Digley Mills, Austonley

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Details

  • location: Austonley
  • status: no longer exists
  • category: woollen mills

Digley Mills originally comprised two mills: Upper Digley Mill and Lower Digley Mill, which appear on the 1854 O.S. map as Middle Digley Mill and Digley Mill respectively.

Upper Digley Mill stood on the northern side of Digley Dike and is believed to have been built prior to the 1790s for John Whiteley of Green Owlers, possibly by stone mason Joseph Booth of Meltham. The mill was badly damaged by 1852 Flood — at which time it was occupied by John Furness — but was quickly rebuilt.[1]

Lower Digley Mill stood on the southern side of Digley Dike and was built around 1790 for John Hirst, and possibly rebuilt or extended circa 1817.[2] The mill was almost completely destroyed by the 1852 flood, which carried three of the mill's boilers around a mile downstream, and only the main chimney was left standing. The mill was not rebuilt by the Hirst family.[3]

Joseph Greenwood purchased Upper Digley Mill circa 1873, along with the site of the lower mill, and built Digley Mills circa 1875 (architect Ben Stocks). Joseph Greenwood & Sons Ltd. continued to trade until December 1936, after which the mill was purchased by Huddersfield Corporation in anticipation of the building of Digley Reservoir. The mill was demolished in 1938.[4][5]

Holmfirth Flood of 1852

Extract from The Holmfirth Flood (1910):

A heavy loss of property by the flood occurred at this point. What ruins remain to-day give but a faint idea of what Digley was in February, 1852, before the flood swept it away. The property, which belonged to the exors. of the late Mr. George Hirst, consisted of a stone-built mill, 30 yards square, besides a large weaving shed, containing 34 power looms and other machinery, two good dwellinghouses, seven cottages, farm, and other outbuildings, altogether making a compact little village. Adjacent to it, in the valley and on the hill side, were several fields of rich and fertile land ; the whole forming a secluded and compact estate, variously estimated to be worth from £15,000 to £20,000. In one of the houses, built on the river side, dwelt Mrs. George Hirst, widow of its late owner, and in another house lived Mr. Henry Beardsell, son-in-law of Mrs. Hirst. The cottages were in the occupation of various workpeople. The factory, which was filled with machinery and cloth, was driven by a steam engine and water wheel, and the mill, being built directly across the valley, was in a position to receive the full force of the flood as it dashed along between the rocks on either side. On the left of the Digley stream some extensive dyeworks were erected. As we have said, the buildings formed a mass of solid stonework, but the torrent swept it away like a straw ; carrying its ponderous machinery down the valley, and tossed its boilers about with the greatest ease, one of them, weighing ten or twelve tons, being carried down the valley nearly to Hinchliffe Mill. Part of the engine was also carried from its place, and became embedded in the mud lower down the valley. The Halifax Guardian of February 7th, in describing the wreck at this place, says:—

The whole of this extensive property, with the exception of the mill chimney, was swept away. Such a complete and utter wreck we never before witnessed. One can conceive of a single building being gutted, but to be told that only the day previous the property we have briefly described was situated upon either bank of the river, appeared a marvel. Of the cottages scarcely a vestige remains; but embedded in the river are unmistakeable tokens of extensive works having recently been planted there. No pen can describe this terrible wreck of property. Some of the dye-pans remain, but all the machinery and valuable store of goods are gone — all swept away. We have heard the loss at this place variously estimated, and should think that £20,000 was under rather than over the mark. During the whole of Thursday, Digley Mill was visited by thousands of spectators, and certainly such a terrible scene has seldom been witnessed by man. Fortunately, Mrs. George Hirst and family were saved, having been made aware of the extreme probability of the bursting during the night. We had an opportunity of hearing the evidence of two of the tenants occupying the cottages on the right-hand side of river, and shall give it much in their own words.

By the destruction of Digley Mill, about one hundred hands were thrown out of employment.

With regard to the tall chimney which was left standing, and remains so to this day, an amusing story is told to the effect that one of the numerous guides who conducted visitors over the ruins used to draw the attention of visitors to this chimney, whilst he averred that when the full force of the flood beat down the mill and adjoining buildings, the workmanship of this chimney was so good that the waters made no impression upon it beyond removing it bodily a distance of ten yards backwards from its original position ! If any doubt was expressed as to the truth of this statement, he clinched the matter by saying “he had seen it himself!” Thus competition amongst guides led Joel to make strange statements.

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