According to Chris Aspin, first references to a cotton venture at Kirk Mill can be found in the Wapentake of Blackburn Court ledger (The Water Spinners, 2003, pp 131-9). What was sold, by Richard Dilworth was “All that site of a water Corn Mill commonly called Kirk Mill for the purpose of erecting a Cotton Mill”. It was purchased in July 1785 by Hugh Stirrup, merchant, of London, John Shakeshaft, merchant of London, Richard Salisbury of Chipping, cotton manufacturer, and William Barrow of Lancaster, merchant. The document recording the sale of the corn mill outlines the dimensions of the building to be used as the cotton spinning mill – as per the Arkwright ‘package’, the building was 52 yards by 11 yards. The spinning mill was constructed in February, 1785 and was among the first Arkwright-style mills to be built.
At a later date William Carr, a clockmaker from Scorton, joined the company and lived on site. His specialist knowledge would have been essential for ensuring the smooth running of the water-wheel.
And Chipping either had or now attracted a number of specialists and specialist industries. Woodworking had long been a local trade and was now becoming useful also in the construction of the earlier machines, which were constructed of wooden frames. Rollers for the spinning machines were made by Bleasdales at Isaacs Mill on the edge of Chipping (and later at the larger works on Goose Lane). Spindles and flies were made at Wolfen Mill, just up the road from Kirk Mill. Bobbins were made at Hurst Green.
Metalwork specialists, the Marslands, moved into the area and proved invaluable for the continued smooth functioning of the machinery.
With the co-operation of Thomas Weld, owner of the adjoining Stonyhurst [Leagram] estate, an orchard in front of Austin House was taken in to enlarge the pond, the company paying a small annual rent thereafter to the estate for this land.
A new waterwheel was erected and had a wheel diameter of 19ft and a shaft of 2ft square. It was external to the building. There were 20 spinning frames, with 1032 spindles at work, and machinery for 6 more frames of 48 spindles. Also carding, roving, drawing and other
machines, according to the sale notice that appeared in The General Evening Post on 5th April, 1788. The company had been declared bankrupt from Aug 1787.:
A COTTON MILL
To be SOLD by AUCTION
By Order of the Assignees of Salisbury, Barrow, Carr & Co., Bankrupts
At Spencer’s Tavern, in Manchester, in the County of Lancaster, on Tuesday the 19th Day of April, 1788, at Four o’Clock in the Afternoon, All that valuable COTTON MILL, situate at CHIPPING, in the county of Lancaster, about 8 miles from Preston, in a populous manufacturing country, with the machinery in and belonging to the same, and the messauge, cottages, buildings, and about fourteen acres of land adjacent thereto.
The mill containing 23 yards in length, by 9 in breadth, with the stream of water, is held by lease for a term of 999 years, (of which but few are expired) under the yearly rent of 4L.
The other buildings, consisting of a Building adjoining to the Mill, a Messuage in the occupation of William Carr, a Smithy, Barn, three Cottages inhabited, one other Cottage nearly finished, four more Cottages built to the first floor, a Garden, and the fourteen Acres of Land, are held by lease for a term of 99 Years, whereof three only are expired, under the yearly rent of 2l.
The water shaft is twenty four inches square, the wheel nineteen feet and a half in diameter, and five and a half in breadth on the face; there are twenty Spinning Frames, containing 1032 spindles at work, and Machinery for six more Frames, of forty-eight spindles each; there are also a proportionable number of Carding, Roving, Drawing, and other Machines, and the Mill and Machinery are in full work and good condition.
– General Evening Post, 5th April, 1788
It is not known whether spinning continued or whether the mill was idle for a while after the bankruptcy. The first company paid the land tax in 1788 and put up the mill for sale in Apr 1788 with further sales notices being published in October 1788 and June 1789. Grove House probably dates from this period.
The next company was advertising for workers in 1790.