Former Spinning Mill, Low Mill


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Low Mill, Caton, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA2 9HY


Ordnance survey map of Former Spinning Mill, Low Mill
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Statutory Address:
Low Mill, Caton, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA2 9HY

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Lancaster (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A spinning mill of 1784 largely rebuilt in 1838 with later alterations.

Reasons for Designation

Low Mill, a former spinning mill of 1784 largely rebuilt in 1838 with later additions is listed at grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: despite modern conversion to dwellings the spinning mill remains an impressively well-proportioned building that retains much of its original architectural detailing and its characteristic form; * Regional distinctiveness: Low Mill is a good example of a well-built Lancashire textile spinning mill dating to the first half of the C19. Its massing and fenestration mark it out clearly as a building associated with the period when the Lancashire cotton industry played a major role in Britain's economy.


Low Mill was originally a water-powered cotton spinning mill built in 1784 by Thomas Hodgson. It occupies the site of a former farm and was built on the edge of the flood plain of the River Lune, while on the terrace above a large pond provided a water supply fed by a mill-race, with further power being supplied by a lower pond to the rear of the mill. The farmhouse was converted to an apprentice house by Hodgson, with dormitories added. Children from Liverpool were employed in the mill and in 1808 they comprised 80% of the workforce of 150. They boarded in the apprentice house.

The mill was bought by the Greg family of Styal Mill in 1817 and it was run by them for spinning cotton, other than a short period in the 1840s when it was used for weaving. A steam engine was installed in 1819 and later two steam engines were fitted in a new engine house at the north end of the mill together with two Lancashire boilers and a tall, brick chimney. A retort house was built to manufacture gas to illuminate the mill. The mill was largely rebuilt in 1838 following a fire, with a ground floor of fireproof construction. The current five-storey mill is largely a product of this rebuilding.

Storeys of Lancaster purchased Low Mill in 1864 and it was used by them until 1970 to produce warp for weaving. A site plan of 1918 shows the mill complex to consist of the main spinning mill building with two attached engine houses and an attached shed containing a boiler at its north end, and a turbine water pipe house and spiral stone staircase attached to its south end. Near to the north east corner of the boiler shed was a gas plant and the mill chimney. Attached to the west side of the spinning mill and its larger engine house was a range containing two parallel linear buildings, one of which was a fire-proofed blowing and mixing room, the other being the cotton bale shed. To the north of this there was a linear range of buildings which included a generator house, joiners and mechanics shop, store buildings and a waste store. The former apprentice house is depicted as being a store room and slightly to the north of it there was a gas meter house. A site plan of 1970 depicts the mill complex as being relatively unchanged although the former apprentice's house is marked as a warehouse and the lower mill pond has been drained. A resident who lives in the now converted former apprentice's house states that between about 1950 and the time of the mill's closure in 1970 part of this building functioned as a canteen.

The mill was listed at Grade II in 1967 and the list description compiled at the time refers only to the cotton mill, the round stair turret supporting a cast iron sprinkler tank, the boiler house and an octagonal mill chimney as being listed.

In the early 1970s the former apprentice's house was purchased by a builder, partly demolished at its north end then significantly enlarged beyond its original northern boundary and converted into two domestic properties. Since then the building has again been significantly altered and although its footprint has remained the same as the 1970s partial rebuild, internally it has undergone substantial alteration to convert it into four domestic properties.

The former mill manager's house, known as Bank House, lies to the south of the former apprentice's house. It is recorded on the Tithe Map of 1843 but was largely rebuilt in the late C19. It has recently been extended at its south end and this extension functions as a shop and office. Internally there have been numerous alterations, some of which include the removal of original stone floors and replacement with bitumen, removal of all original fireplaces, removal of internal walls in the kitchen and bathroom, blocking of some internal doorways and insertion of replacements in different locations and replacement of all internal doors.

Planning permission and Listed Building Consent was granted for conversion of the mill in the 1980s and, following amendments, was implemented in the early 1990s from a state of dereliction and disrepair. The mill chimney, the gas plant near the north east corner of the mill and the gas meter house to the north of the former apprentice's house were demolished along with the boiler shed and substantial amounts of the three linear ranges to the west and north-west of the mill. A combination of 17 flats and houses have been built approximately on the footprints of all demolished buildings apart from the gas meter house and the mill chimney. The main mill building has been converted to include 28 properties. A detailed external inspection of those parts of Low Mill that were redeveloped during the 1990s was undertaken led by representatives of the mill's principal owners, and together with the provision of a series of photographs and accompanying explanatory notes taken during this redevelopment a clear understanding of the nature of the redevelopment has been forthcoming.

Those parts of Low Mill to the north of the smaller of the two engine houses depicted on the site plan of 1918 as published in Price's report of 1983 (including the boiler shed and gas plant) were demolished and on their approximate footprint new properties numbered 11, 12, 16, 17 and 15 were erected. Of the three linear ranges to the north-west of the mill the two-story northern range that formerly held part of the joiners and mechanics shop, the store building and the waste store were demolished, the ground level significantly raised, and a new range constructed on the footprint of the old but extending further north than the earlier range. This new build originally held properties numbered 1-3 but number three proved difficult to sell and was later remodelled into two properties, numbered 3 and 9. The east range formerly held part of the joiners and mechanics shop. It was also demolished, the ground level raised, then it was rebuilt as a two-storey structure on the footprint of the earlier range. The east range now holds property number 4 and property number 5 which is built above an archway and forms a junction with the east and south ranges. The south range formerly held the two-storey blowing and mixing room and the single-storey cotton bale shed. The cotton bale shed was demolished apart from its west wall. The blowing and mixing room was not completely demolished but photographs show that it has been extensively modified: the north and south walls have been either completely rebuilt or substantially remodelled and a new roof has been added. The south range now holds properties 6-8. To the south-east of the three ranges a building of uncertain function was demolished and a new building, number 49, was erected on its footprint.

At the south end of the spinning mill property number 14 has had modern extensions added to its south-west corner and its south side during the 1990s redevelopment of the building. The extension on the south side of the mill has been built on the site of the former mill-race that carried water from the adjacent pond to power the mill's waterwheel.


A former cotton spinning mill now converted to domestic dwellings. The mill was originally built in 1784 by Thomas Hodgson but rebuilt after fire damage in 1838, architect unknown. It is built of squared sandstone with slate roofs. The spinning mill is aligned approximately north-south and is linear in plan.

Exterior: the spinning mill is of four storeys with an attic. The west elevation is of 10 bays having windows with plain reveals and small panes, some being horizontally-pivoted casements. The central bay contains the front entrance to the mill with a modern porch and is topped by a gabled attic dormer. To the right end of the elevation where the ground is higher there is a round stair turret extending upwards to support a cast iron sprinkler tank. The door at the foot of the turret has a round-headed fanlight and rusticated voussoirs and jambs. Windows in the turret are narrower than elsewhere on the front elevation. The lower part of the turret is flanked by 1990s built domestic extensions on its south-west and south sides.

The left return is stepped and consists of the gable end of the four-storey with attic former engine house attached to which is the gable end of a three-storey former engine house. The left half of this latter engine house has 1990s-built domestic buildings attached.

The rear (east) elevation has 1990s built domestic buildings at the north end, a narrow single-bay two-storey with attic and half-dormer that was originally the smaller of the two engine houses, the two-bay four-storey with attic engine house, a flat-roofed three-storey four-bay slightly projecting range behind which is flat-roofed four-storey range of the same width, a single-storey three-bay lean-to porch behind which is a four-bay four-storey range with narrow windows to the left range, and the four-storey former turbine water pipe house with semi-circular ground-floor door and flanking windows with a long narrow round-headed half-dormer.

The south return is built against rising ground and displays only the upper floors to the gable end of the former turbine water pipe house.

Interior: the spinning mill has been converted into domestic accommodation on all floors. The ground floor has brick jack arches visible to the ceiling.

The attached buildings to the north of the spinning mill housing properties 11,12,16,17 and 15 are modern constructions and are excluded from the listing. Those modern constructions at the south-west and south sides of the spinning mill attached to property number 14 are also excluded from the listing.

The three ranges forming three sides of a quadrangle to the north west of the spinning mill housing properties 1-9 are either modern constructions or have been altered to such an extent that they are not of architectural or historic interest and are excluded from the listing. The former apprentice house, now Mill Acre Court, and the former manager's house, now Bank House, have also been significantly altered and are excluded from the listing. Number 49 Low Mill and the arch and wall to the north of the spinning mill are modern constructions and are excluded from the listing.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Price, J , The Industrial Archaeology of the Lune Valley, (1983), 18-22


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 22 Apr 2006
Reference: IOE01/14808/07
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Chris Thoume. Source Historic England Archive
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