A History of Lancashire in 70 Objects

As part of a project to celebrate Lancashire Life’s 70th Birthday, Bolton Museum needs your help in picking your favourite object from a shortlist to tell the story of the Lancashire region.

70 of the final submissions from across the North West will be selected to feature in both the magazine and a visitor trail from September – November 2017.

We have selected five objects from the museum collection and we want your vote!. You’ve got until 17th of January to make your choice!

Vote for your favourite

At the end of this post you can vote for you favourite object.

Choose from the following:

Object 1: Scale model of Samuel Crompton’s Spinning Mule

Crompton’s mule transformed the production of cotton yarn and helped to kick-start the industrial revolution. No other object in the museum collection has had as large an impact on the wider world.

The spinning mule was invented by Samuel Crompton in Bolton in 1779. In traditional spinning one person can produce one spindle of spun cotton (called yarn) at a time. With Crompton’s mule one spinner could operate hundreds of spindles together. Unlike other multi-spindle machines, the spinning mule could also make cotton yarn that was as strong and fine as that made by traditional hand spinners.

Bolton Museum holds the only surviving mule made by Crompton himself. This scale model was made by Herbert Tonge, a former head foreman at the hugely successful Bolton engineering firm, Dobson and Barlow, in 1937-38. Tonge is said to have based his model on original drawings and may have used oak from an early spinning mule.

Object 2: Humphrey Spender’s iconic images of a Lancashire mill town

These photographs were taken as part of the Mass-Observation project.

Mass-Observation was a large-scale investigation into the habits and customs of the people of Britain that was started in Bolton in 1937. Bolton was named “Worktown” by Tom Harrisson, one of the founders of the group.

Humphrey Spender was recruited by Harrison to be photographer for the project. Between 1937 and 1939 Spender took around 900 photographs representing everyday life in Bolton. Spender is now considered one of the pioneers of social documentary photography and his “Worktown” images are celebrated around the world.

Object 3: Dancing clogs

Lancashire folk love to dance! Most people associate clogs with the clomping noise of hundreds of mill workers heading off to the early shift. However these clogs were made for a special purpose – dancing.

“Clog dancing is most notably associated with the 19th century Lancashire cotton mills. Initially, the dancing was started simply to alleviate boredom and warm up in the cold industrial towns. It tended to be men that would dance and, later, as its popularity grew to its peak between 1880 and 1904, they would compete professionally in music halls.”

“Women also participated…and later their dancing, too, became popular in music halls. They would also dress up colourfully and dance in the villages, carrying sticks to represent the bobbins in the cotton mills.” (From Clog Dancing by Ben Johnson)

Object 4: Bolt label collection, 1800 – 1950

Bolt labels were stuck to the ends of bolts of cloth. The labels acted as a sort of trade mark or brand, identifying a particular producer or merchant’s wares in the market place. Each label was designed specifically for the market it was sent to. The ticket was supposed to catch the eye of the shopper, and often employed various symbols which today can be baffling at first glance.

Some of the most visually striking bolt labels in Bolton’s collection were intended for the Indian, African and South American markets. The labels demonstrate the extent to which Bolton was connected to the rest of the world through the cotton trade.

Object 5: Bradshaw Hall Pattern Book

The ability of the Bolton’s textile manufacturers to create cotton thread which was stronger and finer than its competitors was at the root of the town’s huge growth and wealth in the 1800s.

This pattern book provides visual evidence of the beauty and quality of the textiles Bolton was producing in the early 1800s. It was produced by James Hardcastle and Sons’ Bradshaw Hall Works, a large bleachworks in the Bradshaw area of Bolton.

The book records the engraving of around 2,400 patterns on copper cylinders for roller printing. Engraving was a specialist trade, and only a few calico printers had their own engraving shop. Work for Bradshaw Hall was sent out to sixteen professional engravers for calico printers, most located in Manchester or Salford. Bradshaw Hall produced about 200-250 new patterns each year.

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