Women working at power looms in Lancashire about 1835
from a watercolor by Thomas Allom
Thomas Allom (1804-1872)
Thomas Allom was an architect and painter who visited a huge cotton mill
in Preston in Lancashire, England in the early 1830s.
Swainson, Birley & Company
a hand-colored engraving from an Allom painting of the Fishwick Mills
The Swainson and Birley mills had a history of over a century. Their buildings were variously known as the Bannister Hall Printworks and the Fishwick Mills.
1882 cotton kerchief celebrating the Fishwick Mills
Swainson was considered the best furniture printer at the time --- furniture being
a name for chintz. This ca. 1835 print is in the collection of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Allom probably had a commission to record the workings of the mill---the latest technology. His watercolors were engraved as prints and included in an 1835 book by Edward Baines: History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain
The wood engravings produced for multiple printings are quite impressive. More impressive are the actual watercolors that Allom painted, which are in the collection of the Manchester Science Museum.
Black and white engraving in Baines's book.
Allom's picture of calico printing on cylinder presses is an
often reproduced engraving from the book.
Border stripe printed by Swainson about 1835
The Victoria & Albert Museum has several prints from the Swainson mills
See the whole print here:
Carding, drawing and roving the cotton fiber.
Allom painted four steps in cotton print production beginning with carding the
raw cotton by machine.
The paintings are described as "pencil, pen, sepia and wash"
Allom was working about five years before photographs.
His attention to detail is best seen in the paintings
Spinning the yarn on mule spinners, the second step.
(There were spinning jennies and spinning mules---named for work animals.)
Power-Loom Weaving, the third step
Note how many young women were employed. In 1835 a local medical examiner counted 433 mill employees between the ages of 11 and 18 of which 256 were girls.
See the Allom paintings here
The accession numbers on the paintings indicate they were acquired in 1985. I would imagine
they were purchased at a Christie's Auction then. A real treasure.
Allom's painting of the mills
The 7-story main building opened in the mid 1820s was known locally as the Big Factory
Read Baines's book here
And learn all about the "Great Mechanical Inventions"