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Stories about the lives we've made

module:Textiles: From domestic to factory production

The Industrial Revolution and the textiles industries

page:Factory production

In contrast to the evidence of domestic production, factory rules such as those in the image and transcription below for Haslingden Mill show the demands made by employers on workers in their factories.

The strictly regulated working conditions of the mill worker are quite different to the lifestyle of independent domestic craftsmen like Cornelius Ashworth. Ashworth was free to decide how he used his time to do a variety of agricultural and cloth-making activities, as well as catch up with repairs and leisure, as long as the agricultural work was done in time and he had enough cash coming in from the sale of his cloth.

You might also be interested in this reconstruction scene about another contemporary factory, Belper North Mill.

STORY: Rise of the factory system
SCENE: Belper North Mill
launch scene

At Haslingden Mill, the difference in power between worker and employer was considerable. The key characteristic of life at the mill was its deeply structured and disciplined schedule. It could not operate on the basis of a flexible approach to time or action, and the workers had to do what they were told.

Most of the rules dealt strictly with timekeeping, although some of the rules were to avoid threats to the machinery, such as damage to the brushes or the risk of fire. The mill buildings and atmosphere were filled with inflammable cotton dust and natural oils soaked into the structures, but firefighting technology remained extremely limited until later inventions.

Facsimile of Rules To Be Observed, Haslingden Mill, 1851. © Helmshore Mills Textile Museum

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  • All the Overlookers shall be on the premises first and last.
  • Any Person coming too late shall be fined as follows : - for 5 minutes 2d, 10 minutes 4d. and 15 minutes 6d, &c.
  • For any Bobbins found on the floor 1d for each Bobbin.
  • For single Drawing, Slubbing, or Roving 2d for each single end.
  • For Waste on the floor 2d.
  • For any Oil wasted or spilled on the floor 2d each offence, besides paying for the value of the Oil.
  • For any broken Bobbins, they shall be paid for according to their value, and if there is any difficulty in ascertaining the guilty party, the same shall be paid for by the whole using such Bobbins.
  • Any person neglecting to Oil at the proper times shall be fined 2d.
  • Any person leaving their Work and found Talking with any of the other workpeople shall be fined 2d for each offence.
  • For every Oath or insolent language, 3d for the first offence, and if repeated they shall be dismissed.
  • The Machinery shall be swept and cleaned down every meal time.
  • All persons in our employ shall serve Four Weeks’ Notice before leaving their employ: but L. WHITAKERS & Sons, shall and will turn any person off without notice being given.
  • If two persons are known to be in one Necessary together they shall be fined 3d each; and if any Man or Boy go into the Women’s Necessary he shall be instantly dismissed.
  • Any person wilfully or negligently breaking the Machinery, damaging the Brushes, making too much Waste, &c., they shall pay for the same to its full value.
  • Any person hanging anything on the Gas Pendants will be fined 2d.
  • The Masters would recommend that all their workpeople Wash themselves every morning, but they shall Wash themselves at least twice every week, Monday Morning and Thursday morning; and any found not washed will be fined 3d for each offence.
  • The Grinders, Drawers, Slubbers and Rovers shall sweep at least eight times in the day as follows, in the Morning at 7 ½, 9½, 11 and 12; and in the Afternoon at 1½, 2½, 3½, 4½, and 5½ o’clock; and to notice the Board hung up, when the black side is turned that is the time to sweep, and only quarter of an hour will be allowed for sweeping. The Spinners shall sweep as follows, in the Morning at 7 ½, 10 and 12; in the Afternoon at 3 and 5½ o’clock. Any neglecting to sweep at the time will be fined 2d for each offence.
  • Any persons found Smoking on the premises will be instantly dismissed.
  • Any person found away from their usual place of work, except for necessary purposes, or Talking with any one out of their own Alley, will be fined 2d for each offence.
  • Any person bringing dirty Bobbins will be fined 1d for each Bobbin.
  • Any person wilfully damaging this Notice will be dismissed.
    The Overlookers are strictly enjoined to attend to these Rules, and they will be responsible to the M. Workpeople observing them.
    J. Read, Printer, and Bookbinder, Haslingden
    Transcription of Rules To Be Observed, Water-Foot Mill, near Haslingden, 1851, from the collection of J.N.Hare© Helmshore Mills Textile Museum




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    Facsimile of Rules To Be Observed, Haslingden Mill, 1851.
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