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European Themeroute | Production and Manufacturing

Domestic handmade textile production was typical for the pre-industrial age. The father sat at the loom and the women of the family were responsible for spinning the yarn. An entrepreneur (in Germany he was called a "Verleger") delivered the raw material and organised sales, often over considerable ... more

Icon: Production and ManufacturingGoods for the world. European Theme Route Manufacturing

Domestic handmade textile production was typical for the pre-industrial age. The father sat at the loom and the women of the family were responsible for spinning the yarn. An entrepreneur (in Germany he was called a "Verleger") delivered the raw material and organised sales, often over considerable distances. Textile manufacture was the leading industry in Europe: from the 16th century onwards it was basically organised on such a system.

The first types of factories grew up in the 17th century, when larger groups of workers were concentrated in so-called "manufactories". Although this also applied to textiles, it was more common in glass and salt production, ironworks and hammer works. In France, Royal manufactories produced tapestries, furniture and porcelain in magnificent style. The process was divided up into sections from the start, and the workers had to keep to a strict discipline despite the fact that the majority were still working individually by hand. The decisive element which turned the whole world of work on its head was mechanisation.

The factory age began around the end of the 18th century in Britain, with large spinning mills in the county of Lancashire. Here one waterwheel was able to drive around 1000 spindles. Shortly afterwards there followed the steam engine, which made production independent of swiftly flowing water and gave a huge boost to mechanical spinning, weaving and, soon after, the whole of the British economy.

From now on machines dictated the organisation and tempo of work: but not only in textile manufacturing. The Economist, Adam Smith, tells of a factory where the manufacture of a pin was divided up into 18 working sections. In 1769, the English pioneer, Josiah Wedgwood, opened up his porcelain factory "Etruria" near Stoke-on-Trent. Whereas before that, workers had followed the path of their product from the pottery wheel to decorating, firing and storing, they were now ordered to keep strictly to their own department.

Division of labour raised productivity considerably. The actions of the workers, on the other hand, were increasingly reduced to a few, constantly repeated movements. As a result they gradually became alienated from the products they made. Formerly their products had been the pride of hand workers. Since expert knowledge was hardly necessary, employers now preferred to employ women and children whom they could pay less than men. The workers were ruthlessly exploited. Women and children in textile factories had to work shifts of between 14 and 16 hours. Even hen working conditions improved during the course of the 19th century – primarily for children – this tendency was aggravated even more by the introduction of mass production.

As early as 1797 an American by the name of Eli Whitney suggested making rifle locks from exchangeable parts, instead of making them individually for every weapon. Thanks to this standardisation – a basic prerequisite for mass production - costs were drastically reduced and production further accelerated. The manufacture of exchangeable parts only really came to the fore at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of new metal precision tools. After that, the production of standard quality tools gradually became a manufacturing branch in its own right: machine tool manufacturing.
In 1881 in the USA, Frederick W. Taylor began to divide working processes systematically into their smallest components, in order to rationalise them even more. His quantitative analyses laid the foundations for "Taylorism": scientific production management. The immediate results were that engineers would go round the factories checking working processes with a watch in their hand in order to speed up the work.

The last stage of mass production was the introduction of the conveyor belt. This began in the stockyards of Chicago and Cincinnati. It was then adapted by Henry Ford in 1911 for his motor car factories in Manchester and Detroit. Whilst the conveyor belt was moving forward the next chassis at a constant speed the workers had to mount the components with as few actions as possible to avoid any "unproductive" movements. The pace of production was even more drastically increased. Whereas it had formerly taken 12.5 man-hours to mount a chassis, by 1914 only 93 man-minutes were needed. Thus Ford cars could be afforded by everyone.

In the second half of the 19th century methods of industrial production reached the food sector. The powerful engines which delivered energy independent of the specific location, encouraged entrepreneurs to set up large bakeries and breweries. New techniques made the processing of agrarian products increasingly independent of the seasons of the year.
The invention of artificial cooling methods was an important step. In 1748 a Scotsman by the name of William Cullen was the first man to demonstrate how to extract warmth from the environment by reducing a fluid to steam. The process was made even more effective by compressing the refrigerating agents. That said, it was quite a long time before these principles could be used to make the first effective refrigerator. An American by the name of Jacob Perkins is reputed to have built the first model in 1835. Around 20 years later an Australian, James Harrison, introduced refrigerators to the meat and brewing industries.

Thus large-scale beer production became possible during the summer months. At the same time people learnt how to control the temperature of the mash with a thermometer, and the amount of original gravity with a saccharometer. Such scientific knowledge was characteristic for the whole area of food production.

Conservation was a further step. The fact that food remains edible when it is kept in a closed container at a certain temperature over a long period of time, was discovered by a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, in 1809 when he was charged with supplying food to Napoleon's armies. His British colleague, Peter Durand, discovered that tins were the best containers for doing so. But it was not until 1863 that a scientist by the name of Louis Pasteur discovered that microbes could be killed by heating. The production of tinned food spread quickly, most of all in the USA, and the United States soon became the market leader.

Milk conservation can also be traced back to military requirements. During the American Civil War in the 1860s Gail Borden developed condensed milk. A Swiss firm launched it onto the European market and soon after it merged with another firm owned by Henri Nestlé, the inventor of baby food. The result was that condensed milk became famous under Nestlé’s name.

Around the end of the 19th century a new form of co-operative manufacturing arose in dairy production. Dairy farmers, above all in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and northern Germany, joined forces to market their dairy produce. Cooperative dairies produced butter and cheese to uniform standards and conquered ever larger markets beyond national boundaries. The standardisation of food production, increasingly independent of the time of manufacture and the region where it was made, has continued right down to the present day.

Bedford | United Kingdom
The Bedfordshire landscape is still dominated by the huge chimneys of the Stewartby brickworks. The iconic 90 m high brick structures were designed to carry away the waste gases particularly sulphur oxides, that were dangerous to livestock in this largely farming landscape. Brick clays were ...

Stewartby Brickworks & Village
Stewartby Brickworks and Model Village
MK43 Bedford, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom

George Cadbury was quite a man. He left us two fantastic legacies. No prizes for guessing the first one, but do you know the other? A clue is that to appreciate it fully you need to visit the Birmingham Back-to-Backs before coming to Bournville. Having established his now world famous chocolate ...

Bournville Village & The Bournville Experience
Cadbury World
Linden Road Bournville
B30 2LU Birmingham, United Kingdom

Birmingham | United Kingdom
The silver factory established in 1881 by Jenkin Evans is one of several former workshops in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter that now show to visitors something of the range of goods made in the area and the working conditions of the craftsmen employed there. Evans established his business in small ...

J. W. Evans Silver Factory
54-57 Albion Street
B1 3EA Birmingham, United Kingdom

Birmingham | United Kingdom
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is a perfectly preserved workshop offering a unique glimpse of working life in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter. For more than 80 years, the firm of Smith & Pepper produced jewellery from this workshop. Explore this extraordinary time capsule on a lively ...

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter
75-80 Vyse Street Hockley
B18 6HA Birmingham, United Kingdom

Birmingham | United Kingdom
Isn’t is astonishing to think that when Boulton and Watt were busily producing steam engines, people were still using feather quill pens to write with? It wasn’t until 1803 that the first steel pens were made and Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter rapidly established itself as the world centre for the ...

Pen Museum
Unit 3, The Argent Centre 60 Frederick Street Jewellery Quarter
B1 3HS Birmingham, United Kingdom

Birmingham | United Kingdom
Something´s not right. You´re in a fine Georgian house surrounded by the furniture and fittings of the 1790s, but there on the wall is a large photograph of the moon. This must be a mistake. But it´s not. It´s actually a painting, meticulously made through observations with a primitive telescope in ...

Soho House
Soho Avenue (off Soho Road) Handsworth
B18 5LB Birmingham, United Kingdom

Birmingham | United Kingdom
Many aspects of Birmingham’s industrial history are now illustrated in the city’s Jewellery Quarter. One of the most recent additions is the Coffin Works in Fleet Street, a three-storey factory  designed by Roger Hurley and completed in 1892. Two years later it was taken over by Alfred and Edwin ...

The Coffin Works
13-15 Fleet Street
B3 1JP Birmingham, United Kingdom

Blaenau Ffestiniog | United Kingdom
The landscape around Blaenau Ffestioniog is dominated by the legacy of slate extraction, by the bare rock faces of quarries and by towering heaps of slate scree. Slate from Blaenau was used to roof buildings all over the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since 1972 visitors ...

Llechwedd Slate Caverns
LL41 3NB Blaenau Ffestiniog, United Kingdom

Bolton | United Kingdom
The textile machinery collection is an extremely important one. The museum began collecting textile machines in the 19th century and amongst the items at the heart of this collection is the only surviving example of a spinning mule that was made by the inventor himself, Samuel Crompton of Bolton. ...

Bolton Museum, Aquarium and Archive
Le Mans Crescent
BL1 1SE Bolton, United Kingdom

Bolton | United Kingdom
The Northern Mill Engine Society was formed in 1966 and can be seen as part of a growing nationwide awareness in the United Kingdom that the nation’s industrial heritage was under threat. The Society’s object was to collect examples of characteristic steam engines from the many textile mills in ...

Bolton Steam Museum
Mornington Road
BL1 4EU Bolton, United Kingdom

Braintree | United Kingdom
Braintree was the home town of two companies famous in the 19th and 20th centuries; Courtaulds and Crittalls Windows. The Museum is the focus for this distinguished industrial heritage in both textiles and engineering. With creativity and skill, the people of the Braintree area shared ideas which ...

Braintree Museum
Braintree Museum Industrial Collection
Manor Street
CM7 3YG Braintree, United Kingdom

Bridgnorth | United Kingdom
Daniels Mill at Eardington near Bridgnorth is one of the least conventional corn mills in England. Its source of water is a stream little more than 1 km. long which flows from the Potseething Spring to the River Severn. There was a mill on the site in the fifteenth century but the present structure ...

Daniels Mill
WV16 5/BL Bridgnorth, United Kingdom

Brighton & Hove | United Kingdom
The British Engineerium occupies the Goldstone Pumping Station in Hove, built in the Gothic style in 1866, which was part of a water supply system devised by Thomas Hawksley (1807-93). Its first engine was a Woolf compound supplied by Easton & Amos of Southwark, London. In 1872 the water company was ...

The British Engineerium
The Droveway
BN3 7QA Brighton & Hove, United Kingdom

Broadstairs | United Kingdom
The engineer Thomas Crampton (1816-88) was a prolific inventor and built waterworks, railways and telegraph systems all over Europe, but throughout his life he retained links with his native town, the resort of Broadstairs on the coast of Kent, and financed and built its gas and water supply ...

Crampton Tower Museum
The Broadway
CT10 2AB Broadstairs, United Kingdom

Bromborough | United Kingdom
Bromborough Pool Village is one of the most interesting of the communities established by entrepreneurs for their workers, although it is less well-known than Port Sunlight, which lies only 2 km to the north. William Wilson (b 1772) belonged to the Scottish family who established the Wilsontown ...

Bromborough Pool Village
Manor Pl
CH62 Bromborough, United Kingdom

Burton upon Trent | United Kingdom
The man who invented clogs must have been a brewer. The robust shoes with thick wooden soles were ideal for keeping people´s feet warm and dry on cold, wet brewery floors. Once, the whole of Burton upon Trent used to echo with the clacking of these rough wooden slippers. For the small town in the ...

National Brewery Centre
Horninglow Street
DE14 1NG Burton upon Trent, United Kingdom

Bury St. Edmunds | United Kingdom
This is one of England´s oldest and largest traditional working breweries. Here, you can join one of the daily Brewery Tours to see the beers actually being made using natural ingredients and traditional brewing methods.A tour round the historic working brew house includes a wonderful view of the ...

Greene King Brewery
Greene King Westgate Brewery
IP33 1QT Bury St. Edmunds, United Kingdom

Bushmills | United Kingdom
Portrush is a resort on the coast of Co Antrim, with harbour installations of 1827-36 by John Rennie, and a spectacular railway station of 1892-3, designed by Berkely Deane, now used for other purposes, while trains call at modern, utilitarian platforms. The depot, a passenger station and some ...

Old Bushmills Distillery
The Distillery
2 Distillery Road
BT57 8XH Bushmills, United Kingdom

Cambridge | United Kingdom
Lode Mill, part of the Anglesey Abbey estate north of Cambridge, now owned and managed by the National Trust, is one of England’s best-reserved water corn mills. Anglesey Abbey is a Jacobean house containing many works of art collected by Huttlestone Broughton, first Baron Fairhaven (1896-1966) who ...

Lode Mill, Anglesey Abbey
Quy Road Lode
CB25 9EJ Cambridge, United Kingdom

Campbeltown | United Kingdom
Campbeltown, 90 km south-west of Glasgow, is the principal town on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula, and in the 19th century its 34 distilleries rivalled Speyside as a centre for the manufacture of whisky. The town’s prosperity, based on its easy sea links with Glasgow, diminished as railways enabled ...

The Tasting Room
8 Bolgam Street
PA28 6HZ Campbeltown, United Kingdom