The fight to save Northern England’s historic mills

Interior of Dalton Mills in Keighley, Bradford — ¬©Historic England

The history of the textile mills of the north of England is one that must not be lost. It is a story too precious to forget. It is the story of industrial revolution, of a way of life that defined and indeed oppressed many people, it highlighted the disparity between privilege and poverty which led to the some of the most important reform of the last few centuries. The poor were given a voice, the privileged few demonstrated their gluttony and the resulting legislation is the reason why today we see injustice and say, “this isn’t right, they can’t do that”. It’s because someone once spoke up and said, “I’m going to speak up now so that people don’t have to in the future” and died hoping they were right and that future generations would continue demanding that their rights be honoured.

As always, with history, this isn’t just an old building. It represents, like a toy from your youth, like a family heirloom, like a recipe, a part of who we are — all of us — why we are what we are today and where we can look for answers about how to change tomorrow. Letting these relics get erased is a sure way to insult the advancements of previous generations and doom ourselves to face the same challenges again, ignorant of our past. Tyrants never forget history. In fact, they use history to see how much farther they can push the envelope. Tragically, the rest of us never seem to care to remember the fight of those that came before. Because we think we’re unique. We think everything happens to us and has never happened before. We think ‘this is different’. We think we’re modern and ‘those people, well those people lived in the past’. Except it’s not different. At it’s core, the human experience is the same. Time and time again. And you live in the present, knowing far more and with more at your disposal than they in the past had, which begs the question: what’s your excuse for forgetting the past?

Textile mills and other such historic relics aren’t just old buildings that cost money to maintain. They are tombstones that mark something and someone important. Their effects and their stories offer lessons that stretch far beyond England and matter to us all. And any effort to let them stand proudly and command their skyline should be applauded and supported.

For more information on what can be done to help save the mills of the north of England, visit:
https://www.historicengland.org.uk/get-involved/protect/mills-of-the-north/

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