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Teachers' notes

Horrockses Yard Works

Look at this picture full screen and then see if you can answer the questions below. Horrockses Yard Works was one of the largest cotton mills in Preston in Victorian times.

  • Can you see any men in the photograph?
  • How old do you think the girl at the front would be?
  • Look at the machinery. How do you think a child would feel working at the mill?
  • What do you think they make at the mill?
  • What do you think you would be able to hear, smell, feel, see and taste in this mill?
  • How could you communicate with your workmates if it was too noisy to talk in the mill?

In the Victorian School & Work Documents PDF you can see a copy of a census form of 1861 showing the kinds of jobs people did in the mill at that time. In the  Victorian School & Work Activities PDF there is a glossary of mill jobs.

Background Information

John Horrocks, founder of Horrockses cotton manufacturers, was
born in 1768 and established the first weaving sheds in Preston in
1800. The Yard Works and Centenary Mill were the largest mills,
although there were many other smaller mills owned by other
companies throughout the town. The rise of the cotton mill changed
the landscape and lifestyle of Lancashire towns throughout the
Victorian era.

The mills were very noisy and dangerous places to work due to the
machinery. The workers developed a system of sign language to
communicate with each other over the din of the machinery. The
mills were also very hot and humid places as this climate kept the
cotton in good condition. Many people became ill with respiratory
and lung conditions caused by breathing in the cotton dust.
The majority of employees were women and children who worked
long hours. It was common for adults to work for around 12 to 14
hours a day, and half a day on Saturday, with children working
around 6-10 hours a day, with the possibility of time in school on top
of that. Despite the long hours and poor conditions, mill workers
were generally better paid than other members of the working class.

The last mills in Preston were built during the 1890s and early 1900s.
The industry went into decline after the Second World War and
cotton ceased to be manufactured in Preston in the 1960s when
Horrockses was sold off. Cotton could now be produced and
imported more cheaply in Asian countries such as India. Man made,
synthetic materials were also becoming more popular than cotton.
Weavers at their looms in the cotton mill