STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

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Stanley
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 09 Feb 2018, 05:11

When I went to Bancroft I was 37 years old. Apart from the long term problem of a back damaged by too much lifting in the early days I was in good health. I was as strong as a horse, I had no problem lifting 300 lbs and would throw a 45 gallon drum of oil upright from a horizontal position by myself, these drums weighed over 500 lbs. Firing the boiler involved a lot of shovelling of coal, I would think nothing of shifting five tons of coal into the bunker after the coal wagon had tipped, we couldn’t get it all in straight from the wagon and there was usually some to tidy up afterwards so that the boiler house door could be shut and locked.
On the whole then, the transition went well. I never for one minute questioned my decision to move and I don’t think it caused any problems at home either, what we had to report was progress, everything in the garden was looking fine!

THE WORK AT BANCROFT

Bancroft Shed was built by James Nutter with the profits he made from manufacturing in the room and power system whereby he rented accommodation in other local mills. Like other local manufacturers he found himself in a position at the beginning of the 20th century where he could afford to build his own mill and this was an economic proposition as the long term cost was less than paying rent. He started to build in 1914, the last weaving shed to be built in Barlick. Due to the war the shed wasn’t finished until March 1920 when it was opened with all due ceremony and started to produce cloth. You’ll notice as I tell this story that some mills are referred to as mills and others as sheds. Almost without exception the distinction is that a mill is a factory that once included spinning in its activities and a shed was built solely for weaving. In the early days of the industry mills often spun their own yarn but as the industry developed firms began to specialise to reduce costs and spinning died out in Barlick, it was cheaper to buy the yarn in from South Lancashire than manufacture it. Bancroft never had any spinning and so was always known as a mill but named Bancroft Shed. (In 2009 I published a book called ‘Bancroft Shed’ which describes what went on in the shed and the people who worked there. If you want the inside story go to Lulu.com and buy it. Alternatively there is a copy in the local library.)
The prime necessity for a steam driven mill is a reliable supply of water for the condenser pond. This water is used to cool the condenser on the engine which is essential to economic running. The pond or lodge was in effect a heat sink for the condenser. The water supply at Bancroft was Gillian’s Beck, the same beck that ran through the field at Hey Farm.
The main element of a mill like Bancroft is the large, single storey weaving shed sunk into the hillside. This was fronted by a two storey section which had the warehouse on the bottom floor and yarn and beam preparation departments upstairs. On the left hand end of the mill was an office block and on the right hand, the engine house with the boiler house and chimney behind. The construction of the building was absolutely typical, cast iron frame, stone walls and blue slate roofs. The lodge lay in front of the mill and there was space down the right hand side next to the boiler house and chimney for a large coal reserve in case there was any interruption in fuel supply.
The engine house was about the size of a small chapel and looked very much like one because of its large window in the north end. This window had a very practical purpose, if removed it would permit egress for the largest part of the engine in case of the need for repairs. Behind the engine house was the boiler house which contained the coal bunker which would hold about twenty tons of coal, the Lancashire boiler, the economisers and a smaller, disused Cornish boiler which had been installed after WWII to increase steam capacity but had never been a success because of lack of draught from the chimney. The 130ft high chimney stood behind the boiler house and was the exhaust for the gases produced when coal was burnt in the boiler to raise steam.
The man who looked after the engine was traditionally known as the ‘tenter’ or watcher. The man who fired the boiler was known locally as the ‘firebeater’, in other areas he would be called a stoker.
My job as firebeater was to raise steam by burning coal in the boiler to supply all the needs of the mill keeping a constant pressure of about 140psi. The problem the firebeater continually had to solve was that the demand for steam fluctuated because it was used for process and heating as well as driving the engine. The demand from the engine could alter suddenly if the lights had to be put on because we generated our own electricity and this could increase the load on the engine by 20%. I soon learned that the secret was anticipation and the more I knew about what was happening in the mill or the weather outside the better the estimates I could make of future demand. I had to predict ahead because one of the characteristics of a Lancashire boiler is that it is slow to react, if I wanted more steam I had to act 15 minutes before the demand came on. Once I had cracked the routine and the technicalities, which didn’t take long, the job became easy and a joy because you always had to be thinking ahead. It became a matter of pride to me that steam didn’t vary by more than five pounds unless there was an entirely unforeseen circumstance.
The engine fascinated me. If ever there was an example of pure, concentrated engineering, a working steam engine has to come somewhere near it. It embodied all the laws of thermodynamics, gas theory and mechanics. It was, on the surface, so simple and yet the more you studied it the more complicated it became. Imagine peeling an onion and on each succeeding skin you find writing, by layer three you are the stage of ‘Gone With the Wind’, a couple of layers later you are on a complete copy of the Bible and shortly after that you are expecting the complete ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’! I remember reading a report once of the retirement speech of Churchward, one of the great railway Chief Engineers, he said it was a pity he was retiring because after 50 years in the job he felt he was on the verge of understanding the simple slide valve! I think I know what he meant, I’m sure this applies to many more situations in life, if not all, but the steam engine brings it home to you very forcibly.

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The engine. I was on yet another learning curve!

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My new world, the Lancashire Boiler at Bancroft. More to it than met the eye....
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 10 Feb 2018, 04:22

A favourite calling shop in my peregrinations round the mill was the tackler’s cabin in the warehouse. The tacklers were the men who tuned the looms and kept them in order for the weavers, they each had their own set of looms, about 100 each, and knew the looms and the weavers intimately. I soon made a very good friend in Ernie Roberts, he was a marvellous bloke who had been ‘woven out’ five times. In other words he had been working at a mill where they were closing down and because of the nature of the job, the looms gradually reduce in number until there are none left, something like a slow death. Despite this, Ernie was still in the industry and had retained his sense of humour. He eventually reached the stage where his house was paid for and he could retire gracefully. After six months of well-earned rest he got a brain tumour and died a horrible death. It was so bloody unfair. It reinforced my oft-repeated contention that someone, somewhere has a very strange sense of humour!
I spent a lot of time with Ernie before he died and he was one of the first people I taped when I decided to record the industry. He told me some marvellous stories about his war service but two stand out in particular. Ernie was in Signals, he said that apart from shooting on the range he never fired his rifle once in anger! He was in India and Burma and on the quiet he had a hard war. He told me once that he and his mate Charlie were in a slit trench and there was a lot of ‘incoming mail’. As they cowered down with shells and mortars bombs raining down on their position Charlie said to him “Do you know what blood smells like?” Ernie said he didn’t and asked Charlie why he had put the question. “Because if it smells like shit, th’art wounded!” Another time, they were paraded and a man came and addressed them about the necessity to take imaginative measures to beat the Japanese. At the end of his speech he asked for volunteers, Charlie was about to take one pace forward when Ernie grabbed his shirt. “Stay where you are, this b****r’s mad!” It turned out that his name was Orde Wingate and he was calling for volunteers for the Chindits. He and his volunteers marched off into the jungle to almost certain death and very few of them survived, Ernie was dead right. Charlie came to a sad end. Ernie had been in his dugout most of the night and Charlie came to relieve him, “Sheath your sword Roberts, you’ve done enough for one night!” Ernie went to the cookhouse for a cup of tea but before he had finished it the dugout Charlie was in got a direct hit from a mortar bomb and he was killed.
Ernie got Black Water Fever. He was sent back to a forward hospital for assessment and one of the first examinations was of his stool. Ernie went off to a small canvas tent with a tin to produce the sample, one of the main indicators of Black Water Fever is very thin, black, evil-smelling motions, hence the name. He filled his tin and two blokes who were in there from a Highland regiment wrinkled their noses when they saw it and asked what it was. Ernie told them and added that it was a Blighty Ticket, in other words he would be invalided home as there was no cure. Five minutes later he emerged from the tent ten shillings richer having provided the other two with a sample. They all went home together. Ernie had what he called bootlace diarrhoea until the day he died, there are still people walking round carrying the burdens of the war like Ernie Roberts and Bill Robertshaw and we should never forget.
Back at the farm we were now without any form of transport. I decided we had better do something about this and so I bought two moribund Ford Anglias. The idea was to make one good car out of the two so I set to work in my spare time. I partially succeeded in the end but have to admit that even when I had finished, our ‘new’ car left a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, we were mobile and visits to my sister in Stockport and shopping trips to Burnley became possible. It’s perhaps indicative of how little I thought about the result that there is no picture of it in my negative files!
At this time I would occasionally go to work in the car if it was raining or if I had an errand to run during the day. I was going up towards the mill one morning and met Raymond Rance coming the opposite way in a brand new Morris Marina! This absolutely incensed me. Here I was, doing everything right and as honest as the day was long and there was Rance, who still owed me for the timber he had stolen off me and gone bankrupt into the bargain, riding round in a new car while I was trailing round in a scrapper! I couldn’t help tending towards the conclusion that something was wrong somewhere. A few days afterwards, Vera and I had been shopping somewhere Burnley way and as we returned home over Whitemoor Vera asked me why the car was making a funny noise. I told her I suspected it had broken in two and the noise she could hear was the gearbox dragging on the floor. I got it home, had a look underneath and welded in a temporary solution but my mind was racing now!
I went to several people who’s opinions I respected and told them of my problem and what I had in mind as a solution. They all agreed that I was thinking correctly and so, after consulting with Vera I sold the big field to our neighbour, young Sid Demain and went out and bought a brand new 12 seater diesel Land Rover Safari! It cost £4,800, more than twice what I had paid for the farm but was a wonderful investment, we were really mobile now. My idea was that it would be a safe if not speedy vehicle, it would have plenty of room for the kids and it could be used for other purposes as well. I could see that the mill wasn’t going to last for ever and a good utility vehicle like this would make an ideal mobile workshop. Old Arthur Entwistle thoroughly approved and we got to the stage where we went on visits to see him and Amy and eventually stayed at his son’s house as well.
Young Arthur was a different kettle of fish altogether than his father. On first acquaintance he was plausible and had some admirable skills, he had an interest in sub-aqua diving and I got my first experience of SCUBA gear through him at a swimming baths where he was doing an underwater repair which I enjoyed very much. He had bought the wreck of a Liberty Ship sunk off the Isle of Skye and supplemented his income by diving on it and retrieving non ferrous metals as a holiday. He had a shot-firer’s licence which he got by retrieving bodies free for Birmingham City Police in the days before they had their own underwater division. He had an agreement with them that he would do fifty bodies for them and in return, they would send him on an explosives course to ICI at Ardeer in Scotland to qualify for a shot-firer’s licence. He used submarine blasting gelignite to cut the large bronze castings underwater. He was also a source of cheap Land Rover spares, he said they were trade price but I always suspected there was a bit more to this than met the eye. In the end, young Arthur and I fell out over something, I can’t remember what it was but that was the end of that relationship. I remember explaining to Old Arthur why it had happened and he stopped me dead, he said I was quite right, I wasn’t the first, he understood and it wouldn’t affect us.
Shortly after I got the Land Rover I did something which even I find hard to believe now. Vera came out to the workshop one Saturday morning a couple of months after we had got the motor and found me lifting the engine out of it! She asked me what I was doing and I said I wasn’t satisfied with the engine, they had built it wrong and so I was going to strip it down, rebuild it and see if it was any better! She didn’t argue, she left me to it but I can well imagine that even Vera thought I’d gone too far this time. It took me two days but I completely stripped the engine and rebuilt it with one or two adjustments to my own specifications. I should say at this point I wasn’t working completely in the dark. For some time I had been reconditioning Rover diesel engines for Walt Johnson at Crawshawbooth where I had bought the motor and had gained a lot of insight into the basic faults of the engine. Walt always said my rebuilds were better than Rover’s. When I had it laced up together again I took it out for a run and what a difference! It ran quieter, had more power and used less diesel, game set and match to Stanley! (Could it have been an issue of control?)
Years later, Margaret my eldest daughter was at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire and she saw our old Safari parked nearby, (she never forgets a vehicle number). She went to the bloke who was sat in the driving seat eating his lunch and told him that her dad had bought his motor new. He said he’d like to meet me because he wanted to know what I had done to the chassis that had made it virtually rustproof. She told him I’d filled it with steam engine cylinder oil. She also said I’d rebuilt the engine while it was new and he told her that the engine had only had one set of injectors and a new pump and it had done almost 300,000 miles and hardly burnt any oil, I reckon I must have got that one about right!

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Margaret washing the Safari at Bancroft where the water drained away better.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 11 Feb 2018, 05:16

I had just about settled in at the mill when in December 1973 we had the fuel crisis and the three day week. There were power cuts and we were using oil lamps at times at the farm. We got right down to the bottom of the stock pile and I was burning coal which was sent over from the United States after the war. It was lousy stuff, I had to mix it with good coal to get it to burn! The paradox was that we were immune to power cuts as long as we had coal but it was strictly rationed. We never knew when coal was coming, we just had to take our turn. One day a wagon drew into the yard and asked if we were Bankfield Mill. I assumed temporary deafness and said yes and we backed him in and tipped his load. It was Sutton Manor Pit washed singles from over St Helens way and was wonderful steam coal. Of course I knew that he’d made a mistake, Bankfield Shed was the Rolls Royce factory and we had pinched 20 tons of their coal! It took about five days for the penny to drop but by that time it was too late to do anything about it, we had burned it. I left it to the management to sort out and carried on as best as I could.
The next milestone was July 1974 when George retired and I became engineer. We had advertised for a firebeater and a young lad called Ben Gregory applied and I gave him the job. He knew nothing but was young and prepared to learn. It was the Annual Wakes Week holidays, I was master of all I surveyed in the engine house and had my own labourer! It struck me at the time that there must be thousands of people in the country who would have given their eye teeth to have my job. We were one of the last engines to run and tenters were a dying breed. Another thought that came to me was that I must be the youngest bloke left in the country running an engine commercially and that one day, with a bit of luck, I would be the last!

ENGINEER AT BANCROFT SHED

The first thing I had to do when George retired was supervise the annual shut down and maintenance work on the boiler and engine. The boiler was under statutory insurance and had to be inspected at least every 14 months, in effect this meant every year at Barlick holidays. The insurance surveyor would let me know what items he wanted to inspect and I would have them stripped out and ready for him when he came. At the same time I would prepare the boiler for the flue men who came in to clean all the flue dust out of the flues round the boiler. If any scaling needed doing in the boiler they would do this as well. The object of the exercise was to have all the flues and the interior of the boiler clean and in fit condition to inspect by about Wednesday of the first week of the holidays, this gave time for any repairs or replacements before the mill opened again.
The first part of this was to blow the boiler down on the last day of work before the holidays started. We used to do this as soon as the weavers were out of the shed. This was often before official stopping time because it was an accepted fact that as soon as the weavers had their holiday pay in their hands they were off. Many a time we didn’t start again after dinner, this was a good thing for me and the firebeater as it gave us a good start.
By the time the weavers were gone, the firebeater would have drawn his fires and ashed out, in other words, all the clinker and ash was removed from the two furnaces. Then I would go on the top of the boiler and open the low water safety valve, propping the lever up with a couple of bricks, this allowed the steam in the boiler to escape to the open air through a three inch diameter pipe. This made a tremendous roar and signalled to the whole of Barlick that we were on holiday! I have a story for you about this. I forget exactly which year it was but it was the last day before the annual fortnight’s break and we were doing our usual routine, draw the fires and ash out before dinner because there would be no one working after as they’d drawn their pay. I was sat in the engine house having a brew and a sandwich when Jim Pollard the weaving manager, came in. He looked a bit harassed so I asked him what was up. He said the weavers were having a dispute with the management about holiday pay and the upshot was that until this was settled, they wouldn’t be going home as they were frightened of losing their pay. In other words I had to run the engine after lunch!
I told Jim we had a bit of a problem, we had drawn the fires. He said we’d have to relight them but there was no way I was going to do this. I went down and had a look and we had plenty of water and about 120psi on so I shut the dampers to stop the draught cooling the boiler and told Jim we’d run as long as we had steam, there wasn’t time to relight. He went off into the mill and we started up at 13:30 as usual. The point of this story is that we ran until 15:30 with no fire in, even I was amazed how little steam the engine was using. It reinforced a theory I had held for a long time that the place the heat went to was keeping the settings hot and making up heat losses, the engine hardly used any! We got away with this because as the pressure dropped the superheated water in the boiler effervesced and released more steam. This was the great advantage of the Lancashire boiler, its great water capacity made it slow to react to firing but ensured that there was a tremendous reserve of steam which could be used to iron out fluctuations in demand. If a situation arose where you were hard pressed to make steam as fast as it was used, you simply shut down the feed water and allowed the water level in the boiler to drop slowly. Governing the boiler with the feed pump against a fire adjusted to its most efficient level was the most economical way to run the boiler but depended on having a very reliable pump.
Anyway, back to our closing down routine. When the pressure had dropped to about 60psi I would go into the boiler house and open the blow-down valve under the front of the boiler. This allowed what water was left in the boiler to drain away under pressure, as the water drained out it carried much of the sediment which builds up in the boiler out with it. At the same time I would go out to the dam and open the clough which let all the water in the dam flow away down the beck, this took a lot of muck out of the dam with it.
While this was happening the firebeater and I would be having a brew. As soon as things quietened down we would go on top of the boiler and open the large manhole on top of the boiler and lift the lid out of the way with a block and tackle. This was a ticklish job because as soon as you opened the lid, scalding vapour would pour out until all the water had dried off the inside of the boiler. The trick was to knock the lid in and leave it hanging on the tackle until things had cooled down a bit. Then we would take a similar manhole out from the front of the boiler at the bottom and check that all the chimney dampers were wide open. At this point we left the boiler with cold air circulating through all the flues and through the water space of the boiler itself, the object was to have the boiler and settings cool enough next morning for the flue men to get in and do their stuff. I would often come back last thing at night and knock the flue doors off under the front plates so as to encourage better circulation through the side and sole flues. The cooler it was for my flue men the better the job they would do for me, remember that the brickwork in the settings and the flue dust in the flues was still red-hot at this point.

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Blowing steam off during preparations for opening it up for inspection.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 12 Feb 2018, 04:45

The following morning Ben and I were in for eight o’clock and had everything opened up ready for the arrival of Mr Charles Sutton of Brierfield who’s firm, Weldone would clean the flues. His son Pat worked with him together with Jack who was no relation but had been with them for years. Charlie Sutton was one of the world’s great characters, Jack, his man was possibly the hardest man I have ever seen and Pat his son was a good worker but didn’t have his heart in the job. I don’t blame him, flueing is one of the worst jobs in the world. Later he joined the army and went in the Military Police, he’s a bobby in Clitheroe now.
There’s nothing complicated about what fluers do. They go into the flues, gather up the flue dust which is the fine ash carried over by the draught through the firebox which settles in the flue spaces round the boiler and bucket it or shovel it out of the nearest hole to the outside world. Two men work in the flues and one outside carrying away in the barrow to the ash heap outside. We piled the flue dust separately as when it was weathered it was ideal for laying stone flags and we used to give it away to anyone who wanted some. Incidentally, we provided another service free while we were running, if your dog or cat died we would cremate it in the fires! The only thing about this was that we wouldn’t do a cremation within fourteen days of flueing because it wasn’t fair on the fluers, the smell hung in the flues for over a week despite the high temperatures. Charlie used to tell us that in the old days other things got cremated in the flues as well, he reckoned he once found melted gold in the downtake of a boiler and said that more than one nagging wife had left the world that way!
Once the flues were dealt with, this took about four hours, Charlie and his men had a brew and then started on the scale. A boiler is like a kettle and if the water isn’t properly treated, scale builds up on the internal surfaces and interferes with heat transmission and inspection. Ideally, a sixteenth of an inch is just right, this actually protects the boiler plates. When I took over at Bancroft we had a bad scale build up and we had to spend a day and a half chipping inside the boiler to get it in good enough condition to inspect, I made a mental note to sort out the water treatment and get the scale down. It was over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the boiler and scaling is hard work in a confined space. I could do about an hour but Jack could go on for ever it seemed. My earlier assessment of how hard he was is based on things like this, he just didn’t give up!
I soon sorted the water treatment out by sacking our supplier and getting a specialised firm in. This brought another good man into the engine house, Charlie Southwell who owned his own company in Manchester. He was a good man and showed me how to test the boiler water myself, something that had never been done before at Bancroft. By testing the water regularly and constantly adjusting the amount of water treatment I soon got on top of the scale problem and we never had to scale the boiler again.
Unless there was a repair to do to the brickwork in the flues, Charlie Sutton and the lads were finished by the end of the day and the flues were spotless, they did a wonderful job. All Ben and I had to do was clean up in the boiler house and then attack any jobs that needed doing to get us ready for the inspector. Most of the old inspectors were retired marine engineers, they were fully trained and certificated and were a good reservoir for the insurance companies to draw on. At that time we were insured with Commercial Union and, the inspector was Ron Ellerby from Dewsbury. He knew his job, knew the boiler and had evidently made up his mind to trust me. This meant that he didn’t want everything doing by the book every year, he used his head and just did a selection of jobs. This was the sensible way to go about looking after the boiler and I think he appreciated the fact that I was asking his advice instead of regarding him as an enemy which was the way George had treated him. All he asked for that first year was to have the feed valve stripped for inspection, this was only a small job. The main part of his inspection was the internal inspection and ‘hammer test’. This consisted of tapping the rivet heads with a small hand hammer. A ¾ lb. hammer was plenty big enough, all he was listening for was a difference in note which would alert him to a cracked or loose rivet. Exactly the same inspection used to be given to the tyres on the wheels of railway wagons, the ‘wheel tapper’ would go down the train tapping the wheels with a long handled hammer, any discrepancy in the note given off alerted him to a fault.
We got through the inspection with no faults and could then start to lace the boiler up again. We cleaned all the mating surfaces on the joints of the manholes and any fittings we had taken off, fitted new packings and re-made the joints. A bit of care here could save a lot of work later, the better a joint was prepared the less trouble to deal with it the next time it came off and you had no leaks in between. We would give the boiler a dose of water treatment through the lid before shutting it up by chucking a couple of buckets of compo in and then fill it with water to working level with the fire hose. In between these jobs, Ben and I had drawn all the fire bars out and cleaned them up and inspected them. You wouldn’t believe how much space two mouthfuls of fire bars took up when stacked in the bunker bottom! It usually took us the rest of the week to get the boiler ready for steaming.
One interesting side issue here was the fact that we used sheets of special jointing compound to pack flanged steam joints. Newton told me that on the railways no packing was allowed, the mating faces were perfectly prepared and simply painted with a mixture of red lead and a light oil derived from condensing the volatiles from hot wood. Funnily enough this oil was the same thing that we used to call Driffield Oil which was used as a disinfectant and lubricant when calving cows. The railway companies did this to avoid the danger of blown packings on the footplate which could be very dangerous as there was no escape for the crew if this happened in such a confined space as the cab of a loco at speed.
Once we had dealt with the boiler there might be odd jobs to do on the engine and repairs in the rest of the mill. We usually managed to get two or three days off but that was our holiday! On the Saturday before we were due to start I would come in and light a fire in the boiler. I wouldn’t use the stokers but just build a big slow fire by hand firing and leave it with the dampers just cracked open to smoulder for 24 hours to warm the boiler slowly. Steam built up slowly and warmed the main steam line to the engine. We had a bypass on this pipe which when open, allowed steam to travel from the steam main into the high pressure cylinder, from there it could wander through into the rest of the engine. Any condensation drained away through the cylinder drains which were left open. The result was that as the boiler warmed up, so did the engine.
On the Sunday we would steam the boiler to 150psi and roll the engine over once it was warm. A good practice to follow here was to roll the engine over with the barring engine for a couple of revolutions, this ensured that there were no surprises like a cylinder full of condensate because a drain was choked. Once we had done this the main valve was opened and the engine run for five minutes and all the oils checked. We then knew we were ready for the following morning when all the weavers were back from holiday. The boiler was left with a full head of water and steam and about 25 shovels of coal in each furnace smouldering away to make up for heat loss during the night. This was called ‘banking’ the boiler. Because the settings were cold we had to make sure we were at work in good time on the first day back at work and started with a full boiler, steam as high as we could get it and good fires in the furnaces. By the middle of the week when the settings had got hot things were a lot easier. The fires in the boiler wouldn’t be let out again until the next holiday which was September, this was when the firebeater and I tried to get a weeks holiday in because we didn’t flue then. George always used to have it done but I reckoned there wasn’t enough dust from three months summer firing to warrant it.

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Daniel Meadows did a series of pictures of the fluers working. This one gives a good idea of what a horrible job it was.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by chinatyke » 12 Feb 2018, 05:10

Stanley wrote:
12 Feb 2018, 04:45
Exactly the same inspection used to be given to the tyres on the wheels of railway wagons, the ‘wheel tapper’ would go down the train tapping the wheels with a long handled hammer, any discrepancy in the note given off alerted him to a fault.

Wheel tappers and shunters; tripe dressers....there were some lovely job descriptions. :good:

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 12 Feb 2018, 06:26

:good:
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by plaques » 12 Feb 2018, 09:24

Recently posted in the Burnley papers, The old Iron Foundry in Hammerton St to be converted into luxury flats. I remember not too long ago when this was still a working foundry. Probably the last of its kind so near to the town centre.
Hammerton st..JPG
This cotton spinning mill was built between 1827 and 1844. It was then taken over and used as an iron works factory. It was taken over in 1882 by James Proctor to manufacture 'Proctors' Mechanical Stokers', which he had patented in 1875. By the time James died in 1903 it is estimated that over 10,000 of his mechanical stokers were in use world-wide.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 13 Feb 2018, 04:15

Good stokers P as long as you had a good load on.

Ben needed a lot of watching for the first few weeks, he wasn’t the liveliest lad in the world and I didn’t really trust him yet. I had my own job in the engine house to attend to and to tell you the truth, could ill afford the time watching my firebeater, it was a stressful time for me. The job of engine tenter carries a lot of responsibility, if you don’t get it right, everybody suffers because they lose pay. On the other hand, if you get it right, the weaving goes better and everybody is happy because the wages go up. On top of all this, starting, controlling and tending for a large machine like a steam engine is a stressful job on its own, when you start it in the morning you are very conscious of the fact that you are handling enough power to kill you if you don’t get it right. It’s not so bad once you get used to it but I can tell you I was fairly hyped up that first week! I soon settled into the collar however and began to get up to mischief!
The first thing to realise about Bancroft as a workplace is that it was run on the same lines as any shed like it in the 19th century. The buildings and the machinery were an anachronism, anybody who worked in the first steam driven weaving shed in Barlick in 1827 would have recognised the place and been completely at home. The old hierarchies had been preserved as well, weaving was controlled by the tacklers, Ernie Roberts, Roy Wellock and Ernie Macro in the large cabin and Steve Clark and Albert Gornall in the small one. The winding department was presided over by the winding master, Frank Bleasdale, George’s brother, who had two winders, Judy Northage, and Jean Smith. Warp preparation was divided between Fred Roberts who ran the Barber knotting machine and Jim Pollard who did the drawing in. Tape sizing was done by the tapers, Norman Gray and Joe Nutter. Power and maintenance was the province of the engineer. Overall production was controlled by the weaving manager Jim Pollard. The office was run by Sidney Nutter with part time help on making up days from Eughtred Nutter, his cousin. The mill was owned by K.O. Boardman’s of Stockport and the managing director who came in two or three days a week was Peter Birtles. Incidentally, there was a coincidence here, Peter’s doctor when he was young was Tommy O’Connell same as me, he told me that Tommy was still alive and living in Heaton Moor.
The engine house was always seen as the single most important part of the mill. If the engineer didn’t come in and start on time nobody else could do anything, this wasn’t true of any other job in the mill. The consequence was that the engineer was always left alone, he was a law unto himself and all anybody cared about was whether the engine started to time and ran without trouble. This meant that a lot of people coveted the job and it soon became evident that there were pockets of resentment inside the mill directed against this outsider who had popped up from nowhere and pinched the plum! It sounds a bit petty I know but this was the mechanism that was at work, it took me a while to identify this but I soon worked out where the flack was coming from and dealt with it.
Another factor was that there was a big backlog of maintenance that hadn’t been attended to. Some of it was major stuff like the fact that we hadn’t any reliable way of putting feed water in the boilers. For years George had been making do and we were getting to the stage where a lot of the pigeons were coming home to roost. A lot of these faults were costing money. A good example was the boiler feed, if we could get it right we could save about five tons of coal a week in winter because we could increase the temperature of the feed water to the boiler. I decided not to tackle everything at once but to get settled in.
The engine house was about a hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. The walls were glazed brick up to about six feet high and it was warm and well lit. Even nicer, there was a good view of the fields outside so I could run the engine and watch my cattle grazing before I sold the field to Young Sid Demaine. There were carpets down along both sides of the engine, these were to give a good grip on the floor and also tended to trap dust and grit which was a good thing because it was better there than in the bearings. My first job was to move all George’s stuff out of the engine house and put it in the garage. He had a desk, a sofa and all sorts of spare parts for his car. There were also lots of plant pots which he had used for growing tomatoes and flowers in the engine house. All this was chucked out and we had a good clean up, I installed a better desk out of the warehouse and an easy chair in the corner. While the engine was running I couldn’t leave it for more than about five or ten minutes at a time so a bit of comfort was essential.
I relied a lot on Ben Gregory my firebeater. He was learning well and had got to the stage where I could leave him alone to make steam while I got on with my jobs in the engine house, however, we were approaching the heating season and I knew that this would be the testing time for him. A north light shed is about the worst building in the world to heat, the weaving process is very sensitive to humidity, the warps give a lot of trouble if they are too dry so no form of forced heating, such as fans, could be used. We heated the shed by two inch steam pipes at boiler pressure slung about eight feet off the ground and running back and forth across the shed. This meant that any heat put in the shed went straight up into the roof. It was painful to try to get the shed to 55 degrees by starting time. You put steam in the shed and watched the temperature drop for the first two hours as the hot air rose and forced the cold air down! I have seen us have to start steaming the shed at one o’clock in the morning when the weather was really cold so it was going to be essential that Ben was able to get up in the morning. This was a problem waiting to happen so, though it worried me, I had to wait and see.
Jim Pollard the weaving manager and I got on well from the start. I talked with him a lot and he gave me clues as to how things could be improved. The main area I concentrated on in the first instance was to get the engine running as smoothly as possible. The more steadily the engine ran, the better the looms wove and the more pay the weavers earned. It seemed to me that if I could gain an improvement there I would have treasures in heaven and my job in other areas would be a lot easier. I spent hours just sitting there smoking and weighing the engine up. When I was absolutely sure I understood how the engine worked and what the adjustments on the valve gear controlled I started tuning the engine up. Newton took a lot of interest in this, he was really pleased that I actually cared how the place ran and he soon found me an indicator which used to belong to a very good engineer who ran Wellhouse, it cost me £20 but was well worth it. In another place I’ll have a lot to say about how indicators are much over-rated but they have their uses and I started indicating the engine regularly, identifying changes that could be made in the valve events, making the adjustment and then checking again. My final arbiter was always how steadily the engine ran and what reports I got from the weavers.
My main man in the shed was a weaver on the ‘pensioners side’, these were sets of looms containing eight looms each under the lineshaft which were mainly run by people over retiring age, the rest of the sets were ten looms each. He was nicknamed ‘Billy Two Rivers’ (Billy Lambert) and used to be a tackler but had injured his neck and gone back to weaving. He knew his job and I used to go in and have a word with him every morning as to how it was running, I’d take notice of what he said and then go back and make slight adjustments to speed. My adjustments to the valves meant that the engine was running smoother and the final improvement was to give the driving ropes a good dressing. Cotton driving ropes are a wonderful, shock free, flexible drive, if properly looked after they could last forty or fifty years. The main problem was that they wore on the pulleys as they drove.
There has always been a controversy about rope drives, some engineers say they drive best and wear longest if the ropes rotate as they drive in the grooves because this evens the wear out. In order to get ropes to do this you have to have the drives slightly out of line to encourage the ropes to roll in the groove. The flywheel and second motion pulley at Bancroft were perfectly aligned and the ropes didn’t roll, this didn’t seem to harm them, some of them were original from when the mill was built in 1919. The best way to give them some protection was to dress them with a mixture of tallow and graphite. I used to set the barring engine on at dinnertime and as it slowly turned the engine I would smear rope grease on the ropes as they passed me until I had given them all a good coat well rubbed in. Funnily enough the grip in the grooves of the flywheel and second motion pulley was improved by lubricating them, I had to slow the engine down slightly when I first greased them. However, after a couple of days running they had polished up and slipped slightly. This made the drive even more smooth and the weavers benefited in the shed. The net result of these adjustments and maintenance was that after about six weeks Jim told me that the average wage in the shed had gone up by £1.50 a week, this on a top wage of £35 so everybody, including the management, was pleased. This was the foundation for the rest of the campaign to get the essential maintenance up to date, the management started to realise it was worth listening to me.
The next target was to get the cellar sorted out and improve our boiler feed arrangements. Ben and I gave the cellar a good clean out and disinfected it. George had been in the habit of peeing down the side of the flywheel into the cellar instead of going out in the cold to the lavatory. The space under the flywheel stank so we scrubbed it out, whitewashed it and shifted all the rubbish. I examined the pumps and came to the conclusion we needed to completely alter the way we fed water to the boiler. This meant a new pump and refurbishment of the old Pearn three throw. I started to hunt round for a pump.
We made our own electricity at Bancroft and in early October as we started to come into the heating season the load on the boiler went up. I started to get complaints from Fred Roberts about there not being enough power to run the Barber knotting machine. This ran on 110 volts DC and any drop in the alternator supply made a big difference to his voltage level. It ran OK off the mains but wouldn’t perform off the engine. His version of it was that I was frightened of the engine and was running it too slow! Not surprisingly this got my back up and I told him that things were no different than they had been for the last twenty years, there was a fault somewhere and I would find it.
I had a fair idea that there was a fault because the electronic adding machine in the office wouldn’t work properly off engine power so I suspected the voltage was down. According to the instruments on the big switch board in the engine house all was OK but I spent £85 on a heavy duty Avometer and did some tests of my own. I found that instead of turning out 450 volts on three phase we were only doing 390, the voltmeter on the board was way out. I tried altering the resistance to the exciter but couldn’t get more than 410 volts so I sent for the sparks and got them to alter the permanent resistances in the circuit. That did the trick! We could get 450 volts now with ease.
Jim came down and told me Fred Roberts was in a right mess. He couldn’t control the knotting machine, it was going too fast. I went up and informed Fred that I had sorted out the problem at my end, he was now on 450 volts as per design and any problems he had were his own, go to it Fred! He never spoke to me again as long as the mill ran, this did not cause me any problems! The calculator in the office was working OK as well.
A side effect of raising the voltage was that the lighting in the shed was much better, this delighted the weavers but gave me a problem because dozens of 150 watt bulbs blew under the higher voltage. I was saved by an earlier stroke of luck. The fair had come to town and I was talking to one of the lads who ran the mobile generators for them and he told me they had a lot of Edison Cap bulbs that were no use to them now. (Screw cap instead of bayonet) He said they were 150 watt, just what we used at the mill so I bought all they had for £15. When we counted them there were a thousand! We didn’t buy another bulb for years. The increased load on the alternator made the belts on the counterdrive slip a bit and I had to attend to that as well. For the first few months it was like this, you put one thing right and it triggered off something else.

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Jim Pollard. A master of his craft and we worked well together.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 14 Feb 2018, 06:32

As I say, the heating season had started and this meant that Ben had to be in early in the morning, we would decide the night before what time this should be but I never trusted him. I had found that if you stood on the toilet seat at Hey Farm and peered through the window you could see whether the light was on in the mill yard. I used to get up and check it, if there was no light I would go across and fire myself. Even this precaution didn’t solve all the problems, I checked on him one morning at three o’clock and the light was on. When I went in at seven he was asleep, the boiler was out and we started that morning with a cold shed and only 80psi on the engine instead of 150!
Sidney asked me if I would look at the office heating, he said that George had tried to improve it but hadn’t done any good and could I have a go. The only way they could keep warm was by lighting the coal fire in the office! I had a ferret round, found what I thought was the problem, put it right and went back to the engine house. Half an hour later Sidney was on the blower from the office, he asked me to get up there as quickly as possible. When I went in it was like an oven, the thermometer was reading 85 degrees and all the windows were open! Sidney said “I think you’ve cured it!” and I told him that the fault had been that the steam trap on the end of the line had been fitted the wrong way round twenty years ago! All I had done was clean it out and reverse it! It took me a week to get the steam adjusted to just the right level but there again, I was in good odour in the office.
As I got the engine more in tune I could afford to run at higher pressure which was more economical but because of the smaller valve events I started to run into problems with sticking valves. I suspected the cylinder oil I inherited from George was to blame. When I looked into the matter I found he had been buying a high temperature oil used in foundries for mixing with sand to make cores! It wasn’t cylinder oil at all! I contacted the main man at Walker’s Century oils in Hanley because I knew they supplied the Coal Board with oil for their steam winders and it would be top quality. He sent me five gallons up to try and this solved all the problems. Peter wanted to know why the oil cost 50% more, I told him to watch his fuel figures and repair bills. Give him his due, he let me have my head.
There were still occasional reminders that I had much to learn. I noticed one day that I had a grunt in the high pressure cylinder once every stroke. It wasn’t too bad but occasionally it would do a big one and the engine house vibrated. I listened to it for a while, flooded the cylinder with oil and tried every trick I could think of like opening the drains and altering the balance between high pressure and low pressure cylinders but nothing helped. In the end I rang Newton and asked him to come up. I remember that as he came through the door with a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth the cylinder gave one of its big grunts and the engine house shook. Newton grabbed the fag and didn’t even ask me what was wrong, he just stood next to the cylinder with me and listened to it. Eventually he agreed with me that it sounded like a broken piston ring but neither of us was sure. We decided that as long as it didn’t get any worse I would run it until stopping time and we’d whip the cover off and have a look in the bore.
At stopping time I made sure the piston was at the front of the cylinder and started to take the cover off. Newton landed up and we drew the cover back far enough to look into the bore and immediately saw the problem. There was a patch of rust on the side of the bore where I always stopped at night ready for the first stroke on starting the following day. We worked out that there was a spongy patch in the casting there and as we were leaving steam on the engine 12 hours a night to keep it warm it was passing through the gap in the piston ring in the same place all the time and had washed the oil out of the casting and started a corrosion cell. We rubbed the patch down with emery cloth, put the cover back on with a new packing and it never bothered me again because after that I let the engine stop where it wanted to so that the same patch wasn’t getting the erosion every time. It was only a small thing but could have broken a ring in the end. One thing was sure and certain, it put the wind up me when it happened!
At the beginning of November Ben Gregory handed in his notice. He knew I was on the verge of sacking him, he just couldn’t get up in the morning. We advertised in the paper and the first bloke to apply for the job was Vera’s Uncle Bob! He started on the 9 November and was a good man, I still checked through the window in the mornings but he was always there on time.
Just after Bob started a funny thing happened. We were quietly running the shed one morning when Harold Duxbury came into the yard. He gave me a parcel and said “I’ll bet you were wondering where this was!” Just then Bob came into the engine house and cracked a joke about backhanders and I told him he couldn’t guess in a thousand years what I had hold of. Intrigued he came over and I unwrapped the parcel, it was a lovely oak casket with father’s ashes in! I remember that Bob, who was a devout Catholic, crossed himself! It certainly took the wind out of his sails. I took the ashes home and put them on the mantelpiece. Mother didn’t think much about it but I told her if she didn’t stop complaining I’d wait until she died and take her ashes to Australia as well! It was to be twelve years before I got round to it.

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Daniel Meadows' pic of me and Newton replacing the packing on the front lid on the HP cylinder. We did this at the same time as identifying the cause of the grunt in the engine.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 15 Feb 2018, 05:03

The feed water situation was getting worse. We ended up each night with the water level so low it was verging on dangerous and I had to leave the Weir steam pump running while I had my tea at home and go back to shut it off. Newton found me a feed pump and all I had to do was get Peter Birtles to agree to it. When I approached him about the pump he didn’t want to know, he was dead against spending any money. I persuaded him by saying that I would pay for the pump and install it free, all I wanted was 50% of the fuel savings. At first Peter thought I was joking but when he realised I was serious he gave in and let me buy it. The pump was one of Brown and Pickles’ own manufacture which had originally been installed in Finsley Gate Mill at Brierfield. When the engine there was taken out they had bought it and refurbished it for re-installation at Hill’s Pharmaceuticals but as they had never followed up the inquiry about it Newton said we could have it. It was a big three ram pump, very well made and had a separate clack box which made it very easy to maintain. Bob and I poured the bed for it, Brown and Pickles erected it and I piped it up. I refurbished the old Pearn three ram pump and following Bob’s suggestion, ran it on a by-pass. It was a wonderful improvement, we could keep the water exactly where we wanted it under any circumstances and were putting almost boiling water in to the boiler. All told it cost £500 to install but it saved five tons of coal a week, that is, it paid for itself in three weeks with coal at £35 a ton, another success chalked up. One word of advice here about valve setting on feed pumps. I’ve never seen anyone set clack valves right on feed pumps, they all set them too wide. If you give the delivery valve 1/32” clearance and the suction valve 1/16” you’ll find it’s plenty. If you set them any wider they let too much water jump back at the end of the stroke. Everyone seems to think that the wider they are the easier it is for the water to get through them. If you want to prove this to yourself, cut a 1/16” slit the length of the circumference of the valve in the bottom of a bucket and watch how fast the water runs out with no pressure at all behind it. Think how much will pass with a pressure differential of say 150psi. As for back flow, remember that you have the differential plus boiler pressure in the delivery main, probably about 300psi. The valve doesn’t need to be open long to let all the water you have pushed up it bounce back. This was Newton’s teaching and he was right. The new pump ran beautifully and we never had a problem with water feed again.
Once I had tackled the major problems I could devote some time to general maintenance. I got into the routine of shaft lubrication in the mill and tackled numerous small jobs like tuning the donkey engine which ran the tapes while the main engine was stopped at dinnertime. The tape sizing machines couldn’t be allowed to stop in the middle of a warp so they had to have auxiliary power to keep them running continuously. There was another thing that was bothering me and I decided to have a crack at it. Every time the engine started or stopped there was a loud rattling sound inside the flywheel. I should explain that the flywheel was about sixteen feet in diameter, made of iron castings and was covered around the spokes with wooden boarding to stop it picking up the air in the engine house and acting as a giant fan. I took some boards off one weekend and climbed inside the wheel. I soon found out that the rattling noise was loose nuts which had dropped off the bolts that secured the wind-boarding to the wheel, some of them must have been in there for years because they were worn round! I got the loose ones out and went round the structure inside replacing missing nuts and tightening the others up. I put the boards back on and started the engine and it was like a Rolls Royce, no sound at all from the flywheel. Only a small thing but it got rid of a great annoyance.
By spring 1975 I was completely settled in. The engine was running beautifully, the weavers were happy, Jim Pollard was happy and the management were getting better fuel figures than they had seen for years. I think you could say that I’d settled in at Bancroft nicely.

WIDER HORIZONS
Because Bancroft was one of the last two steam driven weaving sheds in the area we had a lot of visitors to see the engine.
Now I had a bit more spare time I was getting interested in the history of the mill, the technology and the impact on the town of the cotton industry. The more I read the more I realised there were tremendous gaps in the published accounts of the industry. It seemed to me that the people who had done the research and written the books had no first hand knowledge. As soon as they touched on the practical aspects of what they were trying to describe their lack of insight showed. This was apparent from the attitude of the visitors to the engine house, all they could see was this romantic steam engine, this gentle giant, and they came, wondered and went away. Occasionally it got even worse, I would have people coming in who hadn’t even got time to stop long enough to look at it properly because their schedule demanded they go somewhere else to look at another engine. I used to say to them that they must be far more clever than me, I spent all day studying the engine and hadn’t peeled more than a couple of layers off the onion!
Another consequence of working in the engine house and getting to grips with the job was that I had more time to walk round the mill and watch what was going on in there. What struck me was the enormous skill demanded by the various jobs. Like the engine, the more you delved into what people were doing the more complicated the task became. Jim Pollard was very good to me, he knew the industry inside out and answered all my questions, he never lost patience with me. Like Newton, he enjoyed teaching someone who was showing serious interest in his skills. Further than the knowledge I was gaining, I was meeting different people all the time, a vast difference from wagon driving, this was anything but solitary confinement! My horizons were opening out, I was beginning to think beyond the job in hand and some fascinating ideas were beginning to nag at the back of my mind.
Back at the farm we had a wonderful red letter day. In 1974 we made the final payment on the loan from Lloyds Bank, Hey Farm was ours! I went to Peter McCann and got him to draw up a Deed of Gift by which I gave half of the equity in Hey Farm to Vera. We had always agreed that as long as there was a debt I would carry it but as soon as we were paid up we would have joint ownership. I can still remember the opening words of the document. “In recognition of the love and affection borne by Stanley Graham for Vera Graham…….” That mightn’t be exactly right but it does give the tenor of the wording. We were so happy, for years I had been telling Vera that all the hard work was worth while and here we were at last reaping the reward for the hard years and the long hours. I remember telling one of my friends about it and he said I was lucky. I’m afraid I went straight for his throat! “There was no luck about it. Where were you when I was tramming up and down the road seven days a week. In the pub, that’s where!” I was so angry about that.
In November that year I had a visitor at the engine house. A tall young man with a slight stoop came in and wiped his feet. He told me his name was Daniel Meadows and I asked him what had taken him so long! Then I brewed him a cup of tea and we sat down and started talking. Twenty five years later I am still talking to him. (Thirty five years now as I do this edit in 2009)
I had read about Daniel in the local paper. He had been appointed Artist in Residence for the Pendle area under a joint grant by the Gulbenkian Foundation, the local authority and other funders. His task was to photograph every listed building in the area under the auspices of Pendle Heritage Centre and seek out Pendle and snap it! As Bancroft was the last working engine in Pendle I expected him sooner or later. Apart from that I knew nothing about him.
Every now and again you meet the right person at the right time and the trick is to take notice of your voices. I had no idea when Daniel walked in that the input he was to make into my life was going to be so important, all I knew was that on first impressions, I liked him and so I gave him some time. This sounds a touch arrogant but isn’t meant to be, whether he understood it or not, he made exactly the same assessment and decision and we both profited. I showed him the engine and the mill and he came over to the farm for one of Vera’s farmhouse teas. She liked him just as much as I did, he became a regular visitor and I told him what was going on in my head. Without voicing it we came to an arrangement, I would introduce him to my world and he would let me into his. This included encouraging me to take up photography in a fairly serious manner and this was to be a wonderful asset in all the things I did later.

Image

Daniel's pic of me and Doc Pickard, he was a mine of information on medical and other matters! The women on the wall are old Shiloh Calendar pictures. [I spoke to Daniel and Georgie his wife yesterday. They rang to wish me a happy 82nd birthday.... Nice!]
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 » 16 Feb 2018, 05:35

Daniel’s interest in photography wasn’t simply making good pictures, it was much more complicated that that. He wanted to use his skill to tell stories about people and his heroes were the great photo-journalists. He soon pointed me at their works and at the same time recognised my world as a rich seam to mine. He revelled in the work of the mill and what had to be done to keep it functioning. Eventually he went in the flues, climbed the chimneys and was fascinated by the weavers and their craft. Needless to say he also loved making pictures of me as I went about my work round the engine. He understood perfectly what my interest was and did his best to help me. With hindsight I couldn’t have met a better man at a better time. He never patronised me but gently guided me towards the best way to achieve what I wanted to do. You can’t ask for much better than that.
Round about this time another bloke walked in the engine house, I can’t be sure of the date but we had better introduce him as well because he too was going to be very important. His name was Robert Aram and he was a teacher in Nottingham. He had a great interest in Industrial Archaeology and had his own collection at home in Cossall. He was, and still is, a very private bloke, in fact at the time I put him down as a secretive b****r and he will smile when he reads this because he will admit I’m sure that this wasn’t far from the truth. I had no idea at that time just how extensive or ambitious his collection was but I was in for a shock when I found out. He had a black Labrador called Emma and she was the only visitor to the engine house who automatically got my easy chair as a seat as soon as she came in!
I can’t go into a full list of all the visitors to my kingdom at this time but must mention one more who whilst not of any great importance to my future was always a delight. This was John Wilfred Pickard a retired local GP. He would pop in at all sorts of odd times and we always had wonderfully esoteric and informative conversations. He used to work at the VD clinic in Burnley and I had long conversations with him about terrible infections. He always took my pulse as soon as he came in and told me every time that my heart was beating at exactly the same speed as the engine, 67rpm! We developed a theory that the reason the engine house was such a relaxing place to be was because the regular rhythm of the engine modified your heart beat and steadied it. There were many wonderful stories about Dr Pickard and I used to ask him if they were true or not. One which he said contained more truth than some of the others concerned a visit he made on the Coates Estate in Barlick to a baby that wouldn’t stop crying. John examined the baby and then turned round to the woman who was looking after it and said “The reason the baby’s crying is because it’s hungry. Is it breast or bottle fed?” The woman told him it was on the breast. John shoved his hand down the front of her blouse, felt her breast and said “You have no milk Madam!” The woman said that it would be a miracle if she had, she was the baby’s Aunt and was only looking after it! John gave me his old stethoscope which I used to use on the engine, it was marvellous what you could hear if you let the engine talk to you.I think you may be starting to get the picture. I had made the transition from the road to the shed and was completely at home in the engine house. I had learned enough to make it a joy to be there and was still searching for knowledge and learning more. It wasn’t just the engineering that fascinated me but the whole complicated structure of how the engine, the mill and the industry knitted in so well with the local society. There was a perfect interface between the work and the human beings. Bancroft could never be described as a comfortable place in terms of what is seen as important nowadays. It was ridiculously old-fashioned, there were absolutely no amenities for the workers, it was seriously noisy, dirty and unsanitary, the toilets were a joke! Any one of the workers could have made more money by going down to Rolls Royce and getting a job sweeping the floor and yet it was the happiest atmosphere I have ever worked in. My version of it is that everybody knew exactly what their job was and how it fitted in with everybody else’s, they all saw the cloth rolling off the looms and being stacked in the warehouse, they knew the end product and what it was for. The chain of command was very short, they knew exactly who they were responsible to and that the end of the chain was in the office at the top of the warehouse. Everyone in that chain was called by their first name and apart from Peter Birtles everyone knew who everybody else was related to. It was almost a family, certainly a community and the whole was well integrated with the town and local society. As far as I could see it was a model system which everybody else ought to be emulating. There was a common thread with the dairy, nobody in the mill was after anyone else’s job. Everyone was satisfied with what they had and instead of rivalry and friction there was co-operation and thought for other people. If you needed a hand with something you only had to ask, you would never be refused. I must confess I look at modern industry and management and wonder how far we have progressed, they might be making more money but they aren’t making happier workplaces.
The more I found out, the more I felt that this way of life and technology ought to be recorded. I still hadn’t found anything written down which addressed the practical aspects of mill life, I didn’t realise it at the time but I was gradually working out a method of doing this and Daniel was the key to the first part of it. He encouraged me to take pictures and gradually introduced me to the mysteries of composition, shooting up to a point and the decisive moment. He showed me how to master the techniques of shooting in bad light, developing my own film and making my own prints. I was a willing pupil and when I look back at my negative files I see that I went from tyro to semi-professional at an incredible speed. I got in the habit of taking pictures at work and started to build up a unique archive of negatives describing an industry which was on its last legs. The pictures I took then can never be repeated, the whole of the industry and the technology has gone and so the first legacy I owe to Daniel is that archive. That alone would be good reason for eternal gratitude but there was to be more!
One constantly recurring conversation with Daniel was related to my conviction that the mill was on its last legs and that I was giving serious thought to what I would do when it closed. I was very conscious of the fact that even though I was as strong as a horse, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life grafting. I could think of no worse fate than going into Rolls Royce and becoming an eight ‘til four man for the rest of my working life. I wanted to use my head and gradually formulated the idea of going to university and doing a degree. This was always my aim from the beginning, as soon as the bug of further education bit I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied by flitting round the edges, I wanted to go for broke! I can remember someone asking me once what my objective was, to become a professional rough diamond flitting round the verges of academe or get into the centre and do good works. It was the right question at the right time.

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Jim and Sidney plotting the course in the office. Both masters of their craft.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 17 Feb 2018, 04:36

Daniel brought his friends up to see the mill and this opened up my life. Roger Perry came one day with his lady Pamla Toler and that was the start of a friendship that lasted until Roger died young from the effects of the medication he had to take for his arthritis. We spent a lot of time in Hebden Bridge where Daniel had lived at one time. Charlie Meecham, Martin Parr and their partners and friends became part of our orbit. The Land Rover Safari was a big asset because it meant we could go off on days out together, we went to stately homes and roved all over the area seeking out intriguing places and going to photographic exhibitions. Daniel included some of my pictures in an exhibition in London and so we had a trip down to the Metropolis! One of the best activities as far as I was concerned was the formation of the Hebden Bridge Gay Gricing Society. I’d never come across the term ‘gricing’ before but found it was the pursuit of esoteric railway artefacts. We went one day to Standedge railway and canal tunnels and totally illegally went into the old railway tunnel and walked about a mile and a half in to the central point. The tunnels were the longest and deepest in the UK and we saw air shafts, cross cuts into the older canal tunnel and the central crossway where the railway directors tiled the floor and had a banquet when the two tunnels were completed in 1871.

We explored the Dales and went to Jorda’s Cave and Hardraw Force. In 1976 Haweswater reservoir dropped to its lowest level since it was built because of the dry summer and Daniel and I went up to do some snaps of it. It was such a interesting day out that we went back taking Vera and the kids, I wanted them to see what was probably a once in a lifetime event. We were making full use of our new motor and the time I had for diversions and this was a totally different life for all the family.
There was a bit of an interruption at the mill when Bob Parkinson handed in his notice. He finished on my fortieth birthday, 14 Feb 1976. His successor was Stephen Howard who was useless, he only lasted until March 6th when I sacked him. He was followed by Don Parkinson who was also useless, I sacked him on May the 24th! I got lucky then and a good lad called Paul Golding set on as firebeater. He was far too well educated for the job and there was a bit of a history behind him I suspect. He settled in and was to be with me until February 1977.

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Paul Golding. Obviously suited for something far better. I hope he found his niche.

One day early in 1976 Daniel walked into the engine house with a bloke in a suit and shoes. He got the usual treatment, wipe the feet and don’t touch anything, and then we settled down to pints of tea and introductions. The man was David James Moore, Principal of Nelson and Colne College. Daniel had persuaded him to come to Barlick in his lunch hour to meet this mad engineer he had found!
I took to the bloke right away, he was direct, energetic and said all the right things to me. I could see that he had recognised me instantly and had made up his mind that I was just his cup of tea. It took him about ten minutes to extract the juice from me, I saw his eyes light up when I told him I wanted to go to university and have an entirely new course in life. He immediately told me what my options were, I could either do straight ‘A’ levels, take the Baccalaureate, a new route to higher education or, if I was really adventurous I could do a new course which his office cleaner Joyce Tierney had invented and go into Lancaster University by that route.

The biggest problem we had at the mill, apart from falling orders, was the heat, 1976 was the hottest summer we had for a long time. It got so hot in the mill that some of the shafts expanded until they were running into the wall. It was the first time since the mill was built that this had happened, I had to cut three inches off the ends of three of the shafts to keep the mill running. At one point I had to do an emergency repair on the roof of the lady’s lavatory while the mill was running to stop the glass in the roof falling in because the wooden beams supporting it had shrunk. I used to shout to let the ladies know I was coming but in the end Phyllis Watson told me to just get on with it as I wouldn’t see anything I hadn’t seen before! I got the job done and have to report my education advanced significantly while I was on the roof.

Paul Golding, my firebeater finished in January 1977 and I was lucky enough to get John Plummer to replace him. John came from the north east and had been a firebeater all his life. He started on drifters going up to Bear Island and graduated to Fyffe’s banana boats. He had five children and could actually get more on Social Security than he could by working. He was fed up of doing nothing and came up to see me. He was a good man and was to stay the course right up to the mill closing.

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John Plummer. You couldn't have a better mate to work with. He became seriously ill but I made sure he knew how highly I valued his work and friendship before he died.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by PanBiker » 17 Feb 2018, 11:40

I remember John and his family, he had a rental TV from us, so had occasion to visit a time or two. I remember his kids were very inquisitive and I had to describe everything I was doing when mending the TV, it was a lively household.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 18 Feb 2018, 04:46

Nice. They were a happy family and he was no duck egg!

Robert Aram was a frequent visitor and often stayed the night as he had a lot of interests in the area. One weekend he came with a serious purpose and with Daniel in tow we all went across to Middleton near Manchester to meet his steeplejack, Peter Tatham and have a look at a chimney Robert was interested in buying. You may well be asking yourself why anybody would want to buy a chimney! Good question! One of the things I had found out about Robert was that his ‘collection’ of things connected to industrial archaeology didn’t stop at small artefacts, it extended to things like mill lodges, old water mill sites and redundant detached chimneys! He called them ‘The Lonely Sentinels of the Industrial Revolution’ ‘Swabs’ chimney at Middleton was his biggest prospect yet. It was the detached chimney which served the boilers at Rhodes Mill in Middleton which was at that time owned by the Bernstein family and manufactured furniture. It was called Swabs chimney because the original owners of the mill when the chimney was built was Simon Schwab who were cloth finishers and dyers. They had 13 Lancashire boilers and so needed a big chimney but it was now redundant. The chimney was enormous, it stood over three hundred feet tall and was at the time the largest brick chimney in Europe. The purpose of our visit on the Saturday was for Peter to inspect the chimney and for Robert to climb it. Peter had laddered it during that week and Daniel and I went along to watch the fun, old Arthur Entwistle was visiting at the time and he came along too. My function was to give an opinion about the state of the chimney and anything else that I thought Robert should take into consideration before buying it.
Robert did well. Peter asked him if he’d ever been up a ladder before and Robert told him he had, on to the roof of the family bungalow at Mablethorpe! Peter took this in and gave Robert a crash course in serious ladder climbing. Robert asked if he should go up first and Peter said no, if Robert dropped off he didn’t want to be underneath! Up they went and when they got to the top Peter swung out off the side of the ladder while Robert climbed past him to look at the top. Then Robert came down while Peter took some photos of the chimney head.
The wind was getting up a bit and Peter came down the ladder two rungs at a time! Champagne all round at the chimney base and then I cast a damper on the proceedings by telling Robert we needed to look in the flues before we made any final decisions about him buying it. The deal that Robert had been offered was that he could have the chimney for a nominal sum, £10. For this he got the stack, the valuable piece of real estate it stood on and the responsibility of maintaining the whole. This was the big problem as far as I could see because it was literally within two feet of the pavement and the road.
The following day we were back at the mill. There was just Robert, Peter, Daniel and myself. This time we started in the boiler house in the mill on the opposite side of the main road from the chimney. We put on overalls, rugged up with fents (cloth ends from the shed at Bancroft) and set off into the flues. They were enormous, very dirty and in bad condition. The last boilers to run had evidently been oil-fired and the burners badly adjusted, the bottom of the flue was wet and there was about six inches of black oily sludge to wade through. The further we got in the worse it got and eventually we were met with a solid wall of flue dust at the entrance to the chimney base, it hadn’t been flued for at least twenty years. We had to go back and get some boards to place on top of the dust so we could crawl over the top and into the base of the chimney. It was enormous, I have never seen a chimney so big inside. I measured it and it was twenty two feet across internally, there was a cruciform wall dividing it into four sections and each had a separate flue coming in from the main flue. The chimney liner only went up about forty feet and there were internal lightning conductors, something I had never seen before.
When we had got our fill we got out, cleaned up and retired to the pub. Robert asked me what I thought and I told him that if he bought it he would regret it. Peter Tatham agreed with me and we left Robert to come to his own conclusions. In the end he decided not to buy it and this was a sensible decision. A steeplejack bought it and went bankrupt while demolishing it, another tried and went the same way and eventually it was finished by a third firm. The weekend hadn’t been wasted though, I had met Peter Tatham and he and I were to do some pretty impressive jobs together in years to come!

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Swabs chimney at Middleton. A biggie!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 19 Feb 2018, 05:41

HISTORY AND LIFE BECOME SERIOUS
In 1977 my ideas about Bancroft and the need to record the technology of the textile industry had become more cohesive. I had a word with a bloke I had already met, John Robinson who was Keeper of Navigational Instruments at the Science Museum in South Kensington. He also had an interest in steam engines and I met him first when he visited the engine house. We soon became regular correspondents and still are today. I told John what I wanted to do and asked him who I should approach and he said that the person I needed to convince was Her Majesty’s Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the North West of England, this man worked for the Department of the Environment in London and his name was Peter White. I wrote to him, no doubt at great length, described what I wanted to do and then proceeded to embarrass him by posting a high quality 10x8 black and white picture of some aspect of the mill’s workings every Saturday so that it was on his desk on Monday morning. This was unfair pressure I freely admit, but in the end it worked and Peter arranged a meeting between me and a man called Dr John Marshall who was in charge of the Centre for North West Regional Studies at Lancaster University. We met in a pub at Clapham one wet and windy night in November 1977. The outcome of the meeting was that the quality of the images I was producing convinced them that there was some serious work to be done at Bancroft and that I was the one to do it because I had access. It was to consist of high quality B&W pictures reinforced by tape recorded interviews in broadcast quality of the workers. It was given an impossibly long title but soon became known as the Lancashire Textile Project (LTP). Daniel’s patient tuition had paid off, the men with the shoes were beginning to take notice!
There was a sad event to record the same month, John Pudney finally lost his brave fight against cancer and died on the 10th of November 1977. I was hard hit by this, in the two years I was privileged to know him, John had been a wonderful source of common sense, encouragement and enlightenment. I can still see him now as I write this over twenty years later, he is stood in the front room at Hey Farm reading poetry to a bunch of enraptured children. I can’t help thinking he would like the fact that that is how I remember him.
Early in 1978 I had a request from New Road School asking permission for two of their teachers to visit the engine house to assess whether it would be a worthwhile trip for their pupils. It says something for the autonomy I had at the mill that decisions like this were always passed on to me in the engine house, there was no messing about with debates about health and safety. Two teachers came, Mary Elizabeth Hunter and one of her colleagues who I am sad to report must have been instantly forgettable because I have no memory of him. I gave them the tour and they were both interested but Mary was definitely turned on by the engine. It was the first steam engine she had ever seen at work and if you are at all susceptible to them, it’s an unforgettable experience. Mary made another visit a few days later and we had a long conversation about the historical aspects of the mill and its importance to help her prepare the kids for the visit. She gave me her address and phone number and a few days later I rang and asked if I could come down and see her, I had a proposal for her. I went down and suggested she might like to come and work for me for nothing! I told her about the Lancashire Textile Project and what it was leading to and she said she’d discuss it with her husband John and get back to me with an answer.
It wasn’t long before she got in touch with me again and came round to the farm where she met Vera and we had a long conversation. As so often happens in this life I was the right person at the right time for her. She was not happy teaching at New Road and had been vaguely looking for a way out for some time but had no definite ideas. My proposal looked interesting because it was a totally new field and one which she was eminently well qualified for as I wanted her to look after the administration for me while I got on with the pictures and the recordings.
At this stage in my life I was very much involved with Nelson and Colne College attending Open College classes. What was more pertinent, David Moore the Principal and I had become very good friends, we met frequently and corresponded all the time. I suggested to Mary that a meeting with David might be a good thing and that I would think further about our collaboration on the LTP and get back to her. Early in March Mary met David Moore at Pendle Heritage, I was there on the first occasion and I can remember that she had a streaming cold, she really wasn’t fit to be going anywhere.
This didn’t put David off however, he was far to good a man for that. He and Mary arranged a further meeting and the upshot of all this was that he advised Mary to apply for a job with Granada TV to help administer a programme that was based in Liverpool. I can’t remember the name of it but it was a year’s contract. Mary applied, got the job and this gave her the break that she needed to get away from New Road School. Later on, from that base, she applied for another job with Yorkshire Television in Leeds. This was the post of Community Education Officer, the first one in the country to be appointed and she virtually wrote her own job description. She was to be at Yorkshire TV for about ten years. This wasn’t my doing of course but was a direct result of her being open enough to look at the LTP, opportunities come in strange disguises at times! Looking back from 2009 I am forced to recognise that I was not only dangerous in terms of my own life but that my addiction to change and progress were catching!
The start of the planning for the LTP was when I had my first experience of working with government departments and academic committees. All I can say is that their world moves in a parallel universe completely divorced from the realities I had to face. Months of discussion went by while Bancroft moved inevitably towards closure. I used this time to talk to people and find the best way to proceed, I was told by the BBC that the best recorder was a stereo Uher or a Nagra, the Nagra was a shade better than the Uher but twice as expensive, so I settled on the Uher. I got in touch with BASF because they virtually invented magnetic tape and asked them what the best archival tape was, they gave me their best advice and I used their LP tape. I even asked Xerox what the life of a photocopy was and they said they didn’t know because they hadn’t been stored long enough to find out. Eventually support was given and we agreed a format for the exercise. When these discussions concluded it was early 1978 and I have to admit that the process of consultation, if not the time it took, had been worth while.
Peter White had first come up with the idea of a straight oral history project and I refined this by suggesting we used decisive moments from processes captured on black and white prints as triggers for informants. In other words, the informants described in their own words what they were doing in a picture of the process, a series of images would cover the whole process and the result would be a cohesive description straight from the horse’s mouth. This was further expanded by agreeing with Doctor Elizabeth Roberts at CNWRS that we could use her standard questions on social history thus adding another dimension to the project. Most important we agreed that the project had to be fully transcribed and indexed and the master copies of all material deposited in the library at Lancaster University. During 1978 the LTP took up an enormous amount of my time. By June I was ready and started to do the recordings, my first informant was Jim Pollard and this was the start of a lot of hard work, none of it paid for and I even had to buy the film! The DOE paid for the tapes but film was always a problem. I remember one day ringing Tom Clarke who owned Silentnight, a local firm, which was the biggest manufacturer of mattresses in the world. I told him I needed some film and he sent his secretary up in a chauffeur driven car to deliver £100 in notes, he didn’t even want a receipt. I’ve never forgotten that gesture, it made all the difference.
Looking back, this was a hard time for Vera, I was spending most evenings out doing recordings and most of my time at home copying tapes, listening to them in order to do précis of them and writing letters. In addition to this I had been doing Open College evening classes at Nelson and Colne College for two years and by mid 1978 had passed both segments of the course and was qualified for entry to Lancaster University. As far as I was concerned things were hectic but on course. It’s important to say here that at no time was there ever any direct opposition to what I was doing, with hindsight, it almost seems that Vera had given up on me. Remember that at the same time I was weaving Bancroft out which was very stressful in itself. I think you could say I was fully occupied and driven!
[SG note. This section is slightly off piste I know but it's all part of how the engine house affected me and the part it played in getting us to where we are now. Without this sea change I wouldn't be writing and disseminating what I have learned so please forgive me!]

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Peter White, Her Majesty's Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Clapham pub in 1977.
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