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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 12 May 2017, 04:30


One thing that we can't escape is the passage of time. This inevitably brings change and I suppose this more evident to the old than the young because they have memories of how things used to be. My picture this week is a map I cobbled together some time ago showing the water and steam mills of Barlick in 1921. If you include Salterforth and County Brook there were 16 mills working and over 25,000 looms in them. This was the major source of income in the town. Take the time to have a look at the map and you will soon realise that almost all of them have disappeared.
One of the things that has always amazed me is that a whole industry and source of income as large as this could vanish so completely without massive social upheaval. It says much for the character of the town and its inhabitants that overall, the transition from that way of life to what we enjoy today has gone so smoothly. Of course it was gradual change and over time as we have seen, the old mills were converted to new uses by new industries. At the same time the workers adapted as well, learning new skills and ways of working. One thing that helped was that in almost every case, the new work was less onerous, cleaner and paid a better wage. All this happened entirely by chance. There was no central government policy or help to alleviate the hardship that accompanied the closures and if it hadn't been for the activities of Herr Hitler things could have been very different.
We are well into a different phase now. The re-use of the old mills has given way to demolition and the new use for the empty site is not always industrial. In 1921 those 25,000 looms required around 7,000 workers to service them, in economist's terms the industry was labour intensive. Today the new industries are far more 'efficient' and don't employ anywhere near as many. Add to this the fact that in the modern search for even more efficiency by taking advantage of computers and robot usage, that decreased number is dropping even further. The slack is being taken up by unskilled jobs on very low wages and in many cases no contracts of employment guaranteeing a working week and what we always regarded as the usual benefits. If you had tried to explain the concept of a 'Zero Hours' contract to a weaver in 1921 you would have got blank stares, such a thing was inconceivable. This is another element of change, today it is common and many are working for less money than is needed to support a family. Today we have Working Tax Credits and food banks.
I know I am a dinosaur but I regret many aspects of the changes we are seeing. It seems to me that there is less dignity, security and certainty in the world and this might be the biggest change of all.


The mills of Barnoldswick in 1921.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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