Friday, 18 November 2011

The Village, Part One

Architects sketch of the Village
Making  Plans

It's a rather large leap to go from cotton mill Master to model village* owner and it might surprise you to know that the seed of the idea actually came from Margaret's brother, Fred.
We were walking back from the opera one evening, Dolores and I walking a few paces behind Margaret and her brother, when he made an off hand remark about the strikes in Milton and wasn't it a shame that we couldn't move the mill to Helstone, where the practices of the other mills wouldn't affect us.
She said nothing to me at the time but the comment obviously germinated an idea. It wasn't until the trip home when she broached the subject with me. I came up on deck to find her leaning over the railings looking rather sad. I thought that perhaps she was missing her brother already, or even dreading returning to Milton. After Spain's sunny skies and dry heat, the Milton climate would come as a shock even to me.

To my immense relief, she assured me, that she was simply in thought and explained what Fred had said.
When Mr Bell died he left Margaret not only his property portfolio and bank accounts, he also had a number of speculations that Margaret benefited from. As many failed as made money, but some paid off spectacularly and besides letting it pile up in our bank account, we were at a loss for what to do with the money.
Of course it was a long way from having some assets and a large bank balance to being able to afford to build a whole village, but without knowing the costs involved, we had to do our best to not to get too deeply involved in the plan in case we did not have the funds to do it.
As soon as we arrived back in England we set about getting a complete valuation of Mr Bell's portfolio from our bank manager, Mr Latimer, and hiring a firm of architects to accurately plan and cost the development.
It took a while for the architects, Anderson & Sons, to complete the proposal and we had to reign our ideas in a time or two (I believe Margaret would have given each worker their own mansion given the opportunity) but we knew that the price we were eventually given was as accurate as possible and we had accounted for as many possibilities as was humanly possible.
Initially we were upset because even if we had liquidated all of our assets and sold Marlborough Mill, we still could not afford it. Mr Anderson then went on to explain that the whole project would take six years, start to finish, which sparked an idea in me.
I did not say anything to Margaret at the time lest I get her hopes up only to dash them again, but alone in my office I began to work out some figures.

I knew that we could rethink our plans, build a smaller mill, employ fewer people and therefore need less housing in the village but we wanted to make a real difference in peoples lives and the more we could employ and house in our village, the better. 
The architects drawing of the mill
We could afford to build the new mill outright and perhaps half of the village so I wondered; if the Mill could begin operation at less than full capacity, it would begin to pay for itself. We could then move only our existing workers over to the new village and start operation immediately. I worked out that with the profits of not only the mill, but also the income from the housing, we could afford the whole project, providing that we did not move too quickly.
I spoke to Mr Anderson and we devised a way that the housing could be built in stages. The first stage would house the existing mill employees and I could move our existing equipment over without incurring too much overhead.
The darkened area shows the first phase of building
Then in stage two, we would double the housing and the machinery at the mill, doubling our workforce. Each stage was managed and timed to give us a little leeway to build up a cushion of cash again before proceeding with the next stage. Another positive of doing it this was was that if had there been any problems with our expansion plans, such as the markets taking another down turn, building work could even be halted or delayed for a while.
Of course that meant that some facilities would not be available to the workers immediately, such as a hospital, shops, a church and a purpose built school, but we managed to find ways around those issues.
For the hospital, we were not so very far out of Milton that they could not seek help there, besides, most doctors and hospitals charged for their services and as such, our workers were used to seeing to their own needs in all but the most severe of circumstances.
The first Town Hall, which had many functions in the village
As for the school and church, we built a small community hall that could be used as a school during the week and, after seeking permission from his bishop, one of the reverends with whom Mr Hale had been friendly agreed that he or his Rector would conduct two services on a Sunday and one on a Wednesday evening in the community hall.
We then forged agreements with local shopkeepers that they would visit the village with a cart of wares regularly. The grocer and butcher came daily, while the cobblers visited only once a week.
In time all these facilities would be on hand in the village, our eventual population being in the region of five thousand, but with only three hundred workers and perhaps a total of five hundred total population, it just wasn't feasible in the beginning.
The architects had already found us a suitable plot of land that the railway line already intersected, saving us the cost of building an extension to the line and meaning that we only had to build an extension to the canal, which despite the popularity of railways is still how most raw cotton is transported out of Liverpool.
Needless to say Margaret was ecstatic with this plan and shortly afterwards, we broke ground on the site.
Next: Our new home, Rose Cottage

To find out more about our village, please avail yourselves of a copy of Northern Light, available in paperback and ebooks formats on-
And you can visit Miss Winchester's website here.  

[*The model village described in Northern Light and in this post is based heavily on Saltaire village, build by Sir Titus Salt for the employees of his woollen mill. I could not find any information on how the village was built so I had to use my imagination on that score. All pictures, sketches and plans of the the village are actual images of Saltaire]

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