STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 04 Apr 2017, 04:00

CHAPTER 18: THE ECONOMICS OF THE WEAVING SHED

Anyone who has followed the fortunes of the textile industry will be well aware of the simplistic arguments that have been advanced over the years to explain why the fall from supremacy to oblivion was so abrupt and complete. It’s worth noting that in terms of production and sales, the national consumption of cotton cloth is higher now than at any time during the peak of the industry. The global figures are even more striking. So, ignoring short term fluctuations in the market which are always with us and to a certain extent predictable, there is no simple answer on the demand side. An economist once made the simple observation that it was ridiculous to suppose that Britain should ever try to become a banana producer, all right this is so obvious as to be a given. I was once asked by a school teacher where the last cotton fields were in England. Think about these two sentences, there is a clue embedded in them.

The reason why we became the world’s largest manufacturer of cotton cloth was because we had a demand, a home market and technology responded to this demand by developing a new technology, the steam-driven factory system. We had the necessary capital to invest in this and ample labour. All that was missing was production of the raw material and it is no accident that the meteoric rise of the industry coincided with economic ocean transport largely based on the infamous triangle based on the slave trade and sugar which was the foundation of the development of a port near to us, Liverpool. Throw in canals and railways and we have a very efficient transport system. This edifice of demand, capital and labour drove the development of Empire and this in turn drove the home industry because it expanded the market. At one point the export of cotton goods accounted for more than half of Britain’s exports.

Two factors eroded these advantages, the slow but sure one was the development of textile manufacturing in the developing world, particularly the cotton-producing countries. It’s the banana argument, far more efficient to process the raw material where it was produced if there was adequate technology supported by investment. The second factor was the discontinuity in world trade cause by world war. From 1914 to 1918 the world was starved of British production and this unsatisfied demand triggered production for the home market in the cotton producing countries. Hindsight is 20/20 vision and looking back now it is quite clear that the UK as a whole started to lose ground in general exports, the thing that had made us ‘The Workshop of the World’ after 1870. The cotton textile trade didn’t immediately feel this effect until the Great War intervened, empire trade kept it growing. In July 1920 this edifice cracked and never recovered. The simplistic focus of those affected by the down-turn was ‘foreign competition’ and ‘starvation wages’. Whilst there was a certain amount of truth in both concepts, the real reason was more complicated. This is what I want to try to explain.
In terms of invested capital, availability of labour and a perfected technology the British textile manufacturing system was as near perfect as it could be in 1914. It was supported by a very efficient infrastructure part of which was the reservoir of trading skills and practices on the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Every refinement in contracts, communications and knowledge of the trade was fully exploited. Weaving firms could accept orders, buy yarn, arrange delivery and seek new contracts without stepping off the trading floor. The Manchester Man was the weaving firm’s representative and he was always a man who understood cloth construction, pricing and the contract system. Given sufficient demand the system ran like a well-oiled clock and enabled the smallest manufacturer with say 200 looms to compete with the giants of the trade. In every sense, it was a level playing field and this encouraged independence in the individual firms and supreme confidence in the system. ‘What Manchester did today, the rest of the world did tomorrow’. The basis of all this was buoyant demand and despite temporary lulls in trade this was what the industry enjoyed until 1920.

When the trade cracked it wasn’t immediately obvious what was happening. It took a while for the realisation to sink in that it was the export trade which had gone bad on us. This situation wasn’t helped by twenty years of depression in the inter-war period. By the 1920s individual firms had started to fail. Something had to be done. I’m not going to describe in detail all the policy changes that were tried, let’s just agree that the major initiative in the weaving side of the industry was to reduce capacity. In 1939 The Cotton Industry (Re-organisation) Act was passed to implement scrapping and price maintenance schemes which had been agreed by the industry and the Board of Trade but the war intervened and they were never used. Natural wastage accounted for the loss of capacity before WW2 but during the war it was decided that the industry had to be restricted by regulation to ensure that as much industrial capacity as possible was directed to the war effort. In January 1941 it was decreed that capacity should be reduced to 60% of what had been operating in November/December 1940. This was to be achieved by stopping 40% of the machinery in each mill. For reasons that I shall explain in a moment, this was the single worst decision that was made and was to be enshrined in later policies.

The mistake was compounded by the fact that the government had promised that whatever war economies were introduced, the industry would be allowed to return to pre-war trading conditions as soon as circumstances allowed and this became the goal for the individual firms. In 1959 the government put a scheme in place to encourage the scrapping of looms, £80 was paid for a working loom and £50 for an idle one. The intention was that by this means, capacity would be reduced and capital injected into the industry for modernisation.

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Disused looms in a working shed soon became covered with 'dirt down'. As time went on their number increased.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 05 Apr 2017, 03:28

I have some evidence from men who were in the industry at the time. The late Bob King was a mill manager in Earby at the time and quotes a figure of £100 per loom for scrapping and one would have thought that he would know. Both he and Fred Inman, a tackler at Johnson’s in Earby reported the same thing. Manufacturers who were offered £80 to £100 for scrapping a worn-out loom that was perhaps 60 years old and keeping what they got for the scrap metal thought it was Christmas. Some firms scrapped and started again under a different name, Booth and Speak in Earby closed and reopened as Speak and Booth. Holden Brothers closed and reopened as Bendem in Wellhouse Mill. Ernie Roberts said that when they scrapped looms at Barnsey Shed in Barlick a loom salesman happened to call in and detected that a fraud could be taking place. All the scrap men had done was to crack the end frames of the looms so that they collapsed. It was a simple matter to weld the frames back together and have a saleable article. Ernie said that the salesman blew the whistle, the government inspector came in and the looms were totally destroyed. Fred Inman told me that he knew of such looms being sold back into the trade and that he had also seen scrapped looms cannibalised for spare parts to refurbish secondhand looms brought in to replace them. Fred also mentioned something which I had never heard before. He said that there was no coordination between the scrapping program in the spinning industry and that in the weaving sheds. He cited an instance where Johnson and Johnson’s main spinner suddenly announced that they were scrapping and a new supplier had to be found. Fred reckoned it was just luck that the two initiatives roughly cancelled each other out. The policy was flawed in concept and implementation. We’ve touched on the fiddles, let’s have a look at the basic concept of reducing capacity in individual mills.

You’ve guessed it! In order to understand the basic flaw we need a crash course in the economics of running a steam-driven weaving shed. Don’t panic, this will be brief and simple. All other things being equal, the three economic factors are capital to finance the building and plant and provide working capital for stocks of yarn, material in the looms and cloth sat in the warehouse awaiting sale. Revenue which is the constant flow of money in and out as materials are bought, wages are paid and cloth is sold and finally, the fixed costs like rates, depreciation, maintenance and heating costs which broadly remain the same regardless of the level of production.

In the 1950s the capital, whilst it still sat on the books, was written off. Over the life of the mill it had paid the initial capital many times over. In practical terms it was the resale value of the plant, buildings and stock. The revenue looked after itself as it was directly correlated to the level of production, all it cost was the interest on the money employed and of course, given an adequate level of profit this was covered. The killer, and the factor that the various reduction schemes never fully realised was the fixed costs. Take a very simple example, if you had a thousand looms and the fixed costs were £1000 per month the cost per loom was £1. If you only had 100 looms, the fixed cost was ten times as much, £10. This means that given a constant low profit margin, the surest way to lessen the viability of the shed was to increase the standing charge on each loom. This was exactly what partial scrapping of a shed did to it.

It gets worse, I’ll give you some figures now that I am sure will surprise you. To the casual observer looking at Bancroft in the 1970s the main part of the fixed costs was running the engine. This was the argument made by the men from the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Board men made when they came round in the 1950s to convince mill-owners that the best way to get savings was to scrap the old steam engines and go on to individual electric motors on each piece of machinery. In fact their agenda wasn’t to help the mill-owners, their brief was to get raise electricity consumption to justify rebuilding the generating industry and the national grid. The casual observer’s impression and the arguments of the NIFE men were totally flawed.

Power production at Bancroft in the post war years had a cost. The factors were fuel consumption, wages and maintenance. The last two were constant and there was no capital depreciation because the engine had paid for itself long ago. The variable was coal consumption, in winter we burned about 35 tons a week. Let’s have a look at where all that energy went. In summer the consumption was less than ten tons a week so we can say straight away that at least 25 tons went on heating the mill. The summer steam consumption was consumed by four things, running the engine, process steam, heat losses within the system and generation of electricity. The process element was the tapes and they were very hungry, always boiling size, heating the drums for drying the warp and running the donkey engine when the main engine was stopped. They consumed an average of five tons a week. The heat losses on the pipework and plant were almost constant and I reckon they amounted to at least two tons a week, they were going on 24 hours a day. The electricity generation comes under running the engine but we still need to recognise it as a cause of fuel consumption. This means that the engine and all the motive power put into the shed to drive the looms and make electricity is consuming about three tons of coal a week. An amazingly low figure but I assure you it’s genuine. This would drop slightly if the number of looms fell but so little that we can disregard it for this argument. The killer punch is that no matter how many looms you take out of the shed, this energy cost stays the same. If you emptied the shed completely it would still cost you 27 tons of coal a week in winter. As it stood, the fixed cost per loom rose with every loom taken out of production. To all intents and purposes it cost just as much to run the mill.

This is why partial scrapping was a mistake. Entire sheds should have been scrapped and production concentrated into those that were left to ensure that they ran at full capacity with the minimum fixed costs per loom. This was the model that served the shed companies well. They kept their mills full of tenants and ran at full capacity. This minimised the fixed cost per loom which was of course the basis of the rent charged to tenants. This gave the individual tenants the best deal for their start-up but became a trap which prevented expansion when they grew, this was what forced them to build their own mills. Once in the new mills they were hard-wired for independence and I believe that this was the root cause of what looked like a suicidal disregard for basic economics when the orders started to dry up. This was reinforced by the confidence built up by years of success. The manufacturers were too proud to admit that their firm had to be the one to go. They had a viable plant and they were going to run it to the bitter end. In their mind-set, any amalgamation or co-operation was a reversion to the days when they were tenants and not complete masters of their own fate. We can see now that the bitter end was the inevitable consequence of their actions.

There was another element dragging the industry down. It was a combination of neglecting to train weavers, dropping standards of shed discipline to attract and retain valuable labour and wear and tear. Jim Pollard had studied loom efficiency all his life. He reckoned that pre-1914 in a new plant with good weavers and harsh discipline some firms might have reached 95% loom efficiency. The way Bancroft was structured in the 1970s Jim estimated we could have reached 88%, as it was, with all our difficulties we were running at about 60% efficiency. The bottom line is that after the war everything was stacked against the industry in global economic terms and the situation was made worse by blinkered management attitudes towards rationalization. If you think about it, Wilfred was almost certainly aware of this and that is why he fought so hard to keep Bancroft as full as possible during the war even at the cost of damage to his other interests.

Image

Mary Wilkin weaving at Bancroft. Jim reckoned she was the best weaver in the shed and if he had twenty like her he could make a good profit despite the problems we had. Imagine a full shed with weavers approaching Mary's standard. That was what the early manufacturers enjoyed, no wonder they made money!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Bodger » 05 Apr 2017, 07:30


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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 06 Apr 2017, 03:14

Bodge, boilers are controlled explosions happening 24X7 and anyone who loses sight of that is in danger. I have a copy of the history of the Manchester Steam Boiler Users Association which was the genesis in UK of the regulations that still regulate steam boilers and pressure vessels via the insurance companies. It's a good system and they don't have it in America. Even privately owned steam boilers like traction engines and locomotives come under this regime. It used to be a the case in the US that these weren't inspected at all and I can remember at least one explosion at a steam rally. I've posted a lot on the site about this.

I have two stories for you about engine efficiency which demonstrate the bad decisions made in the latter days. The first is from Newton Pickles and concerns the Pendle Street Mill in Nelson which he was running because the regular engineer was off work with an injury in 1969. Here’s the story in his own words…

“Well it were a sad start to the job, the engine driver, the 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, 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 firing. 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 end.

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 for process and heating. 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. I used to oil me air pump every dinnertime [in the cellar], 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 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 get 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. 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 and 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! Steam were up at 160. [Recognise that what Newton had done was shut down all steam consumption except the engine.] 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!” [Newton was right about the cable as well, it was overloaded and burned out shortly after they stopped the engine]

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Newton running Pendle Street engine in 1969.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 07 Apr 2017, 04:27

Here’s something similar that happened at Bancroft. I was talking to Newton at the time and he’d just told me the Pendle Street story.

“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 (1978), 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 beggar me, one o’clock we’ve got a shed full of weavers! Shed full of weavers and no fires in the boiler. So I said the John, Well! I got hold of Jim Pollard and I said Look, We’ve dropped a bit of a clanger 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. Now it didn’t take ‘em long to sort out [the problem with the holiday pay] and by about half past two they were all sloping off and getting ready to go home. I know that nobody will ever believe it but that engine ran from one o’clock until quarter to three with no fires in the boiler. Mind you, there was hardly any load and there was no water in the glass when we finished.”

I’d better stop telling stories, I could go on all day. I think you might have the picture now. There is one more thing to report from the 1950s. On August 19th 1958 Wilfred Nutter died and Bancroft was left without a helmsman. Later that year the mill was sold to K O Boardman of Stockport and a new era began. The mistakes had been made, we were in the grip of global economic forces and flawed management decisions. All anyone was interested in was surviving. Bancroft had lost Wilfred Nutter but was to survive for another twenty years. Let’s have a look at what happened.

Image

Blowing off excess steam for the annual shut-down in 1976. Once the pressure had dropped to about 40psi the blow down cock was opened and the remaining superheated water in the boiler was forced out. It exploded into steam as soon as it was in the drains.

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 08 Apr 2017, 03:47

TEA BREAK: WORK IN THE MILL
We often mention children going to work half time, half a day in the shed and half a day in school. Talking to Fred about this made me realise that there was something I didn’t understand because as I understand it, the 1918 Education Act raised the school leaving age to 14 years and abolished half timing. Fred was born in December 1908 and so would only be ten in 1918 and should have missed half timing. The only exception I can find is that under the 1918 Act, half timing was allowed in rural districts until 1922 but specified work on the land. Perhaps the mill owners were taking advantage of this loophole. I think this is the explanation but have never found any official confirmation. If nothing else, this shows how important the family wage was in the weaving towns of NE Lancashire.

I asked Fred to give me his version of the chain of command in the sheds. “Well, at these little places there were t’boss at the top and then there’d he what they call the boss cut-looker. If there were any spoilt cloth he had authority to sack the weaver had the cut-looker. Then tacklers, they were in authority, they could set ‘em on and stop ‘em if they wanted. (The weavers) I don't suppose, well if the boss saw owt out of the ordinary he’d stop them. But them were who were the bosses over the workers. Then you’d have a boss in the twisting room, generally a loomer, and he’d be in charge of the twisters, if they didn’t pull their weight he were in authority to straighten them up a bit. But there were no managers at a lot of places in Earby, it were just the boss cut-looker and tacklers.” Fred agreed that it was usually a boss cut-looker that got the job of weaving manager of there was one going.

We talked about meal times and got onto the vexed subject of tea-brewing. Fred said, “You took your tea can, you brewed up at home then you took your can and you filled it up at work at the hot water boiler. It weren't boiling, it were just hot water. [When Fred says ‘brewed at home’ he means mashing the tea by pouring a little boiling water on the tea leaves. This would brew normally with just hot water in the mill.]” I asked him if they paid for the hot water. “Not at Bracewell Hartley’s but they were doing at Birley's. Them that wanted to, a lot wouldn’t do. It was a penny a week for hot water. The warehouse man used to stand there when they were coming away from the office with their wage, he were stood there and you'd to put a penny into the tin. A bit harsh were that, weren’t it?” I agreed with him because if you reckon up a place like Bancroft where they also charged for hot water at that time the revenue from the boiler came to a tidy sum. “They'd have eleven hundred loom running so eleven hundred looms, that’d be, well, if you divide ‘em by four, there were eleven times twenty five that’d be two hundred and fifty, there'd be about two hundred and sixty weavers and two hundred and sixty pennies a week. That’s a pound a week. In 1920 a ton of coal cost about £2 and it didn't take anywhere near half a ton to keep that boiler going for a week so the hot water boiler in the warehouse was a nice little earner”. (The Calf Hall Shed Company was paying 42/- a ton at that time)
One thing that always struck me when I talked to people like Fred was how clever the manufacturers were in getting the maximum production out of their workers, especially the weavers. They had a system which deprived the weavers of power, the only criterion that defined status was how much you earned and this fostered competition in the shed between the weavers thus benefiting production and profit. This was as true in 1978 when Bancroft finished as it was in the days Fred is describing. Weavers used to compete with each other for the most picks and sometimes small bets were laid. The whole of the manufacturing system was geared to this end. I have heard old managers say that they missed the steam engines because one of the great advantages of an engine is that when it starts, the weavers had to start, this was why time-keeping in the engine house was so important. In the spinning mills in the south of Lancashire they had instruments on the engine that recorded the number of revolutions the engine made in a week. Woe betide an engineer whose rev. count was down. He would almost certainly be on the red carpet in the manager’s office. It was noticeable in these sheds that on days when a lot of cleaning was done the engine ran faster, this was due to the engineer getting his count in for the week. This didn’t apply at Bancroft, the only measure used in the office was coal against cloth, not a bad way of reckoning efficiency.

In the early days of the water-powered industry there used to be a saying, ‘one foot in the field and one in the shed’. There was good reason for this, in summer when the water was low and the mills couldn’t work full-time there was always work on the hay harvest. Many mill owners ran farms in tandem with their mills for this reason, they could put their labour onto the land to fully occupy them. I was interested when Fred gave me evidence that this old tradition lingered on well after the watermills had finished. He said “When I got to be about fifteen and sixteen if there were any chance of going hay timing you know, [I’d be off] when I'd had my tea. And down what you call this Booth Bridge, I had a mate and he were on the dole and this farmer wanted a hay time man so he got on there for a fortnight and it were a bit of good weather and this farmer must have said, do you know anybody what’ll come down at nights. And he said “Aye one of me mates will.” So he told me and we finished at half past five. I dashed home, got me tea and on me bike. You used to work while half past ten at night and when it got to be Saturday as they'd finished I didn't know owt about payment for hay time. So he said “What do you want.” I said “I don’t know.” He says “Well, if I give you thirty bob will you be satisfied?” I said aye because every night when you'd finished you went in and it were very plain but you'd two slices of toast and two poached eggs. And about happen eight o'clock at night you got some sad cake or sommat like that and tea. You were well looked after and I thought my word, thirty bob!”

It struck me that I used to do the same thing when I was running the shop at Sough. Any spare time I had at haytime was spent helping Abel Taylor up at Greenbank and later on in the 1960s I was still doing it for friends. I think all this has finished now with the advent of machinery and sileage. I wonder, would young lads take such extra work if it was about nowadays? It was healthy work in the open air and an entirely different experience. As such I can’t think that it did us anything but good. One thing is certain, there were more links between the town and the country then than there are today.

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The boiler in the warehouse at Bancroft. Best earner in the mill at one time!

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Abel Taylor mowing at Greenbank in 1956. The horse was called Dick......
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 09 Apr 2017, 04:50

CHAPTER 19: THE BEGINNING OF THE END

From 1960 onwards the whole of the textile industry in the North had a common experience. I’m going to concentrate on Bancroft and Barlick but everyone had the same problems. Every firm was searching for improvements in efficiency but what hit them every time was a combination of ineffective measures and the flood of cheap textiles which was beginning to flood into Britain. Let me repeat the figures. In 1938 we imported 52,000,000 square yards of cloth annually, in 1950 this had risen to 287,000,000 with most of the increase accounted for by India, Japan and Spain. By 1960 the imports had reached 728,000,000 yards. This was foreign expansion on a par with what we had experienced domestically 100 years earlier.

I don’t want to beat you over the head with tales about mistaken decisions in the search for efficiency but I’m going to allow myself one last reinforcement by giving you another example of how things could go wrong.. I was talking to Newton Pickles about Rycroft’s at Broughton Road Shed in Skipton where Horace Thornton used to work.

“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!

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 off 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!

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The hot box at Bancroft where all the condensate came back to and was pumped into the boiler.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 10 Apr 2017, 05:43

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? 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 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 my explanation about fuel use in the mill? The experience of Broughton Road Shed wasn’t untypical. The management hadn’t taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the facts and suffered accordingly. I often wondered why Bancroft was the only shed in Barlick that had kept its engine and asked Newton about this. He told me that when the NIFE men arrived at Bancroft to do their sales pitch Wilfred asked them to hang on while he got his engineer in. He rang Newton and explained what was happening so Newt dropped everything and went to the mill. He and Wilfred listened to what the salesmen had to say about the advantages of electrification and the guaranteed economies and when he they had finished Wilfred asked Newton what he thought about it. Newton said it sounded marvellous and that if the economies were true Wilfred would be daft not to do it. However, he said that just to be on the safe side Wilfred should ask the electricity company to state the economies in writing and give a guarantee that if they were not achieved they would pay for the reinstatement of the original plant. The NIFE men left, the guarantee was not forthcoming, the engine stayed in and Bancroft survived long after all the other firms closed. In 1978 when a man called Malcolm Dunphy was thinking of buying Bancroft Shed for his oil burner company I was asked to draw up comparative figures for energy costs of a 500kva load for the engine and mains electricity. The engine was half the price of the electricity. It is hard for people to accept this even now after all the evidence is in but steam engines were never uneconomic. People often talk about the ‘passing of the steam age’. Baloney! They should enquires what is driving the alternators at all the power stations except hydro and wind power. It’s steam turbines, even nuclear power stations need steam to convert the energy into electricity. The Steam Age is alive and well thank you!

The spinning industry was fighting as well and the major spinners invested heavily in new technologies to make them more competitive. Yarn imports were hitting them hard. I asked Jim Pollard if this ever made any difference and he told me that he never saw a decrease in the price of yarn due to new methods like the introduction of break spinning. On the contrary, in his opinion the quality of the yarns had fallen as the old machinery was scrapped. Something had changed in the balance of the industry. Since 1600 and the new light cloths from the Indies, the technology had driven the type and quality of cloth. After 1950 it seemed to be the market dictating what the technology should be.

I later had confirmation that there was perhaps something in this. As part of the Lancashire Textile Project I investigated the condenser mule spinning industry in the Rossendale Valley in 1979 and found it was something of a time-warp. The raw material they used was waste cotton from all over the world and they made heavy condenser yarn that was ideal for any cloth that had to be raised to put a nap on it like Winceyette sheets, night dresses and even the dreaded yellow duster. It was a niche market and they could sell all the yarn they made at a good profit. On November 4th 1988 I went with my mate Robert Aram to have a look at what was definitely the last mill in Lancashire to operate mule spinning. They were at Taylor and Hartley Fabrics Limited, Field Mill, Kenyon Street, Ramsbottom, Haslingden, Lancashire. BL0 0AB. Telephone Ramsbottom 2191. [I saw a stamp while I was there and got the details down on a piece of paper.] The condenser mules at Haslingden had finished by then and Taylor and Hartley were making the same type of yarn. The factor that finished them was the advent of continental duvets and the demise of the Winceyette sheets and nighties due to central heating. On such small factors whole technologies can hang.

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The last condenser mules in their final days at Field Mill.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 11 Apr 2017, 04:03

When Wilfred Nutter died and Bancroft was bought by K O Boardman of Stockport in 1958 there was a lot of trepidation in the shed. Everyone was convinced that closure was imminent. This feeling never went away because all around the old manufacturers were going out and mills closing. As Jim said, Bancroft hovered on the verge of closure for over twenty years and he thought that this was definitely used as a management tool. In fact Bancroft never made a loss right up to closure. Jim had a theory, never proved, that there was another factor involved. Boardman’s imported a lot of finished garments from Pakistan and it may have been an advantage to them to be able to say that they had a weaving shed of their own. The label ‘woven in Lancashire’ was a powerful sales incentive. Deception had long been common in the trade, Jim said it was wonderful how much cloth woven in Barlick was sent to Ireland for finishing and came back labelled ‘Irish Linen’.

On the surface, nothing changed at Bancroft. As late as the mid 1960s we had a ‘housewife’s shift’, sometimes called the ‘moonlight shift’. This was a four hour stint from six o’clock in the evening until ten largely manned by women who had left the industry to look after their husbands and children. Jim said that many of them were weaving to keep the family car on the road. There were occasional periods of short-time working. This was a concept that was unique to the weaving trade in that there was an arrangement with the Labour Exchange whereby if the necessary notice was given, employees in the weaving trade could be put on the dole for a couple of days a week and receive full benefit without the ‘waiting days’, I think it was three days, that applied to industry in general. This was official recognition of the special case in the cotton industry.

There was the continuing pressure from the comparative wage levels in weaving and the other industries in the town. A weaver could leave the shed and go to work for another firm in the town and get a better wage for less work. The factor that kept them in the shed was that on the whole they enjoyed the work and the companionship. Weavers have told me that they considered Bancroft to be a holiday camp and there was always a good atmosphere in the shed. Jim Pollard was effectively running the mill by now and he leaned over backward to keep his workers happy. If there was any one thing that kept Bancroft going it was Jim, he made do with old healds and reeds, coped with every different cloth thrown at him and managed to keep close personal contact with everyone in the shed. There was one ploy in particular that he used to benefit the weavers.

When we were short of orders this meant that there would be less warps going down from the preparation department to the shed. A harsh management would address this by lifting warps out of a part set of looms and using them to fill up the other sets. This kept the cost of the guaranteed wage down by putting individual weavers on the dole, they were sacrificed for the general good. Jim took a different route, he wanted to keep his weavers happy so he arranged with the tapers to make half warps. This was making two weaver’s beams out of one. Of course this was less economic because it put the preparation cost up but it kept the weaver’s in full production as long as the orders kept pace with production. We wove many of these part warps and usually got away with it.

Another ploy was to take in ‘commission weaving’. This was to sub-contract to a firm that had an order that they either couldn’t weave fast enough or in some cases didn’t want to weave. In the 1970s we had quite a lot of work like this and one of the cloths was a special weave that was in effect three different cloths in one warp and was a combination of three fibres, cotton, worsted wool and an artificial fibre. It was used for the stiffening fabric in the lapels and collars of suits. This was difficult to draw, bad to weave and very dirty because it was shedding black fibre. The weavers hated it but it paid the wage and was a good earner.
Down in the engine and boiler house John and I were constantly looking for ways to save fuel by running more efficiently. I knew from past experience that small alterations could make a big difference to the balance sheet. I learned this early in my career as engine tenter in 1972. The man who had run the engine before me wasn’t God’s gift to engineering even though he thought he was the bee’s knees. When I took over the engine I made a lot of small adjustments to the valve timing, cover on the steam ports and on the governor. I also got some rope grease and over a period of about four weeks got over a hundredweight of tallow and graphite into the ropes. After a couple of months I had the engine running a lot better. Newton Pickles taught me all I know about steam engines and he used to call in frequently to check on me and make sure I was running safely. He came in one day after I had been doing my tweaking and as he sat there drinking his tea he noted the smooth curve of the ropes as they flew up from the flywheel to the second motion pulley and said he’d never seen it running so well. I had been working on another aspect of the engine as well, the speed. The engine was designed to run at 70rpm but over the years this had dropped back to below 68rpm. The reason for this was always said to be that the looms were getting older and couldn’t weave at the speed they were designed for. I could never understand this because they had been slowed down considerably when More Looms was brought in. I needed a secret weapon…

On the pensioner’s side near the lineshaft we had a weaver we called Billy Two Rivers (Billy Lambert), who was an ex-tackler who had stopped tackling after an injury to his neck caused by carrying heavy warps in to the looms on his shoulder, one of the casualties of the More Looms System. He was an excellent weaver who made more cloth on his eight loom set than most weavers could on ten. I had a quiet word with Billy about loom speeds because I knew that one of the tricks to getting the most out of the shed was to have the engine running at exactly the right speed for the atmospheric conditions. You might wonder what atmospheric conditions have to do with weaving… The leather belts were very sensitive to humidity, if the air was dry they tightened up and the looms ran faster, if moist they slackened and the looms ran slower. I knew I couldn’t assess this myself, only a good weaver could do it so I came to an arrangement with Billy that once the engine had settled down I’d go into the shed and walk up the lineshaft for my morning inspection. As I passed Billy he would surreptitiously give me a signal about the speed, whether to speed up a bit or slow down or even leave it as it was. Most mornings there was a slight adjustment one way or another and after a short interval I’d go back into the shed and get the nod from Billy that it was OK.

After about a month of this I found I was running at just over 69rpm and there were no complaints. Then one morning Jim came and had a sit with me and asked what I had been doing to the engine house speed, I knew I had been rumbled and confessed all to him. I asked him whether I had to go back to 68rpm and he said no way! He said I was the most popular bloke in the mill because the ploy had worked and it had been noted in the office that production had increased and the weavers were making on average £1.50 a week more than they had a couple of months earlier. What puzzled me was why the top management hadn’t realised what a difference a small improvement could make, after all they had 150 years of experience behind them.

Remember what Newton said about condensate returns and three ram pumps when he was talking about Broughton Road Shed? There was a firm called Spirax Sarco who manufactured steam traps and control gear. They provided a free correspondence course for steam users in industry and I sent off for it. I did it on the firm’s time during my odd few minutes away from the engine during the day. It was very thorough and I learned a lot. Using the knowledge I had gained I persuaded the management to buy some Spirax steam traps and went round the mill refurbishing old traps and replacing those that were worn out. Eventually I had every trap running efficiently and almost all the condensate running back into the hot well for feeding back into the boiler.

I had a big problem. Can you remember me mentioning that Bancroft had to apply for a licence to buy a Frank Pearn three ram feed pump in 1945? Installing this meant that the steam driven Weir pump could be put on stand-by thus saving steam. Thirty years later the pump had done good service but needed work on the valves. My problem was that it was a big job and I couldn’t afford to have the pump off-line as it was essential to running the mill. I had a word with Newton and found that they had a big three throw pump down at the workshop at Wellhouse Mill which they had made in the 1930s for Finsley Gate Shed at Harle Syke and had bought it back from the firm when they scrapped their mill. It was provisionally sold to Hill’s Pharmaceuticals at Harle Syke but Newton hadn’t heard anything from them. If I wanted it I could have it for £180 and the switchgear and wiring would bring the total up to £250. It was a good pump and managed correctly would solve our problem. Consider the case of normal running for average demand. The feed pump is set so as to replace the water lost by steam-raising as fast as it leaves the boiler. If demand goes up, the feed pump can be stopped and the water level allowed to fall. The fire can then cope with the increased demand without alteration because it isn’t heating cool water up. The converse applies if demand falls, the fires can be left as they are and the feed water rate increased to regulate steam pressure. I determined I would have it.

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Billy Lambert, an expert weaver and my secret weapon in the shed!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 12 Apr 2017, 04:34

We need a bit of education here on the efficient management of the Lancashire boiler. You might think that if you want more or less steam the thing to do is have a bigger or smaller fire. You can do it that way but once a fire is running well on the grate it likes to be left alone. Every time you alter the feed or the draught it has to settle down again. The Lancashire boiler contains far more water than any comparable boiler and this capacity for water is your biggest asset if the fires are left alone and the feed rate speeded up. This is a very efficient way of managing a boiler and very safe.

We couldn’t run like this because the Pearn pump was losing ground against the boiler even though it was running flat out all day. I had to set the Weir pump on at dinnertime to catch up on the water level and at night after we had banked up I had to leave the Weir running while I went home for my tea and come back about two hours later to shut it off. So, once I had my figures I got Mr Birtles, our part-time managing director down into the engine house, and with Newton as back-up I set out the problem, the solution, the cost and the estimated saving of about a ton and a half of coal a week at £30 a ton. An irresistible argument, in six weeks the investment would have paid for itself and we would be making a profit of £50 a week. Mr Birtles did what he knew best, he immediately said no to any expenditure. I was ready for this, I’d seen him coming, I made him an offer. I said I’d put the pump in at my own expense in return for a written agreement to pay me half of the coal savings each week. This meant I’d have cleared the debt within ten weeks and after that I’d be on a bonus of at least £25 a week for the remainder of my employment. That did the trick, he agreed to the change.

Brown and Pickles delivered the pump onto its bed after John and I had carried over three tons of concrete into the cellar in buckets and poured the bed. We got the pump up and running replacing the Pearn pump and I stripped that down to refurbish it. Once it was in perfect condition I put it back in service and arranged it so that it pumped water permanently from the hot well around the economisers at the back of the boiler. Once it had passed back to the engine house cellar it was almost boiling and returned to the hot box. As soon as that was full it tripped a mercury switch controlled by a float in the box and the big pump kicked in and sent the water into the boiler. We put a bypass into the Pearn pump delivery pipe so that we could recirculate water back to the hot well under very fine control. This recirculation rate governed the speed that water was sent through the economiser and put in the boiler so we had perfect control over our boiler feed. We could run a wide range of flows with a simple valve adjustment, everything else was automatic and because the Brown and Pickles pump was so big we never again had problems with feeding the boiler. The coal consumption dropped by almost two tons a week, the firebeater’s job was much easier and I had steady steam on the engine which further improved my weaver’s lot. Wonderful!

There was one nice thing happened while Jim and Bob Fort from Brown and Pickles were helping to erect the pump. The big crankshaft on the top of the pump is made from a solid billet of what used to be called ‘90 ton’ steel. It took ten days to chop out on a lathe because it had to be turned on four different centres. Jim remembered making that shaft 30 years earlier. I asked him how he could be certain it was his and he showed me where he had made a mistake and turned a cheek off one of the end journals, it had to be compensated for by making a specially shaped bearing. Nice touch, if you go down into the cellar at Bancroft engine house and have a look the pump is still there and you can see the mistake.

Jim was busy as well. He found a large cone-winding machine that was going to be scrapped, bought it for scrap price and we installed it at the end of the winding department. The advantage was that it was cheaper and better to get our yarn on ring package, rewind it onto cones and use the cones to feed the Leesona and Britoba pirn winders. It made the winding department more productive, made better weft and saved money. The only innovation that originated with higher management was that they sacked Wild’s buses who had been running the worker’s transport from the mill to the town and vice versa to save them walking. They replaced the bus with an old Bedford van with boxes in the back to sit on. As soon as it arrived I spotted that the pinion bearing oil seal on the back axle was leaking and had to be replaced. Guess who got the job of doing that…

Bancroft was surviving but only because of the dedication and attention to detail of the workers. Foreign competition increased, markets shrank and profit margins were pared back even more. Despite all this, we were running in profit and as long as the orders kept coming in we would be OK, perhaps… I once asked Sidney Nutter why it was that as other firms packed in we didn’t get more orders and he told me that this had puzzled him all the time he had worked at Bancroft. Common sense said that it should help us but in practice it never did. Sidney reckoned that it was the mind-set of the buyers, if one source of cloth failed they didn’t bother looking towards the mills that were still running, they just ordered imported cloth, often at an initial discount to get them on the hook. He said that the trade had lost the will to live. I have to say that I agree with him.

Image

The Pearn pump on the left and the big B&P pump at the back in 1976 after we had made our alterations. The B&P pump was in theory far too big but was a complete success. It used to crack on and gulp the water out of the hot well sending it into the boiler even when the water was almost boiling.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 13 Apr 2017, 04:11

TEA BREAK: THE WAR YEARS
The 1930s were important years for Fred. Our favourite 22 year old was in regular work, living at home and enjoying life. He was a regular church-goer and told me an interesting fact about the new church that was built in 1909 over the railway crossing near Lina Laithe to replace the tin tabernacle on School Lane which had served Earby since 1888. Fred said he used to ring the bell for the service but instead of a normal church bell they had a large piece of pipe and he had to hit it with a hammer. Fred said that it got to be a bit of a chore having to be there for every service and eventually he got into the habit of ringing the bell and then sloping off home. The parson, Fred thinks his name was Atkinson, took him to task about this and said that if Fred didn’t attend church he’d strike him off the electoral roll. This was too much for Fred and his church-going days finished there and then. This was a good example of the autocratic behaviour of those in the community who saw themselves as something akin to a squirearchy.

This topic came up when we started talking about courting and marriage. I’m a bit out of touch with courting customs nowadays but I’m willing to take a small bet that they were cheaper and just as effective 80 years ago. How it worked was that the lads went for a walk on what they called ‘The Rabbit Run’. This was a walk from Earby to Four Lane Ends at Colne, at Langroyd. “We never used to stop, just walk there, no calling in pubs or owt of that, walk there, home, bed, clogs on.” Word got about that there was a new lass called Margery living with her grandmother at Hague Houses between Kelbrook and Foulridge, Fred took an interest and 18 months later, in 1932, they were arranging their wedding.

The intention was to get married at Earby but the parson was so brusque with them, never even asking them in when they went to arrange for the banns to be called, that they went to Kelbrook and saw the vicar there. Fred said he was a nice man and made them welcome so they gave him their custom. It wasn’t a big do, they were hard up, Fred said there were about five people there. Forty years later, in 1972, Margery arranged a celebration at the White Lion for about 25 people, all the friends they couldn’t afford to have at the wedding breakfast.

Their first house was on Beech Street next to the station but Fred said the rent was 13/- a week [65 pence] and too much for them. Twelve months later they had moved to a cottage at Coolham Farm, just below the reservoir on Stoneybank. This was handy for the bit of land Parkinson had bought for his hens so Fred could help him but they decided to move down the hill to a cottage at Well owned by Jim Cowgill. They were there for a fair while but then Jim wanted the cottage back so they bought a house in Longroyd Avenue. They weren’t there long before his mother’s health started to fail so they moved into 14 Stoneybank to help Parkinson care for her. His mother died in 1952 and Parkinson followed her two years afterwards so Fred bought his brother’s share in the house Parkinson Inman bought in 1927 and lives there to this day.

At the beginning of WW2 Fred was living at Well cottage and working as a tackler at Birley’s in Albion Shed. He was deferred from war service because they were weaving for the army and he was an essential worker, he had to register but was never called up. He joined the Home Guard and told me many good stories about the things they got up to. We get the impression nowadays that it was ‘Dad’s Army’ but Fred said they were very serious and it was hard work. They used to man a lookout point on Pinhaw every night and it was hard to have to do this after a full day at your normal occupation.

The war meant guaranteed employment, short time was a thing of the past. However, you were tied to your job in the mill unless directed to work somewhere else by the authorities. This didn’t bother Fred but he said that as soon as the controls were lifted after the war many weavers changed jobs. [I know from a notice I have that was put up in Bancroft Shed that the Essential Works Order was terminated at Bancroft on May 1st 1946 and I assume this was the same date for all the mills.] The government cloth was checked for quality by visiting inspectors and Fred gave an example of this, “Well, they used to have fellas coming round testing the cloth to see that it were fully up to standard and I know one particular weave we used to have, if I remember reight they had about a 56 pick, and this fella came round and it had to go up to 58 and then they were weaving a lot of hundred yarders and they'd be coming out at a hundred and three and hundred and four yards. Well he made 'em check all of them, and all them bits had to be added on and then at the end of the war the weaver had to be paid for 'em. They gained that way did weavers with having the inspector coming round.”

The tramp weavers vanished and in some ways this lifted a load off the workers because they knew that if they were five minutes late they wouldn’t find someone else doing their job. One thing interested me, I had seen the hooks and eyes in the north light weaving shed roof at Bancroft for the wartime blackout but never understood how they worked. Fred told me that the windows were blacked out with frames covered with tar paper which were lowered into place by cords or pulled up against the ceiling out of the way during daylight. The edges of the window glass were painted black to stop any chinks of light showing. Ordinary upright windows simply had frames which were lifted into place.

Apart from the common hardships of uncertainty, rationing and the demands of the Home Guard, Fred and Margery survived the war as well as anyone and shortly after VJ day were living on Stoneybank and looking forward to better days. In some ways they were not out of the wood, like everyone else they had to go through another ten years of shortages and uncertainty as the country readjusted after a very close shave. What we often forget now is that the food rationing that started in February 1940 didn’t end entirely until 1953. There was also the fact that nothing had been spent on maintenance of the mills during the war and the effects of this were to be come increasingly evident as time went on. The country and its infrastructure were tired and it was going to take a long time to recover.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 14 Apr 2017, 03:25

CHAPTER 20: THE FINAL SOLUTION

I had been busy thinking in the engine house during the winter of 1977/78. We were having problems with the stokers and I could see that more trouble would come as the weather warmed up. My problem was that the number of looms running had dropped to the stage where if there was no heat and the tapes weren’t demanding a lot of steam the boiler fires were so short that they were letting air in at the back. This ruined economy and made smoke.

Under the ‘Dark Smoke (Permitted Hours) Regulations, 1958’ the Council had the power to prosecute firms if the regulations were contravened. The inspector was known colloquially as ‘The Nuisance Man’, partly because the offence was causing a nuisance and partly because he was a nuisance to us. The man’s name was Mr Tabiner and he was usually quite reasonable with us but in 1970 there had been an extension to the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 which allowed councils to designate areas in which domestic dark smoke came under the same legislation. Previous to this, whilst people didn’t like mills producing dark smoke they didn’t complain because they knew we were in trouble and their friends worked in them. Once the regulations were applied to the householders and fewer people had friends in the mill there was a different attitude to dark smoke from the mill. It became a case of ‘Why should they be allowed to get away with it when we can’t?’ There was another problem, Bancroft was on the SW edge of the town and the prevailing wind blew our smoke over the built-up area. The bottom line was that Mr Tabiner had let me know that he had less discretion and we should be very careful.

Apart from anything else, dark smoke is wasteful, it’s a sign of less than perfect combustion. I remember my friend Mr Birtles coming into the boiler house yard one day and complimenting me on the fact that we were running smokeless, there was just a faint haze at the chimney head. I told him that I wasn’t as pleased because I could see things that were invisible to him. I could see five pound notes fluttering out of the chimney and drifting away over Barlick. I knew of course that try as we may, we could never get better than about 70% thermal efficiency on the boiler so we were wasting at least £30 out of every £100 worth of coal we burned. That was what I meant by the five pound notes. He didn’t see the point, he told me that sometimes I said some very silly things…

So, as I say, I had been doing some thinking and this is what I came up with, a paper on possible savings on fuel and less dark smoke.

16th. February 1978

FIRING APRANGEMENTS ON LANCASHIRE BOILER AT BANCROFT SHED.
The Proctor Coking Stokers at present in use are getting in a very poor condition. Essential maintenance in order to maintain present levels of efficiency will cost at least £1700 this year and the same next year. If we take into account the unforeseen costs which will inevitably crop up we can safely assume that the total cost over the next two years will be in the order of £4,000 at todays prices. After all this expenditure we shall still be left with an inefficient, labour intensive system.

ALTERNATIVES
Three possible fuels. Gas, oil and coal. I have made enquiries and the price of gas would be the equivalent of £45 a ton for coal. This fact together with considerations such as availability and the cost of testing the boiler before conversion put this method out of court. Oil is a possibility but here again there are major snags in that there would be difficulties with the boiler and settings which would negate any economies gained. I feel we should stick to coal as this is the cheapest fuel at £30 per ton and would not entail any extra strain on the boiler or attrition of the settings. There are three feasible ways of firing coal. First is the chain grate. This is efficient but very expensive and time-consuming to maintain. Not recommended. The Coking stoker, expensive but efficient if we incorporate improvements lately brought out by Proctors to alleviate difficulties with short fires in summer. A major disadvantage with this is that it is not possible to get any significant degree of automatic running. If we are going to spend money we might as well finish up with a better system. The third and I think the most attractive system is the underfired stoker. With this system we have almost complete automation at quite a reasonable cost. This is the system that Sutcliffe and Clarkson adopted when they were faced with exactly the same problems that we have now. According to Jack Barret of the coal board they are showing a saving of about a third on their coal consumption even though they now leave the heating on all night. They were burning about 1000 tons a year the same as us. According to Jack they have dropped this to 600 tons but we must allow for poetic licence on his part. The actual figure could easily be found out by consultation with them. Their case is exactly the same as ours. In winter the heating is left on all night and there has been an increase in production in consequence with lower costs and less coal.

COST
It seems probable that this will be in the region of £6000 /£7,000 to install. I have arranged for detailed estimates from two firms. Hodgkinson Bennis and another firm run by the brains who have defected from this firm recently who would put in a very keen price I feel. You will receive these as soon as they are presented.

FINANCE
I realise that finance is a problem and offer the following suggestions. At any one time we have about 180 tons of coal in stock in the yard and boiler house. If we were to burn this stock off in the period up to the summer holidays we would have a credit on the coal account of £5400 at £30 a ton. This would very nearly pay for the installation and if we are going to save as much as the coal board say we will there will be a saving of 150 tons by Christmas. In other words the stocks will be nearly replaced. I would take these figures with a pinch of salt until I had seen how we do but even if the fuel saving is only half of what they say we shall have rebuilt the stock inside one year on present coal purchasing levels. There is of course the risk of running without any stock at all. I would recommend that we clear the yard out completely and keep one load near to the boiler house in case of late delivery by British Fuel. There are two more sources of finance, one definite and the other possible. The Coal Board run a scheme whereby it is possible to draw three years discount in a lump and then pay full coal price for the three years. If the coal savings are greater than the discount this of course in a good deal but that would be up to you. The second source is Development Grants, Jack Barrett is looking into this as well.

RECOMMENDATIONS
I fee1 we should go for a system by which we can do away with excessive hours in winter on the boiler. It may be that we will find that we can cut the hours down on the boiler to perhaps four a day. I would not favour one man doing both the engine and the boiler as it is too much and one job or the other would suffer. Apart from this the engineer would quite rightly want extra money for doing both jobs and there would be no saving. There is little point in doing the job unless we do it properly and gain the maximum amount of saving. The coal handling arrangements will have to be rearranged anyway as we shall need more room at the front of the boiler to operate the stokers, this will almost certainly entail going over to conveyor or blower delivery which will put about 50p per ton on costs but will ease the load in the boiler house considerably and be saved in labour. You would be amazed at the number of hours spent moving coal about under our present system.

TIME SCALE
It will take a fortnight to change over and therefore it is a summer holiday job. In view of the fact that we are going to have to do something anyway may I suggest that we aim for conversion this summer. If you take up the suggestion of burning the coal off it would mean starting to burn stock by the middle of April. The only other alternative is to take an extra week off at September and give us a fortnight then. The first thing we should do to is see Sutcliffe’s and find out the advantages. It may be that they were more uneconomical than us in the first place.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 15 Apr 2017, 04:19

I took the paper up into the office and waited to see what transpired. I heard nothing about it until the end of August 1978 when Birtles came down to the engine house and told me to burn the stock. I asked him if this meant they were going to take up my suggestion about fitting new stokers and he said that he would let me know. When John came into the engine house for a brew that afternoon he asked me why I was looking so glum. I told him that he was looking at the biggest bloody fool in Barlick, I had closed the mill. Jim Pollard came in a bit later and I told him the same thing. He obviously knew something but was keeping it to himself. He told me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and the best thing to do was wait and see.

On the 22nd of September a notice was pinned up throughout the mill.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT.

As everyone will have read in the local press, we have received the attached letter from the Borough of Pendle Council.
The Directors, having considered the position, and taking into account the effects of running at 50% capacity, the general trading conditions which have persisted for the past few years, and the cost of eliminating the smoke problem, have reluctantly decided to announce that the Company will cease trading when all existing orders are woven out.
All redundancy payments will be honoured and a firm date for closure will be given after consultation with the unions concerned. We take this opportunity of thanking everyone for their loyal support over the years.

Signed P J Birtles. Managing Director.

The letter from the Council referred to was dated 5th of September and was in effect an ultimatum that should no concrete scheme for eliminating the smoke be presented in the following six weeks the Council would seriously consider prosecuting the company.

I really do believe that until I reminded them they hadn’t realised that they had £6000 tied up in coal stocks. Whatever, we now knew the worst, we were weaving out and would the last person to leave please turn off the lights.

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 16 Apr 2017, 04:05

TEA BREAK: WAGES AND KISSING SHUTTLES
At the end of the war Fred was still tackling for Birleys at Albion Shed, he was reasonably happy there but could see what was in the wind after the war finished. Talking about the manager there he said “You were allus in the muck and the way he used to talk when this come on, you know. He'll go, she'll go. [after the war] I thought yes, he's going to be back at th’old do, I mun be away from here afore he gets on to that again. I disappeared and so did a lot more what he’d been on to. They got a bit of a shock did some of them type of managers what were going to go back to the old system after the war ‘cause it never came about. There were one at Johnsons, I've heard about him, he used to say “Wait while the war's finished, I’ll have about twenty weavers stood in warehouse, I’ll alter this carry on!” He never got to do it ‘cause it never happened. You could see what they were, bullies, they were nowt else.”

In 1948 Fred went to work for a small firm called New Bridge who were weaving silk at the Big Mill as tenants, they had about 200 looms and paid a good wage. To give you an idea, there was one weaver there who gave up a good clerical job at £6 a week to go weaving for £10. Fred’s wage went up as well and he felt he was better treated. One of the biggest changes in the trade after the war was that there was competition for labour from new firms like Rolls Royce who paid better rates and guaranteed wages. The textile trades were still basically on piece work and it was obvious this had to change, the piece rate never went away, weavers were still paid by the pick at Bancroft as late as 1978, what changed was the introduction of what the weavers called the ‘fall-back’ rate. In effect this was an amount of money that the weaver was entitled to even if they had a bad week and hardly any picks. At the time Bancroft finished in 1978 this was about £26 and a top class weaver could add perhaps £15 to this on pick rate.

Fred agreed that the changes in wage rates were good for the weavers but he saw bad effects as well. “They got as we say slip shod, they didn't care a hang, 'cause they could see there were nobody coming into the trade. Rolls Royce were at Barlick, Rover were at Sough and they were going into these other industries and they were taking advantage then were workers in the mill.” For once the weavers had the upper hand, all the manufacturers were short of labour. The pressures of low productivity and higher wages started to take their toll and by the 1950s those firms that had survived were under intense pressure from foreign competition. While the government and various industry committees argued about what to do, the industry quietly slipped away.

There was one notable exception in Earby, Johnson and Johnson at Victoria Mill. Fred could see which way the wind was blowing at New Bridge and went to work for Johnsons in 1952. This turned out to be a good move, he was to stay there until he retired in 1973. Johnson and Johnson were one of the first firms to make the change to self-threading shuttles. As early as 1912 a Home Office Report concluded that the suction shuttle had no definite links to ill-health, although it did assert that the practice was unsanitary and alternative methods were encouraged. The self-threading shuttle became mandatory in the UK in 1952 but many older firms were very slow to make the change because of the expense, I have a kissing shuttle that was made in 1973. Johnson and Johnson bit the bullet early and also respaced their looms to make access easier. As we’ve seen before, Percy Lowe and his successors were keen on improvements to make the mill cleaner and safer to work in, they were one of the leaders in the trade in terms of working conditions.

In 1976 Fred was enjoying a well-deserved retirement after over 50 years in the weaving shed when he had an unexpected visitor one evening. It was Jim Pollard, weaving manager at Bancroft Shed in Barnoldswick who had a bit of a problem. The mill was doing as well as it had in previous years and if taxed the directors were very optimistic about future prospects. However, there were people in the mill who knew even more about the weaving trade than the management, they understood the significance of part warps, small orders for unusual cloth types and commission weaving. These were all unmistakeable signs that the situation was worsening, it wasn’t a matter of if the shed would close but when it would happen.

One of the first results of workers losing confidence in their job security is that they start to look for a way out, exactly what Fred did in 1948 when he was at Birleys. At Bancroft we saw some of our best weavers move out, many of them to Johnsons at Earby where good weavers were still in demand. Even more significant, Jim found he was a tackler short. Luckily enough, Jim was an old Earbier and knew about Fred and the fact that he was retired. I don’t think Jim had to work very hard to persuade Fred to come and help us, he was like an old fire-horse hearing the alarm bell and sprang straight into action.

This was when I first met Fred in the tackler’s cabin in the warehouse at Bancroft. His reputation had preceded him and Ernie Roberts told me we were in for a treat, he said that Fred was one of the best tacklers and nicest men he knew. As usual, Ernie was right, Fred settled in with us as though he had been there for years and the weavers on his set thought the world of him. There was no firework display, no settling in period, Fred just started doing what every good tackler does, he kept his weavers happy and the looms running. I soon got into the habit of talking to Fred and listening to what he had to say and in the breaks between our respective duties he advanced my textile education even further.

Many of my readers will have worked in the shed and know just how important it is to have a good tackler but for the benefit of the younger ones it might be a good idea to explain. The tackler or loom-overlooker was, if you like, the loom-tuner, he gaited the loom up with a warp, adjusted the loom for the type of cloth needed and started it weaving. Once he was satisfied that all was well he handed over to the weaver who carried on. The only time the tackler went back to that loom was when the weaver asked for his help, maybe for an adjustment, re-tightening a wheel or gear on the shaft or repairing a breakage. Sometimes there was a really bad smash and a bunch of warp ends were broken, the tackler identified the cause, put it right and often took all the ends up for the weaver so that she could carry on weaving and not be held up. It could take two hours to repair a bad smash and on an eight loom set that was eight looms idle if the weaver had to do it.

What was perhaps more important was how nice the tackler was with his weavers. They could soon get fed up with a tackler who was grumpy, stingy with his time or blamed the weaver for everything that went wrong. Fred was none of these, I never saw him lose his temper and he always treated his weavers with respect, he acted towards them more as a partner than an overlooker. In short, he was as near perfect as you could hope for. I used to love to get him going on the difference between the way Bancroft was run and his experience down at Johnson’s, he knew things were bad with us but even so he was amazed to see Jim cutting old reeds down, cobbling healds together and cutting every corner he could to keep expenses down and the looms running. He laughed at our uneven floors, archaic equipment and even the state of the toilets.

Like all the old hands he was glad to get back to a shed driven by an engine through shafting and belts, he said that Lancashire looms wove better off the shafting than on individual electric motors. He liked to come down into the engine house for a cup of tea and would sit there watching James and Mary Jane doing their stuff. John Plummer, my firebeater, and I had got running the boiler and engine to a fine art and I’d like to think he appreciated this. Like all competent men, we were never in a hurry, we anticipated steam demand and lighting load and the whole plant purred like a well-oiled machine.

In September 1978 the closure was announced and the first thing that happened was that all workers over retiring age had to finish. As Fred was 69 he had to go and that was the last time he worked. I’m happy to say that he had a long and happy retirement. He once told me that it was impossible to get a good pair of braces and his were nearly worn out so I brought him a pair back from America and you’ve never seen a bloke more delighted. That was the last time I saw him in his house on Stoneybank, after that I visited the care home in Barlick where he stayed during his final years. He died quietly with no fuss in 2007 when he was 98 and the world was poorer for his passing.

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Fred at Bancroft in 1977. A good man and a proper gentleman. It was a privilege to work with him.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 17 Apr 2017, 03:23

CHAPTER 21: WEAVING OUT

It may well be that there is a serious gap in my reading and research because I can’t ever remember reading anything detailed about the process of weaving a shed out. I want to fill this gap. Luckily I don’t have to rely totally on memory because as soon as we heard the news of closure I started to make an audio diary of what was happening. I shall rely on this heavily so remember that if you get impressions of sadness, anger or resignation this is because these were the emotions that were ruling us at the time.

Here’s the first thing I recorded, “Today is Thursday 21st of September 1978. On Tuesday 19th September we finally got the word that we have been expecting for a long time now that this mill is going to weave out on December 22nd. In other words, we are all going to be redundant, out of a job. This is no shock but it’s very sad. I think everybody feels the same way about it. It's a shame, Bancroft is a happy place to work at, and it seems that happy places to work at can’t make money these days.”

I think that sets the scene for our story, despite the fact that we all knew what was coming, the confirmation of our worst fears was a blow. It’s fair to say that we were in shock. Looking back on the event thirty years later I am glad that I was part of it happening. It meant that I could observe and share the reactions of my fellow workers and if I am reminded of anything, it is the spirit that was abroad in WW2. We were in trouble, the future was uncertain and the defence was to look after each other and make sure we never lost our sense of humour. I learned more about the character of the workers in the next three months than in the preceding six years.
[From here, anything that I have lifted verbatim from my audio diary will be in quotation marks]

“I should just explain one or two things about the actual mechanics of weaving a shed out. It has to be understood that weaving, like any other manufacturing process, is a pipeline, raw materials are going in at one end and finished cloth comes out at the other. When I say finished cloth it’s grey cloth in our case which is the trade term for unfinished cloth, it’s actually white unbleached cloth. We have to contract for our raw materials and people also contract with us to supply them with cloth so it isn't possible to just shut the doors and go home and say ‘That’s it, Bancroft's finished.’, we have to honour our yarn and cloth contracts. In effect what this means is that Bancroft will now start to weave out. In other words as cloth contracts finish machines will be shut down and they won't start up again. As the number of looms drop, so the number of weavers will drop. We still have some sets to tape but as soon as they have been done the taper will go. So we are now entering a period of rapid decline which will last about three months and we shall weave out on or about 22nd of December. It may be a day or two earlier. Who knows, we might have a little more to do, I don't know but it will be something like that. When we reach the end the mill will be run by three or four people, the last tackler and possibly one weaver will be weaving out. Jim the manager will still be here because he has got his twelve week notice and of course I shall still be here to provide motive power. I shall make sure the fire beater's also here as well. I can see the situation arising where the management will say that due to the decreased load we don’t need a fire beater. That’s wrong because as the load decreases on the engine it becomes more difficult and dangerous to run. In many ways the easiest engine to run is a fairly heavily loaded engine because you have no problem about suddenly fluctuating load as any such event is such a small proportion of the total load. On very light loads you only need somebody to shut down one small thing and you could lose 25% of your load, which can mean your governor flying out. When I say the governor flying out, it moves in such a violent way that the safety gear overrides everything and shuts the steam off to the engine and stops it. However, I shall surmount these difficulties by running the engine at a lower pressure as we go on, even though there is no point running at below 80psi. because you lose so much efficiency.”
It interests me as I read this thirty year old material that even in the first days of weaving out I was thinking about the strategies we needed to adopt to stay safe. My biggest fear was having an accident in the last days of the mill as circumstances changed. I spent a lot of time trying to foresee the difficulties and forestalling them. While we are talking about safety we should look at the governor in greater detail because its efficient operation was going to be very important as the load dropped.

“The governor is driven by three ropes down the right hand side of the flywheel from a pulley on the fly shaft to a pulley at the bottom of the governor. From there the motion is transmitted by a bevel gear to the shaft up the centre of the column to the governor. This shaft and the bob weights turn proportionate to the speed of the flywheel shaft. We might as well get it over with, the old joke about the governor is that as the speed rises the governor's balls fly outwards. The action of the governor is self evident, as the speed rises the balls are pulled outwards by centrifugal force. As they try to fly out they raise a bob weight on the drive shaft which is just a way of counterbalancing the power in the balls. As the bob weight moves up and down it controls the linkage which connects the governor to the Dobson block catches in the valve gear which control the amount of opening on the valves. The result is that as the engine speeds up the governor shortens the travel on the valves and as the engine slows down the governor lengthens the travel thus keeping the engine at a constant speed. There is also the Wilby speed regulator which improves the action of the governor. If there was no speed regulator the governor would have to control the valves over the full extent of their travel which would mean that a very small movement on the governor would mean a large alteration of the valves. This would mean that it was very sensitive and this is a bad thing in a governor as it leads to what we call hunting. In other words the governor overcorrecting one way or the other all the time, it can't settle down to a steady level.

The regulator gets over this difficulty by allowing you to build the governor in such a way that it only controls a very narrow range of the actual valve travel, thus making it very steady. This means that if the fluctuation of load on the engine extends beyond the range which the governor can cope with it can't manage it. This is catered for by the speed regulator which alters the length of the linkage rods between the governor and the valve gear. This means that the governor controls a fairly narrow range of the engine speed and the speed regulator moves that range up and down the total power range of the engine. So what you have is a very steady governor working on a small range of the valve travel and the speed regulator alters the position of that range in relation to the overall range of the engine power as and when it’s needed during the day. This means that in the case of any sudden load on the engine or sudden cessation of load due to a shaft breaking or perhaps the governor ropes breaking, something like that, the governor can't cope, so there is a safety gear fitted. The safety gear consists of a peg which, if there is a sudden violent fluctuation of the governor one way or the other breaks the link in the connection of the governor to the valves. The governor rod drops to the bottom and both steam valves on the high pressure cylinder are shut by the dashpot springs and don’t open again until the gear has been reset. This means that no steam is going to the engine and it slows to a halt. This safety gear is also controlled by a system of buttons in the mill and the shed similar to a fire alarm. If you break the glass the switch in the casing flies open, breaks the circuit and a hammer drops on the governor and knocks out the safety peg. This is a very safe system because the solenoid which holds the hammer up is powered by the supply of electricity that comes through these buttons from the mill. If the supply of electricity to this safety gear ever failed the hammer would automatically drop and the engine would stop so it's a fail safe mechanism. If there is any malfunction in the safety gear itself the engine will stop.

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The Lumb governor and Wilby speed regulator.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 18 Apr 2017, 04:13

In fact this isn’t a very efficient way of stopping an engine. An engine is like a railway train, it's a large moving mass with a lot of energy locked up in it. The flywheel and shaft weigh something like 30 tons and it's moving at 69rpm. There is about 300 tons of shafting in the shed which is all moving and full of kinetic energy. It's impossible to stop it immediately so even if somebody breaks the circuit in the mill it'll be at least two or three minutes before the engine stops which would be a long time if you were caught up in a shaft and being dragged round by it. There is a way of speeding up the stopping of the engine and that is by having a vacuum breaker as well. In other words, when the safety gear is tripped, it not only shuts the steam valves but also opens a valve on the exhaust to the condenser which allows air to rush in and break the vacuum on the low pressure cylinder. This is because even when the steam's turned off, for a minute or so there is enough vacuum in the system to keep the engine running. This engine hasn’t got a vacuum breaker on and never has had. I can’t really understand why, I should have thought that every engine would have had one.”

I think it may be about time I made a confession about the Tate’s Patent Stop Motion on the Bancroft engine. In theory this was a brilliant safety device that was fail-safe and enabled anyone in any part of the mill to stop the engine if necessary… The only problem was that it didn’t work. That’s right, it was useless. The problem was that when the solenoid was de-activated and the hammer fell it didn’t knock the cam out in the governor linage. I tried many a time to adjust it so that it would stay in under normal running but work when the hammer dropped. I never succeeded. I’m sure if I had applied myself more to the problem I could have cracked it but I never bothered because I was protected by the over and under speed catch and was constantly in attendance. Nobody will admit it but many of these stop motions were either ineffective or by-passed.
I have a story about safety… I was running the engine one day when the fire alarm went off. In theory what I should have done was stop the engine immediately and go round to ensure that the mill was evacuated. What I actually did was heave a big sigh because from previous experience I knew that what was most probable was that a tackler had caught one of the fire alarm buttons with the pike on the end of a warp and broken the glass. So I cancelled the alarm, walked round the engine checking my oils and then went to the treasure chest, got a spare glass and the key for opening the alarm button case and sauntered out into the warehouse on my way to the shed.

The first thing I saw was Ernie, one of the clothlookers, running across the top of the warehouse and into the shed carrying a teapot. This was not normal behaviour, Ernie didn’t usually run and never with a teapot in hand. Intrigued, I went into the shed which was working as normal except for two things, Billy Two Rivers was stood next to one of the engine stop buttons with a tackler’s spanner in his hand and when I came through the door he said ‘Shall I stop the engine Stanley?” I told him no because I knew it wouldn’t work and anyway I had no spare glasses for those buttons, they were bigger. I think Billy was quite disappointed, he’d worked in the mill all his life and never had a chance to stop the engine.

The other curious circumstance was a faint haze of blue smoke in the middle of the shed. I went to it and found Ernie extinguishing a small amount of glowing waste cotton under a loom by pouring water on it from the teapot. It was very effective and the smouldering waste was soon cold and wet. What had happened was that the bottom rod of the loom had been rubbing on the floor and the friction had started the waste smouldering. Problem solved, I replaced the broken glass, went back to the engine house, initiated the alarm system again and tested it and then brewed up. It was only as I sat there that the full enormity of what I had done struck me, suppose it had been a serious fire, I could have been responsible for death and injury. I made a mental note that in future I would behave differently and got on with the day. Looking back this was a very human failing, I admit I was totally in the wrong but this is how human beings react to circumstances like these, they think that it can’t be happening. I was lucky, no harm done but a lesson had been learned. I am reminded of the story about Napoleon who, when being told about the virtues of a general interrupted his informant and said “Yes, but is he lucky?” You can be the best man in the world but every now and then you need luck on your side. There is one other matter which strikes me, I knew that if I stopped the engine while the tapes were running and the tapers didn’t get across to the donkey engine quickly enough to get it in gear and keep their machines going it would ruin the warp being taped, an expensive matter. This is no excuse but was one of the factors I would have in mind.

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One of the engine stop buttons in the shed. Impressive but useless!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 19 Apr 2017, 04:22

I think I talked more to the weavers once we knew we were on the way out and if anything this reinforced my opinion that they were the salt of the earth. I think if anything we had more laughs at this time than before. I can remember being party to a hilarious conversation with Phyllis Watson and Gwen about a film they had been to see, ‘Last Tango in Paris’. I remember that I found them creased with laughter next to the tea urn and when I asked to share the joke Phyllis told me it was about the strange things people could do with half a pound of butter. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination but my education was advanced yet again.
One of the unexpected problems we encountered was the depressing effect that empty looms had on the weavers. When we started weaving out there were probably 400 looms in the shed that had been empty for years and over time they had acquired a covering of dawn or fly, perhaps over an inch thick in places. They looked for all the world as though they had been left out in a snow storm. These never seemed to bother the weavers but when sets started emptying amongst the working looms and a weaver suddenly found herself surrounded by dead looms and a friend who had woven there was missing it hit them hard. Jim soon caught on to this and after having a word with the weavers concerned he spoke to the tacklers and we gradually consolidated the looms that were still running to the front of the shed nearest the warehouse.
Some of the weavers and a couple of the tacklers decided not to wait until the bitter end and left voluntarily. This meant that they didn’t get the statutory redundancy pay but they thought it was worth going into another job rather than facing the long slow decline. The redundancy pay wasn’t much, anyone who qualified received one weeks pay for every year worked up to a maximum of 20 years. This was hard on anyone who had more than twenty years of service and in some cases got harder still. If you were coming up for retirement and that date fell before the actual closure you got nothing. Fred Cope, one of the clothlookers fell into this trap. He had more than twenty years service but was due to retire, poor Fred didn’t get a halfpenny which we all thought was rotten luck. There was more, when I got my form RP3, the official notification of redundancy pay due to me, I found that the redundancy payment was based on a flat weeks wage with no overtime. I argued successfully that this was wrong and the payment should be based on total pay including overtime averaged over the 12 weeks before the notice was given. It took a couple of weeks of infighting with the office but when I threatened to take the firm to court they agreed that I was right. I made sure that everyone knew exactly what had happened to me so that they could check their payments. I could have done without this, it left a nasty taste in the mouth. There was another niggling little thing, we were running out of toilet rolls. Don’t ask me why but as engineer I was the keeper of the toilet rolls! When I put an order into the office I was told not to bother “They would bring their own.”. I have to report that there was a confrontation and the toilet rolls were bought but in penny packets as required from the local supermarket.

While all this was going on I was working hard on the Lancashire Textile Project in my spare time. Knowledge that we were on our last legs spurred me on to add to my archive of photographs of the mill while I had a chance. There was only one problem, film was expensive and I was watching the pennies, we didn’t know where my next wage was going to come from. I gave it a bit of thought and what transpired was one of the nice things that happened as we were sliding towards the abyss. I rang Tom Clark’s secretary at Silentnight, I think the lady’s name was Mrs Tyldsley and she had worked as his secretary forever. I asked her to have a word with Tom and let him know I needed £50 for film. An hour later a chauffeur driven limousine rolled up outside the engine house and Mrs Tyldsley got out, came into the engine house and shoved five tenners into my hand. I thanked her and asked if she needed a receipt, she said there was no need, the money was out of Tom’s back pocket. A nice gesture and not the first time he had helped. What sun there was shone a little brighter that day.

“It is a truism that a weaving manager likes to go into the shed and see the weavers sat down because that is when they are making money. A good weaver isn't sat there if there is any shuttling to do or any ends down so if the weaver's sat at the end of the alley it means that everything's weaving all right and there is cloth rolling off. In other words, as long as they are sat down it's 100% production. When you come to think, this is true of a lot of other trades as well. I know if I was employing a man and he was for ever rushing around in small circles I’d start worrying about him. I like the men that always seem to have plenty of time and that's one of the things about weaving, a good weaver is a joy to watch, there isn't a movement wasted and every chance they get they’ll sit down and take a rest. They seem to work round in a rotation, even on different weights of weft, where shuttles aren’t lasting the same length of time, they are to be able to keep up a routine and a rotation round the looms. This means that they never have to run from one end of the alley to the other. Just one of the little skills that goes to make up a good weaver and we have got some good weavers here. I’m afraid they are dying out, nobody's training them now. Apart from anything else, in order to train a weaver, the weaver has to have an incentive to work, and that's one of the things that’s missing now, there isn't the same incentive to work as there was. Take our position now, we are going to be redundant on the 22nd of December. We are told that we'll get redundancy money, earnings related supplement, the dole and back tax. Wages are so low in this shed that some employees will actually be getting more money on the dole than they would if they were working. When John Plummer came to work with me he took a drop in income to get back into a job, he could get more from the benefits system because he had children than he could make on his wage. In many ways this is a fine thing, I'd rather have that than the hungry old days, but in other ways it's wrong, people should have to work for their living.”

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Left to right: Essie, Susan, Gwen and Phyllis. Lovely ladies and a joy to work with them!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 20 Apr 2017, 03:40

I sat there looking at the engine, installed in 1920, just about run in and good for at least another 100 years knowing that on the balance of probabilities it would be scrapped inside 6 months. Scrapping an engine is murder, especially when you have had something to do with it. A steam engine is almost a living being, I don’t know what it is about them, I've often puzzled over this. I think part of it is the gentle giant syndrome, everybody likes elephants, big blokes, big ships and steam locos. They are warm, they keep you warm in winter. Mill engines are lovely things to work on, plenty of room, plenty of stuff to polish up - not that I have ever been noted for going crackers with the Brasso! I'd rather keep them running sweet. You can sit in a house with an engine running smoothly and it is very soothing.

No doubt the more technically minded amongst the people who read this will know something about indicating steam engines. Indicating a steam engine is a way of finding out exactly what's going on inside the cylinder as an aid to valve settings and diagnosis of faults. There has probably more been written about indication than any other single subject concerned with steam engines. I'm afraid that I am here today to tell you that the biggest part of it is all a load of tripe. There’s a lot of difference between the theory of running a steam engine and the practice, and I should think this is the same in every other walk of life. It’s possible to adjust the valves on this engine to give a perfect indicator diagram and the engine will run like a basket full of pots. There is only one thing that counts, how evenly the flywheel is being turned and that’s basically all you need to know about whether an engine is running right or not. It's easy to tell with a rope drive engine, when you go into an engine house where there is a rope drive just look at the ropes. If they are swinging across to the second motion pulley in a big smooth curve and hardly kicking at all, just gently rising and falling, that engine's running right. If you go in and you see the ropes flogging about and jumping up and down, either they have been very unfortunate and they have got a very bad rope drive, in other words the harmonic frequencies in the drive are wrong, or they have got a badly adjusted engine, most likely the latter. So, the rule about indicating is that it's a good thing to do every couple of months just to give you an idea of any faults that are developing but it certainly is not the ultimate guide to valve setting. There are so many things which can affect the running of a steam engine and really the only way to get to know is to sit with them and live with them as I have with this engine for the last five years.

“In three months all this'll be over and it's very sad. You have got to make a conscious effort not to actually, I wouldn't say go into a decline, but you have got to harden yourself against the knowledge that everything that you have looked after and cared for is going to be smashed up. It killed people in the old days, some of the old engine tenters just went into a decline and quietly died when they smashed their engines up. I can understand it. I must admit to being depressed myself this morning, it’s a couple of days now since we got the word and it's just about sunk in. What we have to look forward to is decline. It'll finish up that there'll just be Jim Pollard, Ernie Roberts on the last set of looms, me running the engine and John Plummer on the boiler. There'll be four of us and we'll have the job of killing it. I say we'll have the job of killing it, we won't actually, I shan't because I have already told Newton Pickles from Brown and Pickles that he can stop this engine for the last time. It's the last one he worked on, all the others have gone so I think it's only fair that he should stop it. When this engine stops it'll be the end of an era for Barnoldswick anyway, the last engine in Pendle and the last of the big weaving mills in Barnoldswick. This town used to have 25,000 looms to 11,000 people and when Bancroft stops that's it, there'll just be two little units, one with about 80 loom and the other with 98. What we are seeing is the end of the first part of the industrial revolution. In some ways I am glad I've been here to see it. In fact I am very grateful for the chance that I have had to record the finish but in other ways I am very sorry because what started off as just an interesting job and a pleasant exercise has become for me, the same as a lot of other people in the industry, a way of life and there is going to be a big change in my life when this engine stops. Anyway, I suppose we'd better look to the future and remember those famous words of Walt Fisher, ‘When they did away with the engines, they did away with a lot of bloody hard work.’”

That was direct from the audio diary and it was straight from the heart. However, the depression I was feeling then had to be put on one side because we had an engine and a shed to look after.

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Spring Mill engine at Earby laid in the yard waiting to be carted away for scrap. Such a waste, it was fit for many more years of service.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 21 Apr 2017, 04:09

Running a plant like Bancroft is largely a matter of having a good routine. There are jobs like checking the oils on the engine that have to be done every ten minutes, the other maintenance jobs like lubricating the big lineshaft bearings can range up to a month. Others are even longer. One of the thoughts that constantly came to mind was that in the middle of a task you’d suddenly realise that this was the last time you would have to do it. It wasn’t until it came to this that you realised how soul-destroying the job of weaving out could be.

One good thing about the amount of time and effort I had put unto getting the engine as near to perfect adjustment as possible was that it was much easier to manage on the declining load. It’s the biggest test of an engine. I remember Newton coming in to sit with me one day and as we were supping our tea he asked me how many looms I had on and I think it was under 100. The steam was at 140psi and the engine running beautifully on very small valve openings. He paid me the biggest compliment I ever had, he said “It’s running better than any time since it was new. We might make an engine tenter out of you yet!” Praise indeed from a man who probably knew more about steam engines than anyone else in the world at that time. I was lucky in many ways, not least in having Newton for a mentor.

By the time we got into the final days we had got a good routine going and were managing well. We were in the heating season and it was interesting to see how little difference there was in coal consumption as the load went off. This was confirmation of what I had always said about the relative energy consumption of the engine, heating and process. I think that in a way we had all resigned ourselves to our fate and it was slightly less depressing.

There was another change that was a constant reminder of what was happening. One of the consequences of being one of the last steam-driven mills was that we always had a trickle of people turning up at the engine house asking to see the engine. I always treated them well and enjoyed the interest but as we neared extinction the word got round and we got more and more visitors. I still let them in and was polite to them but every now and then I cracked and told them that it was strange that we had run in almost total obscurity for 57 years and we were suddenly a must-see attraction.

The visitors weren’t all your normal steam enthusiasts, we were honoured by a rather more important personage one day when Peter White, the Inspector Of Ancient Monuments from English Heritage called in. I asked him how the government could allow what was probably the best example of a steam-driven mill be destroyed, together with all the skills that went with it. I asked him if he knew that Brown and Pickles were going to finish as well, another repository of irreplaceable skills. I said that the obvious thing to do was buy the mill, divide the shed, install B&P in one side and weavers on the other and run the mill making tea towels for the government and using B&P as an apprentice school and heritage engineering resource. He told me that the government couldn’t be seen as entering into competition with industry and so it couldn’t happen. I asked him how we were any different from the Royal Ordnance Factories or the Royal dockyards. It made no difference. He told me that the decision had been made to let Bancroft go and then run screaming rape down the corridors of power to reinforce the plan of taking over Jubilee Mill at Padiham as the show-case steam-driven weaving mill, they were still running at the time. The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley…They lost Jubilee when it was demolished by N&R and finished up with Queen Street at Harle Syke as the last steam weaving shed, possibly the worst one they could have chosen. I still think that my scheme was viable but it’s all water under the bridge now.

I have a story about the ‘last weaving shed’… From 1984 onwards I was in charge of rescuing the Ellenroad engine at Newhey near Rochdale and in the process of doing this I became aware of a weaving shed at Norden, Cudworth’s at Baitings Mill. It wasn’t running but when I went to look at it I found it was a complete steam-driven weaving shed. There was a sequel. I can’t remember the exact date, it would be about 1989, I had been invited by Peter White to accompany a Council of Europe jolly across northern England looking at industrial heritage sites. The excuse for me being there was the Lancashire Textile Project and all the work I had done on big artefacts. I couldn’t be with them at the start and joined the party in Durham. Put your hard hats on, there’s going to be some serious name-dropping here! I was in the crypt of either the cathedral or the castle taking wine with Lord Montague who was at that time the chair of English Heritage and various senior members of the organisation and I decided to be naughty. I asked Lord Montague if I was right in thinking that the basis for the decision to fund Queen Street at Harle Syke was that it was the ‘Last Steam Driven Weaving Shed’. He said that this was correct. As I opened my mouth I could see heads shaking in the background and eyes rolling upwards as they realised what I was going to say next.

I said, Are you aware there’s another steam driven weaving shed in Rochdale? It was a moment to cherish, they all knew there was one but they weren’t interested in it so they had ignored it. LM was very interested and asked me to send him details. I did, I sent him a full set of pictures of the mill and received in reply the standard small ‘your communication has been received’ postcard. End of story, deep-sixed. In truth Baitings Mill at Norden wasn’t a very interesting building but it had all the elements of a steam driven shed. What upset me was the fact that they all knew about it but ignored it for their own ends, it would have been ‘untidy’ to recognise it.

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Dining with the men with the shoes at Durham. Lord Montagu is the white haired bloke with the sideburns. All the great and the good from the heritage establishment were there, I just had to go on record. I got some Brownie Points in English Heritage for doing it.....
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Whyperion » 21 Apr 2017, 12:03

I once told Lord Montague , not so much where to go, as when to go (I was stewarding in London at a motor-vehicle event in London and it was a 6m start - which for me was early!)

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 22 Apr 2017, 03:10

A few years later I got a request from my good friend Robert Aram. He asked me to go over to Baitings at Norden and photograph the loom-breaking and dismantling of the engine. I did this and it was just like the old days, blood and mud and smoke and destruction. As Robert said, it’s the last one we’ll see. When I got home I rang EH in London and got hold of a nice young lady in the NW Region office who knew nothing. I was very kind to her and told her that if she wanted to spread joy she should go to her boss in the NW division and say “Stanley says you’re safe. Cudworth’s are scrapping everything at Baitings Mill”. She asked for my name and number but of course, nobody ever got back to me…

There was another possible buyer for Bancroft. A man called Malcolm Dunphy at Rochdale had a business manufacturing oil burners for industrial boilers and he was interested. He visited us one day and the first we knew about it was when a helicopter landed in the field next to the office. Talk about a clash of technologies! This overture fell through and in the end it was N&R Contractors, the demolition men, that bought the mill. At that time you could have bought Bancroft as a going concern running at a profit with a skilled workforce for £60,000. Incredible isn’t it…

We found that we were news, radio reporters and television crews descended on us, sucked the juice out of the images and vanished. We became a three minute slot on the evening news.
It’s December 12th and here’s part of my diary for the day. It gives you some idea of how things were going with us and the industry in general.

“Just a few thoughts today on what it's like to be working in a mill that's weaving out. The only people who are working normally now are myself and John Plummer the firebeater. When I say normally, we are the only people who are doing exactly the same job that we have done for the last six years, the same as has been done ever since the mill started. We are still making steam, running the engine and producing power to drive the mill. The difference being that the load is now much reduced, there are very few warps left in the shed, most of the weavers have three, four or five looms empty. All taping has stopped, looming's stopped, winding is very nearly finished, there are no yarn deliveries, no back beams coming in. The only wagons that come in now are vehicles taking empties out to take them back to mills so that we can draw the deposits on them. We did send one other delivery out the other day which was a very sad one. We sold some looms. Sutcliffe and Clarkson's at Wiseman Street in Burnley, who still run on a steam engine bought some looms off us to complete an order for us which they will take over and weave themselves afterwards. It’s a steady order for some very strong cloth, the heading here is ‘Two Brown’, it's a very strong pure cotton cloth. I’m not sure what it’s used for, I think it's for polishing buffs in the metal finishing industry. The big laugh about this was that the day we delivered the looms there was a big headline in the Evening Star at Burnley that Stayflex, the firm which owns Sutcliffe & Clarkson, had gone bankrupt that day with a deficiency of £6,500,000 which left us in trouble in several ways. One was they had got our looms and we hadn't got the money. The second was that they weren't able to complete the order and we’ll have to find somebody else to complete it and the third was the fact that Stayflex, the firm that owns Sutcliffe & Clarkson's also owns one of our biggest cloth customers and we have a lot of cloth in the warehouse ready to be delivered to them. We had known that they were in low water for a bit and we haven’t delivered any cloth to them unless they paid for it up front. Well now of course we have a load of cloth stood up there at the top of the warehouse which is never going to go out or at least not to that firm. It is a fairly common cloth and we’ll probably be able to find another customer for it but not before December 22nd, so we shan't finish up with a clearance of cloth in the warehouse. An interesting point about Sutcliffe & Clarkson's closure is that the original owner of the firm, Reg. Clarkson who has about two years to do still works there as a manager and the last information we had was that he had gone to Leeds to try and buy the mill back off the receivers! Sutcliffe & Clarkson is one of the few mills in this area that is full up to the doors. They have 500 looms and they are working flat out and making a profit. Reg said he didn’t see the point in throwing 150 people out of work just because Stayflex themselves have gone bust. Whether he will buy the mill back is anybody's guess, I don’t know, but they have told us they are continuing trading, that they will weave the order and that we will get paid for the looms. This is Sutcliffe & Clarkson of course and not Stayflex which looks vaguely hopeful.

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The vultures descended on us for their 3 minutes of filler after the news.

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A sad sight, good looms leaving the shed.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 23 Apr 2017, 04:43

News of another closure yesterday, Greens at Abbey Mill, Whalley who also have a steam engine. This is the firm that offered me a job in October which I refused and they are to finish in March. It’s only about three weeks since that Newton Pickles was down there weighing everything up and quoting them for electrifying the shafting, in other words putting an electric motor at the end of each cross shaft in the shed to drive the looms. I think the quotation was for about £2,300 for each shaft for a 30 HP Horace Green motor from Cononley, the best motors money could buy. This included all the necessary alterations to the shaft, bearing and wall plate. I asked him at the time whether he thought this would ever be done because to my knowledge this is the fourth time that Greens have been quoted for electrifying the mill because the engine has been in a dodgy condition for a long while. He said that it looked as if they were going to do it this time, there you are, it’s not going to happen.”

I forget when it happened but at some point during this last year we heard that Boardman’s had been bought out by money from India, we never knew the full details of this, it didn’t seem to make much difference to how we ran, Birtles was still the managing director and everything went on as before. Let’s go back to December 12th 1978.
“Another interesting point that has emerged is the fact that we are not the only firm that is being closed down after being bought out by Indian money. It appears that Indian money is coming into Lancashire in order to buy cotton weavers out and close them down. It makes you wonder whether they can see their costs rising and realise that in five or ten years Lancashire textiles could be competitive again so before this happens they are making sure that the units of production are reduced as much as possible. It won’t be costing them any money because they'll be stripping the assets and they'll get back what they paid for them. All clever stuff, I have no doubt that we have done it from time to time in other places, they appear to have learnt very well off us! I was talking to a traveller the other day and he tells me that he knows of at least 12 firms who have been closed down this year in this way and we are one of them. I also mentioned it to Doug Hoyle who was the MP for Nelson and he told me it was true. Be that as it may we are left in the position of running this mill now until Friday December 22nd or such time as no weavers turn in. The reason I say this is that I can't see us running until December 22nd. All redundancy money is to be paid out on Wednesday 20th, all holiday pay and wages owing. They are going to estimate the wages and pay everything out on Wednesday December 20th. So in other words this is going to be the last time any of us draw any money off the firm of James Nutter and Sons Ltd. I can't see the weavers coming in Thursday and Friday to weave in a shed when they could be out doing their Christmas shopping because Friday is the last shopping day before Christmas. There is of course Saturday, but who wants to go shopping on Saturday? So in all probability this engine and the mill will cease running on that Wednesday, fairly early I should imagine. Thursday we’ll probably have three or four weavers in and we might start the engine but I don't know. Friday, certainly not, I can't see it. It'll be a big shock to me if we start this engine on Friday the 22nd.”

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Peter Birtles, our managing director, in 1977.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 24 Apr 2017, 04:31

One of the earliest historians of the relatively new field of Industrial Archaeology was a man called Owen Ashmore who was professor in charge of the Manchester University Department of Extra-Mural Studies. He had written to me on the 11th of December asking whether he could visit and take a few pictures. I remember he sent me a stamped addressed envelope but I rang him at home and told him that if he came on Wednesday he would stand a good chance of seeing us stop forever. Wednesday came and we ran normally all morning. Newton turned up because I had tipped him off about what I thought would happen. Owen Ashmore arrived mid-morning saying that he couldn’t stay for long as he had another appointment. I told him to get his priorities sorted, if he waited until 12:30 he’d see the engine stop for the last time. Nobody knew this for certain of course but I was ready to put money on it. I had a word with Newton and we decided that we’d stop as normal as though it was the end of the day and then he and I and John would come in on Thursday, run the engine while we flooded it with oil and then shut down, blow the boiler down and drain everything as a frost prevention measure. I wanted to make sure that if anyone ever wanted to start the engine they would have a fighting chance. At noon I asked John to burn the fires off, ash out and bank the boiler as normal. He got on with that while we waited for stopping time at 12:30. As it came up to time I told Newton to get on with it and get the engine stopped. He demurred but I told him that he had looked after it all its life together with all the other engines in the town so it was only right that he should stop it. He went round, shut all the oils down, opened the drains and stopped the engine while I photographed him doing it. The engine rolled to a halt and that was it. I was proved right, the workers all waited in the warehouse dressed ready for home, drew their money and slipped away. Bancroft was finished.

Image

Newton stopping the engine for the last time on a working day.

Image

The staff waiting for their last pay, note they are all ready for going home!

Image

Stanley stopping the engine the day after for the last time. We had run the engine and flooded it with oil.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 25 Apr 2017, 04:04

CHAPTER 22: MOTH-BALLING THE PLANT

Everybody had finished but John and I had things to do before we could walk away from the mill. Before I tell that story, here’s the last section of the audio diary I made at the time.

“We are attracting a lot of attention from the preservationists, people who want to see the mill and its industry its technology preserved for the future, it is regarded as part of our textile heritage. Two things about this, it's rather late in the day to suddenly realise that you are losing something as important as Bancroft, and second and even more important, everybody loses sight of the fact that it isn’t the machinery and the technology that matters as much as the people. There’s only been one solitary voice apart from my own raised in defence of the workers who were going to lose their jobs. This was a man in Earby, a councillor, and my heart warmed to him when I saw the letter he wrote to the local paper. The striking thing is that the people who want to preserve the mill would never consider working in it, the conditions are so lousy, the wages so bad, toilets with cast iron grilles in so that the wind can blow through and discourage people from sitting there too long, floors that are so rough as to be positively dangerous if you are wheeling something across them or walking across them, inefficient heating system, no canteen facilities. The transport to and from the mill which is regarded as essential nowadays is an old van with wooden seats in the back. The wage is ridiculous, there isn’t a weaver in the shed that can earn £1 an hour during a week of hard work. If an industry gets to the stage where it can’t pay the workers a wage commensurate with the effort and skill that they put into their work it's time it closed. As regards preserving our textile heritage, I think that the sort of thing that I have been doing with the tape recordings and photographs is the way to do it. They take into account the things that really matter, the people and the technology. The artefacts are important of course, but we have steam engines preserved now, we have Lancashire looms in museums, we have mules, drawing frames, anything you care to mention, we have already got it in museums. What we need is the story of the people, their skills and how they felt about the industry. One thing is sure and certain, nobody at Bancroft wants to stay on, nobody wants to keep running, we are all absolutely fed up. It’s a very depressing thing to be working in a factory which is slowly dying underneath you, I never realised it would be as bad as it is, it really does get you down.

We haven’t long to go now, a week today and we’ll be on the last lap. I was asked the other day what my overall thoughts were about Bancroft. I think I’ve said most of the things I want to say about the actual closure, it's a very depressing thing, but I am glad that I came to work here and I am glad that I was able to see what a weaving mill actually looks like, how it works and what the atmosphere is like. This is a very old fashioned industry, it's also a very happy one. One thing that nobody can ever say about Bancroft is that, during the period that I have known it anyway, it was an unhappy place to work, everybody likes working here and there is a good atmosphere. If I was asked to put my finger on the reason for it I'd say that people enjoy working in an industry, when I say enjoy working, that's the last thing they'd admit to, but they actually do, they enjoy working at a job where they can see the results of their efforts. It’s not some anonymous screw that they are making and sending off and they never see the end of it, they can see piles of cloth ready to go out in the warehouse and they understand that. The management is very close to them, in fact the management have very few decisions to make which concern the workers. There is a job to do, the weaver, and the winder, and the loomer and the taper know what that job is and they don't need any direction, they get down and do it for themselves in their own time and get it finished. The chain of command is very short, I think this is one of the secrets. I think that the thing that could take the heart out of a worker more than anything is the fact that they are never in contact with the people who are making the decisions. Obviously the big business decisions such as whether to close the mill or not had been nothing to do with us, they have been made far away, but a worker isn't really concerned about them, they aren’t part of the day to day working life. The day to day decisions are when you go for your weft, when you stop for a brew, how hard you work, things like that. The sad thing is that this sort of atmosphere and way of working doesn't seem to be commercial because we have had to stop. No doubt later when I have done spinning for the LTP my thoughts will become more clear and I might be able to come up with some positive conclusions, I hope so.”

On Thursday morning, 21st December 1978 John and I rolled into work late at about 08:00, woke the fires up, started to make steam and had a brew while we waited for Newton because I knew he would want to be in on the act. I had made sure that we had plenty of oil in stock and we were going to use it to good effect. When Newt rolled up we fed him on tea and a bacon butty and then I started the engine. As it ran we flooded all the bearings with oil and ran the cylinder lubricators at full bore. Quite a few people had heard we were running for the last time and turned up to watch us. I stopped the engine for the last time and as it rolled to a halt John Plummer tipped five gallons of anti-freeze I had won from somewhere into the air pump in the cellar. We were making sure there was no frost damage no matter how long it stood idle. Then we went round and smothered every bit of bright metal and cladding with oil. It looked a right mess when we had finished but was protected.

We went to the boiler then and helped John to burn off and ash out. I went up onto the boiler top and lifted the compound valve for the last time. I had asked John to make sure we had almost 160psi when we finished and we all stood back and watched and listened to a very satisfactory signal to the whole town that we had finished our shift. We knocked the lids in on the boiler after we had blown down and swept up. All that remained to do after that was drain the lodge and lock the place up. I had considered pinching one of the shed clocks but decided that would be dishonest. Sometime during the night somebody got in and took both of them…

Image

Newton supervising the oiling up of the engine.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 26 Apr 2017, 04:12

I had to go in on Friday, I had arranged with the water board to come and turn the mains water and the sprinkler supply off. This took about half an hour and that was it. I forget now what I had to do with the keys but some arrangement had been made. I had one last look in the engine house which was cooling down by then and felt dead. I locked the mill gates and walked away into another life…
I can’t resist one last story…


Friday the 8th November 1974, Bancroft engine house. Not a bad morning, we started as usual at 8am with the shed lights on so this meant a nice bit of load on the engine because we made our own power with an alternator driven by the engine. My firebeater Ben Gregory was finishing this week and I had a new bloke, Bob Parkinson, starting on Monday so I wouldn’t have the place to run single–handed which was hard work. All was well and I sat in my armchair at the desk in the corner of the engine house with a pint of tea and a bacon butty. Christmas was coming, things could be worse! The only nagging thought was the thump in the air pump on the low pressure side which had been there ever since I started at Bancroft and which everybody assured me was water hammer in the body of the pump due to a design fault. It had always been there so I had to live with it.

Being engine tenter on a large engine was a responsible job. Apart from obvious things like safety and economy, everybody’s wage depended on how well the engine performed. Smooth uninterrupted power going down the shaft into the shed meant the weavers stood a chance of making a decent wage. The worst thing that could happen was a stoppage due to my neglect so you never left the engine alone and walked round at least every ten minutes checking on all your oil feeds and looking for potential faults. This morning was no exception and on one of my trips round the oils that morning I noticed that the crosshead cotter on the high pressure side was bleeding a bit. The red oil coming out of the slot it was fitted in was a sure sign it was slightly loose.

At dinnertime, when the engine was stopped I got the hand hammer and gave the cotter a clout to drive it up and tighten it. It went in a shade and then sounded solid, job done and problems averted. On the way back round the engine to put the hammer away I clouted the low pressure cotter as I was passing and got a shock, it went up a quarter of an inch! I hit it again and it went in another eighth of an inch and felt soft. A job for Newton Pickles, I’d ring him as soon as we’d started and got settled down after dinner. When I started after dinner the engine sounded strange and it took me a few seconds to realise that the famous Bancroft thump in the air pump had vanished. The low pressure crosshead cotter must have been loose for years! Newton came up that evening and measured up for two new cotters and we scheduled the job for Friday the 20th of December, the day we finished for the Christmas break. On that day, Bob and Jim Fort came up from Brown and Pickles’ after dinner and as soon as the weavers had gone to the pub, they started on the cotters while Bob Parkinson and I blew the boiler down and got ready for flueing. We had to open up the boiler and flues and get them cool enough for Charlie Sutton and his gang from Weldone at Brierfield to get in the flues the following day and clear all the dust out that had accumulated since July. By Tuesday the 24th the cotters were in and fitted, the boiler was back together and fired up and I was ready at 3pm for Newton to call in on his way back from attending to an engine at Holmfirth, we were going to run the engine and check that all was OK.

As it happened, Newton was held up so Bob went home and I settled down in the warm engine house with my pipe and a pint of tea and the gentle hiss of steam passing into the engine to warm it. There was only one lamp lit and as it came dark the engine house gradually became a magic place. There was the wonderful smell of steam and hot oil, my pipe smoke drifting up into the roof and every now and again, a grunt as the metal of the engine expanded and Mary Jane and James, the two cylinders, settled down in a fresh position. Just after 5:30, Newton came in accompanied by his grandson John who was a lad at the time and had been across to Holmfirth with his granddad for a trip out. We put the shed lights in and after barring the engine round a couple of times to make sure nothing was catching in the low pressure cylinder, we’d altered the stroke of the piston slightly by fitting the new cotter, I started up and we listened to the engine.

It was a wonderful improvement, there wasn’t a sound out of the low pressure side, the engine was running like a rice pudding! We left it running and sat down at the desk with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label and had our Christmas drink! We’d earned it.

Now I realise that all my readers are not engineers and a lot of what I have told you here is double Dutch but I can assure you that anyone who had been with us in that engine house would have enjoyed the experience. There was just one bulb lit on the far side of the house and Newton and I sat there sipping whisky and listening to a perfectly tuned steam engine ticking away at 68 revolutions a minute. Young John couldn’t understand why we were sat there doing nothing and started agitating to go home. In the end Newton told him that if he wanted the engine stopping he’d better do it himself, we found him a buffet to stand on so he could reach the stop valve and he did it.
We shut everything down and sat there in the semi darkness with the whisky, the engine talking to us as it cooled down and the ghosts of the old engineers listening approvingly as we talked about engines and the magic of steam. Young John couldn’t understand why we weren’t going home and it wasn’t until we had finished the whisky off that we decided Christmas had better start or our wives, Olive and Vera, might have had something to say about it. By today’s standards I suppose Newton and I were victims, there we were, on Christmas Eve, having to work. It wasn’t like that to us, we were interested in the job and even though it was our living, were fascinated by the power of steam. It’s a happy bloke that can have an experience like that and when I look at the speed people are rushing about today chasing what they call quality time I can’t help feeling sorry for them. How many jobs give experiences like that which are fresh in the mind after 35 years?

Image

Young John stopping the engine at Bancroft after the new cotters had been fitted.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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