The textile industry
During the eighteenth century there was an incredible event that changed the way in which people work even today. This is called the Industrial Revolution. This is where the main industry changed from Domestic to industrial. As the domestic industry was dying out there became growth of many factories. With every factory this brought workers, and the workers needed accommodation close to the factories. And with the growth of factories all around England, mainly in the North, towns became to grow.
Although all factories were not in towns, there were many in the country. These mills were usually built by fast flowing rivers, as at this time this was the only way to produce enough power, cheap enough to make a profit, to power a mill. One of these country mills was called Styal Mill; this was one of the first water powered cotton weaving mills. Styal Mill was owned by an entrepreneur called Samuel Greg. He had come from a wealthy line of mill owners in the family so he lots of experience and money to spend on his new mill.
By the 1830’s Samuel Greg and Co. was one of the largest cotton spinning and weaving businesses in Britain. He owned five mills all together, with over 2,000 people employed, 200 of which were employed at Styal Mill. He chose this particular site in Styal Mill because it was next to the River Bolin. This was the power source for the mill. Also, the land he chose to build on was very cheap because it was very bad farming land and it had no agricultural use.
And it was close to a little village where workers could travel from or where they could buy basic foods. There was another advantage to the mill being situated here; it was very close to the Bridgewater Canal, with was very useful to transport the cotton, once made, to Liverpool or Manchester docks to be shipped out all across the world. This produced a lot more money, as Samuel Greg was able to trade. A disadvantage of the mill being built here is because of the area being so sparsely populated the work force had to be imported from surrounding areas.
Although during the 1790’s there was a ready supply of cheap labour in the form of orphan children from workhouses across the country, but with employing these children, there would have to be accommodation built for them to live in. Samuel Greg employed many children because they were cheap to keep as they didn’t require high paid wages and they were also small enough to fit under machines. Also children in that time didn’t have any rights so if he wanted he could work the children to death. With the amount of children employed my Mr Greg he also had to employ over seers to make sure the children worked hard all day.
The more work the children did the more the overseer would get paid. When I visited Styal Mill, I noticed it was situated in very nice surroundings. It was spacious, very clean, and was totally surrounded in countryside, there was no traffic, and there was very little pollution. Inside the factory it was very light and the rooms were bright, because of so many windows. This would have made it a bit more pleasant for the workers to work in. Although on a hot summers day, it could well get very hot and humid.
It was very warm inside any way, and it became quite stuffy in some rooms, not a very nice environment to work in for long hours. When one of many machines was turned on as an example of the density of noise the worker worked in, it was extremely loud, and I couldn’t even imagine the noise if all the machines were switched on. According to my research many workers taught themselves how to lip-read, so that during work hours they could enjoy convocations with other employees. The Apprentice house was built in order to accommodate the orphan children.
Approximately 100 children lived in the apprentice house, and many more of them were female rather than male as they were better workers. The superintendents of the house were called Mr and Mrs Shorecroft. These superintendents were employed merely to watch over the children, and make sure no child was out of order. Within the apprentice house were the facilities to shelter the children and care for the children with their very own private doctor on hand. Some lucky boys got the opportunity to have a basic education. There was a room for girls and a room for boys.