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The History of Irwell Self Storage


The history of Atherton Holme Mill Rossendale.


  • Brief – Research the history of the Mill and produce an Infographic for the Irwell self storage customers. By Diane Muldowney.


  • Rossendale Mill was built by Rossendale Spinning and Manufacturing company in 1860. It became known as Atherton Holme mill because the land it was built on was owned by John Atherton. The word Holme means flat land by a river.

  • 1860 – 1939 For 79 years the Mill was used for cotton manufacture.

  • 1940-45 During the second world war the mill was requisitioned by the Government to store armaments.

  • Photograph from visit to Bacup NATS.

  • 1946-1999 For 53 years The Bacup Shoe Company LTD manufactured slippers at the Mill. By the 1990s two thirds of its output were taken by Clarks.

  • 1999- to date For nearly a quarter of a century Bacup Shoe and its sister company Redfoot Shoes have imported footwear from around the world. All the design, technical, marketing, and administration are still performed on-site.

  • Non-footwear operations are also part of the Redfoot family today, Alpha Fulfilment was initiated in 2006, and Irwell Self Storage in 2021.

  • Henry Heys Quarry at Brandwood provided the Stone that built the Rossendale mill Stacksteads.

  • The Stone man is a tribute to the quarrymen who worked in the valley of stone located on the Bacup road, Stacksteads.

  • The Lancashire archives have a voice interview – Rennie Thomas who was a boilerman at Bacup Shoe Company circa 1946.

  • After contacting the archives their reply – The voice interview will need to be sourced by an archivist who will contact me when it is available to listen to. I’m really looking forward to hearing Rennie’s story.


  • The following link to the disused station’s website by Alan Young gives great insight into how the railway developed around Rossendale, mentioning the mills and slipper trade. Stacksteds station opened in 1852. Eight years before Rossendale mill.


  • Link to information on the recent history of the mill and connections to the shoe companies working in the mill today.

  • This is a link to the history of Rossendale shoe-making. – Lambert Howarth carpet slippers – Slippers made of carpet.



  • Linocut print of Atherton Holme mill chimney. A6 lino block.








  • Finished print.

  • Found this amazing aerial view of the mill taken by Alan Robinson digital photography.


  • Located a reference book at Rawtenstall Library with information on the Mill. I’ll call over in the next few days.

  • Contacted Bacup natural history society, they have some information on Atherton Holme Mill, I’ll call over when they are open.

  • Rawtenstall library, Friday 2nd Dec very interesting and informative day, met a local historian, Wilf Day, who had many tales to tell. His mum made bullets during the wartime at Stacksteads. Maybe they were stored in the mill?

  • The librarian left the reference book out for me – Bacupian mills. Which contains many pages of information on Rossendale Mill.

  • Visited the Whitaker Museum Saturday, Dec 3rd interesting information on the cotton industry and also the slipper/shoemaking industry. Spoke with staff member David Robinson who was on Santa duty. We talked about the History of the mill and the slipper industry. I asked him about the Bacup shoe museum which I had read about online. He told me the Footwear museum had a flood that had ruined most of the collection and had now closed down. He agreed to email me any information he has on Atherton Holme Mill. I Look forward to receiving the email. The following images are from the Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery.

  • It’s scary to think that children as young as four years old worked in the mills.

  • Received an email from Wilf Day (Historian) he sent two photographs he had taken of the mill, and he gave permission to share them.

    Rossendale mill by Wilf Day.

    By Wilf Day.

  • The Bacup Natural History Society proved really interesting, the following photographs are of objects in their amazing collection, some relating to the cotton industry and others to shoemaking.

    Bacup Natural History Society.


    Insole cutter

  • Shoes in the Bacup NATS collection.

  • Revisited the Whitaker art Gallery and museum. 21st December 2022. This photograph shows examples of slippers made in the Rossendale mills.


  • The local artist Liam Spencer has a new exhibition at the Whitaker museum entitled Irwell: Afterlife. His work explores the river Irwell and post-industrial landscapes, apparently the Irwell was once the dirtiest river in the world!! Liam’s films and paintings show the now abundant wildlife which thrives in the area.

  • Liam talking to the gallery curator.

  • Still image taken from Liam’s film.

  • Sharon J Brown’s work on show at the Whitaker is a tribute to the women of Rossendale with research and images from the Whitaker archives.





  • An Interview with Rennie Thomas Boiler Man Atherton Holme mill is available to listen to at Lancashire Archives, Preston.

  • Copyright prevented me from recording it; this is a copy of my notes.

  • Interviewee Benita Moore.

  • Rennie left school at age fourteen, he began work as a reed maker at Hargreaves mill, Todmorden rd., Bacup. At age fifteen he worked at the Deerplay colliery, Bacup. When the second world war broke out in 1939, he joined the Royal Navy, after the war, he continued to work at Deerplay pit until its closure in the 1950s.

  • Rennie then began as a laborer at Atherton Holme Mill, Stacksteads for Bacup Shoe company. The man who worked in the boiler room was often off sick, Rennie filled the gap and was eventually asked by Mr. Lord, the then-managing director if he would like to do the job full-time.

  • Rennie worked six hours a day, he began at 4 am, the job entailed cleaning and lighting up the coal-fired boiler making sure the mill had heating before the workers started their shift at 7am, he finished at 9am, then returned to the mill 4pm to 5pm to check on the boiler at the end of the day.

  • The day Rennie was due to retire (on his birthday) his boss David Lord dropped down dead, he was in London at the time. The news spread quickly around the mill, and many of the workers were in tears.

  • Rennie continued to work at the mill. He didn’t take the wakes week holiday, he stayed and tended to the boiler making sure that the mill had enough heat to keep the slippers in good condition. He mentions slippers and summer shoes were made at the mill. His dog often accompanied him to the mill. He was 76 at the time the interview was recorded and he had recently retired, sadly there is no date given. His grandson took over the position of boilerman.

  • The slippers were made for Clarks, Stead & Simpson, and other well-known brands.

  • Some interesting photos of Stacksteads and a few of the mill and old Railway station that was next to Atherton Holme mill on this web page:

  • Linocut print of the mill from my photographs

    Adding the ink.


    First print A4 size

    Print on brown paper

  • Interesting information – Bacup Mill life


  • The cotton famine began in 1861 just one year after the Rossendale mill was built. This was caused by the American civil war, it must have been a difficult time for the mill owners and workers. Many people were without work and wages for four years.

  • Interesting read from the Lancashire archives; In 1893 there were 10 slipper factories in Rossendale producing 70,000 pairs per week and employing 1,300 people and the slipper trade was described by the local press as “the industry that has saved Rossendale” Link below.


  • The rise and fall of the slipper industry began with felt from carpet making. link to the story.


  • This exert by Dorothy Newton tells of how the shoe trade evolved around the Rossendale Valley, from the woollen industry to cotton and then felt, which in turn led to the manufacture of slippers.

  • Rossendale Shoe Industry
  • After much consideration and sorting through all the relevant research, this is the final version of the infographic for the history of Rossendale mill. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this placement. The mill has a fascinating past and is evolving with the times thanks to the Smith family, who own the company.

  • The following photographs are from the Bacup Natural History archives.

Atherton Holme

The area known as Taylor Holme – Next to Atherton Holme Mill

Workers at Atherton Holme Mill.

Photographs I took on my second visit to Atherton Holme Mill. 28 11 2022

Device for measuring the depth of the water in the roof water tower. Atherton Holme Mill.

Labour saving shoot from the top floor of the mill to bottom floor.

Atherton Holme Mill 28th 11 2022

New Self storage units at the mill.

Update on the oral histories from Lancashire archives – Rennie Thomas the Boiler Man at Atherton Holme – Interview tape is available to listen to in early January.

YouTube video showing the work that goes into a Goodwin Smith pair of shoes.

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