Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Hard Times at Murrays' Mills

A Library Theatre production of Charles Dickens' Hard Times is currently taking place here at Murrays' Mills in Ancoats. Hard Times is set in the fictional industrial city of Coketown (I think Dickens based it on Preston in Lancashire). Thomas Gradgrind and businessman Bounderby dominate Coketown where thousands slave away in the cotton mills.

The significance of Murrays' Mills, from: http://www.ancoatsbpt.co.uk/projects_mills.htm
Manchester became the boom town of the late 18th century. Ancoats was the first suburb to combine industry and housing, and in 1798 George and Adam Murray completed the first phase of what is now Manchester's and the world's oldest surviving steam-powered urban cotton mill.

Each day over a 1,000 operatives would arrive before 7.00 a.m. - late arrivals were locked out and lost a day's wages. Apart from controlling operatives, the layout was a defence against theft, vandalism and riot.

When completed, Murrays' Mills were a marvel. Visitors came from the rest of Britain, Europe and America to see these vast buildings, housing powered machinery, illuminated by gas light and operated by 1,300 men, women and children. At a time when Napoleon sought one future for Europe, Murrays' Mills showed the way the modern world was really going.

Within ten years of completion, the Mills were radically re-structured to take larger and more efficient spinning frames. The buildings had originally been constructed to carry light loads and efforts were regularly made to increase carrying capacity as machinery became bigger and heavier. They remained in use for cotton spinning until the late 1950s - an amazing 160 years, following which they were used for a variety of light industrial uses, most of them still related to textiles.


  1. Interesting post to read. A man who laid up bricks on my office to match those on the rest of the house delighted in telling me the names of the buildings in the south where he laid bricks - R.J. Reynolds was one I remember. And some spinning mills but I don't recall their names.

    This was an interesting post.

    I put the Sendai blog to rest for a while Not many ever visited it so until I can come up with some title that has more interest than Sendai, I probably won't spend the time on it.

  2. Very interesting post. Thank you.

  3. I really enjoyed reading about this Chrissy, I always try to imagine what it would have been like in those days, good to know the building is still being used for artistic purposes.

  4. Interesting post, Chrissy, and a lovely shot to boot.

  5. Whilst I have heard of Ancoats have never been there, I love Dickens, great writer. I live in a mill village, but the mill is now apartments and an art gallery, cafe etc.


Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain