The Cloth Industry in England c. 1720


Map Code: Ax02254

At the beginning of the Georgian period, the English cloth industry was still overwhelmingly small in scale, either cottage-based or in small mills employing up to 30 weavers. There were pronounced regional specialisms in the products produced, as noted enthusiastically by the author and essayist Daniel Defoe in his travelogues. East Anglia, the main beneficiary of immigrant Flemish weavers, became renowned for damasks, brocades and velours. Wiltshire focused on flannels, druggets and linsey-woolsey. As exports grew, and consequently the industry’s importance to the Exchequer, laws were passed in the early 1700s forbidding the export of textile equipment, or their specifications. In Yorkshire, Wakefield and Leeds had competing trading halls selling locally produced woollen cloth by 1711, while Bradford became a centre for the production of worsted. In 1721, Thomas Lombe’s silk mill, near Derby, proved a precursor of the ensuing industrialization of textile production, whereupon the centre of manufacture moved northward.

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