How the mighty mills are fallen

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The Independent Online
ONCE they were the symbol of Britain's industrial might, an economic and visual focus for thousands of communities. They were places where children as well as adults laboured for long hours in hazardous conditions. Yet, despite the crucial historic role of Britain's textile mills, so many have been demolished or left to decay that some types are in danger of being lost for ever, writes Jason Bennetto.

A new survey of Greater Manchester found that only 1,000 of the 2,500 textile mills built in the region remain, and many are beyond repair. Some styles, particularly those built between 1790 and 1825, are rare. In the city of Manchester, fewer than 20 per cent of all mills have survived.

The study, jointly funded by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit, was carried out in 1985-1990. It lists all remaining mills in Greater Manchester, and some that were demolished while the report was being produced. Seventy per cent of the mills produced cotton; the others were for wool and silk.

The commission says the surveys shows 'the crisis faced by old industrial buildings in a period of rapid economic change'.

(Photograph omitted)