The History of Manchester Cotton.

Free TradeIn 1846 The Free Trade Hall in Manchester was built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws. Perhaps the most significant event in the history of Manchester ... but a lot had happened before 1846 ...

Towards the end of the 18th century textile manufacture in England switched -

from wool, linen and silk to cotton

from home to factory mass production

and from water power to steam power.

The key technologies were ready -

cotton spinning used Richard Arkwright's water frame, James Hargreaves's Spinning Jenny, and Samuel Crompton's Spinning Mule. By the end of the Arkwright patent in 1783 there was rapid expansion in the erection of the mills.

James Watt's steam engine of 1776 was initially used for pumping out mines but became the power source of choice in the mills.

coke had replaced charcoal for iron smelting and the second stage of bar iron production for fabrications was underway with potting & stamping (patent expired in 1786) and puddling in reverberatory furnaces (patented by Henry Cort in 1783).

Manchester and towns in south east Lancashire became associated with these changes.

Richard Arkwright was the first successful cotton entrepreneur possessing capacities for communication, organisation, business acumen and ambition to establish the cotton mill as a profitable model for the factory system.

In 1771 Richard Arkwright opened his first spinning mill at Cromford, Derbyshire, on the Derwent. Manchester had no cotton mills until the opening of Arkwright's Shudehill Mill, Miller Street in 1783. Both were water powered but at Shudehill a Newcomen atmospheric steam engine was used to raise water to the high level reservoir.

In 1789 Peter Drinkwater opened the Piccadilly Mill, the town's first mill to be directly powered by Watt's steam ...

By 1800 Manchester had 42 mills and Ancoats, part of a planned expansion of Manchester, became the first industrial suburb centred on steam power. By 1853 there were 108 mills in Manchester, by 1871 the area was the largest and most productive cotton spinning centre in the world, 32% of global cotton production. 

Mutual benefits from a cooperative culture. Synergies.

Innovative products, technologies & organisations were introduced exploiting the synergies of specialisation & scale which made mass production in factories possible & profitable ... and self sustaining -

synergies of specialisation & trades and economies of scale provided mutual benefits for all participants

surpluses in agriculture provided time from subsistence for the acquisition of artisan skills & trades

empirical scientific method discovered & accumulated new technological & organisational 'know how'

death rates declined as population exploded. The urban trek was a mass movement away from the rural cycle of famine & disease.

real wages increased as productivity exploded and a new prosperous middle class emerged. GDP per capita increased.

output exploded as mass production of new widely distributed goods & mass participation in the urban trek resulted in a middle class bulge and reduced inequality.

... unprecedented wealth creation and self sustaining economic growth ...

Problems confronted the entrepreneurs. Bankruptcy.

The immense success of economic growth was hard earned requiring moral urgency and painful thrift ... and many problems had to be confronted if bankruptcy was to be avoided -

product design - what did customers value? ... every customer had different perceptions & different opportunity costs ... utility, price, quality, service, availability, appeal ... a quagmire ... creative genius!

technology - new innovative technology & organisation - pioneering technology was seldom understood, the science followed later ... endless experimenting!

capital - new risk capital for economies of scale - why invest hard earned money in crazy ideas? ... trust!

credit - new credit for the increasing impossible gap between purchases & sales ... collateral!

skills - shortages of new technological & organisational skills - behavioural, social, mechanical & artisan ... apprenticeships!

suppliers - vast networks of relationships & sub contracts ... reliability!

cash - shortages of new financial skills - risk management, insurance & banking ... book keeping!

competition - intense competition at home and abroad ... innovation!

bad debts - risk of bankruptcy & debtors prison - bad debts were lethal ... reserves!

health & safety - new squalor, new diseases & wastes associated with scarcity, congestion & pollution ... technology!

waste - an inevitable cost of the 2nd law where hard work produced more waste but smart work could ameliorate ...

hatred - hatred of success & inequality and hatred of different belief systems - hard work, honesty & thrift, underpinned by 'moral sentiments' was considered by many to be a mug's game, life was just a lottery and cooperation declined & conflict increased, 'we're in this together' became 'them & us' ... a complete misunderstanding of the role of diversity in evolution and failure to distinguish between successful wealth creation and theft & cheating ... education!

education - educational difficulties - Darwin's 'natural selection', Adam Smith's 'moral sentiments' and Ricardo's 'comparative advantage' were generally unacceptable theories

taxation - taxes were on success (failures couldn't be taxed!) - costs for wars, subsidies & distortions reduced returns ... flat rate poll taxes!

change - resistance to change, insecurity & unemployment - loss aversion; Daniel Kahneman identified an emotional tendency for most folk to 'irrationally' prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains ... education!

management - principal / agent - problem of succession and continuity of business management ... skin in the game!

patents & spies - perpetual problems ... property rights!

parasites & predators, piracy & politics  - inevitably parasites & predators survive as soon as stocks appear ... they were everywhere ... immune systems! 
Adam Smith in 'Wealth of Nations' had warned that wealth and economic growth was at risk from temptation -

'People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices'.

It seemed 'restraint of trade' was everywhere in many disguises! Some entrepreneurs themselves were involved in restrictive practices that began to give trade a bad name? Were moral sentiments eroded? Would you buy a second hand car from this man?

The business community needed a stable level playing field to earn their profits for financing expansion and the government administrations needed profits for their tax revenues.

Perhaps the biggest disruption to the industrial revolution were the wars with France. The English had had their 'Glorious Revolution' years ago, the French stuck with Mercantilism were playing catch up and were almost continuously at war with the English throughout the 18th century. The industrial revolution slowed. The last thing the cotton entrepreneurs like Daniel Whittaker needed in 1792 was another war ... and ominously there was support for France & revolution from within the Lancashire cotton belt ... lawless agitators were smashing the new fangled machines and preaching hatred ... the industrial system was under threat ...

The network of family, friends & associates.

It was clear there was a network of entrepreneurs; family and friends, around the Manchester cotton scene, all of them confronting risk, uncertainty and adversity. No one said it was easy ... but instead of cooperation there was a fermenting current of festering alienation ...

At the inaugural meeting at The Bull's Head in 1792 of 'The Manchester Association for Preserving Constitutional Order against Levellers and Republicans' ... there were five Whittakers (two Jameses, Thomas, William & Daniel) plus the cream of the local manufacturers & traders including other big names in cotton commerce; Boardman, Douglas, Simpson, Peel, Thackeray, Bateman ... and the many other shakers & movers were around the Manchester scene and intimately interconnected -

Richard Arkwright1771 Richard Arkwright (1732-92), of Preston & Bolton, experimented with clock maker John Kay of Warrington on his water frame spinner which he patented in 1769. Perhaps anticipating the 1779 Luddite destructions in Lancashire, Arkwright moved first to Nottingham where he worked with horse power and Samuel Need & Jedediah Strutt. He opened his first water spinning mill at Cromford, Derbyshire, on the Derwent in 1771 with backing from his Preston friend John Smalley. Manchester had no cotton mills until the opening of Arkwright's Shudehill Mill, Miller Street in 1783. Both were water powered but at Shudehill a Newcomen atmospheric steam engine was used to raise water to the high level reservoir. Arkwright also worked with David Dale in New Lanark; ambition was unlimited, but his patents were building up resentment in the community. Arkwright's patent expired in 1785 and rapid expansion of the industry followed.

1777John Smalley (-)at Holywell. Partnered Daniel Whittaker and others in 1785. He was a liquor merchant from Arkwright's home town of Preston. Although Smalley and Arkwright were partners at Cromford, Arkwright's ambition wanted for more capital than Smalley could provide and Smalley found his own independent way to Holywell in 1777 to set up the first cotton mill in the Greenfield Valley.

1780 William Cockshott (-) of Macclesfield opened the Northwich Mill around 1780.

1781 Daniel Whittaker (1720-92) aborted proposal for a mill at Acton Bridge.

1782 Peter Drinkwater (1750–1801) bought the Northwich Mill and employed Robert Owen as supervisor. In 1789 he constructed the Piccadilly Mill in Manchester; the first in Manchester to be directly driven by a steam engine.

 1784 Samuel Oldknow (1756–1828) bought in cotton yarns and organised the putting out system for cloth weaving around Staockport. His muslims were first rate and in 1790 he built his spinning mill in Stockport.

178? Robert Owen (1771-1858) recruited by Drinkwater to supervise the Northwich Mill before moving to New Lanark in 1799. After marrying David Dales daughter!

 1786 David Dale (1739-1806), the son of a grocer from Ayrshire. Trained as a weaver and travelled as a linen agent and in 1763 his business in Glasgow importing yarn from Holland and Belgium. After meeting Richard Arkwright in 1784, he built his cotton mills at New Lanark, and then Blantyre, Sutherland & Oban. He employed hundreds of pauper children from the workhouses.
In 1799 daughter, Caroline Dale, married Robert Owen. When Dale retired Owen, with backers in Manchester, purchased the New Lanark mills for £60,000.

James Ackers (1752 - 1824 ) cotton manufacturer of Salford.

Thomas Douglas (1732-87) was the eldest son of John Douglas (1707-62) of St George's, Hanover Square, an innkeeper of The Hercules Pillars in Hyde Park Road, and Mary Gardiner (-1766), referred to as Thomas Douglas of Grantham. William Douglas (1745-1810), brother and cloth merchant, referred to as William Douglas of Pendleton. The Douglas brothers were partners with Daniel Whittaker in the Holywell Twist Company in the Greenfield Valley.

James Bateman, Iron-Monger of Deansgate, who with William Sherrat became involved in the forge at Acton Bridge.

William Boardman,  & Thomas - the family were Whittaker business partners and also suffered bankruptcy in 1794. Daniel Whittaker (1720-) married Ester Boardman in 1756.

Sir William Feilden, 1st Baronet (1772–1850) of Feniscowles. Third son of Joseph Feilden and Margaret Leyland of Witton. He was educated at Blackburn Grammar School and Brasenose College, Oxford. He became a cotton mill owner and lived at Witton Hall. In 1798 he purchased the hamlet of Feniscowles south west of Blackburn, from Thomas Ainsworth.

Sir William Henry Feilden, 2nd Baronet (1812–1879)
Sir William Leyland Feilden, 3rd Baronet (1835–1912)
Joseph Feilden (1824-95) of Witton Park, Lord of the Manor; conservative MP 1865-7.

One of the earliest documentary references to the Feilden family is in the early 16th century when Henry Feilden was made a trustee for lands granted for a chantry chapel in Blackburn church. The family were considered yeomen, that is well-to-do farmers, but not gentry, but by the early 18th century, when Henry Feilden married Elizabeth Sudell, he was styled a Gentleman. By this date, the Feildens were well-established members of Blackburn’s merchant class, having made their fortune from the cotton trade. Henry Feilden was a member of the new elite of Blackburn society, and this is reflected in his acquisition of the manor of Blackburn in 1721, along with two other merchants, William Baldwin and William Sudell, although he soon bought out the others. The Feilden family owned large areas of land throughout the borough of Blackburn, and played a key role in the growth of the town by providing land for development and donating land for major Blackburn landmarks and institutions such as Corporation Park, the Technical College and Grammar School.
The purchase of the manor of Witton and Witton Hall provided land on which Henry Feilden’s grandson, also called Henry, could build a mansion house befitting his status as one of Blackburn’s most influential and wealthy citizens. The house was built in 1800, described as of freestone in the Grecian style. Witton Old Hall was then advertised to let as Witton Hall Milk Farm in 1803-4, but it had fallen into disuse and was in ruins by 1836. The park was enclosed from the surrounding land, including the farm of Coo Hill, and stretched from the Preston to Blackburn road in the south to the foot of Billinge Hill in the north. Buncer Lane forms the eastern boundary, while the west side is marked by the footpath known as Killiard Lane. A footpath, which ran from Witton Stocks to Pleasington via Witton Hall, was diverted in 1819 to avoid the newly enclosed park.
The Feildens continued to be a major influence in the town throughout the 19th century, and Joseph Feilden and his son Henry Master Feilden both served as MPs for Blackburn in the 19th century, and Joseph was also High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1818. Joseph was the son of Henry, the builder of Witton House, and it was under him that various alterations were made to the property. Henry Master Feilden was Joseph’s eldest son, but he died five years after his father in 1875, leaving no male heirs, so the estate went to his brother Randle Joseph Feilden. Randle was succeeded by his son, Captain James Hawley Gilbert Feilden, later Major General Feilden. Following the death of Major General Feilden in 1895, the family seldom used the house.
Henry Feilden built his house in 1800. For many years the family had been cotton merchants and had been lords of the manor of Witton. Witton was originally part of the Norman manor of Billington. By 1800 the Feildens were the largest landowners in the area and the wealthiest. By 1880 the family owned over 2,000 acres of land across the borough of Blackburn. Henry Feilden of Witton and William of Feniscowles within Pleasington, between them, purchased the Manor of Livesey in 1805. As a result the Moulden Water district, part of William’s land, being on the west side of Livesey Hall, soon became known as Feniscowles.
Moulden Water Mill with kiln and one cottage was offered to be let along with several farms in Livesey on January 7th 1807. 'Anyone desiring particulars will apply at the counting house of Henry and William Feilden in Blackburn.' The corn mill (rebuilt by Daniel Wilson Esq. around 1784) was then in the control of John Heatley, who lived in the adjacent cottage.
William Feilden, another man whose fortune was heavily dependent on cotton (though he had many and varied business and commercial interests) was one of the town's first two MPs after it had been given parliamentary representation in 1832.

Daniel Whittaker's grandson the Rev John William Whittaker in 1825 married Mary Feilden, daughter of William Feilden, who had been one of the founders of the factory system in Blackburn.

Samuel Greg of Quarry Mill, Style. Employed Peter Holland a pioneer of occupational health.

Peter Holland (1766-1855) Knutsford surgeon and in charge of health & welfare at Quarry Mill. Second married Daniel Whittaker's daughter Mary.

Robert Peel, & Lawrence - neighbours of the Whittakers from Ardwick Green. Founded in 1764 Messrs Haworth, Peel & Yates of Blackburn were the first Lancashire calico printers. Lawrence Peel, of Manchester, was an eminent merchant, born in 1755. He married, first, Alice daughter of Jonathan Howarth, of Manchester; secondly, Lady Radcliffe, of Milne's Bridge, Yorkshire. By the first he had issue, Robert, Jonathan, Frederick, Mary, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Caroline, and Harriet. Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) was the son of a successful local business man also called Robert (-) who had become wealthy in the cotton trade specialising in the printing on calico material. Young Robert also had cotton factories but he was most famous as he became a Member of Parliament in 1809 at the age of 21. He became Home Secretary and introduced the London police force, the ‘Bobbies’. He was Prime Minister from 1834-1835 and again from 1841–1846. In 1846 he repealed the Corn Laws and split the Tory Party. The corn laws were introduced in 1815 to protect farmers by imposing duties on imported cereals. Although popular with 'protected' farmers and landholders, factory output and the poor suffered as manufactured exports reduced and food became more expensive. Peel was a business man and realised the repeal of the infamous Corn Law was long overdue.

John Simpson, & Samuel - of Hart Hill, Salford; Simpson's Mill or Shudehill Mill was probably the first cotton mill in Manchester built in 1782 by Richard Arkwright with partners John & Samuel Simpson. The power system was interesting in that water from an upper pond flowed over its 9.1m diameter water wheel and a Newcomen atmospheric engine was installed to replenish the upper water. This was later augmented by three Boulton and Watt engines to provide power for an increasing number of spindles. The mill was damaged by fire in 1854, and destroyed in an air-raid in October 1940. Richard Arkwright's only son, another Richard, married Mary Simpson in 1780.

Joseph Thackeray, - the son of William Thackeray who married Martha Whittaker (1713-) in 1738. William was steward to Sir Oswald Moseley of Ancoats. Joseph was a cotton spinner and Boroughreeve of Manchester in 1801.


The Manchester scene was all risk, uncertainty and adversity - new technology was not fully understood and still developing - risk finance was scarce - new machine skills were scarce, watch making skills were used for Arkwright's first frames and steam engines needed continuous care and maintenance - onerous taxes and trade disruption associated with seemingly endless wars - relentless competition at home and abroad - bankruptcy was a constant threat - 'protection' of landowners raised food prices for his workers ...

'Manchester: its political, social and commercial history' by James Wheeler, 1836 ... shortly after The Factory Commissioners reported in 1833 -

'It has often indeed been asserted, and ignorant men have taken up the cry without consideration, that the cotton manufacturers flourished at the expense of the health, the comfort, and the bodily sinews of the people; and in the exuberance of their indignation, some philanthropists have placed the Manchester manufacturer lower in the scale of humanity than the Egyptian slave masters. Fortunately the Government of the Country was carried away in 1833 by this outcry, and was compelled to nominate a body of travelling Commissioners, whose appointed task was to visit the district and to inspect the establishments thus maligned, for the purpose of ascertaining the condition, mental, moral and physical, of the operative cotton manufacturers. The result was evidence without end, published by The Factory Commissioners in 1833/4, which concluded, 'the alleged cruelty to younger hands, the imputed immorality, the fearful inroads upon health, the frequent lacerations of limb and deprivation of life occasioned by machinery, were highly exaggerated not to say pure fabrications ... these wage figures afford sufficient evidence that the factory operative, if moderately prudent, posses abundant means of living in present comfort, with added satisfaction that herein after he may have in store that which will meet the exigencies of old age or premature decline'.

However, the allegations and clamour for protection from unscrupulous businessmen continued unabated to this day. Continuing reams of paper issued from Prices & Incomes Boards, Health & Safety Committees and Import Substitution Committees ... the conclusions were always the same ... evidence supported the principle of comparative advantage and necessity of competitive manufactories. Best practice was a prerequisite for profits; constant innovation & improvement was the way forward, disruptive wars and the envy & greed of levelers just added to the list of bankruptcies ... asked the Whittakers who stumbled in 1793 ... life was a hard task master ... nobody said it was easy!

Edward Glaeser in 'Triumph of the City' -

'The poor families who came to Manchester were willingly abandoning nature in order to put bread on their tables. Remaining rural meant poverty and its attendant curses'.

Folk preferred Manchester to rural Tolpuddle. Opportunities in Manchester were legion but in Tolpuddle just sowing & reaping.

New problems resulted in a them & us disconnect in the network, many folk couldn't get connected to the gravy train so they rioted, turned to crime & even murder. But job opportunities were not confined to connecting poor workers with rich capitalists but connecting everybody with different opportunity costs ... that was ... everybody.

In 1859 Charles Darwin explained why bankruptcy was necessary to encourage resources into economic growth ...

but way back in 1776 Adam the Smith had sussed all that out ...


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