The History of Arthur Bell's Mill - now home to Rose's Wardrobe

Ready to find out about Rose’s Wardrobe’s beloved studio space inside the very last power loom working mill in Langholm, read more to find out about it’s history.

 

TEXTILE HERITAGE IN LANGHOLM


The first mill in Langholm for spinning cotton and linen yarns, Meikleholm Mill, was built in 1789 for a group of Carlisle merchants. This was followed by Ewes or Whitshiels Mill in 1797 for producing woollen yarn.

During this period various fibres, wool, cotton and linen, were processed and the yarns were used for both weaving and knitting. Eventually production in Langholm, settled on yarns spun from wool and woven into woollen fabric – tweed. This product could be made and sold on the basis of quality and design, in which Langholm was renowned.

Mills along the river Esk in 1955, Arthur Bell’s Mill has the distinct zig zag roofing.

Mills along the river Esk in 1955, Arthur Bell’s Mill has the distinct zig zag roofing.

Demand in textiles was always volatile, influenced by wars and rumours of wars, booms and times of financial crisis. This resulted in some failures with mills changing hands, sometimes with a change of name and a change of product. The zenith of Langholm’s woollen industry was probably around 1890 with over 1200 people employed in it.

Mill workers in 19th century

Mill workers in 19th century

ARTHUR BELL’S MILL, LANGHOLM

Criterion Mills (which it was its original name) was originally built in 1878 for William Scott and Henry Erskine. However, the company failed and the mill was bought out by Arthur Bell in 1888, complete with all the equipment. ⁠Arthur bell extended it in 1893 was re-named Buccleuch Mill.

At its height, 160 people were employed in the Mill. Workers from Langholm and the surrounding areas would arrive at the mill to begin a day's graft, and left in the evening; no doubt exhausted and hungry but with the quiet satisfaction of having earned their keep. ⁠

A group of female workers from Arthur Bell’s Mill, 1919

A group of female workers from Arthur Bell’s Mill, 1919

In the twentieth century two world wars and their aftermaths produced high demand followed by periods of recession. The number of companies diminished steadily. In the second half of the century changes in fashion towards less formal wear, the introduction of new technology and the transfer of manufacturing operations to lower wage rate areas of the world combined to reduce the number of workers employed.

 

LANGHOLM’S QUALITY WOOLLEN TWEEDS

The mill spun and wove Saxony and Cheviot tweeds of the highest quality for over a hundred years. Their cloths had a look and handle that was recognised and celebrated around the World.

Belcrest was the brand name for the tweed fabrics. The cloth would then be sold on to tailors and dressmakers all over the world.

THE FUTURE OF ARTHUR BELL’S MILL

Arthur Bell’s Mill in 1975 and now

Arthur Bell’s Mill in 1975 and now

Arthur Bell (Scotch Tweeds) inhabited the Mill until it sadly closed in 2002. ⁠

The Bell's Mill was taken over in 2008 by the Langholm Initiative and is now a bustling hub for small/meduim business. Many of the businesses centre around textiles, such as Drove Weavers, Glen Isla, Yarns to Yearn For, Elliot's Shed and most recently Rose’s Wardrobe! ⁠

Drove Weavers is thriving as the demand for quality, woven in the UK fabric, has risen. Weaving beautiful fabrics for high end brands (which we can not name!), Drove Weavers have invested in new (to them) machines which enable the weaving of names in the selvedge of the cloth, something that customers having been asking for. They have also invested in scarf knitting machines. There’s such a positive buzz in the Mill at the moment.

The textile industry in Langholm is prospering and we are so proud to be part of it.

We are happy in our Mill studio space, with the comforting, rhythmic sound of the looms and the family, community atmosphere when working in the Mill, you really do feel like you are part of the team.

THE TEAM

Rose’s Wardrobe was founded by Emma and Leanne after both having over 12 years of experience between them working in high street, vintage inspired, and fashion supplier backgrounds. The inspiration from Rose’s Wardrobe derived from Emma and Leanne’s muses - their grandmas and great grandma - Patricia, Edna, and Rose. The aim is to produce replicas of the beautiful clothes their grandmas wore, using colours, styles and prints from the 1940’s through to the 1960’s. You can connect with Rose’s Wardrobe on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Have a look at where Rose’s Wardrobe will be here. Read our sustainability statement. Or, shop the collection