Through Great Britain and Ireland With Cromwell - H. E. Marshall

About Oliver's Next Battle-Field

Lancashire, the county into which Cromwell now marched, is one of the most important in England. It was one, too, which had suffered very much from the war. There was hardly a town of any size which had not been besieged, hardly a village where there had not been a skirmish. It was the nature of the country itself which made this to be so. In the north, it is agricultural and pastoral. There, lived gentlemen and Cavaliers who sided with the King. In the south, it is full of busy manufacturing towns, whose citizens and traders sided with the Parliament. So north and south fought.

Northern England

The reason for this division is easily found. The north is chiefly hill and moor, only suitable for grazing and tilling. But in the south lies a great coal field. And where there is coal, there factories come.

This coal field is really the same as the Yorkshire coal field. But thousands and thousands of years ago by some great earth shaking, the Pennine range was thrown up, breaking it in two. Like the Welsh coal field, the Lancashire has a special kind of coal, called cannel, found chiefly round Wigan. It is a dull greyish black or brown, but it is so hard that it can be cut and polished like jet. It lights easily and burns brightly. That is how it came to have its name, which really means candle. Long ago, the Lancashire peasants used to like this coal to burn in the long winter evenings, for its flame was so bright they needed no candles. Now it is chiefly used for making gas, and a great deal of it is exported to Ireland.

Besides coal, Lancashire has iron ore. This is chiefly found in Furness, lying in that part of the county to the north, which really, so far as geography goes, ought to belong to Cumberland. It is only within the last sixty years that these mines have been discovered and worked. So Barrow is a good example of how quickly the discovery of coal or iron will turn quiet country into busy, smoky town. Sixty years ago there were only a few cottages in the village of Barrow, with scarcely three hundred people living in them. To-day Barrow is a large town with nearly sixty thousand inhabitants. Smelting furnaces belch forth fire, steel works, brick works, rope works, shipbuilding yards, and miles of dock cover the ground where, but a few years ago, grass and corn waved; and great ships ride at anchor where there was then but a single fishing smack.

But it is for its cotton manufactures that Lancashire is most famous. Just as Yorkshire, because of its moors and wolds, upon which so many sheep graze, has become the centre of woollen factories, so Lancashire, for other reasons, has become the centre of cotton factories.

Cotton is best spun in a somewhat damp climate, as the thread will then bear a greater strain upon it. And, low though they are, the Pennines catch the rain-laden winds which blow from the Atlantic. This makes the climate of Lancashire moister than that of Yorkshire. Before the power of steam was discovered, mills could only be built where there was water-power. Many streams fed by the rains flow from the slopes of the Pennines, and there cotton factories were built. It is from America that most of the raw cotton comes, and Liverpool, looking as it does towards America, is the port by which it can most easily be brought into the country, so that is another reason for building cotton factories on the west, within easy reach of Liverpool, which lies upon the Mersey.

Except the Thames, no river in the world is so busy as the Mersey. Except London, no town in the kingdom has so much trade as Liverpool. And it has a great advantage over London in lying near a coal field. Its docks are perhaps the finest in the world, and it has forty miles of quay. Here all kinds of merchandise may be seen; grain, cotton, and cattle from America; butter and eggs and all kinds of dairy produce from Ireland; besides tobacco and wood and all sorts of things from every part of the world.

The very centre of this centre of the cotton trade is Manchester. It is a busy, crowded city, and through its streets flow several streams, inky with dye from works beyond the town. Although not many cotton goods are actually made in Manchester, it is here where the spinners and weavers, printers and bleachers, from the busy towns and villages around, meet to buy and sell. Four hundred years ago Manchester was already famous for its cotton trade, and three hundred years ago it was said, "Other things being made in Manchester are so small in themselves, and various in their kinds, they will fill the shop of a haberdasher of smallwares. Being, therefore, too many for me to reckon up and remember, it will be the safest way to wrap them all together in some Manchester ticking, and to fasten them with the pins (to prevent their falling out and scattering), to tie them with the tape, and also (because sure bind sure find) to bind them about with points and laces, all made in the same place."