At this point you are close to the site of Fernilee Powder Mill, a gunpowder works established here in 1801. The exact position of the mill is now below the surface of Fernilee Reservoir, so this is as close as you can get without getting wet feet. The track behind you is the old road that ran down the fill towards the mill.
The location of the mill was carefully chosen. The River Goyt offered water-power for the machinery, and also quick access to water for fire fighting – an essential resource given how serious a fire at a gunpowder factory could be! This risk of explosion also meant that the works were located some distance from local villages.
A gunpowder mill was a dangerous place to work and accidents could be fatal. In 1836 the Macclesfield Courier reported that:
The powder mills of Messrs Williamson … blew up with a tremendous explosion. George Heaps, a married man, with a wife and four children, who was in the mill at the time, was blown a distance of six hundred yards, to his master’s farm at Taxal … He was, of course, quite dead when found.
… John heaps, a single man, and the brother of George, was found in the ruins of the mill, with his clothes and hair burnt off, but still alive. He died, however, the day following in the greatest agony.
The mill ceased production in 1920, up to that point it had been the largest employer in the Goyt Valley. 15 years later the site was buried beneath the new Fernilee Reservoir.
For more information please see the following: http://goyt-valley.org.uk/fernilee-powder-mill/
Whalley Bridge Local History Group have assembled a number of reports on accidents at the mill, available through their website: