The Importance of Water to the Mills of Glossopdale.

The success of Arkwright's water power mill, the patent for which expired in 1785, led other prospective cotton manufacturers to look out for places where there was a constant supply of water to work the water wheels. As the extract from Burdett's map of 1791 (below left) shows, Glossop was one of those places, being well supplied by the tributaries of the Etherow flowing down from the hills. It was that factor which led to the development of Glossop as a cotton town, both by local families and men new to the area.

By the early 1830s there were a large number of cotton mills depending on those streams for their water supply and, in times of drought, the supply was insufficient, causing stoppages. In order to overcome this, the Duke of Norfolk commissioned a survey aimed at devising a means of impounding and retaining surplus water, rather than allowing it to run away. The 1837 map extract, below right, shows the result was an intention to build three reservoirs at Chunal Wood, Shelf and Hurst. Plans were drawn up by Mr. J. F. Bateman but, in the event, only the Hurst one was completed, the contractor being Samuel Taylor.

Burdett map extract                               Reservoir map extract

Lord Howard built Mossey Lea reservoir, in a different position from the proposed Shelf reservoir, but, in the main, the mill owners built their own mill ponds and goits, altering the courses of the brooks to suit their purposes.
The extracts below, taken from maps published around 1880, show where those works were located.

Hurst Brook.

Hurst map extract
Hurst Reservoir can be seen bottom right, feeding Hurst Mill via a pond, the mill also receiving water direct from Hurst Brook. Rather larger ponds then supply Cowbrook Mill and Croft Mill.

Blackshaw Clough and Shelf Brook.

Old Glossop map extract
Rolfe's Mill never had the benefit of water power but this map extract shows how works were undertaken to divert and capture water from Blackshaw Clough and Shelf Brook in order to supply the other mills.

Glossop Brook.

Glossop Brook map extract
On Glossop Brook, below the confluence of Shelf and Hurst Brooks, large amounts of water were required to satisfy the demands of the Howardtown and Wren Nest complexes, as well as the smaller Shepley Mill.
This extract illustrates the extensive ponds which were built to serve them.

Dinting map extract
Further down Glossop Brook, we come to Potter's Printworks.
In opposing the Glossop Water Bill (aimed at providing a reliable domestic, rather than industrial, water supply) Edmund Potter, in 1865, said
"Our engine power is about 250 or 260 horse power. We require about 3,600,000 gallons of water per day. It is essential that we have pure water.".
This map shows the Dinting Vale ponds and reservoirs, which Potter developed over the years, and, at the top left, the pond for Brookfield Mill.

Bray Clough/Gnat Hole Brook.

Whitfield map extract
At the bottom right of this map is Gnat Hole Mill, located there because John Robinson wished to overcome the restriction on his mill at Jumble, which had no water supply.
Further downstream ponds were built to serve the Dover, Charlestown and Turnlee complex as well as the smaller Bridgefield and Primrose mills.

River Etherow and Padfield Brook.

Padfield map extract
The early mills were powered direct from the water courses but extra measures had to be taken as the size and number of mills increased.
Ponds and goits were needed on the Etherow to regulate the flow of water as a safeguard against floods but on Padfield Brook the opposite was the case.
It was relatively small so the Torside Goit (shown on the map as the Torside Diversion) and associated reservoirs were built to supplement the supply.

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Last updated: 9 February 2021