Cottage industry and the industrial revolution

The cottage industry in 18th-century England was a precursor of the factory



In the Early 18th century British industries were generally small scale and relatively unsophisticated. Most manufacturing was done in homes or small, rural shops, using hand tools or simple machines.  Most textile production, for example, was centred on small workshops or in the homes of spinners, weavers and dyers(this was cottage industry) .

Cottage industry  involved thousands of individual manufacturers. With different regions specialising in different products, metal production in the Midlands, for example, and coal mining in the North-East.

When we think of the industrial revolution we think of coal and steam power. We think of factories belching out coal smoke,  This was true in the later part of the revolution.

At the beginning of the revolution if you look at Richard Arkwright you will see differently.

In 1768, Richard Arkwright invented the spinning frame that could produce multiple threads at  once. The first models were powered by waterwheels so the device came to be first known as the water frame. It was the first powered, automatic, and continuous textile machine and enabled the move away from small home manufacturing towards factory production. Arkwright built his first textile mill in Cromford, England in 1774. He used the water out of the lead mines to power his mills as the mine water came out of the ground warm, this meant his mills could run all year round, without the risk of freezing.

Arkwright found that In Cromford there were not enough local people to supply Arkwright with the workers he needed. After building a large number of cottages close to the factory, he imported workers from all over Derbyshire , While the women and children worked in his spinning-factory, the men worked at home turning the yarn into cloth. Arkwright played his workers with Spanish doubloons over stamped with Arkwright’s stamp, these coins were worth 4 and nine pence, this coinage could only be spent at Arkwright’s establishments, which meant all profits came back to Arkwright.

The Mill at Cromford is recognised as an internationally important site of the Industrial Revolution.


It was the world’s first successful cotton spinning mill that was based on water power. Arkwright became known as the ‘Father of the factory system’



Please watch-(


cromford mill


The industrial revolution boomed with the invention of steam power, the steam engine, the railways and canals .

Cottage industries were pushed to the brink of extinction, as mass produced goods were cheaper and faster to produce.

Working conditions in during the revolution were not very good and in some cases were horrific. The living conditions of most workers was no better. Child labour was all part and parcel of the average working class life.


The industrial revolution also brought about the luddite riots, luddites were a group of people who wanted to get rid of the new machinery that was causing unemployment .they destroyed thousands of machines,

In 1812, a law was passed by the House of Lords, called the Frame-Breaking Act. This act made the breaking of frames punishable by death.


Artist: Peter Jackson

Medium: Watercolour on Board

Size: 11″ x 14″ (270mm x 360mm)

Date: 1965


The luddites did however bring  the flaws of the Industrial Revolution to the surface and the government could no longer ignore the opinions of the working class.

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