In 1827 William Madgen was running a business as a woollen and linen draper in the
town. By 1834, he had become a woollen manufacturer, living in the big house Greencroft,
which is now the hospital and having “ his weaving establishment in the town but
his carding, dressing and fulling mills on Haltwhistle burn and above these works
a spinning mill which was formally a dyeing mill belonging to a different firm.”
(Hodgson 1840) According to this source, the woollen business “is now owned by Mr.
Thomas Bell but is rented to Mr. William Madgen”. Presumably Madgen took the lease
of the High and Low Mills after Thomas Bell’s retirement. The mention of the “other
firm” which ran the dyeing mill remains a puzzle.
By 1841, Madgen was sharing Greencroft with a young man by the name of John Pattinson,
also listed as a woollen manufacturer.
Left: Greencroft, home of William Madgen and now Haltwhistle’s War Memorial Hospital
By 1848 Pattinson had become a partner in the firm of Madgen and Pattinson. The partnership
did not last long as, two years later, John Pattinson and George Pattinson “the younger”
took on the lease of the two mills belonging to the estate of Thomas Bell (not
the woollen manufacturer who was still alive, but the owner of the Mills- presumably
a descendent of the 1713 Thomas Bell). These are without question the Low and High
Mills. By 1856 William Madgen appears to have transferred his manufactory to Bardon
Mill and by 1856 is listed in the directory as “William Madgen, Woollen Manufacturer,
works at Bardon Mill”. John Pattinson has his own entry as a woollen manufacturer.
One particularly valuable document is an indenture made in 1850 between the Lords
and Ladies of the manor and the trustee of Thomas Bell (land-owner) It is for the
use of the water of the Burn – “for the manufacture of articles for sale by wholesale”
in one of the two mills- Low Mill. The fee for the water is 2s..6d to be paid each
year on Christmas day.
What makes this information so fascinating is that Joseph Saint, in his letter of
1837, complained to Robert Bower, Lord of the Manor and owner of the water rights
on the Burn, that “ there is a Gentleman commenced Dyeing in opposition to the interests
of your situation and contrary to an agreement you have in your possession as they
have to pay 2/-6 per year for the water they use for their mill on condition that
they do not come in contact with the interests of neither of your mills that is to
say the Corn mill and Fulling mill and this gentleman has commenced very much against
Mr. Bell’s mind, that is his landlord”
Was this “Gentleman” William Madgen? He would have been regarded as a gentleman since
he clearly had money and servants and lived in the grandest house in the town. Which
of the two mills does the complaint refer to? The agreement in the indenture is a
renegotiation of an old agreement which was destroyed by fire and refers to the Low
Mill. So far no evidence of any agreement for water for the High Mill has come to
One further fact can be gleaned from the indenture. The Low Mill formerly belonged
to John Reay and Daniel Coats. Records from Coanwood Friends Meeting House show that
these two men were prominent Quakers often asked to represent their fellows at meetings
sometimes as far afield as London. So here at last we have found the “two worthy
Quakers” who built Low Mill.
John Reay , one of the
pictured by Keith Nevens
Madgen joined a new partner, Scott and continued to manufacture at Bardon Mill. The
1871 census finds him in a “retirement cottage” in Haltwhistle, now blind. He died
William Madgen’s “retirement cottage, formerly occupied by his mother .
The Mill at Bardon Mill was purchased by William Waddell, proprietor of Otterburn
Mill, and refitted with new equipment. It burnt down in 1876 to the considerable
financial loss of Mr. Waddell. The derelict building was bought by Mr. Errington
and Mr. Reay of the brick works in Haltwhistle and is still producing traditional
salt-glazed ware as Errington Reay & Co Ltd. Bardon Mill.