Newton Pickles edit

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Newton Pickles edit

Post by Stanley » 12 Aug 2013, 07:58


TAPE 78/AG/1

Tape recorded on 14th July 1978 at Vicarage Road Barnoldswick. The informant is Newton Pickles, engineer and the interviewer Stanley Graham. The numbers in brackets are Uher digital count. ‘R’ denotes Respondent.

This tape is intended as an introduction to the tape recorder both for Newton and myself, being the first tape we’ve made. I’m giving it a number in case there’s anything that turns out to be interesting on it, in which case we shan’t erase it.
2013 note: This was not only the first tape with Newton, it was the first in the project and as such was eagerly awaited by my steering committee. One senior academic expressed the view that it was more like two blokes talking in a pub than proper history. He said that it wasn't lextile history. Apart from the fact that engineering was crucial to textiles I defended myself and Newton by pointing out that the reason the tapes were so good was exactly because of that, it was two friends, both engineers, who had worked together, teasing out esoteric matters that the archetypal middle class interviewer would never have got down to. I don't think we did too badly. Mind you, as Jimmy Reid once said when asked why he had left the Communist Party, "Beware of certitude!" I'll leave you to judge.


Newton and Stanley working together on a minor repair at Bancroft. We were making a new joint on the high pressure cylinder. Picture by Daniel Meadows.

Now, where when you born Newton?

R-10th March 1916.

And your father’s name?

R-John Albert Pickles.

And your Mother’s name?

R-Sarah Elizabeth Pickles.

Yes. And she was born at..?

R-Born at Carleton and came to live at Earby as a young girl.

What did her family do?

R-Well, they worked in the mills, the textile mills; her brother was a tackler and they all worked in the mills more or less all of their lives.

And your Father’s family?

R-They were cobblers, cloggers and shoemakers. They originated from Lothersdale and came to live at Kelbrook and started a little shoemaking business.

Any idea what date they came..?

R- I haven’t, I haven’t the slightest idea.

How did your Father first come to the engineering?

R-Well, from going down to t’Sough to watch his Uncle Jim run the engine. His Uncle Jim ran the engine at Sough Mill, that were me Mother’s brother, no, me grandma’s brother.

That would be Sough Bridge Mill.

R-That were Sough Bridge Mill yes, and Jim ran the engine there.

What sort of an engine did they have?

R-It were a Roberts tandem, a very old one. Gear drive, direct, spur wheel and pinion. Aye.


This second motion gear and shaft in the thoroughfare at Wellhouse Machine Works in about 1924/25 was an old gear on a new second motion shaft for Sough Mill. This was before Henry Brown went into liquidation. The foreman at the time was Johnny Pickles, Newton's father.
[Note, as you will later discover, the Pickles connection with what became the firm of Henry Brown Sons and Pickles started in the early 20th century. You may find that sometimes we blur the distinction between the different phases and call it 'Brown and Pickles' which would be what most Barlickers would recognise the firm as.]

And where did your Father first go to work?

R-At Henry Brown and Sons at Earby when he left school at 14. Oh, can we start at the beginning again there? It’s wrong is that. When me father left school they wouldn’t let him go into t’engineering, and they sent him to Sough Bridge, and with being a bit of a clever scholar at school he got a job in t’office. And while he were working in’t office he used to run away and not go to his work and go to Lothersdale to his uncle Dan’s, he still lived at Lothersdale. So they had that much bother with him they said “Well, what do you want to do?” He says “I want to go to Browns at Earby.” So me grandfather went to see our Mr, Old Mr Brown at Earby to see whether he’d take him on as an apprentice and he did and that’s how he got to Earby, to Henry Brown and Sons and that were old William Brown, the old man of all that started the business in the first place. So I think I can make a guess at that, it were 1887.

That’s when he first went to Earby.


John A Pickles, June 1900. Henry Brown's shop, Albion Street, Earby. [This may have been before he was actually apprenticed]

R-That’s when he went to Earby, aye, to work for Browns. It were 1887 and that’s when Brown started business, in 1887 at Earby, just doing textile machine work, spinning mill, in Victoria Mill at Earby. It were all spinning then and they’d most of that sort of stuff, looms and spinning machinery and all that sort of stuff, no heavy engineering.

That’s it. Have you any idea how Henry Browns started?

R-I haven’t, I haven’t Stanley, No.

The first record I have I think it is about 1887
R-It were 1887 when they started up Stanley but I’ve no recollection why he started or how he started at Earby, and they were in Albion Street.

So your father started as an apprentice?

R-There, at 18.[John Pickles was there 1903 to 1906. SG]

How long was he there?

R-Well he stopped at Earby while he were 21 and he used to watch these millwrights coming out of Lancashire you know, from Nelson and Burnley and working on the engines at Victoria Mill and working on the engine at Sough and that, and he used to go and watch em at weekends. He thought “Eh, I’d like to work at one of them shops..” But anyhow, he didn’t get to Burnley Ironworks, he got a job as maintenance foreman at Victory V at Nelson, at t’toffee factory and he stopped there one day. He used to tell me about going that morning and the first job he got off the manager was to make a guard for the gas engine, they’d a big gas engine to run the toffee shop and he wanted to turn some studs to fasten this guard on to the machine, on to the engine. He said I just took one look at the lathe tools, he said he’d never seen anything like them in his life, they were just like shovels. So he says to the manager, is there anywhere around here where there is a smithy where I can get these lathe tools drawn out? The manager says “Lathe tools drawn out? They did for the other chap they’ll have to do for you.” Well, me dad said, they haven’t to do for me I’m finishing tonight! Now in the middle of the afternoon that day that engine broke down and the place was stopped. Well of course Johnny went to look at the engine and from what I can understand the exhaust valve were bent so he takes the head gas valve out and puts it in the lathe and straightened it and got the engine running again. Well, he finished at tea time and before he went to bed somebody arrived from Nelson to Kelbrook to beg him into going back and starting again but Johnny wouldn’t go back and start again. No, he said, I’ve finished. So the morning after he set off and walked it to Burnley, to Burnley Ironworks and he saw Harry Metcalfe, I think he were manager at Burnley Ironworks then and he says “Is there any chance of a job?” “What can tha do?” “I’ve served me time at Browns at Earby” “Aye, all right lad, I’ll give you a start.” And he got put on a lathe making muff couplings, you know, ordinary shed shafting muffs. [1906 to 1908]

He’d only been there a week and he were thirty odd in front of the chap that was boring them. So the foreman came to him and said “Look here Johnny, we can’t do with this, There’s a new lathe coming, a four foot faceplate lathe and as soon as it’s in and running I’m going to put thee on it. He said he’d happen been there a month before this lathe was in and running and he was only one among a lot of lads then tha knows and they got this lathe running and the foreman says “Right Johnny, I want you on this lathe”. The first thing he did was turn all the eccentrics for Brook Shed engine, all four, they were building the Brook Street engine at that time. He finished them and they gave him the governor stand and he thought I’m not half coming on here! He turned the governor stand and made a good job of it, it were all moulded at the bottom you know; he used to go and look at it regular, he used to rub it with his bit of waste whenever he went in to work on the engine years and years after. “I turned that Newton” he’d say and if I understood him right, when he’d finished that governor stand they put him on a bigger lathe and he turned the connecting rods, and there was some work in them, it were 800hp that engine you know, cross compound.


Billy Webster driving the Brook Shed engine that Johnny worked on. 750hp and started in 1907.


R-It were Burnley Ironworks.
R-Burnley Ironworks, double bow connecting rods, up into t’middle. Big diameter holes in’t centre. With no collar they’d got to blend you know? He turned them and then of course they went into t’slotting shop to have the ends done, he didn’t do them. The foreman came to Johnny one afternoon and said “Johnny, will you do a night on’t wheelpit?” Johnny says “Of course I will.” So they put him on turning a flywheel at nights, they were turning a flywheel for a breakdown job, somewhere Rawtenstall way. It had 25 1¾ “ ropes on it and they used to carry the tools to them grinding wheel on their shoulder. They were 2 ½ “ square cast iron tools, they were chilled cast iron tools made at the same time as they cast the wheel but cast on a chill so they were harder than the metal in the wheel. He said it used to take that wheel 2½ minutes to go round once when it were on’t wheelpit and he was on it for six weeks on nights. Then they put him back on his lathe again for normal bevel wheels and normal….whatever were going on. He’d been there a year when young Willy Brown came to Kelbrook one night and asked him if he’d come back and be foreman at Barlick, they’d bought this shop at Barlick. He said he couldn’t refuse and so he came back to be foreman at Barlick and that were it, he never moved no more. [1908]
[Flywheels were worked on in temporary bearings over a large pit so that the turner could be at floor level but working at centre height which was essential for turning.]

The shop they bought at Barlick was that….?

R-It were William Bracewell’s, the old Billycock’s mechanic’s shop that belonged the mill.

At Wellhouse Mill.

R-At Wellhouse Mill and t’Butts, it were mechanics shop for both mills in them days.

That’s it, yes.

R-Browns bought it when the mill stopped with all the machinery in. That’s just the bottom shop up yonder Stanley, you know, where the smithy is.

Yes, you say Brown bought it when the mill stopped.

R-When the mill stopped and everything was being sold they bought it and the Calf Hall Shed Company bought the mill. And that’s where he came to be foreman. [The sale was in 1887 so the date that Newton quotes for the start of Henry Brown and Sons is when they moved to Barlick. They were in business at Earby before that and kept the Albion Street shop on long afterwards.]

Yes. And what did they call ‘The Mechanics Shop’ at Wellhouse. Is that where you are now?

R-That’s the place we are in now.

Which was it, do you know which it was at Wellhouse that was called the Joiner’s Shop?

R-Aye, it were where it was the old laundry, where we are now.


Wellhouse works in July 1978. When Henry Brown moved in in 1887 he took the old mechanic's shop which was at the extreme right hand end. When Brown and Pickles finished they had the whole building including the old joiner' shop/laundry on the extreme left. The clock is one which Johnny made for Riley Street Baptist Church in Earby and when they demolished the chapel Johnny got it back and installed it here because it was made in memory of his old master, Mr Brown.

That’s it, aye.

R-And we used to have all the lathes in there and all for turning bobbins for spinning.

That’s it yes, and then it was turned into a laundry.

R- And that was turned into a laundry.

And it was a laundry till…

R-Well, oh till 1940, early on in the year and then Barretts came out and we were getting busier and busier with war work and we went into it to put some planing machines in there for planing tank sides.

And you are still in there.

R-We’re still in there, yes.

That’s where the big machines are, yes. So your dad went back then to Earby as the foreman?

R- He came back to Barlick as the foreman, he didn’t go back to Earby any more.

That’s it, Barlick, that’s it. Now, when Browns moved up to Barlick they started to do heavier jobs?

R-Not really, no, it was still all textile machines, loom work, millwright, and a bit of millwright work but not a lot.

Yes, by millwrighting you mean like shafting….

R-Shed shafting and that sort of thing but not a lot, never got up to’t bevel wheel stage or owt like that. Now of course when me father came back from Burnley Ironworks he didn’t want to be just messing about with looms and stuff, he wanted to get into it like he’d been brought up in that last year there. Then things kept cropping up like Wellhouse’d be broken down, sommat wrong wi’th engine and he got going to that and up to t’Butts, it’d be broken down and of course it all built up off that you see. He’d had experience at Burnley with em and he’d always been interested in’t engine job of course with his uncle Jim at Sough, he’d run Sough many a time for his uncle when he were off sick and that’s how it all started getting going, it built up and built up off that you see right up to Henry Brown and Sons going bankrupt. But that weren’t caused by the machine shop, it were caused by the slump after the first world war when they built that big foundry on Havre Park, you know, and the foundry just dropped off in 1928 or 29.

Where was that foundry?

R-Where Jack Gissing is now on Havre Park bottom. My father designed that foundry.


Havre Park foundry in 1922 when it opened.

That was a foundry, that big brick building?

R- That was a foundry, that big brick building were a foundry right. And me father’s idea was to build that up and get it running as a foundry and then build another bay on it and take all the machinery from Wellhouse Mill into there and make it one complete unit and that’s where they slipped up, Browns slipped up, because Browns
only had one thing in their minds about that, they were scared that if they came out of this shop here and went on to Havre Park that somebody else might step in here and it were the biggest mistake they made were that. There were nobody round here could compete with me father.

And at that time they’d be doing a lot of work for other people like the Calf Hall Shed Company.

R-Oh heck aye, well you’d all these other mills started being built; Crow Nest, Barnsey, Westfield, Fernbank. Well me father were in at them right away, I mean he couldn’t handle the shafting and the engines but he were in for the tape room drives and the donkey engines. They made about 48 of them donkey engines like you have at Bancroft, all of one batch and that’s when he started advertising for more men. You know just as the 1914 war started, nineteen thirteenish, he got this donkey engine job he drew it all out at home at night and made all the patterns you know, without wage, just to get the job. He made all the patterns and he designed it.


Now I‘ve heard you mention an old engineer, Shepherd was it, that worked at Wellhouse.

R-No I can’t… there were a mechanic, he was still knocking around Barlick in my time, Pete Bilborough who used to work for Bracewell’s and I liked to listen to him when I were a lad and he called in at the shop.

That’s the fellow, what was his name again?

R-Pete Bilborough. Aye, the rest of his family, I think they went into the coal business in Station Yard. (Coal Yard) They had a business there for donkey’s years in my time.

Yes. William Bracewell’s were the same family that owned…..

R-They owned Burnley Ironworks as well; they were all the same family.

And old William Bracewell, Billycock they called him, came to Barlick in, I believe it was about 1830.

R-Aye, about 1830.

I haven’t nailed this down yet; he actually came away from the foundry business to Barlick…

R-To start these mills

As a manufacturer.

[Later research shows I was wrong here. William Bracewell was the son of Christopher Bracewell of Green End at Earby and he came to Barlick and set up business in King Street as a manufacturer putting out work to local weavers. In his obituary in CH 21/03/1885, his place of business is given as 24 Church Street and the date about 1835]

R-To start these mills, he were more interested in manufacturing.

Now, were any of the beam engines in Barlick Bracewell engines to your knowledge?

R- No, they were Yates and Thom engines. There were two engines at Wellhouse and they were Yates and Thom’s.

They were Yates and Thoms.

R-They were Yates and Thoms and I’ve heard, if I understand me father right, it was a Yates and Thom that were in Butts as well before that big Musgrave were put in.

How about Clough, do you know what were in at Clough?

R-Well, that at Clough, as far as I can go back, that engine were miles too big for Clough and they took it out and it went to Whalley.

That was the beam?

R-The original engine as far back as I can go were horizontal and they took it out because it were miles too big and it went to Whalley and that new Burnley Ironworks were put in. Now what the beam engine were at Clough I don’t know.

Yes, well, I’m not even sure there was a beam engine.

R-No and I’m not, I think that engine at Whalley’d be the original engine at Clough.
[Later research shows this is wrong. There was a beam engine installed at Clough before 1827, the second-hand Furneval horizontal was put in in about 1900 but was never a success so they went back to the beam engine before installing a new Burnley Ironworks engine in 1913 and selling the Furneval on to Whalley. SG.]

And do you know what that was?

R-It were, I don’t know what make it were now Stanley and I worked on it many a time. It were a great big thing of about 900hp and it ran backwards way round they said when it were at Clough, but it were a source of trouble.

The original engine that was put in at Clough was roughly 1845 [before 1827 actually]. Could that engine be that old?

R-I don’t think so.

So it’s possible that there was an engine….

R-I think there’d been a slip-up at Clough. It’s possible that they had a beam engine in at Clough and somebody bought this one, I’m referring to the one that went to Whalley, second-hand somewhere and put it in at Clough and they found it were uneconomical with being miles too big. And only having one boiler they decided that they’d have a new start and put a new engine in and that’s when that little cross compound were built. (1913)

Yes. The thing that makes me think there was possibly a beam engine in at Clough is that I’ve come across a record of William Bracewell in about 1860 when the slack time was on, they re-boilered both Butts and Clough and the boilers they replaced at both mills were old pan boilers. And so they’d be very low pressure and almost certain for beam engines.

R-They’re for beam engines. But I can, whatever work I used to do at Clough and I used to go knocking about in the old engine house, I could never picture a beam engine in that place, I could picture that horizontal that went to Whalley so that building must have been altered if there had been a beam engine in.
Yes, well it’s only conjecture really.

[Later research shed light on this: There was certainly a beam engine in Mitchell’s Mill in 1827 because it was insured by Sun Insurance (Registers. Vol 161. CR1060008-1827)for £200. This engine ran until 1879/80 when a large second hand Furneval engine was installed because the new Clough Mill shed had been built and the old engine couldn’t cope. In 1891 a report in The Cotton Times stated that the Furneval had been stopped and the beam engine restarted because loom numbers were down, however, they had to go back to the Furneval because the beam engine was ‘too tight’. In 1900 the Furneval engine was sold and re-installed at Judge Walmsley Mill at Whalley where it was converted by Ashton Frost from the original specification: Single cylinder condensing, 33” bore X 6” stroke, 38rpm. To: A tandem with new corliss cylinders rated at 300hp. Flywheel 16’ diameter and 14 ropes. It ran 900 looms and the engineer and maintenance man at the mill was George Garratt. It looks as though Clough was run on the old beam engine from 1900 to 1913, supplemented by the water wheel?]

R-Aye, we’re only guessing at that.

Yes, that’s it and in 1913 at Clough they put that little ticky tock…

R-Well it were a beautiful little thing were that. Oh, it were grand, it ran at 90 revs a minute, you couldn’t indicate it on your own with having spiral indicator wheels on. You know it had spiral wheels for the string and you couldn’t catch it by yourself.

Like a fusee?

R-Aye, you couldn’t twist it round on your own.

[For engine spec. see 18/AG/03]

Right. Now get back to your father. So your father then is in the position where he’s working in Barlick for Henry Brown..

R-For Henry Brown and Sons.

And they’ve built the foundry down at Havre Park?

R-Havre Park. [Later research gives a building date of 1922.]

Which is now Gissing and Lonsdale’s place.

R-That’s right.

And then this is where Henry Brown started to run into trouble.

R- He ran into trouble in't slump, the machine shop were always busy but the foundry were losing money.

Now by the slump, what do you mean?

R-Well, the slump in 1928/1930. It were very bad you know. But the machine shop were always OK. I got that off me father, they’d always plenty of work, they could keep going but the foundry wouldn’t pay its way at all. And not only that you see but the Building Society were wanting their pound of flesh out of the foundry and it were the Building Society that foreclosed on him. And when it all came out it had no need to have happened you know, he paid 19/6 in the pound when it were all finished off. [Paid 97½% of debts. CHSC Minute Books reports petition in bankruptcy of H Brown and Sons on 16th October 1929]

When they liquidated it?

R-Yes, they paid 19/6 in the pound. So anyhow, everything finished you see. So me father thought I can’t sit back and do nowt, I’ve got to make a living, so he went to Kelbrook and borrowed £500 off an aunt. He set off with that, with Stanley Fisher, that’s Walt’s father, my partner now, and they went to Keighley and bought a lathe with a twelve-foot bed, a ten-inch centre lathe, screwcutter. They got permission to put it in the old Moorhouse’s warehouse at Wellhouse, there were no looms in it tha knows, they’d all gone out of business. And he put it in there, and we brought a six inch foot lathe from out of his workshop at home [Newton means foot driven, a treadle lathe] Fred Windle across here [Windle’s garage on Vicarage Road] lent him a gas engine and a welding set, so they could run for a bit of overtime you know, weekends and that. [This was because the shafting would be stopped in the mill when mill wasn’t running.] Watsons lent him a drilling machine, garage up here, Rupert Holt that were the blacksmith at the end of Wellhouse Road lent him one of his forges
so they could get the blacksmith back and get him working. Stanley Fisher never played at all, within a week Dennis Pickles was back, within another week Leonard Parkinson was back and the first job he ever got on his own was to recog the bevel wheel at the bottom of the vertical shaft at the Corn Mill for Cramp Hoyle, Jim Hoyle. That’s how he started and that’s more or less how I started, I’d be about 11 by then. And it were “Come on Newton, let’s get down yonder!” on Saturday and Sunday and “Do a bit of sweeping up there.” You know and he had his own office man then and all. This went on for oh, two year happen and it gradually built up, he got a bit more tackle but there were plenty of work coming in. Till one day, Teddy Wood, he were the secretary of the calf Hall Shed Company, he came to see me dad, they were ready for selling all the machinery out of the original shop you know, out of the mill. He says “Now then John, I want you to go up there and mark every one of the machines in that shop that you want because we can’t do with you out of business and all these mills stopped.” So I went with me father that Sunday to mark them machines and he said “Put a cross on that Newton” and “Put a cross on that.” They must have come sometime that week to see me father while I were at school and I know when he came home at night he said “Right, we’re going back to the old shop, there isn’t going to be a sale. Calf Hall Shed Company have bought the lot just as it stands.” So I goes back in the old shop next week. He told me that if I wanted I could go in and help Dennis who was in there at night turning some bevel wheels. And that was it, he went back in his own shop and he just paid rent on the machinery and the buildings. Within two years he’d made enough to pay em it all back and believe it or not, every machine in that shop and everything added up, even the iron in the rack, came to £940. So how much would that be today?

[20/11/1929 the Calf Hall Shed Company buys Brown’s machinery and stock off the Trustee, R S Windle and resolves that it should be let to ‘a company to be formed’ at 6% per annum rent. Next mention I have found is in September 1932 when J A Pickles and Son is named as company in Wellhouse machine shop. In July 1938 Johnny buys the machinery off Calf Hall Shed Co. for £500 and the minutes record that they were converting to a Limited Company’. The next mention in the minute books in April 1939 refers to them as Hy. Brown Sons and Pickles Ltd. One of the Browns came back in as an office man and perhaps partner and Johnny renamed the firm. He never forgot his old master.].

And a lot of that machinery is what you’ve got today.

R-yes, and a lot of it off course, like the big break lathe, is what me father and Stanley Fisher made during the 1914 war. I didn’t want to part with that.

What do you mean by ‘break lathe’.

R-Well, that big break lathe that I’ve got down in the laundry now, that with the four foot face plate on, it’ll take 18 feet between centres and three feet over the saddle. Well, me father and Stanley Fisher made that lathe on nights during the 1914 war for turning gun bases on for Yates and Thoms, they couldn’t buy one so they set to and made one. They wouldn’t let them have one you see, they said if you’re capable of making one, get on and do it, so they made it.

Now tell me, something that’s struck me about it, your father had taken over the business and the business actually was…

R-Well, he went under John A Pickles and Company then.

That’s it.

R-Browns weren’t in it at all. Now then, after we got back in the old shop and I’d started working regularly then, I got fourteen and I were working full time and things started getting busier and busier. Me father couldn’t cope on his own so he asked Mr Brown from Horton if he’d come back to work in the office and that and he brought him back into the business. Now that were only us working in the office for quite some time and then things got busier and busier and we got an extension job at a mill and he floated, he made it into a Limited Company and made the name Hy. Brown, Sons and Pickles Ltd. And that’s how it gets its name.

Which mill was the extension at?

R-County Brook, first extension. Aye yes, first extension.

County Brook, that’s it.

R- He floated it into a Limited Company with equal shares and that’s how it stood up to this last year. Well, that’s it. [Newton is referring to the fact that they sold out to Gissing and Lonsdale in 1978.]

Now then, so you were working for your father…

R-I was working for me father.

And that’s at 14 years old. [1930]

R-Right, well we got, just as it happened it were, it might have been lucky, I hadn’t been going so long and I were working then and all at once they went on to four loom and six loom all these mills.

That’s it, the more looms system.

R-Well, with going off four looms on to six looms it slowed em down didn’t it? And they had to put bigger pulleys on the looms to slow them down. Well we got an order one Saturday morning off Anthony Carr for two thousand pair of loom pulleys. I was in’t shop sweeping up that morning when Anthony Carr came in and told me father to make him 2000 pair of ten-inch loom pulleys. Good grief, I’d never heard anything like it, 2000 pair of pulleys, we’ll never turn them in this world. Anyhow, Kings at Skipton… but me father came back on Sunday and started knocking some wood pulleys together, got them across to Ashby at Ouzledale and they made some aluminium castings off these wooden ones. He got them back, Dennis and me father turned them up and polished them and then one set, no, two sets went to Ouzledale and two sets to Kings at Skipton and they started bringing loom pulleys in at 90 pair a day..

That were Ouzledale Foundry up Forty Steps?

R-Round by Ashby’s, yes, up Forty Steps. Browns were in there you know for donkeys years before they built Havre Park. I forgot to tell you about that bit, Browns had the foundry at Ouzledale.

Were they the first to use it as a foundry?

R-No, I don’t think so, they called him Watt and Brown found him some money and they went in partnership [c.1903/04. SG] under them circumstances and they carried on until Watt died and then Brown carried it on. And then of course they came out of there and built Havre Park [as a foundry] after the 1914 war [1922]. But to get back to them loom pulleys, they started coming in to the tune of 70 to 90 pair a day, castings, and me father said “it doesn’t matter Newton, we’ll have to get into this”. He learned me to turn them and that was the first time we ever got any carbide tipped tools. He’d read it in a catalogue and they were making these tools in Germany and there were an agent in England and he sent for four. He put me one in me lathe and that tool turned loom pulleys from seven o’clock in the morning until half past nine at night, six days a week, half past five on Sunday and it were never taken out of the tool post for a fortnight. We could turn 120 pair of loom pulleys in a day, two of us and the tools were called Wimets.

That’s it, Wimets.

R-Wimets, the original carbide-tipped tool.

And was that roughing straight off the casting?

R-Straight off the casting.

So you’d have the sand and all the skin to cut through?

R-The Lot, the lot.

You were doing well.

R-There were nobody could turn them pulleys like we could, not even the loom-makers. You know he weren’t daft weren’t old John, he designed the patterns so that we could put them on a dummy faceplate as a jig. He made the pattern with two church window arms, arches in you know, and four round holes about so big and we’d two lathes with a jig on the faceplate. After they were bored we used to shove them on to different size bushes and there were two pegs on this jig and they were perfectly true, nipped up with a big wing nut. I could turn a loom pulley in about three minutes, that were turn it across the top, Take the back edge off and face it down the front, a ten-inch loom pulley. And then we got an order from Blackburn for 1000 pair at 12”. And I think altogether we turned about 13,000 pair of pulleys before we’d finished and it put me father on his feet. He’d above £1,000 in the bank when we finished the job.

Well done Johnny.

R-And that kept us going, that and the first extension at County Brook which came on after we finished the pulleys and that’s what started it all off.

When you were learning, most of your work would be inside the shop, you wouldn’t get out?

R-Not necessarily, no. I used to go out with the men at weekends, Len Parkinson and Dennis and them at weekends. [Dennis was no relation to Johnny. He was shop foreman all through the Second World War]

Week ends, that would be maintenance?

R-Maintenance at engines and bevel wheel, shafting jobs and of course in the meantime I was spending all me time with Billy Watson down here, which I’d done since I were ten year old, 1200hp engine.

At Wellhouse?

R-At Wellhouse, and I spent all me spare time with Billy Watson the engineer when he came to this engine. He came from Rochdale did Billy and he were only a young chap in his twenties when he came, and of course I palled onto him with him being interested in as a lad. I used to come down here and start it up before I went to school and all that carry on. I was late and getting into bother but I didn’t care, that engine came first before school.

How old were you then?

R-About twelve.

So you were more or less running the engine when you were twelve?

R-I could run that engine before I finished at school, he saw to that did Billy and he taught me to indicate it and I used to want to come, he would say “If you want Newton, you can come back tonight and we’ll just have a look at these valves.” It weren’t me father that learned me all me steam engine skills, it were learned through Billy and meself.

That isn’t the fellow that gave you the watch is it?

R-No, that were Billy Webster at Brook Shed at Earby.

I thought it was a Billy!

R-Right, but we were following all the, besides the machine work we were doing here we were following all the mills in Barlick and at Earby as well then. We didn’t go any further afield, no farther than Foulridge in those days. We’d fourteen mills at Barlick and twelve at Earby and Sough and Dotcliffe, we were following all them engines. Of course, I were only trailing on at the back in those days.

So you’d know all these engines round here?

R- I knew them all.

You knew them intimately.

R-Now then, as you get older and things get busier you start to shove your neck out a bit, such as me father like and I remember him saying to me one day “Newton, do you think you could go to Crow Nest Shed, to Arthur Dobson, on Saturday and lift the connie (economiser) damper? It’s rubbing on the bottom and the damper regulator won’t work it.” I said, “I’ll have a do.”

Johnny, “It’s a mucky job tha knows, more for a lad than such as me going.” I said “Aye, I’ll have a do.” So he must have made arrangements with Arthur Dobson, the engineer at Crow Nest Shed, and he could swear could that chap. I daren’t start saying what he said, and we went down and one of his lads helped me and we went in and I looked at it and it looked a monstrous thing. It were eight feet high and about four feet wide and [a pin] about three inches thick at the top that went through the floor and had a square on and one at the bottom, it had a footstep that it swung on and it had all worn and the damper were running on the bricks. So I thought well, from what me father says, if you get a heel [fulcrum] strong enough and a lever long enough you can move the world. So I says to the lad, “Fetch a bloody bar and a lump
of wood and let’s see whether we can lift it up.” Of course, we soon found out that wood wasn’t strong enough so I says “Fetch a loom weight.” Between us we managed to lift it up and packed it up on some bricks and got the footstep off. Then I went up to the shop and cut a piece of plate out and made a washer. We’d no acetylene cutters that I could use then like so I cut a lump of plate with a hammer and chisel and then I put it in a lathe and made it into some sort of a round thing and took it back and stuck it under and found it wasn’t enough. So I’d to go back and make another one hadn’t I? By dinnertime I had the damper so it would swing about with the damper regulator. “All reight?” me dad says when I went home, “Has ta finished?” I said “Aye”, and he said “Champion. tha’d better go and get washed now hadn’t ta?” I were like a nigger minstrel. Well, me mother went mad when she saw me. So about a day or two after, I remember it as well as if it had been yesterday, he asked me whether I could put a half inch valve on at Berry’s at Foulridge. I told him I’d have a do and he said here’s the valve and some Stillsons, so I get on me bike and off I went to Foulridge. I landed at Foulridge and they only used the boiler for heating at that particular place. It were only a little boiler. I looked at this boiler all rusted pipes, it were up in a corner. Of course, as soon as I put the Stillsons on, they were about a yard long instead of being fourteen inches and I twisted everything right off. So I’d to bike it back to Barlick and cut a new piece of pipe. I thought I was in a right mess. I screwed the pipe and took it back and it fit and we got the valve on and that’s how it all started, going out on me own. Oh, and I mended a wringing machine or two for the old women in the town. There were a chap down by the Syke down Gisburn Road who made torpedoes, Old Nat we used to call him, me father says “Oh Newton, I’ve another outside job for thee.” I says “What’s that?”

[Side one of the tape ends here but if I remember right he had to put some new bars in the grate under the oven to get the torpedo bloke going again. By the way, a torpedo is a sort of Barlick Cornish Pasty!]


R-Well, like I were saying, I was getting between 15 and 16 now when we started to go to mend these big outside jobs, you know, wringing machines and baker’s boilers and gas ovens and that sort of thing. I got interested in motors, we had an old wagon made out of an Austin 20 car. Of course, the chap that used to drive it were always late to catch his train at night to get home, he lived in Nelson. They called him Jack Wilkinson, he were a welder. One night he asked me to put the wagon away in the old stable where we kept it. I’d never driven it before but I drove it down the yard and put it away. I’ll never forget it, I got it into the stable with big shifts and little uns with the engine running and got a bit near the wall. This pushed the starting handle into the dogs, you know how it were Stanley with dogs in those days, and it [The starting handle] ploughed a groove in the wall. That grooves in there today, that circle up at that end, of course, I never did that any more. Then me father found out I were getting interested in motors, I nattered him a bit about a motorbike. I don’t where he got it, I think he bought it off old Fred Windle, It were an old heavy two stroke and he gave ten bob for it. I played with this motorbike at home of a night in’t joiner’s yard and that sort of thing with me mate Bob Fort. One day me dad asked me if I knew a bit about motorbikes, I told him I could make it run as he’d heard it running. He said there’s a chip shop up Park Road, they have a gas engine and it won’t go, get thyself off up there. So I went up to this gas engine and had a look at
it. It were only a little un , I looked at it and….


Newton on the right with Bob Fort his mate. The date on the back of the picture is 1928. Bob was with the firm right up to the end.

Why would they have a gas engine in a chip shop Newton?

R-It were on the potato peeling machine, like pan-scrubbing stuff inside, like you put on sand rollers you know, and they put the potatoes in to scrape them. It wouldn’t start. I looked at this thing and I couldn’t make moss nor sand of it. I thought well, It happen wants the valves grinding in so I took all the valves out of it and ground them in. I still couldn’t understand how it worked, I couldn’t find the sparking plug. Now this here thing at the back, it were all burnt and I thought what’s this for? So I thought I’m not going to be ignorant, I’ll take it off. So I takes this here pot off the back, it had asbestos inside you know, it had a pipe up about as big as your finger. I took it up to the shop and asked me father what it was, He said it was what makes it run, the ignition tube. So I asked him what it did, me motorbike had a sparking plug and a magneto on. He says forget about that, this engine hadn’t got one. He said that what was wrong with the engine was that the ignition tube had a hole burned in it. I saw then what happened, they lit this burner below the tube, that got it red hot and when the engine squeezes the gas in the cylinder the tube made it go off bang! He says that’s it, you’ve got it, now off you go. So I made a new bit of pipe, screwed it in and off I went to put it all back on with this little oval flange and turn the gas on and lit it. I says “wait while it gets red hot tha knows before tha tries to start it and it’ll go like the clappers.” I’d done a good job there, I got a bag of chips and off we go back to the shop. Now, I got towards sixteen years old, I’d just gone sixteen and things didn’t half start moving; me mate Billy Watson that were the engineer at Wellhouse, his wife had died in childbirth. Now then me father says, we’re in a bit of a mess now Newton. Walter’s father [Stanley] had left us, he’d gone to run the engine at Moss Shed. Me father said do you think you can manage this engine? He’d run it when Billy went home at dinnertime and he ran it all afternoon. I told him I thought so , I’d been there long enough so he put me on to it and I was there six weeks. I had 2,300 looms running off that engine, and I’d no trouble, I had a fireman, a good fireman and an oiler.


Stanley Fisher on the gearing in Moorhouse's warehouse at Wellhouse Mill round about 1924. He would be working for Henry Brown and sons at the time.

What was the fireman’s name?

R- Billy Wood. Later he became Bob Fort’s father in law. He knew how to run it really but he couldn’t run the engine and three boilers as well so I got the engine. One afternoon I got a bit clever with this job, I had grease lubricators on the crank pins.

This were a Roberts.. It were a Burnley Ironworks, that’s it.

R-It were a Burnley Ironworks, a pair of tandems. We’d had a new engine at one side, it were put in in 1926, one side were modern and one side were corliss valves on the high pressure but a slide valve on the low. Anyhow, this afternoon, usual time, three o’clock and it were time to fill your crank pin lubricators with grease. You screwed them off and you had a grease tub and a spoon. Fill the lubricator, like butter, pat it on till it were full and then wound it back on with your hands, then you put your worm drive in which were a click and then you put your catch down which were worked with a ratchet to drive the grease through. I did the new side and went round to do the other side. All force of habit. I went down into the boiler house or else out into the yard and I thought That engine’s running slow. So I dash back upstairs and I had the New Side crank pin stinking red hot, not warm, stinking red hot, it were fizzling like a chip shop. So I stopped the engine and thought I’m in trouble now. I thought well, I’ve watched the others and what they generally do is get a hose pipe and couple it on to a tap and lucky enough there was already some hose pipe coupled on a tap next to the main bearing. So I got one of them squirting away on to it and it was sizzling and cracking and banging and I was scared. In a minute or two I hear the engine hose door open at the bottom of the steps and footsteps came up towards the crankpin from the bottom. I’m frigging away squirting away and I look round and see this hard hat come above the railings [Johnny always wore a bowler hat], I thought hello, me father’s here, I’ll get a bit of help now. He just looked round and said what’s up? I said I’ve a crank pin hot. Oh it is hot and all he said. I said It’s bleeding hot! Ah well he said, tha’s getten thiself into trouble, tha mun get thiself out of it. And that was all the help I got off Johnny. Well I thought, I’m in a right mess now aren’t I! I’d 200 weavers or more out in the yard waiting of the engine starting. But in a minute or two there’s another chap comes upstairs, it were Leonard Parkinson, I could hear him coming. Now then Newton, what’s to do? It’s crank pin hot Leonard. Well then, let’s slack it back a bit and get going.

Who was Leonard?

R-Leonard Parkinson were our foreman fitter after Stanley Fisher left. He were a nice chap were Leonard.

That was one of your own men?

R-Yes, one of us own men, he’d worked for me father since 1914.

Do you think Johnny had sent him across?

R-Of course he’d sent him, aye of course he’d sent him Stanley, he wouldn’t leave me like that with the blinking mill stopped. So we found some spanners and Len slackened it back about…

How old were you then Newton?


And the engine stopped and all the weavers out in the yard…

R-The engine stopped and all the weavers out in the yard shouting to know whether we were stopped for the week. They loved to be stopped for the week.

I know the feeling well. [SG was engineer at Bancroft in 1978]

R-Well anyway, it’s a rotten feeling. We slackened it back a bit and then Len said “keep that water going Newton.” He stood over it while I got going, he were no engine driver, he could work on them. So I got started up and he stood over the crank pin and we worked through till closing.

What had actually caused it Newton?

R-Wait a minute, we ran through while half past five and then Leonard says we’d better come back tonight and we’ll take those brasses out and refit them. So we came back after tea and we refitted the brasses. Len said he’d be in at seven o’clock in the morning. I started up at seven o’clock the morning after and it were stone cold, it were all right, we was on us way. I’d had me breakfast, I’d stopped from half past eight while nine and I’d got going again, I was stood over that crank pin, I never left it you know besides doing me other work. Me father landed in and said Now then Newton, what happened yesterday? I said I didn’t know. He asked whether I’d left the catch out. I said I hadn’t, I knew I’d put it back in and the only thing I could think, they were big heavy catches, was that I’d flipped it over with me finger and it had hit the top of a ratchet wheel tooth, they were brass wheels about six inches in diameter, and it bounced off the corner of a tooth, acting as a spring. You know how a ratchet wheel goes to a feather edge, it must have hit the feather edge and bounced back and that’s all I could think. I knew jolly well I’d put it back in. Johnny told me to lift it out and try it now. I did it and it bounced right out and dropped over again out of drive. That’s it says me dad, we’ll cure that this weekend. He got out his ruler and put his hat to the back of his head and measured the wheel. Just count the teeth, I don’t know how many there were, about 57 or 60 it doesn’t matter and off he went, a little pencil out and his book and he drew a catch and a wheel and off he went. We’ll remedy this at the weekend. On Saturday morning, down comes Dennis [Pickles] at half past nine to stop with me. Newton, get your breakfast and then come back. He were a good turner were Dennis, he were no relation, he were a lad that me father had started as an apprentice straight from school. He says we’re going to alter this, you’ll have no more bother with these catches. What they’d done they’d made two new catches, the wheels were half an inch wide and they’d made two catches a quarter of an inch wide, one were shorter by half a tooth pitch. Now when you filled your lubricator you put them both back and when you tripped them in you put them both in and if one caught the edge of a tooth the other one didn’t.

So you..

R-We never had any more trouble with them up to taking them off and fitting oilers.
Those greasers would feed up a pipe that comes right up the crank…

R-Up a pipe straight into the crank pin.

So that greaser was up at the crank pin end?

R-Just to the crank pin.

The only greasers I’ve ever seen were the one that fed up a pipe along the connecting rod.

R-Roberts always put them on, Calf Hall had them on and they’d a big central pillar with the lubricator on you know. And what happened at Calf Hall one day, It got hold did that quadrant pipe. Noel went to lubricate it and it seized one Monday morning. It picked the lubricator up and threw it round. Edwin rang up and said you’d better come down here, there’s a hole in the roof! It had broken the pillar off at the bottom, it would be about four and a half inches in diameter, a cast iron pillar, and the engine picked it up, whizzed it and threw it through the roof of the engine house.

So there’d be a big modification?

R-We bored em out and put em on oil. The original greasers went up the outside, up the connecting rod, not through a hole in the crank pin.

That’s it, yes.

R-They used to pipe up the grease from the cross-head to the crank pin but if the cross head got a bit slack it got all the fat and the crank, the poor old crank didn’t get anything.

I think I’ve heard you say it was a bit of a mess fitting the pipes over the swelling in the connecting rod.


Newton is talking about fitting a banjo oiler like this one on the low pressure crank at Bancroft.

R-Oh it were, oh Christ it were on a Roberts engine. Well we did away with them at Calf Hall, we bored the crank pins and fitted oilers. At Wellhouse, things got better after that, I were in about six or seven weeks on me own there. Then I went back to me work with me father. The engine job was just coming into its own and one particular thing stands out in me mind to this day. I got old enough then, I was old enough to get a license to drive the wagon and we were on with the church clock at Kelbrook the day I got me license. We rebuilt that clock, took all the dials down, rebuilt them, put new finger shafts in and all that and we were there for many a week, a good job for us were that. But just after that job finished there were a big splutter one morning and all I knew were that Clough was stopped. I were on a lathe doing something and in the middle of the afternoon me father came down and told me to run
him up to t’Clough. So I went out and got the old wagon and off we went to t’Clough and there were Leonard and Dennis Pickles with the engine stopped and they’d the low pressure valve lids off. They said to me father we can’t make it run, it just does half a turn and then it starts to come back. Well me father says, put the lids on and let’s try it. So they put these two lids on and me father asked them if they’d set the eccentric 90 degrees forward to the crank and they said yes so he said it should run. So they put the lids on and I just stood back you know, I mean you spoke when spoken to in those days you know. I stood outside the engine house door watching with the engine driver and they barred it round to starting position and put the steam on and it just went from the starting position to the other centre and then came back to its starting position. I thought what a funny road to run a mill, this was more like a pumping engine than a rotary one this is, reciprocating. So I’m looking at this engine and I says to me father are you sure you’re right with this 90 degrees forward to the crank with this big eccentric? He says they all run 90 degrees forward even without setting the valves. I said this’n waint, it wants to be 90 degrees back from the crank. He said whatever for? I said what about this double rod in the middle, when that goes there that goes back doesn’t it? It’s the engine, it’s wrong way round , one engine’s trying to go one way and the other’s trying to go in the opposite direction so naturally the high pressure wins and it comes back eventually to where it starts. He says, "That’s it, I’ve finished with bloody steam engines, tha knows more about this job than we do!” Dennis Pickles went up the wall, he said what the hell do you know about steam engines, a bit of a lad but Leonard Parkinson quietened him down. Newton come here, it won’t take us five minutes to try it, the blocks were already up. He said just loosen them screws and we’ll move this eccentric. He says to the engine driver bar it round until the crank were at the other side. “Tighten it up now, nip it up.” This would be about half past three in the afternoon. There were six or eight set screws, I can see it now, reaching in to tighten up on to the dogs. We nipped it up and you could tell it was the right way because you could see the dog marks where it had been before. Me father says to the engineer, go on Albert (George Hogarth actually, Newton made a mistake and called him Albert. One of George’s relations corrected this twenty five years later.) , try it now. It were off like a bloody Waltham watch, ticky tock, ticky tock. And me dad says that’s it, I’ve finished with the bloody engines, I’m having nowt more to do with them, if tha wants me now tha’ll have to ask. And that’s when me engine fitting started.

[We stopped for a minute because Newton had thought about something he wanted to include at this point]

R-I’ve just bethought meself about the first day I started working on the pay-roll at fourteen years old, when I left school at Easter [1930] When I got there at morning, at seven o’clock like with me father, he said now then Newton, I’ve a right job for thee now, there’s a lot of pinions to cut on that little milling machine. It were already set up, they’d been cutting already, they were about an inch and a quarter in diameter with about twenty teeth in and there were hundreds of them there. This old milling machine just ran with a belt off the shafting, it had no traverse on’t table and they put about six of these pinions at once on to an arbor at once on this dividing head that me father had made at home. You wound the cutter through with a ratchet on the end of the table and I can remember as plain as owt doing this as the snow blew under the door. I thought By God, this is a worse job than I had when I weren’t working here! Anyhow we got through this here and then there were t’money. I started off with a big wage with being used to the job before I started, I had 12/6 a week. But this 12/6 a week went on until I were nearly 19 years old! [65p.] Till one day I says to me father, here, isn’t it about time I had a bit more money? Well, he says, your mother’s been on about that, you know I didn’t board or owt. I just give me mother 12/6 a week and she gave me two bob pocket money to go to t’pictures with and buy me Woodbines. Well he said, if tha wants any more money tha’d better go and ask Willy Brown.
So I went into the office and knocks on the door and cap in hand you know, in them days that was how you went in, Come in he says and there he was sat in his swivel chair facing the window at his desk, I can see him now, he just spun round and says What dost a want? Well I says, there’s Bob and there’s Jack Parkinson and there’s Walter and they haven’t been here as long as me and they have loads more money than I have. Well, how much hasta? I said I’ve 12/6 a week like I had when I started and I’m going out to all these engines and bevel wheels and such. I think I’m entitled to a bit more now, I know that this isn’t a wealthy firm and I’m working for me father like so I know it doesn’t really matter about being a bit less than the others. Hold on he says, I didn’t realise tha’d only 12/6 a week, haven’t I put thee up with the others? No I says, I haven’t had a blooming halfpenny! So he gets to the safe and gets wages book out and he says look here Newton, sit down. I could put me cap back on then. By gum he says, thart reight, over three pound due, that’s it I said, I were only 2/6 under the full rate and I were only 19. Of course, when you come to think about it after he had brought me up to my time he had left it two year. Oh, it were a real do, me spending money went up to three bob after that! Anyhow, another experience wi engine fitting at Sagar’s Quarry at Salterforth. We put a new suction gas plant in for the big National Gas engine that ran the quarry, it were about 30hp.

Was that running off town’s gas?

R-They ran it off their own, off coke. Now the plant was all supplied by National Gas and was laid there in the yard. It were a week’s holiday me and Harry Brown had to get it in. That were Willy Brown’s son. He’ retired now and lives at Horton, he’s about seventy. [Newton was 62 when we did these tapes. In 2000, when this transcript was put on disk, he’s still alive and living at Dam Head with Beryl his third wife and is 84. SG.] We get this thing built up, you know, with them suction plants you light the thing up and wind a fan and it’s supposed to make gas. Well we laiked [played] about with it all day, it were th’end of holidays, Friday and we couldn’t get a cough out of the engine. I were fed up of winding th’engine round onto the compression stroke, then you pumped it up with a pump on top you know, a bit of compressed air and it should go but it didn’t. There were no town’s gas to prime it and I were fed up of this thing, I wanted to get home and have some holidays. Well, it gets to Saturday tea-time and we still hadn’t fired the bloody thing up, we’d been pumping the engine and winding the engine and we were both buggered. I said there’s somat not reight with this thing Harry. Nowt o’t sort he says, it’s us that doesn’t, it’s nowt that we’ve done. Anyway, on Sunday his father came wi’ him, that were Willy Brown, him that gave me more money. We pumped while eight o’clock on Sunday night, it were summertime and a bloody good job or we’d ha been up and down wi’ a candle and we’d burnt I don’t know how much coke and there were a stink of gas all over but there were nowt getting inside. Well, I said, It’s pretty obvious isn’t it, we’ve pumped since Friday, it can’t be getting any bloody gas, it ain’t even gone puff! We’d taken the big sparking p[lug out you know. Well we decided to uncouple the gas pipe, I said it’s about time we uncoupled sommat! I were getting reight crammed and they were getting crammed back at me ‘cause I were only a lad. So we uncoupled the gas pipe didn’t we and they hadn’t put a bloody hole in the packing. So Newton knocks a bloody hole in the middle of the packing with his centre punch and puts it back on. I says, try it now and th’engine went like a bloody rocket. Aye, Browns don’t like to talk about that.
Anyhow we had another experience in the quarry and I think it were only the year before or the year after we went up to a steam crane in Tubber Hill Quarry [Loose Games at end of Lister Well Road?] Me father says tha does that crane and Harry’ll help thee. He were a good mechanic, there’s no doubt about that.
What were the crane, a Smith Rodley?

R- It were a Scottish crane, Glasgow built and it had Stephenson’s Link Motion for the valves. Well, we took all this engine to bits and we brought it to t’shop and we re-bored it, made all new pins for the link motion, new valve pins and new piston rods and we had it back together the following Saturday in the quarry. I says to Harry on the Saturday night, It won’t run! He says what the bloody hell do you know about it. He were like that because he’d been in the army, all right I says, leave it! We hadn’t permission to light the fire and get steam up in the vertical boiler, we had to wait till Monday while the man came. I lands to me work at Monday morning after th’holidays and I got jumped down me throat as soon as I got in there. Me father’d get in there a bit sooner nor me wi’ having one or two holiday jobs on. Get theeself off to yon bloody quarry he says, your bloody engine won’t run. I says I know damn well it won’t run. Why? Well he didn’t know how to set valves did he, they’re all at t’bottom , t’ports are all wide open at t’top! Well I got reight in it, he never said a word to him [Harry] not one bloody word got said to him. I had to go up to t’quarry and face old John Sagar and get t’lids off and screw t’valves up into t’middle, he didn’t understand the reversing part of the business. So I got ‘em up and within an hour I got it going and it run like a bloody sewing machine. But it were me that got in bother not him, never said a dicky bird to him, he says I should have had the sense not to let him do it. Now them weren’t sort of ways I got tret.

Ah well, you were getting to become one of the gaffers you see.

R-Aye, must have been. I used to like to work wi’ Harry. He were keen on motors and he built himself a motorbike out of nothing. He bought a Clyne engine, a “V” twin you know. He built a modern machine, it were miles more modern than what they were building in them days, it were up to today’s standards for being modern in construction. He built the frame and everything. He turned the brake drums out of a piece of nine inch shafting and I used to go all over with him on that. I remember one
particular time we were working at Dotcliffe Mill at Kelbrook, it were at t’back end of summer, it were coming cold weather and we were shifting drums [Pulleys on the shafting in the weaving shed. SG] We always got on like a house on fire, I know we were working bloody hard and in’t middle of Saturday afternoon he says to me I’m bloody sick of these drums! I said Aye, and I am. They were all staked on you know and you’d to calliper them to get them true because the engine wasn’t running. You’d to mark them wi’ a piece of chalk tha knows. We shifted ‘em past hangers, it were all rough shafting, it weren’t turned. Oh he says, come on, let’s clear off for half an hour. We got on’t motorbike and I got on the back and the next thing I knew we were off round Hawes and Leyburn! It were ten o’clock on Saturday night when we got home. We’d had nowt to eat and I were bloody frozen. I’d nowt on only me jacket, he had a blooming great motorbike coat on.
We set off again to go somewhere, I think it were off up to the waterworks, up to them engines up at t’waterworks. Tubber Hill borehole. Harry says I’ll just call at Savages [Fishmongers and greengrocers opposite Commercial Inn on Church Street. SG] will you just nip in and get me fish that’s ordered for tonight, he used to get it for [his father] they lived at Horton. So I just nipped off the motorbike and went in the shop and got the fish and I get back on the pillion but before I could get the fish tucked into me pocket he let the clutch in and I were left on me arse in the road wi’ all the folk walking down to t’market! He got right to t’top of the park before he bethought himself I weren’t on t’bike. There I am sat on the edge of the flags waiting of him coming back.
But anyway, we can get on a bit further now, I’m getting a bit older and I think the biggest job I ever had on me own before t’war were up at the waterworks. I’d always worked at t’waterworks for Dick [Wilfred Dixon], I’d run the engines, fired the boilers, done the bearings up on the bore hole pumps and the crank shaft bearings on the big pumps. I’d done ‘em for years, it were my job were that.
Now in 1939, they had a big pile-up. One of the buckets came off one of the deep well pumps which are 96 ft down. As it jammed it broke the spur wheel which were eight feet diameter and eight inches wide. It twisted the engine crank shaft and bent it and it bent the crank shaft that worked the pumps, this was six or six and a half inches diameter in the journals. There were a pair of flange couplings on about three feet in diameter with six bolts in and two and a half inch keys and it twisted them half way round the bloody shaft when it jammed. It were a Timkins engine on the shallow well, about fifteen inch bore and two foot stroke and they ran it to a very fair speed because it were very low geared and it didn’t half do some damage, it were unusual because it had Meyer cut-off gear on it, they never altered it but it was there. It smashed the eight foot spur wheel, it smashed it into pieces. The engine on the deep well was a Burnley Ironworks single cylinder. Me and Bob [Fort] carried all the bits outside and there weren’t one piece we couldn’t lift by hand and that wheel, when it were bolted together, it weighed over two tons. I got that job and me and Bob went up to it, father ordered the spur wheel, Roberts cast that [William Roberts, Phoenix Foundry, Nelson] and we machined it. I have some photographs somewhere of that wheel, it were the biggest thing I’d ever turned up to then were that, five feet had been the limit you know more or less.


October 1939. The spur wheel for the Whitemoor bore hole in the lathe at Wellhouse Shop.

And me dad just left me to it. It took us five weeks to get the bucket out of the bore without damaging the bore down in the with two inch draw bolts and girders across the top trying to pull it up. Now these buckets were constructed rather foolishly in my idea, to be working so far down. They were fourteen inches in diameter and ten inches deep. In the middle of it there were a bronze bucket and then on the outside they had a wrought iron ring and this was bored tapered and it fit on the bronze bucket and it had a nut underneath. I don’t know what their idea were of making it tapered but what had happened, they used to take these buckets out every two years, they used to do this job themselves. Pull the rods up, look at the buckets and put them back. If the buckets wanted repairing they used to bring them to the shop and we used to put new outer rings on and then send them back. Well, what they’d done, they’d taken them out that often and there was nothing wrong with them that they’d run ‘em for four years. What had happened, one of them had rusted and it rusted thin and then it split did this taper ring and of course, when the bucket went down, the ring stopped in the bore didn’t it. The bucket expanded it just like a an expanding mandrel and jammed it solid. Anyway, it took me and Bob a fortnight at least to move that bucket and when we did move it, we had that much tension on. Me dad borrowed a hydraulic jack off Roberts for us and what with that and all the draw bolts and girders we had on the well top, just like you’d draw an ordinary wheel off a shaft, but it were ninety feet down. It went one afternoon and all us tackle jumped up in the air about ten feet wi# the tension we had on. It’s a good job we weren’t hanging about when it went. You know we’d a big spanner on and a ten foot pipe and we were walking round like a blooming horse on a mill tightening these draw bolts and pumping the jack and it went! They jumped about ten foot did them girders.

That’s with the stretch you had on the rods?

R-That’s with the stretch we had on the rods.

They’d be steel rods?

R-They were steel rods and we’d elongated all the bolt holes to twice the diameter of the bolts , we’d all them to renew when we put it back. I’d be there altogether about six months.

Did you go down? How did you know exactly what was wrong?

R-I went down t'well and took the clack box lids off so I could get inside and have a look with a light.

How wide was the bore, how wide was the well?

R-Oh it’d be eight feet in diameter and it’s 96 feet deep then of course you’ve got a 300 feet borehole as well. Now how did I get down, They kept the bore hole pump running 24 hours a day to keep the well itself empty, you know, the head of the well, we kept that empty and I went down there.
One particular day when we were putting it back together I’d been down all morning and it got to dinner time and they shouted down Are you coming up for dinner? And I said I’d stop down, I’d got the valves back in there was only the lids to get back on. It was a hell of a big lid, I should say it’d be four foot be two foot and I had it on another set, another jinny [Set of lifting tackle. SG] You were on one jinny which was a small one and a bosun’s chair and you [had a signal rope] used to pull once for ‘up’, twice for ‘down’ and three times for get me up quick! I wanted a different spanner of some sort and I shouted but they couldn’t hear me so they stopped the bore hole pump and I’ve never been as scared in me blinking life. In the bottom of the well there were bits of rock juts up you know and I used to get off me bosun’s chair and stand on them. All at once the water started boiling up between these bloody rocks and I was never as scared in me bloody life. I screamed out and I heard the labourer, Henry, he came from the gasworks and he stuttered. I heard him shout Get the bl…bl…bloody engine running, he’s going to be drowned! The water got up to about here and I were trying to climb up a two foot pipe, sticking to it. The big delivery pipe off the pumps. Anyway, they got the engine running and it held it and then it went down. Of course, they’d to bring me up then, I were bloody wet through. I had to go home and get changed. But by gum, I’ve never been as frightened. Silliest trick in’t world, silliest trick in’t world to stop that engine.
[Many years later Newton was diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease and the doctor said the source of the original infection was almost certainly his experience in that well.]

I should think so.

R-But that were the biggest job I’d done on me own up to that time, I got it running before we finished. We used to go over to a little mill at Barley, Narrowgates Mill Company and by gum they were a good customer were that mill. They run 70 loom and they had a National Oil Engine.

They’d have a boiler at one time?

R-Aye but they had this National Oil Engine, it were a pretty new engine when we went the first time. Now then, it were a silly drive, it were cross ropes. If you’ve ever seen a cross rope drive it’s a bloody education. What happens is the ropes rub together and it wears the buggers away. They were having to re-rope it about every six months. So old Adam Hargreaves that were’t boss says to me father Can’t we do owt Johnny with this blooming rope drive, we’re allus broken down wi’ it. You know it’d fray half a dozen ropes in the middle of the week and they’d to send for the rope chaps to it. Me father says we can, we can put a bracket on that wall and a bracket up on this wall and a spur wheel there and a spur wheel there and it’ll probably go round the right way won’t it Newton! So, Narrowgates, we gets off there one Saturday morning, me and me father and we takes all the particulars, get some spur wheels drawn out on a board, Dennis makes some patterns. Dennis Pickles were a bloody good pattern maker, makes a pattern for this and one for the other with a hunting tooth in. They’d be happen 70 and 71 teeth, six and a half inches wide and about three feet six inches in diameter and we get them wheels cast. He made a bit of a drawing on a lump of paper for a five inch shaft to go across this here place. So I get on with that now I says. Well I hadn’t finished at the waterworks so I’m on with that at night turning the shaft and what not and then the spur wheels landed and I get on with them and then this damn great wall bracket lands and we get on with that. Anyhow, I got out of putting up the wall brackets, Jimmy Moseley and Harry Brown went to put them up. Now me dad says, we want another rope pulley now don’t we. We found out that the bottom pulley grooves didn’t match them at t’top so a rope pulley landed on to the job with about ten inch and a half cotton rope grooves to turn in it. We’d no boring mills in them days so I had to turn them in the lathe so I gets that job and I’m courting at the same time and it were getting on to 1939 then.

I’m going to stop you here.



TAPE 78/AG/2 (side 1)

Tape recorded on 21st June 1978 at Vicarage Road, Barnoldswick. The informant is Newton Pickles and the interviewer is Stanley Graham. The numbers in brackets are digital Uher count. ‘R’ denotes respondent. Additions in [] are comments by SCG.

So, you were born in 1916?

R-Nineteen sixteen.

Where were you born?

R-35 Federation Street, Barnoldswick.

How many years did you live at that house Newton?

R-Till I was 23.

So that would be 1939.

R-Yes, 1939, definitely.

Did you live in any other houses when young?


Where was your father born?

R- Kelbrook [1886. SG]

Do you know what address?

R-Main Street, It’s a house that stands on its own, it were a shop, a cobbler’s shop.

And where was your mother born?

R-Carleton [1885. SG]

Why is it she’d come from Carleton to Kelbrook?

R-She didn’t come from Carleton to Kelbrook, she came from Carleton to Earby and supposedly they got work in the mills at Earby easier than what they would at Carleton, there’d only be two mills in Carleton. [One actually, Slingsby's. See the Horace Thornton interviews.]

How many brothers and sisters did you have?

R-One sister.

Where did you come in the family, were you the oldest?


Eldest. What’s your sister’s name?


When was she born?

R-27th of October 1927.

1927, and of course Dorothy died.

R-Dorothy died when she was 49. [August 2 1976, she had cancer.]

When you were a child can you remember any relations living in the house with you?

R-Never any relations living in the house with us, no.

Any lodgers?


No lodgers, what was your father’s job when you were born?

R-He were foreman for Henry Brown and Sons.

At Barnoldswick?


Did he have any other jobs before that?

R-By what I gather he went to Victory V at Nelson, stayed there one day as foreman maintenance engineer and then got a job at Burnley Ironworks and stayed there exactly one year.


John Pickles and his new wife Sarah. A handsome couple!

That’s it; you talked about that on the last tape.

R-Yes on the other tape. Yes.

What was your mother’s job?

R-She were a weaver.

Before she married she was a weaver?

R-She was a weaver me mother yes.


R-I couldn’t tell you at Earby Stanley I wouldn’t know. It’d be one of the mills, it’d be Victoria probably. But when she came to Barlick she weaved at what were called Pummers at Wellhouse, which were Windles, they had 400 looms at Wellhouse. And she wove, she wove there up to me being born I think.

How old was your father when he died?

R-Eighty four.

And that was in 1969 wasn’t it?

R-Sixty nine yes. [9 September 1969. SG]

So your father’d be born in 1884?

R-1884? 1885.

Did your mother work outside the home after she was married?


What hours would she work while she was weaving?

R-Oh she’d work from seven o’clock in the morning, it started at seven then. I should say from seven till half past five, that were t’normal doing but I’ve heard me father talk about walking it from Kelbrook before he were married to start at Browns at half past six, so when she were at Earby they’d probably start at half past six.

How old was your mother when she died?

R-Seventy eight.

What year was that? Can you remember?

R-I can’t off hand Stanley, I can’t remember. I were in Earby at Victoria Mill on nights for them when she died. I know she died in Keighley Hospital, she were only in half a day but I can’t remember the date off hand. [19 February 1963. SG]

Did any of the family leave Barlick at all? Did Dorothy ever leave?


How many bedrooms did you have at Federation Street?

R-We had two bedrooms and an attic.

What other rooms were there in the house besides the bedrooms?

R-Bathroom, kitchen, living room and front room.

You had a bathroom?

R-Yes, we’d a bathroom.

Can you remember when that was put in?

R-It were when it were built. Me father bought that house new just after they were married cause they lived at Green End at Earby for a little while so I take it as 63 years since Stanley.

63 years, That would be about 1915?

R-Well I reckon he went into that house some time in 1914 because he were living at Barlick when’t war broke out I do know that.

Can you remember any of the furniture at Federation Street?

R-Yes, we’d a lovely piano and a whitewood-topped table that she scrubbed every day. Yes, we were never really badly off for furniture like. Oh, a wall clock, a bit bigger than that, [points to clock on wall about 18” high] but it doesn’t show on the tape recorder!] And we’d a suite in the front room, one of these posh types, the old fashioned ones with ball and claw legs. I can remember it being pale blue with flowers in, I can remember that, they were right straight up back chairs and we only got to sit on them like at chapel anniversary jobs you know when they brought everything out for the tea and that. Aye, that were when you got to sit on them.

Did you use the parlour for anything else?

R-No, it were rare we went in, happen at Christmas.

Which room did you have your meals in?

R-In t’living room, dining room.

Where did your mother do the cooking?

R-In the kitchen, little kitchen about six feet square with a stone floor.

Where did she do the washing?

R-Outside, more or less outside, we’d just a, down the yard there were a coalhouse and t’toilet and there were a space there and me father boarded it over, and the wringing machine and the dolly tub were in there. It were hand driven were t’wringing machine.

Can you remember, did you have a special bath night?

R-Oh I can’t say so, I fancy I were dumped in every time I came in more or less, when I’d been in t’Butts Beck and that sort of thing.

And you said the lavatory was outside?

R-Outside, tippler type.

A tippler. And the house would have hot water?

R-Yes it had piped water and a back boiler for hot water.

You had hot running water as well?

R-Yes we had, yes.

Did you have a stair carpet?

R-Yes, we always had a stair carpet and brass rods, yes.

The brass rods, your mother’d polish them?

R-Aye, me mother polished them and me father used to play hell when he had to take all the screws out to get them out for her for t’spring cleaning job.

Do you remember the neighbours having a stair carpet?
R-Oh yes, I were mates with Bob Fort from being a little lad and they always had a stair carpet on, I remember them.

What other floor coverings did you have on the floors in the rest of the house?

R-There were lin, linoleum and a square carpet in the middle.

Carpet in the dining room?

R-Aye and a peg rug or two we had, me mother used to like making peg rugs out of odd bits of old coats you know.

Did you have curtains or blinds?

R-No we’d curtains and in the living room there was a white roller blind, I never forget that because me father says one day, Let’s take that down Sarah, it’s getting a bit yellow. And he took it down and that were the end of that. And curtains were on a rod and he says to me one day, By gum, that’d make a good bow and arrow, it’s willow and it were hexagon.

Did you make a bow and arrow?

R-No we never got down to that, I left home before I got me hands on it to make a bow and arrow.

Did the neighbours have curtains?

R-Oh aye, the neighbours had curtains.

Can you remember anyone not having curtains in the street?

R- I can’t, no I can’t.

How about donkey stoning the doorsteps?

R-Oh, scrubbed them.

Scrubbed them?

R-Scouring stones, donkey stones. Yellow stones and white stones, there were a lot of them kicking about.


Donkey stones. A 'Lion Brand' moulded hard stone on the left and a natural soft stone on the right.

Did your mother do the kerb as well as the doorstep?

R-No, me mother used to do the front step, garden, little bit of garden at the front, garden step and back door step and back yard step.

How was the house lit?


When did you first have electric light?

R-As soon as ever it came into being me father says we’re having this electric, this electric stuff in.

1929 electric came in or shortly after that.

R-It could have been 1929, yes, because the engineers shop had electric as soon as they could you know, they wired it themselves and put a dynamo in as soon as they came into being. [Driven off the line shaft]

So they’d have light in the engineers shop?

R-Long before we had it at home.

Perhaps they’d have DC in?

R-Yes, it were DC, 110 volts DC,

And when the electric company first started up can you remember what that current was, have you any idea?

R- It were 240 volts AC they started with here but Colne way and Nelson and Burnley it were all DC I don’t know, ours would come out of Yorkshire. [Keighley]

Yes, I think it did down here.

R-It did, it came out of Yorkshire.

They’d have Yorkshire Electricity or something?

R-No, every town had their own company hadn’t they in those days, if you had a Council it were your own company but you bought it off them. Barlick owned their own electric company like they had their own gas company.

How did you dispose of rubbish?

R- In’t dustbin or on the fire.

The dustbin men?

R-Aye, the dustbin men, yes.

How did your mother do the washing?

R-With a hand wringer, a dolly tub, a scrubbing board and a posser.

How often did she do it?

R-Once a week on Monday mornings.

Always Monday morning?

R-It was as much as your life was worth to disturb the washing!

How long did it take her?

Oh, she’d generally finished by dinnertime and they’d all be round the fire on the clothes maiden and then we used to play hell because we couldn’t get near the fire.

And if it were a good day?

R-It’d be outside, drying outside on a line in the back yard.

How did she iron it Newton?

R-She’d two flat irons and she warmed them on the gas oven. Me father bought her one of these new fangled gas irons and she wouldn’t use it.

That’s interesting.

R-Did she ever have…

R-A charcoal one?

Either charcoal or else..

R-No she didn’t Stanley.

Ordinary flat irons.

What do you call the other iron that you put a block in?

R-Aye, you warmed a block and put it in but these were just ordinary irons that she warmed in a slipper you know. We had a gas oven, she didn’t warm them on the fire, she warmed them on the gas oven, she always had a burner lit Then, when they were warm she put them in a little slipper which was always clean and polished.

R-And me father bought her one of these new fangled gas irons with a pipe on it and he’d put a tap on the kitchen wall for her and she wouldn’t use it, she said it were dangerous.

She might have been right! What can you remember most clearly about washing day?

R-Well, what I can remember most clearly about washing day were all the wet washing about. We went in for dinner and we didn’t make a reight lot of it and coming home from school and it were all hanging about. We had a clothes rack in the house as well, rope and pulleys, like a set of rope blocks and it hung over the fire. If it were a wet day and she’d sheets on they’d be hung down and you’d be dipping your head under ‘em, what a carry on!


Obviously, you had a coal fire?

R-We’d a coal fire yes.

How about the fireplace, what sort of fireplace was it?

R-Them houses you see, they were built on the border of a little bit of modernisation and our fireplaces weren’t really high ones, they were only about four feet high and there was a wood surround.

Like an over mantel

R-And it were a black tiled fireplace like, just an over mantle with two shelves like your top shelf and a little shelf on the bottom. In the middle of the little shelf there were a brass ornament that me father always kept and it were full of buttons. By some means or other, while I were at school I collared an airgun off someone and I were in the house be meself one Saturday I think it were and I let fly at this ornament with the airgun and put a great dinge in it and I turned it round with the pattern to the wall but when me father came in he just turned it back round again. Na then, what the hell’s this he says, Tha’s made a reight job of that, wheers t’gun? I says it’s in the pantry up against the corner. Fetch it out he says, we’ll have to get rid of that. He didn’t, he said mind what you’re doing with it and put it back! Then he says have a good look at that ornament Newton, I turned it round to the flat side where there were no pattern on and there were a reight little mark on it, like a pop mark. He says I did that at Kelbrook and I were a lot further away than tha were. He said to leave the rifle in the pantry but I didn’t, I got rid of it. [One thing I soon realised about Johnny was that he was a very tolerant father, time and time again we'll see him giving Newton a lot of leeway. In some ways this was a bad thing because even though Newton was my friend I have to admit that he sometimes exhibited traits that you'd normally associate with a spoiled child. He certainly had a temper and he wasn't very good dealing with women.]

How did your mother clean the house?

R-Hands and knees, brush and shovel and Mansion Polish. I can remember the red tins of Mansion Polish being about the place, they were about four inches in diameter, gold writing on, Mansion Polish, aye, for the woodwork.

How about a Ewbank. Did she have one?

R-No, no carpet sweeper.

Was there anything she paid special attention to, you know, that she thought a lot of?

R- I wouldn’t say so, it were all more or less the same.

Did you or your sister do any jobs in the house?

R-I fancy I used to wash up occasionally but it weren’t so oft. She were always at home when I came home from school and the jobs were more of less done. I did a heck of a lot of errands because me mother had bad legs and any meat from up town, all that, I used to bring it no bother on me bike.

How about washing up day. Did you ever wind the mangle?

R-Aye, she’d say, oh blankets and that, there were always me and me father to wind the blankets through, we enjoyed doing that. I once broke two teeth out on it wi’ wringing, winding the blankets through and he says well, I can mend that now.

What did he do?

R-He drilled and pegged ‘em. He drilled them, tapped them three eighths and put some setscrews in and then filed them into teeth. In later years I turned the rollers up many a time for her, for that wringing machine and she kept it until you couldn’t get any rollers for it and we used to make them. We used to get the wood off Edwin Berry [Wood yard at Sough. SG] and me dad’d say Tha’d better mek thy mother a new roller for’t wringing machine. He bought her an electric washing machine, a twin tub, when they came out at first and she told Harry Garlick [Electrical retailer on Church Street] to take it back! She wouldn’t use it, old fashioned, she wanted the old wringer.

Did your father do any work in the house?

R-Aye, he used to do one job and that were about all, he never did any decorating or owt like that, he’d allus get someone else in to do it but he cleaned the taps in the kitchen, they were brass uns and he seemed to enjoy cleaning the kitchen taps, I’ve seen him do ‘em at Sunday afternoon. ‘I’ll clean the kitchen taps for you Sarah’. Aye.

Your family owned the house?

R-Yes, aye.

Have you any idea how much they paid for it?

R-Aye, £430.

And did your mother ever do any work in the house to make a bit of money for herself?


Can you remember any women in the neighbourhood doing anything like that?

R-Oh I can’t really, if anybody up the street did a bit of sewing I can’t remember anyone that did.

Taking in washing or child minding?

R-There were a lot of them went out to work each side of us at t’local mills, Butts, Fernbank, Westfield, them were the mills that were handy.

Is the house still standing?

R-Yes, it’s still standing.

What did your mother cook on?

R-Gas oven, gas cooker.


And she had that when she first moved into the house?


Do you know where it came from?

R-I can’t say where it came from but it were one o’t ancient models, all cast iron, cast iron door and a lot of fancy mouldings on and all that carry on and later we bought a new one.

Did she blacklead it?

R-She probably did blacklead it, like the back of the fire.

Did she make her own bread?

R-Now then, for a lot of years when I were little we always had us own bread, we used to look forward to it. But that wore off as she got older and they went and bought it.

When she made her own bread how much did she make at a time?

R-Oh I should say happen six or eight loaves, I can see ‘em on the hearth now rising, covered up with a cloth.

How often did she bake?

R-Oh, I should say me mother baked every day or every other day. She enjoyed her baking, fruit pies and that sort of stuff and steak pie crust.


R-Aye, all her sweet cakes were marvellous. I can see ‘em now, just ordinary plain ones mostly about six or eight inches in diameter. I can see them now, she enjoyed her baking did me mother.

Did she ever make any jam or marmalade?

R-Oh yes, we had a jam pan up in’t attic, I used to bring it down. It must have weighed about a hundredweight! It were about half an inch thick, it were the best jam pan I’ve ever seen.


R-A brass one, yes.

Did she ever clean her jam pan out?

R-No, I don’t think she ever did, it never seemed to go mucky on the inside. I can see me going up into’t attic for it, it were dusty that’s all. It were always like gold inside and black outside, it were a big pan were that.
Did she make pickles?

R-No, I can’t remember her ever making any pickles.

Home made wine or beer?


Did she ever make any of her own medicines?

R- I shouldn’t think so, no.
What did you have for breakfast?

R-Breakfast? Oh I’d say a bit of toast, happen jam and bread or a bit of bacon, not every day, I don’t suppose it’d run to it.

How about Sunday dinner?

R-Roast beef, roasted potatoes then ordinary potatoes and whatever vegetable were going at that time of the year.

What did you have for dinners during the week?

R-Oh, steak pies or fish, she’d vary it from day to day as much as she could. You know, how much the money would run to.

Did you have that at dinnertime?

R-Yes, we had that at dinnertime.

And how about tea? What did you have for tea?

R-Well that’s a funny thing to answer really because many a time what me and me dad’d have for tea would be what would be left over from dinnertime you know. Apart from a bit of sweet cake or something like that. We always lived fairly well.

Did you have any supper before you went to bed?

R-Oh every day, aye. Me father couldn’t go to bed without supper, he couldn’t sleep.

What did you have usually?

R-Oh I don’t know, fish and chips from t’chip shop just round the corner when we could afford ‘em. ‘Go and fetch some fish and chips Newton. Aye.

Did you have a garden or an allotment?


Were Johnny never interested?

R-Never interested no. He’d like to go to other people’s and look round ‘em like on a Sunday afternoon, his pub mates and that sort of thing. Dobson, th’engineer at Crow Nest, he’d go round there on a Sunday morning. He’d say Come on Newton, let’s go down to Dobson’s garden. He were interested in other people’s but never interested enough to do it himself.

Did you have any hens, ducks, goats or owt like that?


Did you have pudding every day?

R-No I wouldn’t say we had one every day.

How often do you think you had them?

R-Oh, say about three or four times a week.

What kind?

R-Rice, sago, sometimes if we were going good a steamed one, a roly poly one. Sommat as ud fill you up like lead, you couldn’t work after it, cor, do you want some more of that!

Have you any idea how much milk your mother got each day?

R-I’ve no idea. I suppose it’d be about a quart because I can see t’can coming and the jug, we had a jug with flowers on it for a lot of years. It had a cover with beads sewn on it and it used to stand on t’kitchen table.
How was your milk delivered then?

R-By hand, in a can.

That’s it, a lading tin?

R-Yes, I did a bit of that at one time while I was still at school, delivering milk for Mrs Bell’s dairy down Gisburn Road. If anybody were off poorly I used to go mates with Albert Lambert and he were the main milk lad were Albert and if he were indisposed a bit or not feeling so good or on his holiday she’d ask me if I’d do it. I got a bit wrong one week, I gave all t’wrong houses one all t’way up one street.

When you were hawking milk did they all have jugs?

R-Most of them had jugs or a tin billycan outside; you know them enamel ones with a lid on. If they were late getter-uppers or if they were out you filled that up and left it on the doorstep.

Did you ever put any milk in a jam jar?

R-No, I can’t say that I did.

Did the family have butter?

Yes, oh aye, they liked their butter.


R-We used to get farmer’s butter. No, me father wouldn’t have margarine, he said we’d had enough margarine through’t 14 war and he’d been brought up, on me father’s side originally they were farmers round Lothersdale, the original Pickles. No, it were farmer’s butter and I used to go to Mrs Wiseman’s for it at t’corner shop occasionally and she’d cut it off a big lump and pat it wi’t wood patters to make it into t’shape and then stamp it wi’ a stamp and lay a picture on.

Which shop were that?

R-Wiseman’s, just on Gisburn Road. They’re all there yet, that shop is now a laundrette. All them shops are still there.

What fruit did you eat most often?

R-Oh, apples, oranges and bananas, oh I liked bananas and I do yet. Me mother used to bring me a banana to work if I were on a big job local.

What vegetables did you have most often?

R-Cabbage, carrots, turnips, I like me turnips and me cabbage and me peas. But I mean there were no tinned stuff then like there is now, they used to have to steep peas in a nice big dish at night.

That’s it, dried peas.

R-Aye and they put, what did they put into ’em?


R-That’s it, bicarb to make them go bigger. Me and me father used to dip into ‘em wi’ us fingers and chow ‘em. She’d say, Come out on ‘em will you there’s going to be none left for tomorrow!

There’s a list of foods here, I’ll just read them out to you and tell me whether you had them, you know, every week, once a month, rarely or never. First, bananas.

R-Yes, aye, regular.



Fried food?

R-Aye, bacon and eggs, bacon and ham regular.


R-Yes, regular.

What sort of fish?

R-Oh cod, hake, fish from t’chip shop, but we used to, more or less every week we had fish for us dinner.

Where did your mother get her fish?

R-More often than not up in Barlick, Savages.

She bought it in the shops?

R- I’m just wondering where it were before Savages started in business up there. There were a shop at Newtown and I can’t remember what they called it, I think it were a greengrocer’s shop near t’reck [recreation ground] and they sold fish. We used to go theer for it ‘cause I’ve gone up for her.

Did she ever buy fish off a cart coming round?

R-We used to buy kippers of a little chap called Tommy Brown. T’chap used to come round up the street and he used to sell apples and bananas and spuds and that off a little cart, a little horse and he used to have a box of kippers once a week and me mother used to get kippers off him. Me dad liked his kippers.

How about cheese?

R-Yes, aye, we always had some cheese about.

Did your mother cook it or you had it on…?

R-Oh, she’d make cheese under t’grill for me father and I never liked it and I don’t yet. No.

Cow heel?

R-Oh yes, me father’d go mad at stuff like that, cow heel, trotters…

Tripe, black pudding?

R-Tripe, black puddings, they’d go to Burnley for them, aye, you’d go to Burnley on’t train if you had time, off a stall on Burnley Market. When we’d been in business on us own like, in’t latter years he’d say Come on Newton, let’s go to Burnley and get some black puddings off that market! That stall’s still there. He used to go when he worked at Burnley Ironworks, it were afore all this modernisation took place of course.


R-Oh yes, always some eggs about, get them off local pens [allotments] and that sort of thing, just over t’fields.


R-Yes, aye, always about.


R-No I wouldn’t say there was a lot of grapefruit about.

Sheep’s head?


How was your mother with tinned food?

R- I saw very little tinned food in Federation Street and there wasn’t a lot about really you know up to after just t’beginning of the war.

If she did get any, what did she get?

R-Oh, pears, fruit, peaches and pineapple chunks. And then of course we used to get part dried fruit, there were prunes and they’d be out at Sunday and that were marvellous even if it were 'Newton, don’t spit stones out on to the plate, don’t make a noise!’

Did you drink tea?

R- Yes.

How about coffee?

R- Aye we’d have coffee every now and again. I used to get that ground at t’little shop like I said, Mrs Wiseman’s at t’corner. They had a grinder for grinding coffee beans and I’ve wound it for Mrs Wiseman many a time when t’shops been full, coffee grinder and it took some winding and all did them things!

Christmas Dinner, what did you have?

R- Oh, more often than not it were roast pork, aye, we liked us pork. She’d buy a chicken just for a change maybe but we always had pork at Christmas for us dinner.

Ever had a turkey?

R- Oh aye, we had a turkey later on I should say for turkeys, later on at Federation Street up to being married.

Can you remember what your favourite food were as a child?

R- No, I’m not bad to feed anyway.

I didn’t think you would be! Can you remember the family ever being a bit hard up?

R- We were always hard up! But what we had, we lived well off you know. Food wise like you never skimped the table.

If there were a bad week, can you remember….?

R- Oh aye, me father wouldn’t be able to go to the pub for his pint at half past nine like. He’d go down to the Syke for a pint and if there weren’t ninepence he couldn’t go. Or happen t’Building Society’d get missed at the t’month end or only half of it get paid. I mean, me father’d say, Will you go to the Building Society Newton and tell ‘em this is the best we can do this month. It were only 26 bob, it weren’t a lot but that wore off.

Did your father come home for his meals?

R-Yes, unless we were working into Earby or somewhere like that and he’d take his dinner then.

Otherwise he’d come home for his dinner?

R-We always went home for us meals if we possibly could.

And you came home from school?


If he did take something with him what did he use to take? Had he a favourite?

R-Aye, it’d be a bit of beef or some cheese. He wouldn’t make a big do about it and he’d have his dinner when he came home.

Did you ever take food to him when he were out?

R- Aye, once, I remember particularly he went about four times on weekends to’t Sough when the second motion shaft were broken and I’d be about twelve and I more or less took him all his meals that weekend to t’Sough.

That’d be Sough Bridge Mill?

R-Sough Bridge Mill and I walked it from home, from Federation Street, to t’Sough Bridge Mill, stop with him then walk back and take him his tea.

When would that be roughly?

R-1928, I were 12. I were old enough to walk to t’Sough on me own anyway.

Can you remember, was Sough a ‘self-help’ shop then?

R-No, it weren’t a self-help shop then. It were a self-help shop after I started working because I did quite a bit of work for ‘em then.

Did your father eat the same food as the rest of the family?

R-Oh aye, we all had t’same.

Did you always sit down at the table?

R-Well, I always sat down at t’table, always.

How about a tablecloth?

R-Aye, there were always one on, it were mucky at my side because I never washed me arms reight.

Did your mother ever lay the table without a cloth on?

R-No I can’t say she ever did. No.

Can you remember your mother ever going short of food to feed you?

R-No. We didn’t.

Who usually did the shopping?

R- Me mother did.

But you’d do a fair bit?

R- I did a fair lot as I got older.

Can you remember how often she did the shopping?

R- Well I should say a bit every day because the shops was handy for her for t’local stuff, there were one just at t’top of the street in fact, You get your general bits there.

Where did she buy her meat?

R-Well, what we called ‘on’t front’. Where the butcher is now, what the name of that butcher? Lawsons.


R-Aye, it used to go under Lawsons, been Lawsons for donkeys years, it still has th’old name on I think. I don’t know whether these chaps are Lawsons or not. Aye we went there for donkey’s years.

Where did she generally buy her groceries, one particular place?

R-Aye I should say so, up at t’top. Little shop at the top of the street, Maggy Cooks.

That were at the top of Federation Street?

R-At top of Federation Street, Aye.

Did she ever go and do any shopping in the market?

R-Very very rare. She weren’t one to venture out a right lot you know.

If she did go to the market was there a reason why she went?

R-I wouldn’t say so. It’d just be a case of I’ll just go up to the market today and have a look. It used to be at the bottom of Butts in those days you know.

How about the Co-op?

R-Oh we went to t’Co-op part at one time and then that seemed to fade away because it was such a long way to go.


78/AG/2 (SIDE 2)

Do you think there was any difference in those days between prices, services and quality at the corner shop and the shops in the town?

R-There weren’t any difference in prices that made any difference. I mean it wouldn’t be a halfpenny or a penny different on happen a pound or thirty bobs worth of stuff, even in them days.

Did local shops give credit?

R-They did, aye they did, yes.

Can you remember pawnshops?

R-Oh there were a pawnshop on Church Street for donkey’s years George Wraw’s.

What was the name of the man that ran the pawnshop? Do you remember, he was a bald headed man.

R-He was a bald headed man wi’ a wig on, a nice chap, a little fellow. I can’t remember, it won’t come to me won’t his name just off stick end. I might remember in a bit, I knew him very well.

If it does, just come back with it.

R-There’s one person that’ll know when she comes home, that’s Olive. [Newton’s second wife. SG]

Did your family ever use a pawnshop?

R-Not as I know on, not as I know.

How about the neighbours?

R-I wouldn’t say any of them had done either.

Have you any idea how people looked on pawnshops in them days?

R-They’re bound to say that so and so has had to pawn his watch this week, he’ll get it back next week when he gets on to some warp. But nobody, it were no disgrace, no disgrace at all but it used to get them talking you know.

Yes, that’s the sort of attitude.

R-Oh yes, that were the attitude, it were no disgrace to go in’t pawn shop wi’ a watch chain and that sort of thing. I never heard anyone anyway.

How about lending money, can you remember anyone ever lending money?

R-No, only that £500 me father borrowed off that aunt at Kelbrook to get started in business on his own, that were all.

I was really thinking of someone in the neighbourhood.

R-No, I can’t say so, no.

Provident Cheques? Did your mother use them?

R-No, no.

Was there anything you used to eat when you were young that you can’t get now?

R-Now that’s hard to answer isn’t it really? Bits of sweet stuff like kids use such as coltsfoot rock and Charlie’s rock and that sort of stuff. You never see that about now.

What were Charlie’s Rock?

R-It were Charlie’s, all it were was white sticks of rock about half an inch in diameter and about six inches long in a white paper with ‘Charlie’s Rock’ written on it. We used to get them when we went to the pictures, I think they were a halfpenny and they were always the same, they were always white, there were no different colours, you couldn’t pick and choose, it were Charlie’s Rock.

When you went to the pictures that’d be the Majestic?

R-Palace and Majestic. And I can remember the Alhambra you know down on t’Butts that were burnt down, we used to go there when our mother used to take me when I were right little.

Whereabouts was that?

R-It were between the Working Men’s Club and the mill. It were spare land after it were burned down, they made that into the open-air market after the Alhambra had been on fire.


Aftermath of the fire in 1923.

When you say Working Men’s Club you mean the Pigeon Club?

R-Pigeon Club, yes, right, It were on that spare land at the back of the Pigeon Club. It’s all car parks and a building for {Carlson] Fords. Isn’t there garages on there now?

Yes, the clinic’s there isn’t it.

R-Well after the Alhambra burned down they used it for t’open air market for donkey’s years and a fair ground.

That’ll be where the clinic is now.

R-That’s it, where the clinic is, aye, I forgot about t’clinic Stanley, aye.

Have you any idea how much housekeeping money your mother’d have?

R-Oh I don’t think me father ever kept owt back you know, how much he’d have? When I started working he’d have about what, fifty odd bob a week? He got up to three pound later on but he’d have about fifty shilling a week wi’ being t’foreman, happen fifty-five.

Can you ever remember food being short?

R-Never, no. Of course, they were always working, they were all the time even in them days me father’d be working over Saturday and Sunday on his mills.

Taken on the whole, do you think you were better fed then than now?

R-No, we’ve talked about this you know and I don’t think there is very little difference with what we’re getting, eating, now and what we were eating then, in amount, I don’t think so, very little.

How about quality?

R-Oh, I should say the meat quality of them days was better than it is now.

Is there anything in particular that makes you say that Newton?

R-Well, we are lucky with us butchering really but you go to some places and the meat quality is very low, especially at the bigger shops. If t’wife happens to get t’meat out of town, happen for an odd meal at Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You know, 'We’ll have some steak tomorrow.’ And she’ll go and buy it happen in Burnley or Nelson it can be very low compared to Barlick.

Can you remember in them days if there was any distinction made between frozen meat and fresh-killed meat?

R-Oh there were a lot of distinction made between t’frozen meat because just occasionally me mother’d say Oh John, have we to try some chops at t’frozen shop? He’d say No; we are having no chops from the frozen shop. She’d say to me, Go up to the frozen shop and get some chops he’ll not know the difference, we’ll try him. And I go up then to t’frozen shop at the end of Church Street on your left hand side going towards Wapping.

Now that frozen shop that’d be what, what was Dewhursts?

R-Aye, Dewhursts, it’s only just gone off hasn’t it in the last year or two.

That’s it, was it Dewhursts then?

R-No I wouldn’t say it was Dewhursts then.

But it was still a frozen shop?

R-It were a butchers and it were frozen shop and we always knew it as frozen shop.


R-It were all Argentine and New Zealand and she used to try and cod him and he didn’t know when she’d cooked them, did he heck.

Did you ever tell him?

R-No, nor did she, she didn’t tell him during the war.

What about clothing, did your mother ever make any of the family’s clothes?

R-I can’t say so, no I don’t think she did. A bit of knitting happen over the years but that’s all.

Did she have a sewing machine?

R-Yes, we had a sewing machine.

What sort?

R-A Singer and you treadled it.


R-Aye, come on Newton, and treadle me this machine while I just do round the edge of this carpet. It'd be about half an inch thick she’d be making a peg rug, aye.

Did she mend your clothes for you?

R-Oh aye, big patches on your breeches backside to go to school. Aye, they’d be blue pants and a black patch. Oh aye.

How was she at mending clothes?

R-Very good, aye, very good.

How about darning?

R-Oh aye, your socks wi’ big holes in ‘em, you could get your fist through the holes in the heels of my socks. When I cam home with me clog laces all undone and they’re worn through. Cor lummy, Give us them here. She had a mushroom, a wooden one with a stick in it, I can see her now.

That’s it, aye a mushroom.

R-Aye, a wood mushroom.

Did you ever get any passed on clothes?

R-No, no, wi’ me being an only lad. No.

Where were your clothes bought?

R-Well at George Wraws more often than not, best and cheapest clothes there were in the town, especially for going to school in, and even for going to work, all your clothes came from there, your overalls and everything. You get a new suit for weekend, that’s where you made for or probably at Atkinson’s, they were on Church Street, they were good tailors were Atkinsons, they lived up the opposite side of the road to us, Parker Street, W H Atkinson and family.

Whereabouts was their shop.

R-Where Edmonds is.

What did you wear for school?

R-Short pants, sometimes corduroy ones but I didn’t make owt of them they used to make your legs sore.

How about your boots, what was it, clogs?

R-Clogs made at Marsh’s. Aye, clogger’s shop at Marsh’s on the side of the Butts beck edge, Old Marsh’ll make you some clogs.

Marsh, Butts?

R-Aye, bottom, you know, below Catholic [?] Hill on t’bottom where the beck goes under the road.


R-It’s all garden now well, there were a wood shed, a little wood shack there, it were a clogger’s shop right on th’edge of the beck side just up the road.


Jim Marsh (extreme left) and his clogger's shop at Dam Head. This pic is in 'Barnoldswick, a century of change' and was brought to my attention by Rodney Birtwistle of Barnoldswick.

Yes, that’s it Aye.

R-Right across the gable end, to the gable end of Ribblesdale Terrace.

What happened to your old clothes?

R-Oh I couldn’t say, rag chap got them, he’d come round shouting and they’d go for scouring stones.

Did you wear a hat or a cap?

R-Cap, little cap, round one you know wi’ a knob on.

Badge on it?

R-Oh probably, aye, probably.

What did the family wear for Sunday best, what did you wear for Sunday best?

R-Oh I’d always a right, a proper little suit, even when I had short breeches, and a waistcoat you know and sometimes if I were a right good lad me father’d lend me his watch and I put his chain on.

What were the colour of the material, can you remember?

R-More often it were dark colours, navy blue getting on towards black, rough tweedy stuff you know, sommat that would last a bit.

What did your father wear for Sunday best?

R-Aye, he always had a good suit did me father for Sunday best and brown shoes, probably made by me uncle Newton at Kelbrook. [Newton Holmes Pickles. Died 7/01/1958 aged 70 years. SG.] But me father’d go in for a bit lighter stuff like, you know, browney fawn or a bit of check or somat like that for Sunday.

How about his hat?

R-Oh he’d have a hard hat on, a billycock.

Always a billycock?

R-Yes, always. Now when he were working, I remembered him working when I started work you know, when I were young he always wore a cap for work. But in later years, after the war he started wearing his billycock for work and he never wore owt else after that.

What did your mother wear for Sunday best?

R-I can’t say really, she always dressed up all right you know. It’d be silky stuff more likely than not, me mother’s fancy hats with all sorts of blooming flowers pinned on them in those days, I’ve some photographs somewhere.

Can you ever remember your mother wearing a long dress?

R-No, not down to t’floor, no I can’t.

When you were young, when you first started running about you know, you’d be about two?

R-Oh I can remember me grandma on me mother’s side coming from Nelson, coming to our house happen at weekends you know and she always wore long black skirts trailing on’t blinking floor in’t slush you know? Aye she always did, she were a strict, grumpy woman, I can always remember her coming. Aye, I can that.

Can you remember her name?

R-Grandma Kirby.

Was it at all common to see people walking round in long dresses?

R-Oh yes, it were. Trailing round in the muck. They’d come up to the mill in them. When I were a little lad I used to go and wait for me father and you’d see them coming up the mill yard in them. But I can never remember me mother in normal circumstances wearing them down to the floor.

Would that be the older end like?

R- Th’older end I suppose yes.

How about shawls?

R-Aye they always had a shawl more or less.

When do you think shawls started to go out?

R-Oh they’d go out when I was a right little lad except for the older people who carried them on up to their grave you know. Me mother’d never dream of going out with one, no.

How about a pinnie? [Pinafore]

R-Oh aye, pinnies, never without a pinnie. First job of a morning were that, put t’pinnie on.

Tell me Newton, would she go out with a pinnie on?

R-Sometimes under her coat if she were nipping out to the shop quick.

Is that right.

R-Yes, aye, yes. And if me father caught her he’d play hell, aye he did aye. Well she’d say, nobody can see me if I have me coat on.

What did your father wear for work?

R-Bib and brace overalls and a smock. Aye.

How about shirt? A union shirt?

R-Well, union shirt and that, and a separate collar. And all them used to hang on’t rack all in a row and he used to wear stiff collars did me father and I could never get the hang of those things. He let me have a do with them when I got older but I couldn’t make nowt on them Stan, when I finished they were like a concertina. He used to slip his tie through ‘em put them on the stud at the back and I used to frig and mess about, I said Give us a soft un. Try one of these he used to say, just for fun. I couldn’t get the thing on. Then you did, you’d get this side on and be the time I’d pulled the other side over it’d fly off.

What kind of footwear did he wear at work?

R-Boots. He never wore them right heavy ones, he never did. Like you’d see the other blokes with big fat soles, me father never went in for right heavy boots, just normal 3/8 inch thick soles and that were it. Me uncle Newton more or less made them.

Can you ever remember your father wearing clogs.

R-No I can’t. He didn’t wear any, he wouldn’t he insisted that I never wore me clogs again after I started working.


R-Well he said they weren’t safe and he never let me uncle Newton put nails in them either, in me shoes, for slipping. Say you go into an engine house with chequer plates on the floor you’d be flat on your back.

What did your mother wear for housework.

R-Oh a skirt and jumper and flat shoes, ‘cause being bad on her feet she always wore flat shoes did me mother.

And pinnie?

R-Oh aye, pinnie, she always had a pinnie on.

And she’d wear the same when she went shopping?

R-Always, just put the coat on and round to the shop.

Did your father ever mend the family shoes.

R-No, he’d take em across to Kelbrook to Uncle Newtons.

How many outfits did you have at any one time?

R-What, you mean for weekends and that sort of thing? I don’t think I’d ever have more than one suit that were and when that one’s ready for work there’s another one bought.

How often did you have clean clothes?

R-Oh, shirt wasn’t changed many times a week. When I got working of course but under normal circumstances at school, once a week, unless I tumbled in t’beck and then it’d be a complete change for the morning after.

Have you ever heard of anyone being sewn in for the winter?

R-No, what were that?

Sewn in, their clothes sewn on for the winter.

R-Sewn in so they couldn’t get them off? No I haven’t Stanley.

And your mother never belonged to a savings club, Provident cheques, owt like that, you’ve already said that.

R-No, I wouldn’t think so, no.

Can you remember what kind of clothes old Mr Brown would wear when your father was working for him?

R-Oh he were always smart, always smart. Lightweight suit, generally grey, dark grey suit and collar on t’union shirt, stiff collar. He’d have a clean collar every morning you know. Always smart our Mr Brown.

What kind of collar would that be, a wing collar?

R-No, it were ordinary starch, what I used to call celluloid collars.

Now. Let’s get back to family life in the home. You all sat down to meals together?

R-yes we did.

Did your parents have any particular rules about your behaviour at the table? Were they strict with you at the table?

R- Oh they were strict with us but it were no problem, I mean don’t get us wrong, it weren’t way we’d been brought up, it were no problem. I wouldn’t say they were strict under them circumstances, you see it were no problem. You didn’t get blated [bleated] at if you happened to speak or owt like that, ask any question or wonder what they were on about you know. No.

Was there any particular thing they were strict about, you know, like times for coming in or…?

R-Aye, times for coming in when I got older, very strict. Aye if I weren’t in like, if I had to go to school in the morning and I’d been off over them fields and had to be in at eight o’clock, if I were half an hour late I get into trouble. I wouldn’t get belted or anything like that, I can only remember me father belting me once.

What were that for?

R-Oh now then, it were for not going to chapel on a Sunday night, I didn’t go.

Where did you go?

R-Walked all down the fields, before the New Road were built [Barlick to Kelbrook] and back up Sodom [Salterforth] Lane and round be t’Dog and back down home with me mate. Aye.

Did anyone ever say grace before meals?


Ever remember any prayers at all.


If you had a birthday was it differe3nt from any other day?

R-No it wasn’t.



Special meal?

R-No. Not until later on when I left home.

How about Christmas and New year?

R-Oh we always got sommat at Christmas, we always got some presents at Christmas, how hard up you were.

How did you spend Christmas?

R-At home, at home.

At home.

R-The fire in the front room were made up, either you get a clockwork train or a little car or sommat like that you know, always got something at Christmas, sister and all.

How about Easter holidays, can you remember anything special?

R-Oh we never had any holidays, no, we never had any holidays, only you wouldn’t have to go to school, that’s all.

Never rolled eggs or owt like that?

R-No, no.

Any musical instruments?

R- Oh, we had a piano.

Who played it?

R-Me father could play and all, he could that. He were a good pianist me father.

Could you play?

R-No, I used to tinker on it. When I got older I asked him to learn me how to play and he said Look Newton, I can’t learn you to play because I taught meself, I only ever had one lesson and I taught meself after that. Go down to Marion Hall and I’ll
pay for the lessons and learn the job properly. I said, Oh, I’d rather laik out wi’t lads and he said it was up to me, he never forced me to go but by gum, later in life didn’t I rue, I started learning to play when I were blooming 58!

That’s it, with Arnold Brown?


Left to right. Hedley Bradshaw (engineer at Spring Mill Earby), Arnold Brown and Newton pickles. Bancroft Trust opening in 1982.

R-Aye wi’ Arnold Brown. Allus was interested but never would go to the trouble to learn properly.

Did any of you sing?

R-Me mother were a good singer, she sang in’t choir at the chapel at Earby when she were younger.

Which chapel were that?

R-It’d be the Bethesda Baptist.

Were there any games you played in the house?

R-Oh aye, lots of things like Snakes and Ladders and draughts and all that sort of stuff, me mother and father could play chess but I never could get into it because there again, I wouldn’t spend the time wi’ 'em to learn.

Did they play drafts and such?

R-Oh aye, on Sunday night, long before there were tellies and wirelesses and that you know? And then of course, later on, our Mr Brown was very interested in wireless and we get a crystal set off him and after that we were well away. We got a two valve set wi’ two sets of earphones and we used to be sat in the house waiting while me mother or father’d get fed up wi’ it so we could grab one.

Can you remember having a regular newspaper?

R-Oh we always got a newspaper every day.

Which were that?

R-News Chronicle and when I got older I got t’Children’s Newspaper for donkey’s years. Arthur Mee. And later on we got Mee’s other book as well, the thick one like Yorkshire Life and it come once a month. [Neither Newton or me could remember the title but I suspect it was his Children's Encyclopaedia. SG.]

R-I can remember the Model Engineer used to come every Thursday; I had a good look at that. We had it from the first one being published.

Of course your father were really interested in model making?

R-Oh he were up to his neck in the Model Engineer, and t’English Mechanic, we used to get that as well, that were a little bit bigger paper than’t Model Engineer. M E was on quality paper but th’English Engineer were more like newspaper stuff. It were very interesting were that.

Yes, I can remember me dad getting one for years, was it Practical Engineer?

R-Practical Engineer, that’s it, yes. But we didn’t get that one because me mother used to play heck many a time about the newspapers and books cause they were a bit expensive.

Did any of the family belong to the library?

R-I don’t know whether we ever belonged to the library until me sister got a bit older when she started going to the library ‘cause she did a lot more reading than I ever did. Then of course, me dad would ask her to fetch books for him off her card.

Were there any books in the house?

R-Oh it were packed with books. There were a full set of Ornamental Turning books that must have been worth a fortune but he more or less gave them away once. They were Holtzapfel’s ornamental turning books. There were Holtzapfels and they made lathes for ornamental turning, for ivory turning or Blackwood, all these fancy things.

Were they Swiss or German?

R-I don’t know, they might have been German originally but they were made in this country. There were another set of books, red backed ones, all them books like you’ve been getting lately on Hale and Harvey and all them, but there were a full set of them, Smeaton and all that lot.

It weren’t Smiles were it?

R-Smiles, there were all t’lot of them. You know he’d give them away or lend them and they’d never come back until there were none left.

[Discussion here about Smile’s works and 'Lives of the Engineers' especially.]

Would you say the books were mainly your dad’s or would some of them be your mother’s?

R-No, they’d be me dad’s more or less.

How about prizes?

R-Oh aye, I got a load of them. I got six first prizes for Sunday School for good attendance and there’s a lot of them about yet. One or two, the kids have more or less damaged them but I think they’re all here in a box in me workshop. Firsts and Seconds at Primitive Methodists where I went.

Were your father and mother regular attenders at chapel?

R-No, not regular attenders but they’d go to special dos. More often than not we went to Kelbrook and me father were a regular attender when he played the organ at t’Congo for about four years on the trot. I used to blow t’organ for him.

By ‘Congo’ you mean the Congregational Chapel?

R-Yes. I used to go to t’Congregationalist Chapel before they built this new one. When they were in’t Tin Tabernacle a bit lower down, it were demolished. I went home one Sunday afternoon after Sunday School and I said to me father I’m not going to yon Sunday School any more. They won’t open t’bloody window I were nearly smothered! Well he says tha’d better find another one then, where’s ta going? I said I’ll go with Bob to’t Primitive Methodists. It were on Station Road, it’s just been pulled down. We had some good dos theer and I blew th’organ there a long while.

So, even though they didn’t go regular they made sure you went?

R-They made sure I went but me sister didn’t go as much as I did. They didn’t seem to bother her as much you know but I liked to go, I used to enjoy going and all me mates went as well. We went at morning and at afternoon and of course we had all sorts of good does like pantomimes and shows and bits of things like that when we were kids we were all in them together. Oh aye, I didn’t mind going to chapel at Sunday night in winter it were somewhere to go, better than just stopping in and talking. There were no tellies then and such.

How about toys?

R-Oh, I were never badly off for them. Same as I say, he were always buying me something for Christmas. I remember him going to London and coming back with a three-foot boat. He says, here Newton, How will that do? It were a three foot launch and it’d be about three inches beam, beautiful thing, steam engine in, oscillating cylinder and a boiler, methylated spirits, go like hell in the bath but it were never a right lot of good in the reservoir at the back of Brogden cause there was always a wind and it blew the lamp out. I used to swear at it there when the lamp went out, I’d get steam up, put it in the water and the lamp’d go out. I remember being in bed poorly, I’d happen have measles or chicken pox and I were allus bad wi’ owt I had you know because I was so little, He lands up the stairs one night when he came back from work and he brought a wood buffet, we had a four leg wood buffet made out of oak in the house, I allus sat on that for me dinner when I got older wi’ mucky overalls on. Na then Newton, how will this do? And it were a little vertical oscillating cylinder about so big with things you fasten on the side of the boiler and a little black chimney with a brass ring on top, and th’exhaust went up it, and he put a lamp under and he had it going for me on’t buffet and I were in bed poorly. I’ll never forget that.

How old would you be then?

R-Oh let’s say about six or seven. I can remember that engine as if it were yesterday. I had that engine for years and I used to laik with ‘em on me own, he were never frightened of me having ‘em be meself. I had it going in’t house one afternoon after I’d come home from school, on’t table, and it blew the safety valve out of the top of the boiler and it stuck in the bloody roof! Me dad said he thought I’d had it long enough, it’d better go in t’dustbin. The boiler were rotten, it were only made out of brass sheet ten thou’ thick and it had gone rotten.

Can you remember being poorly when you were a child?


The isolation hospital at Banks Hill in 1905.

R-I can, there were a lot of it, I were allus in bed. You know, not for so long at once like. Bronchitis you know, hot and feverish, and then blooming tonsillitis, oh I can remember them all. And then I had a real do, They said I were a near gonner. I got scarlet fever and then diphtheria on top of it. They had to cart me away in a black maria down to the fever hospital at Bank Hill below the Syke where Briggs and Duxbury have built them new houses. I were in there, and they said I didn’t know anybody for a week. I’ve two holes in the bottom of me back where they put tubes in you know. I didn’t know I had ‘em until I went to Blackburn for me medical to join t’forces. He spotted ’em did t’doctor, By gum lad he said, You must have had a good do at diphtheria sometime in your life! He said you’re all right now; there must be two marks. There must have been two tubes there to help me breathe or sommat, I don’t know. Dr Arnott looked after me, he must have been a marvellous blooming chap must that. Everybody that knew him like, that can remember him, allus said he were a marvellous doctor. He were in the surgery where they are now, he lived in that house. Doctor Pickard went into it didn’t he? He lived in that house, it’s the surgery now. Well, Doctor Arnott had that, I can well remember him being there and going up to see him and that.

How about the doctor then, did you have to pay?

R-Ah yes, me father had to pay, aye it were a big thing that. It doesn’t matter, he got through somehow but it must have cost ‘em a bloody fortune.

How about Whooping Cough or owt like that?

R-Oh aye, I had Whooping Cough very bad and they couldn’t get rid of it. Weeks and weeks, I think they thought I were going to conk out wi’ that. Then me father says one morning Just get that lad ready and I’ll take him down to t’Gasworks. And I remember him bringing me to t’Gasworks and he took me up the hoist, right on top where they fired in’t retorts, little pipes where they fire the retorts through a bell, and all the smoke off the baking coal, it isn’t burning you know, just baking, comes up there and like it’s full of tar and he says walk around there a bit amongst that and I did so and I never coughed any more.

Cured it.

R-Aye, that were t’end o't Whooping Cough.

How about medicine? You’d have a fair bit, do you remember much about the medicines you had?

R-Well it were allus bottles of medicine, lousy stuff and good stuff. Stuff that were good to take and some that you could hardly take.

Aye, and the worse it were, the better it were for you.

R-Aye and sometimes you’d get some little pills, I don’t know what they were. I can remember me mother giving ‘em to me on a spoon with some treacle to get them down. You know, some little toddy pills, there weren’t so many pills about in them days.

Can you remember your mother ever taking medicines?

R-No, do you know I can’t, me mother took very little medicine except for a drop of whisky and a Guinness or two.

How about your dad?

R- No, I don’t think he took much medicine in his time, only at the latter end you know. He had a bit of a heart do when he were about fifty and of course he were on pills for the rest of his life, that were about all. He liked his medicine like, a bottle of whisky a week and his two or three Guinness when he were younger. Off to t’Syke for his two or three pints.

Was there anyone in your family that couldn’t read or write?


Did your mother have any spare time in the house? Was there anything in particular she used to do?

R-Well, she’d sit in front of the fire happen with a woman’s book, women’s Weekly or summat like that and have a quarter of jelly babies or those dolly mixtures you know. We were allus a bit partial to them, I am yet. I get some dolly mixtures now sometimes and a jelly baby or two. Course. I haven’t to have so many…

How about your dad in his spare time?

R-Oh well, he went into his workshop but when I were a little lad he hadn’t that workshop outside, he were up in’t attic with all his tackle, lathes he made himself and all that.

SCG./11034 words


TAPE 78/AG/3


Now, what I want to do this week is to run through the mills in Barlick, apart from Bancroft, I can do that meself. I’ll run through the mills in Barlick and, each mill, we’ll go through the machinery, what they had, just to get it straight in our minds. So we might as well start off and go round in a circle, now there’s Calf Hall Shed. Now Calf Hall were built in 1894 [I got this wrong and Newton didn’t correct me. It was built in 1889 and the engine was christened and started at 3:15 in the afternoon of Saturday the 30th of November. High Pressure called Emily and low pressure Annie. See report in Craven Herald dated December 6th 1889. SG] now what were the engine at Calf Hall?

R-It were a 750hp Robert’s cross compound and it were’t first one Roberts made wi’ a rope drive flywheel [12 ropes. SG]. It had slide valve low pressure and slide valve high-pressure cylinders with Meyer cut-off gear on. In 1916 it were modernised and Burnley Ironworks put a new high-pressure cylinder in, one of them wi’ all the valves at the top. [Corliss valves. SG]

Now in 1934 [CHSCMB says 1936. SG] we took a boiler out of Butts which were 180psi and we put it in Calf Hall, which were only 110psi to run at 160psi and we put a new piston into it, new piston rod, new cross head pin and a new crank pin, made ‘em all bigger. We bored out all the stud holes in’t high pressure cylinder covers and put high tensile BSF studs in and raised the pressure from 110psi to 160psi.

So that up rated that cylinder?

R-That up rated that in Calf Hall, it were always terribly overloaded after they built Monkswell. That were before my time of course but there were 400 looms in it, in’t Monkswell.

Monkswell were the extension at Calf Hall?

R-It were’t extension and that engine ran at 80rpm.

80 revs a minute.

R-Aye, it were speeded up when that extension were built but it still couldn’t cope, not with economy anyway.

What were the governor on that engine?

R-It were a Whitehead.

That with a big spring on top?

R-Big spring at t’top. Yours at Bancroft were a Whitehead up to us putting that Lumb governor on.


George Hogarth in the engine house at Bancroft with the original Whitehead governor. This would be just after the war I think.

What sort of air pump was it?

R-It were an Edward’s air pump that me father made sometime between the end of the First World War and me starting working.

I’ve heard ‘em talking about a jack well at Calf Hall, what were that?

R-That’s a new one on me is that. It were only an ordinary set-up wi’t well in’t yard filled up out of the dam that were at the back of the mill but I never knew of a jack well at Calf Hall. I mean, a jack well at t’mills I used to go to was a separate well with a deep well pump in that pumped water out of the ground. [See evidence of CHSCMB as to bore hole put in to improve water supply to the dam in later years. SG]

What were the feed pump at Calf Hall?

R-It were a three ram Pearn pump {Frank Pearns of Manchester. SG] that me father put in when he put the new air pump in.


A similar pump at Ellenroad in 1987. This was a large one and its output had been reduced by taking the middle connecting rod and plunger out.

Did it run off the engine?

R-It ran off the engine with pulleys and a belt off the flywheel shaft running down into the cellar.

What a good idea.

R-Yes, there’d been a single ram pump on’t back, on’t side of the old air pump in the old days, the original fitting. When me father put that new Edward’s air pump on they didn’t bother with it. They put a new boiler pump in and all and ran it off the flywheel shaft with a belt. It were on the governor side of the shaft between the flywheel boss and the governor pulley.

Had they a Weir pump in or anything like that or had they just that one pump?

R-No, they’d just that one pump and an injector, that were all there were at Calf Hall.

What were the boiler?

R-It were an eight footer [Lancashire. SG] and that that went from Butts were nine foot. [This was 1936/7. CHSCMB]

I think I have the maker of that eight footer somewhere. [W Yates, Blackburn. SG]

R- And they’d Leach’s stokers on, if you’ve ever seen any Leach’s stokers. When they were running reight they were a marvellous stoker, they were a fan stoker you know. They had a horizontal shaft, running round at a heck of a speed, and on that shaft were two cast iron blocks that were loose, like a centrifugal governor type thing and they caught the coal as it come down out of the hoppers. Now there were a big crown wheel in the middle run by a worm and it had an arm on that worked a slide on the hoppers and delivered the your coal. To alter the feed, you had this wing nut in’t middle and you put it in a different position in’t slot to give you more or less stroke for whatever rate of coal you wanted to burn. But they were always tricky, they wanted a lot of maintenance, because these fan type things and t’shoes didn’t last so long, they soon wore out with the coal, you know, wearing them away. All the mills in Barlick had them nearly.

That’s interesting because the first stokers that were on were Bennis stokers. I know that from the Calf Hall Shed Minute books. I can’t tell you the exact date they put them on but every now and then there were a bill from Bennis.

R-For repairs.

For springs I think.

R-Oh I should think they must had had ‘em all taken off and put Leach’s on when they came into existence. They all had Leach’s stokers on.

So, up until you put that boiler in they were running at 100psi?

One hundred and ten.

When you put that other boiler in did they make the old boiler redundant or did they use the old one to…

R-No, we took one [of the two] out and put t’new one in and left the other one in and in winter they used to use the other one for heating and t’donkey and t’tapes and such. Because it couldn’t cope with the engine, he’d just short of 900ihp on when he were full up and it were built for 750ihp were’t engine. He couldn’t cope in winter wi’ just one boiler, he used to put the other on for heating and we put an all new steam range in, all steel pipe and a new stop valve.

Was the heating range in the mill run at boiler pressure or reduced.

R-It were boiler pressure, they were practically all boiler pressure in those days.

So in effect, that engine for years would be running at what, 900hp? That’s nearly 25% overload.

R-It were, it had 25% overload on it. In fact, at one period, just afore I started working it dropped the high-pressure crank off. [Thursday 28th February 1924. See CHSCMB 13/03/1924. Hy Brown and Sons did the repairs and the engine started again on the morning of 13 March 1924.] It broke it off and the piston came flying out through the cover and catched the engine driver on the arse and cut him. Me father went up and he said Edwin [Waterworth] were walking about and he says Eh, Edwin, thart bleeding someweer, it’s all running out of your shoes. He says Oh, has it ruddy well cut me! So he pulled his pants down and he had a ruddy great gash in his arse, he’d to go and have about twenty stitches in it. The piston were broke into six pieces, just like a Kraft cheese in a box. Piston rod had come right through the piston and split it and it never hurt the cylinder. It rove of the cover, breaking all the studs. Aye, crank pin dropped off so you can tell the load it had on. It smashed the slides out, which were open slides, not like Bancroft with a centre slipper, they were outside slippers. It smashed the ends off and I think in our shop today there’s one of the straight pairs that we use for a mandrel block. And me father made all new patterns for to make them slides, new slippers, new piston, new rod and took the old crank pin out and put a new one in and we were running in eight days. [17 days actually according to the Calf hall minute books. SG.]

When were that Newton?

R-Just before I started working, 1929, sommat like that. [1924 actually. SG]

And Calf Hall would have how many looms on? 1200?

R-1500 I think when they were all full up.

That’s about it, they had 1200 and then they put that other, that last extension on.

R-And there were five or else six tapes, I just forget. Everybody had a tape, some had two you know.

They had sommat on with that boiler hadn’t they?

R-Oh Edwin could fire that boiler, he used to say to me, I learned all me fire-beating off Edwin. He used to say Newton, if we could run that fire on wire netting we’d be able to keep steam up, blooming bars, filling all the holes up with rubbish!

Tell me Newton, when they were firing hard like that how were they for smoke?

R-They didn’t smoke so much. No, a chap that could fire wouldn’t make much smoke. He weren’t making no steam if the chimney were smoking.

That’s it.

R-You learned how to fire the hard way.

I just said to Ernie Roberts the other day, I said “What were it like in Barlick when they were all”…? And he said that many a time he’d go up Brown Hill and you’d have a job to see the town.

R-Aye, it just depends what part of the day it was. You see they all had a silly do hadn’t they, It were clean out at twenty past eleven and half past three and all that sort of carry on. They all did it at the same time. That were a council stipulation which were silly really.

Is that right, did the council stipulate that they had to have…?

R-Aye, I think they did, I think they did. They had to clean out at a certain time and whether their idea was let’s get rid of all the smoke at one do. But a chap that could fire didn’t make no blooming smoke. You used to go and see old Edwin at Calf Hall, open his firebox door and you could see the fire bouncing on the bars, it weren’t above that thick [indicates three to four inches]. And you’d see Edwin round at back, on’t back o’t boiler on Monday morning when he’d everything on in the middle of winter wi’ a little duck lamp looking for leaks in the brickwork, least little thing and it were plastered up.

That’s it, the magic wand.

R-Aye, magic wand, the duck lamp. Even round chimney bottom he’d be going, where it went into the floor, aye, anywhere.

Ah well, it’s attention to detail that does it.

R-Aye, that were it, that’s Calf Hall done with.

Right, let’s go down Butts, that’ll be interesting.

[latest research, October 2003, when Butts started in 1846 it couldn’t have been a Bracewell engine because Billycock didn’t buy into Marsland’s Burnley foundry until 1860. Johnny Pickles said the beams were all Yates and this seems likely. Geoff Shackleton says this engine was auctioned 22/3/1890. Butts Mill Co. owned Butts at the time and it seems likely that they replaced the beam engine with a second-hand Musgrave and installed new boilers, 9ft diameter and running at 180psi. I think this makes sense because there is plenty of evidence that Butts was running as a mill with tenants and paying rates between 1890 and 1903 when Calf Hall Shed Co bought the mill for £19,000 so it must have had an engine. The Musgrave was 1500ihp, cross compound, gear drive, 7ft stroke, Corliss valves to HP and LP with no tail rods and noted as a wastrel. On July 11 1904 Universal Metallic Packings of Bradford supplied the Calf Hall Shed Company with HP and LP packings for ‘engine at Butts Mill’, these were for rods approx 6” diameter which fits with size of the Musgrave. In November 1937 CHSC put Butts on the market for £8,000 but had no takers. On 25 May 1940 they decided to sell the engine and ‘steam driven fire engine’ at Butts and on 20 June the minutes record that they were sold [plus second motion shaft] to James Dixon at Burnley for £450. In 1942 Dixons bought the shafting as well after the mill had been registered with the Ministry of Aircraft Production as a Shadow Factory in January 1942.]


Albert Hogarth with the Butts engine in about 1910.

Well, I don’t know no more about Butts than I did when I were a lad. Nobbut it were a second-hand engine when it were put in, it were a Musgrave [Bolton engine makers near Lark Street just behind J A Kirkham’s brass foundry. SG] Burnley Ironworks put it in when the beam engine packed up. It were 1300ihp and seven feet stroke and it ran at 32 rpm. The low pressure were, when I were working I’d go up there and help them make the back cover joint which were made of ¾ inch lead pipe, that were the joint on the cover. It always used to be blowing it out and we used to go up on Saturday morning and make it and I could walk into that cylinder stood up. And I don’t think I were any different [shorter] then than I am now. The faces of the joint had been too smoothly machined, what it wanted was the cover bringing back to the shop and putting into the lathe and re-facing and get some traverse marks into it. But you couldn’t make it with ordinary packing, it were useless.

It just used to squeeze it out?

R-It just used to push it out aye. And we used to go up to the air pump periodically and tighten the delivery plate up and believe me or believe me not, you could have taken a two wheeled cart and a little donkey round that air pump! Six of us could get on top without any bother [On top of the delivery plate. SG] even with the trunk in the middle. It were a trunk air pump, the connecting rod came down from ‘L’ legs [A bell crank. SG] into a trunk and it worked in a gudgeon pin at the bottom. Like in a motor car but wrong side up and that were twenty inches in diameter and we were putting it back one Saturday night and we dropped one of the bolts off the bearings at top, it were a marine end at t’top [One piece end, forged end with large slot cut in for brasses and adjusting wedges which were located by a large bolt right through the forging and the wedge. SG] The bolt dropped down inside the trunk and none of us could get at it. Anyway, Walt Fisher’s father were there and I were only a lad and he said come on, let’s go to the shop and he wound a coil, a wire on to a bobbin, on to a brass bobbin and took a six volt battery off the gas engine. I didn’t know what he were on with but seemingly it were a magnet when he coupled the terminals of the battery on to it and he got hold of the bolt and brought it out with it. An ordinary horseshoe magnet wouldn’t have brought it out of course, it were too heavy. He made this magnet out of two bobbins, it would be wouldn’t it, and when he put the juice on he’d magnetise the centre pieces and up it came. We heard it click on , hoisted it up on a bit of rope. Middle of the night on Saturday.

He’d be a hero!

R-Aye, he were a blooming hero, it were all going to be to take out again and tip it on its side to get the bolt out which were about an inch and a half bolt (Diameter) They were big stuff on that engine, it were that, big stuff.

Aye, that were a Musgrave, where were they, Leeds?


Bolton, aye. And how long did that engine run Newton?

R-Two years after I started working, till about 1931 or 1932. [Butts stopped weaving in 1932, CHSC minute books.]

And what happened then down at Butts?

R-It stopped, it just stopped. Pickles ran most o’t Butts you know, were tenants in Butts and they bought Barnsey and went to Barnsey Shed. They’d also taken some looms from Calf Hall to Long Ing a few years before then.

So in effect, Butts stopped weaving.

R-Butts stopped because Pickles left and they were the sole tenants, they ran it all.

And nobody went into Butts after?

R-Nobody else went into Butts.

So Butts would actually be the first mill in Barlick to stop weaving?

R-It were the first mill in Barlick to stop weaving, Bankfield were the second. Actually, if we go back, the first mill in Barlick to stop weaving were Coates, they stopped weaving when Wilkinsons finished, when I were a lad and then Butts and then Bankfield stopped more or less together within five years.

Who took Coates over, were that when the dairy took over? [Dobsons Dairy. SG.]

R-Dobsons Dairies took Coates over but it had been stopped twelve year. [Dobson’s made an enquiry about taking Butts over in 1935. SG]

Aye, funny thing about that you know, Dobson’s Dairy at Manchester stands just behind Monarch Laundry.

R-At Stockport?

Well, it’s just on the boundary near McVities Biscuit works on the A6.

R-Aye, I’ve worked there a time or two. [We were getting a bit confused here, it was Dobsons Dairies where the ammonia compressors were, they were used for the refrigeration plant. I checked this with N Pickles in September 2000. SG.]

Aye, well, Monarch Laundry were a Roberts engine.

R-It were, it were a Roberts engine. There was no engine there when I went but they (Dobsons) had some blooming big ammonia compressors that were as big as a mill engine.

Aye well, they used to have a Roberts engine in there. Daniel found out when he were talking to Jack Roberts and it were one of the last jobs William Roberts ever did.

R-It weren’t in, it weren’t running when I was at Stockport.

No, it weren’t a big one, just a single cylinder.

R-I went down there during the war a time or two when we were under the munition job you know. To repair those big compressors, they were as big as a mill engine. Fly wheel were 14 feet in diameter and 8inches wide, dowelled together just like a steam job. Wit’ dowels in and cotters through and we’d to lift the whole thing off nowt, we’d nowt to lift off you know. The thing had been put in before the building were up.

That’s it, it were only a light building that, a red brick building.

R-That’s all, I’d to put some tackle up to lift it, to get t’top half off, I just lowered bottom half into the pit of course. Aye, we put a new shaft in it and a new crank disc.

Now then, that’s Calf Hall and…

R-And Butts we’ve done now.

Butts yes, now Butts boiler you took…

So you took a boiler out of there?

R-We took one out of there and took it to Calf Hall.

So how old were the boilers that were in at Butts.

R-Well, they’d be put in when the Musgrave engine were put in and I can’t tell you that.

No, because I tell you why I ask that, because there is a record that in 1860 Butts were re-boilered by Billycock and that were the first Lancashire boiler to come into Barlick, it were made at Sandbeds at Keighley. So it’d be an old boiler that, 1860.

[2003 enquiry of Keighley library gives a James Wardman, boiler makers, Sandbeds Boiler Works, Bingley mentioned in Jones’ directory for 1863]

R-That must have been an old one, well these weren’t, they were Yates Boilers.

So that would come out before, and do you think it would…

R-That must have come out before them beam engines that, when this Musgrave were put in, then. When the old beam engines were in that must have been put in to run them.

Yes it were, they were replacing the original pan boilers and they must have been for the beam engines, low pressure. The shop had been only built fifteen years then, it shows how little time them pan boilers lasted. They must have been just like tin. They re-boilered Clough at the same time and that were a pan boiler as well. Anyway, we’re getting out of us way. Let’s pop down the road a little bit, we’ve done Calf Hall, let’s go to Clough. Now according to Billy Brooks, when he was going to school, in about 1888, his mate was called Willy Brown and he lived on Rainhall Road and his father was called Mark Brown and he ran the engine at Clough and it was definitely a beam engine. Because he used to go there after school with Willy and wait while his father washed his hands. He said he always used to have a wash before the engine stopped, then he used to stop the engine and they all used to go out and go home. He said it was definitely a beam engine. We don’t know how long that beam engine was in there, we might find out eventually but you know of another engine that went in there.

R-Now this, I’m going off what I were told now with me father. That before that new Burnley Ironworks went in (1913) at Clough there were another horizontal engine put in. It were a great big numb thing, you never saw anything like it in your life and that engine were sold to a firm in Whalley. The mill in the bottom by the river at Whalley. Now I only knew the Burnley Ironworks cross compound that were in at Clough. Bonniest little engine that anyone ever made were that and tha can go anywhere, it was a beauty.

That were put in in 1913?

R-1913. It were the bonniest thing Stanley that you ever saw, it run at 93rpm and it just ticked like a sewing machine. But now then, this other engine, you never saw anything as ugly in your life. I forget now who made it, it weren’t a firm that we knew and it went to Whalley. Me father has said that that engine came out o’t Clough (beam?) and they put that engine in and it mustn’t have been in so long, it were absolutely uneconomical and no damn good at all for them, it were miles too big and it must have cost a fortune in coal to run it. [Furneval engine and taken out of Clough in 1900]

Now I can’t remember, because I wasn’t interested in this job then, but I can’t remember Clough when they pulled it down but Billy Brooks said that the horizontal that they put in after the beam engine was in a building, did he say, at back of the boilers and under the tank?

R-Back o’t boilers and under the tank.

He said there were a building with a tank on the roof, or near t’boiler house under the tank.

R-Well, that would be on t’other side up to the new engine house. Where t’beam come from, there were two doors if I remember.

Aye, now he might have got mixed up, the beam engine might have been under the tank.

R-There were two doors if I remember. Beam were under the tank and then I think this other big thing went under the tank because all the stonework were still in, in there, in that room and it weren’t stone work that were suitable for a beam engine and that’s what I used to ask about and me father came up with this story that there had been another engine in t’Clough, Newton he says, it weren’t in there so long and it were useless. Now then, we hadn’t seen, we hadn’t worked at this mill at Whalley [Judge Walmsley Mill] then. They didn’t know where it had gone or what had happened to it. Now we goes to work at a flywheel that had come loose on this engine at Whalley and I went to it and I came back and me father asked me what sort of a thing it was. I says It is an object, come with me and have a look at it. When he saw it he says Eh, this engine came out o’t Clough at Barlick. Then George, that’s engine driver at Abbey Mills now, you know, who we were talking about at teatime, says Aye, it did come from Barlick, I’ve heard ‘em say it come from Barlick and that’s how we got to know where it had gone to.

So you’ve actually seen that engine?

R-I’ve worked on it, I keyed the flywheel on a fortnight before it finished, it came loose again before they had woven out, the shaft were jiggered.

What were it like this engine?

R-Oh, it were long and lanky, it were all out of proportion, blooming slides must have been six feet across but it weren’t a big high powered thing. Oh aye, it were the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Oh, and it ran backwards way! It did, it were terrible. And it had a great big fishtail crank on, a cast iron one, it had never been machined, you never saw anything like it in your life. It were more like it had come out of the ark.

Well, I wonder who made it? [Later research shows it was Furneval of Haslingden. 33” bore and 5ft 6” stroke, running at 38rpm. GS]

R-And it swished round and it were miles out of balance because it were that crank, I allus said, that were bringing the flywheel off. Cause I said to ‘em, if your going to run this shop why don’t you let me put a new crank on, it’ll pay for its keep, keeping the flywheel on.

Were it a rope or a gear drive?

R-Rope, rope drive.

How many horse were it?

R-Speed it ran, oh, I wouldn’t say it’d be more than 600ihp but it were far too big for Clough of course at that.

What pressure were it running at down there?

I think it were about 120psi or so, it wouldn’t be any more. Oh it were a thing.

Anyway, Slaters took that out, they saw the light?

R-An they put that little Burnley in and it were a beauty. A little Burnley Ironworks cross compound. Ticky-tocky, ticky-tocky….

That were a Whitehead governor weren’t it.


Albert Hogarth with the new engine at Clough put in in 1913.

R-That were a Whitehead governor.

What did it run at?


That were fairly fast.

R-You couldn’t hardly indicate it on your own but I got used to it eventually and I could do it.

What were the stroke?

R-Two foot six inches.

Fairly travelling then, them pistons.

R-Oh it were travelling and high pressure were twelve inches bore and low pressure twenty four inches bore.

We have a photograph.

R-We have a photograph of it. Oh, I were on it many a time for months and months on end, I used to enjoy going to it.

Now have I heard you say something about it throwing ropes off the flywheel?

R-Aye, if they weren’t careful how they started it, it’d throw ropes off. One of my lads, I were out one day and t’engine driver were poorly so me father sent him to it, I must have been away that morning. He started up at dinnertime and there were a big panic and I rolled in and me father says Get off up to t’Clough Newton, I don’t know what’s happened. When I got there he had three ropes off. What had happened, he’d set on and they’d jumped off and he ran out of the engine house and left it and went to the boiler house to shut the steam off. He didn’t altogether panic, but he left it and went into t’boiler house to shut off the junction valve. Well he got scared about a rope wrapping round the governor and whooping him one because there weren’t much room between the stop valve and the flywheel with being so tiny you know. Anyway I soon barred the ropes back on by hand and we were on again in about an hour and a half. It hadn’t done any damage or made a lot of muck and I were there about three or four month that time.

Right, now then, what were the boilers at Clough?

R-It were an old boiler, it were only seven foot six inches diameter, it weren’t so big.

Were it a reight old one?

R-I wouldn’t say it were very ancient. It were 130psi pressure

Oh well, it wouldn’t be all that old.

R-No, it were 130psi I know it were, I can see the pressure gauge now with a red line on 130.

That wouldn’t be the boiler put in around 1860 then.

R-No, it were probably put in with the Burnley Ironworks engine ‘cause it were all new piping and all. Then of course there were a fire and it broke all’t cast iron pipes and we replaced them with steel t’second time.[1937?]

What were the feed pump?

R-It were a single ram pump down in’t cellar under the engine. It ran off the engine off one of the crank arms that worked the valve gear. There were some rockers, like yours at Bancroft, well, they extended one and it went through a hole in the floor into the cellar. They were a good pump you know.

Run off the eccentric.

R-Run off the eccentric.

And an injector?

R-And an injector as well, that were all.

And apart from the famous incident when they had the timing wrong on it did they have any bother with the engine?

R-Very little. I bored the high pressure valves and put new bonnets on up to t’latter end of its days. Well in fact it were just afore they banked because we never got paid.

Did Clough go banked?

R-Aye it went banked, yes.


R-Oh they did, They went banked at Clough and we never got paid for them valves. I bored them and put new bonnets on which were a fair job of course.

When were that?

R-Oh I can’t say, just after the war sometime, I ran it for six or seven months after the war. It’d be about 1948 or 49 happen.

Were it you and Crabby that were running that?

R-Yes, me and Crabby ran it for about six months. [Harry Crabtree, worked as mechanic for Hy Brown Sons and Pickles. SG]

Tell us about t’coal. [Fuel shortage in 1946 when Newton and Crabby were running Clough. SG]

R-Oh well, there weren’t such a thing as coal, it were just slutch and muck. The wagon used to come and tip it in. I’ll tell the tale me own way. It’d be 1946. coal, out of existence were coal, it were muck they were fetching us from America by sea. When they tipped the wagon up into your boiler house you just stood well back. It didn’t shutter to t’front it just went swish! It were all slutch and you wanted wellies on in’t engine house, it went up to t,tube bottoms, you couldn’t see the mud hole at the bottom of the boiler. Then you got it back into the bunker as well as you could and left it to drain into the flue bottoms overnight. Anyway we went on like this for many a month and one afternoon, me father was getting a bit bothered because you know he wanted me back. There were two of us there you see he wanted me back. He came up one afternoon, we were just cleaning out were me and Crabby, and I can see him now, he just stood in the boiler house door, shoved his hat back on the back of his head and says Now then, what are you doing? He just took one look, the barrow wasn’t in the boiler house you know, we’d nothing, you couldn’t get the barrow under the tubes. You had to pull the fire out on to the floor and then shovel the clinkers into the barrow. Well you know what the sulphur fumes are when you’re doing that. He just turns round to me and says Eh Newton, I know what I’d do if I were here. I says what? He says I’d floor one fire, one shovel up the bloody fire hole and take the bugger up to Arthur Berridge, He were t’manager. I says oh, we aren’t going to do that. Well he says, Tha looks busy, I’ll leave thee,

Well anyway, we’d a blooming big wagon landed with a load of coal on, they must have had twenty ton on. We only used to get it in’t little box cart from the station you know, a little wagon that Mitchell had then in them days. They called him Mitchell that chap that carted the coal from the station. This bloody great wagon came, I’ve never seen anything like it wi’ the coal piled on, piled up to the top. The wagon driver says is this Clough? I says Aye. He says I’ve brought thee this. I says I haven’t ordered that. I says, All my coal comes from somewhere sea side way by t’look of it, I don’t Bother wi’t stuff, I just goes into the office and tells ‘em I have none. Well, he says, tha’s to have this. I says Where’s that frae? Well, he says, I’ve brought it from Doncaster but I’ve been to a mill down the road, they call it Crow Nest I think, there’s a silly old bugger down there and he saw me come down the yard with it, he were out at t’top o’t steps and he just took one look at it over the top sides and he says Take that bloody rubbish away from here, I’m not burning that in my boilers, get it away from here. The driver says So I get back in me cab and then he shouts Oy, just a minute lad, don’t take it back where it came from. I’ll tell thee what to do with it, take it to a mill up the road, they call it Clough, anybody’ll tell you where it is, there’s two silly buggers up there that’ll burn owt. And that were Arthur Dobson, engineer at Crow Nest.

So did you burn it?

R-We burned it, what, burn it? We’d never had coal like that for six month. We never had stuff like that. I said What the heck, we get cleaned out as soon as there were some of that going in. Crabby says Hey! This is good coal Newton! I says Aye, let’s get the damper regulator working again. We were all right, we could sit on our arses with this stuff, we were made up. I mean, we never had us breakfast for two months, till nearly dinnertime. We used to go at five o’clock, we started at six, it were winter, and I’ve seen us go at four in the morning and put steam in the mill and clean out sixteen times afore starting time and that’s as true as I sit here.

Aye, it was shit wasn’t it.

R-[It was a job] To get steam anywhere over 100psi mark to get us going. The manager, the under manager came down to me one morning, I’d just set on, it were just after six o’clock because we started at six then you know, they didn’t work at Saturday morning. He says Newton, will you go up into t’winding room, there’s some lights gone out, there must be a fuse gone. I says, I’ll go up there as soon as I’ve cleaned out and getten steam up. He says I don’t want messing about, I want it doing now, them folk up there’s sat about doing nowt. I says Thee wait a minute while I stop the bloody engine. He never come down no more wanting fuses mending. He didn’t that.

Aye, who was it, when coal got scarce, they thought they’d worked a flanker when they bought all that American coal? Were it at Wellhouse?

R-Wellhouse bought it all. Now then, how much were there, seven or eight hundred tons were out there in’t yard if I remember right and it all went red, it went rusty!

That’s it, it did.

R-It went rusty and there were a lot of it in great cobs that’d weigh above three hundredweight. We used to get them in the boiler house and bash em with the striking hammer afore we could fire ‘em. Oh aye, they were good days were them!

Anyway, that’s Clough done. Let’s have a bit of a jump again and go to a place where I know you did work time and time again, Long Ing.

R-Lovely shop.

Now then, Long Ing were built in 1888. What were the engine?


Newton was slightly wrong with the maker of the Long Ing engine, it was by W&J Yates before they became Yates and Thom. Named Minnie and Lizzie.

R-Yates and Thom pair of tandems, not so very big, about 700ihp no more. 650 or 700, four cylinder, pair of tandems. High pressure, low pressure each side going on to a common shaft with two cranks. Gear drive, cast iron wheel with a soft, spongy boss. Aye, now then…

Hang on a minute, I know what you mean but explain what you mean by a spongy boss.

R-It had been a bad casting and it were very spongy and as you drove keys in they used to sink into the spongy metal, you never could fit them properly. [The boss was the casting that fitted over the shaft with stakes [Large keys] on flats and was the basis for the spokes and the rest of the wheel. SG] The boss of the flywheel were crumbly, all spongy at one side. Anyway, we can start at this as we mean to go on. We never worked at Long Ing while it belonged to Rushworths at Colne. Rushworths used to maintain the engine and just before I came out of me time, Pickles, as I’ve told you, had all of Butts and about 400 or 500 looms at Calf Hall. Well, they took them looms out of Calf Hall and went to Long Ing. Well, we moved all the tapes, cut-looking machines and all that for them.
That were’t first time I’d ever worked at Long Ing. Well, we were working there doing tapes and tape drives and donkey engines and the ruddy mill kept stopping. It’d stop about an hour and then they’d start up again and sometimes it wouldn’t start at all and that’s how it went on like. Well, that were nowt to do with us because we never went to them engines at all. This went on for about six month and one afternoon, we were in’t shop [Wellhouse], me father shouts Newton! Come here. I went outside into t’thoroughfare [This was the passage that divided the right hand shop at Wellhouse from the laundry and the office. SG] he says, you know Mr Pickles don’t you? Oh aye I says, from Butts. [Mr Pickles] says come on, we’ve to go to Long Ing, it’s stopped again and I’m not going to have any more of it, we don’t run more than a day and a half a week [without stopping] so I’ve told Rushworths to keep away and you’re going to Long Ing. So I surmised then like, which I learned later were right, that Pickles had bought a load of shares in Long Ing which made Rushworths a bit lower down the ladder.

[The minutes of the Calf Hall Shed co. show that S Pickles and Sons and their associated firms Butts Manufacturing Company and Craven Manufacturing Co (the latter two were sole tenants in Butts Mill) moved out of Calf Hall and Butts in April 1932 so this must be the date of the changes Newton is referring to. Butts Mill never ran again after Pickles moved into Barnsey and Long Ing. SG]

So off me and me father goes to Long Ing and it were stopped and th’engine driver were a nice chap and came from Foulridge, he hadn’t been there so long. So me father goes to him and says What’s up and what do they call thee? He says They call me Jack and I live at Foulridge and I’m stopped because I’ve got no vacuum. So me father says We’d better have look at them air pumps hadn’t we.
So we all went back to the works and got some blocks and some tackle and two fitters, Bob Fort and Leonard Parkinson, good fitters, and we went to t’Long Ing. We pulled the delivery plate off one air pump, they weren’t so big you know them pumps. [Being a tandem it would have an air pump/condenser set on each side. SG.] I just takes one look down the bucket and I says Bloody Hell. Old Len’s up on top and he says What’s up Newton? I said I don’t know Len but I’ve getten t’block chain fast down t’side o’t bucket and I can’t get it out! He says Tha what? I says I’ve getten t’hand chain down t’side o’t bucket and t’buggers kaiked over and I can’t get it out! He says I’m coming down there, I want to see this! And believe it or believe it not, he came down did Leonard and he says Hell fire, I’ve been all over’t country but I’ve never seen owt like this. He rolled his smock sleeve up and says I can get me fingers in. he shoved his hand down t’side o’t bucket and when he did that I pulled the chain out. I bet there were 5/8 of an inch wear. Well, we couldn’t do owt with that at night. We changed all the big rubber on the bucket and all the top rubbers, they were all shrivelled up and we did the other side and be about twelve o’clock we’d getten it all together. Len says Ho Newton, there’s sommat wrong here, has ta looked at them pillars? They were like yours at Bancroft Stanley, round pillars up each side for the crosshead slide.


The air pump at Bancroft Shed. You can see the round pillars for the cross head that Newton refers to.

Len says Come over here and have a look. We’d nowt down there but a stink lamp and a lantern, there were no electric. Leonard held his lantern up back and says What do you think about them pillars? That bugger, that pillar leans over about half an inch at t’top! Aye he says, look at the bushes [In the crosshead arms. SG] They were all worn bell mouthed were the bushes. Anyway, we got the new rubbers on and I remember me father saying to us, Think on, before you come away take the injection valve tops off and have a look in the pipes and so we did so. There were two injection pipes that came in from the canal you know. We took the tops off, it weren’t much of a job, they were only held on be four bolts, you know, the injection valves for the water to the air pumps [Via the condensers. SG] and they were ordinary mushroom valves and Old Len says we’re having these out, Take em out Newton and just put t’tops back because by the look of these pumps we’re going to need all the water we can get here.
Anyway, we got running sometime during the night and I think the vacuum gauge went up to about 25 inches and t’chap nearly had a fit. He says they’ve never been up there since I started! And it were summertime and the canal were warm. Anyway this’d be about Wednesday and it ran the week out. So we told me father about these guides and old Stephen Pickles had given me father a point blank order to do whatever was needed so first of all at weekend we went and took these guides off. I got one into t’lathe on Sunday morning and it were an inch and a half bent and they were two and a half inches in diameter. Well, I couldn’t straighten it meself. Our Mr Brown from Horton rolled in, he were all dressed up. He says What ta doing Newton, making a crankshaft? I told him it were one of the pillars of the engine at Long Ing. Never! He says, And it’s run like that? Anyhow he helped me off with it and we warmed it in the fire and straightened in the lathe. It weren’t so long, about three feet.

How did you straighten it, a block and bar?

R-Aye, we straightened it reasonably and I filed it up and polished it. We did the motion up at weekends, took a lot of the shake out of it. It were clonk bang, clonk bang when it were running, and we took particulars of new buckets. And it ran a fortnight and it never stopped no more and then we took the buckets out. We hadn’t time to rebore them, the liners weren’t too bad you know, they were an ordinary air pump so we put the new buckets in and made them fit the hole as best we could. All new rubbers on’t buckets again and we made new saucers with a bit more dish so they’d relieve themselves better. Them air pumps never gave any more trouble. Then me father says We’d better have a look in them cylinders. Well we took the high pressure cover off one Saturday morning off one side and I put me fingers right over it [The piston. SG] So he rang Stephen up and he said remember what I told you John, you’ve to do to that engine what you want, so at Barlick holidays we rebored one side, high pressure and t’low and them were the first two cylinders I rebored on me own. I were supervised on them but I more or less did nights on em and I bored them two. I did them but I weren’t entirely left with em, me father came over and Dennis came and Len were there. Now then, sometime between then and the September holidays the flywheel came loose during the week.


Boring the Long Ing cylinders in situ in the 1930s, the job Newton is describing.

Just explain here Newton how the flywheel is held on the shaft.

R-The flywheel was fastened on to the shaft with four keys about three inches wide and two foot long. Tapered keys what we call staked on.

That’s it, so the shaft wasn’t round, it was a round shaft with flats planed on it.

R-It was a round shaft with four flats planed on it to suit the keys.

And there’s a gap between the flywheel boss..

R-There’s a gap of ¾ of an inch between the flywheel and the shaft. You get your flywheel true of course before you fit the keys with staking wedges. Taper wedges in the gap, that’s the way to do. Anyway, it came loose and it rolled off the keys and landed up one side of the wheel pit and started rubbing. Anyway. In the time available and t’time it happened we couldn’t make any new keys for it so we refit the old uns and thumped em in and we were only stopped about two and a half days. We refit them and thumped em in and got going. Then, in the September holidays I got landed reight. Bore t’other two cylinders and we’d made all these pistons, four altogether. I got instructions, they were going to stop two days extra and I’d all four cylinders to do. At holidays when we bored two cylinders we were stopped a week, that gave me two full weekends as well didn’t it. At September holidays they stopped while Wednesday, they stopped at Thursday night for me and gave me Friday extra and gave me the Wednesday as well. They normally started Wednesday morning under normal circumstances at September holidays but I’d still got two cylinders to bore. I’d one advantage, I were used to stripping it because I’d done one side. Anyway, there were four of us and we bored em. Put new piston rod in that were all ready, new pistons and bored two cylinders. And after that I don’t think that engine, more or less, didn’t ail anything till all at once one day me father says They’re stopped at Long Ing Newton, let’s go on. And we were busy, by God we were busy. Oh I says, what’s up wi’ it?
We got there and asked Jack and he said I don’t know but it’s been making a din in’t flywheel. And when me father found it, it were in two halves were that flywheel, wi’t jack wheel bolted on’t side. [Gear drive to spur gear on shaft. SG] It had broken one of the dowels in’t rim which would be about five or six inches square dowel with cotters through each end that held the joints together. Me father says We can’t do that job Newton, we haven’t got the tackle to lift it. So he rang Stephen Pickles and Rushworths men came on. George Carr Rushworth and me father meantime had got best of pals. And with the work what we had on already he says we can’t do it and I were mad. I were barmy then you know, I wanted to do it. I thought we could borrow t’blocks. It’d weigh oh, about twelve or thirteen ton would half o’t wheel. Anyhow, they decided between them they’d let Roberts do it from Nelson. So Johnny Waddington, he were a damn good fitter were Johnny Waddington. He came and put new dowels into t’flywheel and they were stopped a fortnight. And I went on, I did part work for him like planning cotters and I think I planed the dowels so’s it wouldn’t go up into t’cores you know in his way. I planed the dowels at one end and I used to go on a lot and anyway, eventually they got running, I think they got running at Tuesday and me father comes down into t’shop again. He says, go to Long Ing, they’re stopped, t’bloody flywheel’s rolled off the keys. Well I says, never, he’s only just keyed it back on! [Johnny Waddington. SG] He says I know, tha’d better go and do it again. So I’d to go and rekey the wheel on and I put four new keys in, he’d never put no new keys in, he’d used the old uns. He must never have tightened em, it’d chewed one or two of them. I’d to put four new keys in and I were stopped nearly a week. I used to pull Johnny Wadding ton’s leg, he went engine driving after in Nelson you know, he were a right awkward bugger to work for you know. One day he were being awkward with me, one Saturday and I just said to him Ho Johnny, what the hell did you tighten the keys with at Long Ing, a seven pound hammer? It only run one day! By gum, I’d never no more bother with him, he he!
So after that I don’t think that engine ever ailed more than sommat or nowt only normal maintenance. And then, coming up to t’war, Pickles bought the whole mill then. They decided to put a new engine in, they’d have one of them engines from Bankfield. [Closed down 1934. SG] Which were a 900ihp cross compound like Crow Nest. Oh, it were a bonny engine, there were two engines in Bankfield, a 750ihp and this 900ihp.and they’d have this 900ihp down at Long Ing just afore the war broke out. We pulled the engine out of Bankfield and stored it in the yard at Long Ing, put all the bits in the cellar, it were going to be done were this job. Th’engine house were going to be lengthened and they were going to run the mill with an electric motor while the engine were put in there. We got a 500hp motor off Collins at Leeds and we got all that in and it were run, there were a crown wheel and pinion put on and a big wall bracket and a new line shaft, to get gear into speed you know. They were 14 inches wide were the teeth and three inch pitch them two pinions, just like an engine flywheel race and pinion running to it. And a countershaft with Dawsons rope pulleys on and about twenty odd ropes on and we get all that finished and ring oiler bearings, it were a real job and t’blooming war broke out. You see we could have rebuilt, taken the Yates and Thom out and left the Buckley and Taylor in, there were two engines at Long Ing you know, there were a Buckley and Taylor run down t’side of th’engine house, a bonny little thing about 250 horse.


Wellhouse shop, machining the large pinion for the 500hp motor.

Now then, wait a minute, just let me tell you something about that and you tell me if it’s right. I’m checking something that Billy Brooks told me, now remember, Billy Brooks is 97. He said one big trouble they had there. Now Long Ing were originally built for 1200 loom weren’t it.

R-Aye, like I said, the engine were no bigger than 700 horse.

That’s it, yes. And when Brooks moved in there they built them an annexe for 400 looms.

R-That’s right.

Now that 400 looms, let me tell you and then you tell me whether this is right, that 400 loom were driven with a gear off the shaft .


They said it were never anything but trouble.

R-Aye, it never were any good.

Now Billy told me that he remembered , when he was learning to weave there, and this would be about 1892, he said that he came in one morning and he realised that his looms were covered with little bits of metal and he said that he couldn’t reckon up what this were. He said that gear wheel flew in pieces, he said it were too much for it and what they did was put another engine in the engine house.

R-They did.

And he said they put a long rope drive off it and they drove that 400 loom shed straight off that. Now is that right?

R-They did, and it were a length and all, that’s right. It’s quite true is that but all that were done afore my time. No I just worked on the Buckley and Taylor and it were a bonny engine. Buckley and Taylor’s of Blackburn built it. A bonny engine of about 250horse and it ran at about 75rpm.

Single cylinder?

R-No, it were a tandem with a vertical air pump down in the cellar. Oh it were a bonny littlie thing and it never ailed anything, I think we just did a couple of Corliss bonnets up on it all the time I knew it.

It were a Corliss as well?

R-It were a Corliss, it were a bonny engine, it were like modern and old all in one engine house you know. It were beautifully lagged wi’ blued steel and t’other were wooden lagged cylinders you know. It were a real nice set up to look at were Long Ing engine house wi’ them two engines. But you talk about it being hot! Cor, I mean, you’d be working on the big ‘un and t’liittle un would be running you know. When you were keying flywheels on and that during the day. Big engine were stopped and t’little un were still running. Albert Hartleys were in there with sheeting looms when I started working. They were at Long Ing where Brooks were because Brooks went to Westfield.

It’s nice to know Billy was right, he’s very accurate for his age.

R-Oh he were right, he were very accurate about that. There were even stonework in the wall where the spur wheels had been. Spur wheel and pinion you know to run that shed.

Aye he said they were never anything but bother. He said the wheels used to fly to bits and they used to come…

R-Oh aye, they were and the engine weren’t big enough anyway.

That’s it, Billy said it was overloaded.

R-Overloaded to blazes yes and that were all done away with. They were good at that, yes, he was quite accurate. When we were going to replace the Yates and Thom, with this new engine from Bankfield, the Buckley and Taylor were going to have to be taken out you see. So we were going to run all the lot with this motor. Now then, the Buckley and Taylor, we brought it to the shop, we had it all up at t’shop except for the bed. We were going to do it all up, rebore the cylinders and when the new engine house were built it were going to be built big enough to put the Buckley and Taylor back on its original beds and run an alternator off it for lighting at Long Ing and Barnsey Shed. That’s it and it never developed, it would have been a marvellous set up. The engine at Barnsey weren’t big enough to put an alternator on to run the lights.

Aye, and you could have run a wire across the road…..

R-We were going to, on poles yes and light both sheds with that engine.


SCG/16 September 2000
9468 words.


TAPE 78/AG/04


You were telling me about three weeks ago about a big job you did at the waterworks on Whitemoor. Do you remember, you were down the bore and they stopped the borehole pump and water started to come up. You were telling me about making a new spur wheel.

R-Aye, spur wheel and pinion.

I copied them photographs the other day, I should have brought them down for you tonight but I’ve forgotten them. There’s a picture there of a big spur wheel, it’s not helical it’s a double helical gear. Was that the one?

R-No. No, this was that narrow set, that’s six foot six, it’s on the faceplate of the old lathe we haven’t got now. About six foot six in diameter and I should say about seven inches wide that it smashed in bits.

The double helical one, it’d be either John Grey’s at Livingstone or it’d be Pendle Street Mill. [Nelson] A thousand to one it’d be Pendle Street. It’s a big un.


Pendle Street second motion pinion set up on the new shaft in the shop at Wellhouse.

Aye, this were about four foot six or five foot gear.

R-It might be Grey’s, I think Pendle Street were about six foot. Oh it were a big un were Pendle Street and it’d be above a foot wide. I think they were about three and a half inches pitch them teeth, second motion shaft broke off inside the first bearing.

Yes, well we’ll get round to Pendle Street later. I’m a bit mixed up here, you were telling me about a gear wheel that you got cast and when you got it the pitch was wrong on the teeth, was that the same one?

R-That was for the water works.

Will you tell me about that gear wheel, about doing the job?

R-Well, shall we start at the beginning?

We’d got as far as you getting the bucket out.
R-Aye, it took a fortnight to draw that out. We straightened the crankshaft and we filled the key ways up and planed new keyways in the shaft which I told you was twisted half a turn round. We straightened the shaft, filled the keyways and replaned them and we made a new short shaft from the end of the crank to the wall.

Can I just stop you there, you say you straightened the crankshaft, how did you do this?

R-We straightened it in the shafting lathe, red hot and with two jacks under it.

Aye, how big were that shaft?

R-Five and a half or six inch in diameter. About ten foot long with two cranks on. It were forged just like a loom crank but about ten times as big with round jigs and it were only planed on the crank pins and the journals where the bearings were. Beautifully forged it were, Just bent, like loom crank if you can picture one of them, a round loom crank. Say about ten times as big.

So in other words it had been forged out of straight…

R-Aye, it had been forged, bent out of a straight bar. In a press probably, a home made press.

Were it steel?

R-Yes, it were mild steel, aye. And then we made a new short shaft for the wall because we couldn’t straighten that out, it were too short to straighten it. We put a new pair of couplings on and all.

Now this spur wheel, we got it all together and it were the same month as I was married, middle of August 1939. We get this spur wheel on and I got it in gear and set it where we had had it before. We set the pedestals, we didn’t put bolts in the coupling. I said to Bob, We’ll just wind th’engine round now and it went round about a quarter of a turn and jammed. I says There’s something radically wrong here! I said Wind it round the other way. So we wound it round the wrong way, I barred th’emgine back, it had a barring rack in the wall and a round backed bar to pinch it through the flywheel arms. We pinched it back and it went back and back. It went about three quarters of a turn backwards way. Then I chalked across the teeth where it had gone to and we barred it round again the right way until it jammed and then marked the teeth again in that position. This left a segment of about sixteen teeth where it wouldn’t come through. So we barred it back to where we could see it and we just stood in front of it. I says to Bob, My God, look at ‘em! All the teeth were stepping up, sixteen of them. So I rang me father up and he came up, took one look at it and said This wheel’s no good Newton.

We’d never noticed it when it was in the lathe you know but there were one period when me father says to me it looks as though it’s leaning over does that wheel Newton. Well I says, No blooming wonder the weight that’s on that faceplate, it’s only a four-inch spindle in it! He said It’s springing a long way then, keep away from it. That must have been what he had seen, them teeth out of square when it was going round. Anyway he rang Roberts up [they had cast the wheel. SG] and they came on and had a look at it. There weren’t many words said and they went away and I carried on with what I had to do, I’d still to couple up down the bottom of the well. He came up one morning and said ,Come on, take me to Nelson, we’ve to go and see Arthur Roberts. When we got to Roberts he wouldn’t believe us, he said they never made any wheels like that. Me father says, You’ve made one yonder! He wouldn’t believe us because his foreman had come to look at it you know and Arthur wouldn’t believe that them teeth were like that. Well he says, If we can’t do sommat with that wheel it’ll finish us. They hadn’t been busy for a long, long while and if they had another to make at the price that was… Well, me father says, we can do sommat wi’ it. We can chip them teeth, there’s nobody going to bother about it as long as the wheel goes round and doesn’t make too much noise. He were a bit of an aristocratic man were Arthur Roberts and he says, Oh, well get them chipped Johnny! Me father says My lads aren’t chipping them teeth, you made the bloody wheel, you mun chip it. He were getting a bit annoyed about the job, No he says, my two aren’t chipping that when they’ve other work to do an all so thy man mun chip it. All right says Arthur, we’ll send someone on. Well the day after an old chap landed. A thin old chap he were, about sixty years old. Gets sat down and starts chipping, chipped all day and he’d done about one. Well, I reckoned up, that’s sixteen days for sixteen teeth if he comes on Sunday! I said to Bob, get t’chisels sharpened, let’s get started. So we shoved him off his buffet and got t’square across, you know from’t machined face, drew lines across and we started and we soon had ‘em off. He did a bit and we did a lot and within two or three days we had ‘em all chipped and it were going through. It didn’t growl in that one position you know, it were a reight good job and it never ailed owt no more.

When you talk about this a lot of people nowadays won’t realise that going back into the old days, metal work, or working with materials like cast iron and mild steel or even wrought iron, the techniques were very similar to woodworking in many ways.

R-Oh, it was all hand work.

You just got a chisel, I mean, if you had a big keyway to cut out, you just got a chisel and you chopped it down and then out.

R-You chopped it through.

Now tell me whether I’m right in what I say, I find nowadays that if you go and buy what they call a cold chisel they’re all these alloy steel chisels.

R-They’re useless. If you took one of them to an old fitter he’d throw it at you. They’re bloody useless, he’d say I can’t chip wi’ a shovel! They don’t know how to draw one out for a start. You see they try to make them so as they last longer don’t they.


R-But we never did, we got a chisel and it had to be sharp and it cut till you took it back to the blacksmith and got it drawn out again. It didn’t matter if it broke, you’d say now then Harold, to t’blacksmith, that only stood up about half an hour and he’d say reight, we’ll run ‘em a bit further this time. There were a big variation in steel but we used to have ‘em right down to a feather edge. And you could chip away all day.

What did you make your chisels out of?

R-They was all cast steel, cast tool steel. But even then, it varied a lot did t’steel. You could harden steel to a certain colour off one bar and harden next bar the same and one ud go for hours and hours and t’next un ud happen break on the second bat [blow] you know. It took a bit, it were an art were that. But you’d find out by trial and error, if it were a brittle bar you ran ‘em off a bit deeper, a bit deeper blue.

Yes, I have a set at home that I had made out of an old rock drill from the quarry. Jimmy Thompson made ‘em for me at Marton and by heck, them’s good chisels, drawn reight down. [They were so good that Jimmy kept two for himself, his test of a chisel was to see if they would cut the stand of the anvil which was Swedish steel. All those out of the drill passed with flying colours. SG]

R-Aye you don’t get so many now.

The other day, John, me firebeater up at t’mill, he come in and brought a lump of steel and said look at this tramp iron I found in the coal. He says It’s a bit of scrap and he threw it in the scrap and it rang like a bell. I picked it up and rang it and said You’re not chucking that away, it’s a boilermaker’s drift and a good piece of steel. It’ll have got in at the pit somewhere, a reight good drift.

Anyway, you got that wheel running…

R-Oh yes, we got the wheel straightened out and running and that was the end of that job, it never ailed anything no more all the rest of its life.

You’d do a fair bit of work up at the waterworks?

R-Oh we were allus there. He used to ring up did Wilfred Dixon and say send Newton up to take t’crank pins up on’t crankshaft. Least bit of a tap or a squelch and he’d want us to take a few thou off the joints, they were marine ends were them. You know there were two engines in there. There were a Timkins engine that were put in when them wells were sunk, at far side, it were that that stripped the spur wheel. It ran the shallow well and had a governor on with a Stephenson’s link for the cut off and two eccentrics. [Meyer cut-off gear. SG]

And t’other one were a Burnley Ironworks and it were a bonny engine. A very simple engine like your tape engine up at Bancroft but bigger of course, it were a bonny engine that Burnley Ironworks. That were put in at t’other side to run the deep well pump, which were three hundred, and odd feet deep. But when they found out like, Eh, that engine’s close to that well, why not put a clutch on there. So I think me father did that job in the early days and they put this, they lengthened the shaft and put a clutch in so they could run both low well, which were ninety odd feet deep and the deep well, or bore hole you see. Well, that engine it’d run ‘em both. And it were the Burnley Ironworks they stopped while I were down the well, when the water started boiling through them rocks, I can see it now I can tell you. Have you ever tried to climb up a two foot pipe?

With scabs on!

R-Aye, with scabs and carbuncles on, aye, big flanges, Grief, I were scared aye.

No, I can imagine that. That Burnley Ironworks were a single cylinder were at?

R-Single cylinder, they both were.

No condensers?

R-No condensers on ‘em, no.

What did they do?

R-Puffed up t’chimney.

Aye, just blew out, that’s it.

R-They had no draught you know, only a little short chimney, it puffed merrily up t’chimney.

What did they have up there, a Cornish boiler?
R-A little Cornish boiler. It were a grand set-up, oh it were grand and it used to be spotlessly clean.

They’re talking about taking the chimney down.

R-Aye, you said so.

It’s a shame.

R-Oh it were a bonny set-up were that, it were that. And then in my time, in the top shop they had a big National Gas engine about forty horse power for running the top deep well pump, in’t spare engine house up at t’top. I think that were put in after the Fist World War, and that were three hundred and odd feet deep and all. The National engine were run off a suction plant.

In these early days when you first had anything to do with them, that wouldn’t be the Craven Water Board would it?

R-No, it belonged to the Local Council.

It were Barlick?

R-Yes, Barlick Council belonged it all, owned it you know just like the gasworks.

Yes, I wonder when they sank those wells, have you any idea?

R-No I haven’t. I think if you go up to Letcliffe Park you’ll find cores with some dates on, I can’t remember what it were when the bore hole was sunk at the back, that were three hundred and odd feet deep.

Wait a minute! I know where those cores are. I never realised that was what they were.


One of the cores in Letcliffe Park. This one is marked 593ft.

R-And I think you’ll find dates on ‘em and the depth they came from.

There is. They’re up by the potting shed up at the top.

R-If you want to go up some Sunday afternoon Stan, have a look and see where they are.

Yes, I know just where they are.

R-Aye, t’cores that come out of the top deep bore hole, it’s a big hole is that top one, I think it’s about fourteen inch in diameter. I’ve had t’buckets out of that some stock o’ times and the rods, you pull them up for ever. I had ‘em up twice about five years ago you know, One broke…

What, one of the rods?

R-I’d been running your engine for George Bleasdale for nine week and I went straight up from there [Bancroft] to the waterworks to pull t’bore hole rods up and one broke. And by gum, we were lucky to catch it the first time. It broke about half way down and we noosed it the first do, wi’t wire sling and noose and grabbed it. You know you can frig about , you can’t see owt and t’bore holes full of water you know, up t’tube. Nearly to t’top if it’s been a wet session and I grabbed it t’first time, we were lucky. And we pulled it out and replaced two bad rods. They’d to come from Liverpool had t’timber to make the rods on.

Timber rods in that…

R-Aye, it had to come from Liverpool to make new rods on. And we put it all back together and it ran one summer out and part of one winter. And then one morning they sent, they came for me, would I go, it wouldn’t pump and it were a funny job. When I got up there they wouldn’t start it up to see why it wouldn’t pump. They’d been running all morning they said and it wouldn’t pump, but they said we don’t want to run it again, there might be another rod broken. I said Them rods were sound what we put back down. Anyhow, me and Bob and Jimmy, we pulled ‘em all out again and there were nowt wrong wi’t rods. Nothing wrong with the bucket so they said, Well, it must have been dry. Well I said, Dry be damned, it wanted priming! Never known to be dry, it wanted priming, it were air-locked.

You see, it were a tricky thing you know, we were brought up with it, There were a two inch bypass pipe came back from the top reservoir. Before we started the bore hole we used to open that two inch valve and it used to pump itself if you understand what I mean. Pump and go back, pump and go back, until it got rid of all the air and filled the header well up. Now whether they’d opened that I don’t know but t’water board came to the conclusion, it’s an old-fashioned thing, let’s put a submersible in there and that were the end of it. We shifted all the gearing and they put a submersible down and we made all new plates for the top and that’s the end of it. It’s running electrically now. Which were t’best thing really, because it had to be manned at all times. It were run wi’t electric motor of course, the gas engine had gone, the steam engines had gone, it were the only one left which were run from t’big electric motor through gearing. So, they put a submersible down, they don’t take any looking after you know. It’s only the other week the buckets were taken from the shop, I think they’ve gone to a museum. Foot valve and delivery bucket. Aye, it were a grand plant you know as it was originally, it were something to see them engines grumbling away in a dry summer, 24 hours a day.

Aye, when you think, the water boards would be one of the biggest customers for those big engines.

R-Oh they were.

I mean, water and sewage pumping, ‘cause there were never any…

R-Well I mean, look at some of those engines that are still left in the Midlands at… They’ve preserved. Some of them like that chap had on the screen for us, They were big beggars weren’t they.

Aye, that’s a big one down at Rugeley, that Hathorn and Davies from Leeds. It’s the biggest pumping engine I’ve ever seen in me life. I’ll call in one of these days and get some reight pictures of that. They’ve got name plates there of some of the original Watt engines, it brought a lump to me throat when I saw them. Done away with the engines and kept the plates, the wrong way round!

Right, last week we were down at Long Ing and you were going to put the Buckley and Taylor on an alternator.

R-Two hundred and fifty horse, it were going to light both mills.

That’s it, and they never got on with it.

R-No, it all faded out after and they went electric. Where do we start now?


Barnsey Shed.

Let’s go to Barnsey.


Barnsey shed engine. Installed 1912.

R-Thousand horse Yates and Thom were Barnsey, cross compound, four foot six inches stroke and a trunk slide. Great big wide flywheel with about twenty six ropes on. It only ran at 64rpm, it were the stupidest thing you ever saw in a mill, a colliery winding engine really but smaller, it ran too slow.

What year was it put in?

R-1914’is, 15 or 13, somewhere around that. I ran that engine many a time.

Was it a new engine?

R-Aye, brand spanking new. It were a bonny engine, but oh it were a big lumbering thing. It weren’t economical, t’other engines in Barlick’d lick its backside off, coal consumption wise you know. It ran too slow. 64revs, four foot six stroke.
Miles too slow, it were 12 revs down. Me father wanted to put a new second motion pulley in years ago, you know, a bigger one and speed things up. It allus laboured as though it were overloaded all the time. I’ve seen figures from Barnsey lap. [Newton is referring to the diagrams drawn by the Dobbie and McInnes indicator or similar instrument. The ‘figures’ or diagrams drawn by the recorder overlapped when the cut-off exceeded about 75%. The point he was making is that the engine was using a lot of steam. Higher speed would have meant a shorter cut-off and more time for the steam to work by expansion thus saving steam and coal. SG.] You see she’d just be topping about eleven hundred horse, well she was only built for a thousand at speed she were running. 160psi and three boilers. But a good engine, don’t get me wrong, a good engine. It only had one fault, it used to allus have a trick of blowing t’front cylinder cover joint in’t trunk slide and it were a beggar making that in’t middle of summer at a weekend. Always stinking red hot. Oh, I ran it many a time as a young chap. Billy Eccleston were the engine driver.

That engine’d be condensing off canal water?

R-Yes, condensing off canal water, good engine though.

Tell me about condensing off canal water. They had to pay the canal company didn’t they?

R-They’d to pay their dues for how much horse power you had on. You’d pay canal for what horsepower you had on. When I used to drive engines on’t canal side in Nelson they were a bit fussy about that you know, one or two o’t shops like. We used to indicate five minutes before we set on or five minutes after we stopped. I shouldn’t tell them tales!

No, now’s the time to tell them, those days have gone.

R-At Spring Bank, at Nelson, afore work or I used to open t’stop valve again after half past twelve and get me oiler to keep his eye on it and then I’d take a set of figures at dinnertime. And just put lights on to make it look feasible. They said it paid.

Yes, and there was one famous occasion wasn’t there at t’Moss when someone slipped up and indicated it on Monday morning when all the load was on?

R-Aye, when all t’load was on, he’d about 1100 horse on. It made them scrat their heads, t’canal company when they came. They couldn’t weigh it up because it had run fifty odd years and it had never been like that. (As high) But yet to me you see it were so silly because you weren’t using the water. I know you should pay your dues for borrowing people’s stuff but you were only borrowing it up to a point. What are you losing out of that? 10, 12%, no more. You wouldn’t be losing so much you know, only a little bit of evaporation or a gland leaking or sommat like that. But your water it were condensed and you were putting it back in the canal again. You were doing ‘em a blooming good turn in winter, kept it thawed out for them when th’ice would have been two feet deep from here to Foulridge! They didn’t grasp that bit did they. And them mills at Foulridge picked it up again and it went right through to the Burnley Mills keeping it thawed out for them.

What were’t boilers at Bouncer? [Local name for Barnsey. SG.]

R-There were three Yates and Thoms eight foot sixes.

What did they run at?


What were the governor on that engine?

R-It were an ordinary, now then, it were a Porter, ordinary standard Porter governor at Barnsey. It weren’t a Whitehead. And I went on to the Barnsey engine, and I’m not giving any names with this. There’d been a bit of a sacking do. I were working in t’shop on Saturday morning and me father came down to me and he just threw these keys on the bench. He says, I’m going home now Newton, tha’s to go to Barnsey on Monday morning. So I went to Barnsey on the Monday morning about sis o’clock.

Sorry to interrupt you Newton but if that had been me I’d have been going round there on Sunday and having a look round to make sure everything were…

R-Oh, I didn’t bother, I’d been there many a time. All through me life, I used to drive it for the old chap that were there long afore this chap that chucked up so I didn’t think owt about going to Barnsey on Monday morning at six o’clock. So I off to Barnsey at Monday morning at six o’clock, let meself in, walked in in’t engine house and finished up in the cellar! It’s a wonder I didn’t kill me bloody self and I wasn’t even hurt. I went flat on me arse down th’hole into t’cellar on Monday morning.

How did that happen?

R-Well I walked straight in in the pitch dark, there were no lights you know in them days in’t engine house. But in Barnsey engine house, up t’far side of t’second motion shaft we had a little vertical steam engine coupled to a DC generator and I mean I knew where the valves were to start it. It were always left with the drains open. You just walked in th’engine house, felt your way past the second motion with the railings, just open the steam valve and you’d hear her start, tut, tut, tut and as soon as it speeded up, on came the lights. When I went for to pass the second motion, I just put me hand on the railings, followed the railings round the corner and fell straight through the bloody floor into t’cellar! [A Lancashire boiler was always banked with coal during the night to keep steam up. Otherwise it would have taken too long to get to working pressure in the morning. A good firebeater would make sure that when you came in you had the same pressure you stopped at.]
Anyway, I came out of the cellar, went back up into the engine house, rubbing me arse and me back and me legs and I were all right but I were blooming wet. All clean on on Monday morning and I went very cautiously. Big shifts and little shifts and I got the engine running and had a look and t’bloody planks, all the boards round the engine after all those years were absolutely rotten. There were one or two holes where he’d had his feet through, the chap before me. Course it were me own fault for not having a flashlight weren’t it. Bloody hell! I were all right.
Well, I got cracking, nice chap were the firebeater and I went down in the boiler house and he gave me a dry off and I got me blooming boiler suit dry, which I wore in those days, and we got warmed up. [The engine. SG] And then, blooming heck, I’d forgotten me watch! I looked round th’engine house and t’bloody clock had gone! I went down in’t boiler house and I says to Arthur, Dosta know what time it is? He says No, but it must be nearly starting time now because t’weavers are coming. And there I am stood in’t end o’t yard asking everybody, one in about twelve, What time is it? Till I gets to one chap and he says it’s about two minutes to seven lad. I run like hell up into th’engine house, I were all ready, I’d only th’oils to turn on and whip the stop valve open and we were away. Well, I gets on to speed and I thought what the hell’s up with this thing? I’d never run it like that! You couldn’t stick to it, it were up and down, up and down, I mean, it were no toy were that you know [1,000hp]. And t’governor were just stuck there. What the devil’s up wi’t engine? Anyway I got the drains shut and got some load on and just stuck to it by hand ‘til breakfast time. [By ‘stuck to it by hand’, Newton means he stood by the stop valve and regulated the steam by hand to control the engine, the job normally done by the governor.] , So I went in’t mill, found an old tin and I shouts at t’first tackler I see Where’s the loom oil? [Loom oil is very thin oil. SG] I gets a tin full of loom oil gets up in’t engine house, we stopped for breakfast at half past eight, gets stopped for breakfast time, gets a little ladder out of the boiler house and climbed up to the governor. We used to stand on the bed edge you know, to oil the governor, like we do up yonder (Bancroft) but we oil it.
You know, I’d oiled it [a bit] before I started but I got up to the governor and I oiled it good and proper. I teemed it down from the top all the lot of this loom oil. It run down the pillar, it run down the links and arms you know, it were a biggish thing. Anyhow, I set on after breakfast and be ten o’clock you’ve never seen anything like that engine house wall in all your life, it were like a bloke had cut his throat stood on top of the governor, it were red all round!
With all due respect to t’chap that had been there before me, he’d never oiled that governor for twelve months, he’d never oiled em for twelve month. Well, within a day or two the weavers were saying, By gum lad, tha should have been here a long while since. I don’t know what they’d had that chap for, I don’t know how he’d run the place, I don’t honestly. The governor were stuck solid. It was just staggering up and down, up and down, jumping, wuff! Wuff! Like that instead of going down quietly wit’ revs slowing down and off up with speed going up.

There’s something I’d like to ask you about that. It’s always struck me as being very peculiar. Up at Bancroft for instance, now you know that’s the only engine I’ve ever run. You go up to Bancroft, I went up there and you get talking to people like Jim Pollard and people who know about weaving and there’s no doubt that there are two things that are critical to weaving, one’s the speed, the engine speed, the speed you’re actually running at, and the other’s the regularity of the engine, how regular it runs isn’t it.

R-Now, it has to be at that speed all the time, no staggering, I mean it could run at the right speed but still be staggering. If you, I could go into an engine house and I used to think , oo heck, I don’t know how they put up with this here. And you’d hear it, whoooo, whoooo, you could see it in't ropes and hear it in the gearing. Now that’s what they were on about. Not just constant, say running at 70 revs a minute from morning till night but keeping it steady. They wouldn’t be bothered if it was 69 or it were 71 as long as it were steady. Now with a governor that were sticking you got uneven running to some tune, you did that. It’d come up two revs and then it’d drop two and that were four revs! You know it’d come up to above it, where it ought to have been at 64rpm and it ud go down to 62 and it did that until the middle of the morning and then it got easy as the oil worked its way into it this thin oil and there were such a mess on that wall.

Yes, now the thing I’ve been quietly getting round to is this. Surely if a man, a weaving manager or whoever is in charge of that shed really knew his job, he should know that there’s something wrong like that. What I’m trying to get at is that when I went up to Bancroft there was absolutely no…..

R-I know what you’re getting at!

There was absolutely no liaison between the fellow that’s running the engine and the bloke that’s running the shed. In other words I had to go to Jim. I went to Jim at t’finish, and what first put me on to it was, up there in the desk, when I first went I had to go digging around in all the corners and there was so much wanted doing quietly. But anyway, I went to Jim, I had found an old report from the Gargoyle Oil Company , they’d done a report on the engine in 1928, and incidentally they’d recommended then that the oil ought to go into the steam pipe through an atomiser like you and I have made it now. But the thing that they stated in this report was that the engine should do 70rpm and when I went up there it was doing less than 67rpm. You could see from the governor set up that it was running at far less than it should have been doing, I mean the governor bars were drooping instead of being parallel with the floor.

Anyway I got on to Jim and I asked him, How come this engine’s running slow. Oh, he said, It’s been altered and altered over the years and he said you know the looms won’t stand the speed and what not and this that and the other. Another thing was, and I know this is meant to be an interview with you but this all comes in, it’s important is this.

R-Aye, yes of course it does.

Now one of the things they’ve always complained about up there and I know they’ve done it with you is…

R-The lights, they were always on about the lights. Yes, we’ve both had this, I told you about this didn’t I at the time you were going on about this job.

That’s it, yes. Now I know that they got on to you about the same thing.

R-Well, not exactly but I’ll tell you my tale after, go on.

Right, well I’ll tell you what I know. If you run that engine at the right speed the phases are a mile out, you run at about 55cycles. One day they were on to me, funnily enough it was the smallest motor in the mill that caused all the trouble, the little DC motor on the Barber Coleman knotting machine. They couldn’t reckon up why this motor wouldn’t run reight and they did all sorts as you know. The fellow that was on that knotter up there, Fred Greenwood, he isn’t a very nice gentleman. He told me I were frightened of the engine and I hadn’t got the alternator wound up enough [Referring to the adjustment of the exciter voltage which controlled the 450 volt output. SG.] And I’m afraid I lost me rag one day. I told him that they’d been suffering this for the last twenty years since that alternator was put in but that I’d bottom the job that day. Now the voltmeter on the distribution board were reading 440 volts, so I went down Birmingham that weekend and while I was down there I bought meself a Heavy Duty Avometer, it cost me £85, a lot of money. I thought we’ve got a reight clock now, let’s find out what the truth is. The following week I coupled this clock to the terminals at the back of the voltmeter on the distribution board and wonder of wonders, my Avo were reading 340 volts, not 440! They were 100 volts down. Actually, on single phase, the lighting was running on just over 200 volts instead of 250. So I sent for Ellisons the electricians and I said you’d better look at the resistance on the field coils for the exciter because I’ve got it screwed right out and I’m only getting 340 volts out of it. He came up, looked at the voltmeter on the board and said Oh no, leave it alone, you’ve got 440volts. I said Oh no I haven’t, put your clock on it. I didn’t let him know I had one. Anyway, he put his own on and said you’re right! So what we had to do was take the cover off the resistance box on the board and it were full of fluff! So we cleared all the muck out of it, and it were marvellous the needle on the voltmeter went reight up to the stop! What somebody had done, they’d altered the resistances in the box so that the voltmeter were reading reight for the speed of the engine but what somebody had done before that was alter the voltmeter so it read the right voltage for what they were doing! Well, we were running on 450 volts AC now. What had been happening with the voltage being down, by the time they’d rectified it upstairs in the twisting department they were only getting about 70 volts instead of 110. I told them at the time, there’s something wrong here. There’s a 600 horse engine down there driving an alternator with a commutator on the size of a dustbin and if it can’t run that little DC motor there’s something sadly wrong. They said it was always all right when they were on the mains but not on the engine. Another thing as well was showing it up. On wages day I always had to put the office on the mains because the decimal point on the old adding machine used to float about. That were the same circuit that was running all the juice upstairs. So that meant that on Monday, when they were reckoning up the wages off Friday’s figures and they were on the mains the knotting machine ran like a dream because it were getting full voltage.

So, we made that slight alteration and cured what was a big problem and this got me to thinking that if it made such a difference in the knotting, what could it do in the weaving shed? So I asked Jim how many picks a minute the looms ought to be running at. [A pick is one double journey of the shuttle across the loom and back and is the criteria on which the speed and production of a loom is measured. It should have been 180 picks a minute. SG] he couldn’t really tell me so I was left on my own. And you know what it is, if anything goes wrong in the shed its always the engine that’s running wrong, either too slow or too fast. Anyway, big does and little does I had a look at the balance weight on the speed regulator. It had been in the same position that long the threads were chattered and you couldn’t adjust it so I took it off and ran a die up the threads. I wanted to wind it up, the further up it went the faster the engine ran. Then, every week, I put a quarter of a turn on the regulator rod, I didn’t put it all on at once.


The Wilby Patent regulator on the Lumb governor at Bancroft. It was the wing nut and lock nut at the top of the rod with the pear shaped weight on the bottom that was seized up. It had never been altered for years.

R-No, just fetched it up quietly.

Once a week I did it at Friday dinner time when there’s always more looms stopped and you expect it to run a bit faster anyway. Anyway, in the finish I got it up to where it is now, 69rpm and I thought that’s enough because the looms are old. Later I told Jim and he told me that over that period the weaver’s wages had gone up thirty shillings a week on average. [There was a lot more to it than this actually. I also adjusted all the valves and greased the ropes so that the mill ran steadier. I used to ask Billy Two Rivers, one of the weavers who had been a tackler, every morning how the speed was and alter it to suit him. The reason for this is that leather belts tighten and speed the looms up if the air is drier and the engine had to be adjusted to compensate for that as well. SG]

R-To each weaver, you know I had all this thirty years since.

Aye, I know, but this is my point. It had made the difference. Now if it did it for the weavers it was doing it for the firm. Now my point is, why? If I was running a mill, and I know, a lot of ‘em had ‘em, I’d have a rev counter on the second motion shaft.

R-There were a lot of ‘em had ‘em and by gum, you’d to book ‘em down at night how many revs you’d done from seven in the morning until half past five at night.

Tell me whether I’m right or not. I’ve heard stories about the old spinning mills further down in Oldham and Bolton where the engineers used to run their engines faster on Thursday and Friday to get the reight number of revs for that week else they were on the carpet on Monday morning.

R-If they didn’t they were on’t carpet. I’d a lot of my mills had them on and they were to write down in’t book every day were them revs from seven in the morning until half past five at night and if they didn’t tally be weekend, woe betide them. I’d this experience at Bancroft thirty years since, just after the war was finished. When Uncle George Hogarth was on the engine. We didn’t do a lot of work at Bancroft at that period. Me father came to me and he says I’ve had Wilfred Nutter on the telephone to me Newton, he says he’s heard you run engines round town and will you go and run Bancroft, George is poorly. I says I don’t know, they haven’t been reight good customers of ours over the years. No, he says, but I’ve allus got on with Wilfred all right. I says all reight, I’ll go and run th’engine. So I goes to Bancroft, Christmas.
I starts up after Christmas, I’d been running, it were happen ten o’clock and into th’engine house comes Wilfred Nutter. I knew him because he had looms all over the place. Now then Newton he says, It’s rough weather, it is weaving rotten, can you slow the engine down just a little bit? I says course I can. It had Whitehead governor on then, it hadn’t that Lumb on, it were an ordinary old Whitehead. I says I’ll slow it down. We have a box nut you know, just work it by hand. [Same as Ellenroad, opposing threads and it shortened valve the rod to speed up and lengthened out to slow down. SG] First of all, I couldn’t get t’nuts loose, I had to get some rust oil on to them. In big shifts and little uns I got it loose and got it down an odd un. I went up into t'mill and I says is that any better? To one of the tacklers and he said Just a little bit more. I says all right and did a bit more. I went up into the mill again and he says That’s smashing, just leave it there.

But we’d put that alternator in, well actually, we didn’t put it in for Nutters, we did the installation for Jim [Ellison] who had been head electrician for the Council, he started up on his own and we put the alternator in for him, did all the drive. He had that job, we didn’t have it in the first place but we put it in for him. Well, it gets to about three o’clock, middle of winter and I comes to put some lights on. [The lights in the mill and the shed were all switched from the engine house at Bancroft. When it started to get dark the engineer put some steam on the engine to compensate for the increased load and threw the three breakers in which controlled the lights. This put an extra 100 horse on the engine. SG] I just took one look at all the meters and I’d about 40cycles and 350 volts. The warning lights on the bottom [These lit when the breakers were in. SG] were like candles. There were just one or two fluorescents and they were flashing like it was a thunderstorm. I thought now then, we’ll put th’engine back to some speed for a start. So I went to the box nut and wound it up them two revs that I’d taken off, we’d still only got 45 cycles and voltage were about 400. So I wound up it some more and I took the voltage up to 440 and the cycles to 50 which I knew were where it should be. I timed the engine and it were doing 70 revs. I thought lovely, we’ll leave it at that. I were there six month and I never had another mention of speed on the looms and that engine were never touched any more than what I did for variation in steam pressure when I altered it meself during the day. It were psychological, it were blooming rotten lights that were telling, that were making t’weavers want the engine slowing down for bad work.
The thing I’ve always found great difficulty in getting into their heads there and tacklers are the worst of the lot and the weavers are bad and all, is that the speed of the engine doesn’t necessarily have any relation to the speed that the looms are going at.

R-Oh no, it’s up to the belts from the shaft to the loom and that’s a big thing.

Now if you get a long spell of dry weather…

R-And they don’t attend to them

Aye, they’re beggars up yonder you know, they don’t attend to their belts at all. Because the thing is they don’t realise at all. I mean I know the tacklers would go up the wall at me but all of those belts should be dressed once a month on the back with oil so it goes through them quietly. But what happens is that you get a weaver who wants to get some picks on, they’ll put a bit of Golden Syrup on the belt you know.

R-Aye, they’ll put owt on. They used to buy Grippo at the local ironmongers at Harry Tinners and put that on and nowt dried belts up quicker than that stuff I don’t know what! And it only worked for about ten minutes you know.

That’s it, and then you’d see the tackler going round and sprinkling farina from the tape room on the belts to make them slip and slow them down because the speed made more work for him! What they can’t realise is there isn’t two looms in the shop running at the same speed. It’s the belts that makes the difference. And you can have that engine running, because you know yourself, you can run that engine, within reason, on the same load and the same pressure, at the same revs every day so long as everything is right.

R-Well, it will regardless of pressure really.

Yes but if your pressure’s up on light load, a big lift in pressure.

Aye, we’re not talking about ten pound. If it goes from 100 to 150 you could get a bit probably.

But I know for a fact, I know what I’d do, I’d have a rev counter on the shaft, never bother about the engine, put it on the second motion shaft. It’s amazing the difference there is day to day in the drive of the cotton ropes off the flywheel. I’ll tell you another thing that makes a big difference, dressing the ropes with tallow and graphite. If you do them regular. I mean, you know them ropes were dry , George had been putting belt dressing on!

R-Oh they were like straw. Never seen owt like them, I nearly had a fit.

When |I first put the grease on I expected the second motion shaft to slow down slightly but it didn’t, it speeded up! The grease goes sticky.

R- The grease goes sticky and gives a bit more drive at bottom and top, where they’re pulling into the taper.

And I’ll tell you something else and all, There’s three new ropes on the right hand side of that wheel when your looking from the back. Now if your running, as a matter of fact they want greasing now, if your running and you go into the cellar and watch those three ropes on the drive side underneath you’d see them hanging down. They’re not taking any drive. If you grease them they’ll tighten up.

R-Aye you know, years ago I used to think that rope drives were a marvellous thing you know and I used to talk to some of these old fellows, old chaps in’t weaving you know, managers and bosses like, and they said they didn’t like rope drives, they wanted gears because, especially in room and power shops, they knew they were getting exactly what the engine were doing. No slip you know on a gear drive.

Well, they’re right aren’t they. I can understand the logic in that having seen it work.

R-And that’s why they started, later on you know, they started such as Pendle Street (Nelson) and all that putting double helical wheels in you know, they ran blooming marvellous did them double helicals.
I mean, look at Victoria mill at Earby, they were straight cut teeth but they were all machine cut you know and they were fourteen inch wide. That engine ran beautiful at Earby Mill you know, it were noisy, but not like a wringing machine noise, it just rumbled away but you know it never slipped. They don’t slip don’t gear drives, you get the revs on the shaft that the engine’s doing.

In other words, it’s a positive drive where the engine isn’t.

R-Yes, they all said they all wanted that, the only belts they wanted were to the loom.

Well you see, that’s a pointer is that, that it was the room and power companies, where they were selling power, where they were interested in that more than private firms.

R-They were more interested in gear drive than they were in ropes. Yes, they knew they were getting their money’s worth. You know, I know it were a bit far-fetched maybe but it’s there. A tooth, two geared wheels running together don’t slip but a rope or a belt is only a friction drive.

Having had the experience with it I can see the point. All I can say is that them men knew what they were talking about.

R-They did know what they were talking about.


SCG/19 September 2000
8642 words.




So really, when you get down to it you prefer gear drives?

R-Yes really, if it’s a tip top job with machine cut gears or helical wheels and done properly you can’t beat a gear drive. There’s no maintenance. Once a week with a hand brush and a bucket of fat that’s all. Friday afternoon was best, that’s all you need. They’re noisy, no matter how good they are they still make a noise but your valve gear makes a noise and you don’t worry about it, you get used to it, you never hear it. I mean I were on Pendle Street for all them months and I really enjoyed it. Well, I’ll tell you this Stanley, that if Pendle Street had been keeping on running I’d have stopped [there]. I would, I enjoyed me six or seven months at Pendle Street more than anywhere I’ve ever worked, and I were running that mill by meself. Up to t’last three weeks when they got me a fireman. I’d three Lancashire boilers oil fired, I’d nowt to do but press two buttons and I were away. I could look after th’engine in five minutes afore starting time and it were a big engine, 1200ihp, six foot stroke were that. I’d have stopped Stan. Big roomy engine house, it were never hot and stuffy, plenty of room.

Yes but there again, that’s a thing a lot of people can’t get hold of nowadays, that once you’d got on top of an engine…

R-Oh, I were on top of that one you know.

Once you’ve got ‘em reight they were very little trouble.

R-That’s it, it were no problem Stanley, I’d a routine and I could look after that engine you know, no trouble at all.

And yet, if you’ve never looked after one and you go in and look at one, and you think My God! First thing that strikes you, nowadays, I mean I always say that everybody nowadays is educated into the fact that a machine is something that goes wrong every five minutes.

R-Aye, an enemy! And it isn’t.

Whereas if a machine is built properly and built with the proper reserves of strength in it………

R-Oh, that were.

They are the most reliable things in the world.


Pendle Street engine in Nelson.

R-Pendle Street had no speed on it, only 38rpm you know, it were a marvellous machine. It had two brand new cylinders in, well, they were brand new to me, they’d been put in about 1926 or 27. Two great big Corliss cylinders wit’ valves just going click, cluck, last forever. I’d put new bonnets on to the high pressure with extension arms and they’d have never worn.

What year was that, you were running the engine out?


Newton running Pendle Street.

R-Year Olive and me were married, So it’s nine year since, it’ll be ten year this Christmas when I went on it.

That’d make it 1969. While we’re on about Pendle Street, you ran the engine as
they were electrifying the looms. Now tell us the story of Pendle Street electrifying and you running the engine out.

[This was a common story and I wanted Newton to describe the process. Electrification of looms meant that they were fitted with independent electric motors (sometimes the shafting was electrified with bigger motors). Once this had been done the engine was redundant and this was when many were scrapped before the mill finished. At the time, electrification was seen as the economic alternative for driving the shed but this often proved to be an illusion. SG]

R-Well it were a sad start to the job, the engine driver, lad that had been firing there for a lot of years, had taken over the engine when the old engine driver died. He’d only been running the engine about a fortnight and he was coming to work [on his motorbike], to have a look at the boilers one Sunday night or put a bit of steam into the shed, and he hits a car, somewhere on Every Street and has an accident. Well, they rang for me on Monday morning and I went right away and they got another chap to look after the boilers, a retired fireman that I knew very well that had fired all his life round Nelson, he knew sommat about engines as well. In big shifts and little uns, between him and the manager, they got it running. They went up for the old engine driver that had retired and he wouldn’t come back because he’d had a bit of trouble with the bosses I think just before he retired. But anyhow, it doesn’t matter.
I got theer and as soon as I walked up the steps everybody else walked out! Of course, I’d worked at that shop for donkey’s years and they just said Good Morning Newton and walked out. They told me what had happened with the engine driver, his leg were broken and it’d be a long time, but you’ll look after us like. I says of course I will, and settles down to the job. And they said Tom Higham’s firing for you, but you know it’s winter and he’s been coming in at four in the morning so we let him go home at dinnertime. I says That’s all reight. Anyhow, Tom stopped with me all that first Monday and I settled down right away because I’d run it before over the years.

They were on oil then?

R-They were on oil. I’d run it before when it were a coal shop. I asked them how long their man was going to be off and they said oh, happen two or three month, we don’t know but he says anyhow, we’re electrifying the looms did the manager. He said they were hoping to finish by the July holidays. So I settled down to eight or ten weeks like you know. I thought he’d be back will the lad soon as he gets reight. By gum he didn’t get reight, he started with cancer and he died so I stopped on until the ..
But the electrification like, I just weren’t interested in it at all and Miss Duckworth that were the old bosses daughter, unmarried daughter, comes down to see me one day happen some time around Easter time and she sat in the engine house with me a long while and she just says to me, Excuse me Newton, I don’t want to appear ignorant but is this engine worn out, is it done like they’re saying it is? I said What! This engine’s better now than the day it were built in 1887. Whoever in the world is telling you that tale? Well she says, All these in’t mill have and this electrician and the manager. I said the engine never will be done Miss Duckworth, as long as we’re about and you spend a bit on maintenance on it every year, anyway, it hasn’t had any for a lot of years and it doesn’t need it. A bit in’t boiler house perhaps but you’ll still have that to spend after your engine’s gone. Oh, she says, my father would spin round in his grave if he knew about this.
Anyhow, it didn’t stop electrification and they kept electrifying them [the looms, fitting individual motors to them.]. I used to oil me air pump every dinnertime, I never struggled of a morning and I never struggled at night, I used to do me work during the day, me having to travel and all. I used to grease and oil me air pump at dinner time and I was right then until the day after. I used to walk down on me planks at dinnertime and they’d put this new cable down the engine house side in the cellar. It was a cable about two inches thick and naturally, I used to run me hand down it, it were like a hand rail as I were walking down the planks and it was just aired. As it was getting on towards the end of June and they’d more looms going on to electric and I were getting less load on’t engine, I were getting so as I couldn’t bide me hand on this cable at dinnertime. So I drew th’head electrician’s attention to it, I fetched him in. I said hey, this cable down the wall side, it’s getting blooming hot you know. Naaa, he says, it’s only thy heat that tha’s making in here. When we get this blooming old thing stopped there’ll be no, it won’t get warm then. It’s all th’heat tha’art making with that blooming old engine. Blooming heck he says, that were the way he talked, Blooming heck, when we that thing stopped and get shut of thee and that chap in the boiler house we’ll run this shop for nowt. We’ll run this shop for as much as it’s costing for yaa two in wages. I says Will you. Anyhow. I’ll just go on a bit with this story.
Before I got me fireman, I only had a fireman for the last three weeks in the afternoon. I ran it meself from just after breakfast at t’morning, I used to let Tom go home, you know he were an old chap of about 67 or 68 and I used to let him go home. And he were doing me a good turn coming early morning. So they got a bit bothered about me being on me own all the time, so they made arrangements in’t mill that somebody allus had to come down at brew time and have a natter with me and then go back seeing as I was all right and hadn’t gone round the shafting or getten meself fast in’t engine which I had more bloody sense. Anyhow, one afternoon, th’big man came down to stop with me, but he didn’t come while about twenty past four, and he were a nice feller but he were no engineer, he were a weaving manager, he were over all the lot for Duckworths. I were in’t boiler house sat in the boiler house reading comic cuts and pressing red and blue buttons on the board, keeping us running. Now then Newton he says, whoah, won’t it make a difference to our bills when we get shut of the engine! Eh, I says, I’m not going to answer that, anyhow, have you got a bit of time? Oh aye he says, I’m all straight now, I can stop with you a bit and have a natter. Well I says, half past four and I have me chores to do so I whipped up on to the top of the boilers and I shut the tape valves and all the heating off. I’d two boilers on that’s all and just as I came down the iron ladder all four of me burners went Woof! [two burners on each boiler] Steam were up at 160. So I stayed talking to him for a few minutes and then I says Don’t go, I just want you to see how much you’re going to save when the engine stops cause just now, we’ve everything off but the engine. Reight ho he says. I says I want thee to stop here and count how many times them burners fire before I stop the engine at five o’clock. And I think if I remember rightly we’d a 15psi dwell on those burners from 160 it came down to 145 before it fired up again.
So I goes up into the engine house and takes me jacket off and wiped round all the beds like I did every day, it were spotless even though I says it meself. All me beds all the way round the floor, me cylinder tops and me covers and it were getting on to five to five so I sits down a minute or two and at five o’clock I stopped the engine. I waited while it stopped, put it in the reight shop for starting and went down into the boiler house, he’s still sat there. Now then Frank, how many times has them burners fired since I left you? I thought the feller were going to cry cause I looked up at the pressure gauges and they were on 150 pound, they were just getting ready for firing and we’d run half an hour with two boilers on, capacity, I’d run half an hour and they’d never sparked and I knew damn well they wouldn’t. I thought the feller was going to cry, he said Tara Newton, got up and walked out, as he was going I said, That’s how much your going to save when you’ve getten all this bloody wire in the mill!
Anyhow, I finished at July holidays and before the year were out they were out of business and from what I heard, I never saw any of them any more, what I heard were that Sam’s calculations for the electric cable were just half too bloody little and they were going to have to put a duplicate on underneath it and they couldn’t afford it and it finished ‘em.
Electrification finished ‘em. They’d three brand new boilers that were put in in 1926 when the engine was modernised and they went and electrified the place. I used to say to them in the old days, I’d say well, if I’d put an alternator on this engine you could make your own electric light and all because after respacing they had less looms and 500 horse spare on the engine. It were 1400 horse reckoned up properly had that engine. And that were at the end of Pendle Street.

On the figures now, if you work them out now, well I say now but it’s four years since I did the calculations [for Bancroft] but the engine is half price power.

R-And you see they did a silly trick again there, they bought all second hand stuff to electrify it with. There were all sorts of motors going on to looms, there were Heath Robinson mechanics fitting them up wi’ Meccano angle, you know, that stuff with all the bloody slots and holes in it.

Aye, Dexion.

R-Motors were dancing up and down on t’floor and on the sides of looms and belts were slack and tight, but it were nowt to do with me. I never said owt about it. But I had a fitter came, They had a fitter come one Monday, he were about my age and he came in the engine house and he were, oh he were a gradely one, he came from Blackburn way somewhere and he palled on with me and after he’d been there a couple of days he came round again talking to me and he says Hoh, Newton, have you see them motors they’re putting on them looms in there? I says Aye. He says it’s making me poorly, I’m not going to stop, I’ve never see owt like it, if they can’t get a bolt in they’ll put a bloody nail in and bend it over. I’m not stopping, I’ll do while th’holidays and then I’m off. He says I can’t do with this sort of mechanicking, it won’t do for me. And that’s how they were going on, and it finished ‘em Stanley.

We’ll just pursue this a bit further Newton because I know that people in a hundred years reading this might need a bit of clarification. When they listen to this tape, I just want to make it clear now that we’re both of the same mind, when they did away with steam engines they did away with a lot of hard work. There’s no sentiment attached to the job, it’s a question of what’s economical and what’s not. You and I both know that the people who made the decisions about whether to keep and engine or to electrify weren’t engineers.
I think the trouble is that the people who have been advising the industry what to do have been people who had an axe to grind. In other words, people like the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency people who were, in effect, salesmen for the Central Electricity Generating Board. At the end of the war there was a very big expansion programme planned for the National Grid and it’s obvious that if you’re running a business the nearer you can get to a monopoly situation and the bigger the market the easier it’s going to be to run that business. So they went round and persuaded everyone that it was more efficient to drive machines by electricity than have your own prime mover.

R-Well, they went round and literally offered ‘em electricity for nothing didn’t they. I know that’s correct because they wouldn’t be running for six months and the bill would go up whoof! And the problem was that the cotton industry spent its capital electrifying. They couldn’t afford to carry on improving the actual machinery; they had no more money to spend.

I find it very difficult to persuade management, or educate them into where the money is actually going. You take a place like Bancroft where they’re firing coal and running looms with a steam engine. The boilers also provide process steam for the tapes and heating in winter.

R-Well, that coal provided the energy to run the whole factory.

Now the thing about coal consumption up there, it’s gone down now of course because we’ve less looms on. [Bancroft was weaving out and would be closed before the end of 1978. SG] But when we had 350 looms on coal consumption was about 12 to 15 tons a week in summer and 30 in winter, the difference being the heating and lighting load. Now they’d come down to you [The management.] well, your coal goes up to 30 tons in winter so it must be taking 15 tons to heat the mill. Then they’d make another calculation and ask how much coal it took to run the tapes and you’d say about 8 or 9 tons.

R-Aye, we used to reckon seven.

Yes well, it depends on what you’re taping and how they are being run.

R-Well it does and I know what Bancroft’s are like.

So I mean, that comes out to a figure of about seven tons for the engine for a week. Now they’ll split it up like that. They’ll say seven tons for the engine, eight ton for the tapes and fifteen tons for the heating and lighting, so if they do away with the engine they’re going to save seven tons of coal a week. [In 1978 coal cost £35 a ton delivered for washed singles from Brodsworth Colliery in Yorkshire. SG] Which sounds logical doesn’t it. But you say to them, no, that’s not right. They say of course it’s right, 15 tons for heating, seven ton for the engine. And those are the sort of mathematics they used when they did the job.

R-They must have been.

You know as well as I do that there’s one case in particular I’ll just, before I go on a bit, I’ll let you tell me about Broughton Road Shed at Skipton. Tell us the story about that.

R-Broughton Road Shed at Skipton, typical case that, a real case were that wit’ Lancashire boiler were Broughton Road shed. Do you want to hear all the story.

Yes, Broughton Road Shed.

R-Broughton Road Shed. I looked after Broughton Road Shed engine for donkey’s years, I even quartered it when they put a big alternator on and it only just had enough power to drive it. It were all worked out wit’ electricians, again, like the old engine fitter from Barlick [Newton], he were never brought in you know. They got this big alternator and put it on th’engine and they found it wouldn’t run it, so they sent for th’engine fitter then. Croft’s had put this generator in by the way. It ran through a gearbox off t’second motion shaft which were a fool of a job for a start off, it screamed like hell. Anyway, the engine started chucking ropes off the second motion pulley, well, it weren’t quartered that engine, and by quartered, I mean the cranks weren’t set at 90 degrees to each other they were at 120 degrees or sommat funny like that, it were a funny do. One crank would be at quarter to and the other at about ten past. I told them there was only one way I could cure this and that were to quarter the engine. Well, the old boss there wouldn’t wear it.

[What Newton is describing by quartering is a way of ensuring that the power impulses from the double acting engine were distributed equally, every 90 degrees per revolution of the flywheel [for a two cylinder engine]. The thing that was throwing the ropes off was the fact that the engine’s power output was unbalanced, this started the ropes swaying and on full load this could cause the ropes to jump off. SG]

R-Now me father were a bit that way with this type of engine, we’d another at Accrington and he said they run marvellous when they’re like that Newton. Anyway, they called me in one day, it had chucked two ropes off, smashed the governor pillar, Broken an eccentric, smashed the governor pulley that drives the governor and wrapped itself round the shaft. Big shifts and little shifts I got it straightened up, I bushed the governor stand, I put a sleeve up it to piece it together. Straightened the shaft, put the governors back on, made a new eccentric strap, put that on but I couldn’t find a governor pulley so I finished up going to Burnley and getting a wooden one. There used to be a firm at Burnley that made wood pulleys. I put a wooden pulley on and a flat one on the governor and put a flat belt on. I worked the speeds out, fitted them and we got going. Now I says to them, Don’t put them lights on will you please, don’t bother about the alternator until we’ve done something about this engine. And of course it runs for a week or two and there were nowt no more done about it.
Next news, t’telephone’s ringing again, so me father comes down, go to Broughton Road, its stopped again, they’ve got a rope off. I goes down, it had smashed the eccentric itself this time, rove the rod out of the back, out of the link you know, the link lever and doubled it up like a piece of quarter inch wire. Smashed me wood pulley, made a reight mess of it. So I set to and we’d patterns by then for it, I’d got a new pulley cast for the governor and that were all ready for putting on, we made a new eccentric strap again and we were stopped about five days. It hadn’t broke the governor stand this time so we got it all back together again. I says, You’ll not put the lights on any more will you while we do sommat about it, it’ll have to be quartered this engine. I’d set the valves and I couldn’t get any more power out of it. Th’indicator diagrams were lapping with the lights on and I couldn’t get any more power out of it. It were Whoof, Whoof, Whoof every stroke.
So to satisfy their curiosity, me and me mate went down one Saturday morning and we took a big lump of chalk with us and I took the lids off the valves and barred it round. I marked a deadline on the flywheel and I wound it round to each cut-off and each steam and marked them on the wheel. Believe it or believe it not, when I’d finished I shaded in on the side of the flywheel where it weren’t pushing and lined it in where there were power and there were three places ten feet long on that wheel where there were bugger all pushing it round only the momentum of the wheel.
I got the old boss out of the office and explained it to him and it were all written on the wheel for him, power, no power, power, no power. Now I said, that’s happening every revolution and where you see no power, that’s where your ropes go Whoof like that when it loads on again and then they go bang when the steam comes on. I says I’ll have to quarter it and he says Get it done! Me father came down and all and he were surprised, he said he’d never thought of doing that with one. I made it like a big diagram you know all round the flywheel where it were working and where it weren’t from a datum line on the hand rail.

R-He says Quarter it Newton. I says I’ll do it at weekend and we went down next weekend and I had the crank off in an hour, low-pressure crank. We put this cistern round the shaft, behind the crank with water flowing in the bottom from a hosepipe and out at the top through another one and let it run out of the window, hot water! Then we put the big acetylene burners, two of them with big rose burners playing on the crank.

Now we’ll just have to explain here, you put that cistern on to keep the shaft cool while you’re warming the crank.

R-We warmed the crank. We knocked the key out first, took the fly shaft cap off
[bearing cap so they could get to the key to knock it out] and knocked the key out, it had a key about two and a half inches wide. We knocked that out and I don’t think we’d be above an hour and all at once, it were head up and we’d taken the connecting rod off. It were stood straight up and we had t’blocks round t’crank pin and I saw it lean over. I says to Harry Crabtree, Pull it off. We’d put some clips round it you know so as two blokes could get hold of it and they just drew it off and we lowered it into the crank race.

That’s something a lot of people won’t realise, that those cranks were only shrunk on.

R-There were some that had a key in, but they were shrunk on, they had about twelve thou of shrink on it, the key were doing no good. We worked all night and chipped another keyway at 90 degrees to the other, that meant one crank straight out and the other straight up. We chipped another keyway and put it [the crank] back on on Sunday morning, No problem, we get it red hot and just shoved it on, fit a new key and we were running some time, nine or ten o’clock at night, Sunday night. We put the lights on and it ran just as I expected it to run, they’d never seen it running like that before even with just the lights on. Ropes just went whoosh, I’m waving my arms about now and that’s no good for the tape but what I mean is the ropes came off the flywheel, sank quietly down and then went up on the second motion pulley, slack side at the top. Monday morning comes and I’m there when they start at seven and they set on and it never muffed no more. Because I’d set all the valves months previous and there were nothing wrong with the engine and it played with it after that.

Aye, it’d be laiking with it.

R-I’m not saying it actually played with all of the load, the figures were up together but there were never any fear of the ropes jumping off and ever after that they used their alternator regular. Anyway, eventually one thing comes to another and they had a fire, a reight fire, burnt t’top room reight off, tapes and everything. So when they got going again they decided they’d do away with the engine, electrified all the looms and put in a lot of new ones with motors already on them. I knew all about this, what had gone on, I had nothing to do with it. Anyway, three quarters of the way through winter I get a telephone call to go to Broughton Road Shed, they wanted to see me, the old boss wanted to see me who’d retired long ago. So naturally I went down and I didn’t go to the boiler house, I went straight to the office, I had an appointment for half past two in the afternoon. Eh Newton he says, I haven’t seen thee for a long while, come on in lad and sit down.
Now then he says, I want this lot here that’s running this place, and that’s just the way he talked, I want this lot here that’s running this place to tell you what they want, they’re burning rather a lot of coal in that Lancashire boiler for heating. This young chap’ll start!
They’ve done away with the engine now, they’re just using the boiler for running the tapes and heating.
T’young chap says, We’re burning rather a lot of coal. I says Are you, have you kept the three-ram pump we put in donkeys years since for pumping all your {condensate] returns back to the boiler? Oh, he says, Where was that? So I thought we’re up against sommat here, he didn’t even know they had one. Anyhow he says, We’re burning as much coal as we were when the engine is running just to heat the mill and run two tapes in winter. Th’old feller says, Newton, he’s telling bloody lies. The deliveries are exactly what they were when the engine was running but ask him where that 250 tons has gone of the stack! Eh well, the young chap looked a bit sheepish and he says Yes, that’s gone and all I’m afraid. I says come on, let’s go and have a look.
So we went round to the boiler house. I’ve never put me face into such a place in all me life. It used to be kept reight nice and tidy and moderately clean you know, boiler gauges cleaned and all that. Everything were rusted up, water gauge glasses were sizzling out o’t bottom, one shut off and the other one open. No covering on the boiler front, a chap with hands as big as shovels throwing coal in like he were on the Titanic going to Africa or somewhere. Stokers all stopped, oh my God, what a mess! Anyway I stood a bit and watched him, I didn’t go in, I stood at t’door outside into t’yard, I watched him and didn’t say owt. I were careful about that, didn’t say owt, and his water’s coming nicely down t’glass and I thought well, he’ll have to pump it up wi’ sommat in a bit. I didn’t know what sort o’ pump he were using because I hadn’t seen our three ram that we put in. The engine house had been made into a winding room and our ram pump had been in the engine house bottom, there were no tank for condensate, I couldn’t see owt. I thought it might still be in th’old cellar you know. Anyway he comes out o’t boiler house and he goes round the corner and they had a blooming big fire pump about ten inch bore at t’pump end, about 2,000 gallons a minute. Well, he starts that up and it were chump-pong, chump-pong, and t’feed pipes were screaming across the boiler house and t’water went up the gauge glass, wheeee, just like that and the steam came down from 100psi to 30 while I were stood there watching it! Aye well, I says, Let’s go back to the office and have a talk!
I never said owt to t’bloke that were on’t boilers, Like a farmer or sommat. Anyhow it didn’t matter didn’t that because it were nowt to do with the chap. So we went back to th’office. I said Well, for a start off you’ve got no return system; you’ve scrapped it all haven’t you? I says, Scrap chaps have taken it and all your steam from th’heating’s going down the grates. Cause it were puffing up all over the place in the boiler house. You really should have let me know and I’d have come down and telled you what the scrap could take and what he had to leave. First of all we want a tank and we want a pump and we want some hand brushes and a long brush and some shovels and get yon boiler house cleaned up and get t’muck swept off t’top o’t boiler. We want a half horse electric motor to run the stokers and I think, between you and me, we need a fresh fireman! Well, th’old feller says I’m not even going to ask you how much it’ll cost, just get it done. This were th’old feller, Get it done! That were unusual at Broughton Road, they were allus wanting to know an idea of what it were going to cost, which is t’reight way. Anyhow I got some lads down and we had a pump in stock and we soon made a tank and we were there for weeks before they got it all piped up. We put t’tank and t’pump in’t boiler house up one side, I had to get t’coal out o’t way and we put t’tank and t’pump in and got that working and we put a half horse motor on the stokers. Big shifts and little shifts I think the fireman must have realised and he chucked up so I were working down there with ‘em part time. There were me and Sidney and Jimmy and it were winter and we kept chucking an odd shovel full or two on and they didn’t bother about a fireman and I used to bank it up at night for ‘em. We went through most o’t winter like that. I got the motor on the stokers and got them working and I’ll tell you how far we went with that, I got a brand new damper regulator from Accrington and I put that on. Oh, and we put the connies [economisers, essential for economy] back on line, they’d all been uncoupled. Well, we used to put steam in the mill at seven o’clock in the morning, bank the boiler up and you didn’t need any more in while dinner time wi’ all the returns coming back to the boiler. Tape returns an all because all the pipes were there; they’d just uncoupled them and shoved ‘em down any grates they could find. There were more steam coming out than Skipton Station and it were all coming out of Broughton Road. That system stayed in for donkey’s years and then eventually, it were only a year or two since, they put a package boiler in. That’s it, how long ago’s that, it must have been about ten or fifteen years since must that job [1963/68] and it were never touched no more until they put the package boiler in.

Can you remember ever knowing a mill that had a man come in that knew something about this job, you know, when they decided to do a job like this, like condensate return systems and such as that. Most people’d, I know I’ve heard you talk about Johnny in the old days. They used to send for Mr Pickles to ask him how much it were going to cost and you can tell me again whether I’m right or not but those fellers in the board room used to turn their noses up in them days.

R-Oh yes, we were rubbish. Just an instance of what used to happen. We’ve just been talking about Pendle Street. Well, the same people that owned Pendle Street owned Seedhill, JJ Duckworths. One day me father comes and says, Come on with me Newton, we’re going to see all t’directors for Pendle Street. Take me on and tha’s coming in wi’me, you’ll never learn any younger. So off I went into th’office wi’ him, into t’boardroom, all in me muck.

How old were you?

R-How old would I be then? Oh, it’d be just after the war, twenty eight I’d be Stanley. Come on wi’ me, you’ll never learn any younger and into t’boardroom, a long room, big walnut table and all round, all sat down, posh folk you know. Sit down, we allus had to sit down away from’t table you know. We’ve been hearing about, there’s sommat going on about pumping all th’hot water back that goes round after heating into t’boilers or sommat. It saves money or sommat they say. Oh aye, me father says, I’ve done Wellhouse at Barlick, I’ve done Albert Mills and I’ve done Cloverhill. Aye, we’ve heard about it they said, Well, what about doing our two? Aye me father says, Well you’ll save sommat. How much will we save? Well he says, I can’t guarantee what you’ll save but you’ll definitely save. Well, he’d reckoned up the price for doing both mills roughly and what it would cost. Oh and when he told them they had faces as long as bloody fiddles! I could see, it weren’t so of the got his rag out and I could see , I could tell by his face what were happening.

How much was it in those days?

R-I think both mills ud be under £500, to do both mills. That were a new pump, new tanks and pipe fitting, for both shops it’d be under £500. And at t’finish he stood up and he put his hands on that table and he said I’ll tell you what we’ll do wi’ you lot, let me do both mills, never mind the price, do both mills and if you’ll give me what it saves in’t first bloody winter I’ll put em in for nowt! Get em done John, get em done John, both of em. Aye, that were what you were up against wi’ them tight beggars, you’d really to prove it you know because there were that many gimmicks going on, as you know Stanley, at that time after t’war. Put this on your boiler and you’ll save 4%, put this on your connies and you’ll save 6%, put this in your steam range and you’ll save 10%. If you got one of them catalogues out and you read all’t stuff and you reckoned it up on the board you wouldn’t want no bloody coal you could send it back to t’pit!

Well, you know yourself Newton, up at Bancroft, up yonder when I went there there wasn’t a pump in there that were worth anything.

R-There hadn’t been.

Well there was actually one good pump but it were running all the time and we couldn’t get to do anything to it.

R-Couldn’t get it repaired.

That Pearn pump [Feed pump at Bancroft by Frank Pearn of Patricroft] it had got to the stage where I used to start, when I were firing that boiler, I used to start in the morning wi’t water half an inch from t’top o’t glass and with running the Weir pump flat out, no water going round the connies, just pumping water straight into the boiler to keep it at a reasonable level, I could finish up at night wi’t water two inch from the bottom of the glass. I could just hold me water so as it were safe and then I used to have to leave the Weir pump on and come back at six o’clock at night to turn it off.

R-To stop it.

When it had got t’water up in’t boiler. If you remember, the first thing I did when I took over from George (Bleasdale), I was down in your shop one day and I saw that pump, can you remember?

R-Aye, we were rather strangers then weren’t we Stanley.

Big three ram pump, big three ram pump and I looked at it and I said to you…

R- Stood up in the corner like a soldier weren’t it.

That’s it, and I said to you Bloody Hell, I said, that’s just what I want, who’s is it? And that pump had come out of Siberia [Finsley Gate Mill actually but it always got Siberia because it was so cold in winter. SG] at Harle Syke.

R-Siberia, Harle Syke, yes.

And that were a pump you’d made, sold to them, put it in there and it’d run all them years and then you bought it back and big does and little does when there were nothing else going on you’d done that pump up….

R-Aye, we’d done it up and made it into a new un again.

And it were half sold to a bloke at Padiham but he never got on with

R-Aye, he never actually ordered it.

And I told you didn’t I. My need was greater than his and how much is it. And you said it was £220.

R-Yes, which was reasonable.

By gum, aye.

And I went to the management and told ‘em, I said Look, you’re wasting money here, we’re pumping cold water into that boiler. I said when you go home at night, fill your electric kettle with cold water and boil it and time how long it takes. Take it off, tip the water out and fill it from the hot tap and do it again and see how long it takes. You’ll find you’ve just saved half your electricity. Well, it’s the same with the boiler, what we’ve got to do is put hot water back into that boiler instead of letting it go to waste. And they wouldn’t spend the money. I think you were with me that day on the boiler top when I told him. [Peter Birtles, the managing director. SG]

R-Yes, we were both up there.

I said I’ll buy the bloody pump and I’ll put it in and I’ll run it for nowt for you for five years and at the end of the five years I’ll give you the pump and all I want is half of what it’s saved.

R-What it saved em, aye, we were both there.

Coal for cloth I says, reckon up yards of cloth and coal burned and coal for cloth give me half of what it saves over those five years and I’ll bloody retire! And he bought the pump right away.

R-Straight away, no messing, no messing.

He bought the pump and on average it has saved them three ton of coal a week since it’s been put in. I mean, they just couldn’t grasp it. I took that director out into the yard one day and I said….

R-Eh, the chimney!

I said to him, Come outside for a minute…..

R-Look how much…..

I said I want to show you sommat. I said look up at the top of that chimney, what can you see? He says I can’t see anything, there’s no smoke, it’s doing well, it isn’t making any smoke. [We were having trouble at the time with the ‘Nuisance Man’, over excessive smoke due to light load. SG] I said You can’t see anything can you, there’s no smoke, you can’t see a thing. Well, you know that’s the difference between you and me, I’m psychic, I’m like one of these clairvoyants, I can see stuff that nobody else can see. Do you know what I can see when I look up there? He says No. I says Well, about every ten minutes there’s a pound note comes out of the top of that stack and floats off down Barlick.


And drops down somewhere in’t town. Every ten minutes during the day there’s another pound note goes floating off down the town. He said You’re silly, there’s nothing coming out. I said, That’s just it, you can’t see em but I can see pound notes, there’s heat coming out of that chimney and it comes out of the coal. Do you realise that every 100 tons of coal you buy you’re wasting at least ninety tons of it? Do you realise that, do you realise that your overall thermal efficiency is about ten percent? The most perfect heat engine ever made for general use is the Gardner Diesel and it does about 50% thermal efficiency. Rolls Royce have been trying for ten years to beat that and they’ve just got down to 49%. But we’re only 10% and out of every £100 you spend on coal….

R-There’s ninety going out at t’top of there.

I said there’s ninety pounds going out of the bloody chimney and out of doors in the mill and …

R-Out of broken windows.

Now I said, don’t you think it’s about time we…?. And do you know they never did a bloody thing about it and I’ll tell you what it is, when it gets to the stage where a firm can’t afford to spend money on insulation, I not only think they ought to be put out of business but they ought to be taken to court and fined severely.

R-Well, it’s what they’re on about now isn’t it, energy conservation.

Well I mean, it’s there. I mean, the sort of thing we’ve been talking about tonight, they won’t be able to believe it in a hundred years.

R-No they won’t will they.

Because in a hundred years, and I’ll tell you sommat now, and you’ll not read this anywhere, in less than a hundred years, in fifty years…

R-They’ll be struggling.

It’ll be illegal to burn fossil fuel because it’ll all have to go for chemical feedstock.

R-It will, it’ll be illegal.

Because it’s the biggest bloody waste there is, if you burn it 100% efficient it’s still waste because look at all those chemicals you’re wasting.

R-Wasting out of it.

And the stage’ll come in about fifty years when they’ll have to make a decision. They’ll have to either have plastic or energy from fossil fuel because 95% of plastic is made from fossil fuel.

R-Fossil fuel.

Either oil or coal.


Mostly oil, and they’re going to get to the stage where they’ve got to make a decision whether they do without energy from fossil fuel or do without the plastic. This world can live without energy from fossil fuel, we’ve got the technology, but it can’t live without plastic, all the tinsmiths are dead!

R-They’ve all gone.

You reckon up all the plastic stuff there is nowadays that used to be tinsmith’s work

R-Aye, Squeezy bottles that used to be tinsmith’s work.

And bottles, glass bottles, all gone. But it’s all finished and they’re going to have to make that decision and when they come to it they’ll look at that photograph of mine of two hundred ton of coal stacked at the back of the mill and they’re going to say Christ Almighty, what were they doing?

R-Aye, what were they doing.

And they won’t be able to realise.


But I mean to say, it’s nice to be able to talk to {about] this thing and be able to let them know that there were some buggers about…

R-That took…

That knew what were going on. But the thing is that they weren’t the blokes, you and me aren’t the fellers that can make the decisions.

R-No, we can’t make the decisions and it’s always been like this. It’s always been like this, them that are up at t’top know nowt about it.

Well, that’s what we’ve been talking about tonight.

R-It’s going on there now is this isn’t it.

Yes, but what we’ve been talking about is people running mills, business men, men that could make money running mills and when it came down to brass tacks it’s always been the same, the three biggest expenses have been labour, yarn and fuel, Labour and yarn, well, I mean, there were nobody hotter on labour than the old mill owners.

R-There weren’t that!

And you know there were nobody hotter on yarn because you know yourself there’s been more bloody toilets in mills been bunged up with throwing waste down that they daren’t take into’t warehouse.

R-Aye, that they daren’t take into t’warehouse in the tin.

But fuel….

R-Bother about that.

Nobody bothered about it, you could buy bloody coal for ten bob a ton in 1900 and bloody smoke all over the town

R- Well, I’ve heard tales from old chaps, you know like Peter Bilsborough the old engineer who used to come down to the shop when I were a lad. Old Peter Bilsborough who were head engineer for Billycock here at Wellhouse. He used to tell the tale about when they carted their own coal from Ingleton, they had a pit of their own at Ingleton. Well, they used to cart coal to Wellhouse and Butts and he [Billycock.] came into the boiler house one afternoon, afore these boilers were put in, when the nine old single flued ones were in, there were nine of em at one time and the fireman were sat down. He says, Eh man, I pay you for shovelling coal, get on with it with that shovel. He says I pay you to shovel, not sit down. And t’chap had to get up and start shovelling coal in when it didn’t need it, now that’s what we’re on about!

One little tale for you Newton while we finish this tape off. Managing director comes into the engine house at Bancroft one day and found me asleep in my chair. He says, Stanley, I don’t pay you for sleeping and what’s more, the firebeater’s asleep as well! I says to him, Peter, what does it say on that gauge down there? Well he couldn’t read it, he couldn’t even read the bloody steam gauge. I said it’s showing 120 pound, you see the shaft off the engine over there, it’s turning isn’t it nice and steady? He says Yes. Well, I said, what it amounts to is your firebeater’s asleep, your engineer’s asleep and your shafts turning. You’re not burning any bloody coal, there’s nowt wrong with th’engine and your weavers are weaving, you shouldn’t be worrying, you’re in a fine position. The time to worry is when you come down here, he’s shovelling coal like hell, there’s smoke belching out of the chimney and I’m running round like a blue-arsed fly in here because you’re in the shit then.

R-That’s it, that’s it, you’re in a right job…

Because when you go into the mill you’ll find all your weavers with their heads down and their arses up over the looms.

R-Yes, I once got a job you know, in South Africa, well, in West Africa and I’ll tell you this bit now. I went for an interview to a hotel in Colne and I were in the last three and t’other two had been in before me and it were a chap that I knew very well had got me to have a do at this job. It were a completely new mill at Accra. The mill were built and there were a house for me and everything. About £100 a week , tickets to come back if you couldn’t settle. Now you couldn’t have a fairer offer than that could you. I’m going back now sixteen years since (1962) I went to this interview, he sat me down in front of a table and there were two brothers, they were Arabs. They talked to me a while and they said Well then, when Mr Pickles get mill running what will Mr Pickles do? I said, Well, when Mr Pickles he get mill running Mr Pickles will sit on arse and read paper because when Mr Pickles not sat on arse reading paper bloody mill’s stopped and you not making any money! Gospel honest truth is that!

You didn’t get the job did you?
R-I did. Course I got the bloody job, they hadn’t a chance and then I rang up at Sunday night to tell em that I wasn’t going and they get t’other chap, younger chap than me from Great Harwood, and I knew he were no good. They took him out there and be what Derek Pickup said he were only there three week and they bowled him home, he couldn’t even get the boilers out of their bloody boxes, they were only two little package ones, five thousand pounds of steam an hour. It weren’t a steam driven shop, it were electric driven but they were going on dyeing and that sort of thing, all the machinery to look to, tapes and all that. Just been up my street that job, aye.

When Mr Pickles is sat on his arse they’re making money.

R-Mr Pickles as be sat on arse I says, reading paper cause when Mr pickles not sat on arse reading paper t'bloody mill’s stopped, you making no money. Well, I had the place in an uproar.

SCG/01 October 2000
8935 words


TAPE 78/AG/07



Stott Park Bobbinn Mill at Haverthwaite being refurbished by English Heritage.

Now, you’ve just been up to Stott Park and started on that engine for the Department of the Environment, started doing that engine up. Now you tell me when you went up and what happened when you went. [SG was consultant to the DOE who were in the process of refurbishing Stott Park Bobbin Mill at Lakeside on Windermere. SG had recommended Henry Brown Sons and Pickles to repair the mechanical elements in the mill and Newton had been up to inspect, report and quote for the engine.]


The steam engine at Stott Park. Originally a watermill, a turbine had replaced the wheel and the engine put in to augment the power as the mill grew.

R-Well we went up just to strip it to do a quotation for a rebuild or whatever was necessary. Not thinking it were as bad as what it is. You didn’t think there was anything wrong with it really, when you looked at from outside. Till we get the cylinder cover off. Cylinders half full of slutch, piston and cylinder are in one piece now, rusted absolutely solid. It’s been sweating inside or else it’s been full of water out of that header condenser that comes down from the Higher Dam. and it’s deposited slutch in the cylinder, it’s made a real job of it. It’s absolutely rusted solid, no chance of getting it out, not by fair means. Took the steam chest cover off, which is the valve cover of course, main slide valve, that’s all rusted up good and proper, the valve spindle’s rusted away and also the valve’s jiggered anyway because it’s all worn with being slack between the adjusting nuts. Governors, climbed up to them governors and took plastic sheeting off and gave em a good inspection. There’s about an eighth of an inch of slack in all the governor pins on the weight arms. Got hold of the governor shaft which has half an inch of play in the neck bush, that’s almost worn through. So that wants all new pins in and a new shaft. Boiler pump, didn’t bother with that, just tried to move it and said well, we can leave that where it is once ower, that’ll be the same as the cylinder, rusted solid.
Starting valve, the stop valve [in the pipe from] the boiler to the engine, took the top off that, spindle isn’t even connected to the valve, threads all stripped and the valve’s that badly worn it nearly drops through the seat. So that wants a new spindle, a new valve and a new seat. Take th’equilibrium, it has an equilibrium valve in, worked off the governor, to control the speed of the engine. Which is a double beat valve is the equilibrium valve. Two seats, two valves and two seats working together. Lifted the top of that, that’s unstuck from the spindle, t’tops all chewed away, pulled the equilibrium valve out which isn’t that big, only about a three inch diameter valve, pulled that out and out came the seats with the valve! They’re all worn and nearly ready for going through the seats so it wants two new seats in, new valves and a new spindle.
So we look at the main bearings on’t engine. They aren’t too bad and they’ll refit definitely. So what it means, it means lifting t’cylinder off whole with the piston rod and crosshead all intact and bringing all the lot back to t’shop. Putting the cylinder on to the borer and boring the piston out so as to get rid of all the risk of damaging the cylinder casting. Then make a new piston, a new piston rod and a new steam valve and spindle. I’m going to recommend we make a stainless steel piston rod and a stainless steel spindle because an engine that’s going to stand, run a bit and then stand, they’ll rust and if they’ve stainless steel piston rods and valve spindle they’ll never have any packing trouble with it no more.

No, they won’t, that’s right.

R-No, and I’ll put stainless steel spindle into the governor and a stainless steel spindle into the stop valve because you know very well, an engine that’s running and standing, and might be stood for weeks and then have to run an odd day or two, they’ll rust and they’ll start having packing trouble.

How about the valve itself?

R-Slide valve? We’ll make a new un. It’s very badly worn where the adjusting nuts have had a lot of play in and they’ve made some temporary washers out of square iron so I’m assuming that t’nuts have nearly worn through the valve so I’ll make a new one for that. And I’d make it a bit different, I wouldn’t make it adjustable with two nuts, I’d put a bobbin through the valve and then put the nuts on the outside of the bobbin. If you ever looked at your donkey engine up in the tape room {at Bancroft] that’s how that’s done. We never put nuts against the valve we made a bobbin to do into the valve in a slot and if it ever wants replacing all you have to do is make a fresh bobbin, you don’t want a new valve. And they’re better to adjust because you just nip that bobbin up on the piston rod [valve spindle rod[ and it leaves your valve free to locate itself on the valve face.

What will you do, will you cast a valve or fabricate one?

R-No, we’ll cast it, cast iron, you can’t beat cast iron. Cast iron running to cast iron. And like we were discussing this morning, I can’t remember seeing a cylinder oil lubricator on that engine, just a siphon lubricator on top of the cylinder so they must have run it like a donkey engine, without oil.

Now you come to mention it I didn’t see an oiler anywhere.

R-No I haven’t noticed one.

So the rest of it’s just been an oil can job?

R-An oil can job. I don’t think there’s been a lubricator on it anywhere, neither on t’crank pin or anywhere. Anyway I’ve written it all out today roughly what it wants and then I can reckon it all up and quote for the job. Well, they might as well have the quotation with the report and then it’s done with!

That’s it, aye.

R-Well, I propose doing that Stanley, lifting the cylinder off as it is, taking the slide bars off whole with the valve spindle and everything in it, getting it to the shop where we can handle it. And then putting the cylinder on the borer and boring the piston out of it, cut the piston rod off, take the front cover off and bore until it falls to pieces without touching the cylinder.

When you bring it down, let me know and then I can do some pictures.

R- Well, that’s that and I’ve recommended that we take all t’motion off it, connection rod, crosshead and all that and the governor gear and polish it all up, make it look like an engine. But t’flywheel shaft, I’ve more or less suggested it’d be better if it were just cleaned up and painted. ‘Cause it’s no use taking the flywheel out if it’s not necessary. Just clean it up and paint it whatever colour they want it painting. In my opinion, matt black. They might want it green or something like that you know, that’s up to them is that. We’ll paint all the engine and all of course while we have it to bits.

Yes, aye, and you’ll leave the bed in there?

Leave t’bed yonder and t’flywheel and shaft, aye. (sound of clock striking)

Don’t worry about that Newton, it’s a good clock is that.

R-It is a good clock, it’s mine is that.

It’s amazing though, to look at that engine it looked right tidy.

R-We thought there’d be very little to do at it. When you get up to it it’s in a real state!

It just goes to show what a clanger anyone could drop with not [knowing what they were looking at]

R- What? They could that! We could say we can do that up in a week, like we just straighten it up and get it running for you in less than a week. What? Wouldn’t you be in a mess if you just quoted like say £300 for doing th’engine up. And you went and pulled it down and it’s in that state. I mean, we didn’t even take t’lids off the condenser because we knew what it would be like inside with what we found in the cylinder.

Yes, that condenser.

R-There’s only one valve in that, a slide valve. That were just [to control] your water flow to keep your water temperature and your vacuum in reight order.

Yes, I don’t know a reight lot about them sort of condensers.

R-It’s only a jet condenser.

Aye, but instead of being worked wi’ a pump it’s worked by pressure.

R-It does it on’t head of water, that’s all. No need you see, it doesn’t pump it, it has it already there, that’s all it is. We’ll soon have that in bits and clean it out and put a new valve in if necessary.

Aye. Right, let’s move back into Barlick.

R-On to some reight engines!

Now, one thing that’s cropped up in a tape I’ve been doing with Ernie Roberts is Bouncer [Barnsey Shed] Ernie, or it might have been Jim Pollard, said that some of the looms running there were on electric after the engine had finished. Now, when did the engine finish at Barnsey?

R-I can’t just give you the year the engine finished at Barnsey. Well first of all the engine ran all the looms electrically and it wasn’t a success.

Now, when you say that, they put the engine on an alternator?

R-They put on two. We didn’t do the job, it were a firm at Nelson did it. It were the Nelson Engineering Company and we allus said they’d dropped a clanger, they took cotton ropes off the flywheel, I think they’d twenty eight on. They took the cotton ropes off the flywheel and put two alternators in and put Dawson ropes on to the flywheel and put six on one side. And to crown everything, they put six on the high pressure side which were, when all’s said and done, on a cross compound engine running balanced there’s a lot more pressure on the high pressure neck than there is on the low as you know very well being an engineer. And they started having trouble with the flywheel shaft running hot at high pressure side every day.

Well, there’s a lot more tension on them Speedona ropes than there is with cotton isn’t there? [Speedona was the trade name for Dawson drive belts which were essentially a large ‘V’ belt. SG]

R-Every day they were stop, stop, stop. Aye, and it all fizzled out. They started burning half as much coal again as they did when they were on rope gearing and what with one thing and another it were all wrong were t’job. It were all wrong, the engine ran too slow for one thing to run alternators as I mentioned when I was talking about the engine. Me father wanted to speed that engine after the First World War. It were the biggest wastrel there were in the town and it were a lovely job. It only ran at 64rpm and it were 1100 horse and it always burned a third more coal than any of the others for the same horse power. But t’others were running at 76 and 78 at the same stroke and me father begged of ‘em to put a new second motion pulley on and speed it up.

But when you really think about it, there was no reason why that engine shouldn’t have been all right. It were a good engine. They went to the expense of putting the alternators in………

R-And they never speeded it up.

If it’d been done properly it would have been alright.

R-It wouldn’t have been a bit of trouble, it would have been no trouble at all.

Yes, now why do you think it is, we assume that they had engineers on the job telling ‘em what they wanted now why do you think it is that, I’m sure you would have been able to see what they were doing wrong, why couldn’t they see what they were doing with it?

R-I don’t know. You see the trouble were, and it stands out a mile, these people come along and they’re electricians, not engineers and they just take one look at that second motion pulley with all them ropes on and they know a firm called Dawson make ropes [‘V’ belts] that’ll [run in cotton rope grooves] and do twice or three times as much work for each rope and it’s Oh, we’ll take that lot off and replace them with Dawson ropes and use the spare grooves to drive down onto the alternators. Right, now we wouldn’t have done that. We’d have gone on there and said right, them 28 ropes have driven this mill since 1914, we’ll leave them where they are for a start. We’ll put a pulley at that side [of the second motion pulley] to run that alternator and one at this side to run the other alternator. And we’ll just leave them cotton ropes where they are now then this engine’ll be working when it’s making electric just the same as it was when it’s run 2000 looms for fifty years. And it wouldn’t be any different than what it were. But they didn’t do that, they took all the cotton ropes off, they put about six Dawson’s ropes on the HP side on to the second motion pulley and they used the other twenty odd grooves to drive the two alternators. That engine were shoving 1100 horse through six ropes down to one bearing and they started having trouble.

Yes, quite, and as I say, those Dawson ropes have a lot more tension on them than a cotton rope haven’t they?

R-They’d have to be fiddle string tight nearly. Whereas cotton ropes [just hung on the wheel and formed lovely curves] just went like that. I’m showing with me hands now and it doesn’t show on a tape recorder, a beautiful radius to them.

Aye, that’s it, just drooped into a catenary curve.

R-Just a beautiful curve like yours are. And it were never a success. Now why the coal bill went up more than ever I don’t know because I wasn’t running the place. In my opinion it shouldn’t have done. Because from what I can gather there weren’t as many looms running either. When they were all spaced out after they went electric, so I can’t see why the coal bill went up.

It makes you wonder why they wanted to go off the gearing on to electric drive for the looms.

R-I can’t understand it.

The only thing I can think of is that they got the idea …

R-They didn’t put any new looms in.

No, the only thing I can think is that they got the idea into their heads that they got a more positive drive to the looms.

R-Well they hadn’t, they hadn’t and they weren’t a bit better off, in fact they were a hell of a sight worse off. It all fizzled out and they went on to corporation [mains electricity] and the engine were scrapped. And they’d three tip-top boilers which are still in of course and 160 pound pressure. It could have been made a marvellous job that could, just like yours is.

Right, let’s move across the canal.

R-Let’s go to t’Moss.


Barnsey Shed on the left and Moss Shed [1903] on the right on the canal at Long Ing.

One of the nicest mills in the town.

R-Nicest set of engines anyone could want to go and look at, they weren’t big engines, just 900 horse power and a pair of tandems. Now with tandems I mean there were two complete engines, high pressure and low pressure and air pump on each side running onto a common flywheel shaft. Now that set up, to me you couldn’t beat it, ideal, perfect turn that engine, you could hear it purr. Big flywheel with about 24 ropes on, you walked into that engine house and it had a different noise to everyone else’s. It purred, it fairly trickled away at about 76rpm, four feet six stroke but it wasn’t modern, it had never had modern low pressure cylinders put into it. It just had low pressure cylinders, Burnley Ironworks Engine, wi’ double swing valves in, and by double swing valves I mean they’re at the bottom, about 13 inches in diameter and they act as steam and exhaust. They were OK in that era but they weren’t as economical as a four valve cylinder where you could put Corliss valve gear on to alter your cut-off. But them engines at the Moss were never, very little trouble were them.


Moss engine.

When you say ‘double swing valve’ that’s a cylindrical valve like we’ve got [at Bancroft]

R-It’s a round slide valve in plain English.

Yes, that’s it, well that’s what we’ve got isn’t it? I mean we’ve got Corliss gear on ‘em.

R-Yes, aye, Corliss gear on, it’s a round slide valve.

Has that [Moss Shed LP valves] got Corliss gear on?

R-It had no Corliss gear on, they were just ordinary circular valves. They both act, both valves, they act as inlets and exhaust and they’d be about 13 inches in diameter. There were a lot of them engines made at that time, 1900s early on up to 1910.

Yes, what were the high pressures? Corliss?

R-They were Corliss yes.

What were the valve gear?

R-Burnley Ironworks standard valve gear, finest valve gear ever made.

Yes. Now what was Burnley Ironworks gear, was it…?

R-Well, it were a mixture.

Was it a disc?

R-No, it weren’t a disc, it were just worked wi’ rockers straight off your rocker shaft, from your eccentrics straight onto a split rocker shaft and then a rod straight to your valve gear. It were very simple really, if you could take a Hick Hargreaves valve gear and tipple it wrong side up you’ve got a Burnley Ironworks gear. But they didn’t need a wrist plate, they went straight on to the valve spindles did the rods.

That’s it. That’s what I was thinking of, a wrist plate.

R-And spectacles, what we call spectacles and catches, your rods went straight on to the bottom of spectacle arms to work your spindles, you didn’t need a wrist plate. A lovely gear. Me father allus said that the chap who designed that gear were a Hick Hargreaves man and all he did when he came to Burnley Ironworks , he made that drawing of a Hick Hargreaves gear and turned it wrong side up. Cause Hick Hargreaves gear worked from underneath you know. But they were sugar tongs, now he made sugar tongs into his spectacle rods. All he did was open it out and turn it upside down.

Aye, of course that could easily happen because these fellers moved round from firm to firm didn’t they?

R-Now that Corliss gear Stanley, with all th’engines I’ve ever run and all due respect to anyone else there were nobody could touch it. I used to run Crow Nest and that engine used to run at 78 revs a minute and it were four feet six inches stroke and I could run Crow Nest after tea with a hundred loom on, no lights, in summer, with the boiler pressure up at 160psi. stop valve wide open and never touched it.

Now you said Crow Nest.

R-Crow Nest, that’s just across the road from here, that were a thousand horse.

So you’re talking about Crow Nest now are you?

R-Now, I were just giving an illustration here with valve gear. Because t’Moss never came into that. [Newton is referring to running on light load with full boiler pressure. This is a considerable test of an engine’s valve settings and valve motion because of the extremely short cut-offs involved. Any fault in the action of the gear is magnified and leads to very uneven and, at times, dangerous running conditions. See SG talking about weaving Bancroft out when these conditions prevailed.] Moss were always fully loaded, all its life practically and it were only built for 900 horse. Walt’s father, that’s Stanley Fisher were there over thirty years and he used to indicate it at Monday morning and his figures crossed. His high pressure figures used to cross in the middle. He’d have about 1100 horse, 1150 horse on and all he could do at Monday morning were open the stop valve and hope.

So, that engine were running at 33% overload?

R-Overload and he used to open the stop valve at Monday morning and just hope the governor would come up [off the stand] before breakfast. Now that’s what they call working.

Aye, loaded.

R-That engine were working but I used to go into that engine house and go up the steps you know and it’ud purr. I mean he were a tip top man he knew what he were doing. It did, it purred did that engine.

Now when you say he was a tip-top man, who are you talking about, Stanley Fisher?

R-Stanley Fisher, that’s our Walter Fisher’s father. He worked for me father for fifteen years did Stanley he came from Sowerby Bridge way.

He worked for your father and then he went to Moss.

R-And then went to the Moss. He went there to run the engines for sick and stopped.

Aye, that’s a nice way, so he’d be running that engine till it stopped in 19..?

R-He ran the engine up till when it stopped. Donald Plummer went, he weren’t there long. Stanley retired, he were about seventy and Donald Plummer went and they came out, they were going to run the place out you know, finish. Donald chucked up and Stanley went back and ran the place right up to the end.

And ran it out yes, and what year were that?

R-Oh I’d be guessing now Stanley, It would be, I’m trying to think how long Silentnight have been there, in’t sixties sometime, it isn’t so long really.

No, I’m pushing you a bit there actually because I know when it were. Ernie Roberts went weaving there straight after the war just about 1946 and he were there 11 year and he were tackler on the last loom that wove out so that’d be about 1957.

R-1957 or 1958 then.

…or eight because he’d done a little bit at Barnsey first.

R-It doesn’t seem so long since.

Aye. And that engine then would go the way of all of them.

R-Scrapped aye scrapped.

Who were the main people for scrapping engines round here.

R-Rushworths. And Dixon’s at Burnley.


R-There were a local man round here, Sidney Widdup, he did a fair bit of scrapping. He scrapped part round here, Salterforth and one or two of the smaller ones.

Yes, and of course Moss were Widdups.

R-Moss belonged to Widdups aye, well, every tenant belonged the mill. [were partners]

Aye that’s it.

R-Holden’s and Widdups they more or less belonged the mill.

Yes, what boilers were there at t’Moss?

R-They were three nine footers. [Lancashire boilers] But pressure were only 120psi and they were the first mill to be lit electrically. It had two Royce DC dynamos in, beautiful things, in what we called the dynamo room. Oh, they were beautiful things them Royce generators. We used to go to them occasionally and skim the comms up. [Commutators] Used to do them in position, comms would be about two feet in diameter. Oh they were marvellous things were them, I used to go and look at them when I was a lad. And old Peter Heaton were there [First engineer and there until Stanley Fisher went from Brown and Pickles to run the engine and never came back!]. He used to charge all the batteries for all of Barlick, for wireless sets in them days did old Peter. [Early wireless sets had two batteries, a high tension dry battery and a low tension lead acid accumulator which had to be recharged occasionally]

Aye, DC, it would be easy would that.

R-He were making a nice sideline there were Peter. It would be full, he did more battery charging than engine driving! And the engine house floor there Stanley, it were planked, short planks about three feet long all over. Instead of floor plates there were planks and when you walked on them they rattled and it were spotless. But and summat like that always sticks in your mind, something different. It never had floor plates, chequer plates put down, they were all short planks all fit into frames and if you wanted to do anything you’d only planks to pull up, no problem. And they used to rattle when you walked on ‘em, nicely dried in and plenty of oil on.

That’s it, any breakdowns there?

R-New crank pin at t’canal side, just after Donald Plummer took over, it came loose and it started to come out, started bashing the oil tray so I put that new crank pin in and I think me father put one in on the other side years and years before that, it hadn’t been running long you know. Flywheel came loose happen about thirty years since and Walter keyed, re-keyed it on. No, it never stopped it, but t’crank pin did, it were stopped three days wi’t crank pin. I bored it out and put a new pin in. Well that’s about it then, it never had any cylinders or owt bored hadn’t that engine. Not as it didn’t want it, don’t get me wrong. It wanted doing I know it did but of course it finished the time out. [When the cylinders got worn on an engine there was enough metal in the walls to bore them out true again and fit a larger piston]

Aye, well, from 1903 to 1958

R-Aye it did want doing. Well you see, what happened it was always fairly well loaded up was that engine. Now when they went off 110 volts and were going to go onto 240 volts on’t corporation, Stanley wouldn’t have an alternator in, he said the engine would never do it. And it wouldn’t I don’t think, I think he were reight there, and of course, the load went down a bit and it never got bored. No, Stanley put his foot down and says the engine’ll never do it there’s no use bothering. And they couldn’t speed that up, it were running fast enough. But they were only small cylinders you know, I think th’high pressures ud only be about 14 or 15 inches bore. They were very small and they were square, they were lagged square and they did look well when you went in. High pressures were at the back of the lows, first thing you saw were the high pressure heads you know, didn’t look so big.

I always think they look better, tandems, with the high pressures at the back.

R-Oh, lovely they were, square lagged were the cylinders aye. It were a grand engine, big stop valve hand wheel in the middle of the floor with six pilots on, big square table with all your drains and taps on and that were the only engine in the town I never ran on me own. It were never off long enough [the engineer] Walter went on in’t morning, his father were going to his work and he fell and broke his arm and Walt went and stopped wi’ him until dinner time and after that he managed. Course, he had an oiler and a fireman think on. He were all right as long as he could get someone to help him open the stop valve, he could manage.

So he ran it with a broken arm?

R-Aye, he ran it wi’ a broken arm.

Fair men!

R-Aye, he were a tough old bugger were Stan. He used to go to the pub at dinner time and again at night and went like that all his life. He allus lived at the end of the mill. Never lived away from his work, he used to go and set on and then go home for his breakfast.

Now when you say he lived at the end of the mill….

R-He lived in that row of houses that’s been demolished that were right up to the end of Moss Yard. It were a little short row and they demolished it for those showrooms.

That’s it, when Silentnight took over.

R-He lived in the bottom house. He were a nice feller were Stanley, very clever feller.
And of course, Widdups had a very good name in the town hadn’t they.

R-And Holdens as well, they were good men to work for, Holdens were toppers.

Aye, old Blackburn.

R-Old Blackburn and Young Blackburn. They had looms also at Calf Hall you know. They’d about 400 at Calf Hall as well as Moss. Grand fellers, never any of that all high and mighty, no boss attitude hadn’t Holdens, never. Like, some of the old manufacturers had you know. Holdens lived in a big house but they used to live in a street when I were a lad. We used to go down and see Blackburn Holden, the old feller, father Blackburn. He used to have a workshop in the mill yard and we used to go down there at night and you know, I laiked with the lad…..

He had a workshop?

R-Oh aye, he were always keen.

Old Blackburn eh? What lathe.

R-Aye, lathe, drilling machine, little shaper and all that carry on. I don’t know what he ever made, but he had all the tackle. Me father and me used to go down at night during summer. It were, Come on Newton, let’s have a walk to t’Moss, Blackburn will be in his workshop.

Aye, that’s strange, you don’t think…

R-Yes, then that son of his, Blackburn, he got very interested in t’motor racing job you know, motor bike racing, grass tracking and all that carry on, well he got to be top of the tree at that job did young Blackie. Then of course when his father retired he had to give that up and take over t’mill. Well, I can remember me and Blackie playing on a big wooden trolley down the mill yard, of a night, in summer. He were older than me of course, not a lot but he’s dead now, he went to live in Jersey after they sold the mill, didn’t he Olive? (Newton’s wife Olive was present. SG.)

Olive: Yes, he did.

R-He’s dead now, he died young.

Aye, and that’s his son Michael that lives at Gisburn now isn’t it. Well, Horton.

R-Yes, Michael lives at Gisburn. Well, they had a garage didn’t they, father bought them a garage.

Aye, Seventy Seven at Gisburn. [Next to Gisburn Auction.]

R-Grand fellers Stanley, they were.

Aye, and how many looms would there be in t’Moss at top then?



R-Oh there’d be 2,200 and then they got some more in the warehouse because I put the shafting up for them.

So that’s at least 1100horse.

R-Aye, it were just over 1100 horse at Monday morning. Figures used to cross.

Great days.

R-Great days.

They wouldn’t use that indication for the canal rate? [The charge the canal made for condenser water.]

R-Oh no, they’d do that at dinnertime, take them.

It makes you wonder if there were a mill anywhere in Lancashire that used to give ‘em the reight pictures.

R-By Gum, aye!

It makes you wonder, they must have known.

R-Well it were a bit of a twist weren’t it. They could have put ‘em a definite price on. It didn’t matter about th’horsepower, we weren’t using any of their water, we were only borrowing it for a minute or two.

Aye, that’s it, aye.

R-But look at all the mills that ran on t’canal. There were Barnsey, Long Ing, two engines in Long Ing, then we come across the other side of the town, follow t’cut down, there were Coates and Bankfield. All running off the canal. Then running of our beck at Bancroft, there’s Bancroft, There were t’Clough, Calf Hall, Butts, Crow Nest and Bankfield borrowed some of it ‘cause they had two dams that coupled up to the beck as well as the canal had Bankfield at one time. We made good use of a drop of water in Barlick.

Oh, we did that!

R-We did that.

Can’t grumble about that.

R-Can’t grumble about that. Anyhow, that’s done Moss, where we going now?

Oh well, you never know, we might come back to Moss eventually, let’s trip quietly….

R-Oh, and gearing at Moss were good. It were all Burnley Ironworks engines and gearing and it had a gearing alley. For a mill of that age it were unusual were a gearing alley in 1904. [1903 actually. SG] They were, by gum they were big wheels, they were about two and a half inches pitch were the teeth and I think they were about three feet in diameter. I once chipped three sets for them, they were getting a bit worn you know, they got a bit noisy so I went and chipped ‘em down for him but I never had any wheels broken all the time it ran.

So that were a geared engine?

R-No, it were a rope drive engine but they gearing alley, centre line shaft and then looms each side.

Yes, that’s it, I see what you mean.

R-And they were big wheels, and they never had a wheel broken at Moss.

I think that’s a marvellous thing, a gearing alley.


Gearing alley at Crow Nest.

R-Aye, it is. Crow Nest had one. It were one of the let downs at Barnsey were that, gearing were all on the inside wall like yours at Bancroft. They’d getten a bit wrong wi’ em and they were dish wheels were t’cross-shaft wheels and they had part wheels broken at Barnsey, I put a load on. They got the brackets wrong on the wall and they’d to make the cross-shaft wheels wi’ about 6” of dish in ‘em to get ‘em to line up with the shaft wheel.


Bancroft line shaft, like most others, was in the shed mounted on the wall.

Aye, to get to it. Well, that at Bancroft, it’s a fool of a thing. The only way you can grease or oil it is walk on the shaft, it’s either that or carry a ladder all the way up the shed.

R-Aye it is isn’t it. And then, in a gearing alley you know, what they used to do was put slings underneath and planked ‘em and you could walk from one end to t’other.

Aye, and while it were running.

R-But Pendle Street were a gearing alley you know at that age, 1887. It were a gearing alley. I used to be able to grease t’wheels, I’d do half at Monday dinner and t’other half at Tuesday dinner time. I could walk full length with me bucket of grease and a brush.

Makes it a lot easier.

R-And feel all me pedestal cap nuts to see if any of ‘em were loose. No problem you see, I could just walk down. You get a bit mucky like but you don’t bother with that.

Well, mine are all loose at Bancroft. [cap nuts] I think if you tightened ‘em up you’d have trouble.

R-Oh, you haven’t to tighten ‘em up, just make sure they are locked and can’t drop off.

That’s it, aye. Just stop them dropping off. The weight of the shaft’ll hold ‘em down.

R-Some waste on them threads that are sticking out, that’ll stop ‘em.

Is that reight?

R-Aye, that’s what most of th’old engine drivers did. And then of course a lot of the old engine drivers, in th’old days, such as Wellhouse and them, they found they could run without a top brass on so they took ‘em all off and sold ‘em to the scrap chap! There were only two top brasses on at Wellhouse from leaving the engine house to getting to the bottom when I went to inspect the shaft one day and that were the expansion coupling and the collar neck. [collar neck is the thrust bearing which located the shaft longitudinally. SG]

Is that reight?

R-I says to me father Where the hell’s all the top caps and brasses gone off that shaft at Wellhouse/ Oh, he says, Has ta been down that shaft? Aye, I says, They telled me I had to didn’t they, to see as all them bearings were all right. The Inspector told me as they were insuring ‘em against stopping. [Loss of production insurance. SG] Oh aye, he says, I’d forgotten about that. Well, you’d better go and ask some of them old engine drivers that’s all died off. I said, What’s happened to ‘em? He says, Are the caps missing as well? Well, I said, One or two of them have cast iron caps but no nuts and a bloody great fat pad running underneath but t’rest of ‘em just have a fat pad on top. Aye well, he says, They’ve selled ‘em to t’rag and bone chap haven’t they for a bit of ale brass. He says, How many are there left on? I says Two, there’s two on, well four. There’s one on the expansion coupling and one on the collar neck and then the same down in Widdups. There’s one or two expansion joints down there you know, it were such a long shaft, such a long mill. He says Aye, they’d more sense than to take ‘em off so tha’s to give ‘em a bit of credit for that. He reminded me of when I went to George Henry at Butts when I was a lad. He had a neck hot and when I went up I says I can’t do anything with that, and George Henry asked me what was up. I told him there was no top brass and he said there should be because he hadn’t sold that one! He went up the ladder to have a look and he says Oh no Newton, there isn’t is there, it’s gone hasn’t it, it’s underneath lifting the shaft up. It had picked up and gone round had the brass and jacked the bloody shaft up. There were two brasses at the bottom! I couldn’t see it for muck. True is that. Aye, me father reminded me of it. He said Remember going to Butts when them wheels were making a noise? I were only a lad.

Ah well, we haven’t done Butts yet.

R-No? We have, we’ve done it once.

Oh yes, so we have.

R-We’re talking about gearing now. He were a boy were George Henry!

Talking about Butts, I think there’s something at Butts we never mentioned, did I once here you say that you extended the bonnets on that engine at one time?

R-Did what?

Extended the bonnets on it, for the shaft on the valves.


Newton watching steam puffing out of the worn valve bonnet on the Queen Street engine after a major piston repair.

R-Not at Butts.

So where were it?

R-We put new bonnets on at Clough with extension arms on and we did the same at Crow Nest. Me father put new bonnets on at Moss on the low pressures with extension arms on you know to carry them big valves you know. They made ‘em like a half moon, you know, oval with a rib on top and a rib at bottom with them big valves. ‘cause the spindles were about two and a half inch in diameter, you know, to swing them big valves about.

Aye, I think Moss…..

R-We put extension bonnets on at Crow Nest in my time, on the steam valves and we also did Westfield when that were running. We put extension bonnets on, they were allus worn out you know were them little short bonnets, the end bushes ‘cause Burnley Ironworks made ‘em very short. Yours at Bancroft are longer than Burnley Ironworks used to make them, they were very short and it just used to wear the head bushes away. And you know in a week or two they were all slack.

Pop up the road a bit and go to Coates, little mill.


Coates Shed. The engine house was to the right of the mill.

R-Oh, Coates. That were a bonny little mill in the bit of time I knew it you know.

Yes, but your dad put a new engine in there didn’t he?

R-Oh aye, but I never knew the old one. I were only a little lad when me dad put the new engine in there. It were a little Hick Hargreaves, he bought it at Bolton at a mill that were stopped.

What were the old one?

R-A beam engine.


R-I don’t know. It ud probably be an old Yates, I don’t know. It would be an old Yates, a thousand to one, they were all old Yates were the beam engines round here you know.

When he put the new engine in did he re-boiler it or stick to the old boiler?

R-They stuck to the old boiler. I’ll begin at the beginning with this tale about me father putting this new engine in. They went to Bolton and they bought this engine, me father and the directors that belonged Coates Mill. I might think of a name in a bit because I’ve known who were the bosses there, nice people to work for I believe. They went and bought this engine and it were a gear drive, it would be about 450 horse power and it were comparatively new. [Date from Universal metallic Packings order book for new packings for horizontal engine at Coates supplied to Hy Brown and Sons is 14/08/1919. This would be the hick Hargreaves going in. SG]
So Leonard Parkinson and Jimmy Moseley went to Bolton and they pulled this engine out of this mill and shipped it to Barlick on two canal boats and they sailed up with it. When they got here Blakeys were building a new engine house. When they got it here they borrowed a jib crane off someone at Earby, one of these here with a 6” square wooden jib and they fit that up on the canal bank and used it to unload these canal boats. First boat came up with the bits and pieces on, you know, connecting rods and all that sort of thing, oh fine style. Me father says we’ll soon have that lot up in the engine house and up on to the canal bank, what wouldn’t go up the stairs. And then they came to the low pressure cylinder which were a fair lump of stuff even though it were only a little engine. It ‘ud not be quite as big as Bancroft’s we’ll say but not much less. So they started to wind the LP cylinder up out of the canal boat and they heard the jib of the crane give a bit of a creak. They looked up and the bloody jib had split and the LP cylinder were going down in jerks towards the canal boat. Johnny says to Fisher and Len that it’s going to go through the bottom of the bloody boat but it didn’t. The jib didn’t break, it just split, it ‘ud be pitch pine would the jib. And when it all came out they’d been trying to lift a five ton cylinder with a one ton crane! So what they did, they came back to the shop and made some channel plates and bolted them on to the jib to strengthen it and lifted the rest out. They got it all out eventually, no trouble.


The canal bank where Johnny and his men erected their crane.

Then me father says to Stanley, We’re a bit blooming thick aren’t we Stanley, putting this engine in here as a gear drive, can’t we make it into a rope drive? Stanley Fisher said he didn’t think they could make a new flywheel for it and me father says Can’t we! So he tackled the bosses about it, he asked them whether they’d ever seen one of those engines running as a rope drive. They said they had and they were grand, didn’t make any noise. Me Father says we can make this into one if you want you know and they said it were all right with them, they weren’t without money so make it into a rope drive.
So what me father did, he made a pattern for a set of segments to go round the top of the teeth, it had been turned on top of the teeth. He put bolts in all the way round, two inch round turned bolts made out of Low Moor Iron, under the rim to hold them segments on. Our Mr Brown were a bit narked about this I think, he didn’t think it were going to be a success and him and me father weren’t reight friendly over it. He wanted to put it in as a gear drive and me father didn’t, he wanted to put it in as a rope drive. He asked how he was going to turn it. [They didn’t have a wheel pit or a lathe big enough at the shop. SG] Me father says I’ll show thee.
Anyhow. Old Stanley and Len got the beds in and the flywheel shaft and started to build the flywheel up in the engine house and they fitted these segments on with hammer and chisel, with chipping strips, fit ‘em on all the way round the teeth and bolted it all together and Stan says Now then Johnny, how are we going to turn it?

Now wait a minute, explain chipping strips.

R-Chipping strips are strips you cast into your casting, we’ll say and inch and a half wide, full length and you put ‘em say about every six inches. Then you fit your job on and you try your feelers [gauges] in and you chip ‘em and file ‘em till it all beds and fits.

Yes, now in this case them strips would run…..

R-On top of the teeth, on top of the gear.

Yes, they wouldn’t run across, they ran along the teeth on the radius.

R-They went that way to radius on the teeth and they chipped an filed them until they fit round the teeth. The ends were machined on the planer at the shop to right angles with the segments and they worked it all out for diameter and I believe it fit perfect. They just brought the last segment back twice to take a thou or two more off the end. They finished up with the segments bolted down solid on the rim. Now then, how are we going to turn it? The flywheel had a barring rack on it on the inside of the rim like yours [Bancroft]. So they had a little steam engine that we used to use to run the boring tackle. They made a pinion to fit on the shaft of that and they fastened the engine down inside the flywheel and got running. They brought a slide rest off one of the lathes at the shop, a longish one it were and it were a good slide rest, we only recently broke it up. He put that in front and fastened it down to girders under the floor of the engine house, a good solid job and they started turning. It took 'em six weeks to turn the flywheel in position but there weren’t a flywheel in this country that ran as true as that did, there weren’t one anywhere.

Aye, and that would take your dad back to Burnley Ironworks when he was working on the pit there wouldn’t it.

R-Well me father worked on the wheelpit [At Burnley Ironworks] and that’s how they drove ‘em so he says why can’t we drive it like that in the engine house and you can’t wack the bearings of the engine to run it in. They didn’t put top brasses under the bearing caps. He got some oak and they made some wood blocks and put them under the caps, nipped the caps down to act as a lathe spindle so as it kept tension on you know, to keep it from jattering and that and it were a beautiful job. In my time, when that wheel were boarded in you couldn’t tell that wheel had ever been touched and that engine worked for forty year and never had another thing done to it hadn’t that wheel or owt. I keyed it on happen twenty years since I keyed it on, that were the only thing, it came loose eventually. But you couldn’t tell where them segments were or that it were any different than anyone else’s because they had it boarded after. You couldn’t tell and it were perfectly true. As long as the engine had no slack in the bearings you couldn’t hear that wheel going it were that true. You could have put a thou’ clock on it. It were bound to be, it were turned on its own shaft in its own pit. It were spot on and they made a new second motion pulley of course. That engine did some work you know and then when the slump came the people that had the mill went out of business.

Now by slump, you mean 28/30?

R-Sometime between 1925/1930.


R-That engine stopped and I think it were stopped about twelve years. [ I think Newton is wrong here. Coates stopped c1930 and Dobson’s Dairies bought it in 1935/36.] And there were an old chap, he used to work for me father, used to look after the mill, like a watchman you know and he used to keep it clean even though there hadn’t been any fires or owt put into the boiler. Then one day me father came down to me in the shop, Come on Newton, to Coates, there’s a bloke called Dobson wants to see me there. I went up with me father to Coates and it were two brothers, it were Dobson’s from Dobson’s Dairies in Stockport. They’d bought the place and they wanted it running as soon as possible and it hadn’t run for about fifteen year. So me father just turned round to me and said there’s a job for thee!

They wanted the engine running?

R-They wanted it running so they could get all their stuff in and I got the blooming job of getting it going. Well, I revelled in it, an engine that had been stopped for fifteen years. Talk about Stott Park!
I took the cylinder covers off and there were nowt inside, it were just like it had only been stopped a day or two before. I just got some cylinder oil and rubbed it round with me brush and the biggest job were the boiler, getting that all tested and filled and getting some fires in it. We’d to learn the chimney to smook! (Laughter) It had forgotten how to smook and we had to larn it again. We lit the fire and we couldn’t get it to smoke, it were all smoking back into the boiler house and Charlie Plummer, Donald Plummer’s father were there, he’d got the engine driving job, well he were there an all and he couldn’t make it smoke. Me father came up and he said what the hell are you doing? I says, We’re trying to get the booming chimney to smoke! He says You can’t larn it from here, larn it from the bottom! He says Get into the bottom of the chimney and get some old wood and skip lids and stuff into it and get a fire lit in the thing. Shoved his hard hat on the back of his head and walked out in disgust. Made us look about that high. [I had the same problem at Ellenroad. Newton and I built a big fire in the back flue and it did the trick but set fire to the flue dust in the main flue and it burned slowly for six months. It reduced the level of dust from five feet deep to about 18 inches and kept the flue warm all winter!]

What year would that be?

R-32 or 33. So it going to be stopped, it ‘ud be 35 and that engine would be stopped in the early twenties. It had been stopped 15 year Stanley I know that.

Aye, I like that one, larning t’chimney to smook.

R-Aye, he says larn the bloody thing to smoke. Anyway we soon had some steam up when we learned t’chimney to smoke and we got running. Aye, I remember opening the stop valve, tiny little stop valve it were, on a reight slender pillar with a little pilot wheel on top you know and it were off, and after that it ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week, what a blooming job it were. [Many years later in 1985 when I was running the Ellenroad Project Newton and I played out one day and got steam up on the boiler. We had to teach the chimney to draw again in exactly the same way. We lit a large fire in the main flue.]


Newton at Ellenroad in 1985 teaching the chimney how to smoke.

Aye, that’s the dairy industry!

R-Well, we got in well with the dairy, we were having all the machinery, shafting and everything to look at you know, they were making that dried milk for the cattle job you know.

[This was drying skim milk and later whey as well for addition to cattle feed. The process was that a large stainless steel steam heated drum with a perfectly cylindrical surface rotated slowly with its bottom immersed in the fluid to be dried. The milk stuck to the drum and as it rotated the milk dried and was scraped off by knives which contacted the drum across its length. This process was later superseded by spray drying in a vacuum. SG]

R-Them big rollers… and these blokes were screwing the knives down with worm wheels and breaking shafts on them and stripping worm wheels, we were allus there working all hours of the day and night. Then they’d have to run the engine on Sunday as well, Charlie would go to bed for an hour or two (and Newton would run the engine) Saturday night and Sunday night, Oh it were a sickening job running the engine through. I allus got piled up wi’ the job you know. Newton, tha’ll have to go to t’dairy, he wants to go to bed for a bit. Hadn’t been in bed all week, black as the fireback, That were old Charlie, oh he were a case! Well, eventually they found out that one boiler weren’t enough and so they got another. They put it into another place, the next place you know and they got a reight big one, it ‘ud be nine foot six by thirty foot, thirty six foot?

What, a Lancy? [Lancashire boiler.]

R- it were a big un, aye.

I’ve never heard of one that big.

R-Oh well, it were a nine foot six by thirty then. It were a big ‘un. It got stuck on the top of Coates Bridge. When they were bringing it, they towed it over Coates Bridge and the trailer catched in the middle.

Aye, bellied.

R-Aye, you see with the hump on the bridge. Well, it were there for three days, all the traffic were stopped before they got it jacked up and got the boiler off the wagon.

When were that?

R-Just after the war finished. There were t’boiler, on top of the bridge, no wagon or nowt.

So that engine were running all through the war?

R-Oh heck aye, it were all on food weren’t it. What a job, what a job, Dobson’s Dairies. Second motion shaft dropped off one Friday tea time. No, on Thursday tea time. Get to t’dairy Newton, it’s stopped is t’place. I gets to t’dairy, you could still run the compressors but the second motion shaft had broken off in the big part, where they ran all the drying machines.

Did the compressors [for the refrigeration plant] run off a separate rope drive straight off….

R-Aye, separate drive shaft, it ran off t’second motion past t’side of second motion pulley did all the compressors with Dawson’s ropes on to a counter shaft.

Off the flywheel?

R-Off the side of the second motion pulley. We put two pulleys on like they should have done at Barnsey. It ran on to a big counter shaft all on ring oiler bearings like yours at Bancroft, never had no bother with that. And t’blooming second motion shaft had broken off in the wall, in’t wall box. Straight out you know, it were driven from th’engine to a short second motion shaft and then it were driven back wi’ eight ropes back into the bottom shed and it broke in the wall box. Thursday tea time, get to t’dairy, all t’milk’s having to go into the cut again! Middle of blooming summer. Straighten that shaft up he says. Well tha wants a length about ten foot long, saw it off at the first bearing, just like that, and get some couplings and a new shaft made, I’ll go to Rushworths and I’ll get thee a piece of stuff to make it on. Get Bob and Jimmy and get on to t’job. Get up to the dairy. We get it all stripped, sawed t’bloody shaft off, four and a half inch, saw it by hand. Didn’t take long you know with three of you. Soon walked through four and a half inch. Get big flange couplings cast, we had some castings in stock you know, get ‘em turned, get shafting to t’lathe, work all night, Bob turning couplings and Dennis and me on wi’t shaft, turnings piling up to the headstock, hadn’t time to fetch the bloody wheelbarrow! Running wi’ a bloody great gas engine in the back hole there, all the neighbours playing hell, exhaust pipe rattling on the window, it did, it did!


The new pulley for the compressor drive in the shop at Wellhouse.

SCG/04 November 2000
9636 words


TAPE 78/AG/08


Now then, last time we were on about Dobson’s dairy and we’d just got to the end of the tape and I know the next thing you were going to get on about was when you coupled up , when your dad went and measured up at Dobson’s and you coupled up the new boiler to the old boiler, now tell me all about that.

R-Aye right, I went up with me father and we measured all this for new six inch cast iron pipes to couple both boilers together and then couple into the existing engine main. We got all these pipes made and I remember going up at Friday night to start of this job, we started about ten o’clock on Friday night to couple these two boilers together and we worked all blinking night putting them pipes in. Taking all the old pipes out and putting all the new ‘uns in and all at once one of me mates shouts Hey Newton, tha’d better come here! This were towards the engine house, further up, over the top of the connies. He says, There’s sommat not right here! I went up the side on the top of the connies, had a look, and there was a four inch gap. He says, We’ll have to make a bobbin to go in here. It were about six o’clock in the morning then. Oh heck, I says, What a mess!. I said, It’s sommat fresh for me father to measure pipes and make ‘em four inch short and a straightforward place to measure it as well. I said Just clear off on top of the boilers and let me have a look at this job, and I went in the other little boiler house and opened the junction valve, that boiler were in steam. I let it blow for about five minutes, muck and steam were flying all over the place. Shut it off, waited while the steam cleared. I said let’s go and have a look at it now. We went up and had a look, there were just enough room to get a packing ring in at a sixteenth gap. I said Old Johnny never measured no pipes and left a gap, and there were a four inch gap when we came to couple it up. It shows how much expansion there were on them steam ranges doesn’t it? [And probably play in the flexibly suspended steam range. Four inches is a lot for normal pipe expansion but if the range had a couple of bends in it it is quite feasible.]


R-It does that.

There was another job up there when the engine stop valve broke off?


A pillar mounted stop valve similar to the one that Newton describes at Coates. This was one I made for the Ellenroad engine to replace the 18" valve in the background.

R-Oh, the engine stop valve seat came up and stopped the job. There were thousands of gallons of milk you know. Me father said Get up to Dobson’s Dairies, there’s sommat wrong. We went up and old Charlie Plummer, the engine driver, says I don’t know what’s up with it Newton, it just stopped on its own! I said Well, there’s only one thing’ll stop it and that’s being ‘bout steam in the boiler house or ‘bout steam here. I tried to shut the junction valve but I couldn’t make moss nor sand of it. I could tell from the feel of it there were sommat wrong. So I whipped the top plate off, it were a pillar valve you know, up through the floor, we whipped the plates up round it, took the top of the valve off, lifted it off and the seat came out with the valve! No messing. What are we to do now? Spindle were about jiggered if I remember reight, the thread was getting done for, you know, the thread that was under the floor. Oh what a mess, it wanted a new spindle, a new valve and a new seat. Well, we can’t do with all this milk in t’shop so I sat about and thought a bit. I thought well, if I take the stop valve out I can put a bobbin in and we’ll run off t’junction valve you see, on the boiler. It were a long way from the boiler to the engine. So I says to Charlie, have we any old valves about this place, like any sort of valve’ll do. Aye he says, there’s some old feed valves in the boiler house and one Hopkinson slide valve, you know what them are like don’t you. I measured it and it were just the right length. A lot too small in the flanges but just the right length. So we made some clips and some bolts, some special bolts and we just clipped it in and got some steam on and we ran it like that for a week. You’d to get down on your hands and knees to start the engine, in a fashion. You can just imagine trying to stop and start can’t you with a Hopkinson’s boiler feed valve the speed they open and shut. Poor old Charlie didn’t know whether he were on his head or his feet. Did he heck and it were like that for a week and we put the old one back in the following weekend.

Aye, it ‘ud be one of the slide valves.

R-It were a Hopkinson slide valve.

Well, there’s only a quarter of a turn on them full shut to full open!

R-That’s all, that’s all. That’s all there were but if there’d been an emergency at least he could have stopped the steam.

Aye, there’s that about it, he could have stopped it quick!

R-He could have stopped it reight away. He frigged on like that for a week did old Charlie and we rebuilt the valve, put him a new spindle in and a new seat and all’t bag of tricks. There were never anything wrong with it any more right up to the end of its days. Eh, but it did some running did that engine. Sometimes in summer it were running 24 hours a day seven days a week, you know, from one engine driver to another one. Sometimes if they were fast for an engine driver I’d go up there.

How about any other troubles there.

R-It got a bit worse for wear later on in its life, it got so it wouldn’t drive the load. When all the lighting were on you know, there were two alternators on as well as all the compressors for the process and fridges. It got so as it wouldn’t drive at all so we whipped it down quick one night, the high pressure, and just had a look at it and the rings were jiggered and it were getting badly worn. So we made all the necessary arrangements, well they did as far as the milk producers were concerned to ship the milk somewhere else and we re-bored it in a weekend. I re-bored the high pressure skimmed the rods and cured it.

Yes. Now look, while we’re on about re-boring, we’re at the beginning of a tape here, take me right through re-boring a cylinder.

R-Oh, nathen, that takes a bit of explaining doesn’t it.

Yes I know it does but I’m going to tighten the bands on you now, we keep talking about re-boring this and re-boring that.

R-Takes a bit of explaining doesn’t it.

Well, let me help you a bit for a kick off. Was that a corliss engine?

R-Yes, aye.

Well, so when you bored that, when you talk about re-boring that cylinder, actually you’re talking about five bores because you’ve got four valves….

R-No, we just bored the working barrel…

Oh well, let’s talk about re-boring one where…

R-Where we did the lot.

Yes, but just hang on a minute. Let’s talk about doing a corliss cylinder that wants all t’valves boring and it wants cylinder boring and let’s talk about that. Now for a start off, tell me about boring valves on a corliss.

R-Well you see it were just, you just bored them like an ordinary boring machine but wi’ portable tackle that’s all. Just pull the valves out and mike ‘em mike ‘em at each end or calliper ‘em or make wire gauges.

Hang on a minute, hang on a minute, I can see we’re going to be in trouble here because you know too much about it…

R-Aye well, that’s it you see.

That’s it. Now then, Corliss cylinder valves, you tell me whether I’m wrong, the valve itself is actually just a passage bored straight through the top of the cylinder. [at right angles to the main bore]

R-Aye, that’s it.

And the steam goes in from the steam chest and it goes through a slit in the bottom of the valve and into the cylinder.


The back end of a cylindrical steam valve on Bancroft engine. You can see the cut out in the vale itself which allows steam to pass.

R-That’s it.

And the valve itself sits, the cylindrical valve, like a circular slide valve just obstructs that slit. Now then, what you’ve got to do when someone says re-bore these valves, you’ve got to do two things, you’ve got to bore the valve out and make it true and you’ve got to make a new valve because obviously, the old one isn’t big enough. Now then, you say that you just set up your portable boring tackle.


A cylinder set up in Wellhouse shop on the horizontal boring machine to bore the valves. This one was actually for Plumb Street engine in Burnley.


Now that’s all right but just explain the process of boring first, what do you mean by boring?

R-Well, just to enlarge the holes and make them round again. They’re worn oval aren’t they with that valve just working on the bottom of the ports over the years and it makes that hole oval and once it starts getting oval it gets worse very quickly and then your valve doesn’t fit because it wears the edges off. The ovality of the valve doesn’t coincide with the ovality of the hole that it’s working in and it starts to leak and steam starts to blow through instead of it cutting it off. The admission gets all wrong and the exhaust gets all wrong, lack of power and your coal consumption romps up.

So what you’ll do then is set up a boring bar.

R-We have a boring bar that we made for this particular job and two dummy ends that we bolt on to the cylinder [to carry the bearings] and that forms a machine of its own and in the old days we drove it with a little steam engine. A little oscillating cylinder vertical one we had. We’d bolt it to the floor wi’ a couple of rag bolts , half inch rag bolts. Couple a steam pipe to it and stick an exhaust pipe through the first window we came to and we were away. And then of course as electric came in years later we went on to an electric motor to drive it. But the boring equipment was home made, to suit each job.

Yes. Now you’ve just reminded me of a story you once told me about taking that boring engine somewhere, where it were a reight clean shop and it were throwing oil out all over the place.

R- Oh yes, that were at Holdens at Barrowford. We’d to bore the high pressure cylinder and it wanted five eighths of an inch out of it to clean it up it were so badly worn. Of course, to bore 5/8 out you had to go through umpteen times hadn’t you. And that little engine were working 24 hours a day for four and a half days and you’re oiling it every few minutes to keep it going because it runs at a fair speed does that little engine. And of course you start packing it round with waste and it’s a nice beautifully scrubbed white wood floor that its fastened to and your oil patch round your engine spreads and spreads and th’engine driver’s assistant oiler as we used to call ‘em in them days keeps coming up and looking and saying ‘You’re making a bloody mess in here aren’t you? I’ll never get me floor clean again!’ And eventually over the days you could hear that engine sloshing about on its oily waste which you’d put in. He, he ,he oh aye, anyway it got finished did that job, but what a mess we made of that floor! He got ‘em clean you know after a week or two.

Aye, but I seem to remember that engine breaking down somewhere.

R-Oh, it broke down on another job but at the same mill, Holdens in Barrowford. And we hadn’t th’engine all to bits it were a very awkward job.

Let’s just point one thing out before you start on with that. That one of the important things about boring a cylinder is to keep the boring bar going because if you stop you’ll get a step won’t you as the temperature of your cutting tip alters and contracts and you don’t get an even bore.

R-That’s it.

Now, go on, you’re boring the air pump…………

R-Well, we started boring the air pump and we’d got down about half an inch and there were such a ruddy bang and the piston nut must have come off on the boring engine and jammed up in the bottom of the cylinder and bent the connecting rod and jammed it all up solid. We had the engine down in the cellar, not on the floor but bolted on to the entablature girder over the air pump cross head with a couple of slotted plates and four bolts through. You understand what I mean, it were straddling the girder were the engine. So we’d to get it down head first and strip it down and whilst we were repairing it, bringing it back to Barlick to straighten the connecting rod and the piston rod and put a new nut on, the oiler kept winding the boring machine round by hand while we went back. Him and the engineer between them and just kept that boring tool moving. We went back and put the engine together and we’d be what, a couple of hours before we got it running again about two or three o’clock in the morning. But we’d another experience one Easter with it. It did it again at Sunderlands at Nelson, we were boring the low pressure cylinder. A Roberts engine by the way, a triple expansion. And we got in about a foot or two and it did the same trick again, but this time it were t’valve spindle. Valve spindle nuts came loose and one jammed up in the ports, bent the valve spindle and also bent the connecting rod again because one of the nuts went through into the cylinder and got under the piston. Me and Bob Fort stripped that engine, came back to Barlick, straightened the valve spindle, straightened the connecting rod, re-screwed them, put new nuts on , took it all back, built it up and had it running again in one and three quarter hours. And that was when petrol were rationed during the war, them blooming pink coupons. And the mill manager wound that boring tackle round by hand while we repaired the engine because he were the only bloke there on the premises when it conked out.

Aye, now then, boring valves. Lets talk boring valves. We’ll go from boring valves ‘cause boring valves actually is just the same as boring the cylinder, the only difference is obviously that you’ve got to make a new piston and rings instead of a valve.

R- New piston and rings.

Now then, there’s one thing that I know can cause trouble when you’re boring a cylinder and I think that you once got into some trouble over this, and that’s when the boring tool reaches the slot where the steam comes in.

R-Well, most of your trouble boring them, having that trouble, were air pumps, especially Edwards type air pumps with a grid round the liner and you see, when I were a young chap I had to stick to the original ideas. You allus bored with four tools in following each other. Well the first air pump I ever bored were a horizontal one.


Boring an air pump in Henry Brown's shop at Wellhouse. You can see two of the four cutters in the bore.

So in other words, the boring head had four tools in?

R-Always four tools in.

At Ninety degrees.

R-Aye, set out and divided into four.

Now were they, were one a leading tool and then the others would……

R-No, they were all set up together. All set together as near as ever you could get them. It were a big job were that, packing them up, you know, experience used to help a lot with that. But this first air pump I ever bored was a Burnley Ironworks horizontal air pump about 14” diameter bore and it ‘ud be about five feet of boring and when it got to the grate I watched them tools going round and I thought this is a fool of a job. Boring with four tools, one cutting and one up a hole. You follow what I mean don’t you, one would be hitting a bar to cut it and the opposite one would be in a port. Well when you tried your gauge into them bores it were always smaller in the middle than it were anywhere else. So of course I had arguments wi’ me father again like. Aye, well they’d allus been bored like that and they’d never been any trouble. I said well I’m not boring the next one like that you can rest assured on that! He says Well, how are you going to bore the next one? I said when the next ‘un comes, I’ll bore it. I did it with one tool and it were perfectly parallel and no bother.
You see what happened Stanley, when it gets into t’middle there were what, twelve bars round it, you know, twelve ports, twelve holes. Well, you’d only one tool [out of the four] cutting, or two at the most. Well it went all sorts of shapes wi’ the spring of your bar. That [boring] bar were six inches in diameter but it’d spring it. And when I used to try me gauges in, we used to make wire gauges, no mikes in them days you know, it were always right in the middle you know, ten or fifteen thou smaller over the grate reight away. Now when I bored a cylinder that had no ports in the middle they were allus OK were them. They were dead true and parallel, you know they were more parallel than you could bore them on a big posh boring machine, they allus came out parallel even the most expensive boring machine couldn’t compete with a bar like that.


R-Boring a round and parallel hole like we could with them four tools in. They were always spot on, I never had a bad one all the cylinders I ever bored.

So when you were boring cylinders you used four tools?

R-I used four.

Aye, so that meant the bar weren’t springing.

R-But when I bored air pumps I used one tool.

Yes, now tell me something, sommat came up there, what do you mean by a wire gauge?

R-Well, you get, what we call a wire gauge, You had say a bit of 3/8 round ordinary mild steel. Cut it off [slightly longer than the bore] and point it at the ends, grind a point on each end and then set it to the size of the cylinder, keep filing until the ends fit, you know, like you’d use a mike. You’d adjust it yourself with a very smooth file and finish up wi’ a spot of emery paper and rubbing it on a fine stone. You used to use your own judgement on how much travel it wanted [from side to side] for clearance between the cylinder and the piston. You got so you could just do it without thinking about it. I never used to say Oh well, it needs 15 thou of slack or ten thou of slack to get it in, I used to give me gauge a travel of say, on a 24” diameter cylinder, an inch and an eighth of travel [side to side]. What I mean by that is you stand your gauge up in the bore [lean it until it touches the cylinder wall] and it travels about and inch and an eighth at the other. [until it touches the wall at the other side.] You file it off until it travels an inch and an eighth and then you take that back to the shop and if you weren’t making the piston yourself, say to the turner, make the piston the same diameter as this gauge. And when you took your piston back to the mill with a bit of luck it went in! And all through my career I never had one that didn’t.

So when you say, just let’s get this straight. So what you’re saying is you’re looking down the bore and you stand the gauge up in the middle of the bore and then you move it from side to side towards the side of the bore until it catches.

R-Within an inch and an eighth it wants to touch the bore on a 24” cylinder. It wants to move an inch and an eighth.

So that’s really a very accurate way of measuring ………

R-That’s right, it’s as accurate as a mike once you’ve had the experience on how much to give it. Now in the books, those reference books, it gives you this but they’re wrong. In my opinion they were all wrong, they give you far too much. On a cylinder of 24” they’d want a sixteenth of movement to an inch [of diameter] it’d say in the book. So that’ud be 24 times one sixteenth of travel, so that’s an inch and a half isn’t it? Well, an inch and an eighth was ample. That ‘ud give happen five thou of clearance of your piston when you put it in. But if you give it an inch and a half of travel you’d be able to get twelve or fifteen thou over it with your feelers which top me was far too much, you didn’t want ‘em that slack.

Yes, now then, can I remember you once telling me about boring valves on a corliss cylinder and you got a bright idea about stopping the borings dropping down into the cylinder. If you were boring valves on a corliss cylinder, say one of the admission valves at the top..

R-We used to have to take the piston out if we were boring an admission valve at the top. It were general practice again. You’d go at Friday night and strip all the engine down, get the metallic packing men there, take the back cover off, take piston rod out, uncouple it at the crosshead, take the piston out and put some sacks in the bottom of the cylinder so that you’d make somewhere for your turnings or borings to drop. I used to think what a blinking game this is, doing all this stripping just for the sake of a bit of muck. So me and me mate we’d say, well, can’t we stuff ‘em up? So we went on to one one weekend to bore the valves and we didn’t take the piston rod out or the piston or the back cover off. Me father had ordered the packing chap and we sent him home didn’t we, he he he! We got a load of cotton out of the mill didn’t we and we stuffed it in, big pieces, not little bits in through the port bars down below the level we were boring to you know and then we got some big lumps of bevel gear fat, that hard stuff you know, and we put that in and smoothed it all out, oh we made a real job of it. And we bored t’valves and pulled the rags out after and you know you could clean ‘em out when you got your hand in and cleaned all the fat off and it brought all the turnings out. There were no muck left and it were spotless, better than sacks in the cylinder. And I never took any more pistons out to bore valves but then we had a bright idea on one or two of the bigger engines, we fit boards in [the ports], we got a lump of old floor board [somewhere near the size] and shoved it up the ports, thumped it with a big hammer and made a pattern on it and then cut it to size with a saw and then tapped it in and covered it with fat. We got to be dab hands at that job but cotton and grease were all right. No messing but you’d got to be very careful you know that there weren’t any cotton sticking up that could catch on the tool and jam you up. I had an experience at Broughton Road at Skipton boring the high pressure cylinder and to this day I don’t know what happened. We’d a six inch boring bar for high pressures cylinders and we were boring it in a weekend which is in a big hurry. It were winter time and it were dark and we’d only a hand lamp or two and at Saturday night at eleven o’clock we were about three quarters of the way through the bore and the drive belt kept coming off, we couldn’t understand it and I said to Harry Crabtree, It’s getting fearful tight is this, what is it? He says I don’t know and I says We’d better pull up and have a look. So we and we’d be about a foot from the far end off being through. We got up the cylinder as best we could under the boring bar with a hand lamp. And what had happened, when they’d put the bar in I mustn’t have been there. I don’t know what had happened but we used to put a piece of leather belting or a piece of board in first in the bottom of the cylinder to slide the bar in on so as we didn’t put a big roke [scar] in the bottom of the cylinder or damage it you know. And we’d a blind end on of course, we’d allus a blind casting on, what we called a dummy, to run the end of the boring bar in. And they’d never pulled this piece of leather out and what had happened when the tools got to within a foot of the end of the cylinder they’d picked this piece of leather belt up and it wound round inside the boring bar and tightened it and tightened it until the traverse screw couldn’t shove it any further. It were jammed up between the end of the bar and the boring head. We were in a reight mess. So Harry says What are we going to do? I says, There’s only one thing to do, we’ll have to pull the boring bar out. So we pulled the bar out with the tools in, reight carefully and drew it back out of the cylinder, we cleaned it all out and the cylinder. We took the piece of leather belt out which were all chewed up, there were only me and Harry, and we put it quietly back in. We wound it back up to the cut and I could feel it with the handle, where it were you know and I says Well, it doesn’t matter, we’ll have to chance this and if it isn’t a clean hole we’ll have to go through it again. I said we’ll still be running on Monday. We started up about three o’clock on Sunday morning and got running again and we drew the tools back at about seven and Harry put the lamp up, I daren’t look! He says I can’t feel a mark and I can’t see anything. I says Let me have a blooming look. I climbed up underneath the boring bar with the hand lamp and I couldn’t feel a lump and I couldn’t see a mark. If any two blokes were ever lucky, we were. I’ve never known it happen before and I’ve never known it since ‘cause if you even stopped it it’d leave a mark just with the contraction of the tools. But it were perfect. We drew the bar out, swept all the muck out, made a gauge and it were perfect. Straight back to the shop, got the piston turned, let’s get the thing back together and get running!

How long did it take you , say on a 24” bore, four foot stroke…..

R-Four feet six stroke.

Aye, how long?

R-Eighteen hours.

How long?

R-About eighteen hours.

What sort of a cut was that.

R-Sixteenth a side, I never took less that a sixteenth out, I reckoned to take 1/8 of an inch out. Even if it were a bad 'un you know, and it had to be a very bad ‘un, badly worn, to take more than an eighth of an inch. It ‘ud have to have been one that had seized up.

So you took it out in one cut?

R-I did, I allus do ‘em in one cut but you never wanted to try with a little bit. You always wanted some cut on to keep everything tight. It were a big fault, it were a big mistake a lot of these engine fitters made were that, Trying to take a little bit out of ‘em. There’s been some lousy bored cylinders you know.

In what way?

R-With taking too little out and the tackle all jattering and dancing about. I used to put a sixteenth a side on. I used to go and take particulars meself and always made an allowance to take an eighth out of it except for that one at Sam Holdens, it were badly worn were that and we took five eighths out of that but it had been bored twice before. It were a soft casting were that and then it ran fourteen years and then I put a new cylinder in and it wore again.

How about, one little thing while we’re on about that, when you got so as you were getting a spongy bore or something like that did you ever line them?

R-No, I never put a liner in one, never did. Nearest we ever got to putting a liner in were the low pressure at Pendle Street to try to make the engine smaller but it never got done. We were going to make it ten inch smaller. When the engine weren’t driving as much as it used to but it never got done.


R-Low pressure were miles too big.

Now, what we’ve been talking about there is boring on the job. Tell me about boring cylinders down in the shop.

R-Boring them in the shop. Oh that were a good job that were, boring new cylinders. We had a floor plate you know, a big cast iron plate in the floor of the shop, concreted in you know. You get your cylinder casting on to that for a start. Your first job you know, when you got a new cylinder in, they always cast a header on it to take the muck out of the metal. [The bad metal collected in the header which was at the top as cast and so you could get rid of it.] That header could nearly always weigh one, two or three ton. Now the last one I ever did [1954] were for Plumb Street and it weighed six ton odd did the cylinder and that were when the header were knocked off it. It weighed 55 hundredweight did the header, that’s two ton ten and the first job I had to do was to cut that off which took me oh, about a fortnight, happen longer, to cut that one off.


The Plumb Street low pressure cylinder being bored in Wellhouse shop.

Now when you say header…..

R-About eight inch thick. Cast on.

When they cast the cylinder they actually cast that cylinder longer than it needs to be.

R-Longer, it were cast about 18 inches longer, eight inch thick. Spread out you know, like a big mushroom on the end of your casting. Now that’s to put extra weight on to your casting to tighten the metal. What I mean by tightening the metal, it’s to shove the grain up and also take the muck out, it allus swims to the top does any dirt that’s flying about in the ladle. Always rises to the top and that used to carry it all there. [Outside the finished cylinder casting]

How did you take that off?

R-Used to cut it off with a parting tool in me portable boring bar. I almost always used the portable bar but your ends were stronger, better made than what you did when you were boring on the job. They were properly made ends you know, to carry the bearings and driven just the same.

How thick was your heaviest boring bar?

R-I think it’s nine inches, we’ve still got it, nine or ten inches.

Yes, and so you part the header off?

R-Parted it off from the inside. In different stages you know. You’d set off and you’d bore about a three inch gap, keep boring it you know, about three inches wide and go deeper and deeper and then you start with the parting tools. We used to make the parting tools out of inch round high speed steel. We used to make ‘em swan necked and then if there were any swinging back it didn’t dig in, it sprung away from the cut and not in. It were a bit of a tedious job cutting them ends off. You’d just a set screw through your cast iron boring head and every time it came round you just tighten it a flat and that pushed your tool up in your toolbox and you did that every revolution. It were a tedious jib cutting them headers off. When you started getting down six or seven inches and you couldn’t see the tool you’d just to listen to it to know what it were doing, you know, and watch the muck dropping off to see how it were cutting. Interesting.

And how long would it take to cut a header off that size?

R-I should reckon happen a fortnight it took me to get it off that last ‘un. Course, if it was hard metal, and remember all the muck and scum up there you know. You’d leave yourself about an inch and a half on and then when you got your header off it didn’t matter how jagged it was you’d plenty left to face up for your cover flanges.

That’s it, and so you’d have to support the weight of that header when you were…….

R-No, we never bothered, just packed it up with a lump of wood and a couple of battens under it like a ‘V’ block when I were nearly through.

Just let it settle.

R-Couple of props up and just let it settle, aye, you could here it go and just get it off with a couple of joint wedges and put crane round it. I can picture it now, I can see it now. I could hear it when it were nearly through and me father ‘ud be about : Tha doesn’t look so far off through that now, See you don’t let it drop on thee! Put a lump of wood under it and a couple of wedges to take the weight and then split it off at the top with some joint wedges and catch hold of it with the crane.

Once you’d taken the header off what were the next operation? Did you face it then when you’d got the header off?

R-I faced it then, faced each end. I wouldn’t say I finished facing ‘em, I faced it off to a quarter of an inch off the length and then I started boring it. Now getting through the bore the first time were the biggest job. It took days and days because the casting were always rough in the bore you know. And you could only put so much cut on and of course you’d run out. You’d get in about a foot and the tools ‘ud be jiggered, you’d have to wind back and re-grind them and go back in again and you did that all the way until you got through. It took many a day to get through for the first time and when you did get through it didn’t look much like it were an engine cylinder bore, he he, all ridges, bumps, jatters, mucky patches and all that. Then of course you’d draw back again, grind all the tools and set all four up next time. I rough bored with two and [then] set all four up and got going. Then I’d oil the tackle up and come home. I had it all weighed up how long it’d be I’ll go to bed a couple of hours and then I’d go back and you know you’d be going back all night like that and keep doing that. I never stopped it, go back and oil up, see if it were OK and I bored them cylinders all by meself.

So you’d bore the cylinder and then measure it up for the piston?

R-Oh aye.

There’d be no such thing as someone sending you a cylinder and a piston and you having to bore it to that size?

R-Oh no.

That’d be just about impossible.

R- No, just bore the cylinder, take as little out of it as possible for a good clean bore and make the piston to suit. Then you faced the ends off and faced the cylinder to length and then after that you lifted it off your floor plate and up on to the boring machine which we had and you started then boring all the valve ports out. Especially on a big low pressure like that, it ‘ud be what, forty inches through the valves, bore them out, left the feet, machining the feet until the last. You marked it all out for centre height and machined the feet last.

Aye, that’s it, because you couldn’t……..

R-You didn’t machine the feet first, oh no. ‘Cause you never knew if you were going to have to move it. Say you machined your feet first and then you started to bore it and you says Oh Heck, it isn’t going to clean up in the bottom I’m going to have to drop me boring bar half an inch, where are you with your centre height? So we bored it first, Machined all the valve ports, faced all the valve ends and planed the feet after. In fact I didn’t plane the feet on the last ‘un, I machined them on the borer, the horizontal borer, faced ‘em wi’ the cylinder stood on its end. There’s some photos, you’ve seen them photographs anyway of that big cylinder.

Yes. Now tell me about, you were doing a big one one night and you nearly brought the shop down.

R-Oh well, I had it up on the borer, it’s this big one we’re on about, this last ‘un for Plumb Street. I had it up on the borer and it were first thing in’t morning. I’d been working at night on it finishing one of the ports and I went at morning, usual time, seven o’clockish or half past to me work, I were never at reight time, and I’d left it with, it had just run through and I’d run me table back ‘cause I’d seven ton on the table you know. And I’m running me table back and one of me mates shouts Oh there, whoa! But he shouted too late and at the end of that boring machine there were a pillar that held the roof up, a cast iron pillar and the back end of me cylinder casting had gone against the pillar and shoved it out at the bottom and it broke the pillar in the middle. Leave it, leave it everyone shouted, just leave it where it is. And we had some jacks and we got the jacks out of the stores and got them under the beam and me father comes out and he said What’s ta done? I said I’ve run into the pillar and broken it. He says Well done, best day’s work tha’s ever done, It’ll get bloody shifted now! And we shifted it and put a girder under and put a pillar back at one side so as the table missed it. Near do though! It were near, it’d have come down would all t’shop because that pillar it shoved out were carrying a baulk that carried a pillar which went right up through the second storey to the roof. All t’roof were on that one [pillar]. So that was that! That were the last big cylinder that were.

Yes. So let’s get back, getting back on to our job now, and we’re boring a Corliss cylinder we’ve bored the valves and made the valves, we’ve bored the cylinder and we’re satisfied with the bore and we’ve measured it up. Now then, tell me about the piston, that’d be a cast iron piston.


Piston with junk ring attached with expansion spring, Buckley rings and the keys for holding it on the rod.

R-Cast iron piston. Now we’d all sorts of pistons. Sometimes we put junk rings on. By junk ring I mean you make a piston with one edge cast solid to full width and then the other end is bolted on with ten inch or inch and an eighth set screws. Now doing that they could put wider rings on, what we called Buckley’s rings which had a spring underneath which when the ring got worn, they used to reckon you could take the junk ring off and increase the tension on the springs and take the wear out of the rings, but I soon did away with that idea because they were rubbish. Ramsbottom rings, you couldn’t beat ‘em, that’s like the rings on your motor car. Narrower and better, narrower and better, These big wide rings were no good, no good at all.

I’ve heard you talk about this. Where did you first come across these Ramsbottom rings?

R-Well I’d allus known about Ramsbottom rings but Burnley Ironworks on their later engines always put ‘em into the high pressure. And I used to say why don’t they put ‘em on the low and there were no answer to that so I started to put ‘em on to the low. But finest rings out, for a steam engine, finest rings out were Rowan rings, they were made at Belfast. They were self springing rings, you can picture a key ring that you wind your keys on that you have in your pocket, well they were made like that but they were made wider they’d be about an inch and a quarter wide, they were beautifully made. And then inside there was a wavy ring in between your rings [and the centre of the piston]. You’d a wavy ring and then when you bolted your junk ring on and your piston all up together this wavy ring kept tension on, inside of the ring and out. They were marvellous things, they were made for ships so as they didn’t want any oiling. You know [cylinders on] a ship never got any oil. They used to put part tallow in but none of that if they could get away with it and once across the Atlantic and back and they’d have to strip it and put new rings in. Now Rowan rings did away with a lot of that, they’d last two or three trips.

Aye, I know a thing or two about that, the reason for that would be that they didn’t want to get oil into the condensed water because they were using it over and over again.

R-No, they didn’t want to get oil into the condensers, if it got into the boilers they were jiggered.

So on a marine engine they’d be running them rings with no lubrication in the bore.

R-Them Rowan rings were a big success and I put ‘em into loads of low pressures in Lancashire engines. I didn’t put any into the highs but I did the lows. I used to use Ramsbottom rings in the high pressures. But low pressures, they were a revelation, talk about shifting the coal bill down, they did that did Rowan rings. Marvellous, there were nowt went past ‘em, especially if they were getting some oil, they were fully efficient. And you could fit ‘em into a worn cylinder, if you came across an engine that wanted, you know, that were on that happy medium between it wanting re-boring and it looked a shame to re-bore it. I just, I didn’t do many, I put a new piston in and put Rowan rings on ‘em and fitted ‘em to bore.

When you say it looked a shame to re-bore it, why was that, was that because they’d got such a nice finish on them?

R-It had a damn good finish and it were little worn. See, it ‘ud happen only be a thirty second worn at each side you know.

Aye, because they go like glass don’t they.

R-Aye, they go like glass and it looks a shame to re-bore them and I’d say let’s put a new piston in and put Rowan rings on. You know there were a lot of these engines built and they weren’t particular enough when they made ‘em and the pistons were too slack from the start and Bancroft were one of them. [Bancroft was Stanley Graham’s engine] I don’t like running folk down but Bancroft were one of them. I re-bored the high pressure cylinder at Bancroft 25 years since and that engine knocked from being new to me re-boring the cylinder. I were only a lad and I kept saying it wants re-boring does this, it’s chucking the piston about. Every stroke, clunk, clunk and they used to say it wants crank pin taking up, it wants cross head taking up. I says It wants hell as like taking up, it wants re-boring. And at finish up, Wilfred Nutter says Newton what is it that’s making this noise in this engine? I says It wants re-boring Wilfred and a new piston. He told me to get it done. George Hoggarth went up the wall at me, I thought he were going to punch [kick] me out of the engine house. And I were that mad, it were about Monday and I got all the stuff ready and I had the piston casting ready and I bored it at weekend. I got it done and set on about 11 or 12 o’clock on Sunday night and Hoggarth were there, I says Now then, where’s thee knock? He says It’s gone but thee wait until morning and it’ll be back! So I were there at 7 o’clock in the morning after when they set on, and bear in mind all the looms were running then. And at five past seven I says to Hoggarth, Where’s thee knock now? He says It’s gone Newton, here how much does ta want. If he’d had any money in his pocket he’d have given it me, I think he’d have given me the mill! It had knocked since 1920.


R-They even put a new crank pin in because it were knocking!

Well didn’t you do that job?

R-No, it were Roberts.

What a terrible job that was. I’ve looked at it many a time, that’s something I want to do a picture of. The back of the pin is like the craters on the moon! A terrible job that and the key at the back, God knows why they’ve done it but t’key at back is all brayed over like a big mushroom and punch marks all over it.

R-Why do that? When I put a new crank pin in I never bothered with the key, I put a wooden one in. No need to put keys in when I put ‘em in! Me father ud say What are ta doing? I’m putting a wooden key in because it’s easier to fit! What, with fourteen thou of nip and it wants a key in? Never, th’art spoiling it. You put a key into a hole that’s had fourteen thou of shrink put on it what are you doing besides trying to stretch it oval again. That’s just what you’ve tried to eliminate, with reboring it and putting a new crank pin in.

Aye, that’s right, it must be right.

R-Aye, put a wooden ‘un in.

Aye, anyway, we’ll get on to shrinking later, but…….

R-Aye, we don’t put no keys in ‘em.

Now then, we mentioned something in there that a lot of people won’t know anything about, and that’s metallic packings. [fitted in the cover to seal the hole the piston rod runs through]

R-Oh, they’re a marvellous thing.


An ordinary stuffed gland, this was for a model engine but exactly the same as full sized. The seal was obtained by compressing packing material round the piston rod.

Right, let’s go one stage back. Now on old engine it were just the same principle as the gland on an ordinary domestic tap wasn’t it.

R-Well, where t’piston rod puffed in and out of the cylinder it had just a plain cavity bored into the cover with a brass ring in and then a piece that fits in the cavity in the cover with three long studs that pulled another piece of brass down onto rope lapped round the piston rod and squeezed it into the cavity and that stops the steam puffing out round the rod. That’s a simple explanation for it isn’t it? Then in later years they found they were cleverer and they put some grease round the lap rope before they squeezed it in. And then later on they got cleverer still and put some black lead on the rope and squeezed it in, didn’t they.

Aye, graphite, yes.

R-And you were bloody covered in the stuff by the time you got it in weren’t you. You sparkled like a kipper skin!

And then the Universal Metallic Packing Company came out………


A United States Metallic Packing on the low pressure at Bancroft.

R-Aye, United States Metallic Packing Company. A bloke there came along and he said I’m not having any more of this, I’m going to make some washers and I’m going to make ‘em half moon shaped and I’ll grind ‘em all together and I’ll try ‘em and see if they’ll stop steam. And he did, it stopped steam a bit but it didn’t stop it all so he thought I’ll have to make sommat else now, I wonder if I can make some brass rings and cut ‘em up and put springs round. So he gets some brass rings and he turned ‘em to the size of the piston rod and he turned some grooves round the outside and he got some springs made and he cut ‘em into four and put them in. And he put two lots of them in so his joints weren’t opposite and they were a lot better than ever with them in. But it weren’t just right, didn’t last long. So he thought I wonder what I can do with that. I’ll try some metal that’s a bit softer, so he found out with boring his brass blocks out and filling them with white metal, that’s like lead, and making the number less, he put two in one side and two in the other, staggered opposite. And that’s what exists to this day and they’re a real job. But when they went on to high pressure, high superheat steam they’d to go back on to bronze ones. They wouldn’t do with white metal, the heat melted ‘em. I’ve heard the Metallic Packing chaps tell about when superheat started becoming popular after the first world war and all the white metal started running out of the stuffing boxes, oh aye, it melted the packings. It melted the white lead out of them and they’d to go back to bronze. And they took a lot more fitting of course did bronze ones to make ‘em turn because white metal ‘ud fit itself after a day or two. But they were marvellous things, I allus put me hand up to that chap that made ‘em. United States were a firm of its own in Bradford and one of their chaps decided to start up on his own, things were busy in them days you know. And he started up and that were Universal Metallic Packings and they’re still on the go today but United States aren’t in business any more.

Yes. Now then I can think of one engine where you did away with the metallic packings.

R-Oh, that were a little air pump, oh aye.

Now why?

R-Now then, they got some fancy ideas after the second war that they’d start putting metallic packings on air pumps, you know, on tail end air pumps, that’s between the low pressure cylinder and the air pump. We did a lot of these jobs for Universal and United States as well, skimming air pump rods and putting these metallic packings on but they were never a success you know, they wouldn’t last many weeks before they were blowing and drawing air and water squirting out. They’d slipped up with one thing, they didn’t recon on the piston rod going rusty at night between half past five and seven in the morning which, they weren’t stainless steel rods of course, and what happened most of them put up with this trouble and they used to send for the metallic packing chap and they’d come once or twice a year and put new blocks on. But there were one little engine at Bradley and we did that, they didn’t do it on our advice, actually they did it through metallic packing’s advice to put these new packings on and Oh, did it get in a mess. It wouldn’t stand it because their air pump’s a bit small it wouldn’t run, they’d no vacuum. Me father’d say, Go to Bradley Newton, do sommat wi’ yon engine, put it back on packings, put it back on ordinary stuffing boxes! So I went to Bradley I thought I’m going to do a bit of a job here on me own. And I altered it back to ordinary stuffing boxes, I’d to make castings you know because they’d turned all the old stuffing boxes off to make room for the metallic packings. I put a stainless steel rod in ‘cause the old un had been thumped about and brayed and rusty and I put a stainless rod in and that engine’s run [until] only the last week or two and it’s never had any packings put in, he’s never repacked them glands for twenty odd years. And that were the answer, I never put any more metallic packings in on the air pumps, I put stainless steel rods in ‘em and put ‘em back to glands. You see what the problem was with the rods when you went on to stainless steel with metallic packings, and it’s been tried, it were coming out of the low pressure cylinder hot and going into the cold air pump. Well the packings couldn’t cope with the contraction and the piston rod coming out hot and going into the cold air pump, they couldn’t cope and they used to last a week or two and then start blowing or drawing air I should say and if your pumps drawing air, you’re doomed, no vacuum.


The engine at Peter Green's at Bradley.

I put umpteen of them back on to soft packings with stainless steel rods in. I never forget doing the first one though, putting it off ordinary soft packings on to metallics, oh what a mess. It were beautiful at Sunday when we ran round, we’d skimmed the rod up and all you know. Engine driver rang up come on and have a look at this piston rod, about Wednesday and you’ve never seen such a mess in your life. You see it weren’t an ordinary soft packing that were keeping the rod wiped all day, it were going rustier and rustier while the engine were running. It were just like the bottom of a battleship, all barnacles, were that rod. You’ve never seen owt like it and leaking? The chap‘s stood over it with cylinder oil trying to keep it going while Saturday. Oh, what a job, and then they got a bright idea, they put some oil, some grease Stauffers on to them to keep ‘em full of grease, you know what I mean by a grease Stauffer, fill it with fat and wound it round and they also have a needle and spring loaded so that they can shove it down on its own while the mill’s running. Well they put a lot of them on to try and cope with it but they were no good. Metallic packings were never really any good on corliss valve spindles you know. There were always trouble, with them sticking because a metallic packing wants a full movement of the spindle, not a partial movement.

Yes, that’s it. So if they were on an air pump the answer was to go back to the old fashioned idea.

R-Back to soft packings with, and if they could afford it, a stainless steel rod and their troubles were over.

SCG/05 November 2000
9611 words


TAPE 78/AG/9


Now then Newton, at the end of the last tape we were on about boring cylinders and about Rowan rings. Now one of the things I’ve found out is that people always assume that engineers, especially the old engineers knew exactly what they were doing all the time and never made any mistakes but you and I know this is not true. I once remember you telling me about a cylinder you got to bore, a casting you got to machine at the shop that was all wrong, can you remember?


Marsden Mill engine.

R-It were the high pressure cylinder for Marsden Mills at Nelson. It were a little engine, 600 horse power cross compound, Burnley Ironworks, one of them engines with all the valves at the bottom, not at each corner, exhaust and steam valves were at the bottom of the cylinder. It were cracked and it were blowing steam and water all over the floor of the engine house so we plated it. There were plenty of money around in those days and the management said we don’t like that, make a new un. So we made, we got a new cylinder cast at Marsden engines at Heckmondwyke. We had drawings for it and they machined it and all and it came to the shop and the holidays came along like and we just went on to Nelson and pulled the old cylinder out and brought it to the shop and I think I was machining the piston rod or the piston when Sydney came in to see me. He said, Newton there’s sommat not reight with that cylinder down yonder. I said Why, what’s up with it Sydney? He says well, I just took me wood lath to mark it for the length of the bore , you know, the piston travel, and he said, And me lines stuck out an inch and a half of the old one to the new un. Oh my God I says, We’d better go and have a look at this. And when I looked down inside they’d put two thicknesses of pattern on inside instead of putting the facing on the outside, they’d put a facing inside. It were a blind end cylinder, no cover on the front you know, it just came through the stuffing box. They’d put a facing on the inside when all that facing should have been on the front of the cylinder on the outside. So me father came down and he says What are we going to do about that? I says Well, it’ll have to go back, we can’t get it on to the borer in this short time, we’d only a week then to do the job.

So what it amounted to was that the blind end was too thick.

R-It was an inch and a half too thick inside the cylinder, so we took it back. Got a wagon in and they took it back and they machined it off on their brand new Richards borer and when it came back it were all right. They worked all day and all night and they machined it off with a long snout boring bar. It were a fair job and it ran me that late that when it came to Sunday night I were no where near finished so I rang me father and I says I’m not going to be running in the morning, he said to let the engine driver know and not to worry about it he’ll tell the bosses. They were all tenants there you know, it were a room and power shop. Don’t bother he says, I’ll tell them you’ll be running on Tuesday, it’s happened before. It were nowt I could do to help, I couldn’t do it, I didn’t get the cylinder back while Saturday morning, I think it were Saturday before I got it back from Heckmondwyke. So that were that, and that were all that had ever happened, owt like that case you know.

When you got one like that , when you say it was machined when it came, it wouldn’t be drilled and tapped would it for such things as bonnets and what not.

R-Oh no, that’s why it were at the shop. We did all the drilling and tapping for corliss bonnets and cylinder covers and all that, it just came bored and faced. And when I came to put it back together at Monday afternoon when I put the valves in, I looked down the ports and I said to Crabby, Eh Harry you’d better have a look at these! Oh, he says, what art ta going to do with them? Instead of being straight down the centre, the port bars, they set off at an angle , the core had moved over or they’d never put ‘em in the mould straight. But I was fitting the old valves to the new cylinder, my port bars were straight. So I couldn’t get ‘em to shut could I. I’d to twist the spindles, I fetched ‘em to the shop and got them red hot and twisted ‘em, the steam valve spindles, I had to guess at ‘em and all. And then we had to chip them, you know, three quarters wide port bars, I had to chip them to the same angle as the port bars in the casting. And they’d only just over three thirty twos of cover ‘cause I just didn’t have enough metal to give ‘em any more and there were never an engine ran like that did!

Course, we’ve always said that haven’t we, least cover you can get away with and the better.

R-Oh yes, I’ve fought for that job all me time. They used to have, I’ve come to engines and they’ve had 3/8 and ½ an inch and I’ve said, it’s no good, they won’t govern when they’re like this and the valves ud be sticking. I’ll bet it hadn’t three thirty twos of cover that one. And it’d run wi’ just the shafting on and the stop valve wide open when I’d finished wi’ it. You can just imagine can’t you looking down there and seeing ‘em. They were pointing somewhere over Burnley instead of central down the cylinder. So I twisted the spindles and straightened ‘em.

Aye, do you remember how them used to stick up at Bancroft? You know they used to grunt, how they used to grunt.

R-Oh aye, they allus had stuck.

What I did, without bothering about the rest of the linkage I just kept altering the valve until it were leaking steam and then let back a crack.

R-That’s right, until it were leaking steam.

And I don’t think they’ve a sixteenth of cover now.

R-Well, they’re running better than they ever have been.

It’s never been any bother since.

R-Not a bit of bother. And me father used to say to me, By gum Newton, tha’s not given them valves much cover. And I says Well, as long as they’re shutting that’s all it wants.

Yes, why did they have it in their heads that they had to have such a lot of cover?

R-I don’t know. Look at the lost motion on the engine and all and look at the duty it were doing pulling them open.

Yes, how could they expect the governor to look after it when the governor had all that… You know, like you couldn’t set a governor fine when it had to shift the valves half an inch before it were governing.

R-Look, I’ve stood at these engines, especially your type, and Pollits and Roberts engines with that Dobson gear on and I’ve watched it move the bonnets before it could pull the valve open. It had that much tension on, steam up at 160 and probably superheat on ‘em and I’ve watched it pull the bonnet before it ‘ud open the valve. Spring the bonnet, well in fact there’s been above one broken off. Pendle Street dropped one, one afternoon about four o’clock. Pulled the bonnet off….

When you think of the width of that valve, it’s half an inch of cover and steam at 160 pound….

R-And over two feet long, and there’s one hundred and sixty pound pressure pressing on top of it absolutely red hot superheated steam and only single ported and all and they give ‘em half an inch of cover, it had to pull it back that half an inch before it got into equilibrium.

Yes, its just like having a brake on it isn’t it.

R-What, I’ve taken ‘em out and that half an inch has all been ribbed you know, with grinding, pulling it open. Oh I soon twigged that one in my days. I thought we aren’t having any of this, I used to chip it off. Sometimes you couldn’t alter the gear you know, and they’d be opening a bit soon, a bit early you know and that made ‘em run better still.

That’s it.

R-I were a beggar for giving ‘em some lead, aye. Never had a crank pin knocking you know when they had some lead. ‘Cause it put compression on before it got to centre, pulled the pins up tight.

That’s the trouble with that engine now, I’m finding with weaving out, with running reight light. Really, it wants giving a bit more lead.

R-It wants the exhaust eccentric putting forward, close the exhaust sooner.

Aye, so’s the exhaust’ll close sooner.

R-Steam valves are all right.

Give it more, aye, the steam valves are all right, you’re right, give it more compression.

R-This engine at Crow Nest had compression curve nearly in the centre of the figure , at Crow Nest. That’s why it ‘ud run them three hundred loom with the stop valve wide open and not a noise, not a muff. You never heard any crank pins tapping even.

No, no, well like it isn’t worth it with only three weeks to go.

[Stanley Graham was weaving Bancroft out when this tape was done and was down to about 100 looms. This is why the subject of steady running on low loads with high boiler pressure was looming so large in the conversation.] [25 years later correcting this transcript I can report that I never did alter the eccentric because the engine ran so well as it was set. In the end I could run it on shafting load only with 160psi and the stop valve wide open. The governor could cope right down to minimum valve opening without missing a beat. When Ellenroad got on to very small openings it could miss a beat occasionally because of play in the valve motion.]

R-No, you see [the compression] it tightens the brasses back on even if there’s a bit of slack in them does compression when it’s coming up, it builds pressure from zero to 160 on its own quietly doesn’t it, taking the speed of the stroke.

Yes, ‘cause at the moment when those pins are………

R-They used to give them, the old do, in the old days a chap that did know sommat about the job, he’d give it an inch to a foot of stroke you know when he set the exhausts. Compression, I used to give ‘em two! I give one a bit too much one day and it lifted the crosshead up, chump, chump, chump, and that were the old side at Wellhouse. Me father says to me, What’s wrong with that engine Newton? And I says It’ll be all right while dinnertime. It were slide valve and I pushed the low pressure eccentric forward ‘cause there weren’t much load on when we started again after the war. I thought it’d be a week or two before they got a thousand loom running you know. So I hutched it up a bit, I says to Tom Marshall, I’ll save you a bit of coal hutching it up, I’ll put th’eccentric forward a bit further. Oh it had a lovely figure, it were lifting the crosshead up, chump, chump, up again the retaining plates at the end of each stroke with excessive compression. You see the low pressure hasn’t much piston pressure, but it got some wi’ me, it got more pressure from compression than it did from the high pressure with compound steam! Running light loaded, you could watch the piston rod, low pressure were at the front you know, high pressures were at the back, and when it got to the end of the stroke you could watch the piston rod lift the slipper of its face, it were a big flat slipper. And I said it’ll be all right while dinnertime, I’ll put it back a bit at dinnertime.

Well anyway we were on about Dobsons, let’s move next door to Bankfield.


Bankfield engine and boiler houses.

R-We’ll come down to Bankfield.

Aye, two good engines.

R-They were two good engines at Bankfield, One were an 800 horsepower cross compound Burnley Ironworks wi’t valves at all four corners, one at each corner you know. And the other one were about 600 horse about as big as Bancroft with valves all at the bottom. It were a new engine to run the bottom shed, well they gave very little trouble did them. I remember in the weaver’s strike, I were only a lad, Me father says We’re going to be busy Newton!. I says What’s up? He says All the corliss bonnets have to come off at Bankfield, they’re going to have them all bushed while they’re stopped. That were all…….

Before you tell us about that, when were the weaver’s strike?

R-When I started working Stanley, I’m 62 now, I’d have been working two years or so.

So you’d start at 14?

R-That’s 48 years ago, 1930. In 1930 all the mills in the town were stopped.

[SG thought it would have been 1932, the More Looms Dispute.]

R-I went with Leonard Parkinson and we took all the bonnets off both engines. We skimmed the spindles up and bushed ‘em while the mills were stopped, it were stopped six weeks I think. We were absolutely piled out of the place wi’ work. It were coming in from all over were t’jobs. You know, they were getting ‘em [the jobs] done at ordinary time instead of bothering at weekend.

Aye, rebuilding the engines.

R-Ooh we were [busy], some work came in and I were running wi’t gas engine up at shop, we had a big Crossley.

Aye, that’d be because the engine were stopped? [The Wellhouse engine which normally drove the shafting in the shop]

R-And then I’d that to look after so like my job was from six in the morning while nine at night.

You’d be thriving off it!

R-I were, 12/6 a week and no overtime pay!

Anything special about Bankfield?

R-No, they were just standard Burnley Ironworks engines. Big un were like Crow Nest.

How about the boilers?

R-There were three boilers.

Aye, three Yates and Thom’s, that’s it. They’ve just taken them out.


Scrapping Bankfield boilers in 1978.

R-Just cut ‘em up haven’t they. I used to have a lot of rivet trouble at Bankfield. Why, I don’t know, allus putting ‘em in. And they were one of the first shops, Bankfield you know, to have humidifiers blowing with compressed air from outside and all. We put a big vertical compressed air set in outside, it run with steam, steam job, for humidifiers. It’ud be one of the first shops round here that were ever done with that.

You say they used compressed air?

R-Big compressors were outside, they ran with a big vertical, twin cylinder vertical engine.

How did they humidify, blowing water in or what?

I don’t know how it worked because I weren’t old enough to take a lot of notice. ‘Cause you see then Bankfield had just shut down just like that Stanley and that were the end of it.

When did Bankfield shut down?

R-About 32 or 33, I hadn’t been working so long when Bankfield and Butts stopped.

What happened to Bankfield then?

R-It were empty. Archie Rhodes and his father were engine drivers there and Archie stopped on as watchman till Rover came, 1940.

So that’d be….

R-Six or seven year. Nice feller were Archie.

So who were weaving there when they stopped?

R-It were all room and power men, all sorts of firms. Bradley’s, Barnoldswick Manufacturing Company, oh, all sorts of shops were in there Stanley, Bits, a lot of bits.

Who owned Bankfield?

R-It were a room and power company. Local people were the shareholders.

Aye but it weren’t Calf Hall were it?

R-It were the Bankfield Shed Company.

I have an idea that when it was first built it was called the Barnoldswick Room and Power Company.

R-But there were a firm in with a terrible lot of looms, they’d have a lot over a thousand, the Barnoldswick Manufacturing Company were in Bankfield as tenants. But there were a chap called Bracewell that seemed to be secretary for the room and power company. He lived down Gisburn Road, a nice feller he were. Wait a minute, When I were going out with Freda Nutter she lived at Wellfield, she were one of this lot at Bancroft. When I were going out with her as school kids, she went to Skipton Grammar School and was a bit lah di dah for me but we did get on well. It were her grandfather on her mother’s side. Now her mother was a Bracewell, they lived down Gisburn Road him that were secretary for the Bankfield Shed Company. So I’m right there. I think Freda lives at Blacko now, her husband died fairly young. And she were one of the Bancroft Nutters.

So when Rover took over during the war, when they requisitioned it for Rover, the engines had finished.

R-Well, British Celanese bought it and they never did anything with it and they’d be paying Archie’s wage all them years.

British Celanese.

R-Aye, they bought it and for all I know they still have it. ‘Cause at one time me father came down into the shop to me one afternoon, and this were just before the war. He says, Come on with me Newton to Great Harwood. That’s Great Harwood just over be Blackburn there, Accrington. He says I’ve got to meet some bosses to British Celanese at that brick mill just off the main road. It stands back before you go into Great Harwood and it’s a pretty modern building. It would be built about the same time as Bancroft but it’s a red brick un. And he said I think they’re going to do something about Bankfield. Now whether they had intended starting it up again, you know, wi’t war coming out. He says, They want to see me. ‘Cause they couldn’t start the top half ‘cause we’d pulled the engine out. We pulled the top engine out just before the war, took it, we were going to put it in at Long Ing, they bought it did Stephen Pickles.

Aye, that’s it.

R-We pulled it out, big un, big engine, a lovely job. Anyhow, me father went and there were all this talk about what it would take to get the bottom half of the mill running, which wouldn’t have taken much with Archie having been there of course, he’d looked after the place. It only wanted some steam getting up and we were on us way. But it never came to anything, Rover came in. Aye, we took the engine out at top end, big un, Len Parkinson did anyway and we took it to Long Ing but war broke out and it spoiled the job. We were going to pull the engines out at Long Ing, both of them, and put this big engine in. We were going to lengthen the engine house you know because it were a gear drive were’t Long Ing. We’d have to lengthen the engine house thirty feet for the rope drive length, We were going to put it all in and run Long Ing off a big alternator. I think it’s all on one of the tapes, I have told you about that.

That’s it.

R-It’s no good repeating that again.

No, and the little ‘un were….

R-And we were going to put the engine in right away. And then we were going to put the Buckley [and Taylor] in at the far side, we were going to put it in where it were, we couldn’t put the new one in without taking the Buckley out. We were going to put the Buckley back when we’d got the new beds in, get the Buckley running and they were just going to run the alternator with the Buckley for lights at Long Ing and Barnsey which would have been an ideal set up.

Aye, it would have been lovely wouldn’t it, beautiful.

R- Lovely, aye. Anyway, when we come to look at the engine after the war they’d neglected it a bit. We’d painted it all with white lead before we put it in the yard but they’d left the slides open and they’d filled up with water and rusted away. We couldn’t empty them and the bottoms of the slides were jiggered. So it were broken up and electrified. We just electrified stuff as it came in, looms you know. You see the admiralty took it over during the war just as a stores, all the looms were gone so they started with new plant. So that were the end of that.

And who took…

R-We took the Buckley out.

Who took the other engine out of Bankfield, Rover?

R-They’d smash it up, the scrap chaps. It stopped in a long time, oh it were in for years before somebody came along, I think it was a Barlick lad called Sydney Widdup that took it out. Broke it up,. Bonny engine just the same engine as Westfield was, aye. ‘Cause it were a shop that I never really got to know, you know what I mean. I didn’t get about it all donkeys years like I got about the other places.

Well, let’s move next door to Crow Nest.

R-Crow nest.


Crow Nest engine.

Hartley’s as was then.

R-Albert Hartley’s and Anthony Carr. It were built in 1914, Burnley Ironworks thousand horse cross compound, centre shaft drive down a gearing alley with big high speed narrow pitched wheels. Aye, it were a lovely job, purred did that gearing alley, the engine ran at 78 on to a little second motion pulley. I think it were about 190 the line shaft.

Engine ran at 78?

R-Aye, 78 and 190 were the line shaft. They put these big wheels on, talking about big bevels, they were about three feet in diameter and only be about an inch and a quarter pitch. Ran beautiful they did.

Were they machine cut gears?

R-No, cast wheels.

What stroke were that engine?

R-Four feet six inches.

It were travelling.

R-Oh it were travelling, it were Belliss and Morcombe piston speed, Fernbank were more.

Aye, we’ll get on to Fernbank in a bit but that one were travelling weren’t it.

R-aye, Fernbank were more, aye, that were travelling but Fernbank were five feet stroke, same speed. It had some piston speed on. And them engines, I ran that engine of a night Stanley for two year. Three nights on….

Which engine?

R-Crow Nest. Three nights one week and two another like, helping the engine man out when he were on a night shift you know. With 120 looms on and steam up at 160 and stop valve wide open. [At this period many of the mills ran a ‘housewife’s shift’ from 6 till ten and not all the looms would be running. It was called the ‘moonlight shift’ in some places.]

What were the governor?

R-Ordinary Whitehead. It’s a pity it doesn’t show pictures this tape recorder, I could explain the valves better wi’ me hands rather than talking. You couldn’t see ‘em move. Just went…

Well them didn’t have much cover then.

R-They hadn’t hardly any because I reset ‘em.

That’s it aye, and yet there’s a funny thing you see….

R-I got shouted at about them wi’ old Dobson when he were there, aye.

Aye, Whitehead governor you see, I mean that’s what they had at Bancroft and they could never govern the engine, how….

R-Oh no, we took it off and put a Lumb on. [At Bancroft]

Yes, but how could they govern, how could they govern with the Whitehead down yonder then.

R-Because they were double ported valves.

Aye, that’s it.

R-That’s single. [Bancroft engine]

Yes, that’s it.

R-Like a gas engine running, you know, next to drop valve job. [a completely different principle and a very fast acting valve. Common on later engines]


R-We used to say to Roberts why don’t you make some double ported valves. It’s just as easy as making single ported ones, they only want another bar in the cylinder and a slot through the valve, that’s all.

Aye, they’d have been a lot better wouldn’t they.

R-Oh they would have been a lot better, you see they travel too far.[the single ported valves] You notice when we stopped, especially when I wound it up, how far they’re travelling. Well when I used to wind the governor up at Crow Nest like at stopping time, you know, to get it started again. I mean they didn’t travel as far as yours are doing without load on.

[What Newton is talking about is altering the speed regulator on the governor to give more travel to the valves when starting the following morning with far more load. He evidently did it with the engine running, just before he closed the stop valve. I always used to do it last thing as the engine was stopping. It’s best to do it at stopping time because you can’t readily tell where the regulator is set when the engine is stationary. I used to give Bancroft about two and a half turns.]

R-When I started up used to click, and it were away. And you know you only had to crack that stop valve never mind put a full turn on. You know with them double ported valves, and it were off.

Aye, one of the things that struck me with them Corliss motion springs on that engine at Bancroft, they’d been on since it were new. And I mean, they’re just about buggered, I put a packing block behind them just to give them a bit more strength.

R-Aye, we’ve all done that Stanley, I used to put a wood block behind ‘em.

Yes, but when I did it I had to think about how far them valves’ll come up otherwise it’d smash the bonnet.

R-They’ll jam up you know and break the bonnet off. Aye, by gum, aye.

I had to think and reckoned up I could give them just short of half an inch.

R-Aye, you’ve to reckon up how far that valve wants to open. Or if the governor’s wound up or you’re well loaded.

Especially if your pressure’s well down.

R-How far it’s going to go, it can smash the bonnet off.

Aye, because once that catch has hold, it comes up again and something’s got to give somewhere.

R-It doesn’t let go, it doesn’t let go. You know there’s been many a bonnet broken off through the engineer taking the governor rods off to change the catches and then found out that the engine weren’t in exactly the right place and barred it round. And you see what happens if you take the governor rods off, you’re lifting arms don’t lift the catch out Stanley.

No, it just keeps going.

R-And it pulls the full length of the eccentric and you know how slow it’s going, you don’t see it till… but you hear it, creeeek! And off comes the bonnet! And the spindle bent like a lump of rubber tube. Mmmmm, I had lots of them, especially late at night.

Aye, when you’re tired and it’s dark.

R-Aye we’ve had lots of them late at night when the engineer has decided to change a catch after half past five. Tom Marshall did it at Wellhouse, Raikehead did it, Seedhill did it, Valley Mills at Nelson did it, Red Cross at Rochdale. They find they can’t get the catch out because the carriage isn’t in the reight place. There’s something in the way at the back, especially with Burnley Ironworks motion where it comes out of a slot. So they bar the engine round to a different shop and instead of knocking it out first, just bar it round, go on, bar it up lad you know. I can just picture old Tom Marshall. Go on lad, just bar it up a bit further, go on, we’re reight, Creeeek!

Oh my God!

R-Instead of lifting the catch out and letting it skate over the top.

This were at Crow Nest?

R- Aye, Crow Nest. Three boilers at Crow Nest, a perfect set up were that you know. One off and two on. Never boiler cleaning or owt at weekends, do it during the week.

That’s something we’re very lucky with at Bancroft, we don’t have to bother cleaning boilers or owt like that. You know, apart from once a year. Which were the worst shop in Barlick for water, would it be the canal shops? You know, for scaling boilers?

R-Well, they varied such a lot. I mean you’d get Fisher at Moss with umpteen thicknesses of scale on his boilers and you’d go to Long Ing where it were a different engine driver and he’d have nowt on his, all off the same water. So it were up to the chap being particular enough to see to his compo.

Aye, there’s a lot in that. That’s one of the things that saddens me up there, we’ve taken care of that boiler and just got it right.

R-Just got it nice and clean haven’t you. It varied a lot did that.

Yes, it’s amazing what you can do if you get the right compo and just keep using it and test your water.

R-I mean I went to Spring Bank, I think I were at Spring Bank at Nelson more off than on, two and a half year for Gilbert Jay. My boilers were just reight, you could see all the rivets and that and I just worked to what he’d put in, you know, it were all written down. And I’d go the next shop, Seedhill, They’d to get a new boiler in there. Me Father says, Hasta ever seen in yon boiler at Seedhill Newton? When they were pulling the old boiler out we did some piping . I said no I’ve never looked. He says Tha’d better have a look in it before it goes. I bet it were two inches thick on the top of the tubes. It were only a quarter of a mile further down the canal. [from Spring Bank] You see, it’s the engineer isn’t it?

Yes. I remember Charlie Sutton telling me a tale once, and I’ve no reason to doubt him ‘cause he didn’t have to tell stories. I’m not sure which mill it were but I think it were Barden, down Barden Lane.

R-It’d be Grenfell, aye.

And he said that at one time they had a lot of trouble with the boiler inspector, him from Brierfield, Vulcan Insurance Company, McNeill I think was his name.

R-Aye, he’s all right is Roger if you know how to handle him.

Anyway, what happened there, the boiler was scaling up badly, really badly, and he told them they had to get it reight, get it scaled properly or else he wasn’t going to pass it. He said it had just got ridiculous, they were getting bothered about the job. Anyway they got on to old Jim Sutton, Charlie’s dad and Jim told the engineer one night, I think he was only joking, but he says I’ll tell you what, if you want to scale that boiler, I’ll tell you how to scale it. Either put three gallons of linseed oil in or three gallons of paraffin, it doesn’t matter which, and all your scale’ll bloody drop off. He never thought any more about this until about a fortnight later they got a ring. Could they come down to Barden Mill because they were having trouble, they couldn’t blow any water off the boiler. They were blowing it down a lot you see and they couldn’t get any water out. They’d fallen into a trap. They got scale and so they blew it down more and more and there’s nothing makes scale faster than blowing down.

R-No, there isn’t.

Because if it’s bad water, it’s bad water you’re putting back in to make up.

R-Aye, and you’ve purified it once.

Well, there you are, they’re blowing it down and it got as it wouldn’t blow down, they were opening the valve and there were nothing happening, just a little trickle coming out. So Charlie said all you can do is let the boiler go out at weekend and we’ll have to cool it down somehow and have look inside it. So anyway, at weekend they made some connections to the boiler and started pumping cold water through it till they got it cool enough to open the lid and then they pumped the water out of the boiler so as they could see what were going on. He said it were beautiful, there weren’t a bit of scale on it, it were all in the bottom.

R-Aye, it were all in the bottom like a mountain.

He told me, what a bloody job they had and in the finish they had to undo the mudhole and knock it in wi’ a tup!

R-I’d to knock that one at the dairy in with a tup.

And let the water out, you can tell me about the dairy in a minute.


They had to let the water run out and soak away under the boiler as well as it could. He said there was water for evermore, sludge, scale…

R-Oh what a mess!

Anyway he said they took all weekend to clean it out and they were late starting on Monday but they got it all out and he said the boiler was perfect. It were about four weeks to the inspection and Jim told ‘em to blow it down regularly to get rid of the smell of paraffin because it’s amazing how long it hangs about. Anyway, McNeill comes down, looks through the mudhole and says Who the bloody hell’s done this! He played hell, he says you’re lucky that boiler isn’t leaking like an old kettle, which they were, but it were a newish boiler you see.

R-Aye, it were a domed end un because they’d done two in before you know.

Aye, so, they got away with it but McNeill told ‘em if he ever caught them doing that again….

R-Aye, what it does, it gets down between the joints and with the expansion, the plates and rivets start working because tha’s oiled ‘em.

What did you say about knocking in the mudhole at Dobsons?

R-I’d to knock the mud hole in at the dairy with a big three hundred weight tup when they had it full of milk.

Full of milk?

R-I told you, it’s on a tape you know.

Aye, I remember now, we were on about Settle and all

R-When we pulled out all of the milk in vacuum pumps into the boiler. We’d to knock the mudhole in with a three hundred weight tup, bottom lid.

Oh, it’d stick open all right.

R-It did, and that boiler were absolutely crusted up. If you’d have getten some cows in there they’d have had a reight do eating it, like cattle food when we’d boiled it up.

[What Newton is referring to here is that Dobsons were drying milk and whey on open drum dryers to produce powder that went into calf milk replacement and other food processing applications. The dried crust in the boiler was very similar to what was being produced in the dairy.]

Right, That’s Crow Nest. We’re quietly knocking them off, any bother with Crow Nest? Any trouble?

R-Oh aye, after the war. We never knew really what caused it, they allus said it was an air pump rubber that came off. One afternoon they rings up and said would we go down, they had had a smash up. I went down with me father and piston rods, tail slide, were five and a half inch rods and the back end tail slides were stuck up higher than the top of the cylinder, they’d had water in. They’d getten some water from somewhere, it had split the cylinder right down the middle, it lifted the top half off just like an egg. You’ve seen the photographs. It smashed all the back cover and sheared the studs. It had smashed the tail slide foundations right off, you know, standing on the tail. It sheared the cross head cotter first and when it [the crosshead] came back it didn’t go in the hole , it must have gone up a time or two because it were all scoured but then it missed and knocked it out through the back end. It split the piston like a Kraft cheese in a box, into six pieces, and it were a right mess, poor old Sydney were poorly, no doubt about that. [Sydney Heaton]


The smash Newton found.

Now wait a minute, you say they had an air pump rubber come off, how….?

R-It were running very light loaded just at that time.

What do you think it had done, drawn water up through the exhaust?

R-Drawn water out of the hot well into the engine aye, sucked it back through the Edwards air pump. Vacuum must have sucked it up through the ports into the low pressure cylinder but I don’t agree with ‘em.

What do you think it were, a slug? [A ‘slug’ is a mass of water that passes through a system in one lump]

R-I didn’t agree with ‘em, no, it had primed and gone through the high. [pressure cylinder]

Tell me something, I can never weigh that one up, I’ve never had one happen.

R-Oh you don’t want no priming Stanley! It’s terrible.

Yes but when you get a prime, how can it get through to the low pressure cylinder without doing it in the high?

R-Well, I said it had done but I had to explain. It got a right cylinder full into the high pressure and it were lucky. It must have got it during the length of the stroke and filled it but the exhaust valve were open and when it went back it shoved it down the pipe and it went straight into the low. ‘Cause it’s a cross compound engine set at ninety degrees so that side were open and all but when that piston came back on low pressure that [the exhaust valve] were shut because them valves on the low pressure shut about two foot sooner than the high think on, they have to get some compression up. That’s when it shoved the end out of the cylinder and it never blew the relief valves because they were full of shinio metal polish!

Aye, that’s a thing.


The relief valves on the Bancroft high pressure cylinder. Thay are the two brass domes with the nut on top. The low pressure had the same.

[I’ve come across this many a time since. Most relief valves are brass and prominent and get a lot of polishing. Due to their construction it’s very easy for excess polish to get into the valve and on to the seat where it sets up mild corrosion and sticks the relief valve down. The function of the relief valve is to lift easily to allow any excess water to escape and on the low would only be set at about 50psi maximum. It shows how well they were stuck that they resisted pressures high enough to split the cylinder. SCG.]

R-That did it and nobody telled me any different about Crow Nest, it were no air pump rubber. It went through the high because, and this was another thing Stanley, it were like whitewash. You don’t get that unless it has come from the boiler.

Yes, compo. [Compo is boiler composition, a chemical additive injected into the boiler with the feed water to inhibit the formation of hard scale.]

R-Compo, and boiling hot and all. When I say boiling I mean fizzing.

We’d better explain to people I mean we both understand what we’re talking about but other people don’t. When we talk about priming we mean when a boiler starts, when it’s full to the top….

R-Full to the top with water and instead of steam going up the pipe it’s water at 160psi.

That’s it, but you can get priming with mucky water and somebody doing something silly.

R-You can get it intermittent with oil in the boiler or too much compo.

Yes, and I’ll tell you something else that can make ‘em prime and all, if the firebeater washes his overalls in the hot well with soap powder and uses too much of it!

R-And puts that in, anything that froths, yes. ‘Cause I had a do at Seedhill when I were there a long time, I was there twelve months and someone put a barrel of Stergene, liquid soap, into the canal one weekend. When I looked in at me air pump on Monday morning and it were beautiful! It were possing it and there were suds coming over the top. I thought it’s a good job I’m well loaded, I don’t like that. And within half an hour Gilbert Jay came dashing down from Spring Bank, he hadn’t retired then, he said How’s your air pump Newton? I says, Going up and down like it allus does! He said Never mind the codology, let’s have a look at it. It were a big air pump and I said, Oh, we’re sudding away merrily, do you want any washing doing? He says, You want to go and have a look at mine, with having a thousand horse on. Well, I says, what’s happened. He said that someone had tipped a forty gallon drum of soap in the canal over the weekend. Them mills weren’t so far apart you know. There were me, Whitefield and then Springbank aye, and it were beautiful, it’d be after dinner when it settled down. I didn’t like it, did I heck. I didn’t like that going into the boiler you know.

No well, the other day up at Bancroft, with finishing the tapes, he emptied the size beck into the dam and they must have had a fair bit in. Well, when he did, I turned the towns water on into the well. John came to me and said that water was on in the well and I said yes, it’ll stop it coming back in from the dam. Wait while that lot settles down. I said I didn’t know what that lot would do in the boiler and seeing as we only had three weeks to go I weren’t having any accidents ‘cause that’s just when they happen.

R-You know it’s a funny thing you should say that. I’ve been up twice this week to do an odd hour for you and I’ve been more careful this last few days than I’ve ever been.

Yes, so have I.

R-I’ve never left that engine once and if I’ve walked round once I’ve done it fifty times.

Aye, that’s it.

R-I’m having no bearing ropes off, we’ve only three weeks to do.

No you’re right, you’re right. That thought had gone through my mind.

R-It can happen.

Oh you can get alekewfik. (army slang for not caring what is going on.)

R-Crow Nest, I might as well tell the tale about what we did. We were stopped then, smashed up. We got down, got some men, got some blocks up, there were no crane, it were all big oak joists, you’d to move ‘em about you know, about twelve inch square roof baulks. We got it stripped, we lifted the top half of the cylinder off, just like lifting the top half of an egg. Me and Harry Crabtree were taking the top bonnets off you know, steam valve bonnets and Harry says Hold on a minute Newton, there’s a blooming great lump of this corner coming off, never mind taking the nuts off. You know we’d taken the nuts off and I was drawing the bonnet, he were at the other side were Harry and corner of the cylinder were coming off and all. He says, Stand well back. ‘Cause you see there were lagging covering it up for a start. So anyway, we get it all stripped off and motion off and lagging off and then I lifted the top half of the cylinder off. It looked like a sectioned job in a museum. We got piston rod out and piston away and plenty of blokes on the job and wagon outside and got it all carted away. We wheeled the cylinder round the engine on a truck and tipped it through the window up this side, up t’mill side you know. We didn’t bother taking the steps away or anything like that and what we’re going to do now you know, the insurance blokes were there and it were before McNeill’s time.

Yes, hang on a minute, you say you didn’t bother taking the steps away or anything like that.

R-That were the engine house steps. I left them, with having the cylinder I two halves I’d no need to. I didn’t use the proper door to take it in or out of, I took it round th’engine between the second motion shaft and the flywheel and chucked it out through the window.

That’s something that people don’t realise many a time isn’t it, that engine house door were allus big enough to take the low pressure cylinder out of.

R-Yes, always the low pressure. So, but there’d been some buildings built up at the big window end, second motion end of course, it were no good going there, there were t’second motion shaft and pulley in the way anyway. Anyway, I got rid of it and got it outside and oh, I were nattered by the insurance company you know. There were a bloke coming from Burnley, it were afore McNeill’s time, Bentley they called the insurance inspector. He kept coming to me and saying Newton, what you going to do? I said I’m going to couple the high pressure to the air pump and let‘s get going. He says it won’t drive the load. Well I were still living here then you know and I said it’ll drive the load. I’ve reckoned it up on the kitchen table. If steam’s up at 160 there’ll be nothing to spare but it’ll run it. No, it won’t drive the load Newton, I’ve reckoned it up. Anyhow, he says, there’s a bloke coming from London, head man from British Engine, and by the way, it had only been insured with British Engine for one day, 24 hours. It had been taken off Vulcan and put on to British Engine because they’d had a bit of bother over the boilers.

Heh, they’d be sick!

R-Twenty four hours it had been insured with British Engine and t’middle of the morning after, we’re getting a pretty clear field on, we were starting to take some particulars for a pipe from the high pressure to the air pump and I’m down this hole and this chap came in, nice feller he were, tall thin chap and I can see him now. Mr Pickles? I says I’m here. Can you come up a minute? Yes I says, before we start, don’t start on about these motors in the gearing alley because I’m not bothering with no motors until I’ve got this mill running. Look he says, I’m not bothering you about any motors, you carry on with the plans I’ve heard about, it’ll run this mill. I says, Aye, it’ll run it but they’ll burn some coal but it’ll run the mill. It were a big engine you know, it were twenty five inch bore were the high pressure. Anyhow he says It’ll run it if they can keep steam up. I says, it’ll run it and they’ll keep steam up because they’ve got three boilers. And he took Bentley away and that were the last I saw of ‘em. I got a piece of eighteen inch gas pipe at the gas works, you know the gas works were still working then. Steel pipe, we cut it and bent it and welded it all sorts of fancy shapes till we got it from the air pump connection to the high pressure exhaust connection under the engine. We had all the floor up and we got it coupled up and about two o’clock in the morning I were ready for running. This were a week and three days later, I were ready for running but there were no engine driver, me an Ernie were poorly.

How did you drive the air pump?


The temporary set up Newton put in.

R-Oh, I straightened the piston rod out as best I could, took it up to the shop and straightened it and I fabricated a bracket to stand at the end, on’t cylinder foundation as far back as I could get it wi’ a big bronze bush in. we fastened it down wi’ four bolts but I’d slotted ‘em because I know it wouldn’t be straight, so’s bush could slide up and down and find its own centre and I put the tail slide and slipper back on you know and that’s how we ran it, put tail slide back on. I repaired the stone [where it had broken out] with a piece of steel plate. We left the slide without plates, it hadn’t any plates on hadn’t Burnley Ironworks slides, You know, yours has plates on up at Bancroft. [Newton means the retaining plates on top of the slide to stop any tendency of the slipper to rise.] They’d no top plates on but I said it would be alright if it wants to come up, let it. It couldn’t go far with that big bush, it were about a foot long were this bronze bush, big flange on and four bolts in but not tightened, locked with lock nuts. Anyhow, about two o’clock in the morning we were ready for running, Crabby says Are we going to run it Newton? I says Aye, we’re going to get on in the morning, we’re going to get them weavers back. I’d got the fireman there and the oiler were there and we got some steam up. Sydney weren’t there but I says don’t bother about Sydney, we’ll soon have it running, I’ve run it many a time you know when they’ve been poorly. So we got warmed up and barred it round, and barred it round you know, and it were champion there weren’t owt sticking anywhere.. I says right, we’ll have to get it running so I just cracked the stop valve open and she went round about twice and Crabby were down the low pressure side. He shouts Whoa Newton, there’s sommat not right here! He said that when the crank came down it was sparking on the low pressure fly wheel shaft pedestal. Oh no I said, That’s crowned it reight. It hasn’t moved the fly wheel shaft pedestal has it? And it had, It had moved the pedestal on the low pressure side about half an inch. With the jar you know. A sudden shock had brought it out. It had tightened the shaft between the bearings because we hadn’t got, we hadn’t gone round half a dozen times and the collar on the bearing behind the crank were red hot. Crabby says Oh blooming heck! And they were big nuts. He says Are we going to loosen ‘em, to yank it back at this time of night? I says No, we’re not Harry, I says Let’s go back to the shop and get that big tup from the shop. We had a big tup that we used on fly wheel keys sometimes, it weighed about eight hundred weight with two rings in you know. I says let’s go and get that big tup, we’ve got the blocks up, let’s knock it back opposite road to what it knocked itself out. And we did, we thumped it back, bang, we could get to the pedestal with the crank at the top and we tupped it back to where it were before, we could see the mark you see. We did it without loosening the bolts, we brayed it back and you couldn’t tell we’d touched it. Come on, we’ll try again and it ran like a sewing machine, it did. Anyway, we got a load on and we got running at morning. The weavers straggled in, you know how they are, it took ‘em a couple of days to get back to their work after a job like that. Sydney came down and he were scared of it, I’d to go down every morning wi’ him at starting time and that. We’d no bother with me bronze bush and tail slide or owt, the air pump, we had a good vacuum. Tha talks about shifting coal, they hadn’t been used to burning coal like that at Crow Nest, anyhow, I left him with it. He rang up a day or two after and I were out, I’d gone on somewhere else and me father says Hey, get to Crow Nest, Sydney’s panicking! High pressure cylinder’s knocking now. I says No, never! And I went down but he must have been imagining it, it weren’t knocking but by heck, it weren’t half nodding. I says it’s going to break that bed, We’d 590 horse on and the figures were crossing on the high pressure with 160 pounds on. I says Look Sydney, stop it and we’ll send them home. So, it’d be the middle of the afternoon, so we stopped it and I sent them home, I said it would be all right in the morning. And you see that engine , like we’ve just been on about compression, well it always had a lot of compression on top keep, ‘cause it ran so quiet you know and a hell of a big flywheel and all. So I knocked the exhaust vale eccentric back until they were just closing at the end of the stroke because you see I were wanting vacuum to give ‘em a full do of opening. I says Let’s try it now tomorrow and it ran like a sewing machine but there were a tap in the crank pin. I’d to take the crank pin up and the crosshead because now it were running without compression. But it were the only way you could run it with one cylinder.

Yes, because you wanted the vacuum to work an’ all.

R-I wanted the vacuum to pull the piston back, I wanted all the vacuum I could get for the full length of the stroke, and that stopped it nodding. Because when it come to compression I mean it could have been shoving it right up there, the indicator diagram were going right up and looping. They could have been up to 200psi straight up at back on full compression. So I knocked it (the eccentric] back and it ran a treat, it ran like that from July till March, to February when the new cylinder came. It were February and it were snowing like the clappers and I think they like, Heckmondwyke made that and machined it and all and drilled it and it came on a blooming wagon and of all the senseless people, they sent on the wagon wrong side up. Eight and a half ton.

You had to turn it round.

R-I had to turn it over in the mill yard with a couple of blocks on a fourteen inch girder that we’d put across the yard to lift it up. And to get it in we’d taken all the steps away and the window and door out. Door jamb had to come out, it wouldn’t go through.

End of tape.

SCG/09 November 2000
9397 words


TAPE 79/AG/10


Right, now last time we were talking Newton, we were talking about the Crow Nest engine when the low pressure cylinder went and we’d got as far as where they’d landed the fresh cylinder and it were snowing and it was upside down on the wagon. Now, you’ve got free rein, go on from there.[Newton reckoned the job at Crow Nest was either 1947 or 1948. He was living at Vicarage Road then. He said it was the same year as the broken fly shaft at Wellhouse because they’d just finished tidying up after that job when Crow Nest went. Later research shows that it must have been 1955 because this is when the Wellhouse shaft broke. SCG]

R-So, after a lot of annoyance and a bit of bad language. We decided like we’d have to lift it off. So we lifted it off and there was no tarmac or anything under the wagon you know, it were just an ordinary muck road, and we lowered it down and put a couple of battens under it and it sunk about six inch into the soft muck under the snow. Then we’d to set to and roll it over. With big shifts and little shifts we got it upstairs into the engine house at about twelve o’clock at night, with a few storm lamps and a candle or two and a bit of electric light we had and we didn’t do so bad after that. We’d only about three days left to get it running. We got it into place and it fitted reasonably well. We hadn’t machined this cylinder, it had been machined at Heckmondwyke. I comes to put valves in to make gauges to re-turn the valves, you know, the low pressure valves were a heck of a length, they’d be about three feet long. We found out they’d bored ‘em a bit out of parallel and of course the big end were at end where they should have had lead in. So I thought this is a right how do you do for a new engine. So I were up at t’shop turning valves and I just happened to mention this thing to me father. Well, he says, You can do nowt only leave them ten thou slack up to t’bonnets. Eh, I didn’t like the idea of making ‘em slack, so slack to start with.

Can I just interrupt you there Newton, when you say they were ten thou slack up to t’bonnets…

R-They happened to be tapered the wrong way. They’d bored ‘em from the wrong side. You see when you start rebore like that, when you start boring a casting with a lot of length to the bore you naturally get a spot of tool wear. You did on, you did when using ordinary tools anyway, you got a spot of tool wear and they’d started boring them from the end they finished up at, from the bonnet end and we always bored us corliss valves from the cover end, the blank end. And then if it went smaller it went smaller up to the bonnet and when you shoved ‘em in it were OK.

Yes, ‘cause obviously you’d put them in from the end opposite from the bonnet. [See the picture of the Bancroft valve earlier.]

R-That’s it, you could turn say, day you did lose ten thou on the bore, which I never did lose anything hardly, but they had done. If they had been the other way I could have turned me valves ten thou of taper and they’d have fit perfectly. So I couldn’t, I couldn’t see turning them valves to the small end and leaving ’em slack at the bonnet end, which meant they wouldn’t have rested correctly on the face and there’d have been some steam leakage for a heck of a long time before they wore themselves down. So what I did, I turned all the valves and I said to Harry Crabtree, me mate, Don’t put the bonnets on. I turned all valves with a taper on to put ‘em in from the bonnet end. He says, and I’ll never forget Harry, What are you doing? I’m turning the taper same way as it is. He says, Well who’s going to pull the buggers out if there’s anything wrong with them? I says, Look, we’re going to have to chance it. If there’s anything wrong with them valves we’ll have to take the bonnets off, that’s all, to get them out, we know. Him and me knew all about it. So I turned these valves wi’ a taper of ten thou less at the tail end and we put them in from the bonnet end and then put the bonnets on after. You allus get that bit of [tolerance], where you can move ‘em about, you’ve got to have running tolerance. We poked ‘em in on to the tees, all four, and nobody knew about it, they never came out again. But you know it would have been a hell of a long time before they wore down enough to get them out the other end and I’ve always wondered what would have happened if someone had gone and tried to take the buggers out. Anyway, we get it all together and at about, oh, two or three o’clock in the morning we were ready for putting the steam pipe back. We’d had to take the steam pipe down to get the cylinder into the engine house because it ran over the window. We were all getting a bit at bands end, we’d worked night and day for seven days solid and two of me labourers were putting t’steam pipe up and making joints while me and Harry were finishing the cylinder off and bits o’ pipes, drains and one thing and another. And about quarter past six, happen a bit sooner, we’ll say six o’clock in the morning, I says right, put some steam on at the boiler house. Well, they put steam on in the boiler house and I don’t know what them lads had been doing but it blew the Taylor ring clean out of one of the joints, and everyone were asleep on the floor except me and Harry.

Now one second Newton, a Taylor’s ring, that’s one of the corrugated rings…

R-It’s a joint ring, a corrugated joint ring that you put between the joints in your steam pipe lengths.

Which would you rather have, Taylors rings or an ordinary [asbestos] flat joint?

R-On a really good flat joint, Taylors but on a rough flange I wouldn’t entertain ‘em. Put soft packing in.

Did you use Hermetite on them?

R-Manganese, aye.

Manganesite, yes.

R-Manganesite, aye, I used to fill Taylors rings up with Manganesite. Anyway, Harry says Come on Newton, let’s get up on the bloody scaffold, get steam turned off and make it us self! So me and Harry set to, there’d be a dozen bolts round that flange, seven eighths of an inch and we set to, we were absolutely buggered and we made the joint.

And they’d be red hot then.

R-And it were red hot. We’d been out in the snow all week and we finished up wi’ the last joint bloody red hot, wi’ all the windows out, eh! Anyhow we got running as near as I can tell, we moved her over the first time about quarter to seven and she picked her feet up and got hold of the vacuum and she were off. I says to Sydney, th’engine driver, I says, Leave the bloody thing running, it’s seven o’clock nearly, if they want to come in, the weavers had been notified to come in Monday morning, if they want to come in they can do. So we ran on and sometime between seven and half past Sydney vanished, he went home for his breakfast and he said he’d be back in a bit. Quarter to eight there were a hell of a noise in’t low pressure cylinder, grind and grunt. I hooked the governor off, stopped her instantly. Harry says What’s that! I said I think I know what it is, I think there’ll be some core sand that’s dropped out of a corner that you can’t [get at]…couldn’t get out of the porting, and it’s dropped in the cylinder bore. We’ll have to get rid of that! [Harry says] What we going to do, take t’covers off? I said, Are we buggery! This time o’t day and been up all week, never been to bed? I says, That big flange on top…. There’s a core flange on top of the steam chest you know, same as there is underneath to get your muck out, [for the] moulders to get their muck out. I says, We’ll take that flange off Harry and we’ll put a drop of oil in and then we’ll put it back on. So we took this flange off which would be about two feet in diameter and a dozen seven eighths nuts on it, we had the blocks up, we lifted it off and we put a drop of oil in, about thirty bloody gallon! He he he! Out of buckets and I started it up meself, th’engineer never appeared so I started up about half past eight and there were a lot of sizzling and spitting and a nice greasy piston rod and all running a bit black. I says, I think we’ve shifted it! And it never, it just purred away and never ailed owt any more. So that’s when I came home for me breakfast ‘cause I said to Harry, You’re all right now, you look after it, I’ll just nip across t’road, I’ll get the wife to make me breakfast, have a wash and a shave and I’ll be back in half an hour. I might have been a bit longer than half an hour. I goes back and me mates sat in the chair, round t’corner a little, there were like a little vestibule, chair round there and a desk and he’s there in that corner and he’s hard on! I thought Oh My God, brand new engine and about £12,000 of a job running on its own! And just then I saw this cap come down the far side and just walk round the bottom and it were Jack Sneath, engineer from Fernbank. He said, No need to worry Newton, I’ve been here since you went up that yard, as soon as you walked up them steps he were asleep then and you hadn’t got out of sight! He must have come in one way as I went out the other. So I thought Thank God, he’d had plenty of experience with that sort of thing. Anyhow, I stopped there like, and Harry come home, and I stopped and nobody turned up, no Sydney, and it were another fortnight before he turned up.


Crow Nest low pressure back in place.

Which were, Sydney Brown were that?

R-Sydney Heaton., his nerve had gone you know and he were a long time before he really came to. He’s still about.

I’ve heard you say before about engineers that got to the state where they couldn’t start their engine.

R-No, they used to come for me and knock me up at half past six in the morning saying I can’t start it, I’ll never start it this morning. [Newton is talking about Sydney Heaton here] All sorts of excuses, warmer’s been left on all night, air pump’s red hot and all that sort of carry on. I’d walk across and there’d be nothing. I’d just open the stop valve at five to seven and within ten minutes he’d be all right then, he’d say I’m all right now. Aye, especially on Monday. Oh he came across many a time and I talked to his wife, he’d had a terrible shock with that job you know. After a month or two he were as reight as rain. She said he used to get up in the middle of the night to take the dog out you know.

I know some people now….they…. I don’t know if you’re the same but if I’m sat there and there’s a sudden sharp noise…..


I’m forced, I move straight away.

R-We’re all like that that’s been in this trade. You’re round, your head’s round and you’re up in a flash! Least little change.

And people say to you, By God, your nerves are bad!

R-But you’re, no, I say no I’m not but my reactions hellish fast!

That’s it isn’t it.

R-You see, that’s what it is you know.

I’m glad you’re the same because…

R- I mean you see, we’ve been at it all these years and it doesn’t matter what, or where you are, if there’s a change of noise, suddenly you want to know what it is don’t you.

Aye, that’s it, I’ve always said that you’ve spent all your life listening.

R-It’s like me walking on the floorboards and all, all at once there’s a different bloody creak and you say to the wife Oh my God, there’s bloody dry rot starting up! He He He. [This happened to Newton at home and is why he was laughing, he heard a different noise, had a look and found they had dry rot in the floor under his organ!]

Anyway, we’re getting away from it, that’s my fault, we’re getting away from it a bit.

R-I know, it helps though.

One of the things I’d like to talk to you about a bit is the difference between , I mean, nowadays anyone that [has an engine], I’m talking about amateurs and preservationists, people like that. Anybody that knows anything about engines, you know there’s a hell of a difference between running an old engine and running a new one. I’d just like you to talk about that a bit you know.

R-Oh well, when new engines were put in, like as not, I mean I never had this experience personally but I talked to these people that had gone on a new engine, if it were Burnley Ironworks or Roberts, the fitter that were in charge of that job, more often than not, stopped with the engine a few months and he told ‘em which lubrication to get and how much to give them and you know, this that and the other. Now at Wellhouse, up here when this new side were put in in 1927 I were only a lad but I were knocking about at the time and I know they started that engine up but Billy Watson started it up himself. He were a young chap that came from Rochdale on to that engine. He told them what cylinder oil he were going to use on that engine and they started it up with Valvoline and he ran that engine on Valvoline for about ten month. Then of course, the directors started grumbling at him and he had to go back on Burnley oil and he says well, I don’t know why you want me to put it back on Burnley oil. Well they said, it’s cheaper, but he said we’re only using half as much. Anyhow, they had to go back on Burnley oil eventually because the directors of the shed company were directors in the firm that were supplying the oil.

Aye, that’d be Cookes, Sam Cookes.

R-Aye, it were Cookes so it had to go back on Cookes.

Aye, but I’m thinking about things like, you know if you get a drop of water in an old engine there’s plenty of places where it can squirt out of.

R-Oh well, that’s why these fitters more or less stopped with ‘em you know to give it it’s running in period. They’d to make sure the engineers were well enough educated to make sure he didn’t start with his drains closed or such things like that you know. Lubricators turned off, because like you say, with a new engine there were no bloody room to spare for water to go up past the piston. And if all them drains were shut, bang, there’d be a broken cylinder in no time, or if it wasn’t warmed properly. [Watching] expansions….

In your experience Newton, did you ever see an engineer that had been what we’d call nowadays, trained to look after a steam engine? Or were they all, did they all come up through experience.

R-No, I only knew odd ones that had been trained to look after one. Only people that I knew like that had been brought up wi’ an engineering firm like I was and left ‘em and went on to engine tenting, mill engineering and there were plenty about you know. Such as Walter’s father at Moss and Johnny Waddington at Bradley Mills at Nelson, you know people like that who’d been brought up as millwrights. And a chap, I just forget his name, that ran a little shed on’t boundary between Colne and Nelson, he were a fitter for Roberts. There were Cockerill at Sunderlands at Nelson, he were a Roberts engine fitter. And people like that. More often than not you know, its were either father to son or if it were a big mill son ‘ud oil for his dad for twenty or thirty years and then his father’d retire and t’son ‘ud get the job. And that’s the way it were but sometimes it didn’t work out just reight neither. Father’d leave and t’son ‘ud forget to turn th’oil on and then there’d be a hell of a mess you know. I mean that happened at Fernbank when Jack Sneath gave up you see, his oiler had been with him for donkeys years. He only left him a couple of days and we were stopped with the crank pin hot and them crank pin blocks hadn’t been adjusted from 1914 up to the present day. Never had a warm bearing in any shape or form. Only been away for two days and they’d got the high pressure crank pin hot, and believe me it were hot. It’s a wonder it didn’t rive the connecting rod off at t’other end. I couldn’t get the brasses out, it were all seized up and stuck to the pin. I had to thump ‘em round the pin with a striking hammer to get them loose. Burnt themselves fast they did, aye. And it weren’t because he hadn’t the experience like, you know, wit’ engine, he’d been there donkeys years, twenty five of my knowledge. Aye, he did that. But that’s how it worked, you’d get a fireman, a two man shop. Your fireman had happen been with you donkeys years and he’d helped you and watched you and you’d shown him in case you didn’t turn up one morning, you weren’t so well. And then they’d follow on to the engine after he retired. But not so often, that case, right away. Which has happened recently of course. [Newton is referring here to SCG taking over Bancroft from George Bleasdale after working with him as firebeater. This was a slightly different case as the management had set SCG on with the intention of him following GB when he retired six months later.] If the engineer’s poorly and they can’t [get in] they ring for such as us to go and run it for a day or two till they get fireman settled down or train someone else up or try to get a new engine driver.

And that day or two can turn into months?

R-Can last for months.

That’s it, aye.

R-I went to Spring Bank and I were there two and a half years. They wouldn’t bother with anyone else.

Yes. Now then, we’ll have a rest from the engines for a minute or two.

R-Why, where are we going now then?

We’re going to do something on water wheels.

R-Oh heck!

Now then, you won’t have done a lot on water wheels round here I know, but there’s at least one you’ve worked on……..

R-Well, I’ve done a little bit like. I’ve done little things like lifting ‘em up and putting new bearings under ‘em. And putting new gear wheel segments on and a new bloody pinion.

Now just hold on, you’re going too fast.

R-I’ve done that like you know, I’ve had a little bit to do with them.

No, what I was going to say was that the main of your work round here was on steam engines but there have been odd occasions when you’ve been called out to water wheels.

R-Oh yes, aye.

Now there’s one mill in particular I’m thinking of, County Brook, you did a fair bit of work there didn’t you.

R-County Brook? We did that.

Now tell me what the set up was at County Brook, how it was driven and what you went and did.

R- Well, County Brook was a very very old mill. The bit that was left of the old mill when I was a lad and the water wheel was still running. That ran on to a shaft that ran to another shaft and there was a 60hp National Diesel coupled to it and the diesel engine governed the water wheel. They reckoned they used to get about 40hp out of the water wheel when they had water but when the water was done the engine had to turn the water wheel as well, they couldn’t knock it out of gear, there were no clutch. Then they extended that shed and we did the millwrighting for it, and put another two hundred looms in. We did all that millwrighting and pulled the engine out and National brought a new one. They went from 60hp to a hundred horse National Engine, slow running you know, not totally enclosed. What did they run at, about 130revs a minute, sommat like that, big fine engine. We put a new line shaft in, all new pulleys and then we put a 60 hp electric motor in and all just in case trade were bad and they could run with the motor, or if there were no water they could start the motor up. They were all on fast and loose pulleys were these, about seven feet with an eight inch belt on about an inch thick. They’d a real set up up there. And then we extended the place again after a few years, for another two hundred looms and a two storey building to form a cellar underneath. We did all that job but that ran separately with an electric motor at the top of the steps like, just where you went up into the shed you know.

One big motor?

R-One big motor, about a hundred horse motor.

How about the water wheel there, what sort were it?

R-Well, it were a wood construction wheel with a cast iron shaft and wooden spokes right up to the wheel segments and steel buckets which must have been renewed many many times, which we repaired once or twice. Cast iron segments, by segments I mean gear wheel, form of gear wheel round the outer edge. It’d be about twenty five feet in diameter and about six feet wide. The segments were getting worn, if one broke we’d go and put a new segment in. And oh, the pinion, you couldn’t lubricate ‘em with cylinder oil and ordinary grease, what they used to lubricate the segments with on that were gas tar, road gas tar, they found that the most efficient lubrication you could put on a water wheel. And then it started acting on, it were allus wearing teeth out in the opinion and the pinion ‘ud be about four feet in diameter. I think the teeth were about three inches pitch, you didn’t get many teeth in a four feet diameter wheel at that pitch you know. It used to wear ‘em out pretty regularly and we’d go and put a new one on. I said It’s running queer is this wheel one day to me father. He says What’s up with it Newton? Well I said, It’s reight in gear at one side but its out of gear at the other side. He said You’ll have to lift shaft up at one end and lower it at t’other to make it line up. I said, Well, if I lift it that much it’ll be through the roof! Oh, he said, Like that is it. So we went and had a look, popped a level on t’water wheel shaft while it were stopped one Saturday morning and t’bubble went out of sight in’t level like. So we had a reight look at it and found that gear side bearing had worn reight down, they were running on cast iron pedestals you know, it had worn right down through the pedestal on to the stone. So Mitchell [the owner] says Well, you’ll have to do sommat with that, we’re not doing without the water wheel. So me father gets his wood rule out and takes particulars, makes a pattern to make a new bearing but this time we put a bronze step in it didn’t we. And a hell of a thing it was and all, because I remember me and Bob Fort carrying that bronze step from t’shop up to County Brook. Wagon were out so me father says Oh, take it on the bus. There weren’t a bus so we walked all the way, he’d carry it a few yards and then I’d carry it a few to the top of, where you live, reight to the top of Tubber Hill and then there’s a gate and you go down through the field. I think we slid it down through the field on the snow or sommat. Anyhow, that’s nowt, we get this bearing in. And to hold that water wheel up, it were a bigger job than lifting any mill engine flywheel. Well, there’s no room, we made two holes in the wall through each side of the spokes you know. We put two girders in, two, about ten by six, and bolted ‘em together. Then we put some straps across and we made some inch and a half bolts and straps under the shaft and we tightened them you know to lift the wheel up. You couldn’t put jacks under it, you’d nothing only two straight walls. We pulled it up like that to get it clear of the bearings and the shaft I think was worn about two inch of taper! Were the shaft end. It’d been running for hundreds of years like that hadn’t it? So me father says Well, we can’t make a bearing that’ll fit that shaft so he got it cast on the same taper, we didn’t machine it. And me and Bob took it up and that’s how we were going to deal with it, offer it up, bring it back, do a little bit at it and try to make it fit better, So anyhow, we just dropped it down on to this new bearing you know, it looked beautiful and straight , in fact it were leaning the other way! So before we put the pinion on we decided the time had come to run the wheel, without the pinion on, for a bit, to see how the bearing went on. When we come to lower it down, penstock had been leaking and the buckets were all full on the drive side and as we were lowering it down it were trying to go round. It started to bend them ruddy bolts and by the time we’d got those bolts out they were just like, well, they’d have made a good bow and arrow out of the four you know they’d bent that much curve on them. Anyhow we got it to drop down on to this bearing and we got it running. We only put a drop of water on to get it spinning round, we’d no gearing on you know and it could go! Believe it or believe it not, water went all over the place and you couldn’t get anywhere near it, you wanted a sou’wester on and a mac like a fisherman. That bearing got red hot and it smoked and it sizzled with all that water running on it, it did that. So we shut the water out and got it stopped and I went down to the shop and me father says Well, how’s it going on? I said How’s it going on? I’ve never had a hot neck on a water wheel before! He says What! I says we’ve a bloody hot neck Johhny on that water wheel. Never he says, I can’t believe that. Bob says Well, you go up and have a look Johhny, there’s steam coming off it! He he he! And you can’t get near it for water! I must see this he says, I must see this! So we get some Victory Compound, which is red moulding sand of course, nicely dried. He says Are you going to put that on it Newton? Well, I said, I can’t think of anything else! So off we went back with this big box of Victory Compound. Johhny stood well back, well, we put the water on and we got it going. I bet within ten seconds the bugger were smoking. Whoa! He says, and water were squirting all over the place. He says, Get some Victory mixed! I said Mix it be buggered, let’s put it on raw! So we put this sand on the shaft, no oil in it or nowt, and it ground and it screamed and it squeaked. By gum, in ten minutes it were a perfect fit and it never ailed another thing. It ran right up to them pulling it out and putting a turbine in. They used to get forty horse power out of that water wheel, I mean free, as long as Whitemoor reservoir was running over, you know.

That shaft’s still up there on the floor.


The shaft from the old waterwheel.

R-I do believe it is, it were never sold weren’t that shaft.

No, it’s still up there on the floor is that shaft.

[It is still there as I write, November 2000.]

R-Aye good. Believe it or believe it not it smoked did that bearing.

And as it wore in it’d drop down and the gear would be somewhere in line.

R-Spot on, We put the pinion back and put some fresh fat pads on and they never had another minute’s trouble with that. But the segments were getting badly worn.

Now wait a minute, you’ve said something there, fat pads.

Yes, great big fat pads.

You put fresh fat pads on, now tell me what you mean.

R-Well, fat pads, It’s yarn and waste rolled well and truly into a barrel of fat and, well, you know, saturated. But these people make this stuff on purpose, yarn and fat all mixed up.

That’s it, Calypsol yarn, shaft yarn.

R-That’s it, well they had that, they had a tub of it for their shed shafting. We made two big pads about a foot square and slapped ‘em on about three inch thick and they run for months.

Yes, now that’s something, we’ll digress a bit here. Once again it’s something that a lot of people know nothing about. I mean they see overhead shafting in sheds and nobody ever really thinks about it. Now, at Bancroft, I mean obviously, I’ve done ‘em the way they’ve always been done and you tell me whether it was common. What we used to do, of course those were fairly small shafts, only two or three inches in diameter. We put a pad of shaft yarn in each end of the box and then fill the middle with ordinary grease and a lump of hot neck on the top and that’s the standard way of doing it isn’t it.

R-Yes, and it’ll run for blooming years.

Well, to the best of my knowledge, when I went up there, those bearings hadn’t been greased for about three or four years and the six years I was there, apart from the occasional hot neck, all I used to do was go round and grease ‘em and turn the top pads over.

R-Odd squealer every now and again. That’s it, or make a hole in the top and put a drop of oil in.

Well, we couldn’t afford any more and well, they get burnt don’t they. [the fat pads]

R-Aye, they get dry.

They get dried up and charred on the bottom but I took ‘em all out and turned ‘em over because we couldn’t afford grease! But the funny thing were that just before we finished I persuaded ‘em to buy some shaft yarn and I think there were about a hundredweight and a half up there. There were enough to do the shed!

R-There were enough to do the shed, eh aye. But you know they were’t finest way of lubricating bearings and the finest bearings for a weaving shed that had ever been done were that. Ball races were no good, useless.

Why not?

R-Useless, they won’t stand the gearing.

Aye, the vibration.

R-No, County Brook, we’ve been on about County Brook. First shed to be built after Mitchells bought it. Ernest Foulds at Colne did that job and they did it on ball races, ball bearings and they’d nothing but trouble. Every week there were a ball race to change. And some job it was to change those ball bearings you know, I mean they’d to take all the drums off and a coupling off and slide ‘em off at the end. They were ball races with a drawing collet and a couple of lock nuts on. Well, more often than not the ball race would have seized up and broken a ball and started going round in the pedestal and jiggered it and all. And when we did all them other jobs, them other two extensions, we put ring oiler bearings in all through. [First extension was 1939, second was after the war.] But I always said, even with ring oilers. I think ring oilers were less friction but they needed more looking after than what an ordinary grease box did. I did umpteen sheds in Burnley and altered these small ring oilers and put ‘em on to grease boxes. What we used to do, We used to bore a great big hole through the top cap so’s you could fill it with yarn and grease and do away with the ring altogether. I did two sheds like that in Burnley, they were that fed up of ring oilers leaking oil out on to the cloth in the looms and squeaking and screaming ‘cause they had no oil in and ‘cause some of the rings had stopped [rotating]. But we did both them sheds at County Brook with ring oilers and they’d very little trouble with ‘em.

Aye, and one great thing about grease was that if you neglected ‘em, the bearing got warm and the grease melted and dropped down on to the shaft and greased it straight away.

R-It melted and greased it straight away.

And funnily enough, I was looking when they were pulling the shafting out there. I were looking at the journals and bearings that were coming out and they were just like new, they were beautiful.

R-Just like new.

There were very few of them, there were some of them roped a bit.

R-Not much.

But not much.

R-I bet there were hardly any roped on the line shaft.

Oh no. Do you know they were perfect.

R-I bet they were like new them bearings, I’ve looked at ‘em when they’ve taken ‘em down, run all those years, 50 or 60 years and they were perfect, you try it on a ball race, you see they won’t stand any gearing won’t a ball race.

Aye, vibration’ll do them won’t it.

R-Vibration does it. It doesn’t sound right does it but it’s quite true. And of course, they’re too narrow, there’s no shaft support.

Yes, that’s right.

R-Where you get a bearing three times the length of the shaft diameter, you know you put a ball race in for about a two inch shaft and how wide is it, about an inch, a standard one.

Aye and that’s very little bearing surface, very little.

R-And it’s trying to bend with the belts pulling at it all the time and the vibration of your bevel gear at the other end and bang wallop goes your ball race. Sunderlands at Nelson, mill wrighting were, it were Pollitt and Wigzell’s millwrighting and they were ball races throughout, oh you talk about trouble there. They’d ball races up to the bevels there, we used to have pedestals in stock ready and waiting for Sunderlands ringing up, they’d a ball race gone up to the bevel wheel. What a blinking job, it were a full weekend’s job to change one of them bearings. We’d to take the shaft down you know, they’d no collared neck and we had to shrink collars on, re-turn the shaft end when the ball race had chewed it up and then shrink collars on to make them a collared neck [The collars located the cross shaft and the bevel gear on the end.] and put fat pad pedestals on. No more bother after we’d put ‘em on. I’ll bet ninety percent of them had been done after the war.

How did they stop the shaft floating with no collars on?

R-Well, they’d no collars on because the ball race were supposed to nip the shaft you know. They were like a collet inside. And these were big ball races because that shaft up at that end would be 3 ½ inches diameter where it went into the bevel wheel.

Yes, and that’d act as a thrust bearing as well.

R-That ‘ud act as a thrust bearing as well, cor there were some bother. Smashed bearings and wheels going mad you know. Aye there were that. We used to bring, take the first length down, take it to the shop, skim the end up where the ball race had been, and we had bearings in stock for it. Shrink a pair of collars on and turn them to fit the bearing, take it back and plonk it in and more often than not it was Sunday afternoon afore you got finished. Because it were a long narrow shed were that, a lot of looms and the cross shafts were a hell of a length, they were big [bevel] wheels and all. I bet ninety percent had been replaced before the mill stopped. I bet they had.

Aye, now of course the thing that followed on from water wheels were turbines, you had a fair bit to do with them hadn’t you?

R-Oh aye, I’d a bit to do with turbines, water turbines, aye.

Who had turbines round here?

R-There were a turbine, my main turbine were at that little shed at the bottom of Pendle Hill at Barley. That were a big turbine were that and it’d be about fifty or sixty horse, a slow runner.

What sort?

R-It were a Gilkes, from Kendal, a horizontal one, not a vertical one. And my first experience with that, they, I never forgot it and all. We’d hardly anything to do with it and we were reight slack, me father had been in business a reight long time on his own. And it were one Thursday afternoon before Easter. He says, Eh, Mitchell’s rung up from County Brook, he wants us to go out to Barley, there’s something gone wrong with the turbine. Now Mr Mitchell at County Brook were a chap we could do wi’ more of nowadays. He believed in using his water power or any other power that didn’t use fossil fuel, which they’re trying to get back to today. If anything went wrong with his water wheel at County Brook or that turbine at the bottom of Pendle Hill, although he could still keep running with his diesel engine, he wanted it repairing, So we went on, me and me father. Mr Mitchell were in partnership there with a chap called Adam Hargreaves, nice old feller.

What were the name of the mill?

R-Narrowgates Mill Company. We went there and went down this mucky hole you knew and Cor! It were a big turbine. It’d be about seven foot tall the casing and about two feet wide.. It’s a big ‘un is this, Aye he said, we get about 50 horse out of it you know, when we have both dams full. Now why it were so large and so little horse power, there were very little fall to it. It had only got about ten foot and it’d be a three foot pipe. Anyhow, me father says What’s up with it? To the engineer. Well, engineer, he were engineer come tackler come warehouse man come loom oiler come shafting looker-after come greaser come everything! He could do his job and all, a nice feller. He says, it just stopped! He said the engine pulled up so he took the ropes off the turbine, it had three and a half inch ropes on. He took the ropes off and got running. He says, It’s solid, I don’t know what’s up with it. Anyhow, it were insured so me father says Right, we’ll be at it after Easter. So I went with the old fitter after Easter Monday, off we went to Narrowgates mill, we started to strip this thing and some job starting to strip it, it must have been fifty or sixty years old and had never been touched, everything was rusted up solid. Big shifts and little ‘uns and after about a week we got one end off and you never saw anything like it inside. Somebody had put an old flock mattress in the dam and all the flocks had gone down the pipe into the spinner and it had jammed it up solid. It were a soldered spinner, built up out of sheet brass, a beautiful thing and it had jammed all the vanes solid inside, between the guide vanes that governed it and itself which had riven the spinner completely to bits. All the soldered plates were loose, oh what a mess! It took us about a month to get it to bits. We got it to bits and took it to the shop. No problem to, like, make a new shaft and make new guide vanes which were all bent and worn but me father says, What about the spinner?

One thing about that Newton, sorry to stop you but when you say, now you said it was horizontal, the impeller, the spinner, was that horizontal or vertical?

R-Well, it stood vertical but it were a horizontal turbine, it’s like that there at Pitlochry or that down at Pately Bridge.

That’s it, the drive shaft comes out of the top.

R-It’s a vertical shaft, now this was a horizontal one.

This is a horizontal shaft. Now then, when you say guide vanes, those guide vanes inside it, were they adjustable? Was it one of those with the linkage on the outside?

R-yes, it had linkage on the outside and a mechanical governor on.

That’s it, aye.

R-Guide vanes were inside, they’d be about, oh, eight inches wide and two feet long, curved to the shape of the wheel and one overlapped another and when they opened they let more water in and when they closed, they closed the gap.

Yes, that’s it, because those early turbines like that didn’t have governing like that, they just used to govern them by the amount of water they let down from the top didn’t they?

R-They had a governor in the penstock.

Right, sorry about that, so you’d got to the spinner.

R-We got to the spinner, we had it all at the shop, the ends and everything and we got to the spinner. Me father took one look at it and said Well, we can’t make that. Come on Newton, Dost a think the old wagon’ll get us to Gilbert Gilkes at Kendal? I says, Well, it’s got us to Narrowgates every day for a fortnight, it’ll go to Kendal! We’d an old Austin 20 made into a little wagon. Aye, well come on then! No letters, no nothing, no ring up, this is the way to do a job, off we went to Gilkes at Kendal. Oh, hell of a big place, some of the biggest lathes there I’d ever seen in me life! Come in, come in, took us into the office, ever so long since. Travelled all that way, cups of coffee, cups of tea, sit down. Where do you come from, Barlick. Oh, what you doing, a turbine at the bottom of Pendle Hill, Narrowgates. Mr so and so shouts of Mr so and so, see if you can find any literature for a turbine at Narrowgates Mill Company, Pendle Hill. That chap weren’t ten minutes before he were back, that ruddy turbine must have been in fifty years. Full pamphlets of all the lot, full particulars sizes, everything. Now then Mr Pickles what do you want for this turbine. Me father says A New spinner. Oh my God he says It’s a soldered one. Well the one looked at the other. When do you want it? Me father says Yesterday! He says Shaft’s bent like. Gilkes man says Can you make the new shaft? I suppose you know it’s made out of cast steel? Me father turns round to me and says What did I tell thee! When it came into the shop he’d told me it was cast steel and how he knew, it had no carbuncles on it. Cast steel'l rust but it stays smooth. Mild steel and wrought iron rusts with carbuncles on. He says, I told you, I told thee that shaft were cast steel not mild steel. And I jolly soon found out when I got it in the lathe to try and straighten it. Anyhow, they made that spinner for us, I think it took ‘em about three weeks. Beautiful thing when I brought it back in a big wooden box, we were scared stiff of it. You know, picture it, about what, three feet or three foot six in diameter, eight or nine inches wide, all bevelled to fit inside the casing, it’d be a perfect fit. All brass rings and shiny brass plates and every little bit soldered together. Not a rivet in it, nothing. And the only casting of course was the hub and it had all slots cast in it for the vanes to go into, a beautiful thing. Anyway we put it all back together and I think we got it running sometime in October, we were there all summer because when we started to get it back together they decided then that they’d have a new header tank, it was a wooden one. And why this flock had gone down, the wood were rotten inside and it had dropped the grate you know, it had a grate in to stop[ any obstructions going down. It had dropped that down, it must have gone down over the years. So we put a new header on made of cast iron about ten feet by fifteen. Some job making that tank you know, it were a bigger job than doing the turbine, all cast iron plate. ‘Cause you couldn’t make it in one piece ‘cause you couldn’t put it together in the little building it were in. And a new clow for the dam, so they spent some money with us on that job and we got it running and it ran right up to the mill stopping did that thing, I don’t think it ever had anything else. I think I had to put some new pins in the guide vanes, that were about all it ever had done after that right up to the mill stopping which is only a matter of what, ten years since. There were a bit of an article about it in the local paper a week or two ago.

Yes, that’s it. It’ll be interesting to see, if we get round to it, which I think we will. It’ll be interesting to see inside that turbine up at Kirkstone Quarry because that’s a Williamson, they were Gilkes predecessors, so it’s a lot older turbine but there’s no movable guide vanes on that. It’ll be interesting to see how the spinners built up on that.


The Gilkes turbine I found at Kirkstone quarry in the Lake District. Very similar to the one Newton is describing.

R-I had another two but I never worked on them. That were at Barlick Corn Mill, that were very similar to that one at Barley, very similar turbine but they never used it. There were also one at Dotcliffe Mill at Kelbrook. Now they used theirs but I never had any occasion to repair it. Only job I did there I put a new shaft over the top of it which had fast and loose pulleys on to change it over when they wanted to run it at night for a bit of electric or if they were running any , you know, a spinning machine or owt like that. It ran a little DC dynamo as well and they just ran that for lighting, they ran all the lights for the shed of it and all you know. I never actually saw inside it but it were a big turbine were that. Only thing I did was put a new shaft in, new pulleys and strap fork and all that do. In fact I’d to cut the rope off that Albert Hoggarth hung his self on before I could start working. [Newton reckoned this was 1937/8 because he’d just started courting. Albert was brother to George who used to be engineer at Bancroft. SCG 2000.][Later research shows it was October 1932, evidence of a report in the Craven Herald, 07/10/1932.]

You’ve another turbine haven’t you, up at Grassington?

R-Oh aye, up at Lowcock’s He has two, . He has a double one, must be about three hundred horse power. It’s a heck of a thing Stanley. I couldn’t credit that turbine when I first saw it. It’s in a great big concrete tank about fifty foot square and it has all the weight of the river on it, so what horse power, we’ll say two….. I don’t want to exaggerate, it’s a double one you know, it has a spinner at each end and it’s fed from the centre so you get that feeding from the centre and then you get your vacuum. [Pull on the flow because of the drop pipe.] And they run at a fair speed do them. Now that single one of course, it’s stopped again just because he wouldn’t pay for having it repaired the first time. Silly old feller!

Lowcocks, what are they, are they still a mill?

They were manufacturers. Grand mill is Linton, make best museum in the country would Linton Mills if the silly old feller ‘ud let somebody go in and talk to him and do it. There’s everything in that mill. There’s a Newton, Bean and Mitchell engine, it’d be the last engine they ever made with drop valves, you know, a drop valve one with a tail end air pump. It ran a great big DC generator about ten feet tall. There’s two Paxman Diesels, I don’t know whether they’re six cylinder or eight now. I forget, one’s partially in pieces and t’others all together with great big DC generators on the ends. There’s a forty horse power turbine that runs a DC generator which used to light his house and heat it. It did that for fifty years, never cost them a penny and when we went to repair it when the bearings conked out he wouldn’t pay for it so I wouldn’t go any more. But it’s a marvellous set up. Then there’s that great big thing down in that concrete cellar, that’d run all the blinking lot with a DC generator on it as well as being coupled to all the shafting in the mill. They ran everything off that water, when there were plenty of water coming down the river, everything, mill, houses, looms, the lot. They even pumped water out of the river for people to drink. It’s a shame. In fact I think it’s ridiculous, I think someone wants to go along there and plonk an order on it before the scrap chaps get in there. There’s shafting up and everything.

Aye, There’s, at Narrowgates now there’s a chimney at Narrowgates.

R-It’s still up, they’ve made the mill into a big house.

That’s it.

R-Olive and I were over there last fortnight weren’t we love. (Olive was present)

It’s Hayhursts.

R-It’s a big house and he’s left the chimney on.

Yes, now that chimney looks to me like an old one.

R-It is an old chimney, there were a tree growing out of it when we used to go.

When you knew it, what sort of an engine was there in there?

R-They hadn’t one, never had one, I never knew of one, there was neither engine, nor boiler nor any trace but there’d been another shed there you know, down [the side] of the shed that was there when we went, out at the back round the field, past his office and down the other side there were lots of stones, piles of stones and old foundation ruins. I thought there’d been another shed there at some time and the engine and boiler must have run, you know been more looms than what they had and it must have run that lot. But there were no sign of that boiler and engine at all.

It’s a very old chimney and it’s in a…..

R- There were just a sign of a boiler house with an arch, now it has been made into offices has that building and rag stores underneath. That engine must have been somewhere up there. We never could fathom it out where it had been, we couldn’t. There’s just one interesting thing while we’re on about Narrowgates. When we went there first, that ‘ud be the first job we ever did, he had a hot crank pin on his diesel engine, that’s when Mitchells were partners Now later on in it’s life, Adam Hargreaves paid Mitchell out and ran it on his own as a family business wi’ his grandson and his daughter. Now then, they had a cross rope drive in there. From the turbine it ran up on to the first line shaft, the engine were in the next room, an eighty horse power National diesel that ran on to the same shaft with fast and loose pulleys, although the turbine drove by ropes. Now on that shaft there were about a four foot diameter rope pulley, now that ran from there into the shed on to another rope pulley. Now believe this or believe it not, It had cross ropes on. Now can you imagine a cross rope drive….

Rubbing against each other…

R-Listen a minute! One pulley for inch and a quarter rope and t’other bloody pulley for two inch ropes, he he he! It used to be re-roped every month, I think Coopers at Nelson used to make a fortune out of that job. It used to be re-roped every month, you couldn’t get into the turbine race for rope dust! You know, with the ropes rubbing together. Besides two odd pulleys. So me father says to Adam one day, Don’t you think Adam it’s about time we did away with this cross rope drive? He says How can you do away with it Johhny? The engine won’t run the other way round and neither will the turbine. Me father says, No need to has it if we put some wall brackets up here and we put a countershaft across and we’ll move that rope pulley on to that shaft there and at this end we’ll put a pair of spur wheels. And that were a fair job we did. We did that job for him and me father says I’ll tell you what we’ll do and all Adam, let’s make a rope drive pulley wi’ grooves all the same size and all. Did away with the cross drive, aye, no more trouble.

SCG/11 November 2000
9455 Words.


TAPE 79/AG/11


Now then, we’ll continue our guided tour round Barlick. We’d got as far as Crow Nest so I think we’ll move out into the fields now and go to Westfield. Now then, Westfield, now that were built about what? 1907?


Westfield engine house.

R-No, it were later than that it would be about 1912 or 1913, just before the war. [UMP order book and Billy Brooks evidence both say 1911] George Henry Watson started it up [engineer]. Lovely mill, modern in its design you know only two storeys, about 1200 looms altogether if they were all in. Divided into two tenancies it were in my time, one were Robinson Brooks and the other were Proctors. Cross compound Burnley Ironworks engine running at about 76 revs, four foot stroke. It were one of those engines that Burnley Ironworks made a bit cheap but allus looked, they looked like an engine, you see what I mean, by cheap. Corliss valves, instead of having one at each corner of the cylinder, at all four corners, they had ‘em all at the bottom. With dash pots in the middle down to floor level. They allus looked smashing to me and they run nice but they had a fault of course which was the live steam warming the exhaust all the time which dropped the economy a bit but not much I would say. But they were very efficient were them engines, there were quite a lot of ‘em about. Never spectacular or owt like that, fly wheel came loose three times, I keyed it on once and it never came loose again of course. I’m not being swelled headed but I tightened them keys. It had an alternator put on it later in life but otherwise… I put new crank pin steps into one side and new crosshead steps in its life and bored the low pressure valves. Why they all needed doing I don’t know and I never could tell why because me father bored ‘em years before my time. It hadn’t run long enough to have the low pressures bored he told me. I bored ‘em again and put new steam and exhaust valves and I rebored the air pump. But apart from that it hasn’t much attached to it, it ran and ran and gave very little trouble.


I have no picture of Westfield engine but if you look at the high pressure cylinder on this engine at Oakmount Mill in Burnley you'll see that it has all four valves at the top corners. This was a replacement cylinder made by Burnley Ironworks to replace the original slide valve HP cylinder and in order to get the centre height right they put all four valves at the top. This wasn't as good as having all four at the bottom because on this engine you had to be very careful about water in the cylinder because condensate couldn't get out of the valves.

Low pressure were corliss and all then?

R-Corliss yes, all bottom valves.

Just in passing, I remember you once telling me about going to an engine somewhere, when you lost a duck lamp and that were a big low pressure slide valve.

R-Oh, that were Calf Hall. They never found the duck lamp! It were missing but they never found it, that were Edwin up at Calf Hall, aye it were up there. Have we to tell the tale about the duck lamp, I mean it doesn’t, it isn’t this district like but we could tell the tale about the duck lamp, this happened at sea of course.

Oh, I think so, aye.

R-Have you heard this tale about the duck lamp. A ship in Liverpool you know, it came in , America to Liverpool and it were due for its engine inspection. So they took all the cylinder covers off and they inspected all the pistons and you know how they were always very particular on ships that all the spanners were in racks fastened to the bulkhead. A spanner for everything and it ‘ud be what, 15 or 17 thousand horse this engine. And t’captain shouted down that they were going to set sail on the tide that night. But the second engineer were a bit worried, all the covers had been put back on after the inspector left and his inch and quarter spanner were missing out of the rack and that’s a very big spanner you know. He says I don’t know, unless someone else has borrowed it, I don’t know where it is. So anyhow, they sail on the tide and as they went slow ahead there’s a clang, clang clang from the top like. They started slow ahead down the river and it were thumping were this engine in the low pressure cylinder. Second engineer says Oh my God, we’ll have to have this cover off again. So they’d gone about two miles down the river and he shouts up and fetches the number one down and he hears it. Get this engine stopped! Quick now, I’ll go and tell the captain. So the captain shuts down and they stop this ship like in the middle of the bloody Mersey. All the tackle were ready and the first engineer tells the second to get all the nuts loosed and shout up for him, he wanted to be there when the cover were lifted. So the first engineer clears off to his cabin like for a smoke and a drink. Well, they get all these forty nuts off that are round this low pressure cover and in a bit, You can come down now Sir! But in the meantime, before they get him, Let’s get this bloody cover off says the second and have a look and see what the noise is. Course, they lift the bugger off and look in and there’s the bloody spanner lay on top of the piston, so they out with the spanner, put it on the rack, drop the cover and popped a couple of nuts back on and then he rings up to tell the chief it were ready. So Sir comes down and says Reight lads, up with that cover. They lifts the cover up with the blocks and the Chief looks in, There you are lads, there’s your bloody trouble, a duck lamp, and it’s still lit! He He He, good is that!

Yes, I know, I like that one. But I’ll tell you, while you’re on with telling tales, just tell me about the romancing bit, where they were romancing about the size of their engines.

R-Oh, that were Stanley Fisher and old George Henry up at Butts when I were a lad. We’d been working in Butts one Saturday and I’d only be fourteen, I’d only just started. We were making the joint on the low pressure cylinder cover which, by the way, were made with ½ inch lead pipe. Anyway, that’s a story we’ve told before I think. So anyhow we’d finished and it were dinnertime and they’d warmed up and had it running and we’re all sat down. There were the engine driver and his son [George Henry Watson and Frank Watson] and me and Stanley Fisher. Stanley says to George Henry, What were that engine like George Henry that you had before you came to Barlick? Oh Stanley, he says, It were a big ‘un, it were a big engine were that. It were a monstrous thing, I don’t know how big the crank pins were and the flywheel. Then he says to Stanley, Well, have you ever run any big engines? Well says Stanley, I have like, They happen weren’t as big as that that you’re on about George Henry. Why, how big were it Stanley says George Henry. Well said Stanley, It takes a bit of explaining, I don’t know t’weights o’t flywheel and t’beds and that sort of stuff but I’ll tell you this, they had handrails round th’oil holes to stop the oiler from falling in! He He he! Now Stanley, says George Henry, We’re telling lies now and romancing a bit. Well Stanley says, Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last bloody hour! He he, it’s all right is that one. Where are we going now?

Let’s have a look at Westfield.

R-We’ve done Westfield!

Not Westfield, Fernbank, I’m sorry.


Fernbank in 1978.

R-Fernbank, it were a good engine were Fernbank. It were a Pollit and Wigzell, about twelve hundred horse and it ran faster, it were five foot stroke and it ran at about 78 revs.


The shafting alley at Fernbank.

That’s a fair piston speed!

R-It were a fair piston speed. And also, it had superheat steam on as well. We used to reckon that piston speed up and it were running exactly the same as a Bellis and Morcombe running at 450rpm. It worked out, feet per minute, exactly the same and it were fully loaded all its life were that engine. It never gave much bother.

What were the load on it, what did they have on it?

R-About 1100 horse. Three boilers, six tapes, only two boilers on in summer and three in winter. Used to put all three on in winter just to help him. But I can’t ever remember it having any serious troubles. Main trouble were taking high pressure piston out fairly regularly for new rings, because with high temperature superheat they didn’t seem to last long. I ran it, I used to run it a fair lot when he was off ill. I was there a fair long time at one time. But its biggest trouble were valves sticking. It had the same trouble as yours had at Bancroft Stanley, they were single ported. Oh and it did spoil it you know, Like with me always being interested in th’engines, I were allus dead nuts on single ported valves because they’d swing so far and have that much cover they used to stick like mad when the load was off. You’d allus to be there and screw the stop valve down [to throttle it] and it were 160 pounds pressure. But the engine itself never gave any trouble at all, in fact, the low pressure crank pin block, the adjusting block, were just in the same position when that engine were scrapped, laid on the bottom of the connecting rod, where the fitter had fit it [when it were new] The day it were stopped it were still there. From 1914 to when it were stopped it had never been adjusted.


This is the same type of low pressure crank bearing that Newton is talking about. This one at Bancroft has been adjusted during its life by raising the cast iron block which acts as a wedge to tighten the brasses on the crank pin. Fernbank had never been moved, the block was still on the bottom of the slot.

Never needed shifting.

R- No. We just had one bit of fun with it. I’ll tell you a tale about this. Fernbank had two dams at th’end of the mill and one started leaking, the main one and there were a bit of trouble one morning getting [set on] with the water level being down. We used to have to prime the air pump with a pump before we got going, it were an Edward’s air pump. Well, Jack [Sneath] got a bit fed up wi’ this and got some contractors on to the job. His idea was to repair the dam without emptying it because they’d only a spring to fill ‘em. In fact it were dicey were that water job. We had a Weir pump over a bore hole about two hundred and fifty feet deep that we used to run all summer. So they decided they’d concrete the walls with the water in, grout ‘em you know. They were stone were the banks, stone on puddle. Now in my opinion, if they’d gone about that job properly they’d have dug down the back of the bank and re-puddled it. Got someone in who were used to puddle, like the canal company men that were used to that job but they didn’t. They decided they’d try and grout all these stones with the water in the dam. He rings up one afternoon and said to me father, Send your Newton up Johhny, there’s a queer noise coming out of the air pump. [Laughter from SG.] So I went up, this were about Thursday and he says it’s grinding away rarely Newton is th’air pump. And he were a chap that never panicked or owt like that. He were like you, he’d have his pipe in and be wandering around. I says Is it making a bloody din Jack? He says, We’ll have it out on Saturday. The mill ran then while quarter to ten on Saturday morning. He says we’ll have it out on Saturday morning Newton and have a look at it. It weren’t so big a job to take it out [the piston] it never had been. We used to take it out every year or two for the insurance company, we’d a seven ton travelling crane and all that and we allus could get plenty of help. So off we went up there on Saturday morning, me and me mate, it were Harry Crabtree that were with me. Top of the air pump were the biggest trouble, it weren’t like most standard air pumps, it had a total lid on it with a trunk slide, it were like a vertical engine on its own. And it were a fair big job to get that up like, You’d all the plates to take up in the engine house and uncouple the cross head at the top. It worked off the tail slide at the back like yours at Bancroft. Anyhow, be dinnertime like we were ready for pulling the bucket out. Eh we had a job to pull that bucket out, I think we had about a ten ton chain on it at first, wrapped round the cotter before we got it out, bending everything we were! Anyhow, we gets it out, gets it up on top o’t floor and you know what an Edwards bucket is like, it’s no rubbers on, it just has core holes in, six cored holes and it’s all cored out inside to hold water and to make it lighter. So we just looked at it after we’d wiped it off and instead of it having six cored holes in full of nasty water and cylinder oil as a rule, It were full of bloody concrete! It were solid! It was just like a ruddy great lump of stone that’d come out of a quarry! Oh hell he said, What we going to do about that? I says I don’t know Jack but I’m not going to get on me hands and knees for a fortnight chipping all that bloody lot out! He says we aren’t going to be stopped [the mill] doing that neither! But what were making the noise? Well I says, you know the water grooves round th’outside of the bucket, where have they gone? You know they had water grooves cut in to seal it, About half an inch radius, finish up about three quarters of an inch wide, it had three of ‘em in. Where’s them gone? They were full of concrete and all, it had concreted itself up and made it a perfect fit in the bore but it hadn’t damaged the liner. We spent all weekend chipping as much of that concrete out of the inside of the bore as we could, you know, wi’ a hammer and chisel. It were set good and proper that was. We got the outer grooves cleaned out and then we put it back in and there were never any more bother with it only it were a bit heavier. But that won’t make any difference to the balance of the engine. Anyhow, they stopped the dam from leaking!

Aye, it must have been good concrete!

R-Aye, it just had one bit of an accident after Jack retired and his oiler went on to it. He’d got t’crank pin hot and he had it well and truly hot, he’d were down in the boiler house you know. One morning first thing, he left it too soon {What Newton means is that you should never leave an engine until you are sure it is running safely and correctly. By leaving it too soon he had no warning the oil was off to the pin.] He’d never turned the oil on and it had seized the brasses up on to the pin and I were stopped all day. I couldn’t get t’brasses off t’crank pin it were that tight. Luckily, Pollitts used to make their crank pins without an outside collar on you know. They didn’t turn them all in a piece like most firms did. They used to put the outside collar on the crank pin separate and Pollits had a trick of fastening everything on with what we used to call counter sunk bloody screws, they were cheese headed screws and they made special screw drivers for them and they’d have a slot in about five sixteenths wide you know. So I’d to take t’collar off and t’crossheads. They didn’t make cross heads orthodox like we knew ‘em. The crossheads all had caps on and you could take the cap off and get the crosshead pin out wi’t brasses. I didn’t like them because they had some great big numb bolts in, about three inches diameter. So what we had to do, I’d uncouple t’crossheads, take the caps off, take all the bolts out, and undo all t’pins. Take t’collar off t’crank pin and then we got the crane down and lifted the connecting rod off the pin wi’t brasses in. We got it working, hell of a job, I were there while about midnight before I got it running. But it made a reight mess of it. I filed t’crank pin up and Jack kept me standing there for three weeks after that job. He said Thart not going! I says It’s reight enough now Jack, it’s cold. He says Aye, it might be cold but thart not going back to t’shop, tha stops here! No, he says, You stop here and make sure he doesn’t do it again! [The oiler] He kept me there for three weeks. And he kept popping down and all, he were about seventy then . He kept popping down and saying No, you can’t go back Newton. Your father can grumble and he can shout and he can do what he likes but you’re not going back to that shop until I says so! And they kept me there for three weeks, just wandering about, well I were running the place weren’t I. For three weeks, that’s what I was doing.

You’d enjoy that.

R-Oh I did. I like to go to Fernbank, it were out in the fields, I used to like to go to Fernbank you never felt like a prisoner. Like you never did at Bancroft.


R-But I went to one at Nelson, I used to go regularly to Sunderland’s at Nelson if old Frank were poorly or owt and oh, I used to be fed up, you know, you were walled in. Like being in a prison. In fact I chucked up at Hendon Mills, I lasted about, oh I did about five weeks when th’engine driver dropped dead on the floor and they were weaving out. I stuck it for five week and then they got a feller from Padiham that had run an engine before. I stopped with him about a week and then I left him. I couldn’t stick it any longer. You were walled in wi’ about a six foot wall, you were just literally a prisoner. But I used to like to go to them shops out in’t fields same as I stopped at Springbank two and a half years because it were on the canal side. You weren’t a prisoner, you could walk out and have a bit of air you know. Made all the difference in the world. I’d never have run a mill that were behind a wall although I ran Seedhill for eighteen months and all you could see there were lean on’t wall and look out onto t’road like you know. That were all like but [at Seedhill] we were on’t canal side there and you could have a walk round the mill on the canal banking. ‘Cause when you’re in a place from what, six o’clock in the morning until blooming near six o’clock at night you don’t want to be fastened in like do you, at back of a gate all the time.

No, well I don’t think so.

R-I don’t think you’d have stuck a shop like that either.

No, I’m sure I wouldn’t. That were one thing about Bancroft, you were free.


Always something to look at out of Bancroft engine house windows.

R-That’s what I said, you were free.

I mean you could go for a walk, have look at the ducks.

R-That’s it, walk up the mill side to the trees and back again.

Aye, that’s it.

R-But you could get out and have a walk. Trouble were in them shops where you couldn’t, if you walked out you were on the footpath, in the main street you know like Sunderlands and Hendon Mills. And I couldn’t stick it. Now I ran Sunderlands a fair lot at night on’t night shift one winter. Frank had tumbled off the connies and broken his shoulder. Now Cockerill that were there afore, he were an old Roberts fitter, I got him to run it during the day and I ran it at night from six till ten. [Housewife’s shift or moonlight shift.] Now it didn’t feel so bad then because it were dark, ‘cause it were winter time and all you know. But I couldn’t stick it during the day for so long being hemmed in like that. Anyhow, where are we going now?

Well there’s been such a big gap this summer. We’ve done the Big Mill at Earby haven’t we? [SG and NP waffle on for a while, decide that they haven’t done Earby but then remember Salterforth Mill}

Wait a minute, There’s one mill we’ve forgotten, Slaters at Salterforth.


A Roberts tandem at Pickles at Colne. Very similar to Salterforth but this is later and has Corliss valves instead of slides and is rope drive instead of gearing.

R-Oh, Salterforth, lovely. Slaters at Salterforth, a little Roberts tandem, cost £395 to be made and put in. Slide valve low pressure, slide valve high, Meyer cut-off gear, which’ll take a lot of explaining will that, I don’t know where to start. It’s a Porter governor working some cams advanced and retarded which altered levers on the slide valve steam chest. These levers were connected to a double slide valve with some pots in and this gear altered the opening of the ports and so altered the cut-off and governed the engine. [A normal slide valve can’t be adjusted for cut-off, this is dictated by the way the valve is made and so the engine can only be governed on the throttle by an equilibrium valve. The Meyer gear was an attempt to change this and they were very effective but soon replaced by corliss valves and later drop valves. The only engine I know that has this gear is the Yates that I moved from Jubilee at Padiham to Masson Mill at Matlock Bath in Derbyshire.] Very efficient gear. It run at about 40 or 45 revs a minute, it’ud be four foot six stroke, beautiful flywheel, gear drive. The gears just ran like wood wheels [Many slow speed gears used in watermills were cast iron but with wooden teeth wedged in slots in the rim. They ran very quietly and were surprisingly resistant to wear], you could hardly hear ‘em, just rumbled, it were a beautiful thing. I had a few weeks there at one time, they had a fire you know. It brought the engine house roof in and it weren’t long afore they had it running. It bent the governor shaft and I went down, I were only a lad then, I went down wi’ the men and we soon had it straightened up. They got a good joiner there, Tom Parker, and he soon had baulks across and a new roof on. Oh, happen be running in a fortnight or so. And then during t’war it stopped and after t’war, me father said to me one day, Jim Slater’s rung up from Salterforth Newton and he wants you to go down there and get the engine running, will you go down? I says Course I will! So I went down and Donald Plummer had got t’job of engine driver. He were with his father running Coates Mill and little Donald, he’s at Wellhouse now, he got th’engine at Salterforth after the war. So off we went to Salterforth and Donald’s already there. He’d got it cleaned up and it looked alright but they just wanted me to give it the once over before they ran it. And it were funny, I looked at the flywheel, it weren’t cased in then because that‘s where the fire had started and I said to Harry, It does look funny that flywheel, I’m going to get me father down here. And I came up to t’shop and I says segments on Salterforth flywheel, they do look a bit funny to me, they’re a little bit out. He says How much? Well, I says, You can feel it with your finger. Oh he says, don’t bother me wi’ it, they’ve given us a free hand, lift one off. Just like that, lift one off! They weighed about two ton apiece be about ten inches wide about eighteen inches thick, they were the rim of the wheel. Just exactly, more or less, like that wheel at Harle Syke so you know what I’m talking about.


The flywheel at Queen Street Mill, Harle Syke. You can see the joint in the rim where two segments met.

They were cottered you know. So we got some girders across and some tackle up ‘cause they’d put the new roof up without girders, it were just oak baulks. So we put some girders up across two [of the baulks] and we got some blocks on and gets the cotters knocked out and we lifted this segment. My God, it were a good job we did! You know these segments have a square hole cast in where they fit on top of the arms and then you’ve a cotter hole through your segments and a cotter hole through the top of your arms and you’ve gibs and cotters in there. Well in there you’ve a two and a half inch square dowel that your cotters fastened to that ties your segments on to the top of your arms. They were both broken were them dowels. So we lifted that quietly on to the floor and Harry says hadn’t we better take another off? So out of six segments that made the gear up, it were a six arm wheel, there were five of them dowels broken. Them segments were just hanging on the top of them arms wi’t sheer fit of being cottered that way. It were just a ring loose on top of six arms more or less, except for one dowel. There were every one of them broken them dowels, right slap in the middle. That ‘ud be done in the fire you know. When the wheel expanded with the heat of the fire it’d stretched them dowels but when it went cold, when t’arms pulled back again to their original length, it’s broke ‘em off, every one. And that engine had run like that , it must have run ten years after t’fire like that. Anyway, we put all new dowels in it of course and put the segments back on, all the gearing back on and we were there many a week with that job. We got it running and it ran until the end of its days with no trouble. We just had one little do with it, we put a new equilibrium valve on it. It were an equilibrium valve knock-off and the insurance were getting particular about stop motions. We tested it and found that when we knocked it off it wouldn’t stop. So we took the equilibrium valve out and it were very badly worn. So me father and Denis took particulars for a new one and they made a new valve for it. [What Newton is talking about here is the automatic stop motion on the engine. This is a mechanism which is triggered either by a violent fluctuation in engine speed, up or down, or by breaking the glass on a box in the mill very similar to a fire alarm. The way the signal actually stops the engine is that it triggers a mechanism that shuts the steam off. On a corliss valve engine this is easily achieved by breaking the linkage to the valves which then stay shut. On other engines it was effected by a spring loaded stop valve which shut itself when the catch holding the spring was released by the signal. On the Salterforth engine an older system was used, the signal actuated a special type of valve which could be closed by a simple weight. This was achieved by making the valve very easy to close. The problem with normal valves is that when they close they have to act against the boiler pressure on the valve. The equilibrium valve was made with two seats arranged so that boiler pressure acted against the outside surfaces of both valves with steam passing to the engine through a central passage between the valves. This meant that the weight of steam on the two outside surfaces opposed each other and achieved equilibrium at any port opening, hence the name given to the valve. The problem with equilibrium valves is that as the two valve faces are a fixed distance apart, it is crucial that both faces coincide with each other exactly when the valve closes. This is the problem Newton is about to come across. SCG.]

Dennis and I went down at Saturday morning a week or two after to put this valve in. We puts this valve in and we’d made a special cutter to re-cut both seats, you know, right good, grind them in and both seats touching perfect. Puts it all together, sets it on and knocked it [the stop motion] off. I just tapped the hook and knocked it off. No, it didn’t stop! Well, [Johnny said] We’ll have to put a vacuum breaker on it. I said, I told you about that didn’t I, it wants a vacuum breaker on! [Even when the steam is shut off, the vacuum in the system can keep the engine going. The cure is to have a valve in the system between the low pressure cylinder and the condenser which opens to atmosphere and destroys the vacuum.] Oh, me father says, it’s nowt isn’t that. We put a vacuum breaker on you know, piped it up during the week ready for coupling up. Coupled it up on Saturday. Right, start her up Donald, reight big stop valve hand wheel, you’d have thought you were starting Mons, it were about two feet in diameter. Started it up, knocked it off, it didn’t stop did it. Tells me father. He says, It’s an odd do is this, you’d better go down and grind that valve in again, re-face them. So I goes down meself with Bob Fort this time. We re-faced it again with the special cutter, just took a thou off, ground the valve in and I turned round and I says to Bob, It never bloody well will stop! Oh, he says, don’t tell thi father, don’t tell thi father what tha says or there’ll be a reight row! I says It never bloody will stop. Go on Donald, try it again. Sets on does Donald, knocks it off, it slowed down but the bugger wouldn’t stop, it just trailed on without vacuum until the air pump sweltered. [boiled] So I went back to t’shop Monday morning. Well, how you gone on wi’ it this week? That’s how he talked you know. Were it all right? No, I said, It’ll never stop, it’ll never stop in a bloody month of Sundays Johnny won’t yon thing! That’s what I says, well it won’t will it? What’s ta mean, it won’t? I says it never bloody will stop! He says, Why, is it cracked in’t seats or sommat? I says No! He says well what’s up wi’ it? I says Well, it’s a cast iron box and tha’s made a brass valve. Oh bloody hell fire! He says. Just like that. Get that pattern to’t foundry, up to’t Ouzledale and tell ‘em to make a cast iron one. He he he.

Aye, the heat were expanding it and it couldn’t…..

R-Course it were! The brass were lengthening a sixteenth more than the bloody box. He he he! Thought they were doing something clever when they put a brass one in. Gun metal, lovely thing it were, all fluted and bloody ribs on. I just says to Bob that morning , I says We’re wasting us bloody time, we might as well have been out courting or sommat, it never will bloody stop.

Eh dear!

Me father were , What’s ta been doing? It never will stop. What’s up wi’ it, is the box broken? I says No, tha’s made a brass valve hasn’t ta! Just looked straight at me, Bloody hell, get that pattern to t’Ouzledale and get a cast iron ‘un made, get it in next Saturday. He he he. It must have been a sixteenth longer than t’bloody box when it got hot!

Aye it would be wouldn’t it?

R-And it ‘ud be whistling through the top seat as happy as a lark would t’steam wouldn’t it. Engine kept trailing round and round at about five revs a minute. Just same every weekend, we went to, trailing round at about five revs when we knocked off. It never stopped, it were getting enough steam to keep it going.

Just keep it treacling along.

R-Aye, that were Salterforth. But we electrified Salterforth oh, 1955 or 1956. It were one of the first jobs to get electrified. Boiler were done tha knows. Me and me father went to Yates and Thom at Blackburn, it were a special size boiler and you couldn’t put anything bigger in the boiler house. I think it were only a seven footer, wi’ two fire holes. I think it were a seven footer or seven foot six, it weren’t an eight footer anyway, because an eight footer wouldn’t go in there. There wasn’t room for the side flues. And the side flues were narrow enough, they used to have a job to flue ‘em. Me and me father went to Yates and Thom and they promised to make us a new boiler. Anyway, the insurance company did a rotten trick wi’ ‘em at Salterforth, they pulled ‘em their insured pressure down from 120 to 100psi. Now you could only just manage wi’ 100 pound when you’d all the looms running. They said you’re all right now, you can sit on that for ten years. They walked in the summer after and said it’ll have to come down to 80pound. That did it. They more or less condemned it and they’d just had new connies put in and all. So me and me father went to Yates and Thom , the insurance company give ‘em a bit of grace, to see whether they could make a new boiler for it, and they said they could. They said they would make them a new ‘un. Anyway they weighed one thing against another, they talked about package boilers and me father said it wouldn’t do, he said it’d just prime it away. So they decided to electrify the shafting. We put motors up on the wall, you know, electrified the shafting and after that they sailed on. It ran a lot of years and they kept the boiler in, oh, that were another thing they told ‘em. Righto, if you do away with the engine and electrify the shafting we’ll let you keep your boiler and work it at 60pound for the heating. One winter, and that were it. It ran one winter and they condemned the boiler altogether. They’d to go out and buy a new boiler.

What were the problem with the boiler then?

R-I don’t know, age, that were all that were wrong with it.. I don’t think they could find anything wrong with it. They never said get some rivets in it or weld round the fire tubes or get new front lengths in the fire tubes. They just condemned it at t’finish up. There were a bit of a do going round then though, there were a lot of boilers condemned just round about that time that were built in the 1800’s. That engine ‘ud be put in about 1885 or sommat like that?

Yes, it would be something like that.

R-You see what’s happening Stanley with such as Pendle Street and all them shops with engines in of that age, they had their engines modified and new boilers put in in the twenties. Well, they were all right, they sailed on. But such as Salterforth that had never had any trouble with their engines never did any modernising. They should have modernised it after the First World War and put boiler pressure up to 160psi with two new cylinders in which would have saved ‘em coal. It ‘ud have saved the price of the job but they never had it done. See, the old people thought, it ran beautiful you know, you couldn’t hear that engine from outside. I had an experience there like, one afternoon. I run it a time or two when they [the engineer] was poorly sick. Heh! I used to like to got to Salterforth and I fell asleep outside on the form, middle of summer and you were on your own you know. You’d both the engine and the boiler. Nobody used to come round to see you. I woke up and shook me head, I looked in through the door and I had 40pounds on the clock! He he he! I’d just about from here to there and I’d only forty pound on the clock. I soon woke up Stan! Straight up to th’engine, it were going, just. Downstairs to get some greasy waste in the firebox and get the fire going. And do you know, I got steam backup, big shifts and little shifts and nobody came anywhere near!


R-I don’t know what speed the engine were running at, about 30 revs happen. It were still going, t’governor were laid on the bottom, equilibrium valve absolutely wide open, driving on the low pressure and it kept going and there weren’t a soul came near. I looked at that clock Stan and I had 40 pound on and how many looms would I have running? 600? He he he. I were literally running on the low. [pressure cylinder]

Yes, I could never really weigh this up at Bancroft. I’ve seen times at Bancroft when we’ve had some trouble of one sort or another. I’m thinking in particular of one time, it was when George was driving the engine and I was running the boiler. The pulley that drove the governor ropes came loose on the fly shaft.

R-It did.

And what happened was it were coming round [on the shaft] till the stud just caught hold and drove it at the right speed for a minute or two and then it gave up and started slipping again. Big does and little does and I mean that governor was all over the place and God knows what that engine was doing.

R-And they never came near did they. [from the shed]

And nobody ever came near.

R-Do you know, it’s funny you should mention this, Walter were only telling this story to me the other day ‘cause it was him fastened the pulley.


R-I must have been out somewhere, he fastened that pulley did Walter and we were only talking about it stood at t’side of the clock lathe the other day. He says Dosta remember the governor pulley coming off at Bancroft? I says Aye, you went to that though didn’t you. He says it were that slack I could pull it round on the shaft.

Probably what Walter didn’t tell you was that he hadn’t got a bloody key that’d fit!


Allen key, oh it were a funny do were that.

R-There isn’t much room there is there!

No, that morning, it were and Allen Key, it’s an Allen screw.

R-Allen screw in it, Aye.

Inside it, right down inside the casting, it’s a big Allen grub screw, a big one.


That morning, it were fairly cold weather if I remember rightly and I had plenty of steam on you know. Everything were going all right, brewed up and bacon sarnies going, you know, everything going nicely and I thought it’s bloody funny, I thought…..

R-Running queer is this thing.

You know you could hear the shafting through the wall….

R-Boom, boom…..

Shafting were going [speeding up and slowing down] I thought bloody hell! So I went up into th’engine house and George is stood there, I mean you know I didn’t think much of George, but anyway, he’s stood there at the stop valve and he was compounding the error you see because what was happening was, he’s stood there, as I said I had plenty of steam on, and he’s got it shut down so the governor were running wide open, the regulator had it wide open.

R-Aye, the regulator rack had it wide open.

Regulator were wide open and as he saw the governor bars drop [as the pulley started slipping] he ….

R-He put more steam on.

He were putting steam on.

R-Put some more on, well, it weren’t half motoring then I’ll bet.

To open it up and yes, the thing was that as soon as he did that…. I mean they perhaps don’t realise unless they’re so far into engines. But the thing was that normally, when the governor bars dropped they’re opening the steam valves anyway by lengthening the cut-off. But the thing was that they weren’t dropping because there was no bloody steam going in.


They were dropping because they weren’t driving…..

R- ‘Cause the pulley weren’t going round.

And there were plenty of steam going in in the first place.

R-Aye, they were dropping ‘cause they weren’t running at the right speed from the pulley not driving from the shaft.

That’s it, it’s just like the engine running at its right speed and somebody shouting to George It’s not running fast enough. And then he opens it up to make it go faster.

R-Aye, it wasn’t….

And of course it wasn’t governing at all and the bloody thing was going up and down and the ropes were flogging and I stood there for a while and then I said to George What you doing? And got a mouthful of slaver like.

R-Oh yes, you would do.

So I said to George, There’s sommat wrong with this engine! And he wouldn’t listen to me.

R-No, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t.

So I walked up the side of the engine and watched and then I came back to him and I said, It’s your governor ropes, they’re slipping. I couldn’t see it were the pulley that was slipping.

R-Pulley were slipping on the shaft, it were the ropes.

I thought it were the ropes, I could see the ropes slowing down.

R-Aye, course, we experienced this later on didn’t we.

Aye I said, Your governor ropes are slipping. They bloody well can’t be! He says. Anyway, in the finish I says, You blow the bloody mill up then, I’m going back into t’boiler house, but you’re wasting your time there! Anyway, he started to realise himself….

R-You blow t’bloody mill up! Aye.

He had to stop it because it was getting away on him.

R-Aye, stop, he’d to stop, aye course it would.

It were even frightening him and he was thick! Anyway, he got it stopped and I walked up the side and got hold of the ropes and pulled and you could….


You could pull the bloody pulley round.

R-Walt said you could pull it round on the shaft.

You could just turn it round and it were screwed right up.

R-Aye, he said it were perfectly easy.

Aye, anyway I said to George, That’s where your trouble is. And he says Nowt o’t bloody sort, it should be like that!


I thought Christ Almighty! You know it makes you wonder, I’ve often said. It makes you wonder about some of them because you know, he hadn’t the faintest bloody idea.

R-No, a lot of ‘em were like that.

Aye, and anyway, Walt comes up and I stood there for a bit, it was the first time I’d seen Walt you know, and in come this feller and I heard him ask George if he had a key for the pulley. George says No. Well says Walt, we haven’t got one either! I don’t know if we have one down at the shop that big. I stood there a minute or two and then I says, Well, I’m only the bloody oil rag round here, but I’ve got one of them keys if you want to borrow one. I can have it here in ten minutes. Walt says Eh, hasta? Fetch us one back then.

R-One at home, Aye.

You’re right, aye. So I brought it back and I brought two and I says Here’s one for this and here’s one for you and all.

R-One for spare!

Aye, I says Take it back and if you ever need another one…. And do you know, I don’t think Walt liked it when I give it him!


I don’t think he liked it when I give it him but he took it, aye.

R- Took it, oh, we were only talking about it the other day about that job.


R-Then you and me had the same experience, you rang me up one morning and said, Come up here Newt, there’s sommat wrong with this lot.


R-You said I think the governor ropes are slipping, what can we do t’middle of the morning, we can’t send for the rope chap! I says No, we can’t Stanley so I just grabbed ‘em didn’t I and the oil that came off the back of me hands would’ve filled a bucket. We got some farina [potato starch] on ‘em and ran the week out.

[I got the rope chaps from Kenyons at Dukinfield in at weekend and they put three new governor ropes on.]

And t’funny thing is those ropes never got oily again. That oil had been in for donkeys years, it were George putting too much in the eccentrics and it were splashing all over. And I’ll tell you a funny thing. I walked into Whitakers the other day [Whitakers at Helmshore where I was doing the spinning photographs for the LTP.] yesterday, and I saw this feller sat in the canteen and I looked at him and I said, I know thee! He says I know thee and all! I said it’s Kenyons isn’t it? He said Aye, and it were the rope splicer. They were splicing ropes on the drive to one of the spinning mules, this forty horse motor mounted up in the ceiling and driving two sets of mules. Originally it had been a rope drive but what they’d done, they’d converted it to V belt drive, they’ve worn out and then someone has realised that in order to put new V belts on they’ve got to split all the shafting. So, what did they do, they put Brammers on [Brammer belting was a patent V belt made of there layers of rubber links held together with rivets. You could split the belt, put it round the pulleys and replace the rivet.] These started to run in the bottom of the pulley grooves and so the museum brought Kenyons in to put it back to rope drive.


And the funny thing was that cotton ropes were half the price of Brammers! There were three inch and three quarter ropes and the price for Brammers was £500. So they got Kenyons in and they were putting a rope drive on it.


Kenyon's men splicing the ropes at Helmshore.

R-Back to normal. Like they were originally.

And do you know, it was a treat watching them putting them in.

R-A treat to watch ‘em.

They were stretching them between the pillars and then they put ‘em on, they had ‘em up and spliced and on. I’ll tell you what, they had ‘em on faster than I could have put Brammers on!

R-Aye, it used to be a treat to watch ‘em. Them Brammers are a blinking nuisance aren’t they.

They’re a fiddling job.

R-Oh what! They are that.

And by the time you’ve got them on they’ve stretched and you have to take another link out.

R-Uncouple and take another link out and about half a dozen more to get at it!

Well, I reckon that once they’d got it up on the pulley it took ‘em about ten minutes to do the splice, that’s all. There were two of them working and it took about ten minutes once they were set up. Another thing here, there’s been one or two arguments lately about the length of the rope drive at Ross Mill. [Bacup] These lads used to do Ross so I asked ‘em how long the drive was to the top floor. The little feller sat there and smiled, I said go on, tell me exactly how long it was. He said 303 feet!


He said that were the length of it.

R-That were the length of the drive.

And he said I’ll tell thee sommat else, when we knew that one were coming up we went off sick! What a bloody job it was, he said.

R-Aye, I never knew Ross, I never went into Ross.

Oh, he said it were a muck up in that rope race, Oh God he said, It were terrible.

R-Were it that bad? I went to that mill at Preston to give a quote for electrifying, is it Dalkeith? It’s on the main road side. It were spotless were that rope race Stanley. Six stories. It were spotless, you could walk on them landings, it were just like they’d been boarded. We went to take particulars to quote for motorising it but Whittakers at Oldham got the job and it nearly bankrupted ‘em I think. It ‘ud have been a big job would that, putting a motor on every landing.

They’d have to be big motors and all!

Aye, they were big motors but the problem was getting ‘em up there. We’d to price for electric blocks and that you know.

Yes. Now look, just to finish this tape off, you said something part way through there that’ll be puzzling a lot of people. You were on about the handwheel on Salterforth engine and you said you’d have thought you were starting Mons.

Aye, you would.

So just a word or two about Mons engine.


Mons engine at Todmorden.

R-Well, I only used to go to Mons to look at it, I never worked on it. It were a tremendous thing, oh, how wide were the flywheel, it’d be twenty five feet wide, you know, that waterwheel we were on with at Pately Bridge, it were like a toy width ways! Cylinders, oh you could have had a dance between them. Low pressure stood well above your head you know but to me it did run rotten. Why I don’t know, ‘cause I never worked on it, I even telled the engineer. I says, Oh, your engine does run rotten and he says Look at me Lumb's governor chart and it were waving about an eighth of an inch! I says I can take you to a Cole Marchant and Morley at Barrowford and you’d have to sharpen your pencil on a match box to draw his. He says What! I said you’d have to sharpen your pencil on a match box to draw Sam Holdens, Holmefield Mill line on your chart, it were that fine.

Some of them used to have a chart on the governor to show the revs.

R- Oh aye, they had a chart on if management were a bit particular you know. For times, what time you started, what time you stopped and your speed.

And his were waving about?

Oh it were doing, an eighth of an inch were his waves and he thought it were good! Sam Holden’s were just like a draughtsman’s pencil line. You know they only had a wheel, like a pipe cutter wheel, running down that chart with a sharp edge on. Not sharp enough to cut the paper of course and that’s what it drew, the width of that edge on that wheel. Never varied from starting time to stopping time didn’t that Lumb’s governor. Well Mons should have been the same if the engine were set up properly. Oh and it did run rotten and knock. I don’t know, they mustn’t have been spending enough time on it that’s all.

When you say knock?

R-He must have been sat in his cabin all day!

When you say knock, do you mean in the cranks and what not?

R-Crank pins, crossheads and air pump motion. He took me downstairs to have a look at the air pump. It were run independently with a separate connecting rod run off th’edge o’t crank pin on’t low pressure side. Aye, it’d be about as big as Bancroft connecting rod were that that run th’air pump. And the air pump were jumping up and down on’t floor for about two inch. He he! Sliding about you know. He said A lot of people’s tried to fasten it. Well I said, Give me the job and I’ll fasten it for you! But no, they never did, they seemed to do everything themselves you know. Any old road. He were a nice chap were the engineer, he’d been there a long time and all.

It were about three thousand horse were that engine weren’t it?

It were four, four thousand horse were that engine. There’d only half of the mill been built, it should have had another half put on it. It were one of the biggest engines that ever came into this country.

Aye, horizontal.

R-It were a Belgian made thing. [It was built by Carel Freres of Mons which was why the mill was named the same. The mill was originally to be called Hare Mill but when Carels put money into it they made it conditional on the mill being renamed.] It were made in Belgium and it had no keys in the flywheel, the fly wheel boss were shrunk on the shaft.

Were the boss steel then?

R-It must have been, must have been a steel casting ‘cause it were double you know. (two flywheels next to each other like Ellenroad and Trencherfield) ‘cause it were such a heck of a width you know.

Then the flywheel would be keyed into the spokes?

R-All the arms were keyed into the boss with the usual method, gibs and cotters.

They’d be fluted would the spokes, they’d be round spokes?

Yes they were. They were all fluted columns I think but it were boarded in, you couldn’t see. Well, that’s all I know. It’s first thing I noticed when I walked down the side were that. Eh, I says, There’s no keys in the flywheel! No, he says, They’re shrunk on are t’bosses. Oh, it were a tremendous shaft, I bet it were nigh on three feet in t’middle where the flywheel boss were. And it were clean, spotlessly clean were the thing.

But knocking!

R-Oh it did run rotten, it did run rotten.

SCG/15 November 2000
9249 words.


TAPE 79/AG/12


Right, this week Newton, what I want to do is to move down to Earby and talk about the mills there for a bit. This of course is going to involve talking about Big Mill, Victoria Mill where you did that big repair job. So, at the same time we’ll be talking about one of the main reasons why Henry Brown Sons and Pickles were in business, which was repairing breakdowns. We’ve already touched on one or two in Barlick. Now these breakdowns were your biggest jobs weren’t they, when something really went wrong.

R-Oh aye, they were, course they were, yes.

I mean that those were the times when you were stretched to the limit. Well, we’ll not plough straight into the Big Mill, we talked about Brook Shed in an earlier tape, how about Albion Shed at Earby?


Albion Shed engine Earby. [IMS picture]

R-Well, that were a Roberts tandem were Albion Mill at Earby. About 650 horse, somewhere about, and that were a direct drive engine, no second motion. Direct drive from the fly wheel shaft straight through into the shed. Straight on to your bevel wheels, no gearing between the engine and the mill. [Same as Queen Street engine at Harle Syke] It were a slide valve low and the high pressure cylinder had been adapted. Burnley Ironworks had put a corliss cylinder in. It were one of those cylinders where they’d had to skimp, you know, for height and they put all the valves at the top. [Like the Oakmount engine above] By all the valves at the top I mean that the exhaust and steam valves were all in the same line at the top, at the top end of the cylinder. This made them the sort of engines you’d to be very careful with your warming up and how you started up because you’d no way to get rid of any water only down your drains. You couldn’t get rid of it through your exhaust valves.

That little cylinder at Wiseman Street’s like that isn’t it. [Oakmount]

R-Yes, that’s the same design, Livingstone Mill at Burnley were the same.

Yes. One thing I’d like to ask about that Newton, whilst we’re on about that. Some of Burnley Ironworks that had the valves together had them at the bottom didn’t they?

R-They’d put them in the bottom.

When did they start putting them at the top?

Well, they put them at the top on them engines that were built prior to 1900 you know. When they were [originally] slide valves and they could get a [corliss] high pressure in, if they put the valves at the top, without altering the engine beds. They couldn’t get them down low enough to have the exhaust valves at the bottom. So what they used to do on an expensive conversion, they used to cut the beds off and put half a new bed in and put high pressure and low pressure cylinder beds about six inch lower down which gave them room to get the exhaust valves at the bottom. You know what that engine at Harle Sykes’s like, at Queen Street Mill. Well that engine’s exactly the same engine as Albion was, originally, it’s exactly the same as Albion. With two slide valve cylinders, but what they did there, they went to a lot more expense and they put new beds in under it right up to the fly wheel shaft.

[Queen Street is still running in 2000 and is direct drive as well.]

Yes, and converted it to corliss.

R-And converted it to corliss with one valve at each corner. They’d got it low enough down to do this. So, to do a cheap job, Burnley Ironworks came along and made these high pressure cylinders with all four valves in at the top. They ran OK, they were no detriment in that respect you know. But I’ll tell you a little story about th’Albion. Low pressure cylinder had never been modernised and it still had slide valves in. Now this happened before my time, this is the story as me father told me because they did the job. One afternoon one of the high pressure valves stuck open and put boiler pressure into the low pressure cylinder and it blew the slide valve lids off and buried them in the wall. Aye, buried ‘em into t’tiles on’t wall, both of them. So me father went along like and they made two new covers for ‘em and made them half an inch thicker. The old type of cover like, they’d be about an inch and a half on the outside edge and then there were a moulding round the middle which made it only an inch thick there and a couple of ribs on. So me father put two new covers on and made ‘em two and a half inches thick with a big round ring, like a boss, in the middle and a lagging plate on, which made them, oh, four and a half inches thick in the middle to strengthen ‘em up. Aye it did, it blew them straight off and they sunk into the wall. He said, It buried ‘em in’t wall Newton, both of them. Broke all the bolts, they were bolted on, they weren’t studs you know, they could get the bolts in from the back if you dug under the lagging. And then later on in its life I put a new Edwards air pump on to that engine. A completely new air pump, I made it an Edwards type, that’s wi’ no rubbers on the bucket. It were jiggered in the foot valve and the casing were corroded you know, it were all eaten through with water. And then the last major operation on that engine, I put a new fly wheel shaft in it and a new crank on. It had about four or five new crank pins in like in it’s day. The fly wheel shaft had a bad crack in it, what I mean by a crack, it were a longitudinal crack not circular to the shaft.

Aye, a forging crack.

R-Aye a forging crack, it were a wrought iron shaft. But Wellhouse fly shaft broke, Earby Mill fly shaft broke and Bolton Crowther, him that were the manager [at Albion Shed] asked me to go down one Saturday morning and he says I don’t like that crack in that shaft, I’m going to get the boss in. She were a woman were the boss that owned the mill, through being the last in the line of the family. I took the cap off, the inspector was coming and all but long before he landed she came and she said what do you think? I says, Well, it’s not for me to say, this shaft could run another fifty years or it could break tomorrow but you can’t guarantee it. So they just turned round and said well, with what’s been breaking round here, put a new shaft in. [Victoria shaft broke in 1954 and Wellhouse in 1955 so this would be about 1956?] It were ordered as simple as that and I said Well, it’s had about six new crank pins….. Bolton Crowther chirped up and said put a new crank and all Newton. So that were a fair job. I think you’ve some photographs of that job somewhere or if you haven’t got them we have some of that job you know. I think I’ve got a photograph of the crank on the planer table and the shaft all complete, ready for going.


The new shaft and crank in the shop at Wellhouse finished and ready for installing.

Yes. I’ve got copies of them. And of course we’re running into something else there now Newton. First of all, Now you want a fly wheel shaft for Albion Shed. Where did you go in them days to get one?

R-They used to get them, there were Webbs at Bury used to forge a lot of them but most of Roberts engines, the fly wheel shaft forgings came from Germany, from Krupps. It were what they call Bessemer steel, it were like a bit better stuff than wrought iron you know. But to me they were never a success; I think Robert’s engines had more shafts broken than any other engines I ever knew. I’d only ever had one Burnley Ironworks shaft break and that was Wellhouse you know. Pendle Street had been broken, fly wheel shaft. The second motion broke in my time and I did that job and same as I say, that at Albion Shed had a crack in it. Livingstone Mill at Burnley got the wind up wi’ their second motion shaft with it being all badly marked and that were a Bessemer one. I put a new one in there before it broke, coupling were only hanging on by the skin of its teeth. It were funny that Bessemer steel from Krupps, it were soft as, you know, like lead. When you come to chip a flat in it it didn’t chip like wrought iron nor it didn’t chip like steel, I never liked ‘em.

Aye, now them shafts made at Webbs at Bury, them ‘ud be forged, they’d be…

R-They were forged, they’d be all wrought iron in the old days. What we used to get while they were forging for us was what we used to call ninety ton steel which is nearly EN8 today. They used to take a bit of turning and all, they did that. But they’d never break for the size they were and what they had to do.

Yes, and when you say that there were one or two shafts breaking at that time, that’s very interesting because it’s getting us into something that can lead us to the Big Mill. [Victoria Mill, Big Mill and Earby Mill were all names for the same mill in the middle of Earby.] Would you say that I was correct if I said that one of the things that people forget about the steam engines we have running now is that they are all running at lower loads than they had in the old days. When you think about it people imagine that a steam engine is something that’ll run forever. But when you think about the hammer a fly shaft gets because of the weight of the flywheel and the fact that it’s getting worked all the time by the cyclic variation in the power that you’re putting into it. That’s one of the problems you start to run into with old engines, pieces of machinery the size of Bancroft engine, isn’t it. That if you’re going to continue running them at full load you’re going to run into fatigue.

R-What seemed to come into it a lot in my mind was when they all started breaking in my time were a lot of this, this modernisation after the First World War with new cylinders and boilers. Coming up from ninety pound pressure and shoving them up to a hundred and sixty and running ‘em on the same fly shaft.

Aye and on the same beds and shafts, yes.

R-Which your initial, your main pressure on your cylinders goes up reight away, even though you’re only driving the same horse power. But you get such a lot more thump at the start of each stroke and I put that down to breaking fly wheel shafts, wi’ the metal it were made on you know. You just think about it, them engines that had been running at what, 85 or 90 pounds to the square inch. They bang a couple of new cylinders on to the same crank and fly wheel shaft, still run the engine at the same speed, put the boiler pressure up to 160 pounds and make the cylinders smaller diameter to start making fuel economy and you’re still producing the same horse power for half the coal a week. This bangs up the initial thump on your piston doesn’t it, at each end of the stroke. That’s what broke the shafts, that’s what broke them.

Yes, when you really think about it, when you’re running an engine, that’s the time when they’re running unhappy, when your loads gone down, like we were at Bancroft [as we wove out] and if your pressure went up for some reason and your load went down and you were running on very short cut-off with high pressure it was like hammering the piston each time.

R-That’s it, it’s like a steam hammer running.

And they sound uncomfortable don’t they.

R-They do, they sound uncomfortable.

I mean, you know, they sound bad.

R-Well, that engine I ran at Queen Street a few months since, it were terrible when the load went off and t’boiler pressure were well up. It were really uncomfortable were that engine, really uncomfortable at stopping time and starting time.

Aye, you were saying about that, it had a broken ring hadn’t it?

R-Aye. It had a broken ring but we replaced that. But I’ve never known an engine to be so uncomfortable on light load as that were. And there didn’t seem to be a lot I could do about it either. I tried all in my power to keep it quiet, at meal times.


The broken piston ring at Queen Street.

And like, gearing wouldn’t help, the fact that it’s gear driven.

R-No, it runs [without gearing] it’s direct drive, no second motion you know. It’s got no spin, you’ve no speed, you’ve no spin on.

There’s no give in the ropes. [like there would be if it were a rope drive]

R-There’s nothing spinning round, its your line shaft just trailing on at engine speed.

Direct on to the shaft.

R-Direct drive like Albion was, yes. And you know you get things like the low pressure valves banging across and lifting up and dropping off the faces when you’re running light like that. [Low pressures are the worst for this because on light load they have no steam pressure on them to hold them down on the seat, in fact they can have vacuum on them.] I tried all in me power to quieten it. First thing I thought was to open the drains and drop the vacuum but no, it didn’t quieten it. Only thing you could do to quieten it was to slow it down. Actually slow it down when they’d all gone home. We used to have to run the old do like we did at Bancroft. You’d run from twenty past four to half past and most of them would have gone. But they still expected you to keep running. So the only thing I could do, I shut the stop valve practically down till it were slowing down were the engine and it ’ud keep itself reasonably quiet. But even so, it were rattling itself to bits at that. I says to the boss, We might as well stop at twenty past four! Well, like, it’s the old tale isn’t it, the human element, you stop at twenty past four and they go home at ten past!

They’ll go home at ten past, it’s right is that.

R-If you start going on like that you’ll never start up after dinner. Now dinnertime were never bad at all at twelve o’clock. I could run right up to a minute off before it’d start dropping, t’governor.

Yes, I remember a feller once said to me, when I were running Bancroft, I were talking to this bloke one day and he says Oh, how long’s Bancroft been running a moonlight shift? I said Moonlight? We aren’t running housewives. He says, Well, I came past the other day, and I’d passed the bus down town, [Nutters laid a free bus on to take the workers down to the middle of the town] and you were still running when I came past.

R-When he come back.

Well, I said, That’s a funny thing. They pay me to run the engine while half past!

R-Well, that’s what I used to do Stanley when I did them half days for you. You give me the keys and I used to go in and lock all the doors at twenty five past four wi’ th’engine running and there weren’t a soul in the shed.


R-But Bancroft were a marvellous engine to run light compared to that one at Harle Syke. It ‘ud have ticked away all night if we’d gone home and left it.

Well, that were one of the things when we were running down. Somebody said to me, How are you going to go on when the load goes off? I said no bother at all. I could run that engine on 140pound with the shaft disconnected never mind anything else!

R-No bother, no bother at all. Oh aye, a marvellous engine to run down at night and meal times were that.

Anyhow, wait a minute.

R-We’re getting off track a bit.

We’ll not take the big ‘un. We’ll not take the big ‘un yet.

R-We’ll keep that till last eh?

We’ll keep that one, yes. Let’s go from Albion down to…. Oh no, hang on a minute, you mentioned Wellhouse Shaft breaking. You didn’t mention that when we were talking about Wellhouse.

R-How it broke?

No, I can’t remember you mentioning it.

R-Well, it all started umpteen years ago, before I started working. Wi’ what me father told me about the engine you know, when I were working on it regular, me father used to say, You watch that engine at Wellhouse Newton. T’fly wheel shaft’ll drop off it one of these days. I used to pooh-pooh it sort of thing because it ran beautiful did that engine. Wi’ being on the doorstep it were looked after every day till one morning, they came for me about five past seven, knocked me up and got me out of bed. They asked me to go straight away as the flywheel shaft neck were hot at the new side.

When would this be?

R-Er, our Linda’s twenty two, it ‘ud be twenty four years since.

Twenty four years since, that’s nineteen fifty five. One thing before we go further, just to make sure that people will understand, anybody that’s heard all the tapes will know, but you said new side. Now say why.

R-New side. Well, that engine were modernised in 1926, [Newton is a year out here. At a meeting on 12th October 1927 Edward Wood recommended that the two cylinders on the old side of the engine at Wellhouse should be replaced with two larger and more modern cylinders to get more power and better economy. Had he been taking advice from Johnny and Billy Watson? On 9th of November the company discussed a report dated 8th November 1927 from Burnley Ironworks who, after inspecting the engine proposed two schemes: Scheme 1. was to convert the engine to cross compound on superheat steam. This entailed complete renewal of all steam pipes and valves, replacing the CI pipes with steel to withstand the superheat steam and altering the beds. Mill to be stopped for three weeks. This would result in a saving of 10 tons of coal a week. It was felt that this was too expensive. Scheme 2. involved modernising the left hand side of the engine (the old side) going on to superheat and replacing all the CI pipes. This would involve a stoppage of 10 days and a saving of 9 tons a week. The cost of this would be about £2,400. On 23rd of November 1927 Mr Metcalfe from Burnley Ironworks attended and in the end it was agreed that Burnley Ironworks take on the whole contract, providing all trades, at a price of £2,500 An entry in the Universal Metallic Packings order book dated 30th of November 1927 records an order from Burnley Ironworks for work to provide new and refurbished packings for the left hand engine. Newton Pickles said that the original pressure on the boilers was 120psi. It was put up to 135psi and Swansea superheaters installed when BI put the new cylinders on. They put heavier piston rods in as well and Newton said that that side would indicate at 650hp after that. NP says they should have re-boilered, gone to 160psi and put new cylinders on RH side as well.] It were a pair of tandems. [originally designed for 850hp] Thousand horse tandem with old type cylinders on. Well by 1926 the mill were all full up and the engine were taking it all its time to run the load so they decided they’d put two new cylinders on one side and make ‘em a couple of inches bigger. They modernised the low pressure, which were originally a slide valve and made it corliss and ever after that it were called the new side. I remember watching ‘em lifting the cylinders in through the window, I were only a lad. Anyhow, over t’years there were no bother with it. The trade broke and it never ran much full up and then we put a big alternator on it, big enough to light half of Barlick and that didn’t half put some load on. [Newton told me in November 2000 that Walt Fisher was in charge of installing the alternator and the first time they set it on it stopped the engine. He said it was the only time in his life he had ever heard the ropes scream on an engine!]


This was the drive from the second motion shaft to the 400Kva alternator installed in 1951 at Wellhouse Mill. When it was first tested there was a dead short on the bus bars and the alternator burned out, stopping the engine dead. This was possibly the origin of the later flyshaft breakage. Walt Fisher told me in 2004 that two men came to the alternator and re-wound it in two days. The drive would be transmitting about 500hp on full generating load.

We indicated it one day did me and Tom Marshall and we’d just short of 1200hp on. It were only built for 850 originally you know but it had been speeded up to 78rpm. Figures were touching in the middle. I don’t know whether the people that listen to these tapes will know about these things but cut off lines were crossing. Anyhow, you and me know about them. Like I used to think about what me father said to me, Keep away from that engine Newton when it’s fully loaded, that shaft’ll break. Anyhow, I used to put it on one side. This particular morning they came for me about ten past seven as I’ve said and I went up, the new side flywheel neck main bearing was absolutely smoking and stinking red hot. So I said to Tom Marshall, the engine driver like, What happened Tom? He said, I don’t know Newton, the oil was on. Well, reight away, with all the experience I’ve had, they all said that. ‘The oil was on’. Funny thing about that morning, I was due out at eight o’clock, I’d to go to Penrith to go and have a look at a clock in an old hall tower that Hindleys had bought. Anyhow, that’s not part of the story so I said to me mate, that’s Harry Crabtree, If this bearing doesn’t quieten down by breakfast time, take the cap off. Anyhow, before I left him we got water on, it had given up smoking. give it a dose of Victory when it gives up smoking, you’re going to be alright. So I left him, went to pick me father up and off we went to Penrith. Well, I came home about five o’clock that night and walked down the mill yard, I’d noticed the mill were stopped like and in those days we ran till half past five. I noticed they were stopped and I thought Hello, what’s up, haven’t they cooled it down? I went down, walked into the engine house and the engine was about three quarters stripped. All the eccentric rods were off, both bearing caps off, crank pin brasses were out and I says, It’s like that is it Harry? Aye, he says, it is Newton, it’s a good job the crank were straight up at breakfast time when we stopped and I lifted the cap off ‘cause as I were lifting the cap up the crank was leaning over at the same time as I were pulling the cap up. [when they got the cap off] it [the flywheel neck] had broken like a blacksmith’s swageing edge, tapered like. Now think on, that engine were a four cylinder job. Now this is one of the things that can happen in your life time with a chap who was fully experienced, a real man, he were a real fitter. I says, Tha’s made a good job of stripping it in such a short time. He’d only a couple of lads with him more or less. Aye he says, and I’ve marked all the eccentric [positions] on the shaft before I took ‘em off. He he he! I says Good lad Harry, tha’s done reight! He he he.

He he! Just for the benefit of the onlookers we’ll point out that the shaft wasn’t going to be put back in so there wasn’t a lot of point marking it! Now, what I wanted to ask you, why did your father tell you to keep away from it?

R-It had always had problems with hot bearings, all its life because it were always overloaded.

When you say hot bearings, you mean the pillar bearings.

R-Fly shaft bearings, main shaft bearings, always been troubled with hot bearings because during me father’s career there had been some like a bit sloppy, slipshod engineers on it and they’d been a bit like, more interested in laiking with motor bikes in the yard than [watching the engine] and turning the oils on. He told me he’d seen that engine running with water running out of the door and down the steps with both bearings stinking red hot, through it life. He said he were never satisfied after they put them two new cylinders in that the shaft wouldn’t break. And it did.
[28th of September 1924. Calf Hall Shed Company minute book: ‘It was reported that the engineman at Wellhouse Mill (C Watson, son of George Henry Watson at Butts. NP says that George Henry’s son was called Frank, but he was talking about another of his sons who fired for him until he died while in charge of Brook Shed at Earby, only then did Frank take over the engine and didn’t last long.) was not giving satisfaction and that at a meeting of tenants, the secretary had been informed that the engine had been running slow for some time. During the meeting it was reported that the mill was stopped owing to shortage of steam. [The directors met at 2:30pm I think and the board room was at Wellhouse]It was resolved that the engineman be discharged forthwith and that the Managing Director be authorised to engage a new man and that the wages be £4-5-0 a week and that the engineer’s wage at Calf Hall be increased to £4-5-0. Resolved that in the meantime, Messrs. Henry Brown be requested to take charge of the running of the mill. Mr Pickles attended on behalf of Messrs Brown and Sons and undertook the management. At the next meeting on 10th of December 1924 a letter was read from C Watson asking for a payment of £4-5-0 wage in lieu of a weeks notice. The board agreed that he be told that there was no wage due to him as he had been sacked by incompetence. William Watson of Rochdale was mentioned at this meeting and he eventually took the post as engineer at Wellhouse. This was confirmed at the meeting on 24th December 1924. Further, probably as a result of reports from Johnny Pickles when he was in charge of the mill, Stanley Fisher was running the engine. The Secretary, Edward Wood, who, as Proctor &Proctor’s man, was responsible for engineering matters reported in detail on the bad state of the engine at Wellhouse and it was resolved that the repairs pointed out by him be carried out including Metallic packings for the two low pressure cylinders. This is confirmed by an entry in the Universal Metallic Packings order book dated January 26th, 1925 for two new packings, Hp front, L hand and LP front R Hand. At the same time repairs were ordered to the existing US Metallic Packings on LP back R hand, LP back R hand, HP front R hand and HP front L hand. The order was placed by H Brown and Sons. Newton says that his dad told him they should have replaced the cylinders then because the port bars were broken out of the HP cylinder, in effect it was running single ported.]

So go on tell me what you did then.

R-We got it all stripped and ordered a new shaft from Webbs [at Bury]. But it were a long shaft were that, it were about 22 feet long. It was a heck of a length on that engine because it [the beds] were a long way apart. You know, a pair of tandems a long way apart and it weighed over four tons.

Tell me something about that job Newton, I’ve never seen it done and it’s something I’ve always wondered about. Now when you’re taking a shaft out like that, obviously what you’ve got in the middle is a flywheel that weighs anything from 30 to 40 tons or sommat like that.

R-Aye, it weighs about 35 tons.

Now, your crane will only take about seven tons and you’re using that anyway, so how, what do you do with the flywheel? Do you block it up?

R-Aye, we jack it up. Get boards off, it were a boarded wheel. Get two arms horizontal, get some good big girders across your engine beds and then jack it up. Just as it happened then we had two new hydraulic jacks but it didn’t matter, years back we’d have jacked it up with a pair of screw jacks. What we call lifting screws, we had these, me father made these screws during or after the 1914 war for lifting them flywheel shafts. We used to use them under the flywheel arms. You’d a big bar four inches square in the middle tapped for two and a half inch diameter, long threaded bolts and a plate at the bottom with two countersinks in, half moon countersinks. And you’d got these two great long screws about two feet six long with a square on the top and case hardened ends and we put them underneath and wind away at each side and you could lift a flywheel like that. We would put a bit? under each crank and you’d a bolt at each end and just jack it up. But of course when hydraulic jacks got popular we bought two fifty tonners and I lifted it under the arms with them with one at each side. One side at once. Don’t get me wrong, I’d a girder under one arm and then I put a girder under the other arm lower and another girder behind it and me two jacks under and the a girder across the top of the two jacks and both pumped together. Lift it up and then put wood blocks under. We’d some blocks made out of sleepers we had cut. [What Newton is saying is that one arm was jacked and then blocked up and operations shifted to the other arm until the wheel and shaft were high enough.] We took the shaft up about two feet six I should say before we could get the swell of the shaft through the pedestals. Then we took the window frame out. Rolls were at Wellhouse then of course and we didn’t bother about sheer legs or anything like that, we just got Rolls to come with their new Coles Crane. We stuck a girder out through the window about two feet, slid the shaft out and the Coles crane just picked it up and dropped it in our shop doorway. One crank on and one crank off and that’s how we put it back. He just picked it up for us and popped it half way through the window and we collected it on chain blocks inside and put it back together. Now there’s photographs somewhere of that being done. Biggest bugbear about a job like that is having all them cotton driving ropes hanging about, they were a nuisance.


Replacing the shaft. Johnny in bowler hat and Newton in flat cap leaning on pedestal.

What do you do with them, obviously you have to take them off the grooves.

R-You take ‘em all off and you tie ‘em in a bundle as well as you can at each side and then you put some blocks up on the engine house baulks and pull ‘em up out of the way. They’re a blinking nuisance.

Dirty and greasy…

R-And I were lucky there you know, that flywheel on that engine used to run about half an inch out of true. And me father says to me I don’t think we’ll have to put that flywheel back running half an inch out of true Newton, when tha puts it back on the new shaft. He says, See if tha can get it true when tha’rt staking it. So, I’d never staked one before that size, I’d staked plenty of big bevel wheels but I’d never staked a beggar that big. I put the new shaft in and I put staking wedges in and got me marking board and me pencil [The marking board was placed in front of the wheel as close as could be arranged, clamped in place and as the wheel was revolved the variation was marked on the board with a pencil and the staking wedges adjusted until the wheel ran true. The staking wedges were fitted each side of the actual stake beds in the gap created by the fact that the bore of the flywheel boss was at least an inch greater than the diameter of the shaft. These were a temporary fix and were removed once the wheel had been trued and the stakes fitted and given their first nip.] Me mates wound the wheel round with a pinch bar , it didn’t take much winding with being on new bearings and new shaft with no ropes on. They wound it round and we only went round twice and I said Right, it’ll do now. And it never wobbled any more. Me father walked in and he said How arta going on staking that wheel? I said It’s all done Johnny! He he he! He said It isn’t is it? I said Aye, do you want to check it? No, he said, I’ll not bother, but woe betide thee if it’s half an inch out of true!

Now then, tell me something, you’ve just skipped through something that’s always fascinated me. If anyone asks me I’ll profess to have great knowledge on the subject but I’ve never seen it done. Now tell me, just go quietly, well not quietly, you can’t! Just go through the operation of staking a flywheel and truing a wheel on its shaft.

R-Staking a flywheel on, Right. Well, you’ve got this flywheel hung up on two girders so you put your shaft through, right. Now, the bore of your flywheel is about two and a half inches bigger than the diameter of the middle of your shaft. You have ordinary forged wedges but not flat at both side, they’re flat at one side and curved on the other and you have about a dozen of them. Now what you do, you wind your shaft round until the keyways on your shaft line up with the keyways in your flywheel. You lift your shaft up with your blocks at each end and if you like you can measure it with your two foot and say, eh, it’s near enough now, it’s within a quarter of an inch of being in the middle and then you start putting these wedges in. Now you don’t put these wedges in the keyways you put them on the round part of the shaft in between the keyways. You stick one or two in one side and one or two in the other. I always said the less wedges and the easier the wheel is to set. So if you’ve ever done any turning in a lathe and you use a four jaw chuck it’s the same operation as that but your using a hand hammer and you’ve got a twenty foot flywheel! But you pop these wedges in and you keep tapping ‘em all up until you get all tight. You measure it with your rule and you say well, it’s not bad now, it’s within the thickness of line on your two foot of being central. So what you do then, you get two trestles or two oil drums, it doesn’t matter, you go round to the back side of the flywheel or the front side, it doesn’t matter. Get a nice clean white piece of floorboard and lay that across your supports right across the front of the flywheel and put some weights on each end. Then you say to your mates, Just wind it round until you’ve got a set of your wedges opposite the board. You say Right lads and mark your flywheel down each side with your rule and a sharp pencil and also across it’s face. Then you say to your mates Right, bar it round half a turn.

Whoa, sorry, when you say across its face..

R-I mean across its face.

So have you got the board down the side of the wheel or is there a cut…

R-No, no, no. You just put one board across the face, across the rim of the wheel, across its rope grooves, let’s put it like that.


R-One board and you put your rule down the edges.

Yes, I’ve got that.

R-You put your rule down one edge and put a pencil line on [the board] then you put your rule down the other edge and put another pencil mark on. Then you put a straight edge across the rope face and mark a line straight across.

Aye, so you put a straight edge across and mark the line on the opposite side, at the back side of the straight edge.

R-And mark a line, back side across the rope grooves. Doesn’t matter where it is as long as you’ve got the distance of your straight edge.

So when you’ve done that, let’s get this straight while we’re doing it. When you’ve done that you’ve got your piece of clean white board there and you’ve got three pencil marks on it.

R-Three lines.

You’ve got two, one coming out from each side and one across the face.

R-One from each edge and one across the top. That’s right. Then you say to your mates, bar it round exactly half a turn. So they wind it round half a turn till them wedges that you’ve marked are at the other side. You just do the same thing again, put your straight edge across the face and look at your line. If you’re lucky, it’ll not be so far away. And your faces, you put your rule on again, it’ll have wobbled one way or the other, if you’re lucky it wont be so bad. I think in my case it was about half an inch out.


R-So right, you write that on the edge of your board, half an inch. So, now then, you bar it a quarter of a turn now, so they bar it a quarter of a turn and you put your straight edge on again and it might be a quarter of an inch out there, so you wind it back to your first mark and because you know how much taper you have in your wedges {If you know the taper, you know how far too drive the wedges to obtain a certain movement of the wheel]. So you start knocking two out, measure how far you’ve knocked ‘em, your opposite hand wedges you know, you knock ‘em out and knock the opposite side in [this is centering the wheel on the shaft, not affecting the wobble.] If it wants twisting [to take out the wobble] you knock ‘em out at one side and in at the other and watch your marks with your rule on until you can see you’ve taken half the discrepancy out. Then you say Whoa lads, that’s half of it. If it’s half an inch you want to go to a quarter, right, that’s it, that’s half of it. Wind it round again and in three does I had it true. But it’s not an easy job, you can be lucky or you can be unlucky.

Yes. Now, a couple of little things here. When you say that if you’ve got a wedge in too far, obviously these wedges are actually holding all the weight. You’ve four wedges each side…

R-That’s it.

Now getting a wedge to come back a bit might not be just as easy as it sounds.

R-No, you’ve got to be very careful. Use a drift from the other side and you’ve a chap holding the drift on the wedge and another doing the striking and in my case, it were probably me watching it come out and I’d have me hand on it so’s I could tell them how far it had moved. I’d say, Whoa lads, it’s come a sixteenth, knock your other wedge in. Then we’d walk round to the board and have a look at the board. A sixteenth of an inch on the boss is a heck of a lot at twelve feet six radius on the rim. And you put your rule on and say that’s gone a whatever so we’ll try it again. And that’s how it’s done but you’ve got to be very, very careful that the wedges don’t come out. Course you know, when we’re talking about putting wedges in we aren’t talking about tapping them in with a hand hammer, we’re talking about putting them all in and tapping them with an ordinary seven pound hammer and then leathering ‘em in with a fourteen pounder until they’re as tight as your stakes are going to be. [The stakes are the finishing wedges that go into the keyways. They are keys but keys used to fasten wheels of any size are usually called stakes.] And then you have a flat drift to keep tapping them out. It doesn’t matter about the other end, you can hit that with the bare hammer head. But it’s a job you’ve to be very careful you don’t lose it.

Yes. Now, we’ve got to the stage where you’ve got your wheel straight and true and you’ve four staking wedges in at one side and four at the other.

R-Yes, that’s it.

Now then, what you’ve got to do now is…

R-Make four stakes to fit it. [Wellhouse wheel had four stakes, two from one side and two from the other]

Now hang on a minute. Do you make the keys before you’ve got it straight on the shaft or do you have to measure for the stakes once you have it straight?

R-No, you just measure it up [after truing] and start planing keys, we had the forgings made ready. We put four new keys in, we didn’t use the old ones. We couldn’t use the old ones anyway because I’d made it run true. We had ‘em all ready, rough planed and we just measured ‘em up and started planing. Now this case. I’ll just give you an instance here, the old way of doing the job is that once you have the wheel true they’d probably have the pattern maker on the job with a lump of hard wood and he’d make a wood key because wood’s easier to fit than steel. They’d take that wood key back to the shop and use it as a pattern to plane a new steel key. Now I’ve never used that method with any job I’ve done and me father said to me, Seeing as we’re on the doorstep and we have a pattern maker upstairs Newton, let him make you a wood key and let’s see how you go on with it. So Jack Wright, who were our pattern maker, came down and he made me this wood key and then we took it back into the shop. I think Crabby planed the key and we went right through with this here job and it did seem to be taking us a long time. Messing about with a wooden one and then going and having to plane a steel ‘un. Anyway, when we come back to the flywheel and we put the steel ‘un in it only went in about half way through. Oh, I says, This is no bloody good, it’s a good job we aren’t at Burnley! ‘Cause as a rule we could measure them and plane the buggers and they were through first time. If they were happen hard on at the head or hard on the point and we’d too much to file or scrape we’d nip back and take ten or fifteen thou off it. But you see you’ve got to understand this, me and me father had never been used to using a mic’. How we used to measure ‘em were with the inside mark at each end, head end and point end, and we’d just write this down and take it up to the planer and work to the outside mic’ and plane keys to the length of the flywheel boss. If it wanted to be say two and a half at that end and inch and a half at point end and length of the boss we’d put a mark where it went and where we wanted it to go to and more often than not, when we took the key back it’d go up to that mark. But you see what happened with wood keys, when you drove the wood key into the ruddy flywheel to fit it, it squashed it didn’t it. Well, when it came out it were bigger weren’t it. So it didn’t pay off didn’t the wood key job in my case. [one thing that Newton forgets to mention is that you get the correct taper off the old keys. If it’s a new wheel or boss you know the taper because you cut the keyway.]

Now then, let’s just get this other matter a bit straight and all then….

R-Do you want some sizes of these keys like, just to give people an idea of how big they were? Well, they were two foot three long and they were five and a half inches wide and I’m guessing a bit now but I think they were two inch thick at the point and about two and a half inches at the head. One man could just carry it.

Yes. And that wasn’t a big flywheel.

R-That wasn’t a really big flywheel, no.

Them at Bancroft ‘ud be a bit longer would they?

R-Well, I don’t know, no, it wouldn’t be much Stanley. I don’t think flywheel bosses varied a lot in the length through the boss only such as Pendle Street. I mean Pendle Street were six and a half inches wide and three inches through at the head.

Now, obviously, the four flats on the fly shaft itself were parallel.


The top sides, the keyways cut in the boss would be tapered.

R-They were tapered, they were tapered.

Now where was the fit? Did they fit all round? How important was side fit?

R-Oh we never bothered about side fitting. Never, side fitting keys were never any good. We used to make ‘em size you know, size on size. If you could get a five or six thou feeler in you were all right, you didn’t want any keys tight sideways. You didn’t want any pressures on you when you belted them in, to have to overcome side fit, you wanted all your pressure to be on the top and bottom. And you know they only fit at each end of your boss, they’d have five or six inches of casting at each end of your flywheel boss and then the rest of it were hollow in the middle. You see they didn’t fit all the way through.

So the boss wasn’t solid.

R-No they were hollow.

Right, one more thing about that. I’ve heard you say that you sometimes got a wheel boss that were a bad casting, spongy metal, a spongy boss.

R-Aye, spongy boss. They could be a bit tricky they could. We used to plane the middle out of the keys and get pressure on each corner you know. [A three inch key would have an inch groove planed down the middle. Newton once told me that it was Crabby who taught him this trick.] If you got a very bad spongy boss, Long Ing were the worst flywheel I ever keyed on. It dropped in bits as we were fitting ‘em. Spongy at the ends of your keyway you know. If you got too much fit on your point it just pulled a lump of casting off with it when it came through. It were so bad were Long Ing. Otherwise, I didn’t have a right bad ‘un.

Now then, when you were fitting a key like that, did you blue it up when you put it in or did you just let it mark it?

R-No we used to tallow them a bit, belt ‘em in and let them mark ‘emselves.

Yes, That’s it, tallow, that’s what I was getting round to.

R-Aye, just so it didn’t pick.

Tallow’s still the finest thing for stopping ‘em picking up isn’t it.

R-Oh yes, finest thing out to stop ‘em picking up.

And by picking up we should point out that what we mean is ragging up.

R-Ragging up, it’d spoil your flats on your shaft if it got hold you know. It’d pick steel cause you’re fitting steel to steel on your shaft. Cast iron to steel [like the fit to the boss] is a good metal to rub together but steel and steel aren’t when they’re not hardened. And if you don’t give them a good tallowing underneath the base, when they got tight they’d pick up like mad and either rive a lump out of your key or weld it on to the shaft. You’ve got to be very careful about that.

Now then, we’ve got to the stage where we’ve got the keys. Would they be all the same size?

R-Not necessarily, no, they could vary by a quarter of an inch.

No. I was just wondering when you were talking about making a dummy key, a wood key, because….

R-Aye, they made a wood key for each hole, but we only tried it on one.

Right, now we’ve made four keys.


Obviously two going in from one side and two from the other side.

R-Two going from the other side, yes.

Now obviously, its no good just knocking ‘em up with a seven pound hammer.


How do you knock ‘em up?

Well, what you did you fit them for a start, you fit them with a fourteen pound hammer and you fit them tight. Now the first one you put in, with new stakes, you want to be careful with that, it’s funny, you grow to it and you use your own judgement, you just say Hold on a minute lads, it’s only on wedges at the other side we don’t want to move it out of true. Then you bar round half a turn, leave that one in and fit the other opposite to it. When you’d done that you were getting a flywheel that were pretty tight on its shaft. Then you fit the other two and you use your own judgement how tight you fit them and you mark them all, how far you fit to at the head end. Then, when it comes to the final check up, when you’d got all four in, you knocked your staking wedges out. Me mate, Crabby more often than not, he could use a striking hammer, he’d turn round and say Have we to knock ‘em up now Newton? I’d say, Aye, go on then Harry. He’d say How much have we to put ‘em in Newton? Well, I’d say, let’s put them all in a quarter of an inch for a start. And you measured them as you drove them in and that kept your wheel true because you can understand, if you happen to put one to the top and drive that in about half an inch and then only get a sixteenth on the opposite one you were going to get that wheel out of true again. You’d got to be very careful how you tightened ‘em. You’d to keep ‘em all level which weren’t always possible. You might get all four in a quarter. Then you’d go round again and you might say you might get all of them in a quarter again, you wouldn’t, you’d get one in a quarter and the other an eighth. But by that time you were past getting your flywheel out of true because all you were doing was stretching the metal, that’s all.

Yes, I see what you mean.

R-You were only stretching metal. You weren’t moving that wheel in any shape or form. You were just putting tension into the boss under them steel hoops.

Yes, now wait a minute, steel hoops? A cast iron boss on a flywheel, was it hooped?

R-Cast iron, they had hoops round, they were nearly all hooped. Just odd ones that weren’t hooped. Now then, Albion at Earby, that weren’t hooped. But I noticed at Harle Syke while I was there, that had been hooped. Aye, you’d to be careful when you tightened that flywheel at Earby, me father used to tell me Tha’ll split that wheel! It had no hoops on. I had a Musgrave at Plumb Street, that weren’t hooped, I keyed that on twice. Because you daren’t tighten them and that had six keys in and you daren’t tighten ‘em when they weren’t hooped. Talking about hoops you know, two inch thick and six inches broad, six inches deep, steel hoops shrunk on. Well, you had no need to be frightened of tightening them with them sort of hoops on.

What weight of hammer were you using, fourteen pound?

R-Well, after we’d finished [the initial tightening] we went to twenty eight.

A twenty eight pound hammer.

R-Aye, we’d a twenty eight pound hammer and four hits apiece were enough with that, aye.

Aye, that were it.

R-Crabby could use it. We tried, in the old days we used to tighten ‘em with a tup. Swinging on a pair of blocks or a rope block. They couldn’t tighten ‘em with a tup like we could with that hammer. And a tup ‘ud weigh anything up to half a ton. But they couldn’t tighten ‘em like we could with a hammer.

When you were tightening those keys, when you were striking them to tighten ‘em did you strike the key or use a dolly?

R-Oh we used a dolly to finish ‘em because we’d filed the heads up then. When we were fitting we used to strike the key and knock it out with a drift you know. But to knock it in we used to fit them by striking the key. I allus made them three inches too long which gives you a better chance, you can get ‘em a lot tighter and get a better fit because you weren’t messing about wi’ drifts jumping off. But when we finally fitted ‘em we drift tightened ‘em. It were a reight short stubby piece of about four inch diameter stuff that the blacksmith had made to suit your key. It had a wire handle on or a clip round it and two blokes holding it, one at each side. There’s part about yet [at the shop] unless we’ve thrown ‘em all away.

You’d use fairly soft iron for the dollies or did you use….

R-No, forge ‘em out of ordinary mild steel. Harold, blacksmith ‘ud forge ‘em for us. I allus used to make a drift to suit me key when I’d finished.

When you say to suit your key…

R-Size, same thickness of head and the same width and then there were, it never dug in nor made burrs on it ‘cause there’s nothing looks worse than the head of a key all thumped and brayed.

No. you’re right, you’re right.

R-‘Cause we used to finish ‘em off you know and put a half inch bevel on ‘em all the way round and then file ‘em up before we put ‘em in or else we were in trouble. If they didn’t shine when we put ‘em all in we were in bother aye. Old Johnny ‘ud say , Tha’s not polished the end of that key before you belted it in! Aye, even yet we’ll do it, file four bevels on and file th’end of the key up even on small stuff. It’s how we’ve been brought up isn’t it?


R-Aye, or it happened we had an accident you know, and you missed , striker missed or something like that and caught a corner. It all had to be chipped and filed up again, would that while it were in, make it look respectable, he he! Or else you were in real bother, we were that aye. You know when you’ve been keying these flywheels on and you’ve been out of bed a couple of bloody days, you know what , t’bloody striking hammer did get heavy Stanley when you picked the bugger up. When you were giving it the final do, aye it did an’ all. It were no toy of a job weren’t keying flywheels on. Even t’lads today’ll say, Haven’t we a flywheel to key on? ‘Cause if we have tha’ll go to it yer bloody self! He he he! They were all sick of flywheels when the end of the engines came, they were an’ all. Last flywheel we keyed on were a big Pollitt at Greetland at t’side of Halifax. It were a big engine, it were a double wheel, it had eight keys in. What I mean by a double wheel , it were two wheels keyed on to one shaft running rim to rim. They allus had trouble wi’ it and I told the boss you always will have trouble with it I said My lads, when they key this wheel on I’m going to part it half an inch. Eh he said, t’belt’ll go down! I said It can please itself but I’m going to part it. That’s what brings it loose them rubbing together. If you’ve two wheels running together and one is dead true and the other isn’t reight true it’s like you putting up a pair of shed drums. If you put shed drums together, the little shed drums that drive the looms, you shove the buggers up together and they’ll be loose in a day, wi’t spring o’t shaft.


R-Working big keys loose.


R-And that, I believe that engine at Greetland had had that flywheel keyed on umpteen times. So what we did, we parted ‘em, only half an inch or so, three eighths I think. There were no more bother with it up to it being scrapped, aye. We had another at Finsley Gate but that were a second motion job. Trouble, trouble, trouble, allus loose. I believe Burnley Ironworks lived on the doorstep, keying the second motion pulleys on. After Burnley Ironworks finished I started going to all them engines at Finsley Gate, big Musgrave verticals, spinning mill jobs, two four foot belts on’t flywheel. Rung me up, second motion pulley’s loose, could you come and key it on please. It didn’t come loose any more, same trouble, rim to rim. They said, Oh, you can’t leave a gap in it like that, the ruddy belt’ll go down! I said Don’t be bloody stupid, belts an inch and a quarter thick, it’s only half an inch gap. He he!

{Laughter from Stanley] When you say it was, how wide did you say the belt were?

R-Four foot, and two on ‘em on.

What were it made of?


Is that reight?

R-Aye, course it were, they were leather ‘uns.

Copper riveted.

R-Copper riveted together. Like boss said when he saw the new belt laid on the floor, he said, Hey, what’s all them pieces in that belt at this sort of money? And th’engineer just turned round and said, Well, hast’a ever seen a bloody cow so long?

{Tape ends with Stanley and Newton laughing.]

[Editing this in 2013 is instructive. Much later, after this tape was made I was asked to have a look at Trencherfield engine at the Wigan Pier heritage attraction in 2000 and I noticed that the stakes were bleeding on the flywheel on the left hand side (It was a double flywheel)
and when I looked at the other side it was on the verge of rolling off its stakes. I told them that they had to stop running the engine and I was not a popular man. If you want the whole story get hold of my book 'Stanley's Story. Volume IV' (you'll find it on This was caused by the same problem that Newton is describing, because of the weight of the flywheel on the shaft it was bending it and the top of the wheels were touching in the middle and there was a gap at the bottom. This wasn't as bad in an engine that was running at the correct speed but far worse when the engines were run slow for 'safety reasons'. The wheel never built up enough centrifugal force to take the weight off the shaft so the two were constantly working against each other at the top and this was what had brought Trencherfield off its stakes. I argued this with English Heritage and proved to them that it was safer to run at the original speed. All the engines I put back into steam run at the proper speed.


Trencherfield engine.

SCG/17 November 2000
10174 words.


TAPE 79/AG/13


Right, we’ll go straight on Newton, the moment we’ve all been waiting for..

R-Victoria Mill Earby.

That’s it, Victoria Mill at Earby.[Shaft broke in 1954]

R-Triple expansion beam engine.

Now, the thing is, did it start out in life as that?

R-It started out as an ordinary straight forward two cylinder beam engine built by Yates and Thom at Blackburn, and it were seven foot stroke. [I’m not sure but Newton may be wrong here. I suspect that this engine was built by J&D Yates who later became J&W Yates, before they amalgamated with Thoms in 1905 {Register of defunct companies}.] The low pressure cylinder bores, when you looked down from the top, were just like the Mersey Tunnel. But anyhow, along comes modern type job, you know, higher pressures and that so it were McNaughted by Petrie and McNaught from Rochdale. [Newton may have fallen into a very common trap here. McNaughting an engine isn’t named after the famous engineers at Rochdale but a cousin of theirs who practised as an engineer, first in Glasgow and later in Manchester. In 1845 (Patent no. 11,001) John McNaught of Glasgow introduced the practice of compounding existing beam engines to increase their power and efficiency. It was William McNaught who founded the firm in Rochdale which, when he retired in 1870 was taken over by his sons John and William and became known as J&W McNaught. They later amalgamated with another Rochdale company who made steam engines, John Petrie who had started in 1814. The firm of Petrie and McNaught undoubtedly converted many engines to the McNaught principle but it was not named after them. My source for these facts is a paper published in 1943 by G B Williamson on ‘Steam Engine Building in Rochdale’ which I came across while rebuilding the Whitelees engine when I moved it to Ellenroad in Rochdale.] By McNaughting I mean they put a high pressure cylinder in the front of the beam, up to the crank, which made that half stroke, three feet six. [Because it was at half radius along the beam.] They put an intermediate cylinder at the other side in the same place, it was a double beam engine, [that also] was three feet six stroke and that made that the intermediate cylinder. [The original high pressure cylinders at the far end of the other side of the beams became the low pressures, see below] Three new boilers in and they put the pressure up from 85psi to 180psi. Now, we’ll start at the beginning!

[Just before Newton starts, this would be a good place to record what I know about Victoria Mill and the engine in November 2000. Earby Mill seems to have been built by CG Bracewell of Green End Earby who was father of William (Billycock) Bracewell. The date of the build looks like 1856 but I’m not certain of this. The engine was built in 1856 by J&D Yates of Blackburn as a simple double. McNaughted in 1896 by J Petrie of Rochdale. 7ft stroke, two cast iron beams about 35 feet long, 4 ft deep in the middle. A crack was found in the trunnion boss by Johnny Pickles when he was working for Henry Brown as an apprentice, this would be between 1903/06. Saxons fitted two new 17 ton steel beams in 1905 and replaced all the old cast iron gearing with steel, machine cut gears. The engine was quartered so the beams ran out of step. Flywheel 22ft6” diameter, 10 arms, six stakes, plug fit on the shaft which was 16” diameter in bearings. Pinions were 6ft diameter and on 6/7” shafts staked on with four keys, 2” wide and 1 ½” thick at the head. When it was McNaughted the original boilers worked at 85psi. These were replaced later with 3 Lancashires running at 180psi. Ran at 38rpm. HP 30” X 3ft6”, IP 48” X 3ft6”, 2LP 40” X 7ft stroke. Corliss HP, circular slide in others. Flyshaft broke in 1954. Ran at about 1500ihp. In a letter to The Model Engineer dated December 2 1954 Johnny Pickles said: “The engine is 98 years old but there is not much left of the original…the shaft has run 82 years and the flywheel 57 years. According to this the shaft was renewed in 1872 and the flywheel in 1897. He knew this engine in 1903/06 when he worked for Browns before going to Burnley Ironworks so we have to trust him. Funny thing is he gives cylinder sizes that are all two inches bigger than Newton’s.]

R-That engine, all through my days, was the most economical engine there was in the district, apart from being the oldest. [1856] , as far as coal consumption was concerned. It ran at 38 revs a minute and it were seven foot stroke on the low pressures and on the crank. Three feet six inches on the high pressure and intermediate. High pressure was 28” bore, intermediate cylinder was 46” bore and the low pressures were 38” bore and seven feet stroke. [Note. Newton’s bore measurements are all 2” less than his dad stated in the letter of 1954 to the Model Engineer. Take your pick!]

Now, one second, you said cylinders, it had two low pressures did it?

R-It had two low pressures, it had HP, IP and the original HP cylinders were left in as LP. Right. Now it started off in my career as a pretty modern engine. Everybody had worked on it. In me father’s day they [H Brown and Sons] used to go to it regular. One of the beam trunnions was always loose, always wanting new keys in. Me father were only a lad, [He was at Browns from when he was 18 to 21. 1903/06] Him and Mr Brown and an old fitter, I forget his name now, th’old fitter, they used to go to it regular at Sundays and put new keys in this beam trunnion. Those keys ‘ud be two inch wide and sixteen inches long, they’d two apiece in. I can just picture me father now, as cheeky as a brush, and he told me I was fed up of working on them keys at Sunday! So one Sunday afternoon, as he was driving these keys in he says, I’m holding t’drift and I says to Old Mr Brown, What do we keep putting keys in this beam for? Well, says Mr Brown, You know very well why we keep putting ‘em in. He were a bit of a religious chap, he didn’t like working at Sunday. Because they’re always coming loose! So me father says, Well, they always will come loose Mr Brown. He said What for John? Father says, It’s cracked isn’t it, through the boss, it has been for this last two years, when you drive these keys in you look at that crack, it opens out. The beam was cracked, right through the centre of the boss. And talking about that beam, it’d be what, 18” through t’boss and t’gudgeons ‘ud be about 9 or 10 inches in diameter in t’middle. Well he says, they nearly all had a fit and fell down staggering , he said they nearly passed out when they saw that crack. So along came Saxons then, they were a well known firm of engineers. The mill were stopped for many a week. They took the old cast iron beams out and replaced ‘em with steel ‘uns and they weighed seventeen ton apiece did them beams. I think they were four foot across middle, you can picture a whale floating in the sea, when that engine were running it just looked like one. They’d taper down to about eighteen inches at each end and they’d be thirty five or six feet long. As long as a Lancashire boiler. There were a chap killed putting ‘em in. Taking ‘em in through the window you know, they’d have nothing then only old wood jibs and tele poles to get ‘em in. And one decided to lean over as they were taking it through the window and it squashed, it were his own fault, he should never have been in the way, it squashed him against the wall. Anyhow, they got these beams in and got it running again and then a few years after it all came loose on its beds and Burnley Ironworks were called in and what they did, they stopped it for a month and they elevated, they lifted it up, the engine. They had is suspended in mid air, they had it on packings and girders and what have you, blocks and chains. Me father said he’d never seen as many blocks and chains in his life. They took all the old stones away which had gone rotten with oil and they put cast iron box beds under it about ten foot down and fastened it all down again and that made it into a decent engine. Oh and Saxons replaced the gearing, it hadn’t a jack wheel on the side of the flywheel, gearing was on the top of the wheel [on the rim]. Saxons put new gearing on it while they were there doing the beams. All machine cut gears and two new pinions. So that made it run beautiful, apart from being out of step!

Where were the pinions?

R-One in front and one behind. You can picture a wheel running on two rollers like. One in front and one behind, they were practically underneath it. Each at a third of the circumference, one at back and one at front. And then of course, after all that were done it worked on through the slump and all that, it were never stopped, and then of course it came my time. I didn’t go down to that engine, very little like. We had an old fitter called Gladney Brown who worked for us a bit, he had a shop in Earby in them days and just occasionally me father ‘ud send me down to get him for help on different jobs. Little bits of damper jobs and such things as that. Till one weekend, I’d be nearly out of me time, it ‘ud be just afore the war. [1937/38] I’d just got home at Saturday dinnertime, I’d been working somewhere, and there were this knock on the door. It were our Mr Brown, and it were very unusual for him to be coming across looking for me. [Newton would be 21 or 22] He says, Newton, will you go down to Earby Mill, you know them spur wheels down in’t floor, there’s one of ‘em come off its keys. They’ve just decided…he were allus down at Earby, he lived in that little shop [From what I can make out, when Browns moved to Barlick they still kept the workshop open in Earby. They liquidated in 1928 and Johnny started up in 1929 in their place, by 1932 he had formed Henry Brown son and Pickles with Henry Brown as a partner. Even so, as late as 1938 it appears that Henry still had the workshop in Earby and this is what Newton is referring to.]
He says, They’ve just had me over has the engineer and one of ‘ems off t’keys practically. I says OK, I’ll go down to it. So I picked me mate up, which is still me mate today, that’s Bob Fort and off we went down after dinner at Saturday. And th’old engineer there were Bill Lancaster [senior]. [See Horace Thornton transcripts] We just took a hand hammer and some files and a chisel in an old bag, old do you know, over your shoulder and we went up into the engine house and as soon as he saw us, he looked at me and he looked at Bob and he said What the bloody hell have they sent me, two bits of kids to do a job like this! Oh I says to Bob, That’s a good do for us, if we aren’t wanted let’s get off home. He he he! We were off down the steps but he were out after us, he says Come here! Come here, I didn’t mean it like that. So he took us down to these wheels, they were big wheels, they were six feet in diameter, they drove a thousand looms did them wheels down in the bottom shed. They were steel and he says It’s one of them. I just took one look at it and looked at the keys and I said Who’s been laiking with that? Oh well, he said, We keep having to tighten it, Gladney. Gladney Brown used to be our fitter at the shop. He says He’s always had to be in here knocking ‘em in but he’s off poorly and he hasn’t been in like and it’s one or two of ‘em loose. There were four keys in and I said Aye, it looks so and all, been tapping ‘em in eh? What’s he been using, a rubber hammer! Cause I hadn’t a lot of love for that feller anyway. Anyway, we set to.

Who were the engineer there?

R-Lancaster they called him. So we set to and we came back to the shop and got some staking wedges and I says to Bob, I don’t think it’s moved so far. What we’ll do for a start, they were all marked were these keys, I says We’ll put this wheel into gear properly, we’ll tap all these keys in up to the mark. You know we were down in the muck and the grease and oil. We got the pedestal cap off so’s we could get to the heads of the keys, it were a big shaft, about six or seven inch were that shaft. So we tapped all these keys back, they’d a barring engine and we barred the engine round and we tapped ‘em all back to the proper mark, you know, where they’d been originally fit. Then we popped staking wedges in and knocked the top un out, first we came to. We gets this key out and you’ve never seen anything like it in your life, it were all chewed away, it were like an old horseshoe! So Bob looked at me and I looked at him. Well, he says, We might as well settle down eh! I says, Aye, we might as well settle down to this. So we knocked them all out and came back to Barlick and we’d no blacksmith about, he’d gone home. So Bob says We can make these keys uselves. He says we can make these out of some three be one [3X1 inch]. So we got cracking and we’d two good hammers you know, we’d a compressed air hammer and all, and I thought we might as well do a bit of blacksmithing. So we made one and didn’t do so bad at all and Bob was planing it up so I said I might as well make another forging and Bob came down into the shop off the shaper and he said I’ve machined one like, we’ll leave that one now. We went down to Earby and it weren’t so bad so we fit that one. I think at Saturday night about eleven o’clock we’d two in, we’d two fit. So early Sunday morning we left it and later Sunday morning we went down again and be Sunday tea time we’d got t’other two in and we were ready for tightening the wheel. So we did tighten the wheel and we did tighten it, I mean we were at that age when we could tighten ‘em and it rung like a bell. It were a steel un , be the time we’d finished it it rung like a bell when we were knocking them keys in. Lancaster kept saying, You’re going to break sommat, you’re going to break sommat! And do you know, when we came out of that engine house on Sunday night or early Monday morning, I just forget which, it might have been about three o’clock on Monday morning, that chap ‘ud have given us the mill. I were mother and father to that engine after that right up to it last breath. I even ran it on’t last night out anyway. And all through that career I rebored th’high pressure cylinder, I didn’t bore th’intermediate one because I didn’t think it needed it, but I put a new piston rod in it. I put two new beam trunnions in it, new piston rod and trunnions. High pressure, new high pressure cross head and radius rods. I bored both low pressure cylinders and it took forty eight hours to go once through one of them low pressures running day and night. So I bored both low pressures and I put two new piston rods in them, new pistons and new Ramsbottom rings, did away with Buckleys. I did away with Buckley rings on all the cylinders and put Ramsbottoms in. And it allus had a trick that engine, when you watched it running, it were all out of line were t’low pressure rods. You can picture them coming out of the cylinder seven foot each stroke, first at one side o’t stuffing box and then at t’other. Well, when I put new beam trunnions in I said I’m going to alter this. I’ll never forget it, I took the radius rods off, you know, what keeps it central and me father came down and went up the wall when he saw me with ‘em off. He says Tha shouldn’t have taken them off Newton, tha’ll never get set up, it’s a reight geometrical problem is setting them up. I said Geometrical problem be damned, piston rod only wants to go out, come to t’top in’t same shop it comes out at t’ruddy bottom! It only means moving the pedestals. He says Oh go on then, have it thee own road. So anyhow, wi’ big shifts and little uns and keep barring it round and measuring it we shifted it all. And by gum it did it! It were in the same position when it got to’t top as it were when it come to the bottom. They’d never seen owt like it because, you can picture a beam engine running Stanley, and it goes up and t’piston rod goes whooop, like that but it doesn’t just do that, that way when you’re stood behind it, if you stand in front of it looking parallel to it it also does it that way if them radius rods aren’t right, like a ruddy bow and arrow running. [Newton is describing the parallel motion devised by James Watt to convert the arc described by the end of the beam into true linear motion by means of a parallel linkage anchored to a fixed point separate from the beam by radius rods. Years later when I rebuilt the Whitelees beam engine at Ellenroad I had the same problem and had to find a way of solving it as I had to set new radius rod anchors. Like Newton, I ditched the geometry and did it by common sense fitting practice. I set the beam and the parallel linkage dead level and anchored the radius rods at that. Then I barred the engine round and made minor adjustments until I was satisfied I had it as near as I could get it. Any discrepancy there is after you’ve adjusted them this way is down to the original fitters making the radius rods the wrong length. It always seems to me that they made them too short and introduced a light variation in the linear movement. The engine has run for ten years now with no problems.] They take some setting up does a beam engine. Anyhow I cured all that. Later on in its life I did th’high pressure. Now there were always trouble wi’ bad vacuum. Th’air pumps were absolutely jiggered. There were water squirting out everywhere bar where it should have done. Coffin bottoms had been broken and they were all cemented up and they were leaking [Cement pored round the coffins to make the inaccessible bases watertight]. The delivery plates were rotten. So at t’finish up I says to me father There’s going to have to be something done about these air pumps. There’s going to have to be some new uns. He says Reight oh and rings Teddy Woods up at Burnley, he were the secretary of the mill company [Edward woods was a partner in the firm of Proctor and Proctor, chartered accountants in Burnley. They acted for many of the mill companies in the area. Edward Woods was secretary for CHSC and the Earby Mill Co, he was very interested in the engineering side of the job and supervised all the engine repairs.] Teddy Woods and Captain Smith came along to the shop at Barlick. Captain Smith were boss at Pillings at Primet Bridge Colne. [They were ironfounders specialising in loom manufacture.] and was also a big shareholder in Earby Mill. They talked about this job between them and me father came out of the office and he says We’ve got a reight job Newton. I said What have we got? He said, To make two new air pumps for Victoria Mill. I said We aren’t putting ‘em in them blooming holes where the old uns are are we? He says No, we’re not, We’re going to make a completely new unit and we’ll put them in the old devil hole and run ‘em off the lineshaft, we’ll make ‘em independent . [Victoria Mill was a spinning mill in its early days and the name ‘Devil Hole’ is a hang over from that trade. It was a room that used to house the devils, the breaking machines that opened the cotton fibre up. They were called devils because they were notorious for catching fire if a small stone of piece of metal got into the drums.] We made two sets of Edward’s air pumps all on one bed, properly independent, proper individual air pumps all fastened together in a pair like a set of twin pumps. We ran ’em with two seven foot rope pulleys with six ropes on. Now that were some job that. I think them pumps weighed seventeen tons when they were on the bed. We put them pumps in one September holidays, they stopped for a week for us. And when we started up we had twenty seven and a half inch of vacuum and that engine had never had anything like that in it’s life. I never saw it wi’ more than twenty one or twenty two inch on it and the coal bill went down by seventeen ton a week. Aye, it did that and that’s fully loaded you know. It were burning some stuff and it went down seventeen ton a week did the coal bill. Which it would do when you think about it Stanley, there were two low pressure cylinders seven foot stroke, vacuum at both sides of the piston on every stroke and that’s running at 38rpm. And that were the last major job that were done as far as rebuilding was concerned till all at once it developed a funny noise. Now then….

When were this, give us a date Newton. [Newton works out a date but he makes it 1953. Johnny’s letter to ME was late in 1954 so I’d favour that.]

R-I think I have a photograph with a date on it anyway. Anyhow, this all started months before it happened. Me father lands in, I’ve just been down to Earby Newton and I’ve been in yon, I’ve been up at t’mill just to have a look at Almond [Tommy Almond, the engineer] I haven’t been for owt particular but yon engine has a queer noise. I wish you’d go down there. I hadn’t been for a week or two so I said, Aye, I’ll go down. I sat and listened to it a long while and I talked to Old Almond and I never said nowt. Almond were th’engineer then and I never said nowt, I came back to t’shop. Me father says What’s ta think of yon engine? I said I don’t know. I think the flywheel shaft’s breaking. Oh Newton, for God’s sake, look at t’size of it and don’t talk so blooming silly! There’s a bolt loose, I’ve heard ‘em make that sort of noise before when I were a young chap. There’s a bolt loose, go down there at weekend and take some men with you and run round all the bolts.

That ud be the segment bolts?

R-Aye, segment bolts. So off we went down there at weekend, three of us, we’d all t’spanners and we went round all the bolts and I didn’t [find anything].

One thing Newton, just a clarification. I’ll just stop you for a minute, sorry. When we talk about segment bolts we mean the bolts that were holding the gear segments on the flywheel rim don’t we.

R-On top of the flywheel rim and also the cotters that held ‘em together other ways [Newton is talking about the fastenings that held the individual segments to their neighbours.] You know there were bolts in, four bolts in each arm. And then in each segment, the arms were under the centre of the segments, there were gibs and cotters through…


R-Always laid flush, you couldn’t actually see ‘em when it was running. They were chipped flush so’s they wouldn’t catch anybody. Anyhow we tested everything and all bolts were tight, all the cotters were tight. Now under, in between them segments they had some tapered plates had that engine and sometimes it ud, it used to get one of them loose and it would sound buzzz… as it were going through the teeth and we knew about that so we used to put new uns in. So I came back again and he says Has it gone? I says No, the shaft’s breaking. Anyway he walked away and ignored me when I said that. He went down again during the week, he weren’t satisfied and he came back and he says Go down again this weekend and try all them plates. I said I tried ‘em all last Saturday. He says Well go down and try them again! Tha’s missed one! There’s either a bolt loose in that flywheel or there’s one of them plates loose! I says there’s nowt loose. So anyhow, we all went down again and we went round everything and I were getting sick and Bob and Crabby were getting sick and Tommy Almond were getting sick because he couldn’t go to the pub. We didn’t find owt and this time I tried all the boss cotters, the cotters that held the arms in the flywheel boss. I tried them all and they were tight. Now that flywheel had a cracked boss and it had had some kidney rings shrunk on, so I tried ‘em and they were all right. So I came back to the shop on Monday morning. Well, did you find owt? No I says, the shaft’s breaking. Well he set into me good and proper. He says What’s tha acting on about wi’ that bloody engine. There’s a bolt loose in that flywheel and give up saying that t’shafts breaking. So I walked away and left him, I thought there’s going to be a right falling out do here over a blooming old steam engine if I’m not careful. That were at Monday. Tuesday morning outside Vicarage Road (where Newton lived) banging on the front door at quarter past seven, there were a taxi. Young Almond, Tommy Almond’s lad [were there] Newton, come down to t’mill reight sharp will you, yon engine’s making a bloody noise! I says Well, has yer father getten it stopped? He says No, he won’t stop it. I says all right, I’ll come in me own motor, I had me little van outside, off you go. I gets some shoes on and a jacket and off I went to Earby Mill. I just stood at t’back of the flywheel while it ran, it were totally enclosed in a tin case but you could see the rim. I stood there behind it and watched it and it were trembling like a fiddle string. I says to Tommy Almond, Get this engine stopped quick! He says I’ll have to go round and tell the tenants first. He’d about six tenants in you know and he were well loaded, he had about 1300horse on. I said reight oh Tommy, thee go and tell thi tenants and as soon as he went down t’ruddy steps Newton went round to the governor and pulled the catch off and shut the stop valve. Th’engine stopped, tenants or no tenants and the flywheel shaft at the low pressure side were smoking. This the funny part about it, low pressure side of the shaft were smoking and young Tommy says What’s up wi’ it Newton? I said The bloody shaft’s broken. Oh heck he says. Anyhow I comes back to Barlick, leaves it stopped, can’t do owt wi’out tackle and I were there be meself so I gets me breakfast, gets a boiler suit on and a tie and gets straightened up. Gets me mate and a couple of labourers and off we went down. Takes some blocks and some chains. So first job of course we did was get some blocks and chains up and we lifted the caps on the main bearings, which we’d had off oft enough and we had ‘em off within an hour. I says, Bar it round. Couldn’t find owt, perfect were them bearings, lovely shaft, beautiful shine on it, very few marks to say it had run knocking up a hundred years. Couldn’t find owt. I thought Oh Pickles, tha’s dropped a reight clanger here, you’ve stopped two and a half thousand looms for nowt! And Harry were at one side, Harry Crabtree and I were at the other side and I’d Charlie Bateman with me and another labourer. I says Go on, bar it round again and I couldn’t find a damn thing, I looked in all the places like radius corner and back o’t cranks and all that and I couldn’t find owt. So I went round to’t low pressure side, that one that’d been hot. I were wi’ Harry at the low pressure side and I says to him, I’ve dropped a reight clanger here haven’t I. He says it looks so, it isn’t often tha drops a clanger like this, what the hell have we stopped the mill for, but let’s face it Newton, what were making that bloody noise? Go on I says to young Tommy Almond, Bar it round again. And little Charlie Bateman were stood at the side of the high pressure crank and t’barring engine were at the low pressure side. Tom went to the barring engine and started it up like, you know, how you do. Oh, what the hell’s he want it barring for again sort of attitude you know, whizzed steam on to it and it moved with a bit of a shudder and little Charlie, the other side, says Oh Newton, come round here. I says What’s up Charlie? Well he says, it were like this cranks here and that cranks there, it were quartered you know, and he says I’m bloody sure when that crank moved at your side mine didn’t! I says Arta certain? He says I’m bloody certain! That crank moved afore mine did. I says Tha’s made my day, get that barring engine stopped. Harry, come on, get these eccentrics off at this side. The two eccentrics that worked, they were circular slide valves on, you know, were’t valves on that engine. They were corliss high pressure but t’lows had circular piston valves in. What I mean by that it twisted ‘em round to ports. They didn’t go up and down, it twisted ‘em round.

Like a circular slide valve, yes.

R-That’s it yes, like a circular slide valve. Anyhow I said Let’s get these eccentrics off at this side. High pressure side. Because these two eccentrics were right up to one another and right up to the flywheel boss. You couldn’t get your rule down between the eccentrics and the boss, it had always been a fault with that thing. Well, they took a fair bit of getting off did them eccentrics because they were big eccentrics. They’d be about three feet six inches in diameter. We got the straps off and fastened the rods up and then uncottered the middles and slid ‘em this way [away from the flywheel boss] up to the bearing, we’d about six inches of room to move ‘em. Harry looked over the top of the eccentrics and pulled his great big two foot, Harry always had a two foot in his pocket, one of them about and inch and a quarter wide and about three sixteenths of an inch thick that he had had since he was a lad. He just pulled it out of his pocket, opened it up to two foot and he says Here we are Newton, sithee, here’s thee noise! And he shoved it right through the bloody shaft and pulled it out at the bottom.



Victoria Mill, Earby in 1954, the broken fly shaft. Johnny Pickles [bowler hat] is on the right and the man stood in front of him in the pin stripe suit is Teddy Woods from Procter and Procter at Burnley. I think the man behind Johnny is Tommy Almond who was engineer at the mill.

R-And I think you have a picture somewhere of us stood on that pedestal with Harry and his two foot. There, I said to Harry Tha’s made my day! I don’t like anyone to be broken down but that’s made my ruddy day. I’ve been arguing with me father for a fortnight about this engine. It had just broken like you’d sawn it. It was straight as a die, you couldn’t have sawn it, you couldn’t have cut it with a flame torch owt like it, it were a hollow shaft, it had about a three and a half inch hole right through it. [It’s very common with shafts of this vintage for them to be bored right through the middle. This removed ‘piping’ which was an area of slag inclusion and weakness which could propagate cracks. This was a concomitant of the early technology of forging large shafts and the early engineers soon found that boring them in this way got rid of the starter zone for cracks and made the shafts more reliable.] and it had just been hanging on with half an inch round the bore for ages, well, a fortnight anyway.


Harry poking his two foot through the shaft. Newton is at the other side of the shaft with a fag in his mouth. Happy bunnies!

Yes, aye.

R-Or say ever since the noise started. Anyway I get me father down and he were very quiet like. And all the directors and all them, they were quiet like. Give us an idea how long we’ll be stopped. I says A fortnight. Me father says Tha can’t put a shaft in this engine in a fortnight. Well I says, I were only trying to give them an idea, don’t tie me down to it. First of all he says, how you going to get it out of the engine house? Oh I says, that’s one thing I hadn’t thought about. It won’t go past the low pressure cylinder and through the door not with a crank on it won’t. And we’re talking now about three and a half or four ton you know, even with the broken pieces off. Oh I says, Don’t worry, I wonder if them tenants in the shed down there’ll shift me some looms? Engine house windows overlooked the shed in the bottom. No travelling crane or owt like that you know. Why he says, what you going to do with it? I says I’m going to take the roof off and drop it into t’shed. I can put a girder up and put it through one of these windows and put a carriage on it to hang the blocks on. Get hold of it in here, when I get it out take it over the top of the shed and drop it down into the shed with me long lift blocks on to the truck. I’ll never forget this, he says Which truck arta going to use, that wi’t rubber tyres or that wi’t iron wheels, ‘cause if tha uses that wi’t rubber wheels I think they’ll go flat! He he he! So that put us on like a friendly footing again. He must have thought I were barmy or sommat ‘cause we had a bloody truck, it’d carry about fifty ton, he made it years and years ago. I’ll just explain this truck, it were about six foot long and five foot wide and the top boards were four inch thick railway sleepers, all bolted on to some iron brackets that formed the frame and they were made out of three be one steel. And t’wheels, the wheels were eighteen inches diameter and about five inches wide and they must have weighed a couple of hundredweight apiece and it used to take six of us to pull it down the yard empty! He he he, Old Johnny’s truck. Anyway it came in handy for jobs like that I’ll tell you, nobody were afraid of the truck collapsing! But beauty of it were they’d only put a piece of inch and a half leather loom belt on it to pull it wi’ at t’front. He he he! Old Johnny’s truck. Them that made it only put a bit of inch and a half leather loom belt at t’front to pull it wi’. Anyhow, we worked night and day and we got the flywheel jacked up. But let’s finish that tale here, what had saved that engine from a complete smash-up, running wi’ all that load on, had been them two pinions set at a third of the circumference.

In the bottom.

R-In t’bottom because she’d just dropped into the bottom of the teeth and stopped there. And she must have been in the bottom of the teeth for a fortnight, and that were the different noise we were hearing. And with being machine cut wheels, them teeth ‘ud go right into t’bottom. With being machine cut gears she’d ridden on the bottom of the teeth so the wheel didn’t go down into the cellar and jam anything up you know.

It’s a wonder the bearings on them pinions hadn’t been getting hot.

R-It didn’t get hot in the second motion, it’s a wonder they didn’t get hot. First intimation they had that morning were the low pressure main bearing getting hot because of all the extra pressure there were on it. The high pressure bearing were just hanging on wi’ nothing, just going round. It were still driving the mill you know. I couldn’t understand that, it were a miracle, it still kept going on going round, high pressure crank and low so it must have been low pressure and intermediate that were running the mill. It must have been and yet his back pressure gauges had never shown any difference for a fortnight, his compound pressure. Anyway we got it out and we got it into the shop and we put it on the borer to take the crank off that were on the broken end. And I bored the shaft out of the other one. We did all this at nights while we were waiting for the forging. I fetched the forging from Webbs at Bury and it were red hot, it were sizzling it were on some, they put it on some steel girders for me at Webbs, fastened it on wi’ some chains and I brought it red hot, it were just drizzling wi’ rain. I’ll bet everybody thowt the wagon were on fire when I were coming through Burnley, He he he. All steaming up. And it were like the rest of them, you got ‘em here on Saturday and you might as well have gone for it on Monday. We couldn’t turn it till Sunday night, when we got cracking.

When you say you couldn’t turn it till Sunday night, that was because it hadn’t cooled down?

R-It were too hot. It were too hot. We got it in’t lathe and we got it on top of the bed but it were too hot to begin turning. We started turning it at Sunday night. I worked on nights, me an Harry Crabtree. Well, we were turning t’shaft, we also had the old broken shaft on the borer and we were boring the ends out. What I mean wi’th’ends, we bored the old shaft out to save unshrinking ‘em. We didn’t want to warm ‘em unduly. You might as well bore ‘em out, you’ve plenty of time and them cranks weighed two ton apiece. They were seven foot stroke you know, eight or eight foot six …

Yes, they’d be three foot six between the centres. [of the holes]

R-Aye, they were a hell of a length were them, yes.

Now wait a minute, I were just going to, that’s it, now then, one little thing here. That forging you brought back from Webbs. Just to get down to the technicalities of the job a bit, that forging ‘ud have a fair skin on it.

R-Oh aye, a lot of scale.

Yes, now the first roughing cut down that like, what would you do that with?

R-Ordinary high speed steel.

Now, that’s what I was trying to get down to. You take your first cut so you were going down under the skin into the metal.

R-Aye, we’d a fair lathe. Get under the skin, scale ud be flying up on to the top of the tool box! We’d have, let’s be fair, do about five eighths a side on the tool, as much as the lathe ud drive.

Five eighths a side. How deep were you going, an inch?

R-Aye well there’d be about an inch and a half or two inch to come off it uniform, you know, pretty uniform. Uniform at t’side o’t forging.

So you were taking a cut about half an inch deep?

R-We were lessening the diameter an inch. You know it were an irregular shape were that forging, there were the flats you know. But on the corners of your flats you’d got half an inch or five eighths of cut on the first time down.

That swarf ud be coming off in bloody lumps!

R-Oh it were blue and big lumps aye! [Blue because of the heat generated by the cut.] And I got into a bit of bother wi’ me swarf you see. When you’ve got your first cut off and you see, you see when you’ve flats on your turnings come off in bits. But when you’ve been up once and you grind your tool up and you get a right rake on and get another half an inch of cut off they come off all curly. And each turning when it breaks off is nearly as much as a man can lift, when it gets cold enough! Well, at Sunday night we had a damn good do and we’d a fair lot of turnings on Monday morning when Sydney come on the lathe. We put Sydney on the lathe during the day ‘cause he was a damn good turner were Syd. But I allus seemed to manage to get the night job. Now all these turnings were piled up behind the door you see. So we had a chap on that used to move turnings and he shifted ‘em and then Sydney turned all day. Now he’d more or less be just taking the rough off like I were, taking the scale off. Now Monday night it were starting to look like a shaft, it had got clean then so Newton comes in, grinds up and gets some cut on. Well, at Tuesday morning, Sydney comes in about quarter to seven, best to come in sooner and then if the other turner has anything to tell you, it’s better than leaving notes. And he could see where I were like and he says Oh, I’m all right for today. I’d only be about half way up it. And the chap came in and shifted the turnings you know. And when I came in at night, seven o’clock Sydney said He! I had a hell of a job wi’ Old Tommy this morning! I says Why? He said He went home, he threatened he were going to chuck up. It were your father that fetched him back. I said Well, what the hell had he chucked up for? You see what we did, we raked all the turnings from under the lathe and piled ‘em behind the door. And when he came in at morning and saw the pile of turnings that I’d made during the night he says I’m not having this! ‘Cause we were allus pulling his leg you know. He says Yon bugger’s fetched all the turnings back in that I took out yesterday morning! He he he!

(Laughter from Stanley)

R-So he went home! Anyhow, we got the job done. Now the biggest nightmare to me with that engine were , although I’d done all this before but not on so big a scale, were when I’d finished the flywheel shaft and I’d to put it back in the flywheel. Now this engine weren’t a staked wheel, it were a plug fit. What I mean to say is that the shaft were the same size as the bore of the flywheel. So we made gauges to fit the flywheel bore you know, it had been a bit slack on the old shaft so I made some gauges to the bore and we made it a better fit. But it had six keys in, not four, but you see with doing that and making it a plug fit it made the keys a bit lighter. They were only about three and a half inches wide and about two feet long. But there were six in, so after we got the thing back in position and the wheel keyed on.

So how many flats were there on the shaft, six?

R-Six, yes. Six keyways and six flats on the shaft. So anyhow, we got flywheel shaft back in, cut it a bit shorter and got, no need to true the wheel, just set it in position in the pinions and get it keyed on, put six new keys in. Then it comes doesn’t it, to put the cranks on, these bloody great cranks at two tons apiece.

Yes, but your nightmare were what, whether the shaft ‘ud go through?

R-Putting the cranks on. I’d had it on me mind ever since I’d started the job about putting the cranks on. I gave ‘em fourteen thou of nip, which is a hell of a lot. What I mean by that I turned the shaft fourteen thou bigger than the hole in the crank.

Yes, how thick were that shaft at the crank?

R-About fifteen inch. And they’d be about nine inch wide them cranks, I were going to say ten but I’ll say nine inch, it’s a hell of a crank that’s nine inches wide. But they were big cranks. And I thought, now then, I’ve that bugger to warm now and I’ve got to shrink them on to there and get ‘em in the right place., you know, only one keyway in. So we got all the tackle up and had a practice run with one before we started heating it. What I mean be a practice run, you get all your blocks in the correct position , your blocks where you’re going to put it to warm it and your blocks over the shaft where you’re going to transfer it to shove it on. Now them blocks over your shaft, you don’t leave any chances. They’re set in position where that crank’ll go on to that shaft without anybody touching that chain at all. Just take it off one pair of blocks, use them for lowering and highering, straight on to the other and on to the shaft. No bloody pulling or saying up a bit and down a bit. Shove it straight on. So we started warming just after tea, I don’t know what day it was, just after tea we started warming. We’d two sets of rose jets on oxygen and acetylene and I think I’d about ten bottles of each outside and also we’d two great big paraffin blow lamps that we’d had for years and I got them down there as well. We built an asbestos cupboard round the crank, packed it up on firebricks and we started warming it. About one o’clock in the morning the gauge ud just about go in. By the gauge going in I mean I’d made a gauge to the diameter of the shaft with a handle on it so’s we could try it in the crank as we were warming it. At one o’clock it decided to go in the bore of the crank and we’d been blowing at it for like five or six hours. About two o’clock and Harry says, It’ll go on now Newton. I says Aye, it will. It had about two inch of travel, by two inch of travel I mean when you put your gauge point on at one end it’d travel two inch from side to side at the other. He said It’ll go on now. I said, We’ll give it another half an hour Harry.

Yes, when you say you put your point in at the top, you can move it two inches.

R-At the bottom your gauge. If you hold the point of your gauge one end of the bore you can move it across about two inches at the top. That’s what we call travel on the gauge. Now that two inches is equivalent to about ten or fifteen thou of tolerance which made that bore ten or fifteen thou bigger than the shaft. So Harry knew, he’d been with me before on these big jobs. He says It’ll go now and I says Give it another half an hour, we’ll get it as big as we can. It were glowing red, this two ton of metal. So we blew at it till I think about half past two. I said let’s not take any chances. When you’re warming something like that you allus get some scale forming so I allus had a wire brush handy to de-scale it before you push it on. Then we just picked it up and transferred it off one set of blocks on to t’other. There were four of us, I’m emphasising that because you were better wi’ four than you were wi’ bloody ten because if you’ve too many men about things happen. You have a clip round it you know. A special clip so you could have one man one side and one at t’other to keep it straight. When you transfer it to the final set of blocks you just say right, you’ve two pieces of two inch shafting handy, me at one side and Harry at t’other ready to push it on the cheeks to shove it straight on. At the same time you have a dummy key on a handle so you don’t burn yourself and as soon as it’s on you pop that in to make sure it’s lined up right. [This was to ensure that the cranks were in their correct positions when both had been installed, 90 degrees to each other. Usually the low pressure was set 90 degrees in front of the high pressure.] Believe me or believe me not it went straight on Stanley. It just slid up the shaft straight up to the collar, key in and drop the weight on it. What I mean by that is we slacked the block to let the weight of the crank drop on the shaft to stop it sliding about on its own when we let go. And I bet that crank weren’t three minutes by any clock in the world before hell wouldn’t have shifted it, it had shrunk that sharp on to the cold shaft you know. [Newton doesn’t mention it but once the crank had nipped on the shaft, the dummy key with the handle is removed for use on the other crank. The keyway that is left is filled with a dummy key made to fit. It’s called a dummy because it isn’t actually doing anything, the nip on the shaft is more than adequate to hold the crank.]

Cold shaft, aye.

R-Aye, the lads were suited, I can see ‘em yet, they were really chuffed with that crank being on. But I soon stopped ‘em from laughing! There were a sink in the engine house and they all went to the sink when I said Reight lads, a bit of supper now! Like, you know, that’s it, we’ll run home now. I didn’t tell them for how long though. They all went to the sink to wash off you know, off wi’t overalls and hang ‘em up. So I went to the sink to have a wash and Crabby knew, he knew did Harry. I went up to t’sink and then I says Aye, that’s all right lads. Get theselves weshed , you’ve done a good job, get theselves off home and be back in an hour! He he he! That were three o’clock in the morning. Eh what? Well I says, You don’t think I’m going to bed wi’ one crank on and the other off do you? Not likely. I’ll go to bed when the other bugger’s on. Anyway, we got the other on be dinner and then I let ‘em have the afternoon off. I think they’d been out long enough, two days. And we were running on Friday, we’d been stopped , well we weren’t really stopped a fortnight, we were running at Friday and the mill went into production on Monday morning. It never ailed another thing didn’t that engine as far as any major operations were concerned.

Were there any teething troubles with it?

R-No, no teething troubles.

Shaft or owt?

R-No, no hot bearings, nothing at all.

Did it run any different than it did before?

R-It run quieter. It allus had a bit of a fault, when I come to set the flywheel I noticed that one pinion had been running about three eighths over the edge of the teeth. Well, you can’t set a wheel to two that’s staggered. So what I did I set it to the back one which was the most awkward to get at. I set it in line with the back one and I left the front one where it were and it ran till Earby holidays and then I went down with Harry Crabtree and young Jimmy Fort and we knocked the keys back and we moved it into line.

So they were both in line.

R-Aye so they were both in line. But otherwise it never give any trouble didn’t pinion being three eighths out of line but it had been out of line t’other way before. What they couldn’t see was that with running out of line it had worn some ledges on the back pinion so while we were doing the big job I set a labourer on to file the ledges out of the pinion and I lined it up with that wheel ‘cause the front one were easier to get at. And that were the last major operation that were done on that engine apart from the usual, take up the crankpin bearing or take the beam trunnions up, you know, bits of things like that. It ran a lot you know at the end of its life. It ran from seven in the morning until ten at night it did. [Housewife’s shift, six till ten.] He went and got blooming mumps did th’engineer and I went down ‘cause I were the only one that could run it apart from him. He were only a young chap were Tom then. I ran it from seven in the morning until ten at night for about seven or eight bloody week. I thought they were only off a day or two wi’ mumps. And I says to a doctor friend of mine, I says Hey, I’m running that bloody engine at Earby, how long does it take ‘em to come back wi’ mumps? He says Well, how old is he Newton? Oh I says, forty one or forty two. Oh Christ he says, he’ll be months! Bloody dangerous is mumps when thart forty five, it can stop thee from getting childer! I didn’t know that. Anyway the boss came one afternoon, Captain Smith frae Colne and I’m stood on’t balcony like, looking down the yard and looking a bit sorry for meself. He came out to me on the balcony, he were a nice chap and I could get on wi’ him, a lot of people couldn’t but I could because I used to be straight wi’ the feller. I just turned to him and I said How long’s this bloody caper going to be going on? He says What do you mean Newton? Are you having some trouble? I says No but isn’t it a ruddy long while for getting up at half past five in the morning and going home at quarter to eleven at night from here? He says What? Well I says, You know you’ve a night shift running here while ten o’clock? I’m running the night shift, t'other feller were all right weren’t he, he came at half past six and three nights a week he went home at half past five and Joe Plushy were running it while ten. He says Oh blooming heck Newton, I never thought of that! You’re not going to give up are you and leave us all stopped? No, I said, I’m not going to give up but I were there six or seven week wi’ t’mumps job. I didn’t think anybody could get mumps and stop off work seven week.

There was one little thing.

R-Go on.

I think I once heard you talk about that and you said that when you went down the first time on relief you had a bit of bother with the stokers.

R-Oh, second morning.


R-First day I had a bit of bother ‘cause t’steam were down and all that. Course, you go down into the boiler house and you get ‘em to steam up and you’re troubles are over, that doesn’t happen no more. But when I went down the second morning, no firemen. He hadn’t turned up and I hung about and hung about because th’oiler didn’t come till ten to seven because he only got paid from that time and he didn’t come so I’d to get down into the boiler house. I set on wi’ only fifty five pound of steam and two thousand loom running. He he he!. Anyhow he comes trailing in at ten past eight and of course he did this three days in one week. Anyway I started to complain about this and they threatened to sack him and the boss came and anyhow they got me a bloke to fire for me at night that came from Colne and he were a moulder. Now he were a right case he were, that moulder. He came dashing up one night and he says Newton, you’d better come down quick! I said What’s to do? He said I think I’ve getten too little water in one boiler, I can’t see it in the gauge! I flew down them steps ‘cause it weren’t so long before they’d had a set of tubes down without water you know. I flew down them steps and I listened to me blooming engine and I thought it’s a bit queer is this. So I went down into t’boiler house and never mind the boiler being blooming empty, it were full reight up to t’lid! He he he! Anyhow he had a good head of steam so I cracked the blow-off valve at the bottom and watched it come out into the dam about as thick as your wrist and it were half an hour before it came unto the bloody glass. Course, I daren’t open it full do because we’d only one boiler on. It were about an hour and a half before it started showing in the glass.


R-Now there were one advantage there of course, That engine were about ten or fifteen feet higher than the boiler house or else we’d have been in a right mess there. But I flew up them stairs and opened me high pressure drains I can tell you.

So any water that primed had a good chance of running back down the pipe.

R-Oh aye, well it would run down the pipe you see, it went straight up out of the boiler house and then across the yard and then up again and it had an expansion pipe up there where it went over into the stop valve like a big ‘U’ pipe and that took it up another two or three feet. It were full up to the lid, there’s no doubt about that and I daren’t open it too far wi’ all the looms I had running. I’d 600 looms running in Johnson’s shed. If I’d opened the blow off far enough to get rid of it in say ten to fifteen minutes, I’d have had no steam in the blinking boiler would I and the other boiler were banked up. So anyway, he didn’t do that any more didn’t that character.

SCG/24 November 2000
10369 words.


TAPE 79/AG/14


Right. Now we’ll start this week by finishing Victoria Mill off. You were running it when it finally stopped weren’t you?

R-Yes, aye.

Tell me about when it finally stopped and why it stopped.

R-Well I ran it for two and a half years at night, three nights one week and two the other from Half past five until quarter to ten, for Johnson and Johnson’s, for 400 looms they had at the far end of the mill. They had an evening shift on and then it got to be as, it started to go down and down, two or three of t’other tenants went out of business and that were all the engine were driving were that four hundred looms. Or there were six hundred, it might have been 600. And with running all that time for 600 looms they came to the conclusion that they’d better be electrifying. So they electrified, they took a lot of old looms out and put part automatics in and put electric motors on and I ran the engine right out on the night shift. And that’s about it Stanley. Really, to me, that engine should have been one of the engines in the district that should have been preserved. Without any doubt at all, that one should have been preserved.

Yes. Now we did a lot of talking last week about big jobs. You know, repair jobs, breakdowns. One of the things about that, and we’ve talked a lot about it from time to time, about the various things that can cause an engine to break down, slugs of water and not oiling ‘em and this that and the other but probably the best known and most comprehensive way of smashing an engine up is what we call overspeed but there’s a lot of different names for it, for instance, Jack Platt, when I was taping him, called it ‘Running Boggart.’

R-Off at t’boggart, aye.

Off at t’Boggart aye. Well. But obviously I’m angling for Bishop House here but just before we get into that one tell me what you know about overspeeding and what you’ve seen of it.

R-Well, I haven’t seen a lot of overspeeding, not really. Because they used to be very careful these engineers about this job, such as governor ropes like we’ve talked about before and putting the low speed peg in. Now a lot of people get the wrong impression there, when we say low speed peg, how can it run away when the low speed peg’s out. Well, the low speed peg is as simple as this, that if your governor stops and drops to the bottom it knocks your valve gear out. Or such things as the governor ropes coming off and your governor dropped and you’ve no low speed peg in and it doesn’t hook off. Then your steam valves are absolutely wide open to the world and that engine’s away and nothing’ll stop it apart from shutting the stop valve. And that’s what happened at Bishop House, low speed peg wasn’t in. But why, we never knew why it had been taken off, but it definitely had been taken off because all Roberts engines with a Whitehead governor, as you very well know, have that peg in for low speed that you put in when you start and take out when you stop.

Now for a start off, Bishop House is an engine at Burnley isn’t it.

R-It was an engine at Burnley. A cross compound Roberts, gear drive.

Now of course we know it would never have overspeeded if the slow speed peg had been in.

R-Peg had been in…

But what actually caused the damage that morning? [1949. SCG]

R-What caused it. Well what caused it that morning were, th’oiler, the second in command that they’d had for donkey’s years, for some reason or another went elsewhere and they got another oiler and he had only been there a day or two. One thing about Bishop House, it were it were absolutely spotless. Floors were mopped and scrubbed and everything was just so. So the engineer shows this new oiler how to clean up. I mean, you don’t like, I’m not going to give any names for engineers in this case, but he shows him how to clean up and that’s all he had shown him. He’s cleaning up this particular morning, just after, oh I’m guessing now, about half past seven or a quarter to eight and he’s cleaning under the governor ropes. His piece of cotton waste catches in the governor ropes, goes round with them and brings the ropes off at t’governor pulley end. Now instead of jumping up and pressing the stop motion, the electrical stop motion which was on the wall behind him, not a yard away, he panicked and the engineer was in the boiler house. He’d to run out into the street to get the engineer and by the time the engineer got back he reckons that engine were doing 500rpm and it were disintegrating. Lumps of flywheel flying off and he’d to run back to the boiler house and shut the steam off at the junction valve. And he’d two boilers on at full bore and I believe the boilers blew off you know. Pressure went up and they were screaming were both boilers before they could get the dampers shut and the fires pulled. And it just literally disintegrated and there wasn’t much left of it.

Now lets get down to cases wi’ overspeeding . Now tell me whether I’m right or wrong, one of the main causes of overspeeding is the fact that the flywheel bursts because it can’t withstand the centrifugal force.

R-It can’t stand the centrifugal force.

Unless there’s something sadly wrong with the design of the engine the motion won’t be the first thing to give way under the strain of overspeed.

R-No it’s the fly wheel that’s the first thing to give way underneath the strain.

Yes, once the flywheel’s burst, well then it’s just wild.

R-It’s all out of balance and there’s lumps of metal flying about and it smashes everything up. At Bishop House case it just went all over the top of the engine house where all the tapes and the size becks and all that lot were. The beams across the engine house, they’d be eighteen inches square pitch pine, the lumps of flywheel smashed them four beams just like firewood and the tapes and everything upstairs came down on top of the engine before it stopped. And a lump of flywheel went through the wall into the shed and killed an old woman on four looms just under it. That was the hard thing about that job, that woman. It brought two rows of gutters down and all the shafting for two lengths of cross shafts. The barring engine, which was just behind the flywheel, a lump of the flywheel picked that up and it picked up the ‘A’ stand and the cylinder and threw it out through the engine house window which was on a public street. There were houses on the other side. It threw it right across the road into a bedroom, into a girl's bedroom window that had just got up to go to work and it missed her. It were a miracle, it missed her and there it was, stuck in the floor, barring engine, ‘A’ stand and cylinder.

Yes. So there’d be a telephone call to Henry Brown Sons……

R-There were a telephone call to me father and I dashed on and it were all still smoking when I got there and the engineer were in a terrible state of course. There were police there and photographers and one thing and another. They’d got the old lady away across the road to the hospital but they found she was dead. My first job, first thing they could think about were to go across the road and see if you can get that lump of engine out of that girls bedroom. I mean I know it sounds comical but it wasn’t just as comical at the time what with all the sadness you know, with what had happened. And that was the first job we did that afternoon, was get that lump of metal out of that girls bedroom. I mean it stuck through the bedroom floor with its legs hanging down into the living room, what a hell of a mess they had. So me mate and I went in and we didn’t know what the hell to do with this because you can’t just hang some blocks up and lift three or four hundredweight in somebody’s bedroom! So what we did, we cleared out the living room, took all the stuff that wasn’t damaged out of the way and then we got a load of skip lids and weft box lids and waste bags and piled ‘em up in the middle of the living room and just got up there wi’ a couple of saws and we cut the beams round it and let it drop into the living room and then dragged it out of the front door. Then of course the whole performance started to get the mill running wi’ electric motors and diesel generating sets. As it were nearly Christmas like, things were a bit dicey. I went to McLarens at Leeds to see how many engines I could get and that were a funny afternoon out.

When you say engines, you mean generating sets?

R-Generating sets, engine and alternator, diesels. It were a funny afternoon because I had full authority to buy these engines, eight sets they wanted to drive the mill. McLarens took me into their office and made me really welcome of course, which they would do. Sat round in this boardroom wi’ all them blokes and they said like we’re terribly sorry but we can’t let you have these engines till sometime in January. And I said well, I can’t order on that basis, I shall have to see what the mill directors say. So I were prepared then to come back and see whether they said they could wait till the middle of January, which were another three weeks sort of thing. Anyway, one of their blokes said would you like to have a look round the factory? I said I would that. And they took me all round their works, marvellous works they had building all these sets. He said Would you like to go into the test house? I said I would so they took me into the test house, me and me mate put ear muffs on cause there’s a hell of a din in there, you couldn’t talk or anything, and there were about twelve sets of these engines all in a row running on test. So we walked round and mee-mawed at one another [Mee-mawing is mouthing words at each other without making a sound using exaggerated lip movements. This is the name the weavers, who use this technique all the time, give to it.] We came outside and took these ear muffs off and the young cap says It’s a fair order is that you know, all them engines are going to Russia. Well that did it wi’ me, being a broad Yorkshire man and one of us own mills stopped and all these people out of work and I says, You mean to tell me I can’t have any engines and all those are going to bloody Russia? Well, you are a bloody team aren’t you, well and truly. He just turned round and looked at me, went into the office, came out and he said you can have four tomorrow and we’ll deliver one a week until we’ve made the eight up. Aye, I did that, I told ‘em you look well sending ‘em to bloody Russia and we’re stuck without. Anyhow, we got the top shop running just after Christmas.

Now just let me stop you there. You got these diesel generating sets, now of course it isn’t just as easy as that because that engine were gear drive weren’t it?

R-Aye, yes.

So what that meant was that electric motors had to be put on the shafts.


And those generating sets had to be installed somewhere, tell me about that, who did that job?

R-Well, they were free standing generators, they were on skids. We put ‘em all into the old air raid shelters that had been built during the war, very low buildings as you know. Then we went to various places buying second-hand electric motors and new motors, whatever we could get. Different speeds, different sizes. But the biggest fun were looking for pulleys. Now we did a simple job, we put the motors on the broad alley floor, up to t’gearing, up to t’lineshaft under which is a broad alley. We put the motors on the floor and we drove the shafts with ordinary flat belts, six inch Fenner belts, right up on to the cross shafts. But pulleys, you’ve never seen anything like it, we’d four foot pulleys on some shafts and five foot pulleys on other shafts, we’d some wood pulleys on another shaft. Anywhere that stocked pulleys we were there looking for pulleys. There were nothing uniform about it, it looked a reight comic job and then of course we made the motor pulleys to suit the speed of the motor and whatever diameter of driven pulley we had on. Anyhow, we got the place going. Now next door lower down in Thornber’s we put these diesels down in the cellar. What had been a weft cellar but they cleared it all out and we put three sets down there to run their shop. A firm came on the scene from Manchester to do the millwrighting. We put the generators down there and they came in to this millwrighting job and I can’t explain what sort of a job they did. Whoever were in charge had never done any millwrighting before. He went half way across the shed and he put two foot pulleys on the cross shafts which down there ud be about an inch and a half diameter, in the middle of the bays. What I mean be that is between the shaft hangers which is a ten foot span. He plonks the pulleys right in the centre, puts the motors directly underneath at the end of a loom and tried to drive them straight up. So we let him go on with his job, well, the first morning they tried to run…. Well I can see that woman now, she started four looms up and I watched it pull the shaft down and the belt went slacker and slacker. So this gentleman comes along and he tightens the belt and he tightens it until that bloody shaft were just like a bow and of course we had to scrap it all and start again and put all their drives on at the other end. [The cross shafts in a standard mill set up like Bancroft start at least three inch in diameter at the lineshaft end where the bevels are mounted and reduce to two inches at the far end. Some older sheds had lighter shafting and this must have been one of these.] Now we did a bit better job there, we put girders under the corbel stones and put the motors up in the air, but still we run ‘em with a flat belt as a temporary measure. Now then the engine repair job came on the carpet, we didn’t bother with that much until we got the mill running and then the engine came on the carpet and we started to get it all stripped and the debris outside and the tapes moved.

What were the damage?

R-What were the damage. Oh, the flywheel were in bits, there was nothing left of the flywheel only an odd arm or two and the second motion shaft was bent beyond recognition, it was a seven inch shaft and it had bent it like a piece of wire. There were some teeth out of the second motion pinion, teeth out of the jack wheel, segments were all gone, they were smashed up. So Roberts were brought in, they’d made the engine in the first place. The Edwards air pump were all smashed up, the air pump body, the coffin bottom, all the pipes underneath, pipes from the high to the low were all smashed, one piston rod badly bent, slide smashed, they were open slides, one at each side they were all smashed. All the lubricators and everything gone. Anyway, we got the engine house cleared out and got the second motion shaft and pinion out.

One thing that strikes me Newton, what were the flyshaft, connecting rods and cranks like?

R-They were OK. There was nothing wrong with them at all. That fly shaft were dead true they said. We didn’t machine the flywheel, Roberts rebuilt that flywheel. We made all the bolts for it out of Low Moor Iron. Roberts made new castings for the flywheel. P&R Jackson from Manchester made the jack wheel segments and a new pinion. I turned the second motion shaft, we made the air pump and all the new pipes that went with it. We were about twelve month before we got running again. But I’d a lot of arguing about that job, you see I wanted to go modern. I mean it were a must that because it had been modernised in 1926. It had two new corliss cylinders in and three new boilers. So I says Let’s go all the way now, let’s make it into a rope drive. Well, right away, wi’ being a gear drive they were very short centres between the flywheel shaft and the second motion. Impossible everyone said, impossible. Well I said, if that firm in front of the engine house ‘ud let us take eight looms away and build a wall there we could put a countershaft in and drive off a rope flywheel on to that countershaft and drive it back.

On to the second motion.

R-On to the second motion and I’d have loved to do that and it’ud have been a rope drive engine and we could have done it with Dawson’s ropes, that’s the modern type which you only need half the number.

Aye, Speedonas.

R-Aye, Speedonas, in fact we could have done the second drive with Fenner’s ropes on the short drive and it’d have run beautiful. Anyhow me father and th’engineer and one or two more, oh no, they wanted it gear drive. So I wasn’t in agreement with this. Well I said Right, if we’re going to make it gear drive let’s have machine cut wheels. Oh no, we’re having no machine cut wheels, we’ll make ‘em cast wheels like they were before, it’s run sixty or seventy years…., you know how they were. So PR Jacksons made these wheels, we get the second motion pulley at our shop. Roberts got all the jack wheel segments at their shop. I got the second motion pinion into the lathe and one of our turners was setting it up and getting it true, or trying to. He said I can’t get this bloody thing true Newton, it’s about three quarters of an inch out. So I said just set the lathe on for a minute, let’s watch it spin round instead of just chalking it round quietly in four places. I’ve never seen anything like it, it were just like an egg. What they’d done, these people that’d cast this wheel hadn’t the experience like they had in the old days. They’d cast it with a solid boss. What I mean by a solid boss, in the old days they used to put an inch of gap into the boss so’s when the wheel cooled the contraction ‘ud go into the gap of the boss and didn’t distort the rim and the teeth. Well, what had happened with it being a solid boss the arms had gone cold and dragged it in and it were like a blooming egg.

Now what you’re saying is that they used to cut that pinion from the outside, right down one of the spokes into the middle.

R-No, they used to leave the outer rim in one piece and they split the boss and left an inch gap in it and then you used to fill that with lead afterwards, after you’d put the hoops on. They were hooped after you’d bored them and cut the keyways.

Yes, I were thinking of big bevels.

R-No, the rim were all in one piece. What happened you see, when the molten metal went hard it contracted it didn’t pull the rim out of shape when the arms shortened, it just pulled the boss open a little bit more with it being split. But to cast it whole! Anyhow, we got PR Jacksons to it and they were in a bit of a mess with this job. Me father says it doesn’t matter, you’ll have to make a new un. Well, they couldn’t afford to make a new un, it’d bankrupt them, that were the excuse. So what they did, we turned the pinion true on the top of the teeth, but you couldn’t turn the bottom of the teeth you know. So we took it back to them and they put it on their gear cutting machine and recut all the teeth, they recut them till they were true in the bottom which is all wrong of course. [It’s all wrong because by recutting the teeth, Jacksons effectively reduced the pitch slightly, that is the distance between the centres of the teeth on the pitch diameter circle. If they had machined the jack wheel segments on the flywheel in the same way and reduced the distance between the centres of the second motion shaft and the flywheel shaft to regain perfect mesh all would have been well but by doing the pinion and not the jack wheel they had produced two gears of different pitch trying to mesh with each other.] It’s all wrong and if they’d made it machine cut in the first place it would never have happened. When we got it all together and started up you never heard such a noise in all your life. I’ll never forget it first time it went round. It were just like grinding a tool on an emery wheel, sparks coming out of the teeth. We chipped at that wheel every dinnertime for six months till I got that fed up of going every dinnertime, me and me mate, to chip it. We left the engineer with a load of chisels and a hand hammer and told him to chip it himself! He he he! And it never did quieten, it ran, oh it were terrible. It ran like that for the rest of it’s days, very noisy. Aye, it were never a good job that flywheel, never. Fly wheel itself were a good job but the gearing made ten times as much noise as it did originally, through rotten teeth and it just ran on and on. It never gave any trouble as far as hot bearings or owt like that but the noise was terrible. You could hear it at the top of Burnley when it were running.


The pinion at Wellhouse shop when it arrived. Newton and Leslie Green stood on it. They wouldn't have been as happy if they had known what they were going to find!


The new flywheel on the pit at William Roberts' works.

I think I’ve heard someone say that. I mean what we’re talking about now is a lost art. I know that people will say that there’s plenty of technology about nowadays to make things like that but the thing is that the technology isn’t available in ordinary foundries like it was then.

R-It wasn’t available, it had gone. That period of gearing from the late 1800s to say about 1950 odd, the technique was there to make them wheels. If somebody had just rung me father up and asked him to go on there wouldn’t have been any problem making those wheels because he’d have just simply told ‘em, Hey, what you doing with that, make it with a split boss, you’ll have no joy if you make it whole. You see they’d got that used to making machine cut ones that didn’t need a split boss because they were machined all over before the teeth were cut. So they made a cast one, with cast teeth in it just the same way as they’d make one for a machine cut job, for machine cut teeth. And that’s why I wanted to put machine cut gears in it. But you see Victoria Mill at Earby had machine cut gears and they ran beautiful they did. But oh no, they wouldn’t. So me father and the engineer and Teddy Wood from Proctor and Proctor, no they wouldn’t listen to me about putting machine cut gears on. And then I had another flash in the pan wi’ ‘em. There were a turbine mill in Rochdale somewhere that were turbine driven. A thousand horse turbine that had come to a standstill and I wanted to go and have a look at that. Anyhow we got as far as going to have a look at this turbine but no, it all fell through. When we came back, No, th’old do, let’s repair the old engine. But I were longing to have a do at putting that turbine in because I’d never had a do at one before.

So you wanted to put a turbine in instead of the engine?

R-I did, yes I did aye off a mill that had stopped in Rochdale that cropped up.

Now then, let’s get this right. What we’re talking about is a Parsons steam turbine.

R-Aye, a two stage one. High and low pressure, aye. It had run a spinning Mill at Rochdale it were still in.
Yes. Which mill would that be?

R-Do you know I can’t remember, I could go straight to it and I can’t think of the name now.

I know one of the Shiloh Mills had one, I think it was Elk.

R-We went to look at it and it were a bit on’t big side, I think it were 1500 horse but they wanted about 900 horse to run Bishop House comfortably. And I said like, well if you put that turbine in you could put a generator in and make all your own electric. There’d have been a fair amount of excavation to do in that engine house you know to put that turbine in. All the beds would have had to come out and have a rebuild inside the house. No, they all talked about it, they had a director’s meeting. I didn’t go and it finished up we’d to repair the engine.

I don’t know, but if that had been done that could quite easily have been the only turbine driven weaving shed couldn’t it?

R-No, there were one or two. There were one at Clitheroe, I’d one at Clitheroe run with a turbine, a single stage one. And also, one at, before you get to Trawden, you know, where you turn down to the tram shed. You go down to Trawden in the bottom of the hill and there’s a village there that has a different name to Trawden.


R-Winewall, there was one on your left hand side, I went to that quite a lot. That was a turbine driven shop, Carr Manufacturing Company I think it was. That was a turbine driven shop because eventually they put an alternator on that turbine and took all the shafting down, took all the gearing out and we put all motors in the warehouse. It were a lovely job were that and they had a new roof put on the shed. But then it didn’t run long before it had a sad end you know as usual. Aye, two turbines, one there at Trawden and one at Clitheroe.

Which were the best way of electrifying do you think. If you were going to do it, what were the best way?

R-Best way to electrify were to electrify the shafting unless you put new looms in.

What makes you say that?

R-Unless you put new looms in because every mill you went to there were grumble, grumble, grumble about motors on these old looms wi’t weavers. They never seemed to run at the same speed two days together. And th’old looms wanted to run at the same speed as you well know. But there were nothing to beat the engine for weaving ordinary cotton. Because in bad weather they could just come into the engine house and say to you, just pull it down a bit, it’s frosty this morning and th’ends are snapping off and you could knock off a couple of revs. Then later, they’d come back and say it’s all right now and you could put it back to speed. Or vice versa, if they’d got some good stuff in can we take it up one or two and then they can earn a bit more. But you couldn’t do that wi’ electric motors. I don’t think electric motors on looms is any good only on automatics. And I still think that. Two things were deadly enemies in’t cotton trade in this area and that were electric motors on old looms, I’m not referring to new ones, and Uniflow Engines.

Ah, now then! I know we’re entering very dangerous territory here Newton!

R-Dangerous territory, Aye! He he he!

But I’ll tell you what we’ll do, I take the view that if we’re going to have the lot we’ll have the lot! Now then Mr Pickles, would you please, with as few swear words as possible, give me your considered opinion about the Uniflow. First of all tell people what a Uniflow steam engine is and then give me your considered opinion about them.

R-Well, a Uniflow steam engine [cylinder] has two inlet valves at the top and it exhausts , if anybody knows what a two stroke motor bike cylinder looks like, they know what a Uniflow engine is. It steams at each end and it exhausts through the centre. [Through ports machined around the centre line which let the steam exhaust as soon as the piston passes them.] With a Uniflow, they run at terrible high compression, piston right up to the end of the cylinder, about a sixteenth of an inch clearance, very high superheat steam. [Because there is no conventional exhaust valve at the end of the cylinder, the compression starts to rise as soon as the piston passes the exhaust ports in the middle of the stroke.] When they start up, they’re that efficient is a Uniflow you’ve to release the compression to get the bloody thing going for a start and if anybody listening to this tape ever heard a gas engine , a single cylinder gas engine run, or a single cylinder diesel, that’s how a Uniflow runs. Well, you can just imagine that [cyclic irregularity] running down through the bevels on a lineshaft at starting and stopping times, thumping and banging when it tried to get over [the compression] at the centres, smashing bevel wheels. They used to tell me at Skipton, when I started going to one at Skipton, that they’d more bevel wheels on than any other mill in Lancashire.

Which mill were that at Skipton.

R-Union Shed, they had a small one, a Newton Bean and Mitchell Uniflow. And that Uniflow engine banked most of the engine makers in this country you know. Because you’d to bore the cylinder barrel shaped to get it to run owing to the difference in expansion between the ends and the centre. The ends were hotter than the centre in a Uniflow, never uniform heat. They found out eventually how to bore these cylinders barrel shaped. I’ll not go into that, it’s a heck of job.

Why not? Go on!

R-Well, they had to bore ‘em with a bar with a sliding head that slid up a template. And it followed this template and it bored it, I don’t know what they did, a sixteenth or an eighth of an inch bigger in the centre than at the ends. That was the only way they could get them to run on high superheat. Most of them ran at about 120/180 rpm and yet there was one at Burnley that were bought at the Wembley Exhibition that they reckoned was pretty good, pretty efficient. But I never come across a Uniflow that were any good in a weaving shed. They may have been all right running an alternator and making electricity for running a weaving shed but I never came across a Uniflow that had any efficiency about it at all. I used to go to one at Holme Bridge, I used to go to that regular. Valves ‘ud be all out, you could indicate it one day and it’d be perfectly all right, you could go to it the week after and it’d be all wrong again. All this expansion business and thump. It ‘ud thump like a steam hammer and you know, just imagine all that superheat steam bashing into that cylinder. Look at the bore of them, to get any power at all they had to be thirty inch bore were the cylinders ‘cause you’d no expansion, when that piston got to the centre it was out. There were no such thing as lengthening your cut-off till it’d steam to the other end and give you more power. Your other end were leading before it had exhausted!

So you could cut ‘em off, you could have cut-off?

R-Oh aye, they’d cut off on ‘em but you couldn’t drive that engine on overload like we could say on yours at Bancroft.


R-We could have driven that on until the cut-offs overlapped, past the centre of the cylinder. They couldn’t do that with a Uniflow, it blew straight down into the condenser.

Could you compound them?

R-Well, what they did, they used to make an ordinary high pressure drop valve cylinder, if they made a cross compound. And they’d Uniflow the low which were worse than making , no, they were all single cylinder ones them that were any good. But they tried cross-compounding ‘em. Making the high pressure Uniflow, sorry, I got it wrong when I said low pressure, making the high pressure Uniflow and the low pressure orthodox wi’ drop valves. So’s it took the steam into the low pressure that ran orthodox like a corliss engine.

And they weren’t any good?

R-They were no good, no, they were useless. All the engineering firms in the country had a bash at building ‘em. Roberts did and it nearly banked ‘em, they’d to scrap theirs. Burnley Ironworks made one, I think that went to India and that came back in buckets ready for going in the scrap furnace! He he he! Musgrave’s, it nearly put them out of business. There was a Belgian firm made a fair lot of success out of it at one time I believe but I never came across one of their engines. Newton Bean and Mitchell made one or two, small ones and Cole Marchant and Morley made one or two small ones. Now in the small ones I suppose they weren’t happen so bad but they were still no good for running gearing. No good at all.

There’s another thing I’d like to ask you while I’ve got it in me head. Which bears out this thing that you and I have talked about many a time, about theorists telling us what we ought to do and when you try it in practice it’s no bloody good. Now theoretically, it’s a marvellous thing to run an engine without a condenser and use the exhaust for process steam or heating.

R-It’s a waste of bloody time and money.

Now tell me what your experience of that is.

R-Oh well, we’d only one experience of that and that was at Dobson’s Dairy here in Barlick. {Coates Mill] Dobson’s Dairies, a little Hick Hargreaves compound. And they decided that they wanted it bleeding, they’d read these technical books or some technical bloke had been talking to these bosses and they wanted this engine bleeding and could we please take the steam from the low pressure after it finished in there and put it round the processing plant where they made the dried feed for cattle. So these drawings came from somewhere. So we did all this job and it cost a fortune. Altered all these pipes, disconnected them from the condenser, took it all round, about 8” pipe all down to this processing plant. Put all new slide valves in, specially made ones that ‘ud fit under the engine and then we get it going one Saturday morning. And they tried and of course I came out because I knew it ‘ud be no damned good. You’d no vacuum, we’d only be drawing about ten inches of vacuum on the vacuum gauge when it were pulling back from the milk preparation plant. The engine were struggling away and the corliss gear on the high pressure cylinder were all open about twice as wide as it ever had done before and of course that’s coal going up your boiler flue! About twice as much. Anyhow, I left it at that but on the Sunday they came down for me, would I go up there and have a look at it. And what had happened, they’d got a bit wrong with all these valves, these slide valves, and they’d got one open and the other one shut. The air pump drew all the milk out of the preparation plant and it got into the boiler feed and filled the bloody boiler! When I got there the boiler were full of milk up to the junction valve! He he he! You never saw such a mess in all your life, every bloody thing were dried milk crust. So I suggested they did away with the plant for making cattle food, they could make it in the boiler no bother! We couldn’t get the manhole lid in at the bottom, we’d to knock it in wi’ a bloody tup! He he he he! Aye we had that, there were two feet of dried milk in the bottom of the boiler, you’ve never seen owt like it in your life. High and low water valve float were about two foot thick! It took us two days to get that lot cleared out. So that was the end of that, they never used it any more. Them valves were shut, the hand wheels taken off and they never used it any more. The fireman told me he’d burned about ten ton more coal in two days than what he’d been burning before and he was burning plenty before.

Aye, he’d be making steam for process and all.

R-He were making steam for the engine which were taking twice as much steam to run the place and it had a fair lot of load on at the time. They never used it any more. They talk about bleeding these Bellis and Morcombe’s you know, there’s a lot of it done. They run this exhaust steam from between the high and the low through calorifiers for heating water or a bit of steam heating or something like that but Belliss’s only recommend taking about two or three pounds you know. So you might as well not bother because it’s no damn good unless you only want the water aired.

It ‘ud be all right off a turbine wouldn’t it?

R-Oh, that’s a different job altogether because a turbine’s only a casing full of steam when all’s said and done isn’t it. It’s only blowing a fan round so it’s a different thing altogether. And even so, and I’m not a turbine man, and I’m not reckoning to be, but I should still think you’d be better off with using your vacuum than what you are breaking it to borrow steam. The more vacuum you have the more efficient you’re running because that’s the bit God gives you for nowt is your vacuum.

Yes, that’s it. There’s another thing while we’re tidying these little odds and sods up. There’s been a lot of weird and wonderful ideas about heating sheds and one thing that always struck me about Bancroft, and it had it in common with just about every Lancashire loom shop that were ever built, they always put the heating pipes up under the bloody roof heating up the sparrows instead of the shed!

R-Aye, well they all did that.

I mean it were obvious that it were difficult to get them down on the floor but even so there were some weird and wonderful ideas about reducing pressures and all the rest of it weren’t there?

R-Oh yes, there were that. Well, this big mill here that were sat across the way from, that were a good example.


R-Aye. They dropped a …., we had to put a reducing valve in. This were in like my young days when I helped to put this reducing valve in. They were 130 pound pressure boilers and 130 pound went round the shed. So they had this idea, one thing and another, that if we reduced the pressure going out into the mill it’d save them some coal. So we put this blooming great reducing valve in between the boilers and the distribution centre for the mill and it reduced everything. Heating, tapes, the lot. There were six tapes at Wellhouse, seven I think at one time. So Billy Watson says to me, I don’t know Newton, I’m having nowt to do with it, it isn’t my idea. Well, I says, because he were a good bloke were that because it was him that taught me all I knew about engines when I were a lad. He said It isn’t my idea and I can’t see how it’s going to do any good. Well I said, You’ll just have to wait and see won’t you when winter comes. So along comes winter, and it was a pretty hard winter. Well, after t’first two or three mornings of frost and t’firemen being there all night trying to keep the shop warm they all went out on strike. So they’d been on strike one day and they came back one day if I remember correctly. They went back Thursday and Friday morning but they were on strike while dinnertime. Me father came to me and says Can you and Bob take that reducing valve out and make a bobbin to go in, because the pipes had been shortened for this reducer. Oh I says, I think we could. He says All the others are busy. So we went and we took this valve out and Billy Watson says to me, Hey, don’t let’s do it like it was before, let’s couple it to t’superheaters, let’s warm ‘em up reight. They were superheat steam but it were only low pressure superheat, Swansea Superheaters which never got a big temperature. So what we did, we put this bobbin in wi’ a ‘T’ piece in’t middle and we coupled it wi’ a two inch pipe to the nearest connection we could get to which were superheat steam. And after that they never looked behind ‘em any more, they were never out on strike again because of the cold. But after the war, wi’ one thing another, th’insurance made them take that pipe out. But they never put the reducing valve in again, not in Wellhouse. They let ‘em put 130 pound round the mill.

I once heard someone say that there were an insurance regulation somewhere about the pressure you were allowed to put through plain pipe runs. I mean, if you read the text books, I mean, at Bancroft we had some runs there that were two or three thousand foot of two inch pipe just on one run. And in theory, it was going to hammer them pipes to buggery when you put the steam in ‘em in a morning. But do you know, you could put steam in them pipes on the coldest morning, as long as you just cracked it for about five minutes [With all the bypass pipes open round the steam traps.] and then you could put 160pound on them pipes while it was still cold water coming back through the drains for about another five or ten minutes. [As soon as the by pass pipes got hot with steam blowing through you closed them and let the traps take care of the condensate.]

R-And there wouldn’t be any trouble at all.

All you got in the shed were a little …

R-A little bit of ticking.

Yes, and it didn’t bang.

R-You could hear the water going out and they’d just go tick with the expansion in the brackets that was all. You didn’t get water hammer like these people talk about, these technical people.

No, they talk about it as though it’s the end of the world don’t they.

R-But now then. This cropped up many a time, like you said, you’d open it, just crack it for five minutes. Now there’s your answer. Now you’d get these people that’d just go in and open that valve wide open. You’d get water hammer then and it’s damned dangerous. What happens there is that your pipes are half full of water and your steam goes over the top and you’ve got hot steam and cold water and it causes turbulence and it can bang and crack. In fact, cast iron pipes, it’ll split ‘em. Now what you said about cracking that valve for five or ten minutes, get those first lengths all hot and the water was going forward. Now, further down that pipe they’d be full, steam behind ‘em and they were full because it’d force the half of the pipe full of water forwards and fill the others up. And like you say, cold water was coming out the other end and there wasn’t a muff. That was the answer, crack them open for ten minutes.

If it were freezing cold, in fact whenever I put the heat on, what I used to do was crack it for, well happen not five or ten minutes, not for so long just two or three minutes until I thought it were reight and then I’d quietly wind the valve open [Putting boiler pressure on to the manifold.] and then I’d go and sit on the drains and I used to have me hand on them, I knew which one came through first, and I used to sit there with me hand on the bypass pipe and if it were a cold morning that water was freezing.

R-It were freezing cold.

It used to numb your hand.

R-Aye, I’ve done it, I’ve sat in the same place and waited for them pipes to blow through.

And as soon as it comes warm, shut the bypass on the trap.

R-I’ve done just the same thing and I’ve never had any trouble. Anywhere I went I’ve never had any trouble. But yet you used to read these articles in these insurance books about pipes splitting wi’ water hammer and I could never understand it. They must have walked straight in and opened the four inch valve wide open. Well, you can expect water hammer, nothing’l stand it. Just banged it open. So what they did they made ‘em put reducing valves in and drop it down to sixty but that didn’t stop the water hammer, reducing it to sixty, all it did were take some of the risk out of it that’s all.

Anyway, wi’ steam pipe, I’m not talking about cast iron steam pipe which they used to be I know, but wi’ steam pipe for heating, if you had any trouble at all it were erosion on the bends and you’d get a pin hole blowing.

R-That’s all or a little seam split, there’d only be a bit of a fizzle.

Yes, there’s only one thing Newton, I could never understand about pipe fitters when they were putting these systems in, why the hell didn’t they put a union in every now and again!

R-Aye, they’d go all round the bloody shed and not put a union in! And if you had a repair job the first thing you’d to do was saw it in two! When I used to do a shed job like that, if it were a new job like, I used to put one pipe down and join every other, every alley length, with a union into that. I had a common feed and joined every one in [with a tee and a union] First time we ever did a job like that me father said it wouldn’t work and he frightened me to death. He says It won’t work won’t this, what you doing. I says Of course it’ll work. He said It won’t, steam’ll just whistle down your common feed, it’ll not go round, it’ll not start going down one and up another. I said Well, it does in a radiator! He says Well this isn’t a bloody radiator. I says Of course it is, a lot bigger, that’s all. And it worked and we did loads like that and you get a lot more heat because every pipes fed off live steam. Each section of your shed’s fed off live steam. Make it into a ‘U’. It’s funny on a tape recorder, you want a bloody picture so’s you can draw it! You know what I mean don’t you, I did Camerons like that.

Yes, because the nearer too the drain the cooler your pipes are.

R-Of course they are. Well if you have a main feed they’re all the same temperature. You get lots of places where down on’t canal side half the weavers’ll be roasting and at bottom end of the shed they’d be going home on strike! Albert Mills at Nelson were a good instance of that. So I put a common two inch main down one side and broke into all the pipes and made them into squares. Into happen six sections all feeding out of the one main, one two inch main and a two inch valve in the boiler house feeding it. No more trouble, no more trouble at all, no more strikes and nobody in bother. You see what he could do and all, if you put him a valve in at each pipe end, for each section, he could send his oiler in to shut that and leave the cold end on. Whereas if one end of the shed were hot, in lots of cases they’d just knock it down in the boiler house and then t’bottom end, up to the outside wall’d be freezing until dinnertime. They’d have to put it all on again.

Yes, well, we had three ranges in at Bancroft shed.

R-Aye well, that’d been altered then you know.

And many a time I’d leave the back one on.

R-Aye, sheds that were built into a hillside, in’t country, were especially bothered wi’ that.

Yes. And another thing that were talking about there, about a two inch pipe taking plenty of steam into the shed. People won’t believe that but wasn’t there something you once told me and I can’t believe it, that if you drill a half inch hole in a Lancashire boiler….

R-It won’t keep steam up. No, if you put a half inch pipe into a Lancashire boiler and poke it through the roof it won’t keep steam up.

Aye, now people won’t understand that.

They won’t, and what they’ll say is how can that work if it’s an eight inch pipe going out to the engine. He he he! I say, you try it and see, put a three quarters hole in the boiler and tap it for half inch pipe and see if you can keep steam up. I didn’t believe me father when he told me about that but it’s true.

SCG/26 November 2000
8784 words


TAPE 78/AG/15


Right, well, this week Newt, we’re going to attempt the impossible. We’re going to do the idiots guide to running a steam engine. No, let’s be serious, we’ve touched on various aspects of running steam engines during the course of these tapes but I think it’s about time we made an attempt to pull it all together in some way. Just to give people an idea of the practical side of running and engine. Now, as I say, it’ll mean that we’ll touch on things that we’ve talked about before but it might get it into a form that’ll be more meaningful to people if we just run through say, an ordinary days work in the engine house. And just to make it easier for me, and also because it’ll make it easier for people who listen to these tapes because they’ll have pictures of Bancroft, let’s talk about Bancroft. Now then, you’ve just said it, first thing you’ve got to do if you’re going to run a steam engine is get up early in the morning.

R-Is to get up early in the morning or middle of the night you might call it!

Well then, you say that but why did you have to get up early in the morning with steam engines?

R-Well, getting up early in the morning with steam engines varies of course at different times of the year. Winter time you really wanted to be there earlier than you would in summer because one thing you’ve got to do is make sure the engine’s warm before you start it with an auxiliary warming system. If you didn’t you’d be in trouble.

Yes, now this week I’m going to be interrupting you a lot. Because I shall have to pull you up. Now we’ve talked from time to time about warming engines and I don’t know how much people will know about internal combustion engines in a hundred years time but an internal combustion engine, you start it up and it runs and it warms itself up but a steam engine is different isn’t it. Now you tell me how it’s different.

R-Well, a steam engine’s a hell of a lot bigger fro a start off and of course it’s hot steam coming out of a boiler into cold castings and that can cause a disaster through expansion, it can break the beds that your cylinders stand on for one thing. As you well know, in winter time, same as Christmas, if you didn’t go to that mill periodically over, all through the week and pop a bit of steam on you’d have to go at least four hours before starting time on the day you started up. Because if you didn’t warm those beds at the same speed you warmed the cylinders you were in for trouble. They could smash, them twenty ton castings, right down the middle just like they were paper through the expansion of the cylinders being greater than the beds. And that’s how it all started. I mean there’s been many a one of those engines all smashed up through short term warming at Monday morning after a weekend off in winter time. Through water in your corners and water behind your pistons, drains not being able to take it when you put hot steam in and all that sort of thing.

I’ve often thought Newton that if the pipes from the boiler were made of glass, many a time it ‘ud give you heart failure!

R-It would that, it would have given ‘em heart failure if they’d been able to watch it coming through.

You know exactly what I mean don’t you.

R-Yes, I do and all, yes. Like you say, it’s a difficult thing to really explain to laymen who have never worked on these things.

Yes, but you were on about something the other week. You were on about running that engine at Big Mill at Earby when the boiler were full of water and how if it hadn’t been for the slope in the pipe back to the boiler….

R-That high, I would that!

But that’s what I mean. If the pipe had been made of glass you could have watched it and it would have given you heart failure because there’d have been…

R-It’d have given you heart failure because you’d have seen the water trying to get up that pipe, pulsating up from the boiler up into that steam pipe. But lucky enough the engine was that high up it dropped back again. And that’s all it amounts to, as the steam pulsates into the engine the water tries to pulsate up that pipe at the same rhythm. And if it gets up, that’s the end of your engine as far as the high pressure’s concerned.

Why is it the end of the engine?

R-Well, it fills the cylinder up with water, there isn’t room for it, the piston comes back, we’ll just work on one end, the piston comes back and off comes your cover unless it splits your cylinder down the middle and you’ve a right old mess. Everything smashed up.

Tell me something Newton, it’s something that’s often puzzled me is how come sometimes, I’ve never seen it but I know it does happen and I’ve heard you talk about it, you can get water in an engine and yet the slug’ll smash the low pressure and not the high pressure.

R-Well, that’s what happened at Crow Nest. It was never clear, I’ve never really fathomed it out but I can give you a theory on it. When we come to strip that engine we found a saucer off in the air pump, a delivery plate saucer. [The delivery plate is the top plate on the air pump above the piston which has one way valve in it which only allow the water to come up through the plate and stop it returning when the piston descends. The valves are a simple circular piece of rubber with a hole through the middle. The rubber valve sits on a stud protruding out of the delivery plate and seals a series of holes in a circle rather like the segments in an orange. The rubber disc lifts to allow the water to come through but when the flow tries to reverse it pulls the disc down on to the top of the orifices in the plate and seals them. The saucer is made of cast iron and is secured to the stud so that it sits just above the rubber disc. It restrains the movement of the valve disc so that it returns promptly on to the seat and also minimises flexing of the rubber and hence its useful life.] Now that engine was running at about half load at the time and it ran at a fair old speed. I think it ran at about 78 revs and it were 4ft6” stroke. So what I surmised was that the saucer stud came out of the delivery plate and the saucer [and valve rubber] came adrift and the vacuum in the low pressure drew the water out of the hot well and put it up into the low pressure cylinder. The relief valves couldn’t cope with all that and it split that low pressure cylinder right down the middle. Ran the piston out through the end and smashed everything up, tail slide, piston rod, everything. I couldn’t see a prime from the boiler house causing that because a prime from the boiler would have hit the high pressure cylinder first but everybody seemed to think, including the insurance company, that it had had a prime from the boiler house but I’ll never agree with that. It couldn’t have got through the high pressure and into the low, it would have been the high pressure cylinder that suffered. I’ve seen engines, I’ve been to engines where they’ve had a prime and they’ve been lucky and stopped soon enough. You’ve whipped the high pressure covers off when you got there and the inside of the cylinder just looks as though you’d whitewashed it, or emulsioned it I should say nowadays. Because that’s boiler compo and scale all coming up out of the boiler and setting on the hot cylinder walls. I’ve see that on two or three occasions. Not the low pressure, the high pressure that suffered and not the low. So, I said there’s a saucer come off that air pump at Crow Nest and the low pressure hasn’t had any back pressure on it, it’s just been running on vacuum. So on the back side of the piston, when the exhaust valve opened, the vacuum brought the water up and it went straight in there, there were no other explanation. None at all because a prime from the boiler house gives you some warning, if you’re about of course. It just starts thumping and you get your drains open and stop quick and go down and play holy hell with your fireman.

[I’ve talked to Newton about Crow Nest a lot since 1979 because I could never understand how a saucer off on the delivery plate could let water back into the cylinder. Admittedly Crow Nest was slightly more vulnerable than most engines because it had an Edwards air pump. Both Newton and I have run engines with saucers off and valve rubbers missing and we’ve never had a smash. He’s now of the opinion that his father was right, he said at the time that what had happened was that the piston had split. Newton says it was only one and a quarter inches thick.]

Yes, I know that on odd occasions at Bancroft, one in particular, I had a young firebeater on and the thing that put me on to it was that the high pressure started to click at each end of the stroke. It used to do that sometimes when it was running light but this day it was worse. I went across and listened to it for a bit and I thought that’s bloody funny, it shouldn’t be making that noise at this time of the day. There was a reight click coming out of it and I think that what was happening was that it was priming a bit, frothing because there was too much compo in the boiler and as the compo dried on the cylinder walls it was soaking the oil up.
[Years after this I had a lot of experience running a much larger engine on no load, Ellenroad at Newhey. The low pressures were 46” diameter and had circular slide valves so the steam and exhaust ports were half way up the side of the cylinder and thus wouldn’t pass water out of the cylinder at the end of each stroke. The left hand engine used to gather water in the low pressure cylinder and after about an hours running you could here the water slamming against the front cover, for some reason it was always the front. This was very serious and could only be cured by opening the front drain which allowed the water to drain away at each end of the stroke. The point being that you had to live with this problem sometimes and as long as you were aware and kept on top of the job it was no problem, just an annoyance.]

R-Aye, that can do it that can. And then again, you’d go to these places and they weren’t particular enough when they scaled the boiler and didn’t clean out the holes in the anti-priming plate and the water started getting round the outside and going up the steam pipe. But the most trouble was caused by the fireman not watching his job and getting his boiler absolutely full reight up to the man hole, reight up to the man hole lid.

Yes, well I know that on that particular day what caused it was, you remember you told me about the Stergene in the cut, well this was caused by the firebeater washing his overalls in the hot well. You don’t need much detergent in a boiler to start it priming.

R-No, you don’t. I were running Seedhill out when they went out of business and I were there, oh, about twelve month I think and one Monday morning I’d started up and I’d no problems in the engine house and t’usual do, I went down into the cellar to oil me air pump when I’d got going and I couldn’t get down the side of the air pump for soap suds! I thought now then, what’s happened? So I didn’t pay much attention to this, I thought there’s some detergent coming from somewhere. I just went back up into the engine house and leaned over the hand rail watching it. I’d twenty five inches of vacuum so I didn’t bother about suds in the air pump. I could have taken my overalls down and given ‘em a reight good wash. In about half an hour there’s Mr Jay arrives, the engineer from Springbank. [Gilbert Jay] That was about a quarter of a mile away up the canal bank side. He knew I was there and I’d run his engine many a time. Anyway he comes dashing in and says Newton, how’s your air pump? I says I’ve twenty five inches of vacuum, how’s yours? Oh he says, I’ve plenty of vacuum but have you seen your hot well? I says yes, it’s covered wi’ suds! So’s me cellar! I don’t know how to get rid of it, we’ll just have to keep running until it goes away. I asked him what had happened and he told me that as far as he could see some silly bugger had tipped three forty gallon barrels of Stergene into the canal! He said that were the only explanation he had and it took it two days to gradually taper away but I’d no running problems, none at all. And just at that time I were well loaded and all with that little engine.

That’s probably the reason why it didn’t bother it.

R-Never bothered it no. I’d a lot of water on you know with it being well loaded but it were bothering Gilbert a bit when he came down to see if I were all right but I weren’t bothered, I were sat having my breakfast but he hadn’t had his! He he he! I says it isn’t worrying me as long as I’ve got twenty five inches of vacuum on that clock, I’m not worrying about nowt! But it did make a mess.

[When Newton says he had a lot of water on he is referring to the setting of the valve in the pipe between the condenser and the canal. The trick was to run the air pump on the smallest amount of water you could get away with and maintain vacuum. Excess water only soaked up power and could actually reduce the vacuum. The more load you had, the more water you needed so Newton had plenty of water on because he was well loaded.]

Anyway, we’re on about warming engines up. Now then, a lot of people used to ask me why I walked round and turned all the lubricators on so long before I started.

R-Oh, when I went to Bancroft them odd days for you and years before you come, First thing, and same anywhere else, as soon as I walked into the engine room I put some lights on, walked down them engine sides and put me crank pin lubricators on before I took me coat off. That was my routine everywhere I ever went.


R-Because they’re only drip feed and it takes a long, long time before any oil starts to get down to your crank pins or filling your banjos up and then you used to give ‘em a dose of oil besides, before you started up. Round the edges, crank pins, especially on a bigger engine. You didn’t want to be altering your drip feed every day. To have to speed it up in the morning and then settle it down once you started running. So your answer to that was to turn them on an hour or a half hour before you started however long it takes you to get organised. But like we had it at Bancroft, when I went to Bancroft when you were there I could be there at ten to eight and still be on by eight o’clock because we had it all weighed up, there was just a crack of warmer on all the time. You could hardly hear that steam going down that pipe, I used to listen to it at night and set me valve till I could just hear it.


R-Winter and summer, no problem.

No, the only problem was, do you remember when we were on that short time, a week on and a week off and we got that rusty patch…

R-Oh aye, it rusted up. Aye it did, and you wondered what were up. And I said Turn that warmer off Stanley, you’re rusting your cylinder up.

Aye, because I were stopping it in the same place every time.

R-Aye, because when you were only stopped fourteen hours before it were running again it didn’t matter but when you’ve been stopped for a week and you’re continually sizzling away with that spot of steam it rusted your piston and your rings up and then when you did start it up it were a rare old grunt weren’t it. I said turn that thing off, when it’s cold it wants to be cold and when it’s hot it wants to be hot.

Aye, but no one would have believed that that little patch of rust, do you remember there were just one little spot of rust on one side.

R-We took the cover off didn’t we and had a look.

That one little spot of rust and I can still see your face when you came that day. I can still see your face when you came through that door. But there was one thing that happened at Bancroft. Shortly before I went there there was supposed to be a cracked tail rod weren’t there.

R-Yes. Piston rod, high pressure piston rod were supposed to be, they all said it were cracked at t’tail slide end. I said it wasn’t. They said well, what are those marks then? I told ‘em they were water marks caused when the piston stays in the cylinder any length of time especially in the packings. The joints between the packings where a bit of water can get in can cause those marks. But the insurance company at that time got a bit worried about these marks because they reckoned they could feel one or two of them. Now I didn’t want to start, I don’t make work wherever I’ve gone but I didn’t want to start filing them marks out of that piston rod. Because if you start filing flats on the rod it doesn’t matter if it’s only a couple of thou, it’ll blow. But I told them that they weren’t cracks. So they brought metal detectors, paraffin tests, everything and eventually the insurance company stopped it one afternoon and they said it was cracked. They never found any proof mind you, with all their tests. I went up there and they said they were stopping the engine because the rod was cracked. I told them there was no need to stop it because I’d have it going again tomorrow. Jim Pollard said How you going to do that Newton? I said I’m going to take the back cover off and saw the piston rod off at the end of the high pressure piston rod taper. Then I’ll put a blank flange on the stuffing box and we’ll run without the tail slide. Well they asked me if it was safe. I said yes, there’s no marks on the front end at all. It was always the tail rod that suffered because when the engine was stopped, ready for starting, at dinner time and night time with the crank up at the top and the piston towards the back end of the cylinder, always in the same position and that made water marks on the rod and of course it spent all weekend stopped in that position. And that’s what happened, I cut it off and we ran for about a month without a tail slide while I made a new piston rod and it satisfied ‘em did that but the insurance inspector it worried him because of course he was responsible for it. He happen did the right thing but I brought that rod back to the shop and used it and when I cut it up we never found any cracks even where it were marked. I cut it through and we never found anything, not a flaw in it anywhere that was more than a couple of thou deep. So that was that, we put a new rod in and it marked it right away. It’s all water marks now as you know.

Aye it is.

R-But I made it bigger. I satisfied him, again it was very small was that tail end rod and I think I made it either three eighths or a half an inch bigger, bored the cover out and put bigger packings in.

Now tell me something about that. There’s two things. I can’t see how you can ever avoid getting water marks on the rod because when you think about it, even with the engine stopped, you’ve got a steam atmosphere inside the cylinder , both cylinders as long as the warmer is on. In effect you’ve got a cold rod sticking into the cylinder. It’s cooled down on the outside so it’s got to be cooler so that’s where your condensation’s going to be isn’t it?

R-It’s part of it and chemical action in the [metallic] packing joints which are only a matter of a sixteenth apart and that makes a different colour just there. [Certain metals when close to each other, especially in a warm moist atmosphere set up corrosion cells which are essentially small sources of electricity and this causes the corrosion of one of the metals, in this case, the steel.] And in time, if it’s kept in the same position it just eats a groove in. We’re talking about eating grooves of about a couple of thou deep, that’s all. Crow Nest tail rods were the same, absolutely full of ‘em. Nobody ever worried about it. Absolutely full of them, Crow Nest were a good example of that.

Now tell me something Newton. I know what the theory was behind it but tell me, why did they put tail rods on ‘em?

R-To carry the weight of the piston, [stop it rubbing] on the bottom of the cylinder.

Yes. Now tell me something else. Imagine this, if you were to take that piston rod and piston complete, both front end and back end, out of the cylinder and set it up on two blocks, on at the cross head end and one at the tail slide end and that piston in the middle I’m bloody sure that rod would bend.

R-That rod ‘ud be down. We’ll take an engine like Bancroft. If you put the rod in a lathe with the piston on and run a scriber down parallel with the bed it’d happen be down three eighths of an inch in the middle. So, as you’ve pointed out, unless you do something about it, that tail slide isn’t doing a bit of good, you might as well not put it on. Ahhhh, but what we used to do, we [had the shaft in the lathe between the live and dead centres] and we put a hydraulic jack under the middle , in th’old days we hadn’t got hydraulics but later on we had, and we bent it up till that rod were happen a sixteenth the other way. As long as it wasn’t under it was all right. Now then, it was carrying the weight of that piston but we bent the rod deliberately to compensate and it levelled itself out.

Did the engine makers do that?


Sam Holden's engine at Holmfield Mill Barrowford.

R-I don’t think they did. Some of these firms like Yates and Thom might have done but they used to put such hellish big piston rods in. We had an experience of this at Holden’s at Barrowford. It was a Cole Marchant and Morley engine, drop valve job, about 1100hp, beautifully made thing. They kept having high pressure cylinder trouble, long before I went to it and eventually they sent for us to it and it had already been bored twice had that cylinder. We stripped it down and we found that we could bore it but we didn’t think it would clean up because it was five eighths of an inch down was that high pressure and it had no tail rod on. So anyhow they told us to do the best we could with it. So I bored it and I’d to go through it three times and it didn’t clean up, it left an inch of black in the bottom of the cylinder. Me father said Don’t take any more out of it Newton, it’s down at minimum thickness. Because it were 160pound pressure and superheat steam. Now what we did, we made a new rear cover for it and we put a five inch tail rod on with a tail slide , all the bag of tricks. All that job done in a week After that it run for fifteen years before they decided to inspect the cylinder again. I think the engineer were a good bloke and he discovered it were using more coal than usual so we had a look at it and it was worn again but it were only a matter of a tenth of an inch or so. The boss came and he says Well, what do you think about it? Well I said, It’s worn. He asked if it were serious and I says No. Well what does it really want Newton? I says It needs a new cylinder so he said we had to get it done. Just like that, and we made a new cylinder and we put it on at the holidays and took it back down to the original size again but that piston rod were bent up five eighths of an inch to carry the weight of that piston. Then of course we did the low pressure and that had only like a four and a half, five inch piston rod in at the cross head and it only came out at about two and a half inch at the back. So what we did we made a new rear cover, new back cover for the low pressure cylinder and put a five inch piston rod straight through it. Bored you know, bigger packings and everything and that engine never ailed another thing right up to the end of its days.

‘Cause of course the low pressure pistons were so much bigger.

R-Bigger but they were hollow you know. They’re all cored out. You could make the low pressure pistons less thickness in metal than what you made your high because there wasn’t the same pressure on. About an inch, an inch and an eighth metal, they were cored out. If you could picture a pulley with six arms in, an ordinary belt pulley with six arms in, well that’s what a low pressure piston would look like if it had no faces on. Six ribs and then two faces on. They used to make them about an inch thick as near as you could all through except for the rim which had top be thicker to take the rings.

Yes. I’ve heard you say about Bancroft that when it first started it didn’t run reight and in the finish you had to turn that piston over didn’t you.

R-Aye well, you see, it’s what I’ve been told is this, I mean I’d nowt to do with that, but I used to hear what me father told me about sending Stanley, the engine hadn’t run many months and it were giving a lot of trouble in the low pressure cylinder. Stanley Fisher, that’s Walt’s father, went up and they turned the piston over. Now whether he bent the rod at the same time I don’t know, but he must have done something because it never gave any more trouble and it were running up to twelve months since.

Yes, that cylinder had never been opened.

R_I had it open once when Almond were there, some insurance company or other wanted to have a look and there was nothing wrong at all. Nothing, it would have run another fifty years. Now whether Stanley did camber that rod, what we called cambering it, I don’t know but I do know they had trouble in the first few months of its life with that low pressure. It’d be grunting and groaning and playing op and the rods would have been running black which is a sign of wear you know. [This repair would be in 1920 and Johnny was foreman for Henry Brown and Son at the time.]

All down that side actually, I mean another thing that was wrong was that cap on the low pressure shaft bearing.

R-Oh aye, well that had allus been loose. I did nine weeks for the engineer before you went there and one dinnertime I was cleaning round, I’m allus scratting! Went cleaning round and I found these low pressure cap nuts loose and tightened ‘em. I might have known like because it were me that slackened ‘em back in the first place, years before. I only tightened ‘em up wi’ me hand, I thought hand tight wouldn’t hurt it. I set on at half past one and at twenty to two that bearing were ruddy well smoking! Course you see my trouble was then when I dashed round to loosen the nuts to keep running which I could have done if I’d got them loose, I couldn’t loose the damn things because of the expansion of the cap and the shaft, everything had gone ruddy tight and Newton couldn’t loosen them nuts with his hand so he had to stop and look for a spanner. Anyway, I couldn’t find a spanner so I loosed ‘em wi’ a hand hammer eventually. Jim Pollard came down [when I stopped] and we got the hose pipe on to it and Newton Pickles were the luckiest chap in the world and within half an hour that neck were stone cold and it never ailed another thing any more but he didn’t tighten them nuts up any more at dinnertime! But I think he told Stanley about it when he took over, to leave them nuts well and truly alone! Unless we take the cap off and put some shims in.

Well, that’s what it wanted, some shims in.

R-No, you see them Roberts engines had a big fault, they tried to save ten bob on them fly wheel shaft bearings. They put a bottom brass in, two side brasses and a cast iron cap on top and in Bancroft’s case that cap’s touching the shaft.

Yes, and by a long way, on the low pressure side you can get your fingers in the gap between the cap and the pedestal.

R-Get your fingers under it. But it had never been bored eccentric hadn’t that low pressure like it should have been done. You see when he bored that pedestal, after he’d bored it to size he should have lifted his boring bar up and taken another cut through the top cap and then it wouldn’t have touched the shaft, but he missed. We could have cured it by putting some shims in but with knowing about it we never had any trouble with it did we.

No, and another fault with Roberts engines you know, I don’t know how they usually did them. I’ve not taken enough notice of other people’s engines but I always thought it was a fault that the two bolts that held your pedestal of your fly shaft bearing on to the bed were holding down bolts as well. Now I should have thought that it would have been better if them bolts had just been through the bed and the pedestal.

R-No, well most engines of most firms, pedestal bolts were holding down bolts as well. As well as your corner bolts in the bed.

Yes but when your bed comes loose, as it does do…

R-As it does do, yes.

It means your pedestals loose as well because those wedges, packing pieces, at the front and the back…

R-Well they call ‘em floats in the trade.

Floats, yes, well those floats they start to wear a bit as it tries to move

R-Chews them up. But most of ‘em, the pedestal bolts were holding down bolts as well. I don’t think I ever went to one where the pedestal bolts just went through the bed, they went right down through the brickwork and stone work did them just like the corner bolts in the bad. That’s why, when we had a bad one, one that were very loose, we used to have to go to it to reset the engine beds. We used to take the weight off the flywheel shaft and then pop folding wedges [two opposing wedges] into grooves under the bed and we used to be very careful round the flywheel bearings that we got plenty of wedges in and plenty of [grout after]. And then we used to grout it with Foxes cement and then tighten everything down. Take all the holding down bolts out and run the threads down and then tighten everything up before we dropped that shaft back in again. Because if you hadn’t, and just started messing about tightening beds down that’s walking about you’ll just break that bed. Because you’ve bent it, you see it’s worn them stones underneath with sliding about.

Aye, that bed up at Bancroft on the high pressure side…

R-High pressure were moving and it had done for years.

It was moving aye.

R-If that engine had been fully loaded at latter end, well, you mentioned it anyways, when they talked about filling it up a couple of years since, we’d have had to fasten that bed.

Well I told them that if they were going to go up to five hundred looms I’d want that side fastening down.

R-Aye, yes. It were getting worse anyway.

Yes, and you know what I put that down to. Apart from the fact that Roberts weren’t the best men in the world at putting beds in.

R-No they weren’t.

Because there’s an inch of grout under that bed.

R-They used to put grout under them. Such firms as Burney Ironworks they used to rub them beds down on to the ashlar stones and fit them like you fit a metal key in a wheel.

Yes, but another thing I put it down to you know, and it’s going back years and years, is letting oil get under the bed. Letting them troughs down the side of the engine get full and run over. Once that oil gets under the bed.

R-It’s jiggered!

It’s like pumping abrasive grit round underneath it.

R-Aye, it is and more so when it’s grouted. Now Pollit and Wigzell’s, I did one or two of them, they used to caulk [the gap between the bed and the foundation] ‘m wi’ iron borings and sal ammoniac.

Just like the old rust setting joints on cast iron pipes.

R-That’s right, like in gutters and sewer pipes, yes. That’s right, they caulked ‘em wi’ iron borings out of the machine shop and sal ammoniac. [This was a very common caulking compound in the early days. The principle was that if a dry mix was made of cast iron borings, which are in effect powdered iron, and sal ammoniac {ammonium chloride NH4CL} and this was caulked or driven into the joint a chemical reaction took place which resulted in accelerated oxidisation of the iron, rusting in fact. As this took place the compound expanded and as it hardened, tightened the joint up.] I fastened one or two of them. But Burnley Ironworks, they could put an engine in could Burnley Ironworks. They used to rub the beds down and there was nothing under them at all, not a wedge or a shim or anything. They used to rub ‘em down on the top of the stones and then lift ‘em away and let the masons chip the bedstones down until they fit perfect. There were no messing about, none at all. The foundation under the beds were generally ashlar stones cut to shape and sized before the engine beds were put in. Aye, beautifully finished, bevelled edges, just like a joiner’d put on if it were a wooden one. I can picture Crow Nest now round them tail slides. These stones, about ten feet long and about four foot six wide with about a two inch bevel all the way round, beautiful, aye, beautiful. Especially when they used to keep ‘em scoured and then of course later on they painted ‘em which spoiled ‘em. Because you could see the actual colour of the stone if they weren’t painted you know.

Anyway, back to this engine, we’ve got all the oils on, now then…

R-No, we’ve only put the crank pin lubricators on, we haven’t done anything else you know.

Oh. I thought we’d ……

R-And we’d put the warmer on. We’re warming up quietly and by the time you start warming up we’re wakening up and all because we’re talking about the old days you know when we used to be there at quarter past five to start at six. You get your warmer on and your crank pin lubricators running and you start wakening up a bit then and you go round with your oil can. And you know they want to know this bit do these people, that you only, that an engineer might appear in a mill to have a blinking good job because once he starts up , first thing he does after he’s walked round there times to see all these oils are running he puts his kettle on and brews up. Then he sits down in his chair and he might not do anything else for a couple of hours. Now they just want to bear one thing in mind about that chap when they see him sat down in his chair. Before he sat down in that chair he went round that engine with a fine tooth comb and an oil can and every hole that had been drilled and every lubricator that had been put on that engine had to have some oil in. If he missed one, especially such as the crossheads and slides, that mill wouldn’t be running that mill above five minutes that morning. A lot of people have got this engineering job all wrong as far as a mill were concerned Stanley. They thought we’d such a job as never was because we were sat down and reading the paper when everyone else were working. They didn’t realise what were involved] and how responsible we were for it. The job only took a matter of what, we’ll say quarter of an hour, twenty minutes to do it but you’d only one chance. You missed one of those oils and you had to stop the engine to do it or it stopped for you.

Well, I’ve always put it this way Newton, you were always on trial and it wasn’t like going to court, you were tried, judged and sentenced all within five minutes and there was no appeal.

R-No appeal at all.

And another thing , I know you’re the same as I am, that if someone makes the slightest bit of noise behind you you jump round and people say , eh aren’t your nerves bad. Now just tell me about that.

R-Oh God yes. You know every little noise there is in that engine house. If there’s a little change of note or anybody drops a six inch nail you jump straight out of your chair. Never mind, you’re sat with your back to the door doing a bit of writing at your desk and there’d somebody walked through the door and the door’d go bang and you’d jump off that chair and go straight through the engine house roof. What the Hell’s that! That’s why we had notices on the door , Strictly Private.

Aye and that’s why Charlie Almond painted up on the [stone at the bottom of the window] Silence Is Golden.

R-No, it were George Hoggarth. He was very nervous was George. He had a big notice up on the wall, it’s painted on the wall, silence is golden.

Aye, in aluminium paint.

R-I mean we were just talking about missing things. You know, missing lubricators and that sort of thing. I remember me father going to run for his uncle at Sough. He’d always knocked about that mill as a lad and it was a Roberts tandem gear driven job. One dinnertime he started up and I think he said he’d run about half an hour and he’d this crank pin stinking red hot. He said he’d never turned th’oil on, but it were on before anyone come to look! He he he! I’ll tell you another little tale while I have it in mind Stanley about running an engine, when Coates Mill had the old beam engine in. I knew the feller that ran it, Edwin Waterworth. Well he finished his time at Calf Hall, that were a Roberts’ cross compound at Calf Hall but we’ve got that on tape. Anyway, he ran Coates Mill which were a beam engine in the old days. He were a good bloke were Edwin, a good engineer, but he’d nodded off this particular morning in the engine house, it were happen winter and he’d have been there since about four o’clock and he must have nodded off. He woke up, now Bankfield Mill were just across the canal and he could look out of his engine house into the one at Bankfield, he could look into one of the engine houses, there were two engines at Bankfield and Bankfield’s stopped. He jumps out of his chair and looked across at Bankfield and it’s stopped. So Edwin gets up and stops Coates thinking it were dinnertime but by the time he gets the engine stopped and had a look at the ruddy clock it were quarter to eleven! He he he. So he thought Now then, I’ve made a mess of this, what to do now, Bankfield must be broken down so I’d better be broken down and all! So he picked a big hammer up and went down into the cellar and started banging on the air pump. Then the managers all came in, Now then Edwin, whatever’s to do? Oh he said, It’s all right, we only had a cotter loose we’ll be on again in a minute. He he he! Aye he told that tale many a time did Edwin. But you see it’s easy done, you can imagine him doing it can’t you!

Oh, definitely!

R-He’d nodded off. Jumped straight up, half awake, looked across, Bankfield’s stopped. Oh my God, it’s dinnertime! Looked at the clock and it’s quarter to eleven.

Course, we know about a feller that kept running after stopping time don’t we!

R- Oh by gum, a bloke at Nelson, Pendle Street. Aye, he did a reight trick he did, he got up you know, he’d been down in the boiler house with a new fireman he’d got. Went up into the engine house at quarter to five, normal do for doing his chores round th’engine, cleaning up which I’ll say that for him, he kept it spotless he did and all. He did all his cleaning up in the middle of summer, it’d be about 110 degrees in that engine house. Five minutes to five he just sat down on the form which were at the side of the engine and next thing he knew there’s someone standing at the top of the steps shouting Newton! Aren’t we going to stop this bloody thing tonight! It’s ten past five! He he he! I’ve never lived that one down you know.

I did the same thing there [at Bancroft] you know but the difference between you and me was that whereas with you they kept weaving, with me they all went home.

R-they all went home and left you running didn’t they. Aye.

I woke up, and you can laugh, you know we stopped then at half past four and I’d done the same as you, I’d gone round and wiped everything down and I thought Right, I’ll just have five minutes and a smoke before I go…

R-That’s all it took, five minutes.

And I sat down at about twenty past and of course at twenty five past I was going to go round and start shutting everything off and I woke up and it was twenty to five and the engine’s plonking quietly away with no load on.

R-No load on, no load at all.

So I’ve laughed at ‘em many a time when they’ve come to me and said How are you going to go on when we’re weaving out, will it run with no looms? He he he!

R-Will it run with no looms on. Aye none at all.

I’ve said to ‘em many a time it’s run many an hour at stopping time with no looms on when they’ve been going home at quarter past.

R-But I were at Pendle Street a long time, I stopped while that engine finished when they were electrifying and I never lived it down, that ten minutes.

There’s something I’d like to get on here. We’ve talked about boilers but there’s one aspect of it that I don’t think we’ve mentioned. It was summer time last year, now I knew we were going to be finished in good time because as you know, the last day before the summer holidays, especially at Bancroft, as soon as they got their wages they went home. We always used to finish at happen dinnertime or three o’clock in the afternoon something like that. Anyway I said to John Plummer, me firebeater, don’t bother about keeping your water up this morning, let your water go quietly away and at dinnertime don’t have any coal in the hoppers. They’re going to be going home early and [if we do need any steam after dinner] just for curiosity we’ll see how long it will run on it. He finished up at dinnertime wi’ about half a glass of water, just below working level and he’d have about 140 pound on and his fires were out. So he shut his dampers and [ashed out] and I told him it would be all right because none of them would be coming back. Now it just so happened that they had a bit of bother over holiday pay that year, they didn’t get as much as they thought they should have done.


And bugger me, one o’clock we’ve got a shed full of weavers!

R-They all came back didn’t they. Weavers in but no fires in the boiler. He he he!

No fires in the boiler. So I said the John, Well! I got hold of Jim [Pollard the weaving manager] and I said Look, We’ve dropped a bit of a bollock here because we’ve no fires in. Oh he says, There’s plenty of time, light ‘em again! I says Well, I’m not lighting any fires and he said we’ll have to! No, I said, We’ll start, we’ve plenty of steam but I don’t know how long it’ll run. What I’m going to do, I’ll start up and run as long as I can.

R-Run as long as it will.

As long as it will. Now it didn’t take ‘em long to sort out the [the problem with the holiday pay] and by about half past two they were all sloping of and getting ready to go home.

R-Well, that’s an hour and a half.

I know that nobody will ever believe it but that engine ran from one o’clock until quarter to three with no bloody fires in the boiler. Mind you, there was hardly any load and there was no water in the glass when we finished.

R-No but we’ve had all this on tape before, that’s why a lot of these engines were taken out or scrapped, everybody got it into their heads, the management of the mills, that it were the bloody engine that were burning the coal. Now if anybody could ever be wrong it was them that were wrong. And these experts used to come along, I’ll give no names, and they used to say your engine’s doing this and your engine’s doing that. If you get rid of your engine you’ll have money hand over fist. And my God, were they wrong and I kept telling ‘em and telling ‘em and anyway I proved it at Pendle Street. One afternoon I were on me own, I’d no firemen for about five months and I were a lot better without. It were oil fired and I’d only some buttons to press and I’d two boilers on and it’d be about oh, end of March may be. Now then, they used to send someone down every now and again to see if I were OK which was the law of course. This particular afternoon, about twenty five past four the manager comes in, he was the boss, running the place for Duckworths. He said Are you all right Newton? I said Aye. He says Eh, won’t we save some money here when we get rid of this engine and all this stuff we’re burning! I says I’m not going to answer that, I’ll tell you what to do, I’ll let it answer itself. You sit in here. Now I’d four tapes running and I’d all the steam into the mill [heating]. So at half past four which was my normal routine I went up and shut all the tape valves and shut the steam out of the shed, that left nothing on them two boilers only the engine and I’d above a thousand loom running at that time. I says, You stop here and you tell me how many times them burners fore up before five o’clock. I’ll do that he says. I knew damn well how many times them boilers were going to fire up before five o’clock, Boilers were full of water, feed valves were shut and the pumps were stopped. I went up in the engine house and did my work, I stayed there on purpose while five o’clock I wandered back down into the boiler house about five past and he’s still, well he weren’t sat there, he were stood there with his mouth open more or less. I says Well John, how many times did that boiler fire up before five o’clock. He says They’ve never lit. I says No, and I knew damn well they weren’t going to, how much has the steam dropped? Hew says About five pound. You see them boilers were re-generating that steam at that pressure.

Aye, it were flashing off.

R-That engine ran that mill while five o’clock and the steam came down five pound and if it had come down ten pounds them boilers would have fired but I knew they weren’t going to fire.

We’ll go into that a bit further on the next tape but now we’re coming near the end of this one and I want to ask you a question and I want you to think very carefully about it. Now I don’t mean any disrespect at all, you know that because I think a lot about you but I don’t want any bull shit. I know you’ve got enough experience to give me a correct answer, I don’t want any sentimentality or bullshit, I just want a straight answer. Now honestly, can you tell me of any firm where you knew the engine and the plant where it could fairly be said that they saved money by doing away with the engine and going on to electric.

R-No, but I know plenty that’d wished they’d got it back after they’d had electricity in for three months.

Now tell me, if when someone came and I mean we're really talking about the National Fuel Efficiency men, some of the people we’re talking about. If when them clever buggers and the fellers that were after the electric contracts had come [and if the management had said to them] yes, we’ll electrify the mill but will you put a clause in your contracts that guarantees us that energy costs per yard of cloth woven will be less with your scheme than they are with the engine. Will you guarantee us that if they aren’t you’ll take your motors out and reinstate our engines. How many mills would the electric fellers have taken on?

R-Nobody, you know that. That happened up at Bancroft when Jim Pollard sent for me when the NIFE men came to do your shop. I went into that office and I just listened to that load of bullshit that they were coming out with and I’ve never heard anything like it in me life. I just turned round and Jim Pollard’ll back me up on this, I said Will you make ‘em a contract out that guarantees how much money they’re going to save and then they’ll happen be able to find the money to get the job done. It were going to cost about £150,000 to do the job to start with. But no, nothing at all, they just put their stuff in their bags and went and that’s why Bancroft engine ran to the end of the firm. I’m going back fifteen or twenty years since when this happened.

I’m always reminded of Earby Council you know. If you remember, Armoride had a lot of plastic waste and they were getting rid of it by burning it in that quarry at the top of Stoneybank, and it was a nuisance and it was poisonous. Earby Council decided to put an incinerator in and get rid of the waste and they were going to charge Armorides for doing it. They had a guarantee from the firm that put this incinerator in that it would do the job they demanded of it. After twelve months that firm came back and took that incinerator out and went off with it. Put it in their pockets and went away with it because it didn’t work. Now isn’t that a fine thing.

R-It is a fine thing. I’ll just say this, the only thing that did work with electrification, I’m not saying it was any cheaper but it did work, was when they ran automatics twenty four hours a day. But for ordinary Lancashire looms and to weave the best quality stuff like we were weaving in them days, no go at all, no way were electricity any cheaper. In fact it were a hell of lot dearer, it put a lot of firms out of business, it did that. Michael Grey, that were Sir John’s son at Burnley, they’d four mills and I used to go to them all and he said to me one day, My God Newton, if my father had known what I had done he’d be spinning round in his grave.

SCG/30 November 2000
9406 words.
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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by Stanley » 13 Aug 2013, 03:57

In case anyone is wondering why this has suddenly appeared on the site it's because I had to save over three hours work yesterday after I got into trouble saving to the development site. It gives you a chance to see what I'm doing with the LTP transcripts. Big job and I'll be glad when it is all done and backed up!
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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by Stanley » 13 Aug 2013, 09:12

I've finished Newton this morning and so instead of deleting this post I've updated it to the finished version so that you can see it in its final form.
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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by BillHowcroft » 13 Sep 2017, 09:38

Belated request as I've only just started reading this but what is a duck lamp used to check chimney leakage.
Also what is a stink lamp.

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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by PanBiker » 13 Sep 2017, 10:58

Looks like you are reading Newton here which is an old edit to the final version before Stanley passed it to me for the updated Lancashire Textile Project. I assume you have found that on the site Bill? There is a feedback section in the LTP section for queries, not that it matters, Stanley will almost certainly find it here. :smile:

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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by BillHowcroft » 13 Sep 2017, 11:39

I 'll have look and see. May have the images too.

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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by BillHowcroft » 13 Sep 2017, 11:45

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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by PanBiker » 13 Sep 2017, 12:54

Yes, when we updated the LTP in 2013 it took about 9 months to re-edit all the transcripts and find and test a workable solution to preserve and present the project better on this platform. The images were all originally separate to the transcripts in the first version of the LTP so it was a real bonus in being able to embed them correctly in the texts. A lot of work but a better result in the end.

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Re: Newton Pickles edit

Post by Stanley » 13 Sep 2017, 14:50

Ian is being modest.... it was an enormous task! But worth it.
Duck lamp and stink lamp are the same thing, a container with oil in it and a pipe holding a bit of cord for a wick. Called a stink lamp because they smoked horribly!
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