Special Report by Ken Bennett
THE GIANT metal arm stretched skywards arching ready to tear down a piece of history…
There was an almost a hushed reverence of anticipation as the machine quietly trundled towards the gaunt, charred and blackened building of Bailey Mill in Delph.
Locals of all ages, some compelled to vacate their homes a few hundred yards away when the mill was ravaged by an inferno just 24 hours earlier, stood in watchful silence.
They were all witnesses to a requiem for a 153-year relationship which ended at 9.03pm when the once-proud mill frontage disappeared in clouds of dust.
Katie Mallalieu stood quietly watching the life ebb from the landmark that was built by her forebears, David and Henry, her grandfather, Frank, then to her father, David.
At 34, Katie quit teaching two years ago to join the family business and, eyes misting over, she said: “It took four hard years to build this mill.
“The mill was my playground… I spent my childhood here. Think of the thousands of locals who worked here, made friends here and married here over the years.
“Look at the stones,” she said as they tumbled earthwards. “I see them as tape recorders to the soul and everything that has gone on here.”
Earlier, I sat with Bailey Mill owners, the Gledhill brothers John, Bruce, and Peter, at Pingle Mill, on the other side of the village, where they produce some of the finest yarn in England.
“We just want to make sure all the people living in the vicinity of Bailey Mill who had to move out when fire broke out are safety back in their homes,” said Peter.
But they are deeply moved by the devastating blaze and loss of the mill. “It’s a very sad day… So many people who worked there are upset too,” they added.
The mill on fire (pictures thanks to Paul Clegg)
Sadness resonated among residents on Delph New Road and Station Approach, where the mill was being reduced to a single storey frontage for heritage purposes.
Mark Wiggjns, the first resident to move into the development with his family, said: “One of our children, Thomas, is doing a project at school which focuses on the old Delph Station, the Delph Donkey and Bailey Mill.
“He’s certainly going to have some vivid memories of being here when the mill was demolished.”
Demolition contractor Peter Greenhalgh said: “Taking mills down with so much history is terribly sad. There is a genuine feeling of loss by everyone.”
The mechanical arm shuffled a retreat. There was no more stone to pull down. And fittingly, a gentle smattering of rain fell on the site: a final sad tribute to Bailey Mill.
A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life. He has been bailed pending further enquiries until 19 July 2016.
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 8427, 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.