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Brownsfield Mill
Binns Place, Ancoats, Manchester, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  1825
era  Georgian  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ848984
ICE reference number  HEW 2679
Built for the cotton milling industry, Brownsfield Mill is one of a nationally important group of such mills at Ancoats in Manchester. It is now Grade II* listed and houses offices and retail. In 1910, the mill became the first aircraft plant for A.V. Roe & Company (Avro) — the world's first company registered solely as a manufacturer of aircraft.
Brownsfield Mill was built in 1825 as a ‘room and power’ mill, which is an arrangement whereby mill owners offered floor space for rent along with power from line-shafting provided. This arrangement enabled individuals and small companies to get established. It is the only mill in the area to retain its original stair tower and chimney, which is now thought to be the oldest mill chimney in Manchester.
The earliest part of the L-shaped building is the long range. It is 12 bays long and seven storeys high. A six storey wing was added later to complete the L-shape. The newer wing has higher ceiling heights but an identical roof line. The roof is supported by timber Queen trusses.
The mill is closely associated with the Rochdale Canal, alongside which it sits. There is a 'shipping hole' directly off the canal, proving internal access for barges.
The mill was steam powered and had an internal engine house. Unusually, it had underground boilers. Waste water was discharged into the canal. Another unusual feature was the split-level mill yard, with its lower covered section allowing direct access from the street to the basement.
The building is of heavy timber construction internally, with thick floorboards on heavy timber beams supported by cast iron columns. This technique was widely used in the USA, where it was referred to as 'slow-burning construction' for its increased fire resistance — in a fire, the heavy beams would char without weakening. The strength of construction allowed higher floor loadings, so heavy machinery could be located on the upper floors.
In 1910, Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe (1877-1958) set up the aircraft plant in Brownsfield Mill with his brother Humphrey, who owned the building. From that date until the First World War, the factory produced some of the earliest British aircraft, including triplanes, biplanes and monoplanes. The brother's company was named A.V. Roe & Company (Avro). There is more information about their exploits in the group of separate Avro entries on this website.
Recent work on Brownsfield Mill by developers Town Centre Securities plc with architect Ian Simpson has converted the building to office space on the upper floors, and retail and leisure uses at ground and lower ground floor levels.
Research: PD
PHEW records, ICE
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester"
by Robina McNeil and Michael Nevell
Association for Industrial Archaeology, 2000
"A & G Murray And The Cotton Mills Of Ancoats"
by I Miller, C Wild with contributions by S Little, R McNeil, K Moth
Oxford Archaeology North, 2007
"Cotton Mills In Greater Manchester" by Mike Williams with D A Farnie
Carnegie Publishing Ltd, 1992

Brownsfield Mill