Cotton Famine Rd… a lonely stone track on the moors above Rochdale. You’d be forgiven for thinking it a road to nowhere since it just stops midway across the moor!
But you’d be wrong, because it goes right back into our shared history, and it reaches right across the world, to cotton fields of the American South. It tells of Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, of the millions that were made by merchants here out of that misery. And ultimately it tells us how the weavers of Rochdale played their small part, and suffered hugely, in bringing it to an end.
It came about as a result of public subscription in 1863, deep in the midst of the cotton famine of 1861-65 when the southern ports were blockaded and the mills of the Lancashire were starved of raw materials. As the blockade began to bite the mills went form short time working to complete shutdown – and the weavers were thrown into penury and starvation.
But for all this at a meeting in Manchester in December in 1862 all threw their full support behind the blockade, and the Union cause in the American Civil war, the fight to end slavery.
Stand up on it and you can see for miles. You can see a big picture, one of people uniting in common sacrifice for something that mattered more – principle.