coal bank mill, ashworth valley, norden, greater manchester | the journal of antiquities
Os grid reference SD8559 1416.Thesite of what was once a thriving industrialplace known astheCoal Bank Mill,in AshworthWoods at WolstenholmeFold through whichthe NadenBrook flows,in what is now a very picturesque place hidden deep inside the Ashworth Valley,near Norden, Rochdale, where old industrial ruins merge in with the flora and fauna as if in some way time has stood still, even though the industrial revolution and Coal Bank mill have been almost obliterated from what isnow a very tranquil and secluded place. This is one ofmy favourite places from my days at school, a long time ago now, but still so many memories.
To reach the site go to the top of Norden road in the village of Bamford. Turn left onto Clay Lane for about half a mile, then at the electricity substation turn sharp left again. Go along Fairburn Lane keeping to the right and head down into the little valley where the bridge goes over the brook, then just up the hill after the bridge follow a footpath that heads off to the right. Walk along this track, the former tramway, through the woods beside the steep-sided bank, below which the Naden brook flows. Follow this fairly straight path for half a mile until you reach a modern curved, wooden bridge. You can also reach the site from Norden bus terminus, then following the brook south past the new housing devolpment and, past the tall Black Pits cotton-mill chimney, one of very few in this area still standing. Here the little stream from the hillside above called Mill Croft flows into the larger Naden brook in Ashworth Woods (actually part of Carr Wood) at a place known locally as Coal Bank, which is now a landscaped area for walkers and picnickers alike, but which was once back in the industrial past a place of mills, chimneys, small coal pits (diggings), cotton-spinning, paperworks, dye and bleach works, all of which were very reliant on the Naden brook. The town of Rochdale is just 2 miles from here on the A680 through Norden.
Here atCoal Bankwe reach the site of what was Coal Bank Mill situated beside theNadenbrook and, although the cotton-mill-cum-paper-mill has been almost obliterated if you look closely you can still find the ruins of this one-time industrial enclave, a little bit of the Industrial Revolution hidden away in this wooded valley, near Rochdale, thanks in many ways to thegreat Ashworth family and, others,who owned the land around here. Inthe late 18th or early 19th centuriesthe place began life as a cotton-spinning mill (probably a fulling mill)butthen inthe19th centurythe mill became apaper/printing works.In the early years of the 20th centurythemill closed down for good. Much of the mill was then pulled down and great quantities of the stonework taken away. Part of a wall still stands as do the foundations of several buildings at either side of the walkway, including what was the lodge; there are also some nicely built stone bridges and lumps of old rusting ironwork!and alsoa few remnants of what looks like a water-wheel, or something similar? *In Graces Guide directory Coal Bank is described as a bleachers and dyers in the ownership of Richard Bell (1891).
TheCoal Bank millchimney with its open square-shapedfluewasdemolished in 2006 and the site levelled andlandscaped in order tomake new pathways and modern wooden bridges, making a nice place to stroll and enjoy ones-self in this, now, peaceful place. But the ghosts of the many hundreds of workers, both adults and children,who toiled here in the past seem to bestill present in this isolated, haunted valley; indeed it seems those workers, horses and loaded carts,arestill treading the same cobbled pathways to the old mill; and if youre very quiet you can still hear themwellI thinkyou can!
There are the ruins of other cotton-spinning mills (fulling mills) and Calico print millsfurther to thewestnear to Turn Village,beside the Cheesdenbrook, all quite evocative now and one might say, romantic looking. The ruins ofWashwheelLower Wheel mill,Deeply Vale mill,Deeply Hill;and alsoother spinning mills at Longlands,CheesdenLumbmill, CheesdenPasture mill,CrostonClose mill, Four Acre milland, further to the south BirtleDene mill, New Birtleand Kershaw Bridge mills, are discussed at length along with a history of these cotton millsin the delightful book The Forgotten Valleyby A.V.Sandifordand T.E.Ashworth.The ruins atCheesdenLumbmill were excavated by archaeologists from Manchester back in the 1990s, but nature is catching up and the ruins of these old mills are gradually giving way, sadly,to the rain and gales that frequentlybatter this part of north-west England. A wayof life has now gone.