IN the 1800s substantial cotton mills started to appear, mainly around Lancashire and the north, and Winsford was not left out.

During 1869 a big cotton spinning and doubling mill was built by Messrs Abraham Haigh and Sons on the High Street side of St Georges Road.

It was so big it stretched almost to what would become Well Street that was given the name in tribute to the well that was situated there and was used to power the mill’s machinery.

The head of the family was Mr James Haigh, in 1860 he purchased Darnhall Hall and renovated it.

Winsford Guardian:

New streets were planned to house the workers from the mill. Unfortunately, there was no time to complete that project in full although roads were built and cotton workers from Lancashire were brought over and housed.

As for Winsford, there was plenty of women to work at the mill. Law had just been passed to prevent women from working down the mines.

The mill employed 300 workers and disaster struck at 5pm on Tuesday, October 27 1874 when a fire broke out in the spinning room.

The subsequent finding at the inquest was that friction had caused a spark to ignite nearby cotton waste.

The fire spread rapidly through the mill trapping many workers, Harriet Whitehurst and her three-month-old baby died when she jumped from the fourth floor after trying to drop the baby into a water tank but missed, her 13-year-old daughter Margaret was successful.

In all eight people died in the inferno. By Now James Haigh had moved to Over Hall and was at the time in Southport. He sold Darnhall Hall to Thomas Knowles the following year; it was sold to William Verdin in 1889.

Winsford Guardian:

Poor James Haigh was not very lucky financially. The week before the fire, he was negotiating the sale of the mill, and it was temporarily uninsured driving him into bankruptcy.

The remains of the main mill building were demolished, but the chimney and boiler house were saved.

They became the property of Captain William Turner of the Rifle Brigade (22nd Cheshire Regiment). He not only acquired the building for use as a drill hall, but he also took possession of Over Hall as he lived in it for many years and became a Councillor and JP in the town. Mr Wilson of Ways Green bought the site for houses.

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The chimney remained in situ until 1904 when it was demolished, some of the bricks were used to build nearby Upper and Lower Haigh Streets, named as a tribute to the Haigh family.

The people of Winsford paid for a monument in the new church of St Johns and erected over the single grave containing the eight who died. All of the names are engraved upon it. This fire put an end to Winsford hope of being a cotton town.

Winsford Guardian: