Once More Unto The Bleach

An eagle-eyed TAS member recently stepped into the breach when noticing a partially collapsed wall at the stone bleaching baths on Hodge Lane in Broadbottom. On this occasion it was not to storm and conquer, but to relieve the siege that Time lays at our precious heritage.

“These large stone vats or baths were part of the Hodge textile works. They date from the late 1700s and are probably the earliest known textile site in Tameside. Each one of the baths is made from giant stone slabs joined together by iron stays. They are about six feet deep. Grey cloth would have been bleached with lime to make it white, and then laid out in the fields to dry. There are 3 groups of baths. They are terraced into the hillside and arranged in rows on either side of a deep central tunnel which is covered by stone slabs in places and earth in others. Of the 3 groups one has 30 baths; one of 6 or more and one of 14 or more.” (Historic England)

The internal wall would have supported a flagged pathway that existed between two lines of large vats. These had been excavated in the 1980s by the University of Manchester Archaeology Unit, headed by Dr Michael Nevell. We got in touch with Dr Nevell, now the Industrial Heritage Support Officer for England, and he was able to confirm that the wall was still intact when surveyed by UMAU in 2005.

TAS then contacted English Heritage to notify them of the changes to the bleaching baths, and subsequently the local council, who have actioned an evaluation of the site.

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