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24 September 2014
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Manningham Mills and the Labour party
manningham mills
Manningham Mills
One of Bradford's most famous landmarks is being featured in a special programme on Look North called 'If only walls could speak' on Wednesday 12th March at 6.30pm on BBC 1.
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Manningham 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.

Lister
Samuel Lister

Most 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.

in the mill
In the Mill

However 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.

The 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.

notice
Notice

Meanwhile Lister wasn't listening and the strike fund ran out. Workers could no longer be supported and they were forced back to work.

Many 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 Labour party.

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.

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