Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire


Bliss

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…

3 comments:

Bill Nicholls said...

Never thought of it but now you mention it. Seen the place in passing once

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Wonderful how a well-made factory can actually enhance the landscape - how can we share that fact with the agencies putting up those boxes covered in metal that pass for industrial parks? Even a less beautiful factory sits well in a fold in the hills - as in South Wales Valleys. Recently visited Queen's Mill, Castleford, Yorkshire, where they used to make Allinson's Stone Ground Flour: very impressive and tough ironwork without spoiling the real architecture of the exterior. I'm wondering yet again why we can't learn from the past.

Kevin-Andrew Cronin said...

Why did you have to mention the words sink plunger? I can't get this visual out of my mind now. However, it is a wonderful, if not interesting architectural treasure to say the least.