Aerial Pictures

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These aerial views largely dwell on the two Benthams industrial heritage. The majority of the pictures are drawn from the Angus collection but there is also an interesting picture owned by W.J. Thornton showing Wenning Silks in great detail and another showing the Ford Ayton Silk Mill at Low Bentham in the 1950s. Sadly I know of no photograph showing the western tip of Low Bentham covering the Punch Bowl, Cedar House School, Low Bentham Church and the area downstream of the church that would cover the route of the old Roman road from Ribchester via Robert Hall to Casterton and beyond. The current joint population of the villages is about 3,000 (2013) with about 700 living in Low Bentham.

The Angus pictures are invaluable in that they are not only a visual record of the development of the factory from 1923 to the 1960s but also a record of the development of High Bentham in the twentieth century. They cover a period from the early days of Goodenber Road (once known as New Street) to a time immediately prior to the rapid expansion of the Banks Way, Banks Rise and Grasmere Drive development in the 1960s. It is also interesting to note the location of the gas holders on the Angus site, the railway sidings and the roof top factory car park on the art deco style building constructed in the 1920s. Later this was replaced by an additional storey.

The Wenning Silks picture, taken in 1955, shows a steam train leaving Bentham Station but more interestingly Hillcroft (or Bentham House) is clearly visible together with the stable block on what is now the area covered by the tennis courts and the playground. The picture also gives a vivid impression of the magnitude of the mill which in the 1860s had 700 employees. It processed flax and later artificial silk and closed about 1974. The weir that originally supplied power to the mill and created a pool deep enough for use by Bentham Amateur Swimming Club can be seen downstream of Wenning Bridge.

The Ford Ayrton picture shows similar angled roof-lights. The factory and was bought by the Ford Family for their thriving ‘Real Silk’ business in 1877. It closed about 1970. Note the allotments, the mill race and the rose garden with a footbridge linking the mill and the village.