Established in 16th century as water-powered fulling mill, later working as both fulling and corn mill. Rebuilt 1788 reputedly as the largest fulling mill in the world but only about 44 metres long and of three storeys. Operated as public scribbling, carding and fulling mill before destruction by fire in 1805. Rebuilt 1805-7 on much larger scale (four storeys, twenty-three bays) by Benjamin Gott as fireproof mill, the earliest known such structure in the woollen branch and the oldest surviving Yorkshire example of the type in all branches; the mill has inverted T-section cast-iron beams, cylindrical cast-iron columns and brick arches. Other buildings include early 19th century heated cloth dryhouse of two storeys roofed with elaborate cast-iron trusses, remains of a gas-making plant, and housing for the mill tenant. Steam power added c1860.
The buildings are principally from Benjamin Gott's 1805 construction, with some 19th century infill and a little of the 1795 corn mill that hadn't been destroyed in the fire in 1804. The mill is l-shaped on sloping ground so varies between four storey and two storey. The main range runs north-south over the millrace and is 23 bays wide, build of ashlar stone with a hipped slate roof. It has a six bay easterly projection (downstream), known as the Corn Mill, built into the sloping ground which is thus two storeys high.
The mill was built to a fireproof design, The cast iron columns are circular and support brick floors build as shallow arches. In the earlier work that did survive the fire, wooden joists are isolated with sheet-iron which has been nailed to them. The roof structure in the main range was replaced in 1929 and is no longer to fireproof standards.
The mill race flows under the main range of the mill and at water level are 6 finely detailed arches with wrought iron grills. The 1788 mill was powered by 5 waterwheels. The 1805 mill was powered by two metal wheels, named Wellington and Blucher, heroes in the current fights against Napoleon. They were suspension wheels with rim-gearing as pioneered by Thomas Hewes. These wheels were rated at 70 horse power. A beam engine was introduced to supplement the wheels in 1855, The wheels were replaced and removed in 1885 but photographs do exist of them in situ. A further older wooden wheel that powered the cornmill is extant, but in need of attention.
In 1805 the mill was the world's largest woollen mill containing 18 fulling stocks and 50 looms.
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The Leeds Industrial Museum is housed inside Armley Mills.
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