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Monday, 12 October 2009

Cheshire cotton

In Regency Cheshire, I explore the amazing growth of the Cheshire textile industry during late Georgian times. Although Cheshire was a predominantly rural county, cotton spinning and weaving became increasingly important in towns such as Stockport, Ashton-under-Lyne, Hyde and Dukinfield.
You can still visit Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, a cotton spinning mill built by the Bollin in 1783 by the Greg family. A large proportion of the workforce at Quarry Bank Mill was child labour – parish apprentices, some from as far away as London. Another famous mill-owner was Samuel Oldknow (1756-1828). His cotton spinning mill, built at Higher Hillgate, Stockport the following year, housed the first steam engine in Cheshire (c.1791) used in the cotton industry. The spun yarn was ‘put out’ to local weavers – Oldknow’s monthly wage bill was said to be £1000 for weaving alone. The Boulton & Watt engine at Higher Hillgate was such a novelty, the London mail-coaches slowed down as they passed the mill so they could tell their passengers about the great wonders inside.

Image: Stockport cotton mill, c.1860. Charles Knight’s Pictorial Gallery of Arts, (London, 1860.)

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