Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
It’s a favourite landmark of mine, the Bliss Tweed Mill, on the edge of Chipping Norton. I’ve been past it so many times I’m no longer shocked by its bizarre but rather wonderful architecture – like an Italianate country house of the 1870s, mostly, but with its chimney rising through a central circular tower and dome. The architect was George Woodhouse and he built the mill, indeed in the 1870s, for Bliss and Sons and succeeded in giving it a palatial look in its crease of the landscape in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. With its square corner towers it looks like a big house by an architect like Barry, but inside there are cast-iron columns, just as you’d expect in a Victorian mill.
It was only after I got to know Bliss Mill that I realised that Geoge Woodhouse had designed another, much larger and better known factory, the Victoria Mill, at Miles Platting in Manchester near the Rochdale Canal. Victoria is a vast, two-part cotton-spinning mill. The two parts share a central engine house which has a chimney and stair tower similar to those at Chipping Norton. Victoria Mill, in fact, came just before Bliss Mill, so perhaps it was where Woodhouse first utilized this bright idea. Both these mills have now been converted for new uses – residential here at Chipping Norton, mixed use at Miles Platting. Both retain their magnificent chimneys. And don’t let me hear any of you comparing their unusual form to that of a sink plunger…