A History of Springwater Mill

Springwater Works was established in 1827 by an Alfred Thomas, it was built initially as a purpose-built calico printing works, to print block patterns onto the woven cotton.  Mr Thomas began his working life in a shop owned by a Mr Warner in Wolverhampton but upon moving to Manchester he gained employment as a salesman for the large, important firm of Hall, Wilkinson & Gartside, whom were calico printers at Cross Hall in Chorley.

It is likely that the experience working for this firm gave him the experience and money to venture into his own business, but by 1834 it was obvious he had found a partner for his work as his business listing became Alfred & Co. Calico Printers in a trade directory for that year ( Pigot & Co 1834 p522) His partner was found to be his previous employer, Mr Warner’s son Thomas. His obituary in the Manchester Evening News records that in the 1830’s he followed in the business as a calico printer with Alfred Thomas of the Spring Water Print Works near Whitefield with a warehouse if not mistaken in Mosley Street central Manchester. It is likely that this is the same Thomas Warner as above whom was a calico printer residing in the district of Crumpsall Green.


The Earliest plans of the works at Spring Water date from 1834 This shows that the works consisted of two parallel buildings adjacent to the River Irwell with one further range at the northern end of the works.  Five reservoirs supplied water to the works while a circular structure found on the site is likely to have formed part of the gas plant for providing some power to the works. along with a house, stable and garden.

The Works itself was large for the printing of cotton housing two large printing machines along with 129 tables for hand printing, in respect of this most works housed one machine and less than 100 tables.


The works closed briefly in 1844 for a few months before takeover and reopening by the London-based firm listed as Felkin & Innes (Preston guardian Oct 2 1847). Two years after this it was reported that the plant was now powered by a 20hp steam engine along with a 10hp waterwheel, housed 2 machines and 78 tables, thus seemingly to lessen the production and output from the works. The plant was managed at this time by a Mr J Ireland previously of Cross Hall Print Works based near Chorley.

Felkin & Innes partnership dissolved in 1852 involving the termination of their business at Springwater, in the April Following this, at the request of a Mr Robert Felkin esq. a Quantity of items were advertised for sale by auction at the works, these included 108 engraved copper rollers, more than 3000 printing blocks a large quantity of stores, and the valuable contents of the laboratory along with nearly new machine and table blankets. various other items in the industry were tendered at this auction but not to do with the works themselves.


1851 marked a new chapter for the works being taken over by William Chambers, listed in the Census Returns for that year as a cotton bleacher, residing at Barlow Fold near Blackford Bridge ( this backs onto where Springwater Works was built) the Census Returns also state that William had two sons, Richard aged 16 along with Andrew aged 14, both described as cotton bleachers. The next Census collected described Mr Williams as employing 90 people at the works along with his two sons. This is when it is thought that Springwater changed from a printing works to a Bleaching works, to beetle and finish the cloth to a bright white colour, before being take up the road to Lilly hill Laundry where the cloths were cleaned & dried.

After years of Bleaching Cotton, the records are more unclear to the history of the works from this date, just noting that they appeared as Springwater Bleach Works on ordnance Survey Map from 1957 but just “works” on maps from both 1965 and 1970, The Works were demolished in the 19870’s with the main areas of the works being landscaped to form Springwater Park.  Though as you can see from my photographs, ruins of the mill and its parts still remain and can be found mainly in the wooded area upon the hillside and parts along the new pathway up from the park to Radcliffe New Road.


Alongside the Works there are also remains of workers cottages on flat areas within the woods where either caretakers or security persons would live to look after the mill and works surrounding.

This information is found with thanks to United Utilities in their archaeological Investigation Report from June 2013 whilst plans were being made to install a pipeline along the park which can now be seen by two large mounds with a gas sign situated upon the top and inspection covers to gain access to this if needed. Also Bury Library Archives department for allowing me to have access and copies of part of the report to find this information to supplement my photography of the remains.

In Current times, the area is a haven for wildlife with Kingfishers, Sandmartins, Herons, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Deer amongst those seen.


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