Sowcar mill was a small cotton mill in the river meadow beside the Harrop brook at Sowcar* Farm. Built in 1802 by George Antrobus, sold to Francis Upjohn a cotton spinner, bought by Sheldon in the 1820s, it was burnt down in 1831 and never rebuilt. There are few obvious signs of its existence in the field today, just traces of the leat and a few stones remain. It was noted for its 27ft diameter water wheel, probably undershot, and it’s 12 horse power steam engine. There is no evidence of a mill pond, so the water power must have been very limited, and no doubt this led to the installation of the steam engine.
Destruction by fire was very common in the early mills. They were constructed with timber intermediate floors and the machinery constantly dripped oil which was soaked up by the floor. Plenty of flammable cotton, the air was full of cotton dust, which can be explosive in some conditions. The machinery was not always reliable, with continuous movement causing friction, which in turn caused over-heating followed by ignition – woosh! There were no smoke detectors or fire alarms, no sprinklers, no fire brigade to call out. Total destruction was the usual result.
* Sowcar is pronounced Soo-ca, hard c, short a.
Our thanks go to those who researched and discovered the history that is presented in these pages. Please read the full acknowledgement of their remarkable achievement. Unless otherwise noted, the historical pictures are from the Civic Society picture collection at the Discovery Centre and also available online.
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