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Industrial Mills

1108 of 1157 nominations


Industrial Mills

Is this an icon?


Industrial Mills

From the late eighteenth century, the mills of the midlands and northern England were the powerhouses of the first Industrial Revolution, making Britain, for a time, the richest nation on earth. Richard Arkwright’s cotton spinning works at Cromford, Derby, built in 1771-91, was the first successful mill powered by water. Arkwright’s mill is as important in the story of England as any medieval castle, for it was here that the factory system was first created.

With the decline of England’s traditional industries, the mills fell into disuse. Yet these vast buildings still dominate the landscape of industrial cities like Manchester, Bradford and Leeds. Today, many have been restored and are open to the public as museums and art galleries. One of the finest is Salt’s Mill at Saltaire, Bradford, built in the style of a Venetian Palazzo. When it opened in 1853, it was the largest factory in the world. Today it houses a craft centre and a gallery of the paintings of David Hockney.

Image: TopFoto.co.uk


Your comments

They have got a strong association with some of our great cities and a time of prosperity.


There's a tendency in England to try to deny our industrial past, and to locate the "real England" in the countryside. In reality, most of our cities were built on industry, not to mention our economy for two centuries. I think the ICONS series should be about embracing England in all its complexities and contradictions.
Harry Stopes

The great industrial mills are the most recognisable and enduring image of industrialisation. They were the first buildings of a new age, an age that began in England within those mills. They are dominant features in the work of many of our most noteworthy writers: Dickens, Orwell and Blake. They were the engine for so much significant political change such as Corn Law repeal and universal suffrage for men over 21 and eventually for women. They were also the places of work and to a degree oppression for many if not most of the city-dwelling English. An Icon of England should be something that informs what we are as English people and how we came to be that way. Mills have been influential on the development of our society and continue to be relevant to the way we live and work today.
Matt Smith

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I nominate the English weather.