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 SpinningtheWeb.org.uk