An Industry In Decline

The Textile Tales project is focussing on the late C20 (specifically early 1980s to early 2000s) when the industry was in decline, and the mergers and takeovers that had happened in the 1960s were starting to unravel.

The demise of textiles has at time been dramatic and the impact on local communities profound.  Textile manufacture in Nottinghamshire alone employed some 43,000 workers before the Great War. Seventy per cent of these were women, two thirds of whom were young and single.  By 1939, numbers had fallen by some 15 per cent. In Leicester, hosiery remained the dominant industry, employing 34,000 of the total 135,000 factory workers.  It continued to maintain its dominance post-war, accounting for roughly 30 per cent of all manufacturing jobs into the 1970s, although total numbers continued to fall. In certain sectors, notably lace, numbers had declined significantly. Nevertheless, across the East Midlands as a whole, during the 1960s the textile industry still accounted for 20 % of the manufacturing workforce, employing some 118,000 workers.  Hosiery, particularly, continued to flourish, making fashionable goods such as casual knitwear, jersey fabrics and seam-free stockings.   Yet by the 1970s textile output began to fall in absolute terms, and companies began to rationalise and shed jobs.

By 1981 the East Midlands textile industry was described in Parliament as being in a ‘catastrophic state’ by Mr Greville Janner.