This mill in Hilberoyd Lane was said to have been built by a Mr Simpson of Leeds as a pressing and finishing shop, then later used by others including Mr John Whitaker who made some additions and put in machinery for manufacturing.
In 1845 Michael Spedding and William Dean pulled out of a partnership there, and the remaining members at that time were:-
Isaac Colbeck is said to have begun his business in room taken there.
By the 1850s it seems to have been in John Whitaker's hands, but mortgaged, and this venture was not a success, for by 1858 he was bankrupt. This may relate to a trade panic in 1857 which T.C. Taylor mentions as having brought down many a good business. The Crimean war had ended the previous year, and it has to be said that wars could be good for trade, for armies needed uniforms and blankets.
Documents from this time show Whitaker compounding with his creditors, and give us an inventory of the contents at this time. This indeed shows equipment as a finishing shop. There are fulling stocks and hydraulic presses, a raising gig and such, but the mill is also equipped for making cloth, scribblers and carders to prepare wool for spinning, spinning mules, spinning horse (a variant of the mule?) There are 15 power looms and six hand looms. There is also one rag machine.
John Day , who I believe was John Whitaker's brother-in-law, and had also lent him money, appears to have taken the venture on. In 1861 John Day was listed as a manufacturer at the mill but he died early in that same year.
In 1863 John Blackburn purchased it from the mortgage holders.What use he made of it is not wholly clear, but part of it was let, for in 1897 it was described as his when a fire broke out in a portion of the property occupied by a Mr G.Whitehead. Indeed Mr Whitehead was accused of causing the fire, but this appears to have been a malicious accusation and he was exonerated.
These buildings remained in Blackburn possession, and must be those altered by John's son, John William Blackburn into cottages and a rag warehouse, ill-advisedly, according to the author of some memoirs published in the Batley News in 1909. I think these must have been the properties in what were known as Blackburn Square and Yard No.1., in which case the conversion was by 1885, when Mark Ingham Blackburn and his sister were lodging there.
These properties were to survive for some years yet, and I do remember them. John William's properties were left in trust to provide for his children, and when I was a child my father was asked to take on the role of executor. This entailed quite a lot of paperwork and visits to Batley, and I was with him on one such visit to meet a builder about some repairs. What I recall from this visit is that I wasn't supposed to tell my mother that he had gone up on the roof to inspect the problem; and a firm exhortation from Dad, "Never buy a house with valley gutters" (I haven't)