Urgent repair work needed at historic mill

LIVING HISTORY: Queen Street Mill in Harle Syke.
LIVING HISTORY: Queen Street Mill in Harle Syke.

A historic Burnley mill which is the world’s last surviving steam-powered weaving shed, is under threat from weather damage, experts have warned.

Specialist architects said the Grade I-listed Queen Street Mill is at risk of serious structural problems from rain and freezing temperatures, in a report commissioned by Lancashire County Council.

Walls and embedded timbers are said to be deteriorating at the Harle Syke mill and fears are the masonry is vulnerable to decay through frost action on the saturated stones.

The Storah Architects’ report said the structure is affected by water ingress and high internal humidity which is causing deterioration and damage to the fabric of the building and the historic fittings inside.

Damage of plaster, internal finishes, water staining and surface rusting of mechanical plant and other defects have also been reported in the heritage mill which featured in the Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech”.

Now urgent repair work could be carried out on the mill-turned-museum after an application for listed building consent was submitted to County Hall.

Coun. Roger Frost, who is a local historian, said the repairs were a matter of urgency.

He said: “You cannot get more important in heritage value than this building – in the country, the continent and the world.

“It was considered for a world heritage site alongside the Taj Mahal because it is the last of its kind in the world.

“The county council is prepared to do the work. Local government is very short of resources at the moment so this must be really important if they are to spend a lot of money on it. It is heartening to see they are keeping on top of the work.”

The application shows work could be carried out on the historic engine and boiler houses to replace guttering, reset copings, repair slates and pointing as well as redecorate windows and rainwater goods.

The building is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and any work carried out would have to be approved by the Secretary of State.

Alice Ullathorne, assistant inspector of historic buildings and areas at English Heritage, gave her backing to the scheme.

She said: “The proposals are for the repair of roofs, high level walls, rainwater goods and windows to stop the ingress of water into the mill.

“We welcome these repair works to Queen Street Mill which are informed by an architect experienced at the appropriate repair of historic buildings and should achieve a long-lasting repair if conducted by operatives skilled and experienced in the repair of

historic buildings.”