Queen St Mill is a Grade 1 listed marvel. Its classical sandstone mill building and giant brick chimney dominate the Pennine skyline. It is the country’s last remaining steam driven mill, in its day a technical wonder that powered Britain to its position as the world’s leading industrial nation in the 19th century. Innovatively funded by public subscription, some local weavers became shareholders, securing their own looms on which to weave. In its heyday, Queen St Mill housed over 1,000 working Lancashire cotton looms.

Today the mill is a fascinating living museum, staffed by knowledgeable, passionate and phenomenally skilled staff who still weave on the original looms. The pirns whirr, the looms clack, and the original steam engine provides a thumping bass line to an auditory assault that gives a sense of life as a Victorian textile worker. 

The centrepieces are the weaving shed and the gigantic steam engine ‘ Peace’ (ironically named as anyone who has stood next to it when its running will attest), all polished steel and gleaming red and black enamel it sits in green tiled splendour at the heart of the museum. 

It has always been important to Community Clothing to work with young local creatives. We want to help build pathways into jobs of all kinds, not just manufacturing. So we’re delighted to work with marketing, textiles and photography students at Blackburn College, Burnley College and at UCLAN in Preston.

We asked a group of final year Fashion Promotion & Marketing students at UCLan to come up with editorial ideas that told the story of the people or places they felt best characterised the community. Emily Owen, Caitlyn Appleton, Grace Marchant and Katy Darragh styled and directed this shoot at Queen St Mill, and it was photographed by Ella Thomson. We loved Ella’s photos so much we’ve commissioned her to shoot three other living factories for us.  

We’d like to send a huge thank you to Lancashire Museums and the lovely staff at Queen Street Mill for their bravery and for looking so fantastic in their Community Clothing clobber.