Preston Cotton Martyrs


The millworkers who shocked a nation

This book by local author J.S. Leigh is a powerful indictment of the industrial system that caused such suffering to Preston’s cotton ‘martyrs’.



Leigh’s long chronology and focus on a single town gives this book enduring value … an excellent, painstakingly researched local history. Leigh brings to life the stories of working people who strove for something better and does indeed do justice to the thousands of millworkers “whose memories were never written down”.
Review in Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Preston was no ordinary town during the nineteenth century. While king cotton reigned supreme throughout Lancashire, the underlying ills associated with this industry were very often highlighted particularly starkly there. Child labour, shocking working conditions with appallingly long hours and pitifully low wages, as well as the constant risk of suffering horrific accidents in the cotton mills, all fostered a deep sense of hostility among the operatives towards the employers. Overcrowded and insanitary housing, disease, poverty and awful wretchedness were often to be witnessed in the fast-growing working-class districts of Preston. Against this backdrop the nascent trade unions and political and social reformers began to challenge the unbridled mastery of the millowners. Trade disputes, confrontations, lockouts, strikes and tragic episodes of violence were the inevitable consequence of this lethal mix of hardship and employer intransigence, and dominated affairs in the town for many years.

  • Author: J.S. Leigh
  • Binding: paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-874181-45-3
  • Pages: 112
  • Illustrations: around 40 photographs and maps
  • Date of Publication: March 2008
  • Dimensions: 234 × 156 mm


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