Apart from evidence of early ironworks and smelting the main industry in Cragg had always been agriculture. Then agriculture and cloth - the rugged dual economy.
Having a good supply of water from the moors, Cragg was always a likely home for industry based on water power. From mid 1700 onwards, water then steam power, and combined water wheel and steam engines dominated our valley with the cloth mills.
There were numerous families involved in mill ownership during this time. Sutcliffes, Greenwoods, and Hinchliffes amongst others. Yet in 1758 there were but 3 mills in Cragg. A paper mill (just up from and opposite the Robin Hood Inn), a corn mill (at Hoo Hole), and a mill for fulling woven cloth from the farms.
The water driven mills that flourished at Turvin, Marshaw Village (by the Hinchliffe Arms pub) and on Elphin Brook (down Cragg Vale) posed no real threat to local farm based weavers at that time.
However, from 1808 onwards things began to change alarmingly for the worse. Steam power was heavily adopted from around 1805 on. Child labour became the norm. Now began the mill owners infamous abuses.
At one time or another from 1740 to the early 20th C there have existed around 11 mills in Cragg.
Turvin, Victoria, and Pepper Bank mills on Turvin Brook; Marshaw (opposite the Hinchliffe Arms) with New and Vale mills in Withens Clough. Next down Elphin Brook were Castle, Paper (opposite the Robin Hood Inn), Cragg, Hoo Hole, and Scar Bottom mill (Mytholmroyd). By the 1820's these were no place for any decent minded human, let alone the children of the poor.
A local minister of the time wrote about Cragg mills and their owners use of child 'sweated' labour:
"If there is one place in England that needed legislative interference it is this place; for they work 15 and 16 hours a day frequently, and sometimes all night. Oh! it is a murderous system and the mill owners are the pest and disgrace of society..!". It was honestly said.
It is on record that children died at their work in the mills of Cragg. Died from long hours and harsh treatments handed out. While the mill owners William Greenwood ('Old Billy Hard Times') and the Hinchliffe family amassed their fortunes. It took the 1833 factory act to begin to address the appalling abuse of child labour and workers. End of History.
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