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History

The Bancroft weaving mill was the thirteenth and last mill built in Barnoldswick. The town was originally in the West Riding of Yorkshire but is now administered by Lancashire County. It was at the very edge of the Yorkshire woollen industrial centre. Construction of the mill started in 1915, but was delayed by the Great War, and only finished in 1920. James Nutter had died in 1914, but the firm was carried on by his sons, and the ceremonial starting of the mill engine took place on 13th March 1920, when James´ surviving daughter, Eliza, opened the stop valve to set the engine in motion. The engine cylinders were then formally named "James" and "Mary Jane" after her parents.

The mill featured some of the latest construction and engineering techniques of the time and produced electricity via a large dynamo for lighting and to power pumps. There was a room in the cellar which housed storage batteries to provide lighting when the engine wasn´t running and so avoid the risk of fire from the use of oil or gas lamps igniting fine cotton dust in the mill. One member of the family lived in a house not far from the mill, and a cable was laid to provide electric current for lighting the house. At least this one house, and possibly two others, was supplied with DC current from the mill. Later an alternator replaced the dynamo giving predictable electric pump speeds and the ability to use equipments with transformers. Electrical efficiency was much improved, in this respect the mill was again at the forefront of technology and the safety aspect of this technology made Bancroft Mill a good place to work. The engine and mill ran without interruption for 58 years producing high quality cotton cloths until, in December 1978, when the last orders were woven out, the mill closed. In its heyday 200,000 yards of cloth could be produced in a week.

Following its closure the buildings and machinery were then sold for demolition and scrap, with a view to levelling the whole site and covering it with houses. Very much at the 11th hour, proposals were put forward to Pendle Council by a group of interested people, to preserve at least some of the mill, namely the engine in its house, boilers and boiler houses, and the chimney. In 1980 the Bancroft Mill Engine Trust was formed by volunteer members as a Registered Charity for this purpose; it has fulfilled its aims and is healthier now than at its inception.

Over the 30 years since the formation of the Trust much has been achieved, buildings have been repaired and maintained whilst sympathetic changes have been introduced to make the site suitable for use as a museum.. A large collection of memorabilia related to the cotton textile industry has been amassed, with a number of machine tools for the workshop and several small engines. A Rockford lathe that came to Britain under the Lease-Lend scheme in 1941 is scheduled to be complete and installed by Christmas 2011. It has been brought up to date with a motor control that complies with current regulations that has been made by members.

Whilst the engine has been operated throughout each summer there has been a programme of replacement of worn parts undertaken each winter with major work undertaken on the low pressure cylinder inlet valves. Members have skimmed the shafts and made new journal/thrust bearings for them.

For many years we have woven tea towels (using a Pilling Lancashire loom) as demonstration pieces on steaming days which are then sold in our shop.

Steam raising plant is not as it was during the working life of the mill, originally a Lancashire boiler with automatic stokers was used and supplied steam at 160 pounds per square inch. Archimedes screw type elevators moved the pulverised coal from the store to the stoker hoppers. This boiler is still on view but its high capacity is not required any more, A Cornish boiler that had been installed in the 30´s has been used throughout the museum´s existence, it has had a major overhaul involving taking it away for the work and a subsequent minor repair as well. Its centenary comes in 2012.

The chimney has had attention twice in the life of the Trust, it was completely overhauled, pointed and linseed oiled by the late Fred Dibnah who also made extra stiffening bands for it, less rigorous attention was given to it in 2000 and 2011.




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