Denshaw Vale Print Works

S.D. 974103

Denshaw Vale Print Works

Also known as: Calf Hey Mill, Whitehead Mill or Butterworth Mill


The 12-acre site on which Calf Hey Mill was built in the early 1790’s was owned by Benjamin Gartside who built the mill. ​​ The Land Tax for 1790 was paid​​ by the same Benjamin Gartside, and in the occupation of John Ogden.


The mill was at this time powered by a water wheel, with a 20ft fall of water producing 8h.p.​​ 


In its early years it was probably a woollen mill, but as early as 1815 John Grafton, a Calico Printer from Manchester, was involved. ​​ Ownership at this time also seemed to include the Junction Inn in at least two sales of the mill.


The next change of ownership seems to have taken place around 1830. ​​ By then it was occupied by John and Robert​​ Scholes, calico printers. ​​ The Factory Commission report for 1834 stated that the mill was waterpowered, commanding 10h.p. and employing 59. ​​ The Scholes were still occupying the mill in 1835 according to the Church Rates Book, which also recorded the mill​​ owned by the Saddleworth Banking Company. ​​ According to Pigot’s Directory of 1841 it had changed hands again, to Horrox & Co., calico printers, Junction.

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By the late 1830’s after a period of ownership by the Whitehead family and others, its function seemed secure, with a wide variety of processes from wool manufacture, to dyeing, printing and finishing.


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For the Century 1841-1940 the mill was in the hands of Edmund Butterworth and Sons – Printers. ​​ Steam power was​​ introduced in 1827 with a 24h.p. engine, still supplemented by an 18ft x 5ft wide water wheel. ​​ The Butterworths were big landowners, with interests in coalmines in Crompton, which probably accounts for this early use of steam power.


The 1851 Census recorded employment for 46 men, 23 boys and 15 girls. ​​ There were slight changes by 1871, with 68 men, 11 women and 15 boys being employed. ​​ Throughout this period the mill was obviously an important factor in the local economy. ​​ Further confirmation of the mill's importance was the not inconsiderable Rateable Value of £283/11/0 in 1871.


The firm of Edmund Butterworth & Sons must have been a progressive company, and local newspapers reported the introduction of a motor wagon on 14th​​ May 1903.​​ 




“MOTOR WAGGON​​ ON TRIAL AT DENSHAW VALE PRINT WORKS”- a motor ​​ wagon is on trial at Denshaw Vale Print Works, its use being to convey material from the Manchester warehouse to the works at Denshaw, and taking back the finished goods. ​​ This beforehand has been done by team labour; making the journey long and laborious for both men and horses. ​​ Should the trial prove successful, motive power will be adopted to carry chemicals etc. from Delph station to the works and probably the great expense due to keeping a large number of horses will be appreciably diminish.


In subsequent items the Oldham Chronicle reported the continued successful use of the steam wagon to support the work at the mill, the horses were put up for sale, and a new era was underway. ​​ The mill also heralded​​ the use of the steam “buzzer” to call its employees to work in1899. ​​ This “first” was celebrated at the time “as a step further within the pale of civilisation”.


The 1891 O.S. Map clearly shows the importance of such a large mill to the local economy.

The two small, square detached buildings at the bottom of the mill complex are the “listed” buildings referred to in the text, and will become an integral part of the new housing development.​​ 

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The mill was used for printing until the 1950’s, after which it was to stand empty for some time.​​ 

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It hit the headlines in 1970 when there was a large fire there. ​​ The account states that the mill had remained unused until a couple of years before, when a paper manufacturer and a demolition contractor had moved in. ​​ The fire destroyed the roof and areas of the main floors.


The mill was never to recover and the site has led a chequered life since, being used by a variety of tenants. ​​ All the mill buildings were, with the exception of two small “listed” outbuildings, cleared in 1996-97 to​​ 

accommodate the Denshaw Vale housing development.


In the picture above, one of the listed outbuildings

Can be seen in centre position.  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 


​​ Also continuing to remind us of the past is the Printers Arms, just up the road at nearby Calf Hey.

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