Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Sepia Saturday : Dark Satanic Mills

My mother worked in the mill, so did my father. My Auntie Annie, Aunty Miriam, and Auntie Amy all worked in the mill, as did my grandfather and great-grandfather. The mill - its noises, smells, heat, dirt and grease - forms the warp and weft of my family tree. Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week therefore has a very personal resonance for me. I am sure that I have shared this particular photograph before on at least one of the last 490 Sepia Saturdays, but I make no apologies, it is one of my favourite family photographs. 

As far as I can work out, the photograph must have been taken in the early 1930s, and it features both my mother and my Auntie Amy - my mother is standing at the front on the left in the photo and a slightly out of focus Aunty Amy is on the right. I am not sure which will it was that they worked in: by the time I came into the world fifteen or more years later, most of the mills were in the process of closing down and their names were like whispered memories.

Within a few years of this photograph being taken, my mother had left the mill to start trying for a family. My father had only spent a short time in the mill as a young lad before becoming a mechanic. My aunties and uncles also left the mill behind: although in some cases it left them with lasting illnesses and diseases as a legacy. The looms of Bradford fell silent and the world changed.

The mill is still central to my family history, however. I cannot pass one of those silent, brooding stone edifices without visualising generation after generation of my forebears, tramping through the dark, damp streets to start their daily shifts in the dark, satanic mills of Yorkshire.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.


  1. Auntie Annie was reluctant to leave the mill behind. One of my early memories - before I was ten, and when we still lived at Southmere Drive - was of Auntie Annie's lunch time visits from the mill she worked in just across the road. As always her stories and impersonations were priceless. It was in the early days of Rock n' Roll and Auntie could do a wonderful take on the younger mill girl's obsession with the craze.

    I have the vase that the mill girls gave my mother as a wedding present and one of the wooden stools that they sat upon while operating the looms.

  2. A lovely post, Alan. My maternal ancestors worked in glove factories in the aptly named Gloversville, N.Y., USA — and those now shuttered factories were a big part of my mother’s life as she and my Aunt Rita ran glove kits and finishes gloves back and forth to adult relatives who worked at home sewing gloves. This post reminded me of my Mom and all those ancestors who are no longer here, but whose memory still burns bright for us descendants.

  3. I was not so familiar with the mills of Bradford, so I googled it. I knew there were some mills - but my word the list was much longer than I ever thought possible!!

  4. Indeed, your ancestors/family members put their own sweat and tears into producing clothing for others to wear. No wonder you consider the mills satanic.

  5. I think that "mills" from around the world and from any era, share experiences for the people and landscapes. The locations may change but the communities developed similar storylines.

  6. Great, personalized post of genuine stories about your family's ties to the mill.

  7. I don't remember having seen that photo before Alan and I just love it. Isn't it funny how phrases wend their way into your vernacular...we often say darkly "There's trubble at mill"....We must have picked it up from a TV show somewhere along the line.

  8. You are fortunate to have such a picture! I wish I had one of my great grandmother's family in connection with the cotton mills they labored in, in Blackburn back in the 1800s.


The Crown, The Bull, And The Griffin

I must have acquired this postcard of Bull Green in Halifax at some stage over the last fifty years. It's almost recent enough, and I...