In Sheffield's steel industry, steam replaced water power only gradually. Some of the cutlery Sheffield is famous for can be seen being manufactured in this image.
Image: Science Museum / SSPL

Destined to be a factory hand?

Did most workers toil in steam-powered factories?

No. Although the use of steam engines grew rapidly, most firms in the mid 1800s were still quite small. Firms employed an average of 50 people, most of whom did not operate machines.

Even in Manchester, with its huge
steam-powered mills, small steam-, wind- and water-powered and unmechanised factories and workshops were still important.