Gibson Mill re-opens

Monday, September 26, 2005

Gibson Mill re-opened Saturday morning, with a cafe, exhibition and a very impressive display of sustainable technology - water turbines, solar panelled roof, and log burning devices.

Gibson Mill

There are two water turbines, a large and a small one. Only the small one was operating as the river was still low from inadequate summer rainfall. The larger one was rebuilt from the original Gilkes turbine which used to power the mill from 1927. Water is fed to a large tank of water from the adjoining millpond. The small turbine takes 50 litres a second (half a bathful).


All power is stored in the batteries. If the large turbine is running and there is excess power generated then this is converted into heat and distributed through a sequence of dump heaters situated throughout the mill. The large array of batteries, all proudly on display in the exhibition part of the mill.


The exhibition covers three floors. The ground floor describes and displays the sustainable energy which goes to make the complex totally independent of the national grid. If some emergency were to cut off power in the upper valley, Gibson Mill could carry on regardless.

Test your energy efficiency

There are activities such this one to test
how energy efficient you are.

The lifts are entertaining but only for the reasonably fit. To get from one floor to the next, you have to pull on a rope to pull the lift up and down - much harder than it sounds but good fun. And of course, the lift will be essential to enable disabled people to take part in first floor activities.

Mill Pond

The first floor is empty because it is a community room designed for educational groups, youth clubs and conferences. The idea is to keep it flexible and not to stuff it with exhibits, and perhaps to better appreciate some fine views of the Mill Pond.

First class teas

The third floor shows how the Mill was used
as an entertainment emporium after it was re-mortgaged in 1894.

Period clothes

You can try on the clothes from the era, wind up the gramophone and even follow the instructions to waltz or foxtrot.

Toilet block

Although there are disabled toilets near the mill, the main toilets are 100 yards away over the bridge in a small house on the other side of the river. Liquids are filtered through a leach field while solids are collected in tanks and composted.

CafeThe cafe is going to be one of the most welcome parts of the re-opened mill. Walkers will be able to take a break and refreshments in a well designed tea room in the most attractive of settings.

However, visitors this weekend expressed the hope that the caterers will quickly learn from their experience of the first weekend, and perhaps from some of the excellent coffee and juice bars now peppered around Hebden Bridge. The food on offer was of the packaged muffin and too sweet flapjack variety. And even this ran out completely by Sunday afternoon. The coffee was instant!

(Since we wrote the above, the National Trust has contacted the Hebden Bridge Web: "The cafe stocks products from bakers that can prove their ethical background and fair trade credentials. The product offered is a starting point and will be built on over time. We looked into using local Hebden Bridge suppliers but nobody gave us a satisfactory response and  nobody was prepared to deliver to the mill. In addition, we do not want to supply the traditional snacks as this would generate too much waste packaging. The cakes to the mill should have come on trays not wrapped, thereby keeping this down to a minimum. We would like to sell filter coffee but are reluctant to use more machinery at the mill until we know that we have the capacity)

The solar panelled roof

The solar panelled roof - although strictly speaking the majority of the panels on the roof are photovoltaic panels not solar panels. Photovoltaics run on light and solars run on radiation, making PVs much better suited to our climate.

Others features include:

  • Sluice Gate - a barrier controls monitors the water level and indicates how much water can be drawn off the river
  • Ceramic Stove - this is a Scandinavian invention that traps the heat within, and this allows a steady feed of warmth throughout the day
  • Biomass Boiler - an Austrian stove that needs no hopper, runs on logs, and is unique to Great Britain
  • Fridge - this was imported from California, and is more than two times more efficient than anything available in this country
  • Dump Heaters - situated throughout the building these wall mounted heaters convert excess electricity into heat when the main turbine is running. Please note however that we have no heating system as such in the building. Walkers will arrive at the mill dressed for the conditions and as such heating is not required
  • Insulation - the cafe and entrance walls have 1 foot thick wool insulation in them to keep the heat in
  • Wormery - all food waste is broken down into compost via a wormery in the old privy
  • Water - all of the water is spring water, taken at source in the Crags, and fed to the mill. It even flushes the toilets

Guy Laurie of the National Trust has told the Hebden Bridge Web: "This building is unique in Great Britain. Not simply a flag ship project for the National Trust, it is also a beacon for anybody wanting to run a business via sustainable means. Its size, function, lack of connection to the national grid, and the fact that we could open every day of the year all come together to give Gibson Mill its very special status. There is no other building like this run this way. It will be a Mecca for groups looking to do similar projects and will pull hundreds if not thousands of extra visitors into this area."

See Hebweb Feature on Gibson Mil

Listen to You and Yours item on Gibson Mill
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

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