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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Cotton Manufacture

The antiquity of the cotton industry has hitherto proved unfathomable, as can readily be understood from the difficulty of proving a universal negative, especially from such scanty material as we possess of remote ages. That in the 5th century B.C. cotton fabrics were unknown or quite uncommon in Europe may be inferred from Herodotus' mention of the cotton clothing of the Indians. Ultimately the cotton industry was imported into Europe, and by the middle of the 13th century we find it flourishing in Spain. In the New World it would seem to have originated spontaneously, since on the discovery of America the wearing apparel in use included cotton fabrics. After the collapse of Spanish prosperity before the Moors in the 4th century the Netherlands assumed a leadership in this branch of the textile industries as they did also in other branches. It has been surmised that the cotton manufacture was carried from the Netherlands to England by refugees during the Spanish persecution of the second half of the 16th century; but no absolute proof of this statement has been forthcoming, and although workers in cotton may have been among the Flemish weavers who fled to England about that time, and some of whom are said to have settled in and about Manchester, it is quite conceivable that cotton fabrics were made on an insignificant scale in England years before, and there is some evidence to show that the industry was not noticeable till many years later. If England did derive her cotton manufacture from the Netherlands she was unwillingly compelled to repay the loan with interest more than two hundred years later when the machine industry was conveyed to the continent through the ingenuity of Lievin Bauwens, despite the precautions taken to preserve it for the British Isles. About the same time English colonists transported it to the United States. Since, as transformed in England, the cotton industry, particularly spinning, has spread throughout the civilized and semi-civilized world, though its most important seat still remains the land of its greatest development.

As early as the 13th century cotton-wool was used in England for candle-wicks.' The importation of the cotton from the Levant in the 16th century is mentioned by Hakluyt,2 and according to Macpherson it was brought over Ea from Antwerp in r 60. Reference to the manufacture hist r/y ory ig P 5 England.

of cottons in England long before the second half of the 16th century are numerous, but the " cottons " spoken of were not cottons proper as Defoe would seem to have mistakenly imagined. Thus, for example, there is a passage by William Camden (writing in 1590) quoted below, in which Manchester cottons are specifically described as woollens, and there is a notice in the act of 33 Henry VIII. (c. xv.) of the Manchester linen and woollen industries, and of cottons - which are clearly woollens since their " dressyng and frisyng " is noted, and the latter process, which consists in raising and curling the nap, was not applicable to cotton textiles. John Leland, after his visit to Manchester about 1538, used these words - " Boltonupon-Moore market standeth most by cottons; divers villages in the Moores about Bolton do make cottons." Leland, it is true, might conceivably be referring to manufactures from the vegetable fibre, but it is exceedingly unlikely, since the term " cottons " would seem to have been current with a perfectly definite meaning. The goods were probably an English imitation in wool of continental cotton fustians - which would explain the name. Again we may quote from the act of 5 and 6 Edward VI., " all the cottons called Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire cottons, full wrought to the sale, shall be in length twenty-two yards and contain in breadth three-quarters of a yard in the water and shall weigh thirty pounds in the piece at least "; and from the act 8 Elizabeth c. xi., " every of the said cottons being sufficiently milled or thicked, clean scoured, well-wrought and full-dried, shall weigh 21 lb at the least." 3 These are evidently the weights of woollen goods: further, it may be observed that milling is not applicable to cotton goods. The earliest reference to a cotton manufacture in England which may reasonably be regarded as pointing to the fabrication of textiles from cotton proper, is in the will of James Billston (a not un-English name), who is described as a " cotton manufacturer," proved at Chester in 1578.4 It may plausibly be contended that James Billston was a worker in the 1 See the extract from the books of Bolton Abbey, given by Baines (p. 96) and dated 1298.

2 Vol. ii. p. 206; Baines, pp. 96-97.

Baines, pp. 93 and 94.

4 Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, vol. ii.

vegetable fibre, since otherwise " manufacturer of cottons " would have been a more natural designation. But the proof of the will of one cotton manufacturer establishes very little.

The next earliest known reference to the cotton industry proper occurs in a petition to the earl of Salisbury, made presumably in 1610, asking for the continuance of a grant for reforming frauds committed in the manufacture of " bambazine cotton such as groweth in the land of Persia being no kind of wool."' But a far more valuable piece of evidence, discovered by W. H. Price, is a petition of " Merchants and citizens of London that use buying and selling of fustians made in England, as of the makers of the same fustians. Its probable date is 1621, and it contains the following important passages: " About twenty years past, divers people in this kingdom, but chiefly in the county of Lancaster, have found out the trade of making of other fustians, made of a kind of bombast or down, being a fruit of the earth growing upon little shrubs or bushes, brought into this kingdom by the Turkey merchants, from Smyrna, Cyprus, Acra and Sydon, but commonly called cotton wool; and also of linen yarn most part brought out of Scotland, and othersome made in England, and no part of the same fustians of any wool at all, for which said bombast and yarn imported, his majesty has a great yearly sum of money for the custom and subsidy thereof.

" There is at the least 40 thousand pieces of fustian of this kind yearly made in England, the subsidy to his majesty of the materials for making of every piece coming to between 8d. and iod. the piece; and thousands of poor people set on working of these fustians.

" The right honourable duke of Lennox in t i of Jacobus 1613 procured a patent from his majesty, of alnager of new draperies for 60 years, upon pretence that wool was converted into other sorts of commodities to the loss of customs and subsidies for wool transported beyond seas; and therein is inserted into his patent, searching and sealing; and subsidy for 80 several stuffs; and among the rest these fustians or other stuffs of this kind of cotton wool, and subsidy and a fee for the same, and forfeiture of 20s. for putting any to sale unsealed, the moiety of the same forfeiture to the said duke, and power thereby given to the duke or his deputies, to enter any man's house to search for any such stuffs, and seize them till the forfeiture be paid; and if any resist such search, to forfeit £10 and power thereby given to the lord treasurer or chancellor of the exchequer, to make new ordinances or grant commissions for the aid of the duke and his officers in execution of their office." Here the date of the appearance of the cotton industry on an appreciable scale - it is questionable whether any importance should be attached to the expression " found out " - is given by those who would be speaking of facts within the memory of themselves or their friends as " about twenty years past " from 1621, and the annual output of the industry in 1621 is mentioned. Moreover, it is established by this document that for a time at least the cotton manufacture was " regulated " like the other textile trades. The date assigned by the petitioners for the first attraction of attention by the English cotton industry may be supported on negative grounds.

Baines assures us that William Camden, who wrote in 1590, devoted not a sentence to the cotton industry, though Manchester figures among his descriptions: " This town," he says, " excels the towns immediately around it in handsomeness, populousness, woollen manufacture, market place, church and college; but did much more excel them in the last age, as well by the glory of its woollen cloths (laneorunn pannorurn honore ), which they call Manchester cottons, as by the privilege of sanctuary, which the authority of parliament under Henry VIII. transferred to Chester." 3 It is significant too that in the Elizabethan poorlaw of 160r (43 Elizabeth), neither cotton-wool nor yarn is included among the fabrics to be provided by the overseers to set the poor to work upon; though, of course, it might be argued that so short-stapled a fibre needed for its working, when machinery was rough, a skill in the operative which would be above that of the average person unable to find employment. However, a proposal was made in 1626 to employ the poor in the spinning of cotton and weaving wo01.4 1 State Papers, Domestic, lix. 5. See W. H. Price, Quar. Jour. Econ., vol. xx.

London Guildhall Library, vol. Beta, Petitions and Parliamentary Matters (1620-1621), No. 16 (old No. 25).

The act referred to is 33 Henry VIII. c. xv., already mentioned. 4 Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce (5903), vol. ii. p. 623.

Prior to Mr Price's discovery of the petition mentioned above, the earliest known notice of the existence in England of a cotton industry of any magnitude was the oft-quoted passage from Lewes Roberts's Treasure of Traffic (1641), which runs: " The town of Manchester, in Lancashire, must be also herein remembered, and worthily for their encouragement commended,. who buy the yarne of the Irish in great quantity, and weaving it, return the same again into Ireland to sell: Neither doth their industry rest here, for they buy cotton-wool in London that comes first from Cyprus and Smyrna, and at home work the same, and perfect it into fustians, vermillions, dimities and other such stuffs, and then return it to London, where the same is vented and sold, and not seldom sent into foreign parts." 5 Despite Lewes Roberts's flattering reference, the trade of Manchester about that time consisted chiefly in woollen frizes, fustians, sackcloths, mingled stuffs, caps, inkles, tapes, points, &c., according to " A Description of the Towns of Manchester and Salford," 1650, 6 and woollens for a long time held the first place. But before another century had run its course cottons proper had pushed into the first rank, though the woollen industry continued to be of unquestionable importance. In 1727 Daniel Defoe could write, " the grand manufacture which has so much raised this town is that of cotton in all its varieties," 7 and he did not mean. the woollen " cottons," as he made plain by other references to the industry in the same connexion; but it was not until some fifty years later that the ousting of the woollen industry from what is now peculiarly the cotton district became unmistakable.

As a rule the woollen weavers were driven farther and farther east - Bury lay just outside the cotton area when Defoe wrote - and finally many of them settled in the West Riding. Edwin Butterworth even tells of woollen weavers who migrated from Oldham to the distant town of Bradford in Wiltshire because of the decline of their trade before the victorious cotton industry. Much the same fate was being shared by the linen industry in Lancashire, which was forced out of the county westwards and northwards. The explanation of the three centralizations, namely of the woollen industry, the cotton industry and the linen industry, is not far to seek. The popularity of the fabrics produced by the rising cotton industry enabled it to pay high wages, which, indeed, were essential to bring about its expansion. This a priori diagnosis is supported by contemporary analysis: thus "the rapid progress of that business (cotton spinning) and the higher wages which it afford, have so far distressed the makers of worsted goods in that county (Lancashire), that they have found themselves obliged to offer their few remaining spinners larger premiums than the state of their trade would allow." 9' The best operatives of Lancashire were attracted sooner or later to assist the triumphs of art over the vegetable wool. At the same time the scattered woollen and linen workers of Lancashire were suffering from the competition of rivals enjoying elsewhere the economies of some centralization, and. the demand for woollen and linen warps in the cotton industry ceased after the introduction of Arkwright's water-twist. When the factory became common the economies of centralization(which arise from the wide range of specialism laid open to a large local industry) increased; moreover they were reinforced by the diminution of social friction and the intensification of business sensitiveness which marked the development of the 19th century. Once begun, the centralizing movement proceeded naturally with accelerating speed. The contrast beneath is an instructive statistical comment: 5 Original edition, pp. 3 2, 33.

6 Aikin's Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles round Manchester, p. 154.

7 Tour, vol. iii. p. 219.

8 For instance Radcliffe p. 61. Ogden (author of A Description of Manchester, &c., published in 1783), if Aikin's " accurate and well-informed enquirer " by Ogden, says that the period of rapid extension of the cotton industry began about 1770. See also Butterworth's History of Oldham and the passage quoted below in the text.

9 Account of Society for Promotion of Industry in Lindsey (1789), Brit. Mus. 103, L. 56. Quoted from Cunningham's English Industry and Commerce, vol. ii. p. 452, n. ed., 1892.


1898-1899 .

Cheshire. .. .. .



Cumberland. ... .



Derbyshire. .. ... .

10, 500


Lancashire. .. ... .



Nottinghamshire. .. .



Staffordshire. .. .. .



Yorkshire. .. ... .



England and Wales 1. ..



Scotland. ... .



Ireland. .. .. .

4, 600


United Kingdom. ... .



Distribution of Cotton Operatives in 1838 and 1898-1899 (from Returns of Factory Inspectors). The distribution of the industry has varied greatly in the two periods. If it had remained constant Lancashire would only have contained 300,000 operatives in 1899, instead of the actual 400,000. Scotland, on the other hand, only contained 30,000 instead of 70,000, and in Ireland the numbers were one-tenth of what they should have been. The percentage of operatives in Lancashire in 1838 was 58.5, but this increased to 75.7 in 1898.

Why, we may naturally inquire, did not the cotton industry localize in the West Riding or Cheshire and the woollen industry maintain its position in Lancashire? Accident no doubt partly explains why the cotton industry is carried on where it is in the various parts of the globe, but apart from accident, as regards Lancashire, it is sufficient answer to point to the peculiarly suitable congeries of conditions to be found there. There is firstly the climate, which for the purpose of cotton spinning is unsurpassed elsewhere, and which became of the first order of importance when fine spinning was developed. In the Lancashire atmosphere in certain districts just about the right humidity is contained on a great number of days for spinning to be done with the least degree of difficulty. Some dampness is essential to make the fibres cling, but excessive moisture is a disadvantage. Over the county of Lancashire the prevailing west wind carries comparatively continuous currents of humidified air. These currents vary in temperature according to their elevation. Hot and cold layers mix when they reach the hills, and the mixture of the two is nearer to the saturation point than either of its components. The degree of moisture is measured by the ratio of the actual amount of moisture to the moisture of the saturation point for that particular temperature. Owing to the sudden elevation the air is rarefied, its temperature being thereby lowered, and in consequence condensation tends to be produced. In several places in England and abroad, where there is a scarcity of moisture, artificial humidifiers have been tried, but no cheap and satisfactory one has hitherto been discovered. To the advantages of the Lancashire climate for cotton spinning must be added - especially as regards the early days of the cotton industry - its disadvantages for other callings. The unpleasantness of the weather renders an indoor occupation desirable, and the scanty sunshine, combined with the unfruitful nature of much of the soil, prevents the absorption of the population in agricultural pursuits. In later years the port of Liverpool and the presence of coal supplemented the attractions which were holding the cotton industry in Lancashire. All the raw material must come from abroad, and an enormous proportion of English cotton products figures as exports. The proximity of Liverpool has aided materially in making the cotton industry a great exporting industry.

Before the localization of the separate parts of the industry can be treated the differentiation of the industry must be described. We pass then, at this stage, to consider the manufacture in its earliest form and the lines of its development. First, and somewhat incidentally, we notice the early connexion between the conduct of the cotton manufacture, when it was a domestic 1 In 1838 the only other county with more than moo was Gloucester with 1500.257,000 of the 219,100 operatives in England and Wales were employed in the counties enumerated. Of the 2000 operatives whose location is not given, about 1000 worked in Flintshire.

industry in its primitive form, and the performance of agricultural operations. A few short extracts will place before us all the evidence that it is here needful to adduce.

First Radcliffe, an eye-witness, writing of the period Early  ? Y ? g P system of about 1770, says " the land in our township (Mellor) manufac- was occupied by between fifty and sixty farmers. .. ture and and out of these fifty or sixty farmers there were organisa= tion. only six or seven who raised their rents directly from the produce of their farms, all the rest got their rent partly in some branch of trade, such as spinning and weaving woollen, linen or cotton. The cottagers were employed entirely in this matter, except for a few weeks in the harvest." 2 Next we may cite Edwin Butterworth who, though not an eyewitness (he was not born till 1812), proved himself by his researches to be a careful and trustworthy investigator. In the parish of Oldham, he recorded, there were " a number of master (cotton-linen fustian) a manufacturers, as well as many weavers who worked for manufacturers, and at the same time were holders of land or farmers.. .. The number of fustian farmers who were cottagers working for manufacturers, without holding land, were few; but there were a considerable number of weavers who worked on their own account, and held at the same time small pieces of land." 4 Other passages might be quoted, but these two will suffice. Weaving was not exactly a by-employment of farm labourers, but many weavers made agriculture a by-employment to some extent, (a) by working small parcels of land, which varied from the size of allotments to farms of a very few acres, and ( b ) by lending aid in gathering in the harvest when their other work enabled them to do so. The association of manufacturing and weaving survived beyond the first quarter of the 19th century. Of the weavers in many districts and " more especially in Lancashire " we read in the report of the committee on emigration, " it appears that persons of this description for many years past, have been occupiers of small farms of a few acres, which they have held at high rents, and combining the business of the hand-loom weaver with that of a working farmer have assisted to raise the rent of their land from the profits of their loom." 5 One of the first lines of specialism to appear was the severing of the connexion described above, and the concentration of the weavers in hamlets and towns. Finer fabrics and more complicated fabrics were introduced, and the weaver soon learnt that such rough work as farming unfitted his hands for the delicate tasks required of them. Again, really to prosper a weaver found it necessary to perfect himself by close application. The days of the rough fabrics that anybody could make with moderate success were closing in. As a consequence the dispersion of the weavers becomes less and less. They no longer wanted allotments or farms; and their looms having become more complicated, the mechanic proved himself a convenient neighbour. Finding spinners too was an easier task in the hamlet or town than in the remote country parts. But there is no reason to suppose that agriculture and the processes of the domestic cotton manufacturer had ever been universally twin callings. There never was a time, probably, when weavers who did nothing but weave were not a significant proportion, if not the major part, of the class of weavers. All again were not independent and all were not employees. Some were simply journeymen in small domestic workshops; others were engaged by fustian masters or Manchester merchants and paid by the piece for what they made out of material supplied them; others again bought their warps and cotton and sold to the merchants their fabrics, which were their own property. The last class was swept away soon after the industry became large, when by the organization of men of capital consumers and producers were more and 2 W. Radcliffe's Origin of the New System of Manufacturing, p. 59.

The term " fustian " had originally been used to designate certain woollen or worsted goods made at Norwich and in Scotland. A reference to Norwich fustians of as early a date as the 14th century is quoted by Baines.

Butterworth's History of Oldham, p. 101.

Parliamentary Reports, &c. (1826-1827), v. p. 5. See for even later examples Gardner's evidence to the committee on hand-loom weavers in 1835.

Lancashire ad= vantages. more kept in touch. In early days most weavers owned their looms, the great part of which they had frequently constructed themselves: later, however, a large number hired looms, and it was as usual in certain quarters for lodgings to be let with a loom as it is to-day for them to be provided with a piano. When it became customary for weavers to undertake a variety of work, the masters usually provided reeds (which had to vary in fineness with the fineness of the warp), healds, and other changeable parts, and sometimes they employed the gaiters to fit the new work in the looms.

Until the success of the water-frame, cotton could not be spun economically of sufficient strength and fineness for warps, and the warps were therefore invariably made of either linen or wool. Some were manufactured locally, others were imported from Germany, Ireland and Scotland. The weaver prepared them for his loom by the system of peg-warping,' but of ter the introduction of the warping-mill he received them as a rule all ready for insertion into the loom from the Manchester merchant or local fustian master.

" It did not pay the individual weaver to keep a warping-mill for occasional use only, and frequently the contracted space of his workroom precluded even the possibility of his doing so. The invention of the warping-mill necessitated specialism in warping, and it was essential that warping should be done to order, since at that time, the state of the industrial world being what it was, no person could ordinarily have been found to adventure capital in producing warps ready made in anticipation of demand for the great variety of fabrics which was even then produced. Moreover, had the weaver himself placed the orders for his warps, any occasional delay in the execution of his commissions might have stopped his work entirely until the warps were ready; for warps cannot be delivered partially, like weft, in quantities sufficient for each day's work. To ensure continuous working in the industry, therefore, it was almost inevitable that the merchant should himself prepare the warps for such fabrics as he required, or possibly have them prepared. To the system of the merchant delegating the preparation of warps there was less objection than to the system of the weaver doing so, since the merchant, dealing in large quantities, was more likely to get pressing orders completed to time. Further, the merchant knew first what kind of warps would be needed. The first solution, however, that of the merchant undertaking the warping himself, was the surer, and there was no doubt as to its being the one destined for selection in a period when a tendency to centralize organization, responsibility and all that could be easily centralized, was steadily gaining in strength." 2 Guest says the system by which the weaver was supplied with warps and other material was substituted for the purchase of warps and cotton-wool by the weaver about 1740. No doubt the change was very gradual, especially as Aikin mentions the use of warping-mills in the 17th century. The weaver as a rule received his weft material in the form of cotton-wool and was required to arrange himself for its cleaning and spinning. According to Aikin, 3 dealers tried the experiment of giving out weft instead of cotton-wool, but " the custom grew into disuse as there was no detecting the knavery of the spinners till a piece came in woven." As it was impossible to unwrap the yarn and test it throughout its length, defects were hidden until it came to be used, and the complaints of weavers were not conclusive as to the inferiority of the yarn, since their own bad workmanship might have had something to do with its having proved unsatisfactory. It was therefore found best to saddle the weaver with full responsibility for both the spinning and weaving. Women and children cleaned, carded and spun the cotton-wool in their homes. The cotton had to be more thoroughly cleaned after its arrival in this country. The ordinary process of cleaning was known as " willowing," because the cotton was beaten with willow switches after it had been laid out on a tight hammock of cords. The cotton used for fine spinning was also carefully washed; and even when it was not washed it was soaked with water and partially dried so that the fibres might be made to cling together! Most of the weaving was done by men, and until 1 This is illustrated in one of the plates to Guest's History of the Cotton Manufacture. s Chapman's Lan c ashire Cotton Industry, pp. 15 and 16. Page 167.

4 Mrs Crompton, wife of Samuel Crompton, we are told, used to the invention of the fly-shuttle they cast the shuttle from hand to hand in the manner of their remotest ancestors. For the making of the broader fabrics two weavers were required when the width was greater than the easy stretch of a man's arms. Sometimes cloths were woven wide and then split into two or more: hence the term " splits." This became a common practice when the hand-loom workers were groaning under the pressure of competition from the power-loom.

We now reach the era of the great inventions. In order to ensure clearness it will be desirable to consider separately the branches of spinning and weaving: to pass from the one to the other, and follow the chronological order, might cause confusion. First emphasis must be laid upon the point that it was not mechanical change alone which constituted the industrial revolution. No doubt small hand-looms factories would have become the rule, and more and more control over production would have devolved upon the factory master, and the work to be done would have been increasingly assigned by merchants, had the steam-engine remained but the dream of Watt, and semi-automatic machinery not been invented. The spirit of the times was centralizing management before any mechanical changes of a revolutionizing character had been devised. Loom-shops, in which several journeymen were employed, were not uncommon: thus " in the latter part of the last (18th) and the beginning of the present (19th) century," says Butterworth, describing the state of affairs in Oldham and the neighbourhood, " a large number of weavers. possessed spacious loom-shops, where they not only employed many journeymen weavers, but a considerable proportion of apprentice children." It is true that both the flyshuttle and drop-box had been invented by that time, but the loom was still worked by human power. Specialism, however, was on the increase, the capitalist was assuming more control, and the operative was being transformed more and more into the mere executive agent. Further, as creative of enterprise, an atmosphere of freedom and a general economic restlessness, consequent upon the reaction against mercantilism, were noticeable. Great changes, no doubt, would soon have swept over Lancashire had a new source of power and big factories not been rendered essential by inventions in spinning.

The chief inventors were Lewis Paul and John Wyatt, James Hargreaves and Samuel Crompton. The two first originated the principle of spinning by rollers. Their patent was taken Spinning out in 1738, but no good came of it immediately, though many trials were made and moderately large sums of money were lost. Ultimately RichardArkwright brought forward the same plan improved: his first patent was cry. dated 1769. Over the real authorship of the fundamental idea there has been much controversy, and it has not been absolutely proved that the second inventor, whether Thomas Highs, Arkwright or John Kay (a clockmaker of Warrington who assisted Arkwright to construct his machine and is said by some to have told him of an invention by Highs), did not hit upon the device afresh in ignorance of the work already done. Even as between Paul and Wyatt it is not easy to award due measure of praise. Probably the invention, as a working machine, resulted from real collaboration, each having an appreciable share in it. Robert Cole, in his paper to the British Association in 1858 (reprinted as an appendix to the 1st ed. of French's Life of Crompton ), championed the claims of Paul, but 11 M Iantoux, in his La Revolution industrielle au X VIII e siecle, after studying the Wyatt MSS., inclines to attribute to Wyatt a far more important position, though he dissents from the view of Baines, who ascribes little or nothing to Paul.

Arkwright's prospects of financial success were much greater than those of his predecessors, because, first, there was more employ her son George shortly after he could walk, as a " dolly-peg " to tread the cotton in the soapy water in which it was placed for washing. See French's Life of Crompton, pp. 58-59 (3rd ed.). Rowbotham in his diary gives two accounts of fires which were caused by carelessness in drying cotton.

On the difference between the two machines see Baines's History, p. 138 et seq.

The chinery. need in his time of mechanical aids, and secondly, he was highly talented as a business man. In 1775 he followed up his patent of 1769 with another relating to machinery for carding, drawing and roving. The latter patent was widely infringed, and Arkwright was compelled to institute nine actions in 1781 to defend his rights. An association of Lancashire spinners was formed to defend them, and by the one that came to trial the patent was set aside on the ground of obscurity in the specifications. Arkwright again attempted to recover his patent rights in 1785, after the first patent had been in abeyance for two years. Before making this further trial of the courts he had thought of proceeding by petition to parliament, and had actually drawn up his " case," which he was ultimately dissuaded from presenting. In it he prayed not only that the decision of 1781 should be set aside, but that both patents should be continued to him for the unexpired period of the second patent, i.e. until 1789. In his " case " (i.e. the petition mentioned above) Arkwright stated that he had sold to numbers of adventurers residing in the different counties of Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Worcester, Stafford, York, Hertford and Lancaster, many of his patent machines, and continued: " Upon a moderate computation, the money expended in consequence of such grants (before 1782) amounted to at least £60,000. Mr Arkwright and his partners also expended in large buildings in Derbyshire and elsewhere upwards of X 30,000, and Mr Arkwright also erected a very large and extensive building in Manchester at the expense of upwards of £4000. Thus a business had been formed which already (he calculated) employed upwards of five thousand persons, and a capital on the whole of not less than £20o,000." 1 It is impossible to discover exactly the rights of the matter. Certainly Arkwright had been intentionally obscure in his specifications, as he admitted, and for his defence, namely that it was to preserve the secret for his countrymen, there was only his word. He may have hoped to keep the secret for himself; and as to the originality of both inventions there were grave doubts. But Arkwright has received little sympathy, because his claims were regarded as grasping in view of the large fortune which he had already won. He began work with his first partners at Nottingham (when power was derived from horses) and started at Cromford in 1771 (where the force of water was used). Soon he was involved in numerous undertakings, and he remained active till his death in 1792. He had met throughout with a good deal of opposition, which possibly to a man of his temperament was stimulating. Even in the matter of getting protective legislation reframed to give scope to the application of the water-frame, a powerful section of Lancashire employers worked against him. This protective legislation must here be shortly reviewed.

In 1700 an act had been passed (I i & 12 William III. c. 10) prohibiting the importation of the printed calicoes of India, Persia and China. In 1721 the act 7 George I. c. 7 prohibited the use of any " printed, painted, stained or dyed calico," excepting only calicoes dyed all blue and muslins, neckcloths and fustians. This act was modified by the act 9 George II. c. 4 (allowing British calicoes with linen warps). Thus the matter stood as regards prints when Arkwright had demonstrated that stout cotton warps could be spun in England, and at the same time the officers of excise insisted upon exacting a tax of 6d. from the plain all-cottons instead of the 3d. paid by the cotton-linens, on the ground that the former were calicoes. Arkwright's plea, however, was admitted, and by the act 14 George II. c. 72 the still operative part of the act of 1721 was set aside, and the manufacture, use, and wear of cottons printed and stained, &c., was permitted subject to the payment of a duty of 3d. per sq. yd. (the same as the excise on cotton-linens) provided they were stamped " British manufactory." The duty was varied from time to time until its repeal in 1832.

Some more powerful force than that of man or horse was soon needed to work the heavy water-frames. Hence Arkwright placed his second mill on a water-course, fitting it with a water-wheel, and until the steam-engine became economical most of the new twist mills were built on water ' Baines p. 183.

courses. On rare occasions the old fire-engines seem to have been tried.

Lancashire. .

Flintshire .


Derbyshire. .

. 22

Berkshire .


Nottinghamshire .

. 17

Lanarkshire .

Yorkshire .

. II


Cheshire. .


Perthshire .


Staffordshire. .


Midlothian .


Westmorland. .


Isle of Man


The following passage quoted from a note in Baines's History illustrates the pressing need of the early mills: " On the river Irwell, from the first mill near BP cup, to Prestolee, near Bolton, there is about goo, ft. of fall available from mills, Boo of which is occupied. On this river and its branches it is computed that there are no less than three hundred mills. A project is in course of execution to increase the water-power of the district, already so great and so much concentrated, and to equalize the force of the stream by forming eighteen reservoirs on the hills, to be filled in times of flood, and to yield their supplies in the drought of summer. These reservoirs, according to the plan, would cover 270 acres of ground, and contain 241,300,000 cub. ft. of water, which would give a power equal to 6600 horses. The cost is estimated at £59,000. One reservoir has been completed, another is in course of formation, and it is probable that the whole design will be carried into effect. "2 As early as 1788 there were 143 water-mills in the cotton industry of the United Kingdom, which were distributed as follows among the counties which had more than one.3 The need of water to drive Arkwright's machinery, and its value for working other machinery, caused a strong decentralizing tendency to show itself in the cotton industry at this time, but more particularly in the twist-spinning branch. Ultimately the steam-engine (first used in the cotton industry in 1785) drew all branches of the industry into the towns, where the advantages of their juxtaposition - i.e. the external economies of centralization - could be enjoyed. Out of the crowding of the mills in one locality sprang the business specialism which has continued up to the present day. Here it will not be out of place to notice the appearance of the new power, electricity, in the cotton industry, the extension of which may involve striking economic changes. The first electric-driven spinning-mill in Lancashire, that of the " Acme " Spinning Company at Pendlebury, the work of which is confined to the ring-frame, was opened in 1905. Power is obtained from the stations of the Lancashire Power Company at Outwood near Radcliffe, some 5 m. distant.

The chief principle of the water-frame was the drawing out of the yarn to the required degree of tenuity by sets of gripping rollers revolving at different speeds. This principle is still applied universally. Twist was given by a " flyer " revolving round the bobbin upon which the yarn was being wound; the spinning so effected was known as throstle-spinning. The plan is still common in the subsidiary processes of the cotton industry, but for spinning itself the ring-frame, which appears to have been invented simultaneously in England and the United States (the first American patent is dated 1828), is rapidly supplanting the throstle-frame, 4 though the " ooziness " of mule yarn has not yet been successfully imitated by ring-frame yarn. The great invention relating to weft-spinning was the jenny, introduced by James Hargreaves probably about 1764, and first tried in a factory four years later.' Hargreaves unfortunately was unable to maintain his patent, because he had sold jennies before applying for protection. Crompton's mule, which combined the principles of the rollers and the jenny, was perfected about 1779. Both jennies and mules were known as " wheels," because they were worked in part by the turning of a wheel. As they could be set in motion without using much power, being light when of moderate 2 Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture, p. 86 n.

These figures are quoted from a pamphlet published in 1788 entitled " An Important Crisis in the Calico and Muslin Manufactory in Great Britain explained." Many of the estimates given in this pamphlet are worthless, but there seems no reason why the figures quoted here should not be at least approximately correct.

4 See article on Cotton-Spinning Machinery.

5 Hargreaves' claim to this invention has been disputed, but no satisfactory evidence has been brought forward to disprove his claim. Hargreaves was a carpenter and weaver of Stand-hill near Blackburn, and died in 1778.

size, for a long time they were worked entirely by hand or partially with the aid of horses or water. The first jennyand mule-factories were small for this reason, and also because skill in the operative was a matter of fundamental importance,' as it was not in twist-spinning on the water-frame. The size of the typical weft-spinning mill suddenly increased after the scope for the application of power was enlarged by the use of the self-actor mule, invented in 1825 by Richard Roberts, of the firm of Sharp, Roberts & Co., machinists, of Manchester. In 1830 Roberts improved his invention and brought out the complete self-actor. Self-actors had been put forward by others besides Roberts - for instance by William Strutt, F.R.S. (sen of Arkwright's partner), before 1790; William Kelly, formerly of Lanark mills, in 1792; William Eaton of Wiln in Derbyshire; Peter Ewart of Manchester; de Jongh of Warrington; Buchanan, of Catrine works, Scotland; Knowles of Manchester; and Dr Brewster of America 2 - but none had succeeded. And Roberts's machines did not immediately win popularity. For a long time the winding done by them was defective, and they suffered from other imperfections. Broadly speaking, until the American Civil War the number of handmules in use remained high. It was for the fine " counts " in particular that many employers preferred them. 3 About the end of the 'sixties, however, and in the early 'seventies, great improvements were effected in machinery, partly under the stimulus of a desire to elevate its fitness for dealing with shortstaple cotton, and it became evident that hand-mules were doomed. Here we may suitably refer to the scutching machine for opening and cleaning cotton, invented by Mr Snodgrass of Glasgow in 1797, and introduced by Kennedy 4 to Manchester in 1808 or 180g; the cylinder carder invented by Lewis Paul and improved by Arkwright; and the lap-machine first constructed by Arkwright's son.

We now transfer our attention to that accumulation of improvements in manufacturing (as weaving is technically termed) which, taken in conjunction with the inventions already covers Lancashire to-day. Gradually, for many years, the loom had been gathering complexities, though no fundamental alteration was introduced into its structure until 1738, when John Kay of Bury excited the wrath of his fellow-weavers by designing and employing the device of the fly-shuttle. For some unfathomable reason - for the opposition of the weavers hardly explains it, though they expressed their views forcibly and acted upon them violently - this invention was not much applied in the cotton industry until about a quarter of a century after its appearance. The plan was merely to substitute for human hands hammers at the ends of a lengthened lathe along which the shuttle ran, the hammers being set in motion by the jerking of a stick (the picking peg) to which they were attached by strings. The output of a weaver was enormously increased in consequence. In 1760 John Kay's son Robert added the drop-box, by the use of which many different kinds of weft could be worked into the same fabric without difficulty. It was in fact a partitioned lift, any partition of which could be brought to a level with the lathe and made for the time continuous with it. The drop-box usefully supplemented the "draw-boy," or "draught-boy," which provided for the raising of warps in groups, and thereby enabled figured goods to be produced. The " draw-boy " had been well known in the industry for a long time; in 1687 a Joseph Mason patented an invention for avoiding the expense of an assistant to work it,' but there is no evidence to show that his invention was of 1 See Chapman's Lancashire Cotton Industry, pp. 59 et seq.

2 See Baines p. 207.

' " Counts " are determined by the number of hanks to the lb. A hank is 840 yds. The origin of the hank of 840 yds. is probably that spinners used a winding-reel of 1 2 yds. in circumference, so that 80 threads (one " lea " or " rap " according to old phraseology) would contain 120 yds., and seven leas (i.e. a hank) would contain 840 yds. A hank of seven leas was the common measure in the woollen industry, in which the reels were 1 yd. or 2 yds. in circumference. For details see an article on the subject in the Textile World Record, vol. xxxi. No. I.

4 The author of the memoir of Crompton (see bibliography). Specification 257.

practical value. Looms with " draw-boys " affixed, which could sometimes be worked by the weavers themselves, later became common under the name of harness-looms, which have since been supplanted by Jacquard looms, wherein the pattern is picked out mechanically.

The principle of the fly-shuttle was a first step towards the complete mechanizing of the action required for working a loom. The second step was the power-loom, the initial effort to design which was created by the tardiness of weaving as contrasted with the rapidity of spinning by power. After the general adoption of the jenny, supplies of yarn outran the productive powers of the agencies that existed for converting them into fabrics, and as a consequence, it would seem, some yarn was directed into exports which might have been utilized for the manufacture of cloth for export had the loom been more productive. The agitation for the export tax on yarn at the end of the 18th, and in the first years of the 19th century, is therefore comprehensible, but there was no foundation for some of the allegations by which it was supported. For a large proportion of the exported yarn, fabrics could not have been substituted, since the former was required to feed the hand-looms in continental homes and domestic workshops, against much of the product of which there was no chance of competing. The hand-loom was securely linked to the home of the peasant, and though he would buy yarn to feed his loom he would not buy cloth and break it up.6 Cartwright's loom was not the first design adapted for weav ing by power. A highly rudimentary and perfectly futile selfactor weaving machine, which would have been adapted for power-working had it been capable of working at all, had been invented by a M. de Gennes: a description of it, extracted from the Journal de scavans, appeared in the Philosophical Transactions for July and August 1678, and again in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1751 (vol. xxi. pp. 391-392). It consisted of mechanical hands, as it were, that shot in and out of the warp and exchanged the shuttle. ? Another idea, which however proved fruitful, was that of grinding the shuttle through the warps by the agency of cog-wheels working at each end upon teeth affixed to the upper side of the shuttle. Though shuttles could not in this fashion be set in rapid movement, the machine turned out to be economical for the production of ribbons and tapes, because many pieces could be woven by it at once. These contrivances were known as swivel-looms, and in 1724 Stukeley in his Itinerarium curiosum wrote that the people of Manchester have " looms that work twenty-four laces at a time, which was stolen from the Dutch." Ogden says also that they were set up in imitation of Dutch machines by Dutch mechanics invited over for the purpose. Another interesting passage relating to the swivel-looms will be found in the rules of the Manchester small-ware weavers dated 1756, where the complaint is made that the masters have acquired by the employment of " engine or Dutch looms such large and opulent fortunes as hath enabled them to vie with some of the best gentlemen of the country," and it is alleged that these machines, which wove twelve or fourteen pieces at once, " were in use in Manchester thirty years ago." 8 One power-factory at least was devoted to them as early as 1760, namely that of a Mr Gartside at Manchester, where water-power was applied, but the enterprise failed. 9 Cartwright's invention was probably perfected in its For further analysis of the arguments current see Chapman's Lancashire Cotton Industry, pp. 66 et seq.

Also in the 17th century a John Barkstead was granted a patent for a method of manufacturing cotton goods, but the method is not described. 1691, Specification 276.

s In the parliamentary reports (1840), xxiv. p. 611, the invention of the swivel-loom is claimed for a " Van Anson." It is a plausible supposition that by " Van Anson " is meant Vaucanson, as he appears to have improved the swivel-loom. But he could not have been the original inventor, since in 1724 (that is, when Vaucanson was at the most fifteen years of age) they were being employed in Manchester.

9 Aikin, pp. 175-176, and Guest, p. 44. An explanation of the mechanism of the swivel-loom will be found in the Encyclopedie methodique, manufactures, arts et métiers, pt. i. vol. ii. pp. 202, 208, and Recueil de planches, vol. vi. (1786), pp. 72-78.

Weaving described, presaged the large factory system which machinery. p g g Y Y first form about 1787, but many corrections, improvements and additions had to be effected before it became an unqualified success. Cartwright's original idea was elaborated by numerous followers, and supplementary ideas were needed to make the system complete. Of the latter the most important were those due to William Radcliffe, and an ingenious mechanic who worked with him, Thomas Johnson, which were patented in 1803 and 1804. They related to the dressing of the warp before it was placed in the loom, and for the mechanical taking up of the cloth and drawing forward of the warp, so that the loom had not to be stopped for the cloth to be moved on and the warp brought within play of the shuttle to be sized. Looms fitted with the latter of these devices were known as " dandy " looms. The looms that followed need not be described here, nor need we concern ourselves with the degree in which some were imitations of others. It is of interest to note, however, in view of recent developments, that one of Cartwright's patents included a warp-stop motion, though it was never tried practically so far as the writer is aware. Looms with warp-stop motions are now common in the United States, as are also automatic looms, but both are still the exception in Lancashire for reasons that will be sketched later.

Power-looms won their way only very gradually. Cartwright and others lost fortunes in trying to make them pay, but the former was compensated by a grant of £10,000 from government. In 1813 there were 2400 only in the whole of the United Kingdom; in 1820 there were 14,000, beside some 240,000 hand-looms; in 1829, 55,500; in 1833, 10o,000; and in 1870, 440,700.1 To-day there are about 700,000 in the cotton industry. The beginning, and the final consequences, of the competitive pressure of the power-looms may be read in the reports of official inquiries and in Rowbotham's diary. 2 It was upon the fine work that the hand-loom weavers retained their last hold. In 1829 John Kennedy wrote in his paper to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society on " The Rise and Progress of the Cotton Trade," "It is found ... that one person cannot attend upon more than two power-looms, and it is still problematical [even in 1829, observe] whether the saving of labour counterbalances the expense of power and machinery and the disadvantage of being obliged to keep an establishment of power-looms constantly at work." It was not easy to obtain a sufficiency of good hands for the power-looms, because the operatives, who had acquired their habits under the domestic system, hated factory life. This, in conjunction with the ease with which the art of coarse weaving could be acquired and the cheapness of rough looms, helps to explain the wretched straits into which the hand-loom weavers were driven.

Improvements in machinery, which ultimately affected every process from cleaning the cotton to finishing the fabric, and the Growth. application of water and steam-power, so lowered the cost of production as to render Lancashire the cotton factory of the world. Figures are quoted in the table to show the rate of growth in different periods of England's imports and exports as regards the raw material and products of this industry. It is important to remember when reading the last 6 columns that the value of money was the same in 1831-1835, 1851-1855 1 Figures for the years above up to 1838 will be found in parliamentary reports (1840), xxiv. p. 611.

2 This is the manuscript diary of a weaver of Oldham roughly covering the period 1787 to 1830. It is now in the Oldham public library. Mr S. Andrew edited extracts from it in a series of articles in the Standard (an Oldham paper), under the title Annals of Oldham, beginning January 1, 1887.

and 1876-1880: the sums of Sauerbeck's index numbers for these periods were 454, 453 and 444 respectively. In the last two periods there were considerable depressions in prices. If prices had remained constant, in the periods 1891-1895 and 1896-1900 the figures of exports would have been £90 millions and £91 millions respectively. The growth in trade has been partly occasioned by the enormous increase in the volume of cotton goods consumed all over the world, which in turn has been due to (1) the growth of population, (2) the increase in productive efficiency and well-being, and (3 ) the substitution of cotton fabrics for woollen and linen fabrics. The rate of growth between the periods 1771-1781 and 1781-1791 (which is not shown in the above table) was particularly remarkable, and reached as high a figure (when measured by importations of weight of cotton) as 320%.

Nothing is more interesting in the cotton industry than the processes of differentiation and integration that have taken place from time to time. Weaving and spinning had been to a large extent united in the industry in its earliest form, in that both were frequently conducted beneath the same roof. With mechanical improvements in spinning, that branch of the industry became a separate business, and a substantial section of it was brought under the factory regime. Weaving continued to be performed in cottages or in hand-loom sheds where no spinning at all was attempted. Cartwright's invention carried weaving back to spinning, because both operations then needed power, and the trouble of marketing yarn was largely spared by the reunion. Mr W. R. Grey stated in 1833 to the committee of the House of Commons on manufactures, commerce and shipping, that he knew of no single person then. building a spinning mill who was not attaching to it a powerloom factory. Some years later the weaving-shed split away from spinning, partly no doubt because of the economies of industrial specialism, partly because of commercial developments, to be described later, which rendered dissociation less hazardous than it had been, and partly because, in consequence of these developments, much manufacturing (as weaving is termed) was constituted a business strikingly dissimilar from spinning. The manufacturer runs more risks in laying by stocks than the spinner, because of the greater variety of his product and the more frequent changes that it undergoes. The former, therefore, must devote more time than the latter to keeping his order book and the productive power of his shed in close correspondence. The minute care of this kind that must be exercised in some classes of businesses explains why the small manufacturer still. holds his own while the small spinner has been crushed out. It also explains to some extent the prevalence of joint-stock companies in spinning, and their comparative rarity in manufacturing. Here we should notice, perhaps, that the only combination of importance in the cotton industry proper (apart from calico-printing, bleaching, &c., and the manufacture of sewing-cotton) is the Fine Cotton Spinners and Doublers Association, founded in 1898, which is practically coextensive with fine spinning and doubling.

Official values.

Imports of

Raw Cotton

Exports of Cotton Yarns and

Manufactures, Million £.

Imports of Cotton Yarns and

Manufactures, Million £.


Raw Cotton,

Million lb.


Million lb.

yarns .




Yarns .






1 7 00 - 1705









1 77 1 - 1 775
















1 79 1 - 1 795





2.09 3





































































Differentiation and Integration. The specialism of the two main branches of the industry has been followed by the specialism of sub-branches and by the localization of specialized parts. Of the localization of certain sections of the cotton industry the late Mr Elijah Helm, who spoke with the authority of great local knowledge, has written as follows: " Spinning is largely concentrated in south Lancashire and in the adjoining borderland of north Cheshire. But even within this area there is further allocation. The finer and the very finest yarns are spun in the neighbourhood of Bolton, and in or near Manchester, much of this being used for the manufacture of sewing-thread; whilst other descriptions, employed almost entirely for weaving, are produced in Oldham and other towns. The weaving branches of the industry are chiefly conducted in the northern half of Lancashire-most of it in very large boroughs, as Blackburn, Burnley and Preston. Here, again, there is a differentiation. Preston and Chorley produce the finer and lighter fabrics; Blackburn, Darwen and Accrington, shirtings, dhooties and other goods extensively shipped to India; whilst Nelson and Colne make cloths woven from dyed yarn, and Bolton is distinguished for fine quiltings and fancy cotton dress goods. These demarcations are not absolutely observed, but they are sufficiently clear to give to each town in the are

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Cotton Manufacture'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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