Mark’s History: The Wortley mill with a history of fires

Swallow Hill Mill
Fire: Swallow Hill Mill. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Words & photos: Mark Stevenson

Last week the old mill which was once known as Swallow Hill Mill on Tong Road in Wortley caught fire. This in itself was nothing new; it has been doing this either by accident or not since Victorian times.

One such occasion was on Tuesday 9 December 1890. At the time it was a woollen mill owned by Messrs Dixon & Gaunt’s. The fire broke out in one of the attics.

Fire-hit: Swallow Hill Mill in Wortley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

It is thought that a spark ignited some of the greasy oily material that was about. The fire spread quickly and all the staff got out but staff number 49 was not so lucky. 

Number 49 was working on the top floor and the Leeds Corporation Fire Brigade as well as the Liverpool London and Globe Insurance Company Fire Brigade were unable to save Louisa Jane Handcock (number 49). It seems she was forgotten about and her body was found in the basement. 

Louisa’s body was moved to a nearby empty house to await the Coroner’s inquest to be held the next day. Louisa was a well-respected single woman living at 3 Silver Royd Street with her cousin Minnie Cox.

Swallow Hill Mill

The damage to the mill is thought to have been between £3,000 to £4,000.

The machinery was insured by Liverpool London and Globe Insurance Company and the stock in the Hong Kong Insurance Company.

Read more Mark’s History columns on West Leeds’ fascinating past here.


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