In the 18th and early part of the 19th century Penrith manufactured checks, linen cloth and ginghams, but the introduction of machinery put an end to this industry, only the making of rag carpets surviving.
The prominence of the township as a manufacturing centre is due to Erastus Brigham Bigelow (1814-1879), one of the incorporators of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who devised power-looms for the weaving of a variety of figured fabrics, - coach-lace, counterpanes, ginghams, silkbrocatel, tapestry carpeting, ingrain and Brussels carpets, - and revolutionized their manufacture.
Bigelow established in Clinton the Lancaster Mills for the manufacture of ginghams. From 1845 to 1851 he perfected his loom for the weaving of Brussels and Wilton carpets, the greatest of his inventions; and he established the Bigelow Carpet Mills here.
Coarse fabrics chiefly are manufactured, but the product also comprises percales, fine calicoes, ginghams, shirtings, towelings, sheetings and other kinds of goods.
Formerly Ulverston had a considerable trade in linens, checks and ginghams, but it is now dependent on large iron and steel works, chemical works, breweries, tan-yards, and hardware, paper, and wooden hoop manufactories.
The leading manufactures are ginghams, tweeds and shirtings, and the town is also an important agricultural centre, stock sales taking place at regular intervals and cattle and horse fairs being held every year.
The ancient industry was woollen, but soon after the invention of the spinning frame the cotton trade was introduced, and as early as 1769 the weaving of ginghams, nankeens and calicoes was carried on, and the weaving of cotton yarn by machinery soon became the staple industry.