Carlisle Manufactures

  > The manufactures of Carlisle are of a very important nature, and to them is the city chiefly indebted for its present wealth, and the great augmentation of its population during the last eighty years. The cotton trade, which has long been the most important here, was first introduced into England about the middle of the seventeenth century; but it was not until the year 1774 that fabrics made entirely of cotton were allowed by Act of Parliament to be used as a "lawful and laudable manufacture," subject to a duty of 3d. per square yard on every piece that was "printed, painted, or stained." The quantity of cotton wool imported into Manchester, in 1781, was only 5,198,778 lbs.; but the successive inventions of Highs, Hargrave, Arkwright, Crompton, and Watt, so astonishingly facilitated the manufacture that its extent has been increased more than thirty fold; and the value of the cotton goods now manufactured in this kingdom is estimated at about forty millions of pounds sterling, per annum. Lancashire is its great seat, and Manchester the grand emporium, where most of the cotton goods made in the counties of Lancaster, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Cumberland, and other districts, are sold. There are also large cotton manufactories in Glasgow, and some other towns in Scotland. 

The situation of Carlisle affords every facility for the encouragement of manufactures, and hence we find that, just before the Restoration, there was a manufactory for fustians here, and for "whips and fish-hooks." Soon after the year 1745, a woollen manufactory was established in this city, by some Hamburgh merchants, but after a few years, on the death of the eldest partner, the concern was declared insolvent.

About 1750, an establishment for making coarse linen, and a new woollen manufactory were begun, with the like unsuccessful results; but soon after this period the cotton trade was introduced, and both this and the linen manufactory rapidly increased, in consequence of which the population was soon greatly augmented; many of the old houses were taken down and rebuilt on more elegant plans, the means of access to the city were improved, and the modes of conveyance for goods, which before were limited to packhorses and waggons, were changed and facilitated. Several hundreds of French prisoners having come to Carlisle about this time, on their parole of honour, money was circulated more freely than usual in the city and its neighbourhood, and consequently, a more luxurious mode of living stole in upon the inhabitants, and carriages began to be more in use. The private carriages kept at that time in the city were, - dean Waugh's and general Stanwix's, (a coach and four each), major Farrer's, and Mr. Dobinson's, (a single horse chaise each.)

Calico printing was commenced here about the year 1761, under the firm of Scott, Lamb, and Co. A labourer's wages, up to this period, was only 8d. per day, without victuals. The spinning of cotton by machinery, was subsequently introduced by Mr. Wood, and since his time this branch of trade has been brought to great perfection, and carried on to a very considerable extent in this city. An estimate of its present extent may be formed from the fact that the firm of Messrs. Peter Dixon and Sons, alone, give employment in the various departments of their cotton works, to about 8,000 hands. There are four large spinning mills in Carlisle, two at Dalston, one at Warwick Bridge, and one at Cummersdale, containing, collectively, about 122,000 spindles. There are also in the city and its vicinity, eight gingham, check, shawl, &c. manufactories; several bleacheries and finishing establishments; and at Cummersdale is a large calico print manufactory; the aggregate amount of power is equal to the strength of 510 horses; of this, about 40 horse power is by water. Here are also several iron and brass foundries, tanneries, dye works, and various other establishments. Large quantities of umbrella cloth are also manufactured here. 

A cotton mill, belonging to Peter Dixon and Sons, commenced on 11th September, 1835, and completed on the 25th October, 1836, is 224 feet in length, 58 feet in width, 83 feet in height, and has 351 windows. The engine house is 58 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 43 fact high; and the boiler house is 85 feet long, 50 feet wide, 30 feet high, and contains seven boilers. Attached to it is an immense octangular chimney1, which rises to the height of 305 feet! The inside is 17 feet 8 inches in width at the base, and the thickness of the wall at the foundation is 10 feet.

Carlisle has been long noted for the excellence of its ginghams and other printed calicoes; and Hutchinson, who wrote in 1795, says, "The waters of the Caldew and Petterel2, and particularly the former, are remarkable for the quality of bleaching white," and that it was "rather an unpleasant reflection that these rapid streams, so peculiarly adapted to the purpose of taming machinery for miles above Carlisle, and by proper application of which, that city might be rendered the Birmingham of the north, should only he employed in giving motion to three or four solitary corn mills, and a few cotton works." The cotton trade now gives employment to a considerable number of the inhabitants; and hats, of a superior quality, are extensively manufactured in the city.

Here is also an extensive biscuit manufactory, belonging to Mr. J. D. Carr3, perhaps the most complete establishment of the kind in England, the whole process, from grinding the corn to finishing the biscuits, being performed on the premises. The machine, which cuts the biscuits into various devices, makes from 90 to 100 per stroke, or about 300 per minute. The quantity of fancy and other biscuits, made annually, is from 400 to 500 tons, and they find their way nearly to all parts of the globe. A school room, library, and reading room, are attached to the premises, for the daily use of old and young in the establishment. Here is also a bath, fourteen feet square, supplied by waste water from the steam engine, at a temperature of 90 degrees, for the health and comfort of the workmen.

Banks, Streets, &c. - There are three banks in the city, two of which issue their own notes, viz., the Carlisle City and District, and Carlisle and Cumberland Banking Company. The Carlisle Old Bank (firm of J. M. Head and Co.) is a private bank, and issues Bank of England notes. The two first banks established in Carlisle were opened about the middle of the last century, by Messrs. Foster and Son, and a Mr. Wilson, and they were found to be of considerable service to the growing trade of this city, which now contains many elegant houses and public edifices. English-street, Scotch-street, and Castle-street, diverging from the Market-place, are spacious, and contain many well-stocked shops, and several good inns. Botchergate and Rickergate are two broad streets, forming continuations of English-street and Scotch-street. Fisher-street, Abbey-street, Finkle, Annetwell-street, Lowther-street, Tower-street, Henry-street, Devonshire-street, the Crescent, Cavendish-place, &c., consist chiefly of good houses, inhabited by tradesmen, and gentry. The market-place is lined with well-stocked retail shops, and the city possesses several commodious and comfortable inns, with three excellent hotels; and within a circuit of ten miles round Carlisle are numerous beautiful castles and villas.

The GENERAL STATION4, now in course of erection, in Court-square, Carlisle, for the use of the four lines of railway which branch or radiate from this city, viz, the Newcastle and Carlisle, the Lancaster and Carlisle, the Maryport and Carlisle, and the Caledonian, will be one of the most extensive and complete buildings of the kind in the empire. The station-house, and its appurtenances, will cover an area of several acres, and its style of architecture is to be in the old English, or Elizabethan. The front elevation will be 800 feet in length and forty feet in height, with buttresses, and a projecting tower, sixty feet high. We have not been able to ascertain its estimated cost, but understand the company have power to borrow 100,000.


Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847




1. Dixon's chimney is still an impressive object. The chimney has recently undergone restoration work to ensure its continued survival.
2. The Petterel is now referred to as the River Petteril.
3. Carr's factory is still a major source of employment in Carlisle. Now part of United Biscuits, the factory is invariably referred to as "Carr's" by local people. Many will be familiar with Carr's Table Waters and Boasters - they (along with many other types of biscuit) are produced in the Carlisle factory.
4. The railway station is known as Citadel Station, and in outward appearance has changed remarkably little in 150 years.

See also The City's Rapid Development - Beginnings of Factory Life; from Memories Of Old Carlisle by George Topping and John J. Potter (Two Carel Lads), 1922.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman