Project Description

The Woollen Cloth Industry

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A pencil drawing of Angel mill, Westbury, shortly after it was bought by Abraham Laverton in 1852. Copyright Trowbridge Museum.

The industrial revolution in Britain at the end of the 18th century meant many tasks previously carried out by hand were now done by machines, which saw many mills replaced by factories. Between 1785 and 1800, many mills in the Westbury area were redeveloped, including Leigh Mill, Boyers Mill and Bitham Mill.

Angel Mill, built in 1806, was the first in the area to be purpose built for steam power. The industry was booming and many prominent clothiers made their fortunes during this period.
The boom only lasted until 1820. After this, very few new factories were built. Some fell out of use entirely, while others were converted to grinding corn.

In 1826, William Cobbett, a farmer and journalist, visited Westbury and remarked that ‘it has cloth factories in it, and they seem ready to tumble down as well as many of the houses’. Trade improved during 1843 but slipped again during a national depression in 1847-1848.

In 1850 during this time of economic uncertainty, Abraham Laverton took a lease on Angel Mill. He converted it back to a woollen mill, introduced new machinery, and produced fine quality cloths. The risk paid off, and in 1852, Abraham was able to purchase Angel Mill for £1000.

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The front of the medal awarded to Abraham Laverton in London. 1862.

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William Cobbett, 1763·1835. Copyright British Museum

“It has cloth factories in it, and they seem ready to tumble down as well as many of the houses.”

William Cobbet, Farmer and journalist, 1826.

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