The Tentering Tower stands on the hillside above Stubbins Vale Mill in Ramsbottom. Today the ruin is in good condition, having been in recent times been repaired and preserved by the National Trust.
Stubbins Vale Mill was a manufacturing plant that produced woollen cloth. The mill was built in 1851 and its Tentering Tower was constructed soon after, in 1866. Photographic evidence reveals that initially the tower had just one storey, with a second one being added at a later date.
Tentering is the process of stretching newly made cloth and letting it dry out. This prevents the cloth from shrinking as it dries and allows the warp and weft of the fibres to stay in the correct alignment. A map from 1894 shows that there were tentering fields to the east and west of the mill, but cloth dried in the open air was at the mercy of the weather. The Tentering Tower would be a more protected space for the cloth to dry.
The square tower was meant to be seen as an eye catching local landmark so it is positioned at the edge of the hill with steep drops below it. There are ornamental battlements topping the three sides that can be seen from the village below. It is accessed from the west side at the top of the hill, and interestingly there are no battlements on this side. Presumably this is because only the workers would see this side as they entered the building, and so the expense was not thought necessary. The cloth was taken in through the large entrance archway on the ground floor or through the loading door above it, reached by the steps leading up to it.
Local author Richard Peace in his book Lancashire Curiosities writes that in later days Stubbins Vale Mill moved away from woollen manufacturing and began to produce textiles for the printing industry. They produced items such as filter fabrics, printing blankets and felt. Filter fabrics allow water to pass through them but prevent solids from going through. Printing blankets are textile that act like a printing block. They take ink from a roller and transfer it on to paper, and in this way they can be a disposable template that can used many times to mass produce leaflets. Felts are used in the production of hand made paper to absorbs any excess water produced.
Peace states that many of these products were carried up to the tower for the final process in their manufacture. This still involved them being stretched out on tenter frames while they were wet. The building was then sealed up and the textiles were fumigated with sulphur candles, presumably as part of the bleaching process.
Site visited by A. and R. Bowden 2020
The Tentering Tower is an open access site. Grid reference (789 183). There is no car park nearby, the nearest being town parking in Ramsbottom centre. Head up Stubbins Lane, then onto Stubbins Street. Go to the end of this and then turn right onto East View. Follow the lane uphill. The Tentering Tower will soon come into view on the left. Head up hill on the footpath to reach it.
Nearby Grants Tower
Lancashire Curiosities, Richard Peace (1997), Dovecote Press
The Art of Science: A Natural History of Ideas, Richard Hamblyn (2012), Picador