England’s textile mills, once the workshop of the world, were the original Northern Powerhouse. They define the landscape of the North of England, yet hundreds of historic mill buildings stand empty and neglected.
A new report published today reveals that Greater Manchester alone has lost almost half of its mills since the 1980s.
Historic England and YouGov asked the public for their opinions and found that 90% of adults in England believe that historic mills are an important part of the country’s heritage, story and character and 85% do not want to see historic mills demolished and replaced.
Also published today is a study, commissioned by Historic England and produced by Cushman & Wakefield, which explores viable new uses for old mills across the North West.
Catherine Dewar, Historic England’s Planning Director in the North West said: “With their ability to accommodate wonderful homes, workplaces and cultural spaces, our historic mill buildings deserve a future and should not be destroyed. They helped make us who we are in the north of England and have a profound impact on the physical and cultural landscape.
Mills have so much to offer in terms of space, character and identity. By shining a light on successful regeneration projects, we hope to inspire others to recognise the potential of our former industrial buildings and start a conversation about their future.”
Stephen Miles, Partner, Development & Planning at Cushman & Wakefield said: “This report underlines the scale of the potential for re use of redundant textile mills across the North West and also the opportunity for public and private sectors to work together to drive the agenda forward”
Losing our mills
A report by the University of Salford, funded by Historic England, has today revealed that nearly half of Greater Manchester’s historic mills (45%) have been destroyed since the 1980s. Salford is the borough which has lost the most, with 66% lost over the last 30 years.
There is calculated to be 1,996,597 square metres of vacant floor space in textile mills across Greater Manchester and Lancashire - equivalent to 25,000 new homes. Historic England believes that mills can and should accommodate the North West’s growth needs. Mill buildings are also distinctive, character-filled places which offer a connection between past and future generations.
Grant for Leigh Spinners mill
Historic England today announced a grant of £252,000 to Leigh Spinners mill in Lancashire. Leigh Spinners was one of the last great textile mills to be built in the UK. It is one of the largest and most complete mills remaining in Greater Manchester and is ripe for redevelopment.
The Preservation Trust, which owns the steam engine and engine house, is in the process of securing match-funding so that, using Historic England’s expertise, vital roof repairs can be started to ensure the Grade II* listed building is wind and watertight and fit for future use.
Finding new uses for old mills
Mill buildings can once again be powerhouses for growth in the 21st century.
Successful conversions demonstrate that mills have the capacity to accommodate new and exciting uses, attract investment in area-wide regeneration, create jobs and give rise to the homes and businesses of the future. They can also play a positive role in place-making and local identity, providing inspiring places for people to live, work and relax in.
Historic England’s new publication Engines of Prosperity: new uses for old mills focuses on the North West and showcases successfully repurposed textile mills alongside other potential mill conversion opportunities.
Historic England is seeking to galvanise owners and developers to fulfil the great potential our historic mills can offer and has invited representatives to Manchester’s beautifully converted Chorlton Mill on Wednesday. The North West publication is the second in the Engines of Prosperity series, and follows a 2016 study of West Yorkshire’s textile mills. Both reports were commissioned by Historic England and produced by Cushman & Wakefield and Lathams Architects.
Visit Engines of Prosperity New Uses for Old Mills North West online to view the report