Our Workshop History

The Needles

Hathersage - a picturesque village in the Peak District, Barn Field – the very essence of countryside components, what could be more bucolic than that?  Well if you go back 200 hundred years then the answer is probably almost anything.

There were at least five mills in the village feeding off abundant water power and the wealth of nearby natural resources including gritstone and lead. By the time Charlotte Bronte came to stay with her friend Ellen Nussey at Hathersage Vicarage between 1845 and 1847, several of them were producing needles and so have been immortalised as 'Mr Oliver's needle factory' in Morton in the novel Jane Eyre.

Samuel Cocker, who had been apprenticed to a Manchester needle maker, set up in the trade at Hathersage in 1810. He possibly held an interest in Barnfield Mill on the Hood Brook, sharing the premises with Robert Cook, a wire drawer who moved from Studley in 1811 and within 10 years was operating as Robert Cook & Co. of Barnfield Works. Cook produced cast steel wire, needles and gill pins. Barnfield was one of only three firms worldwide to manufacture hackle pins for combing wool and raising the nap on cloth. Needles, in presentation boxes, produced at Barnfield Mill were on show in the Paris Exhibition in 1851

Fifty years after arriving in Hathersage, Robert Cook had 100 employees including 20 children. One nine-year-old girl told the Children's Employment Commission of 1862 that she was at work shaping umbrella ribs from 6 am to 7 pm. One 11-year-old boy said that he sometimes worked a 15-hour day. Barnfield Mill became the Hathersage Works in 1873 and is identified as manufacturing ‘Needles’ on the Ordnance Survey map of 1898. It had ceased trading by 1900.

In recent times a joinery workshop was established in the Peak Boxes wing before standing empty before its present incarnation and the remainder of the mill buildings house a busy garage workshop.  The mill chimney and engine house which once housed the water powered beam engine are still standing as testimony to the industrial heritage of the area.