Cottonopolis

Tower MillWhen I was working on my family history, the one industry that cropped up time and again under the ‘occupation’ column of the census was cotton.

Youngsters were the ‘cotton piecers’, the ridiculously dangerous job of scampering among the clattering machinery picking up waste cotton, while women tended to be ‘cardroom hands’ which could be equally injurious to health.

None of this is surprising since I grew up in Dukinfield, part of the wider Manchester Cottonopolis as it was known, at least until the 1950s by which time Lancashire had lost its technological edge and textiles proved to be much cheaper to produce in other parts of the world.he industry had all but died out in this part of the world. The mills were still a feature of the local landscape, but the machinery had long since fallen silent.

The cotton industry had all but died out in this part of the world and though the mills were still a feature of the local landscape,  the machinery had long since fallen silent. Some of the mills were pulled down, like the Queen Mill demolished in 1983, while others were simply left to stand empty or converted to other uses.

And that should have been that – a proud industry that once gave employment to tens of thousands another ghost of the past for most local families. But even ghosts can rematerialise.

I’m not sure how, but I missed the news that one mill in my home town has been renovated at a cost of £5.8m and has restarted production of high-end yarn by English Fine Cottons, mostly for export to Germany and Italy.

The video on the right tells more of the story that is personally quite heart-warming and I wish them every success, as I’m sure do the spirits of all those cotton workers who made this part of the world what it is.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 12th August 2016

    Every time I stick a cotton bud in my lughole, I think about the Manchester cotton workers.

    Reply
    • Trevor Rowley 12th August 2016

      Let’s not forget that Manchester may well have been the the central, commercial and financial hub of the cotton trade in the north of England, Mr Pudding, but it was the hundreds, if not thousands, of cotton mills throughout east Lancashire and north east Cheshire where the real hard graft was done. My late father, like all his contemporaries was employed in a number of the old cotton mills which were to be found on “Tame Valley” (as described above by Mr Parrot). As a fourteen year old, he found himself working bare-footed in about two inches of water every day and goodness knows which part of the production process that was. The heat was unbearable, as was the noise, and heaven help you if you couldn’t lip read. Many of those old timers went on to become stone deaf after a lifetime of working in such oppressive conditions – not to mention acquiring the lung disease, bysinosis (spelling doubtful). At one time, the view from the hillside of Dukinfield Cemetery out along the Tame Valley – taking in the panorama of Stalybridge, Ashton-under-Lyne, and then beyond to Oldham and Rochdale, was dominated by mill after mill after mill, with their chimneys belching out their foul smoke. Clean air was unheard of and the only respite was retirement and an old age of ill health. Those days are now long gone – thankfully.

      Reply
  • John 13th August 2016

    Loved this

    Reply

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