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 another 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.
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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.
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Early Days