The Sheffield Office has recently undertaken excavation and recording of the site of the former Moorgate Mill in Blackburn, adjacent to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Excavation and documentary research revealed numerous phases of rebuilding, renovation and extension in the development of the mill from its construction in the 1830s, through fires in 1869, 1886 and 1925, to its recent demolition. Artefacts recovered from the investigations, predominantly pottery, ceramics, glass and CBM, appear to relate to the use of the site as a spinning and weaving mill from the 1840s through to the late 1920s.
The original six storey construction of the Mill was begun in 1836 by John Parkinson. In 1841 the mill passed to Joseph Eccles, a local entrepreneur, who gradually improved and expanded the mill until his death in 1861.
The excavation focused on three areas to the west, east and south-east of the site. Structural evidence relating to the early phases of development of the site from the 1830s to the 1870s included the western wall of the weaving sheds, walls enclosing the steam engine and boiler room on the eastern side of the mill and partially surviving flagstone floors and base plinths to support roof struts. Historic mapping from 1841 shows a gas holder on the Moorgate Street frontage in the early phases of development and firebrick from a gas retort arch was found in this area indicating that gas was probably produced on the site, most likely for lighting in the mill and associated buildings. Also identified was a long flue tunnel taking exhaust fumes from the steam boilers to a chimney at the southern side of the site.
Fires in 1869 and 1886 would have resulted in extensive rebuilding to the mill buildings, although it was difficult to precisely correlate what we know historically with the recorded structures. By the 1890s the size of the mill had grown to occupy almost the whole plot of land. Some of the developments noted during this phase were probably alterations and additions carried out by Edwin Hamer between 1911 and 1914, the most visible aspect of which was the surviving sign left by the canal bank. External structures were added to the weaving sheds and modifications were made with the drainage and flue tunnel.
Despite all the renovations the mill did not survive and the machinery was sold off in 1933 and the mill closed. For 67 years the mill buildings were used as a warehouse for processing artificial yarn. Developments in this phase relate to internal concrete partitions, re-flooring and internal and external drainage.
In 2008 demolition of the extant buildings was carried out in preparation for the plot to be developed into housing. Evidence of the demolition and landscaping of the site was seen in all excavated areas.