The Industrial Revolution: the Role of the Grimshaw Family

One of the distinctive features of Grimshaw family history is the deep involvement of the family in the Industrial Revolution. The Grimshaws were in the right place and time for the origin and development of the industrial age. This webpage provides an overview of several of these Grimshaw connections; in most cases the topics are further elaborated in more detailed webpages.


Webpage Credits

Industrial Revolution Overview

Geologic Underpinnings

Coal Mining in Eccleshill

Coal Mining at Clayton-le-Moors

Eccleshill Industrial Development

Grimshaw Location: Industrial Development

Clayton-le-Moors Industrial Development

James Hargreaves, Inventor of the Spinning Jenny, and Spouse of Elizabeth Grimshaw

Grimshaw Connection with Sir Richard Arkwright, Inventor of the Mechanical Spinning Machine

Grimshaw Connection to Edmund Cartwright, Inventor of the Power Loom

Nicholas Grimshaw, Pioneer in Introducing Textiles to Ireland

The 1826 Power Loom Riots: Grimshaw Involvement

Poems by “Radical” John Grimshaw


Webpage Credits

Many thanks to Mavis Long for discovering the connection between Nicholas Grimshaw and Richard Arkwright and providing the reference documenting the connection. Thanks also to Steven Grimshaw of Preston for providing the poems by “Radical” John Grimshaw shown below.

Industrial Revolution Overview

Northern England, including the County of Lancashire, was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, which has both fueled the advance of Western (and world-wide) civilization in the modern era and brought mankind to the realization of the limits of the earth as well as the need to re-define our relationship to the planet. Almost nowhere else have the social and environmental costs that accompany the benefits of natural resource development and industrialization been in greater evidence than in the area around Blackburn.

The Encyclopedia Britannica Online1 provides the following introduction on the Industrial Revolution:

Industrial Revolution: in modern history, the process of change from an agrarian, handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacture. This process began in England in the 18th century and from there spread to other parts of the world. Although used earlier by French writers, the term Industrial Revolution was first popularized by the English economic historian Arnold Toynbee (1852-83) to describe England’s economic development from 1760 to 1840. Since Toynbee’s time the term has been more broadly applied.

The main features involved in the Industrial Revolution were technological, socioeconomic, and cultural. The technological changes included the following: (1) the use of new basic materials, chiefly iron and steel, (2) the use of new energy sources, including both fuels and motive power, such as coal, the steam engine, electricity, petroleum, and the internal-combustion engine, (3) the invention of new machines, such as the spinning jenny and the power loom that permitted increased production with a smaller expenditure of human energy, (4) a new organization of work known as the factory system, which entailed increased division of labour and specialization of function, (5) important developments in transportation and communication, including the steam locomotive, steamship, automobile, airplane, telegraph, and radio, and (6) the increasing application of science to industry. These technological changes made possible a tremendously increased use of natural resources and the mass production of manufactured goods.

Many Grimshaw connections to the Industrial Revolution can be found in historical records, especially in coal mining and textiles, both of which became so prevalent in Lancashire. Industrial Revolution connections of the Grimshaw family are shown below (click on the hyperlinks to go to another webpage with more detail), including the following key inventors in the development of textiles technology:

James Hargreaves, Spinning Jenny Inventor

Sir Richard Arkwright, Mechanical Spinning Machine Inventor

Edmund Cartwright, Power Loom Inventor

Geologic Underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution in Lancashire County

The geologic and hydrologic resources of Lancashire, particularly for providing energy for early mills and factories, were tremendous assets for the County as a center for the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

Lancashire is situated on the west flank of the Pennines, a mountain chain that traverses the northern part of England from north to south. Drainage (streamflow) is generally westward off the mountains into the Irish Sea. Because of the altitude of the mountains and the short distance to the sea, the gradients of many of the streams are quite steep, resulting in rapid, high-energy streamflow. The ready availability of water power for mills and other early factories was a leading cause of early industrial development in the County.

The bedrock geology of the area around Blackburn is described on another webpage, including the Lancashire Coalfield which underlies both Eccleshill and Clayton-le-Moors. As the Industrial Revolution matured, and water power was replaced by steam power, the ready availability of wood, and then of coal, to power the steam engines was crucial to the continued industrial development of Lancashire county.

Coal Mining in Eccleshill

Eccleshill is underlain by coal-bearing strata of the Lancashire Coalfield, and coal has been mined in the township probably since not long after it was settled. Given their holdings and economic interests in Eccleshill, it is not surprising that the Grimshaws were heavily involved in coal mining in the township.

Coal Mining at Clayton-le-Moors

Coal mining has apparently been going on in and around Clayton-le-Moors for almost as long as at Eccleshill, extending back at least to the 16th and 17th centuries. According to Tootle (p. 5), “The first recorded instances of coal being mined in Clayton-le-Moors and Altham was in 1641. John Grimshaw let the coal seam at Clayton to Henry Towneley and Nicholas Towneley, of Royle for 18 years.”

Coal mining at Clayton-le-Moors became more extensive after the Grimshaws had been replaced by the Lomaxes in 1715. An important event associated with coal mining at Clayton-le-Moors was the Moorfield Pit Disaster on November 7, 1883 in which 68 men and boys were killed (one victim was age 10, three were 11, and three were 12) by a coal mine explosion.

Eccleshill Industrial Development 

Eccleshill, because of its proximity to Blackburn, Darwen and other centers of development during the early days of the Industrial Revolution, was deeply involved in, and impacted by, the development.

Grimshaw Location: Industrial Development

Perhaps fittingly, given the depth of involvement of the family in the early development of the Industrial Revolution, even the original Grimshaw location in Eccleshill was given over to an industrial site, starting as a water-powered cotton mill in 1782 and then as a paper mill from 1872 to 1999. The paper mill is now closed, but an adjacent envelope factory continues in operation. A picture of the site from Belthorn and a description of the industrial development at the site are given on companion webpages.

Clayton-le-Moors Industrial Development

Clayton-le-Moors was very heavily involved in the early industrial development of Lancashire County, with primary emphasis on textiles. No fewer than 16 textile-related sites have been identified in the Clayton-le-Moors area.

A major artifact of the Industrial Revolution in Clayton-le-Moors is the Leeds & Liverpool Canal which was opened from Burnley to Enfield (in Clayton-le-Moors) in 1801. It was apparently the major artery for the transport of cotton to the Blackburn area for spinning, weaving and other textile manufacturing activities.

James Hargreaves, Inventor of the Spinning Jenny, and Spouse of Elizabeth Grimshaw

As noted above in the overview of the Industrial Revolution (see underline), James Hargreaves invented one of the most important devices for advancement of the production of cotton textiles in Lancashire County. The spinning jenny also exemplified the kind of inventiveness that made the Industrial Revolution possible.

Hargreaves was born at Ostwaldtwistle, about halfway between the Grimshaw locations in Eccleshill and Clayton-le-Moors, and he made his discovery in about 1764 at Stanhill, about half a mile away. He married Elizabeth Grimshaw on September 10, 1740 at nearby Church Kirk, and they had 11 children from 1744 to 1767. Additional detail is given on a companion webpage.

Grimshaw Connection with Sir Richard Arkwright, Inventor of the Mechanical Spinning Machine

Richard Arkwright is credited with inventing the mechanical spinning machine and developing the factory system for deploying the machines. He was apparently assisted in the development of his invention by Nicholas Grimshaw, a prominent figure (mayor seven times) in Preston.

(Thanks go to Mavis Long for discovering this connection and providing the reference documenting the connection.)

Grimshaw Connection to Edmund Cartwright, Inventor of the Power Loom

Edmund Cartwright is credited with inventing the power loom and securing patents for it. Robert Grimshaw made a business arrangement with Cartwright to deploy 500 looms in a weaving mill near Manchester. Unfortunately, the factory was burned in 1790 (probably by an arsonist) not long after it went into operation, apparently the victim of the social unrest and reaction to the Industrial Revolution at the time.

Nicholas Grimshaw, Pioneer in Introducing Textiles to Ireland

During the same timeframe that members of the Grimshaw family were actively participating in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in England, Nicholas Grimshaw played a pivotal role in bringing the textile industry to Ireland. Nicholas was from Blackburn and apparently emigrated to Ireland in about 1776. He initiated the textile industry when he opened the first cotton mill in 1784 at a location near Belfast.

The 1826 Power Loom Riots: Grimshaw Involvement

The social ills that accompanied the Industrial Revolution included high unemployment, low wages and the lack of a social “safety net” which led to great suffering, and even starvation, among the textile workers in Lancashire. Four days of rioting occurred in 1826 during which more than 1000 power looms were destroyed by desperate persons. The first day of rioting (April 26) started at Clayton-le-Moors and included eight factories.

Two Grimshaws, both women (Alice and Ellen), were implicated in the attack on White Ash factory in Ostwaldtwistle on the first day of rioting. Additional detail on the rioting and the implication of the Grimshaws is given on another webpage.

Poems by “Radical” John Grimshaw

The Grimshaws were also involved in the social unrest in other ways. Steven Grimshaw of Preston has provided two very interesting poems by “Radical” John Grimshaw which are shown below. More information will be provided on John and his poems, including references, when it becomes available.

(Thanks go to Steven Grimshaw for providing this information on John Grimshaw.)


By John Grimshaw

Come all you cotton weavers your looms you may pull down;

You must get employed in factories, in country or in town,

For our cotton-masters have found out a wonderful new scheme,

These calico goods now wove by hand they’re going to weave by steam.

In comes the gruff oerlooker, or the master will attend;

It’s “You must find another shop, or quickly you must mend;

For such work as this will never do; so now I’ll tell you plain,

We must have good pincop-spinning*, or we neer can weave by steam”.

There’s sow-makers and dressers and some are making warps;

These poor pincop-spinners they must mind their flats and sharps,

For if an end slips under, as sometimes perchance it may,

They’ll daub you down in black and white and you’ve a shilling to pay.

In comes the surly winder, her cops they are all marr’d,

“They are all snarls, and soft, bad ends; for I’ve roved off many a yard;

I’m sure I’ll tell the master, or the joss, when he comes in”;

They’ll daub you down, and you must pay; – so money comes rolling in.

The weavers’ turn will next come on, for they must not escape,

To enlarge the master’s fortunes they are fined in every shape.

For thin places or bad edges, a go* or else a float*,

They’ll daub you down, and you must pay three pence, or else a groat.

If you go into a loom shop where there’s three or four pair of looms,

They all are standing empty, incumbrances of the rooms;

And if you ask the reason why, the old mother will tell you plain,

My daughters have forsaken them, and gone to weave by steam.

So come all you cotton-weavers, you must rise up very soon,

For you must work in factories from morning until noon:

You mustn’t walk in your garden for two or three hours a-day

For you must stand at their command, and keep your shuttles at play.

*pincop-spinning: & pincop is a pear shaped cap or roll used for the weft in a power loom.

*a go: a break or tear.

*a float: the passing of weft threads over a portion of the warp without being interwoven into it.


By John Grimshaw

(sung to “A hunting we will go”)

You gentlemen and tradesmen that ride about at will

Look down on these poor people; it’s enough to make you crill;

Look down on these poor people; as you ride up and down,

I think there is a God above will bring your pride quite down.

Chorus – You tyrants of England, your race say soon be run,

You may be brought unto account for what you’ve sorely done.

You pull down our wages, shamefully to tell;

You go into the markets, and say you cannot sell;

And when that we do ask you when these bad times will mend

You quickly give an answer, “When the wars are at an end”.

When we look at our poor children, it grieves our hearts full sore,

Their clothing it is worn to rags, while we can get no more,

With little in their bellies, they to their work must go,

Whilst yours do dress as manky as monkeys in a show.

You go to church on Sundays, I’m sure its nought but pride,

There can be no religion where humanitys thrown aside;

If there be a place in heaven, as there is it the Exchange,

Our poor souls must not come near there; like lost sheep they must range.

With the choicest of strong dainties your tables overspread,

With good ale and strong brandy, to make your faces red;

You calld a set of visitors – it is your whole delight –

And you lay your heads together to sake our faces white.

You say that Bonyparty he’s been the spoil of all,

And that we have good reason to pray for his downfall;

Now Bonyparty’s dead and gone, and it in plainly shown

That we had bigger tyrants in Boneys of our own.

And now my lads, for to conclude. it’s time to make an end;

Let’s see if we can form a plan that these bad times may mend;

Then give us our old prices. as we have had before,

And we can live in happiness, and rule off the old score.


1“Industrial Revolution” Encyclopædia Britannica Online. <> [Accessed August 12, 2000].

Webpage History

Webpage posted August 2000; revised November 2000.