The Industrial Revolution
Liverpool at the accession of King George III was a thriving seaport, with a population approaching 30,000. By 1801 the town’s population was over 75,000, and it was well established as one of the largest ports in the kingdom.
Liverpool’s prosperity derived from its trade with Ireland, Africa and the Americas. In the early eighteenth century a growing volume of tobacco and sugar was imported, while the major exports were cloth – both woollen and cotton – salt and coal. Its coastal trade was vitally important for the collection and distribution of goods and the growth of overseas and coastal trades encouraged the improvement of inland communications. The river Weaver, made more navigable in the 1720s, brought salt; the Sankey Canal, completed in 1757, brought coal. Turnpike roads to Prescot and Warrington facilitated the movement of earthenware goods and precision instruments such as watches. The completion of the Grand Trunk (Trent-Mersey) Canal in 1777 brought Wedgwood pottery and Birmingham smallwares ; the Bridgewater Canal carried Worsley coal and Manchester cottons. There was little in the way of manufacture in Liverpool itself, although the town was an important centre for many processing trades. In 1784 Dr W. Moss, a local surgeon, pointed out that Liverpool’s atmosphere was laden with smoke and ‘effluvia’ from works where salt, hides, whale-oil, sugar and tobacco were treated. On the other hand he thought that the smoke from the tobacco refineries and the sulphur fumes from the copper works were positively advantageous to the health of the inhabitants.
It was a three-day journey to Liverpool by stagecoach from London in 1760 and seven days by waggon. The coach put down its passengers, jolted into a state of exhaustion, at one of the principal inns. Samuel Derrick, writing to the Earl of Cork, told him of three good inns in Liverpool where ‘for tenpence a man dines elegantly at an ordinary (meal) consisting of ten or a dozen dishes’. Derrick wrote with approval of the mutton, fowl and fish that he had sampled at one. This was appropriate fare for a man wealthy enough to afford the £2 6s Od (£2.30) for an inside seat in the ‘Flying Machine’. By 1796 the Liverpool Guide could mention a hotel and four or five inns, as well as a variety of taverns. By that date the Royal Mail coaches were in operation, and the journey between London and Liverpool had been reduced to 27 hours.
The great attraction of Liverpool was its docks. Two wet docks had been built by 1760 and four more had been completed by 1796. These new docks were built for specific purposes. The Saithouse Dock of 1753 was designed principally for the Cheshire salt trade, while the Duke’s Dock, completed in 1773, served the coal traffic from the Bridgewater mines at Worsley. Three new docks, opened in 1 771 , 1 788 and 1796, were built to cater for the expanding West Indies and American trades in sugar and cotton. Between 1811 and 1825 the dock acreage almost doubled, and even that total of 51 acres was to be quadrupled by 1860. The Old Dock, which reached into the heart of the town, had been converted from the ‘pool’ by the engineer, Thomas Steers, between 1709 and 1715. It was dominated by the Custom House, the headquarters of the town’s trade, which stood at its east end. A variety of vessels might have been seen in the dock in the 1760s, the smaller ones engaged in the coastal and Irish trades, the larger ships – perhaps two or three hundred tons – in overseas trade with Virginia or the West Indies. Here, too, a packet boat might be boarded for Ireland, just as John Wesley did with his chaise in 1773. His boat ran aground in the Mersey, and he had to re-embark the next day. The year before, Thomas Earle founded the first overseas packet line, between Liverpool and Leghorn in Italy.
Daniel Defoe had commented that Liverpool was unrivalled in the provinces for ‘the fineness of the streets and the beauty of the buildings’. A visitor in 1760 would have admired the houses in Paradise and Hanover Streets which belonged to the ‘Africa merchants’ as the men who financed the slave trade were known. In the 1760s housing began to stretch south-eastwards towards Wolstenholme Square and along Duke Street. Part of an old ropery had been converted into Ladies Walk. In 1768 Richard Kent, a wealthy merchant, gave a grand entertainment to celebrate the completion of his new mansion at the corner of Duke and Kent streets. By 1796 Rodney Street had been laid out on the higher ground which Dr Moss had described as the healthiest part of the town. It was there in 1809 that the wife of the slave-owning planter and merchant, John Gladstone, gave birth to the future Liberal Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone.
Liverpool was rapidly developing as an important social centre for people with money in the mid-eighteenth century. The theatre built in 1759 in Drury Lane was where Prescot-born John Philip Kemble first trod the boards with his sister Sarah (later Mrs Siddons). Samuel Derrick, the Master of Ceremonies at Bath, impressed by the Assembly Room in the Town Hall (completed 1754), described it as ‘grand, spacious and finely illuminated’. Meetings were held fortnightly, in season, for dancing and card-playing, at which a lady styled ‘the queen’ presided and where, as Derrick drily observed, ‘some women’ were ‘elegantly accomplished and perfectly well dressed’.
Derrick found the merchants who discussed business at the exchange or in one of the coffee houses friendly, hospitable, and even adequately genteel. For his part, he liked the abundance of rum to be found in Liverpool. Liverpool merchants, unlike the inhabitants of Bath, were men of business. Much of their spare cash went into the financing of docks and canals, although they also earned a reputation for philanthropy in the endowment of the Bluecoat School and the Infirmary, not to mention the large number of new churches. John Gladstone alone built three churches between 1815 and 1840.
The whole community enjoyed the completion of new ventures such as the opening of the first 31 miles of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from Liverpool to Wigan on 19 October 1774:
At 9 am the proprietors sailed up the canal in their barge, preceded by another filled with music, with colours flying and returned to Liverpool about one. They were saluted with two royal salutes of 21 guns each, besides the swivels on board the boats, and welcomed with the repeated shouts of the numerous crowds assembled on the banks. (T. Baines, History of the Commerce and Town of Liverpool, 1852)
A cold collation was served to the proprietors on the quay, and in the evening there was a dinner at George’s Coffee House. A dinner was also given to the 215 workmen (mainly navvies) who had built the canal. Apart from its important goods traffic, the company provided a packet boat service at a penny a mile, which was used by many, including those going to the races on Crosby Marshes.
This passenger service may also have been used by members of the exclusive merchant dining club, the Mock Corporation of Sephton, which dined in winter at Bootle and in summer at Sefton. After a Sunday sermon the members regaled themselves in style at the local inn. There was a drinking test before admission to membership, and quantities of wine were wagered on cocks and horses. Some found it all too much. One Sunday in November 1788, as the club secretary recorded, Burgess Dunn, on his way home after dinner, ‘involuntarily, but yet of his own accord and without any impulse ab extra, walked into the Canal, where he was exposed to a most copious ablution’.
For most of Liverpool’s population in the second half of the eighteenth century, life was very different. The majority were Unskilled, employed in casual jobs at the docks. As a result they were low-paid and frequently out of work. In 1771 there were 6,000 common seamen in Liverpool, ready prey for the press-gangs working to swell the ranks of the Royal Navy. Being a seaport, many wives and mothers waited anxiously, and all too often in vain, for their men to return from a voyage in order to feed the family. The streets were full of disabled seamen and beggars, Irish labourers and seasonal migrants from the countryside, travellers to Ireland and emigrants. Liverpool’s housing was cramped and unhealthy. Many parts of the town, especially on the north side, were very low-lying. Something approaching a swamp had to be filled when Williamson Square was laid out for a market in 1764. From the 1780s many of the poorer inhabitants were having to live in cellars originally intended for storing merchandise, or in courts squeezed in behind the elegant street-fronts admired by Defoe. Epidemics occurred frequently, and the public health problem grew steadily, finally reaching a crisis in the 1840s.
The growth of Liverpool in the eighteenth century was in no small measure connected with its success in the triangular trade between England, West Africa and the West Indies. Liverpool exported Manchester cottons, Birmingham ironwares and other goods to West Africa, and imported West Indian sugar for home consumption or for re-export. The third side of the triangle, the ‘Middle Passage’ between West Africa and the West Indies gave the trade its notoriety. The cargo on this stretch was slaves, who were transported from the slave markets of West Africa to the sugar plantations of the West Indies – Spanish and French, as well as British.
Liverpool was associated with the slave trade for just over one hundred years. Although the British had been involved in the slave trade since John Hawkins’s voyage in 1562, Liverpool’s first slave ship (ironically named The Blessing) sailed in 1700. Thereafter Liverpool’s share of the trade gradually increased. In 1730 15 slave ships were registered at Liverpool, and by 1751 there were 53. The most important period of growth was in the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1773 105 ‘slavers’ sailed from Liverpool representing about a third of the total tonnage involved in the trade, and by 1795 Liverpool-registered ships were carrying over half the British slave traffic. The trade involved 100 of the town’s principal merchants, as well as large numbers of seamen, and all the ancillary trades. G. F. Cooke, the alcoholic actor who had a reputation throughout the north, could with some justice exclaim that the very bricks of the town were cemented with African blood. From 1787 onwards, when the Committee for the Abolition of Slavery was formed, Liverpool found itself increasingly on the defensive against hostile criticism. The national campaign against slavery was led by William Wilberforce, whose father was a merchant of Hull, Liverpool’s rival on the east coast. Local support was led by Dr James Currie, the physician at the Liverpool Dispensary and William Roscoe, a merchant and man of letters.
Liverpool merchants and slave captains regarded the criticism of Cooke and others as emotive and unreasonable. Liverpool only supplied a commodity needed in the West Indies. If they did not carry on the business other nations would, and Britain’s wealth would pass elsewhere. As for the negroes, they were treated much better by English seamen than by their fellow Africans, and the hazards of the Middle Passage were shared by ship’s crew and slaves alike. Liverpool’s last slave captain, the one-eyed Hugh Crow, wished more attention were drawn to the evils of the press-gang and the conditions of ‘white slaves’. The town was a business community. It did not have time to stop and consider the morality of its business transactions. The merchants were interested in the conditions of their slaves only insofar as they would make the transatlantic crossing without major damage to their value in the markets of the West Indies. The noble appeals of the abolitionists filled a moral vacuum.
The abolition of the slave trade by Act of Parliament in 1807 was a triumph for a new sense of the value of human life. It paved the way for the abolition of the press-gang and for parliamentary regulations of the treatment of children in factories and mines, and emigrants on ships, situations where, in the eighteenth century, efficiency was only tempered with humanity in individual cases.
While Liverpool was growing rich on its earnings from sugar, tobacco and slaves, a new industry was transforming large parts of south Lancashire. Cotton had been used to provide the weft in a variety of ‘mixed’ cloths since the mid-seventeenth century and Lancashire became famous for its fustians, a mixture of cotton and flax often used for linings of garments or underclothes. In the late seventeenth century the East India Company began to import from India, Persia and China large quantities of calicoes and muslins made exclusively of cotton. To help the English woollen industry, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1 700 to stop the import of oriental printed fabrics, but they were so popular that plain calicoes continued to be imported, and printing works sprang up in London to meet the demand. Parliament tried to stop this by pptting a heavy excise duty on these goods and, in 1720, prohibited the use or wear of any printed or dyed calicoes. The part of the Act dealing with goods which were a mixture of cotton and other materials was repealed in 1736, and there was considerable development of printing in Lancashire. One of the first printworks was Clayton’s at Bamber Bridge, set up by 1759. In 1774 Parliament repealed the ban on English printed calicoes, although they were still subject to a heavy excise, and it was not until 1831 that all duties were finally removed.
Nevertheless, the Act of 1774 proved the signal for the great expansion of English cotton cloth production. Cotton quickly became immensely popular. As Macpherson wrote in his Annals of Commerce in 1785:
With the gentlemen, cotton stuffs for waistcoats have almost superseded woollen cloths, and silk stuffs, I believe, entirely: and they have the advantage, like the ladies’ gowns of having a new and fresh appearance every time they are washed. Cotton stockings have also become very general for summer wear and have gained ground very much upon silk stockings, which are too thin for our climate, and too expensive for common wear for people of middling circumstances.
The competitiveness of the new cotton products was made possible by the inventions of Lancastrians like James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton who, encouraged by the expansion of weavers’ output (thanks to Kay’s flying shuttle), revolutionized the spinning process between 1765 and 1779. Hargreaves’s ‘jenny’ multiplied the number of threads which could be spun on one machine; Arkwright’s ‘water frame’ produced a strong enough thread for the warp of the cloth and could be adapted to water power; and Crompton’s ‘mule’ allowed not only a strong thread, but also one fine enough to be woven into cloth for high-class muslins. Furthermore, the rapid introduction of Whitney cotton gins after 1793 enormously accelerated the cleaning of American raw cotton and greatly increased its availability.
Because of the demand for cotton cloth, and because of the invention of spinning frames and mules, capable of being harnessed to water power and too large to be accommodated in cottages, a number of mills sprang up alongside the becks which flowed off the Pennines. The mills were built by a variety of men – landowners, bankers, merchants – but they were rented and run by businessmen who became known as manufacturers or entrepreneurs. They took advantage of the defeat of Arkwright’s attempts to defend his patent in 1785 and also of the boom in trade after the end of the War of American Independence in 1783. These entrepreneurs came from a variety of backgrounds. The first Robert Peel’s father was a yeoman farmer; the father of John and Samuel Horrocks made millstones; nothing is known of Richard Arkwright’s father, although Richard was first apprenticed to a barber. All these men ran cotton-spinning mills, often under great difficulties. Many went bankrupt or faded into obscurity. Others, like Arkwright and Peel, made enormous fortunes.
One entrepreneur about whom a good deal is known is Samuel Greg. Greg’s father was a wealthy Belfast merchant and shipowner and two of his uncles were check and fustian manufacturers in Manchester. After an expensive education at Harrow and a grand tour of Europe, Samuel Greg settled down in Manchester to learn the secrets of the cloth trade at his uncles’ King Street warehouse. There it was soon decided that he should take advantage of the developments in cotton-spinning and set up a mill near Manchester using water-driven spinning and carding machinery. The search for a suitable site led him to Styal, near Wilmslow, about ten miles from Manchester. He bought the land from the Earl of Warrington, and in 1784 erected a four-storey brick mill at a cost of £16,000. When his partner died the following year, Greg moved to Styal with his new wife, Hannah Lightbody, the daughter of a Liverpool merchant.
Meanwhile at Caton, near Lancaster, Hannah’s sister Elizabeth was helping her husband, Thomas Hodgson, to set up another water-powered cotton mill to take advantage of the revival in trade following the signing of peace with the Americans at Paris in 1783. Thomas and his brother John had been born in Caton, of farming stock, and had gone to Liverpool to make their fortunes.
Caton was situated four miles from Lancaster, a flourishing port in the 1780s with a new dock under construction at Glasson, and with turnpike roads to Kendal and Preston. It was not therefore as remote from the Hodgsons’ Liverpool business as might at first be thought. A domestic weaving tradition and plentiful woodland, ideal for bobbins and machine-making, may have reassured the Hodgsons in their choice. Above all, as their Greg relatives had found at Styal, the Hodgsons at Caton were assured of a constant supply of fast-flowing soft water. The site chosen was a corn mill where the Artle Beck descended to the water-meadows which flanked the river Lune. The Artle Beck provided a reliable source of power, not only for the Hodgsons, but also, by 1800, for three other mills. It is not surprising therefore that water rights were carefully defined in the leases and that they could be the cause of heated arguments among the mill-owners. The Hodgsons built another mill nearby and leased it out in 1 788 to a Lancaster silk merchant named James Noble. As opportunities expanded, the Hodgsons built a third mill, Willow Mill, and converted a former forge into another cotton mill.
Their first mill, the four-storey Low Mill, remained the Hodgsons’ largest. There is no record of what machinery it contained when it was first built in 1783, but a sale notice of 1814 from the Lancaster Gazette tells us that by then it contained the following:
The machinery consists of a Batting-machine, a Blowing ditto, 56 Carding-engines, 7 Drawing and Roving-frames, 4 Stretching-frames, 366 Spindles, 38 Water Spinning-frames and 4 Throstle ditto, 2684 Spindles, Winding and Warping-mills and all other articles necessary for carrying on the business to the best advantage;
2 Water-wheels, and a Steam-engine of 10 horses power by Boulton and Watt. The Stream of Water is powerful, the fall now used nearly 40 feet, and capable of being considerably increased.
The list shows that by 1814 there was a steam engine to provide power in case the water supply dried up. The Hodgsons’ work force, judging by other mills, was probably two-thirds children under 18 and the rest women, with a few men in their twenties. The main jobs of carding and spinning were done by the adult women. Children helped by keeping the machines continually clean and by tying the broken threads. Their size enabled them to get underneath, and their small fingers were ideal for tying the fine threads. There were a few jobs for men as over-lookers, timekeepers, warehousemen and general labourers.
In the 1780s one machine was still small enough to be operated by a single family. Family work was what many domestic workers were used to, and to engage whole families made the mill-owner’s job of recruitment simpler and the enforcement of punctuality and discipline easier. On the other hand, country villages like Caton presented grave labour difficulties for the entrepreneur. They had small populations, primarily concerned with agriculture and available only for part-time domestic employment as spinners or weavers. Younger sons and daughters of farmers may well have provided the first recruits for the Hodgson or Greg mills, but they could not supply the whole need. Parish authorities in London and Liverpool and in overpopulated rural areas of the south and east wrote to the mill-owners offering to send them poor families who would be glad of employment at their mills. Greg made special provision for new families by converting farm buildings into cottages, and after 1790 he erected brick terraces equipped with cellars for use as loom-shops. At Caton, by 1804, there were eight cottages attached to Low Mill and 25 at Willow Mill, all presumably built by the Hodgsons. In some places workers clubbed together to build their own cottages. At Longridge a building society was formed in 173 with 19 subscribers. By 1802 13 houses had been built each ‘with Necessary and Coalhouse’.
Pauper families provided some of the children needed to work the early mills, but most mill-children were pauper orphans. They were bound by indenture, like ordinary apprentices,. to serve their master for seven years in exchange for clothing, board and lodging, but, unlike craft apprentices, factory apprentices could not expect a trade or permanent livelihood at the end of the apprenticeship. They were taken from their parish of birth and often carted tens or even hundreds of miles to factories like Low Mill. A few came from the neighbourhood. In 1819 a workhouse was established at Caton, under Gilbert’s Act of 1782, for the poor of Caton and adjacent Lunesdale parishes. Some children from this workhouse worked in the Hodgson mills. Their pay, amounting to 8d (31/2p) a week each, was given to the workhouse.
At Styal, Samuel Greg at first boarded his parish apprentices with farmers and then built a special house for them. The Hodgsons at Caton did the same. They converted what had formerly been the miller’s house. Later, as their works grew, they built an extension to the house to provide accommodation for up to 100 children between the ages of nine and sixteen. From this house they probably supplied all their Caton mills. The apprentices’ accommodation corn-prised separate eating-rooms and dormitories for the girls and boys. There were also a kitchen, wash-house and bake-house. While in the apprentice house the children were under the strict supervision of a master and mistress, but Sunday was the only day of the week that they were there for long.
Up at 4.30 am, the apprentices had to be at work by 5.00 am and they were not back until 7.00 pm except for meal breaks. They were worked very hard, but were quite well fed by, the standards of the time: at breakfast and supper they had milk, porridge and bread called riddle-bread or oatcake. Their daily dinner menu was: Sunday – meat and potato pie; Monday – broth, beef and cabbage; Tuesday – lobscouse (meat and potatoes); Wednesday – rice pudding; Thursday – lobscouse; Friday – salt-herrings and potatoes; Saturday – potatoes and onions. The Hodgsons leased over 1 1 acres of land on which they kept six cows and grew potatoes. Milk and potatoes were staples of the diet of most working people in the early nineteenth century, but there is no doubt that the Hodgsons provided their apprentices with fresher and cleaner milk than they could ever have received in the centre of Liverpool If they were ill a doctor was called The cost of keeping an apprentice was estimated at 5s 6d (271/2p) -a week in 1808, a great deal more than the cost of wages to a free child
Treatment Of apprentices varied enormously from mill to mill. At the worst they were over-worked, underfed, beaten excessively and forced to live in squalor and rags. Backbarrow, near Ulverston, had a bad reputation for cruelty and typhus fever resulting from bad conditions. At the best, the apprentices were treated as well as at Styal, where Samuel Greg insisted on no more than two to a bed and new clothes every two years. At the better mills they were marched to church on Sundays, usually in special Sunday dress – though rarely as resplendent as Watson’s apprentices from Penwortham Factory (at Middleforth) who attended Walton-le-Dale Church in brown coats with yellow collars and cuffs. At Caton special galleries were erected in the church for Hodgsons’ apprentices. That they were reasonably dressed may be assumed from the tailors’ and shoemakers’ shops attached to the mill. Sunday School was provided on Sunday afternoons, and on Sunday evenings the local schoolmaster read prayers and a short sermon in the apprentice house, a service to which the adult mill-hands also came.
In 1802 Parliament passed an Act ‘for the Preservation of the Health and Morals of Apprentices and Others employed in Cotton and other Mills’. This Act was sponsored by Sir Robert Peel, father of the Prime Minister, and himself an employer of children in his cotton mills at Bury and Blackburn. Peel’s aim was to make the conditions in good mills compulsory in all. One clause provided for the apprentices to be withdrawn from the mill for two hours a day to attend school. As the Act made no adequate provision for inspection it was largely ignored. At Caton, however, R.W. Dickson reported in 1 808 that ‘a schoolmaster is kept for the daily instruction of the apprentices’. Kitty Wilkinson, founder of the Liverpool Public Washhouse, was Low Mill’s most illustrious apprentice. In her memoirs she recalled that there was a library and a playground. The results were good. When a House of Commons Select Committee looked into the educational provisions of the Act in 1816, they found that 62 out of the 68 children under 18 years employed as apprentices by Hodgson attended school, and that the 64 aged over 10 years could all read. These were better results than those of the Gregs’ school at Styal, although there the Gregs had three times as many children to cope with.
By the standards of the time, including those of most boarding-schools, the Hodgson children were well treated. Kitty Wilkinson, looking back at her time at Low Mill, described it as ‘heaven on earth’. Not all the apprentices were so happy, and a number tried to run away. Advertisements appeared in Lancashire newspapers to try to catch the runaways, for whom the penalty might be six months in Preston House of Correction. All mill-work was dangerous before the fencing of machinery and tragedies occurred, even in the best mills. One victim was Edward Whitfield, a 15-year-old apprentice at Low Mill who got caught in the machinery and was mangled to death in April 1816.
The adults worked as hard as the apprentices, but unlike the apprentices they were paid for their labour. In 1790 a male factory operative could expect l0s (50p) to 12s (60p) a week, his wife 5s (25p) and his children 9d (4p) to 1s 6d (71/2p). Together the family earned more than most families at that time. Their hours, however, were very long: a six-day, 72-hour week was the minimum, except if the mill was on short time or if a drought or unusually severe frost had put the water wheel out of action. There were two breaks for meals in that 12-hour day, and in ‘the good time’, children might be worked in shifts to keep the mill running for as long as 20 hours a day.
Many men had to find work outside the mill as weavers, craftsmen or labourers. As weavers they had much more freedom than their wives and children employed in the mills. Weaving did not become a factory job until after 1 81 5. John Greg introduced power weaving at Caton in 1824, but at Styal power looms were only installed after Samuel Greg’s death in 1834. Most cotton-spinning mills, whether in town or country, had acquired power-loom sheds by the 1830s.
The proximity of the countryside was one advantage of the mill villages, although enclosure was limiting popular use of the commons, and vigilant gamekeepers were on the look-out for anyone poaching rabbits, game or fish. The maximum penalty for poaching was death until 1828. Rural sports such as dog-racing and coursing were popular.
Celebrations of national events, such as the King’s recovery from an acute attack of porphyria in 1789 or the peace of 1815, often followed the pattern of surrounding agricultural villages, with processions, races and dancing, and plenty of bread, cheese and ale. Some or all the festivities would be provided by the master, but it was his concern to make such holidays as infrequent as possible because of the difficulty of getting his men back to work in a sober state afterwards. At Dolphinholme, in Wyresdale, on St Blaize’s day (the festival of wool-combers) the workers processed the seven miles into Lancaster preceded by ‘a band of musick’, paraded outside the home of their employer, William Hinde, ate a hearty dinner at one of the Lancaster inns, drank innumerable loyal toasts and then staggered home.
The mill villages lacked the amenities of the towns, although every effort was made to make up for this. Dolphinholme claims to have been the first place to have been lit by gas which was introduced to light the mill in 1799. Shopping was more difficult. The Hodgsons at Caton ran a grocer’s shop attached to Willow Mill, and there were probably other village shops as well, but village prices were usually higher than in town and there was less choice. The factory shop was known as the truck shop, and, at Styal, payment was by weekly account deducted from wages. Truck shops were identified in the popular mind with adulterated food, short measure and insolence, as portrayed by Disraeli in Sybil. Parliamentary reports suggest that the worst truck shops were in mining areas. Some cotton districts such as Chorley and Ramsbottom were also bad as the Select Committee on the Payment of Wages found in 1842.
Every mill village had its public house. Caton had several. Public houses were regarded by magistrates as places of violence and vice, but, as in towns, they performed a variety of essential functions. Apart from being the ideal place for refreshment and relaxation and often the venue of cockfights (until prohibited by law in 1834), the pub was about the only place for benefit club or friendly society to meet, or for local business, such as property sales, to be ‘transacted Large meetings occasionally proved too much even for a newly built pub, as at Hyde, in 1829, when the Norfolk Arms collapsed under the weight of a cotton spinners’ meeting and 30 people were killed The only alternative venues were the mill or one of the chapels built by the mill owner or his employees The Hodgsons allowed Independent preachers to use the mill buildings for their meetings. It was not until 1829 that an Independent chapel was built at Caton The Methodists held their first meetings at the Ship Inn, later in a barn, and finally, in 1836, in their own chapel, built with the help of a Methodist mill manager Roman Catholics had to walk to Hornby or Lancaster. Some nill owners made special provision for non sectanan eetIns Sir. Thomas Bazley at Barrow Bridge, near Bolton, provided .a large institute for his workers which Prince Albert visited in 18510 At Lostock Hall, near Preston, the mill-owners provided a library and a museum.
The worst aspect of such a community was the dependence of the people for work on one employer. This tension must have been increased when he, too, lived in the village. It was better at Caton where the Hodgsons, when not in Liverpool, lived at Escowbeck on the edge of the village. At Doiphinholme one of the partners lived next to the mill on the village street. In such conditions, trade unions were virtually impossible – even after the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824-5. The old mediaeval adage of ‘town air makes free’ still applied in a metaphorical sense. Some attempts at forming unions were made. There was a strike at Doiphinholme in 1832 against a reduction in wages, but it was soon broken by the employers bringing in ‘black-sheep’ labbur from the surrounding farms. At Caton the most the Gregs had to cope with was the occasional ‘riotous assembly’ and more frequent petty crimes, such as burglary and poaching.
Mill villages became out-dated when the general application of steam power to textile processes made it possible to build mills in towns, where, if land was more expensive, some amenities already existed and the labour supply was more flexible. In Lancashire, cotton manufacture became concentrated on the coalfields, even if canals and railways allowed the continued operation of mills in towns more distant from coal such as Preston or Lancaster. After the Napoleonic Wars profit margins narrowed as foreign competition increased. The era of enormous fortunes made by entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Arkwright was over. The peace brought dislocation and depression. The Fieldings, who ran a country mill at Catterall, near Garstang, which had sent cotton goods as far afield as Peru in 1815 , were bankrupt by 1830. The Hodgsons at Caton . also had financial difficulties. In 1804 they had disposed of Willow and Forge Mills and had been obliged to mortgage the Escowbeck estate to their Lancaster and Manchester creditors. But it was more probably old age and lack of inclination to mill-work in their sons which made them sell Low Mill as well in 1814 – to their south Lancashire relative, Samuel Greg.
Samuel Greg replaced the steam engine at Low Mill, built a school for the apprentices and local children and built more cottages for the workers. He sent his second son John to supervise the Caton and Lancaster mills, while his three other sons looked after those at
Styal, Bollington and Bury. The Bollington and Bury mills were sold in 1848, but the Caton and Lancaster mills remained under Greg ownership until the Cotton Famine, during the American Civil War. John Greg continued to reside at Escowbeck, but as squire rather than employer. Low Mill continued to produce cotton warp until the 1970s, one of the longest surviving of Lancashire’s late eighteenth-century country cotton mills.
Lancashire was full of growing communities at the end of the eighteenth century. Caton, like many others, had a mixed economy with families drawing their livelihood from both industry and agriculture. Hand-loom weaving dominated many villages, especially south of the Ribble. Life in Caton has been described from the mill, worker’s point of view; the neighbouring community of Wyresdale gives a typical example of a farmer’s life. Here, too, there was a cotton mill (at Catshaw) and a sizeable weaving element (at Tarn-brook), but as at Caton and elsewhere in Lancashire in this period, many families relied entirely on agriculture for a living.
One upland farming family was that of Cragg. Seventeenth-century farm buildings in Wyresdale bear their initials, although they were probably farming in the district much earlier. We are fortunate that in the late eighteenth century one of the family, David Cragg (17691 835), was an assiduous diarist. The family farm was at Greenbank in Wyresdale, although David farmed others at different times. They were all small dairy farmers, mainly producing butter and cheese for the Lancaster market. Sheep and geese were kept as well as cattle, and a little oats was grown. Surplus oatmeal was sold at Lancaster or Preston markets, and any extra cattle were sent to the nearby cattle fairs at Marshaw, Cockerham or Lancaster. Cragg described a visit on 24 March 1789: ‘We took two beasts to Cockerham fair and sold them for £16 0s 0d. It was a moderate fair: the beasts sold low and not many sold either. There was at the fair 98 beasts, which is reckoned a deal for that fair.’ These small fairs disappeared in the course of the nineteenth century when the railways opened up more distant markets.
The major business trip of the year was to the Lancaster cheese fair in October. Bad weather, as in 1791, could make it a difficult and unpleasant day:
In the morning we got up intending to set off to Lancaster with the cheese at two o’clock, but it rained so very fast that we were weather stayed till four, and then the rain moderated, but rained some all the way to Lancaster. We saw no cheese carts till we got to Galgate, and we met five or six going to the Fair, and we got before them going up the Long Lane brow. We got to Lancaster before seven o’clock, the road very mucky. We got pretty readily into the market, but when we had done unloading we had like not to have got back again. We stayed a long time before we could stir, but at length we got out. There was a great deal of cheese, and sold from 33s to 43s a cwt. Ours sold for 42s and we had 17 cwts 1 qr 26lbs. Cheese fell towards the latter end of the day. It was a very dirty fair raining all day till six o’clock at night.
Private sales of sheep, horses and cattle also took place. To encourage potential buyers, some laid on food and drink, but Cragg remarked sourly of one sale that it was ‘very dear sale and nothing to drink’. Beer was an important element in the diet, although drinking to excess or idling in alehouses was disapproved of in what since George Fox’s preaching in the 1650s had been a largely Quaker district. Total abstinence, however, did not become a feature of Wyresdale farming life until the mid-nineteenth century.
Labour on the farm was provided by the family and a few farm servants. David Cragg had four brothers and three sisters. Like his parents, he too had eight children. A small farm could not support all these, even if there were jobs for the men in ploughing, harrowing, shearing, hay-making and walling, and for the women in milking and making butter and cheese, apart from looking after the house. Marriage was the signal for a man to break away and rent his own farm, but he had to save up a long time for this moment. Farm ser¬vants did the rounds of the farms, changing twice a year at the hiring fairs at Whitsun and Martinmas. Large farms might have several servants. They lived in and received full board until they had saved up enough from their pocket money to get married and rent a cottage.
The two great ages for building farmhouses in Lancashire were 1680-17,40 and 1840-1870. Eighteenth-century farmhouses rarely showed strong classical influence, although symmetry was more apparent than earlier. Fireplaces at either end of the house were one sign of the changing times, although windows were often still mullioned and the only external adornment was the porch. Some houses had a cellar for salting bacon and cheese, in addition to the standard two storeys.
David Cragg’s first married home was smaller than the usual farmhouse, with only two rooms upstairs and two down. Downstairs were the parlour and buttery ‘and a place under the stairs for the coals, as a cellar &c’. Outside was a small garden and a stable with two stalls, one of which he used as a ‘shop’ for the dog, the other as a turf house.
Turf or peat was the main fuel in Wyresdale, before the Lancaster canal brought coal. Some summers were so wet, however, that no turf could be got and there was a ‘famine of fire’. Under such circumstances the Craggs took carts to the nearest available coal supply, whether at Smear Hall near Wray, or Preston, or even as far as Standish. Lime to improve the pastures had to be fetched from Kellet or from Sykes in the Trough of Bowland. Such expeditions took all day, for even the turnpike roads were very bad. Many of the byroads were not even turnpiked and only rudimentarily maintained by local farmers such as themselves. Cragg was a great walker and left fascinating accounts of his walks to Ackworth School and Carlisle. For the walker at the turn of the nineteenth century the surface of the roads was less of a problem than the lack of signposts, and, as always, ‘starkness’ or stiffness of the limbs.
David Cragg had been taught to read and write at the age of 11 along with his sister Margaret, by a Master Goff at Shireshead Chapel. As he grew older he built up a little library of books purchased at Preston or Lancaster on market days. He did his own bookbinding, wrote jingles in his diary, and began a statistical account of Wyresdale. This was never finished, but the diaries are full of little cameos of local life. He describes the surveyors deciding on the line for the Lancaster Canal, and he mentions a trip on one of the first packet boats from Galgate to Lancaster. He saw, some of the first ships to sail from Glasson Dock (completed in 1787) and watched a launching from the old shipyard on the Lune.
Occasionally he mentions civic and political life. The boroñgh of Lancaster included part of the old forest of Quernmore and, in May 1788, young David watched the Mayor and Corporation on one of the periodic boundary-ridings: ‘there was 43 horsemen and three or four footmen, they had three colours, and a drum and fife, a bassoon, a hautboy and a French horn’. The chief landowner in Wyresdale was J.F. Cawthorne of Wyreside Hall, notorious for embezzlement as colonel of the Middlesex militia, who represented the borough of Lancaster in several Parliaments. His keen guard against poachers made him unpopular, but the Wyresdale freemen, including the Craggs, voted for him in opposition to the Lowthers, a rich and powerful Cumbrian family who had established a strong interest in the borough by this time. Cragg, who described part of Cumbria, accurately, as ‘the Lowther dominions’, noted that in Lancaster at the 1 796 election ‘one man with a yellow riband in his hat went down the street shouting “Lowther, guinea, Lowther”.
David Cragg was a member of the Society of Friends or Quakers like many of his neighbours. He attended Wyresdale meeting every Sunday, went to Lancaster for the monthly meeting, and occasionally to Carlisle or Preston for the quarterly meeting. Quaker rules on marriage nearly upset David’s intentions, but fortunately his girlfriend, Molly Pye, became a Friend too, and they were married in 1807. One of their sons, Timothy, later spent a year at the Quaker school at Ackworth near Pontefract.
Financial troubles, a large family and dislike of his landlord made David Cragg restless after some years of married life. Emigration was one answer to a small farmer’s problems in the early nineteenth century, and it suited David’s temperament. His cousin Thomas emigrated to America in 1805, and his brother Timothy settled in Ohio in 1821. Twelve years later David, too, made the great decision. His wife Molly had died a few years earlier, and he and his eight children decided to make a new start. The cost of the passage on the Six Sisters from Wardleys on the river Wyre was £2 a head, with a further lOs (50p) to be paid to the government on reaching Quebec. He described his feelings as the ship sailed out of the estuary:
Wednesday April 3rd 1833. Set sail on hoard the Six Sisters from Wardleys in Old England, bound to Quebec in Canada . . . . 11 o’clock. A fine day, wind south. Shouting and hurrahing and waving of hats by those on board and answered by a great crowd on shore. Fired off the gun and away we went and bid adieu to Old England forever. So long William and all the hen-pecked club, the performing parliament, the tithes, taxes, church rates, parsons, and parasites, our friends and our enemies and our cursed landlord, the calico pelican King of Misery at Lancaster.
The journey was not all plain sailing. Nine Craggs and their belongings shared an area only 12 ft (3.6 m) by 9ft (2.7 m) and 5’/2 ft (1.7 m) high. Cooking was done communally on deck. The voyage took 60 days, but the Craggs wrote home urging friends and relatives to join them in Upper Canada where there was plenty of work and good wages, Like many an emigrant, David Cragg never returned.