Bradford was once Britain's fastest growing industrial city. Over the first half of the 19th Century, Bradford was transformed from a small market town in a beautiful green dale into the woollen textile capital of the world. In 1800, Bradford’s population was 13,000 and the town had just one spinning mill. By 1850, the population had grown to 103,000, and the number of spinning mills had dramatically increased to 129. In 1900, the number of mills stood at 350.
Many of these mills produced ‘worsted’, a fine wool fabric used in top quality clothing. The worsted industry made the district rich as larger-than-life mill owners earned huge fortunes. Bradford was nicknamed ‘Worstedopolis’. However, the success of the factory bosses was set against a backdrop of misery, suffering and exploitation. Mill workers, some as young as five, worked long hours in dangerous conditions for poor wages.