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The Lands, Laws, Stells, Sykes, and Walkers and the Weaving Industry

In addition to the fact that they were related by marriage, the Lands, Laws, Stell, Sykes, and Walkers had another common "thread". They lived in woolen manufacturing centers of the West Riding of Yorkshire and at least one member of each family worked in some capacity in the weaving industry.

Weaving With Wool

All wool is not created or woven equally. Various kinds of sheep are raised for different types and lengths of fibers. These different types of fibers are woven into different types of cloth.

Worsted is made from smooth compactly spun yarn. Long fibered wool is combed and spun using an average to hard twist in the spinning. The fabric is napless and tightly woven. Worsted is used for clothing, like suits.

Woolen is made from fuzzy, loosely spun yarn. Short fibered yarn is carded and spun using an easy twist in the spinning. The fabric is nappy and bulky. Woolen is used for heavy clothing and blankets.

Shoddy is made from a mixture of recycled woolen rags and virgin wool and is treated like woolen. Shoddy was developed in Batley, Yorshire by Benjamin Law circa 1813.

The Sheep and Shearing

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Woolen and worsted are both processed on hand looms from fleece to cloth in roughly the same way. The farmer often washed (or half washed) the sheep before shearing to remove the fatty secretions that protect the sheep but which must be removed to process the wool. At other times the fleece is washed after shearing.
Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Sheep shearing

Posted Burton on Trent 1905

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Sheep shearing

Posted Skeoness Linc. 1909

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck


After the fleece is shorn from the sheep it is sorted by type and length of fiber.

Sorting Wool After Cleaning and Washing Lawrence Mass. USA, date unknown
Slide collection of Maggie Land Blanck

After the wool is soted it is"combed" if it is worsted and "carded" if it is woolen before being spun into yarn. See Combing and Carding below.

Carding - Woolen

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Carding Wool, Old Fort House, Plymouth, Mass. I have not been able to find images of wool carding from England. This reenactment of the old method of carding was the same for both the United States and England at the time.

Combing - Worsted

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

This image entitled "The Combing Work" shows both the washing and combing.

In August 2009 Heather Seddon wrote in regards to item #6:

I think it is for wringing out the wet fleece.

I recently attended a wool combing and worsted spinning workshop run by Jaquie Teal and she showed us some copies of photos from Keighley Museum in which an elderly former woolcomber, John Hansen, was demonstrating the craft for the record. At one point he is using a similar device. But I don't understand how it works. It looks like a mangle but there doesn't seem to be a top roller. In the photo he seemed to be pressing the wool down with his hands.

In November 2009 Jared Fleury suggested that item #6 may be a felter and referred me to Kumanovo

In June 2011 Tony Powell asked in reference to item #6: "Could it be that the fleece was actually wrung out by hooking the two ends, one fixed and the other turned using the handle?"


Spinning on a great wheel.

Image from The Costume of Yorkshire by George Walker, 1814

To see this picture and others from this series in color, go to Life in Yorkshire, now or at the bottom of the page.

The yarn is wound onto bobbins, where it is stored until ready for weaving.


Warp threads are tied onto the loom. They are passed through a reed, which keeps them in order and serves as a beater after the weft or cross thread are passed. After the warp threads are threaded through the reed, they are passed through hettles, which allows the weaver to raise and lower different warp threads. Weft threads are "shot" or "thrown" across the warp threads. The cloth is "beaten", (that is packed towards the already completed part of the cloth), after each shot of weft thread. Alternating weft threads are raised and lowered after each shot of weft thread. When the cloth is finished it is removed from the loom.

Washing of finished cloth

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

This images shows "the washing of the wool and hanging up of Woolen Cloth". In the old process woolen was then "fulled" (a process of shrinking the cloth by applying, dampness, heat and pressure to the cloth). Depending on the part of England where they lived three surnames developed for people who completed this part of the operation: Walker in the north and mid lands, Fuller in the south-east and Tucker in the south-west. Walker developed because the men who fulled the cloth did so in part by walking on it.

After the cloth was fulled it was strung on tenters in the open air to dry and be shaped.

Photo of the tenterhooks at Otterburn Mill in Northumberland, courtesy of Lesley Abernethy December 2011
Photo of the tenterhooks at Otterburn Mill in Northumberland, courtesy of Lesley Abernethy December 2011


Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Next the cloth was "dressed" and "finished". The dressing involved drawing out any loose fibers from the cloth with teasles which also raised the nap. The men on the right in the above images (called "the working of wool") are "dressing" the cloth. The combs in their hands have teasle attached to them. See teasle below.

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Next the nap was cut with shears as closely as possible the surface of the cloth so that the surface appeared smooth. The image of "the Shear -mans work" shows the shears in the upper left and the shearmen below. Cloth drawers (or finishers) inspected the cloth and used a needle to made any necessary repairs to small holes or blemishes in the fabric.

Finally the clothe was pressed and packed for market.

Adding color can take place at any one of three times:

  1. After cleaning but before spinning. This is known as "dyed in the wool" and is generally the most color fast.
  2. After spinning
  3. After the cloth is woven, but before it is fulled

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck, October 2011, donated to Tucker Hall, Exeter, UK

Draperie, Tonture et Apprets des Drapes, date unknown

Tucker Hall

"Tuckers Hall is the home of the Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers & Shearmen and both the Hall and the incorporation have a remarkable story with a glorious and continuous history since 1471."

The Clothier

A "clothier" could be:

  1. One man and his family, who together performed most of the steps of cloth making
  2. A person who employed up to 30 weavers
  3. Something in between

The majority of clothiers were not large manufacturers. They also did a little farming on the side, mainly raising vegetables and crops that did not require a lot of attention. Attached to the clothier's cottage was a piece of land that ranged in sized for one to fifteen acres. The clothier kept some animals; poultry, pigs, a cow or two, a horse and/ or an ass.

As mentioned, carding and spinning were usually done by the small clothier's wife and children. Large clothiers had spinning done outside the shop.

The small clothier, assisted by his son or apprentice, warped the loom and did the weaving. After the cloth was woven it was taken to the fulling mill. When the cloth was dry, the clothier put his cloth on his horse or donkey, or carried the cloth on his own back and brought the cloth to the market towns, where he sold it. There was still work to be done on the cloth after the fulling, but the clothier sold the cloth in the "rough" and left the finishing to the cloth finisher. The major markets for the cloth were in Leeds and Halifax.

Clothmakers on their way to the market.

From The Costume of Yorkshire by George Walker, 1814.

To see this picture and others from this series in color, go to Life in Yorkshire, now or at the bottom of the page.

Cloth finishers were also know as "dressers or croppers". The raised the nap of the cloth with teasel and then cut the nap to a uniform surface using the shears that weighed up to 40 pounds and were four feet long (pictured below hanging on the wall to the left). The croppers were well paid and resisted the attempts of their employers to introduce shearing frames at the beginning of the 19th century (See Luddites below)
Cloth finishers

From The Costume of Yorkshire by George Walker, 1814.

To see this picture and others from this series in color, go to Life in Yorkshire, now or at the bottom of the page.

The Cloth Markets and Cloth Halls

The woollen industry was centered around Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax. The major cloth markets were in Leeds and Halifax.

Daniel Defoe toured England and Wales in 1724-26 and included in his diary a description of the cloth market in Leeds.

"The street is a large, broad, fair and well built street, beginning as I have said at the bridge and ascending gently to the North.

Early in the morning there are tressels placed in two rows in the street, sometimes two rows on a side, but always one row at least; then there are boards laid cross those tressels, so that the boards lie like long counters on either side, for one end of the street to the other.

The clothiers come early in the morning with their cloth; and, as few clothiers bring more than one piece, the market being so frequent, they go the Inns and Public houses with it, and there set it down.

At seven o'clock in the morning, the clothiers being supposed to be all come by that time even in the winter, but the hour is varied as the seasons advance (in the summer earlier, in the depth of winter a little later). I take it, at a medium, and as it was when I was there, at six or seven, I say the market bell rings; it would surprise a stranger to see in haw few minutes, without hurry or noise, and not the least disorder, the whole market is fill'd; all the boards upon the tressels are covered with cloth, close to one another as the pieces can lie long ways by one another, and behind every piece of cloth, the clothier standing to sell it.

This indeed is not so difficult, when we consider that the whole quantity is brought into the market as soon as one piece, because as the clothier stands ready in the inns and shops just behind and that there is a clothier to every piece they have no more to do, but, like a regiment drawn up in line, every one takes up his piece, and had about five steps to march to lay it upon the first row of boards, and perhaps ten to the second row; so that upon the market bell ringing, in half a quarter of and hour the whole market is filled, the rows of boards covered, and the clothier stand ready.

As soon as the bell has done ringing, the merchants and factors, and buyers of all sorts, come down and coming along the spaces between the rows of boards, they walk up the rows, and down as their occasions direct. Some of them have foreign letters of orders, with patterns seal'd on them in rows, in their hands; and with those they match colours, holding them to the clothes as they think they agree to, when they see any clothes to their colours or that suit their occasions, they reach over to the clothier and whisper, and in the fewest words imaginable is stated; one asks, the other bids; and 'tis agree, or not agree, in a moment.

The merchants and buyers generally walk down and up twice on each side of the rows, and in little more than an hour all the business is done; in less than half and hour you will perceive the cloths begin to move off, the clothier taking it up upon his shoulder to carry it to the merchant's house; and by half and hour after eight o'clock the market bell rings again; immediately the buyers disappear, the cloth is all sold, or if here and there a piece happens not to be bought, 'tis carried back into the inn, and in a quarter of an hour, there is not a piece to be seen in the market.

Thus you see ten or twenty thousand pounds value in cloth and sometimes more, bought and sold in little more than an hour.

A Leeds cloth hall
Interior of the Colored Cloth Hall from The Costume of Yorkshire by George Walker, 1814

To see this picture and others from this series in color, go to Life in Yorkshire, now or at the bottom of the page.

Highlights from the History of the Woolen Industry in Yorkshire

Weaving with wool has a long history in England.

  1. The Romans had weaving shops at Winchester where they manufactured clothing for the army.
  2. There are indications that the English were involved in cloth making as early as the reign of the Saxon King, Alfred (871-899)
  3. England had become famous for its cloth before William the Conqueror (1066)
  4. Richard the Lionhearted (1189-1199) decreed that: " woolen cloth, wherever it shall be made, shall be all of one width, viz.:- two ells within the lists, and of the same goodness in the middle as at the edges". Fulling mills had been established in West Yorkshire as early as the 12th Century.
  5. The ancient guilds were dissolved and the workmen dispersed during the troubled times of King John (1199-1216). As a result the trade had pretty much died out. It was revived in part by the arrival of a considerable number of Flemish weavers who settled in Halifax and York in the West Riding at the close of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth century,
    • Up to the time of Edward III (1330) England mainly exported its wool to Flanders and cloth manufacturing was a minor industry.
    • In 1311 the Lord of the Manor owned a fulling mill in Bradford, which was let for one pound a year. By 1342 the mill was leased by a man named Walker whose family were the principle dyers in the area.
    • In 1331 King James granted his protection to John Kemp, a cloth manufacturer, to settle in York.
    • Around the same time Thomas Blanquett (or Blanket) invented, as it were, "the blanket". Not much is known about Thomas Blanquett. However, the manufacture of his invention became one of the staple industries of Heckmondwike in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
  6. In 1475 clothiers in Bradford paid 47 shillings in duties on 125 pieces of cloth of 6 to 7 yards in length.
  7. By the time Henry the VII seized the throne of England in 1485 the exportation of raw wool from England had been replaced by the exportation of woolen cloth.
  8. The trade was dominated in the 16th century by the Yeoman-Clothier.
  9. The woolen trade almost died out during the Civil War (1642-1649) but had recovered by 1750 when cloth making was the staple trade of Bradford, Huddersfield, and Halifax, among other towns.
  10. There was a big increase in the number of Yorkshire weavers between 1770 and 1840.
  11. Woolen weaving was not mechanized successfully until the 1840-50s. Worsted production followed several years later.

For centuries entrepreneurs bought raw fleece and transported it to rural farm families to be spun and woven. In the winter when there was not much work to be done on the farm, the farmer's wife and children carded and spun the yarn and the farmer wove it into cloth. The farmer was paid by the piece. The finished produce was shipped from the ports of Bristol and London to Europe.

By the middle of the 1700s many families in the West Riding were involved in making cloth, either woolen or worsted. By 1773 it is estimated that 3,000 cloths a week were sold in Bradford alone.

Until 1851, 85% of the population of England, lived in communities of fewer than 5,000. Most of the rural and semi rural population was engaged either in the domestic manufacture of textiles or they supplied agricultural, mining, or building needs to the rest of the rural community. In good weather combing and spinning would become social events when young women and children brought their spinning wheels out into the streets and open places and gossiped while going about their work.

Photo collection of Magie Land Blanck

Old Weavers Houses at Bethnal Green circa 1897.

In pre-industrial Yorkshire the weaver's lofts were on the second floor and had large windows to let in the light.

Photo collection of Magie Land Blanck

Heptonstall Weavers Cottages', Yorkshire 1950

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and early 19th century was a British phenomenon. It began in the cotton and iron industry. Until that time, the woolen and worsted industries had been much more important in volume and income than the cotton industry. Cottons were mostly imported from India and were considered cheap fabric. With the advent of the cotton gin (to de-seed cotton more cheaply) and the spinning jenny (to spin more quickly) cotton started to become an important industry in England and in the United States. By 1815 cotton exports from England exceeded woolen exports by three times.

The technical innovations in cotton spinning and weaving combined with the fact that cotton was basically a new industry and consequently unrestrained by tradition, allowed the rapid introduction of power machinery into the cotton industry.

Woolen and worsted manufacturing lagged behind industrialization for at least two reasons:

  1. The resistance of the woolen workers to changes in the way they had worked for centuries
  2. The machines themselves were not as easily adapted to the woolen and worsted industries

Before 1760 England had been a sparsely populated agricultural country. Its population in the middle ages was between 2 and 3 million people. By the early 18th century it had risen to about 5.5 to 6 million . Around the middle of the 18th century the population started to grow more rapidly and continued to grow through the 19th and 20th centuries. The first census in England take in 1801, showed the population at 9 million, by 1831 it was up to 14 million and by the end of the century it was at 32.5 million. There is much debate as to what caused this tremendous increase in population. But it boils down to:

  • A lower rate of infant mortality
  • Larger numbers of people reaching the age of reproduction
  • The age of life expectancy increasing

As the population grew people who had been born in rural areas began to shift towards the towns in the mid-land and the north of England where jobs could be found in the new and quickly growing industries. Towns and cities that had been sparsely populated started to grow very rapidly. Leeds, for example, went from a population of 83,746 in 1821 to a population of 207,165 in 1861.

This increase in population is partly responsible for allowing the industrial revolution to take place, as it initially provided a large work force. Ultimately, as more and more industries became mechanized, however, there was less work in certain industries.

Some of the biggest changes occurred in the textile industry.

In the eighteenth century a revolution in the textile industry was brought about by a series of inventions; firstly that of the "fly shuttle," by John Kay of Bury in 1733, which doubled the productive power of the weaver; secondly the 'spinning jenny," invented by James Hargreaves of Stanhill, Blackburn between 1764 and 1767, by which sixteen or more threads could be spun at once; thirdly, the "water frame," invented or improved by Richard Arkwright in 1769; fourthly the "spinning mule," a combination of the methods of Arkwright and Hargreaves, invented by Samuel Crompton in 1779; and lastly the "power loom" invented by Edmund Cartwright between 1785 and 1792. He also invented two distinct forms of wool-combing machines. These inventions, with the exception of the last two, were first applied to cotton, and not until a generation later to wool.

Yorkshire West Riding By B Hobson, 1921

While the effects of Industrial Revolution were slower to change HOW things were done in the woolen and worsted industry, it did have an almost immediate effect on WHERE things were done. Instead of being spread throughout the entire country, woolen and worsted manufacture became concentrated in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Yorkshire forged ahead in the woolen and worsted manufacturing industry for a variety of reasons:
  1. Machines were developed that facilitated wool combing and spinning and Yorkshire historically had a practical monopoly in combing and spinning.
  2. Woolen and worsted goods from the West Riding were marketed more aggressively and more cheaply
  3. There was a ready supply of local coal to power the factories.

This combination of supply and the cheapness enabled the area to lead the market at home and aboard. Dewsbury and Batley were particularly known for their cheap woolens. This increased production of woolen goods preceded the advent of the factories as the actual place where the weaving of woolens and worsted was carried out. In other words, much of the work was still done at home. As late as 1856 only about one-half of those employed in the woolen industry in the West Riding were employed in factories.

In the West Riding in the mid 1800's it was common for a group of woolen "clothiers" to get together, send the wool to a mill to be cleaned, carded, and spun. The prepared wool was then sent to the weaver's home to be woven. After it was woven on a hand loom at home it was sent back to the mill to be fulled. It was then sold to a merchant who would dye and finish it to be ready for use. Fulling the fabric had been carried out in water powered mills for centuries. Carding and spinning machines were new inventions that greatly increased the productivity of that part of the process.

The adoption of the power loom in woolen manufacturing was very slow. In 1836, Yorkshire had only 688 power looms for woolen weaving. There were four times as many looms for the weaving of worsted. The entire cotton industry had been using power looms almost from it's inception is England.

One of the reasons it was hard to adapt power looms to woolens was the loose spin on the yarn making it liable to break more easily. The weaver had to retie the threads by hand and the power loom could not work any faster than a handloom weaver if the threads broke often. Initially, it was felt that the labor saving aspects of a power loom for woolens was not worth the expense of the new machinery.

However, because the area grew so rapidly in woolen and worsted manufacturing it eventually became the place in which to invest in the new machinery when it was finally make compatible with wool weaving. Although the industrialization of the woolen industry came more slowly than in the cotton industry, and even more slowly than the worsted industry, it did eventually come. When industrialization arrived in Yorkshire there was an additional advantage. Yorkshire had and abundance of both coal and water power which were needed to run the new factories.

The immediate effect of the Industrial Revelation on hand loom weavers were beneficial. Because of the increase output of yarn from the introduction of new spinning machines the weaver had more raw material and was in greater demand to turn it into a finished produce. He could therefore demand a higher wage.

Wages eventually fell because:

  1. The handloom weaver was forced to compete with the increases in the availability of manpower as a result of the increases in the population
  2. The eventually transformation to the use of power looms
  3. The weaver who worked at home had little or no bargaining power when changes were made in wages or the introduction of new machinery

By the 1840s the handloom weaver and the power loom weaver were in competition in the woolen industry. Until that time the two co-existed and the supply of handloom weavers was always in excess of the demand for their labor.

"only in the 1840's in the woolen, industries did the power looms in the factories competed fully and directly with handlooms. Until that time the two existed side by side, with the handloom weaver reduced to being an auxiliary of the factory, but not yet driven out of existence by competition. His role was to take up the slack in bust times, and to bear the first brunt of recession. He also acted as a check on the wages of power loom weavers, most of whom were women. The plight of the weavers was a vivid illustration of how helpless a section of laboring men could be when caught between the relics of the domestic system and the full force of competitive industrial capitalism."

The Common People of Great Britain by J.F.C. Harrison

The occupations of some of the Land/Law ancestors (as indicated in the censuses) show these changes.

By 1841, if not before, William Law was working in the woollen manufacturing trade, first as a spinner in 1841 and by 1851 as a "handloom weaver". In 1861 William Law was a "wool hand loom weaver" and his daughter, Mary Ann was a " wool power loom weaver". By 1891 Ann Sykes Nussey isn't making any differentiation, she is just a "woolen weaver". Given the date, I assume she is working on a power loom.

In 1866 there were 1,000 hand loom weavers in the Heckmondwike district, in 1884 there were 640. Hand loom weaving held its own and survived longer in the carpet trade than in any other branch of the textile industry.

Wool Combing, Before and During the Industrial Revolution

George Stell, born in Keighley in 1752, was a woolcomber from a family of woolcombers. See George Stell.

Wool "combing" is connected to the worsted trade.

Before combing began the wool was washed, oiled and laid out on a bench in "handfuls".

Handcombing is a three step process: feeding, combing and drawing off.

  1. A "pad" comb was fixed to a post at a height convenient to the comber. A handful of raw wool was then "lashed" onto the comb. After the comb had been thus "charged" it was placed in the stove (or comb pot) to be heated. While the comb was heating the comber charged another comb.
  2. When the comb was hot enough it was attached to the post and second comb was used to make the fibers smooth and free of short wool or noil. As with combing a woman's long hair the combing started at the tips and advanced progressively up the length of the tress of wool drawing off the long fibers and aligning them.
  3. The comber then removed the straightened wool, which formed a sliver a few feet long, called a top. The noils were used in the blanket or coarse cloth trade.

In the 18th century the handcombers were an important element in the worsted trade. It appears to have been an occupation that was handed down from father to son and the woolcombers unions were strong. They were well paid and prosperous. In 1747 a handcomber eared from 12 to twenty-one shilling a week, and were among the best paid workers in the trade.

With the advent of the industrial revolution inventors were contiuously trying to come up with a combing machine. Various machines were introduced but none of them were truly successful until about the middle of the 1800s. By the 1840s woolcombing machines had seriously threatened the handcombers existence.

However by 1825 the decay of handcombing was well under way. The introduction of wool combing machinery insured the extinction of the trade.

In 1825 there was a prolonged strike where twenty thousand wool combers and weavers were out of work for 22 weeks. In the end they were compelled to return to work without having met their objective of an increase in wages.

In Bradford in July 1825 the woolcomber's union struck for higher wages. They contended that they were working long hours for insufficient pay. It was stated that the best workers labored from 4 A.M. to 10 P.M. for only 14 to 16 shilling a week. Opponents of the wage increase countered that the wool combing shops did not open until 5 A.M. and were closed at 8 P.M. (A mere 15 hour day!)

"and that even these short hour of labour were lessened by the fact that about an hour elapsed each day before the men commenced work and an hour a day was allowed for meals."
The strike went on for months. It was finally settled in the favor of the employers in October. The handcombers were brought back at the same wages and hours that had brought them to strike.

Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

Unfortunately the quality of this image is not the best. However, several things can be observed in this pre Industrial Revolution combing workshop including the large bales and barrels of raw wool. Almost dead center in the picture a small table contains rolls of the combed wool, called tops. Beneath the table of tops is a charcoal blazier. Additional combs are hanging off the brazier to become warmed. The men are wearing aprons and hats to protect themselves from the debris that falls from the fleece.

In November 2011 Mary Bolton wrote in reference to the heating of the combs:

"I think it might be to soften the lanolin which is on the wool and would be waxy and viscous at room temperature."

Hand combs
Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

A transcription of a letter from Sir Henry Mitchell to the government in 1884 was included in Yorkshire, Scenes, Lore and Legends, by M. Tait, written in 1888. Sir Michell says that in 1839:

"wool was entirely combed by hand, and the work was done to a large extent in the cottages of the workpeople. As charcoal was largely used for heating the combs, the occupation was very detrimental to health and this, combined with bad sanitary conditions, caused the average mortality to be greatly in excess of the present time."

......combing by hand has been entirely abolished for about twenty-five years. Combing machines came into pretty general use from 1848 to 1860, and no hand work is now done.

The History of Wool and Wool Combing James Burnely, 1889

Another set of wool combs and the post hook for hanging the "pad" comb.

The History of Wool and Wool Combing James Burnely, 1889

Hand woolcombers

Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

In this picture of the NOBLE COMB of 1904 one can observe how the Industrial Revolution both speeded up the process and reduced the number of "combers" needed. One young woman had replaced 100 combers of old.

The History of Wool and Wool Combing James Burnely, 1889

General View of The Square Motion Woolcombing Machine

Woolcomber's Health

Extract from Volume II of "The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley and the District within Ten Miles of Leeds" by Edward Parsons (1834) which examines the effect of industrial working conditions on public health.

"Woolcombers work in apartments which, from the fire employed to heat the combs, are kept at the temperature of about 80°. The fires are made of charcoal. A light dust arises from the wool. The lungs suffer so much, that many persons cannot pursue the employ. The men, however, generally appear quite healthy."

St Blaise, patron saint of woolcombers

St Blaise (Blaize) was the patron saint of woolcombers. Processions of woolcombers were held in the West Riding of Yourshire on the Feast of St Blaise, February 3rd.

The following article on St Blaise included a description of the St Blaise festival in Bradford in 1825.


Saint Blase, the patron saint of woolcombers, was Bishop of Sebasta, in Armenia, and suffered martyrdom in the year 316, under the persecution of Licinius, by command of Agricolaus, governor of Cappadflcia, and the Lesser Armenia. Saint Blase's day is the third of February, which has been observed as a festival, in various ways, in different countries. In the holy wars, tile supposed relics of the saint were dispersed over the west, and great veneration excited for his memory.

Malcolm, in his "Anecdotes of London," gives a curious account of a procession of one hundred wool-combers, on March 3rd, 1730, the queen's birth-day. They wore woollen caps and shirts over their clothes, and proceeded to St. James' Palace, where a person on horseback, representing Bishop Blase, carried a woolcomb in one hand, and a prayer-book in the other. This leader addressed the king and queen, who appeared at a window, and thanked his majesty for the encouragement they had received, and entreated his future protection. The following account of the celebration of Blase's day at Bradford on the third inst. is copied from the Leed's Mercury : -

"The Septennial Festival, held in honour of Bishop Blase, and of the invention of wool-combing attributed to that personage, was on Thursday, February 3rd, celebrated at Bradford, in Yorkshire, with great gaiety and rejoicing. We cannot look upon this ceremonial as an unmeaning pageant; but rather feel it to be an interesting commemoration of the origin of that art, to which this country owes its staple manufacture, and a large portion of its wealth. The art of manufacturing wool into cloth is second only in importance to that of husbandry, and the inventor of wool-combing, whoever he may be, deserves to rank next to the inventor of the plough; he would, according to the custom of the ancients, merit at least the station of a demi-god after his death, and, though he has not attained this honour, he, or more probably his fictitious representative, has obtained the honour of being canonized in the grateful remembrance of those who have most profited by his invention. Bishop Blase, whom tradition reputes to have invented the art of combing wool, and thereby preparing it for being wrought into a beautiful and durable manufacture, was the Bishop of Sebasta, in Cappadocia, in the second and third centuries, and was beheaded under Dioclesian, after being whipped, and having his flesh torn with the iron combs of his own invention. His martyrdom has, doubtless, done much to enhance and preserve his fame, for it can scarcely be questioned that the art of wool-combing was known long before his time, though he probably made some improvement in it. His name, however, serves the purpose of commemorating the invention, and he has accordingly received the highest honours from his followers in this useful art.

"There is no place in the kingdom whare the bishop is so splendidly commemorated as at Bradford. This town, which has of late years increased in wealth and population at a rate nearly unparalleled, is the high seat of his pontificate; and, as the combers and manufacturers of long wool are more numerous here than in any other place, they hold it as almost a religious duty to manifest their gratitude and reverence for his memory. Accordingly, in 1818, 1811, and at previous septennial periods, the occasion has been celebrated with great pomp and festivity, each celebration surpassing the preceding ones in numbers and brilliance. The celebration of the last has eclipsed all hitherto seen, and it is most gratifying to know, that this is owing to the high prosperity of the worsted and woollen manufacturers, who are constantly adding fresh streets and suburban villages to the town. As both the masters and workmen in most of the trades immediately connected with the manufacture, join the procession that parades the streets, and dress themselves in ornamental attire, appropriate to the occasion, the pageant is long, lively, and interesting.

"The different trades began to assemble as early as eight o'clock in the morning, but it was near ten o'clock before they were all arranged in marching order in Westgate. The arrangements were actively superintended by Matthew Thompson, Esq. At this hour the morning was brilliantly beautiful: the preceding day and night had been marked by violent storms of wind and rain, which threatened to spoil the out-of-door festivities of Thursday; but in the morning the sky cleared up, and the wind, fresh and keen, blew off the clouds which came from the horizon. As early as seven o'clock strangers poured into Bradford from all the surrounding towns and villages, in such numbers as to line the roads in every direction; and almost all the. Tehicles within twenty miles were in requisition. Though we cannot form a probable conjecture as to the number of persons assembled, owing to their being dispersed through many streets, and never congregated in any one place large enough to allow a view of the whole, yet we understand that Bradford was never before known to be so crowded with strangers. Many thousands of individuals must have come to witness the scene. Fortunately, the weather continued, on the whole, fine throughout the day: a few showers of hail and snow fell at intervals, but produced no injury, and were succeeded by bright sunshine. About ten o'clock the procession was drawn up in the'following order : -

Herald, bearing a Flag

Woolstaplers, on horseback, each horse caparisoned with a Fleece

Worsted Spinners and Manufacturers on horseback, in white stuff waistcoats, with each a sliver over the shoulder, and a white stuff sash; the horses' necks covered with nets made of thick yarn

Merchants on horseback, with coloured sashes

3 Guards

Masters' Colours

3 Guards

Apprentices and Masters' Sons, on horseback, with ornamented caps, scarlet stuffcoats, white stuff waistcoats, and blue pantaloons
Bradford and Keileigh Bands. Mace-bearer, on foot

6 Guards



6 Guards



Princess Medea


Bishop's Chaplain


Shepherd and Shepherdess

Shepherd Swains

Woolsorters, on horseback, with ornamented caps, and various coloured slivers

Comb Makers

Charcoal Burner

Combers' Colours


Woolcombers, with wool wigs, etc


Dyers, with red cockades, blue aprons, and crossed slivers of red and blue

"The following were the numbers of the different bodies, as nearly as we could estimate: - 24 woolstaplers, 33 spinners and manufacturers, 6 merchants, 56 apprentices and masters' sons, 160 woolsorters, 30 comb-makers, 470 woolcombers, and 40 dyers. The king on this occasion was an old man, named William Clough, of Darlington, who has filled the regal station at four previous celebrations. Jason (for the celebrated legend of the Golden Fleece of Colchis is interwoven with the commemoration of the Bishop) was personated by John Smith; and the fair Medea, to whom he was indebted for his spoils, rode by his side. The Bishop was a personage of very becoming gravity, also named John Smith; and we understand that he has enjoyed his pontificate several previous commemorations: his chaplain was James Bcethon. The ornaments of the spinners and manufacturers had a neat and even elegant appearance, from the delicate and glossy whiteness of the finely-combed wool which they wore.

Several appropriate flags were borne in the procession, representing the Bishop, Medea giving the golden fleece to Jason, &c

"When the procession was ready to move, Richard Fawcett, Esq., who was on horseback at the head of the spinners, pronounced, uncovered, and with great animation, the following lines, which it has long been customary to repeat on these occasions, and which, if they have not much poetical elegance, have the merit of expressing true sentiments in simple language: "Hail to the Day, whose kind auspicious rays
Deign'd first to smile on famous Bishop Blase!
To the great author of our Combing Trade,
This day's devoted, and due honour paid;
To him whose fame through Britain's isle resounds,
To him whose goodness to the poor abounds;
Long shall his name in British annals shine,
And grateful ages offer at his shrine!
By this our Trade are thousands daily fed,
By it supplied with means to earn their bread.
In various forms our trade its work imparts,
In different methods, and by different arts,
Preserves from starving indigents distress'd,
As Combers, Spinners, Weavers, and the rest.
We boast no gems, or costly garments vain,
Borrow'd from India, or the coast of Spain;
Our native soil with wool our trade supplies,
While foreign countries envy us the prize.
No foreign broil our common good annoys,
Our country's product all our art employs;
Our fleecy flocks abound in every vale,
Our bleating lambs proclaim the joyful tale.
So let not Spain with us attempt to vie,
Nor India's wealth pretend to soar so high;
Nor Jason pride him in his Colchian spoil,
By hardships gain'd, and enterprising toll,
Since Britons all with ease attain the price,
And every bill resounds with golden cries.
To celebrate our Founder's great renown,
Our Sbepherd and our Shepherdess we crown:
For England's Commerce, and for George's sway,
Each loyal subject give a loud Huzza. Huzza !'

After the procession had finished its destined rounds, the apprentices and masters' sons dined together at the Sun Inn; and the spinners, manufacturers, &c. dined at the Court House. In the large room of the latter place, nearly a hundred gentleman got down to an excellent dinner; Matthew Thompson, Esq. in the chair. The first toast was " the king," which was drank with four times four, and was followed by other loyal and appropriate toasts; nor was the immortal memory of Bishop Blase forgotten. There was a ball in the evening, in which all the ladies appeared in stuff dresses. The day was passed in the utmost harmony.

The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction, Volume 5 By Reuben Percy, John Timbs, 1825
A St Blaise procession was held in Wakefield in 1829.

See Life in Yorkshire for an image of a St Blaize procession.

Slivers were overlapping untwisted strands of combed wool.

Spinning, Before and During the Industrial Revolution

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck

Publication unknown 1888.

This image represents distaff spinning where long fibers such as wool or linen could be spun from a bundle of fibers attached to a long staff. Using a drop spindle the spinner could stand or walk while spinning.

In February 2009 Lee Hutchings an Architectural Historian wrote to point out that the three women represented "three Fates of Greek mythology who controlled the threads of human life, called" Clothos, Lachesis and Atropos". Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured it and Atropos cut it, so choosing the manner and time of each persons death. Lee pointed out two web sites. Moirae and fabulous depiction of the three fates from the fantasy Victoria Castle at Castell Coch, South Wales

See also Castell Coch (Red Castle)

The Bygone Spinning-Girl And The Old-Fashioned Spinning-Wheel

A variety of spinning wheels were developed over the years. Some were specific for the type of yarn being spun. The basic principle, however, is the same.

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck The Graphic February 1 1913 - "In the City of the Sheep: A Town Founded Upon Wool, Scenes in Bradford, Yorkshire's Great Cloth-Making Centre, Which Supplies the World With Worsted Cloth"

Bobbing Wheel 1826
Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

Part of the industrialization of spinning included the process called slubbing which was introduced around 1786 with a machine called the slubbing billy. Slubbing, a step between carding and spinning, was one of the earliest mechanized processes. The slubbing billy took the carded wool (which was in the form of "slivers') gave it slight twist and made it into a continuous yarn which was wound onto bobbins. Robert Walker born 1809 in Morley was a slubber. See Robert Walker

Scribners magazine, 1878, collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Spinning mules.

"The Modern Spinning girl and Her Wonderful Machine"
Print collection Maggie Land Blanck The Graphic February 1 1913 - "In the City of the Sheep: A Town Founded Upon Wool, Scenes in Bradford, Yorkshire's Great Cloth-Making Centre, Which Supplies the World With Worsted Cloth"

The spinning mule at Armley Mills Museum
Referring to the numbers in the photo above this is how the mule worked:
1. Large bobbins containing slivers were placed on the rollers behind the spinning frame.
2. The frame which contains 3. the smaller full bobbins of spun yarn moved on 4. wheels and 5. tracks

The are two frames that move towards each other.

The frame containing the bobbins of spun yarn moved away from the rollers containing the slivers. When the bobbin frames were furthest from the rollers a twist was given to the yarn. As the frames came back to the rollers the newly spun yarn was wound onto the small bobbins on the frame.

Since the threads often broke during the spinning process it was necessary to reconnect them. This was done by a piecer who joined the broken threads by hand. Until child labor reform laws restricted young children from working in the mills, piecers were general children whose hands were small and agile enough to reach in and retie the threads.

Warping and Dressing the Loom, Before and During the Industrial Revolution

Before the Industrial Revolution the weaver probably performed the tasks of preparing the yarn for the loom. This involved measuring out the yarn for the warp (or lengthwise threads) and then drawing each thread of the warp though the heddles of the loom.

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck The Graphic February 1 1913 - "In the City of the Sheep: A Town Founded Upon Wool, Scenes in Bradford, Yorkshire's Great Cloth-Making Centre, Which Supplies the World With Worsted Cloth"

"A Corner of the Warping Shed"


Weaving, Before and During the Industrial Revolution

Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

From Sir Henry Mitchell letter on the Worsted Trade in 1884 transcribed in Yorkshire, Scenes, Lore, and Legends 1888:

"Weaving was also mostly done by hand, and was also carried out in the houses of the operatives. Power looms were then just being introduced, but weaving by hand continued to some extent for about ten years. Now it is almost entirely superseded by power loom.

A hand loom weaver in 1836 seldom produced more than 30 or 40 yards of cloth per week; now a single weaver, minding two looms, will frequently turn out 200 to 250 yards of cloth in the same time."

"Here is shown the interior of an old hand-loom weavers house, at Stanbury, near Haworth; he is sat in the house, and the house "baulks" are filled with old-fashioned pint pots; a bobbin wheel is also in."
Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

Painting by Gilbert Wilkinson

"The engraving shown below represents the old weaver in his camber weaving cotton pieces. He is eighty years of age, and has a ready sale for his goods, his hand-loom, bobbin wheel and his bed are shown."
Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904 &mdash also postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Hand Loom Weaver form unknown 1888 publication
Print collection Maggie Land Blanck

In his letter Mitchell neglected to mention that the power loom weaver was frequently female and young.

William Law was listed as a clothier (weaver) at the birth of his daughters between 1840 and 1849. In the 1851 and 1861 censuses he was listed as a hand loom weaver. In the 1861 census his 15 year old daughter, Mary Ann, was listed as a power loom weaver.

Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong James Parker, 1904

Yorkshire West Riding By B Hobson, 1921

"A Weaver A Work"


Print collection Maggie Land Blanck The Graphic February 1 1913 - "In the City of the Sheep: A Town Founded Upon Wool, Scenes in Bradford, Yorkshire's Great Cloth-Making Centre, Which Supplies the World With Worsted Cloth"

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck


While this is a flax mill and not a woolen mill, the look was similar.

The Large Loom
The Graphic May 26, 1888

Punching Cards for a Jacquard Loom
The Graphic May 26, 1888

Preparation For Weaving On A Jacquard Loom

The Jacquard loom (named for its inventor) used cards as a means of allowing the weaver to make very complicated patterns.

"The first process connected with weaving is to have the design drawn on paper, divided by machine ruling and into squares each square representing one thread in the fabric.

This design is then reproduced, facimile, on a series of cards by means of the punching machine. The cards are then joined together, placed on the loom, threads of yarn put through and knotted and the weaving then commences.

A "doyley", made in Ireland which was presented to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, on the occasion of her Jubilee contained 3,060 warp threads and 4, 012 weft threads. The paper on which the design was drawn was divided into 12,000,000 squares and took the draftsman seven months to complete.

The design used 20,000 cards containing 10.000,000 punched holes which took six months to complete.

The total time tying knots and preparing the loom for weaving took seven months.

Ernest Lippert was an American graduate student at Leeds in the late 1950s when he bough this shuttle.

Woolen Cloth Finishing Before and After The Industrial Revolution


Teasel was introduced to the United States from Europe as a crop to brush the nap on cloth. It now grows wild along many of the highways in the United States and is considered a pest. This photo of teasel was taken at a rest stop along the Ohio turnpike.

Photo collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Woolen cloth was loosely woven. To finish the cloth it was fulled by a process of applying moisture and pressure. After the cloth was fulled it was stretched to dry. Next the cloth was dressed. Teasel, a thistlelike plant, was used to brush the cloth and bring up the nap, which was then cut close to the surface of the cloth. Teasel initially made the transition into industrialization. The earliest napping machines used teasel set in the brushing apparatus. Later machines used little wire hooks. The teasel burr is still considered by some as superior to the wire brush for giving the cloth a better finish.

Industrialization of the Weaving Industry in The Area Around Batley and Birstall Parishes

The first woolen mill in Liversedge was built by Thomas Oakes in 1695.

William Wilcock of Stubley Farm, Heckmondwike, and Israel Rhodes of Liversedge were manufacturing textiles for the "American market" at Miln Brigg Mill in Liversedge in 1770.

William Cartright of Rawfolds Mill between Liversedge and Cleckheaton was the first textile manufacturer in the area to experiment with mechanized cloth finishing. In 1809 he introduced finishing machines that were driven by a water wheel. The results were so satisfactory that he decided to dispense with the hand methods entirely. Cartwright's success caused jealousy and alarm among the neighboring master-finishers and concern among the employees about the future of their jobs. See the Luddites below.

The early mills were powered by water. I do not know if this old mill at Chagford Devonshire was used in connection with the woolen industry. Water mills mills were also used to grind flour.

Stereocard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Water Mill


From an original drawing by
G Cattermole
engraved by AHPayne


Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

The Luddites and Their Opposition to the Industrialization of Woolen Weaving

In the early 1800s the economy in England was bad . Embargoes during the war with Napoleon caused a rise in prices. Unemployment was high.

As a response to the bad economy and because they believed that industrialization was a cause in the rise in unemployment, members of the Luddite movement deliberately smashed machinery in the industrial centers of the East Midland, Lancashire and Yorkshire between 1811 and 1816.

Frank Peel, a local Yorkshire historian, wrote a book about the Luddite movement in Yorkshire. The Rising of the Luddites Chartists and Plug Drawers (forth edition 1895) was originally published in a series of articles in the Heckmondwike Herald and Liversedge Weekly courier between January 25 and August 6, 1787. These articles were first reprinted with some variations as a book in 1880.

Peel says that the long Napoleonic wars in Europe which "ravaged for half a generation" had brought "misery and wretchedness" and "the hard pinch of poverty was now felt in many a dwelling where it had hitherto been a stranger."

One of the new machines that was introduced was the cloth frame (AKA, cropping or shear frame). Cropping was one of the final stages in cloth production. After the cloth had been fulled it was brushed and the nap was cut off with hand held shears. Cropping by hand was a slow and costly method. In addition, it was difficult work and the cropper developed a "hoof" on his right wrist. Apparently a person could by identified as a cropper solely by this "hoof". Peel says it was "very painful for learners to handle the shears until the wrist has become hoofed".

Before the introduction of the cloth frame in local mills, there were numerous small cropping shops in the area. There was plenty of work and a cropper could earn a good wage.

In 1809 William Cartwright, a West Riding cloth manufacturer, introduced cloth frames (driven by water mill power) at his factory in Rawfolds near Cleckheaton. These cloth frame enabled two shears to simultaneously crop two pieces of cloth which had been fixed on shear boards. The man (or boy) in attendance only had to stand and watch until the cut was completed. He then moved the cloth forward and repositioned the shears. The procedure was faster and easier and the job became one of "care and watchfulness" instead of hard labor. The problem, of course, was that one machine could do work that had previously occupied four men. This meant that three men were out of work at a time that the economy was hard hit and when there were no other jobs available.

Prior to the introduction of the cloth frames, most cloth dressing shops were small establishments employing three or four men. Peels says,

"Before the advent of Mr Cartwright's new frames, work was plentiful and the men received good wages, but, as the machinery began to be used, the little masters who adhered to hand cropping found it more and more difficult to carry on business at a profit, the result being that the men gradually lost their employment, and many of the workshops were, after a struggle closed altogether.
Initially, Cartwright's was the only mill in the area to introduce this new machinery, the rest of the mills continued to finish cloth using the old method of hand cropping.

The cloth dressers in the area refused to work with the new machines and showed their animosity by "covertly injuring" the machines when they had the opportunity.

In 1811 there were a series of riots and uprisings in some of the larger commercial centers in the north of England. Peel says that the local croppers

"watched the gradual decay of their industry in sullen despair at first, but the news of the turbulent demonstrations at Nottingham, where the lace makers had risen against a frame of another character which threatened to destroy their trade, had stirred them strongly and the more violent spirits among the local cloth finishers began to urge that similar measures should be taken against the cropping frames introduced by the Yorkshire manufactures."
According to Peel the finishing shop of John Wood at Longroyd Bridge near Huddersfield became the head quarters for the leaders of the Luddite in the West Riding. Most of the Luddite action in the West Riding took place around Huddersfield and much of it was directed toward William Cartwright.

In February 1812 a meeting of cloth finishers from Birstall, Cleckheaton, Gomersal, Heckmondwike, Liversedge and adjacent places, took place at the Shears Inn, Hightown, in Liversedge. The cloth finishers learned that another patch of finishing frames were being sent by wagon to Cartwright's mill. Some men decided to waylay the wagons and destroy the machines. These "Luddites" marched in "armies" carrying guns and ammunition. The guns and ammunition had been obtained in raids of homes in the area. They also carried hatchets which they used to destroy the machinery. According to Peel these bands of men were made up of men from Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Heckmondwike, Mirfield, Halifax, Elland, Brighouse, Morley, Birstall and Gomersal. They waylaid the wagons and smashed the machinery. The military was sent to the district.

Other incidents occurred near Huddersfield in March, 1812 and at Horbury on April 9, 1812.

The Luddite rioters made an historic attack on Cartwright's Rawfolds Mill on Saturday, April 11, 1812 when about fifty masked and armed men attacked the mill at night. All of the widows of the first floor and many on the second floor were broken and some other damage was done to the mill. The Luddites, however, were not able to break into the mill. Cartwright had prepared for the attack by fortifying the mill and retaining several armed men on the premises. Two of the attackers died, and many others were wounded, before they realized the hopelessness of the situation. None of Cartwright's men were injured. This was the first time a mill owner had taken such a stance against the Luddites and it checked the practice of frame breaking for a while.

Some of the Luddites involved in the incident were brought to trial. Several were convicted and hung at York. Cartwright became a hero to the other manufacturers in the West Riding, who presented him with a sword and three thousand pounds. However, the local population ostracized him to the point that he stopped attending church and had the local minister to his house to deliver the Sunday sermons to his family and servants.

Cartwright's story was part of the plot of Charlotte Bronte's novel Shirley. The novel is overly romantic and deals only peripherally with the Luddite movement and the incidents in Huddersfield.

Although there were many cloth finishers and others in the cloth industry who did not participate in the Luddite movement, there were many who sympathized with it and hoped for its success.

The Economy in England 1806-1846

At the time of the Luddite uprisings George III was insane and his son was acting as regent. Napoleon, who had come to power as a reformer after the French Revolution, was at the zenith of his power. England and her allies had declared war on France in 1803 but by 1806 Napoleon controlled all of Europe and England remained alone in the fight against France. The aristocracy in England had undertaken the war with Napoleon in an effort to crush French liberalism and return a king to the thorn in France. Napoleon had issued an economic blockade against English goods. The commercial and manufacturing sectors in England were in a dire financial situation. Defective harvests in England had caused the price of grain to rise. The Corn Laws which had been passed in England in 1436 limited the import of wheat. In the meantime the English government was sending money abroad to support their allies in the war against Napoleon. The poor, without work were parading through the streets

"in gaunt famine stricken crowds, headed by men with bloody loaves mounted on spears crying in plaintive, wailing chorus for bread."
In Nottingham about 15,350 people, about half the population, were at one time or another receiving assistance under the Poor Laws. Things were not so bad in Yorkshire, but there were many people seeking public assistance. Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815. However, the economic situation in England did not improve and things were still bad economically when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837. In 1839 trade was still bad , the cost of bread high, and the working class was in a desperate state, especially in Lancashire and the West Riding.

Wages were low, prices were high and many people in the West Riding were unemployed. In the early 1840s the Chartist began a movement for Parliamentary reform. Riots broke out in Leeds, Wakefield, Dewsbury, and Halifax. Mobs descended on Cleckheaton, Batley, Birstall, Littletown and Heckmondwike. In many places in the West Riding clothing district attempts were made to stop the factories by pulling the "boiler plug" to bring all labor to a standstill. The idea was to show the capitalists how much they depended on the working class. Many local men and women were involved in these riots. However, according to Peel some of the local factory workers defended the mills which employed them.

The abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846 inaugurated an era of cheap bread. Free trade loosened the ties of commerce and working men, now better feed and better clothed, ceased to agitate against the government.

Peel says of the working class before the repeal of the Corn Laws,

"Oatcake was then the "staff of life", and oatmeal porridge an article of constant and universal consumption once a day at least, often twice, and not infrequently three times. Butchers' meat was a luxury in which they could seldom indulge, and then only to a very limited extent. Manufacturers everywhere were availing themselves of the many wonderful inventions that were being brought out for cheapening labour, and as the new machinery threw thousands out of employment when extensively introduced, the poor, misguided wretches, who could not understand how that could be a benefit which deprived them of the means of earning a livelihood and reduced them to beggary, met in secret conclaves, and resolved in their ignorance to destroy them. Had they been better instructed, they would have known that it was their duty to lie down in the nearest ditch and die".

Excerpts From A Letter On the Worsted Trade From Sir Henry Mitchell to the Government in 1884

"Forty years ago the hours of labour in our factories were seventy-two per week, and a very small number of our operatives received any education, except those working half time; now the hours are reduced to fifty-six and a half per week, and all are compelled to go to school until thirteen or fourteen years of age. Although the hours of labour have been so much reduced, there has been no perceptible falling off in the production of goods, as the speed of machinery has been increased, and the hands are able to give more attention to their work and to turn out as much as at any former period. There has also been a marked decrease in mortality of both children and adults....."

"There has been some reduction in wages of mason, carpenters, and builders, and also in the spinning and manufacturing business during the depressed period of 1879 and 1883."

"Every precaution is taken to protect employees form accident by guarding all machinery of a dangerous character, and masters are liable for any damages arising from neglect of these precautions."

"All male householders now possess the franchise, and can vote for both Members of Parliament and municipal offices."

"The chief causes of emigration are the rapid increase of population, the difficulty of finding suitable occupation, and the desire to improve the position in life."

Long, Boring Hours, Low Wages and Indebtedness

In 1867 a high proportion of skilled workers were men who had worked a seven-year indentured apprenticeship. Such men often made or mended their own tools. And drafted their own designs for machinery. Traditional apprenticeship was in decline from the 1870s. At first because journeymen found that they could demand high wages without completing their training, later because the wide spread use of machinery rendered their skills obsolete.

"At first the factory system bore very hardly upon the operatives. Even children of eight and ten years of age were kept at work fourteen to sixteen house a day, and many over-greedy employers adopted the truck system, compelling their employees to purchase the necessaries of life at shops opened by the masters."

Yorkshire Scenes Lore and Legends M Tait, 1888

Between 1870 and 1907 mining, metallurgical industries and heavy engineering outstripped the manufacturing of textiles, which had been the leading sector in the earlier period of industrialization. In many industries personalized skills gave way to electrically powered tools, production lines, machine-minding and semi-skilled employment. In the textile industry there were limited technical innovations after the 1880s. This was also the period of the last of the hand loom weavers.

The Mills

Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Mills at Cleckheaton, circa 19150


Yorkshire West Riding By B Hobson, 1921

Halifax: A factory town

Another downside of the developments of factories was the pollution caused by the fossil fuel.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Whitby "Sunshine and Smoke" posted in 1929

"Regret for sylvan scenes supplanted by smoking chimneys and fouled streams is lost in contemplation of the gain such development produces in strengthening and enriching the nation, and conferring means of comfort upon large masses of its people."

Yorkshire Scenes Lore and Legends M Tait 1888

"Calder means white, now a sad misnomer for passing though the heart of Yorkshire coal fields the stream is fouled almost from its souse by the sewage of many a busy town."

Yorkshire Scenes Lore and Legends M Tait 1888

Print collection of Maggie Land Balnck

Manchester: From Kersal Moor, engraving Edward Goodall (1795-1870) of a Wylde painting commissioned in 1852 by Queen Victoria

Wages in the Cloth Industry in Batley in 1858

Samuel Jubb writing in 1858 about the cloth industry gives the following statistics on employment in Batley:

OccupationNo. of people employed Wage per week
Ragsorters, women5006 s 6 d
Slubbers22030 s
Piecers, machine attendants1486s
Piecers, boys and girls70/1401s to 3 s
Overlookers3035 s
Hand loom weavers126018 s
Power loom weavers5009 s
Drawers7030 s
Robert Walker, who lived in Birstall Parish and died in 1857, had been both a slubber and an overlooker. John Land was one of the 70 drawers listed by Jubb. In 1861 William Law was a hand loom weavers and his daughter, Mary Ann, was a power loom weaver.

The Leeds Industrial Museum is a located in the old Armsley Mill on the outskirts of the city of Leeds. Among other collections, the museum contains textile machinery and explains the story of the woollen industry in the area. To see photos from our visit in 2002 and some addition pictures of weaving in the industrial era go to Armley Mill

To go to the Armley Mill Museum site maintained by the city of Leeds, click HERE

The Dyehouse At Salt's Mill, Saltaire, 1920
Photo collection of Maggie Land Blanck

A weaver loads a pirn of weft thread into a shuttle, 1940s
Photo collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Someone has written on the back in pencil

"Hunslet Mill 1918

Dogsons and Hargreaves Mill Hunslet, near Leeds.

The decorations are because there is going to be some important visitor, perhaps a "royal visit".

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Interior Cotton Mill, Shipley circa 1900. Again the mill room is decorated for some important event.

Photo courtesy Richard Whitehead, August 2011

Dewsbury 1949

Photo courtesy Richard Whitehead, August 2011

Headfield Mill Dewsbury

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Exterior Mather's Mill Halliwell, not posted

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Mill workers, Clampton Bros., Richardshaw Lane, Pudsey

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck The Graphic February 1 1913 - "In the City of the Sheep: A Town Founded Upon Wool, Scenes in Bradford, Yorkshire's Great Cloth-Making Centre, Which Supplies the World With Worsted Cloth"

The Town of Saltaire Leaving The Mills, Which Employ 3,000 Hands

Were the children in this image employed in the mill?

Saltaire Mill still stands. Go to Salts Mill, Saltaire - West Yorkshire for information on the current use of mill.

Photo collection Maggie Land Blanck

Raventhrope mill fire. Fires were a constant danger in the West Riding Mills due to the highly flammable materials which were stored in them.

Charles Street in Ravensthorpe was/is between Mirfield and Dewsbury.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Airedale Mill Fire, Kildwick 31/3/06

Postcard collection Maggie Land Blanck

Reconstruction of This Part of the Gomersal Mills, after fire April 25, 1913 For Messrs, Thomas Burnley and Sons Ltd. (Establisher 1752)

Round about Bradford By William Cudworth, 1876, Google Book

The Burnleys have been in the worsted trade for four generations. As early as 1752 the business was carried on by William Brunley; in 1800 by William Brunely & Sons, and afterwards by James Burnely and his sons Thomas and William. Since the year 1855 the business has been carried on by the firm of Thomas Burnley & sons, the present partners being Thomas and Frank Burnely, by whom the works have been considerably enlarged and completely remodeled. This firm is now the largest ratepayers and employers of labour in the village."

The Burnleys lived in a large mansion, perhaps the grandest in Gomersal, called Pollard Hall on Oxford Road. Much of the original building dates to 1659. The Burnleys originally occupied the hall as tenants. William Burntley moved into the hall in the mid 1700s long before his factory was built. The Burnleys purchased the property in 1843. At the time of the purchase the property included a dyehouse and spinning shop. Some work, such as dyeing and finishing, was done in the hall by the Burnleys and their employees. Spinning and weaving was done the cottages of the local hand spinners and hand loom weavers. The Burnleys built thier first mill at Hill Top in 1850. In 1851 the mill was called Gomersall Mills and Thomas Brunley manufactured cloth, blankets, worsted and yarn.

To see colored copies of the pictures by George Walker (This page also includes more information on the weaving industry.) go to Life in Yorkshire

See also Crime in Yorkshire and Transportation in Yorkshire

With industrialization came the need for greater sources of power which, in turn, spurred on an increase in coal mining . The West Riding was rich in coal fields which helped to fuel the growth of industrialization in the area. For images of the collieries go to Collieries and Coal Mining

If you have any suggestions, corrections, information, copies of documents, or photos that you would like to share with this page, please contact me at maggie@maggieblanck.com

Photos of Batley
Photos of Keighley
Photos of Wakefield
George Stell, Keighley Woolcomber
Benjamin Law, Inventor of Shoddy
Robert Walker, Slubber Overlooker
Land connection pages

Please feel free to link to this web page.

©Maggie Land Blanck - Page created 2004 - Latest update, March 2016