Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria, 26th August 2017


Its been a busy few weeks for me. There has been lots to do at work, baby sitting and two holidays to take into account.

The first of such holidays was a weekend away in the Lake District, the first time I have been there since a geography field trip during my 6th form years.

We did as we usually do, and get around the area and took in as much as we could, including some English Heritage and National Trust places. For various reasons, I didn’t take pictures everywhere, but one place I did photograph was Stott Park Bobbin Mill.

Built in 1835, Stott Park is the only surviving example of a lakeland bobbin mill. As there was an abundance of running water in the area, there were more than a 100 similar mills in the area at one stage. These mills were known for production of textiles, iron, gunpowder, barrel hoops, and of course, bobbins.

Using running water and the local wood supply for materials, for many years the mill produced bobbins for various uses, and even expanded a number of times over its life (and upgrading to steam and electrical power), especially during war time when the need for bobbins for wire and string were needed.

Despite the industry changing in the 1900s, and bobbins becoming plastic, Stott Park was able to adapt its machines (many of which were still original) in order to create different wooden items, and the mill only finished operating as a working mill in the 1970s.

I must admit, I didn’t imagine that something as simple as bobbins would be that interesting, but our tour guide was very informative, and it’s great to see that this mill has been preserved in working order to showcase the industrial process of the area.

As the mill was quite dark, I had to work with a fairly high ISO, so there is some noise in some of the images, but hopefully they tell the story of the mill.

Surrounded by coppiced woodland, the mill is located near Lake Windermere. Built from local stone, the 2 storey structure in the middle of the picture is the original mill building, which had machines on the ground and first floor.

This belted wheel on the later extension provided power to the saw shed which was built in 1880 to speed up the cutting of the timber from the forest.

The 1880 saw shed with the original 1835 mill building to the right.

A selection of bobbins in various phases of their creating, with a number of different cutting saw blades behind.

The blocking machine, perhaps from around 1860 was design to create the blocks for the bobbins to be cut from. Staff would try to get as many from a piece of wood as possible.

When the mill was built, it originally ran from a water will, powered from a local stream. Later a steam engine was added. These weights on the steam engine, which was a later addition were designed to control the speed to prevent the engine running too fast. The boiler was powered by off cuts and shavings from the milling process as well as coal, so the mill was quite self sufficient. Later the steam engine was replaced with electrical supplies but was retained.

A shot through the machine shop showing some of the machines and belts which provide power to the machines. You can see the shavings on the floor from the bobbins that have been shaped. I decided to add a vintage feel to this to image.

Blocks which were cut, then had a whole bored through them in order to let them fit on the cutting lathes. Interestingly, staff were only paid for every 12 they cut, lathed or polished, so all batches would have been in multiples of 12.

Spinning wheels were attached to belts powered by the water wheel, steam engine and now by the electrical motor.

After the blocks where cut and bored, they were run through the roughing machine, which created a rough bobbin shape. These were passed on to the more skilled workers would would cut them to the more refined bobbin shape that we are used to. Here is a show of a number of bobbins waiting to be sanded down and polished later.

A bobbin being run through the lathe and cut to shape. I like this picture as it captures the process in motion.

Every now and then, the tools would need sharpening. This is the sharpening wheel upstairs, which originally would have housed lathes as well. This wheel would have been powered by the same belt system that powers all the other machines.

Some graffiti in the doors from some of the original workers. I can’t work out if this reads 1842 or 1942.

Once the bobbins were cut, they would still be damp from the wood moisture, so they would be taken to this drying rack, which used the heat from the steam engine boiler to dry them out.

A shot from upstairs looking into the lathe shop.

A selection of different bobbins the mill would have produced. The larger ones would have been made in 3 pieces and glued together rather than being cut from one piece of wood.

A rack of logs waiting to be cut to size, again, all cuts were measured in 12’s.

As I mentioned above, I never considered that bobbins could be remotely interesting, but seeing the workmanship that went into the process, and learning the stories of the people that would have worked here, it was as nice worthwhile visit which showcased the history of the industrial revolution in the area. Hopefully my images told the story of the mill well enough.

As always, thanks for looking.

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