~Dane Bridge Mill - Congleton~

Article contributed by

Lyndon Murgatroyd

Bookcover
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The illustration on the left shows the front cover of a 350 page book written by Lyndon Murgatroyd, which was published in October 2003 and launched at the Congleton Museum.
The complete publication covers the history of all the mills in Congleton - through from silk to fustian and on to modern day usages.

The article, below, is an informative extract from that book about one of those mills.
In addition, the book is full of interesting anecdotes from people who worked in the mills over the years.


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Danebridgemill

View of Dane Bridge Mill. Location: Dane Bridge, Congleton.
Current owners: Maxpress.

History of Occupancy

1822 J. Pattison (silk throwster)* 1822 Charles Hackney (silk throwster)*

1830 Thomas Robinson (silk throwster)*

1890 Walter Jackson (fustian cutter) 1890 Henry Barlow (fustian cutter)

1902 Walter Jackson (fustian cutter)

1906 H. Barlow & W. Hopkins (fustian cutters)

1910 Henry Barlow (fustian cutter) 1910 William Hopkins (fustian cutter) 1910 William Moores (fustian cutter)

1914 J. N. and G. Phillips (shirt makers)

1932 Condura ( child's dress maker)**

1934 William Hopkins (fustian cutter)

1941 Conforma ( child's dress maker)**

1958 Conforma Ltd (child's dress maker)

1960s Universal Shirts (shirt mfr.)

1973 English Calico Co. Ltd.

1975 Maxpress (bingo card printers)

2001 Maxpress (bingo card printers)

2003 Mill currently vacant

* Occupants of the first mill built on this site. ** Condura and Conforma were the same company, a subsidiary of Conlowe's famous for the manufacture of 'Judy' frocks (children's dresses).

Interesting facts:- Two mills have been built on this site. In 1788 Nathaniel Maxey Pattison built the first mill that was said to be on the site now occupied by the current Dane Bridge Mill on the southwest corner of the road bridge over the River Dane.

Dane Bridge Mill as it was then known was a five-storey mill. It occupied 1,272 square yards. Machinery in the mill was driven by an 8-horse power steam engine. The total frontage in Mill Street was recorded as 53'2" with a depth of 23'3".

The 1845 Tithe Map shown below illustrates the shape and position of the original mill (arrowed).

Tithemap

The Pattison family owned the mill until the death of James Pattison. There were also four two-storey dwellings or houses with cellars adjoining the mill. . The mill was put up for auction on Wednesday, 30th March, 1831, at the Bull's Head Hotel Congleton (Macclesfield Courier and Herald 1831).

The advert reads as follows:-

All that excellent silk mill the property of James Pattison Esq., called New Mill situate on South side of the Bridge over the River Dane in Congleton aforesaid with the engine house adjoining thereto and a capital steam engine of 8 horse power. A part of this mill 48' 9'' long by 27'4'' wide is five storeys in height and other parts of the respective lengths of 31'3'' by 23' 3'' and 23' 2'' by 21' wide are three storeys in height. There is also a building adjoining and connecting with the mill of 3 storeys in height and measuring 26' 6'' long by 17' 9'' wide.

The advert continues with a description of 4 dwelling houses and finishes as follows:-

The premises are well situated and most commodiously arranged for the silk business The steam engine is a Sherrat's of Salford. Apply Mr George Reade Solicitor.

The mill was also subsequently auctioned at the Lion and Swan Hotel on 25th October, 1849. The mill building must have been demolished between this date and 1875, because the mill that stands today occupies a larger area and is only 3 storeys in height. The mill can be clearly seen on the 1875 O.S. map shown below. Compare it with the building illustrated in the 1845 Tithe Map above. Note the location of the Three Arrows and the Bridge public houses on the 1875 O.S. map. This clearly indicates that the site marked 'silk mill' is indeed Dane Bridge Mill as we know it today.

According to trade directories, the first mill was a silk mill up to 1830. There then appears to be a large gap in information. According to the East Cheshire Textile Mill survey (1980s), Dennis and Jacob Bradwell occupied the mill in 1860 and possibly through to 1875. This is interesting because all the trade directory information indicates that the Bradwells were at Dane Street Mill during this period. Did they occupy both mills? I have been unable to confirm this information.

Silkmill1

From 1890, however, the mill was a fustian cutting mill, and remained so up to 1934. The mill, however, was also occupied by Condura, a subsidiary company of Conlowe Ltd. Condura was registered as a limited liability company in 1930 (Congleton Chronicle 1932). The company occupied part of the mill, and initially employed around thirty people. Within two years, the business was employing over 100 people.

Condura Ltd., manufactured the famous countrywide known 'Judy' frocks (children's dresses), stocked by the most prestigious stores in the country. Adverts for these garments are illustrated at the front of this book. Children's wear made of artificial silk, crepe de chine, cottons and mixture cloths indicates the diversity of manufacturing skills of this company. Initially managed by Mr H. Tovey, the business grew in stature, and soon took over the whole mill.

The same standards of manufacture demanded by the parent company, Conlowe Ltd., applied to Condura Ltd. The intricate use of a large variety of textile materials by this company helped the reputation of the Lancashire cotton trade during this difficult period, when its Continental rivals continuously threatened it.

During the war years, most of Congleton's mills were often used by the Ministry of Defence to manufacture materials required by the forces, or in many cases, they were commandeered to billet soldiers stationed in Congleton. Dane Bridge Mill, must have been one of the few mills working during the war years. In 1941, however, the name had changed to Conforma, as illustrated by the letter heading below.

Letterhead

Conforma Ltd., continued to manufacture children's clothes throughout the war years. The business was now in the hands of Mr R. W. Halstead, and he continued to manage it until he decided to branch out on his own, in 1946 initially taking one room in Brook Mills. Later he developed the business known as Halsteads which as we now know, occupied Providence Mill in Rope Walk.

In October 1944, Conforma 'Judy' Frocks were summonsed for selling clothing at prices beyond those fixed by the Board of Trade. Mr R Halstead was serving in His Majesty's Forces at this time and as manager of the business, he was asked to answer the case in court. Mr William Lowe the owner, pleaded guilty and he was fined £2,000 - a lot of money in those days (Congleton Chronicle 1944).

By 1958, Conlowe companies were subsidiaries of the English Sewing Cotton Company, and by 1973, the company was known as English Calico Ltd. Universal Shirts moved their manufacturing plant to Dane Bridge Mill in the early 1960s when Conforma Ltd., occupied the mill. Soon after 1973, Conforma Ltd., moved to Dane Mill, and the printing company Maxpress purchased Dane Bridge Mill. They occupied the mill in 1975 when Mr A.C. Bradley surveyed the mill for Congleton History Society and also in the 1980s when the East Cheshire Textile Mill Survey was carried out.

Maxpress appeared to be the only company that would not allow members of the East Cheshire Textile Mill survey to carry out any internal survey of the mill. This is pointedly noted in the notes that they made on this mill.

Currently the mill is unoccupied and attempts are being made to convert the mill into accommodation.

The photo of the mill shown at the beginning of this section was taken from Dane Bridge.

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