The Lost Mills Of Great Harwood

For such a small town Great Harwood was once well endowed with mills, most of which have now gone. However St Lawrence Mill still survives as does the chimney. After water power most textile mills were powered by steam engines using a belt and pulley system. However by the mid 20th century a majority had been converted to electricity. Electric motors drove the looms directly.

Great Harwood was not on the railway network until the 1870’s and the roads were relatively poor. The nearest station was in Blackburn and raw materials had to be brought in by road. this would have been by horse and cart until motor vehicles came into use in the early 20th century.

Great Harwood in the 1890s, map Ordnance Survey

Bank Street Mill

Bank Street Mill, Great Harwood, pic.

Bank Street Mill was the first power mill in Great Harwood. It was built in 1844 by Lawrence Catterall a hand loom Weaver and local lad from Hindle Fold. Bank Street Mill was a four storey structure that housed a large number of spinning machines on the top three floors. The ground floor housed the loom-shop and by 1910 there were 944 looms in operation. Production continued until the 1960’s when the mill closed down. The building was demolished in the 1970’s.

The site of Bank Street Mill today, Pic. Google Earth

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Britannia Mill, Queen Street

Britannia Mill once dominated the centre of town. It was located on Queen street and had a large frontage. The building was demolished in the 1930’s and the site is now used by the library and Tesco’s car park. Mercer Hall was built on the corner of Water Street and Queen Street and opened in 1921, adjacent to the mill ,which was still running.

The survivors

St Lawrence Mill

St Lawrence Mill in 2024, Pic. Google Earth

St Lawrence Mill opened in 1844 and still exists in 2024. The site was earmarked for housing in 2018, but this did not go ahead. However housing has recently been built on the former Saw mill site off Britannia street. St Lawrence Mill was originally a spinning and weaving mill with 9004 Mule spindles and 445 looms.

The spinning Mule was invented in 1775 by William Compton. The machines were worked in pairs by a minder and could hold up to 1320 spindles. Additionally, the machines moved forward and backwards up to 5 feet, four times a minute. In the image below the spindles can be seen at the front of the machine, under the hoop-like objects. The rails on the floor show how far the assembly moved backwards and forwards to wind onto the spindles. The mill closed in 1929 and the building was later used to make floor coverings.

The weaving room at Helmshore Mill, Lancashire By Unhindered by Talent from Morris, MN, USA – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Sources and further reading

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