A Swiss-Italian cotton baron spun success in Dukinfield
Christian Valentine Koch was one of the most important figures of the Dukinfield cotton spinning industry during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Born in Switzerland, he was educated in Italy, where his father was a manager of large cotton mills in Salerno. After his father’s death, Christian came to England to learn more about cotton yarn spinning.
He returned to Italy to manage and reorganise the Salerno mills, but the changes he made were very unpopular with his employees. Many people lost their jobs when he replaced the old hand mules with more efficient self-acting mules – and Christian felt the need to carry two revolvers and a dagger in his belt when walking about the mills!
In 1865, he returned to England to marry a cotton spinner’s daughter and settled here permanently. In 1874, he took over Tame Valley Mill and a few years later, built another mill – River Mill – just a few hundred yards away on Park Road. He commissioned construction of Tower Mill, at the end of Park Road, a few years later.
Despite his unpopularity in Italy, Christian Koch was regarded as a model employer here in England. Up to 600 people worked at the three mills and when news of his death, in 1895, reached people of Dukinfield, it’s said that most blinds in homes in the area were drawn out of respect.
Tame Valley Mill
Built in 1853, the four-storey Tame Valley Mill was occupied by George Wainwright’s spinning company until the early 1870s, when it was taken over by Christian V Koch & Co.
By 1888, it housed around 26,000 mule spindles. In 1909, a four-storey extension was built, which increased spinning capacity to 43,000 mule spindles.
Tame Valley Mill is now home to our technical textile manufacturing business, Culimeta Saveguard.
Christian V Koch bought the site for Tower Mill in early 1885 and by the following year, the building was finished and roaring with the sound of 44,000 working mule spindles. The design, by Potts, Pickup & Dixon was more ornate than neighbouring mills.
Edward Potts was considered one of the greatest mill architects of Victorian Lancashire, and he and his partnerships designed 200 mills.
Since cotton spinning stopped in Tower Mill in 1955, it has been used by various different industries, including glass fitters, industrial machinery suppliers and rubber product manufacturers.
Home to cotton spinning again – after five decades
In 1989, Tower Mill became a star of the small screen when it was used as the backdrop for the popular BBC television drama Making Out. In 1996, Tower Mill’s historical importance was recognised by English Heritage, when it was given Grade 2 ‘listed’ status.
Tower Mill’s 150-foot-tall chimney and water tower are still prominent in Dukinfield’s skyline. In 2013, English Fine Cottons began a multi-million-pound refurbishment programme to restore the building to its former glory.
The restoration project is ongoing – however, 130-years after it was built for cotton spinning and more than 50 years after it was last used for cotton spinning, Tower Mill is home, once again, to cotton spinning.