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British Industrial History

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Bradford Road Mill

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in Bradford Road, Ancoats, Manchester

Latterly called India Mills.

Banck's 1831 maps shows the mill, identified as 'Pooley's Cotton Mill'. This was very much on the outskirts of Manchester at that time, the land beyond the mill, on that side of the Ashton Canal, being fields.

The 1848 O.S. map shows the mill located between Bradford Road and the Ashton Canal, immediately south west of Brunswick Mill. On the other side of the canal was a 'brick field', beyond which were Holt Town Mills. Between the S.W. end of the mill and Beswick Street was a row of houses and a chapel. The street crossed the canal by Harbottle Bridge, named after the adjacent Harbottle's Mill.

1854 Advertisement: 'On Sale two circular boilers, 32 feet long, 7 feet 6 inches diameter, two Circular Flues and Fire-boxes inside. — Also, One 20 feet BOILER: all complete,and may be seen at work at 35 lbs pressure.—Apply at Mr. C. POOLEY'S, Bradford Road Mills, Manchester.'[1]

Destructive Fire in 1842

Often it has been our duty to record the destruction of property in this town and neighbourhood, to a vast amount, by the ravages of fire, in no instance have we done so with more painful feelings than on the present occasion, heightened and embittered as the calamity is by the loss of the lives of six human beings. The scene of this melancholy catastrophe was the large manufactory of Messrs. Chas. Pooley and Sons, cotton-spinners, situate in Bradford-road, Ancoats, near the top of Mill street, which on Thursday evening was almost entirely destroyed by a fire of the most rapid and devastating character, and the results of which are of the serious extent we have above-indicated.
The manufactory of Messrs Pooley was one of the largest in the town. The hands employed in the mill were upwards of 600 in numbers The great majority of them effected their escape soon as the fire was seen to be making head, bit several remained, and the utmost alarm was excited for their safety, as they were seen presenting themselves at the various windows of the blazing pile. By the greatest exertions several of them were rescued. A boy, 14 years of age, leaped out of window, but the poor fellow was taken up dead.
At the time Mr. Rose arrived at the spot, which was near seven o'clock, the whole of one part of the mill, from bottom to top, was one sheet of flame, illuminating the heavens, and seen for miles around. There was no chance of saving it, and the building fell in soon afterwards, burying beneath it five boilers in the lower story, and the place is now a heap of ruins. Mr. Rose and his son, Mr. Thomas Rose, exerted themselves in the most extraordinary manner, and with the whole establishment of firemen, faced the fire under circumstances which would have appalled the stoutest heart unaccustomed to such scenes. The branches of the engines were taken up the steps, although the air was heated to the rarity almost of a stove, and step by step Mr. Rose advanced, cooling the way as well as he could, by the water playing upon the walls, till he actually attained the sixth story, where a harrowing scene presented itself. The bodies of five poor creatures - a young man named James M'Mann, aged 19, two boys named John Snape and William Ridgway, and two girls named Mary Ann M'Kinsey and Mary M'Conville—were found. M'Mann appeared to have life in him, and was removed to the Ancoats Dispensary, but on his arrival there he was found to be quite dead. The other poor creatures were dreadfully scorched and burnt; though is probable that suffocation had put an end to their sufferings before the flames reached their bodies. In the meantime the other parts of the mill were played upon so vigorously, that the fire seemed to be completely under by 11 o'clock.
The amount of damage is variously estimated at from 12,000l. to 15,000l. This loss said to covered by insurances in the Sun office to the amount of 4,300l.; in the Manchester office to the amount of 5,800l; in the York and London to the amount of 3,000l.; in the Phoenix to the amount of 1,000l.; and in the Royal Exchange to the amount of 3,400l. — The fire-proof mill contains the more valuable machinery, and the salvage this property, effected by the most persevering and most determined-exertions of Mr. Rose and bis brigade of firemen, reflects great credit on him. The whole mill will be at a stand-still, however, notwithstanding this salvage, in consequence of the destruction of the boilers, and between 500 and 600 hands will, therefore, be thrown out of work for a considerable time.—Abridged from the Manchester Courier.' [2]

[Abridged from the. Manchester Guardian.']
The fire originated about quarter past six o'clock, on the evening of Thursday last, when all the hands, about five hundred in number, were at work in the mill. The flames were first seen about that time bursting forth from the interior of machine, called by some of the hands a willow, but Mr Pooley the First Blowing Machine or Scutcher. The lad who was " tenting " (attending) machine saw sudden of flash flame come out it, and in a moment the whole of the cotton in and about it was in a blaze. A man at the other end of the room gave substantially the same account of its commencement. There was no fire, and only one light in the room, ( a covered glass lamp) three or four yards from the scutcher, and there were no means of communicating flame from the one to the other. From the scutcher the cotton is conducted up a sort trough termed a "creeper," into the floor above, the where a great quantity of loose cotton was lying ; and owing to this circumstance, both floors were almost simultaneously in flames. In the lower one the man who was at distance ran with a bucket of water, and dashed it on the flaming cotton; but as more issued from the machine and fell in blazing fragments about the floor, the flames soon spread, and all the efforts of the hands speedily called to the spot, and plying buckets of water, were ineffectual. The manager, Mr. Daniel Conolly, turned the steam into the room, and very judiciously knocked a plug out; and with a sledge-hammer broke the main pipe communicating with all the five boilers, hoping this means to throw a body of steam into the floor No. 3, directly above the boiler-house, but the flames had by this time spread in all directions, and the alarm being given to the hands generally, the greater portion of them effected their escape by the general staircase, and some few by ropes from the windows of the third floor. Others jumped from these windows, and were caught in the arms the bystanders below ; and one poor lad, Robert Garvin, attempting to descend by a spout from the fourth floor, fell, and his body striking across the edge of a water tub, he was so much injured that he died shortly afterwards. The manager exerted himself in aiding some of the hands to escape, and supposed that all had got out; but the event proved otherwise.
At about eleven o'clock the fire was got under; but the engines continued to play till about one in the morning, and then the fire brigade were withdrawn, with the exception of the Neptune, which was left with a company of fifteen men to play all night; and indeed during Friday, till four o'clock in the afternoon.
We believe that the loss will be fully covered the insurances. ……
We must now come to the most painful and distressing part of this melancholy catastrophe : the particulars respecting the unfortunate sufferers, who were found by the firemen in various parts of the buildings.
DEAD.-_John Snape, aged 15 years ; he had fallen in a door-way leading to the staircase, apparently suffocated. The upper part of the body and legs were dreadfully burned ; indeed, quite calcined.- William Ridgway, aged 18 : the body was not so much charred as some of the others, but in parts of the face, hands, and arms, the skin was burned completely off; the appearance of the deceased was as if he had been suffocated.- Mary Ann M'Kenzie, aged 17: the face was much burned; the left arm was doubled up, as if convulsively drawn together, and much burned; the tongue protruded from the mouth, and altogether the body presented a frightful spectacle.- Mary M'Conville, aged 14: the body was born quite double, and the body and limbs in many parts reduced to a cinder; the face was frightfully disfigured and, altogether, this body was perhaps the most horrible spectacle of the six.- Robert Garvin, aged 13: this poor lad lost his life in attempting to descend outside the building.- James M'Munn, aged 19, was found near the staircase; he was seen last to approach a window, from which a boy descended by rope, but, instead of following him, he turned back, it is supposed, to get a book on Algebra, lent him by acquaintance. The skin had come off both arms and feet, and the neck was much swollen ; the nose was both burned and bleeding; when the firemen found him he was alive and moaned ; he was immediately conveyed to the Ancoats Dispensary, but died on the road.
On Friday an inquest was held on the bodies of the sufferers, when Mr. Daniel Connolly, the manager, stated his opinion of the origin the fire to be, that some stone or hard substance had got with the cotton into the willow, which striking it caused ignition. He also said that the four deceased persons who were found above described, had, in his opinion, been driven back by the smoke on the staircase, and got into the roving room, where they were directly suffocated; whereas, if they had made a bold effort, they would have got out safe.
The Jury, after a patient investigation, returned a verdict to the effect that four of the deceased persons were accidentally suffocated, and that two died from injuries in falling.' [3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 30 September 1854
  2. Berkshire Chronicle, 12 November 1842
  3. Reading Mercury, 12 November 1842