Through the Mill : Barbour Threads

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During a walk along the Lagan towpath I took a number of photographs. The images started with the cliched nature shots of swans, moving to the contrast of ugly road bridges against the natural river and finally ended up with complete urban decay. It was shocking to see the decay and rubbish that polluted the river although it is hard to think it should be expected when we walked for over a mile and didn’t come across a single bin.

I think it is great to capture photos of buildings that won’t exist for very much longer. I have captured a number of such locations in the last month. My Life is a House, & Abandoned Friends, are just two examples. Today was Barbour Threads or The Hilden Mill as it is also known. I am not claiming any responsibility for the demise but I did complete my final year design project in the factory although the company remained operational for a further  ten years after that.

The Hilden Mill is one of Lisburn’s historic masterpieces. John Barbour started a small thread works in Lisburn in the late 1700s. His son (William) bought the Hilden site and the thread works took off. In 1820 there were over one hundred employed on the site as the company started their first water powered twisting mill. Moving to linen production in 1898 the company became the largest thread mill in the world.

By 1914 it employed about 2,000 people it was so large in fact the company provided local housing (Hilden village)  two schools, a community hall, a children’s playground and village sports ground.

In 2006 the factory closed its doors for good and the building has been in decay ever since and at the end of 2009 it was announced that the site will be transformed into around six hundred flats. The good news is the ‘listed building’ parts of the factory will be retained and developed. As well as apartments the site will also include offices, light industrial units and a museum.

Hilden Mill, Barbour Threads

Photos from “Through the Mill”


David is a documentary and landscape photographer covering everything from dramatic long exposure landscape photography through to live music. David is a former Official Fujifilm X Photographer.


  1. A lovely set of photos, David. Old industrial sites make for such great subjects, but are always sad to contemplate when remembering the lives affected by their demise.

  2. Great set of photographs David. Walked the Lagan towpath today from Lisburn to Shaws Bridge and saw the Barbour factory along the way…. the scale was surprising. Didn’t realise how recently the place was still operating. Fascinating what local history is forgotten/abandoned on our doorstep.

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