Textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution

With the establishment of overseas colonies, the British Empire at the end of the 17th century/beginning of the 18th century had a vast source of raw materials and a vast market for manufactured goods. The manufacture of goods was performed on a limited scale by individual workers – usually on their own premises (such as weavers' cottages) – and was transported around the country by horse and cart, or by river boat. Power was supplied by draught animals for agriculture and haulage.

There was a marketplace to service, but the scale of industry; the sources of energy; and the lack of an inland communications infrastructure were the unseen hurdles to overcome.

In this context, the scene was set for the Kingdom of Great Britain to develop the industry of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution.


The key British industry at the beginning of the 18th century was the production of textiles made with wool from the large sheep-farming areas in the Midlands and across the country (created as a result of land-clearance and inclosure). Handlooms and spinning wheels were the tools of the trade of the weavers in their cottages, and this was a labour-intensive activity providing employment throughout Britain, with major centres being the West Country; Norwich and environs; and the West Riding of Yorkshire. The export trade in woolen goods accounted for more than a quarter of British exports during most of the 18th century, doubling between 1701 and 1770 [http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/toynbee/indrev] . Exports of the cotton industry – centred in Lancashire – had grown tenfold during this time, but still accounted for only a tenth of the value of the woollen trade.

Industry and invention

The Industrial Revolution, in this logic, has been a worldwide occurrence, at least insofar as it has occurred in all those parts of the world, of which there are few exceptions, where the control of Western civilization has been felt. Away from any hesitation it occurred first in Britain, and its effects spread only gradually to continental Europe and North America. Equally clearly, the Industrial Revolution that eventually transformed these parts of the Western world surpassed in magnitude the achievements of Britain, and the process was carried further to change radically the socioeconomic life of the Far East, Africa, Latin America, and Australasia. The reasons for this succession of events are complex, but they were implicit in the earlier account of the buildup toward rapid industrialization. Partly through good fortune and partly through conscious effort, Britain by the early 18th century came to possess the combination of social needs and social resources that provided the necessary preconditions of commercially successful innovation and a social system capable of sustaining and institutionalizing the processes of rapid technological change once they had started. Therefore be concerned, in the first place, with events in Britain, although in discussing later phases of the period it will be necessary to trace the way in which British technical achievements were diffused and superseded in other parts of the Western world.

In 1733 in Bury, Lancashire, John Kay invented the flying shuttle — one of the first of a series of inventions associated with the cotton industry. The flying shuttle increased the width of cotton cloth and speed of production of a single weaver at a loom. Resistance by workers to the perceived threat to jobs delayed the widespread introduction of this technology, even though the higher rate of production generated an increased demand for spun cotton.

In 1738, Lewis Paul (one of the community of Huguenot weavers that had been driven out of France in a wave of religious persecution) settled in Birmingham and with John Wyatt, of that town, they patented the Roller Spinning machine and the flyer-and-bobbin system, for drawing wool to a more even thickness. Using two sets of rollers that travelled at different speeds yarn could be twisted and spun quickly and efficiently. This was later used in the first cotton spinning mill during the Industrial Revolution.

1742: Paul and Wyatt opened a mill in Birmingham which used their new rolling machine powered by donkey; this was not profitable and soon closed.

1743: A factory opened in Northampton, fifty spindles turned on five of Paul and Wyatt's machines proving more successful than their first mill. This operated until 1764.

1748: Lewis Paul invented the hand driven carding machine. A coat of wire slips were placed around a card which was then wrapped around a cylinder. Lewis's invention was later developed and improved by Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton, although this came about under great suspicion after a fire at Daniel Bourn's factory in Leominster which specifically used Paul and Wyatt's spindles. Bourn produced a similar patent in the same year.

1758: Paul and Wyatt based in Birmingham improved their roller spinning machine and took out a second patent. Richard Arkwright later used this as the model for his water frame.

1762 Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Foundry engineering works in Handsworth, Birmingham. His partnership with Scottish engineer James Watt made the steam engine into the power plant of the Industrial Revolution and was to provide many mills with a new form of power.

In 1764, James Hargreaves is credited as inventor of the spinning jenny which multiplied the spun thread production capacity of a single worker — initially eightfold and subsequently much further. Sources [http://www.grimshaworigin.org/WebPages/ArkCartw.htm] credit the original invention to Thomas Highs, who had a daughter named Jenny for whom the invention might have been named. Industrial unrest and a failure to patent the invention until 1770 forced Hargreaves from Blackburn, but his lack of protection of the idea allowed the concept to be exploited by others. As a result, there were over 20,000 Spinning Jennies in use by the time of his death.

Again in 1764, the first cotton mill in the world was constructed at Royton, Lancashire, England.

In 1771, Richard Arkwright used waterwheels to power looms for the production of cotton cloth, his invention becoming known as the water frame. (Frame is another name for the machinery for spinning or weaving.) The water frame was developed from the spinning frame that Arkwright had developed with (a different) John Kay, from Warrington. (The original design was probably by Thomas Highs, again.) This he had patented in 1769 (see [http://www.makingthemodernworld.org.uk/icons_of_invention/technology/1750-1820/IC.005/] : Press the 'Ingenious' button and use search key '10302171' for the patent). Initial attempts at driving the frame had used horse power, but the innovation of using a waterwheel demanded a location with a ready supply of water. One of the first cotton mills (at Cromford, Derbyshire; preserved as part of the Derwent Valley Mills) was a factory in the vein of the Soho Manufactory. Arkwright protected his investment (from industrial rivals and potentially disruptive workers), and generated jobs for which workers' accommodations were constructed, leading to a sizeable industrial community. Arkwright expanded his operations to other areas of the country.

In 1779, Samuel Crompton of Bolton combined elements of the spinning jenny and water frame to create the spinning mule. This produced a stronger thread, and was suitable for mechanisation on a grand scale. As with Kay and Hargreaves, Crompton was not able to exploit his invention for his own profit, and died a pauper.

In 1784, Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom, and produced a prototype in the following year. His initial venture to exploit this technology failed, although his advances were recognised by others in the industry. Others – such as Robert Grimshaw (whose factory was destroyed in 1790 as part of the growing reaction against the mechanization of the industry) and Austin [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1823cotton.html] – developed the ideas further.

In 1803, William Radcliffe invented the dressing frame (patented under the name of Thomas Johnson) which enabled power looms to operate continuously, and this fueled the take-off of steam-powered weaving such that by 1823 there were estimated to be 10,000 power looms in operation in Great Britain.

The use of water power to drive mills was quickly adopted by many entrepreneurs, and one example is Samuel Greg. He joined his uncle's firm of textile merchants, and, on taking over the company in 1782, he sought out a site to establish a mill. Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire still exists as a well preserved museum, having been in use from its construction in 1784 until 1959. It illustrates how the mill owners exploited child labour, taking orphans from nearby Manchester, but also shows that these children were housed, clothed, fed and provided with some education. This mill also shows the transition from water power to steam power, with steam engines to drive the looms being installed in 1810.


Working conditions in some early British textile factories were unfavorable relative to modern standards. Children, men, and women regularly volunteered for 68-hour work weeks. Factories often were not well ventilated and became very hot in the summer. Worker health and safety regulations were non-existent. Workers who suffered debilitating injuries from work were simply dismissed without any compensation.Fact|date=February 2007 People may have chosen to work at these factories because other work for unskilled, landless persons was less consistent throughout the year and from year to year, and offered less possibility for earnings growth for those who adapted well to the work.

Textile factories organized workers' lives much differently from craft production. Handloom weavers worked at their own pace, with their own tools, and within their own cottages. Factories set hours of work, and the machinery within them shaped the pace of work. Factories brought workers together within one building to work on machinery that they did not own. Factories also increased the division of labor. They narrowed the number and scope of tasks and included children and women within a common production process. Factories flourished over manual craftsmanship because they had more efficient production output per worker, keeping prices down for the public, and they had much more consistent quality of product.

The early textile factories employed a large share of children, but the share declined over time. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were described as children. By 1835, the share of the workforce under 18 years of age in cotton mills in England and Scotland had fallen to 43%. About half of workers in Manchester and Stockport cotton factories surveyed in 1818 and 1819 began work at under ten years of age. [http://www.galbithink.org/child.htm] Most of the adult workers in cotton factories in mid-19th century Britain were workers who had begun work as child labourers. The growth of this experienced adult factory workforce helps to account for the shift away from child labour in textile factories.

Export of technology

While profiting from expertise arriving from overseas (e.g. Louis Paul), Britain was very protective of home-grown technology. In particular, engineers with skills in constructing the textile mills and machinery were not permitted to emigrate — particularly to the fledgeling America.

Following the creation of the United States, an engineer who had worked as an apprentice to Arkwright's partner Jedediah Strutt evaded the ban. In 1789, Samuel Slater took his skills in designing and constructing factories to New England, and he was soon engaged in reproducing the textile mills that helped America with its own industrial revolution.

Local inventions spurred this on, and in 1793 Eli Whitney invented and patented the cotton gin, which sped up the processing of raw cotton by over 50 times. An Uxbridge, Massachusetts farmer by the name of Richard Mowry successfully built and marketed the equipment needed to manufacture woolen, linen or cotton cloth. cite web|title="Blackstone River Valley, New England’s Historic National Park area; Naviagator/Uxbridge"|publisher=Blackstonevalley.com|url=http://www.blackstonerivervalley.com/navigator/towns/uxbridge.php|accessdate=2007-12-06] The first use of power looms in wool manufacture in America was at the Capron Mill in Uxbridge. The original mill was built in 1820, by John Capron, the father of Colonel John Capron, on the Mumford River at Uxbridge Center.cite web |title= Walking tours - Uxbridge |publisher= Blackstone Daily |url= http://www.blackstonedaily.com/Outdoors&Nature/WTuxbridge.htm |accessdate= 2007-09-23] cite book|last= Chapin |first= Judge Henry|authorlink=|coauthors=|title="Address Delivered at the Unitarian Church in Uxbridge, 1864"|pages= p.165|publisher=Charles Hamilton Press (Harvard Library; from Google Books)|date= 1881|location=Worcester, MA|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=ua-pgcKRY2QC&pg=RA1-PA172&lpg=RA1-PA172&dq=address+delivered+at+unitarian+church+chapin+henry+first+woman+voter&source=web&ots=7ee5DY_fWW&sig=zwP9Z01uzpEadUVGB_b9XeA0QTw] [http://books.google.com/books?id=ua-pgcKRY2QC&pg=RA1-PA172&lpg=RA1-PA172&dq=address+delivered+at+unitarian+church+chapin+henry+first+woman+voter&source=web&ots=7ee5DY_fWW&sig=zwP9Z01uzpEadUVGB_b9XeA0QTw] . The first American manufacture of wool satinets also occurred at Capron Mill. The Whitin Machine works at Whitinsville, Massachusetts, established in 1831, became the world's largest manufacturer of textile machines.cite book|last= Navin|first = Thomas|midde=R|authorlink= |coauthors=|title =The Whitin Machine Works since 1831: A textile machinery company in an industrial village; Harvard studies in business history| publisher=Russel and Russel|date=1969] This title was also held by the Draper corporation in Hopedale, Massachusetts. These communities are in the Blackstone Valley, where Samuel Slater established his first Mill.

Industry & Age Cohort 1851 1861 1871 1881 MiningMales under 15 37,300 45,100 43,100 30,400 Females under 15 1,400 500 900 500 Males 15-20 50,100 65,300 74,900 87,300 Females over 15 5,400 4,900 5,300 5,700 Total under 15 as% of work force 13% 12% 10% 6% Textiles and DyeingMales under 15 93,800 80,700 78,500 58,900 Females under 15 147,700 115,700 119,800 82,600 Males 15-20 92,600 92,600 90,500 93,200 Females over 15 780,900 739,300 729,700 699,900 Total under 15 as% of work force 15% 19% 14% 11%

ee also

*History of science and technology
*Industrial archaeology
*Textile manufacturing terminology
*Timeline of clothing and textiles technology
*Timeline of invention
*History of silk


External links & sources

* [http://www.grimshaworigin.org/WebPages/ArkCartw.htm Essay and source material on Arkwright and Cartwright] Believe it!
* [http://www.cottontown.org/page.cfm?pageid=257 Development of the cotton industry from the perspecive of the Blackburn area]
* [http://www.cottontimes.co.uk/ The cotton industry during the Industrial Revolution]
* [http://www.galbithink.org/fw.htm Factory Workers in the British Industrial Revolution]
* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TEXpaul.htm]
* [http://www.cottontimes.co.uk/chrono1.html]
* [http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/agriculture%20_industry/mills_leominster.htm]

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