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Abbey Mill

A Grade II Listed Building in Withnell, Lancashire

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Latitude: 53.6979 / 53°41'52"N

Longitude: -2.5462 / 2°32'46"W

OS Eastings: 364034

OS Northings: 422522

OS Grid: SD640225

Mapcode National: GBR BTNP.K4

Mapcode Global: WH976.V9PZ

Plus Code: 9C5VMFX3+5G

Entry Name: Abbey Mill

Listing Date: 1 June 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1433925

Location: Withnell, Chorley, Lancashire, PR6

County: Lancashire

Civil Parish: Withnell

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lancashire

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An integrated cotton spinning and weaving mill established by 1840, with C19 and C20 alterations.


An integrated cotton spinning and weaving mill established by 1840, with C19 and C20 alterations.

MATERIALS: sandstone with brick additions and slate part-glazed roofs.

PLAN: spinning block of four storeys plus attic, with an internal engine house, small fire-proof preparation block and stair tower; a single-storey weaving shed to the W; two reservoirs to the S of the spinning block; and gatehouse, office block and cottages on the N side of the yard.


The twelve-bay N elevation is the principal elevation, in sandstone rubble with four storeys of windows plus the blank attic wall above and parapet. The left hand bay is wider and projects, housing a stone stair, and has a widened ground-floor doorway. To the left of this and set back is the front wall of the warehouse. The spinning block entrance is flanked externally by a pair of stone lions, one retaining its wrought-iron lamp post at the rear; elements of three further lamp-posts survive along the N wall. Bay 2 has a hoist tower rising above the parapet with a castellated top and a roof-level Second World War fire-watch hut. Bay 9 has loading doors converted from windows, bay 10 a cast-iron fire escape, and bays 11 and 12 a five-storey brick privy tower to parapet level. Windows in the stone walling have flush sandstone wedge lintels and slightly projecting sandstone sills, and are a mixture of timber and PVC casements.

The E wall has three raised gables, the central being narrower and lower than the outer ones, with an infill parapet almost to its ridge. Only two windows are visible externally, in the N bay of the attic and third floors, with others blocked, or concealed by an asbestos-clad dust tower and the stone warehouse at lower level. Three bearing boxes are at third-floor level, and former ground-and-first-floor windows in the northern two bays are visible from within the narrow passage between the spinning block and the warehouse.

The S elevation returns to the left, with windows similar to those of the N elevation, but two windows in the eastern bay at third-floor level, above a round-headed three-storey window marking the original engine-house position, and blocked in three phases. In the centre of the elevation substantial external brackets, an angular roof scar and a bearing at wall head level to the right indicate former hoisting provision. A small tower projecting from the western end of the S elevation is the original privy tower and has quoined returns, and narrow brick-blocked windows to each floor. The W elevation retains the original arrangement of windows (some blocked) above the weaving shed to the W, and the same gables as the E but with no parapet between them.

The ground floor is largely open with exposed timber ceiling beams with four rows of six-inch diameter hollow circular cast-iron columns with flared capitals and crush-boxes concealing joints between the beams. There are numerous power-transmission features including cut-outs for hangers, bearing boxes, and brackets for line-shafting. Additional columns and beams have been inserted in the eastern bay, which is enclosed by a substantial cross-wall. At the N end of the eastern bay is the stone winder stair with wrought-iron handrails and remains of a sprinkler system. To the S of the stair is a room with a concrete floor, set above the level of the main mill, and brick-vaulted ceiling, with a small hoist.

The upper floors are similar, but subdivided, with various different column brackets for line-shafting. Timber floors survive at upper levels, with cast-iron beams, and a stone flag floor in the room to the S of the stair. The entablature beam for the original vertical engine survives, with one cast iron beam to the engine house. The attic has ornate multi-section, cast-iron, open-web trusses, timber purlins and a narrow ridge board. The upper section of each roof has continuous glazing bands to both pitches, with large rectangular panes between galvanised steel transoms. Five-and-a-half inch diameter columns carry the trusses and valley gutters. The SW privy tower is sealed but is thought to contain some original fixtures, while the NW tower retains its plan form and internal fittings, comprising white-glazed internal brick walls, timber stall partitions, porcelain toilets, urinals, Belfast sinks, and cast-iron water cisterns and pull-chains.

To the W of the spinning block and integral with its build, the weaving shed is of 11 bays in sandstone rubble with rusticated quoins. It has a five-bay north-light roof with timber trusses. It has an extension of similar size to the W, with roof bays of half the span (assumed to be carried on cross-beams) giving more light and fewer columns. Interior access was not possible at the time of survey but it is thought to contain original columns and power-transmission features.


Of sandstone rubble with quoined returns and abutting the spinning block, this is now of two storeys. Its N elevation incorporates at the right the partial front wall of the former boiler house, with a large semi-circular arched opening, probably one of an original pair. At the left is a roller shutter inserted in an opening with quoined jambs. Its E elevation is abutted by a C20 brick boiler house, and its S elevation is abutted by a single-storey stone workshop and electrical substation. The S elevation of these has quoined returns and jambs, and above them the four first-floor warehouse windows are visible, with replacement units.

This has an inserted steel frame and few historic features. The substation retains the fuse array and signage of the Lancashire Electric Power Co.

Situated in the NE corner of the yard, this is of three storeys in sandstone rubble with quoined returns and a slate roof, three bays wide and a single bay deep. The E wall is the principal elevation, facing out of the site, and has a quoined doorway with deep lintel, whose left jamb also forms the right hand gatepost with wrought iron gate attached. To the right of this the windows are evenly arranged two per floor, with a right-of-centre, single-pot stone chimney stack, and cast-iron rainwater pipe to the right; beyond this is the later office block described below.

Returning to the left, the S elevation has a central doorway with one window per floor above, the first floor having a four-light timber sliding sash. At the left an external stone staircase rises away to the N, to a first-floor door into a flat-roofed outshut. The W elevation has a window at each floor in the main body and also one per floor in the outshut, with a ground-floor door below the first-floor landing of the external stair. The N elevation is abutted by the later office block. The interior was not inspected but is thought to retain historic office fittings.

Attached to the NW corner of the gatehouse, this is two-storeyed, with six first-floor windows in the S wall. At ground floor the outer four bays have the same windows, but bay 3 (from the left) has a depressed-arch cart opening, and bay 4 is blank. The left return has a coped gable with a quoined central first-floor window and one to the left of this. Beyond this is a second gable of similar width. The N wall was not visible. The E wall abuts the gatehouse with a parapet to gatehouse eaves-level and has an added three-storey brick hoist tower, with single storey brick extensions to the front. The interior was not inspected but is thought to retain historic fittings.

To the W of the office block, this is a single-storey two-cell structure of sandstone rubble with quoined returns and a slate roof. There are two large skylights in the S pitch with two doorways and a window below, narrow windows in each gable and a blocked doorway in the E wall. The interior was not inspected.

To the S of the mill is a stone-lined reservoir for the power-plant.


Abbey Mill was established before 1840 by John Park(e) (listed in a trade directory of 1854 as living at Ollerton Hall) as an integrated cotton spinning and weaving mill; both the mill and the apparently associated terraces of workers’ cottages along Bolton Road and the northern side of Garden Street, are marked on the Withnell tithe map that was surveyed in November 1840. The name Abbey Village derives from Whalley Abbey, the major landowner until the reformation. Abbey Mill remains the focal point of a largely intact early C19 industrial settlement, now designated a conservation area.

There were three principal phases of development. The first comprised a spinning block with attached weaving shed and warehouse, shown on the first edition 1:10,560 map surveyed 1845-7, which also shows a gasometer to the W of the pair of reservoirs that served the mill. This phase also included a gatehouse-cum-office block, and a pair of possible single-celled cottages. In 1847 the warehouse connected with the mill was destroyed by fire. Before 1849 this was replaced by a five-storey warehouse, blocking the upper level E windows of the spinning block, and by 1857 the gatehouse block had a larger block attached. The success of the mill was due in no small part to the opening of a railway line between Chorley and Blackburn in 1869, which incorporated a private siding that terminated in the mill yard. In 1882, the mill was again damaged severely by a fire, but was repaired and the weaving shed doubled in size (shown on the 1894 OS map), and by 1891, the mill contained 22,500 spindles and 400 looms. In 1898, John Park sold the mill to William Birtwistle of Blackburn. The third phase of construction comprised a replacement boiler house in the NE corner of the site, and the addition of an economiser house. A brick hoist tower, and in 1946 a brick privy tower, were added to the N elevation. The steam engine was finally replaced by electricity in 1953. In 1961 Birtwistle was accredited with operating 15,280 ring spindles and 240 looms in Abbey Mill. The mill remained in operation for the spinning and weaving of cotton goods into the 1960s.

More recently the warehouse was reduced to two storeys, the economiser house has been replaced by a single storey workshop and the tapering square chimney has been removed. At the time of survey the mill was in mixed usage.

Reasons for Listing

Abbey Mill, an integrated cotton spinning and weaving mill established by 1840, with C19 and C20 alterations, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Date and rarity: as one of the earliest surviving purpose-built integrated weaving and spinning mills in Lancashire, of which only 15 remain substantially complete;
* Completeness: including its original spinning block with integral engine house, weaving shed, gatehouse/office, a pair of single-celled cottages and reservoir, a reduced-height early warehouse and several internal fixtures;
* Architectural and technological interest: for the side-by-side survival of later replacement engine and boiler houses, office and storage buildings and a weaving shed extension, and the range of types of cast iron columns illustrating developments in mill-building technology and the evolution of associated power systems;
* Associational interest: with nearby Ollerton Hall, home of the mill owner, and as the raison d’etre of Abbey Village, one of the best surviving examples of a small industrial settlement in Lancashire.

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