The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Coal Bank Mill, Ashworth Valley, Norden, Greater Manchester

Washwheel Mill Ruins, Ashworth Valley, Rochdale

Coal Bank Mill Ruins, Ashworth Valley, Rochdale

Os grid reference SD8559 1416. The site of what was once a thriving industrial place known as the Coal Bank Mill, in Ashworth Woods at Wolstenholme Fold – through which the Naden Brook flows, in what is now a very picturesque place hidden deep inside the Ashworth Valley, near Norden, Rochdale, where old industrial ruins merge in with the flora and fauna – as if in some way time has stood still, even though the industrial revolution and Coal Bank mill have been almost obliterated from what is now a “very” tranquil and secluded place. This is one of my favourite places from my days at school, a long time ago now, but still so many memories.

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Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

To reach the site go to the top of Norden road in the village of Bamford. Turn left onto Clay Lane for about half a mile, then at the electricity substation turn sharp left again. Go along Fairburn Lane keeping to the right and head down into the little valley where the bridge goes over the brook, then just up the hill after the bridge follow a footpath that heads off to the right. Walk along this track through the woods beside the steep-sided bank, below which the Naden brook flows. Follow this fairly straight path for half a mile until you reach a modern curved, wooden bridge. You can also reach the site from Norden bus terminus, then following the brook south past the new housing devolpment and, past the tall Black Pits cotton-mill chimney, one of very few in this area still standing. Here the little stream from the hillside above called Mill Croft flows into the larger Naden brook in Ashworth Woods (actually part of Carr Wood) at a place known locally as Coal Bank, which is now a ‘landscaped’ area for walkers and picnickers alike, but which was once back in the industrial past a place of mills, chimneys, small coal pits (diggings), cotton-spinning, paperworks, dye and bleach works, all of which were ‘very’ reliant on the Naden brook. The town of Rochdale is just 2 miles from here on the A680 through Norden.

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Coal Bank mill (ruins)

Coal Bank mill (ruins)

Here at Coal Bank we reach the site of what was Coal Bank Mill situated beside the Naden brook and, although the cotton-mill-cum-paper-mill has been almost obliterated – if you look closely you can still find the ruins of this one-time industrial enclave, a little bit of the Industrial Revolution hidden away in this wooded valley, near Rochdale, thanks in many ways to the great Ashworth family and, others, who owned the land around here. In the late 18th or early 19th centuries the place began life as a cotton-spinning mill (probably a fulling mill) but then in the 19th century the mill became a paper/printing works. In the early years of the 20th century the mill closed down for good. Much of the mill was then pulled down and great quantities of the stonework taken away. Part of a wall still stands as do the foundations of several buildings at either side of the walkway, including what was the lodge; there are also some nicely built stone bridges and lumps of old rusting ironwork! and also a few remnants of what looks like a water-wheel, or something similar? *In Grace’s Guide directory Coal Bank is described as a bleachers and dyers in the ownership of Richard Bell (1891).

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Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

The Coal Bank mill chimney with its “open” square-shaped flue was demolished in 2006 and the site levelled and landscaped in order to make new pathways and modern wooden bridges, making a nice place to stroll and enjoy one’s-self in this, now, peaceful place. But the ghosts of the many hundreds of workers, both adults and children, who toiled here in the past seem to be still present in this isolated, haunted valley; indeed it seems those workers, horses and loaded carts, are still treading the same cobbled pathways to the old mill; and if you’re very quiet you can still hear them…… well I think you can!
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Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

There are the ruins of other cotton-spinning mills (fulling mills) and Calico print mills further to the west near to Turn Village, beside the Cheesden brook, all quite evocative now and one might say, romantic looking. The ruins of Washwheel Lower Wheel mill, Deeply Vale mill, Deeply Hill; and also other spinning mills at Longlands, Cheesden Lumb mill, Cheesden Pasture mill, Croston Close mill, Four Acre mill and, further to the south Birtle Dene mill, New Birtle and Kershaw Bridge mills, are discussed at length along with a history of these cotton mills in the delightful book ‘The Forgotten Valley’ by A.V.Sandiford and T.E.Ashworth. The ruins at Cheesden Lumb mill were excavated by archaeologists from Manchester back in the 1990s, but nature is catching up and the ruins of these old mills are gradually giving way, sadly, to the rain and gales that frequently batter this part of north-west England. A way of life has now gone.

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Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

Coal Bank Mill (ruins)

Sources:

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Sandiford, A.V., & Ashworth, T.E., The Forgotten Valley, Bury and District Local History Society, 1981.

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And, also my memory…….!

Author: sunbright57

I am interested in holy wells, standing stones and ancient crosses; also anything old, prehistoric, or unusual.

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