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Ribble Valley Enterprise Agency Location

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Ribble Valley Enterprise Agency
Suite 3
The Printworks
Barrow Brook Business Village
Nr Clitheroe

Tel: 01254 828820
Fax: 01254 822858


The Ribble Valley

The Ribble Valley is the largest district in Lancashire in terms of area, comprising 224 square miles of market towns, picturesque villages and rolling countryside. Its population of 53,000 stretches from Longridge in the west over to Gisburn in the east and from Mellor on its southern borders up to its northern borders in the Forest of Bowland.

The Ribble Valley is a rural area of growing attraction to tourists and those seeking a pleasant place to live. There are good motorway links (M6 and M65) and an hourly train service to Manchester from Clitheroe, Whalley and other Ribble Valley Stations. A regular bus service operates from the new Clitheroe Interchange to all villages and places further a field.

The Printworks, Barrow: A Brief History

Barrow Printworks : A Brief History The name Barrow derives not from the presence of an ancient burial mound, but from Old English meaning 'a grove of trees'. It seems likely that the Printworks and later the village took their name from Barrow Brook; in the nineteenth century they were originally called Barrow Bridge after the bridge over the stream.

The village of Barrow is situated on what was, before the section was by-passed, the main A59 road from Preston to Skipton in Yorkshire. Barrow lies approximately 2.5 miles south of Clitheroe and 1.5 miles north of Whalley and owes its existence entirely to the large calico printing works, now demolished, at its southern end.

The site of the old printing works is now Ribble Valley Enterprise Park and is where the new Printworks building is.

The reason for the establishment of a factory at Barrow is due solely to the existence of Barrow Brook, a fairly fast-flowing stream, which flows down from the lower slopes of Pendle Hill to join the River Ribble just to the north east of the village of Mitton. Copious supplies of water are vital to the printing, and especially the bleaching, industries and it must also be remembered that, before the adoption of the steam engine, a good fall of water was also essential to provide motive power.

In a lease dated September 1st 1785, the first mention of industry in Barrow appears, when Thomas Weld of Sonyhurst leased to Thomas Drinkwater of Whalley, Yeoman, "Land in Wiswald called Part of the Holm and Part of the Hey and Land on the west of the Road from Whalley to Clitheroe adjoining the Bridge, to erect a mill for the purpose of carding and roving cotton or grinding corn by water and to erect a weir across the brook to provide enough water for the mill". The lease was for ninety nine years and the annual rent was 10.

The mill changed hands in April 1789 when the lease was passed from Mr Thomas Drinkwater to Mr Thomas Clegg.

On 23rd June 1804, there was another change of ownership. George Clegg, an innkeeper of Whalley (perhaps the son of Thomas Clegg) and Mr John Aspinall, described as a shopkeeper, also of Whalley, sold to Roger Pollard of Preston, also an innkeeper, "the newly erected building now used as a carding or roving mill, with the water wheel and gears and with dam, reservoirs (of which there were originally three) etc."

The change from cotton spinning to calico printing came in 1811 when the mill was leased to James Simpson and Thomas Peet, both of Manchester, and both described as calico printers. The lease was for 21 years at a rent of 31 per year. It is unlikely that the size of the factory inferred by the list of equipment in it given in 1804 would be at all suitable for the complex processes of calico bleaching and printing and it was probably at this time that the mill began to expand to its final large and complex form. In Greenwood's map of Lancashire dated 1818, the works is shown as a few scattered buildings and is simply labelled "Printworks", there being no mention of the name Barrow.

After some years Simpson went to become owner of Foxhill Bank in Oswaldtwistle and Peet went to Horwich Vale. After standing idle for a short time Barrow was taken by Ainsworth, Holding & Catlow in 1815.

By 1834 it would appear that Holding & Catlow had left and the company became known as Ainsworth Sykes & Co. The Ainsworth side of the company being run by three brothers, two of them marrying daughters of Robert Sykes. So it remained until 1855. By 1854 Robert Sykes had died but two of the Ainsworth brothers were still involved with the business, though by that time it appeared to be in financial difficulties and a deed of sale dated 1855 states that the property was sold "for the benefit of their creditors".

It seems likely that the works closed for a time at this point because the notes in the Census of 1861 highlights "a decrease in the population of the Townships of Wiswell and Whalley which is attributed to the discontinuance of employment in the Printworks." The Cotton Famine of the early 1960's caused by the American Civil War was probably the cause of the same note being made on the Census of 1871.

In November 1855 the works was valued at 8,192.13s.2d (or 8,192.66p)

What happened to the works after this sale is not clear. However, the Census of 1861 shows George Ainsworth as still living in Barrow and working as a calico printer employing 120 men.

There is a Schedule of Deed stating that in 1866 ownership passed to WD Coddington Esq., who then became landlord. "The Lancashire Directory" of 1869 lists the works as "The Foxhill Bank Printing Company, Barrow Bridge Print Works, and at Accrington." This was probably the company run by Messrs Taylor & Co., because in the same Schedule of Deeds there is a lease dated 1871 between W Coddington Esq. and Others and G I Taylor Esq..

By 1874 the company was again in financial difficulty and it was at this point that the next owner, Mr Bryce-Smith, a wealthy cotton merchant from Manchester, stepped in. He probably rented the works for a period of about three years before becoming the owner. The Bryce-Smith family carried on their cotton merchants business in Manchester but eventually moved to Barrow and by 1891 were living in Oakfield House, next to the works. They went on to become generous local benefactors.

The valuation carried out in 1874 for sale to Mr Bryce-Smith puts the total value of the buildings, machinery and land given at this time at 18,037.16s.6d (or 18,037.82p) This valuation would suggest that the works at this time must still have been expanding as there is evidence of quite a lot of recently installed equipment. A point which emerges from both valuations of 1855 and 1874 is the almost total self sufficiency of the works. Water, of course, was in plentiful supply, but they produced their own gas supply, there was a laboratory, a smithy, a joiners shop and a very well equipped mechanics shop, enabling them to carry out virtually all the maintenance required around the works, which must have been of prime importance.

Under Bryce-Smith's ownership the works expanded considerably. The increases in the number of printing machines must have created a large increase in the total amount of material handled at the works and consequently all the associated machinery to process it. Several new buildings were erected, including a clock tower in 1888 which, with its four faces, became not only a feature of the works but of the locality.

In 1990, the company became part of The Calico Printers Association and their prospectus states that it was then called "The Whalley Abbey Printing Company Limited". The company was bought by The Calico Printers Association, the contract being dated December 2nd 1899.

By 1909 Oakfield House was occupied by WH Hopwood who took over the running of the works as manager, probably put there by the CPA to increase production, which he did. According to Barretts Directory of Blackburn, 1925, Hopwood was still living in Barrow and so it seems he must have remained as manager until the works closed around 1930, due to the Depression. After it had closed the works was emptied and much of the machinery was taken to Strines Printworks in Derbyshire (another CPA member), including many of the patterns and styles individual to Barrow. What was then the largest printing machine in the world was contained in the works and when the works was emptied it was broken up for scrap.

The closure in 1930 marked the end of printing in Barrow. The works remained empty until it was used by the army as a barracks during the Second World War. In 1948 it was opened again using a new photographic process to engrave rollers but only about half of the buildings were used for this. Also, due to the high demand for textiles after the War, one building was used for a time for screen printing but this finished as soon as demand fell away. Due to rationalisation the engraving process was taken away to Levenshulme Works in 1972 and the works was finally closed to await demolition.

The above is extracted from : Barrow - The Development of an Industrial Village by Arnold Bettes.

Ask Pat

Ribble Valley Borough Council

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