India Mill: Detailed History | India Mill Chimney | India Mill: Stories 
India Mill: Other Information | India Mill and Chimney: Listed Buildings


When the grandiose vision of India Mill first formed in the mind of Eccles Shorrock, he could have had no idea that world events were conspiring to frustrate his ambitions.
It has been described as the most important textile building in North East Lancashire and was constructed during the period 1859 to 1871. The actual building was completed by the mid 1860s, but all the machinery was not installed until 1871.
Civil war in America was Eccles Shorrock's downfall. A blockade of the Southern states meant no cotton coming out, which meant no work in Lancashire, which meant famine.  
Eccles Shorrock was punished for his grand ambitions, he went bankrupt and died of ill health in Edinburgh. India Mills continued as the Darwen Cotton Spinning Company Ltd. until 1933 when it became India Mills (Darwen Ltd.). In 1954 William Baird acquired the company and in 1974 Carrington Viyella took it over. The mill closed in 1991.
The single most important textile building in Darwen, possibly of North-East Lancashire. Built between 1859-71 by Eccles Shorrock & Company. The architect was E. Bates of Manchester. Stone was quarried at Darwen Mill and Cadshaw. Much of the building was completed in mid-1860s, including the massive chimney, but machinery was not installed until 1870-71.
Two 125 hp W. & J.Yates beam engines, 51" cylinders 6" stroke (later McNaughted by the makers) were started 1871, and by 1873 the mill contained 168 cards and 67 mule spindles.
Eccles Shorrock, Brother & Company appear to have been ruined by the costs of the mill and the effects of the Cotton Famine, and in 1874 the India Mills Cotton Spinning Company Limited was formed to purchase, complete and run the mill. The promoters were Eccles Shorrock (Ashton), Richard Eccles of Lower Darwen Mills, William Snape C.& J.G.Potter, Joseph Shorrock and Joseph Eccles, Darwen manufacturer.
In 1890 the beam engines were replaced by a 1800 ihp tandem compound, with a 30 rope fly pulley, by Musgrave of Bolton. A separate engine house was erected to received this engine. In 1892 84,308 mule spindles, producing 30s 80s weft, and 30s to 70s twist were running, employing a workforce of 250.
Ring spinning was introduced during the early twentieth century, and by the 1920s 62,776 mule and 32,400 ring spindles were working. After the business was reconstituted as India Mills (Darwen) Limited in 1933, the mill began to move towards spinning artificial fibres.
Mule spinning was abandoned following World War II and the company concentrated on rayon yarns in plain, fancy and coloured varieties.
The mill became part of the William Baird Textile Group in 1954. A major extension, named after the chairman and managing director, Arthur Moseley, was erected in 1968-70.
Four years later Carrington Viyella purchased the mill. Closure of the factory took place in the autumn of 1991.
Buildings: an impressive Grade II listed building constructed of ashlar and par-point masonry throughout, with ornate decoration to cornices, door surrounds and window openings.
The main, fireproof mill is five storeys high, with a cotton and yarn cellar under. All the floors are supported on brick vaults and cast iron columns. Each end of the mill is eight windows wide with projecting cabin, hoist and dust turrets.
Window openings are both round-headed and horizontal and have dressed surrounds.
In length the mill is thirty bays long with large, projecting central towers. The west, staircase turret, rises to form a tower. The corresponding east turret has blind windows and formerly housed latrines. All turrets are quoined and have stone copings. Windows are placed in pairs and have key-stone arched surrounds. String courses on stone brackets are a feature of both the towers and main walls.
The cellar can be clearly seen along the east wall and has round-headed windows set in ashlar courses. A low level loading area, with ten arches, projects from the west wall, but this is now obscured by Moseley Mill, and can only be seen internally. The doors gave access to the bale store and cellar blowing room.
An highly elaborate beam engine house is attached to the south-west corner of the mill. The end walls are ashlar with ogee mouldings on stone brackets and pilasters. Both gable windows are round-headed with stone mullions and fanlights. Two smaller windows are located on the west wall. The door, surprisingly small for the size of the building, is on the north end. All internal details have vanished and new floors have been inserted. The boiler house, with six arched windows, each with massive keystones, extends beneath the engine house. The building is rock-faced with an ashlar cornice. The original ten doors faced the mill yard, but are now hidden behind modern offices.
Adjoining is the campanile style, square chimney, which dominates the central area of Darwen. The massive base has recessed round-headed panels set in rusticated stonework and a stepped stone plinth. Above, the brick shaft is detailed with inset blue and yellow panels, slit windows and blind arches. The top terminates in two prominent cornices, the lower of which has stone urns at the corners.
Immediately to the rear of the chimney is the original office block. The 1890 engine house projects from the east wall of the mill and is built of random stone with engaged corner columns. The side wall has five pairs of round-headed windows. There are a pair of large, round-headed windows on facade, with blocked entrance below.
On the south side is a small, single storey extension, whilst a brick structure has been placed between the engine house and east central turret.
Moseley Mill, principally constructed of rustic brick, projects from the west wall of the spinning factory, and partly covers the site of Carrs Mill.
The building, functional in design, presents a striking contrast to the nineteenth century structure.
By Mike Rothwell
The chimney's the thing that hits you when you arrive in Darwen. Few towns can be so dominated by just one building. The stories of the building of it and its history are fascinating enough, but it has achieved mythical status now, and separating fact from fiction isn't always easy to do.
Was there a dinner on top for the workers to celebrate its completion? Is there a staircase running up the inside? What did happen when the pulley carrying building materials up there jammed?
The Chimney is Italian in inspiration and design (not unheard of at that time) and is home to a pair of rare peregrine falcons nesting far up on one of the ledges. This has caused problems in the past when restoration work has needed to be done on the top of the towering chimney.
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India Mill Chimney was attracting stories even before it was completed. When it had reached a height of 240 feet the hoist carrying building materials up got jammed. Someone was going to have to climb up the rope to free it. A few attempts were made but all failed. Local quarry man Briggs Knowle famed for his strength and daring was called for. Climbing the rope was the easy part. At the top Briggs had to let go the rope, grab hold of the beam and haul himself up on to the platform. This he did and coolly descended by the hoist.
What about the dinner held on top of the chimney when it was completed? It is further said that a band played up there while they ate. Certainly there was a dinner held at ground level in the Crown Inn on December 12th 1868 for the 52 men responsible for building the chimney, but had they earlier dined at the top of the chimney? It's a good story and deserves to be true and the men must have eaten their meals up there when they were working on it, but there's a difference between a bacon buttie gulped down in the teeth of the wind and a sit down meal with table linen and a band accompaniment.
And what about the story that there's a staircase inside the chimney? This seems to gain currency from what looks like a series of bricked up windows in the structure. These are however part of the architectural design and workers involved in recent renovations have found no evidence of any such staircase.
Finally what about the stone at the base, was it the largest single piece ever quarried in this country, or the biggest since Cleopatra's Needle was erected? It is said that the stone is buried and that the one that is visible rests on it. If so it's not going to be easy to verify the claim, but again its a good story and a shame to try and detract from the chimney's uniqueness.
By Alan Duckworth
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The cast iron crown which had originally adorned India Mill Chimney was dismantled in the drive for scrap metal during the war. This structure had carried it beyond the 300 foot mark. It stands now at 289 feet.
It is said there was a dispute over land ownership between Eccles Shorrock and the owners of Hilton's Paper Mill and that the outcome would be decided by whoever could produce the most impressive plans for a chimney. This has echoes of the story attaching to the Wainhouse Tower in Halifax, also an elaborate mill chimney, built about the same time, and also said to be the result of a dispute.
Visit the Weaver to Web project in Calderdale to view more images of the Wainhouse Tower.
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India Mill and Chimney: L​isted Buildings  


Details of the English Heritage listing are shown below:
  • Date listed : 27th September 1984
  • Date of last amendment : 27th September 1984
  • Grade: GV II
Cotton spinning mill, 1867, (architect unknown) for Shorrock Brothers & Co. Rock-faced sandstone with sandstone dressings, flat roof. Rectangular plan 330ft. by 99ft. with projecting towers at corners and to centre of both sides, 6 storeys, with projecting lower engine houses on both sided near south end. Rock-faced quoins, bracketed sill-band to 4th storey, plain bands at mid-level of all storeys except top which has impost band to round-headed windows with keystones; otherwise flat-headed and segmental headed windows on alternate floors, except side towers which have coupled round-headed windows with imposts and keystones. Engine house on west side in classical style with channelled rustication has rock-faced west wall with piers in centre and at corners, round-headed windows with exaggerated voussoirs, side walls of ashlar with large round-headed Venetian-style windows, and a modillioned cornice carried round the whole (modern 2-storey addition continues above this): at ground level is lower range linking engine house with chimney (q.v.), the south side consisting of a rock-faced rusticated arcade of 6 round arches with moulded imposts (north side now covered by low office block). Engine house on east side in style matching rest of mill; high modern extension of brick built in re-entrant.

India Mill Chimney
The english Hertiage listing for the chimney is shown below:
  • Date listed : 27th September 1984
  • Date of last amendment : 17 April 1972
  • Grade: GV II*
Chimney, 1867, (architect unknown), for Shorrock Brothers & Co. Brick with ashlar base and dressings. Square section, 300 feet high, in the style of an Italian campanile. Rests on foundation stone said to have been the largest single block quarried since Cleopatra's Needle. Massive base of rusticated rock-faced white stone has 3 triply-recessed round-headed panels in the exposed sides, string course, bracketed and moulded cornice bearing a massive set-off which forms a plinth to the chimney. The chimney is of red brick with bands of blue and yellow brick, some with diaper pattern, the first 2/3 of the height panelled: the neck has a bracketed ledge on each side, round-headed blind arcading on 2 levels, and moulded consoles to a prominent cornice which carries a stone balustrade with urn finials at the corners; the top has round-headed blind arcading with imposts and keystones, a very prominent cornice and a short splayed cap. On north side of base and linked to it is low 2-storey office, on east side is arcaded range linking chimney to engine house of India Mill (with which it is included.q.v.) both these in matching rusticated ashlar.