For Your Information

This section of the web site offers readings, images, and maps that can help students to further understand course assignments, but which are not required reading. In other words, the readings on this page are for your Information (FYI). Links from the five sections of the course come here, and are marked thus: Optional (FYI) Reading.

Readings from April 9

The Development of Factories

Cotton Industry

        Cotton is a white fibrous substances composed of the hairs surrounding the seeds of the cotton plant. It was first imported to England in the 16th century. Initially it was mixed either with linen or worsted yarn. By 1750 some pure cotton cloths were being produced in Britain. Imports of raw cotton from the West Indies and the American Colonies gradually increased and by 1790 it had reached 31,447,605 lbs.

       The Cotton Industry developed in three main districts: North West England, centred on Manchester; the Midlands, centred on Nottingham; and the Clyde Valley in Scotland, between Lanark and Paisley. By the 1780s the industry was becoming more concentrated in Lancashire, with a considerable number of mills within the Oldham, Bolton, Manchester triangle. By the end of the 18th century a large proportion of the population of Lancashire was dependent on the cotton industry.

       By 1802 the industry accounted for between 4 and 5 per cent of the national income of Britain. By 1812 there were 100,000 spinners and 250,000 weavers working in the industry. Production had grown to 8 percent and had now overtaken the woollen industry. By 1830 more than half the value of British home-produced exports consisted of cotton textiles.

Flying Shuttle

       For centuries handloom weaving had been carried out on the basis of the shuttle bearing the yarn being passed slowly and awkwardly from one hand to the other. In 1733 John Kay patented his flying shuttle that dramatically increased the speed of this process. Kay placed shuttle boxes at each side of the loom connected by a long board, known as a shuttle race. By means of cords attached to a picking peg, a single weaver, using one hand, could cause the shuttle to be knocked back and forth across the loom from one shuttle box to the other. A weaver using Kay's flying shuttle could produce much wider cloth at faster speeds than before.

Spinning Jenny

       James Hargreaves was a weaver living in the village of Standhill in Lancashire. It is claimed that one day his daughter Jenny, accidentally knocked over over the family spinning wheel. The spindle continued to revolve and it gave Hargreaves the idea that a whole line of spindles could be worked off one wheel.

       In 1764 Hargreaves built what became known as the Spinning-Jenny. The machine used eight spindles onto which the thread was spun from a corresponding set of rovings. By turning a single wheel, the operator could now spin eight threads at once. Later, improvements were made that enabled the number to be increased to eighty. The thread that the machine produced was coarse and lacked strength, making it suitable only for the filling of weft, the threads woven across the warp.

       Hargreaves did not apply for a patent for his Spinning Jenny until 1770 and therefore others copied his ideas without paying him any money. It is estimated that by the time James Hargreaves died in 1778, over 20,000 Spinning-Jenny machines were being used in Britain.

Spinning Mule

       In 1775 Samuel Crompton produced his Spinning Mule, so called because it was a hybrid that combined features of two earlier inventions, the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame. The mule produced a strong, fine and soft yarn which could be used in all kinds of textiles, but was particularly suited to the production of muslins.

       Crompton was too poor to apply for a patent and so he sold the rights to a Bolton manufacturer. The first mules were hand-operated and could be used at home. By the 1790s larger versions were built with as many as 400 spindles. David Dale was quick to see the potential of the mule and purchased several for his factory in New Lanark, Scotland.

       The Spinning Mule could also be driven by the new steam engines that were being produced by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. A large number of factory owners purchased Crompton's mules, but because he had sold the rights for his machine, he made no money from these sales.

Water Frame

       In 1762, Richard Arkwright, a wig-maker from Preston, heard about the attempts being made to produce new machines for the textile industry. Arkwright met John Kay, a clockmaker from Warrington, who had been busy for some time trying to produce a new spinning-machine with another man, Thomas Highs. Kay and Highs had run out of money and had been forced to abandon the project.

       Arkwright was impressed by Kay and offered to employ him to make this new machine. Arkwright also recruited other local craftsman to help, and it was not long before the team produced the Spinning-Frame. Arkwright's machine involved three sets of paired rollers that turned at different speeds. While these rollers produced yarn of the correct thickness, a set of spindles twisted the fibres firmly together. The machine was able to produce a thread that was far stronger than that made by the Spinning-Jenny produced by James Hargreaves.

       The Spinning-Frame was too large to be operated by hand and so Richard Arkwright had to find another method of working his machine. After experimenting with horses, Arkwright decided to employ the power of the water-wheel. In 1771 he set up a large factory next to the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright's machine now became known as the Water-Frame.

Cylinder Printing

       The printing of cloth began in the early 1750s. Both wooden blocks with patterns cut in relief, and copper plates, with engraved patterns were used. In his book The History of Cotton Manufacture, Edward Baines claims that printing with engraved copper rollers was invented by Joseph Bell and was first used by Livesey, Hargeaves, Hall & Co at Livesey, near Preston.

       The engraved printing cylinder was placed horizontally with another cylinder above it. The bottom of the lower cylinder took up the printing colour from a trough, the excess being scraped off by a closely fitting steel blade. The cloth passed between the cylinders and then over several steam-heated drying boxes. Complex colour patterns could be achieved by using more than one printing cylinder.

Roller Spinning

       Lewis Paul and John Wyatt patented their Roller Spinning machine in 1738. This machine had two sets of rollers which travelled at different speeds. This drew out a sliver of wool to the right thickness before spinning it.

       By 1741 this machine, powered by donkeys, was being used in a mill in Birmingham. Soon afterwards Wyatt and Paul went bankrupt. However, five of their machines were purchased by a man called Cave who installed them in his new factory in Northampton. This was the first cotton-spinning mill in history, but the Roller Spinning machine proved to be unreliable, and no one else followed Cave's example.

       Paul and Wyatt continued to try and improve their Roller Spinning machine and a second patent was taken out in 1758. The machine failed to sell but Richard Arkwright did use  the ideas it contained to help him design his water frame.

Child Scavengers

       The youngest children in the textile factories were usually employed as scavengers and piecers. Scavengers had to pick up the loose cotton from under the machinery. This was extremely dangerous as the children were expected to carry out the task while the machine was still working.

        On 16th March 1832 Michael Sadler introduced a Bill in Parliament that proposed limiting hours in all mills to 10 for persons under the age of 18. After much debate it was clear that Parliament was unwilling to pass Sadler's bill. However, in April 1832 it was agreed that there should be another parliamentary enquiry into child labour. Sadler was made chairman and for the next three months the parliamentary committee interviewed 48 people who had worked in textile factories as children.

       On 9th July Michael Sadler discovered that at least six of these workers had been sacked for giving evidence to the parliamentary committee. Sadler announced that this victimization meant that he could no longer ask factory workers to be interviewed. He now concentrated on interviewing doctors who had experience treating people who worked in textile factories. Several of these doctors expressed concerned about the number of textile workers who were suffering from physical deformities.

Apprentice Houses

       Many parents were unwilling to allow their children to work in these new textile factories. To overcome this labour shortage factory owners had to find other ways of obtaining workers. One solution to the problem was to obtain children from orphanages and workhouses. These children became known as pauper apprentices. This involved them signing contracts that virtually made them the property of the factory owner.

       One of the first factory owners to employ this system was Samuel Greg who owned the large Quarry Bank Mill at Styal. Greg had difficulty finding enough people to work for him. Manchester was eleven miles away and local villages were very small. Imported workers needed cottages, and these cost about £100 each.

       By 1790 Greg became convinced that the best solution to his labour problem was to build an Apprentice House and to purchase children from workhouses. The building for the apprentices cost £300 and provided living accommodation for over 90 children. At first the children came from local parishes such as Wilmslow and Macclesfield, but later he went as far as Liverpool and London to find these young workers. To encourage factory owners to take workhouse children, people like Greg were paid between £2 and £4 for each child they employed. Greg also demanded that the children were sent to him with "two shifts, two pairs of stockings and two aprons.

       The 90 children (60 girls and 30 boys) at Styal made up 50% of the total workforce. The children received their board and lodging, and two pence a week. The younger children worked as scavengers and piecers, but after a couple of years at Styal they were allowed to become involved in spinning and carding. Some of the more older boys became skilled mechanics.

The apprentice house at Styal