Albion Place

(off Halifax Road)


  Map Ref. SD 939241


Known occupiers


FIRTH Joseph & HOWARTH William




DAWSON John & HAIGH Reuben


Cotton mill on OS 25” map


DAWSON John & Son


Co-op supermarket built 1990’s


site of Albion Mill


It is now near impossible to sort out the complex of mills that developed on the once open land between the main road to Halifax, previously known as Roomfield Lane, and the canal. There were no streets, just open land, meadow and fields. The first to be built were Albion Mill and CANAL STREET WORKS in 1839. The rest followed on over the next 30 years. One large complex of mills was a solid block, consisting of ANCHOR MILL, FEATHERS MILL, HOPE STREET MILL, CROFT MILL and STACKHILLS MILL. Somewhere in this industrial complex was Gibsons Mill.


Illustrated history


Undoubtedly, the most successful Todmorden family in the textile world of the 19th century was the Fielden family. Part of its success lay with the managers, chosen carefully by the Fieldens, trained well and paid well.

Bankfield Buildings in 2005

Two young men rose in the hierarchy of the Fielden Empire in the early 1800's to become managers at WATERSIDE MILL. They were Joseph Firth and William Howarth, who turned out to be very able managers and favourites of the Fielden brothers. The Fieldens built a row of three substantial houses next to their mill at Waterside, known as Bankfield Buildings. This is where William Howarth, Joseph Firth and John Firth (another employee) lived for many years.

In 1826, the three men formed a partnership that was to last for their life times. Known as Firth, Howarth and Firth, they left the employ of the Fieldens and built their own mill at CAUSEYWOOD. Nine years later, they built a new mill on the banks of the canal and stretching to what is now Halifax Road. This was Albion Mill, which from 1837 to 1883 traded under the name of Messrs Firth and Howarth.


the wall between the canal tow path

and the mill still remains


By this time, it was Joseph Firth and William Howarth. Not only were they partners in business, but also they and their families lived next door to each other and must have been very close.

Joseph Firth, widowed before 1841, was born about 1788 on the Lancashire side of Todmorden. He had two children, Sarah born about 1828 and Joseph junior, born about 1838, both of who were cared for by a servant, Elizabeth Bolton from Walsden. The family followed the Quaker faith.

William Howarth was also born about 1788, in Crawshawbooth, Lancashire. He was married to Ellen in 1841. They had three daughters, Mary born about 1822, Sarah about 1824 and Hannah about 1828. By 1851, he was widowed.

Soon after the mill began working, Todmorden was visited by a dreadful hurricane, described as "the most awful and destructive hurricane ever known to have occurred." It arrived on 6th January 1839, blowing down the mill chimney at Albion Mill. The chimney landed on the workshop belonging to MESSRS LORD BROTHERS on Canal Street. Elsewhere in the town, windows were blown in, trees uprooted, and every description of building was affected by the storm.

Sometime later, after 1841, Joseph and William built two detached stone villas on Roomfield Lane near to their mill, known as North View, and 16 cottages in Lower George Street for their workforce. They moved in to the North View villas between 1841 and 1851, the dwellings remaining in the family for the next 50 years.

Todmorden Working Men's Club

The villas are situated next door to the mill, each one standing proud in its own grounds. The nearer one to the mill is now the Todmorden Working Men's Club, whilst the other is a private house.

The firm was prospering very well, as can be seen by the villas in which the partners lived. By 1851, Joseph and William employed 140 mill hands and 2 mechanics in their 144-loom shed.

Sometime during the next ten years, Joseph died. His son, Joseph junior, took his place. In 1861, he was living in his father's house at North View, aged 22, unmarried, and still looked after by Elizabeth Bolton. William Howarth was still next door, although an old man by then. His oldest two daughters were with him, both spinsters.

Firth and Howarth, in common with other mill firms, were not averse to employing under-age children to work in the mill. On 5th July 1866, William Howarth was fined £10 with costs of 18 shillings for "Having willfully made a false entry in the register of young persons".

By 1871, William had died, his place in the firm being taken by Mary and Sarah Howarth, his spinster daughters. Their younger sister, Hannah Robinson, is staying with them at the time of the census. Joseph Firth, still next door, now aged 32, is widowed but there is no sign of any children, and the faithful Elizabeth Bolton has gone.

Not long afterwards, Joseph retired, possibly on health grounds. He was asthmatic and moved to Devon for some fresh air. He moved out of North View to stay with his friend and cousin, Stansfield Sagar. He was there in 1881, and in 1891, both Joseph and his cousin were living in Worthing, Sussex.

Joseph died on 26th December 1891 in Worthing, aged 52. His body was brought back to Todmorden to be buried at the Quaker burial ground, Shoebroad. Meanwhile, back in Todmorden, sisters Mary and Sarah also retired. Sarah died at North View on 14th February 1892.

The Quaker Burial Ground at Shoebroad


After the Firths and Howarths relinquished the mill, the firm Pilling & Sutcliffe took it over. They were followed in 1893 by brothers-in-law Reuben Haigh and John Dawson, trading as Dawson & Haigh.

Reuben was born in 1851 at Shade in Todmorden where his father (also Reuben) was a draper. The year after his birth, his father and two others entered in to a partnership to build a new cotton mill at SQUARE in Walsden. From then on, young Reuben lived in the world of cotton manufacture. At the age of 18, he married Susannah Dawson, daughter of William, a picker maker from Walsden, and at the age of 20 was a fully-fledged manufacturer alongside his father at NEWBRIDGE MILL in Walsden.


Sandholme Villas

However, by the time he was 40, he was living at 5, Sandholme Villas, Commercial Road, Langfield, with Susannah and four children. It is 1891 and Reuben is working in a mill as a warehouseman. Next door to them at number 3 is John Dawson, Susannah's brother. John is 38 and a self-employed cotton cloth agent.
Reuben and John formed a partnership and took over Albion Mill after Pilling and Sutcliffe finished. The mill continued to trade under the name Dawson & Haigh until at least 1908, although Reuben died in 1897. At the time of his death, he and his family were living at Claremont Place in Todmorden.

Claremont Place, Stansfield Road.


York Place

John Dawson carried on with the business, moving to live with his family at 13, York Place in Todmorden.
In 1935, the occupiers were John Dawson and Son, still trading as cotton manufacturers. John had three sons, Sam, William and Herbert, who all worked in the mill in one capacity or another, and anyone of them could have gone into partnership with him.
In 1995, the mill was demolished to make way for a supermarket. A planning consent condition was that it should be constructed using the original stone from the mill. The stone is all that remains.

Additional information

researched, recorded and referenced by Mrs Sheila Wade

Hebden Bridge WEA Local History Group


Notes of John Travis, contemporary historian

Firth & Howarth, in 1836, ran a powerloom weaving concern in Salford, Todmorden, in two rooms built by John Holt, timber merchant. The steam engine was on the other side of the street and the main shaft ran under the road. They later secured the remainder of Old Shop Meadow that was then unbuilt on, and built Albion Street weaving shed and some cottages.

Rivers Pollution Commission (undated)

Albion Mill employs 240 hands; rateable value £448; water from Rochdale Canal; manufacture 640,000lbs of goods yearly; steam nominal 25hp; 800 tons of coal yearly.

Powerloom returns by Robert Barker 4 Feb 1836

Howarth & Firth; 197 cotton power looms; employ 112; average wage age 12 to 18, 9 shillings; 18 plus, 10 shillings; not difficult to obtain labour.

Walker 1845

Firth & Howarth, cotton spinners & manufacturers.

Langfield Highway Rates November 1849

Owners and occupiers Firth & Howarth; Albion Place; loomshop; rateable value £90.8s.0d; warehouse £23.15s.9d; new warehouse £5.19s.0d; 20hp steam £15.4s.0d.

White 1853

Firth & Howarth, Folly and North View Mills, cotton spinners & manufacturers.

Langfield Rates Book 1856-64

Owner and occupier William Howarth; Albion Place; loomshop; twisting-in room; warehouse; new warehouse; 20hp steam; rateable value £149.6s.9d.

1863 – additional size house and 8hp £13.19s.10d.

Kelly 1861

Firth & Howarth, Albion Place & York Street Mills, cotton spinners & manufacturers.

Fielden papers 12th January 1861

Fielden Bros letter to Firth & Howarth; complaining that their manager William Barker has been inducing work people to leave Fielden’s employment. “We do not know whether such conduct on the part of your manager has your approval, but we certainly shall not submit to it without taking the same advantage with regard to your work people.”

Langfield Rates Book 1865-79

Owner and occupier Firth & Howarth; Albion Place; mill and power; rateable value £157.11s.0d.

1871 – additional boiler house £2.1s.0d.

Kelly 1871

Firth & Howarth, Albion Place & York Street Mills, cotton spinners & manufacturers

Slater 1875

Firth & Howarth, Todmorden, cotton spinners & manufacturers

Kelly 1877

Firth & Howarth, cotton spinners & manufacturers.

Halifax Guardian 3rd May 1879

Firth & Howarth have been working 4 days a week, reducing to 3 days.

Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser 1st Aug 1879

Albion Mill; 324 looms; running 3 days a week.

Langfield Rates Book 1880-81

Owners and occupiers Firth & Howarth; Albion Place; mill and power; rateable value £167.10s.0d.

Halifax Courier 7th April 1883

Todmorden trade very depressed. Joseph Firth of Albion Mill closed.

Langfield Rates Book 1885-93

Occupiers Pilling & Sutcliffe; owners Firth & Howarth; mill and steam power; Albion Place; rateable value £139.

Slater 1887

Pilling & Sutcliffe, cotton spinners & manufacturers.

Manchester Examiner 22nd July 1887

Pilling & Sutcliffe, Albion and Causeywood, 12,000 spindles, 320 looms, part standing, others working full time.

Factory Act prosecutions

13th November 1890

Pilling and Sutcliffe, manufacturers, Albion Mill, Todmorden.

Case heard before J. A. Ingham and D. J. Crossley Esqrs. Todmorden Police Court

Employing three women during a meal time

Penalty 15s and costs of £1.4s.0d – 5s and costs in each case.

Worrall 1893

Pilling & Sutcliffe, Albion, Causeywood and Oldroyd Mills, 12,000 mule spindles, 324 looms, drills, T cloths and shirtings.

Kelly 1897-1908

Dawson & Haigh, cotton manufacturers.