Customer Service 0845 337 7001

Trade Enquiries 0845 3377732

Customer Service 0845 337 7001

Trade Enquiries 0845 3377732


The name Richard Haworth has been synonymous in the North West of England with high quality textiles for over 130 years. In a series of features, learn about the origins of textiles in the North West, the original Richard Haworth and the background of Kearsley Mill, the 240,000 sq. ft. Victorian mill the current head office of Richard Haworth. 

Who was Richard Haworth

Kearsley Mill, Background and Development

Expansion of Textile Mills late 19th – early 20th Centuries onwards


Richard Haworth 1820 – 1883

Richard Haworth can be seen as an example of the classic Victorian entrepreneur who rose from virtual poverty to wealth and recognition by industry and application of the Samuel Smiles self help tenets. 


He was born in March 1820, the youngest of seven children of George Chester Haworth and his wife, who, despite a frugal existence, managed to implant some elementary education in their children. About the age of seven his father died and Richard went on half time school and work until he was thirteen when he went full time at Messrs Openshaw & Co of Bury, spinners and fustian manufacturers. Attending night school, he discovered an aptitude towards mathematics and the mill manager transferred him to the warehouse checking fustian and basic accounts, then filling a number of posts in the mill until he was eighteen when he left to become bookkeeper at Rylands Mill Ainsworth and in 1843 became the firm’s official bookkeeper. He then moved into Manchester to become official casier to a merchant Thomas Clegg remaining there until Christmas 1852.

Since he was fourteen he had been a small trader in fents and other cloths and by 1852, aged 32, he had accumulated £5,000 in his own account and, in partnership with A Frederick Copley Hulton and a James Craven, began trading as yarn and cloth commission agents with the title Richard Haworth & Co in Cannon Street Manchester.

The business did not prosper as anticipated so a lease was taken on a small weaving shed behind the Friend Meeting House in Mount St Manchester. Soon as the demand for their products became too much for existing capacity and, following expansion, a lease was taken on a large mill at Broughton Bridge and spinning added to cloth weaving.

In 1861 expansion was the order of the day with the building of Egyptian Mill and weaving shed in 1864 business boomed despite the cotton shortages in the 1860’s due to the American Civil War, Tatton Mill and weaving shed were added in 1870 and another at Ordsall in 1872, by the 20th Century the mills covered 13 acres and 150,000 spindles produced thread for the 4,000 looms. During the boom years the annual output for cloth reached 30,000,000 yards and the workforce reached 4,000.

Besides the extensive production mills the warehouse side had expanded from Cannon Street into High Street in 1868, remaining there until 1903 when a brand new one was built at the corner of Port Street and Dale Street, convenient for canal and rail transportation and to take advantage of the water pressure mains of the Manchester Hydraulic Power Co for operation of warehouse lifting gear. (This building is still occupied today 2001.)

Richard Haworth was Conservative in politics and had been invited to accept nominations for Parliamentary candidature, but would not accept as he felt that it would intrude into his business and responsibilities towards employees. He did not, however, divorce himself from civic matters; he became a JP. He was Chairman of the Equitable Fire Insurance Co, being a founder member and also Chairman of the Lancs & York’s Accident Insurance Co and Treasurer of the Hospital Saturday Organisation since its inception. He was also considered a most valuable member of the Withington Local Board of Heath.

He had married Sarah, daughter of James Sewall of Hulme and, eventually, a family of four sons and three daughters appeared at the family home at Mersey Bank, Didsbury, where he died on November 30 1883. Of his four sons one retired from the business, one became a Wesleyan Minister and two remaining managed the warehouse and the mills.

In 1886 the two original partners died leaving the two sons, G.C AND J.F. Haworth with total responsibility of the firm. In 1897, like many companies at the time they converted the firm into a limited liability company with G.C. Haworth as Chairman. At their peak, the mills in Ordsall Lane were considered first class examples of how cotton mills should be operated. A number of distinguished visitors came to view the complex, Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Salisbury, the Shah of Persia and the Sultan of Zanzibar’s signatures appearing in the Visitors Book.

On 20 March 1951 Richard Haworth and Co Ltd was advertised for sale, from the extensive sale prospectus details of the firm and its holdings the extent of the undertaking can be seen under the Deputy Chairmanship of Mr Richard Firth Haworth, great grandson of the founder. The business had grown from cotton spinning and weaving to one offering a wide range of cotton and rayon fabrics under the Trade Mark ‘Spero’ such as dress fabrics, shirtings, handkerchiefs, industrial cloth and velveteens. The major portion was produced at the company’s factories in Salford, Padiham and Hindley Green from 64,948 ring spinning spindles 8,464 doubling spindles and 1700 looms of which 464 were automatic and working double shifts and overall creating employment for 2,400 persons.

At the time of the sale offer the premises owned by the Company were the six storied Head Office, Administration and Distributing Centre at 35 Dale Street Manchester, Ordsall Spinning and Weaving sheds, Tatton Mill and Weaving Sheds, a freehold site let out on lease had been the original spinning mill and weaving shed which had been destroyed during the Manchester blitz of 1940.

In 1947, a modern factory had been erected in Swan Lane Hindley Green to produce cotton and rayon at Padiham the mills in Spa Street had opened about the same time. In London a sales office had been opened in 1949 in Newsgate Street, the property being rented at £2250 pa plus £115 pa for services.

According to records held at Companies Office Manchester, the firm became Richard Haworth (Holdings) Ltd in 1953 and purchased by Vantona Textiles, the title ‘Richard Haworth’ subsequently purchased by the present owners of Kearsley Mill Ruia Holdings.

In 1881 B.T. Barton, Editor of Bolton Chronicle published a number of transcribed Wills and Indentures concerning the Haworth family which suggested that it was of ancient origin and the Christian name, Richard, featuring in many of the papers.

The family were considered to have been resident in the Rochdale area during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) and that in1664 Sit William Dugdale, Norroy King of Arms, made a Heralds Visitation of Lancashire and recorded the pedigree of the Haworth’s of Thurcroft (Lower Darwen).

A transcripted Will of Richard Haworth of Thurcroft, Gentleman, April 25th 1694 included a seal with the following Heraldic description of the Haworth Arms; Azure, a Bend Cotised between Two Stags Heads, Couped, Or, and quartered with the arms of a related family named Gillibrand.

From the transcripted documents it is clear that the Haworth family had many branches and descendants over a few hundred years; it is far from clear how the textile magnate Richard Haworth fitted into the overall pattern of this family.

At some point the firm of Richard Haworth & Co acquired a trade make which incorporated the Haworth Coat-of-Arms, how this was achieved is a little strange for an enquiry by the writer with the College of Arms reveals that incorporation of an accredited Coat-of-Arms into a Trade Mark is not permitted under their rules, yet the Trade mark was, presumably, registered at the Patents Office at some time during the 19th Century.


Kearsley Mill, Background and Development

Kearsley Mill

The use of wool and flax for cloth making goes back almost into pre-history, and regarding cotton the Greek philosopher Heroditus (480-424 BC), commenting on India observed, “The wild trees of that country bear fleeces as their fruit, surpassing those of sheep in their beauty and excellence, the Indians use cloth made from this tree wool”.

Almost a hundred years later a disciple of another Greek philosopher remarked, “The trees from which the Indians make their cloth they set them in rows so as to resemble vines at a distance, they bear no fruit but a capsule containing wool which is woven into cloth either cheap or of great value.”

Records of Bolton Abbey, York’s, dated around 1290-1300 indicate that cotton wool was used as candle wicks and considered superior to wool, it was also suggested that cotton wool has been discovered by Crusading knights as ideal padding under armour.

In 1621 the London wool merchants, concerned about the increased use of cotton, attempted to curb imports by a Petition to Parliament; “About twentie yeares past diverse peoples of this Kingdom, chiefly in the Countie of Lancaster, have found out the trade of making fustian of Bombast, or Downe, growing on little shrubs, and brought into the Kingdom by Turkie merchants, and commonly called Cotton Wooll.” Fustian at the time was a coarse cloth with a flax warp and either wool or cotton weft.

The Indian city of Calicut was established and well-known centre for the fine cloth imported into England in 1631 and named ‘calico’, which was not matched here until Samuel Crompton of Bolton invented the spinning mule. With no expansion of the British Empire cotton seeds from the Middle East were planted in the Bahamas around 1786 and at the same time the systematic cultivation of cotton began in Georgia and South Carolina.

From this inauspicious start the textile trade of Lancashire blossomed; the streams and rivers flowing from the Pennines created a formidable power source for the pioneer cotton mills of Bolton and Districts to increase production for an expanding population and overseas markets.

The idea of mechanising cotton spinning germinated, and in 1764 James Hargreaves (1719-78) of Stanhill, Blackburn, invented the multi-spindled ‘spinning jenny’; in 1769 Richard Arkwright (1732-92) of Preston patented his ‘water-frame’ which used the roller spinning invention of Lewis Paul (?-1759) and John Wyatt and patented by them in 1738 and 1758, and in 1779 Samuel Crompton of Bolton (1753-1827) combined the ideas of Hargreaves and Arkwright to produce the ‘spinning mule’, this hand operated machine was made self-acting in 1830 by Richard Roberts of Manchester (1789-1864). Ring spinning came to the UK from USA about 1832 but was rejected at the time; it was revived in 1874 when Samuel Brookes of West Gorton, Manchester, attracted to the idea, developed it to a point when it became an essential system in Lancashire’s mills.

The early cotton mills combined both hand and water powered machinery, then, as the size of mills increased, steam powered bean and horizontal engines replaced the water wheel. These engines were, in the latter half of the 18th century, of compound design with the high pressure steam passing into two, three or four cylinders of increasing diameter to take full advantage of the expensive force of the steam powered electric motor drives for mill machinery as exemplified in the Kearsley Spinning Co of Prestolee.

In similar manner the cloth bleaching trade expanded from the late 18th Century protracted sunlight and sour milk method on open fields, to chemical means to cope with the increasing demand for cloth. Bleachworks were established on the outskirts of urban areas to use the unpolluted water of the moorland streams. The construction of weirs across rivers to take off water for trade purposes was common practice, and jealousy controlled by the owner of the water rights, an example of which was sited on the River Irwell, originally for Prestolee New Mill, but probably also used by Kearsley Mill.

Output of cloth, for many years made on hand looms as part of the domestic system was increased by the use of John Kay’s (1704-64) of Bury ‘flying shuttle’ of 1730. This was fitted with small wheels running in a wooden channel through the warps and thus speeding up weaving, and also making it possible for one man to weave a wider cloth of his own. Kearsley Mill

Then in the early 19th Century the power loom of the rev. Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823), invented in 1785, began to oust the handloom, and the purpose built weaving shed, with its distinctive ‘saw-tooth’ roof windows developed into a regular feature of the Lancashire textile world. The weaving of cloth in elaborate designs was achieved by punched card control of the warps in what became the Jacquard loom. Invented by a Frenchman Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834), he drew on the idea of fellow countrymen Felon and Vaucanson, who were linked with the Lyon silk industry. It subsequently came to England to England where it was much modified and improved by British textile engineers.

That the handloom weaver survived for many years can be seen in the Conference Transactions of the Manchester society of Engineers, 1906, when it was pointed out that the Census of 1901 has revealed 200 in West Yorkshire and 500-600 in Lancashire.

During the 19th Century, spinning mill architecture developed from the narrow section, pitched roof, design to the five and six storied, rectangular flat roofed outlines with large paned windows. The machinery being driven by shafting from an adjacent engine and boiler house. The final stage can be seen in the Kearsley Spinning Mill with its turbine driven generators and electric motor driven machinery.

The matter of electric motor driving cotton mills was discussed at the previously mentioned Conference; opinions were divided as there was not a lot of information available. Some figures were produced which indicated that two 500KW alternators would cost about £3,000, large motors, switchgear and wiring another £10,000, no figures being available for either steam turbine or normal mill engine.

In June 1905 the first sod was cut for the foundations of Kearsley Spinning Company’s mill at Prestolee, and building commenced under the direction of the contractor Messrs W Brown of Manchester, who were proud to remind everyone that they had built a magnificent monument to the Midland railway directors – Manchester’s Midland Hotel.

In March 1906 the local newspaper reported that the erection of the mill was now complete, six storeys high with 24 bays for mule spinning machines, floors made from concrete and interior supporting cast – iron columns. It was anticipated that machinery would begin to arrive from Messrs Hetherington’s of Manchester, textile engineers, in April and it was hoped that production would be in full swing in September.

Towards the end of April 1906 saw the flag flown from the tower and mules with 110,000 spindles had been supplied and nearly half of the preparation and carding rooms has been filled. The two turbines, running as a reported 3,000 rpm, coupled to the generators, developed an estimated 100hp, had already started up some of them machinery. Electric motors sited in the tower drove the four spinning rooms by coupled shafts and five motors were used in the preparation rooms, all this equipment had been supplied by The Electric Co of London, and steam was raised by four Lancashire boilers.

The local newspapers do not give any indication of the principal shareholders but as the machinery was supplied by Messrs Hetherington’s, who at the same time were part equipping the nearby Irwell Bank Spinning Co, also built by Messrs Brown, it is suggested that both mills were being run as consortium concerns. It is interesting to note that both mills were inviting investments through the same agent, interest payable depended on amounts invested but 5% was guaranteed.


Expansion of Textile Mills late 19th – early 20th Centuries onwards

The opening of Kearsley Mill in the 1906 was part of the vast increase in the number of cotton mills in Lancashire between 1895 and 1910.

Contributory factors in this matter were the legislatory changed governing the formation of joint stock companies, investors being permitted limited liability. In the mid 1890’s, over 1,000 such companies had been created in the overall cotton industry. This legislature also created the amalgamation of companies to promote further growth. Thus the Fine Cotton Spinners and Doublers Association (1898), Calico Printers Association (1899), British Cotton and Wool Dryers Association (1900) and the Bleachers Association (1900) came into existence.

Cotton Rolls

Between 1850 and 1900 it has been stated that 50 new mills of varying size had been built in the Farnworth/Kearsley area and between 1895 and 1910 24 new mills has been opened in Bolton, bringing the total to around 100. All these new mills were designed on the rectangular, 5/6 storey, large paned window and flat roof Principle.

In February 1906 the Manchester Association of Engineers discussed the state of the Lancashire textile industry and produced some interesting figures. The cost of a mule spinning mill was calculated at 19/- to 21/6 per spindle, on this basis the Kearsley spinning mill would have cost between £114,000and £129,000. The cost of a ring spinning mill 36/- to 42/- per spindle and a weaving shed for £26 per loom. Basic spinning mill machinery prices were given as, scutcher £60, carding machine £65, draw frame £6-10-0, slubbing frame £1-4-0 per spindle, mule 3/6 per spindle, ring frames 6/- per spindle.

A table of average weekly wages in cotton mills in the Manchester and Oldham districts would, probably, have been applicable to Kearsley Spinning Co. These were linked to a 55 ½ hour working week (1905), there were 17 classes of operative and the top wage was £2-10-0 per week for a card room overlooker and a spinning room overlooker, next in line were mule spinners and warpers at £2-5-0 and mule peicers and doffers at 14/10 and 8/-.

A table of living cost quoted meat at 6d per lb, flour 1/2d per dozen lbs, a 4ld loaf 5 ½d, sugar 1 ¾d per lb, tea 1/4d per lb and butter 11d per lb. A considerable number of operatives rented houses at an average 6/- per week for a three room downstairs and two or three bed roomed home, with a pro-rata reduction for smaller houses.
This expansion of textiles produced an observation in the Journal of the Textile Institute in 1912; ‘not only have the manufacturing processes received the careful attention of the cleverest and highest skilled workers, but the question of the distribution of the finished article has also received the consideration to which its importance entitles it. The network of the organisations radiating from Lancashire penetrates to every part of the globe.” It was considered at the time that Lancashire sustained about 40% of the World capacity for providing textiles.

Textile Machine
In June 1927, combined Egyptian Mills Ltd, was constituted with twenty mills in Leigh, Bolton, Atherton, Stockport, Rochdale, Walkden and Middleton, and also included Kearsley Mill, which had itself been reconstituted after World War 1, as Kearsley Spinning Co (1920) Ltd. A change in overall title came in 1953 to Combined English Mills (Spinning) Ltd, with 18 members, still including Kearsley Mill.

An advert of 1950 for this Combine states they produce super-combed and super-carded mule and ring yarn in counts of 10’s to 300’s, ‘count’ being the standard definition of thread based on one pound of cotton producing a hank of 840 yards of spun cotton, this was called count 1.

Standard sewing thread was around the 40’s, and could be equated to 19 miles of thread per pound. It is interesting to note that Arkwright’s original roller spinning method could only produce 60’s maximum, at the same time Crompton’s mule could produce 80’s and by 1830 it was capable of 350’s and for the Great Exhibition of 1851 a Bolton mill produced samples of 700’s, equal to 334 miles or the distance between Edinburgh and Cambridge.

The Farnworth Journal 3rd June 1965 relates the imminent closure of Kearsley Spinning Co and that 240 employees would be made redundant, the machinery had apparently been modernised in recent years which itself had resulted in a reduction in the workforce.

Eventually, the building was purchased by Ruia Holding’s who, together with the acquisition of the title ‘Richard Haworth’ from Vantona Textiles, have emerged as successful textile enterprise in one of the examples of the final phase of the Lancashire Cotton Mill.