In 1907, the Trencherfield Mill was built on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Wigan Pier. The two sides of is resident Mill Engine were promptly named Helen and Rina, and their steam had the power to control 26-foot flywheels via 54 ropes attached to hundreds of spinning machines across four floors.
© Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust
More than a century on, the 2,500-horsepower machine has been as integral to conservation efforts as it once was to the industrial revolution. An Engineering Heritage Award is its latest achievement, bestowed for the Engine's role in the proud textile past of Greater Manchester.
“The Trencherfield Mill Steam Engine is a wonderful example of engineering at its best,” said Lord Peter Smith, the Leader of Wigan Council, accepting the recognition for a manufacturing job perfected by bygone Bolton engineers.
© Ellenroad Trust
“It is a unique example of British industrial heritage and a giant in terms of machinery and ingenuity."
The Trencherfield is the only known four-cylinder, twin-tandem, triple expansion steam condensing engine still in its original setting anywhere in the world.
And if that doesn’t sound singular enough, the ceremony also gave an award to the Ellenroad Engine, a Rochdale powerhouse which is the only working example of the horizontal tandem compound steam engines behind the huge Lancashire mills of the 1890s and early 1900s.
“As laymen enthusiasts, we have always felt sure our engine was special,” said Bernard Rostron, of the Trust which looks after the engine in its original home at Ellenroad Mill.
“We now know and can prove that it is.”
The mill closed in 1982, but the retention of the engine house, steam engine and boiler house means its original home has survived where the main buildings were demolished.
"The Trencherfield and Ellenroad engines are unique surviving examples of the two largest types of mill engine that were so key to the textile industry and played such an important part in the UK's, and Greater Manchester's, industrial past,” explained John Wood, the Chairman of the awards scheme, which has been organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers since 1984.
"These awards are testament to the hard work of Wigan Museum, Wigan Council, the Ellenroad Trust and Ellenroad Museum in restoring and maintaining these engines so that future generations can continue to be inspired by our industrial heritage.”
The Ellenroad Engine – with a maximum 3,000 horsepower, 122,000 spindles and a 28 foot flywheel weighing 80 tons – also has scheduled monument status. It is recognised as the world’s largest surviving working Mill Engine.