There is some evidence (from old documents and maps) to suggest that there was an iron slitting mill at Stanley Bank in the late 18th century and that this was converted to a corn mill in the early to mid-19th century, before being demolished (probably around 1910) leaving behind few remains that can be easily seen.
The main aim of the project was to find and record any remains of the slitting mill. The mill was used to manufacture iron rods from iron bars which were being produced locally at Carr Mill a few kilometres to the north.
Earlier archaeological work at Stanley Bank, which took place in 1982 and 1983, found a wheel pit where a wooden water wheel would have operated. However, at this time we believe that slitting mills would usually have had at least two water wheels to power their machinery. One of the main aims of the archaeological surveys in 2006, 2007 and 2008 was therefore to find and investigate the slitting mill’s second wheel pit.
These surveys did identify the place where a second water wheel would have operated. This was on the opposite (south) side of the slitting mill building. They also found that this second wheel pit had probably been filled in when the mill was converted from slitting to corn at some time between 1800 and 1824. This work also found that the slitting mill may have had not two, but three water wheels (two on the north side and one on the south side) whereas the corn mill had only one. By careful examination of the stone blocks against which the wheels would have rubbed when working, it was also possible to estimate their size.
The final stages of the project have been to collate all the evidence available so far and to create a 3D model of the site ‘reconstructing’ first the slitting mill and then the corn mill to illustrate what Stanley Bank might have looked like as a busy centre of industry.
Most of the evidence found tells about the first mill at Stanley Bank which was used to make iron rods. Much less has been found so far that gives us information about the later corn mill. When the mills were demolished much of the building material seems to have been removed and the site was covered by a thick layer of clay and waste materials.
It is important to remember that there may be other evidence buried at the site as there are still areas that have not been investigated. Further archaeological surveys will hopefully provide more information about other possible buildings and the lives of those who worked and lived there in the past. Historical records may also provide further clues, but so far no drawings, paintings or photographs have been found of either mill.
The archaeological survey, interpretation and restoration work that has been undertaken at Stanley Bank aims to make the site and its heritage accessible to local residents and visitors who are interested in St Helens’ industrial history and its wider significance. The slitting mill at Stanley Bank and similar sites were important in the development and spread of industry across the region. However, as the region has changed, evidence of the area’s past industry and how and where people lived has often been lost. The Stanley Bank project offers a unique window on the past as there are now no standing iron slitting mills remaining in Britain.