A key building in the history of Hebden Bridge celebrates its 700th birthday with a party on Saturday - and the town is invited!
And with an eye on the Hebden’s reputation for being eco-aware, Hebden Bridge Mill, Bridge Gate, is well on the way to going through the 21st century as it did in the 14th, by creating all its energy from water power.
One of Britain’s oldest surviving water mills, built in 1314 when the Battle of Bannockburn was hot news, the mill has gone through a saga of ruin and regeneration and is now home to 12 small buisnesses enabling 46 people to make their living there.
From medieval manorial corn mill to a beacon of eco energy, via a key role in the textile industry, the occasion will be proud moment for owner David Fletcher, who saved the now English Heritage Grade II listed building from collapse and demolition in 1972.
In those days David was a local heritage enthusiast largely only able to call on the help of his family, 20-hour weekends he put in himself, and priceless advice and practical skills of men like Peter Crossley and Maurice Nichol to gradually renovate the mill and open it, after years of restoration, as a retail, restaurant and workshop space, including David’s own business, Innovation cafe.
“There was no external finance then, which made it a long haul, but above all, bringing water power back to the mill now means shopping, eating and working here doesn’t have to cost the earth. It’s back to the future,” he said.
At 2.30pm on Saturday, September 6, Hebden Bridge Junior Band will get celebrations under way before the cutting of a birthday cake at 3.15pm, followed by some jazz stylings from Peace Artistes to ensure things go with a swing - and the afternoon wouldn’t be complete without a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.
David said everyone was invited to come and take a look around, with 700 pieces of the cake set to be sliced and given away during the event - he says it was the mill that built the town, and ultimately the town that helped save the mill by supporting the bsuinesses which are based there.
Eco measures include LED bulbs reducing power demand by 90 per cent, a £140,000 Archimedes Screw providing eco electric energy and solar panels installed on the roof. A heat pump which takes heat from the river supplies plenty of hot water and heats the building. The water wheel was restored at the Millennium - it’s power soon to be fully reharnessed, bringing the mill full circle.
As next steps, the mill’s water wheel will generate electricity for battery power packs, allowing energy to be stored for use in event of power cuts and the like. And David says his electric car is effectively water powered - the energy generated using the Archimedes Screw keeps his vehicle on the move.
“I have regenerated the whole building, but I have not finished. The next thing will be to put a lift into the building. As we reach the anniversary it is a mixture of relief and pride. Relief because it was a colossal risk, and there was always the risk it would fall down. Once, it almost did.
“There is pride too and a lot of thanks from me, to my family - my children were doing some work in here when they were about five! - and they still help to look after the place.
“Also the the major people that helped me are not with us any more, but I still want to thank people like Peter Crossley and Maurice Nichol for their personal assistance and practical advice.
“And I would like to thank the people of the town who have supported this process by their custom. We look forward to seeing people popping in to have a look,” he said.