Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria

Situated on the western edge of Lake Windermere, Stott Park Bobbin Mill survives as a unique monument to a lost lakeland industry. Built in 1835, and in continuous use until 1971, it remains today largely unchanged throughout its 125 year history. The bobbin industry evolved during the Industrial Revolution as the Lancashire textile mills required more and more cotton bobbins and reels for the spinning and weaving machines. Stott Park, like many other mills that grew up, produced a large range of other timber items from drainpipe spout supports to pick axe handles and hammer shafts to file handles. Timber used for these items was mainly Birch, Sycamore and Ash which can be found in abundance in the Lake District.

Stott Park Bobbin Mill was built by John Harrison, a major estate owner in the area, although he and his successors never actually ran the mill but preferred to lease to local tenants. The most significant of Harrison's tenants were the Coward family, who leased the mill from 1860 and, in 1915, they finally purchased it outright. When the mill closed in 1971 it was one of the last in the Lake District to do so.

The growth of this traditional lakeland industry was predominantly due to two factors: an abundance of raw material available for coppicing, and the numerous fast-flowing streams that could provide the power needed to drive the waterwheel. Each individual turning machine in the mill was driven by a belt running off a main 'line' shaft, connected to the waterwheel, and this arrangement continued even when the waterwheel was replaced by steam turbines in 1858. These steam turbines were then superseded by electric motors in 1941.

The main line shaft, and the constant flapping of the diagonal drive belts, made the mill a noisy and often dangerous place to be, and still leaves a lasting impression on visitors today. If long days and dangerous machinery were not enough, the health of the bobbin turners was further endangered by the choking dust that the mills produced, and respiratory problems were commonplace.

For anyone interested in our industrial heritage, a visit to the Lake District should definitely include a stop at the Stott Park Bobbin Mill which provides a real insight to an industry that, I must admit, I never realised existed. Expert guides, many of whom worked the mill before the advent of plastic forced its closure, provide lively and amusing demonstrations with commentary.

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