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Changes in the Landscape

Changes in Working Life

Handloom Weaving

The weavers were independent. They were in charge of their own means of production and could dictate their own work pace. Everyone in the family had their part to play: The children did not receive much education. While at work, one of the family might read the bible aloud or they might learn to read and write a little at Sunday School.

Key points for weaving at this time:

  • Raw yarn was spun by women and children.
  • The yarn was woven into cloth by the men.
  • The women could adjust their pace so as not to overload the men with yarn.
  • There was no artificial light, so daylight hours were made the most of.
  • A grown man could weave 48 yards of cloth a week – equivalent to 8 blankets.
  • This was done on a hand built loom, usually built by the man himself.
  •  If it was a broad one, he needed another person in the family to help,  if the loom was a narrow one, he could manage it himself.
  • The cloth was either collected by a man who would pay the family and leave them more raw yarn, or taken to the nearest piece market.  This could be in Blackburn, Manchester or Burnley.
  • The weaver would walk as many as 20 miles to take the cloth to market, across moorland, along rough horse tracks, up-hill and down dale, in all weathers.
  • Sometimes one man would collect all the pieces from the local weavers and take them to market on a packhorse.
  • The weaving was done alongside the farming work.

As the industry progressed, cotton replaced wool, brought in from America. The industry became mechanised and moved from cottages to mills. Lancashire became known as Cotton County, and Manchester as Cottonopolis, due to the prevalence and success of the cotton weaving industry.

Inventions Which Helped Industrialise Weaving

1733: Flying shuttle – John Kay of Bury. The flying shuttle enabled one man to operate a broad loom without assistance.  As time went on, larger looms were constructed, necessitating the building of mills to house them.

1750: Calico printing – Robert Peel (see below)

1764: Spinning Jenny invented by James Hargreaves of Oswaldtwistle .

Portrait of a man wearing a wool wig and a white neckchief.  He has dark brown eyes and looks directly out of the painting and at the viewer.
Portrait of James Hargreaves