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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 via St.
George's Quay at Lancaster, which was originally built in 1750 for the import of sugar, cotton, 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 all.

   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 prospered greatly.

   Lancaster, on 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 estuary 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.



    Lancaster Maritime Museum houses the Collection.



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