Upon the Isles of the Sea

Discovering the LDS heritage of England, Ireland, Scotland, & Wales



A tour of the mill

In 1913 the LDS church magazine Improvement Era published a lengthy article written by a missionary who was given a tour of a Preston cotton mill.   Elder Clyde Candland Edmonds reported in great detail the whole process of creating the cotton.  His recollection is a wee bit longer than the normal missionary letter home – but provides a fascinating look behind the scenes.   Initially I was just going to give a few excerpts, but decided to put nearly the whole article in.

NOTE: If you don’t have a great interest in how cotton goods are made most of this post will be of little interest, BUT you must, at least, skim down to the 20th paragraph and read what the cotton workers did when they saw the Mormon Elders coming to their departments.

The rest of this post is entirely In Their WordsContinue reading “A tour of the mill”

Rules to be Obeyed…

What was it like to work in one of these cotton mills?

William Ainsworth (1807-1862) helped his father and brother run some mills in Preston.  The ‘RULES TO BE OBEYED BY THE OPERATIVES’ in his mill in Cotton Court were unbelievable. They bore evidence of long working hours, restrictions on personal freedom, and a ruthless system of fines, which the management did not fail to enforce in the courts. Continue reading “Rules to be Obeyed…”


In 1837 the Mormon missionaries first arrived in Preston.  In 1840 a second mission – the Mission of the Twelve – arrived in town.  Missionaries were soon at work throughout the nation harvesting one of Britain’s greatest decades of converts.   The backdrop of that harvest was not always a peaceful one as illustrated by the events of August 1842 in Preston. Continue reading “1842”

1836 Spinner’s Strike

Then came 1836.

It is significant to remember that the following strike took place only months before our first missionaries appeared in Preston.  I propose that this conflict actually softened many hearts to be receptive to the restored gospel message.

Continue reading “1836 Spinner’s Strike”

Thomas Miller

Mr Thomas Miller, (1810-1865) of the cotton firm, Horrockses, Miller & Co, was the most powerful cotton manufacturer in Preston.

By the time of his death in 1865, Thomas Miller operated ten mills, 155,970 spindles, 2,865 looms, twelve steam engines, and employed 3,000 hands to spin 104,000 lbs of yarn and weave 227 miles of cloth each week. One of his mills, The Yard works, was the largest ‘single site’ in Lancashire, and a number of our early converts were employed there including Jonathan Clegg who, along with his wife Ellen, were such notable stalwarts in the Martin Handcart company.   The missionary Joseph Fielding spoke of working in a mill to gain some extra money, but he does not indicate if it was one of Millers, but there is the possibility that this was also his employer. Continue reading “Thomas Miller”

The Cotton Lords

Cotton mill owners were given the title of the Cotton Lords to signify their powerful status in the economy and society.  The Cotton Lords of Preston were sometimes viewed as manipulative, greedy tyrants, and other times they were lauded as the deliverers from unemployment and starvation.  They truly were benefactors of relief and community enhancements, but sometimes their wealth gaining methods were questionable or downright wrong. Continue reading “The Cotton Lords”

Charles Dickens in Preston

In our sanitised, bleached, painted and plastic homes and towns it takes a big leap to visualise Victorian living conditions.

Who better to provide those details than Charles Dickens.

In January 1854 Dickens visited Preston during a cotton workers’ strike.  He decided to educate readers about the working conditions in the northern industrial towns, and, using Preston and Manchester as his inspiration, he created a fictional place called Coketown.  He called the book “Hard Times”, and the novel first appeared in a weekly serialised form between April and August 1854.  His descriptions of ‘Coketown’ provide valuable insights into what Victorian Preston must have looked and smelled and felt like. Continue reading “Charles Dickens in Preston”

Richard Arkwright

We have mentioned Richard Arkwright a few times in previous posts, and by the end of this post you will understand the impact he had upon the lives of many of our Preston converts. Continue reading “Richard Arkwright”

Domestic to Factory

Our missionaries arrived during a traumatic upheaval as cotton had moved from a domestic to a factory setting.  At first cotton manufacturing was a wholly domestic affair.  In the early 1700s many Lancashire homes were purposely built to accommodate spinning wheels and weaving looms.  Many of these homes can be easily identified today by their basement windows – the damp basement helped prevent the cotton from snapping.  Continue reading “Domestic to Factory”

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