The PeaceHavens Project
Lancaster's connection with the Bentham Mill
(Updated June 2022 for the Lancaster Maritime Museum)
The purpose of this page. This is to
show the importance of Lancaster Docks to the flax mills at
Bentham. Virtually every bale of flax delivered to Bentham
Mills came via the warehouses on St George's Quay. The seals
on those bales are about to be returned there.
For many decades in the 18th & 19th
centuries, Russia was by far the world's greatest exporter of flax
via Archangel, Konigsberg, Kronstadt, Libnau, Memel, Narva,
Pernau, Revel, Riga, St Petersburg, Tilsit, Windau and Great
Britain was Russia's major customer.
J., T. & W. Hornby established themselves in Bentham Village about
1795, and operated from Low Bentham Mills with flax bales coming
George's Quay at Lancaster, which was originally
built in 1750 for the import of sugar,
rum and mahogany and the export of furniture, general merchandise
and slaves to the colonies in North America and the West Indies.
In the early 19th century they moved to High Bentham Mill and
imported bales of Russian Flax Stems by the thousand through the
warehouses from which they were
transported by four horse drawn wagons to the Bentham Mills.
The Flax bales had been shipped to Lancaster in trading
ships, called Galliots and Galeas, as soon as possible after
the flax was harvested during the Autumn months in Russia.
This was to avoid the stormy Winter weather around the top of
Scotland, which had claimed many a fine ship.
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The Napoleonic Wars raised both demand
and price for linen goods in the 1790s, but at the same
time made the Baltic trade in raw materials more
difficult. Napoleon's blockade of the Baltic
raised the price of a ton of flax from £40 to £170.
The tonnage of shipping from the Baltic via Lancaster
to Bentham Mills was falling back in the late 1790s,
while from 1808 to 1813 no ships entered the port at
Some flax was brought in to Bentham Mills from Liverpool
to fill the gap until 1808, when the blockade really
began to bite. Meanwhile the West House and
Little Patrick Mills in North Yorkshire got their
raw materials via Hull, and the east coast. and managed
to fare much better. Bentham Mill did
not recover until the late 1820's and then
the north west coast of England, was a town which had
merchants who were involved in the slave trade. Having
started slowly and gradually increasing the number of
voyages, Lancaster became the fourth biggest slaving
port after Liverpool, London and Bristol. Merchants and
ships from other smaller ports traded through Lancaster.
Also in Lloyd's Register of 1776 is James Moss as master
of Dallam Tower, a brig of 160 tons, built at Lancaster
in 1767, and owned by M. Fresh. There were voyages for
this vessel with James Moss as master from 1768 to 1776,
mainly to Narva and St Petersburg, often calling at Hull
on the outward voyage. The vessel returned mostly to
Lancaster; but the voyage referred to in his wife's
letter of 1774 ended in the Wyre
to deliver flax and hemp to the manufacturers of Kirkham
sailcloth. These included towns such as
Preston on the north east coast, and the nearby towns of
Poulton-le-Fylde and Ulverston. Perhaps not a
coincidence but the Abolitionist Movement copper half
penny of 1790 - 1797 had the same clasped hands of
friendship used by Alexander Shubin, the
Anchourer at the Port of St Petersburg, and uniquely 13
of these seals were found at Bentham Mills who imported
their flax bales via Lancaster, and nowhere else. Around
the coin's perimeter was the promise. "Payable in
Lancaster, Liverpool and London". The hands are used as the cover
for PeaceHavens Project.
Maritime Museum houses the Collection.