Finland urbanised and industrialised slowly. In 1820 Tampere was a tiny inland town in the Autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. Although Finland was a latecomer to industrialisation, Tampere took the path of many other small towns in Europe. It grew around a relatively fast-growing cotton mill with the help of foreign, mainly British know-how. In this article I give an analysis of the policies and networks that made Finnish industrialisation possible from 1820 onwards, and of the roles the British industrialists, technicians and cotton industry specialists played in this process.