excerpt | history of irish linen part iii
cotton, the principal textile in the british isles, was supplanted in ulster by linen, early in the last century, as a result of inventions which allowed wet spinning of fine linen yarns and powerloom weaving.
a catalyst to the introduction of these new processes was the accidental burning down of the mulholland brothers cotton weaving factory in belfast in the 1820s.
In rebuilding, they decided to make the switch to linen and such was their success tha tmany other manufacturers followed suit. this led to the growth of a huge number of linen spinning mills in and around belfast.
the temporary unavailability of cotton, during the american civil war, led to a big demand for linen in the 1850s and 1860s, which was to persist. the number of mills in belfast grew from one in 1831 to thirty two in 1861. this was mirrored in other towns such as lisburn, banbridge and lurgan, and mill villages such as waringstown, bessbrook and sion mills.
... to be cont.
colins, p. (1994) history of irish linen