Armley Mills, once the largest textile mill in the world, now houses the relics of Leeds' industrial past. The mill itself and the district of Armley grew out of the Industrial Revolution and was once home to much of the Leeds textile industry. As recent as the 1970s a large proportion of Armley’s population was employed in textiles.
The mills and factories that once defined the area are virtually gone now, as cloth manufacturing has moved away. Our clothes and textiles are mostly imported from China and India, and local manufacturing is unable to compete with import prices.
All of these hands belong to women who worked for almost their entire lives in the mills and factories of Armley and the local textile industry. These women – mostly in their 80s, the oldest 94 years old – started their careers when leaving school at 14, nimble fingers and small hands being perfect for the fine detail work they were to learn. All of these hands were kept busy here in Armley as their role as worker expanded into wife, mother and carer.
Now they meet weekly at Armley Helping Hands, the local organization that supports the elderly, knitting, playing bingo, eating lunch. These hands belong to Ethyl, Annie, Evelyn, Mary, Joyce, Lily, Sylvia, Betty, Edna, Joyce, Audrey, Dorothy and Mildred.