Queen Street Mill


Guest blog post from Emma Davenport. Queen Street Mill Textile Museum is the 'last working steam-powered weaving mill in the world'. Built in 1894 by Queen Street Mill Manufacturing Company for weaving plain cotton fabric, it became a working textile museum in 1986. Located in a suburb of Burnley, in the county of Lancashire, the museum is perhaps one of a few remaining heritage sites that remind us just how important textile production was in Britain during the late 19th century. Untitled 2 On arrival, you enter a large open space that would have historically housed looms but now is where the shop, information desk, cafe and temporary exhibition space are located.  From there, you are invited to explore the mill by foot, covering ten physical spaces from the boiler house to the shuttle workshop that provide insights into a place that at its peak housed 1,000 Lancashire looms all powered by a single 500 hp steam engine.  This engine is called 'Peace' and is operated several times a day when the museum is opened.  The sound of the engine and the looms are certainly noisy but these are spectacular sounds, as you step back in time to watch Victorian engineering achieve such feats of material production. DSC00485 In the weaving shed, one member of staff weaves cloth on looms powered by ‘Peace’. Over a hundred years, many more people, weavers, each operating six looms or so, and tacklers, who were responsible for keeping the loom mechanics in good working order, would have occupied this room. Most weavers then were women, who were paid by the amount of cloth they produced each week, and so were self-employed so to speak.  Tacklers were always men and always employed by the mill. Due to the noise of the looms, it was impossible to be heard so the weavers developed their own form of sign language, known as mee-maw, to communicate with one another. DSC00511 From the shop selling products made in the museum to illustrations from the information leaflet printed on banners of cotton woven on the looms to having very friendly and knowledgeable staff happy to talk to visitors, the whole experience is both a delight and an education. You only have to spend two minutes in the weaving shed at Queen Street Mill to get a sense of how the production of fabrics, clothes and ultimately fashion is simultaneously a local and global phenomenon. Queen Street Mill Textile Museum Burnley, Lancashire

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  • Aileen Leijten | Queen Street Mill on

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  • C. Woods on

    Since attending Hull high school for art and craft (1960-65), I have loved making and using yarn, cloth and crafting with the results. Visits to Queen St Mill, Helmshore, the Weavers Triangle and Macclesfield Silk Museum have been interesting and educational so must be protected from closure. My daughter was also inspired by visits to these places to take up a textile course, and now makes felt jewellery, scarves and bootees etc

  • Margaret Nowak on

    Thank you for highlighting Queen Street Mill Museum again especially now that it and its sister museum are under threat of closure. Helmshore Mills Textile Museum spins the recycled cotton weft with which Queen Street weaves on its original spinning mules and carding machinery. It is an equally facinating and atmospheric place to visit amidst the beautiful heathland hills and deep verdant valleys of Lancashire.

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