Yardworks- at the Heart of Preston

original entrance to site

‘If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday’
Pearl S Buck, American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner

From my MA Fine Art – Site & Archive at UCLAN in Preston, Lancashire, UK 2010, I have  focused on a site specific project with theatre artworks and community  interventions which have led me on a journey of uncovering the past, recognising the present and discovering the future possibilities of an abandoned site.

Once, it was the Yardworks, Horrockses  model site of empirical prosperity, a world unto itself inside the high brick wall encompassing the site. Now, all that is left are a few sections of brick walls, maps and a fabulous model of the site at the Harris museum & artgallery

Yardworks blog  documents and displays artworks and interventions inspired by the site from my final year and onwards towards developing site specific theatre installations potentially for the Preston Guild Celebrations in 2012. Posting my research and images, I would welcome any comments and feedback .

Now, Im living by Fremantle, Perth,Western Australia, continuing my creative practice and experiences, and not long after I arrived, discovered 50 single Preston cotton mill women were sponsored by the Earl of Derby in 1863 during the Cotton Famine in the North Uk, to emigrate on a bride ship to the new settlement. Ive got a s far as researching the ship Tartar passenger list to identify the women, but then the research is huge, so for now it waits. While other histories surface and inspire, lives past, future hopes, presence now.

This blog then, documents current research areas, inspirational art and theatre,  women and childrens social histories, film and photography,  theatre, artworks and interventions inspired by the site specific, global and social history  and continuing……..

To see and purchase a contextual report book of the Yardworks site specific community project, click on the Blurb button below-

By Rachel Riggs

Main Historical Site Points

Founded by John Horrocks 1791, one of the most successful full cotton manufacturing companies in the world, exporting internationally till 1960’s.

Preston was purely a cotton town mostly engaged in spinning cotton from America to sell to India, The Yardworks dealt with every stage of cotton spinning and weaving. The late modernization of mills resulted in rising production costs, and the site shutdown unable to compete in the world market.

Yardworks closed in 1962. Last few buildings demolished in 2001.

Textile labels for cloth sold in India, used children, animals as well as fairies to promote products as high status, desirable.

Birth increased at an alarming rate during the industrial revolution.

New demands of factory system ensured  children were seen more than ever as an economic resource.

For 15 years in the late 19co’s, 250 deaths per 1000 – infant mortality rate highest in Uk

High infant mortality rate maybe due to young mothers going back to work a few days after giving birth and rushing back and forward to nurse her baby from work day after day until mother and baby completely exhausted.

Many mills used child labour in notoriously bad conditions forcing down wage levels for adult workers.

Girls were seen to be easier to control and became the main loom workers in the mills by the 19th century.

The factory act of 1819 prohibited children under 9 from working in cotton mills and limited those under 16 to twelve hours a day. Half timers 1844 act , 6 hours work per day and school 3 hours.

‘The Half Timer’ painting by Patti Mayor in 1906 of Annie Hill ‘a little tenter’ at Horrockses, Harris Museum permanent display. Taken on Women’s day march in London 1907 by suffragette Edith Rigby to highlight the conditions of the working classes.

‘the courts and alleys behind the main streets swarm with people, the poor’ Edwin Waugh 1802

In 1848, life expectancy for the poor was 18 years against 49 years for wealthier residents in Preston.

In 2006, 74 years for men, 79 for women, still less than the regional and national average.

16 thoughts on “Yardworks- at the Heart of Preston

  1. Hi Rachel
    I enjoyed the experimental puppetry in which you were beginning to interpret the Yardworks info, staged in the warehouse, and the Cinderella feel to the setting, as well as the very different show re Penwortham fairy sighting.
    I have been looking for Cloth of the World re Horrocks on the web, but can’t find it. Have you a site ref?
    Catriona

    • Sorry not to get back to you sooner Catriona, im having a good look for it and will let you know asap. Thanks for your feedback.

      • Catriona, There are images of the Cloth of the World on my flickr pages. just click on the button up to the right.

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