Swainson Birley Cotton Mill near Preston, Lancashire, 1834.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
One of five drawings in pencil, pen and wash by Thomas Allom. This interior view of the mill shows men and women mule spinning. Cotton was spun and woven into cloth by hand until the late 1700s, when Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-1792) and others developed textile machinery which revolutionised cotton manufacturing. Rapid mechanisation of the industry throughout Britain and Europe lowered the cost of cotton production while increasing demand for cotton products, and workers were increasingly driven from the fields into the new cotton mills and factories. Many of these were children, who worked long hours and were given dangerous jobs such as cleaning the fibres from the machinery while it was moving, as can be seen here on the right.