Urban Futures Salford Manchester. Research in the City

Ellenroad Ring Mill

Ellenroad steams ahead with biomass

Ellenroad cotton mill was built in Milnrow, Rochdale in 1892 as a five storey, 100 yard long mill to house cotton production. To power production, an engine house was constructed in a separate building that contained 3000hp of steam engines until a switch to electrification in 1975. The mill was demolished in 1985 but the engines, boiler house and chimney remained.

To preserve and refurbish the engines and the boiler house, the Ellenroad Trust was set up as a limited company in 1985 and the site became a steam museum. The day to day activities of the museum are undertaken by the 20-30 strong volunteer group, The Ellenroad Steam Museum Society Co Ltd. Their work involves operating the engines and boilers, running visitor facilities such as the café and bookshop and maintaining buildings and machinery. The engine house is open for admission and sees steaming on the first Sunday of each month.

With the building only heated on the limited days that it was open to the public, causing physical deterioration of the building predominantly through condensation, the need for heating was quickly recognised. To address this need, consents were gained for a 198KW biomass boiler and heat system.

Installed in the summer of 2013, functioning by November and formally launched in 2014, this installation was undertaken as part of the Generating Success project. The launch was organized as a Green Fair day with stallholders on hand to answer questions on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

An Alternative?

The Ellenroad boiler scheme is interesting in the way it combines a long-term preservation and refurbishment project with a nationally funded, but locally delivered, programme of community renewables initiatives.

The 18-month Generating Success scheme was launched in the Spring of 2012 and worked with four Trailblazer projects of which the Ellenroad initiative was one. It brought together three Greater Manchester organisations: GMCVO’s Community Hubs team who brought expertise in project development and management for communities; the Carbon Coop with experience of developing renewables’ supply chains; and MERCi’s Sustaining Change initiative with experience of supporting sustainable change. National government funding from DEFRA and support from Envirolink and the Energy Savings Trust was also provided.

An important consideration for the scheme was how to fund a heating system. The scheme utilised the national Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to pay the ongoing costs of buying biomass fuel. Grants paid for feasibility and enabling work and the heating cabin and fuel store were funded by donations. The Trust has aspirations to extend its renewables capacity in the future to include hydro and solar power.

This search for funding to maintain the building and its activities is an ongoing part of the Trust’s and Museum Society’s activities. Across its activities, Ellenroad has received Big Lottery Fund money, specific grants for the restoration of engines, various business donations for the maintenance of buildings and engines, numerous local authority donations for building maintenance, and heritage and preservation awards from professional bodies such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Association for Industrial Archaeology.

This ongoing search for funding creates pressure, but it has also resulted in new collaborations and social innovation. The need for funding resulted in organizations with complimentary expertise coming together to address the heating problem identified in the museum. 



This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

Photographs used by kind permission of The Ellenroad Steam Museum Society Co Ltd.

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