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British Industrial History

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Kingston Cotton Mills

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of Kingston-upon-Hull

1848 Account

'A VISIT TO THE KINGSTON COTTON MILLS. This extensive establishment for the spinning of cotton commenced operations in the manufacture of the chief staple commodity of this country on the 1st of January in the present year.

'The Kingston Cotton Mills are situate within the present borough of Kingston upon-Hull. The situation possesses many advantages. Its eastern boundary is the navigable river Hull, from which this town derives its name, and which at this point has daily sufficient depth of water for large sea going vessels. Here the company have their own wharf at which coals are delivered from the vessels that bring them direct from the pits. The custom of the port is for the cotton ships to deliver in the docks, where also the vessels for the Baltic and sent in river lighters the same distance, to the place of shipment.

'We see no difficulty, however, excepting the Customs' regulations, in accommodation being provided at the wharf for sea going ships of 200 to 300 tons. On the north, throughout their whole extent, the premises are bounded by the Skidby drain, which brings down the surplus waters from the foot of the Yorkshire wolds, which contain many fine springs. On the west, the grounds of the mill are separated by only one narrow triangular field, the property of the Hull Charity Trustees, from the Barmston Drain, a still more capacious stream, a constant and large body of pure water from about 40 miles of rich agricultural country between this town and Bridlington. From both these sources the company have had granted to them the privilege of taking an unlimited supply, and we may add that, for several reasons, but chiefly on account of greater purity, they have availed themselves of this privilege. The ground consists of twelve acres, the larger portion of which, in nearly quadrangular form, has been enclosed, where needed, by a wall which is three hundred yards in length. Exactly at the centre of this enclosure stands a very conspicuous object, which can be observed at the distance of many miles from the town, in every direction, being, by a considerable height, the loftiest building in Hull. It is the chimney erected to carry off the smoke from the engines. Its height is 245-feet from the level of the ground, which has been raised a feet by the company. It is a circular pillar resting upon a quadrangular pedestal, of due architectural proportions. The diameter is 19 feet inside at the base, and eight feet inside at the top. Its summit, which will now rarely be reached, even by workmen, commanded, at the time of its completion, a splendid bird's eye view of the town, and suburbs, with the broad flowing Humber and both its shores, to its outflow into the German ocean, with Spurn Point and lighthouse, the borders of the Yorkshire Wolds, with those summits in its parallel—Hedon, Beverley, with its minster, &c. At a distance of 160 feet due north from this fine tower stands the main building. The length of the building is 501 feet, its width 80 feet. Its height we did not ascertain, but it will be from 50 to 60 feet. It is divided into five fire proof floors, all fire proof, consisting of brick arches supported by iron pillars and girded together and to the main walls with iron girders. There are ten rooms, each 176 feet in length by eighty in width. These occupy what are called the wings - leaving about 150 feet for the centre — which again is divided into three parts, the middlemost of all consisting of a succession of rooms, one over the other, 90 feet in length, 8 feet in width, excepting only the ground floor which is disposed of in manner which we will hereafter describe. The 90 feet in length which these centre rooms occupy leave between the same and each wing two other spaces of about thirty feet in breadth, and eighty in the transverse direction. A nearly square portion of this space is separated by a strong wall, and appropriated as a winding staircase from the bottom to the top of the steps, which are entirely of stone, are eleven feet in width, and there is left in the midst of their winding quadrangular space, about ten feet in length and six or eight in breadth, which is walled in from top to bottom on three sides, and on the fourth at each landing is an opening with pair of doors. This fearful well, from 50 to 60 feet deep as you look down it from the top, has with its contents received the homely and technical name of The " Hoist." It is the business one person to attend to this "hoist." Within it is placed a platform, attached by some mechanical process, which you do not see, to the gearing of the mill. But there are two ropes in the hoist. You stand upon the platform, and supposing you are too indolent or too ill to walk up stairs, you lay hold of one of these ropes, and keep it in your hand under a gentle pressure, and away you go to any floor of the building you choose. When you think you have got high enough, all you have to do is to let go of the rope, and step from the platform to the solid slabs of the landing. There your ascending and descending waits until you choose to return. You then treat the other rope in like manner, and. at your wish, you descend either to the spot at which you entered, or to any other within the range of the hoist. The staircase to each wing is fitted up in the like manner. But this hoist was not intended for a plaything. At each touch of the rope it, at the will of the manager, or an overseer, it will carry to or bring from any part of the house a ton weight.

'The engines, in the main building, are four in number, each of 80 horse power. They are made by Messrs. Peel, Williams, and Peel, of Manchester, and were lately "christened" "the Watt," in honour of. the inventor of the steam-engine; the "Peel " after their maker ; the "Thompson." to commemorate the first chairman of the Kingston Cotton Mill Company under whose superintendence the mills were erected, and the "Gresham," after Alderman Gresham the second and present chairman, under whose direction the working of the mills has been commenced. The engines work in couples. To inspect a pair them, the engineer introduced us into a spacious hall 35 feet in width, 45 in height, and 50 length, and instantly a beautiful sight presented itself to our eye. A pair of twin steam engines at work, revolving the main shaft, and separated from it by a single wall. Their proportions are gigantic, requiring, when in motion, the full height, length and breadth of the spacious hall we have described, and which, with the exception of the space occupied by the staircase before described, extends from the back to the front of the main building. But the size of their limbs produced less impression upon our mind than the beautiful ease of their motion, - and the almost total absence of that shaking and trembling which are common in an engine-house. This was probably owing in some degree, to the strength of the building - one thousand tons of stone in massive blocks cemented together, having been used in the foundations upon which the engines rest; but it was also we believe, in great part attributable to the perfect trueness of all the parts of the machinery. This conjecture of ours was strengthened by a remark which incidentally fell from the engineer, namely that the fly-wheel which revolves between these engines and to which they each are coupled, whose diameter is 24 feet, and whose weight is 30 tons, and which has not been engine turned, but merely cast in sections and united together, was found upon being erected not to be the 32nd part of an inch out of truth, on either side of any part of its circumference of 72 feet. This fly-wheel is cogged, and turns an horizontal shaft, one end of which imparts motion to an upright shaft working half the machinery in the centre part of the building, and the other end turns that shaft which first attracted our attention in one of the large rooms as turning all the wheels the east wing.

'Passing from this hall to the north side of the building, we find the ground floor of the centre part—ninety feet in width — entirely open to the yard, with the exception of a series of stout iron pillars, and arches supporting the superincumbent edifice. The sight through these arches is imposing. There lie, side by side, in uniform order, eight half circular roofed boilers of 60 horse power each, every one of which is supplied with two distinct and different kinds of indicators as to the height of water in the boilers, and two distinct and different indicators of the pressure of the steam. One of the water indicators is a glass tube immediately before the eye of the fireman, and another is a steam whistle, which, in case the fireman should be absent when the water was becoming too low in the boiler would sound an alarm, and attract either his attention or that of the engineer in chief. The boilers are covered with coarse woollen cloth or felt, for the purpose of preventing the eradiation of heat.

'From this survey of the motive power we were taken to the top of the building, in its centre, to witness the first operation of that power.

'To this room the bales of cotton are, by machinery, drawn up in the same condition as they leave the shores of the United States or India. They are here opened, their contents carefully examined, and the process of mixing conducted, according to the quality of the article required to be spun, and in order to preserve a uniformity of quality, throughout. In this room is situate the willow or "devil."

The cotton wool, thus mixed, partially opened and partially cleansed, is passed down a funnel from this room into the one imediately beneath, where the process of "blowing' is conducted. The cotton after this process is in a state of downy softness scarcely to be imagined by those who have not seen and handled it. Its fibres, however, are laid in all directions ; to place them parallel it is taken to the carding-room, then to the "drawing" machine, where six of these threads are placed together, and "drawn" to a greater length and parallel to each other. The spinning or twisting of the parallel fibres has not yet commenced. It begins in the next process, which is called “slubbing," which very nearly resembles that of drawing, indeed it includes it entirely but also gives to the thread a slight twist. In this machine six threads from the drawing machine are combined in one, and twisted together. They are reduced to less than the same breadth that one thirty-sixth part of the number occupied on leaving the carding machine. The first spindle exists in the slubbing machine. The next instrument is called the roving machine, in which two threads from the slubber are placed parallel, further elongated, and slightly further twisted. They have not yet come into the hands of the spinner, but do so in the next operation. There are several descriptions of spinning machines, the chief of which are the mules and the throstles. In bringing our remarks to a hasty conclusion, we my observe that besides the building we have named, there are several others to the rear, including blacksmiths’ and joiners’ shop, packing room and warehouse. These require, and have had erected for them additional steam power. These, with the entire machinery, are under the direction of the resident engineer, a Mr. Pender, from north of the Tweed; the manager of the mills is Mr. Sleddon and amongst the principal contractors of the works have been Messrs. Dobson and Metcalf, of Bolton, who have supplied the machinery for the east end; Messrs. Lillie and Sons, of Manchester, who have supplied the shafting and gearing for the concern, which has been erected upon the general design of Mr. Lillie, one of that firm; Messrs. Jenkinson and Bow, of Manchester, and Messrs. John Hetherington and Sons, of the same town, are supplying the machinery for the west end. When fully at work the mills will employ from 1,100 to 1,200 hands.' [1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 23 February 1848