Lancashire Weavers

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Location: Lancashire, Englandmap
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Industry and Idleness by William Hogarth

The early Lancashire textile industry produced woollen and linen goods. Fustian and silk came next, and finally cotton, which became the most important fabric produced in the region. Around 1600 a new weaving style, brought to England by Flemish refugees, was adopted by Lancashire weavers; by the early seventeenth century its production was focused in Rochdale, Bury, and Rossendale.

In the 1600s, independent textile worker wove and sold cloth from their homes. Gradually it became more common for textile merchants in cities to provide workers in rural areas (thereby avoiding town guild regulations) with raw materials. The system was called ‘putting-out’ -- the workers were paid when they submitted the woven cloth. The merchant would have the cloth finished by fullers and dyers and sold at local markets.

In the late 17th century loomshops were built in hamlets and villages and rented out to hand spinners and weavers.

"A handloom, such as was used before 1785"

At the end of the 18th century factories began to replace the putting-out system and Lancashire's cotton industry took shape. An entrepreneur would acquire a building and automated looms powered by water or steam and would pay largely unskilled workers to produce standardized products, on a larger scale, at lower cost. Goods were widely distributed via improving transport networks.

Drawing frames, 1840

This is a picture of belts driving drawing frames, typical of an early nineteenth-century spinning mill (1840).

In the 1820s the cast-iron powered weaving machine was invented, and it soon killed off handloom weaving. The weavers' wages plummeted and it must have destroyed the economy - weavers comprised more than half the population in some parts of Lancashire. In 1826 rioters in several areas destroyed power looms, but there was no going back. It was in 1830 that my weaver ancestors left Lancashire for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

We ply the shuttle and pass away

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