Category Archives: Heritage

Warp and Weft

William Blake may have regarded them as dark and satanic, yet today several of the monumental textile factories that powered the UK’s industrial revolution are world heritage sites. For a black and white photographer the contrast, pattern and symmetry associated with the machines in these mills is a bit of a gold mine. This series of images was taken in several of the preserved mills of the midlands and north of England.

Moorside Mills, Bradford. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₄₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000

There was a time when undertaking an extensive indoor photographic project without the use of a tripod was well nigh impossible and as many heritage sites do not permit the use of tripods indoors, well, you get the gist. However, for this project I mainly used the new Fujinon 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR, which has quite exceptional image stabilisation and makes hand-held photography in low light much more feasible when combined with the high ISO performance of modern cameras.

Masson Mill

Masson Mill, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, was built in 1783 by Richard Arkwright on the banks of the River Derwent at Matlock Bath, and reflects the grandeur of its river gorge setting. However, it was not the buildings that drew me to this project but rather the details of the mill interiors and, in particular, the engineering and technology associated with the spinning of yarns and weaving of fabrics.

Masson Mills, Derbyshire. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₅₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2500
Masson Mills, Derbyshire. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₃₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000
Masson Mills, Derbyshire. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₁₅ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000

Armley Mills

Once the largest woollen mills in the world, Armley Mills were built in 1805 and ceased operation in 1969. Today, the buildings house Leeds Industrial Museum, but several floors still preserve the mill machinery. While not intentional, I’ve found that each of the portfolios put together in this series has tended to focus on slightly different aspects of the industrial heritage preserved. In part that’s down to how easy it is to photograph in each of the locations but it also reflects the original focus of the mill and whether it was for wool or cotton.

Armley Mills, Leeds. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₄₈₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000
Armley Mills, Leeds. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₉ sec at ƒ / 8.0, ISO 2000
Armley Mills, Leeds. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₄₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000

Moorside Mills

In the 19th Century, Bradford in Northern England was famous for its worsted cloth. While not itself a world heritage site, Moorside Mills, now Bradford Industrial museum, has some exceptionally well preserved machinery that make for a fascinating photographic study. The various combing, drawing, spinning and weaving machines are in superb, and in many cases, working condition while others are being restored. I find there is a beauty in the detail of the Victorian engineering, their repetitive symmetry and the contrast between the pale tones of the wools and threads and the black metal. For many of these images I’ve deliberately used selective focus to isolate the detail and suggest the depth and scale.

Moorside Mills, Bradford. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₂₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000
Moorside Mills, Bradford. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₅₅ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000
Moorside Mills, Bradford. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₃₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000

Quarry Bank Mill

The last mill, so far, in this series is Quarry Bank Mill, now in the care of the National Trust. It was built by Samuel Greg, and at the time was the largest textile mill in the UK. While he is credited with taking care of his employees, there is, of course, another much darker legacy to cotton: the slave trade that Greg’s family were also involved in.

Quarry Bank Mills, Derbyshire. X-T3 + XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, ¹⁄₈₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0, ISO 2000
Quarry Bank Mills, Derbyshire. X-Pro3 + XF50mmF2 R WR, ¹⁄₅₀ sec at ƒ / 2.0, ISO 1250

Light and Space

Some of the earliest and most famous photographs of Ely Cathedral are those of Frederick H. Evans. He was profoundly dedicated to pure photography, not altering the printing of negatives for aesthetic effects; rather using his ability to capture an image at the most telling moment of light and shadow. In keeping, these are ACROS film simulation jpegs shot with my FujiFilm X-PRO2 with no further processing.

The spaces inside cathedrals are vast and an intrinsic part of both their architectural design and function. Capturing them in a two dimensional medium is immensly challenging, space is hard to see, and I find that the third dimension is hinted at most strongly by light.

Yesterday’s News

Strolling around the Beamish Museum in the north of England, I’m always curious to see some of the less visited corners. Upstairs above the newspaper office, is a recreation of an old print shop. Much of the machinery was sourced from the print works of Jack Ascough’s in Barnard Castle, one can only imagine the leaflets, posters and stories these letters and presses printed over the years.

Lode Water Mill

I first tried to photograph the interior of this wonderful old water mill 10 years ago. At that time, a 50mm f/1.4 lens at maximum aperture just about let enough light in to enable a few handheld shots without excessive noise. Now, low noise sensors and image stabilisation mean so much more is feasible, including wide angle.

The project was shot with a Fujifilm X-T3 and Acros film simulation using ambient light and minimal post processing. My aim being to make use of my time exploring the light inside the old mill with my camera, rather than sat at a computer with Lightroom.

The present mill dates from the 18th century and is now in the care of the National Trust and has been restored to full working order.