Cotton is the world’s most important natural fibre. In the year 2007, global production was 25 million tons from 35 million hectares cultivated in more than 50 countries.
Cotton is also the most popular and most often worn textile not only today but throughout history of mankind.
Until recently the textile industry was the second most important activity in the world – only agriculture was more important
Before the 1760s, textile production was a cottage industry using mainly flax and wool. A typical weaving family would own one hand loom, which would be operated by the man with help of a boy; the wife, girls and other women could make sufficient yarn for that loom.
Child workers in the mills did the most unskilled work. This was often the most boring, repetitive and tiring work. Children as young as five were put to work in some mills. The welfare of children in mills depended to a large extent on the employer or mill owner.
The early textile factories employed a large share of children, but the share declined over time. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were described as children. Leigh Spinners has never employed children.
The improvements in technology were considerable. A worker spinning cotton at a hand-powered spinning wheel in the 18th century would take more than 50,000 hours to spin 100 lb of cotton. By the 1790s, the same quantity could be spun in 300 hours by mule, and with a self-acting mule it could be spun by one worker in just 135 hours.
As mills developed and got bigger the machinery in them got bigger. Look above you the wheel above you weighs more than an elephant and is one of the smaller machines. Our engine weighs over 200 tons.
The Leigh Spinners Mill is the largest building in Leigh – it could fit ASDA, Tescos, Sainsbury’s, Morisons and all the other supermarkets in Leigh inside the building.
It is the tallest building as our chimney is 72 meters tall, but we are also the deepest as there is a well under the factory which is 45 meters deep and provides all our water
Just one bale of cotton can make over 200 pairs of blue jeans. With over 1 million bales created each year, cotton is now the largest non-food item grown in the world.