Introduction

There are hundreds of known water mill sites within the South Pennines. Even when old mill buildings have long gone or been converted into housing, the evidence of the water supply system to the mill often remains and can be very well preserved. Dams and goits are often overgrown and are simply waiting to be uncovered.

Map of water powered mills in upper calder valley

Exploring the evidence on the ground is just as important as any other kind of evidence in contributing to our knowledge of the history of our area. 

A large number of mill sites are concentrated in the central part of the region, especially on tributaries of the river Calder. Some of these streams had a total of 8 or more waterwheels working along their route. Other sites are found on streams feeding into the River Worth, around Morton and Howarth, and into the River Wharf around Addingham. In the south eastern part of the area, mill sites are found clustered on streams feeding into the river Medlock in Saddleworth, and on streams feeding into the river Colne, especially around Marsden and Slaithwaite. But this is not a complete list and many more sites are known.

Water power has gained a new lease of life, and old sites can be reused using new technology. Engineering works can be conserved not just as a tribute to a previous age of water power but as part of a movement to return to the use of sustainable energy. Water power was key to the wealth and prosperity of the South Pennines long before the industrial revolution, and it may be that this area will return to being one of the strongholds of water power.

We hope that you will find exploring your own mill site as interesting and enjoyable as we have done. 

Next Section: The uses of water power

Power From the Landscape

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