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Mills of Northwest – Millscapes at Touchstones Rochdale

May '07
A major new exhibition that takes a fresh look at the industrial architecture of the North West, is currently showing at Touchstones Rochdale.

Millscapes runs until June 24 2007 and traces the development of the Mill from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution to today's changing skylines.

The exhibition features paintings and mill models from public and private collections around the region and is jointly curated by Touchstones Rochdale and Gallery Oldham.

The urban landscape of the North West owes much of its distinctive character to the textile industry. During Lancashire's great mill building era, which began in the 1790s, several thousand mill buildings crowded the region's skyline.

These mills, and the canal systems, aqueducts, warehouses and streets of terraced housing built with them, completely transformed the landscape.

Millscapes begins with scenes of the water-powered mills of the 19th Century. Paintings from this period focus on both rural and urban mill landscapes, rather than the people who worked in the mills.

Many of these early paintings are by unknown artists and depict mills such as 'Lowerhouse Printworks, Burnley' and 'Frenches Mill, Saddleworth.'

The introduction of electric power meant that mills built in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries no longer had to be sited close to rivers or reservoirs and many mills were built on the edge of existing urban developments.

Several massive mills close together, as shown in James Purdy's view of 'Millbottom,' Oldham (1935) became the norm. The resulting thick urnab smog that resulted from this kind of rapid industrial development is a feature of many paintings of the era such as French Impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette's 'Bailey Bridge, Manchester' (1912).

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