Brock Mill. Wigan

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Visited in early 2018, Brock Mill in Wigan is a fairly local explore so it was nice to tick it off the expanding 'to do' list.

Situated in its own mini valley surrounded by steep muddy slopes, gaining entry was a rather clumsy affair, climbing through barbed wire then negotiating the slippery bank soaked in rain and trying not to let go of the available trees to hold on to on my way down to ground level.

The site itself is very derelict with many features vandalised or missing from earlier photographs. Still, there is enough of this mill still standing to get an idea of its original function. 

Situated on the banks of the River Douglas and covering quite a large acreage, I spent around 2 hours in here before leaving. I do like these smaller industrial sites but it was a shame more detailing wasn't present as in some other places, such as George Barnsley or the Ship Chandler buildings.

History

During the mid part of the 1700s, Brock Mill first began operations. The site was expanded when The Earl of Balcarres bought the mill and built a furnace at Haigh Foundry, being situated half a mile downstream. Haigh Foundry was established in the Douglas Valley in Haigh around 1790 by Alexander Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres and his brother Robert, as an ironworks and foundry. The ironworks was not a success but the foundry was, particularly after Robert Daglish became chief engineer in 1804, and the works acquired a reputation for manufacturing winding engines and pumping equipment for the coal mining industry. The foundry was leased by E.Evans and T.C.Ryley in 1835 for 21 years, running to 1856. The partners intended to produce railway locomotives and were later joined by a Mr Burrows.

 

The iron smelting business didn't thrive and furnaces at Haigh were given up as well as work at the forge at Brock Mill. However, the two sites began to prosper and build fire engines. From 1812 to 1835 Daglish helped build the first locomotive for Lancashire (1812) and the foundry became skilled at casting large steam cylinders as the forge wrought the parts which couldn't be cast. 

 

 

In 1855, after the 21 year lease had expired, Haigh Foundry and Brock Mill Forge were offered for further lease. Messrs Birley & Thompson took a further 21 year lease. At this time, locomotives were only part of the business as Haigh Foundry was producing swing iron bridges and dock ironwork for Liverpool and Hull and large steam engines for coal and metal mines. They even attempted iron architectural work. By now, Haigh Foundry was concentrating on winding engines but had also expanded into brick and tile making and continued to build locomotives that tendered for the Festiniog Railway’s ‘Prince’ class.

 

They had manufactured some of  the largest pumping engines and the most powerful factory engines in the kingdom in the previous decade. The iron works, on the bank of the River Douglas, consisted of a foundry, five Cupola Furnaces, three air furnaces for making the largest castings and another foundry for smaller pieces. Also on site were blacksmiths' and pattern-makers' shops, office, drawing shop, the foreman's house, boiler yard and iron warehouse. A water wheel driven by the river powered the machinery, line shafts and furnace blasts. The forge was powered by water and steam. Part of the works where spade making was carried out had Naysmyth steam hammers and a rolling mill. Also for lease was the firebrick and tile works which used fire clay from a nearby pit and had a kiln, drying sheds and a steam powered grinding wheels. The manager's house and cottages for workers were part of the lease. A railway line connecting it to the Lancashire and Yorkshire and London and North Western Railways was being built.

By the late 1870s, the market was less buoyant and the depression of the early 1880s hit Haigh hard. The lease was given up and the works closed in January 1885.

 

At the time of the site being abandoned as it is today - and falling into disrepair - the mill had been used by Potters herbal remedies before closing as a manufacturing site for good.