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Centenary Mill — Preston

Building: Centenary Mill
Location: Preston
Region: North West
Listed status: Grade II
Photograph - Old view of Centenary Mill (15k) Photograph - Centenary Mill (38k) Photograph - Centenary Mills today (33k)
Photograph - b/w view of Centenary Mill (3k) Photograph - closeup of Centenary Mill (12k) Photograph - Inside Centenary Mills today (21k)
Different views of the John Horrocks Centenary Mill, Preston

Former use (incl. architectural history)

Built by the John Horrocks Company in 1891 to mark 100 years of successful cotton manufacture in Preston it is an imposing building, comprising 5 floors of 50,000 sq. ft. each and is listed Grade 2. It sits on a high escarpment dominating the south and east of the town. The massive power house chimney is a key landmark feature. The Mill is located near the town centre in an area with a large Asian population.

With the decline of cotton manufacture the Mill became a warehousing and distribution centre and by the 1980s was disused. It was subsequently sold on to a local entrepreneur and is now part occupied by small locally based textile manufacturers and traders in denim wear working in small production units within the mill shell. These are part of the mainstay of Preston's textile industry — primarily the production of jeans — which employs 3000 workers living in the immediate neighbourhood. Preston now produces around half the national output of jeans and treats 20% of all jeans sold in the country.

The aim is to create within a refurbished mill building a:

The making of a mill town

From the founding of John Horrock's first mill, TheYellow Factory, built in 1791 the cotton industry was the main driving force of economic growth in Preston throughout much of the nineteenth century. A new industrial society was created in the process as Preston's population grew from 11,887 people in 1801 to 69,391 in 1851. Preston's favourable location in relation to rural labour became an important factor in facilitating such rapid expansion and by the middle of the century more than half the town's inhabitants had been born elsewhere.

Served by population growth of 40% per decade in the 1830's and 1840's, Preston had 64 cotton mills with more than one million spindles employing 20,000 people. Employment peaked at 25,000 just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and no new mills were constructed in the period after 1860 until the closing years of the century when a series of dramatic takeover and rebuildings culminated in the construction of enormous joint stock spinning mills between 1890 and the First World War.

Centenary Mill, built in 1891, was one of four monumental giants erected in this final phase. As the name implies, the opening of the mill celebrated 100 years of successful trading by Horrockses, 'The Greatest Name in Cotton' and the most substantial industrial enterprise Preston has ever seen. Outwardly, the mill retained the fashionable architectural facade deemed tasteful by the Shareholders of the day — one can imagine its owners admiring its majesty in the soft glow of summer evening light. Inwardly, Centenary Mill had a revolutionary steel frame, allowing a greater weight to be supported within the structure, permitting the inclusion of larger, more numerous windows.

Today, the greater part of the mill is unused though the basic fabric remains a testimony to the soundness of its original construction. Horrockes vacated the mill in 1986 to move the vestige of their manufacturing activity to Red Scar, an out-of-town industrial site formerly the World's largest rayon factory, closed by Courtaulds in 1981. Centenary Mill was acquired in 1988 by a local entrepreneur, Ayub Bux, who has rented areas on the first and second floors to three of Preston's 30 or so blue jeans manufacturers.

Many of the 2,500 workers in this modern industrial phenomenon were formerly employed in Courtaulds Red Scar factories. Over a quarter of a century Courtaulds had attracted considerable numbers of immigrants to settle in Preston, notably from the Gujerat States on the Indian sub-continent. It is estimated that more than 800 were made redundant amongst a workforce totalling 3,000 when the million square feet complex closed. It is perhaps ironic today that European funding awarded to Preston to assist in its industrial recovery from a similarly large scale closure 12 years later (British Aerospace, Strand Road) is now being used to support the development of the blue jeans industry which it is hoped will eventually restore the manufacturing prestige of a proud town.

The Mill is located close to Preston Town Centre on the main A59 link to Junction 31 of the M6 (approximately 2 miles away) and within a short walk of its junction with the A6. Totalling 203,000 square feet, arranged on five levels, the building truly stands head and shoulders above other property in its environs.

The project will restore the fabric of the mill and reinstate original features whilst balancing the need to make positive alterations that will enhance the scheme and accommodation. This is closely identified with the vision of creating a world class, fashion and design centre in Preston for an industry dominated by blue jeans. Vital to the commercial viability of the project is agreement for the long term tenure of 70,000 square feet by Preston College whose goal to achieve an additional 20,000 NVQ's by the year 2000 will be furthered by a new High Tech Training Centre in Greater Deepdale.

In 1996, Preston was awarded £6.614m from the Government's Challenge Fund to improve the quality and range of opportunity for the 16,000 people who live in this area. Alongside an extended Museum (The Museum of Lancashire), Centenary Mill was a flagship of the Challenge Fund bid for £13m. Other monies are now being sought to progress both flagships.

Various forms of model development trust are being examined where the mill could be taken on long lease (e.g. 30 years), from the present owner and comprehensively refurbished to provide modern accommodation standards and house not just the High Tech College facility but also additional manufacturing, exhibition space for fashion, clothing, conference facilities and a superb restaurant. Together with the Museum of Lancashire, a major Heritage Lottery bid is in preparation which, if successful, will transform a key gateway site into the heart of the town.


Neil Rutherford
Director of Strategic Services
Preston Borough Council
PO Box 10 — Town Hall
Lancaster Road
Preston PR1 2RL

Tel: 01772 906151
Fax: 01772 906313

Farook Patel
Preston Clothing Manufacturers Association
c/o Riley Moss
48-54 Fishwick Parade
Preston PR1 4XQ

Tel: 01772 795550
Fax: 01772 795500

Fred Taggart
Project Director
Regeneration Through Heritage
Business in the Community
44 Baker Street
London WIM IDH

Tel: 0171 224 1600
Fax: 0171 486 1700

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