image of the mill engine

29 May 2019

Once the beating heart of a number of mill operations, even in semi-retirement Fiona Elizabeth is still more than capable of letting off steam.

Leeds Industrial Museum’s magnificent mill engine was by Woodhouse and Mitchell of Brighouse in around 1887 and is a typical example of the types of machines used to power many of Yorkshire’s smaller mills from the late 1800s.

She takes her name from Fiona Lister, descendant of Steward Tempest, owner of Armley Mills in the early 1900s, and Elizabeth Tempest, daughter of the last owner of the mill, which today houses Leeds Industrial Museum.

After being employed in a flour mill in Kent and at a dye works in nearby Lower Wortley, at the end of her working life the engine fell into disrepair.

Thankfully, from 1980, a dedicated team of volunteers and museum staff spent around 4,700 hours restoring Fiona Elizabeth to working condition.

Visitors can still see the engine in full working order on a number of special occasions through the year.

John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of industrial history said: “The sights and sounds of a mill engine are unlike anything else and seeing one in action really does help us to imagine what it must have been like working in a building powered by one of these remarkable machines.

“Fiona Elizabeth’s superb condition today is a tribute to the dedication of those who worked so hard to restore her to her former glory as well as the robustness of her original design and it’s a real privilege to watch her hard at work.”



Notes to editors:

Once the largest woollen mills in the world, today Armley Mills tells the story of Leeds’ rich industrial heritage through the collections, exhibitions and galleries of Leeds Industrial Museum.

Explore the industries that have shaped our modern city – from textiles to steam engine production, printing to engineering. The galleries reveal workers’ lives from the 18th century to the present. A working waterwheel, factory machinery, and restored Victorian workers’ cottages are just a few of the exhibits you can discover.

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