The decay of the cloth trade saw the introduction of shawl and flannel making. The Saddleworth carders were famous for the carding of fine wool, and many mills were engaged in “country work” for firms in Rochdale and other districts. As late as 1870 “country work” kept 15 mills running. The new industry brought prosperous years into the parish. The spinning mule and the power loom had come into general use, but the little jenny was still working in the cottage chambers on the hillsides.
In most mills the steam engine and the water wheel were yoked together, and, in some instances, they remain so to-day. The valleys were filled with the hum of machinery, and the laughter of greasy, contented mill-folk. The carders and slubbers grew as fat as old monks, and showed rotund proportions under their long smocks. There were lines of tenters, near the mills, hung with flannel and shawls to be sun-dried and sweetened by the wind. The old loom houses with their ivied gables up to the very edge of the moors were filled with busy weavers. Under the field walls were to be seen warps laid out to dry. The lady of plenty and the open hand was singing in every village and at every lane end. Writing in 1859, the Rev. W. Simpson, the then Vicar of Dobcross, calls it “a period of unexampled commercial prosperity.” Some of the now important local firms had their beginnings in this period, which may be called the golden age of the textile industry in Saddleworth, - conducted under old-fashioned conditions.
Songs of a Moorland Parish.