Newsome [Mill] Clocktower

It was in 1827 when the first woollen mill was built on the site of Hart Street, Newsome. If you take a look at Huddersfield and its surrounding area during the mid-nineteenth century you will see a town on the rise. Thanks to the area’s woollen industry, this period in time saw considerable change throughout the town. Particularly in Newsome where, at the same time as the town was growing and encroaching on the village, the little settlement itself began expanding thanks to the building of the mills.

Footage by Dale Oakes

The nineteenth-century saw Newsome furnished with a new school, Methodist church and the [original] Wellington Inn on Town Gate, The Crimea Inn beer house and a Methodist chapel on Primrose Hill, and a boarding school at Stile Common.  Of course, much more was built during this period, but it might be fair to say that the schools, inns and churches that popped up at this time are testament to the demands of the swelling population of Newsome.

The original mill that stood on Hart Street not only employed many of the locals but also, in its time, was home to a local tragedy. Joseph Taylor, the mill owner’s son, who with his brother Fred ran Newsome Mill, died in 1865 after falling from a ladder in the mill (Teasdale, 2004). This unfortunate incident marked the beginning of a number of business partnerships that would eventually settle into the world-famous, Taylor & Littlewood Ltd. But, in 1872, further incident struck the mill as it burnt down over night. There were reports of local policemen and mill workers rushing to save the outbuildings alongside an account of mill owner, Fred Taylor narrowly escaping injury as the roof collapsed (Huddersfield Chronicle, 1872).

Photo by Dale Oakes.

Time passed, Newsome survived, and in the 1880’s a new mill was built on the site of the original. When complete this massive structure, perched at the top of Lockwood Scar and visible for miles out, became a symbol of the good people of Newsome. For a good hundred years this domineering four-story hammer-dressed stone mill was a first-class hub of woollen products for far and wide (Wood, 2007).

By 1893 the mill was complete with weaving shed, administrative buildings and of course, a one hundred and twenty foot clocktower (Wood, 2007). The early twentieth century, saw the mill industry ebb and flow as the country engaged in two world wars. The effects of which were evident on the Newsome Mill with its declining production rates and its onsite memorial, erected in 1921 to honours its employees who had fallen during The Great War (Teasdale, 2004).

Photo by Dale Oakes

Throughout the decades the hands that operated the witching looms, warping mills and pressing machines laid out between the mill’s interior supportive iron columns have produced some of the finest worsted twill suiting, trousers and overcoats that money can buy, exporting their wares about the world.

Post-war, Taylor & Littlewood Ltd saw a steady increase in their productivity, culminating in a 1977 exporting boom. Greatly benefiting the pockets of the good Newsomites, I am sure. Then, as the 80s rolled around – and the world changed – the inevitable happened – redundancies (Teasdale, 2004). While still considered a top-notch reputable firm, a testament to any who worked there, the textile industry had shifted worldwide. Instead of good sturdy tweed, the youth of Newsome was rocking the PVCs of the eighties (I assume). As the wheel of time turned, the sounding bell in the clocktower became less frequent as the mill’s wool-producing days slowly ground to a halt. In 1983, the doors of this once bustling structure were closed, ending a chapter of local history that had seen the hands of Newsome operating on the world stage (Hirst, 2016). But that is not the end of the mill’s tale.

Come November 2016 the mill had stood derelict and deteriorating for twenty years and plans to convert the Grade II listed building to housing had fallen through. One dreary night it fell victim to arson. Like its predecessor in 1872, the mill met a fiery end (BBC, 2016). With the cultural significance of this relatively young building being recognised by villagers, this fire really was a historic tragedy that symbolically puts an end to Newsome’s woollen age.

Yet, there was some hope of preserving some of the local textile heritage. While the mill crumbled, leaving but one wall partially intact, the clocktower remained. Over a hundred feet, equipped with four faces and a water tank, the clocktower is a symbol of an era now past. An [currently] enduring reminder of a different time, that is still perched proudly at the top of Lockwood Scar.

The intervening six years have seen more arson attempts on the tower, perhaps to finish it off, and much debate as to what should be done with the evidently unsafe and easily accessible site. There have been talks of building houses on the grounds (Sutcliffe, 2019) which would improve the safety of the area. But, safety aside, it is with the clocktower where my concern lies. What will happen to this structural survivor?

Almost immediately after the fire that finished the mill, a noble and worthy campaign began. The Newsome Mills Campaign, a group dedicated to the preservation of what would henceforth be known as Newsome Clocktower. In closing I would like to encourage you, the good reader, to support this campaign in any manner that you can. I believe it entirely fitting that here in 2021, local Newsome folk should be coming together in an effort to save what really is a piece of local heritage.

Please visit the site to support the preservation of Newsome Clocktower.


References

BBC. (2016, November 17). Major Huddersfield mill blaze “suspected arson.” BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-leeds-37930197

Hirst, A. (2016, November 22). Newsome Mill’s vibrant heritage and how it came to a sad end. YorkshireLive. https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/newsome-mills-vibrant-heritage-how-12211133

Huddersfield Chronicle. (1872, July 13). Destructive Fire at Newsome: £10,000 Damage. Huddersfield Chronicle.

Pattern, D. (2020). Newsome Mills, Hart Road, Newsome – Huddersfield Exposed: Exploring the History of the Huddersfield Area. Huddersfield.exposed. https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/Newsome_Mills,_Hart_Road,_Newsome

Sutcliffe, R. (2019, August 21). Newsome Mills could be turned into housing – but there are objectors. YorkshireLive. https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/fresh-plans-turn-fire-damaged-16759178

Teasdale, V. (2004). Huddersfield mills : a textile heritage. Wharncliffe Books.

The Newsome Mills campaign. (2017). The Newsome Mills Campaign. https://newsomemill.wordpress.com

Wood, N. (2007). NEWSOME MILLS, Kirklees – 1232037 | Historic England. Historicengland.org.uk. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1232037

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