The Cotton Mills of Tampere and Manchester

My travels in Finland took me to Tampere, located 100 miles north east of the capital Helsinki.  It’s Finland’s third largest city and takes just 90 minutes to reach by inter-city train from the capital.  I’d wanted to visit Tampere for sometime because it’s often referred to as the ‘Manchester of Finland’ due to its industrial past as the former centre of the Finnish cotton trade.  Manchester in north western England is a city I know well, it’s not far from where I was born and it’s a place I visit frequently so I was curious to visit Tampere and explore its industrial heritage.

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The former Finlayson Cotton Mill in Tampere, Finland

Standing proudly in the centre of the town, on the banks of the Tammerkoski river, is the former Finlayson cotton mill, the birthplace of industrial Finland.  The mill was established in 1820 by a Scottish engineer called James Finlayson.  He produced woven wool but soon realised that as the Baltic climate was cool and damp, that the conditions would be ideal for cotton spinning as the thread would not snap.  So, in 1829 Finlayson transformed the building into a cotton mill with the company still existing today as a noted Finnish textile manufacturer producing high quality linens, towels and bedding.

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Tammerkoski Rapids, Tampere

Since production ceased in the mill in the 1970’s and industrial use of the buildings ended in the 1990’s the mill has been redeveloped as a monument to Finnish industrial history.  The mill now has protected status and is a cultural centre housing museums, restaurants, bars, a cinema and an art gallery.

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Inside the Finlayson Cultural Centre, Tampere

It’s a similar story over in the village of Styal near Manchester at Quarry Bank Mill which was constructed in 1790 and became the largest cotton spinning mill in the U.K.  Powered by water from the River Bollin, the mill became a complete industrial community with its workers cottages, two chapels, a school, shop, farm and public house.  Gradually, the mill’s fortunes declined due to increased foreign competition and in 1939 Quarry Bank and the Styal Estate were donated to the National Trust as one of the best preserved textile mills of the industrial revolution making it possible to relive the past and experience daily life at the looms.

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Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire, U.K.

Back to Finland, it wasn’t just James Finlayson who thought that it was a good idea to set up a business in Tampere as it is now the second largest economic region in Finland with more than 30,000 companies flourishing in the greater Tampere district.

This doesn’t surprise me as Tampere’s half million inhabitants live on nature’s doorstep, the city being nestled between two scenic lakes.  There are no lengthy commutes or traffic jams to endure, the air is unpolluted, and one can safely cycle into the office on designated pathways, passing lakes and forests on the way.  I can’t think of a more stress free start to a working day, can you?

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Moomin tableware by Arabia, Finland

I will actually be returning to Tampere in early February as a guest of Talent Tampere.  A few weeks ago I was surprised but thrilled to learn that I had won an international blog writing competition and my prize is a visit to explore the international, business and travel sides of the Tampere region.  I’m already excited about my trip especially as it will be my first visit to Finland in mid-winter.  Sitting at home, sipping coffee from my Moomin mug and nibbling biscuits from its matching jar, its hard to believe that I will soon be taking a tour of the enchanting Moomin Museum which is located in the centre of Tampere.  I’m really looking forward to sharing my experiences in a couple of months time – I do hope you will enjoy them too!

You may also be interested in the following related posts:

Talent Tampere welcomes the Love Travelling blog to Tampere

Helsinki and Espoo

Southern Finland

85 thoughts on “The Cotton Mills of Tampere and Manchester

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  10. jasonlikestotravel

    My grandmother was Finnish so I’ve always wanted to visit. I loved reading this and look forward to hearing more about your February visit. Hopefully I’ll make my own trip soon! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. carswithasideofcouscous

    I visited Tampere on business about 25 years ago but business travel being business travel, I only saw the inside of hotels, offices and taxis. Now, thanks to your post, I actually know something about the place! Thank you. Congratulations on your win!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh how interesting this post was, Marion! You’ll soon be getting your wish of traveling here in mid-winter, how exciting! I always think of February as the “worst” winter month: we usually get a week of crazy blizzards in Helsinki. But I have no idea about Tampere, what the winter is like there. I’ve only been there twice, I think: as a teenager to see an ice hockey game and about 5 years ago to see an H.R.Giger exhibition. All I remember is that to my eye, having a large factory downtown isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing and it has always made me wonder if I am the only one who thinks this. All of the people who are from Tampere that I know always seem to love and miss their home town, more so than Helsinkians, in my opinion so it must be a nice place to live. Anyway, I had no idea Mr Finlayson was Scottish!!! Like I said, it was a very interesting post and I’ll be looking forward to more from you! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: The Cotton Mills of Tampere and Manchester — Love Travelling | By the Mighty Mumford

  14. Wow Marion; you absolutely deserve to win the competition – your blog is fabulous and I always love to read it. Sometimes I leave it for a few days as I want to always make sure I can read it when I have time (and just so you know I am sitting here in my room in Zimbabwe reading your current post – off to Victoria Falls today – can’t wait)…so look forward to your next post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh Sue, thank you so much for your inspiring thoughts on my blog. I never expected to win and could hardly believe the email when it arrived, but of course I’m really excited. And what about you, such a superb way to begin your retirement visiting the Victoria Falls. Hope you are taking lots of photos. Have fun, Marion.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I remember visiting Quarry Bank Mill as a child – their apple festival was always a great day out! Interesting that the mill in Tampere has been renovated and given a new lease of life. Congratulations on winning the competition!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. We really liked Tampere when we stayed there last year. Your comparisons with Manchester are interesting (I lived in the Manchester area for 6 months or so back in 1995 and have pretty much forgotten most of what I knew about it) especially from someone who obviously knows the place well. Thanks for that!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Matti for your kind words. It was very unexpected that I won the competition. For one thing, I don’t usually enter competitions and I had almost forgotten about my entry when I received the exciting message informing me that I was the winner. It will be so lovely to visit Tampere in mid-winter, I can’t wait!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your good wishes, I could hardly believe that I was the winner but am excited to be returning to Finland after Christmas. It is pleasing that these iconic cotton mills have new uses, either as cultural centres or as living museums so the heritage isn’t lost.

      Liked by 1 person

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