Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Medlock Bridge Mill

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in Gaythorn, Manchester

1846 'DESTRUCTION OF A FACTORY BY FIRE. On Saturday evening, about a quarter before ten, information was brought to the Police-yard, Clarence-street, by a person named James Platt, that a mill, occupied Messrs. Galt, Brownlie, and Co., calico manufacturers, and Mr. John Cowell, calico manufacturer, called the Medlock Bridge Mill, situated in Albion-street, Gaythorn, was on fire. Mr. Thomas Rose was immediately in attendance at the scene of the conflagration, accompanied by four engines and a strong force of firemen. On arriving in Albion-street, it was found by the fire brigade that the flames were issuing through a great portion of the building, which is three stories high. Through the six windows at the gable end of the mill in Albion-street the flames were raging with great fury. The fire had obtained so great a mastery, and had spread with such astonishing rapidity, that from the first no hope was entertained of saving the building in which it originated. They were, however, by well-directed exertions, and steady perseverance, much more successful than they anticipated, as will be seen in the sequel. The flames extended with great impetuosity, and in a very short period of time throughout the mill which the fire first made its appearance, the floors of which, the building being an old one, were pretty well saturated with oil, and this fell an easy prey to the devouring element. The mill is about thirty yards long, and about nine yards wide, and consists of three stories. At the end of the building next to Albion street, are situated the engine-house and boiler house, and we are glad to add that both the engine and boiler have been happily saved. At the other end of the building was general store-room for shuttles, pickers, and such materials. This store-room, and its contents, have also been saved. The saving of these rooms, the engine-house, boiler-house, and store-room, is highly creditable to the fire brigade, as from their proximity to the general conflagration they were placed in the most imminent peril, and could only have been saved by dint of the most unremitting exertions. The mill itself, with looms, gearing, yarn process of manufacture, &c, has been nearly altogether if not wholly destroyed. And some of the cloth, as might be expected, has been damaged by the water. The entire of the building, where the fire appeared to be raging at first, was at the period of the arrival of the engines, found to be completely destroyed. Parts of the walls had likewise given way. The fire had communicated itself from the three story weaving factory to a large five-story factory adjoining, also belonging to Messrs. Galt, Brownlie, and Co. This large factory was connected with the one which has been destroyed, not only doorway, but also by the shafting. The attention of the firemen was in a great measure at one time concentrated upon the preservation of this large and valuable property. It was discovered that the fire had been communicated to it through the shafting which ran from the one mill to the other, and that it was on fire in three places. The exertions of the fire brigade were brought to bear upon this portion of the premises, which was thus happily extinguished, but not before considerable difficulty "had been encountered and overcome in introducing branch into the interior. At only about seven yards distance from the mill which was on fire, there is situated another mill, occupied by Messrs. Thos. and Robt. Hope, manufacturers of small ware, fringes, lace, and sewing cottons, &c. Two branches were brought to play upon this mill, and it also was saved. In fact the engines succeeded in preventing the fire from communicating with it; and the flames were prevented from extending to a two-story building, in the occupation of Messrs. Galt, Brownlie, and Co. as a store-room for calicoes, and which communicated with the mill that has been burned. The fire was got under about a quarter past eleven. Firemen, however, continued to play upon the burning embers until about one o'clock, and a company of men were left all night on the spot with two jets, which continued to play upon the ruins until Sunday morning. The fire was discovered by a person of the name of James Platts, who in the employment of Messrs. Galt, Brownlie, and Co., lives in the yard attached to the mill, and, who, as we have already stated, gave information at the Police-office yard. The fire appeared then to be burning in the bottom cellar, close to where the boilers are situated. The damage caused by this fire is estimated at £3500, which includes the injury done to building and stock. And the loss will be covered insurances effected in the North British, West of England, and Sun offices. The adjoining buildings, which have sustained very trifling injury, are insured to large amount. The building destroyed was the property of the Earl of Balcarres. It is not known how the fire originated, but it imagined that it must have occurred in consequence of some timbers communicating with the flue connected with the boilers. This, however, is mere conjecture. This fire causes about 200 workers, two-thirds of whom are females, to be thrown out of employment. When, however, the machinery shall have been put into working order, only about seventy will be idle in consequence of the burning of the three story building.'[1]

Charles and John Galt were two of the partners.


The 1849 O.S. map [2] shows the mill on the eastern side of Albion Street, by Medlock Bridge. The River Tib defined the eastern boundary, before it joined the River Medlock, which formed the southern boundary. To the north was Little Peter Street, then a cluster of back-to-back houses named Gaythorn Place, and then the viaduct of the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway. The buildings on the site had previously been occupied by Paul Chappe.

Adshead's 1851 Maps of Manchester shows the northern block to be occupied by Wood, Fenny and Brother {actually Wood, Penny and Brother} as a cotton mill, while the southern block was used as a smallwares mill by Hope and Co.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Wednesday 13th May 1846
  2. 'The Godfrey Edition' 'Old Ordnance Survey Town Plans: Manchester Sheet 33: 'Manchester (Oxford Street & Gaythorn)' [1]