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Lymm Slitting Mill and Gorge

Lymm Slitting Mill and Gorge

A natural beauty spot, which once played a crucial role in nail and steel production and transportation

If you cross the road at the Dingle in the Village centre, walk down Bridgewater Street and under the canal bridge you will see steps which lead down to the historic Slitten Gorge. The footpath through Slitten George crosses the stream and passes the remains of the slitting mill which operated in the early 18th and early 19th centuries.

An insight into slitting mills

Slitting Mills were introduced into Britain from the Low Countries at the end of the 16th Century when one was reputed to have been built in Dartford (Kent) in 1590. They were later introduced in to Cheshire and Lancashire when the demand for slit iron grew in the 17th Century. The Slitten Mill at Lymm and most others including Great Sankey, Partington, Stanley Bank were built during the late 17th and 18th century.

Who owned the mill?

Lymm Slitten Mill was originally owned by Mr Titley who was from a quaker family whose connections with the iron industry can be traced to 1700, when Joseph Titley of Warrington married Esther Squire. The Squire family owned a slitting mill at Great Sankey, one of the earliest in the North West which was later passed onto Thomas when Joseph died in 1731. Thomas had ambition, soon establishing a slitting mill at Lymm, he then later bought the remainder of the lease of Brock Forge, which included a slitting mill, and then in 1748 he established a slitting mill on the river Mersey at Partington. Lymm Slitten Mill was in full operation in 1751 when it was itemised in the Land Tax Returns Register for Lymm. By the 1780s, Lymm Slitting Mill was in the possession of Walter Wilson, although James Wilde Esq was registered owner of the mill in a survey of 1796.

What was its purpose?

Lymm Slitten Mills original purpose was nail production, later giving way to the cutting of steel bands for the cooperage at Thelwall. Nail making was largely a cottage industry and would have largely been a part time occupation alongside agriculture. Considered to be one of the most important industries in Warrington and other local economies such as Wigan, Leigh and Atherton, nails were expensive to produce as they were entirely made by hand. Metal was taken from Lymm by boat along the Mersey to Thelwall. Prior to the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, Slitten Brook which was much deeper than it is today, flowed into the river Mersey half a mile north of the mill. More information is available on the operation of Lymm Slitting Mill.

Last days of the Mill

By 1800 demand for slit iron had decreased, and James Wilde Esq leased the mill to a firm of textile manufacturers which were authorised to enlarge and improve the mill building. The venture did not last long and the mill was abandoned by 1825. Shortly afterwards some attempts were made to develop the site as a local beauty spot which included the demolition of the mill. The mill was pulled down to its current height and the Gorge was made into a Victorian beauty spot. At this stage most of the area was still a millpond but in 1905 the dam wall was breached and the pond drained away leaving the stream at its present size.

Excavations

The site of Lymm Slitting Mill was first excavated between 1969 and the mid-1970s by local historians. This exposed the foundations of the mill, the remains of the waterwheel pit and the mill-keepers cottage on the opposite side of the track. Some of the walls of the mill were rebuilt at that time. However due to safety concerns the site was eventually backfilled and became overgrown and inaccessible.

In 2005, a new scheme commenced as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Lymm Life Project. This allowed Oxford Archaeology North, working in partnership with Warrington Borough Council and the Lymm and District Historical Society to undertake a detailed archaeological excavation and survey of the mill, which was followed by the consolidation of the surviving masonry.

Final thoughts

Arthur Young, the leading agricultural writer who toured Britain extensively, noted in 1785 that there were only 16 slitting mills in England. If this is correct, then the North Cheshire/ South Lancashire areas were clearly very significant. Lymm Slitting Mill was one of an important group of such mills in the North West. The remains here are the best surviving example of a slitting mill in the country.

Landmarks in Lymm

History

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