Foster Mil after the second serious fire of 1888
Hebden Bridge Local History Society
Foster Mill was originally a fulling mill but it had been converted into a corn mill probably in the early part of the 18th century. In 1758 it was listed as Forster’s corn mill, and in 1787 there is a newspaper advertisement referring to James Austen, miller, living at Foster mill. In 1794 the corn mill was listed as the property of John Crossley of Scaitcliffe, near Todmorden.
The next record of the mill is in 1808, by which time it was occupied by Joseph Hindle and used for worsted spinning. It was said to have a new waterwheel wrought by the constant and powerful stream. It was then converted to cotton spinners, and run first by James and Thomas Ramsbottom, and later by William Holmes and Co. Ramsbottoms Mill burnt to the ground in 1828, Holmes and Co. set up a factory school here in 1844.
Ramsbottom’s Mill had burnt to the ground in 1828, but in 1888 a second major fire destroyed Foster Mill. The mill was six storeys high with 17 windows running its length, with well greased and highly inflammable flooring. The fire could be seen lighting up the valley from one hill side to the other, and the newspaper described scenes of wild excitement that evening as a huge crowd gathered, many of whom arrived by train.
The estate was sold by the Crossleys in 1890. The sale included the horizontal steam engine and powerful 36’ diameter waterwheel with coupling to the engine, which survived the fire. Most of the site was bought as part of the growth of the Redman Brothers firm. Richard and Jonathon Redman had set up garment making in the 1879 when Richard was 18 years old, and by 1890 they were employing 6-700 people. The output of fustian clothing was about 15,000 garments per week.
In the 20th century the mill produced duffel coats for the navy, used on Atlantic convoys to Russia in the Second World War. Foster mill eventually closed down in 1978.
The dam can still be seen following the line of the river bank down the side of valley to widen out below Windsor Place – stretching as far as the weir at Lee – the goit being taken off near the bridge over the river. In the 1950s a water turbine provided electricity for lighting the mill, although by 4.00 pm the dam would be running dry. Switching to the national grid meant replacing a lot of light bulbs as all the existing ones blew. Alan Studdard, as a lad, was given this job of replacing all the old bulbs.