How Far does Quarry Bank Mill enable you to understand the factory system of textile production introduced during the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Before the factory system was introduced people used the domestic system to produce cotton, where spinning and then weaving was a very slow and simple process.
The Domestic system was very relaxed where people could have lunch or go to the bathroom whenever they wanted to, unlike in the factory system, which was very disciplined and regimented. We have to determine if Quarry Bank Mill was typical of other mills at the time, to be able to see how much it tells us of the factory system. Quarry Bank Mill may be an exception to other mills, maybe having better or worse conditions than most. How much can we actually learn about the factory system by studying Quarry Bank Mill?
There were many machines used in the factory and we saw some of these when we visited the mill. The machines we saw included a Spinning Jenny, a Flying Shuttle and a carding and mule machine, although the Spinning Jenny and the Flying Shuttle were from the domestic system, seeing how they were used also helped to understand more of the importance of the factory system noticing the changes from domestic to factory.
We saw machines from different time periods, not just from the industrial revolution. We were told that the carding machine that we saw, although was an 1864 design, it was a 1920s model and the Mule machine was also a 1926 model, so there may have been slight variations between the machines and might have been altered since the mill was opened. So this does not give us an entirely accurate impression of what the factory system was like.
We visited the different rooms and saw that they were quite big. There would have been 16 machines in each row with two or three children operating each machine making it quite crowded. They would have been doing jobs, which were shown or explained to us. There were simple jobs like piecers or can tenters, who would have moved a can of cotton back and forth from carding machines. This tells us that the factory system included many unskilled jobs for children, which was also the case in other mills across Britain.
When we were in the weaving shed only a fraction of machines which were there would have been working in the mill, were on. The noise was horrific so it is difficult to imagine how deafening the noise would have been in the factories compared to the noise of one machine in the domestic system. We would not know what kind of noise level the children had to withstand in the mill as machines in the different rooms were ran at different times when we were present, contrary to when the mill was being run.
Using looms was useful as only one person needed to operate it, which is good for the factory system, as fewer employees were needed to produce a large amount of cotton. The condenser mule had 560 spindles, which would produce as much yarn as hundreds of hand spinners. The mule shed was an unhealthy environment, the air being full of cotton dust where they showed the machines working, so in the factory system the people would be of poor health falling victim to white lung, from cotton dust. This shows that employers in the factory system were not as concerned about the children's health as they were about producing large amounts of cloth as there were no health regulations, although Greg provided a doctor, as many mills did, so they must have been concerned even though the treatments failed to work.
The building was big and had small windows to let the light in, as the gaslights could not be used for their light to work in because the mill would be very flammable from all the cotton and dust floating about. I could clearly see where an extension had been added, showing that the mill had been successful so far, so they had decided to expand it.
A bell and clock was added because the apprentices would need to know the time for where they should be, which shows that the factory system was very regimented. They would have a bell for everything, like what time for work, school, and meals. This all shows a significant change in industrial production, that the factory system was much more disciplined than the domestic system. A steam chimney was also added which proves that power is very important in the factory system of textile production.
There were only very small windows in the mill as Greg would want to keep it humid and hot, therefore the cotton would not snap. When we were there we did not experience how hot it would have been, as they had to take out more windowpanes as a result of the hot weather, presumably to meet today's health and safety regulations.
Our time in the weaving shed was recommended to spend less than 15 minutes in there, because of the cotton, dust, noise and the heat. We have to imagine what it would have been like to work in there for about 12 to 13 hours every day and even longer in other mills, which is very difficult to reconstruct. It would probably have posed serious health risks to the apprentices, mainly children.