Aireborough Historical Society

1862 The Lancashire Cotton Famine

The Lancashire Cotton Famine
Date December 1862
Location Yeadon
Photo ID


            Relief of The Suffering Operatives in Lancashire

    On Sunday last three sermons were preached in Yeadon Church, those in the morning and afternoon by the Rev. Wm. Metcalfe, the incumbent, that in the evening by the Rev. L G Southcomb, curate of Yeadon.

     The collection at the close of day amounted to the sum of  £57.2s.6d.

In addition to this there has been a house-to-house visitation which resulted in upwards of £100 in money and £60 in clothing being raised for the relief of our sufferers in Lancashire and the subscription is still open".


Image courtesy of the British Newspaper Archives, research by Edwy Harling


Further text by Christine Lovedale

This depression in the cotton industry followed a boom period when cotton goods had been overproduced and warehouses were full of finished goods.

It was also the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865) when imports of raw cotton were restricted, what supplies came in were bought up by speculators who stored them to gain future profits.

      In the preceding years the markets had been flooded with cotton wares at knockdown prices and demand collapsed,these were some of the economic factors which caused mass unemployment for mill operatives who suffered great hardship.

Eventually, after local relief charities had failed to alleviate the poverty and hunger of the unemployed the Government instigated the Public Works (Manufacturing Districts) Act in 1864, this enabled local authorities to borrow money to carry out major civic schemes such as sewerage systems, road building and surfacing, thus creating jobs for the unemployed.

     Following this supplies of raw cotton were restored and the mill looms began operating again, the effect of the slump did have a lasting impact, some of the cotton towns never recovered and thousands of workers had by then emigrated.

      The generosity of Yeadon folk were later rewarded in part during the Lockout in 1913 when operatives were literally locked out of the local mills.

There was great hardship in the town so much so that a soup kitchen was opened  to provide a little nourishment for the hungry.

Yeadon men went on a hunger march through to Lancashire, reaching Blackpool and Liverpool, they collected £50 or so to send back to  their families.


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