Manchester and Lancashire textile workers

This guide was last updated in 2009

Whether your ancestors were workers, retailers or even owners, there are plenty of ways to trace their involvement in the textile trade, as Jenny Thomas explains.

The Lancashire textile industry is one of the enduring images of Britain during the Industrial Revolution: we only have to mention the term, and an image springs to mind of thousands of workers beavering away in tune to vast machinery, producing textiles to be sold all over the Empire and the world.

We can hear the deafening clatter of the looms; sense the air thick with cotton; feel the heat and the crowds - men, women and children pouring in and out of factories to the sound of the factory bell, under the beady eye of the factory owner, and swarming through the streets of the newly expanding mill towns.

In retrospect, we can sympathise with the great changes in the pace of life during the 18th and 19th centuries as the Industrial Revolution took hold, as water power gave way to steam, canals to railways, farming the land to impoverishment in the growing cities.

It was a grim and fascinating world, and Lancashire was at the very heart of it. Indeed, Manchester was known colloquially as ‘cottonopolis’ during the nineteenth century. And for those of us descended from the people who helped to create it - who worked and lived and died in it – a fascinating genealogical journey lies ahead.

Here are some ideas as to how you might research your ancestors in the Lancashire and Manchester textile industry.

Photo © Getty Images

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