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The underground world hidden in Greater Manchester that looks like the remains of a lost civilisation

In Europe
June 10, 2024

Half-hidden and surrounded by woodland, the excavated remains of what, on first impression, looks like the remains of a lost world can be found in Greater Manchester. The remnants of walls and stone steps – covered in plants and mosses – lead to long, dark passageways.

You could almost imagine yourself walking among the relics of a forgotten civilisation, if you weren’t in Stockport. But this subterranean world in Marple happens to be the remains of Mellor Mill, built only a couple of hundred years ago, and not some ancient city.

The cotton mill was built in 1793 beside the River Goyt in the parishes of Mellor and Marple by Samuel Oldknow. At six stories high with additional three storey wings, it was, at the time, the biggest spinning mill the world had ever seen.

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The Mill reached its peak production in the early part of the 19th century, employing around 550 people with over 10,000 spindles in operation. The mill continued to operate until it was destroyed in a disastrous fire on November 16, 1892.

The Cheshire County News reported on the burning of the Mill: “Immense tongues of fire were belching forth from the windows. Higher and higher they leaped and blazed, the building and its environs being encircled with a halo of crimson light.

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“A message was despatched to Marple and Compstall fire brigade, but they arrived too late to be of any practical service. The spectacle when the fire was at its height was a splendid but awe-inspiring one.

“The entire mass of buildings, which covers half an acre in area, was in gigantic blaze, brilliantly illuminating the district. Huge columns of smoke ascended into the heavens and hung in the form of a dense canopy over the burning building.

A long tunnel forms part of the remains of Mellor Mill

A long tunnel forms part of the remains of Mellor Mill -Credit:John Harris | derelictmanchester.com

“One by one the floors fell in with a deafening crash and the machinery clanged together like the roar of artillery. Then the roof with one gigantic swoop collapsed, falling through the practically demolished building with a thunderous smash, amidst the shrieks of the by-standers, for all the village was now awake.

“The mill girls with their shawls over their heads, the children clinging, terrified, to their mother’s dresses, and the men who had been striving to render what little assistance there was in their power, were all gazing at the burning pile…”.

Click the gallery below to see photos of the subterranean remains of Mellor Mill

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After the fire, what was left of the mill remained for many years, especially the smaller buildings on the bank of the river Goyt. These days, the foundations of the mill survive but nothing can be seen above ground.

The remains of Mellor Mill are now fully landscaped and open to the public thanks to excavations by the Mellor Archaeological Trust. Recently, John Harris who runs the fascinating Derelict Manchester website, took photos of the remains of the mill, which can be seen in the gallery below.

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