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Dewhurst’s Cotton Mill

Black and white faded photo of a cotton loom in a mill

A spinning frame made by Thomas Holt Limited in Belle Vue Mill © Skipton Town Hall

Dewhurst’s Cotton Mill

Date 1929-1983

Broughton Road, Skipton

 

History of the Mill

Belle Vue Mill, commonly known as Dewhurst’s, was built by Thomas Dewhurst in 1928. It opened in 1929 as John Dewhurst & Sons and was one of Skipton’s largest spinning and weaving mills.

The mill’s position next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal meant that raw cotton could be shipped in by boats from Liverpool. Finished goods would then be sent back the same way ready for distribution. Coal to power the machine’s steam engines was also delivered by barge.

In 1897 Dewhurst’s was bought by the English Sewing Cotton Co. It continued to produce Sylko, one of the mill’s most famous products. It was produced in over 500 colours and sold throughout the world.

Old box of Dewhurst Sylko cotton reels

12 reels of Dewhurst’s popular Sylko machine twist thread © Skipton Town Hall

Old black and white photo of a mill worker with a rack of large cotton reels.

Mill worker weighing a bobbin trolley on a large scale, c.1930s-50s © Skipton Town Hall

Working in the Mill

But what was life like for the people who worked in the mill?

A traveller to Skipton, Frederic Montagu, published a book in 1838 called Gleanings in Craven. In it, he described Dewhurst’s as ‘the very perfection of order, regularity and cleanliness’. This is in sharp contrast to other mills at the time.

We may never know how truthful Montagu’s report was, but it certainly suggests that Dewhurst’s could be a good place to work.

The Social Side

Evidence that Dewhurst’s workers were part of community can often be seen in the social activities that took place.

Opposite the site at Belle Vue, there was the Dewhurst Mill Welfare Hall. Dances, dinners and entertainment evenings were held there for workers.

Sport also played a big part in many mill worker’s lives. A company football team and bowls team are just two examples.

Old black and white photo of lots of an audience of people.

Mill Pensioner’s Tea event at the Dewhurst’s Mill welfare hall © Skipton Town Hall

Old black and white photo of a flood at the mill.

A flood at Dewhurst’s Mill © Skipton Town Hall

Trials and Tribulations

But running a successful mill didn’t come without setbacks. Shortly after it was built, Dewhurst’s suffered a fire in 1831 that gutted the building. Flooding also took place in the early 1900s causing disruption to work.

The arrival of the First World War also brought great change. Many men volunteered or later were conscripted into the armed forces. In 1915, 60 men had left to join the troops and the mill had swapped production to make thread for the army. A memorial board produced by the mill remembers the men who lost their lives.

During the Second World War, the government declared that the cotton industry was of ‘vital national importance’, meaning it was a reserved occupation. Many workers were therefore unable to enlist or be conscripted.