"From the hill top at Sharneyford  twelve hundred and fifty feet above sea level, were the cotton wedge waves it's white fleeces, on the moorland and were once upon a time there was some cotton spinning and weaving. You look down to smoky Bacup which lies  deeply at this end of the Rossendale Valley." Between the years 1824 and 1865, 35  cotton mills were erected in Bacup. People  flocked from the agricultural districts such  as Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire  to  work in Bacup. The beautiful wooded  valleys and the clear fish filled river Irwell  soon disappeared and instead of growing  trees we grew chimneys that belched out  smoked 24 hours a day. Money was made so  quickly that the  valley became known as " The Golden Valley". The spin off from the  industrial revolution was of course a mass increase in population. The demand for  labour was tremendous.  The manufacturers had formed the Labour Supply  Organisation, to organise migration of labourers from the South to the mills in the North.  Agents were sent to areas between Peterborough and Norwich, displaying posters  which read. 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. A weaver from Norwich  was taken to court for not paying back £14.00 which he had been lent for fare,  furnishings and provisions. The judge disallowed the fare but made the weaver pay 1/6  to pay the rest. Prosperity reigned until the year 1861 when the  American Civil war  stopped the supply of cotton  to Bacup amongst many other towns and villages  in Lancashire.  It is said that of 6,000 operatives  in Bacup 3,000  were out of work the other 3,000  working  2 - 3 day weeks. For four years the  people of Bacup were without work or wages this period being known as the Cotton Famine.  Practically every family needed help from the  parish coffers as well as the individual church funds  just to survive. Relief funds were sent from bigger towns in Lancashire as well as places such as Australia. Most of the immigrants were affected and had to apply to the same  manufacturers for poor relief at which time the manufacturer replied " 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 left his position of  Guardian of the poor and entered into his other position in the community, that of local  magistrate at which time the poor immigrant worker was  brought up in front of the  magistrate  as a criminal and was sent to prison for seven  days.  James Maden Holt  J.P master of Stubylee tried to help by giving the local men work on building a road over  the moor from behind Height Barn farm, Lee Quarries and Brandwood Moor. It became  known as " The Cotton Panic Road". His intention was to have the land drained and  erect farmsteads on the land. But the four to seven feet of peaty soil proved a barrier to  the project and scheme was abandoned.   When the first load  of cotton arrived at Bacup after the termination of the war men and  women followed it through the streets, weeping for joy as they knelt in the streets  to  thank god. By 1864 the worst appeared to be over and the immigrants began coming  back to the valley to once again work in the mills. On Thursday the 19th April 1866  over  80 people principally from Norfolk, arrived in Bacup ready to begin work in the various  mills. The following week saw more hands returning from the southern counties of  Norfolk , Suffolk and  Cambridge and the steady influx continued at a rate of 30 - 40 per  week. Many of the locals declined to teach the new hands the trade of weaving even  though many of the mills were only partially running after having lost many hands during  the famine. A report from the Bacup Rossendale News 5th May 1866 read. "On  Tuesday at one of the railway stations near Bacup a small batch of thinly clad shivering  " foreigners" alighted in the midst of a heavy snow storm, with snow-flakes falling as big  as a half crown, and driven by a cold easterly wind. They stared with astonished dismay  at the high with bleak hills of Rossendale, almost covered  with melting snow, and it is  not to be wondered at, that the comparison they drew of the fields green with wavering  spring wheat, and the hedge rows covered with luxuriant foliage which they had left  behind in search of better wages, was not favourable to Rossendale" In November 1875 Joshua Hoyles and Son Ltd imported more  labour from other  counties at this time fifty families, farm labourers had arrived from Norfolk. These  families had been brought to work in the mills of Bacup and Sharneyford, belonging  to  the firm of Joshua Hoyles. Homes and houses had been provided and due to the wet  weather carts were provided to transport them from Bacup station. By 1880 there were  67 cotton and woollen mills  in Bacup. Although the mill owners were hard task masters  with their employees  during this gold age they were generous with their wealth in  relation to the health and education and general well being of their employees.  
A view of some of Bacups smokey chimneys. Acre Mill Albion Mill Beech Mill Blackthorn Britannia Mill Farholme Mill Forest Mill Grove Mill Holmes Mill India Mill Irwell Mill Irwell Springs Lee Mill Meadows Mill New Hey Mill Olive Mill Ross Mill Rossendale Mill Springholme Mill Stacksteads Mill Throstle Mill Tong Mill Waterside Mill Waterbarn Mill Mill Life Home The Giddy Meadow Health & Hygiene Trades & Professions Transport Wartime Leisure & Social Stacksteads Links
The air in the cotton mills had to be kept hot and humid (65 to 80 degrees) to prevent the thread breaking. The air in the mill was thick with cotton dust which could lead to byssinosis - a lung disease. Eye inflammation, deafness, tuberculosis, cancer of the mouth and of the groin (mule-spinners cancer) could also be attributed to the working conditions in the mills. The Royal College of Nursing journal for February 1911 reported a article written by Dr John Brown of Bacup in which he calls attention to the habit many weavers called Kissing the shuttle. During the process of threading the shuttle is kissed many times daily with no attempt to disinfect the shuttle eye and the shuttle being passed from weaver to weaver diseases could spread rapidly. The oil from the shuttle was responsible in many cases for causing mouth cancer. Long hours, difficult working conditions and moving machinery proved a dangerous combination. Accidents were common and could range from the loss of a finger to fatality especially for the many child workers. China Clay was often used for sizing in the weaving sheds. The dust created from this known as Devils Dust caused irritation tothe eyes, nose and throat statistics showed that weavers suffered more lung diseases amongst these consumption than many other workers. Carders often suffered from what is known today as Bysssinosis.
In 1874 a weavers  union was formed, followed by the spinners in 1891,strikes by weavers were usually over reductions in pay at times when work was short, as well as different payment rates in different mills which could be a difference of 10-15%. Workers were very reluctant to strike even with thebacking of the unions because of the hardships caused. In   1894 a strike at a Stacksteads mill went on for 9 months because non union members kept the   looms running.   
Knocked up at 5.30 by the knocker upper rattling his cane against the window panes never  failing to waken the sleeping occupants dressing quickly and making their way down to the  kitchen for a quick cup of tea  and perhaps a jam butty. All too soon the morning stillness is  shattered by the piercing whistle of the mills calling them to their work. Latecomers found the  mill gates closed against them or if they did get admitted the then faced a fine. Doors opening  doors closing the sound of clogs on flags tip-tapping their way to the daily grind. Men ,  women, boys and girls, hurrying by in the dusky morning light. The women and girls wrapped  warmly in thick shawls with home knitted woollen socks. After twelve hours in a hot weaving  shed or spinning room the operatives rushed out then back to their homes.    By 1939 only 40% of workers in Bacup were employed in the mills and 30% in the shoe  industry which had emerged as the new industry at the turn of the century.
Tong Area. A weaving room from a Bacup Mill
The  average earnings in 1906  for a ordinary weeks work for Bacup's cotton operatives was. Openers and Mixers  19 6  Carding Overlookers 22  Big Piecers  19 7  Throstle Spinners  14 4 Drawers In  28 8 Weaving Overlookers 41 4 Weaver 2 Looms  15 2 Weaver 3 Looms  17  1