Report - - Tone Mills | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Tone Mills


28dl flâneur
Regular User
Tonedale Mills has been visited a few times in recent months, but the subsidiary cloth finishing works at Tone Mills has been kept well sealed. From the outside, the buildings are nothing special, especially in comparison to the main factory complex. But while this has been almost entirely stripped (though some looms and a nice boiler house and steam engine remain) Tone Mills offers something pretty unique.

Exterior and reservoirs:


History (not from Wikipedia)
I've tried to add some interpretive comments based on some research, but I'm no expert on the textile industry.

Tone Mills is a complete C19 water-powered cloth finishing works, including possibly the largest indigo dye house in the country, a wet finishing (fulling) works, and all the original machinery. Built on the site of an earlier fulling mill by Fox Brothers, the building dates from around 1830 with some early C20 modifications, and at some point was converted to electric power, though the waterwheel chamber containing the original wheel and drive mechanisms remain in-situ. The complex was operational until the late 1990's and I found paperwork indicating that the last cloth was milled in March 2000. Fox Brothers continue to manufacture fine worsted fabrics in the town from a small modern unit, though they send woven cloth to Yorkshire for fulling. The buildings and contents are Grade II* listed, and could conceivably be brought back into use in the future now that the company's future is secure. Visited over several occasions, firstly in the company of Collingwood, then Clebby (remember him?) and Spungletrumpet.

Part one: The Fulling area

The first feature to be encountered is a Tentering machine of uncertain date, in which wet cloth would be dried, prior to the final finishing processes. Prior to the introduction of this machine, cloth would have been hung up (on tenterhooks) to dry.


Heading on into the wet works, one finds a variety of Milling and Scouring machines of various ages. The scouring process cleaned impurities from the woven cloth. The milling (fulling) process involved treating damp cloth with heat and pressure in order to convert it to dense felt. Fulling traditionally involved quantities of urine (later a detergent like fullers earth was used) cold water and the application of heavy hammers, during which the cloth would shrink and take on a felted appearance. By the early C19, the process had been improved with the invention of John Dyers Fulling Machine in 1833, and some of the machinery seems to date from this time:

Fulling Machines:








The Williams-Peace combined Milling and Scouring machine was particularly suitable for fine worsteds:


Cloth remains in many of the machines:



Instructions for milling - an exact process and a closely guarded secret:


that required timing and precision:


Finished cloth ready for tentering:

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