Higherford Mill was built by Christopher Grimshaw as a spinning mill in 1824, close to water to harness it for powering the spinning machines and weaving looms which he added shortly afterwards. The main weaving shed has since become the oldest surviving in the world. Water was taken from the river from a weir, half a mile upstream, and channelled to a mill dam or lodge, and then through sluices into the rear of the Mill, onto a breast-shot waterwheel.
In 1832 steam power was introduced to supplement the water power and the square stone chimney was built, with a flue running up the hillside to carry the smoke away. The mill continued to use water power in conjunction with steam power until the late 19th century. The combination is rare, and was one of the reasons why the building was spot listed in 1996.
The Mill ceased production in 1971 and was sold. The new owner converted part of the Mill to workspace units and the rest became derelict. In December 1994 an application was submitted for consent to demolish the Mill, on the grounds that it was unsafe and full of dry rot, and planning permission to build 24 houses on the site. Villagers and Heritage Trust for the North West objected and after a five year campaign, the Trust purchased the Mill with a loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund, in 1999.
As a registered Building Preservation Trust, the Trust aims to find appropriate and sustainable new uses for old buildings. Higherford Mill has since become a focal point for the Creative Industries of East Lancashire. Workshops have been constructed in the old weaving sheds, providing much needed facilities for artists, and opportunities for employment in the village. Rents from the studios pay for the upkeep of the Mill.
The project is being done in phases: Phase I (complete) involved structural repairs and construction of 10 workshops. Phase II provided a further 24 units and reception facilities. Phase III (when funds are raised) will involve the conversion of abandoned areas to visitor facilities, an art gallery, educational resource centre, restoring the waterwheel, and historic mill races. Higherford Mill featured in the BBC Restoration Series in 2006.