Textile Tourists in Manchester – Part 2

So after spending the first half of the day at The People’s History Museum (more about this in Part 1), we walked the short distance to the Museum of Science and Industry.  It looks huge, but we only had a couple of hours to spend there so headed straight to the textile gallery.  Luckily (for us) we timed it perfectly with the demonstration of the textile machinery. The textile gallery is well laid out, with the machines being in the centre of the room and slightly lower so visitors can get a good view of them.  The demonstration gave a hint of the noise and dust these machines caused.  I cannot imagine it was a pleasant way to earn a living (unless you were the owner of course!). The demonstration started with the raw cotton in big containers about to be carded…

Starting with cotton in its raw state

We then saw the machines spinning the cotton.

Spinning - Mosi
Spinning – Mosi

The cotton goes through several machines to get to the strength required to weave it.  I love this photo…

Spinning - Mosi
Spinning – Mosi

The mule was the machine that really caught the children’s imagination.  We heard awful stories of children working underneath these machines as they worked, and about written evidence of mill owners chaining children to the machine as they kept running away.

Spinning - Mosi
Spinning – Mosi

The last stage showed the cloth being woven.  Lots of gruesome stories here to capture the children’s imagination, possibly the tales of large wooden bobbins flying out of the machines were the worst.  We discovered that mills started putting the windows higher so the stray bobbins didn’t break glass – hitting a worker was obviously more acceptable as it cost less money than a window.

Weaving - Mosi
Weaving – Mosi

The guide was really good, and she answered lots of individual questions after the talk about the technical and social aspects of the 19th century cotton industry.  I was interested to hear that the damp climate in Lancashire was good for producing cotton.  I know a little about dyeing fabric and how the weather can affect it, but not a lot about spinning.  When you see the process, from growing the plant to weaving, it makes you realise that perhaps cloth is not as expensive as we think.


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