Location : Sedbergh
Grid Ref : SD 676920
Farfield Mill, Garsdale Road, Sedbergh, LA10 5LW. Tel 015396 21958.
Email : [email protected]
The first mill at Farfield was built in 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, by Joseph Dover.
This was one of five mills that ran in Sedbergh during the 19th century. His ambition in life was to own his own mill. In 1836 he bought 9 acres of land on a bend of the River Clough and the town’s labourers suddenly found there was work aplenty, carting stone from a local quarry, building a dam and constructing a huge wooden waterwheel.
Two years later he died, but his two sons James and John carried on the business which stayed in the family for 100 years. The family eventually owned a great deal of land, building themselves two pleasant houses close to the factory. Farmland was paid for in fleeces which were delivered straight to the mill.
Although spinning and weaving was done in the factory, for a long time the cottage industry carried on. Handloom woven goods made in the farmers’ back parlour, using Farfield wool, continued into the 20th century. Wool spun at Farfield went out to knitters from Dent to Howgill.
Living History – the Heritage Exhibition
Situated on Level 2 is an exhibition, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, created by local people and devoted to the heyday and eventual decline of the Victorian wealth-creating woollen and textile industry in the Sedbergh area.
The exhibition concentrates on a plan of the layout of Farfield Mill in 1911, going on to explain the processes employed i.e. carding, scribbling, tentering, dyeing and finishing to name but a few. Examples of these processes are displayed from the raw fleece to the finished woollen cloth.
Many visitors are attracted by the opportunity to explore the history of the last surviving woollen mill in the Western Dales, which once made horse blankets for Queen Victoria. Each of the mill’s four floors contains evidence of the building’s original purpose, from initials scratched on the beams, to the Dobcross looms, with explanations of the processes involved in textile production.
The Mill is the home of two magnificent working Dobcross Power looms.
Hutchinson & Hollingworth of Diggle, Saddleworth, Yorkshire being one of the makers of this type of loom during 1861-1970. Many were exported across the world and are still found working in far-flung places.
The Heritage Floor is a fascinating record, not only of the development of Farfield since 1836, but of the men and women who once worked there, such as Will Stainton. Will started at the age of 8, frequently ran away, and once had the skin scraped from his back by the mill wheel when he went into the wheel-pit to clear out the debris. No health and safety then – or pension schemes! He finally retired at the age of 86.
This 300-year-old Witney Loom is a prized possession that can be found within the Heritage exhibition on Level 2. It has a flying shuttle and is one of the earliest of its type, invented during the Industrial Revolution. Standing at over 9 feet in height, it is an impressive example of a blanket loom which originated at the beginning of blanket making in Witney, Oxfordshire. Witney blankets are now world famous.
Farfield Rugs – visitors on Saturdays and Sundays can watch David McDowell producing rugs and throws on the Dobcross looms, and buy them, of course. A great souvenir of your visit!
A potted history of the Mill is described, from its inception in 1836 to its decline in the 1950s, highlighting the employment of children, as young as 8 years, the long working hours, and the dangerous conditions.
The Mill was eventually restored by the Sedbergh and District Buildings Preservation Trust in the 1990s.
There’s a wonderful range of high-quality art and crafts and fascinating heritage to discover at the Mill, situated across four levels of this restored Victorian woollen mill. So take your time to browse through this wonderful working attraction.
There is free parking.
2020 Opening times:
1 November – 31 March
The Tea Room 10.30am-3pm – Lunches served 12-2pm
1 April – 31 October
The Tea Room 10.30am-4pm – Lunches served 12-2pm
2020 Admission Fees:
Standard Admission – £4.05
Children and Students – FREE
- Low Branthwaites B&B – a 17th century farmhouse surrounded by 14 acres of private land in the Yorkshire Dales. Sedbergh 2 miles.