A Visit to the Archive at Sunnybank Mills, Farsley, Leeds
A group of us recently went on a fascinating guided tour of Sunnybank Mills Archive in
Farsley near Leeds. The site may be familiar to fans of The Great British Sewing Bee as the
1912 building on the site is its new filming location.
The earliest beginnings of a cloth mill on the site began in 1829 and it ended up in the
ownership of the Gaunt family in 1917. Production of fine worsted cloth on the site ended in 2008.
In 2010 the Gaunt family began a multi-million restoration project to turn the mill
buildings into a creative space for business. Included in the plans was the aim of having a
living archive which doesn’t just look to the past but records the new uses of the mill as the
redevelopment continues. The archive looks after the history of the mill through textiles, objects including record books and 60,000 lengths of cloth as well as stories associated with nearly 200 years of cloth
Looking at the guard books which contain thousands of textile cuttings and
learning how they linked to cloth production was fascinating. Archive recordings of people
who worked at the mill made it all seem very personal.
After our tour we enjoyed looking around the bigger site and having lunch at The Mill
Kitchen. We also had a good root round Scrap, a centre for creative re-use of waste
materials. There is plenty to see on a visit and the mill buildings continue to be at the heart
of life in Farsley, which has a proud textile heritage along with many other places in West
Tours for small numbers are available on Saturdays by pre-booking via the website. Larger
groups are by arrangement. Find out more about the mill at www.sunnybankmills.co.uk
Author: Ros Watson