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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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 20 Feb 2018, 04:37

At the mill we were having a bad time. Cloth orders were down and we were reduced to commission weaving, the worst form of trade. This is when you take in weaving jobs from other sheds that haven’t the capacity to cope, it was always the worst warps and the lowest price. In addition, as the numbers of looms fell and the load came off the engine I was having trouble with the Proctor Stokers on the boiler. It is a characteristic of this type of stoker that they won’t fire smoke free unless they are carrying a reasonably heavy fire. We started to get complaints from the ‘nuisance man’ our name for the inspector from the Environmental Health Department at Pendle Council. In turn I was getting flak from the management even though they knew it wasn’t my fault. I looked into the problem and worked out that if we burnt our coal stock and used the money saved plus an efficiency grant from the government to install new under-fired stokers we would stop the smoke, cut down on coal use and it wouldn’t cost the management a halfpenny. I put the proposal to Peter Birtles and waited. After a reasonable interval the order came back to start burning the stock. When I heard this I told John Plummer he was looking at the biggest idiot under the sun. He asked me why, I said “I may be wrong, but I think I’ve just closed this mill down!”
Events proved me right, the management had forgotten they had almost £10,000 in coal stock in the yard. I was certain their intention was to burn the stock, capitalise on the asset, close the mill down and scrap it. On the 5th of September the mill received a serious warning about smoke emission and the management used this as an excuse to announce that the mill would close after all current orders were woven out. What it boiled down to was that they were more interested in asset stripping than carrying on, they could make money easier that way. Jim Pollard told me the mill was still running at a profit.
It’s worth noting here that one of the contributory factors to the end of weaving at Bancroft was the shabby treatment we received at the hands of the big combines. Because of amalgamations within the textile industry Courtaulds were a major player and we bought most of our yarn supplies, with taper’s beams for the warps and weft on cone. Their terms of business were payment within a calendar month for supplies of yarn. Many of the merchants we supplied with cloth were in either the Courtauld or Tootal groups and their payments were based on a three month credit. We had to pay for materials within 30 days but didn’t get the income for at least 90 days. This was grossly unfair and an example of the groups using their commercial muscle to advantage.
Robert Aram told me an instructive story about Courtaulds which concerned an old family lace-making firm in Nottingham. This was a small and very successful firm run by two brothers which specialised in very high quality lace, they were effective managers, knew the trade inside out and made a healthy profit. Like Bancroft they had a minimal office staff, they coped with all the work themselves with the help of an office lady who was quite capable of doing many of the routine jobs unaided. They had an idiosyncratic system of managing the incoming mail, anything that wasn’t a demand for final payment, an order or an incoming cheque was consigned to the waste paper basket. This served them well for years but eventually they received overtures from Courtaulds who had been watching their performance. After a couple of years circling round each other the brothers got a good offer for the business and retired.
The first thing Courtaulds did once they had taken over was install modern management systems. This entailed enlarging the office and taking on new staff. Three years after buying the firm Courtaulds shut it down, they couldn’t make a profit. Robert knew the firm well and he said that it was a combination of removing the key skills of the brothers and not replacing them, losing the short chain of command between the brothers and their old employees and imposing a top-heavy management structure. I suspect that this scenario was repeated many time in industry and we are the poorer because of it. Remember that in an old firm with no borrowings and premises and machinery which were all paid for and mostly written off on the books like Bancroft the finances were much easier to manage and there was no outflow from the firm other than profits to shareholders. Once a highly leveraged group takes over the firm has to pay its share of interest on financing the business. All this at a time when profit margins on cloth were at an all time low. Work it out for yourself!
The atmosphere at the mill changed completely, we were all on a slippery slope and before Christmas we would all be out of a job. I wasn’t too worried because I had applied for a place at Lancaster University and had been accepted for Autumn 1979. The DOE had promised to employ me as a researcher to finish the LTP and do some work on water mills in the Lake District when the mill closed down so things could have been worse. There had been a change in the office, Sidney Nutter had retired early because of ill health, he died before the year was out, he was a good bloke with a puckish sense of humour and we all missed him. It was a pity he couldn’t have seen the job out.
I have a story about Sidney which demonstrates his sense of humour. I used to deal with any commercial travellers who were in any way technical. One day we had a caller who was selling a miracle cure for blocked drains. He asked if he could demonstrate how his product worked so I agreed and he swung into what was quite clearly a very well rehearsed performance. He took a Pyrex beaker out of his case, poured some soil into it and added a lump of grease. He then reached into his bag and produced the biggest sanitary towel I have ever seen in my life, wiped his hands on it and, saying, “There’s always one of these!” stuffed it into the beaker. He held it up and said, “There you are, that’s a blockage!” He then added some water and poured in his ‘miracle cure’, the whole lot fizzed up alarmingly and finally settled into half a beaker of dirty water, the chemical was some sort of very concentrated acid judging by the smell. “Blockage dispersed! It can now be flushed away with water!”
I knew that there was no way I was going to buy any of this drain destroyer from him but I knew Sidney wasn’t very busy so I told the representative he should repeat this demo for our Mr Nutter who was in charge of purchases. I called Sidney up and we went up to the office where Sidney sat at his desk, pipe in mouth, awaiting our arrival. The bloke went through his demo again but when he got to the sanitary towel Sidney took his pipe out of his mouth and said “What is it lad, a blindfold?” This stopped the rep dead, he had never been asked that question before! He went into a long explanation of exactly what it was he was holding in his hand. When he had finished Sidney took his pipe out again and said “Eh, isn’t it wonderful, whatever will they think of next!” At this point the rep lost the will to live, packed his bag and departed Bancroft for ever. I’ll bet he never forgot Sidney! I told Sidney he was very naughty, he had probably shattered the man’s life, all he did was grin.

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Sidney nearest the camera and his cousin Eughtred at the back in the office on 'making up day', putting the wages into packets for the workers.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 21 Feb 2018, 05:02

Meanwhile, back at the mill, the visitor count to the engine house rose steadily, partly because of the news of the closure which had made the local and national papers but also due to the fact that as I moved further into recording the mill more people became aware of its existence and came to see it. I was also agitating at government level for something to be done about Bancroft, my point was that sooner or later they would have to pick a weaving mill to preserve and the time to do it was while the mill was running and was a viable business. Peter White from the DOE came up to have a look and I asked him why the government didn’t step in and buy the place, if they did it would cost them £60,000 for the whole thing, lock stock and barrel. My suggestion was that they should then divide the shed, half for weaving and the other half for Brown and Pickles who were looking rocky as well. If they gave the weaving side an order for government tea towels they would get their towels better made and cheaper, save the mill and the skills that kept it going. Brown and Pickles could carry on with their normal trade but could also become repairers and trainers for the whole of the steam heritage sector in the country. This would require some investment but I was sure the engineering unions would be partners in this and in the end it would turn a profit and preserve several important aspects of the heritage. Peter told me it couldn’t even be considered because the government couldn’t be seen to be engaging commercially in industry. When I asked how this squared with nationalisation and the Royal Ordnance factories I was told this was entirely different!
Twenty years later I have to tell you that I was right and they were wrong. The mill they had chosen as the favourite for preservation, Jubilee at Padiham, was sold and demolished under their noses and the only one left, Queen Street at Burnley, had to be chosen and supported and many things went wrong there. It still struggles on but in my opinion will always eat money. Bancroft was in the right place, it had plenty of space round it for development, it could have been a multi-interest site and a great opportunity for the heritage and the town.
As far as the mechanics of running the mill were concerned, by 1978 I had mastered it completely. This isn’t to say I had stopped learning but I could run the place with one hand behind my back and my eyes shut. John Plummer my firebeater was a gem. John was always cheerful and interested in his job and I treated him as well as I could, we enjoyed ourselves and did a good job. Coal consumption in winter used to be over 35 tons a week. We had got it to below 25 tons on the same load and could have gone lower but nobody was interested any more.
Weaving a shed out is a painful task. The way it worked in the weaving shed was that as warps wove out in the individual looms they were not replaced. This meant that the weaver’s work gradually diminished and it got to a point where it was economical to stop that set of looms, finish the weaver, cut the remaining warps out and consolidate them in another set of looms. Every day looms finished and the load went down, if the engine hadn’t been so well tuned this could have caused a problem but I had it running so well that it would govern safely on no load and steam at top pressure so there was no sweat as far as I was concerned. What was soul-destroying was the fact that as you were doing a long term maintenance job like oiling the main shaft, you would suddenly realise that this was the last time you would do it.
When the notice went up for closure I rang Charlie Sutton and told him we would never flue again, he was the first casualty. This attrition went on and on and was the worst part of the process, I found it very depressing and so I think did everyone. What made it worse was that it was the end of steam weaving in Barnoldswick, what a sad thought.
The pensioners up the line shaft side on the eight loom sets were the first to go. I remember one Friday night I did my usual trip into the shed after shutting the steam to the engine off to listen for any hot bearings as the shafting slowed and stopped, they would squeal as they slowed down and you could identify where they were. One of the older weavers, I forget her name, was standing in the alley with her shopping bag in her hand, listening to the shafting and watching it stop for the last time as she was finishing. I asked her if she was all right and she said that she’d worked in the mills since she was 13 years old and in all that time had never seen the shafting stop, she was always out of the shed as soon as it was going home time! She wanted to know if it always made that banging noise when it was finally stopping, this was the bevel gears rattling as they slowed and stopped. I told her it was quite normal and she smiled and walked out of the shed. Just think about that, she had never wasted a second in the shed all those years. As soon as the engine started to slow down she was off home. That was the sort of attitude that made them such wonderful workers. All this counted for nothing when the chips were down, they were surplus to requirements and on the scrap heap, what a bloody waste! That lady didn’t live long after, she was 78 and still working a full day and I can’t help thinking that ripping Bancroft out of her life contributed to her death.
It was Wednesday of the last week when we were running and I rang Newton Pickles up and suggested he come up after lunch. We only had about ten looms weaving and I had an idea that when we stopped that day we would never start again. Newton came and I had another visitor that day, Professor Owen Ashmore, a noted industrial archaeologist who had called in to see the engine. I told him he had picked a good day and if he hung on until lunchtime I suspected he might see the mill stop for the last time because I couldn’t see the weavers hanging around when they had received their last pay cheque. By about two thirty in the afternoon the rot had set in, the few weavers that were still working decided they had had enough and stopped. Owen got quite excited and wanted to take a picture of me stopping the engine, I told him I wasn’t going to do it, Newton had more claim than me. He protested but in the end I told him that he had to do it so Newton Pickles stopped the last steam engine on its final working day. I did a picture of him as he stopped it, somehow it seemed more fitting to record the history than be the engineer.
This small incident is a nice illustration of the custom and hierarchy that applied in the mill. Newton was my senior and certainly my superior in knowledge of steam engines but when I told him to stop arguing and stop the engine he deferred to me because he was in my engine house and he was a guest. This was one small part of the system that had emerged over the years and gave us all a framework in which to work. Even the owner of the mill couldn’t buck the system and wouldn’t even try. By the way, it’s interesting that nobody from the management was present when we stopped.

Image

Newton stopping the engine on the last working day.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 22 Feb 2018, 05:03

It wasn’t the last time the engine ran, Newton and I ran it the following day and flooded it with oil to give it a good internal coating so that if it was preserved the lads would have as good a start as we could manage. We dosed all the pumps with anti freeze and drained all the tanks, finally we blew the boiler down and opened the lids to let air circulate through it. John and I had some other jobs to attend to like shutting off the sprinklers and draining the system down. We opened the clough in the dam so that there was no danger to the kids who would inevitably start to use it as a playground. Finally, we locked up and walked away.

Image

On that day I stopped the engine for the last time. Newton took the pic.....

It was the end of a fascinating five years. I had learned more about the cotton industry and the technology of weaving in that time than I could ever have imagined. Years later, just as I predicted, I am the only person left who worked in the industry, did the research, took the pictures and did the higher education to understand it all properly. When I have finished the story of my life for my children and grandchildren I shall set about the task of leaving an accurate record of all the things I learned by experience and from people like Newton and Jim. As far as I know it will be the only time that this has been described properly and it should be a valuable resource for historians in the future who want to know more. As far as this story goes, it is just coming up to Christmas 1978 and there is much change on the horizon! (In 2009 I published a book on Brown and Pickles and another describing how Bancroft functioned.)
I have one last story for you about life in the engine house. I think it epitomises our attitudes towards the job. It’s Friday the 8th November 1974 in 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 that 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 buttie. 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 but it seemed to be getting worse.
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 online 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 there was a muffled 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 for a bit of load 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. After about ten minutes young John was getting itchy, he couldn’t understand why these two old blokes were sat there and the engine was still running so he asked when we were going to stop it. Newton told him that if he wanted it stopped he’d better do it himself! I got a buffet for John to stand on so he could reach the stop valve. I locked the governor out and opened the drains and told John it was up to him, he could stop the engine any time he wanted. Just think about this, would a young lad be allowed to do something like that these days? He stopped the engine, 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 still 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.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 23 Feb 2018, 05:26

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. If you should happen to see Newton, ask him about the time him and Stanley ran Bancroft engine on Christmas Eve and he will recall it instantly. How many jobs give experiences like that which are fresh in the mind after 25 years?
There was activity on other fronts that summer. I was approached by Les Say who had just retired from being in charge of the Rolls Royce factories in Barnoldswick. He wanted to know if I’d come on to a committee that had been set up to preserve Bancroft Engine. I agreed but with no great enthusiasm because there was still a lot of scar tissue there generated by the way Bancroft had closed. At the first meeting they ambushed me and voted me in as Chairman. I did my best for them until I went into university and we were very successful, we preserved the engine, set up the Bancroft Mill Engine Trust and Mary Hunter and I became Trustees together with Jack Gissing and Peter Gooby from Steele and Sons the solicitors in Barlick. Later I was to join the committee again when I came out of university but my direct involvement slipped away when I moved out of Barlick much later on.
Another interesting adventure that summer (1983) was when I was summoned by Peter White to go and look at a large suspension water wheel at Glass Houses near Pately Bridge in the company of a bloke I had heard about but never met, David Sekers. David had first come to my notice as the man who guided Gladstone Pottery at Longton through the first years of its establishment as a museum of the pottery industry. From there he had moved to Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, near Wilmslow and was building this up as a heritage venue. His family owned Sekers Silks, a famous textile firm at Whitehaven but all he would ever say about the connection was that he was a failed cloth salesman! The reason why we were at Glass Houses was because they had a large suspension wheel which was almost exactly the same size as the one which was missing from Quarry Bank.
The purpose of the visit was to assess whether it would be ethical to rob one mill to improve another. In many ways it was a shame because Glass Houses was a lovely complex and had a separate turbine as well as the wheel. There had also been an oil engine to supplement the power. However, my opinion was that it was better to take the wheel out and install it at Quarry Bank because there was no chance of it being preserved where it was. My mate Newton Pickles got the job of moving it and it was one of the worst turns I ever did him. He always said that shifting that wheel drove them to finish the firm as they lost so much money on it.

Image

David Sekers, Fred Madders his engineer and Peter White at Glasshouses when we inspected the wheel.

Image

It was impressive!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 24 Feb 2018, 05:03

I'm not sure where to go now, I've reached the end of that segment of Volume Two of me memoirs and have to decide where to go next. One thing seems certain, a good number are logging on every day for a read! Remember that if you go to Lulu.com and have a look for my books all 22 are on there and you can have your own copies.
If I don't hear any objections I am going to do the story of Brown and Pickles again because apart from the fact that a re-read is always a good thing some will not have come across it before and there is a lot of information in there. Remember that I am single minded, all I am trying to do is empty my head on to the page and get as many people as possible to share what I have learned..... You are being managed!
Sorry about that, I shall start tomorrow if nobody protests!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by plaques » 24 Feb 2018, 08:32

Before ye go. These large steam engines are often rated at 300HP / 600 HP etc: etc: Driving numerous looms from anything up to 600.
Starting with waterwheel power what HP range would you expect and what would they drive? Overhead shafting for weaving looms may absorb too much power so were they restricted to spinning frames?
Then onto beam engines for looms, what would the shafting absorb and would the old looms take less power than a modern loom?
Then finally onto horizontal engines. same sort of questions but since the number of driven looms goes up the shafting must be heavier taking up more power and the looms are getting bigger.

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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 25 Feb 2018, 05:11

Hee hee, I asked for that didn't I! Here goes....
Horse power of waterwheels is a moveable feast. The designers were usually optimistic with their estimates, assuming perfect conditions of course. The smallest wheels, like a country corn mill, were lucky if they generated 10hp but the point was it was very high torque due to the gearing and was genuine rotative power and so a skilled miller could adjust his demands to suit what the wheel was giving him. The biggest industrial wheels like Quarry Bank could generate perhaps 200hp on a good day but that was the very best. Once a wheel has generated that amount of torque and speed it doesn't care what the shafting is driving.
In terms of power delivery, for a given size of engine a beam was just as efficient as a horizontal in fact Newton always said that the most efficient engine in the district in terms of coal burned and looms driven was the big beam engine at Earby Mill. Shafting was surprisingly efficient, a reasonable shafting layout in good order could absorb as little as 15% of total power. If you trawl the CHSC minute books you will find reports from Burnley Ironworks on shaft efficiency with some fairly exact estimates based on a power demand from each loom of half a horsepower. Remember that all the looms were Lancashire looms and the blanket figure covered all sizes. This method worked because in practice a 600hp engine like Bancroft could manage a 1200 loom shed and all the ancillary machinery, remember that all the looms were not running all the time, some would always be stopped for weft or maintenance. A loom efficiency of 85% was satisfactory and only a good shed got higher than that.
Shaft and belt driving is seen as old fashioned but in fact it is more efficient in overall thermal terms than individual electric motors on looms. The overall thermal efficiency of an engine driven shed from the burning of the coal to the finished product can be as high as 25%. If you do the same calculations for electricity you get a figure closer to 15% due to heat and transmission losses.
When firms gave in to the blandishments of the electricity salesmen from the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency organisation they were always promised lower energy costs but in Newton's experience this was never realised. The main reason for this was that they still needed the boilers for heating and process steam and steam generation is the single biggest inefficiency in the factory. Their costs immediately went up and this put a lot of firms into the red. This still applies today, if you have to have a boiler to generate steam you may as well install a modern high speed engine like a Bellis and generate your own power. Your overall thermal efficiency will be well over 30%, using mains leccy it is nearer 15%. This is ridiculed by modern engineers but they don't have experience of the engines. All you have to do is a bit of research!
I hope that's answered your questions P!
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 26 Feb 2018, 04:51

Right, I have decided. I am going to do Brown and Pickles again with more comments. This account of the work of a typical firm of engineers and millwrights is well worth close study. As always, if you want more pics go to LlULU.COM and spend money on the book! Hope you enjoy it!

BROWN AND PICKLES

The story of a Pennine engineering firm

Stanley Challenger Graham
2009

PREFACE

In 1931 Alfred P Wadsworth the former editor of the Manchester Guardian and Julia de Lacy Mann collaborated in writing The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire 1600-1780. Their intention was to balance the increasing attention being paid to the industry as part of the so-called ‘Industrial Revolution’ by describing the early industry. They succeeded admirably, their work has been reinforced but never surpassed as the standard source for this period. The rise of the factory system after 1780 first got the attention of the economic historians and was later expanded by the rise of industrial archaeology. From 1950 onwards this new focus coincided with the decline of the old steam driven industries and excited the interest of enthusiasts with the result that we have an incredibly rich literature devoted to the technologies used in what are often referred to as the ‘Smoke Stack Industries’.

All this is good and gives us a solid base for further investigation but is this the best we can do? I am not in the business of telling others what they should be doing, all serious research conducted responsibly and made available to others is laudable but the question is worth asking. You’ll notice that I have worded that sentence quite carefully, I have no time or sympathy for people who, no matter how important it is, clutch their material to their bosom and can get quite dog in a manger about it. I have a story for you…

In 1979 I was employed by what was then the Department of the Environment to research water powered industry in the Lake District, particularly the mills manufacturing bobbins for the textile industry. I started by going to the relevant County Record Offices and scanning the First Edition Ordnance Survey maps for water power sites (there were a lot!) and it was while I was in the Record Office at Kendal poring over a map that I became aware of a figure looming over me in what I can only describe as a vaguely threatening manner. He interrogated me and there was an exchange of views. The upshot was that he left me in no doubt that Lake District water power was his subject and he didn’t appreciate me delving into what he saw as his personal fiefdom. It was the first time I had come across this syndrome, it disturbed and saddened me because there is always room for another view. With hindsight this encounter convinced me that it would be a good thing if I avoided falling into the same trap.

As for what was missing from the material I was researching, I came to the conclusion that the only time I felt I was touching the prime source was when I was on the ground with the archaeological remains or reading quotations from diaries, private papers, letters or in autobiographies and as many of the people involved were intensely practical, these were thin on the ground. I realised that what I wanted to hear was the workers themselves, I wanted their description of what they were doing and the background of their lives. I had this fantasy of being able to sit down with Maudslay, Telford or Roberts and being able to get the story straight from the horse’s mouth. Dream on Stanley, the nearest I ever got to that dream was reading Samuel Smiles and I claim the credit here of realising as soon as I read Lives of the Engineers and his other biographical works that this man was not just a rambling Victorian pedant but someone who knew his subject and had got very close to the source.
I eventually did some practical work to occupy a tiny corner of this wasteland by doing a series of interviews with workers in Barnoldswick which investigated their lives and skills, from there I went to Haslingden and did the same thing at a condenser spinning mill. If you want to look at this material search for The Lancashire Textile Project. A good place to start would the library at Lancaster University or an internet search engine. You’ll find about 1,500,000 words and 500 pictures and that’s one of the problems, it is simply too big to take in. However, it is out there as a resource and you are welcome to do anything you like with it, it is too important not to be freely available.
[We spent a lot of time recently re-working the LTP on the site, inserting the pictures in the text instead of leaving the reader to scan the picture files. It is free to download in its entirety if you are interested!]

That establishes my interest and approach, let’s go back to where the gaps are in the narrative of the old industries. I got quite interested in the comparison between the water-powered textile industry in the north east states of America and what happened here in England. What struck me was that due to the size of the water power sources available in America the individual firms could be much larger and in consequence tended to develop as vertical organisations taking in raw cotton and producing finished goods. This also applied to the various skills and services needed to keep the mills running. Many of these firms had their own foundries and engineering works, they kept all the myriad trades needed to service their operation in-house.
In the British textile industry it was different. From the earliest days entrepreneurs working with water power on a smaller scale used sub-contractors. In the beginning this was the local carpenter to make machine frames, blacksmiths to make metal artefacts and clock-makers for the gearing and small moving parts of the machines. Water-powered bobbin mills and shuttle makers soon developed. The burgeoning market encouraged machinists to improve textile machinery and this led to advances in machine tools and techniques. The widespread use of cast iron employed local foundries and as the industry grew so did the wealth of small firms servicing the mills. It’s quite interesting to see how this stimulation of the local economy still exists today with a firm like Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick using a multitude of small specialised contractors for many parts of their engines. Lucas Industries, a relatively small contractor in the early days making specialised fuel systems and combustion components for jet engines grew into a much larger enterprise. I know of a small back-street firm which developed the technique of manufacturing the pylon which connects the engine to the wing so successfully that they could manufacture two out of the same piece of material that was used by Rolls to make one. They got a lucrative contract.

In Barlick (forgive me but it’s much easier for me to use the local abbreviation for Barnoldswick) we saw the same progression from a manufacturer like William ‘Billycock’ Bracewell owning his own engineering works, foundry and even coal mines to the later shed companies putting out all their service requirements to local contractors who grew with the industry. By 1900 we had heald-knitters and reed makers in the town and slay and shuttle makers in adjoining towns, even the yarn was spun elsewhere, there was no need for the manufacturers to expend any effort on anything but their own trade, they could specialise and achieve maximum efficiency using a healthy service industry which succeeded because it too was able to specialise.

This book is about one particular segment of that service industry. The village carpenters, blacksmiths and clock makers who serviced the early industry soon developed into ironfounders, machinists and millwrights. As they did the size of the components increased and eventually the sector diversified into engine manufacturers and general engineers and millwrights who could service any part of the power production and transmission element of the mills. We were lucky in Barlick because we had Henry Brown Sons and Pickles, engineers and millwrights. At one time they had over 100 mills on their books and could service every part of them. During my career as an engine tenter I was lucky enough to have access to Newton Pickles and he was one of my informants in the Lancashire Textile Project so I can tell the story of the firm, its genesis and work using information straight from the horse’s mouth recognising that the information might not be objective, after all it’s his story, but it will be as close to the source as we can get. Apart from being a useful exercise in understanding the technology it is a valuable insight into the connection between industry and the social life of the community. It is also a personal opportunity to chronicle the life of a very good friend and hopefully ensure that he and the firm are not forgotten.

One word about the strategy of making oral history your tool if you decide to do some investigations of your own. Follow your instincts and if you have a good source don’t be afraid of extracting as much information as possible. At one point I was taken to task by a very senior academic for ‘wasting time’ making fifteen three quarters of an hour recordings with Newton Pickles when I was supposed to be concentrating on the textile industry. Like any good miner who finds the mother lode I kept digging. My attitude was that the service sector was as important as the mills themselves. I never argued with my critic because he thought he had a point. I’ll leave it to you to decide who was right.

One of the big problems when describing something as complicated and technical as the history of an obscure firm is how do you organise the material? I decided that it would make more sense, particularly for the non-technical reader if we deal with it in two parts. My first section is the story of what I know about the genesis of the firm and its history from the early days to closure in 1981. The description of some of the jobs they did which fills out the history is largely kept separate and follows from chapter 10 onwards. I’m sure the last section will engage those of my readers with some technical knowledge. If it can also interest the rest of the world I will be well pleased.

Always remember that the evidence I have access to is partial. Much of it depends on one man’s memory, Newton Pickles. I am sure that because of this there will be mistakes but this is something we have to accept. I can’t possibly know everything, all I can do is give you what I have learned from the evidence. This history is tricky stuff and the only fact I am absolutely certain of is that what I tell you is to the best of my knowledge correct. Please forgive me for the bits that aren’t.

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Newton in his element, running Pendle Street Mill engine in Nelson.
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 » 27 Feb 2018, 04:57

CHAPTER 1: THE BACK STORY

I think it’s best to start with a brief account of the early years in Barlick to set the scene. If you want the full story seek out two earlier books I wrote, Barnoldswick, the story of a Pennine Village and Bancroft, the story of a Pennine Weaving Shed. If the present subject interests you, the two previous ones are right up your street as well and are inter-connected. To get a clear idea of our location look on the map for a small town called Barnoldswick, (OS reference: SD 880465) mid-way between Burnley and Skipton and 600ft up in the Northern Pennines of England

There is very early evidence of Barlick being a centre for specialised timber and wood-turning, an early form of service industry. Entries in the Bolton Priory accounts and Manor Court Rolls from as early as the 12th century show that the town was a source of large timbers and expertise for use in the repair of early water mills. Timbers were supplied to fulling mills in Colne and Clitheroe and the water-powered corn mill at Bolton Priory which suggests that Barlick was the best source within a radius of twenty miles. Here’s the evidence:

(From CHRC [Court Rolls of the Honour of Clitheroe]) ‘Water mill at Colne repaired 1442/1443. Two loads of timber from Barnoldswick Wood carried there to make two ‘balkes’ at 8 pence per load. Two loads of timber for ‘ground werke’ at 8 pence per load. One load of timber for making a ‘sille’ under the ‘axeltree’; 8 pence. Paid 12 pence for carriage of another ‘sille’ and ‘ground sille’ from Pendle to Clitheroe. The same rolls record carriage of one axletree from Barnoldswick at 12 pence. Three loads of timber for the soles of the shears at the said mill([this is a fulling term and therefore must be referring to the Walk Mill.) at 8 pence per load. Carriage of three beams of ‘le shrendicg’ and other necessaries at 8 pence per load.’(Note that these figures seem to be for carriage alone)
Thanks to the Bolton Priory Rolls we even know the name of an individual, Johanni le Tournour (John Turner?) who was paid for his services in 1312/13.
There is no reason to suppose that these resources were not used during the subsequent history of water power in the area. It is reasonable to conclude that at the end of the 18th century when there was a large demand for water powered mills for use in the early textile industry we had the resources to service the building and maintenance of water-powered industry in the town. There is no record of the individual providers but plenty of evidence of the activity. The same would have applied to blacksmith’s work. As for the clock-makers who metamorphosed into the machinists, we know they existed in Burnley and Keighley and they were perhaps the source for Barlick. We have a diary for 1784 written by Abraham Hargreaves of Barrowford who was converting an existing corn mill to a spinning mill and he records that John Greenwood, a pioneer of the water powered industry in Keighley, was making his own machinery. (Later on he diversified and Richard Hattersley took over the machine-making section of North Brook Mill and developed into a major textile machinery manufacturer.) The frames John Greenwood made were sent to Colne by the Keighley carrier. John Greenwood came himself to set them up and show Abraham how to work them. Baines’ directory for 1822 notes a John Bracewell as a millwright in Barlick, possibly starting with the build of Old Coates Mill.
After 1800 the pace in Barlick quickened when the Leeds and Liverpool Canal reached the town and gave access to the coal fields of Yorkshire and Lancashire. This was a quantum leap in the quantity of coal available at a much lower price. The previous supply route by packhorse was totally inadequate for industry. The availability of cheap and unlimited fuel enabled steam technology to complement and eventually replace water-power. The first steam engine in the town augmented the water power at Mitchell’s Mill before 1827. (later called Clough Mill.) At about the same time the Bracewell Brothers (cousins to Billycock.) installed an engine in their Old Coates water mill and extended it.
In 1846 Billycock Bracewell erected the first purpose-built steam powered mill at Butts and followed this in 1853 with Wellhouse Mill, both large combined spinning and weaving mills.

By 1860 Bracewell was in partnership with a man called Griffiths in Burnley running an iron foundry and engineering works which built some of the largest engines made at that time. In 1866 he is the sole proprietor and remained so until his death in 1885 after which all his interests collapsed and were sold off. A good example of the size of engines being built at Burnley was the one Bracewell and Griffith’s supplied to Dalton Mills at Keighley. This engine was a double compound beam engine costing £12,000 dated 1872 and designed by Pickup who later became manager of Burnley Ironworks. The 30ft diameter flywheel and 24ft diameter jack wheel had a combined weight of 135 tons and in 1875 it was described as the biggest steam engine in the world. It ran until 1904 when a major smash led to it being replaced by two 1000hp Pollitt and Wigzell engines. With resources on this scale at his command Bracewell had no need for local expertise. Billycock’s death in 1885 triggered a new round of mill formation under the room and power principle and by 1915 there were thirteen steam mills in Barlick and Salterforth and one in process of building, Bancroft Shed at Gillians.
One wonders whether what persuaded Bracewell to go into iron founding and engineering was the high cost of equipping his two new mills. Whatever the reason, for twenty five years he had access to all the engineering skills he needed in house even though they were situated largely at Burnley. The firm he owned there became Burnley Ironworks after his death and developed into one of the most successful and respected engine builders in the area. The picture I want to convey is of rapid advances in the capabilities of the engineers from 1800 to 1870 and explosive growth in Barlick after Bracewell’s death. This growth of independent mills stimulated a strong demand for engineering skills and services in the town.

For as long as Billycock Bracewell was the dominant force in Barlick he kept control of the demand for and the provision of, engineering services in Barlick. This was how the man worked. If I have learned anything from forty years research into the Bracewell interests it is that Billycock was driven by the need for dominance as the route to control. It’s worth noting, because it becomes important later on, that another branch of the Bracewell family was dominant in Earby but pursued a separate path. They had no outside engineering interests and that may be why an Earby firm of machinists and millwrights founded by William Brown was firmly established before 1880. Billycock Bracewell in Barlick incorporated a large maintenance shop in the 1853/54 build of Wellhouse Mill, he also had a bobbin turning and carpentry facility in what was always called ‘The Joiner’s Shop’. We know that at the time of his death Peter Bilborough was his chief engineer and I think one of his fitters was called Shepherd.

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Ken Wilson's portrait of William Bracewell. I know there is an oil portrait somewhere and I suspect Ken had seen it.
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Re: STEAM ENGINES AND WATERWHEELS

Post by Stanley » 28 Feb 2018, 04:43

The collapse of the Bracewell interests in 1885 and the subsequent sale of assets by the Craven Bank in 1887 broke the linkage with Burnley. Here is the description of what was in Wellhouse Mill from the sale document:

‘THE MECHANICS AND SMITHS TOOLS: Consist of eight lathes, drilling, slotting, shaping, wheel-cutting, cutter-making, planing machines, screwing and tapping machine, steam hammer and grindstones. THE BOBBIN WORKS contains eight bobbin turning lathes, planing and moulding machines; three saw benches, fret sawing machine, two mortising machines, and the whole of the turner’s plant. The loose articles consisting of bobbins, cans, driving strapping, mechanics, smiths and engineers loose tools will be included in the sale.’

This was a substantial resource and when the newly formed Calf Hall Shed Company (First annual general meeting was on April 27th 1889 but I think the company was formed in 1888.) bought Wellhouse Mill in 1890 they inherited the shop and immediately looked for ways to use it to service their mills.

The story I want to tell is what happened to this maintenance facility over the next 100 years but before we start on that we have to step back and tease out an earlier strand of this complicated web of people and circumstances. We have to take a closer look at Earby and Kelbrook.

CHAPTER 2: THE EARLY DAYS IN EARBY

The gestation period for early textiles in Earby was exactly the same as that in Barlick but on a smaller scale because there was only one viable water power resource in the town and that was used for corn-milling, an essential and well-established enterprise. The branch of the Bracewell family that concerns us originated at Coates in Barlick (As did the Bracewells we have noted in Barlick.) but Christopher Bracewell made the move to Earby to start his own fiefdom. The capital for this early expansion came from his father, William Bracewell senior of Coates (1756-1830), who had been very successful in the early ‘putting out’ to domestic industry phase of the early manufactures in both wool and cotton. We have evidence that suggests he was employing hand loom weavers as far afield as Grindleton near Clitheroe. At first Christopher seems to have concentrated on building up a secure land-holding based on farming but at the same time established Old Shed (originally called Green End Shed) on the side of what we now know as New Road in Earby as a centre for his activities in the ‘putting out’ trade of cotton manufacturing. I don’t know the date of the original build as a warehouse but by 1839 it had a small beam engine, had two storeys and ran 100 looms on the ground floor (Later increased to 140 and then 260). The upper floor was used for heald-knitting, preparation and storage. Soon after it opened as a steam driven mill it was visited by rioters who drew the boiler plug and stopped production temporarily. We have some good contemporary evidence for the activities there from Caleb Lee whose father Thomas was originally a hand loom weaver but when Old Shed started weaving he moved in there as a loomer and twister. Caleb and John his brother followed Thomas in the same trade and Caleb says the engineer was called Frank Smith, known as ‘Badger’. He later left Earby to run the engine at the Earby Bracewell’s Airebank mill at Gargrave.
Old Shed was still running in 1875, John Green was in charge of the warehouse and was succeeded by Joseph Cowgill. The engineer was Robert Bradley and he was succeeded by Richard Wilkinson, ‘Dick o’ Bowes’. There were two tacklers, John Wilkinson and Robert Higson. Robert Bradley’s three sons, Watson, Christopher and Hartley were the founders of Bradley Brothers, one of the first firms in Bankfield Shed in Barlick in 1905. We know that Old Shed was still running in 1884 because there was a report in the Craven Herald of 30th August that the shed was stopped by shortage a of water during a drought. I think the Old Shed stopped in about 1884/85 when the Bracewell interests in Earby collapsed but there is evidence that it opened again in 1889.

In 1852/1856 (I have 1852 as the date of the build for the mill but 1856 as the date of the engine) the Earby Bracewells built Victoria Mill which was a substantial operation from the start because it was powered by a very large J&D Yates beam engine named Sans Pareil which eventually, after much modification, ran over 2,800 looms on the extended site. We shall meet this engine frequently during this story. Christopher Bracewell’s sons had evidently recovered well after their father’s death in 1847 and were going to make their mark. Victoria Mill and its subsequent extensions was to run as a steam-powered weaving shed for 107 years. The engine ran until 1963 and the mill was demolished in 1987.
We can make some comparisons between Barlick and Earby. The biggest difference in the early days was the lack of water power sources and this meant that machine spinning wasn’t an option until the advent of steam to power the twist mills. There is some evidence to suggest that Christopher Bracewell made up this deficiency by taking and interest in a water powered spinning mill at Kelbrook, Dotcliffe. As soon as Richard Roberts perfected the power loom and started manufacturing them in 1827 the industry took them up, weaving moved into the factories and the slow decline of the handloom weavers started. By about 1850 they were almost extinct and the modern steam-driven textile factory system was fully established. So in 1839 Old Shed would have had both steam powered spinning and weaving when it opened.

The other big disadvantage in Earby was the distance from the canal at Salterforth. Remember that there were no local supplies of coal and in 1839 the canal was the only way it could be brought in from the coalfields of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Running a small beam engine at Old Shed using horse and cart deliveries from the wharf at Salterforth was possible if inconvenient. We could be looking at about 10 tons of coal a week delivered in two ton loads by tipping carts. Sourcing over 60 tons a week for the new Victoria Mill would have been a different matter. However, by 1849 the Colne-Skipton Midland Railway line was open and the coal yard was only 400 yards from the new mill, thirty loads of coal a week from the railway siding was quite feasible. It could well be that the Bracewell Brothers made the decision to build their new mill in 1847 when their father died but had to wait until the advent of the railway made their enterprise possible. At the time there was no firm date for opening the completed line as the Midland Railway were waiting for the onward connections from Colne into Lancashire to be completed. This would start to look imminent from late 1848 onwards. Delivery of large castings and other materials from the engineers in Blackburn would have been relatively easy by rail. Barlick didn’t get its railway line until 1870 but this was no obstacle because the canal ran through the middle of the town from 1800 onwards.

There was another factor that concerns us because of its effect on our story. In the mid 19th century, starting perhaps as Britain climbed out of the depression following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a tremendous sense of change and growth. The new factory system was growing rapidly and dragging in economic migrants from the surrounding agricultural hinterland. It was this migration that de-populated the villages of Stock near Bracewell and Wycoller near Colne. The attraction was work for all the family in the new industries and the possibility of a good combined wage. There was a cruel blow in 1861 when the American Civil War cut off the supply of cotton from the Southern States, the notorious Cotton Famine. This slowed down expansion until 1870 when the cotton started to flow into the country again. From then on it was boom time until the Great War in 1914, economic activity grew year on year. There was a sense of optimism and excitement about the prospects for even further expansion and no shortage of employment.

We have our ducks in a row now, we can start to draw some conclusions. In Earby Christopher Bracewell and his sons who followed him had no access to engineering expertise in-house. They had to rely on outside contractors to supply their needs. We don’t know where they got the engine for Old Shed or who did the millwrighting. Geoff Shackleton who is probably the best source of information on the engines in this area thinks it was a compound beam engine with a single boiler. It’s not surprising that we know nothing about this engine because many of the early engine makers sank without trace as their products were superseded by better designs, larger units and advancing technology. The new entrants to the trade had the advantage of the latest developments and left them behind. In the case of Victoria Mill we know that the Bracewell Brothers used J&D Yates at Blackburn as their engineers, perfectly feasible once the railway had arrived. We know that Billycock’s Burnley Ironworks were called in to compound the engines to give more power in 1883. In 1898 the engine was totally rebuilt and whilst I am not certain who actually did the work I know that the new cylinders were cast by John Petrie at Rochdale. In 1906 new steel beams were fitted by George Saxon of Openshaw near Manchester. There were many other major repairs, the last ones being in the 1950s and they were carried out by Henry Brown Sons and Pickles.

Quite a burden of facts for you but we need to know the background in order to make the point that from 1839 onwards there was a demand for heavy engineering in Earby and it wasn’t until the early 20th century that this became available locally. We need to have a look now at what was available locally in terms of everyday maintenance and lighter engineering capacity. We know something of a family of blacksmiths in Earby, the last of which was Harry Taylor who died in 2005. He had taken over the family firm of Richard Taylor and Sons who had a long established smithy in Victoria Mill. I have no reason to doubt that the Bracewell Brothers saw an advantage in having a skilled blacksmith on the premises, and they would use other local trades such as joiners and masons rather than employ their own men.

A man called Henry Brown was noted in Barrett’s Earby directory for 1886 as ‘machinist and blacksmith’. In later years the notice board outside the Wellhouse machine shop in Barlick said ‘founded 1889’ but it would appear that Henry’s father, William, set up earlier than this in Earby. He didn’t do major repairs but made a good living as an independent maintenance engineer for the local manufacturers. From all accounts he was a good man and became well-known for his skills. The first workshop I have evidence for is in Albion Street in Earby but there is much I don’t know about the early days. Walt Fisher tells me that they had three different workshops that he knows of, Albion Street, inside the archway into Victoria Mill and at the old gas works site. All I can give you is what I know and Brown’s workshop in Albion Street is going to be very important to our story but first we need to step back again and look at Kelbrook…

Image

The big beam engine at Victoria Mill.

[Many more pics in the book...... If you are interested in the Bracewell Story look for it on the Oneguy site]
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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