The Age of Steam
The steam engine, as adapted by James Watt to power machinery in 1782, brought an end to the factory village phase of the Industrial Revolution. Steam engines proved much more reliable than water wheels although they were more costly to install and run. What they needed was a good supply of cheap coal. This was made possible by the canal system. Pioneered in 1761 by James Brindley and the Duke of Bridgewater between the Duke’s mines at Worsley and the centre of Manchester, canals between towns in the Manchester area were dug in the 1790s, and east Lancashire towns received the benefit of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in 1816.
Matthew Boulton the ironfounder and his partner James Watt held exclusive rights over their steam engine patent until 1800. Between 1785 and 1800 the Birmingham firm supplied 82 steam engines to the cotton trade, totalling 1,473 horsepower. Other firms soon began imitating them, even before their patent ran out. Nevertheless, the main investment in steam engines, as in power looms, took place after 181. The number of cotton factories in Lancashire grew from 344 in 1819 to 1,815 in 1839. By this time the typical mill was the ‘double’ mill in which both spinning and weaving were carried on under one roof, so different from the days of Samuel Greg. The consumption of raw cotton grew from 7 million pounds (3,175,200 kg) weight in 1780 to 52 million (21,587,200 kg) in 1800. By 1831 it was 266 million (120,657,600 kg) and by 1854, 764 million (346,550,400 kg). The export value of cotton cloth increased from £355,060 in 1780 to over £35 million by 1830
The population leaped ahead, too. That of the county of Lancaster more than tripled between 1780 and 1830; in 1821 it had topped one million; by 1851 it was over two million; by 1881 it was more than three million. Much of the growth before 1800 had been of small communities but, as steam replaced water and muscle power, it was the growth of towns which was the most striking.
Towns were transformed. Liverpool and Manchester became the twin giants of the age. Each had a population of about 20,000 in 1760. By 1830 Liverpool’s population was approaching 200,000 while Manchester and Salford between them were well over that figure. Other towns in the Manchester area and in east Lancashire also grew rapidly. The character of towns seemed to change with their growth. Preston, which Defoe had described in 1 725 as a fine town uncharacterized by industry, full of lawyers, had ‘no fewer than forty factories’ by 1825. In Blackburn, where there was only half the number of factories of Preston, an inhabitant complained that ‘although once very eminent for the wealth and respectability of its traders’, these had mostly gone elsewhere, and the town had become ‘almost wholly confined to the manufacturing of calicoes’. Certainly the social imbalance between rich and poor seemed greater with the increasing polarization of employer and employee, but the fine houses of Avenham in Preston and of Richmond Terrace in Blackburn gave the lie to the notion that early nineteenth-century mill towns were only occupied by the working class.
Our knowledge of the life of the cotton towns is enhanced by the observations of middle-class intellectuals like Mrs Gaskell and Friedrich Engels who lived in them, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Engels’s work captures something of the desperation of life at the bottom of Manchester society, in the squalor of Ancoats or ‘little Ireland’. Mrs Gaskell, who lived in Manchester for longer and who accepted the prevailing liberal ethic of its leaders, provides us with a more complete picture.
Born in Chelsea and brought up in Knutsford, Manchester was a shock to Elizabeth Gaskell, when she came to 14. Dover Street as the wife of the assistant Unitarian minister in 1832. The sheer size of the place was impressive – not so much in its physical area, but in the teeming numbers of people crammed into the courts and alleys which led off the main streets and surrounded the mills. In the heart of the town Mrs Gaskell felt far from the countryside in spirit, even though the distance in miles was not great. It was the noise and bustle that struck her, just as Margaret in North and South was amazed how: ‘every van, every waggon and truck, bore cotton, either in the raw shape in bags, or the woven shape in bales of calico’. Manchester had become the capital of the cotton cloth trade by the 1780s. In Mrs Gaskell’s time it was one of the chief commercial centres of the world. Manufacturing caused heavy pollution of the atmosphere. Like London, Manchester quickly acquired a reputation for ‘thick yellow’ November fogs which seemed to enter everything and shut out all other life. Washing was a full-time occupation. As Mrs Hale complained to the mill-owner, Mr Thornton in North and South: ‘I only know it is impossible to keep the muslin blinds clean here above a week together . . . . And as for hands – Margaret, how many times did you say you had washed your hands this morning before twelve o’clock? Three times, was it not?’ The Hales were lucky to have water to wash with. Most Mancunians were too busy to spare time for washing more than once a day, and then only perhaps face and hands. Water was only laid on to wealthier homes; everyone else had to fetch from the pump or buy from the water-carrier.
Yet in many ways Mrs Gaskell loved what she called ‘dear old dull ugly smoky grim grey Manchester’. She saw its advantages to the people. The bustle and speed of town life prevented the ‘stagnant habits’ of country people. There was an independence about the working Mancunian which was denied to rural labourers or workers in a mill village. Wages were steady in rural areas, but at ‘starvation’ level, whereas in Manchester and the cotton towns, workers were better paid. Families employed in cotton manufacture could afford butcher’s meat on Sundays ‘in the good time’ and could afford to furnish their homes decently, with money even for a clock and a few ornaments. Alternatively something could be spared for the sick club or burial society and for the children’s education at Sunday school.
It was undoubtedly a hard life when the mills were shut down by depression, as happened too often in the years 183 7-48. Slack trade caused bankruptcy among mill-owners and tradesmen and unemployment among factory workers and labourers. In such times the potential grimness of Manchester life became reality. No money for coal meant cellar and court dwellers suffered the full consequences of their damp and unwholesome environment. Furniture and even clothes went to the pawnshop. Poverty might necessitate a ‘flit’ to some cheaper accommodation in a more crowded and desperate part of town. The only food that could be afforded at such times was a slice of bread and cheese and a little old tea. In such reduced circumstances young children died of ‘famine’ fever (typhus), while elder brothers and sisters were sucked into the twilight world of pickpockets and prostitutes. Parents became sullen and listless. Workers’ clubs and unions ran out of money too and strikes were of little help. All that could be hoped for was an improvement in trade.
Engels described the casual labourers of Ancoats ; Mrs Gaskell the cotton workers in prosperity and poverty. Life could be equally hard for even those on the fringes of ‘respectable’ employment. The days of clerks and shopworkers were as long and arduous in many respects as those of the manual workers. Keen competition between shops in the same town meant that they remained open for very long hours. Not all an assistant’s time, however, was spent behind the counter. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the retailer became largely concerned with the sale of prepackaged goods. Before then there was much preparation to be done by assistants and apprentices behind, above, or even underneath the shop.
A vivid account of such work was given by Edward Frankland, apprentice to a Lancaster chemist and grocer in the 1840s. His day began at 5.45 am (an hour later in winter), when he had to open up the shop. As junior apprentice he spent most of the day down in the cellar pounding drugs with a twenty-pound pestle. When pounding certain drugs he had to wear a linen bag over his head to protect himself from poisonous dust. Thisbag had to be taken off from time to time to prevent suffocation, but if he stopped pounding for long the chemist came clattering down the steps to find out why he was not working. Frankland had an hour for dinner, except on Saturdays when the shop was so busy that dinner was brought in by the chemist’s wife. The shop did not close until 8.30 pm -.an hour later on Saturdays. Many shops opened on Sundays as well. Later in his apprenticeship Frankland was given a week’s holiday each year and promoted to pulling teeth. Later still he became Professor of Chemistry at Manchester and then London, but the memory of his early days in the chemist’s shop haunted his dreams two or three times a week for the rest of his life.
Town life in Lancashire in the Industrial Revolution was not all drudgery. Somehow – often late on Saturday evenings – the townspeople found time to enjoy themselves. The calendar was full of local fairs for cattle, sheep, horses, cheese and pedlary, some of which have survived into the twentieth century. These, like Manchester’s Knott Mill fair, attracted large crowds. Apart from the large range of goods for sale, there were travelling circuses – with wild animals and ‘marvels’ such as children with two heads – and traditional sports such as the baiting of bears, badgers and bulls, clog and cockfighting and pugilism. Many such sports were brutal to our way of thinking, but the keen appetite for horror was also reflected in the lurid newspaper descriptions of the victims of fires and unfenced factory machinery. A crowd of 8,000 turned out, in 1857, to watch one of the last public hangings in Lancaster, and was very disappointed when the burial was delayed until late at night.
A new moral climate, however, was gradually emerging in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Evangelical Revival gave additional support to the demands of the propertied classes for a stronger moral discipline in a society undergoing rapid social change without an adequate police force. Acts of Parliament in the 1830s prohibited traditional sports such as cock-fighting and bear-baiting, at the same time as the New Poor Law was introduced and a more efficient police force was provided. Horse-racing and fairs ceased to be patronized by the ‘respectable’ classes, and were terminated by the magistrates because of their association with brawling, drunkenness and crime. Fairs continued longer in rural areas where they were justified by the shortage of shops. Banned sports such as cock-fighting lingered on in secret, and pitch and toss players – mainly teenage boys – were frequently dragged before the police courts.
Traditional festivities, such as rush-bearing, also came under suspicion for the drinking and ‘bloody noses’ which accompanied them. The original purpose of rush-bearing – to provide a warm, dry floor covering in church – was no longer valid as churches were restored and refloored. However, the competition between small communities in decorating rush-carts, flying banners and organizing morris.dancers and ‘bands of music’ was such a colourful exercise, that it was hardly in decline before there were attempts at revival by folklorists and others. Hence in 1868 the lord of the manor of Rochdale tried to revive the tradition there by offering a prize of 10 guineas for the best rush-cart. His efforts were only temporarily successful. May Day survived better in many places, with may-poles, the dressing of horses and carts, may songs, and a may queen.
On the whole such communal rejoicings, especially in the bigger towns, were replaced by recreation along class lines. The more prosperous, along with the more earnest, turned to literary, scientific and artistic pursuits in the form of lectures at the Mechanics Institutes and kindred institutions. Shorter hours and free Saturday afternoons from the 1850s and 1860s – at least for mill workers – enabled teenagers and adults who had never been to day school to acquire a degree of literacy and perhaps some rudimentary technical knowledge. The huge expansion of the local newspaper press is one sign of their success. The less prosperous and less earnest turned to the bright lights of the beerhouse ‘free and easy’ and later the music hall. The coming of the railways offered opportunities for day excursions, for temperance and Sunday School treats and works outings. The greater popularity of public houses than churches or chapels at Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe became the subject for many a moral diatribe. Running races for prizes, such as a shoulder of mutton, were popular with men and boys alike. Pigeon-fancying, horse-racing and dog-racing continued to be favourites. Meanwhile, cricket and rowing grew in popularity with the middle classes, and at Lancaster there was an exclusive archery club called John o’ Gaunt’s Bowmen.
The Industrial Revolution created great wealth in Lancashire. This wealth may be seen partly in the vast increase of population and partly, in the rapid growth of every type of industry. In terms of income there was great inequality. It was apparent to all in the differing lifestyles of factory owners and managers and their employees. In 1818 one journeyman cotton spinner indignantly described the employers as a set of men who made up for their lack of education – with ‘a display of elegant mansions, equipage, liveries, parks, hunters, hounds etc. sending their children to the most costly schools, ‘petty monarchs . . . in their own particular districts’. Mrs Gaskell noted the contrast between the families of rich and poor during a trade depression:
‘Carriages still roll along the streets, concerts are still crowded by subscribers, the shops for expensive luxuries still find daily customers, while the workman loiters away his unemployed time in watching these things…. ‘(Mary Barton 1848).
This contrast between the indolent rich employer and his starving employee has often been pointed out. It is worth remembering however, that the first generation manufacturers themselves worked extraordinarily long hours and bore great financial risks. In spite of the very low level of taxation many failed and sank back to, or below, the level from which they had come. Many of the successful encouraged their children in charitable and political work to improve the lot of the poor. That they did not change the system which had made their money is not surprising. The fact that Robert Owen exhausted a large fortune attempting to fulfil socialist dreams convinced most men of property that their scepticism about his cooperative ventures had been entirely justified.
The lives of many mill-owners do not bear out the level of luxury and irresponsibility so frequently suggested. Considering their wealth, many of their homes, although far better than those of their employees, often appear small and rather unimpressive in comparison with the homes of the landed gentry. The Horrocks homes at Lark Hill, Preston and Penwortham Lodge, built in the Napoleonic period, although solid and quite large, scarcely indicate th4t the family was one of the most successful of the age. John Horrocks, in ten years, built 5 mills and died at 36 in 1804, leaving £750,000. Yet it must be remembered that, in traditional English style, such men as John Horrocks and his brother Samuel were more concerned to maintain profits at their Stanley Street mills and to leave money for their families than to squander their fortune in architectural display, even though both brothers in turn had to cut a dash as a member of Parliament for Preston. Families who sold their businesses to buy land and upper-class status usually moved far from the neighbourhood of their mills. The Garnetts of Salford moved to Quernmore; the Peels moved to Warwickshire; the Horrockses simply died out.
In the first half of the nineteenth century manufacturing families, on the whole, remained closely attached to their businesses. Sometimes firms suffered because this emphasis on family ties failed to take sufficient account of differences in personality. The Greg brothers who looked after their father’s mills did not have his gift or inclination. Friedrich Engels resented his work as general manager of his father’s Manchester office, but had to carry out his duties for the financial rewards.
Many Manchester companies had London offices. At these, the sons of manufacturers often received part of their training. John Bury, son of a calico-printer of Pendle Hill and Manchester, was sent to the firm’s London office in 1812 at the age of 23. There he learnt to supervise the receipt and delivery of stock, and the accounts made by clerks, who, seated at high desks, worked laboriously with quill pens and ledger. He had to read the financial press, see the firm’s brokers, and keep a close watch on the state of the market. Close contact with overseas agents was necessary as it was important to provide them with sufficient stock but not flood them, because the state of the market could change very quickly. Back in Pendle there was the manufacturing side to look after and in Manchester the problems of packing and shipment, mainly through Liverpool.
The Burys had similar problems to countless other Manchester-based cotton firms. Bad trade might lead to inability to meet obligations and the suspension of business. In the days before limited liability individuals could be ruined overnight. Some took refuge in suicide. Friedrich Engels, who saw in each crisis the imminent collapse of capitalism for which he longed – in spite of the effects it would have on his own business – described the panic of 1857: ‘Manchester is getting more and more deeply involved: the constant pressure on the market is having a terrific effect. Sales are impossible. Every day we hear of lower bids, and nobody with any self-respect tries to sell his goods any longer’. Yet the deliverance for which Engels looked never came, and the Manchester cotton market survived this and many other crises, before the capital of the world’s cotton industry moved elsewhere in the twentieth century.
Manufacturing wealth had its advantages, even for Engels. How else would he have been able to support his friend, the struggling journalist, Karl Marx? How else would he have afforded to hunt with the gentry? Manufacturing wealth was spent in different ways by different manufacturers. Some, like Richard Cobden, went on prolonged foreign trips. He found the streets of Constantinople in February ‘a thousand times worse than the Hanging Ditch or Deans-gate in the middle of December’. Later, Cobden went into politics. During his career he was at different times member of Parliament for Stockport and Rochdale. He and his Rochdale friend, John Bright, became the foremost champions of free trade. Their success was marked by the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, and the memory of their cause and its importance to the Lancashire cotton industry was honoured by the erection of the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Other entrepreneurs spent their money on education, like John Owens, or on books and manuscripts, like John Rylands, or on pictures, like Lord Leverhulme. Many did not set their sights so high. For them a public school education for their sons, followed by university, marriage and a comfortable villa in a smart suburb, or later in Southport or St Annes, was all that they could safely afford.
The new-found wealth could be spent on land, houses, servants, books and holidays, but, in the first half of the nineteenth century at least, it could do little to relieve the suffering occasioned to all classes by ill-health. The Bury family papers provide illustration of this. During the Napoleonic Wars John Bury of Sabden paid several pounds a year to his doctor, Richard Hardy of Whalley, for medical visits and a variety of medicines. These palliatives included stomach linctus, alterative and cathartic powders, sedative mixture, expectorant pills, stimulating gargle, tonics and blistering sales and plasters. Some of these remedies were ineffective, some positively harmful. Dr Hardy made a number of visits to the Bury household every year, but even with all this attention, the Burys were not a healthy or long-lived family. One of the children had had what we now recognize as polio, and his father was on the constant look-out for a cure. In fact, of the nine children born between 1790 and 1807, only Charles, the polio victim, survived to his thirtieth year. The presence of death was as commonplace in middle-class families as in those of the working class.
Constant bereavements helped to reinforce the strong religious seriousness of many of the manufacturing and mercantile families. Much spare time was spent in such serious pursuits as charitable bazaars, literary evenings and later temperance meetings. John Bury wrote a religious poem on seeing the bier of a friend and later wrote little notes to himself as reminders of the need for spiritual strength in the hour of physical failure. Daily family prayers and church attendance on Sundays were the rule, but this did not prevent family amusements in the evenings. The Burys – who were Baptists – liked singing. At Liverpool, the Gladstones, equally serious Anglicans, all loved music too, and enjoyed dancing, cards and even the theatre.
Many middle-class pleasures became working-class pleasures too. Charles Halle”, who came to Manchester from Paris as a music teacher in 1848, replaced the exclusive Gentlemen’s Concerts with an annual season of weekly public orchestral concerts in 1858. Such concerts were mainly attended by middle-class Mancunians, but their influence spread far and wide and Hallé’s choice of music was echoed in many a chapel choir and glee club. Meanwhile an annual brass band competition was established at Bellevue. A rich and varied musical tradition is still a feature of north-western life.
Rail travel, too, was patronized mainly at first by the middle class, but its popularity quickly spread. Railway construction was characterized by hordes of drunken, godless navvies who frequently broke off work to fight each other and terrorize the neighbourhood. But by the time the main rail network had been laid (c. 1845), writers were extolling the care with which railway companies treated their charges and the detail of the organization:
The railway system is beautifully arranged, as far as regards the whole staff – there are the committee, secretaries, engineers, surveyors, station masters, engine drivers, stokers, pokers, guards, police superintendents, artificers, labourers, and waggoners or lurrymen. (P.A. Whittle, Bolton-le-Moors, 1855)
There were a number of accidents in the early days of the railways, the most spectacular of which was the death of William Huskisson, who as a former President of the Board of Trade had helped establish international agreements favourable to free trade in cotton. Huskisson fell in front of the Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line at Parkside on 15 September 1830. Yet people were not put off. Stage coaches had carried 14,000 passengers a year between Liverpool and Manchester. By 1835 the railway was carrying half a million, not to mention the huge volume of freight. One attraction was speed: the journey to Liverpool now took under two hours. The other was economy: the fare was 7s (35p) first class and 4s (20p) second class. Railway companies were soon arranging third class fares for a penny a mile , and special excursion fares were to allow all but the poorest a day at the seaside at Blackpool, or even a trip to London to see the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Not everyone benefited from technological change. The hand-loom weavers, for example, who gained so much from the mechanization of spinning, suffered considerably when weaving in its turn became steam powered. This change occurred in bursts of industrial investment after 1815. The peace brought a short boom, followed by a long depression, but the number of cotton weavers continued to increase and piece-rates plummeted from at least 21s (C1.05) at the height of prosperity in 1802 to 8s 9d (44p) by 1817. Petitions to Parliament to institute a minimum wage were to no avail; the local differences as much as the Combination Acts prevented organized industrial action. In desperation after 1815, the weavers turned to demands for parliamentary reform. Reform societies, known as Hampden Clubs, after the opponent of Charles I, were formed in the villages round Manchester and a ‘monster’ meeting was held in St Peter’s Fields, in August 1819. It was broken up by the troops, leaving several hundred casualties and 11 killed. The hussars that had defeated Napoleon were now turned on the people in what became generally known as the ‘Peterloo Massacre’.
The decline of the weavers’ standard of living was made worse by depressions like that of 1826. A brief look at the conditions of north-east Lancashire, where 40% of the population were weavers will illustrate this. The depression created widespread bankruptcy and unemployment. Not all landlords could afford to follow the example of Lawrence Rawstorne of Penwortham near Preston who reduced the rent of all his hand-loom tenants by 10%. A Darwen weaver wrote to the Blackburn Mail: ‘Ame weyvin for one on nanepens a peece, an ave fore childer an me wife to keep into th’ bargen, soe we monnod hey so monny flesh dinners.’ Like the Bolton weavers, he and his family were probably existing on ‘a solitary meal each day of oatmeal and water’.
By March 1 826 with unemployment running at about two thirds of the population of the Blackburn area, there was a rash of robberies from grocers’ shops and farms, and occasional outbreaks of violence. The house of the clerk to the justices was attacked by a mob armed with poles, and the passengers on the market coaches were bruised and cut by flying stones. To the relief of the men of property, the watchmen who, less than a year before, had been the laughing stock of the town after being found dead drunk in a midden on Blakely Moor, were now reinforced by a troop of Enniskillen dragoons. Their arrival did not, however, prevent a large crowd destroying power looms worth £12,000 at Accrington and Blackburn on 24 April. In the struggle between soldiers and rioters outside a mill in Grimshaw Park, one of the weavers was killed and several received fatal bullet-wounds.
In spite of fears of a general insurrection, the population was too weak for large-scale protest. When a doctor called to attend the birth of a weaver’s child at Eanam, he found the child delivered, but already dead, alongside its mother lying half-dead from starvation on a heap of straw. The Blackburn workhouse was full to bursting. Local landowners distributed food and money and employed men in clearing woods, while the local relief committee distributed oatmeal, bacon, East India rice and treacle. Blankets were in desperately short supply, and vinegar had to be given to sufferers from typhus. Anglicans and Quakers (under Ann Ecroyd of Edgend near Burnley) worked hard to raise relief funds, and King George IV sent 11,000. Many Blackburn weavers decided to emigrate to the United States, but only a few could afford the passage, and they were warned that there were power looms there, too.
The minutes of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Handloom Weavers in 1834 give some idea of the financial plight and the injured pride of the weavers. Leading weavers, like John Lennon of Preston, resented having to send their children or wives to work in factories. They regretted their inability to provide for their children’s education. They had no money left for membership of a sick club. When Lennon’s wife fell ill he borrowed ten shillings from the agent at the Horrocks and Jackson warehouse in Preston. When James Brennan’s wife was pregnant, all he could offer the midwife from the lying-in hospital was ‘a little gruel and perhaps a gill of ale’. Lennon lived in a cellar with only a loomshop, bedroom and small kitchen. Brennan’s weekly budget was probably fairly typical of a working man with a wife and two children at this time:
Soap: 1½d; lIb Butter: 9d; i½lb Sugar: 9d; 281b Bread at 11/2d: 3s 6d; 211b Potatoes at ‘Ad: 53/4d; 71b Oatmeat at is 2d for iOlb: lOd; 1½d worth milk per day: 10½d; ‘/2lb Flesh Meat on Sunday: 31/2d; Bacon: 1’Ad; Coal: 10½d; Candles: 8d; Total: 9s 21/2d.
His usual weekday dinner was buttermilk and potatoes. Candles, rather than some cheaper form of lighting, were necessary when mending breaks in the yarn. A further 4d (2p) a week went on two or three gills of ‘malt liquor’ on Saturday night.
Conditions improved little in the 1830s, although the overall number of weavers began to decline. Only after 1850, with the absorption of hand-loom weavers into other trades and with the general improvement in employment prospects did the work of such committees as Ann Ecroyd’s become unnecessary.
After the disillusionment with the Whig Reform Act of 1832, which had given extra seats to the Lancashire towns but few extra votes, working-class grievances fround political expression in Chartism. Whig legislation, particularly the New Poor Law of 1834, aroused as much opposition as the Tory-sponsored Corn Laws of 1815. The Charter demanded universal suffrage, annual parliaments and payment of members, in order to introduce a popular element into the control of public affairs. It was, however, opposed by the new manufacturers as well as by the Whigs, and a middle-class rival was set up in the form of the Anti-Corn Law Association (later League).
The Chartist leaders hoped for a massive demonstration of popular support. In 1837-8 they held political lectures, open-air demonstrations and torchlight processions in the cotton towns. Local working-men’s associations were formed to elect delegates to the Chartist National Convention, while the rank and file interrupted meetings of the Poor Law Guardians and those of the Anti-Corn Law League. By the summer of 1839 mass violence was feared. In Bolton a deputy constable was shown a box of 20 old files, marked with chalk and capable of being turned into pikes at ten minutes’ notice – or so the Home Secretary was informed. Meanwhile the new county police force was being armed with sabres and horsepistols. At Bury a crowd attacked a detachment of police sent by train from London to help keep order.
When the Chartist petition was rejected by the House of Commons, the National Convention decided on a general strike to force the government’s hand. A ‘national holiday’ or ‘sacred month’ was due to begin on 12 August, but at the last minute it was called off. In various Lancashire towns the great day had been preceded by nightly meetings and even demonstrations in the parish churches on Sundays. The national holiday was celebrated, in spite of the Convention, with turn-outs in many Lancashire towns. At Rochdale a crowd from Heywood was turned back by two local magistrates, Mr. Ashworth in his gig and Mr Chadwick on foot, flanked by 60 soldiers. At Middleton the women cotton workers considered withdrawing their sick club money from the bank. At Bolton there were riots during which Little Bolton Town Hall was wrecked. Some places were quieter: at Blackburn the display of pikes and placards in the parish church had elicited no concessions from the vicar, Dr Whittaker, who urged his unusual congregation to attend more regularly and to avoid covetousness of other people’s property. Blackburn Chartism was declared to have ‘died of Dr Whittaker’s sermon’; at Chorley, the Chartist cashier absconded with the funds.
In 1842, the year of the second Chartist petition, strikes once again reinforced political action. Further wage reductions in the fourth summer of depressed conditions sparked off strike protest in the towns of Ashton, Stalybridge and Dukinfield. The strikers pulled the plugs out of the boilers of the, mill-engines and went from mill to mill, turning out their fellow workers. They marched into Manchester, and from there engulfed virtually the whole of the cotton district, including such outlying places as Chorley and Preston. Crowds of turnouts, varying from a few hundred to over 10* 9000, moved from one town to another closing mills and pulling the plugs to keep them closed. On the whole, the police and the military behaved with restraint, but a clash between strikers and soldiers in Lune Street, Preston, led to the serious wounding of seven rioters, two of whom later died. The first strikes had taken place on 8 August. By the end of that month most of the Lancashire cotton workers were back at work at reduced rates. The authorities referred to the incident as the Plug Plot, but no evidence of a conspiracy has come to light.
In 1848 the Chartists presented their third and final petition, but in Lancashire support was somewhat muted by the depression and the lessons of previous years. There were a few demonstrations in the cotton towns and some support for Chartist candidates at elections, but as a united working-class political movement, Chartism was virtually dead.
The 1850s saw the revival of trade and the increase in popularity of trade unionism. The peaceful conduct of the Preston cotton strike of 1854 – in which the workers demanded, but failed to achieve a 10 per cent rise in wages – won respect. and admiration for cotton workers all over the country. During the late 1850s and 1860s many unions developed, for skilled men like power-loom weavers and engineers, who could afford the high contributions. Such organizations also made an important contribution to the revival of political reform movements. These efforts were rewarded by the Second Reform Act of 1867 which gave the vote to working-class householders in the boroughs, and the Trade Union Act of 1871 which gave full legal protection to union funds.
Coal was the twin pillar, with cotton, of Lancashire’s great expansion in the nineteenth century. The Romans seem to have been the first to use coal in the north-west, but it was not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it was used for limeburning and salt production, that the industrial potential of coal began to be realized. The use of the steam engine in the cotton industry after 1790 was a major incentive for coal-mining in the nineteenth century. Coal was also used for glass-making at St Helens, as well as for domestic purposes. In the early nineteenth century the coalfield was exploited by a network of mining communities stretching from St Helens in the south-west to Oldham in the east and Burnley in the north-east.
Mining was characterized by a large number of small pits, few of which were of any depth. Coal was owned by landowners, such as the Duke of Bridgewater, and dug up by a system of sub-contracting known as the butty system. Colliers were hired by the chartermaster or butty, and they in turn hired their own labour to bring the coal from the face to the surface. By this means it was easy for coal proprietors to claim complete ignorance of how the coal actually reached the surface. Only when the movement to abolish child labour got under way in the early 1840s did details of colliers’ working arrangements become available to the general public.
The reports on children’s employment in mines revealed that the colliers hired women and children to act as their ‘drawers’ – that is to drag or push the hewn coal from the face to the ‘pit’s eye’ in smaller pits or the ‘main-levels’ in larger ones. The coal was carefully packed in tubs which were put on sleds or waggons. The children worked in teams, especially in the thinner ‘mountain’ seams where only the smallest could squeeze through. One was harnessed to the front to pull, and two were put on the back to push. In the larger seams a waggoner was in charge who might be as old as the getter or face worker. There might also be a ‘jigger’ whose job it was to jam on the brakes to slow the waggon as it reached the pit ‘mouth’. Other jobs for children were the opening and closing of ventilation doors and the driving of pit-ponies at the pit-mouth. Commentators agreed that this last job was the ‘most agreeable work in the mine’.
Boys and girls went down the pits at an early age. In the St Helens area they started work about the age of eight or nine, but where the seams of coal were thin, as in the Rochdale area, the services of four and five-year-olds were required. Boys and girls were treated alike. In many ways, girls were preferred as drawers to boys, for they were said to be steadier workers and less anxious than boys to become better-paid coal-getters. Only men from the age of 18 or so upwards worked at the coal-face. Women continued to act as drawers into their 20s and 30s and were invaluable in the larger seams. Many women carried on working even when they were pregnant.. Mary Hardman of Outwood near Radcliffe gave her sobering evidence to the Commission of Inquiry of 1842: ‘I have had either three or four children born the same day that I have been at work, and I have gone back to my work nine or ten days after I lay down almost always. Four out of the eight were still-born’.
The work was long and arduous. Many pits worked round the clock, some on a two-shift, others on a three-shift system. The shortest working day in any pit was eight hours and might rise to 12 or 13 hours. Drawers often worked two hours longer to clear any backlog. The only meal-break was the half-hour or hour for dinner, consisting of bread and butter (butty) or bread and cheese.
Some witnesses before the Commission of 1842 made much of the ‘family’ nature of the work in the Lancashire pits. To prudish critics this helped to excuse the semi-nudity of the miners. Family ties did not preclude cruelty. One drawer remarked about her husband (a getter) that ‘my fellow has beaten me many a time for not being ready’. Other getters took ‘liberty with the drawers’. The world of the collier and his family was rough and brutalized. Colliers were not slow to strike their drawers with whatever was available, pick‑arm, belt or foot. Nor did they distinguish much between lasses and lads. The pauper children who were ‘apprenticed’ to some colliers probably came off worst. The older boys quickly copied the habits of the adults, and one 10-year-old’s rump was reduced to ‘jelly’ after 12 strokes with a ‘cut’ for bringing no dinner down the mine and supposedly stealing another’s.
Accidents were so common that only the Duke of Bridgewater’s mine bothered to record them. Ropes broke on the winding gear, and unsurfaced shafts shed rocks as chairs and baskets banged against the sides. Explosions of ‘fire-damp’ (carburetted hydrogen) were reputedly less common than in Newcastle, but they still took their toll. Cuts and grazes from walls and roofs or chains and belts were commonplace. Nystagmus permanently damaged miners’ sight. Only at an enlightened pit like Chamber and Werneth of Oldham was there provision of free medical assistance, pit regulations on placards and lamps for the men’s use. There was no cure for exhaustion except rest, and there was little chance of that.
The great attraction of mine work was the high pay. At Oldham the colliers earned 5s (25p) a day, while waggoners earned 3s (15p) and the children 7d (3p). Even the Duke of Bridgewater’s men, although underpaid at 14s (70p) to 16s (80p) a week, received a big concession in that their cottage and garden rent amounted to a maximum of £2 a year. Of course the system of payment by the fortnight, or even by the month, meant that the collier had to live off credit for much of the time, and prices at truck shops were usually inflated, but come pay-day he was off to enjoy himself, as an underlooker at Ringley Bridge pointed out (again in 1842):
…they are never expected to come on the Monday after pay; an odd man may come to keep the roads straight but that is all; and when they come on a Tuesday they are not fit for their work. Christmas and New Year’s Day are universal holidays in this district, and generally the wakes or feasts of the different villages, and the races in their respective neighbourhoods, for example at Worsley, Eccles Wakes, at St Helens and Haydock, the Newton Races, the Manchester Races also, which occur during Whitsuntide, attract an immense number of colliers…
Life in the mining villages changed gradually after the Mines Act of 1842 which forbade the employment of women down the mines (though not at the pit-brows) and of children under the age of ten. Mining continued to be a hard and dangerous life even when only adult males were exposed to the chief risks. In the 1850s over 300 were killed in Lancashire. The Ince Hall disaster of 1 854 in which, among other failures, the ventilation system broke down, claimed 59. Pit safety and miners’ insurance improved after another bad series of accidents in 1869-71. This was the human cost of the 10 million tons of Lancashire coal mined each year in the mid-nineteenth century, which reached a record of 26 million tons in 1908.
English society in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries provided a safety net for social failures. This was ‘the Poor Law’. Rather than being one particular law, the Poor Law comprised a whole series of Acts and local byelaws carried out at different times and in different places between 1 601 and 1834. Its three major features were the laws of settlement, outdoor relief and the workhouse. The laws of settlement attempted to provide some check on mobility, but, failing in this, they ensured that at least one parish was responsible for everyone born in England and Wales. If in doubt, a person applying for relief could always be removed to his or her place of birth and that parish would be held responsible for relief. Outdoor relief ordinarily took the form of food or money doles to individuals or families in temporary distress. The old, the orphans, the sick, the disabled and the lunatic were looked after in the poorhouse or workhouse. In practice each parish was left to devise its own scheme of poor relief within guidelines laid down by Acts of Parliament as interpreted by the local magistrates.
The rising costs of poor relief during and after the French Wars of 1793-1815 led to a complete reappraisal of the Poor Law. The labourers were said to be demoralized by indiscriminate doles, and suggestions for the total removal of any such public safety net led to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. This set up a central Poor Law Commission and reformed local administration by grouping parishes into unions. It also introduced the principle of the workhouse test by which relief was to be only available inside the workhouse, and was concerned to make conditions in these new union workhouses ‘less eligible’ (less desirable) than life outside. The legislators hoped thus to cut the cost of relief by reducing the number of applicants.
The Act of 1834 was primarily intended to help the arable areas of the south and east where pauperism had become a way of life. It was felt in Lancashire to have little relevance to local needs. There was a labour shortage in the county, the reverse of the problem of the counties where the Speenhamland system – the most common system of outdoor relief between 1795 and 1834 – had flourished. Most Lancastrians rejected the idea that a temporary depression in trade should force a man and his family into the workhouse or ‘Bastille’ as it was commonly nicknamed. Chadwick’s scheme for large new union workhouses to replace the old parish workhouses, established under the Act of 1723, seemed wasteful and inhumane. Consequently, Lancashire unions were slow to co-operate with the Poor Law Commission and its successor the Poor Law Board. Many of the old parish workhouses continued in operation long after 1834, even though their condition in many casesjustified the reforms which the Commissioners urged.
The condition of one of these old-style workhouses is illustrated by the scandals that broke around the heads of the Bolton Union Board of Guardians in the winter of 1842-3. Bolton Union had inherited several workhouses, but its largest was in Fletcher Street, Great Bolton. That particular workhouse consisted of 13-cottages, mainly grouped around a yard. At Christmas 1842, Fletcher Street workhouse was full to bursting. Three hundred paupers occupied its cottages, crammed 20 to 25 in a cottage. There were only 119 beds in all, so families slept together in one bed as they would have done at home, and the single beds were reserved for fever patients. Single men and women were kept in separate accommodation.
By day as well as by night the workhouse was run on the family system. Each cottage had its dayroom downstairs, and there were rooms for washing and cooking. The children under ten were sent off to infant school every morning and afternoon, and the older ones attended Sunday school. Most adults were employed in picking old ropes for oakum. Some of the women did the cooking and cleaning. Some of the men did odd jobs outside the house: one was a mangle turner, another a roadmender. Some had special jobs in the house as barber or nurse. There was considerable freedom to come and go as the inmates pleased, although official pressure caused some restrictions. From August 1842 no resident pauper was allowed back into the house after 7 pm. Similarly, no leave was granted for church attendance on Sundays, because experience had shown that the inmates only made straight for neighbouring alehouses and came back drunk and disorderly.
There was little doubt that the Fletcher Street premises were inadequate and overcrowded, but this was true of many Lancashire workhouses, especially after some had been closed on the recom¬mendation of the Commissioners. A series of incidents in 1842 brought the principal Bolton workhouse to the public notice. In July the Guardians had had the embarrassment of the death of an old woman ‘from want of food’ while in receipt of a two shilling weekly allowance. She had refused the Board’s advice to go into the workhouse, but the case provoked a Commissioners’ inquiry. In the stir which followed one former occupant of the workhouse inter¬rupted a meeting of the Guardians, opened up a handkerchief and threw two ‘whacks’ of bread onto the table in front of them, in protest at the bread ration at Fletcher Street.
The scandalous state of the workhouse was only fully revealed by the death of Ann Heywood. A 73-year-old inmate, she had been ill for almost a year and had become ‘bedfast’ in the workhouse hospital. There she was looked after by the nurse, the surgeon occasionally giving her a pill or some castor oil. One evening in December 1842, she had been rather quieter than usual, and the nurse, who was a good deal the worse for drink, put a pillow over her face and told another pauper that she was dead. With help, the nurse dragged her down to the dead-house and was laying her out when she began to stir. One of the paupers sent for the governor, and she was taken back to the sick room where she died later that evening. The Guardians were loath to sack the drunken nurse, Molly Davenport, because not only was she too a pauper, but she had a surprising immunity to the fever which had already carried off two nurses in quick succession. Above all she was not in a fit state to quit the workhouse.
The failure to dismiss Molly Davenport caused great unrest among the other occupants. Three paupers went on strike when a man, said to be insane, was brought to Fletcher Street and locked up. The strikers said that they wanted no more murders. James Flit-croft, a cartsheet marker, with a lunatic cousin in the workhouse, interrupted a meeting of the Guardians with accusations of maltreatment and a display of lice picked off his cousin. The interruption was not taken very seriously by one of the Guardians:
James Flitcroft: I will send this bundle of lice to the Commissioners.
Mr Shaw: Do lad, they’re Bourton greys; they’ll be good layers. (from: Bolton Chronicle, 17 December 1842)
When, however, Dr Heap checked his charges, he found the infestation to be general. There seemed to be no easy solution, for the governor said he had no power to order haircuts.
The Tory leadership of the Guardians regarded the protests as a Radical plot. They welcomed a Commissioners’ inquiry to help clear the air. The Commissioner, as might be expected, condemned the whole setup. He found that six children had scarlet fever, several had ‘bad eyes’, and one woman had consumption.
Change came slowly. A workhouse committee was established to keep a closer eye on Fletcher Street. Tighter discipline was to be exerted. The master and his wife were to preside at meals. Men and women were to be separated while picking oakum. The able-bodied were told to leave. The drunken nurse was dismissed and only replaced on a temporary basis. The workhouse yard was cleaned out, a special washhouse made and new privies installed.
Such improvements brought Fletcher Street more into line with the principles of the 1834 Act, but it still fell far short of what the Commissioners wanted. The latter urged the construction of a single workhouse for the whole union. Resistance to such a bastille was slow to die, but the new ideas were eventually victorious in the new Bolton Union workhouse, built at Fishpool at a cost of £33,000 between 1858 and 1861.
Unlike its principal predecessor at Fletcher Street, the new Bolton Union workhouse (now Bolton General Hospital) lived up in full to the ideals of the New Poor Law. ‘The style of the architecture is Italian, but the building is also plain, substantial and effective’, wrote one journalist. Bolton had its bastille at last. Its inmates were classified and uniformed, disciplined and well-worked. The nature of that work had not changed: ‘The “test” is applied in the shape of oakum picking, wood chopping and corn grinding’. Nevertheless, the inmates were now clean, healthy and adequately fed. The new workhouse was well staffed. The officials included a chaplain, schoolmaster and schoolmistress as well as a master and mistress for the general administration of the place. At the school cottages in the grounds, ‘useful’ and industrial occupations were taught, including tailoring, weaving and mat-making. The workhouse had its own chapel and cemetery as well. There was now no need, once inside the new workhouse, ever to leave it. This was the great deterrent, which frightened most people from ever darkening its doors, if they could possibly avoid it. Chadwick called it the principle of ‘less eligibility’.
In 1861, the newly established poor law policy was blown completely off course by the outbreak of the American Civil War. The Northern blockade of Southern ports prevented the exportation of raw cotton, and the Lancashire cotton industry was by degrees brought to a complete standstill. In all cotton towns thousands were thrown onto poor relief. In Preston nearly all the 25,000 cotton workers became dependent on the paltry is 5d (‘7p) from the Guardians and 5d (2p) from the Relief Fund. Outdoor relief was back again with a vengeance. Edwin Waugh, the Lancashire journalist and poet, found such cases as the family of 13 whose joint wages from the mill had amounted to 80s (Y,4.00) a week and whose. relief was only 6s (30p). More money could be earned at the stoneyard, where is (5p) was paid for breaking a ton of stones or wheeling three tons in a barrow. Others were set to work in laying out Avenham Park. Many cotton workers thought twice about ruining their hands with such heavy work, but they had little choice. Some, however, only had to undergo an education test, or attend the temporary schools which were set up. Many had to sell all their possessions, and there was a good deal of informing about those suspected of having savings bank accounts intact. Many were forced to move into the cheapest possible housing, in the courts of the town centres. Money poured in from all over the country to help finance food kitchens and sewing committees. Conditions began to improve in 1864. It was some time before the mill-hands had recovered their savings and their pride, but many had learnt to read and write. Their patience was seen as an example of working class reliability and, in return, Parliament gave all borough householders the vote in 1867.
Rapid population growth between 1780 and 1850 put enormous pressure on all social facilities, especially in the towns. Schools and churches, magistrates, vestries and town councils, all found it impossible to keep abreast of the problems brought by the Industrial Revolution. Literacy rates declined in towns, along with church attendance, public order and cleanliness. A start was made in the 1830s, with the first state grants to education, the reform of local government and the institution of local police forces.
The cholera epidemic of 1831-2 forced the towns to take action on public health. Local committees, called Boards of Health, encouraged the poor to wash themselves and to whitewash their homes; benevolent ladies made ‘anti-cholera flannel waistcoats’; fast days and special church services were held, as in time of war. The cholera took its toll in certain towns and then subsided. Voluntary efforts could not be sustained; legal powers, administrative machinery and medical knowledge were all wanting. The core of activists in each town collected information and supplied the Health of Towns Commission with many grim statistics for its massive reports of 1844 and 1845. Chadwick’s own Sanitary Report of 1842 and the efforts of certain individual towns, like Liverpool, also helped prepare the way for reform. The Public Health Act of 1848, which was finally provoked by the second cholera panic in that year, allowed ratepayers to set up elected Boards of Health with powers to levy rates and make improvements with the help of expert advice from the General Board of Health in London.
In 1846, Liverpool, where 53% of children under five years old died, acquired statutory powers for the corporation to cope with sewerage and water supply, and appointed Dr Duncan its first Medical Officer of Health. The town, however, was overtaken by events. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-6 turned the ebb and flow of Irish migration to Liverpool into a flood. By the end of June 1847, 300,000 Irish had landed, many of whom Were desperately ill with ‘famine fever’ (typhus), and local medical provision was overwhelmed. Measles, smallpox, scarlatina (scarlet fever) and influenza swept through the town in the wake of typhus. The town was only just beginning to recover, when in December 1848, one of the children of an Irish family came ashore from a steamer and was shortly afterwards certified as a cholera case. In 1 849 over 5,000 people in Liverpool died of cholera. The epidemic returned to Lancashire again in 1854 and 1866.
Improvement in public health was slow. Thanks to the Act of 1 848 and the special arrangements made by larger towns, four-fifths of Lancashire’s population was covered by competent health authorities by 1858. Provision of essential sewers and clean water was, however, an extremely . expensive business. Hundreds of thousands of pounds had to be raised on the rates. Frequent opposition from ratepayers forced local reforming politicians and borough engineers to act cautiously. Reservoirs came first: Ormskirk could boast the first completed scheme in Lancashire in 1854; Bolton and Liverpool had piped water supplies by 1857. Other towns followed in the 1860s. Scavenging, or street-cleaning, improved. More streets were paved, and bye-laws were passed laying down minimum requirements for new streets of houses. Sewerage schemes were gradually implemented: Preston was successfully sewered by 1862, and over £200,000 had been spent in Liverpool by 1858. Yet even with such efforts, death rates remained obstinately high. Liverpool’s was still over 30 per thousand in the mid-1870s. Eradication of poverty was the answer; it was also the greatest obstacle.
What was life like in rural Lancashire in the first half of Victoria’s reign? By 1831 only one in ten Lancashire families were described as ‘chiefly employed in agriculture’. By 1861 only 6% of the population were included in the agricultural class. Lancashire had been industrialized before the railways. Even the number of people who were engaged in part-time farming – like hand-loom weavers – fell in these years.
Life had not changed a great deal for those who had stayed on the farms. Many of the workers still lived with their employers and were described as ‘farm servants’. According to Jonathan Binns, the Lancaster surveyor, in 1851: ‘the servants mostly sit down to a good supply of oatmeal porridge, bread and cheese, pork and bacon, and some farmers kill a sheep occasionally, and a cow for winter use: the farmer often joins the servants at the same table’. This was the traditional custom which had already disappeared in many parts of the country. Lancashire farmhouses were equally old-fashioned:
The house is often very inadequate, the windows in many of the small farm-houses having no opening at all for the admission of fresh air, or having only a small pane opening to the extent of six or eight inches. The upper rooms want partitions for keeping members of the family properly select. The floors are often so broken, and many of them without boards or flags, as to render cleanliness impossible. The dairy is inconveniently small, often exposed to the sun, and has also to be used for pantry and other purposes. (J. Binns, Notes on the Agriculture of Lancashire, 1851)
Contemporary commentators did not feel that the old farmhouses, which survive in great numbers even today, were in keeping with a modern farmer’s status. Nor were they particularly impressed by the living conditions of the married labourers. In much of rural Lancashire, particularly in the west, these lived in:
miserable mud cottages open to the thatch, without light, except through a little hole in the mud wall, which goes by the name of window, and once had small pieces of glass in it. .. . Some of these cottages are rude, picturesque objects, very like the Irish cabin – their chimneys of all shapes, being composed of sticks and clay stuck upon the thatch, the floor only clay or soil, and the door too low to admit a middle-sized man without stooping.
(Notes on the Agriculture of Lancashire)
Fuel was cheap for the Lancashire labourer, and his wages were higher than in the south, but, as Binns points out, he often had no garden in which to keep pigs or grow potatoes. Life gradually improved in the course of the nineteenth century, as allotments were introduced and ‘model’ cottages were built by exemplary landlords. This was some compensation for the loss of the wastes where the labourer had once been able to keep geese. Village missions were established by Nonconformist – often Methodist – preachers initially in a rented room and later in a chapel built with local funds. Village schools were normally set up by a benevolent squire or parson. Both missions and schools helped to improve the quality of life in rural areas.
Farming methods in the mid-nineteenth century were mainly dictated by long tradition. Long-horns had been replaced by shorthorns on the northern cattle breeding farms, but wooden-frame ploughs still predominated where there was arable cultivation. Plough teams were tethered in line rather than abreast. Many Lancashire arable farmers took little notice of Arther Young, the agricultural journalist of the late eighteenth century who had proclaimed the advantages of the Norfolk system of four-course rotation, and concentrated on producing oats and potatoes. Their great asset was the ready availability of town ‘night-soil’, which was used in large quantities in the Ormskirk area, thanks to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. As Lord Derby, later Prime Minister, told the county agricultural society, ‘where there’s muck there’s money’.
In 1850 there were one or two large modern farms of several hundred acres which drew great praise from the pundits. Such farms exhibited all the features of the ‘new husbandry’. They followed the four-course rotation, grew turnips like the best Norfolk farmers, eradicated hedgerows and redisposed ditches. Moreover they made use of the new technology, sowing with seed drills, threshing with steam engines and introducing tile drainage and pumping gear as the final solution of the problem of the peatmosses. The model farmers, backed by enthusiastic landlords, such as Lords Derby, Sefton and Burlington, spread guano and bonemeal on the land, erected new farm buildings, ‘with commodious dwelling-houses, adapted to the status of the new occupiers’. In such new farmhouses there was no provision for the old farm servants. The labourers had to live out, but they benefited from the variety of extra work available. Later on, landowners built brick cottages for the labourers on the estate.
Such farms never became typical of the north-west in the nineteenth century. In the neighbourhood of big towns the emphasis was on milk production by small farms. In north Lancashire there was an emphasis on cattle-breeding. Such farms changed in the second half of the century when cattle-feed cake and a variety of new fertilisers were introduced. The system of farm servants, however, survived, especially on the medium-sized farms. The county’s bias towards grass was strengthened by the agricultural depression in the last quarter of the century, when dairy produce for the towns became far more profitable than arable cultivation. This pattern was only changed in some parts of the county in the twentieth century, when two World Wars led to renewed demand for home-grown corn.