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Gatley's Factory

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Gatley's Factory in Knott Mill, Manchester

Also known at various times as Jordan's Mill, Fogg's Mill, and Waddington's Mill.

1821 Occupied by Stones and Williams, cotton spinners, Knot Mill. [1]

1835 Advert: 'TO BE LET, and may be entered upon immediately, all that COTTON FACTORY, fronting Little Peter-street, and the entrance to which is from Greaves-street, Little Peter-street, Manchester, with the steam-engine, mill gearing, mechanics' shop, smithy, new building intended as a cotton warehouse, with batting room above, and other conveniences, and the appurtenances, at present in the possession Mr. Thomas Smith. The steam-engine is twenty-six horses' power, with three boilers, and there is an ample supply of water from the River Medlock. The cotton factory is six stories high, besides the attic. The three lowermost rooms are 86 feet 4 inches by 36 feet wide, exclusive of the engine-house; the three rooms above them are 100 feet long by 37 feet wide, and the attic is 100 feet long by 15 feet wide: all inside measure. The new building is two stories high, 61 feet long by 28 feet broad, inside measure. The owner is deposed to consult the views of an eligible tenant with respect to repairs or improvements.— For a view of the premises, and to treat for a lease thereof, apply to Mr. Casson, Solicitor, 14, Brown-street, Manchester.' [2]

1846 'DESTRUCTION OF A COTTON MILL By FIRE. Last evening a large factory Situated in Jordan-street, Little Peter-street, Knott Mill, known amongst the working classes the the "Slap-up" factory, was almost totally destroyed by fire. It was formerly called Gatley's Factory." The mill was a very old one, and had a frontage of about 32 yards to Jordan-street, the building fronting to Little Peter-street. The building consisted of seven Stories, and was, of course, of great height. It was the property of Mr. Fogg, a gentleman on the continent, by whom it had been let on lease to Mr. James Waddington; but he, however, did not continue to occupy it, and the mill had been standing empty till very lately, when Messrs. Hulme and Roberts {later corrected to Holmes and Roberts}, having received notice to quit the factory known as Garratt Mill (which is to be pulled down to make way for the South Junction Railway), became tenants. They had got a considerable portion of their machinery into it, but up to last evening only about twenty-one looms were at work. The rooms occupied by machinery were five out of the seven; namely, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 , and 6. Yesterday the hands are said to have been very irregular, being bent more on the enjoyments,"as they are called, ‘of the season,' than on work and a number of them were drinking at a beer-house in the neighbourhood, called the "World's End" kept by Wm. Holland, about half-past six o'clock, when the fire was discovered to have broken out in that part of the sixth storey fronting to Jordan-street. An alarm was given at the Police-yard about twenty minutes to six o'clock, when Mr. Rose started off with the Thames engine......

'.....Mr. Rose and the firemen with him had a very narrow escape; he felt the building tremble, and having a doubt of its security, from the circumstance of its being very old, he had only taken his men out and just directed them to take up new positions, when the two top Stories fell. Had they remained a few minutes longer in their first position the whole of them must have been buried under the ruins .... the two upper rooms were on fire from end to end, and by half-past seven the buildinge was burnt down to the fourth story, a great portion of the remainder then gave way with a terrible crash, and fell inwards: ......

.....The origin of the fire could not be ascertained: most of the people about the place seemed to be in a state of intoxication, and could scarcely give an intelligible answer to any question put to them. A large body of the police were in attendance under the command of Superintendents Sawley and Taylor, and rendered great service to the firemen by keeping back the crowd.' [3]

Another report provided additional information[4]:-

'The mill is known by various names, and has been successively called Jordan's Mill, Fogg's Mill, Waddington's Mill, the "Slap-up-Mill," &c. It is the same mill, or rather it occupies the site of the mill, to which attached a painful notoriety in the year 1817, when it was in the occupation of Mr. Brown, or Captain Brown (who, we believe, was the owner) of Mr. Stones, Mr. Sholick, Mr. Thomas Armstrong, Mr. Stubb, and Mr. Frost. On Sunday morning, the 16th of March, in that year, it was totally destroyed by fire, the damage being estimated at £20,000. There being strong grounds for believing that it was wilfully set on fire, Mr. Thomas Armstrong, one of the occupiers, a young man about thirty-four years of age, was apprehended, convicted of arson at the following summer assizes, and was hanged at Lancaster on the 20th of September, 1817, for the offence. The last occupier of the mill was Mr. James Waddington, who held a lease of it for a term of fourteen years, and Messrs. Holmes and Roberts having about three months ago taken the remainder of his lease, and purchased some machinery of him which remained in the building, had since that time been engaged in removing their machinery thither from the Garratt Mill; and, when the fire broke out on Friday evening, the following was the condition of the mill: it as an old, ill-constructed building, having probably been erected shortly after the catastrophe of 1817, and was about thirty-two yards in length, by fifteen yards in breadth. It is situated, with one gable end, four or five windows in breadth, next Little Peter-street, and the other next Fogg's-lane; one side, eleven windows in length, adjoining Jordan-street, and the other in the yard of the mill, but with an entrance gate from Greaves-street. The first or ground floor was full of carding machines and machinery for preparing cotton; only part of the second floor was furnished with looms, brought from the Garratt Mill, which were in progress of being "gated," or made ready for setting to work; the third floor was full of looms, removed from the Garratt Mill; the fourth was full of mules; the fifth was only about half full of mules; and the sixth and seventh floors were full of mules, left there by Mr. Waddington, and purchased of him by Messrs. Holmes and Roberts.

'About fifty operatives were employed, and the greater part of the hands had been absent from work the whole of the day; many of them, in fact, were drinking at the World's End beer-shop, Little Peter-street, at the time. Between five and six o'clock in the evening, William Breeze, the engineer, stopped the engine, in order to allow those who were at work to leave. About half-past five, or twenty-five minutes before six o'clock, the engineer states that he was leaving the mill, when, in going along the yard, he observed a light in No. 6 room, the highest story except one. He remarked to Roger Wardle, the lodge-keeper, that he had not turned the gas off, on which Wardle tried to light the gas in the lodge, and, finding that there was no gas there, he, of course, concluded that the light in the mill could not arise from his having neglected to turn the tap of the service Pipe. Both the engineer and Wardle then returned into the mill to examine the meter in the bottom room; and while there, James Pepper, a warper employed at the mill, came in and gave an alarm of fire, having observed the light from the outside. All three then ran up stairs and on coming to No. 6 room they saw the floor on fire nearly in the centre, and between two mules which ran from one gable end to the other. The engineer states, that if he could have procured a bucket full of water the instant he saw the fire, he could have extinguished it. He ran down stairs as quickly as possible for water, and on arriving in the yard he learned from two policemen who had heard the alarm and come into the yard, that information of the fire had been sent to Mr. Rose. Before the engines arrived several of the work-people and other persons endeavoured to extinguish the flames, by throwing water upon them; but, fed by the cotton in process of manufacture, the conflagration spread with great rapidity.

'The alarm reached the police yard about a quarter before six o'clock; and Mr. Rose instantly proceeded to the spot with the Thames fire-engine, followed rapidly by the Mersey, the Niagara, and three other engines. By the time they reached the mill, not only the sixth, but the seventh story, and the attic, or the cockloft, were on fire. There being a cistern of water in the yard of the premises, the hose were attached; and the firemen, under the direction of Mr. Rose, proceeded up the stairs of the mill to the door of No. 6 floor, with a branch. On opening the door, which unfortunately faced Jordan-street, instead of Fogg's-lane (in other words, it opened to the side of the mill, instead of along its length - the men were not only unable to rake the flames in their full rage, but from these rushing in great force around the doorway, they were utterly unable to endure the intense heat, and were driven back, and obliged to retreat more than once.

'About half-past six o'clock the roof and part of a wall fell in with a tremendous crash; and at this time Mr. Rose and a number of his men were in one of the upper floors of the building. He distinctly felt the stairs and the building generally shaking; and one of his men at the same time reporting to him that the building was very badly constructed, and the upper part of the walls very thin, Mr. Rose thought it unwise to risk the lives of his men in so perilous a situation, and he accordingly directed them to descend the stairs and quit the building. Not long afterwards the upper floors of the building being then burned down to the fourth story, one or more floors fell in, and the beams being inserted in the outer walls, these were drawn inwards, and fell with a tremendous crash, about a quarter or twenty minutes before eight o'clock, leaving only small portions at each gable end standing. At this time there was no fire in the three lower stories, which were also swept down with the weight of the superincumbent materials, the fall of these walls being so sudden and simultaneous, produced a feeling of terror amongst the crowd, and, for a few seconds afterwards, a perfect stillness prevailed, many persons fearing that some of the firemen had been buried in the ruins. At the time of this fall of the greater part of the building, seven or eight firemen were on the roof of a low building in the yard of the premises, directing the three branches from the engines upon the burning mill. That smaller portion of the outer walls which fell outwards, struck the roof of the boiler house, where the men were; but, as they perceived the fall coming, they all leaped off upon the ground, and, fortunately, escaped without serious injury, with one exception, a man named Abrahams, who, in leaping, slipped and sprained, or otherwise hurt his knee-joint so seriously, that it was necessary to convey him home. Up to this time the firemen were rapidly mastering the fire, which from the first had never burst into a clear mass of flame, but smouldered and smoked under the deluge of water poured on it; and it is the opinion of Mr. Rose that the flames would soon have been got under but for the sudden fall of the greater part of the building, which left little standing that was worth preserving; indeed, all that remained to be done was to extinguish the burning timbers, and to prevent the fire from extending to adjacent buildings. To this end it was necessary to continue working the engines for several hours.

'The origin of the fire seems to be enveloped in a mystery. There had been no hands working in No. 6 room since breakfast time on Saturday morning, but one of the men employed in the mill states that he lighted the gas in that room and took a man into the room with him, but the men would not begin work, and the gas was put out about a quarter of an hour afterwards.

'The valuable machinery and stock in the mill is estimated at about £6,000, and the whole of it, with the exception, probably, of the engine, has been destroyed. Messrs. Holmes and Roberts are insured in the Phoenix and Norwich Union offices, in the former case for £3,500, and in the latter for £2,300 ; and we understand that they received the policies only last week. The lease was to have been transferred from Mr. James Waddington to them on Saturday last. Their books were all saved, being got out at the commencement of the fire.'


The 1849 O.S. map [5] shows the mill, basically L-shaped, in a square plot of land, with Little Peter Sreet to the north, Greaves Street to the west, Fogg's Place to the south, and Jordan Street to the east. The entrance to the yard is from Greaves Street (now renamed Constance Street). To the right of the entrance, occupying the south west corner of the plot, was a small L-shaped building identified as 'Indian Corn Mill'.

Adshead's 1851 Maps of Manchester indicate that the only factory on the site at that time was the small L-shaped building, marked as Holcroft's Corn Mill.

Some brick-built 3 and 4 storey mill-type buildings, converted to offices, now occupy part of the site. These were presumably built to replace the destroyed mill.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Pigot & Dean's New Directory of Manchester and Salford, 1821-22
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 7 November 1835
  3. Manchester Times, Saturday 3rd January 1846
  4. Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser - Saturday 10 January 1846
  5. 'The Godfrey Edition' 'Old Ordnance Survey Town Plans: Manchester Sheet 33: 'Manchester (Oxford Street & Gaythorn)' [1]