Last mill standing
Halton Mill (formerly Middle Mill) is the last mill remaining out of a series of water powered mills which stood on the bank of the River Lune at Halton for centuries. The first recorded mills on this site were ones milling corn in the 13th century. In the following centuries the area became a centre of the iron industry. Gradually more mills were built until they stretched over half a mile of riverside, manufacturing cotton, coconut matting and finally oil cloth. With the outbreak of the Second World War the mills became barracks and army stores. When peace came the mills were gradually turned over to small manufacturing including cloth printing, carpet making, pottery manufacture, animal feed milling, chemical processing and precision engineering.
Aircraft and elephants
In 1948, Halton Mill was let to a group of men who had served with the Polish Forces fighting with the allies and they started up Luneside Engineering. They tried many ways of earning money from renovating cars to woodworking. One of the strangest was the production of mechanical elephants for use as tourist attractions giving rides to children of seaside towns throughout the country. Out of season the elephants returned to Halton for maintenance and storage. But the real success of Luneside engineering came from precision engineering for the aircraft, shipbuilding and nuclear industries. Luneside Engineering flourished and the Polish immigrants eventually bought the building, along with many of the other remaining mill buildings. Their leader, Colonel T Benirski, was a great character. He was passionate about gardens and flowers and the Mill became well known for its ornamental gardens and the overflowing window boxes. Colonel Benirski bought a second world war submarine periscope, which he installed in the Mill.
Luneside Engineering was bought by North West Engineering in 2004 and finally stopped production in 2008. By this time many of the mills along the Lune had been demolished and others were decaying. In 2010 Lancaster Cohousing bought the site of Middle Mills to redevelop as an eco community.
Halton Mill opened in September 2013 as managed workspaces, offices, studios, and coworking space, run by Green Elephant Cooperative… and has been developing it ever since.