The UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities, McCarthy Stone, has unveiled a plaque at its Portland Grange development in Leek, commemorating the sites long history as a former silk mill.
The Portland Grange Retirement Living development on Portland Street is located on the site of Portland Mill – a textiles mill which for over 150 years was owned and operated by multiple generations of the Worthington family.
A domestic silk industry was established in Leek by the 1670s with silk buttons as the staple trade. Leek’s thriving silk industry continued to develop in the 19th century when several silk mills were built. A J Worthington’s Portland Mill was one of them making silk sewing threads, braids, cords, bindings and trimmings and later, parachute cords during the Second World War.
Ensuring that the history of A.J Worthington’s iconic Portland Mill building, was not lost, the design of Portland Grange incorporates a number of original features of the building including parts of the original façade and bridge. The plaque, located on the main entrance to the development recognises the Worthington family’s contribution to the town as well as commemorating the hundreds of people who worked there.
The plaque was unveiled by local historian Cathryn Walton, whose grandfather spent time working at the mill – she said:
“I’m thrilled to have been invited to unveil this plaque to commemorate the history of this important Leek landmark” said Cathryn. “The mill holds a special place in my heart as my grandfather, Horace Pickford, worked there as a braid tenter. He delighted in showing us the intricately woven braids, produced on the braid machines and I feel honoured that he and so many hundreds of other mill workers will be remembered in this way.”
John Russell, Vice Chairman of the Leek and District Civic Society said:
“We appreciate the decision to install this plaque on a building that has played such an important part in our town’s history. We place a huge importance on remembering the mill and the people who worked there and this plaque is tribute to that.”
Fiona Brooks, Regional Sales and Marketing Director for McCarthy Stone, North Division, said:
“Here at McCarthy Stone, we recognise that our responsibilities go further than building high-quality retirement apartments – we also seek to create a positive legacy in the communities in which we build.
“Ensuring that we retained as much of the history of the mill building was very important to us and with the unveiling of this plaque we hope to keep that history alive for our homeowners and the people of Leek for many years to come.”