Why was cotton so important in north west England?

Lancashire loom

Made by J & R Shorrock, Darwen, 1880
Iron, brass, wood and leather

Object number 1971.78
Given by the Pennington Mill Company Limited, Leigh

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Lancashire loom

Edmund Cartwright invented the first mechanical loom in 1785, but it was not used widely in the cotton industry until the 1820s, when Richard Roberts developed the power loom. Lancashire looms were so named because they were used throughout the region's cotton textile industry. Shorrock's, based in Darwen, was one of the smaller loom manufacturers, but its looms were similar to those of other manufacturers. The basic design of the Lancashire loom changed very little between 1850 and 1950.

From the early 1800s, Lancashire mills obtained most of their raw cotton from the USA, where it was grown and picked by enslaved Africans working on plantations.Although this loom was made after slavery had been abolished in both Britain and the USA, it is typical of those which were used to weave cloth from slave-grown American cotton.

Pennington Mill was built about 1879, and owned by Robert Higham in 1881. This loom would have been installed at the mill from new and was used there throughout the mill’s working life. It was donated to the museum in 1971. By the mid-1980s, the mill had been demolished to make way for modern flats.

This information was provided by curators from the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI).