Queen Street Mill Textile Museum

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We had family guests arriving to our Lancashire home from distant London and somehow apart from being wined and dined no doubt they would also expect to be shown “The Sights” and entertained! The dining was no problem. We introduced them to a starter of the famous and award winning Bury Black pudding only we served it hot with spicy hot fruit chutney (lots of ooh! And ahs!). Swiftly followed by a traditional Lancashire Hotpot and strong red wine, once again much appreciated. The next day we decided to take them to the Queen Street Mill Museum in Burnley. My brother-in-law was an engineer and his wife was a dress designer so we figured (quite rightly in this case) that the heavy machinery of the mills would intrigue him and the cotton fabrics would appeal to her. We had been to the mills before years ago but the memory of the thunderous roar of the looms working at full speed still lingered. We knew they would be impressed. Parking at the mill was no problem and for a small fee we were allowed inside. Nothing had changed, we were greeted by the deafening racket of the the looms (there were 990 at one time!) working flat out. Conversation was of course impossible and in fact the mill workers were at the time experts in lip reading and could effortlessly carry on a conversation whilst tending their looms. Just to give you a taste of the working conditions a lone operator, a lady dressed in the traditional costume of the 30s expertly worked on one of the cotton reels, her fingers flying across the machine. It was as if one was transformed back into those days of “The Dark Satanic Mills!” The atmosphere, the appalling noise, the immense size of the Cathedral like mill, the strain and dedication on the face off the mill worker all contributed to the picture in ones mind of just how hard it was to work in those bygone days. One can only imagine the scene as it would have been with hundreds of young women working flat out to produce the cotton for around a wage of just 24 shillings a week. Children as young as nine or ten dashing under the deadly looms to retrieve the cotton waste often injured or even killed. The images stay with you long after you have left the museum, images of the women wrapped in their heavy shawls in the cold dawns, the clatter of their clogs on the cobbled streets as they rushed to “clock in” and start their long twelve hour shifts. One can only reflect on how luck we are today and how those days have thankfully long gone. Apart from the weaving shed there is still a lot more to see. Down in the Boiler Room you can have a chat with the stoker whilst he is feeding coal with a shovel the giant boilers which power the mill. At its peak these boilers were consuming 6 tonnes of coal per day! The Mill does have its claim to fame! The weaving shed was used in the 2011 film “The Kings Speech”. The museum has also been featured as a “working” mill in the BBC series North and South and Life on Mars.. Our relatives really enjoyed their “Satanic Mill Experience” and are even taking back with them to London an authentic genuine wooden shuttle rescued from the old mill to put on their fireplace as a memento! The museum is unique in being the world’s only surviving steam—driven weaving shed. It is open to the public at least three afternoons a week between Mach and November. There is also free entry on Heritage Open Day in September each year. 

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