochdale. The mill building is aligned approximately north-south on the west side of the complex with the river close to its west side and the mill reservoir (now infilled) to its immediate east side. The 1850s engine house and fire-proof warehouse are attached to its southern end and the 1880s warehouse is attached to its northern end. The chimney (Grade II) stands to the immediate east of the engine house.

EXTERIOR: the mill is built of red-brown brick laid in English Garden Wall bond (5:1) on stone foundations with stone dressings and a Welsh slate roof. The building is of five storeys and an attic, and is 16 bays long on the east side and 17 bays long on the west side where there is a staircase tower projecting at the north end. There is a dentilled eaves band with stone copings concealing the box gutter. The windows are rectangular with stone sills and wedge lintels. They have four-pane timber casement frames; many of the windows on the ground and first floors are presently blocked. The attic is lit by roof lights in the east and west pitches of the roof. The west long elevation has a round-headed doorway with a small adjacent window in the first bay, which is the staircase tower, and a second round-headed doorway in the ninth bay. Both doorways have rusticated stone arched frames with giant keystones (both are presently bricked-up). The stonework of the first doorway wraps round the left-hand corner of the building; the right-hand corner has low level stone quoins. Beneath the sill of the first-floor window over the second doorway is a stone plaque inscribed CRIMBLE / MILL / 1886. The third bay has an inserted doorway with a steel lintel. The staircase tower has been heightened above the dentilled eaves band. The heightened tower has a similar dentilled eaves band and supports a cast-iron water tank with a walk-way and railings round.

The east long elevation was built immediately adjacent to the west side of the reservoir, with stone footings and two stone-lined recesses that mark the position of the wheel pits inside the mill. Roughly in the centre of the ground floor is a large cast-iron box, with a pair of openings infilled with brick. There is a full-height privy tower in the north-east corner of the building, which projects slightly.

The north and south gables walls both have central, round-headed windows with stone frames lighting the attic, with small windows with stone sills and lintels above. The round-headed windows are now partially infilled with brick. The north gable wall is largely obscured by a C20 brick lift tower abutting the east side of the heightened staircase tower and the attached 1880s warehouse. The south gable wall is also largely obscured by the engine house. There is a full-height privy tower in the south-west corner of the building and the left-hand side projects slightly, with small, square window apertures on each floor of the projecting bay with vertical metal grilles.

INTERIOR: the mill is constructed with joisted timber floors supported by timber beams and cylindrical cast-iron columns. The column tops have bolting faces on four sides for machinery and line shafting (no longer present). In the lower four storeys iron compression boxes are used to transfer the loads in the columns around the timber beams. The lower storeys have three rows of columns, with a single central row in the fifth storey without compression boxes since there are no columns in the attic. In places there are steel reinforcing joists, perhaps to support heavy machinery, and metal sheet ceilings to help fireproofing. Windows on some levels have chamfered and partly-chamfered brick sills. The roof has a very shallow pitch with timber collar trusses, which permit a spacious and well-lit space without the need for king posts or queen posts. The outer ends of the rafters meet the top of the low side walls and are supported by inclined timber struts which project inwards from the base of the wall. The tops of the struts are linked to the floor beams by angled metal tie-rods which pass through the attic floor approximately 1.2m in from the side walls. There is a lath and plaster ceiling at collar level and to the sloping sides, with rectangular roof lights on each side between each truss. The bottom storey does not have windows in the east side wall, but has a pair of wide, stone arches, both blocked, indicating the ingress point for water and suggesting that the two wheel pits were located side by side in the centre of this floor (probably with undershot or breast-shot wheels). The floor is stone-flagged.

The south end wall of the building abuts the later engine house. There are large cast-iron boxes for the upright shaft and bevel gears attached, which are of at least two types of different dates. They appear to have supported horizontal shafts attached to the end wall in each storey. The north end wall of the attic has an attached small shaft box of early- or mid-C19 date, indicating that the attic was used for powered processes.

The upper floors are accessed by a stone closed well staircase in the staircase tower in the north-west corner. There is a later, compartmentalised staircase enclosed with boarding, with narrow double-leaf timber doors, at the southern end.

EXTERIOR: the engine house is constructed of red-brown brick laid in English Garden Wall bond (5:1) on a stone plinth. It is a tall, single-bay structure abutting the south gable wall of the mill, extending above the height of its fourth storey and across the south gable wall from the east, right-hand corner to the privy tower projecting from the south-west corner. The west side is taller with a single pitched roof while the east side shares the gabled roof of the adjoining fire-proof warehouse. Both east and west elevations have tall round-headed windows with stone sills and timber widow frames. The west elevation has an inserted wide opening on the ground floor with shaped brick jambs. Above the round-headed window is a rectangular window with a stone sill and stone wedge lintel. The south elevation has a high-level square window.

INTERIOR: the engine house has a brick jack-arched ceiling with heavy iron suspension rings fitted to the iron beams. The cast-iron beams at either end of the upper level have decorative brackets supported on carved stone corbels. The room was originally a single space from ground floor to the jack-arched ceiling, but timber floors have been inserted after the steam engine was removed. There are infilled boxes in the north wall between the engine house and the mill, one with a decorative, moulded frame with corner roundels. Above the engine house is a small room with a mono-pitch room with rafters resting on one purlin. A tool rack is suspended from the roof purlin. There are benches along the outer walls.

EXTERIOR: the fire-proof warehouse is of four storeys and four bays extending southwards from the engine house, and is slightly over half the width of the mill. It is built of red-brown brick laid in English Garden Wall bond (5:1); the upper level of the outer, south gable wall has been rebuilt. In June 2019 the roof structure over the second, third and fourth bays collapsed and emergency works resulted in the slates, broken roof trusses and upper part of the third floor being removed down to window sill height. The remaining roof over the first bay has a Welsh slate roof with gutters concealed behind stone copings to the wall top. The surviving rectangular windows are taller than those of the mill, with similar stone sills and wedge lintels. Where window frames remain they are timber casements. The first bay of the west elevation has original taking-in doors to the three lower storeys with stone sills and lintels and quoined stone jambs. The lintels have iron frames, previously with timber rollers, set into the lintels, to reduce friction when lifting goods. The top floor taking-in door has been converted from a former window, with a projecting steel beam with chain at lintel level and an iron plate attached to the wall between the sill and lintel of the talking-in door below. On the right-hand side an iron bracket projects. All the taking-in doors have boarded doors.

The south gable wall has several openings at ground-floor level and a high-level round-headed window in the rebuilt section of the wall.

INTERIOR: the floors are of fire-proof construction with transverse brick jack-arches supported by cast-iron beams with a single, central row of cast-iron columns with moulded heads. The attic retains a timber king-post truss with diagonal braces; the timbers appear to be reused floor beams with notches cut for joists. A number of windows on the east side of the building have heavy, timber shutters. There is a large lead-lined water tank at the north end and there are openings and cast-iron boxes set in the north wall adjoining the engine house, and a hanging bracket attached to one of the cast-iron beams on the ground floor.

EXTERIOR: the building is built attached at an angle to the north gable wall of the mill and is narrower at its northern, outer end. It is built of red-brown brick laid in English Garden Wall bond (5:1); the eastern wall is supported on a riveted iron beam above basement level. The gutters are supported on gutter brackets, with a Welsh slate roof. The building has a partial basement and two upper storeys and is of five bays to its western side and three bays to its eastern side. The majority of windows have segmental, brick heads and stone sills; the partial basement windows to the eastern elevation are square with stone wedge lintels. The window frames are timber casements and a number of windows have been bricked up. The third bay of the western elevation has a first-floor taking-in door (bricked up) replacing a window, with a projecting steel hoist beneath the lintel.

The eastern elevation has an angled eaves level rising towards the right-hand side. A doorway has been inserted in the first bay immediately adjacent to the angled corner with the mill.

The north-east gable wall has two small windows at first-floor level to the right-hand side. The rectangular windows have riveted iron beam lintels and timber frames. The bricks at ground-floor level are lime-washed indicating a former single-storey building now demolished.

INTERIOR: the interior has timber floors. The partial basement has timber cross beams supported by cast-iron columns and closely-spaced joists. The column tops have bolting faces on four sides for machinery and line shafting; some line shafting remains in-situ. The second floor has king-post trusses with raking struts.

The first floor was not accessible and was not inspected.


In 1750 Richard Kenyon, a local yeoman farmer, bought some farmland from relatives on the valley floor of the River Roch. He built a water-powered fulling mill by a bend in the river and installed his son, John, as manager. Fulling (a step in woollen clothmaking) often augmented farming in the area, particularly in the quieter winter months. Augustus Muir dates the mill to 1761, although his source is not known. In 1774, the property was transferred to Richard Kenyon’s other sons, Edward and Robert, John having possibly died. Edward then sold the Crimble estate with the fulling mill in 1781 to another branch of the family, John Kenyon and Son, fullers of Crimble. The mill is shown on Yates’ 1786 map and on the Greenwood map of 1818.

In 1803, John Kenyon’s son, Richard, installed cotton spinning machinery in part of the mill. He also built an annex with a boiler to provide steam throughout the mill, possibly for heating, and a row of two-storey workers’ cottages. After a series of deaths in the Kenyon family, the mill was inherited by Richard’s cousin, John, who began to build a new mill before dying in early January 1822. The estate was transferred to his executors and the mill was put up for auction in July 1822. The highest bidder was Charles Stott, a cotton spinner and fustian manufacturer of Castleton in Rochdale. A plan accompanying the 1825 Release to Stott shows the layout of the buildings, with the original mill aligned north-south between the river and the reservoir and two ancillary buildings built by John Kenyon, to the north and south of this. A weir and sluice located about half a mile to the north fed a leat which entered a large mill pond abutting the east side of the mill.

Shortly after the purchase Charles Stott built a new cotton mill on the site of the old mill; the large ashlar blocks forming the stone footings of the mill may have been associated with the earlier fulling mill. The 1838 tithe map shows the re-built mill on the same footprint, along with the ancillary buildings. The 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1844 to 1847, published in 1851, shows the mill without the engine house, boiler house or warehouse attached to the south end, but with a gasometer to the south-east.

In 1859 the Kenyons bought back the mill and leased it to a newly formed joint stock company, the Crimble Cotton Spinning Company Limited. An insurance record of 1859 indicates that steam power had been added to the mill and was used in combination with two water wheels, which were mentioned in the 1859 sales particulars. The insurance record refers to a scutching room (a cleaning process before processing the cotton) and an engine house, insured for £500, an engine and a boiler, insured for £1,500, shafting, insured for £1,500, and a water wheel, insured for £1,000. It is probable that the engine house and adjoining fire-proof warehouse were added to the south end of the mill in a single phase of construction, along with a chimney and a possible boiler house to the immediate east, in the same position as the present, early-C20 chimney. Around 1860 a single-storey, brick-built office building was added to the west of the mill, close to the river (now - 2019 - demolished).

In 1881 the lease of the Crimble Spinning Company Limited ran out and the firm was wound up. James Kenyon then decided to convert the mill to integrated woollen production and machinery was purchased from a mill at nearby Heap Bridge. By November 1886 the mill had also been renovated, including replacement of the floors and the addition of a cast-iron sprinkler tank to a heightened north-west tower, with an 1886 date stone added to the west elevation. It is likely that the warehouse attached to the north gable wall of the mill and a long, narrow shed, probably a weaving shed, built parallel to the south side of the reservoir were constructed at the same time, reflecting the wider range of processes then carried out on the site. James Kenyon and Son were listed as woollen manufacturers at Crimble Mill and Derby Street Mill in Worrall’s cotton trade directories from 1889 to 1923, although the company continued at Crimble Mill until 1968. The 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1889 to 1890, published in 1893, erroneously labels the mill as a cotton mill. It shows the expanded site with the mid-C19 engine house and fire-proof warehouse at the south end of the mill and the chimney and boiler house adjoining the east side, the 1880s warehouse at the north end, with an attached row of cottages (demolished) and the long 1880s shed to the east. The separate office building (demolished) is also shown and a covered loading bay (demolished) is shown on the west side of the fire-proof warehouse. The former gasometer is labelled as a reservoir and there are several rows of tenter frames close by.

Around 1902 a large, single-storey shed with a four-pile north light roof was built adjoining the south side of the long 1880s shed. It is shown on the revised 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1908 along with a narrow building on the north side of the chimney connecting the original mill and the long shed. The tenter field had also been extended with filter beds added to the south. During the First World War, the mill supplied blankets to the Army.

In 1924 a new power system was built for the mill with a horizontal tandem extraction engine of 500hp made by J Musgrave & Son of Bolton installed in a new, detached engine house to produce electricity and steam. The new engine house (demolished) was built beside the river bank to the south to designs by Thomson and Brierley Ltd of Bury. The boiler house on the south-east side of the original chimney was extended and rebuilt and the original chimney was replaced with the present circular chimney. A small internal structure within the boiler house was marked as a pump house on the 1924 plan, but its original function and date are uncertain.
In the 1930s further additions were made to the complex to enable Crimble Mill to take over the finishing of all woollen goods for James Kenyon and sons’ operations. In 1933 an additional storey was constructed on the long 1880s shed to a design by an unknown architect. The 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map revised in 1937, published 1938, shows further sheds to the south of the long 1880s shed and a shed running north-south at the east end of the buildings. During the Second World War, the mill supplied paper makers’ felt, duffle coating and felts used to seal bullet holes in aeroplanes’ petrol engines.

A research laboratory was established at Crimble Mill in 1947 and in 1948 a new shed was built to the east, adjoining the 1930s shed. The 1902 single-storey, north-light shed had alterations to the roof and a lift tower was inserted at the west end, with a high-level bridge (now just two massive, bracketed steel beams) linking the building with the upper storey of the 1850s fire-proof warehouse. A block plan suggests that the early-C20 building connecting the original mill and the long shed was also replaced around this time. In 1955 a new shed was proposed to replace the structure on the south side of the site. The proposed building was superseded a year later with a new design for a reinforced concrete shed with barrel vaulted roofs which also contained new research laboratory and an office. It was designed by Raymond Day of Rochdale and the reinforced concrete work was constructed by Twisteel Reinforcement Limited. The laboratory carried out research on new fabrics, such as Kencore, an acid-resistant canvas. A small ancillary building beside the river bank is likely to be of a similar date. It may have served as an electricity sub-station.

In 1968 James Kenyon & Son Limited was sold to Albany Felt Company of Albany, New York. Two years later the site was taken over by Roeacre Dyeing and Spinning Company of Heywood (later Roeacre Dyeing and Felting Company). In 1973 a large, rectangular weaving shed was added on the north side of the long 1880s shed, built over the southern edge of the by now disused and partially infilled reservoir.

Roeacre Dyeing and Felting Company went into receivership in 2002 and closed. Much of the site has been vacant since then.

On 24 June 2019 the roof structure of the 1850s fire-proof warehouse partially collapsed over the second, third and fourth bays. Emergency works were then carried out to make the building safe.

Reasons for Listing

The cotton spinning mill, later an integrated woollen mill, built around 1825 for Charles Stott, 1850s engine house and fireproof warehouse attached to the south end of the mill, and the 1880s warehouse attached to the north end of the mill, are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* as a rare surviving example of a rural, water-powered cotton spinning mill;
* the large scale of the mill building and the brick and slate construction contrasts with the scale and materials used for earlier vernacular water-powered mills;
* the mill clearly demonstrates its development from water power to steam power with the mid-C19 construction of an attached engine house;
* the difference in construction techniques between the non-fireproofed mill and the fireproof engine house and associated fireproof warehouse, suggesting that water-power was considered less of a fire risk;
* the four-sided bolting faces of the cast-iron columns in the mill are indicative of a complex system of line shafting to power machinery not found in other early-C19 mills in Greater Manchester, while the 1880s warehouse retains rare surviving in-situ line shafting in its partial basement.

Historic interest:
* the cotton spinning mill is notable for its comparable size and appearance with contemporary steam-powered cotton mills built in urban areas;
* the exclusive use of water power in the first half of the C19 emphasises an on-going continuity of water power for industrial purposes on this site originating with the mid-C18 fulling mill it replaced;
* the structural additions to the mill of the mid-C19 engine house and warehouse and then the 1880s warehouse demonstrate its clear development, first through expansion in the mid-C19 when the mill was leased to the Crimble Cotton Spinning Company Limited, and secondly its expansion when it converted to an integrated woollen mill in the 1880s.

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