From the 1780s onwards Britain was transformed by the industrial revolution. Until then most people lived in the countryside and made their living from farming. By the 1880's most people in Britain lived in towns and made their living from mining or manufacturing industries.
Mills began to spring up across Rochdale and the town became one of the most productive cotton spinning mill towns in the world.
Owning land was the main form of wealth in the 18th century. Political power and influence was in the hands of rich landowners. However other middle class people such as merchants and professional men became richer and more numerous, especially in the towns.
During the 18th century agriculture was gradually transformed by an agricultural revolution. Until then most land was divided into 3 fields. Each year 2 fields were sown with crops while the third was left fallow (unused). During the 18th century land was enclosed and it was divided up so each farmer had all his land in one place instead of scattered across 3 fields. Enclosure allowed farmers to use their land more efficiently.