Preston was no ordinary town during the nineteenth century. While king cotton reigned supreme throughout Lancashire, the underlying ills associated with this industry were very often highlighted particularly starkly there. Child labour, shocking working conditions with appallingly long hours and pitifully low wages, as well as the constant risk of suffering horrific accidents in the cotton mills, all fostered a deep sense of hostility among the operatives towards the employers. Overcrowded and insanitary housing, disease, poverty and awful wretchedness were often to be witnessed in the fast-growing working-class districts of Preston.Against this backdrop the nascent trade unions and political and social reformers began to challenge the unbridled mastery of the millowners. Trade disputes, confrontations, lockouts, strikes and tragic episodes of violence were the inevitable consequence of this lethal mix of hardship and employer intransigence, and dominated affairs in the town for many years. This book by local author J.S. Leigh is a powerful indictment of the industrial system that caused such suffering to Preston's cotton 'martyrs'.
Jim S. Leigh was born in Preston in 1951, spending his childhood among a close terraced community. His keen interest in local history,particularly that of the cotton industry developed from the fascinating stories and recollections heard from elderly relatives and neighbours, many of them former millworkers. He still lives in the Preston area.