And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
— William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827), Milton: A Poem in Two Books, 1804 – 1810
I’m in the process of moving back up north, specifically to Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, a town very much rooted in the woollen mills of the Industrial Revolution. Plenty of people will tell you that It’s Grim Up North, but the inhabitants are far friendlier than elsewhere in England, and the scenery (natural and manmade) is stunning.
Some of the old woollen mills have long since fallen into disrepair, like the one on the left, although that shows some signs of undergoing redevelopment, while others have been converted for residential or leisure uses. An example of a dual-purpose conversion is the Titanic Mill, opened in 1911, the same year that the Titanic was launched and redeveloped in 2004. The first residential apartments in the former mill were opened in 2005, and the Titanic Spa opened in 2006.
Leaving the ruins behind, we can walk along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal past the Titanic Mill on the right, and with a surprising number of fields and small holdings on both sides considering that we’re walking towards the main town. The canal was restored by the Huddersfield Canal Society and reopened in 2001. You can read more about the restoration here and here.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is 20 miles long and runs from Ashton-under-Lyne to Huddersfield connecting the Ashton Canal in the West to the Huddersfield Broad (Sir John Ramsden’s Canal) in the East, while the section I walked connects Linthwaite to Milnsbridge and is only a mile and a half long.
Milnsbridge takes its name from the woollen mills and from the bridge over the River Colne. It is a fairly new Conservation Area, and has a stunning Victorian railway bridge towering over the main street.
Meanwhile the canal itself crosses the river on the way to Milnsbridge, as it climbs and drops by means of a series of locks. And at the Milnsbridge end of my walk, I came across a modern sculpture based on designs by local children, and representing the links between the canal and the woollen industry.
One of my current projects involves researching the first inhabitants of a small group of houses in Milnsbridge at the beginning of the 20th Century, and I hope to have sufficient results to report back on them next month.