Steam engines allowed manufacturing to concentrate in towns like this, where they could benefit from local labour, transport links and support from engineers and millwrights.
Image: Science Museum/SSPL

The rise of the industrial town

The factory system, often powered by steam, helped create new urban communities. Factories gave rise to townscapes packed with houses, shops and services for their workers.

Manchester, centre of the cotton industry, symbolised the new industrial towns. Described as 'Cottonopolis', the problems it faced mirrored those in cities across the UK.

What were living conditions like for cotton workers?