Dust hangs in the air. It smells of oil and wool. Coffee mugs stand forgotten amongst the machines. Pieces of scribbled note paper are lying untidily around. In the factory owner’s office stands a safe riddled with bullet holes from the Second World War and files of yellowed paper. Suddenly the earth shudders. The ancient steam engine creaks into motion, the factory awakes to unexpected life. The mighty carding engine combs the loose wool, huge spinning machines turn it into smooth thread to the thunder of automatic weaving looms where shuttles are shooting backwards and forwards. Visitors to the Müller Woollen Mill might be forgiven for thinking this is a dream. Have the workers just gone off for lunch? But who on earth still watches over machines made in 1900? The answer. Nobody. Not since 1961. The factory was closed down then and left exactly as it was at the time. Now it is one of the seven sites belonging to the LVR Industrial Museum. Supplemented by an exhibition in a new building built next door, the museum explains how clothes were made from wool and tells of the work which was needed to do this. Just as if you were looking over the shoulders of the workers.
The Müller woollen mill began life as a simple paper mill. Wool only began to play a role in the mid 19th century when a spinning mill and cloth fulling mill were built here. In 1894 a cloth manufacturer named Ludwig Müller bought up the building. His plan was to produce everything himself under a single roof - from the thread to the finished clothing. In this respect he was really up-to-date. The same applied to his range of products: clothing made from coarse wool, rough wool cloth, and uniforms. That said, it was totally strange that he never modernised his factory. The battery of machines which he purchased around 1900 were never replaced. Likewise the steam engine made in 1903. For almost 60 years it kept the works in motion with its reliable, if old-fashioned, transmission belts. Business declined during the final years of the mill’s existence and by 1961 orders had almost ceased to exist. Even then the owner at the time, Kurt Müller, clung to the hope that the lean period would soon be over. He sent his workers back home, closed the factory as it was and decided to wait for better times.
30 years later the LVR Industrial Museum seized the opportunity to take over the moth-balled factory and turn it into a unique museum site. The building was restored from top to bottom, the ancient piles of dust removed and the machines repaired. The remaining equipment, including the coffee mugs and scribbled notes remained untouched as far as possible. The result is a life-size authentic woollen mill that looks and works almost as it did three generations ago. Museum visitors are taken directly into the historic world of wool manufacturing as if they had stepped back in time to the year 1960. Here they are confronted by the noise of rattling machines, written quotations from former workers, and descriptions of the heat and steam in the dye house. The newly housed exhibition next door provides them with a comprehensive introduction to the world of the textile industry.
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Tuesday - Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday 11am-6pm
Mill guided tours only:
Thuesday - Saturday at 11am, 2, 3.30pm
Sunday at every hour from 11am-4pm