The demand for machinery and equipment produced by the textile
industry created opportunities for engineers in Leeds. One of the
first was Matthew Murray, who after helping John Marshall introduce
machinery into the flax spinning industry, was a leading figure
in establishing the company of Fenton, Murray and Wood at the Round
Foundry in 1795.
Here they produced textile machinery, steam engines and locomotives,
including the world's first commercially successful steam locomotive
which came into service in 1812 for the nearby Middleton Colliery.
During the nineteenth century many small, and some giant,
engineering companies grew in Leeds, exporting locomotives, cranes,
traction engines and other heavy engineering products around the
nation and around the globe.
By 1861 engineering was the second largest employer in
the city and by 1900 the biggest, employing 20% of the male workforce.
The firm of Boulton and Watt in Birmingham were so alarmed by Matthew
Murray establishing a works in Leeds that they bought adjoining
property in an effort to prevent the company expanding, they also
engaged in blatant spying or, as it is now known, industrial espionage.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the woollen industry
in Leeds declined in the face of competition from other growing
towns like Bradford. Another textile related industry appeared to
take its place, often in the mills abandoned by the woollen manufacturers
- ready made clothing. The inspiration behind this new industry
came from John Barran. Barran came up with the revolutionary idea
of off the peg, ready-made clothing.
In the 1850s Barran applied new technology to the industry introducing
Singer sewing machines and, more innovatively, a new type of band
knife made by Leeds engineers, Greenwood and Batley. The industry
flourished in Leeds with a number of companies involved who later
became household names, such as Burtons and Hepworths.
The big clothing factories were supplemented by large numbers of
sweatshops where Jewish immigrants, driven from Russia and Poland
after 1881, provided a cheap workforce. The importance of the industry
can be gauged from the fact that by 1911 a quarter of women workers
in Leeds were employed in the clothing industry.