Howard and Bullough, build Accrington’s mega-factory.

Accrington History

Accrington was once the home of the Howard and Bullough mega-factory. In fact, It sat next to the railway and dominated the town for many years. In 1851 the Accrington firm of Howard & Bleakley was founded. Consequently, Bleakley retired and John Bullough joined the company in 1856. The company began with four workers. Remarkably, by the 1890s they employed more than 6000 men and women, on a 53-acre site. Part of The Globe works is still in use today, as a business hub

The company manufactured all the machinery required by a textile mill. In fact, this local company was the biggest textile machinery manufacturer in the world.

Accrington in 1801

In 1801, Accrington was a village of three thousand people. Furthermore, the first power looms were installed in 1818. However, they were powered by water. Limiting their use to the valley bottoms. Importantly, the railway arrived in 1848. Consequently, the Howard and Bullough factory was built close to the station and goods yard.

There was little environmental legislation. As a result, the River Hyndburn became a polluted outflow of effluent. Eventually, some controls came in and the borough of Accrington was formed in 1878.

Textile machinery inovation

The company was a hub of innovation, John Bullough held several patents. Additionally, William Kenworthy was responsible for the Lancashire loom. This semi-automatic machine became the mainstay of the Lancashire textile industry.

Lancashire looms at the Queen street mill, Burnley

The semi-automatic nature of the machine meant that four looms could be operated by one operative.

John Bullough

John Bullough (1839-1891); Kinloch Castle, Rum (Scottish Natural Heritage); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/john-bullough-18391891-166815

John Bullough was a fascinating character. Notably, he became one of the first textile millionaires and his son, George, bought an island! Moreover, He was from Accrington and improved looms by including a “self-acting temple”. Importantly, this kept the woven cloth at the correct width. Additionally, an alarm sounded when a thread broke.

The power loom riots

In 1826 deprivation lead to the power loom riots. Indeed, destitute handloom weavers went on a rampage in Hyndburn and Blackburn. Here, they attacked mills and smashed looms.

Loom breaking in 1826

The adoption of the power loom had resulted in a massive fall in wages. handloom weavers formerly on six shillings a day were earning less than six shillings a week. Additionally, some foodstuffs had nearly doubled in price.

Twenty-one mills were attacked the first being in Accrington. Unrest continued for three days. Furthermore, Blackburn was attacked next. The military was called in to defend the mills, and several rioters were shot.

Manufacturers were pressed to bring in a minimum wage, however, William Huskisson, President of the Board of Trade said it would be:

“a vain and hazardous attempt to impose the authority of the law between the labourer and his employer in regulating the demand for labour and the price to be paid for it”.

This was the same William Huskisson that was hit and killed by the Rocket Locomotive, in 1830. He was a victim of one of the first railway accidents when he tried to cross the tracks. In fact the accident occurred during the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

More local history here.

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