Mill town

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A mill town, also known as factory town or mill village, is typically a settlement that developed around one or more mills or factories (usually cotton mills or factories producing textiles).

United Kingdom

Oldham in Greater Manchester, England, is an archetypal British "mill town". Oldham is home to many historic cotton mills which together were its largest source of work. Today the wider fashion and sportswear industries employ a small minority of Oldham's population.

In the United Kingdom, the term "mill town" usually refers to the 19th century textile manufacturing towns of northern England and the Scottish Lowlands, particularly those in Lancashire (cotton) and Yorkshire (wool).

Some former mill towns have a symbol of the textile industry in their town badge. Some towns may have statues dedicated to textile workers (e.g. Colne [1]) or have a symbol in the badge of local schools (e.g. Ossett School).

County Towns
Cheshire mill towns

Congleton, Crewe, Macclesfield

Derbyshire mill towns

Glossop, Hadfield, New Mills

Greater Manchester mill towns

Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Bury, Chadderton, Failsworth, Heywood, Hyde, Lees, Leigh, Manchester, Middleton, Oldham, Radcliffe, Ramsbottom, Reddish, Rochdale, Royton, Shaw and Crompton, Stalybridge, Stockport, Wigan

Lancashire mill towns

Accrington, Bacup, Barnoldswick, Blackburn, Burnley, Calder Vale, Chorley, Colne, Darwen, Nelson, Oakenclough, Padiham, Preston for others see table below.

Yorkshire mill towns

Batley, Bingley, Bradford, Brighouse, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury, Elland, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Heckmondwike, Holmfirth, Huddersfield, Keighley, Morley, Mytholmroyd, Ossett, Pudsey, Shipley, Skipton, Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden, Yeadon

The list below includes some towns where textiles was not the predominant industry. For example, mining was a key industry in Wigan and Leigh in Greater Manchester, and in Ossett in Yorkshire.

Spindleage of Lancashire mill towns producing spun cotton between 1830 and 1962

Date 1883 1893 1903 1913 1923 1926 1933 1944 1953 1962
Accrington 590 438 467 660 191 718 469 287 152 92
Ashton 1,574 1,731 1,781 1,955 1898 1,144 644 633 182
Blackburn 1,671 1,398 1,321 1,280 1,224 1,071 672 451 309 103
Bolton 4,086 4,770 5,457 6,797 7,371 7,842 7,507 6,204 4,886 1,772
Burnley 1,126 734 667 563 538 507 240 182 144 14
Bury 875 899 833 955 1050 1000 745 630 524 268
Chorley 552 527 541 856 838 837 739 491 397 122
Farnworth 557 779 966 1,485 1,478 1,484 1,344 1,237 1,104 162
Glossop 1,106 1,158 968 882 821 839 524 204 154 10
Heywood 660 887 836 1,070 1,100 1,096 864 545 533 68
Hyde 590 499 533 741 793 696 475 366 337 58
Leigh 1,337 1,514 1,679 2,445 2,761 2,925 2,891 2,615 2,336 548
Manchester 2,445 2,353, 2,225 3,703 3,307 3,439 3,417 2,974 1,934 271
Middleton 498 494 645 1,278 1,268 1,252 1,041 1,193 923 161
Mossley 1,153 1,217 1,033 1,288 1,297 1,289 371 264 256 -
Oldham 9,311 11,159 12,230 16,909 17,231 17,669 13,732 8,948 7,621 2,478
Preston 2,146 1,883 2,074 2,161 1,997 1,965 1,592 1,146 1,024 278
Rochdale 1,627 1,835 2,422 3,645 3,749 3,793 3,539 2,459 1,936 983
Stalybridge 1,083 1,157 1,027 1,236 1,104 1,103 801 483 426 122
Stockport 1,601 1,742 1,568 2,266 2,382 1,924 1,427 1,141 154
Wigan 864 775 888 1,085 1,123 1,141 922 681 575 352

In thousands of spindles. [1]

On his tour of northern England in 1849, Scottish publisher Angus Reach said:

In general, these towns wear a monotonous sameness of aspect, physical and moral... In fact, the social condition of the different town populations is almost as much alike as the material appearance of the tall chimneys under which they live. Here and there the height of the latter may differ by a few rounds of brick, but in all essential respects, a description of one is a description of all.[2]

— Angus Reach, Morning Chronicle, 1849

United States

New England

Beginning with technological information smuggled out of England by Francis Cabot Lowell, large mills were established in New England in the early to mid 19th century. Mill towns, sometimes planned, built and owned as a company town, grew in the shadow of the industries. The region became a manufacturing powerhouse along rivers like the Housatonic, Quinebaug, Shetucket, Blackstone, Merrimack, Nashua, Cocheco, Saco, Androscoggin, Kennebec or Winooski.

"In the nineteenth century, saws and axes made in New England cleared the forests of Ohio; New England ploughs broke the prairie sod, New England scales weighed wheat and meat in Texas; New England serge clothed businessmen in San Francisco; New England cutlery skinned hides to be tanned in Milwaukee and sliced apples to be dried in Missouri; New England whale oil lit lamps across the continent; New England blankets warmed children by night and New England textbooks preached at them by day; New England guns armed the troops; and New England dies, lathes, looms, forges, presses and screwdrivers outfitted factories far and wide." - Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities, 1969

In the 20th century, alternatives to water power were developed, and it became more profitable for companies to manufacture textiles in southern states where cotton was grown and winters did not require significant heating costs. Finally, the Great Depression acted as a catalyst that sent several struggling New England firms into bankruptcy.

State Towns
Connecticut mill towns

Bridgeport, Danbury, East Windsor, Enfield, Hartford, Killingly, Manchester, Middletown, Naugatuck, New Haven, New London, Norwich, Putnam, Seymour, Shelton, Torrington, Vernon, Waterbury, Willimantic, Winchester, Windham, Windsor Locks

Maine mill towns

Anson, Auburn, Baileyville, Biddeford, Brunswick, Chisholm, Corinna, Lewiston, Lincoln, Lisbon Falls, Livermore Falls, Millinocket, Milo, Newport, Old Town, Orono, Pittsfield, Rumford, Saco, Sanford, Skowhegan, Waterville, Westbrook, Wilton

Massachusetts mill towns

Adams, Amesbury, Athol, Attleboro, Chicopee, Clinton, Dalton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Gardner, Grafton, Greenfield, Haverhill, Holyoke, Hudson, Lawrence, Lowell, Ludlow, Lynn, Maynard, Methuen, Milford, Millbury, Monson, New Bedford, North Adams, North Andover, Orange, Pittsfield, Russell, Southbridge, Springfield, Taunton, Uxbridge, Waltham, Ware, Webster, Winchendon, Worcester

New Hampshire mill towns

Belmont, Berlin, Claremont, Dover, East Rochester, Franklin, Gonic, Gorham, Greenville, Groveton, Harrisville, Jaffrey, Keene, Laconia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lincoln, Manchester, Milford, Milton, Nashua, Newmarket, Newport, Penacook, Pittsfield, Rochester, Rollinsford, Somersworth, Suncook, Tilton, Troy, Wilton

Rhode Island mill towns

Bristol, Burrillville, Central Falls, Coventry, Cumberland, Lincoln, Pawtucket, Providence, Slatersville, Valley Falls, West Warwick, Westerly, Woonsocket

Vermont mill towns

Bellows Falls, Bethel, Brattleboro, Bridgewater, Burlington, Ludlow, Newport, Springfield, Vergennes, Winooski


Laurel Mill (Laurel Factory)

State Towns
Maryland mill towns

Ellicott City, Jerusalem, Oella, Owings Mills, Savage

New Jersey mill towns

Clinton, Millville


State Towns
Alabama mill towns

Fairfax (Fairfax Mill and Fair View Mill), Lanett (Lanett Mill), Langdale (Langdale Mill), Sylacauga (Avondale Mill), Opelika (Opelika Mill), River View (Riverdale Mill), Shawmut (Shawmut Mill), Valley (Carter/Lanier Mill)

Arkansas mill towns

Amity, Delight, Glenwood, Malvern, Mountain Pine

Georgia mill towns

Bibb City, Cabbagetown, Chicopee, Hogansville, New Holland, New Manchester

North Carolina mill towns

Alamance, Bellemont, Burlington, Bynum, Canton, Carolina, Carrboro, Cliffside, Concord, Cooleemee, Drexel, Edgemont (East Durham), Enka, North Carolina[2], Falls, Glen Raven, Glencoe[3], Hanes, Haw River, High Shoals, Hildebran, Kannapolis, Long Shoals, McAdenville, Mooresville, Mount Holly, North Carolina, Rhodhiss, Riegelwood, Roanoke Rapids, Sawmills, Saxapahaw, Spencer Mountain, Swepsonville, West Durham, West Hillsborough

South Carolina mill towns

Cateechee, Central, Cherokee Falls, Columbia (Olympia and Granby Mills), Fort Mill, Graniteville, Great Falls, Joanna, La France, Lockhart, Lyman, Newry, Pacolet Mills, Pelzer, Piedmont, Slater, Ware Shoals, Watts Mills, Whitmire

Sawmill towns

State Towns
Illinois Carrier Mills, Harrisburg
Oregon Roseburg
Wisconsin Eau Claire
Model Mill Settlement, Chadwick Mills, Charlotte, N.C. Published circa 1905-1915.
White Oak Cotton Mills, Greensboro, N.C. circa 1914
Aerial view of Ware Shoals Mill

South America


See also


  1. *Williams, Mike; Farnie (1992). Cotton Mills of Greater Manchester. Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 0-9487898-9-1CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Powell, Rob (1986). In the Wake of King Cotton. Rochdale Art Gallery. p. 12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Museums and historic sites