The latter part of the eighteenth century was a period of great technical advances as the industrial revolution got underway and at the forefront of this change was the textile industry. Amongst these developments were John Kay’s “Flying Shuttle” of 1733, James Hargreaves “The Spinning Jenny” of 1764 and Sir Richard Arkwright “Water Frame” of 1769. Arkwright’s Cromford mill which opened in Derbyshire in 1771 became the template for cotton spinning on an industrial scale and the model for factory production. There were further improvements in the spinning process with the invention of Samuel Crompton’s spinning mule of 1770.
It was not long before industrial production reached our region. The part of Stansfield township that was later to become Blackshaw Parish was admirably suited topographically to take advantage of the new industrial processes. Colden Water and Jumble Hole Clough each provide a good flow of water descending from over one thousand feet to the Valley floor, falling about one hundred and eighty feet per mile
“Blackshaw Head for travellers” is an eighteenth century saying that was applied to the village. It was its location on the great transpennine route of the Long Causeway, together with own favourable topography and network of pack- horse causeys, which had been established during the earlier days of the Dual Economy that encouraged the development of early water-powered textile mills.
Wealthy local families (e. g the Horsfalls of Staups Mill, Cowbridge Mill and Winters Mill ) were quick to exploit the opportunities offered by the new technology and the special geographical qualities of the area. The late 18th century saw several water-powered cotton spinning mills being built to utilise the new technology. Amongst these were Staups, Spa, Cow Bridge and Jumble Hole Mill in Jumble Hole Clough, and Winter’s Mill on Dale Clough which a tributary of the the main stream. On Colden Water there were Land Mill, Rodmer Clough Mill and the old manorial Hudson Mill which was converted to cotton spinning at about this time.
There were usually complex water engineering works associated with the building of these mills with header and compensation dams and sluices – the aim being to supply a sufficient head of water to turn the wheel and power the mill machinery even when the natural flow of water was very low ( many of these can still be found on or near the streams now). Often mills were built quite close together to take advantage of the fall of the stream in that area (e.g Spa Mill and Cowbridge Mill in The Jumble Hole Clough) Appropriately sited dams were an invaluable supplement. In these deep sided valleys with their good “head” of water, the more efficient “overshot” water wheel could be employed whereas in the valley sited on the slower flowing river, mills were fitted with “breast- shot” or “undershot” wheels.
Parallel to the development of cotton spinning was the slower growth in the upper valley of worsted spinning which was based on the use of longer and rougher staple woollen yarns (eg Rodmer Clough Mill) Worsted spinning eventually came to predominate over cotton in the heart of the textile districts
With spinning having moved from cottage to factory and finished yarn being available in much greater quantity, there was a great demand for weavers. Yeoman Clothiers houses were no longer the sole places which housed the looms as they had done in the “Domestic System” In fact many of these houses became subdivided into separate dwellings and rented out. Hand loom weavers living in cottages and farmhouses wove the yarn supplied by the factories. The late eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries were the great age of the hand loom weaver. Their houses provide much of the historic built environment of the parish as we see it today.
The 1851 Census shows us that the Dual Economy was still operating with many farming households having occupants employed in one or both trades. In over one in seven farms the farmer himself was a hand loom weaver with his wife being employed in the mills often as a “bobbin winder”.
This was also a golden age for farming itself. The 18th and early 19th centuries besides being a time of great technical change in industry also witnessed a countrywide improvement in farming both in terms of land organization and cultivation. The enclosure movement which lasted in this area from 1778-1848 totally transformed the landscape, creating the kind of rural environment all over the region we are familiar with today. It had the effect of leading to more productive use of the land and better organisation and management. The adoption of root crops such as potatoes were a great improvement. Allied to the ready availability of cheap labour, careful husbandry ensured the land was farmed and cultivated in a very conscientious way not achieved before or since. Fields were cropped in rotation e.g. with potatoes then oats for a few years then turned to meadow. The land was limed, manured and well drained. There is as much stone hidden beneath the landscape as displayed above it. Meticulously built stone-lined drains provide an extensive network of drainage criss-crossing the sub-surface of the fields .
The success of the mills, diversified support industries and a growing workforce and population ensured a greater demand for locally sourced food, with the result that, as the 1851 census shows, several farms were doing quite well just from farming alone. Over half of the sixteen farms under nine acres recorded no-one working in the textile industry.