William Blake’s poem that questions whether there is any truth to the legends that Jesus Christ once came to England refers to England’s dark Satanic mills, and though there are conflicting interpretations, many take the literal option that this refers to the fruits of the industrial revolution.
Bradford was a fertile ground for the mills to take root, being ideally situated to access stone to build the mills, coal to power them, and the soft water of the Pennines to wash and dye the textiles produced there. There were over 50 built here.
The mills needed a workforce, and in the first half of the 19th Century the town’s population is said to have grown from 6000 to over 100,000 with a reliance on immigrants that continued for another century after that. The work was hard, the hours were long and the environment was hazardous. Children as young as five worked alongside the adults.
Home was no refuge. Without housing regulations many lived in unsanitary slums. Whole families might share a damp cellar room. An epidemic of cholera claimed over four hundred lives. Dark and Satanic? It’s easy to reach that conclusion.