Last week we visited the wonderful Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds. Don’t worry, I’m not going all Fred Dibnah on your ass but I will be singing the praises of industrial revolution heavy metal, incredible artistry and bygone age.
Armley Mills sits unassumingly on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool canal in a part of the city that has seen better days. Clearly it was once at the heart of the action, but things have moved on and the enormous mill complex still sits proudly, elegantly even; a potent symbol of the birth of the city that now exists: all modern and hoity toity, forgetful of its past.
This proud mill is home to an eclectic collection of industrial revolution evidence. Enormous weaving machines still trundle, doing the job they were designed to do over a century ago, solid printing presses stand frustratingly still, evidencing Leeds’ heritage in this industry. Huge iron beasts sit in their rust waiting patiently for their time to come again. Unknown histories dwell in the machinery, a lifetime away from the hustle and bustle of a city famous for forgetting its heritage as quickly as possible.
This resting place is home to iron steam giants, locomotives built in the city by firms long gone: engineering ingenuity and brute strength forgotten and unvalued. Wandering around this engaging and lovingly curated assembly, the question at the front of my mind was can this collection of yesteryear tell us anything about the city we live in today? Leeds was at the forefront of invention and ambition and the sheer effort and intelligence required to build and develop this technology surely inspires the inventors and innovators of today. I think there’s no difference between software developers working on a life-changing iPhone app and a steam engineer refining one of his engines. Maybe I’m going off on one, but take a visit and see for yourself.
There’s also currently a lovely temporary exhibition in Armley Mills featuring renowned Leeds Clock maker Potts Clocks. The Leodiensian horologists (now I am going off on one) are famous for providing pretty much all of the public clocks in the city and across the country. Their distinctive trademark hour hand is easy to spot and there is much satisfaction to be gained spotting these elegant timepieces around Leeds. There is a melancholy but satisfying air to the ticking, whirring machinery, seconds and minutes marked off efficiently, as if they were insignificant, easy to retrieve.
Worth a visit, if you can find the time.