THE COTTON INDUSTRY



Ramsbottom is one of Lancashire's many cotton towns. The textile area of Lancashire stretches roughly from Manchester in the south to Burnley and Nelson in the north. Some of towns apart from those just mentioned are:- Oldham, Chadderton, Middleton, Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Rochdale, Darwen, Haslingden, Rawtenstall, Bacup, Accrington, Littleborough. Those of us with ancestors in the area will almost certainly find that many of them would be employed in some way in the industry. These pages are to give some idea of the processes followed by the yarn and some of the occupations. Some of these processes changed as the industry developed but I remember as a boy going into some of the local mills in the mid-20th century and some of the machinery being used came from a much earlier period.

For much of the information I have relied on a book A Portrait of the Lancashire Cotton Industry" by LHC Tippett which explains the industry as it was in the 20th Century. As suggested earlier the processes are not very different from those of an earlier period. Another useful source has been Cotton Mills in Greater Manchester by Mike Williams and DA Farnie. This does not have much on the processes but has a lot of detail on the layout of the mills and has pictures of many. Also a list of mills in each town with their National Grid reference. I would very much have liked to include some photographs and diagrams but for copyright reasons feel unable to do so. Two other small booklets which cram a lot of information into a small space are published by Shire Publications. They are: These 2 little books complement each other well

There are three main processes:-

SPINNING Spinning can refer to the whole range of processes carried out in a spinning mill, starting with breaking open the bales of raw cotton to sizing the yarn. It can also mean the spinning of the final yarn. Once spinning proper has been carried out another 3 processes are often needed to make the yarn fit for further use:
  • WINDING
  • BEAMING
  • SIZING
These three are described at the end of the section on spinning.

WEAVING This is the weaving of the yarn into a cloth
FINISHING There are many ways in which the cloth can be finished. Bleaching, dyeing, printing are common. Also processes such as mercerizing, or (more recently) making fabrics fire-resistant.

Last update 12/05/2005