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Helmshore Mills Textile Museum

Holcombe Road , Helmshore Rossendale , Lancashire, BB4 4NP

Nestling side by side in the quiet village of Helmshore in the stunning Rossendale Valley are two original Lancashire textile mills, Higher Mill and Whitaker’s Mill, together known as Helmshore Mills Textile Museum. You can:

  • Soak up the atmosphere of the historic mills and witness original machinery at work.
  • Follow a journey to discover how raw wool and cotton were transformed into yarn, ready to be woven into cloth
  • Experience the Revolution gallery, where you can follow the story of Lancashire's unique role in the industrial revolution
  • Imagine how the grand and mighty waterwheel powered the stocks as they thumped the wet woollen cloth
  • Have fun and learn in an exceptional environment, at our many activities, events and special exhibitions

Opening times

2 Jan – 16 Feb closed except for pre-booked school visits and pre-booked guided tours for 10 or more people. Contact us to arrange a visit.

 

17 Feb – 23 Feb

24 Feb – 30 Mar

31 Mar– 31 Oct

1 Nov – 7 Dec

Mon

12pm - 4pm

Closed

12pm - 4pm

Closed

Tue

12pm - 4pm

Closed

12pm - 4pm

Closed

Wed

12pm - 4pm

Closed

12pm - 4pm

Closed

Thur

12pm - 4pm

12pm - 4pm

12pm - 4pm

12pm - 4pm

Fri

12pm - 4pm

12pm - 4pm

12pm - 4pm

12pm - 4pm

Sat

12pm - 5pm

12pm - 5pm

12pm - 5pm

12pm - 5pm

Sun

12pm - 5pm

12pm - 5pm

12pm - 5pm

12pm - 5pm

Facilities

  • Car park
  • Cafe / restaurant
  • Gift shop
  • Guide dogs welcome
  • Full disabled access

Admission charges

Save money with our Xplorer multi-pass tickets

  • Adults £4.00
  • Concessions £3.00
  • Accompanied children free

Lancashire Museums on Flickr

Groups and community

The museum is supported by The Friends of Helmshore Museum, who welcome new members . To join the friends, or for more details, please visit their website: friendsofhelmshore.co.uk.

Part of the site is owned by The Higher Mill Trust. For details of the Higher Mill Trust please contact the museum on 01706 226 459.

A major refurbishment completed in 2008 was supported by Lancashire County Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the North West Development Agency, and the Friends of Helmshore Museum.

History and background

Higher Mill, which is held in conjuncture with the Higher Mill Trust, was constructed in 1789 and Whitaker’s Mill in the 1820s by the Turner family, textile manufacturers from the Blackburn area.

Although a considerable part of Whitaker's Mill was destroyed in a fire in 1857, it was rebuilt shortly afterwards and continued in operation until 1978, at which point it was under the ownership of L. Whitaker & Sons. Helmshore Mills Textile Museum covers a three acre (just over one hectare) site, most of it running alongside the charming River Ogden. In this peaceful and relaxing setting you can explore the lodge banks as far as the weir and railway viaduct and discover a wide variety of riverside plant, insect and animal life.

The chimney of Whitaker’s Mill can be seen on a nearby hilltop. The chimney is connected by a flue that runs over the river, under the road and up the hillside. It is located there because it was far cheaper and more effective to build the chimney away from the mill on the hilltop, where the air currents could more easily carry the smoke away, rather than building a very tall chimney next to the mill in the bottom of the valley.

The mill yard has three tunnels running beneath it. One serves the present waterwheel while the other two are redundant tailraces for the original waterwheels that once powered Higher Mill. The two buildings offer a fascinating insight into the development of mill construction during the Industrial Revolution.

Explore the industrial archaeology of the late 18th century Higher Mill, with its wooden beamed ceilings, and mullioned windows, flagstone roof and random stone walls, in contrast with Whitaker’s Mill, whose iron pillars, slate roof and dressed stone walls represent later Victorian building methods.

The historical importance of the mills and their surroundings is conveyed by the fact that the site holds Scheduled Ancient Monument status. A new visitor orientation and information building is now situated on the site of the original boiler house, between Whitaker’s and Higher Mills.

The buildings have also become a popular filming location, regularly used in TV documentaries such as “What the Victorians Did for Us” and drama series such as the BBC’s 2004 period dramatisation of Mrs Gaskell's “North and South” starring Richard Armitage.

Interior

On the ground floor of Higher Mill is the fully operational, large waterwheel with five pairs of fulling stocks.

There is evidence in the internal architecture of two earlier waterwheels in the form of stone arches and blocked up openings. The first floor of Higher Mill is home to a new, interactive wool story display. Whitakers Mill houses a unique collection of industrial machinery in an authentic setting. The upper floor includes the impressive spinning floor and an exhibition gallery.

Collections and displays

From handlooms to the power loom, trace the history of weaving via the invention of the flying shuttle, the dobby and the jacquard, or follow spinning from the drop spindle and great wheel through to the powerful spinning mules, by way of the spinning jenny and water frame. Our collections are designated as being of national importance. Many are original machines, a number of which are still in working order and demonstrated on a regular basis.

To discover more about weaving and steam power, visit our sister museum (the last steam powered weaving mill in the world), Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, in Harle Syke on the outskirts of Burnley.