Heritage and Landscape

The Built Environment Transformed: Illustration details

Taking a case-study approach, The Built Environment Transformed discusses the remarkable changes made to the built environment in textile Lancashire – essentially the eastern and central parts of the county – during the Industrial Revolution (c1780-c1850). Developments in industry, housing and transport are emphasised, drawing particularly on the physical evidence the sites provide.

The illustrations included in this blog add to those provided in each chapter of The Built Environment Transformed. Some provide further details about the sites covered in the book, others extend the contextual commentary relating to them.

Water-powered factory sites

Image 1. Disused reservoir at Quarlton Vale Print Works, near Bolton

Key features are shown of probably the most common type of water-powered site found in textile Lancashire. An earth embankment was built to form one side of a sizeable by-pass reservoir, into which a weir channelled some of the water from Walleach Brook. Silt was deposited in the reservoir as the speed of the water flow was checked, causing partial infilling. The silt had to be dug out periodically to maintain the capacity of the reservoir. Those undertaking the work might be paid extra because of the arduous work involved.

Image 2. Controlling the water supply at Quarlton Vale Print Works

Sluice-gates controlled the flow of water from Walleach Brook into the reservoir. The brook flows onwards along the other side of the reservoir embankment, originally feeding another reservoir at the print works. Ordnance Survey maps, which are freely available on the National Library of Scotland website, enable the layout of the site to be seen in the 1840s and 1890s.

Image 3. Cheesden Lumb wheelpit

The wrought-iron waterwheel shaft with its cast-iron hubs is shown in more or less its original position within the infilled wheel pit. The opening in the rear wall of the mill behind the wheelpit accommodated the pen trough, which controlled the flow of water onto the waterwheel. The Cheesden Brook waterfall, which was highly advantageous in developing the site, is below the arch.

Image 4. Section through the reservoir at Croston Close Upper Mill, Cheesden Valley

As can be seen, the reservoir comprises a substantial earth embankment strengthened by an interior stone lining. The opening revealing the cross-section marks the position of the reservoir’s original overflow.

Factory village housing

Image 5. Tenement dwellings, New Lanark, Scotland.

From the perspective of the mill owner, in this case David Dale, relatively cheap, high-density dwellings could be provided in tenement blocks. But the occupants lived in single-roomed apartments that had to meet varied family needs and lacked privacy. Several flights of steps had to be negotiated to reach the uppermost rooms.

Image 6. Water Street, Egerton, near Bolton

The four houses with two-pot chimney stacks are examples of two-up, two-down cottages built by the Ashworth brothers in their factory village. They are of a type commonly built during the Industrial Revolution. There are six possibilities as to which two rooms in each of them had fireplaces. Which are the two rooms? A probable answer is given in the final section of this blog.

Handloom weavers’ cottages

Image 7. Inside a former handloom weaver’s cellar, Whittle-le-Woods, near Chorley

A loom would have been placed by each window. The earth floor enabled hollows to be scooped out beneath each loom into which water could be poured. The strip of wood marks the position of one of them. Evaporation from the water helped to keep the warps in the loom moist enough for weaving to take place.

Image 8. Former handloom weavers’ cottages at New Row, Livesey, near Blackburn

Sizeable, double-fronted dwellings are shown. Their loomshops occupied about half the groundfloor space and w lit by a row of three windows at front and back. The windows may have had central mullions. Working space was separated from living space and, with maintaining humidity in mind, access to the loomshop was from inside the house.

Image 9. A former handloom weavers’ cottage at Bog Height Road, Darwen

Careful observation may be needed to identify former handloom weavers’ cottages. The frontages of two cottages shown look similar, though the size and shape of their windows varies. Look for blocked windows, with sills and lintels still in situ, to reveal the original appearance of the façade. An interpretation is given in the final section of this blog.

Houses for the better-off

Image 10. Lonsdale Square, Islington, London

Though revived Classical styles of architecture are the norm in middle-class residential squares, the pointed arches that characterise Gothic architecture were sometimes preferred. In this case, the house doorways have wide, flat arches that were popular in Tudor times.

Image 11. North side of Winckley Square, Preston

The houses are similar to one another in that they are brick-built, have three-storeys above cellars and draw on Classical styles of architecture. But different phases of development are evident, with houses varying in size and appearance. They had front gardens in the central area of the square.


Image 12. Warehouse with shipping holes, Wigan Pier

This warehouse is situated on a spur of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to one side of the main warehouse block and has two shipping holes that enabled barges to enter it so they could be loaded and unloaded under cover. External loading bays were incorporated on the sides of the warehouse to give road access to it.

Image 13. Commissariat Building, Ottawa, Canada

Canalside warehouses could have functions in addition to the storage of goods. Situated alongside the flight of locks at the northern end of the Rideau Canal, this warehouse was erected in 1827 for military use and combined residential and administrative functions with those of storage.

Image 14. Gradient easing at Thrutch Gorge, Waterfoot, Rossendale

In textile Lancashire, several major towns were not served by canal links. Accordingly, new inter-town roads were constructed between them. The new road though Rossendale, authorised by an Act of Parliament passed in 1815, provides an example as it passes through the narrow gorge section of the Irwell Valley. A virtually level road was attained, which was far easier for horse-drawn vehicles to negotiate than the older route to the north.

Additional sources

Mike Rothwell’s Industrial Heritage series comprises 18 volumes relating to localities in textile Lancashire. Several are noted in The Built Environment Transformed, reviewing the types of sites covered. Other localities he covers include The Ribble Valley (1990); Padiham (2005); Whitworth (2008); Stacksteads and Bacup (2011). Colne, Trawden and Foulbridge (2015).

The latest volume (44) of Vernacular Building, the annual journal of the Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group deals with the theme of Working from Home in the Vernacular Period. Two articles deal with handloom weavers’ cottages:

Mark Watson, ‘Where are the weavers’ windows? Part 1: cotton handloom shops, pp. 55-68

Geoff Timmins, ‘Handloom weavers’ cottages in England: working and living conditions, pp. 41-54

The Group’s website as at SVBWG – The Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group

Answers to the questions posed

(a) Egerton two-potters

When asked, most people quite reasonably suggest the two downstairs rooms – the kitchen and the living room – had fireplaces. However, cottages with a single, two-pot chimney stack had a combined living room and kitchen as the front downstairs room. The rear downstairs room, referred to as a back kitchen, was smaller; it contained a slop-stone sink and a dog-leg stairway to the bedrooms. The fireplaces were in the two front rooms.

(b) Bog Height Road cottages

The two cottages were once one, similar in appearance to that at New Row, Livesey. However, it contained two loomshops, one above the other, each lit by a row of three windows. Several sills and lintels of the blocked windows can be seen in situ, along with a mullion next to one of the door jambs at number 21.

For more information on The Built Environment Transformed by Geoffrey Timmins, visit the Liverpool University Press website.

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