In 1912 the cotton industry in Britain was at its highest producing 8 billion yards of cloth, but the outbreak of the First World War spelled disaster for textiles in the north west.
During the war, cotton could no longer be exported to foreign markets and these countries, particularly Japan, to create their own factories.
Not only were the countries that produce their own clothes, they were making it cheaper than the UK.
In 1933, Japan had introduced 24 hours cotton production and became the world’s largest cotton producer.
The demand for British cotton and shrunken cotton mill owners put workers on short time or closed mills altogether.
In-between the wars, leaving 345,000 workers in industry and 800 mills closed.
“Trouble at Mill ‘
Trouble brews in the Mill
India accounted for half of Britain’s cotton exports, but as part of his campaign for Indian independence, Gandhi called for a boycott of imported Lancashire cotton.
The boycott had devastating effects on the Lancashire and in Blackburn, with 74 mills closing in less than four years.
First World War may have spelled the beginning of the end of the textile industry, but World War II led to a short postponement.
Lancashire mills were hired to make parachutes and uniforms for the front, and the mill owners were forced to pick up new recruits.
In the 1950s and 60s there was a large influx of workers from the Indian subcontinent, who were encouraged to seek work in Lancashire.
An increased workforce allowed mill owners to introduce a third shift or night shift to work routines, although many workers were less than satisfied with the changing hours.
Too little, too late
End of King Cotton
Resurgence in the textile industry was short-lived and in 1958 became the country that gave birth to the textile industry net importer of cotton cloth.
The Cotton Industry Act of 1959 intended to help modernize and consolidate the industry.
Mill closures have taken place across Lancashire, but the cost savings did little to improve the industry’s profits. Lancashire was still unable to compete with foreign competition.
During the 1960s and ’70s, mills were closed across Lancashire with a speed of nearly a week.
In the 1980s the textile industry of the North West had all but disappeared. Only the empty factories and northern towns that sprang up as a result was left – a relic from an industry that was once the pride of Britain.
Significant events in the northwestern part Textile Industry
Pre 1760 – Cotton is spun by hand at home
1760 onwards – The emergence of the factory system.
1803 – Cotton overtakes wool as Britain’s largest export
1820 onwards – The era of the machine – steam power gives machine-led production in industry
1825 – George Stephenson builds the first public steam railway – the Stockton to Darlington line
1833 – The first Factory Act is passed regulating child labor
1847 – The Government passes the ten-hour law. The 70-hour workweek is 55.5 hours
1912 – The industry reached its peak, producing 8 billion yards of fabric
1914 – World War One – cotton can no longer be exported to foreign markets. These countries set up their own factories.
1933 – Japan launches 24 hours cotton production and become the world’s largest cotton producer
1950 – Huge influx of workers from the Indian subcontinent provides extra shift
1958 – Britain becomes a net importer of cotton cloth
1959 – The Cotton Industry Act has gone to help modernize and consolidate the industry
1960s/70s – Mills are closed over Lancashire at a rate of almost one week
1980s the textile industry of the North West is over