The economic and demographic development of Rossendale, c1650-c1795



Mid seventeenth century Rossendale was economically backyard even by the contemporary standards of highland England. The rest of the century did little to improve the position of Rossendale as a whole. Within Rossendale, the experience was not uniform. The west, which experienced at best stable population and stable per capita wealth, remained economically committed to cattle rearing. The east, which experienced rising per capita wealth and population levels, became more orientated to woollen manufacturing. These differential experiences and trends are unlikely to have been merely fortuitous. From cl715, a new phase of long term economic and demographic growth was entered, benefitting all parts of Rossendale. This growth, based on the woollen trade, was at the expense of the more traditional features of the local economy, notably agriculture and the market and fair of Haslingden. Long term demographic and economic expansion continued down to the 1790's. Now, however, the economic base of expansion was widened particularly in western Rossendale by the growth of cotton manufacturing and factory production. Both developments were rapid, but neither were particularly new. Cotton manufacturing had been present earlier in the century, whilst the scale of early mills was usually as modest as in the old established domestic sector. From the mid 1790's this long phase of expansion on a traditional domestic base was ended, most dramatically by the impact of the French wars, the building of large factories and the emergence of large scale business units.






King, W., “The economic and demographic development of Rossendale, c1650-c1795,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed May 18, 2024,