|Manchester in the 1740s.|
By the early 1640s the area’s textile industries were firmly established. Cotton yarn (imported via Ireland) was woven with linen yarn made from flax to make sturdy ‘fustian’ cloth.
Families like the Chethams, Mosleys and Tippings became very wealthy buying and selling woollen cloths, linens, cotton yarn, and fustians. The wholesalers and master-manufacturers of Manchester became famous. As these ‘Manchester men’ became richer they built fine homes and large warehouses for their goods.
In the early 1700s pretty, light all-cotton calicoes imported from India and the East threatened to wipe out Britain’s woollen industry. An act of 1721 banned the wearing of, weaving or selling of any printed all-cotton ‘stuffs’ or ‘calicoes’ whether imported or made in Britain. However, ‘fustians’ were exempted, to protect Manchester’s workers. Woollen and worsted weavers petitioned parliament to ban fustians, too, but the ‘Manchester Act’ of 1736 upheld the exemption. All-cotton printed goods remained banned, however.
During the 1740s, Manchester merchants bought the warps and raw cotton and gave the materials to weavers who worked in their own homes aided by their families. The raw cotton was carded (the fibres were straightened to form a long, fluffy ‘roving’), the rovings were spun into yarn, the yarn was wound onto bobbins, and finally woven into cloth on a loom.
John Kay’s flying shuttle (1733) made hand-weaving easier. Then several key inventions speeded up first the spinning, then weaving of cotton. Lewis Paul and John Wyatt had the idea of thinning out cotton fibre using rollers, and James Hargreaves’s machine, the ‘spinning jenny,’ patented in 1770, revolutionised spinning.
|Hargreaves' spinning jenny at North Mill, Belper|
|Arkwright's water frame at North Mill, Belper.|
|Mule spinning room|
The big breakthrough for mechanized weaving came when Edmund Cartwright patented a powered loom in 1785. In my next blog post, I’ll look at how steam power affected Manchester during the industrial revolution.