McConnel & Kennedy Mills

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McConnel and Kennedy Mills
McConnel & Company mills about 1913.jpg
McConnel & Company's mills, c.1913
Structural systemTallest cast iron structure in the world when built
Location Ancoats [1] [2]
Royal Mill, 1797
Sedgewick Mill,1818–1820
Sedgewick New Mill, 1912
Paragon Mill, 1912
ManagementMcConnel & Kennedy
McConnel & McConnel Co.
Fairbairn Engineering Co. (1865)
Employees1500 (1835)
Floor count8
Design team
ArchitectJames Lowe [3]
Structural engineer Fairbairn and Lillie
Other designersA. H. Stott
H. S. Porter
Engine maker Boulton and Watt
Engine typeDouble-acting beam engines
Flywheel diameter24 feet (7.3 m)
Transmission typeDrive shaft
Listed Building – Grade II

McConnel & Kennedy Mills are a group of cotton mills on Redhill Street in Ancoats, Manchester, England. With the adjoining Murrays' Mills, they form a nationally important group.

Cotton mill factory housing powered spinning or weaving machinery for the production of yarn or cloth from cotton

A cotton mill is a building housing spinning or weaving machinery for the production of yarn or cloth from cotton, an important product during the Industrial Revolution in the development of the factory system.

Ancoats inner city area of Manchester, in North West England

Ancoats is an area of Manchester in North West England, next to the Northern Quarter, the northern part of Manchester city centre.

Murrays Mills grade II listed architectural structure in Manchester, United kingdom

Murrays' Mills is a complex of former cotton mills on land between Jersey Street and the Rochdale Canal in the district of Ancoats, Manchester, England. The mills were built for brothers Adam and George Murray.


The complex consists of six mills, Old Mill built in 1797, Long Mill from 1801 and Sedgewick Mill built between 1818 and 1820. A further phase of building in the early 20th century added Sedgewick New Mill in 1912, Royal Mill, originally the New Old Mill built in 1912 but renamed in 1942, and Paragon Mill also built in 1912. Paragon Mill at eight storeys high was the world's tallest cast iron structure when it was built.

Royal Mill

Royal Mill, which is located on the corner of Redhill Street and Henry Street, Ancoats, in Manchester, England, is an early-twentieth-century cotton mill, one of the last of "an internationally important group of cotton-spinning mills" sited in East Manchester. Royal Mill was constructed in 1912 on part of the site of the earlier McConnel & Kennedy mills, established in 1798. It was originally called New Old Mill and was renamed following a royal visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1942. A plaque commemorates the occasion. The Ancoats mills collectively comprise "the best and most-complete surviving examples of early large-scale factories concentrated in one area".

Cast iron iron or a ferrous alloy which has been liquefied then poured into a mould to solidify

Cast iron is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content greater than 2%. Its usefulness derives from its relatively low melting temperature. The alloy constituents affect its colour when fractured: white cast iron has carbide impurities which allow cracks to pass straight through, grey cast iron has graphite flakes which deflect a passing crack and initiate countless new cracks as the material breaks, and ductile cast iron has spherical graphite "nodules" which stop the crack from further progressing.


The first phase of mills in Manchester such as Garratt Mill (1760), Holt's Mills, Meredith's Factory (1760), Gaythorn Mill (1788), Wood Mill (1788) and Knott Mill (1792) were water-powered, taking their power from the River Medlock. [5] Salvin's ran a room and power mill (1780) on the Shooters Brook in Ancoats, and here the partnership of Sandford, McConnel and Kennedy was formed. Salvin's factory failed to get enough power from Shooters Brook, so he improved the head of water with a Savery type steam-powered pump. In 1793 John Kennedy directly connected a spinning mule to a steam engine. On 2 March 1795 the partnership was terminated, McConnel and Kennedy moved to other premises in Derby Street. Kennedy manufactured and sold spinning mules until 1801. [6]

River Medlock river in Greater Manchester, England

The River Medlock is a river in Greater Manchester, England, which rises near Oldham and flows south and west for ten miles to join the River Irwell in Manchester city centre.

Savery is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

John Kennedy (manufacturer) Scottish textile industrialist in Manchester

John Kennedy was a Scottish textile industrialist in Manchester.

The next phase of mills was powered by Boulton and Watt double-acting beam engines. Though flowing water was no longer required, a considerable amount of water was needed for the engines' condensers which was provided by a mill lodge, canal or brook. The first Boulton and Watt engine in Manchester was bought by Drinkwater's Mill in Piccadilly in 1789, and installed by the Birmingham company's prizefighting engineer, Isaac Perrins. [7]

Boulton & Watt was an early British engineering and manufacturing firm in the business of designing and making marine and stationary steam engines. Founded in the English West Midlands around Birmingham in 1775 as a partnership between the English manufacturer Matthew Boulton and the Scottish engineer James Watt, the firm had a major role in the Industrial Revolution and grew to be a major producer of steam engines in the 19th century.

Beam engine An early configuration of steam engine utilising a rocking beam to connect major components.

A beam engine is a type of steam engine where a pivoted overhead beam is used to apply the force from a vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod. This configuration, with the engine directly driving a pump, was first used by Thomas Newcomen around 1705 to remove water from mines in Cornwall. The efficiency of the engines was improved by engineers including James Watt, who added a separate condenser; Jonathan Hornblower and Arthur Woolf, who compounded the cylinders; and William McNaught, who devised a method of compounding an existing engine. Beam engines were first used to pump water out of mines or into canals, but could be used to pump water to supplement the flow for a waterwheel powering a mill.

Isaac Perrins was an English bareknuckle prizefighter and 18th-century engineer. A man reputed to possess prodigious strength but a mild manner, he fought and lost one of the most notorious boxing matches of the era, a physically mismatched contest against the English Champion Tom Johnson. Such was the mismatch that Perrins was described as Hercules fighting a boy.

James McConnel, served an apprenticeship with William Cannan in Chowbent, and moved to Manchester in 1788 to work for Alexander Egelsom a weft and twist dealer with a cotton spinning establishment on Newton Street, Ancoats. The Murrays probably used the same building. In 1791 McConnel joined the partnership with Sandford and Kennedy. By 1797 McConnel and Kennedy had built a mill with steam powered spinning mules. This was Old Mill, powered by a 16 hp Boulton and Watt engine in an external engine and boiler house. The seven-storey mill was 16 bays long and 4 bays deep and had a cupola on the roof. [8]

Spinning mule machine used to spin cotton and other fibres

The spinning mule is a machine used to spin cotton and other fibres. They were used extensively from the late 18th to the early 20th century in the mills of Lancashire and elsewhere. Mules were worked in pairs by a minder, with the help of two boys: the little piecer and the big or side piecer. The carriage carried up to 1,320 spindles and could be 150 feet (46 m) long, and would move forward and back a distance of 5 feet (1.5 m) four times a minute. It was invented between 1775 and 1779 by Samuel Crompton. The self-acting (automatic) mule was patented by Richard Roberts in 1825. At its peak there were 50,000,000 mule spindles in Lancashire alone. Modern versions are still in niche production and are used to spin woollen yarns from noble fibres such as cashmere, ultra-fine merino and alpaca for the knitware market.

In architecture, a cupola is a relatively small, most often dome-like, tall structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.

Murrays' Mills and McConnel & Kennedy Mills, from the canal bank Ancoats Redhill Street- 4556.JPG
Murrays' Mills and McConnel & Kennedy Mills, from the canal bank

Between 1801 and 1803, Long Mill was built, it was eight storeys high, 30 bays long by 4 bays deep, its 45 hp Boulton and Watt engine was placed in an internal engine house on the south side of the mill but the boilers were external. A tunnel and a bridge connected it to Old Mill. The Green Dragon public house on the corner of the plot, was left in situ. In 1809, a gas making plant was built on the site, and Long Mill became one of the first gas-lit mills. There were six gasometers and 1500 burners were fed by a 19mm pipe. [9]

Colonel Sedgewick sold adjacent land to McConnel & Kennedy in 1817 and the four blocks of Sedgewick Mill were erected between 1818 and 1820. The largest, facing Redhill Street (Union Street), was eight storeys high and 17 bays long. The blocks were of fireproof construction. The mill's main drive shaft ran in a tunnel under the ground floor from the internal engine house which contained a 54 hp Boulton and Watt beam engine with a 24 feet (7.3 m) flywheel. William Fairbairn and James Lillie, designed and installed the shafting, which was unusual as the wings of the mill were offset at 15 degrees to the right angle. The main drive shaft powered a vertical shaft in each bay that ran to each floor. The company was the largest employer in Manchester at the time. John Kennedy retired in 1826, and the firm traded as McConnel & McConnel Co. [10]

Alexis de Tocqueville, described Redhill Street Mill in 1835 as "... a place where some 1500 workers, labouring 69 hours a week, with an average wage of 11 shillings, and where three-quarters of the workers are women and children". During the Cotton Famine, the company obtained rights to Heilmann's combing machine.

As the century progressed, bigger and bigger machinery was used. The Fairbairn Engineering Company were employed to modify the structure of the mills in the mid-1860s. This involved replacing the old cast iron columns with new ones, each floor used a different technique.

Sedgewick New Mill, was an unusually narrow five-storey L shaped mill by A. H. Stott, designed for doubling sewing thread. It was Stott's second commission and neither party was satisfied with the result. [11] McConnel became part of the Fine Spinners' and Doublers' Association Limited in 1898. Paragon Mill and New Old Mill were built in the Edwardian Baroque style by H. S. Porter using Accrington brick and terracotta. They had cast iron columns supporting transverse steel beams and reinforced concrete floors. Initially they were built with five-storeys and nine bays but a sixth storey was added later. The machinery was electrically driven and a new electricity substation was built in 1915. At the same time, Sedgewick New Mill and Long Mill were virtually rebuilt to take heavier equipment (usually this meant ring spinning frames).

The mills were visited by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1942. New Old Mill was renamed Royal Mill, it was extended, and cut Cotton Street with a new entrance arch claiming Royal Mill had been first built in 1797. [12]

Spinning ceases

Spinning ceased in 1959, and the frames were sold. The buildings were bought by Leslie Fink who let out the space. The Long Mill was rented by the Flatley Drying Company, manufacturers of the Flatley clothes dryer invented by Andrew J. Flatley. In February 1959, the mill burned down and the site was redeveloped in 2001. [13]

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  1. Manchester 2000
  2. Williams & Farnie 1992, p. 164
  3. "McConnel and Kennedy". Graces Guide. Grace's Guide Ltd. 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  4. "About Ancoats > Buildings". Ancoats Buildings Preservation Trust. Ancoats BPT. 2 June 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  5. Miller & Wild 2007 , pp. 21, 27
  6. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 36
  7. Musson, A. E.; Robinson, E. (June 1960). "The Origins of Engineering in Lancashire". The Journal of Economic History. Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Economic History Association. 20 (2): 224–225. JSTOR   2114855.
  8. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 50
  9. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 51
  10. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 53
  11. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 54
  12. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 55
  13. Miller & Wild 2007 , p. 56


Coordinates: 53°29′01″N2°13′39″W / 53.483612°N 2.22744°W / 53.483612; -2.22744