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Name:Silk throwing and weaving mill
SMR Number:9441
Type of record:Monument
Grid Reference:TL 813 304
Map Sheet:TL83SW


Courtaulds silk factory dating from 1828. Part demolished in 1986.

Full description

Site visited 1987, "construction technique is piled, ie unsuitable for revealing much about the stratigraphy. Service trenches are deep and relatively wide, but most of these had already been filled. General impression is of river silts (sandy close to the river, more clayey away from it) undisturbed before the post-Medieval period. At the SW corner of the site, a wooden drain made of well-squared blocks of timber had been found. Associated with it was a barrel (no longer visible) which had served as a sump or filter etc. From the barrel the drain led to the river. The drain was not set very deeply into the silts and had probably been overlain by a layer of hoggin which looked like an old road or track by the river. At a guess the drain might have been 18th century. No artefacts other than wooden ones were obvious amongst the spoil from the excavations. <1>

The later post-medieval history of Halstead is intimately linked with the Courtauld Factory and the Courtauld family. Townsford Mill had been rebuilt in 1788 as a water-powered cornmill and was converted to steampower in 1827, after which the owner went bankrupt. Samuel Courtauld acquired the building for silk weaving in 1828, which continued on that site until 1832 when a power-loom factory was built on adjoining land on the northern bank of the river. By the 1850's Courtaulds was the largest producer of black mourning crape in the country, with over 240 looms at work. In 1891 there were over a thousand looms in use at Halstead and the factory employed around 1400 people, mainly women. In the early 20th century production switched to rayon. The factory was closed in 1982, demolished in 1986 and the site has been re-developed. Townsford Mill is still extant however. <2>

There was a corn mill on the River Colne at Halstead known as Town or Townford Mill. This was bought by Stephen Beuzeville who in 1825 engaged Samuel Courtauld to convert it to a silk throwing and weaving mill. When Beuzeville’s business experienced financial problems, Courtauld bought the mill in 1828 and it was to become the core of one of the three main sites of the Courtauld business. The original water powered mill (1) is 80ft x 35ft, three storeys high, weatherboarded under a slate roof. It is distinguished by, on the ground and first floors, rows of very close windows each with small panes and glazing bars. The ground floor was used for drawing the silk, first floor for winding and the top floor for weaving. Adjacent to the mill is the mill house (2) of mid to late 18th century. This is a two storey building under a red plain tile roof, partly mansarded. Windows have vertical sliding sashes with glazing bars. Gradually as the Courtauld business grew the factory here was extended. In 1832 a power loom factory was opened, equipped with 106 looms. A second was added in 1836 and another in 1842. Steam power was introduced in 1828 and expanded with the increasing size of the factory and the number of looms. Gas lighting was introduced in 1838 and gas power was installed in 1892, with Crossley gas engines and a producer gas plant being installed in 1894. The use of gas did not last long however and when a further extension to the mill was built in 1905 a new steam engine was installed.
The original weatherboarded mill (1) remains astride the River Colne, currently an antiques centre, as does the adjacent mill house (2) which has had alterations over the last two centuries. To the north of this mill is a red brick range of one of the mid 19th century extensions to the factory (3) which is now part of the shopping centre (‘Weavers Court’). This two storey building has 20 bays divided by brick pilasters under a slate roof. Each bay has a large window on each floor, with small panes and glazing bars. Also on the site are two small ancilliary buildings of red brick and red plain tiles the small one dated 1904 was the gatehouse (4) and the larger one marked ‘SC and Co Ltd 1912’ was the first aid building (5). The rest of what was a very extensive factory has been demolished and the shopping centre and car park have been built over the site, although the car park wall consists of part of the factory wall.
These buildings form a group around the River Colne with housing built along The Causeway and Factory Terrace, now somewhat divorced from its context being the other side of the shoppers’ car park.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL POTENTIAL: The original weatherboarded mill remains largely intact as a fine example of early 19th century silk weaving mill construction and there are also some remains of later developments, although extensive amounts of the factory and associated plant have been demolished. This mill remains largely intact externally and warrants internal inspection to determine what technological features survive and assess their significance. The watercourse also remains intact with its associated technology.

SITE SIGNIFICANCE:The site is significant as one of the most important water-powered mill sites in Essex, associated with the Courtauld family business and silk throwing and weaving.
MANAGEMENT: All the structures described are in use as retail and commercial premises and appear to be well maintained, although all but the brick range were for sale in June 2000 and therefore may become subject of development proposals. Considering its significance a detailed record should be undertaken, consisting of floor plans, technical details, details of the internal structure, photography and textual analysis. <3>

Old Townford Mill / grade II / textile mill/factory <4>

unknown, 1971, Textile mill - now Courtaulds, 1971 (DESC TEXT). SEX54183.

<1> Andrews, DD?, 1987, Halstead, Old Courtaulds Mill (DESC TEXT). SEX30032.

<2> Medlycott, Maria, 1999, Halstead: Historic Town Assessment Report (DESC TEXT). SEX53927.

<3> Crosby, Tony, 2001, The Textile Industry in Essex (DESC TEXT). SEX59929.

<4> Pargeter, V, 1980-1990, Watermills of Essex (CORRESPONDENCE). SEX62539.

Monument Types

  • DRAIN (C18?, Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • ROAD (C18-C19?, Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • THROWING MILL (Post Medieval to Modern - 1825 AD to 2001 AD)
  • WEAVING MILL (Post Medieval to Modern - 1825 AD to 2001 AD)
  • SILK MILL (Post Medieval to Modern - 1828 AD to 1986 AD)
  • ARTIFICIAL TEXTILE FACTORY (Modern - 1901 AD? to 2001 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BARREL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Events

  • SALV RECORD by Andrews, D?, (Ref: ?)
  • Field visit to 9441 by Andrews, D?, (Ref: ?)
  • The Essex Textile Industry (Ref: ?)

Sources and further reading

---DESC TEXT: unknown. 1971. Textile mill - now Courtaulds. 1971.
<1>DESC TEXT: Andrews, DD?. 1987. Halstead, Old Courtaulds Mill.
<2>DESC TEXT: Medlycott, Maria. 1999. Halstead: Historic Town Assessment Report.
<3>DESC TEXT: Crosby, Tony. 2001. The Textile Industry in Essex.
<4>CORRESPONDENCE: Pargeter, V. 1980-1990. Watermills of Essex.

Related records

26110Related to: Mill House (Listed Building)
26109Related to: Townsford Mill (Listed Building)
20822Related to: World War Two Air Raid Shelters at Halstead (Monument)