Last Sunday we visited the museum at Bancroft Mill in Barnoldswick, Lancashire which is located betwixt the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland. I can usually be persuaded to visit any sort of archaeology or heritage site in the land given the chance, and it so happened that my father in law was going to be dancing there as part of Stone The Crows a group of Border Morris dancers. This was on one of the periodic Heritage Steam Days when the boilers are stoked up and the preserved steam engine which would have once powered the long gone looms is put through its paces.
The Bancroft mill was a very late construction with the weaving shed only being commissioned in 1920 for James Nutter & Sons Limited, and the site may be the one of the last such mills constructed in the area. When the site closed down in 1979 the weaving shed was demolished but the engine house, chimney and boiler shed have subsequently been preserved and kept as a working steam museum.
The engine house contains a 600hp cross compound engine by William Roberts of Nelson. On such an engine the cylinders and cranks are on either side of the flywheel. The cylinders of the engine are each individually named, with the low pressure side being called ‘Mary Jane’, and the high pressure side called ‘James’.
Steam is now raised at the mill to power the engine by a Cornish Boiler, which itself had originally been installed at the mill to give auxillary power to supplement a larger Lancashire Boiler. The Lancashire Boiler is still on site but is now no longer fired up and is used as a water reservoir for the raising of steam.
The large number of looms which would have once produced cotton cloth have all long since been removed, although there is a single working example kept in the engine shed which is used to produce souvenir tea towels. All in all I would recommend the museum as an interesting afternoon out, particularly on a day when they have the engine working. The Bancroft Mill Engine Trust volunteers we met were all friendly and knowledgeable and the café by the entrance serves a reasonably priced mug of tea. As usual we also came away with a ‘Bancroft Mill’ emblazoned tea towel and a commemorative mug!