Burnley In The 1960s: Factory Workers

In the 1960s the factories of Burnley were still busy producing a wide range of goods and providing a major source of employment to local people. A short film made at the time and now held in the Kinolibrary Archive Film Collection shows Burnley’s factory workers busy in their labours.

Factories In Burnley’s History

Factories were first built in Burnley during the Industrial Revolution. The meeting point of the River Calder and the River Brun provided an ideal location for harnessing water power to drive the new spinning machines which revolutionised the way cotton was produced. 

By 1911,  the town held 99,000 power looms and was both a major production centre and an important centre of employment. 

The town was home to more than 100,000 people that year, when a total of 45million people lived across the whole of the UK. 

While today it has some of the lowest average house prices in the country, Burnley’s population is lower now than it was in 1911. In 2020 the town has approximately 88,000 current residents, despite the UK population growing to almost 68 million people.

The town saw the closure of the last deep coal mine, the Hapton Valley Colliery, in February 1981. A year later, the last steam-powered mill, the Queen Street Mill, ceased production. BEP, Prestige and Michelin were three of the town’s major manufacturers who also closed their doors over the next two decades. Manufacturing now accounts for just 16% of local employment.

Burnley Factory Workers In The 1960s

1960s Factory Workers in Burnley, HD, from 16mm

This 16mm short film was made during the 1960s. Lasting just under 5 minutes, it is silent but shown in colour. 

Events shown in the film include:

  • Looms making cloth under human supervision
  • Pairs of women folding large towels and blankets
  • The Mullard factory at Simonstone, producing television tubes
  • The production and packaging of lozenges
  • The Michelin factory in Burnley
  • Factory lunchtime in the canteen
  • Women and men working on different production lines
  • An engineering factory school, where young men learn skills
  • A Lucas factory, which employed around 7,000 people across its Burnley sites

Burnley Factory Workers

Despite its short length, this footage shows dozens of men and women working hard in Burnley’s factories. Their ages range from teenagers through to people approaching retirement.

As much as people concentrate on the task in hand, there are frequent glimpses of smiles and laughter between work colleagues. 

This film provides a small glimpse into a working class world which is largely gone. Some of the people shown may never have been filmed before or since.

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