Meeting Report - September 2011
The first meeting of the Autumn season saw
44 members and guests gathered to hear an illustrated talk by Dr George
Ingle on the history of Yorkshire Dales Textile Mills. Having retired
from a lifetime of working in higher education, George was able to indulge
his interest in the history of the textile industry and mills, and since
his retirement has published three books and numerous articles on the
subject. He is also secretary of the Upper Wharfedale National Trust Volunteer
Group and works as a dry stone waller for them.
Before showing us his extensive collection of images of the Dales mills
he told us of the background to the growth of the mills in the area of
the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We were amazed to hear that there had
been over 70 mills in the area, and their development had relied largely
upon the extensive waterpower available, good communications links from
the canals, and access to an untapped pool of labour.
explained that prior to 1780, although there was quite an extensive textile
industry in the Dales with all family members being employed, this was
still mainly a manual operation largely home based. But the opening of
Low Mill in Keighley for the preparation and spinning of cotton yarn,
using machines developed by Richard Arkwright, was to change all that.
Gayle Mill, near Hawes
Showing us many photographs of mill buildings in the Dales brought home
to us how extensive the industry was, and many of us realised that we
had passed some of these buildings many times and never realised their
industrial heritage. George told us how the mills were mainly staffed
by women and children working long hours in extremely hard conditions
and how it was common practice to bring pauper children from London to
be apprenticed to the mill owners. He also explained that many of the
mills used were converted corn mills, and over the years changed from
cotton, to wool or flax and some eventually ended up as paper mills after
the decline of the textile industry.
Today there is only one mill, Airebank Mill at Gargrave, which is still
producing textile fibres. George's interesting and informative talk made
us all think that an area which we now regard as unspoilt countryside
mainly relying on the tourist industry was indeed a part of our industrial
heritage and played as much a part in the industrial revolution as big
cities like Leeds and Bradford. The talk ended with a lively exchange
of questions and answers.
The next meeting on Monday 31st October 2011 will be an
illustrated talk by retired Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Bryan W Fowles
on the life of Horatio Nelson "England Expects".