Here at Selvedge we have Vincent McKernan’s fabulous book The Story of Cotton to give away to three lucky readers during the release of issue 76, the Trade Winds issue, out now. To enter the competition, just follow the link at the end of this page. In the meantime, we’ve published an exclusive excerpt from our current issue’s in-depth feature, Cotton Tail, exploring the effects that Savannah’s cotton had on the architecture surrounding the Leeds and Liverpool canal…

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Liverpool was cotton’s first point of contact after travelling across the Atlantic from Savannah. Many of the towns in Lancashire had the Liverpool-Leeds canal to thank for their growing economies during the 18th and 19th centuries, as more and more cotton was being imported from America (with a decline during the American War of Independence). Construction on the canal started in the 1700s and took over 40 years to complete, resulting in architecture designed specifically to the needs of cotton traders and mill owners along the canal banks.


During its construction in the 1760s, weavers needed space to work on their handlooms at home. Until then, single-storey homes were a common sight and to allow space for workshops, two-storey houses began populating the landscape. Weavers needed good light for their intricate work, so walls were lime-washed and painted white to help keep the rooms bright. So much limestone was used for this that many lime kilns were also built along the canal’s path.

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Towards the 18th century the handloom became a household staple, influencing house design along the canal. In Blackburn, many handlooms were kept in basements with long rows of windows that stretched the full length of the buildings to help trap the light, while a separate stairway and door lead the way to the living quarters. Many of these houses remain in Lancashire today with thanks to cotton’s arrival at the port of Liverpool.

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To be in with a chance to win this beautiful book, click here. For more information on this book, go to Third Millennium Publishing:

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  • Zann Liljegren on

    So amazing the link between the US and Europe even back then. This also means that England was very much a player in the slave trade which is something I never thought of before. As a US citizen, I am astonished by how our nations are linked at the macro and micro levels.

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