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Restoration

Bancroft Mill ran without interruption for over 58 years producing high quality cotton cloths until, in December 1978, when the last orders were woven out, the mill closed. The buildings and machinery were then sold for demolition and scrap, with a plan to level the whole site and cover 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. The Bancroft Mill Engine Trust was formed by voluntary members as a registered charity. By that time the weaving shed, looms, warehouse and some other buildings had been demolished, and the mill lodge was filled in. The remaining buildings and their contents were provided to the Trust by Pendle Council and the English Tourist Board. So far as the machinery was concerned, all of the fittings from the Lancashire and Cornish boilers had been taken for scrap, and much of the brass-work on the engine was stripped out. A local steam enthusiast happened to see what was occurring and made the demolition men an offer they couldn't refuse for the brass-work! After the Trust was formed, he gave the brass-fittings back to the mill.

There followed a three year period during which the members had very limited access to the site, and all the machinery was quickly deteriorating. On 23rd October 1981, the keys were formally handed over to the Trust, and work started to clean up the site and to remove the considerable surface rust from the engine and other machinery. All the fittings for the two boilers were obtained from other defunct boilers of similar type, including those from a Cornish boiler in Cornwall.

The internals of the engine had luckily been well lubricated when it had last stopped, and seemed to be in good condition. So after four months of hectic work and trials during the winter by members, interested groups and companies, the Museum opened its doors and the engine was successfully steamed again, this time for the public, on 3rd April 1982. The prime objectives of the Trust had been achieved, although there was much work in store for the future. The engine has been steamed every summer season since that time - although, it has to be said, the odd time on a wing and a prayer!

Since those early days, much has been achieved and there were many plans for the future growth of the Museum. The creation of a new floor over the old boiler house coal store, to accommodate the Lancashire looms was undertaken, a steel walkway and stairs were also constructed along the side of the Lancashire boiler. A little later, a proper viewing platform was made for the Cornish boiler.

In 1996, refurbishment of the Cornish boiler, the boiler house roofs, the engine house roof and walls, and the chimney were undertaken. The Cornish boiler was in a particularly bad state. It dates from 1912, and had been bought second-hand by the mill in the 1930's, for space heating and ancillary steam work. The whole of the underside of the shell was replaced, plus welded repairs made to the ends and to the fire-tube. The roof of the boiler house was in a worse condition than was first thought, which also applied to the foundations and flue of the Cornish boiler. The boiler was fitted with new plates and the opportunity was taken to renew the boiler house roof, patterns were made and spare firebars have been cast. The flue and foundations were tidied and repaired whilst the mill chimney was attended to by the late Fred Dibnah as described elsewhere..

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