Mills also known as Lister's Mill was a sign in Bradford's skyline
of wealth and prosperity. However it is also known for a bitter
feud and a long campaign for better workers' rights leading to the
formation of the Labour party.
Samuel Lister founded the original Lister's Mill in 1838 but it
was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1871. The replacement was the
biggest textile building in the north of England,
a building making Bradfordians proud of their city and their prosperity.
The industrial revolution with the growth of textiles had seen Bradford
transformed into a rich and famous city. Jobs were plentiful but
housing and sanitary conditions were poor.
people were underpaid and overworked. Disease, overcrowding, open
sewers, poor drinking water meant there were many early deaths.
It is claimed that in the middle of the nineteenth century life
expectancy in Bradford was just 18 years of age.
The local authorities in Bradford has to respond quickly to the
crisis. A new council took control of the running of the city, providing
clean drinking water, public baths, sewers and street lights. By
the time Bradford was made a city in the late 1800s living and working
conditions had improved dramatically.
there were other problems afoot in Bradford. In 1890 Samuel Lister's
mill was facing problems. His export markets had been slashed by
new US tariffs and his profit margins were getting low. Lister insisted
that the workers should accept a wage reduction of up to 30 percent.
The workers protested with a strike and lock out which began shortly
before Christmas 1890. Thousands of workers came out, many in sympathy
for their colleagues. A strike committee formed providing soup kitchens
with money collected from trade unions in the north of England.
strike progressed throughout the spring. The Bradford authorities
tried to stop hundreds of people listening to the mass meetings
in Bradford's squares and halls. Then on 23th April the Durham Light
Infantry were sent into the city resulting in a riot. Several people
were seriously injured.
Lister wasn't listening and the strike fund ran out. Workers could
no longer be supported and they were forced back to work.
were angry and the Bradford Labour Union was formed, to try and
seek a political solution to the problems of low pay and poor conditions
for working men and women. This union helped form the start of the
Find out more about Lister's Mill with a special history slot in
Look North called 'If only walls could speak' on Wednesday 12th
March at 6.30pm on BBC 1.