This is one of Hampson’s most prominent and important paintings – Robin Hood Mill, which features in both Peter Davies’ “A Northern School Revisited” (p202) and Martin Regan’s “The Northern School: A Reappraisal” (p154).
Bolton was a pre-eminent textile manufacturing centre during the Industrial Revolution. As late as 1929 there were 247 mills in the area, of which fewer than half survive today – Robin Hood Mill is one of those. No1 Mill was built in 1848 and No2 in 1882 – Hampson’s picture shows the office block in the front and No2 Mill behind.
Pleasingly, the Mill is still occupied (as at 2018), in part by Edinburgh Weavers, whose motto is “Fine Art translated into stunning fabrics”. The company was originally part of the once world famous Morton Sundour Fabrics, and was at the cutting edge of fabric design in the 1930s. The artist Ben Nicholson once worked for the Company, and its designs were found on the interior of Cary Grant’s flat and No9 Downing Street. The business was taken over by Courtaulds in the 1960s – Courtaulds was a British textiles titan, whose fate mirrored that of the mills depicted by Hampson, with the textiles division being acquired by the US corporation Sara Lee in 2000 before being sold to a Hong Kong based entity. Today, Courtaulds is best remembered for the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
The pub in the picture is the Little John, which is still trading. The Robin Hood pub itself, the oldest pub on Lever Street, originally situated next door to the Little John, succumbed to closure after consolidation in the industry in the 1930s meant that both ended up being owned by the same brewery, and one had to go. The fate of pubs in the area was closely linked to the fate of mills – one declined in lockstep with the other.