The preservation of Farfield Mill has given the opportunity to present its history from its origin in 1836 to the present day.
An exhibition created by local people and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund shows examples of the processes involved in producing woollen cloth. Social history associated with the mill is also shown. Included within this exhibition is a 300-year-old Witney blanket loom.
Industrial Heritage - the History of Farfield
The first mill at Farfield was built in 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, by Joseph Dover. Joseph was originally a merchant from Keswick, but for many years he worked as manager of Hebblethwaite Mill in the valley of the Rawthey. This was one of five mills that ran in Sedbergh during the 19th century. His ambition in life was to own his own mill. In 1836 he bought 9 acres of land for £490 on a bend of the River Clough and the town's labourers suddenly found there was work aplenty, carting stone from a local quarry, building a dam and constructing a huge wooden waterwheel.
Two years later he died, but his two sons James and John carried on the business which stayed in the family for 100 years. The family eventually owned a great deal of land, building themselves two pleasant houses close to the factory. Farmland was paid for in fleeces which were delivered straight to the mill. Although spinning and weaving was done in the factory, for a long time the cottage industry carried on. Handloom woven goods made in the farmers' back parlour, using Farfield wool, continued into the 20th century. Wool spun at Farfield went out to knitters from Dent to Howgill.
Living History - the Heritage Exhibition
Situated on Level 2 is an exhibition, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, created by local people and devoted to the heyday and eventual decline of the Victorian wealth-creating woollen and textile industry in the Sedbergh area.
A potted history of the Mill is described from its inception in 1836 to its decline in the 1950s highlighting the employment of children, as young as 8 years, the long working hours and the dangerous conditions. The Mill was eventually restored by the Sedbergh and District Buildings Preservation Trust in the 1990s.
Areas of interest include the positioning of the willey shed, the life of William Stainton who worked at the mill, man and boy from the age of 8 until the age of 94 and the rules and regulations governing the behaviour of employees i.e. they 'will wash themselves at least twice every week and failure to do so incurred a fine of 3d'.
"Very interesting - good historical info." Linda & Chris, Maryland, USA
"I loved when they talked about my Grandad." Georgia
The Mill is the home of a magnificent working Dobcross Power loom.
Hutchinson & Hollingworth of Diggle, Saddleworth, Yorkshire being one of the makers of this type of loom during 1861-1970. Many were exported across the world and are still found working in far-flung places. Visitors can often observe it producing woollen cloth in attractive patterns and colours. To see this loom in action today is an uncommon experience in the United Kingdom.
The Mill is very fortunate to have David McDowell as Farfield's master weaver. He brings with him the specialist skills needed to operate our heritage looms.
The Mill Shop stocks the rugs and throws woven on our Dobcross Loom. They make beautiful and unique gifts as well as lasting souvenirs of a visit to the Lakes and Dales.
We take commissions for weaving small yardage and work with local wool producers, farmers and small enterprises to weave highly crafted products using wool from the Rough Fell, Herdwick and Blue Faced Leicester sheep. .
We offer short run contract weaving using your designs and yarn. Woven by our expert weaving technician on the Dobcross loom. For more information or to discuss your weaving needs, please ring 015396 21958.
Gilkes & Company Turbine
In 1896 a Turbine was ordered for Farfield Mill from Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon of Kendal.
Recently displayed within the centre, it is a reminder of the industrial progress made during the Victorian area. The original cost was £100.00 and it's Gilkes number was 066.
It was a Vortex turbine with a fall of 21 feet and suction of 14 ft. It's rated power was 20HP (15kW).
James Thomson, brother of Lord Kelvin, invented the Vortex turbine and patented it in 1850. It had adjustable guide vanes and the blades were curved. It was the first effective and efficient turbine.
Witney Blanket Loom
This 300-year-old prized possession can be found within the Heritage exhibition on Level 2. It has a flying shuttle and is one of the earliest of its type, invented during the Industrial Revolution. Standing at over 9 feet in height, it is an impressive example of a blanket loom which originated at the beginning of blanket making in Witney, Oxfordshire. Witney blankets are now world famous.
It is a timber framed four heddle hand loom and has been used to weave horse collar check and woollen blankets since 1702. A flying shuttle mechanism was added around 1800. It is also one of the earliest Industrial Revolution Inventions.
Donated by The Early's Archive Trust, which was established to ensure that certain items which were in possession of Early's of Witney were not lost when the company changed hands. The company closed in 2002 and the loom was offered to Farfield Mill.