North West England Mill locations Print

Helmshore Mill Textile Museum, Helmshore, Rossendale

Helmshore: Lancashire Museums website

Spinning the web: Helmshore Mills


Click on any image to enlarge - all photographs on this page taken by Ali


This area on the ground floor was used for opening the cotton bales, feeding it into the 'devils' and blending the cotton ready for carding. The 'devil' is a machine which separates the cotton from any hard waste products. The rotating cylinders in the machine would build up friction as they divide up the fine cotton fibres. It would be an uncomfortable, noisy and hot area with an enormous fire risk. Note the fire buckets at regular intervals in the pictures below.


Margaret Hale walks through this area in episode one on her way to meet Thornton for the first time.

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Below you can see the carding and spinning room on the upper floor. The second photograph shows the area where Thornton repeatedly punched Stephens, whilst Margaret and Bessie looked on.

The workers would be barefoot as they worked on the spinning mules in order to avoid friction on the floors and a potential fire risk. Children would scamper underneath the machines to collect remnants of cotton fluff which can be reused (this is shown below from the first episode of N&S). We were told that workers using these mules could walk 15-20 miles a day just walking back and forth with their machines.

The fluff in the air was created using blizzard candles, so it's not cotton! Thornton ran alongside the spinning mules whilst pursuing Stephens and also at the end of episode one where he is seen in silhouette walking amongst the cotton fluff 'I've believe I've seen hell and it's white, it's snow white'.

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The mill office at the far end of the carding and spinning room was used as Thornton's office in the TV series.

The BBC were at Helmshore for just 3 days of filming.

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Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, Harle Syke, Burnley

Queen St: Lancashire Museums website


The weaving looms at Queen St were the first machines that Margaret Hale came across as she opened the factory door. During our demonstration only one loom was working and the noise was deafening. This room contains just over 300 looms so the noise must have been unbearable. Weavers soon learned to lip read in order to hold a conversation.

Thornton's platform was constructed about half way down the factory floor as seen below. When chasing Stephens, he ran from the middle of the room shown below towards the point where the photo was taken. His path continued at Helmshore, alongside the spinning mules (described above).

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The picture below shows our guide, Conrad Varley, who appeared in N&S as seen in the screen capture below. He informed us that he was the only one actually doing any weaving during filming, the other extras were just pretending!

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Queen St Mills still has some working looms and sells its products to vendors around the world. It is believed to be the last steam powered weaving mill in the world.

The BBC were at Queen St for just 3 days of filming.


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Dalton Mills, Keighley

Dalton Mills Blogspot


Dalton Mills is not a working museum, but is privately owned. Some of the buildings are let to commercial ventures and parts of the property are under refurbishment. The Mills was actually a woollen mill rather than cotton and catered for all aspects of that industry, from carding, spinning, weaving through to finishing.

This property was used for exterior shots of Marlborough Mills and filming took place here for about three weeks in 2004.


The Yard

The stonework has been cleaned to its original colour since the BBC filmed there.

A plinth was attached to the building seen below on the left, which was used as the main exit from the factory in the TV series. The hexagonal office next to the gate was used during filming as one of John's offices. It's from that office that he observes Higgins and the boy sitting on the plinth and reading, waiting for Higgins to finish his shift in episode four.

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Although the doors are still green, they have been repainted so that you can no longer see the lettering of Marlborough Mills, although for quite a while after filming these letters were still visible. A panel with the wine merchant's sign was placed outside the entrance to obscure the road behind.

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The door on the left in the picture below was used as the entrance to the canteen. This is now housing a business which constructs wind turbines for domestic use, a step away from the wool and cotton industry then!

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The small green door in the middle of the picture below is the one Thornton secured when protecting his Irish workers in episode two. You can see some rioters knocking against that door below right.

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The Thornton's house

This was never a dwelling, but actually one of the engine rooms that supplied power to the mill.

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Notice that the second window was put in by the film makers as this is actually a loading bay door.

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The picture below is from the window that John and his mother stand in front of when observing the yard.  John and Margaret also stand there whilst watching the rioters below.

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The roof of 'the Thornton's house' has been replaced and the building may be converted into a gymnasium. The second picture shows inside the top floor of the building, previously an engine room.




More pictures in the North and South Location gallery

Comments (20)
  • sunny  - love

    I wish I can go there!

  • Susan H  - Details of North and south

    These are exactly the little details a fan wants to see! Thanks what fun!

  • fabbo  - fantastic

    Tks so much for putting all this together- its so interesting seeing behind the scenes and its even better when the shows are such great renditions of the novels etc - I've got to say theres a lot of v good TV coming out of the UK- and the attention to historical detail (as demonstrated by these fascinating pix) is wonderous - cheers

    You're welcome. Soon there will be more pictures from Edinburgh and other N&S locations, I'm putting it together now.

  • Leigh  - Edinburgh

    I will have to plan a trip to include Milton and the other ones on this page.

    As far as Edinburgh.. well I used to live there so recognise everywhere. Calton Hill where Margaret Hale walked with a view of High St.. That is the place to be on a beautiful sunny day in Edinburgh. Also when she is London her house is found on Queen st in Newtown of Edinburgh. Funny seeing it again as I used to walk past there every day to and from work.

    If anyone can get to Edinburgh it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!!! Definitely worth many visits not one. Especially with a visit up into the highlands...

    I think I sound like the Scottish Tourist Board now.....


    Thanks for your comment Leigh. I'm currently compiling a selection of Edinburgh location photos which will appear here soon.

  • labera  - well done

    What can I say, awesome!!!!

    N&S is lose to my heart and it was great to be there


    Lots of Armitage fans in Argentina



  • weaselle

    I'm so jealous of you who live in the UK and can go see all these wonderful places! But the next best thing to visiting in person is to experience it vicariously through your web page. :lol: Thanks so much for the very interesting and well-done photo documentary. Loved all the explanations and how you put the screencaps side-by-side with the location shots. Great stuff!

    Thank you very much! I'm currently working on a similar page showing Edinburgh locations used in N&S which will go live soon. Ali

  • Melyssa  - Fascinating!

    I love seeing stuff like this. Nice job with the pictures. Thanks for putting them up!

    Thanks for your comment Melyssa. Ali

  • Phylly3  - great shots

    I wish I had found these pictures sooner! Wonderful job documenting the mill location!

  • eliza

    Thank you. Also check out website, it also show the exterior shots of the Higgins/Boucher areas. And the steps where Margaret is almost crushed by the workers

  • Zaren  - Impressive

    Amazing architecture and great job with the cinematography... :cheer:

  • Yellow Rose

    Great job ladies. I almost felt like I was back at the mills again. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks from those of us in's so interesting to see the actual film locations. Lucky you to be enjoying them first hand. :)

  • rivercup  - Amazing

    Loved the snaps of the mill interior!
    Thanks for sharing the pics of the trip.

  • thornton  - WOW

    Wow. Thanks for the fascinating article and the pictures. I love N & S :kiss:

  • RAddled  - Excellent

    The pics and screencaps are great - in fact the whole piece is excellent. I visited all locations last year but it was still good to *revisit*.

    Thanks for the trip and congrats to all on a brilliant fansite to Richard. Hope there are more trips to come! Let me know - I might join you if you want me that is! :whistle:

  • Juney  - Lovely Job

    You have made a great job of this and finding the appropriate screen caps shows your dedication. A really lovely job.

  • emerald  - Yay!

    Another terrific addition to the site. Beautifully done - thanks ladies!

  • dmania  - trip to Mills

    Ladies, thank you for sharing this with us. It is interesting and very imformative.

  • maichi  - Very complete!

    Watching the pictures I've revived again several scenes of the series.
    Thanks so much for sharing!.

  • Sandy  - Brilliant

    Fascinating article & fabulous pictures. Thanks heaps for sharing what must have been a great day wandering around in N&S! :)

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