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British Industrial History

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Garratt Mill

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in Manchester

Also spelt Garret or Garrat Mill.

Said to have been the first cotton mill in Manchester.

Note: The 1849 O.S. map shows that another small cotton mill named 'Garratt Mill' was constructed about 250 yds to the west of the old mill, immediately adjacent to the MSJ&A Railway viaduct, and bounded by the River Medlock and by Charles Street and Brook Street. This was built later than, and had no connection with the original Garratt Mill.

The original mill was started by a Mr. Gartside in the 1760s, as a ribbon weaving mill with swivel-looms powered by waterwheels. This was not successful, and at some point the mill was taken over by Thackeray and Whitehead and used for cotton spinning.

Needing more powerthan could be obtained by waterwheels powered by the River Medlock, two Savery-type engines were installed by Joshua Wrigley in 1784. These used steam to raise water to power waterwheels. Problems were experienced with smoke from the boilers' furnaces. This would not have gone down well with the wealthy neighbours in what were then the outskirts of the small town of Manchester. Wrigley built a chimney ~100 ft high in an effort to cure the problems.

1792 or 1794 Thackeray and Whitehead installed a large steam engine made by Bateman and Sherratt. This was a very interesting design, and was described at some length by John Farey[1]. It was an atmospheric engine, made double-acting by having a pair of single-acting cylinders working alternately, being interconnected by having a rack on each piston rod which engaged with a large gear wheel. This in turn worked a rocking beam, which turned a large flywheel via a connecting rod. A smaller gear and racks worked two air pumps acting on a single separate condenser. The cylinders were 36" diameter, the stroke 4 ft, and the engine worked at the high speed of 40 strokes per minute, and was rated at 70 HP. Farey wrote in 1827 that 'this is the best method that has yet been proposed for combining two single acting cylinders into one double engine. The engine 'pirated' Watt's patent by having a separate condenser, but they also made some similar engines with direct injection into the cylinders, so as to avoid infringing the patent.

1804 Death notice: 'On Tuesday evening last, Mr. Bradley, a partner in the house of Messrs. Thackeray & Co. Garratt-Mill, Manchester. He was well and hearty at seven o'clock in the evening, and died about eleven ; leaving a wife and nine children to lament their loss.'[2]

1806 'On Sunday morning, about three o'clock, a fire broke out in Thackery and Son's cotton-factory, called Garratt Mill, near Manchester, and in less than an hour the whole building was reduced to a heap of ruins.'[3]. In fact, Green's 1787/1794 map shows that the mill consisted of a number of separate buildings, and Bancks's 1831 map suggests that some of these survived.

To be SOLD, Without Reserve, by order of the Provisional Assignee of JOHN THACKERAY, Bankrupt, on the Premise at Garratt Mill, Manchester, on Thursday, the 28th day of July inst. at 10 o'clock in the forenoon, all the valuable MACHINERY, &c in the said Mill; consisting of
12 WATER FRAMES, 96 Spindles.
18 Do. do 72 do.
1 do. 144 do
1 do 168 do.
2 Pair of MULES, 102 Spindles
21 Different REELS, BOBBINS, &c;
90 Horse Power Steam Engine, very large Boiler, nearly new; large old Boiler; cast iron Water Wheel, iron and wood Shafting, large Forcing Pumps, iron and lead Pipes, &c.; Smiths, Turners, and Joiners Tools and Utensils; iron and Brass Change Wheels Rollers, iron and brass Castings, and a variety of articles of various descriptions used in the trade. A quantity of Loose Cotton and Rovings, and quantity of Oil.
Also, a useful HORSE and CART, Saddle, Bridle, and Geering.
Catalogues to be had, and the Machinery may be viewed, four days before the Sale, by applying to Mr. Lin Dillon, 29, Brown-street; or to Mr. Chown, the Auctioneer, King-street.'[4]

By 1831 Bancks's map shows that the site was now occupied by the Old Garratt Print Works, using some of the old mill buildings. However, the mill was still used for, or reverted to, cotton production, as in 1846 it was vacated by the occupants, Holmes and Roberts, the land being required for the MSJ&A Railway, and the weaving looms removed to the former Gatley’s Factory.

1837 Advert for sale by auction of valuable printing machines, copper rollers, etc., at the Old Garratt Mill, situate in Zara-street, Granby Row, Manchester: included several printing machines, waxing machine; glazing machines; one callender: dash wheels, metal surface, five hundred copper rollers, in good condition: wrought-iron shafting; new and old bar and cast-iron; brass spur and bevel wheels; two drawing frames, bobbin and fly frames.'[5]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'A Treatise on the Steam Engine' Vol 1, by John Farey, 1827, reprinted in 1971 by David & Charles
  2. Lancaster Gazette - Saturday 24 March 1804
  3. Bury and Norwich Post - Wednesday 8 January 1806
  4. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 16 July 1825
  5. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 7 October 1837
  • 'Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution' by A E Musson & Eric Robinson, Manchester University Press, 1969