Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Textiles & Cotton Mills In Manchester & Lancashire

Manchester, and the towns of the region, generated much of Britain’s 19th century wealth, as well as pioneering much of its technological groundbreaking achievements.

Methods in spinning, weaving and dyeing had become fully mechanised by the middle of the 19th century, through inventors like Samuel Crompton, and his spinning Mule, Hargreave’s Jenny, Richard Arkwright, and many other’s works of invention.

Steam and water had made power plentiful and still cheap, coal came from just down the road at Worsley through Lord Egerton’s Bridgewater Canal, the new railways and the Ashton & Rochdale Canals had made transportation close and convenient. Mass production methods were gradually introduced and productivity was at an all-time high. Only the American Civil War interrupted profitability. Raw Cotton from the Confederate Southern Sates was being blockaded by the Union North, and this resulted in a major depression in all the textile trades by the early 1860s – a period known as “the cotton famine”. Nevertheless, many of the mills survived that period, and were in active and profitable manufacture until well after the Second World War, when they failed to win orders against cheaper foreign imports. Some of these mills are with us today.

Several are derelict, most are converted to other commercial or industrial uses, though their tall, now smoke-free, chimneys still stand proudly, bearing witness to a time when they were important buildings of trade and commerce.

The Manchester Mills
This mill was commissioned by two Scottish businessmen, James McConnel and John Kennedy in 1790, and was constructed in 1818 as a spinning mill. One writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, described Redhill Street Mill in 1835 as “…a place where some 1500 workers, labouring 69 hours a week, with an average wage of 11 shillings, and where three-quarters of the workers are women and children”. (See “Working & Living Conditions”) Eight storeys high, it was the tallest iron framed building in the world in its day. During the Cotton Famine, the company had obtained rights to Heilmann’s new combing machine, and managed to tick over during the depression. In 1865 the building was altered by the new owner, Sir William Fairbairn, to install larger automated spinning mules. By this time it was the biggest mill in the Manchester region. Further buildings were added in 1868 and 1912 to cope with the demand for increased output.

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