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The Bleach Mill,  Bleach Mill Lane,  Menston

  Messrs. Joseph Gill & Sons, of  Rombalds Moor Bleach Works,  Menston.

Originally the  business was the “Headingley Bleach Works, with proprietor Joseph Gill,   He is recorded in the

West Yorkshire Electoral Registers,   of 1860, 1870 and 1872.... and the Business moved to Menston in 1873.

 Below are cuttings from Yorkshire Evening Post 3rd Oct 1923.

The Bleaching Fields

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This site compiled from material provided by Peter Cockerill

Lead Bleach Mill tags found by Thomas Black, 13 Nov 2017.  

The following lead tags where found on land near the old Bleach Mill and are believed to have been attached to the yarn to Identify /record the processes it had received. They came detached when the yarn was laid out in the field, as they were all found in a relatively small area in which they came detached. It is not known what the marking refer to?

   The larger numbers, 4264, 4216, 4189, 4300, and 6003, could be order no. / job no?  and other number could refer to a company’s number or length of cloth.

 

Bleach mill tag No 1 .. item 4264 was 78 yards x 14 yards.

 

 

Bleach mill tag No 2  .. item 4216 was 404 yards x 30 yards.

 

 

Bleach mill tag No 3  .. item 4189 was 24 yards x 14 yards.

 

Bleach mill tag No 4  .. item 4300 was 60 yards x 33 yards.

 

Bleach mill tag No 5

 

Bleach mill tag No 6

 

Bleach mill tag No 7  .. item 4003 was 400 yards x 56 yards.

 

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The Bleaching tags from Bentham Mills took

a different form but were far more numerous.

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The Bleaching Process

The information here was taken from mountains of textile sites, wool, cotton, jute etc .. and was refined to the relevance to flax only.

   When the woven material left the loom it was known as 'brown linen'' and it had to be bleached to make it white.  The bleaching process could only be carried out in the long days between March and October, and it was produced by primitive methods such as boiling the linen in lye made from burnt seaweed and then spreading it on a grass field exposed to the effects of the sun, air, rain and artificial watering. After six months or so of this treatment the linen was steeped in buttermilk, washed in pure water and finished up. As time progressed, however, so did the bleaching techniques improve and for many years towards the end of the last century the linen was bleached by the following method: 140 webs of yard wide brown linen, each one marked on the end with a red identification thread, were stitched together end to end for upwards of 10,000 yards. This was called a "pot". It was first passed through a solution of lime into boiling pots and then boiled for eight to ten hours. It was then drawn through a tank of water, after which the webs were unsewn and each one bundled separately. The webs were then put through a wash mill with pure water for an hour, then steeped in a "sour" of dilute hydrochloric acid, to convert the residue of the lime into a soluble salt. It was washed for a second time in the mills, boiled in soda lye which combining with the waxes and fats in the fibre, made them into soap and hence removable. The webs were washed again for the third time and afterwards put on the grass for some days, boiled again in lye, washed, put on the grass, rubbed in soap and water, boiled in lye, washed, put on the grass, and so on. As soon as the material was considered to be sufficiently boiled the whitening process was begun by the use of bleaching powder or "dip" in which the cloth was left over-night. It was washed again, treated with a weak sulphuric acid, boiled again with soda lye, such processes being repeated until it was found to be of the proper whiteness. After this treatment the webs were once again stitched together and the process of finishing began. The cloth was then breadthed by being passed through a water mangle between rollers which left just enough moisture for taking starch. It was then put into a tank filled with a mixture of starch and blue, after which it was passed over heated rollers to dry it. The webs were once more unsewn and placed on beatling beams and beatled until they had thirty to sixty hours beatling. Beatling is a process applied to linen fabrics and to cotton fabrics made to resemble linen to produce a hard, flat surface with high lustre and also to make texture less porous. In this process, the fabric, dampened and wound around an iron cylinder, is passed through a machine in which it is pounded with heavy wooden mallets.. They were then aired to the full width and calendared. Calendaring is a final process in which heat and pressure are applied to a fabric by passing it between heated rollers, imparting a flat, glossy, smooth surface. Lustre increases when the degree of heat and pressure is increased. Calendaring is applied to fabrics in which a smooth, flat surface is desirable, such as most cottons, many linens and silks, and various man-made fabrics. In such fabrics as velveteen, a flat surface is not desirable, and the cloth is steamed while in tension, without pressing. When applied to wool, the process is called pressing and employs heavy heated metal plates to steam and press the fabric. Calendaring is not usually a permanent process. This completed the work of the bleacher, the whole occupying eight to twelve weeks. The preparation of linen goods for the market was a somewhat elaborate process. When the webs were received from the bleaching works they were carefully examined and any defective portions laid aside. They were then lapped or folded, and ornamented to suit the taste of each market. The goods were then bought by a merchant shipper who sold them to wholesale houses either at home or abroad to be placed on sale in the shops.

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