Gorton Mill site in Manchester given new lease of life as social housing for older people.

The site of a historic cotton mill that launched the career of Manchester’s first multi-millionaire has been given a new lease of life by Southway Housing Trust to provide vital social housing for older people.

The first residents are currently moving in at Gorton Mill House, built by Southway on the site of the former Gorton Mills, in Abbey Hey Lane.

The development will provide 106 high quality, low-carbon ‘With Care’ apartments for social rent for people aged 55 and over. Residents can enjoy landscaped gardens, a communal lounge and events room, laundry and can access a flexible range of 24-hour on-site care and support depending on their needs, as part of Southway’s ‘Age Friendly’ offer.

Among the first to move in are Gwen and Vic Nuttall, who have lived in Gorton all their lives and are delighted with their new home, having taken the opportunity to downsize and benefit from the flexible Age Friendly support available.

Gwen and Vic Nuttall. Photo: Southway Housing Trust

Gwen, who previously worked in education and also owned and ran several convenience stores and shops in Gorton, said: “The place is like a five-star hotel, it’s beautiful. The staff are really kind and thoughtful and I feel now that I’m safe – they have really thought about elderly people and it is well planned-out.

Vic, a retired black cab driver, added: “They have obviously considered everything when they designed it and we have a quiet balcony with a nice view for the summer. The process of moving here was simple and I would recommend it to other people without a doubt.”

As well as meeting a desperate need for housing with care in the area, Gorton Mill House has also transformed a brownfield site into a genuine asset for neighbours and families in the locality, who are welcome to use a new community café and a hair and nail salon included in the £17million development.

Gorton Mill House has created more than 100 high-quality new homes and a supportive environment tailored for older residents, while also providing new community facilities for our neighbours in the surrounding area to enjoy. This scheme was born from a great need and demand for With Care housing in this area and we are grateful to all our partners for helping us to realise our vision of transforming this historic but forgotten site. Most of all, we are delighted to welcome our new residents to their new homes.

Southway Housing Chief Executive Karen Mitchell
John Rylands ‘The Cotton King’ and the fascinating history of Gorton Mills

It is not the first time the Gorton Mill House site has been at the centre of housing and community facilities in the area. It was once home to the sprawling complex of three mills, which opened in 1825 during the city’s ‘Cottonopolis’ boom, as Manchester became the global centre of textile manufacturing and the world’s first industrial city.

The Gorton Mills site was subsequently acquired and significantly expanded into a fully integrated textile processing operation by John Rylands (1801-1888), the entrepreneur and philanthropist who would go on to become Manchester’s first multi-millionaire. The renamed Rylands Mill was the first site he owned in his own right, independent of his family’s business, and was key to him subsequently becoming the biggest and most successful cotton merchant in the country. He was a key backer of the Manchester Ship Canal and personally funded several civic and religious buildings in Greater Manchester.

Under Rylands, the Gorton Mills complex expanded from 700 employees to an estimated 5,000 people – hundreds of whom were children. In fact, there were so many youngsters working in the mill that Rylands opened a school in the grounds, as well as a library, news and reading room and a shop selling provisions at wholesale prices to the workers, many of whom lived in 121 cottages on the site.

The mill survived a serious fire in 1877 but as the region’s textile industry declined in the early part of the 20th century, the complex eventually closed and the site was cleared in 1935. High-rise local authority flats were built there in the 1960s, which were also demolished in 1997.

The land subsequently lay dormant until Southway was given the opportunity by Manchester City Council to regenerate the site in line with their shared objectives of providing more affordable and social homes in the city.

Following his death, his widow created the world famous John Rylands Library in his memory and his former estate at Longford Hall in Stretford subsequently became one of the region’s biggest public parks.

Gorton Mill House
Housing at Gorton Mill House. Photo: Southway Housing Trust

An archaeological survey, carried out by the University of Salford before construction work began, unearthed buried foundations and other structures from the original mills, along with artefacts left behind by workers such as beer and medicine bottles, ceramics and even one smoker’s clay pipe. Southway plans to put some of these items on display at Gorton Mill House to bring the area’s past and present together. 

Click here to view rare archive footage from the British Film Institute of workers leaving Rylands Mill in Gorton in 1900

One area where the new development drastically differs from its industrial past is in the use of renewable energy sources. Unlike the coal and steam-operated mills, the new apartments – 43 one-bedroom and 63 two-bedroom homes – will benefit from ground source heat pumps as an alternative to gas, as well as solar panels and electric vehicle charging points.

This will help reduce tenants’ energy bills and the overall environmental impact of the scheme.

Gavin White, Executive Member for Housing and employment at Manchester City Council, which supported the scheme, said: “This development is hugely welcome as a twin boon of bringing underused brownfield land back into use, while providing much-needed low-carbon, affordable homes for older people.

“This is just the type of project we need in our communities that support people as they grow older to access homes right for them, should they want to move from a family home.”

Gorton Mill House was designed by Pozzoni architects and built by Rowlinson Constructions Ltd.


First published on Southway Housing Trust website on 16 November 2021

Find out more about Gorton Mill House from Southway Housing Trust – click here

You can contact Southway Housing Trust by calling 0161 448 4200

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Featured image: Southway Housing Trust

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