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Mills in Wigan

May Mill
May Mill (1980)

In 1818 William Woods introduced the first power looms in Wigan.  At this time there was much industrial unrest as out of work hand weavers attacked mills which were using the new technology. 

Even though the conditions in Wigan mills were particularly appalling they avoided much of the unrest by installing armaments during times of trouble.

Children as young as eight worked long hours.  Those who fell asleep were beaten with a strap.

One notorious owner was Thomas Darwell who started the Sovereign Mills.  He and his partner were reprimanded for making children under 16 work from 5am until 9pm.  His cruelty is surprising as he began his working life as a cotton spinner.

His malevolence did not affect his standing in the town as he became mayor in 1824 and again in 1830.

As the century progressed mills grew larger and more elaborate with steam power becoming the main motive source.  After the 1914-18 war there was a boom followed by a slump from which Wigan's textile industry did not recover.

The May Mill was the last working cotton mill in Wigan.  It closed in 1980.


To read an early 19th century poem about the Sovreign Mill click here.

Article by Adrian Morris