The sluice was constructed to supply water from the River Calder, via a series of lodges (ponds) to Catterall Mill. The mill, once part of Messrs. Fielding’s calico printing works on Stones Lane, closed in 1830 when it began worsted wool production. In about 1859 it was converted to Catterall Bobbin Mill and after 1891 became Catterall Iron Works. Holden’s Tannery and Curriers Works was also supplied via the sluice gate.
Catterall Mill was described in the sale of 1880 as ‘The water supply which is indispensible to a good paper mill is one of the finest in the Kingdom both for purity, quality and quantity, being brought form the River Calder by a large sluice and stored in 4 large reservoirs – there are ample settling provided for purifying the water before it is returned into the river.’ The mill also had 64 cottages, one of which was used as a shop.
The water rights were so coveted that Mr. A. Simpson of Elmhurst purchased the land in 1885 on behalf of the Fylde Waterworks Company. He considered that the River Calder, on which the mill stood, would be required by the company. The buildings were gradually demolished and the only survivors are the terraced houses called Brock Place on Catterall Gates Lane, which are the remnants of the two rows of terraces built as dwellings for mill workers, and Lodge House, Calico Drive.
The population of Catterall fluctuated greatly, dependent on the success of the Mills. In 1801 the population was 560; in 1841 it was 1,102 and in the 1891 census records it was 336. Many kinds of industry took place in Catterall, from calico printing, bleaching, cotton spinning and papermaking, but they came and went; and all were disastrous for their owners.
During the work on the sluice Catterall Parish Council asked residents for information on the history of the mills and received a number of reports the result of some painstaking and dedicated research.