Stott Park Bobbin Mill

Finsthwaite, Ulverston, LA12 8AX
Stott Park Bobbin Mill

Stott Park Bobbin Mill (G Laird / geograph.org.uk)

Although the Lake District is largely regarded as an area that is rich in natural beauty, it is also filled with natural resources and throughout the centuries many of these resources have fed into a variety of industries. Nearby Lancashire was once a hive of activity for the spinning and weaving industries and bobbins were a vital commodity. Many of these bobbins were produced in Cumbria in dedicated bobbin mills that took advantage of the large swathes of coppiced woodland that could be found around the Lake District.

Today, Stott Park Bobbin Mill is the last working bobbin mill in the Lake District and it’s now managed by English Heritage and open to the public. Visitors can take a guided tour around the mill with an exhibition all about the lives of the mill workers and the history of the bobbin industry in the area. Visitors can see bobbins being made on original machinery. This attraction is located on the western edge of Windermere, close to Ulverston.

Planning Your Visit

Contact Details:
01539531087 / Website
Cost:
Adult £8.40, Child £5, Family £21.80
Seasonal Opening:
Open April – October
 

History

Stott Park Bobbin Mill Steam Engine

Steam engine (Chris Allen / geograph.org.uk)

Stott Park was built in 1835, one of several mills that were opened in the Lake District during the late 18th century and early 19th century in order to supply the vast Lancashire textile industry. These mills produced millions of bobbins well into the 20th century when automation took over the manufacturing process. The creation of bobbins needed long, straight wooden poles and the coppiced woodlands of the Lake District produced the exact kind of wood that was needed. Thanks to the landscape of the Lakes, rivers were able to provide power to the mills and the mining industry had already created useful transportation routes to take the bobbins down to Lancashire.

Stott Park was owned by John Harrison, who saw it as a money-making opportunity. He let the mill out to tenants who would provide the staff and tools and therefore take on the risk of running the business. Although ownership of the mill was passed down through Harrison’s descendants, the tenants, known as bobbin masters, changed regularly. These were skilled tradesmen who came from local manufacturing families.

Over the years the mill’s tenants faced a number of challenges. A new waterwheel was required in 1858 and it was replaced by the newly invented water turbine. A drought in 1859 prevented many mills from operating thanks to a lack of water power and changes in the law regarding child labour in the 1860s led to increased production costs. In response, the owners and tenants at Stott Park sought ways to make production more efficient and cost effective. In the late 19th century, the mill was expanded and new machines were added, including a steam engine that could power the mill when water power was unavailable. However, they failed to upgrade to the latest machines that were capable of automation and ironically, this led to the mill’s survival into the 20th century since its machines could easily be adapted to create other products. When demand for bobbins fell away, the mill diversified and created other items, such as coat toggles and tool handles.

In the post war era, plastic became a popular material for manufacturing but the adaptability of Stott Park’s machines meant that the mill was capable of doing short production runs on a variety of products, which helped it to survive until 1971, when it was eventually closed down. The manager at the time took steps to help preserve the mill and its machines and, in 1983, it was opened as a visitor attraction.

Things To See

Today, the mill has an exhibition that details the history of the mill and visitors can also learn about the working conditions in the bobbin industry. Many of the workers were children, some as young as 8 years old who earned a pittance and were often mistreated. There are dressing up clothes for children and an activity trail that will teach children more about the lives of these young workers.

Much of the original machinery is still in place and working, and during a visit you may be able to see a bobbin being created. A guided tour is included in the entrance price to help visitors understand what each piece of machinery does. Occasionally, the original steam engine that took over when water power was low, is fired up and is another fascinating piece of machinery from a bygone era. The mill is set in a large woodland that visitors are welcome to explore. There is a small children’s play area here.

Useful Information

The mill has a gift shop that sells bobbins that are created on the site. It also sells other gifts, along with a selection of snacks and cold drinks. There is no café, but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic with a number of picnic benches available.

Map

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