Armley Mills once the world’s largest woollen mill

Last weekend I visited Armley Mills in Leeds.

I am going to be involved in a felting project associated with the mill over the next 12 months.  This project is organised by region 10 of the IFA  and I wanted to get a feel of the place before the project starts in a couple of months.
I certainly was not expecting the Mill to be such a large building, stupid really as it once was the world’s largest woollen mill.

It was huge.

Sited between the river Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool canal, it was almost as if the water was following under and through the mill itself.


In my head, Armley Mills was a solely used as a woollen mill, and indeed that was its original purpose.  But that was not true.  As the woollen industry declined Armley Mills was used for alternative purposes. These included munitions and garment making.  I did not know what a huge part Leeds played in garment making.   Many of the high street names like Burtons, sadly no longer trading, came from the town.

A carding machine was the first thing that caught my eye.  Taking up almost the whole room. It was impossible for me to photograph the whole machine, but these hooks give an idea of the scale.

Imagine the young children feeding this machine wool. Actually to me this unimaginable.

The carding was mechanised. But there were also teasels, collected together in a large metal frame.  These are also used for carding and I don’t know if these also formed part of a machine or were used by hand.   Interesting to see the contrast.

The weaving looms at Armley Mills were in a dark low ceiling.

They were large and close together.  This photo starts to give an impression of how the threading up would have been done.

Later as the made to measure industry took off in Leeds, sewing machines and pattern making became increasingly important.


Running all the wool processing equipment would have required massive other machinery. Water wheels, steam rising equipment and pumps.

Armley Mills was full of all this redundant equipment.

There was no sense on how it all fitted to together and worked.  The engineer was looking for a flow diagram !
I feel as if I have just scratched the surface of what happened at Armley Mills here over the years. I am really looking forward to learning more over the next few months.

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