Thwaite Mills was a bustling industrial site for hundreds of years. Its river-side location, made it an ideal place for large waterwheels, which have powered various industries at the site.
In 1641 a fulling mill was built at Thwaite to complete the final stages of manufacturing woollen cloth. Large water-powered hammers pounded the woven fabric in fuller’s earth and urine was used in order to matt the fibres together.
In the 1820s, the Aire and Calder Navigation Co purchased the Mills and rebuilt the site, spending the huge sum of £15,876. The new site consisted of a two-storey mill building with an attic, engineers’ workshop, warehouse, stables, dwelling house and a row of workers’ cottages. These buildings still exist today, although the workers’ cottages were demolished in 1968.
During its industrial life, Thwaite Mills would have been a bustling scene of activity. The grinding process produced a fine white dust which covered the buildings and the surroundings. As well as dust there would also have been large stock piles of raw materials and soil heaps.
Since Thwaite stopped production in 1976 the harsh industrial scene has been taken over by nature. The Island on which the mill stands have become a rich wildlife habitat with areas of water, woodland, scrub and gardens attracting many species.
In 1978 a charity was formed to restore and preserve this unique site as an industrial museum. Thwaite Mills is now run by Leeds City Council.