The decline of the Lancashire cotton mills

The decline of the Lancashire cotton mills

A little history lesson on the Lancashire cotton mills and a great video made by the British council in 1941

Did you know that Britain used to be the biggest cotton cloth producer in the world?

The mechanised spinning and weaving of cotton fibre into fabric began in Britain and spearheaded the industrial revolution. By 1860 there were 2650 cotton mills in Lancashire, employing 440 000 people and producing half of the world’s cotton. At the turn of the twentieth century things were still going strong and the Lancashire cotton mills produced 8 billion yards of cloth a year which were exported all over the world. Then came the First World War and cotton could no longer be exported to the foreign markets. This led to countries such as Japan weaving their own cotton, and by the 1930s 800 mills had closed and 345,000 workers had left the industry.

This entertaining video was made by the British Council to counter Nazi propaganda and help promote British cotton to the world during the Second World War. It shows that we could not only make some fine cloth but we could design some great frocks too – and check out the glamorous war-time ladies in the fur and finery as well. As the commentator says in his best Queen’s English –

“For in peace or war, Britain delivers the goods”

But this video did little to revive sales of British cotton, and during the 1960s and 70s, mills were closing across Lancashire at a rate of almost one a week. Sadly, today there are left than a handful of working mills left in Lancashire.

If you want to read more about the history of the Lancashire Cotton Mills visit

11 Responses

  1. B.Ahmed says:

    Dear All, Now time has come to trade with EU & 53 Commonwealth Countries. produce British & Buy British. Revive lost Industries & survive as Hero.

  2. Michelle Gentry says:

    Is it try that Gandhi visited the mill when he came to England to discuss Indian independence?

  3. Miss j edwards says:

    Where can I buy cotton sheets like my grandmother had I live in wales

  4. .Judith Edwards says:

    I like so many people are looking for cotton sheets like our grandmothers had cold crisp 100 per cent cotton and thick also .now we are out of the European .We should start to make these sheets again .People have been searching for years both here and in America .We should get these mills going making jobs for people .If you can make sheets that our grandmothers had you will sell them all over the world .there is a market for them.Like me they are willing to pay for the real thing .Not these thin sateen things that they try to pass off as cotton.Look at Chris old fashioned bedding .that should give you an ideal.

    • S says:

      I know it’s an old comment, but just in case, try Peter Reed in Nelson, Lancashire. They have a website but also sell through retailers. Very good quality long staple Egyptian cotton…..but at a price!

  5. John Dunstan says:

    I no longer have a business since I retired a number of years ago but I support the cause of improving and maintaining British industry and it’s products. You appear not to have a membership category which I, and I am sure many hundreds of more people like me, could subscribe to as a supporter.
    We desperately need to push self sufficiency as a major component in reducing our deficit and generating new money. We may not be able to match other countries in cost of production but with really good product quality we could regain our position as a major player service, design and manufacturing by offering PREMIUM PRODUCTS AT PREMIUM PRICES.

  6. Judith Anne Edwards says:

    Is there anyone who can tell me and others like me where we an buy100 per cent thick cotton cold and crisp bed sheets ,like our grandmothers had.please anywhere in Britain .

  7. Jenna says:

    nah i’d probably die in the first couple days cause I read in a book that most of the men couldn’t move their backs at the age of 30 cause of the cloth work cause ur bending down the whole time 🙂

  8. […]     During the industrial revolution, Lancashire became one of the major plays in manufactured goods. Figures are disputed but generally, Lancashire […]

  9. Trish Burgess says:

    Hi, this is completely unrelated but tied to Preston/Lancashire area. I live in Australia and am looking to trace relatives. My Grandmother Dorothy Eckersley was born 25 Nov 1902. She was the youngest of 10 and her mother Elizabeth Eckersley (nee Clayton) died not long after, then Nan’s father J. Eckersley (no further info on the birth cert) married the house-keeper. According to Nan’s birth cert they lived at 15 Brixey St, Preston. Approx 6 years later (1908) they migrated to Australia – Nan had her 6th birthday on the ship. But, only the youngest 5 children Peter, Maude, Tess, Bell and Dorothy came out, the eldest 5 stayed behind. By the time I was born both Nan’s parents were deceased so I have not a lot to go on.
    If this story resonates with anyone I would love to hear from you.

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