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The town of Oldham, England, is located in Greater Manchester between the Rivers Medlock and Irk and in the foothills of the Pennine Range.

Oldham’s soil was too poor to sustain most crops, and before the Industrial Revolution, many people raised sheep. Sheep furnished wool which nourished the woolen weaving trade. Around 1778, Oldham’s first mill, Lees Hall, was built, and milling as well as cotton spinning made their debut in the town. Eleven more mills were built within twelve months.

As time progressed through the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when the textile industry in Oldham needed more and more spinning and weaving machines, and by the last part of the 1800s, Oldham was an important hub for mechanical as well as structural engineering.

Pioneers of cotton spinning machinery, the Platt Brothers, moved to town and invented more and more efficient machinery and other products which ushered in the mass production of cotton yarns. By the 1890s, the company employed more than 12,000 workers and was the largest textile machine makers in the entire world.

By 1818, a total of 19 mills were located in Oldham, which had become the centre of England’s hatting industry. All of this industry caused the population to explode when large numbers of workers from nearby villages relocated to Oldham. At its peak, it produced more cotton that Germany and France combined.

Oldham was one of the first towns anywhere to be industrialised as it became a centre of cotton and textile manufacturing. It was a boomtown and was considered the most productive cotton spinning mill town in the world. In 1801, the population was 12,000, and by 1901, it had blossomed to 137,000.

In 1851, five percent of England’s population were employed in the textile sector, while at the same time, textile workers comprised more than 30% in Oldham.

In 1861, the Cotton Famine, sometimes called the Lancashire Cotton Famine or the Cotton Panic, hit Oldham hard. This textile industry depression was caused by overproduction combined with the American Civil War along with other problems such as the price of wool in China.

As is almost always the case, the passage of time ushered in a change in industry, and by the middle of the 20th century, the traditional exports of Oldham, textiles, began to decline. Foreign yarn became more abundant and at the same time, less expensive. Platt Brothers closed its Oldham factory in 1982, and the last mill in Oldham closed in 1998. The local economy was adversely affected.

By the 21st century, the economic situation had changed entirely and Oldham found itself driven by construction and service, such as the health sector, financial services, and digital industry.



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