PLANS to reopen mothballed textile mills have been thrown into fresh doubt.

English Heritage has announced it has turned down the chance to take charge of Queen Street Mill and Helmshore Textile Mill, which closed last year.

But campaigners have said they will now redouble their efforts to convince other potential funders the venues have a viable future.


Lancashire County Council had been in talks with English Heritage over the Burnley and Helmshore sites, but have now withdrawn.

Museum supporters are now preparing to lobby Historic England, the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund as they seek to secure their reopening.

The venues, closed as part of the council's ongoing savings programme, are only open for school visits, although there are staff on hand to maintain machinery.

Burnley historian Roger Frost said: "I am disappointed English Heritage has not recognised how utterly unique Queen Street Mill actually is.

"They certainly have the resources to successfully run the museum and they should have recognised the significance of the collection there, which is of national importance.

"If Historic England is interested though, organisations such as Burnley Civic Trust and the Briercliffe Society would be happy to get involved with organising bids to the Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund."

Grade I-listed Queen Street is home to the last surviving 19th Century steam-powered weaving mill and was used as a backdrop for the King's Speech film in 2010.

Beryl Rostron, chairman of the Friends of Helmshore Textile Museum, said: "We've got many loyal supporters and we were hoping for a better outcome from this.

"There's not a lot we can do at the moment in terms of fundraising because we don't know what's going to happen there. But we are optimistic that a solution can be found and we are still recruiting new members."

Keith Wilson, a trustee for Higher Mill, at Helmshore, and friends group secretary, said: "It is not just about keeping it open as a museum to me, it's keeping it open as a working museum which can inspire youngsters about our textile heritage."

The trust was also considering making an approach to Andy Ogden, managing director of Manchester-based English Fine Cottons, to see if he had an interest in Helmshore's future.

Helmshore is already home to a collection of historic textile machinery belonging to Platt International, which was based locally.

Phil Barrett, county council community services director, said: "We have been working very closely to support English Heritage in considering whether Queen Street Mill and Helmshore Textile Museum could become part of the national portfolio of sites which they own and operate.

"Their decision not to proceed with this is obviously not what we had hoped for.

"At the same time, English Heritage has made clear that they and their colleagues at Historic England recognise the great significance of the two mills, and have proposed that we meet with Historic England to see if there may be another sustainable way of keeping the buildings and their machinery safe and open to the public.

"They have also offered to talk to their counterparts at the Arts Council for England and the Heritage Lottery Fund to see if they may be able to help towards a solution.

"In the meantime, we will continue our care and maintenance regime for the mills and look forward to meeting with Historic England at the earliest opportunity."

An English Heritage spokesman said: "We were disappointed to hear that Queen Street and Helmshore mills were likely to close and so we looked at whether we could take on the management of the mills.

"However after careful consideration we concluded that as a new charity undertaking a major conservation programme on the sites already in our care, we are simply not in a position to take on the costs of running and maintaining the mills."

English Heritage is the custodian of more than 400 historic venues nationwide. Historic England is responsible for protecting designated buildings and sites.