Posted by: dianesims | November 25, 2016

The week that broke our hearts, but not our spirit

Newsome Mill after the fireNewsome is recovering from the fire at Newsome Mill

In the aftermath of the terrible fire that destroyed the main four-storey building at Newsome Mills, our community are supporting each other in coming to terms with our loss.

Along with many people who live in Newsome or who grew up here, we are heartbroken by the destruction of Newsome Mill, and we’re deeply shocked that the lives of our friends, families and neighbours have been so recklessly put at risk.

But what we have seen in the week following this tragedy is an outpouring of affection for our lost mill, and a determination to help each other to hang on to what we have left. We have also seen new friendships forged in the embers of Newsome Mill, and a community spirit that cannot be extinguished. We are proud to call Newsome our home.

Residents who coped with the shock of the fire itself, followed by the great sadness of seeing the towering walls of our mill demolished later that same day, have also had to deal with an uneasy wait to hear whether we would lose even more. For the past week, the fate of the iconic clock tower at Newsome Mills has hung in the balance, along with the other Grade II Listed buildings that remained standing after the fire.

For nine years, members of Newsome Ward Community Forum have been working to protect these much-loved mill buildings at the heart of our community. We began the Newsome Mills Campaign in 2007 after Newsome’s iconic clock fell silent during work to clear parts of the site. Residents were eager to know what was going on and asked for our help. Since then, our community have remained keen to hear their familiar clock chiming again, and we have become greatly concerned about the ongoing deterioration of the buildings.

This strength of feeling is demonstrated by the fact that Newsome residents have kept a vigil on the clock tower day and night throughout the week, whilst the demolition equipment has stood ominously nearby. It’s heartening to know that hundereds of people have signed up to the SaveTheClock facebook group created by Helen Kingston, and thousands have sought information from local blogs. People have also been keen to share their memories and photos of the mill, and we hope to collect more of these to make sure that our heritage isn’t lost along with the mill.

After everything we’ve been through this week, we were delighted to receive the news from Kirklees Council today that the iconic clock tower at Newsome Mills “does not form a health and safety risk and whilst requiring some work it most certainly does not require demolition.” Repair work will be carried out in the future, which will require Listed Building Consent.

This means that all the remaining Grade II Listed buildings at Newsome Mills have now been declared safe. Not only our iconic clock tower, but also the weaving sheds, the gateway arch, the gate lodge and the office building can all stay, along with the surviving ground floor walls of Newsome Mill.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service, not only for saving our families and our homes, but for protecting what could be saved of our local heritage.

During our campaign over the years, we’ve dealt with other fires, theft, vandalism, flytipping, threats to destroy important heritage assets on the site and much more. With the help of The Examiner, we recovered the mill’s stolen war memorial in 2008. We secured national recognition for the building by getting Newsome Mill onto the Victorian Society’s list of Top Ten Endangered Victorian Buildings in the country. We’ve had some celebrations and some dark days along the way but, thankfully, we’ve never had to live through a week like this before.

It’s been a long journey already, and we know that today is just the start of the many years of hard work that are still to come. But we also know that local residents will support each other in doing it. We know that many people who grew up in Newsome or who have connections to Newsome Mill are full of enthusiasm and ideas too. We need all those people now to help us keep a watch on the buildings and be active in reporting any suspicious activity to the police. We choose to be hopeful.

This week broke our hearts, but it didn’t break our spirit. We may feel vulnerable without our mill looking down over us, but the community that grew up around Newsome Mill is still here. And we’re still going to campaign for a future for Newsome Mills.

Diane Sims
Newsome Mills Campaign co-ordinator

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