Salford, an industrial town based on the cotton industry,
was still growing rapidly in 1901, at which time its population had
reached 220,957. This figure was nearly three times that of its 1851
population of 85,108.
In 1901, cotton manufacture was still a significant industry in both
Salford and neighbouring Manchester - as it had been since the 16th
century - but distribution was then becoming more important. According
to a 1908 survey, 'warehouses have replaced mills
spinning and weaving carried out within the boundaries of the combined
boroughs still give employment to many thousand men and women'. Engineering,
which had developed in response to the demand for machinery for the
cotton industry, was also significant.
Egerton Mill was located at 249 Ordsall Lane, Salford. In around 1914,
it was valued at £49,005 and described in the Inland Revenue Valuation
Office Field Book (held by The National Archives reference IR 58/72845)
four & five storey cotton spinning mills with the usual
lower buildings, also weaving shed with top light. Engine house &
boiler house etc.'
||The 1901 Census
return for Ordsall Lane (reference: RG 13/3737 f.124 p.4) does not include
any entry for Egerton Mill, but it does describe the small houses and
shops opposite it. These include a public house, an undertaker, a draper,
stationer, grocer, second hand clothes dealer, a watch-maker, a hardware
dealer and a German 'chipped potato cook', doubtless catering for hungry
The staff records for workers at Egerton Mill do not appear to have
survived; however, the 1901 Census returns for surrounding streets do
show numerous mill workers such as Godfrey Blakely of 153 Ordsall Lane,
a 'maker up of grey calico', and his 16 year old daughter, who was a
industry employed a significant number of women. In 1901, 7,774 women
and girls aged over 10, who were living in Salford, were employed in cotton
manufacture; easily outnumbering the 2,376 men and boys. A further 5,445
'females' worked in tailoring. Married women did not necessarily give
up work - 16.6% of married women, including widows, were in paid employment.
The dominant male occupation in Salford was engineering and machine-making
(7,464 men), followed by house building (6,457). Wages in 1905 for skilled
workers, such as pattern-makers or iron-moulders, could be as much as
40s a week; ordinary labourers, however, might work for over 54 hours
a week for wages between 18s and 22s and
face unemployment or short-time working in the winter season.
Salford was essentially a town of small houses. In the poorer districts,
there were still many back-to-back two-roomed houses. The 1908 survey
noted that 'working people appear to live as near to their places of
employment as possible, though, owing to the tramway system, there is
a growing tendency to live out in the suburbs where houses cheaper and
better in accommodation can be found'.
Poverty remained a problem. The 1901 Census showed that 7.54% of Salford's
population was living in officially overcrowded conditions. This was
not particularly high compared with other large urban centres; however,
Salford's mortality rate was higher than average, especially the infant
mortality rate at 157 per 1,000 births.