- THE AGE OF THE WATER POWERED
the peak of the cottage industry for the manufacture of cloth there
was a problem in that demand was outweighing production. A spinster
could only spin one thread at a time and it required 7 or 8 people
to keep one weaver busy. A new invention was needed to make the
spinning process faster.
Jenny had already been invented, but this could only spin
about a dozen threads at once and still demanded a skilled
spinster to work it by hand.
Richard Arkwright's Spinning Frame came into production. This
became known as a water frame because it was a large machine
requiring a water wheel for power. With
the introduction of the import of raw cotton from America
about 1785, the cotton industry in this part of Lancashire
began to flourish. This coincided with Richard Arkwright's
invention and so began the era of the spinning mill and the
demise of the hand spinster.
early cotton industry was centred around Manchester, and as
a new turnpike road had been built between Todmorden and Manchester,
the entrepreneurs of Todmorden were easily able to switch
from wool to cotton, and it wasn't long before they saw the
advantage of investing in small water mills in which to install
the new type of machinery for carding and spinning.
of the men who had started as yeoman clothiers and "putters
out" began to take over old corn mills or other buildings
suitable for conversion to the preparation and spinning of
cotton. These men now became cotton spinners. The mills were
small places located near to a water supply, which powered
the great water wheels. The presence of a suitable water supply
was of far more importance than accessibility. The mills were
built along the course of the river in the valley bottoms,
and higher up along the banks of the small but fast flowing
tributary streams. It was essential that before a mill could
be built, the lease of the land included the water rights
and the right to divert the water to the mill.
outer casing of the old water wheel of
GORPLEY MILL , Dulesgate
LUMBUTTS MILL was taken over by the partnership of Thomas Hughes,
Robert Law, Samuel Law and Abraham Crossley in 1783. Over
the following months they converted it from corn to a cotton-spinning
mill. The following year Thomas Hughes and Robert Law sold
their shares to Samuel Fielden of Platts House, Todmorden,
and John Tattersall of Lumbutts.
Fielden of CLOUGH FARM, Walsden, built a small mill at Clough in 1786 for carding and spinning cotton. He had partly furnished
it with machinery when he entered into a partnership with
John Travis of Royton. John Travis and his son Joseph had
a putting out shop at Gauxholme Fold in Walsden. They had
been travelling over the hills twice a week bringing the raw
cotton to their shop, returning with the finished pieces.
John Travis and John Fielden put their eldest sons, Samuel
Fielden and Joseph Travis, in charge of the new mill. The
firm was known as Fielden and Travis, CLOUGH MILL, Todmorden.
mill was amongst the first to be built. It was about the size
of 4 dwellings of 3 storeys. At one end was the dwelling occupied
by the partners. The cotton and willowing rooms were on the
ground floor with the warehouse, the carding machinery and
stretching frames were in the chambers above with the spinning
jennies, winding and warping machines.
Joshua Fielden, a Quaker and fustian manufacturer of Edge
End Farm, began a spinning business with hand operated jennies
in three converted cottages at Laneside in Todmorden. Within
2 years he had acquired the leasehold on the property and
a supply of water from Swineshead Clough with which to power
the new machinery.
family occupied one of the cottages and the other two were
work places. Within months Laneside employed 300 workers,
most of them handloom weavers working from home. The third
storey was added later, about 1800.
afterwards Abraham Crossley, Thomas Lord of KNOWL FARM and Moses Dawson of Knowlwood built a small mill known as
KNOWLWOOD MILL, and commenced the business of carding and
spinning. This was positioned in the valley where there was
a waterfall of about 6 or 7 yards. Part of the mill is still
there, now a pair of cottages.
Fielden, known as Little Quaker of Bottomley, was a woollen clothier
at BOTTOMLEY FARM. When cotton began to arrive in the area in serious
amounts he built a small cotton spinning mill at Bottomley Fold.
This was powered by a water wheel that had previously been used
at WATERSTALLS MILL lhigher up on the moors. He was successful enough
to find work for his large family and the people in the neighbouring
were built at BIRKS, Ragby and STRINES,
all in Walsden, and dozens of others were dotted about in the cloughs.
The old fulling mill at INCHFIELD was converted to cotton spinning
by THOMAS BOTTOMLEY who later built a new mill at Ramsden above
that of the Law brothers. Anthony Crossley of Todmorden Hall built
one at RIDGEFOOT near the centre of Todmorden. This was first
run by Buckley and Sandersons, and later just known as John Buckley
& Sons and was probably the first mill to be operated in the
village of Todmorden.
By 1805 there were at least 57 spinning mills on record.
early cotton spinners still travelled to Manchester for the raw
cotton. The only way of transporting goods backwards and forwards
to Manchester was by horse and cart along the turnpike roads. However,
by 1794 Parliamentary approval was given to build a CANAL to link
the Calder Valley to Manchester. The local mill owners weren't best
pleased by this proposal, despite the obvious transportation advantages.
Water was essential to the runnning of the mills and they were terrified
that the water requirements for the canal would reduce the already
sparse supply. Petitions were sent in to the effect that even without
the canal the mills suffered from lack of water in times of drought,
at which times the mills were inoperable for parts of the day. Eventually,
the Canal Company was restricted to the amount of water it could
take from the streams, and was obliged to build its own reservoirs
on Blackstone Edge. The mill owners were still unconvinced, but
the canal was built, opening in 1798.
these mills the people worked from 14 to 17 hours a day Monday to
Friday, and were allowed home at twilight on Saturdays. Most of
the operators were women and children and they earned up to 7 shillings
a week. Some of the masters said they would never pay more than
7 shillings to a woman or a lass in a factory as this sum was quite
the other hand, a vast quantity of yarn was available to the domestic
handloom weavers who, now in short supply, could demand top prices.
The weavers began a period of great prosperity. They were paid according
to how many "pieces" or "cuts" of cloth of a
certain length they produced. In other words, Piece Rates. Most
masters were paying 2 shillings and 6 pence a piece.
accounts book from SMITHYHOLME MILL covering the year 1816 shows
us which weavers attended the mill on taking in and putting out
days, how much by weight they were given of warps and wefts, and
how much they were paid for the returned cloth.
this stage their rural way of life wasn't greatly affected, and
at the end of the day the spinning mills were still water powered
and clean, and made the process of spinning much less arduous. The
weavers still worked at home and in their own time at their own
pace, attending the shops on putting out and taking in days as before.
However, for the women and children who did the carding and spinning,
it was the start of the factory system and was the first time that
Todmorden people had any form of organised employment whereby they
had to start and end work at a given time and had to attend every
day except Sunday.
age of the steam-powered engines and huge weaving sheds were
to arrive in Todmorden