Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 150,668 pages of information and 235,204 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Chepstow Street Mills, Manchester

From Graces Guide

of Chepstow Street, Manchester.

1891 Directory: Listed. More details

Built some time between 1813 and 1820. Demolished in 1990.

The 1849 O.S. map shows a tightly-packed group of buildings identified as 'Chepstow Street Mills' half way along the north side of Chepstow Street, immediately opposite part of Sharp, Roberts and Co's Atlas Works. Two sides were bounded by a branch of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal, while the remaining side was bounded by a group of back-to-back houses, doubtless slums, named Rothwell's Buildings. The mill buildings were closely packed into a site measuring 250 ft by 110 ft. An octagonal chimney is shown near the centre of the site.

This area of Manchester, with Oxford Road Station at its heart, had a remarkably high density of industrial premises interspersed with a small number of over-populated slum dwellings, including 'Little Ireland'. One of the group of buildings is more or less rhombus-shaped, while another wall is aligned at a slightly different angle. Adshead's 1851 map shows two mills on the site, separated by a slanted wall. The larger (southern) portion is identified as Wadkin & Co's Cotton Mill, while the smaller is Wallace & Co's Cotton Mill. Bancks's 1831 shows only the larger portion of the site occupied, 'Beavers Cotton Mill'. (Hugh Beaver?). Ewart's Cotton Mill was on the opposite bank of the canal.

Non-rectangular floor plans, and buildings set at jaunty angles, are not uncommon in central Manchester, but they must have been anathema to their hard-nosed builders. It is sometimes interesting to explore the reasons for these anomalies, as they can help shed light on the shape of Manchester before it was covered in brick and concrete.

Looking at the 1849 O.S. map, due south of Chepstow Street Mill, across Chepstow Street, we find that the boiler shop of Sharp Brothers and Co is aligned at an angle to the rest of the works, and at a different angle to the anomalous part of Chepstow Street Mill. Then, 100 yds to the south and west, we see a small wing of Crighton's foundry, aligned at a different angle again. This building was adjacent to Lock No. 89 on the Rochdale Canal. There is nothing on the map to account for these anomalies, but if we overplot the positions on Green's map of 1787-1794, when the area was all fields, we find that the meandering course of the diminutive River Tib explains these anomalies. Even if the river was too insignificant to form a physical barrier, it did define the land boundaries, which even the Dickensian Mr Grandgrinds were obliged to respect. The river has long been completely culverted, but we do know that it passes under the Rochdale Canal at Lock 89 before joining the River Medlock.

The 1894/1896 OS map shows Chesptow Street Mill still present, along with some of the adjacent houses.

Goad's Insurance Plans (updated 1901) show the five storey (plus basement and attic) building visible on the former mill site in the photo as 'Var. H. T.' and shipping warehouses, while the low-rise building on the right was used by J. C. Norbury and Sons, printers. The tall buildings on the left in the photo are also shipping warehouses, the visible one belonging to Julius Liepmann and Co. The buildings on the extreme left were occupied by John J. Royle.

A 1900 photograph here is a view looking north west from waste ground formerly occupied by part of Sharp, Roberts and Co's works, designated as the site of a circus. The large building dominating the right of the picture is on the site of Chepstow Street Mill, but it is clearly does not date from the early 19thC. The houses to the left of this building are Rothwell's Buildings.

The inconsistency of the mill's appearance in the 1900 photo witha the original 1813-20 construction date is readily explained. Williams and Fairnie included a brief description and illustrations of the mill in 1992 [1]. A photograph of the north west face taken shortly below demolition shows a typically plain early 19thC mill building, with the addition of an external lift shaft. A drawing shows that the south eastern side of the building had been altered to include a warehouse extension, and this is what we see in the 1900 photo. Williams and Fairnie describe the original mill's 'fireproof' roof as of exceptional interest as one of the earliest and largest known examples of cast and wrought-iron truss construction, and include drawings showing details of the ingenious roof design. Considering the trusses as pairs of right-angled triangles, the 'hypotenuse' is the cast iron principal member, of inverted T section, with buttressed notches in the top edge to accommodate fish-bellied purlins. The outer ends of the principals were joined by horizontal wrought iron tie rods. Pairs of principals were lap-jointed at the apex, where they were held together by a single bolt. This joint also accommodated the T-head of a vertical wrought iron tie rod. The bottom of this rod joined of a pair of C.I. struts whose top end was bolted to the principals at their mid-length.

Newspaper Reports

1851 'DESTRUCTION OF A MILL BY FIRE.- At the close of last week a very disastrous fire occurred in Manchester, by which a large cotton-mill and its contents, valued at upwards of £22,000, were utterly consumed. It seems that about half-past five o'clock a.m. the hands in the employ of Messrs. Wallace, Watchurst, and Thompson, of the Chepstow-street Mill, assembled to commence work as usual, proceeding to light up the several rooms in which they worked, and to put the machinery in motion. Shortly after the room No. 8 had been lighted, one of the hands employed there ran down into the lower part of the mill with the startling intelligence that the room was all in flames. An alarm was given, but in spite of the exertions made the main mill was totally gutted, and lies in ruins.' [2]

On Wednesday, a cause was tried at the County Court, before Robert Brandt, Esq. which, as it was one of several similar cases, in which money to a much larger amount was involved, excited much attention amongst millowners, machinists, and others. The plaintiffs were John Cochrane, and Wm. Crooke, who sued Messrs. Croome and Brothers, manufacturers, of Chepstow-street mill, Oxford Road, to recover £3. 16s. alleged to be due for the use of an invention belonging to the plaintiffs, and known as the "Continuous Check Strap," used upon power looms. Mr. Saunders, instructed by Mr. Richardson, solicitor, Bolton, appeared. for the plaintiffs; and Mr. Ovens, instructed by Messrs. Hitchcock, Buckley, and Tidswell, of this city, for the defendants. Mr. Saunders stated that about the year 1844, the plaintiff, Crooke, who was then a hand-loom weaver, had his attention drawn to a defect in the power loom, by which much waste and inconvenience were occasioned, from the sudden rebounding of the shuttle, whereby the "cop" was often broken in the shuttle, and what is termed "traps," or breakages of the warp, were caused. After some time the idea of a continuous strap, from one picker to the other, in front of the "breast beam," struck him as an effective remedy. He was ill at the time, and unable to reduce to practical operation his ideas, and he, therefore, called in to his assistance an operative power-loom weaver, named Lancaster, who completed the invention. As they were both poor men, they were unable to raise the necessary funds to make a working model, and obtain a patent, which was then a very expensive process. Under these circumstances they applied to the late Mr. William Eccles, of Blackburn, who very much approved of at the invention, and at once took out a patent in the joint names of Crooke, Lancaster, and Eccles. This was in the latter end of 1844, but subsequently, by assignment, it became the property of the present plaintiffs, Cochrane and Crooke. The facts as stated by the learned counsel, were proved by the original inventors, Crooke and Lancaster, and a great number of witnesses were called to show that prior to 1844, the date of the letters patent, no such strap had been used for such a purpose on the power loom. This evidence was tendered with a view of showing that the invention was original, which alone could render the patent valid. Mr. Ovens, for the defendants, took a legal objection to the patent, at which he believed would be fatal to the whole case. He would also call a number of witnesses to prove that the invention was not an original one by Crooke, if his legal objection failed. The evidence for the plaintiffs he admitted undoubtedly proved that Crooke was the original inventor, that Lancaster was called in to assist as a mere mechanic, and that Mr. Eccles had nothing whatever to do with the invention, if invention it was, beyond the mere act of finding the money to complete it, and to obtain the patent. That being the case, the patent was bad, because a false declaration was set forth, inasmuch as all three had to swear that they were the sole inventors, before the patent was granted in their joint names. Thus the crown was deceived, end "Hindmarsh upon Patents" (page 21) laid it down as the law, that where a false declaration was made, the patent obtained under such declaration was void. The Judge took note of the objection, but ordered the case to be proceeded with. - James Salisbury was then called, and examined by Mr. Ovens: He was an overlooker of power-loons for Messrs. Croome and Brothers, the present defendants. In 1838 he was overlooker at Mr. R. Smethursts', of Chorley, when his attention was first directed to what is called the "continuous check strap." He "gaited" 84 looms, made by Mr. Jackson, of Bolton, to many of which he applied the check strap, precisely as the one now used by his present employers. In 1844 he worked at the Oxford Road Twist Company's mill, in this city, were he also applied the check strap. He was y sure that the invention was not new in 1813 or 1844, when r Crooke obtained the patent for it. He had always used it since he was at Chorley, more or less, as it was required. Cross-examined by Mr. Saunders: He did not use it on all the looms he "gaited" at Mr. Smethurst's, because he could not always get sufficient leather for the purpose. He could not tell why sufficient leather was not supplied. Mr. Smethurst had been a manufacturer many years before that period. The strap he used in 1838 was exactly the same as the one for which the patent right was now claimed. He was sent for by Mr. Croome about a fortnight before this trial, and told he would have to attend and give evidence; he subsequently went to an attorney's office, at his master's request. - Mr. Sailsbury, brother to the last witness, was a also called, and swore to the fact that his brother had applied the strap to looms upon which he worked in 1838 or 1839. Several other witnesses were called to prove the use of the check strap before the date of the letters patent; amongst whom were Mr. R. Croome, one of the defendants, and Mr. John Brown, manufacturer, of Burnley. At the close of the evidence, the Judge said he would take time to consider his judgment; that in the meantime he would carefully examine the law authorities on the subject, and would give notice to counsel when he intended to deliver his verdict. During the interval Mr. Brandt intimated to the council on both sides that he would like to hear the point of law upon which Mr. Ovens' objection was founded, more fully argued; and he fixed Wednesday last, the 21st inst. for that Purpose, when the court met at eleven o'clock. The Judge then said that he thought the objection to the patent had not been supported by the evidence; that this strap or some such strap had been used prior to the date of the patent he believed; but it was not such a use as gave the public a fair and reasonable opportunity of judging of its merits as a whole. Upon the evidence, therefore, there would be judgment for the plaintiffs. The point now to be argued was, whether the patent was rendered void by the alleged false declaration, as stated by the counsel for the defendants. There were three persons included in the patent - Crooke, Lancaster, and Eccles; and the objection was, that the patent was bad because Crooke alone was the original inventor, and therefore Lancaster and Eccles had no right to share in it. This was the point to be argued. Mr. Ovens then proceeded, at considerable length, to argue the point of law, quoting many authorities and text books upon the subject, from the statute of James I, known as the " Statute of monopoly," and various writers on this subject - the object of which was to show (as set forth in Hindmarsh, page 512) that "the first and true inventor or inventors only" were entitled to the right of letters patent.- Mr. Saunders replied at great length, recapitulating the evidence, and also quoting many authorities and reports of law courts, and the judgment of Lord Tindal, in matters affecting patents which had come before him; with a view of establishing the point, that in cases where original inventors had called to their assistance other persons in the construction of the machinery, or persons who had assisted in the necessary publication of the invention, as in the case of Eccles and Lancaster, had as good a right to and a share in the patent as the party who first conceived the idea. At the close of the argument, which lasted nearly four hours, the judge said, that in an important case like the present, involving so many interests, he would be glad if his judgment could be reviewed by a superior court; but in this case he feared it was not possible. It was one of those points of law which had not before been raised, and, therefore, the more difficult; but, after having heard the case so fully, and he might add so ably argued on both sides, and having himself given great attention to it, he must give his verdict for the plaintiffs, with costs. Verdict accordingly.'[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'Cotton Mills of Greater Manchester' by Mike Williams with D. A. Fairnie, Carnegie Publishing, 1992
  2. Lady's Newspaper and Pictorial Times - Saturday 18 January 1851
  3. Manchester Times - Saturday 24 December 1853