Saddleworth contains some of the best examples of English industrial
villages. The poor soil, hills and climate have always made it virtually
impossible for the local population to survive by agriculture or farming alone.
The cottage textile industry first emerged during the 17th century driven by domestic handlooms weaving individually tailored garments, the surplus of which were sold on.
However, the advent of the Industrial Revolution brought large scale mechanisation
and, despite resistance, the domestic handloom fell into decline as the water and steam driven mills allowed textile production to increase exponentially. This revolution subsequently introduced the need for the canal and railway in order to accomodate for the dramatic escalation of Saddleworth's trade.
The numbers employed in the mills rose dramatically as the 19th century
progressed, with an increasingly wide range of procedures involved in
the production of cloth. The mills grew ever larger; although with
fluctuations of trade, times were never certain and the lifestyle of
the workers still remained one of hardship.
As the 20th century progressed, the textile industry declined rapidly
from its position of dominance and the majority of the mills are long
since closed or demolished. However in recent years, it's almost as if the wheel has turned
full circle, with Saddleworth now host to a variety of new home and
small office based enterprises.
Nevertheless, the richness of Saddleworth’s industrial heritage provides plenty
of material for both the curious amateur or the professional historian