A visitor to Rochdale during the height of the Industrial Revolution would have remembered the town for its forest of mill chimneys spewing smoke into an atmosphere that at times you could chew. Net curtains didn't stay white for long in this town and housewives often complained that their wash came in off the line muckier than when it went out. Most of the chimneys are gone and so are a good number of the mills. The vast majority of those that remain are DIY outlets, furniture warehouses and even a huge Woolworths' warehouse.
Among the mills that have been demolished is the Ellenroad Mill, which was located in Newhey, southeast of Milnrow. However, part of the Ellenroad Mill was saved from the wreckers ball, which flattened the mill in 1985. The engine and boiler houses of the former ring-spinning mill are still standing, near Junction 21 of the M62 Motorway.
The original cotton mill on this site was destroyed by fire in 1916. The ring-spinning mill that replaced it was constructed in 1921. The buildings which remain on the site today, along with the restored chimney, are owned by the Ellenroad Trust who operate the facility as a museum and a showplace for the world's largest operating steam mill engine.
Following the fire and because of the change-over to the ring-spinning system, the original mill engines Victoria and Alexandra, built in 1892, were refurbished in 1921. Together the two engines were capable of delivering 3000 horse power.
The engines powered a 28 foot flywheel that in turn moved 44 rope drives, which distributed power throughout the mill. This flywheel, shown below, weighs 80 tonnes.
The Ellenroad Trust has also acquired other pieces of historic equipment to restore and exhibit in the building. This includes the Whitelees Beam Engine, from the Whitelees Mill, in Littleborough. The engine was built in 1842 by John Petrie and Co. of Rochdale.