Mills of the upper Calder Valley

The Water Wheel Tower at Lumbutts Mill, Langfield.
This water wheel tower was built between 1828 and 1830 for the Fielden Brothers of Todmorden. The tower, which is 98 ft high, housed three water wheels, one above the other.  Each of these overshot wheels was 30’ in diameter and 6 ft wide.

Four dams were built above the mill to supply the wheels, but it is not clear how the water was brought to the different levels. (Probably a piped siphon system was used.)

The water was reused from wheel to wheel and using the full supply of 18 tons of water per minute this produced a maximum of 53 horsepower.

The chimney contained a spiral staircase.  

Holme House Mill, Booth
Most of the water wheels and other machinery were taken out of the mill buildings long ago.  The pictures of the water wheel and gears shown here are from an old photograph of Holme House Bridge Mill, on Luddenden Brook.

This mill closed in 1941 and the water wheel was dismantled in the 1960s. It is believed to have been taken to Shibden Hall but has since disappeared.


Greenwood Lee, Heptonstall

There was a water wheel attached to the house at Greenwood Lee near Heptonstall which was the home of the Gibson family, who later built Gibson mill. Water was brought across the yard to a water wheel 24 ft in diameter, which was used to drive the workshop end of the house where cotton was prepared.


Lumb Mill, Wainstalls
A few water wheels have been saved by enterprising owners, including this wheel at Lumb Mill, Wainstalls.  This is a light weight, pitch back suspension wheel of a type made in the later 19th century. It would have replaced an exterior undershot wheel and was installed when the mill was extended by adding a wheelhouse to enclose the wheel.

This water wheel was brought back into service after the Second World War because of the shortage of coal. The wheel is being restored by its current owner.

“The water wheel is a gigantic affair of some 36 feet in diameter, being enclosed in a wheel house which only just admits one person at time to walk past it. One minute you stand on the floor of the mills watching the spinning frames running smoothly and rhythmically. You open a small door in one corner and step in, closing the door behind you.  The great wheel threshes its round to the noise of swishing water which threatens to drench anything or anybody within reach. Taking up a position with back to wall as far from the spraying water as you can, you watch the unswerving round of the wheel.  Soon you feel almost in awe as if seeing some primeval power keeping the wheel in motion.  In this sodden chamber where the slippery stones glisten in the light from a small window, you are conscious of nothing else but this irresistible giant grinding out motive power merely by the weight of water which gushes into the chamber almost as roof level, to flow down toward Wade Wood as the wheel upturns its containers in it revolving motion."
From the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1953, H. W Harwood. Wainstalls – some Industrial History.

Sluice gates were never absolutely water tight and when sufficient water seeped through to fill a few buckets the wheel would move a few feet very slowly, and was then said by the locals to be ‘dreamin’.

Many years ago an overlooker stopped the wheel at Wainstalls mill to refit a repaired belt to the pulley on the line shafting. When the wheel started ‘dreamin’, he was elevated rather quickly to a precarious position, but fortunately was no worse for his experience.
Source: RL Binns ‘Water wheels in the Upper Calder Valley‘ HAS 1972


Lumbutts Mill showing the tower
Photo: Tony Webber

Lumbutts Water Wheel
The three wheels inside the tower at Lumbutts Mill

naWater Wheel
Waterwheel at Holme House Mill, Booth, c.1940
Photo: Alice Longstaff Gallery Collection

Greenwood Lee
Greenwood Lee
Photo: Phil Campion

Restored Water Wheel
Restored waterwheel at Lumb Mill, Wainstalls
Photo: Jim Strom



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Power in the Landscape 2007