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Report - - Maple Mill, Oldham. Various visits 2009 - 17 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Maple Mill, Oldham. Various visits 2009 - 17



dweeb

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#1

It was designed as a double mill by P.S.Stott, in 1904. The first mill was built then and the second mill in 1915. It worked as a mule spinning mill.

It was taken over by Fine Spinners and Doublers in the 1950s.

Maple Mill was sold to Courtaulds in 1964. In 1968, Maple Mill was selected by Courtaulds to receive the first top secret BD 200s, Open End Spinning machines from Czechoslovakia. These were experimental, and coming without documentation were difficult to operate. Simply, they were designed for Uzbek cotton not the American cotton or synthetics used in Oldham. A research visit by Courtaulds staff to Ústí nad Labem in August 1968, was interrupted by Soviet tanks putting down the Prague spring uprising. Later a body of Czech technicians was based at Maple Mill, until the problems had been resolved. This was a rare example of cross Iron Curtain co-operation.[5] Courtaulds ceased cotton spinning at the mill in 1991, but it was re-opened a year later by Wills Fabrics Ltd who continued spinning and weaving on the site until the company went into administration 1998.
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Maple Mill's recent history is perhaps more interesting, or at least colorful than it's history as a cotton mill. The mill was the headquarters of "Maple Industries", owned by this man

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Vance Miller, aka "The Kitchen Gangster". There is plenty of scandal about this fella and his kitchens online from the past decade or so. He featured in a documentary "The Kitchen Gangster", and in "Brits get rich in China", both well worth a watch. I can't be sure which side of the fence to be on when it comes to Vance, but one things for sure, he is a character!

Before 2009 I hadn't spent that much time around Oldham. Around that time Maple mill was the scene of a disastrous fire, the worst the brigade had seen for years. Apparently a generator over heated and caused propane bottles to explode. The whole mill caught fire and was virtually completely destroyed.

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About six months after this I was making a list of the remaining out of use mills in the area and saw photos of the smoke blackened tower of Mill no1. Could it still be standing...? Surely such an unsafe eyesore would be demolished as soon as the fire was out?

To my delight we found that the tower was indeed still standing, and was not even secured. One had to simply clamber over the rubble and pop through an ope window. Despite the extent of the fire, the tower had remained unscathed and was easily climbable.

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The roof offered good views across mill country, and the devastation that was the sorry remains of Maple No1.

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The rubble of Mill No1
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And a view of Mill No2
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A portion of Mill No1's engine house had also survived the fire. The heat of the blaze had been so intense it had baked the lavish green tiles off the wall... the whole floor was littered with them!

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As Mill No2 was still in use with Vance's kitchen empire, we had seen all there was to see at Maple at that point. I did occasionally drive past it when in Oldham, just to enjoy the spectacle of the almost post apocalyptic blackened tower rising from the rubble.

Fast forward a few years, and another of the long line of fires at the site partially destroyed Mill No2's engine house.

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As it was clear that this was now not in use, I became interested in a re-visit. However the site was always staffed with 'angry' men, who were none too keen on a bloke rocking up with a camera. I was sent my marching orders when I tried to enquire about the possibility of taking some shots of the engine house.

Eventually Vance got in some more bother and decided to escape to China! By this point the hot water he was in appears to have ended the business and Maple mill became vacant. My last visit in early 2016 bore some fruit. There were a few people on site, and one of the guys seemed ok with me taking some external photos.

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Relic of the last firm to manufacture textiles on the site
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Although I had been given strict orders not to enter the mill, I did see an open door into the burned engine hall... and went for it! Sadly the door only lead to a small room, and the access to the main engine hall was blocked off. Not wanting to push my luck too far I grabbed a few shots of the fabulous tilework in that room and got back into the open

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Continued...
 

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dweeb

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#2
Well it hardly came as a surprise when I head that Maple Mill No2 was on fire again. It soon emerged that the fire was large enough to rival the one that destroyed it's twin. Streets evacuated and dozens of engines... the fire burned for nine days.

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By the time the fire was extinguished all that remained was the second tower...

Not wanting to miss a mill tower, and guessing it was on borrowed time Speed and I made the drive to go and have a pop at the second tower. Much the same as the first tower seven years ago the fire had pretty much spared the fabric and it was indeed climbable

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Sadly, this tower had been topped at some point, and our climb was cut short by a modern tin ceiling. The timber work from the original peak had been dumped in the water tank which was once below it... I guess easier than carrying it down!

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The views weren't too bad though... Note the still smoking rubble!

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Before we left I poked my head around a steel door which looked like a strong room. Unbelievably, after 95% of the building had been burned to smoking rubble, 1920's 30's paperwork was still tucked under the stairs where it had lain since the days of cotton spinning at the mill

Sadly, although it had survived the fire, it had not fared too well against nature, and most of it turned to dust when it was touched.

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The other tiny portion that had survived the fire was the office, which was lavishly tiled

Now that's what I call a lintel!
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One sight that did make me quite sad was this section of the tilework that I had admired so much the previous year... what a waste!

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dave

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#7
Just loving the paperwork shame it was so brittle to the touch great find all the same.
 

Lancashire lad

chief taster for costa coffee
28DL Full Member
#8
great report chief, please tell me you salvaged something , all that history gone up in smoke that paperwork and a few piks will be all that's left
 

dweeb

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#13
Shame all those beautiful tiles were crushed to aggregate but I'm sure the local residents are glad to see the back of it.

They'll get some pretty toy town houses up on there in a flash!
 

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