Samuel Oldknow was born at Anderton near Bolton in 1756. When in his teens he was apprenticed to an uncle who ran a drapery business in Nottingham. He was obviously a promising lad because after only a year the uncle took him into partnership. Fairly soon after, in 1782 he branched out on his own as a manufacturer of muslin and was very successful, making a lot of money. In 1784 he moved his business to Stockport and set up at a site on Higher Hillgate. His house at No 27 Higher Hillgate is still there, now converted into apartments, but with a blue plaque near the front door, so you will know you are at the right place.
left: Replica of Mellor Mill headstone, delivered 12th February 2019
The recently completed ‘Revealing Oldknow’s Legacy Project’ had three parts: restoration of the Peak Forest Canal Aqueduct, investigation of the industrial archaeology and landscaping of the lime kiln complex off Strines Road, and furtherance of the industrial archaeological excavations of the Mellor Mill site, which had started in 2011 prior to granting of Heritage Lottery money in 2014.
A prime part of any Lottery project is involvement and education of the public. During this one much work was done with young people, and the sites were used in various imaginative ways. School children took part in archaeological digging, used information in ‘local studies’, made a film and wrote stories. They drew images giving their impressions of aspects of the various sites and connecting routes. Some of these were used to create embossed metal ‘rubbing tiles’ which have been placed at appropriate points. The idea is to place a piece of paper over the tile, and shade with a pencil or crayon when an impression of the image emerges.
The excavation of the engine house and gearing passage at Mellor Mill has made great progress. The boiler seatings, engine bed and bearing foundations have all been exposed and allow some estimates of the size and layout of the power transmission system to made. Several of the diggers have said that they had difficulty in visualising what it was that they were digging up, and my descriptions in terms of whirling gear wheels, shafts, couplings etc., did not seem to help them.
Mellor Mill's First Festival:
On Sunday 19th July, Mellor Mill celebrated the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology. Despite a damp start to the day, local people and visitors from further afield gathered to take part in this Heritage Lottery Funded celebration of all things archaeology. That’s Manchester TV even popped down to do some filming for their news show!
Work begins in earnest !
The corner is being lifted, the legacy of Samuel Oldknow is being revealed, the hidden work and skills of the 18th and 19th, revealed for the 21st century.
The New Year brought the visit of a big digger to the mill site. Bob Humphrey-Taylor, Mill Site Director, and Rachel Miller , Project Archaeologist, set to clear the spoil heaps that had grown around the site from the mainly hand excavations over the past two years, since investigation began in earnest. Fantastic progress was made. As well as landscaping, some of the 1000 tonnes of earth was moved to create a flat landscape for the site cabins.