Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Now and then

Gibson Mill has a fascinating history. It was built in 1805 as a water-powered cotton mill but, as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, the initial attractions of the site (alongside a fast flowing river to power the waterwheel) became more of a hindrance. The valley is narrow and when packhorse transport was overtaken by rail and road, it became increasingly difficult to get supplies and goods to and from the mill.

It finally closed as a mill in 1902 but was almost immediately reopened as a restaurant. During the previous decade the wooded valley, full of waterfalls and picnic spots, had became a tourist attraction and various small pavilions had opened, serving refreshments to cater to the weekend visitors from the nearby industrial towns. The mill became an 'entertainment emporium', with first and second class (!) restaurants, a dance floor and later a roller skating rink. At its height in the 1920s, the area was attracting 500,000 visitors a year. People were transported from Hebden Bridge railway station in open carriages called wagonettes that could transport 25 people at once, pulled by teams of four horses. The last owner left the mill and the estate to the National Trust, on his death in 1956.

You can see from the photos that superficially the Mill is still very similar to what it looked like in the early 1900s. It is, however, now one of the NT's flagship sustainable enterprises. Apart from a telephone link, it is completely 'off-grid', generating electricity from a water turbine and photo-voltaic panels, heating from a bio-mass boiler and having composting toilets.

(Old photos are taken from the display panels around the mill. Hope nobody objects!)


  1. I didn't realize your color photo was not the same as the one from the must have stood in the exact same spot to catch it...and then you said how little had changed! That's very forward thinking to have a "green" building now, environmentally conscientious.

  2. Nice to hear about the cotton mill. Building looks good:)

  3. Good that the building is still being used!

  4. The late-Victorians really had a thing about waterfalls, didn't they? There are several of these "glens", as they usually call them, dotted about the country and they all seem to have been incredibly popular.


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