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Image Number: 5000091
Probate evidence during the 17th century and the remains of many stone three storey weavers' cottages from the 18th century, especially in the hamlets of Ainsworth, Elton (on the western fringes of Bury town), Holcombe and Pot Green, indicate that domestic textile production was becoming an important factor of the local economy in this part of the Irwell Valley. Throughout this period Bury's textile industry was dominated by woollens and based upon the domestic production of yarn and cloth as well as water-powered fulling mills.

The establishment of Brooksbottom Mill calico printing works in 1773 by the Peel family marked the beginning of the rise of the cotton industry in Bury and the true start of the industrial revolution in this part of the upper Irwell valley. In the early 19th century cotton became the major textile industry in the valley with the rivers Roch and Irwell providing power for spinning mills and processing water for the finishing trades. During this period a number of clusters of cotton mills emerged in the ancient settlements of Bury, where there were seven by 1818, and Radcliffe, which led to their rapid expansion. Bury's population grew from 9,152 in 1801 to 58,029 in 1901. Ramsbottom developed as a wholly new mill town.

As industry boomed in the valley this encouraged the building of a canal link. The Manchester and Bolton Canal was extended as far as Bury by 1808. Amongst the most notable sites from this period are Brooksbottom Mill, where the cotton industry began in the late 18th century (although there are no remains of that period there are some fine mid-19th century structures); The Burrs complex, first founded in 1790 with remains displayed for the public; and Field Mill in Ramsbottom, a fine example of a small-scale mid-19th century spinning and weaving complex.

Although Bury had few of the classic late 19th century spinning mills which remain such a striking feature of the Leigh and Oldham landscapes, there survives a grouping of three large brick mill blocks known as Peel Mills in Bury.

By the late 19th century bleaching, dyeing and cotton printing were the most dominant parts of Bury's textile industry. Of the 271 industrial sites known from the Bury area during the 19th century 37 were primarily bleachworks, 33 dyeworks and 15 printworks. Such sites can be found all along the Irwell Valley; at Radclifffe there were a number of bleachworks, whilst there are notable remains in Ramsbottom of three such complexes. However, the centre of this part of the industry was the Kirklees Valley, to the west of Bury town, where there still survives a fine collection of textile finishing sites. Amongst the most complete are the Stormer Hill Works and the Tottington Print Works.

(source: R. Mc Neil and M. Nevell (2000) AIA Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Manchester)

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