The Torrs, New Mills

Recent Photograph of The Torrs (New Mills)

The name of NEW MILLS derives from the corn mills built beside the river Kinder. It was originally known as Bowden-Middle-Call, comprising several hamlets, when early in the 18th century a ‘new mill’ was erected on the River Kinder for the use of the inhabitants in grinding corn, and the name of ‘New Mills’ was born.

Later in the 18th century, the Lancashire Cotton Industry found the conditions at New Mills ideal for cotton production, resulting in increased prosperity for the district.

This photograph shows Torr Vale Mill, built for water-powered cotton-spinning in 1788-90 - ‘The Torrs’ being the name given to the deep sandstone gorge cut by the rivers Goyt and Sett.

The first cotton mill was started in 1785 by Thomas BEARD, a woollen manufacturer who owned a warehouse in Manchester. These premises were leased to two cotton spinners, CROWDER and GODDARD.

Torr Vale Mill itself was begun by Daniel STAFFORD who had taken out “a 99 year lease on a plot of land in the Torrs containing 30 perches within a bend of the river Goyt for the purpose of building a cotton mill.”

Edward and Ralph BOWER had owned the corn mill for twenty years and in 1790-1 were described as proprietors of both the cotton mill and the corn mill.

Thomas BARNES opened another new water-powered mill at New Mills in 1805.

Torr Vale Mill itself was extensively rebuilt in the 1860s to use a combination of steam and water power. Introduction of steam had been delayed until then because of the difficulty of access, there being only steep pathways down into the gorge - although the gorge itself was exactly what made it such a perfect place to build a mill in the first place! Just imagine the deafening sound of the water rushing over that weir! This viewpoint allows one to imagine what power must have been behind it to have driven those mill wheels, and in fact even after the introduction of steam power, the water wheels were still retained since water power proved more economical when production levels were low.

Cotton spinning ceased in the Torrs in the early 1900s, after which the area became overgrown and the buildings fell into disrepair. However, during the late 20th century the ‘The Torrs Riverside Park’ - ‘the park under the town’ - came into being to provide a place for recreation and relaxation, and the New Mills Heritage Centre was opened to promote tourism. The above photograph is believed to be taken from just outside the Centre - possibly not an ideal vantage point for those who suffer from vertigo!

(Information provided by Rosemary Lockie)

Pigot and Co's Commercial Directory for Derbyshire, 1835.
Brumhead, Derek - Torr Vale Mill and the Torrs, New Mills, Derbyshire Miscellany (The Local History Bulletin of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society, Vol. 15 Part 2 (Autumn 1998) pp53-58.

Image contributed by Andrew McCann on 2nd February 2002.
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