The textile industry

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    The textile industry was at the centre of Britain's industrial expansion in the Victorian period. Technological advances meant that cottons, wools, silks and dyestuffs could be produced at unprecedented rates, and the results were exported around the Empire.

     

    This advertisement from 1880 shows the range of fabrics that were available for clothing. Cottons and wools could be woven in many weights, from the hard-wearing corduroys of the working man, to the fine gauze of the fashionable lady. And for the first time, ordinary clothes could be washed – an immense advance. 

     

    Textile spinning and weaving had been mechanised since the 1790s, using water power. By 1870 steam power was general. Factory conditions were harsh. Moving machinery was tightly packed, and mechanised belts could catch a woman’s hair and scalp her. Children were employed to fix machinery and clear accumulated dust from underneath the machines. They often lost concentration, or fell asleep, with terrible results. The appalling clatter of a weaving or spinning shed often led to deafness, which was taken for granted.

     

    Shelfmark: Evan 7152

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