Mills in Billington


According to the recorded details in Parish Church registers, the village of Chew must have had a community larger than that of Billington. Their access into Whalley would have been by joining the old Roman road from Ribchester, fording the River Calder below the Chew Mill weir then along Riding Lane (locally known as 'Lovers Lane') through the West Gate of the Abbey and along The Sands.

Records state that Monks from Whalley Abbey acquired some 35 acres in the Chew Mill area, on which they grew their wheat and used the mill as their main source of grinding.

Calderstones Hospital also farmed five acres of land at Chew Mill, at the side of the river and took sheep across on a flat boat.

There were several cottages and out buildings in the field on the left at Chew Mill before the hill called 'Pashmire', but they were demolished in the early 1920's.

A water corn mill was recorded on this site in 1272, and its use seems to have continued until the early 19th century. For a time the building may also have been used for fulling (damping and beating of cloth to thicken it). Among the later corn millers were Francis Billington, bankrupt in 1819, and James Aldred.

From at least 1840 the mill was leased by the Petre family of Dunkenhalgh, to William and Dorothy Riley, bobbin turners. Twenty men and boys were employed in 1851.

During the 1870's a 25 horse power turbine replaced the original water wheel. In 1887 Rileyís business was taken over by a former employee, William Wiggan. Wiggan & Sons survived a serious fire of 1887 but in 1893 Manley Brothers took the lease.

The final tenant was James Wiggan, who took over in 1908. In addition to bobbin turning, clog soles were also made at the mill. The bankruptcy of James Wiggan in 1937 resulted in closure and the eventual demolition of the buildings.

Remains: the major feature is the long goit (small stream). The ruins of a stone built weir can be seen on the River Calder, east of Chew Mill Farm. The goit runs through the field north of the farm buildings.

An interesting feature is the small stone bridge over the goit. This carries a track from Chew Mill Farm to the remains of a sheepfold, and beyond to the position of a ford across the River Calder. The weir, which was a major problem with the flooding of Whalley (as it did on 20th September 1946), was taken down in about 1965.

North-east from Chew, in a field by the Calder 'horseshoe', stands a square raised mound known as Castle Holme. (permission to view must be obtained from owner of property). The mound is 70ft. square and rises about 5ft. above the surrounding ground facing north, south, east and west. The mound is thought to be the site of a Roman temple or station, given its size and close proximity to Whalley. Roman coins of Hadrian were found on the site in the 1830's.

The mill lay dorment until the second world war when Fred Tattersall, who tenanted Chew Mill Farm from the Petre Estate, but rented the 35 acres from the Abbey, sub-let the building to the Government for the use of storing dried produce.

Later it was then occupied by various builders as a workshop until 1970. Jim Aspen and Roy Beardsworth, joiners and builders, were the last occupants.

The whole area of Chew Mill has changed considerably over the years. Many of the buildings have been renovated and a bungalow has been erected on the site of the old mill. On a grass mound stands a tree, in front of the buildings, which makes a contradiction of the saying 'Lightning never strikes in the same place twice'. well it did on 'The Great Tree of Billangahoh'.


This was a weaving and spinning mill on the Petre estate built in 1852 by Richard Thompson & Sons, and powered by a William Yates beam engine.

The partnership was dissolved in 1860. James Thompson and Solomon Longworth retaining the mill. In 1861, Mr. Longworth was left in sole control of the Billington mill.

Many of the 300 employees were housed in the terraces close to the factory nicknamed 'Little Hell'.

By the 1870's Mr. Longworth had established himself as a leading manufacturer of North-East Lancashire, with mills in Blackburn, and financial interests in Bank Mill, Great Harwood and Canal Mills. Clayton-le-Moors. Samuel Longworth purchased Clerk Hill Hall in 1870.
The house commanded a view of his huge 1,900 acre estate and from there most of all he surveyed he owned. If he didn't one of his relatives did.

Mr. Longworth intended to build his mill in Whalley and infact acquired the necessary land to do so. This outraged the local gentry who banded together to put a stop to this project. If the mill had been built the cricket field would not be sited where it is now.

During the 1880's the Billington factory contained 19,500 spindles producing weft and twist, and 460 looms.

The weaving shed was enlarged to hold 515 looms in the mid-1890ís and a 500 horse power tandem engine, rope drive, by Furnevall & Company, Haslingden, which was installed at the same time.

In 1922 Solomon Longworth & Sons Limited was registered by the family to continue the business. By the 1950's the directors included James Green, a grandson of Mr. Longworth, and a great-grandson, Basil Greenwood.

Products of the mill comprised of checks, aeroplane cloth, cambric, gingham, poplins, handkerchief and dress fabrics. Looms had been re-spaced to 720 and the work force stood at 170. Weaving ended in 1966.

Buildings : The western side of the site was formed by a large semi-derelict weaving shed. The original part, facing the river is random stone construction. The weaving shed engine house projects from the east wall. The engine house has a large round-headed window to the front. Renovation of this building began in 1989. A two storey watch house and single storey shed (with a north-light roof) is attached to the preparation building.

Close by is a cast iron footbridge over the River Calder, partly constructed for employees in the Whalley area.

The beam engine house, boilers and chimney, and spinning mill were situated in the south-east corner of the mill.

The site is now occupied by a steel clad building erected in 1986.

In Longworth Road (formerly Factory Row) are 38 dwellings in two terraces erected by Solomon Longworth & Sons to house the mill employees.


A co-operative weaving shed built in 1862 by the Billington & Whalley Cotton Manufacturing Company Limited. The company was ruined by the Cotton Famine and in 1864 the mill, with a 25 horse power engine, was taken by Harrisons, Camidge & Company of Sabden.

Following their bankruptcy in 1874 the mill was purchased by John Mercer & Company of Clitheroe. Thomas Whalley of Warwick House was the manager.

The shed contained 452 looms weaving shirtings, twills, printers and jacconettes.

In 1903, Roger & James Green, grandsons of Solomon Longworth took over, and 1911 were joined by their younger brother, Leonard. The mill was enlarged in 1905 to hold 600 looms.

The product range was gradually widened after the 1930's and during the 1950's Green Brothers Limited were manufacturing cambrics, checks, dress fabrics, shirtings etc in cotton and rayon.

The business was sold to Manifold Textiles of Manchester in 1963 by the executors of James Green, and continued to trade as Green Brothers until closure in 1979.

The steam engine was the last to operate in the Ribble Valley.

Various engineering companies went on to occupy the mill, but now it has been demolished to make way for two housing estates (Weavers Croft & The Meadows).

Buildings : They were constructed on a rectangular plan. A random stone weaving shed was on the west-side of the site. 20th century additions to the shed included a loading bay to the rear and a single storey workshop along the western perimeter (Both were constructed of machine brick.) The eastern perimeter of the mill was formed by the preparation and warehouse block, engine and boiler houses.

The preparation building was two storey high with basement. The east wall had two keystone arched doorways and a modern loading door. A single storey office and watch-house was at the main gate. Adjoining the opposite gate was an office attached to Nab View.

The boiler house and engine rooms were reduced to one storey and re-roofed. The engine house had a large round-headed door facing the mill yard. Adjoining was the boiler house with two partly blocked round-headed doors. (These suggested that the mill was originally equipped with two boilers). Beyond the boiler house was a two storey building. There was a reservoir, later filled in. The mill also had a chimney.

A number of industrial dwellings can be seen in the vicinity of where the mill stood. These include Nab View, Abbey, May, Industrial (Fells View) Terrace and Railway View.

Warwick House is on the opposite side of the road to where the mill stood.

In 1988 the disused mill engine was removed to Helmshore Textile Museum.

Demolition of the mill took place in 1989.


(1) Whalley Banks

At Nabside Farm the cottage nearest the roadside seems to have had a loom shop lit by separated windows, one which remains in situ. The Census Returns indicates a large settlement of handloom weavers in the Whalley Nab area, however physical evidence at the surviving dwellings is
extremely rare.

(2) Painter Wood

Terraces of early 19th century cottages along the old road to Blackburn. Many of the dwellings seem to have had rooms for handloom weaving.

(3) 8-12 Painter Wood

A group of three cottages, each with a through lit looms-hop. The cottages were lit by single windows at the back and front.

(4) 24-34 Painter Wood

A terrace of random stone, double fronted cottages. The dwellings seem to have had a loomshop lit by a single, square window.

(5) 1-15, 19-37 and 41-49 Painter Wood

Three long terraces of cottages, many of which are single fronted. All have north facing cellars which were originally lit by pairs of square windows.