Textiles on the road
From the late eighteenth century the townships of Pendleton and Salford saw the growth of a significant number of textile spinning, printing and weaving factories and an associated textile engineering industry. Despite this there is yet to be a comprehensive and detailed account of the history of these industries in the townships.
Pendleton The early history of textile manufacturing in the township of Pendleton is fragmented and deserves further consideration. Early industrial activity in the Irwell Valley and the development of the factory system is one area that has been given some attention. Published accounts of William Douglas’ part in the early spinning industry and his exploitation of parish apprentices from London and elsewhere is covered by Katrina Honeyman in Child Workers in England 1780-1820: Parish Apprentices and the Making of the Early Industrial Labour Force but requires further research. Douglas’s manufacturing empire was extensive and alongside his Pendleton mill he also owned a factory in Holywell, North Wales and a warehouse in Manchester.
Broom House Prior to the mechanisation of spinning two textile-related activities, bleaching and the weaving of linen and flax on hand looms, dominated. Wills and inventories in Lancashire Records Office reveal that there was a cluster of linen weavers on Broom House Lane in the area now occupied by Salford Royal Hospital on Eccles Old Road. The inventories date from the late seventeenth century and include additional farming related items indicating, unsurprisingly, that the weavers also occupied themselves in agriculture, a common feature across the country. In Lancashire flax and hemp which formed the basis of linen weaving were grown in coastal districts. Researchers believe, however, that the bulk of the fibre used in the domestic production of linen was imported from Ireland via Liverpool and Chester and distributed locally by Manchester and Salford merchants in shops, warehouses and at markets.
Weaving There is no clear evidence to suggest that the weavers of Broom House processed linen and flax probably buying the yarn loom-ready from merchants. Wills indicate ownership of looms and warping mills but, so far, spinning wheels do not feature. Broom House folk may, however, have been involved in bleaching, required to whiten the yarn which could take many months but added value to the finished product. Linen’s washability meant that it was used for clothing worn underneath woollen overgarments and for domestic textiles. A strong and robust fibre which was also made into domestic items such as bolsters, sacks and canvas for wagons and pack horse use, linen continued to play a significant part in the manufacture of fustian, a mixture of cotton and linen where linen provided the strength required for warp threads. At this time, whilst spinning of yarn moved to mills, weaving continued to be a significant domestic activity but with lack of historical data it is impossible to say, other than those at Broom House, if there were substantial numbers of hand loom weavers in the Pendleton township.
Bleaching was an established occupation which was to become even more important in the Pendleton township with the advent of fustian manufacture. Cloth and yarn often required bleaching in open fields known as crofts in preparation for, or after, weaving or printing. Numerous newspaper reports from 1750 report thefts from bleaching fields in Pendleton where the supplies of unpolluted water and the south facing aspect were ideal for bleaching. Cloth was tentered on frames or pegged out in bleaching fields for a period of time to whiten the cloth which involved using sour milk. The development of chlorine bleach and other bleaching practices led to the process eventually moving indoors to bowking houses. Later bleachworks, combined with dyeing, were located at Brindle Heath and at the Land of Nod on the southern edge of the current Seedley/Buile Hill Park. Bleachers were known alternatively as ‘crofters’ or ‘whitsters’, Their names in Pendleton are known to us through Elizabeth Raffald’s 1772 Manchester and Salford Directory viz Widow Hamer, John Hamer, Richard Ainsworth and Samuel Briarly (sic) are a few mentioned.
Interestingly, whilst the Pendleton township had seen early textile activity, the land along the Turnpike Road from the Woolpack to Gilda Brook witnessed little further industrial development, retaining its dominant agricultural character with several large estates dominating. The 1848 Ordnance survey map clearly shows the scattered building development particularly on the north side of the road. With the development of the canal system steam driven mills became increasingly located alongside canals and rivers, the road from the Woolpack to Gilda Brook settled into its predominant residential character.
The Fitzgeralds The major Pendleton landowners, the Fitzgeralds released pockets of land for building from 1733. Evidence from the early nineteenth century indicates that along the road they stipulated high value houses ‘of brick or stone, slates and oak or ash timbers’ as a condition of the lease of land. Such is the case with the Buile Hill lease to Thomas Potter. The Fitzgerald’s clearly saw the financial advantages of the area along the Turnpike Road for residential purposes with its attractive, airy and south facing aspect, proximity to the Exchange and other places of business in Manchester and easy transport. The Fitzgeralds retained the chief rents for most of the land garnering a substantial income across the township which only came to an end when they sold these assets at the Midland Hotel inManchester in 1912.
Textiles did not disappear from the road, however. Hidden in the Census returns from 1841 to 1911 is evidence of the many occupants along the road also involved in the textile industry. These include merchants, manufacturers, spinners, weavers, calico printers, bleachers, engravers, fustian manufacturers, textile machinery makers, pattern designers, tacklers, commission agents and sewing thread manufacturers. Some of the best known were to attain great wealth and reputation, others equally successful but hitherto unresearched provide remarkable stories; almost all of them are self-made men grasping the opportunities offered by the textile industry throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.