Timeline of the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution took place between the eighteenth century and the mid-nineteenth century, and changed the landscape and infrastructure of Britain forever…

The Industrial Revolution took place from the eighteenth century up until the mid-nineteenth century, marking a process of increased manufacturing and production which boosted industry and encouraged new inventions ad innovations.

East India CompanyHeadquarters of the East India Company, London, 1828

1600- The formation of the East India Company. The joint-stock company would later play a vital role in maintaining a trade monopoly that helped increase demand, production and profit. The company helped Britain compete with its European neighbours and grow in economic and trading strength.

1709- Abraham Darby leases the furnace which he successfully uses for the first time. Darby was able to sell 81 tons of iron goods that year. He would become a crucial figure in industry, discovering a method of producing pig iron fuelled by coke rather than charcoal.

1712- Thomas Newcomen invents the first steam engine.

Newcomen engine

1719- The silk factory is started by John Lombe. Located in Derbyshire, Lombe’s Mill opens as a silk throwing mill, the first successful one of its kind in England.

1733- The simple weaving machine is invented by John Kay known as the Flying Shuttle. The new invention allowed for automatic machine looms which could weave wider fabrics and speed up the manufacturing process.

1750- Cotton cloths were being produced using the raw cotton imported from overseas. Cotton exports would help make Britain a commercial success.

1761- The Bridgewater Canal opens, the first of its kind in Britain. It was named after Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater who commissioned it in order to transport the coal from his mines in Worsley.

1764- The invention of the Spinning Jenny by James Hargreaves in Lancashire. The idea consisted of a metal frame with eight wooden spindles. The invention allowed the workers to produce cloth much quicker thus increasing productivity and paving the way for further mechanisation.

1764- Scottish inventor James Watt is commissioned to carry out repairs to a Thomas Newcomen steam engine and quickly recognises ways that it can be modified to operate much more efficiently. By changing the way the cylinder was heated and cooled the amount of coal used in heating the water to produce the steam could be reduced by more than 60%.

1769- James Watt was granted his first British patent (No. 913) for the unique design of his new steam engine. To quantify the enormous power of his new engines, James Watt also invented a new unit of measurement: The Horsepower. James Watt’s steam engines would literally set the world in motion… through the introduction of steam powered railway locomotives and steam ships… transportation would be completely revolutionised. His steam engines would also go on to power the new mills that were starting to appear in the Industrial North.

1769- The yarn produced by the new Spinning Jenny was not particularly strong but this soon changed when Richard Arkwright invented the water frame which could attach the spinning machine to a water wheel.

1774- The English inventor Samuel Crompton invented the Spinning Mule which would combine the processes of spinning and weaving into one machine, thus revolutionising the industry.

1779- The inventor Richard Arkwright became an entrepreneur and opened a cotton spinning mill using his invention of the water frame. In the same year, on the 9th October a group of English textile workers in Manchester rebelled against the introduction of machinery which threatened their skilled craft. This was one of the initial riots that would occur under the Luddite movement.

1784- The ironmaster, Henry Cort came up with the idea for a puddling furnace in order to make iron. This involved making bar iron with a reverberating furnace stirred with rods. His invention proved successful for iron refining techniques.

1785- The power loom was invented, designed the previous year by Edmund Cartwright, who subsequently patented the mechanised loom which used water to increase the productivity of the weaving process. His ideas would be shaped and developed throughout the years in order to create an automatic loom for the textile industry.

1790- Edmund Cartwright produced another invention called a wool combing machine. He patented the invention which arranged the fibres of wool.

1799- The Combination Act received royal assent in July, preventing workers in England collectively bargaining in groups or through unions for better pay and improved working conditions.

1800- Around 10 million tons of coal had been mined in Britain.

Trevithick locomotiveThe Trevithick locomotive

1801- Richard Trevithick, a mining engineer and inventor drove a steam powered locomotive down the streets of Camborne in Cornwall. He was a pioneer of steam-powered transport and built the first working railway locomotive.

1803- Cotton becomes Britain’s biggest export, overtaking wool.

1804- The first locomotive railway journey took place in February, the Trevithick invention successfully hauled a train along a tramway in Merthyr Tydfil.

1811- The first large-scale Luddite riot took place in Arnold, Nottingham resulting in the destruction of machinery.


1812- In response to the riots, Parliament passed a law making the destruction of industrial machines punishable by death.

1813- In a one day trial, fourteen Luddites were hanged in Manchester.

1815- Cornish chemist Sir Humphrey Davy and English engineer George Stephenson both invented safety lamps for miners.

1816- The engineer George Stephenson patented the steam engine locomotive which would earn him the title of “Father of the Railways”.

1824- The repeal of the Combination Act which was believed to have caused irritation, discontent and gave rise to violence.

1825: The first passenger railway opens with Locomotion No.1 carrying passengers on a public line.

1830- George Stephenson created the first public inter-city rail line in the world connecting the great northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool. The industrial powerhouse and landlocked city of Manchester could now quickly access the world through the Port Of Liverpool. Cotton arriving from plantations in America would supply the textile mills of Manchester and Lancashire, with the finished cloth returned to Liverpool and exported throughout the British Empire.

1833- The Factory Act is passed to protect children under the age of nine from working in the textile industry. Children aged thirteen and over could not work longer than sixty nine hours a week.

1834 – The Poor Law was passed in order to create workhouses for the destitute.

1839- James Nasmyth invents the steam hammer, built to meet the need for shaping large iron and steel components.

1842- A law applied to miners, banning children under the age of ten as well as women from working underground.

1844- The law states children younger than eight are banned from working. In the same year Friedrich Engels publishes his observations of the impact of the industrial revolution in “The Condition of the Working Class in England”.

1847- New law stating limited working hours of women and children in textile factories to ten hours a day.

Manchester - 'Cottonopolis' - in 1840
Manchester – ‘Cottonopolis’ – in 1840

1848- The impact of industrialisation and creation of cities leads to a cholera epidemic across towns in Britain.

1850- With just 2 per cent of the world’s population Britain produces around half of the world’s manufactured goods.

1851-Rural to urban migration results in over half the population of Britain now residing in towns.

1852- The British shipbuilding company Palmer Brothers & Co opens in Jarrow. The same year, the first iron screw collier, the John Bowes is launched.

1860- The first iron warship, HMS Warrior is launched.

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior, now a museum ship in Portsmouth

1861-62- With a lack of raw materials due to the American Civil War, mill closures and mass unemployment results in the Great Lancashire Cotton Famine.

1867- The Factory Act is extended to include all workplaces employing more than fifty workers.

1868- The TUC (Trade Unions Congress) is formed.

1870- Forster’s Education Act which takes the first tentative steps at enforcing compulsory education.

1875- New law prohibited boys from climbing chimneys to clean them.

1912- The industry of Great Britain reaches its peak, with the textile industry producing around 8 billion yards of cloth.

1914- World War One changes the industrial heartlands, with foreign markets setting up their own manufacturing industries. The golden age of British industry has come to an end.

The sequence of events placed Britain as a major player on the global stage of trade and manufacturing, allowing it to become a leading commercial nation as well as marking a huge turning point in Britain’s social and economic history.

Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.

Published: 28th February 2019.


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