Gallery Oldham’s latest exhibition looks back 100 years to when the Borough was the centre of the universe when it came to cotton.
In 1913, the peak year for the United Kingdom’s cotton industry, Oldham boasted more spindles than any town in the world.
‘Spindleopolis: When Cotton Was King’ revisits the everyday lives of this confident and prosperous town through the cartoons of local man Sam Fitton and a selection of museum objects and paintings.
In 1913 a quarter of the UK’s raw cotton imports were processed in Oldham and more than 30,000 people were directly employed in the town’s 320 mills. The 16.7million spindles spun more cotton than the entire industries of France or Germany – Oldham was Spindleopolis.
This exhibition also looks at the issues that mattered to locals in 1913 – both in the workplace and in their leisure hours. It was the year that saw the first ever visit of a reigning monarch to the town and also saw Oldham Athletic reach the FA Cup semi-final.
Councillor Jean Stretton, Cabinet Member for Cooperatives and Neighbourhoods, said: “This exhibition celebrates an important period in our history, when Oldham led the world in cotton production.
“This exhibition is a great opportunity to learn more about life in Oldham 100 years ago and I would encourage people to take the opportunity to visit it.”
Co-curated by historians Alan Fowler and Terry Wyke of Manchester Metropolitan University, they have produced an accompanying booklet examining the Oldham of 1913 in more detail. It is available from the Gallery Shop.
Residents are invited to a special launch event on Wednesday, July 24 from 1.15pm. This will give visitors the chance to hear Sam Fitton’s dialect poetry read by John Kemp. Alan Fowler will also give a talk about the exhibition.
On September 19 the North West Film Archive will present a special screening of footage of the 1913 royal visit to Lancashire.
Spindleopolis: When Cotton was King runs from July 21 to November 30.