In the late 1700's Bacup had a population of about
1,000 it was however still classed as a village
albeit one that was growing rapidly, Market
street and St James Street was just
agricultural land. Plantation Street being
named after the plantation that it was
carved from in about 1860. The village of
Bacup comprised the districts of Boston
and Hempsteads with cottages in the
Newgate area.On the hillsides where
farm houses with cottages attached.
Travelling was mainly on foot or
packhorse. Enclosures in the Midlands
and Southern counties had made the
landless people look for a place to live and
with an abundance of spare land here they
began to settle in this area.Wool spinning and
weaving had become a growing trade and by
1800 the population had grown from 1,000 to
5,000. By 1840 Bacup had changed considerably with
significant rise in population, and this was mainly due to the
changing industry in Bacup. The domestic manufacture of wool by means of small
farmers and their families, spinning and weaving in their own homes had now moved to
the mass production of the same in the 30 mills and factories that had sprung up along
the banks of the river Irwell by 1840. Small local men who had been working in their
own homes began to expand by whatever means they could, taking the house next door
and adding two or three looms, prospering enough to then go onto rent a part of a mill
later perhaps going on to buy the whole mill or building their own. The spin off from the
industrial revolution was of course a mass increase in population.
The demand for labour was tremendous. Migrating here from places such as Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge,
Carlisle and Ireland they had been induced to come by promises made by the manufacturers agent many
of which the agent knew would never be fulfilled.Promises such has all expenses paid, with a furnished
house on arrival, a good trade and good wage. The reality was to prove very different. Many of them were
told on arrival they they owed the cost of their journey and found they had entered into contracts for six or
twelve months service for small wages and long hours with only enough to keep body and soul together.
Houses had been provided but none had furniture and so the poor workers had no choice but to sleep on
the earthen floor. Then came the cotton famine and all or most of the immigrants are affected and have to
apply to the same manufacturers for poor relief at which time the manufacturer replies " No you must
return to your own parish we can't help you". Asked to sign papers in order to be returned to their own
parishes many refused explaining they had no homes to go back to having broken them up to come North.
The manufacturer then leaves his position of Guardian of the poor and enters into his other position in the
community, that of local magistrate at which time the poor immigrant worker is now brought up in front of the
magistrate as a criminal vagrant and is sent to prison for seven days.
By the 1850's Bacup had become of the black spots of industry the dark satanic mills casting their shadow over the town. Around the many mills
houses grew like weeds, built in a hurry on any land available no need to worry about sanitation or the view as one of the mill masters said "
Houses were not made for living in: the mill was where they lived. Houses were only for sleeping in" . But many of course were not even fit for that,
working 14-16 hours a day in dreadful conditions only going home to sleep in conditions like those of a pigsty houses unfit for human habitation
little less than hovels. Dark damp back to back houses with one outside toilet between 10 to 20 houses. Their reward was a life barely above
subsistence level their life's work was to just survive there was little time for anything else. Sundays of course being he only break from this
drudgery when they met with friends at chapel a time to chat and feel that they were not alone. Today's houses, homes and streets would probably
be unrecognisable to our Bacupian and Stacksteads ancestors. Indeed some of the Streets they lived on are no longer there. From drapers to
jewellers, pork butchers to watchmakers, hairdressers to musical instrument makers and beyond....Bacup's selection of shops provided an
excellent selection of local stores that satisfied the needs of everybody many of which you can read about in Gone Shopping. A Woman's World
looks at some of the hardships women faced and how one woman lost her baby because she had no choice but to leave it alone to go to work,
whilst others took solace in a Tipple Too many ending up in court.
© bacuptimes.co.uk 2004