4. Bristol's textile companies.

The history of cotton textiles in Bristol might be told in similar terms. It was not until 1838 that cotton was produced in the city on any but the smallest scale. Two years earlier, encouraged by the exciting potentialities of steam power, a group of local industrialists had formed a company whose purpose was to introduce cotton manufacturing to Bristol on a scale comparable to the Lancashire industry. The Great Western Cotton Works (named after the ship and the railway) by the Feeder Canal at Barton Hill rivalled any in the country in size. Close links were developed with Lancashire. Expert workers from the north west were enlisted to get production off the ground, and very soon the mill employed more than 1,500 workers, making calico and cotton goods. Liverpool and Manchester businessmen acquired substantial shareholdings in the company, and in 1864, when it was incorporated as a limited company, two of its directors were Bristolians, three were from Manchester, one from Liverpool and one from Eccieshall. Towards the end of the century Bristol interests began to predominate - the board included Albert and Lewis Fry and representatives of the Miles and Harford banking families - but the managing director, George O. Spafford, was a member of a leading Mancunian business family. Unfortunately, the concern never really throve, and was reconstructed on several occasions. Nevertheless, it did survive for nearly a century, and was largely responsible for the development of the working-class districts around Barton Hill. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century it paid dividends averaging just over 5 per cent on the issued capital, and continued to earn modest profits until after the First World War. But in 1925, badly hit by recession, the firm had to go into liquidation. From then until 1929, the great mill was used by the Western Viscose Silk Co., which was attempting to develop artificial textiles, but that venture also collapsed. The building itself fell to the developers in 1968.#13

 

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