United Textile Factory Workers' Association

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The United Textile Factory Workers' Association (UTFWA) was a trade union federation in the United Kingdom.


The federation was founded in 1889, to represent the various textile workers' unions in political matters.[1] A successor to the Northern Counties Factory Acts Reform Association, it had a broader outlook, not just campaigning on the implementation and extension of the Factory Acts.[2]

The UTFWA initially represented around 125,000 workers,[3] three-quarters within twenty miles of Bolton in Lancashire.[4] By the early twentieth century, its members were organised in the Amalgamated Association of Card and Blowing Room Operatives, Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton Spinners, Amalgamated Association of Beamers, Twisters and Drawers, Amalgamated Weavers' Association, General Union of Loom Overlookers and Operative Dyers, Bleachers and Finishers Association.[5]

The new federation had a General Council with about two hundred members of local unions, and a Legislative Council of full-time leaders. However, its member unions did not always engage with its structures, and the General Council did not meet between 1896 and 1899.[6]

Early Years[edit]

In its early years, the association attempted to introduce a bill reducing working hours, but dropped the proposal after it was only narrowly passed in a ballot of members. It also hoped to sponsor parliamentary candidates for both the Conservative Party and Liberal Party, but decided not to pursue this following a lack of interest from the Conservatives and opposition from James Mawdsley. However, it did achieve some success in campaigning against Indian tariffs on cotton imports, as the rates were reduced to below those on other materials.[7]

In 1902, breaking with its previous policy, the UTFWA supported David Shackleton's candidature for the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in Clitheroe.[8] He was elected and, the following year, the Association affiliated to the LRC.[1] The Cardroom Workers quit the association a few years later after none of its members were adopted as parliamentary candidates, but rejoined in 1916.[9]

In 1920, some of its member unions moved for the association to extend its remit to industrial matters, but this was not adopted.[10]


The federation was dissolved on 1 December 1975,[11] following the decline of the industry and the merger of many of its largest affiliates into the Amalgamated Textile Workers' Union.[12]


1889: Thomas Birtwistle
1892?: James Mawdsley
1920s: James Bell
1943: Ernest Thornton
1953: Harold Bradley
1958: James Milhench
1968: Joseph Richardson?


1890s: William Mullin
1910s: John Golden[13]
1920s: William Thomasson
1935: Archibald C. C. Robertson
1953: William Roberts
1960s: James Browning


  1. ^ a b D. A. Farnie, Region and Strategy in Britain and Japan, p.117
  2. ^ Andrew Bullen, The Lancashire Weavers Union, p.22
  3. ^ Teun Hoefnagel, Tussen traditie en emancipatie, p.328 (Dutch)
  4. ^ P. F. Clarke, Lancashire and the New Liberalism, p.84
  5. ^ P. F. Clarke, Lancashire and the New Liberalism, p.93
  6. ^ David Howell, British Workers and the Independent Labour Party, 1888-1906, pp.58-59
  7. ^ P. F. Clarke, Lancashire and the New Liberalism, pp.84-88
  8. ^ P. F. Clarke, Lancashire and the New Liberalism, pp.91-92
  9. ^ Joseph L. White, The Limits of Trade Union Militancy: The Lancashire Textile Workers, 1910-1914, pp.151-152
  10. ^ H. A. Clegg et al, A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889: 1911-1933, p.305
  11. ^ Report of Annual Trades Union Congress, vol.108, p.379
  12. ^ "Amalgamated Textile Workers' Union", Archives Hub
  13. ^ Children in the Textile Industry John Golden Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 35, Supplement. Child Employing Industries (Mar., 1910), pp. 42–46 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. in association with the American Academy of Political and Social Science Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1011391