A schoolboy’s memories of the Powder Mills 1925-1935

In the late 1970s, a Dr Patterson was appointed as the Archivist to ICI. His research into the history of the Leigh Powder Mills was not very rewarding. He had to report back that virtually all the documents relevant to Leigh had been burnt during the war. He did, however, make contact with one of the families who moved to Scotland. The letter he received was passed on to Dr David Hansell- the current Chairman of the Powder Mills study group – who was then the Manager of the chemical company at the site of the Powder Mills. The signature had been removed but the father of the letter writer was, as he says in the letter, “the works foreman”.

Talking about 1930-4, he says:

“I was just a schoolboy at the time I am afraid I have no knowledge of the manufacturing set up. My father was the works foreman, not the works manager as you suggested. And it was part of his duties to walk round the factory at weekends and inspect the various buildings to see that everything was in order. Quite frequently I accompanied him on these walks and, even today, can see in my mind’s eye the lay-out of the old part of the factory. At the edge of the “Pond” were two or three mills. These always fascinated me, the water rushing down the sluices turning the water wheels and inside, the huge stone wheels in the metal basins slowly grinding the powder. There were other buildings alongside the water and at other parts of the factory but there was nothing spectacular happening there to interest a small boy. I am not sure whether there were two or three mills. Although the buildings have probably long ago disappeared, I think it quite possible that the sluices could still exist ….. I moved to Scotland with my parents at the end of December 1934.”
It is possible, but perhaps not likely, that the letter was from the Evelyn family. John Evelyn was the “works manager” and moved with his family to Scotland in 1934.