04. Water power

Water power had been used in mills for grinding corn from the 13th century, and gradually for a variety of other purposes, especially for fulling or thickening woollen cloth, and these may well have been in the valley bottoms on existing routes or trackways.

There was a boost to the cotton industry after the repeal in 1774 of a heavy tax that was charged on cotton thread and cloth made in Britain.

By the early 1800s vast amounts of cotton were being grown in the plantations of America and much of this was exported to Britain where the invention of the Spinning Jenny, the Water Frame and the Power Loom had rapidly increased the demand for raw cotton. This resulted in the dramatic growth in the number of water-powered mills

It was possible to site these mills anywhere that was convenient along a riverside, and several mills could make use of the same water supply. The earliest mills will have been quite small, perhaps only housing one or two looms or spinning frames, but as the demand for the cloth increased so did the size of the mills.

Walking around the Todmorden district, especially up the various cloughs, the remains of many early spinning mills can be seen. The early mills, perhaps only two or three storeys high, and built by the clough side, utilised the water to power their spinning frames. Traces of the water wheel or wheel pit (as at Weterstalls), a clow or perhaps an overgrown mill dam, point to the development of water power and consequent increase in production. In the Lumbutts area, a succession of mills down Folly Wood used the same water, one mill often having to wait until the mill above had finished with the water

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