For hundreds of years the area was renowned for its woollen cloth many of area's inhabitants being engaged to some degree in its production and marketing. Initially a side line carried out in farmers' houses weaving became more and more important to the town.
Source Mike Groszkruger
Records from the 16th century would appear to show there were few sheep kept in Great Harwood, it was cattle country, but this is open to debate. However it seems likely that extra wool would have had to be brought in and the finished goods then taken to market and the wills of the town's more prosperous folk show they were often engaged in this side of the trade. A plan of 1603 shows roads, clearly marked, to Halifax, Manchester and Preston all major wool and cloth markets of the time.
In the early 1600s cotton arrived in England from Turkey. Gradually the weaving of cotton took precedence and by the late 18th century the weaving of wool had virtually disappeared from Lancashire. Carding (cleaning and separating the fibres), spinning and weaving on handlooms was carried out in the weavers' homes but there were at least three small, water powered carding mills in the town at the close of the 18th century.
In 1733 John Kay invented the Flying Shuttle which increased the weavers' output so that they outstripped the production of yarn. The search for a replacement for the spinning wheel resulted in James Hargreaves' Spinning Jenny sometime in the 1760s which increased the spinners production eight fold. The increase in manufacturing activity together with the enclosure of the remaining moor caused a surge of building activity in the area with land being leased solely for the erection of weavers cottages.
Improvements to the quantity and quality of yarn production were made by Richard Arkwrght in 1769 and Samuel Crompton in 1779. Then in 1785 Edmund Cartwright patented his power loom which was to bring much misery to Great Harwood's handloom weavers but ultimately also bring about the town's growth.
A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Great Harwood, Michael Rothwell, Hyndburn Local History Society, 1980. Page 2
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