Family and Business During the Industrial Revolution

9780198786023

My latest book, Family and Business During the Industrial Revolution is now available for free on Open Access:

http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=1001049;keyword=family%20and%20business

Also on OUP website, Google books and OSO.

PDF: http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/academic/pdf/openaccess/9780198786023.pdf

 

 

Historical Guide to the Apprentice House, Quarry Bank

 Hannah Barker, University of Manchester (2017)

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The Apprentice system at Quarry Bank

The Apprentice House was built to house the Mill’s indentured child workers, known as apprentices. It opened around 1784 (as a two-bay three storey house, before being extended in 1790 to add two new bays). Housing these children in the purpose-built Apprentice House was much cheaper than paying to build cottages to accommodate adult workers. There would have been up to 100 children living here at any one time during the late 1700s and early 1800s, aged between 8 and 17 years old (with some as young as 5, though possibly not working in the Mill until older). In the early decades of the Mill’s operation, Samuel Greg was reliant on child labour, which constituted more than half of the Mill’s workforce until the 1840s. Many of these children were supplied by parish poor law authorities (local authorities responsible for overseeing the Poor Law and looking after the destitute). Some of the children came from as far afield as the south of England, though others had living parents who must have seen working at the Mill as preferable to other forms of employment.

The first apprentices at Quarry Bank came from local parishes such as Wilmslow and Macclesfield. Later Samuel Greg took boys and girls from poor law authorities in Hackney, Liverpool and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Newcastle-under Lyme parish authorities supplied children to Samuel Greg for nearly twenty years in the early 1800s, whilst around 100 children were sent to Quarry Bank from Liverpool. In November 1836 eight orphaned girls came from Newbury in Berkshire to work at Quarry Bank and others followed on later. From 1838 until the end of the scheme in 1847 only girls were apprenticed at Quarry Bank.

The early 1800s witnessed the decline of the apprentice system on which the Mill had previously relied. Following the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (1802), as well as subsequent Acts regulating the employment of poorhouse children in cotton mills, the use of apprentices became less profitable. Millowners such as the Gregs increasingly turned to an alternative workforce of adults and ‘free children’ (who were not indentured, apprenticed workers). By 1833 apprentices made up only 20% of workforce at Styal, and in 1847 the apprentice system was completely abandoned.

Apprentices’ living and working conditions

Between 1785 and 1847 almost 900 children were apprenticed at Quarry Bank Mill: approximately 255 boys and 605 girls. We can imagine what it was like for these children, who would have often travelled for days by cart to arrive alone in a strange place that they had not chosen to live as an indentured worker who was bound for many years to their employer. Girls were often preferred to boys in mill work (and women were preferred to men) because they were seen as being easier to control, more suited to mundane tasks and better fitted for jobs that required fine motor skills because of their smaller hands. Female workers were typically also paid less than their male counterparts, and thus were a cheaper source of labour.

Children were apprenticed to the Gregs for varying lengths of time, depending on how old they were when they arrived. The contract of employment was formalised by an indenture – signed either by the children themselves, or by members of parish poor law authorities, or by the children’s parents if they were living. Surviving indentures at Quarry Bank show that some apprentices were provided with clothing by the Mill owners, whilst others were paid higher wages (9d [9 pence] a week instead of 1d between 1786 and 1796, the period for which records survive in the Quarry Bank Archives), but that these higher paid apprentices appeared to have to buy their own clothes. Poor law authorities commonly sent children with two sets of clothing as part of the agreement for the Mill taking them.

Using apprenticed children was not the cheapest option for the Gregs, and other millowners who extensively used child labour tended to employ ‘free’ or pauper children (although these appear to have been less steady and constant workers, which could create costly turnover problems for employers). But the location of the Mill at Styal, and the shortage of local children available for mill work, meant that bringing children from further afield via the apprentice system was the simplest solution. For poor law authorities who had problems placing rising numbers of children in traditional apprenticeships with tradesmen – especially those in large cities – the factory parish apprenticeship system offered a solution to possible poor relief crises in some parishes.

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Apprenticeship Indenture, Quarry Bank Archive, QBA.765/5

Work in a cotton mill was hard, but children did learn real skills and soon became independent machine minders who could also perform intermittent remedial tasks. The youngest children, apprenticed at seven or eight, began their factory working life picking cotton, scavenging, cleaning, and doffing bobbins, before progressing to become machine minders and piecers. When the Quarry Bank Mill apprentices Thomas Priestley and Joseph Sefton were brought before the magistrates in 1806 for running away, Priestley described his mill work attending two cotton spinning machines, which including supplying the thread, guiding the threads and twisting them when they snapped, as well as oiling the machinery: ‘a matter that required some care’. Sefton reported that he was ‘first employed to doff bobbins … I then secured straps and put lists round the binders … I used to oil the machinery every morning in fact I was employed in the mill work I did not spin’. Such early experiences of work prepared children for an adult working life so that many child workers at Quarry Bank many became adult workers there, a few even rising to become overlookers.

Katrina Honeyman’s comparative study of child workers in northern cotton mills suggests that those at Quarry Bank were treated ‘better than average’, but that the Gregs were not amongst the best employers in the country. Though they received decent medical care, training and some education, at Quarry Bank Mill, the hours they worked were longer than elsewhere, whilst leisure facilities and the numbers of runaways indicated that conditions were ‘merely adequate’. Indeed, no northern mills made it into the ‘least negligent’ group in Honeyman’s study. At Quarry Bank Mill children were regularly fined for misdemeanours such as stealing apples, breaking windows and were docked pay for missing work due to illness. In 1835, Esther Price, then 15 years old, committed a violent assault with another girl on one of the other female apprentices. As a result they were sent before the local magistrates. The following year she ran away with her friend, Lucy Garner. Price was threatened with having her hair cut off as a punishment, but instead was put into solitary confinement in a room in the Apprentice House with the windows boarded up to prevent escape and communication.

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Engraving of William Darton’s cotton spinning mill, Holborn Hill, London, 1820.

The apprentices worked long hours doing hard work in dangerous conditions. Joseph Sefton described the working day in 1806 as being ‘from 6 o’clk morning summer and winter, till 7 in the evening. There were no night workers. We had only 10 minutes allowed us for our Breakfasts, which were always br[ough]t. to the Mill to us and we worked that up at night again 2 days in the week we had an hour allowed us for dinner, while the machines were oiled, for doing this I was paid a halfpenny a time, on other days we were allowed a half an hour for dinner, when the Boys worked overtime they were paid d1 [one penny] an hour’. The only time that the children had free to play was on Sunday afternoons, after they had attended church and Sunday school.

Like Priestley and Sefton, a number of children ran away from Quarry Bank over the years that the Apprentice House operated, most of whom were returned. There are entries in the cash books and stoppage ledgers for the costs associated with 46 apprentices running away between 1792 and 1837. Some children ran away repeatedly, such as William Tittensor absconded six times between 1802 and 1809. The expenses listed in the cash books and stoppage ledgers covered time (and in consequence) money lost, expenses for warrants and hiring agents to search for the children. In 1806, 13 year old Thomas Priestley was brought before Magistrates in Middlesex charged with absconding. He described catching his finger in the wheel of a cotton spinning machine which tore it off. As a result he was treated by the physician, Peter Holland, for about 6 weeks. He told the magistrates that ‘With respect to my elopement, I had no reason to be dissatisfied with my situation but during my illness I thot. of my mother, and wanted to see her. She sent me a Crown, so I set out with Joseph Sefton [another runaway apprentice], we enquired the road, and walked nearly all the way to Town. We slept in Barns, & did not spend more than d3 a piece, a day, I have been in Town 5 weeks, in Hackney workhouse [where presumably he found his mother], and am very willing to go back again’.  

Food

The Apprentices’ diet appears to have been a relatively good one. Joseph Sefton described ‘the daily bill of fare’ in 1806 ‘which consisted of the following articles, viz, Beef (occasionally on Sundays) boiled pork, bacon, potatoes, peas, beans and other vegetables in their season, bread, milk, milk porridge, thick porridge. Tea when ill’. He also mentioned having lobscouse on a Friday. This account of their diet is supported by the account books for the Apprentice House, which describe these sorts of foods being purchased for the Apprentices to eat. It is a similar diet to the other workers in the Mill, with a heavy dependence on potatoes.

The evidence given to the Factory Commission by the Apprentice House keepers, or superintendents, George and Elizabeth Shawcross in 1833 suggests that the children came out of the Mill and up to the Apprentice House for their meals, including breakfast, with 30 minutes allowed for breakfast and 1 hour for lunch. In 1811, when the Shawcrosses first started work at the Apprentice House, the children had only 10 minutes for breakfast (which they had in the Mill) and 40 minutes for lunch. It is likely that the apprentices also had to work additional hours, after their labours in the Mill, to tend the Apprentice House garden that produced some of the food that they ate. The kitchen in the Apprentice House was producing several meals a day for up to 100 children: it was therefore a busy institutional kitchen, with huge cooking pots and a multitude of plates and utensils suitable for mass catering.

Medicine

Unusually for the period, the Gregs engaged a physician, Peter Holland, to look after the apprentice children at Quarry Bank. Between 1804-1845 he kept prescription books that are some of the oldest surviving industrial medical records in the world. Though the Gregs were no doubt paternalistic in their attitude towards the Apprentices, a healthy workforce was also a more productive one. In addition to treating the ailments of the child workers already employed at the Mill – many of whom suffered with complaints likely to have been caused by their work – Peter Holland also carried out medical examinations of apprentices before they were employed by Quarry Bank Mill. He rejected those who were deemed unhealthy or had any kind of disability.

The main forms of treatment offered by Holland were herbal remedies in addition to James’s Powders (a branded form of medicine commonly advertised in newspapers and dating from the first half of the eighteenth century, whose properties are unknown) and other ‘medicinal white powders’, poultices, ‘plaisters’, blisters and leeches. In some cases Peter Holland also prescribed bed rest, or fresh air, and occasionally recommended that children should be given different work at the Mill. Although the treatments given to the children are recorded, the diagnoses of their ailments are not. However, in several cases it is possible to work out the complaint from which they were suffering by studying the treatments given. Common disorders such as eye infections and coughs were likely to have been industrial illnesses, caused by working the Mill.

Children’s dormitories

Girls slept on one side of the house, boys on the other. Children slept two to a bed, in rooms that may well have been unheated. Today the rooms are laid out with simple beds and bedding in a style likely to have been used around the late eighteenth century – complete with uncomfortable straw-filled mattresses. In the larger girls’ dormitory, marks and indentations on the walls have been used to help decide how many beds were in the room and where they were positioned, though the need for modern-day visitors to move around the space means that it is not nearly as rammed full of beds as it must have been when it housed around 60 girls, two to a bed. We can try to imagine this quiet, still space in terms of its earlier, noisier, smellier and more cramped past, when it was full of children. The walls are whitewashed and the floorboards bare, again, as would likely have been the case when the building was in use originally, and there are some chamber pots placed under the beds, containing straw and a non-specified liquid to evoke the sights – and smells – of the original toilet arrangements. The cloaks and hats which hang on the wooden hooks on one wall show the types of outer garments that the apprentices would wear.

Reproduction apprentices’ boxes have been placed under the beds in order to tell the stories of individual children. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, even the most lowly workers, such as servants and other mobile employees, would have portable locking boxes to keep their personal possessions safe. We are not certain that these were present at the Apprentice House, but we know that children would have had some belongings, including clothing, and they would have needed to store these somewhere. For travelling to Quarry Bank, they may have carried their belongings in a box or wrapped in a large handkerchief or piece of cloth.

Apprentice clothing

We know that it was likely that apprentices had at least two sets of clothes each, with girls likely to have had only one set of stays – a relatively expensive undergarment which was the precursor of the corset and was worn even by young girls over their shifts. A letter from a mill manager to parish authorities in 1817 concerning the supply of 12 ‘young girls’ of 10 to 12 years of age from the workhouse specified that they should be sent to the Mill with ‘clothing sufficient to keep the children … say 2 shifts, 2 pairs stockings, 2 frocks or bedgowns, 2 brats or aprons and two guineas to provide them other necessaries’. When recreating these clothes for the apprentices’ boxes, we have assumed that the apprentices of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century were significantly smaller than children of the same age today: the result of poorer diet and generally poorer health.

The shift was the basic form of undergarment for all women, and was a simple linen or cotton garment with sleeves. This would have been worn under clothes during the day and for sleeping in at night. Frocks were dresses worn over the shift and stays, whilst bedgowns were also day wear, and covered the top of the body, like a tunic, whilst a petticoat (skirt) would be worn to cover the lower body. Both gowns and bedgowns would have been worn with an apron.

One boy housed at the Apprentice House, Joseph Sefton, gave evidence to Middlesex magistrates in 1806 in which he described getting ‘clean shirts every Sunday’ and ‘new clothes for Sunday once in two years, we had working jackets new when these were worn out and when our working trousers were dirty we had them washed, some had not new jackets last summer but they were making new ones when I came away’.

For boys, shirts were their main undergarment, worn under clothes and at night, hence the need to wash them regularly, as was the case with girls’ shifts. It seems likely then that at any one time, one set of clothing would either be being laundered (most likely in the case of shifts for the girls, and shirts for the boys), or be in the box. Laundry day at the Apprentice House was likely to have been once a week, with clothes washed in large coppers either in an external washhouse or in the kitchen and then hung outside to dry (or perhaps inside if the weather was damp).

Neither boys nor girls would have worn anything approaching modern undergarments or drawers, though boys’ breeches may have been lined. It was common practice for poorer people not to wear drawers until at least the mid nineteenth century. It is possible that girls used either cloth pessaries or cloth pads during menstruation, but they may also have simply bled into their clothing. Apprentice girls almost certainly started their periods later than girls do today due to poorer nutrition, perhaps not until 16 or 17.

The account books for the Apprentice House between 1787 and 1819 which survive in the archives show spending on woollen cloth, waistcoating, broad cloth, calico and dyed calico and striped cotton to make clothes, cloth to make girls’ aprons and girls’ caps, fabric for girls’ gowns and thread and buttons for boys’ jackets, as well as cloth for boys’ waistcoats and coats. Many of these fabrics would have been made into clothing by the female apprentices who were taught to sew in the Apprentice House and employed in making clothing for themselves and for the male apprentices in the evenings.

In addition, payments in the Apprentice House accounts show that expenditure was laid out for ready made breeches (or short trousers), shoes and the mending of shoes (almost certainly clogs with wooden soles and leather uppers), girls’ stockings (opaque and made of cotton or wool), hose (like stockings, worn by males and females), boys’ and girls’ hats, ‘Silk & linings for girls hats’ (which suggests that the girls had a form of ‘chip’ hat, made of either straw or chip straw), girls’ caps, girls’ capes, stays, and handkerchiefs (which might have been worn instead of caps or hats, and in the north were often described as being red in colour).

We have used contemporary images of clothing, and especially that of workers, to see what these clothes might have looked like. One thing worth noticing is how colourful some of this clothing was, with blues, greens, yellows and reds often in evidence. Red cloaks were worn by all classes of women, especially in rural areas including Cheshire, and they were often noted by foreign visitors as being traditional to England. Wool was dyed red using madder root (Rubia tinctorum), which was cultivated in England from the mid eighteenth century. Dyes for blues, greens and yellows were extracted from indigo sourced from either domestically grown woad (satis tinctoria) or imported indigo from India (Indigofera tinctoria) and from the either the domestically grown weld plant (Reseda luteola) or from from the American mulberry tree (Maclura tinctoria).

We should therefore not assume that workers at Quarry Bank wore only shades of brown or grey. Though we might imagine the clothing of the poor as being particularly drab, this was unlikely to have been the case, even for those clothes supplied by their employers. Moreover, we know that individual female apprentices sometimes borrowed money as an advance on their wages to buy less utilitarian items of clothing, such as a new gown or slippers (slippers being dainty flat shoes, rather than the usual clogs that were worn). Both slippers and gowns were likely to have been brightly coloured, with bold printed floral patterns being commonly worn by poorer women and in evidence in some of our apprentices’ boxes.

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George Walker, Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

This image of a woman spinning wool shows a girl behind her, stirring the cooking pot. Both are wearing aprons, rather than pinafores over their gowns, and the young woman is wearing a cap and a pink and white squared neckerchief. Walker consistently depicts younger labouring girls with short haircuts, whilst older girls and women are shown wearing caps over longer hair. For teenage girls, wearing longer skirts and wearing one’s long hair ‘up’ might have been the first public step towards womanhood.

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George Walker, Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

Walker’s book also provides us with an image of a boy working in another branch of the Yorkshire textile industry, ‘The preemer boy’. Such boys were described as ‘the drudges of the [cloth] dressing shops’. He is depicted here wearing what appears to be a felt hat, shirt, waistcoat and jacket, with clogs in his feet – and while his legs are partly obscured, his adult co-workers are shown more clearly wearing breeches and blue stockings or hose.

The author of a local Wilmslow history, published in 1886, stated that:

‘Seventy years ago or more a group of neatly and soberly dressed girls could be seen every Sunday morning, when the weather permitted, filing quietly to their places in the Booth chapel in order to take their part in the morning service. Though all dressed alike, they could scarcely be said to wear a peculiar garb. Their plain, light straw bonnets were bound over the head by a green ribbon. The neat drab dresses were of a stout cotton material – a sort of thinnish fustian, – and the bust was concealed by cross-over buff kerchiefs. Woollen stockings and substantial shoes protected their feet. Cloaks shielded them from wet or cold. A few lads came with them, but they sat apart. These wore dark corded breeches, woolen stockings, and stout shoes. Their jackets were of strong fustian, and their high crowned hats were doffed on entering the church’.

Though detailed, this author’s account might not be entirely reliable, since he was eager to heap praises on the Gregs for their ‘tenderness’ towards the apprentices, claiming that ‘there was little to complain of in the lot of the Prentices save the long hours’ and that ‘there appear to have been no cases of running away’, which we know to be untrue.

Education

The children who lived at Apprentice House received a small amount of formal education. A teacher was employed from as early as 1788 to provide a basic education to the apprentices, though this seems to have been only for the boys. When the Apprentice House superintendents were quizzed by the Factory Commission in 1833, Elizabeth Shawcross claimed that ‘the [Greg] ladies teach the girls [on Sunday afternoons], and the schoolmaster the boys, 3 nights a week from eight to nine o’clock generally’. Additionally, Mrs Shawcross described teaching sewing to the girls in the evenings, whilst the girls not only made all of their own clothes but the boys’ shirts as well.

When Joseph Sefton was interviewed by Middlesex magistrates in 1806 he complained that ‘I was obliged to work overtime every night but I did not like this as I wanted to learn my book’. He suggested that the boys only had one lesson a week from the schoolmaster, and noted that though ‘we had a school every night’, individual boys ‘used to attend about once a week (besides Sundays when we all attended) … 8 at a time I wanted to go oftener to school than twice a week including Sundays but Richard Bamford [the mill manager] would not let me go’. He also noted that ‘on Sundays we went to church in the morning and school [by which he almost certainly meant Sunday school] in the afternoon, after which we had time to play’. Because of the terms of the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802, the church that the Apprentices attended would have been the Anglican Church at Wilmslow. This is where they were also likely to have received at least some of their Sunday school lessons, since the Act also stipulated that Apprentices received teaching on Christianity from an Anglican minister.

Though we do not know what the boys were taught, it was likely to have taken the form of reading, writing and arithmetic, and may have included other subjects such as geography, though since time was short – with Joseph Sefton’s account suggesting just an hour a week – the education was likely to have been very basic. Books such as Joseph Collyer’s The Parent’s and Guardian’s Directory, and the Youth’s Guide, in the Choice of Profession or Trade (London, 1760), described the necessary education for apprentices in terms of teaching deference, obedience and a love of God, along with a ‘common education’ that focused on practical learning and the skills needed in trade, and specifically the ‘three Rs’. There is no evidence that the Apprentice children attended the school in Styal village which was built in 1823.

Unitarians such as the Gregs tended to favour education for all social classes, and they were active in promoting schooling for working-class children throughout Britain. Unitarian women were particularly involved in Sunday schooling, where the focus was firmly on religious education. Both boys and girls at Apprentice House would have attended Sunday school, and at least in the early years of the nineteenth century their religious education was supplemented by the efforts of Hannah Greg, the Mill owner’s wife, with her daughters joining in later years, as described in Elizabeth Shawcross’s account above.

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Portrait of Hannah Greg

Two manuscripts survive amongst the Quarry Bank Archive that were written by Hannah, and at least one of these was explicitly directed at the children at Apprentice House, entitled ‘Sermons for the Apprentices’. These sermons appear to have been delivered during 1819, with some repeated the following year. Based on stories and psalms from the Bible, they were intended to impart important life lessons to the children. Proverbs 22, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches’ was said to teach the children that whilst ‘we may work hard all our lives and never become rich’, everyone could aspire to have a good name and could secure this ‘by diligently performing every duty which belongs to the situation in which God has placed them’.

This lesson was echoed in another sermon on Psalm 9, which reminded the children that the best use of one’s time was to ‘cheerfully and diligently [follow] our several employments in life’, whilst warning them that the ‘slothful and unprofitable servant’ was liable to be ‘cast into outer darkness where was weeping and gnashing of teeth’.

The virtue of humility was mentioned in more than one of Hannah Greg’s sermons, and though Unitarians were a sect that encouraged children to think and to reason for themselves, it is hard to escape the conclusion that one of the purposes of her teaching was to promote docile and obedient workers. Hannah’s sermons on the wonders of God’s creations as evidenced by the human body, and the edicts to ‘love one another’ and to please God by acting with ‘love, wisdom and goodness’, may seem fairly benign. But the children were also reminded that God was ‘ever present with you in every moment of your lives’, and that bad conduct could result in being dispatched into Hell Fire.

The Shawcrosses ‘parlour’ or ‘houseplace’

One room in the Apprentice House is presented as a parlour or houseplace. George and Elizabeth Shawcross were employed as managers of the Apprentice House between 1811 and George’s death in 1834 (after which, Elizabeth carried on alone for a year). George was paid an annual salary of £40 for his and his wife’s labours, and he received an additional £10 a year for his work in the village shop. This rate of pay means that the Shawcrosses were by no means rich, but it places them in the same income bracket as many small tradesmen and women in this period, so that it is not surprising that their son, William, was a butcher and their daughter, Hannah, married a hat maker.

Though we have no inventories (a list of household possessions which often accompanied a will) or other guides to tell us how this room was furnished (indeed, we are not even sure that this was the exact room that the Shawcrosses used), we have used surviving inventories from comparable individuals from the same period to refurnish the room as it might have looked. Main living rooms such as this were usually not described as a parlour in the north of England, but rather as a ‘house place’, ‘house part’ or simply ‘house’. These older names were still used by tradesmen and women into the nineteenth century in the north of England. As their contents make clear: the Apprentice House keepers enjoyed far greater levels of comfort than their charges, the apprenticed children.

Stories of the children represented in the apprentices’ boxes

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Reproduction apprentices’ boxes at the Apprentice House

  1. Ann Morris

Ann was the sister of Elizabeth Morris. She was born around 1794 in Kingsland, Middlesex and was placed in the Hackney workhouse on 5 January 1802, aged 7, orphaned and illegitimate. She was bound apprentice at Quarry Bank Mill on 28 February 1803, aged 8. She appeared in Peter Holland’s treatment book, aged 10, with what seems to have been a sore neck. Nothing else is known of her life.

  1. Elizabeth Morris

Elizabeth arrived at Quarry Bank with her sister Ann and was apprenticed in 1803 aged only 5. She had also been in the Hackney workhouse since 1802. Nothing else is known of her life.

  1. Mary Coups

It is not known when Mary was born, where she was from or when she arrived at Quarry Bank. In 1821 she was fined a shilling for breaking a window, and again in 1823. In July 1824 she ran away and was brought back by the Constable of Wilmslow. The following year, 1825, she borrowed 9 shillings as an advance on her wages to buy a gown. Nothing else is known of her life.

  1. Hannah Morrall or Morrell

Hannah was born around 1805. Her parents were William and Mary Morrall. They may have been living when she was apprenticed at Quarry Bank on 21 January 1819, aged 14, although her indenture was signed by the Overseers of the Poor at Pownall Fee in Cheshire so the family had clearly hit hard times, and one or both of her parents may have been dead. In 1819 she had an advance on her wages to buy new slippers for 6 shillings and 10 pence. She had another advance in 1820 to buy more slippers. In 1820 she was fined for breaking a window. She also appears in Peter Holland’s treatment book between 1818 and 1820 being treated with emetics and laxatives for an unknown illness, and being given treatment for what appears to have been sores on her legs.

  1. Elizabeth McGinn

Elizabeth was born around 1802 in Chelsea, London. Her parents were Private John McGinn and Ann McGinn. John McGinn was a Private of the Highland Light Infantry – 71st & 74th Foot. She was admitted to the Royal Military Asylum on 14 August 1805, as her parents (or at least her father) were presumably dead. She was apprenticed at Quarry Bank on 18 September 1815, when she was around 13 or 14. In July 1819 she appeared in the stoppage ledgers having borrowed money as an advance on her wages to buy slippers for 6 shillings – this was the same date that her apprenticeship appears to have ended, when she would have been 17 or 18 years old. Between 1816 and 1818 she appears in Peter Holland’s treatment books being treated for what appear to have been headaches and sore eyes. Unlike many of the other apprentices, we know what happened to her after she left the Apprentice House. On 23 May 1825 she married William Garside, a cotton spinner. She had 7 children baptized: James (14 May 1826), Harriet (26 October 1828), Edwin, (6 March 1831, died 19 July 1889, buried in Prestbury), Hannah (c.1831), Elizabeth (c.1834), Sarah (c.1837), George (c.1840).

  1. Elizabeth Sullivan

Elizabeth was born around 1801 to Private David Sullivan and Mary Sullivan. By the time she was admitted to the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, on 18 June 1805, aged 4 years 8 months, her father had died. She left Chelsea in April 1815, at which point she travelled to Quarry Bank. The stoppage ledger records money being ‘forfeited’ in 1821, for an unspecified offence, and that her apprenticeship ended that same year. She appears in Peter Holland’s treatment book many times during 1817 (as ‘Betty’) and clearly suffered from foot or ankle problems. She was prescribed specially adapted shoes, ‘raised on the inside’.

  1. Mary Taylor

Like the majority of the child workers at Quarry Bank mill, we know almost nothing about the life of Mary Taylor. She is therefore a good example of a life that left almost no mark on the historical record. She appears only in the stoppage ledger: for breaking a lamp glass in 1821 and for borrowing 6 shillings 6 pence for new shoes in 1825.

  1. Catherine Sullivan

Catherine was born around 1817 and was apprenticed at Quarry Bank in 1828 for 7 years, aged 11. She was placed here by the overseers of the poor in Liverpool. A note on her indenture explains that she had ended up in the Liverpool workshouse having left her parents in Bradford. After 3 years at Quarry Bank her parents came to claim her and she was allowed to leave on 21 January 1832. Whilst at Quarry Bank she was treated with laxatives and emetics by Peter Holland and was also prescribed an ‘itch lotion’.

  1. George Hodgkinson (or Hopkinson)

George was born around 1806. He died whilst an apprentice in January 1817, aged 11. For the two years before his death he was treated by Peter Holland with emetics and laxatives, and was also prescribed a flannel waistcoat to wear next to his skin. By December 1816 he was being given laudanum, a powerful painkiller. He was buried on 22 January 1817 in Wilmslow. Between 1815 and 1817 he had accrued £1 3s 4d in overtime wages. Almost all of this was claimed by his employers for his funeral expenses.

  1. Joseph Stockton

Joseph’s date of birth is unknown, though we know that his mother, Martha, lived in Newcastle-under-Lyme. She bound him apprentice at Quarry Bank for 8 years on 10 March 1796, when he was likely to have been around 10 years old. He ran away three times from Quarry Bank: in May, June and July 1799. It is not clear that he returned after the third time. Each time he appears to have returned to Newcastle, presumably to see his mother.

  1. Samuel Scott
    Samuel was born on 2 August 1810. His parents were Evan and Ann Scott, victuallers (inn keepers). It is not clear when he entered Quarry Bank Mill, though it may have been around 1823. In August 1827 he was fined 5 shillings (or 60 hours work) for stealing apples with William Davies from Thomas Dale’s orchard. The following year he was fined for damaging a slide rule. That same year (1828) he appears to have purchased a flute for 7 shillings with an advance on his wages. In 1829, aged 18, his apprenticeship ended. He might have stayed at the Mill, and may have been listed in a wage book from 1834 as a mechanic.

SOURCES

Secondary published sources (including online secondary sources)

Hannah Barker, ‘Hard work and hellfire: educating the children at Apprentice House’ (2015 blog): https://hannahbarker.net

Hannah Barker, ‘Furnishing the Shawcross’s parlour’ (2015 blog): https://hannahbarker.net

Hannah Barker, ‘Clothing the child workers: what did the Quarry Bank apprentices wear?’ (2016 blog): https://hannahbarker.net

Patricia Crawford, ‘Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England’, Past and Present (1981)

Alfred Fryer, Wilmslow Grave and Grave Thoughts from Wilmslow (1886)

Katrina Honeyman, ‘The poor law, the parish apprentice, and the textile industries in the north of England, 1780-1830’, Northern History, XLIV (2007)

Steven King, ‘Reclothing the English poor, 1750-1840’, Textile History, 33, 1 (2002)

Steven King and Christina Payne, ‘The dress of the poor’, Textile History 33, 1 (2002)

Miles Lambert, ‘“Cast-off wearing apparel”: the consumption and distribution of second-hand clothing in northern England during the long eighteenth century’, Textile History, 35, 1 (2004)

Margaret Ponsonby, Stories from Home: English Domestic Interiors, 1750-1850 (2007)

Sara Read, Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England (2013)

Vivienne Richmond, Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England (2013)

Keith Robbinson, What Became of the Quarry Bank Mill Apprentices? The Origins, Childhood and Adult Lives of 200 Cotton Workers (Styal, 1996)

Mary B. Rose, The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill: The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm, 1750-1914 (1986)

Sam Smiles, ‘Defying comprehension: resistance to uniform appearance in depicting the poor, 1770s to 1830s’, Textile History, 33, 1(2002)

John Styles, The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England (2007)

Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt, Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770–1870 (1983)

Ruth Watts, Gender, Power and the Unitarians in England, 1760-1860 (1998)

C. Willett and Philis Cunningham, History of Underclothes (1951)

Primary sources

London Metropolitan Archives

P79/JN1/468, Hackney Workhouse, Register of inmates of workhouse; section each for men, women, boys and girls, 1791-1807

Manchester Central Library (Archives+)

GB127.C5, R. Greg and Co. Ltd., of Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire and Reddish, Lancashire, cotton spinners

C5/1, Business Accounts (including cash books, ledgers, stock books and stoppage accounts)

C5/3, Machinery and Equipment (including mill memoranda)

C5/5, Agreements and Indenture

C5/8, Correspondence

National Archives

Royal Military Asylum for Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army

WO 143/24, Admissions of female children

WO/143/52, Apprenticeship Book, 1806 – 1848

Parliamentary Papers

First Report From the Commissioners Appointed to Collect Information in the Manufacturing Districts, Relative to the Employment of Children in Factories (1833), 450, xx

Second Report From the Commissioners Appointed to Collect Information in the Manufacturing Districts, Relative to the Employment of Children in Factories (1833), 519, xx

Quarry Bank Archive

Hannah Greg, ‘Sermons for the apprentices’ (1819)

Quarry Bank Mill Indentures, QBA.765/5 

Unpublished reports

Danika Lloyd, ‘Shawcross research report’ (2015)

Matrix Archaeology, ‘The Apprentice House, Quarry Bank and Styal Estate, Cheshire: Historic Building Recording’ (November 2014)

 

 

 

Historical Guide to Styal Village and 13 Oak Cottages, Quarry Bank

Hannah Barker, University of Manchester (2017)

Housing the workers

Though Styal is only 11 miles from Manchester, transport was so slow in the late 1700s that it would have been considered an isolated place. This might have meant that Samuel Greg would have struggled to recruit workers for his mill, but this does not seem to have been an issue during the opening decades of the Mill’s operation. In part, this was because he could rely on the child workers supplied by parish poor law authorities. Housing these children in the purpose-built Apprentice House was much cheaper than paying to build cottages to accommodate adults. Though Styal village was later expanded significantly in order to house the workers in the Mill, the early dependence on child workers meant that the development of Styal began very slowly after the Mill opened in 1784.

There are some buildings in the village that pre-dated the Mill opening (mostly dating from the 1600s): these were for agricultural use. Such early buildings include the timber-framed Oak Farm Farmhouse, the timber-framed Tudor Cottage and a group of timber-framed and brick buildings at Farm Fold Cottages. A further group is formed by Cross Farm Farmhouse and Shaws Fold Cottages on the west side of Styal Road.

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Shaws Fold, Styal

When Samuel Greg arrived at Styal to build his new cotton mill, his estate was initially leased from the Earl of Stamford, a local landowner. In about 1802-3, however, he bought the Oak Farm estate, containing about 60 acres, from the Earl, and in 1805 he added a new barn and shippon (cowshed). The farm provided a source of fresh meat and dairy produce for Greg’s employees, although it has been suggested that its purchase may also have been intended to offset the uncertainties in the cotton industry during the Napoleonic wars. Samuel Greg bought or leased further areas of surrounding land over the following years, including Cross Farm around 1812.

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Styal before the Mill opened: detail of Burdett’s map of Cheshire, surveyed c 1772-4, with the few existing farm buildings marked by one square (marked by arrow)

The early 1800s witnessed the decline of the apprentice system on which the Mill had previously relied. Following Peel’s Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (1802), as well as subsequent Acts regulating the employment of poorhouse children in cotton mills, the use of apprentices became less profitable. Mill owners such as Samuel Greg increasingly turning to an alternative workforce of adults and ‘free children’. By 1833 apprentices made up only 20% of workforce at Styal, and in 1847 the apprentice system was completely abandoned.

The demand for more adult labour for the Mill led to a need for more housing. In the 1820s the pace of development at Styal village also quickened coinciding with a dramatic expansion in the Mill that included the addition of a huge 100 horse-power water wheel. 42 new cottages were built during the 1820s at Styal, along with a chapel, a school and a shop. Building the cottages set Samuel Greg and Company back over £6,000, and was a significant investment. Other buildings which had formerly been for agricultural use, such as Shaws Fold (which had probably been stables and a barn), were converted in the middle of the nineteenth century to create yet more worker accommodation by Samuel’s son and successor to the business, Robert Hyde Greg.

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Styal in 1872, showing the growth in the worker accommodation during the first half of the nineteenth century: Ordnance Survey of Styal, surveyed 1872

As a result of these changes the population of Styal rose from 420 in 1787 to 864 by 1841 (and thereafter remained stable until the late 1800s). During the mid nineteenth century the Mill was the major employer in the village and 40% of residents were mill hands. Others worked in agriculture and domestic service. The importance of mill employment declined during the nineteenth century however, so that by 1871 only 20% of villagers worked at the Mill.

Oak Cottages

The long double row of Oak Cottages was probably built between 1822-3 as part of the expansion of Styal village in the 1820s. In 1846, Robert Hyde Greg reported to a Parliamentary Commission that the workers’ cottages at Styal could be rented for 2s. 6d. [2 shillings and 6 pence] for ‘the best cottages, that we built ourselves’. These consisted of ‘what we call a Parlour and back Kitchen and Two Bed-rooms, and a Cistern [water butt] and Yard; some few have a Cellar in addition to that’. According to Greg the cottages also had ‘an oven’ in the parlour with the water supply coming from rainwater being collected in the cistern’. Each cottage also had its own privy, coal storage and ash pit in the back yard. The nearest water pump was probably at Oak Farm.

A 1834 Parliamentary Report on Lancashire by a Mr Tufnell noted that although in some parts of Manchester, such as Little Ireland, ‘the habitations of the Manchester poor are low, damp, ill-ventilated, and surrounded by filth’, this was ‘the most destitute part of the population’, which did not ‘in general work in factories’. Instead he asserted that ‘The factory workmen are usually in a very comfortable condition … but it is in the country that the superior condition of the factory population is principally displayed; and I do not believe that any part of England can show instances of comfort and prosperity surpassed by that which is enjoyed by cotton-workers in country districts’. Reporting on other worker accommodation in Hyde, Tufnell stated that ‘The cottages of workmen in Hyde comprise each two sitting-rooms, a pantry, a privy in a small yard walled, and two large rooms up stairs. … These observations apply equally to Gorton, Wilmslow, Stayley Bridge’. The Wilmslow reference probably meant that Tufnell was including Quarry Bank in his survey.

Tufnell painted a positive view of workers’ accommodation, and according to him mill workers in the country were little concerned with reducing their working day to ten hours, ‘on the contrary, they seem to feel that contentment which their situation so fully warrants’. We might want to be a little bit sceptical of Tufnell’s rosy view, not least because we know that the cellars in the Oak Cottages were also rented out to workers and offered a much less comfortable style of living than the accommodation above: with only two rooms in total and situated underground. This practice of renting out both upper floors and cellars also meant that the occupants of the cottages would be sharing the water supply and privy in the yard. Yet Tufnell’s comments do remind us that the Gregs were not alone amongst rural mill owners in providing accommodation for their workers.

Tufnell’s comments contrast forcibly with those of Friedrich Engels, the son of a rich German textile manufacturer who was sent to Manchester in 1842 to work. Though his father hoped to turn him into a respectable businessman, Friedrich saw his time in Manchester as a great opportunity to study the effects of the British Industrial Revolution on workers. His research resulted in a book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, published in 1845. This book aimed to highlight the poor working and living conditions of workers in Manchester.

Engels wrote about one industrial suburb in Manchester that ‘In … Ancoats, stand the largest mills of Manchester lining the canals, colossal six and seven-storied buildings towering with their slender chimneys far above the low cottages of the workers. The population of the district consists chiefly of mill-hands ..…The walls of the cottages (in which they live) are as thin as it is possible to make them (and)….cellar dwellings are to be found under almost every cottage…. Many streets are unpaved and without sewers …. Ancoats, built chiefly since the sudden growth of manufacture within the present century, contains a vast number of ruinous houses, most of them being, in fact, in the last stages of inhabitableness. …..(I have never seen a) more injurious and demoralising method of housing the workers. ….The working-man is constrained to occupy such ruinous dwellings because he cannot pay for others, and because there are no others in the vicinity of his mill; perhaps, too, because they belong to the employer, who engages him only on the condition of his taking such a cottage’.

Engels also seems to have visited Quarry Bank. He refers in Condition of the Working Class in England to meeting the ‘Liberal manufacturer’, Robert Hyde Greg, and visiting his factory in the country. But though he was not as critical of the standard of housing, he argued that ‘The presence of the employer keeps you from asking indiscreet questions; you find every one well-paid, comfortable, comparatively healthy by reason of the country air; you begin to be converted from your exaggerated ideas of misery and starvation. But, that the cottage system makes slaves of the operatives, that there may be a truck shop in the neighbourhood, that the people hate the manufacturer, this they do not point out to you, because he is present. He has built a school, church, reading-room, etc. That he uses the school to train children to subordination, that he tolerates in the reading-room such prints only as represent the interests of the bourgeoisie, that he dismisses his employees if they read Chartist or Socialist papers or books, this is all concealed from you. You see an easy, patriarchal relation, you see the life of the overlookers, you see what the bourgeoisie promises the workers if they become its slaves, mentally and morally’.

13 Oak Cottages: the ‘Pickled cottage’

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13 Oak Cottages, Styal

13 Oak Cottages was built around 1820 when the Gregs started the rapid expansion of the village to house its growing workforce. It is known locally as the Pickled cottage because it has been literally pickled and left untouched and unaltered (and empty) since the late 1970s.

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Oak Cottages (number 13 second house facing south after large school building): Ordnance Survey of Styal, surveyed 1872

Who lived at number 13?

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Syal cottages rent book, 1844-50, Quarry Bank Archive, showing the Nicklins and their lodgers

13 OAK COTTAGES RESIDENTS

The 1841 census is the earliest document that records the names of the 13 Oak Cottage tenants. Combined with the data from rent and wages books in the Quarry Bank Archives and the 1851 census we have reconstructed the names of some of the earlier tenants in this table:

COTTAGE:

Years Tenant’ names Age Employment
c.1819?-

1847

Peter Nicklin 58 (in 1841) Cotton Spinner (according to the 1841 census) ‘Making up’, ‘Odd hand’ (according to the rent book and wages books)
1841 Ann Nicklin 52 (in 1841)
1841 Catherine Burn 26 (in 1841) Working on Dyer’s frames at the Mill (according to the rent book); cotton spinner (1841 census)
1845 Mary Brown Spinner (rent book)
1847-

1872

Mary Holden (head) 45 (in 1850) Dispensary nurse (rent book)
1847-? George Holden (son) 19 (in 1850) Power loom weaver
1847-? Hannah Holden/Hope (1853) (daughter) 17 (in 1850) Power loom weaver
1847-? Mary Holding (daughter) 15 (in 1850) Power loom weaver (in 1851)
1850 -? William Hope (son in law?)

 

CELLAR:

Year Lodger’s name Age Employment
1834-43 John Taylor 25 (in 1841) Cotton worker
1834-43 Mary Taylor 30 (in 1841)
1844-1847 William Bradbury Worked in 3rd card room; wage from 9/6 to 11/10.
1844-1847 Mary Bradbury Worked in 1st card room (drawing frames); wage from 6/9 to 7/-.
1846-47 Sarah Bradbury
1848-1853 Thomas Shaw

 

Worked at mules in 5th room; wage: 9/- to 10/- per week
1848-1853 Sarah Shaw, with one child Worked in the third spinning room at 7/- a week.
1853 John Bradshaw

Sarah Bradshaw

 

It is likely that a married couple, Ann and Peter Nicklin, lived in the house from the day it was completed in the early 1820s. Peter Nicklin was born about 1787 in Mobberley in Chesire and Ann Bourne (later Nicklin) was born about 1792 in Ireland. They were married at St Bartholomew’s Church in Wilmslow on 3 November 1807. They do not appear to have had any children.

Peter Nicklin appears in the Mill cash books as an employee from as early as 1812 when he was paying 1s per week in rent to the Gregs. He paid the same rent until 1819. The records are less complete after this point, but by 1834, when he is next found in rent records, he was paying 2s 6d. This suggests that he had moved to larger accommodation at some point between 1819 and 1834: most likely to 13 Oak Cottages.

Though Peter Nicklin was employed at the Mill from at least 1812, if not earlier, his exact occupation in these early days is unclear. By the time of the first occupational census in 1841 he was listed as a ‘cotton spinner’, though more precise occupational descriptors for him can be found in the Mill wages books. Between 1834 and 1843 he was overseer of the Making Up room, earning 20 shillings a week. It is not clear what ‘making up’ involved, though it might have been packaging finished products for sending off and ‘making up’ orders. There were about a dozen men employed in this room in the early nineteenth century, with the occasional female worker. From 1842, the number of employees in the Making Up room began to fall, and by the following year, 1843, Peter’s wage was reduced from 20s to 14s and ‘Making Up’ disappeared from the wages books altogether for a time. Peter appears to have been employed for this lower wage of 14s as a warper. He quickly moved again, this time appearing under the heading of ‘warehouse, twisters-in’ at the same wage of 14s. Eventually, Peter Nicklin appeared in the wages books as the sole employee in the Making Up room in 1844, though still only paid 14s per week.

In 1847 the Nicklins moved from 13 Oak Cottages to Farm Fold where they paid a lower rent of 1s 9d per week. In 1851, Peter and Ann Nicklin sailed from Liverpool to New York on a ship named the Franklin, arriving on 24 May. They seem to have settled in the textile-making town of Southbridge, Massachusetts. However, their new start was quickly marred by Ann Nicklin’s death in Southbridge on 9 August 1851, aged 59. Her cause of death was listed simply as ‘fit’. It is not known what happened to Peter after the death of his wife, as he does not appear in any surviving American records. He may have returned to England, and may have been the Peter Nicklin who died in 1864 at the Ashton-under-Lyne Union Workhouse.

During what appear to have been happier times at Styal, and between November 1834 and January 1835, Peter Nicklin was recorded as paying two rents, both his own rent of 2s 6d and another rent of 1s. The same record book shows that Styal residents John and Mary Taylor stopped paying their rent of 2s 6d at the time that Peter Nicklin started paying two rents, whilst they began paying a new rent of 1s when Nicklin stopped the higher payments. This makes it likely that the Nicklins (either out of kindness or for profit by way of a loan) paid John and Mary Taylor’s rent for the cellar at number 13 after the Taylors had moved out of more expensive accommodation.

John and Mary Taylor had both been born in Styal village: John in 1814 whilst his father was employed there as a ‘day labourer’, Mary in 1811 when she was born Mary Moore. Her father was listed in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer. John and Mary were married in 1834, a few months before they moved into the cellar of number 13. Both John and Mary were employed at the Mill: John in the carding room and Mary as a reeler, working alongside John’s sister, Dinah. Mary continued to work in the Mill for about four months after they married, but then seems to have stopped. Around four years after they married they had a son, William. By the time of the 1841 census, the Taylors were still resident in the cellar of number 13, with Mary’s parents and four of her siblings – who all worked as reelers and spinners in the Mill – next door but one at number 11. In 1843 John Taylor appears in mill wages books as an ‘odd hand’ paid 11s a week before becoming a warper paid around 16s a week. At this point he was employed in the same section of the Mill as his neighbour, Peter Nicklin, who was also a warper.

John Taylor worked as warper at Quarry Bank Mill for at least 31 years. John and Mary lived in the cellar at number 13 for around 9 years, before moving to Farm Fold in 1843 where they remained until their deaths around 30 years later. Mary operated a ‘toffy [toffee] shop’ from their home during the 1850s, when the couple also had Mary’s elderly father living with them. They had at least three children: William, Thomas and John. Both William and Thomas went on to be employed as power loom weavers at Quarry Bank and John worked locally as a ‘day waiter/servant’.

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Mary and John Taylor’s son, William, who worked as a power loom weaver in the Mill and lived at Farm Fold, c. 1890. He was likely to have been born in the cellar of 13 Oak Cottages, and was probably the first person born at the property.

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Photo showing Mary, wife of William Taylor, with one of their daughters and grandchildren sitting outside their Farm Fold home c. 1890. At the time of the 1861 census, nine members of three generations of the Taylor family lived here. Members of the Taylor family were said to have resided at Styal village for six generations and for over a century.

From 1844 the Taylors were succeeded in the cellar at 13 Oak Cottages by Mary and William Bradbury. Mary worked in the 1st card room in the Mill on the drawing frames, her husband, William, worked in the 3rd card room. They lived in the cellar with two young daughters. Both Mary and William continued working in the Mill even when their daughters were very young. William, or Billy, was remembered by a later resident of Styal village as having a stammer, being a snuff taker, and as a very good singer: Thomas Tongue recalled that ‘It was a treat in the Foresters club when John Thompson (Morley) could induce Billy Bredbury and Joseph Ormes to sing with him, as a trio ‘The White Cuckade’ the fun coming with the competition between Bradbury and Ormes to show which had the best voice’. The White Cockade was originally a Jacobite song which has been described by a historian of folk song, Robert Bell, as ‘a rebellious song … a favourite with the peasantry in every part of England, especially the mining districts of the north’.

Mary Holden, widow, was a long term resident of the upper cottage taking it over from the Nicklins when they left in 1847 and residing there for around 25 years until her death. She worked as a dispensary nurse – presumably at the Mill. She was sister to three brothers: George Henshall, who ran the village shop, John Henshall, who was the school master, and Thomas Henshall, who was a warper at the Mill and was described as ‘Leader of Singers at Norcliffe and Dean Row Chapels’.  Mary had three children: George, Hannah and Mary, all of whom worked in the Mill as power loom weavers.

Final resident: In the latter part of the twentieth century number 13 was occupied by Edith Green until her death in 1978.

Life at number 13

At the time of the first occupational census in 1841, Peter Nicklin was aged 58 and his wife Ann was 52. Along with the Nicklins, Catherine Burn (a 26 year old working on the Dyers frames at the Mill) lived with them as a lodger, and was joined by Mary Brown, a spinner (whose age is not listed in the rent book), from 1845. It is likely that the Nicklins took the front bedroom, which had a fireplace, whilst their lodgers were in the rear bedroom, which was unheated.

Ann Nicklin was not listed in either the census or the Mill wages books as having paid employment. However, even if she did not work at the Mill, she would have worked: not just cleaning her house, cooking for all its inhabitants (including the lodgers) and also doing all the household laundry, but it is also possible that she did similar forms of domestic work for others outside of her own home, such as taking in laundry and also childcare for younger village residents whose parents worked during the day.

All the forms of housework that occupied Ann Nicklin would have been more laborious than today. Washing clothes and bed linen, for example, would have taken a whole day once a week. Water for washing would have been collected from the cistern in the yard or the local pump and heated in the back room on the ground floor in the copper (a large boiler for cooking or laundry). Washing would then have been hung in the back yard to dry, or in the house in wet weather. It would have been ironed using a flat iron, heated at the fireplace.

Food preparation would have taken place in the back room, but without running water. Water from the cistern, or water butt, would have been used for washing and cooking food and for drinking. Though it’s often claimed that people in the past did not consume much water for fear of contamination, this was not the case and water was regularly drunk. Cooking would have been done on the stove/fireplace in the front room on the ground floor (the ‘Yorkist range’ there now is early C20th, replacing the original stove or fireplace) or using the copper in the back ground floor room. With both the Nicklins and their lodgers to feed, up to 5 times a day, Ann would have been busy. She and her husband would also have tended their garden and allotment to produce their own food.

The cellar (which was originally two rooms), with its own stove and copper, was occupied at the time of the 1841 census by John and Mary Taylor, aged 27 and 30 respectively, and their 3 year old son, William. Like Ann Nicklin, by this point Mary Taylor did not work at the Mill, though she may have had paid work elsewhere and even if she did not she would still have had hard work to do in the home and the village.

When the Bradburys moved in from 1844, both Mary and her husband worked in the Mill. It is likely that Mary carried the ‘double burden’ of working in the Mill and doing the bulk of domestic work. It is probable that her young children were looked after by a neighbour or relative during the day: perhaps by Ann Nicklin. A similar scenario was likely after 1848 when Thomas and Sarah Shaw lived in the cellar with a young child whilst both adults were employed at the Mill.

Living in small spaces

What is most striking about the occupants of 13 Oak Cottages in the early 1840s is not who they were or where they worked, but how many of them lived in what is a very small house by today’s standards. And though the Nicklins had lodgers, they appear to have had no children living with them, whilst other cottages in the village housed sizeable numbers of offspring. In the 1841 census we find up to 14 people living in one cottage (number 3 with 5 adults and 9 children) and up to 6 living in the cellar rooms. The Oak Cottages, in common with many of the cottages at Styal, were constructed of two rooms per floor, so at number 13 the Nicklin household lived in 4 rooms, and the Bradburys in two cellar rooms. Though these houses seem very cramped by modern standards, they would not have appeared so to contemporaries.

Living in such small spaces – often with others to whom one was not related by either marriage or blood – was not simple, and the ways in which inhabitants would have shared their living space contradicts both traditional historical models of growing domestic privacy during the eighteenth century, and our own modern ideas about privacy and space. In households such as that of the Nicklins, restrictions on the size of living accommodation made many of the formal distinctions of space that we are used to unlikely. This means that we can’t assume that people applied single uses to different rooms as we do today: thus it seems quite possible that inhabitants would sit and socialize, and cook and eat in the room we might think of as the front room (the first one you enter from the front door, which had a fire place, whilst the back room was probably some form of kitchen (though without running water). Though Robert Greg referred to the front room as a ‘parlour’, it is quite possible that its residents called it by a more common northern name: the ‘houseplace’ or ‘house’.

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Front room, ground floor

It is also likely that unrelated individuals would have shared bedrooms, and probably beds. Whilst we might baulk at bed sharing it is clear that company and physical proximity were often more highly prized in the early 1800s than was a more modern understanding of privacy (especially if it was cold). And we know, of course, that any workers who had come from the Apprentice House would have been used to sharing beds with others, whilst in a period when large families were the norm, sharing beds with siblings would have been standard.

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Drawing of an attic occupied by a large family in London (1863)

The Nicklins’ lodgers, Catherine Burn and Mary Brown, almost certainly shared a bed. Their bedroom was unheated and in the winter would have been bitterly cold. In such weather they would almost certainly have slept in their clothes, with their cloaks and any shawls over their blankets. If it was really cold, they might even have bedded down in the front room on the ground floor to benefit from the heat built up from the fireplace earlier in the evening (though keeping a fire burning overnight would have been very unlikely because of the cost).

But behaviour such as bed-sharing doesn’t mean that privacy wasn’t important in terms of upholding certain standards of respectability. The separation of the sexes to preserve modesty and to prevent inappropriate sexual relations – especially between men and women who weren’t related or married – would have been important amongst even the most humble of households. Although men and women appear not to have been generally segregated in terms of daily activities during the 1700s and 1800s, there were clearly exceptions to this rule where sexual impropriety or modesty were concerned: such as mending undergarments like stockings, washing and not engaging in illicit sexual behaviour.

Ensuring this sort of privacy meant that individuals had to abide by sets of unwritten rules about behaviour and conduct. Failure to do so could mean that the familial dwelling switched from being a place of companionship, affection and the well-practiced art of ‘rubbing along’ together, to a site of tension and struggle. Of course we know from the story of one well-documented resident of the village, Esther Price, and others, that unsanctioned (that is, unmarried) sexual conduct did go on, but it was likely to be frowned upon by more ‘respectable’ villagers.

Understanding how people negotiated shared existences in cramped spaces helps us to understand the ways in which they went about their everyday lives. Washing oneself, for example, was far more complex without a bathroom. Instead, individuals either had to wash in cold water from the cistern in the back yard or heat water at the stove or copper to wash either in the house place or in the kitchen using a basin. Doing such activities insuring privacy was not easy and required organization. This meant that in the Nicklin household the female lodgers would have been allowed to be separate from Peter Nicklin in order to mend their stockings in the front ground floor room (where it would have been warm enough in the colder months for their fingers not to freeze whilst sewing) and to wash themselves probably in the kitchen.

The working day

One of the most significant features of work at Quarry Bank Mill was the standard working day. Before the industrial revolution many people either worked in agriculture, as labourers or in artisan trades. These jobs were often seasonal, ad-hoc or geared towards production of specific items for specific jobs. Quarry Bank Mill, however, operated on a regular weekly work pattern with less of the ebb and flow of other work schedules (though work might stop in the early years when the river did not flow and workers took time off for certain holidays and festivals, such as Wakes weeks).

The working day at the Mill was a very long one – for the first 50 years of the Mill’s operation, a standard day’s work lasted 12 hours for all workers at Quarry Bank – perhaps up to 14 hours or more with overtime. Work started around 6 in the morning and ended at 7 at night (with up to 1½ hours of breaks during the day), Monday to Saturday, or a possible half day on Saturday. This meant little leisure time, even on Sundays, when large parts of the day would be taken up with going to chapel or church.

Employees whose wages did not cover their rents, stoppages or lost time (due to illness or absence) would have to do overtime on top of their gruelling daily labours to make up the difference. We can imagine the village residents tramping along the path from the village to the Mill, and back again, often tired and in darkness and still with chores to do (housework and childcare for women, tending to their strips of land to grow food for both men and women). For those who were not fortunate enough to live in Styal, Wilmslow was a two mile walk home, no matter the weather.

In the 1830s and 40s Samuel and Robert Greg strongly opposed calls for legislation restricting working hours, arguing that it would destroy the ability of the British cotton industry to compete with rivals abroad. Eventually, however, restrictions were imposed – an 1833 Act banned children under 9 years old from working in mills, setting an 8 hour maximum working day for children under 13 and a 12 hour maximum for under 18s. In 1847, the 10 hours Act ensured that women and children could only work up to 10 hours a day in factories (8 on Saturdays and no work on Sundays: a total of 63 hours per week). Fewer working hours did not devastate British industry as the Gregs had predicted, but the caps did provide incentives to work employees harder and introduce more labour-saving machinery.

Workers’ food

The Oak Cottages all had their own gardens to the front for growing food. During the 1800s the residents of Oak Cottages – in common with other cottages in the village – also each had a long strip of land which extended over what is now the village green (see map below which clearly shows the strips laid out). This allowed the residents to grow their own vegetables and perhaps also fruit. One of their main crops would have been potatoes. It seems likely that they would also have grown some other root crops, such as such as turnips, carrots and beetroot as well as cabbages, onions, kale, peas and beans.

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Marked-up Ordnance Survey map c. 1880s

A report on factory workers in Lancashire in 1834 stated that a worker’s diet consisted largely of flour, potatoes, mutton and beer and that most workers had 5 meals a day: ‘breakfast at eight, lunch at eleven, dinner betwixt twelve and one, their bagging at four, and supper about seven’. [Bagging is a northern term for food eaten between regular meals, still in limited use to refer to an afternoon meal]. It was said in this report that all these meals, except lunch, were eaten outside the Mill (presumably at home), that lunch was generally bread, cheese and beer, and that dinner usually took the form of some sort of meat and potatoes.

In 1846 Robert Hyde Greg told a Parliamentary Commission that potatoes grown by the mill workers constituted a staple of their diet. He stated his belief that ‘generally they dine off Potatoes and Bacon, and their Breakfast and Supper are Tea and Bread … Dinner is their great Meal, and they have an immense Mass of Potatoes with a Slice of Bacon upon the Top’. Though the practice had died out by the 1840s as wheat and bread replaced oatmeal in the workers’ diet, he remembered that in earlier years at Styal, ‘there used to be Oat Cakes hanging up in every cottage’. Greg stated that the food that his workers had to purchase consisted of ‘Tea, Coffee, Butter, Bacon and Bread &c, but Potatoes they grow’.

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Picture of a woman making oatcakes: George Walker, The Costume of Yorkshire (London, 1814): the hanging oatcakes can clearly been seen in the background, to the right of the picture.

The shop

The village shop was built during the 1820s at a cost of £92. For around the first 50 years it was owned by the Gregs and run for them by managers. As was normal practice in the period, villagers could purchase goods from the shop on credit. Sometimes debts were paid directly from their wages, as can be seen in the Mill cash books. Though it has been suggested that the shop was a ‘truck shop’ where mill workers were obliged to spend their wages, the evidence for this seems weak. During the 1800s it became more common for shops to deal in cash rather than credit, and this also seems to be the case at Styal.

By the mid nineteenth century, the shop was run as a cooperative and the premises were enlarged, with the adjacent cottage (number 22) rented by the shop. The shop manager George Henshall mentioned a Committee in his letters to R.H. Greg. This committee was involved in running and supervising the shop. In the letter dated 16 October 1858, he stated that the shop committee ‘meet at least once a quarter and sometimes oftener. They discuss the buying and selling prices, and make any new regulation they think desirable’.

Shop customers were also listed as the beneficiaries of a division of the annual profits in 1858. George Henshall noted that ‘at the annual division of the profits, there is always a feeling of gratitude expressed, and a vote of thanks moved and carried unanimous, which they expect to be conveyed to you through the committee’. The yearly statements of shop accounts reveal that there were around 140 individuals listed as shareholders and customers, and that the profits divided spanned from c. £73 to £95 a year.

The shop’s quarterly statements from 1858 show that it was selling flour, bread, meal (from Bramall); cheese (from a supplier named Armitage); butter, bacon (from local farmers); sugar, fruit, rice, treacle, candles, soap (from a supplier named Crompton); tea, coffee (from a supplier named Kirkwood), tobacco (from a supplier name Baker), shoes (from a supplier named Wild), and drapery (from a supplier named Philips).

Religion and the two chapels

Religious belief and activity would have featured prominently in the lives of most of the inhabitants and workers at Styal and Quarry Bank. It impacted not just on their Sundays, but on their day-to-day life: providing individuals with a moral code and a belief system that helped them to understand their lives and govern their behaviour. Styal was dominated by non-comformist Christianity from its beginnings: that is, Protestant Christianity which was not part of the established state church, the Church of England or Anglican Church. Specifically, Styal was influenced by Baptistism, Unitarianism and Methodism.

The 1851 religious census shows that 300 individuals attended the afternoon service at the Unitarian chapel on 30 March 1851. This was the only Unitarian chapel recorded in the Macclesfield parish so is easy to identify in the census. There were 18 Wesleyan Methodist chapels, with 2406 attending the evening service that day, or an average of 134 for each chapel. Given the large attendance at the Unitarian chapel, it seems likely that the number attending the Methodist chapel at Styal was greater than 134.

Because of the terms of the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802, the church that the Apprentices attended would have been the Anglican parish church at Wilmslow: St Bartholomew’s. This is where they were also likely to have received at least some of their Sunday school lessons, since the Act also stipulated that Apprentices received teaching on Christianity from an Anglican minister. Samuel Greg paid rent for special pews for the children (renting church pews to ensure a seat was common in this period). The children would walk there and back along what became known as the ‘Apprentice Walk’.

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Norcliffe Chapel

The foundations for the first village chapel were laid on 22 August 1822. There was reportedly great excitement in Styal at this event, and one witness noted that ‘We all trooped down to the Oak Chapel to lay our brick. Everyone in the village could also lay a brick and the workmen had a little treat at night drinking the ladies’ health’. The Chapel was funded entirely by Samuel Greg, at a cost of £307 18s, and was officially opened early in 1823.

The original Chapel was a simple building, somewhat on the lines of a typical non-conformist meeting house of the previous century. It was rectangular in shape with simple frame windows. There was no chancel and the building ended where the present step into the chancel is today. The original doorway, which can be clearly seen from the outside, was at the end facing the village green. There was a flat roof and a small belfry. There was no porch at this time. The Chapel was lit by oil lamps and there was no heating.

The Chapel was initially used by the Baptists and the first minister appointed was the Baptist Reverend Halford Jones. Although Samuel Greg became a Unitarian, like his wife Hannah, there was a strong Baptist community in the village. Under the floor, almost underneath the pulpit, is a significant feature from the Baptist era, a full size baptismal tank. When the Reverend Halford Jones retired in 1833, Robert Hyde Greg appointed a Unitarian minister. Reverend John Colston became the first Unitarian minister of the Chapel in 1833, remaining in Styal for 31 years. He started the Sunday School, and, after Dean Row Chapel was restored largely due to his perseverance, he became the minister to both congregations, marking the beginning of a long association between the chapels. Rev Colston was also president of the Styal Village Institution (est. 1825), a kind of mini mechanics institute for working men of Quarry Bank. The Institution was intended for the diffusion of useful knowledge and ‘rational amusement’ of members. It circulated books and held lectures, classes and concerts. It also had a reading room with newspapers, periodicals, chess and draughts, a museum and a library with over 400 volumes. It was funded by membership fees from workers at a penny per week.

In 1867, Robert Hyde Greg commissioned significant alterations to the Chapel. The chancel was added, the door was moved and the porch constructed. The flat roof was taken off and made into a beamed, pitched roof. The wooden windows were altered to the shape and stonework we see today and stained glass was installed. The windows and the font were made by Henry Hope and another mason in 1867 to a design by Henry Russell Greg (Robert Hyde’s Brother). The stone was sourced from the quarry behind the Mill. A new bell tower was built on the pitched roof, with the rope going down to the outside and just a small roof protecting the bell ringers from the elements. The total cost of these alterations was over £1000.

By 1977 the ownership of the Chapel was passed to the National Trust to ensure the long-term preservation of this interesting building. Norcliffe Chapel is a Grade 2 listed Building and remains an active place of worship.

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Methodist Chapel

When Samuel Greg died in 1834, Robert Hyde Greg allowed Methodists to have their own chapel and he paid for the conversion of an old grain store and wagon shop into a chapel in Farm Fold. As was common practice in Methodism in this period, most of the preaching at Styal was undertaken by local lay preachers, and from the outset the laymen and women of the village were largely self-reliant for the management of their chapel. The preaching attracted natural leaders amongst the workforce. For instance, John Waterworth, an apprentice and later book-keeper at the Mill, became the Minister of the Chapel and its Sunday School, which held classes all week on reading, writing and arithmetic and was open to all. Other names which appear regularly in the minutes of the Sunday School as taking a prominent part in its life are Catherine Patterson, Elizabeth Barnshaw and Margaret Magin.

The congregation grew so large that by 1858 the chapel had been outgrown, and it had to be altered and new fitted pews installed and available for rent. The old and fitted forms, or benches, were free. The fixed pews were not suitable for Sunday School work and were replaced with forms with reversible backs, similar (if not the same) as those replaced in 2000. The main entrance was also altered from the side to the front. It still serves as the Methodist Chapel today and its congregation is drawn from Styal village and the surrounding area.

SOURCES

Secondary published sources

Hannah Barker, ‘Living above the shop: home, business, and family in the English “Industrial Revolution”’, Journal of Family History, 35 (2010): available via academia.edu

Hannah Barker, Family and Business During the English Industrial Revolution (2017) AVAILABLE OPEN ACCESS (FOR FREE) AT: http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=1001049;keyword=family%20and%20business. Also on OUP website, Google books and OSO. PDF: http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/academic/pdf/openaccess/9780198786023.pdf

Robert Bell, Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of England (1856)

Alfred Fryer, Wilmslow Grave and Grave Thoughts from Wilmslow (1886)

Keith Robbinson, What Became of the Quarry Bank Mill Apprentices? The Origins, Childhood and Adult Lives of 200 Cotton Workers (Styal, 1996)

Mary B. Rose, The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill: The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm, 1750-1914 (1986)

Lancelot Smith, ‘Textile settlements in the early Industrial Revolution, with particular reference to housing owned by cotton spinners in the water power phase of industrial production’, PhD thesis, University of Aston in Birmingham (1976): https://1drv.ms/b/s!Aofcz0kOaGbilCGR008wCDm9y-qD

Ruth Watts, Gender, Power and the Unitarians in England, 1760-1860 (1998) 

Primary sources

1851 religious census returns: Division VIII, North-Western Counties

England and Wales population census, 1841 and 1851

Friedrich Engels, Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)

 Maps

Burdett, Map of Cheshire, surveyed c 1772-4 (1777)

 Ordnance Survey of Styal, surveyed 1872

Marked-up Ordnance Survey map c. 1880s [probably amongst Estate papers in Manchester Central Library]

Parliamentary Papers:

Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for Inquiring Into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws (1834) 44

Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Burdens Affecting Real Property (1846) 411, vi, part 1

Manchester Central Library (Archives+)

GB127.C5, R. Greg and Co. Ltd., of Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire and Reddish, Lancashire, cotton spinners

C5/1, Business Accounts (including cash books, ledgers, stock books and stoppage accounts)

C5/3, Machinery and Equipment (including mill memoranda)

C5/5, Agreements and Indenture

C5/6, Estate papers

C5/8, Correspondence

Quarry Bank Archive

Anon., The History of Norcliffe Chapel, Styal 1822-1977 (1977?)

‘List of men at Styal about the year 1860 compiled from Memory by Thomas Tongue’ English Geneologist, 17 (1922)

Styal cottages rent book, 1844-50

Unpublished reports

 Sara Burdett, Emma Ward, Lucy Armstrong, Sophie Fish and Mathew Tickner, ‘Quarry Bank Conservation Management Plan’, Volumes 1-4, National Trust (2014)

Stephen Haigh, ‘Number 13 Oak Cottages, Styal, Cheshire: Vernacular Buildings Survey for the National Trust’ (2003)

Stephen Haigh, ‘13, Oak Cottages Styal, Cheshire: Historic Building Survey for the National Trust’ (2016)

James Finlay ‘Report on 13 Oak Cottages, Styal’ (2016)

Ksenija Kolerovic, ‘Archive research on 13 Oak Cottages and Styal Shop’ (2016) [see also updates in Danika Lloyd reports which contains some factual amendments]

Danika Lloyd, ‘Nicklin research report’ (2017)

Danika Lloyd, ‘1841 census for Styal’ (2017)

Danika Lloyd, ‘Taylor research report’ (2017)

Matrix Archaeology, ‘Shaws Fold, Styal Estate, Cheshire: Historic Building Survey’ (2012)

 

 

 

 

Clothing the child workers: what did the Quarry Bank apprentices wear?

Last year, in a post titled Apprentices and their boxes, I wrote about plans to give visitors to Quarry Bank a better understanding of what it was like to be a child worker living in the Apprentice House during the early industrial revolution (c.1784-1834). One of the ways that we will be doing this is by telling the stories of individual children through an examination of their personal possessions, and specifically by recreating apprentices’ boxes and their contents. Some of the main items that will go into these boxes will be items of clothing.

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One of the reproduction boxes

We know that it was likely that apprentices had at least two sets of clothing each (though since stays – a precursor to the corset which would have been worn by older girls over their shifts – were expensive, older girls who worn them probably one only one set of these). A letter from a mill manager to parish authorities in 1817 concerning the supply of 12 ‘young girls’ of 10 to 12 years of age from the workhouse specified that they should be sent to the mill with ‘clothing sufficient to keep the children … say 2 shifts, 2 pairs stockings, 2 frocks or bedgowns, 2 brats or aprons and two guineas to provide them other necessaries’.[1] The shift was the basic form of undergarment for all women and girls, and was a simple linen or cotton garment with sleeves. These would have been worn under clothes during the day and on their own for sleeping in at night. A frock was either an outer garment for indoor wear that consisted of a bodice and skirt, or something more like a gown (or dress), that opened at the front and was worn over the shift. Bedgowns were also day wear, and covered the top of the body like a modern tunic, while a petticoat (more like a modern skirt) would be worn to cover the lower body. Both gowns and bedgowns would have been worn with an apron or a brat (a brat being a form of overgarment that resembled a pinafore).

The Apprentice House and garden in May which are part of the Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate, Wilmslow, Cheshire

The Apprentice House and garden, Quarry Bank Mill

What did boys wear? One boy housed at the Apprentice House, Joseph Sefton, gave evidence to Middlesex magistrates in 1806 after running away from the mill in which he described getting ‘clean shirts every Sunday’ and ‘new clothes for Sunday once in two years, we had working jackets new when these were worn out and when our working trousers were dirty we had them washed, some had not new jackets last summer but they were making new ones when I came away’.[2] For boys, shirts were the main undergarment, worn under clothes and at night, hence the need to wash them regularly, as was also the case with girls’ shifts. Since other items of clothing would have been laundered less often (if all all) it seems likely that at any one time, one set of clothing would either be being laundered (most likely in the case of shifts for the girls, and shirts for the boys), or be stored in an apprentice’s box.

In the detailed account books for the Apprentice House we see spending listed between 1787 and 1819 for a variety of textiles to make clothes: woollen cloth, waistcoating, broad cloth, calico and dyed calico and striped cotton, plus cloth to make girls’ aprons and gowns and cloth for boy’s waistcoats and coats. Money was also spent on thread and buttons for boy’s jackets. Many of these materials would have been made into clothing by the female apprentices, who were taught to sew in the Apprentice House and were employed in making clothing for themselves and for the male apprentices in the evenings. In addition, payments in the Apprentice House accounts show that expenditure was laid out for ready made breeches (or short trousers), shoes and the mending of shoes (almost certainly clogs with wooden soles and leather uppers[3]), girls’ stockings (opaque and made of cotton or wool), hose (like stockings, worn by males and females), boys and girls hats, ‘Silk & linings for girls hats’ (which suggests that the girls had a form of ‘chip’ hat, made of either straw or chip straw), girls’ caps, girls’ capes, stays and hankerchiefs (which might have been worn instead of caps or hats, or round the neck, and in the north were described as often being red in colour[4]). In line with most of the rest of the population, there were no signs of either boys or girls wearing anything approaching modern undergarments or drawers, though boy’s breeches may have been lined. It was common practice for poorer people not to wear the sorts of garments that we would understand as underwear until at least the mid nineteenth century.[5]

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Factory children, Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

But though we have these important details about apprentice clothing from the Quarry Bank archive, the descriptions provided in these sources are not detailed, and do not tell us what such clothing would have looked like (nor what it would have been like to wear). For this we can turn to contemporary images of workers’ clothing and to surviving examples of clothes from this period held in the Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall, Rusholme in Manchester. George Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire (1814) is a particularly useful source of visual information for our purposes. His book provides us with this image of ‘factory children’, noting that ‘A great part of the West Riding of Yorkshire abounds with cotton mills, cloth manufactories, and other large buildings appropriates to trade’ in which such children worked. Walker’s picture shows a boy and girl walking either to or from work with a basket of food for the day. Both wear a brat over their clothes. The girls is wearing what looks like a bedgown and blue petticoat, and the boy has on a brown linen shirt, brown breeches and round felt hat.

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Woman spinning wool, Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

Walker’s image of a woman spinning wool shows us what older girls and women might wear, and also has a young girl behind the main figure, stirring the cooking pot. Both are wearing aprons, rather than brats over their gowns, and the young woman is wearing a white linen or cotton cap, a bedgown, green petticoat and a pink and white squared neckerchief. The girl behind her is wearing what looks like a shift and frock with her apron. Note that Walker consistently depicts younger labouring girls with short haircuts, whilst older girls and women are shown wearing caps over longer hair. Vivienne Richmond, in her study of poor people’s clothing in the nineteenth century, notes that for teenage girls, wearing longer skirts and wearing one’s hair ‘up’ was often the first public step towards womanhood.[6]

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The premier boy, Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire (1814)

Walker’s book also provides us with an image of a boy working in another branch of the Yorkshire textile industry, ‘The preemer boy’. Such boys were described as ‘the drudges of the [cloth] dressing shops’. He is depicted here wearing what appears to be a felt hat, shirt, waistcoat and jacket, with clogs in his feet. While his legs are partly obscured, his adult co-workers are shown more clearly wearing breeches and blue stockings or hose (coloured, rather than white stockings, would have been the norm for the labouring classes[7]).

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Potters, Pyne’s Costume of Great Britain (1805)

This picture of potters from William Pyne’s Costume of Great Britain (1805) also shows boys and men working in similar dress, with the men sporting leather aprons and red neckcloths.

It was not uncommon for the masters or mistresses of runaway apprentices to advertise in local newspapers in the hope that they would be returned, and such adverts can contain information about clothing. Though no adverts for those apprentices who absconded from the Apprentice House have been located, one for James Locket, an apprentice to a stone mason in Kelshall, Cheshire, which appeared in the Chester Chronicle, 7 June 1791 described the same sort of dress that has already been discussed: his main garments being ‘a blue coat, fustian waistcoat and breeches’.

Neither Pyne’s nor Walker’s working children are wearing much in the way of outer garments such as cloaks or coats (or outside hats on top of their caps in the case of girls). However, the Apprentice House accounts show that girls were bought capes (a cloak with a hood), and that both boys and girls wore hats. A cape from around 1800-1820 can be found amongst the collections of the gallery of Costume in Manchester:

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Scarlet woollen hooded cloak, 1800-1820: copyright Manchester City Galleries

This one is quite a fine example, and was said to have been worn for a wedding in Mobberley in Cheshire. Though we might imagine the clothing of the poor as being particularly drab, this was not necessarily the case, and other contemporary images in addition to the ones reproduced here show greens and blues, as well as reds, much in evidence.[8] Red cloaks like this were worn by all classes of women, especially in rural areas, and they were often noted by foreign visitors as being traditional English dress.

We also know from the Quarry Bank records (and described in my earlier post in a post Apprentices and their boxes) that individual apprentices sometimes borrowed money on account from their wages to buy other – apparently less utilitarian – items of clothing, such as a new gown or slippers for girls, and a watch for one boy.[9] Manchester’s Gallery of Costume also has objects that might resemble some of the clothing that some apprentice girls bought.

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Pink kid slippers over white kid and linen, 1800-1810: copyright Manchester City Galleries

These slippers, from 1800-1810, were no doubt much finer than Quarry Bank’s child workers could afford, but they give an idea of the type of footwear that constituted a slipper in the early nineteenth century, and which were a world away from the sort of clogs that the children would have worn to protect their feet at other times.

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Cotton printed dress, 1795-1800: copyright Manchester City Galleries

This cotton dress from the last years of the eighteenth century shows us the sort of bright and relatively cheap gown that labouring women might buy (this one had formerly belonged to a domestic servant, though again, might be finer than the one a mill-worker would have bought, especially as we know that servants typically were given the hand-me-downs of their employers).

The watch that one apprentice boy bought would have been a pocket watch. Warrington Museum has a good example of this sort of timepiece, made by local watchmaker James Carter between 1823 and 1824. This would have been kept in a fob pocket in either the boy’s breeches or his waistcoat, with a hanging watch chain the proud sign – even when it was not in use – of his ownership of what was both a prestigious form of male jewellery and a practical tool for measuring the time.

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Warrington Museum, WAGMG, 1917.104.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Copy of letter from J. Barton from unspecified parish authority, to Samuel Greg, c. 21 February 1817, C5/8/9/2, Quarry Bank Archive.

[2] Examination of Joseph Sefton, 2 August 1806, Greg papers, C5/8/9/5, Manchester Archives.

[3] John Styles, The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England (2007), p. 25

[4] Vivienne Richmond, Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England (2013), p. 34.

[5] C. Willett and Philis Cunningham, History of Underclothes (1951).

[6] Richmond, Clothing the Poor, pp. 25-6.

[7] Styles, The Dress of the People, p. 40.

[8] See, for example, image by Henry Wigstead reproduced in Styles, The Dress of the People, p. xii.

[9] Stoppage ledger (children), 1815-47, Quarry Bank Archive.

 

The ‘Pickled cottage’ in Styal village

One of the buildings at Quarry Bank that will be newly open to the public after 2017 will be 13 Oak Cottages. It’s known locally as the Pickled cottage, because it has been literally pickled and left untouched and unaltered (and empty) since around the 1960s, if not earlier. It was built sometime during the 1820s, when the Gregs started the rapid expansion of the village to house its growing workforce. We know from the painstaking research recently completed by Ksenija Kolerovic that by 1841 it was occupied by Peter Nicklin, who was listed as a ‘cotton spinner’ in the 1841 census, but as working in ‘Making up’ and as an ‘Odd hand’ in the Mill’s wages books during the 1840s and 50s. He was aged 58 in 1841, and his wife Ann, was 52. Ann lived with him at 13 Oak Cottages and is not listed in either the census or the mill wages books as having paid employment. Along with Ann and Peter Nicklin, Catherine Burn (a 26 year old dyer at the Mill) lived with them as a lodger, and was joined by Mary Brown, a spinner, from 1845, according to information in rent books. The cellar was occupied from 1844 by Mary Bradbury (aged 24), who worked in the 1st card room on the drawing frames, her husband, William (aged 26), who worked in the 3rd card room at the mill, who lived there with one, and possibly, two young daughters. Though it’s hard to trace the occupants before the 1841 census, which was also the date that a detailed surviving rent book was begun, after this date, we can list the inhabitants of number 13 to the twentieth century.

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13 Oak Cottages, Styal

What is most striking about this description of the occupants in the early 1840s is not who they were or where they worked, but how many of them lived in what is a very small house by today’s standards. And though the Nicklins had lodgers, they appear to have had no children living with them, whilst other cottages in the village would surely have housed sizeable numbers of offspring. The Oak cottages, in common with many of the cottages at Styal, were constructed of two rooms per floor, so at number 13, the Nicklin household lived in small 4 rooms, the Bradburys in two cellar rooms. Though these houses seem cramped by modern standards, they would not have appeared so to contemporaries – particularly compared to the sorts of slum housing for workers in nearby towns such as Manchester, famously described by Engels in his Condition of the Working Class in England (1848). The cottages at Styal were also almost certainly better built and in a better state of repair than much urban worker housing.

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Front room, 1st (top) floor

In thinking about how we present this cottage to visitors once it is open to the public, we can obviously talk about who lived here, but I also want to give visitors a sense as well of what it was like to live here. In this respect, I can drawn on my own research on the use of domestic space in smaller trading households in towns such as Manchester and Liverpool during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Living in such small spaces was not simple, and the ways in which inhabitants would have shared their living space contradicts both traditional historical models of growing domestic privacy during the eighteenth century, and our own modern ideas about privacy and space. In households such as that of the Nicklins, restrictions on the size of living accommodation made many of the formal distinctions of space that we are used to unlikely. This means that we can’t assume that people applied single uses to different rooms as we do today – thus it seems quite possible that inhabitants would sleep and sit and socialize and cook and eat in the room we might think of as the front room (the first one you enter from the front door, which tellingly contains a range), whilst the back room might have been a form of kitchen and/or scullery (though without running water). It is also likely that unrelated individuals would have shared bedrooms, and probably beds. Whilst we might baulk at such ideas – not just sleeping in a room in which food is prepared and eaten, but especially bed-sharing – it is clear that company and physical proximity were often more highly prized in the early nineteenth century than was a more modern understanding of privacy (especially if it was cold). And we know, of course, that any workers who had come from the Apprentice House would have been used to sharing beds with others, whilst in a period when large families were the norm, sharing beds with siblings would have been standard.

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Front room, ground floor: 13 Oak Cottages

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Back room, ground floor

But this doesn’t mean that privacy wasn’t important in terms of upholding certain standards of respectability. The Nicklin household included two female lodgers, and the separation of the sexes to preserve modesty – especially between men and women who weren’t related or married – and to prevent inappropriate sexual relations would have been important. Although men and women appear not to have been generally segregated in terms of daily activities during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, there were clearly exceptions to this rule where sexual impropriety or modesty were concerned: such as mending undergarments, washing and not engaging in illicit sexual behaviour. Ensuring this sort of privacy meant that individuals had to abide by sets of unwritten rules about behaviour and conduct, such as not washing in front of those of the opposite sex, or men allowing women to mend their stockings in private. Failure to do so could mean that the familial dwelling switched from being a place of companionship, affection and the well-practiced art of ‘rubbing along’ together, to a site of tension and struggle. Of course we know from the story of one well-documented resident of the village, Esther Price, and others, that unsanctioned (that is, unmarried) sexual conduct did go on, but it was likely to be frowned upon by more godly and ‘respectable’ villagers.

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Cellar rooms (dividing wall removed)

Understanding how people negotiated shared existences in cramped spaces helps us to understand the ways in which they went about their everyday lives. I want to try to answer questions such as: What did a typical working day look like? What did mill workers do when not at work? Did they have time for leisure, and if so, what types of leisure? What did they eat? How much of their food did they grown in the small gardens to the front of the cottages? Where did they cook? How did they wash their clothes? Where did they wash themselves (presumably in the back yard, from a water butt or using a shared pump)? Where did they go to the toilet, since the cottages don’t seem to have had bathrooms (a shared privy)? Perhaps you can think of some others? I’ll do my best to answer them by next year.

Lives more ordinary: tradesmen and women during the industrial revolution

An eclectic mix of small manufacturers, shopkeepers and service providers dominated the streetscape of towns across the north-west of England during the late Georgian era. Today shop-workers usually commute into town centres to sell goods produced elsewhere, whilst the buildings in which they work tend to house offices above the ground and first floor levels. But in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, these buildings were generally inhabited day and night by individuals who both lived and worked in them, and who constituted anything from 20-60% of the urban population.

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John Ralston, Views of the Ancient Buildings in Manchester (Manchester, 1823-5), plate 4: Chetham’s Library

Our view of the commercial world in this period tends to be dominated by narratives of particularly big and successful businesses, and those involved in new and large-scale modes of production. Yet in places such as Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Bolton, Salford, Blackburn, Warrington, and Wigan, which are the settings of my current research, it was not great factories and mills that altered the urban and economic landscape – at least not before the 1820s – but rather the proliferation of small businesses. As Maxine Berg has argued, the transformation of towns and regions in the early industrial revolution in Britain was achieved ‘on the backs of a myriad of smaller and medium-scale producers, and not on the spectacular but isolated successes of small numbers of giant industrialists and financial elites’.[i] Moreover, as historians of consumption – including Berg – have explained, it was not only producers that promoted growth during the long eighteenth century, but also consumers, who bought goods from an increasing army of retailers, many of whom also contributed to the supply chain, by being involved in the manufacture of the goods that they stocked.

Notions of social class in the fast changing commercial landscapes of these towns were particularly slippery, and whilst hierarchies certainly existed in these societies, and were keenly regarded and extremely important to contemporaries, they can be difficult for historians to categorize. The complexity of social structure, and the fine gradations of status that constituted British society during the long eighteenth century, has been noted for many years. Though the very richest and most powerful members of the social elite, as well as those who were poorest and had least control over their destinies, seem relatively easy to identify, individuals who were positioned in-between are much harder to classify. One part of this section of society, the ‘middling sorts’, has particularly interested historians of the eighteenth century, and the size, wealth, culture and politics of the urban middle classes have all been subjected to scrutiny by scholars keen to map the fortunes of the ‘polite and commercial people’ of the eighteenth century, as well as tracing the emergence of the assertive bourgeoisie of the nineteenth. However, it seems likely that the middling sorts of the long eighteenth century (and indeed thereafter) constituted neither a unified nor a stable social group.

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‘The Morning News’ (1772) pictures a variety of tradesmen

The majority of tradesmen and women who form the basis of my current research could be defined as a subset of the middle class(es) – the ‘petit bourgeoisie’ or lower middle class – with the addition or inclusion of skilled artisans, which in the past some historians have termed the ‘labour aristocracy’, and also taking in rather wealthy members of the middle, or even upper middle classes, consisting of those who had been particularly successful in business. But to describe them thus appears to shoehorn these men and women into categories that have far more meaning for modern historians than they would have had for those at the time. Instead, it seems more useful to describe our subjects in a way which would have made sense both to the individuals concerned, and to their contemporaries: namely as being traders, by which is meant the buyers and sellers of goods, those involved in small-scale manufacturing or skilled handicrafts, and the providers of allied services.

Though ‘trade’ was used very broadly for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to describe any occupation, business or profession, by the late eighteenth century, a distinction is apparent between those who traded merchandise overseas on a grand scale, who were called merchants, and those whose efforts were more modest, and generally involved selling to individual domestic customers, who were termed traders or tradesmen (and women). From around 1750, authors of a variety of publications aimed at helping individuals negotiate day-to-day issues of business and commerce were clear in their understanding of ‘tradesmen’ as a recognisable group that was distinct from ‘gentlemen’ and ‘merchants’, as well as being far more numerous. Early on in the eighteenth century, Daniel Defoe differentiated between retailers (whom he described as ‘tradesmen’ or ‘tradingmen’) and small manufacturers (whom he termed ‘manufacturers’, ‘artists’ or ‘handicraftmen’).[ii] Though his definitions continued to be reproduced in a handful of works later on in the century, most publications tended to conflate these different meanings into the single term of tradesmen from the mid century onwards. Thus Catherine Kearsley’s Gentleman and Tradesman’s Pocket Ledger, for the year 1795, includes a section on ‘secrets in arts and trades’, some of which are specifically aimed at manufacturers. In the satirical Tradesman’s Looking-Glass from around 1785, a meeting of ‘poor tradesmen’ is described as being largely composed of small manufacturers, including ‘Crispin the shoemaker, Trim the taylor, Grim the Blacksmith, Glue the Joiner, Chip the Carpenter, Laystone the Mason, Pick-quarrel the Glazier, Hemp the Ropemaker, Lath the Tiler, Thum-it the Tinker, Lanck-wool the Serge-maker, Hanging Arse the Weaver, Greasy the Comber, Turn-round the spinner, Mend-all the Cobbler, Bloody the Butcher, Pinch-load the Baker, and Grind-all the Miller’.

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Similarly, Hannah More’s The Apprentice Turned Master, published in 1796, described how James Stock, the ‘faithful apprentice’ of Williams, the idle shoemaker, became a ‘creditable tradesman’ after being allowed to set up in business as a shoemaker himself by his ex-master’s creditors: ‘such is the power of a good character’. Those involved in manufacturing seem to have been typically described as traders, despite Defoe’s injunction that the term should be limited to shopkeepers who did not make their own wares. His definition of merchants, however, as a degree of people above traders, ‘who import the goods and growth of other countries, and export the growth and manufacture of England to other countries’, was generally shared into the nineteenth century, as was his understanding that there were ‘several degrees of people employed in trade below [tradesmen], such as workmen, labourers and servants’. Traders and tradesmen and women thus appear in contemporary texts as a diverse, yet distinct social group: above unskilled workers, but below merchants and those in the professions. By the early nineteenth century, and into the twentieth century, the emergence of the term ‘in trade’ underlined this distinction between those of higher ranks, and specifically precluded the possibility of traders being considered genteel, whatever their wealth.

The lack of attention paid to tradesmen and women in the past can be explained, at least in part, by their tendency not to leave a particularly significant mark on the historical record. Sometimes the glimpses found in the archive are frustratingly brief. This portrait of Nathan Wood, pattern and heel maker, inside his house, is a good example. Here Wood has been drawn by his friend and neighbour, the saddler, Thomas Barritt, sometime in the opening decade of the nineteenth century. We see Wood sitting proudly (if rather awkwardly, given Barritt’s limited drawing skills) in his workshop at the front of his house on Hanging Bridge in Manchester, facing the Collegiate Church, which is visible through the window.

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Chetham’s Library, Manchester Scrapbook, fo. 4.

Although the image is suggestive of industry, and possibly also of the sitter’s Anglican piety, it is limited in terms of what it tells us about Wood and his life. Was he successful in business? How did he view his position in the commercial and social milieux of early nineteenth-century Manchester, and how did others see him? Who else lived and worked with him? How did household and familial relations function? What was the rest of his house like, and how was living and working space organised? These things we do not know, for there seem to be few other surviving records of Wood’s life, save for his listing in trade directories over a thirty-year period. But though we know little about Nathan Wood’s particular experiences, I am attempting at least a partial reconstruction of the world in which he lived by piecing together evidence from a diverse set of sources, including court records, wills and inventories, paintings, maps, newspapers, business records, correspondence, diaries and memoirs.

Individuals such as Nathan Wood remain almost stubbornly absent from historical studies of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Though it has been almost forty years since Geoffrey Crossick first urged historians to examine the English lower middle class,[iii] the response since then has been somewhat muted. They have not been entirely overlooked, and a steady trickle of scholarship has appeared during the last three decades which has revealed much about aspects of lower middle-class life as diverse as occupation, status anxiety, religious and political affiliations and community relations, but such work has focused on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in large part. Moreover, it does not match the outpouring of recent work on more upper middle- and working-class family and gender relations and on identities. The failure of shopkeepers and small-scale manufacturers to excite subsequent scholars more interested in those obvious motors of social and economic change – the working classes and the wealthier middle classes – has not gone unnoticed. Neil McKendrick asked several decades ago why fellow historians have been so eager to explore the industrial revolution but not the consumer revolution, and in the process had ignored the bulk of people in trade. ‘Some discussion is required’ he asserted, ‘of why attention has centred on the great industrialists and the supply side of the supply-demand equation, and why so little attention has been given to those hordes of little men who helped to boost the demand side and who succeeded in exciting new wants, in making available new goods, and in satisfying a new consumer market of unprecedented size and buying power’.[iv] Of course I would contend that we need to pay attention to the hordes of ‘little women’ involved in this process too.

Though a lack of historical source material can go some way to explaining why those in trade have tended to be overlooked by historians, other factors might also have come into play. When Virginia Woolf railed against the systematic privileging of masculine interests over feminine ones in A Room of One’s Own in 1945 she famously complained: ‘This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battle-field is more important than a scene in a shop – everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists’. Woolf was writing about the literary profession, and the ways in which women’s fiction was systematically undermined and ignored, but her remark that a scene in a shop is generally seen to be less important than one on a battlefield is clearly pertinent when exploring the lives of tradesmen and women, in which much of the action takes place in, or adjacent to, the shop and the workshop.

As Arno Mayer implied, there may be a lingering ‘cultural cringe’ about those in trade.[v] Indeed, Virginia Woolf herself can be placed amongst those members of the early twentieth-century literary intelligensia who displayed what John Carey has described as an ‘anti-democratic animus’ which held members of the lower middle class in particular disdain.[vi] This suggests that it is not just the working classes who need rescuing from what Edward Thompson described as the ‘enormous condescension of posterity’.[vii] Moreover, though traders can be seen to have had a significant impact on the social and economic developments of early industrial revolution England, it is also the ‘ordinariness’ and the smaller-than-life adventures that individuals experienced that make them important to historians, for in order to truly understand the past we need to know not just about the exceptional and the heroic, but also the everyday and the commonplace. As men and women of largely humble means and often limited ambitions, it is perhaps not hard to see why they have failed to capture historians’ attention. Yet without them, the urban landscape in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries would have been completely different – and the very transformations in economy and society that we associate with this period would have been profoundly affected as a result. This means that to fully understand the period, in addition to exploring the lives of the Wedgwoods and the Boultons, we also need to know about the experiences and the aspirations of individuals such Nathan Wood.

[i] Maxine Berg, ‘Small producer capitalism in eighteenth-century England’, Business History, (1993).

[ii] Daniel Defoe, The Complete English Tradesman (1726).

[iii] Geoffrey Crossick, ed., The Lower Middle Class in Britain: 1870-1914 (1977).

[iv] Neil McKendrick, ‘Introduction’, in Neil McKendrick, John Brewer and J.H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England (London, 1983).

[v] Arno Mayer, ‘The lower middle class as a historical problem’, Journal of Modern History, 47, 3 (1975).

[vi] John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligensia, 1880-1939 (London, 1992).

[vii] E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London, 1963).

Hard work and hellfire: educating the children at Apprentice House

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Still from the Channel 4 series, The Mill

The child workers who lived at Apprentice House received a small amount of formal education. A teacher was employed from as early as 1788 to provide a basic education to the apprentices, though this seems to have been only for the boys. When the Apprentice House superintendents were quizzed by the Factory Commission in 1833, Elizabeth Shawcross claimed that ‘the [Greg] ladies teach the girls [on Sunday afternoons], and the schoolmaster the boys, 3 nights a week from eight to nine o’clock generally’. Additionally, Mrs Shawcross described teaching sewing to the girls in the evenings, whilst the girls not only made all of their own clothes but the boys’ shirts as well. When Joseph Sefton, an apprentice who had run away, was interviewed by Middlesex magistrates in 1806, he complained that ‘I was obliged to work overtime every night but I did not like this as I wanted to learn my book’. He suggested that the boys only had one lesson a week from the schoolmaster, and noted that though ‘we had a school every night’, individual boys ‘used to attend about once a week (besides Sundays when we all attended) … 8 at a time I wanted to go oftener to school than twice a week including Sundays but Richard Bamford [the mill manager] would not let me go’.

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Still from The Mill

Though we do not know what the boys were taught, it was likely to have taken the form of reading, writing and arithmetic, and may have included other subjects such as geography, though since time was short – with Joseph Sefton’s account suggesting just an hour a week – the education was likely to have been very basic. Books such as Joseph Collyer’s The Parent’s and Guardian’s Directory, and the Youth’s Guide, in the Choice of Profession or Trade (London, 1760), described the necessary education for apprentices in terms of teaching deference, obedience and a love of God, along with a ‘common education’ that focused on practical learning and the skills needed in trade, and specifically the three Rs.

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Still from The Mill

Unitarians, such as the Gregs, tended to favour education for all social classes, and Unitarians were active in promoting schooling for working-class children throughout Britain. Unitarian women were particularly involved in Sunday schooling, where the focus was firmly on religious education.[1] Both boys and girls at Apprentice House would have attended Sunday school, and at least in the early years of the nineteenth century, their religious education was supplemented by the efforts of the Hannah Greg, the mill owner’s wife, with her daughters joining in later years, as described in Elizabeth Shawcross’s account above.

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Hannah Greg in later life, date unknown

Two manuscripts survive amongst the Quarry Bank archive that were written by Hannah, and at least one of these was explicitly directed at the children at Apprentice House, and was entitled ‘Sermons for the Apprentices’. These sermons appear to have been delivered during 1819, with some repeated the following year. Based on stories and psalms from the Bible, they were intended to impart important life lessons for the children. Proverbs 22, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches’ was said to teach the children that whilst ‘we may work hard all our lives and never become rich’, everyone could aspire to have a good name and could secure this ‘by diligently performing every duty which belongs to the situation in which God has placed them’.

This lesson was echoed in another sermon on Psalm 9, which reminded the children that the best use of one’s time was to ‘cheerfully and diligently [follow] our several employments in life’, whilst warning them that the ‘slothful and unprofitable servant’ was liable to be ‘cast into outer darkness where was weeping and gnashing of teeth’. The virtue of humility was mentioned in more than one of Hannah Greg’s sermons, and though Unitarians were a sect that encouraged children to think and to reason for themselves, it is hard to escape the conclusion that one of the purposes of her teaching was to promote docile and obedient workers.

Hannah’s sermons on the wonders of God’s creations as evidenced by the human body, and the edicts to ‘love one another’ and to please God by acting with ‘love, wisdom and goodness’, may seem fairly benign. But the children were also reminded that God was ‘ever present with you in every moment of your lives’, and that bad conduct could result in being dispatched into Hell Fire. A similar tone was apparent in a work she wrote in 1800 entitled ‘catechisms of safety & health’. Despite its title, this appears to have been written with her own children in mind, yet though she described the benefits to their constitutions of horse riding, cricket and fencing, she also asserted that poor conduct would lead to physical ill health, so that the answer to the question ‘What painful operations must children often submit to if they are disobedient, imprudent, inattentive, intemperate, passionate &c?’ was said to beThey may be obliged to have Blisters, Leeches. Emetics, teeth drawn, bones set, cupped, amputation &c, tied in bed blinded &c &c &c’.

[1] Ruth Watts, Gender, Power and the Unitarians in England, 1760-1860 (London, Gender, Power and the Unitarians (1998).

Furnishing the Shawcross’s parlour

Last month I wrote about my work at the Apprentice House at Quarry Bank Mill and my idea for representing the lives of former child workers there by recreating the boxes in which they kept their possessions. This month I’ve been given an entirely different brief at Apprentice House: deciding how to present a room currently described as the Shawcross’s parlour.

The Apprentice House and garden, Quarry Bank Mill

The Apprentice House and garden, Quarry Bank Mill

George and Elizabeth Shawcross were employed as managers of the Apprentice House between 1811 and George’s death in 1834 (after which, Elizabeth carried on alone for a year before handing over to the Timperleys). George was paid an annual salary of £40 for his and his wife’s labours, and he received an additional £10 a year for his work in the village shop. This rate of pay means that the Shawcrosses were by no means rich, but it places them in the same income bracket as many small tradesmen and women in this period, so that it is not surprising that their son, William, was a butcher and their daughter, Hannah, married a hat maker.[1]

Parlour at the Apprentice House

Parlour at the Apprentice House

The room is currently fairly sparcely furnished: with white distempered walls, three wooden chairs, a corner cupboard, a side table and a small rag rug on the flagstone floor.  Because space is required to seat visitors on guided tours, much of the rest of the room is taken up with wooden benches (not shown on the image above). There are some ornamental touches: dried flowers in a vase, a china tea set on display, a copper kettle and other possessions, but it still feels a little empty, even for a couple of fairly modest means. When I first entered the room, I was reminded of the comments made by the Manchester grocer, George Heywood, upon moving into a shop and house on Old Millgate in 1815, when he complained in his diary that with only a set of chairs and a carpet downstairs, plus a single bed upstairs, he and his business partner ‘have little to come to’, with their house made more miserable because the walls upstairs were ‘naked’.[2] Though the Shawcrosses parlour suggests that they had more possessions than this, the lack of furniture and the white walls do not feel right to me.

The Shawcrosses might not have stretched to affording wallpaper, but they may have selected a coloured distemper for their walls. This is something that could be explored by a specialist analysis of the house’s decorative finishes.[3] But what of the contents of the room? With nothing surviving from the period in the house, and George Shawcross’s will devoid of any detail on his personal possessions, I’ve decided that the best approach is to look for examples of comparable individuals whose belongs were better documented. I’m using the same method that I undertook with Jane Hamlett in my current research project on north-west trading families in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, by examining inventories.

Early modern historians have long used probate inventories – the formal lists of a person’s possessions produced after their death – to determine spatial organisation, room naming, and the variety and distribution of goods within households: though it has also been pointed out that inventories must to be used with care.[4] Georgio Riello, for example, has shown some of the pitfalls of the inventory for the historical researcher, most notably the subjectivity of the inventory maker and the frequent absence of non-valuable items from these lists.[5] Far fewer inventories survive for the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as the custom of exhibiting inventories in court and retaining them in the administrative records, if not of making inventories themselves, declined from the 1720s.[6] However, inventories were often preserved in Cause papers relating to disputed wills.[7] This means that a handful do survive for individuals in trade in northern England during the closing decade of the eighteenth century and first quarter of the nineteenth who look to be broadly comparable in social status and income to the Shawcrosses.

Within the limitations of what survives, I have narrowed down my examination to the inventories of a Newcastle-under-Lyme hatter (1811), a Cheadle butcher (1797), a Liverpool butcher (1795), a Cheshire miller (1797), a Doncaster shopkeeper (1818) and a butcher from Batley in Yorkshire (1824). Two things have struck me when looking at these inventories: first, that they list many more items of furniture in their main living rooms than are present in the current interpretation of the Shawcross’s parlour, and secondly, that rooms such as this are usually not described as a parlour, but rather as a ‘house place’, ‘house part’ or simply ‘house’. Some of the inventories I am looking at list a ‘parlour’ as well, but these rooms seem to have been less well furnished and not the first room in the house. Weatherill notes that before 1760, house place, house part or hall were commonly used to describe the main living room in small English households.[8] By the second half of the eighteenth century in most regions, and in some places even earlier, the kitchen seems to have replaced the house place.[9] However, the older name, was still used by tradesmen and women into the nineteenth century in the north of England.[10] So it seems that I might be in charge of decorating and furnishing the Shawcross’s house place, rather than their parlour.

First page of the inventory of William Spedding, 1824: copyright of the Borthwick Institute For Archives, York

First page of the inventory of William Spedding, 1824, Borthwick Institute For Archives, York

Moreover, this room is likely to have more in it than it does now: perhaps in line with the possessions of the Batley butcher, William Spedding. An inventory of his goods taken in 1824 listed the ‘house’ as containing a mahogany desk and bookcase, 1 elm and 4 mahogany chairs, 1 mahogany card table, a small stand, a walnut desk, dressing glass (mirror), 3 Japan waiters (decorated trays), 2 brass candlesticks, 7 pictures, ‘birds in case’ (presumably stuffed), a wine glass and 4 tumblers, a metal tea pot, 6 pitchers, a pitcher and basin, 3 vegetable dishes and covers, 3 basins, 2 jugs, 3 oval dishes, a tureen, 5 pie dishes, 2 glass bottles and ‘sundry 3 small pots’.[11] Other inventories list clocks, dinning tables and sofas and suggest rooms that were pleasantly cluttered and more welcoming than the Shawcross’s parlour in its current incarnation: in which case, I think I need to get ready to do some shopping.

[1] I am grateful to Danika Grace Lloyd, a QBM volunteer, for her painstaking research on the family history of the Shawcrosses.

[2] John Rylands Library, Diary of George Heywood, Eng MS 703, fo. 76.

[3] Work such as this is carried out by Patrick Baty who has a fascinating website on his various projects.

[4] For a summary of these surveys before 2000 see Tom Arkell, ‘Interpreting Probate Inventories,’ in Tom Arkell, Nesta Evans and Nigel Goose (eds) When Death Do Us Part: Understanding and Interpreting the Probate Records of Early Modern England (2000).

[5] Giorgio Riello, ‘“Things Seen and Unseen: The Material Culture of Early Modern Inventories and Their Representation of Domestic Interiors’, in Paula Findlen, ed., Early Modern Things: Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800 (2013). See also see Mark Overton, Jane Whittle, Darron Dean and Andrew Hann, Production and Consumption in English Households, 1600-1750 (2004), pp.14-18; John Bedell, ‘Archaeology and Probate Inventories in the Study of Eighteenth-Century Life, ‘Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 31, no. 2, (Autumn 2000), pp. 239-240.

[6] Jeff and Nancy Cox, ‘Probate 1500-1800: A System in Transition,’ in Arkell, Evans and Goose (eds), When Death Do Us Part, p. 27; John S. Moore, ‘Probate Inventories: Problems and Prospects,’ in Philip Riden, ed., Probate Records and the Local Community (1985), p. 27.

[7] Moore, ‘Probate Inventories,’ p. 17.

[8] Lorna Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain 1660-1760 1996), p. 10.

[9] Ursula Priestley and Penelope Corfield, ‘Rooms and room use in Norwich, 1580-1730’, Post-medieval Archaeology, 16 (1982), p. 106; Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour, p. 150; Margaret Ponsonby, Stories from Home: English Domestic Interiors, 1750-1850 (2007), p.105.

[10] Susan Denyer, Traditional Buildings and Life in the Lake District (1991), p. 18; Ponsonby, Stories from Home, pp.105, 136.

[11] Probate account of William Spedding, Batley, Yorks, Borthwick Test CP 1824/1: you can find other Yorkshire inventories by searching the Borthwick Cause Papers.

Manchester’s Apple Market

Not my usual day at the office - just a touch surreal

Not my usual day at the office

Helping Britain Blossom is a scheme that aims to restore and create 100 community orchards in the UK by 2017. It is supported by the Bulmer Foundation and the Urban Orchard Project. On Apple Day (21 October) they launched the project in Manchester hoping to encourage volunteers and to locate some of the region’s forgotten orchards. As part of the launch they brought back to life Manchester’s apple market that used to exist on Fennel St in the City Centre, and I went along to provide some historical context.

Talking Manchester's fruit history

Talking Manchester’s fruit history

Though Manchester’s main market during the eighteenth century was in Market Place, by the later part of the century lack of space led to a series of specialized markets setting up in adjoining streets, when the Apple or Fruit market moved to Fennel Street. Here it remained from 1769 to 1846 when the market made way for road improvements.

Fennel Street in 1820 by Thomas Barrit, Chetham's Library

Fennel Street in 1820 by Thomas Barrit, Chetham’s Library

The Apple Market in Manchester was the traditional name for the town’s fruit market. Although other types of fruit were sold here, apples dominated the fruit trade from at least the eighteenth century, hence the market’s name. Roger Scola, who traced the food supply of Victorian Manchester in his book, Feeding the Victorian City: The Food Supply of Manchester 1770-1870 (1992) noted that whilst apples arrived to the town from counties such as Worcestershire and Herefordshire, they were also grown more locally in the market garden-districts around Warrington and Stretford as well as in a large number of small mixed farms.

Property on Shude-Hill c. 1760-83, Hulme Deeds, Cheham's Library

Property on Shude-Hill c. 1760-83, Hulme Deeds, Cheham’s Library

We can also see evidence of apple growing right in the centre of town in a deed map dating from c.1760-1783 held at Chetham’s Library. This shows in unusual detail a series of plots around Shude Hill – a mere stone’s throw from the site of the Apple Market. Here we can see what look to be two small orchards in the gardens of two properties. Hopefully we will soon see more small orchards in and around greater Manchester.

Hulme Deeds, Cheham's Library

Hulme Deeds, Cheham’s Library

Despite the rain, still smiling!

Despite the rain, still smiling!

Apprentices and their boxes: rethinking the girls’ dormitory in the Apprentice House at Quarry Bank

I am lucky enough to be working with the National Trust at Quarry Bank on the Styal estate in Cheshire as a Historic Advisor. The Quarry Bank team have just embarked upon a £9.4m expansion project that will incorporate opening-up several buildings at Styal that are currently closed to the public, as well as reworking the way some existing sites are presented and interpreted. As a social historian who researches the use of domestic and work space in the north west of England in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this is, of course, very exciting.

The first building we have in our sights is the Apprentice House, built to house Quarry Bank mill’s child apprentices in the mid 1780s.

The Apprentice House

The Apprentice House

There would have been up to 100 children living here during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, aged between 8 and 17 years old. One room that I am particularly interested in is the girls’ dormitory. Currently the room is laid out with simple beds and bedding in a style likely to have been used around the late eighteenth century – complete with uncomfortable straw-filled mattresses. Marks and indentations on the walls have been used to help decide how many beds were in the room and where they were positioned, though the need for modern-day visitors to move around the space means that it is not nearly as rammed full of beds as it must have been when it housed around 60 girls, two to a bed. The walls are whitewashed and the floorboards bare, again, as would likely have been the case when the building was in use originally, and there are some chamber pots placed under the beds, containing straw and a non-specified liquid to evoke the sights (if not the smells) of the original toilet arrangements. A few cloaks and hats also hang on the wooden hooks on one wall to show the types of outer garments that the apprentices would wear.

The girls' dormitory

The girls’ dormitory

One of the things I would like to do in Apprentice House is to give visitors a clearer sense of what it was like from the point of view of the original occupants: that is, the child apprentices. So, for me, this room as it is currently presented is too airy, too roomy and far too quiet. And more than this, it gives very little sense of the individual children who have lived here – not even their names appear. In the weeks and months to come, along with the fantastic National Trust interpretation, learning and archival team at Quarry Bank, I’ll be exploring what we can do about this: how we can turn this quiet, still space into something that gives more of a sense of its earlier, noisier, smellier and more cramped past, when it was full of children.

One way that I am thinking of achieving this transformation is by examining the material culture of the apprentices, or put less technically, the things that surrounded them. Specifically, I want to explore the possibility of introducing apprentices’ boxes into the room, and by doing so, telling the individual children’s stories. Amanda Vickery’s work on privacy in eighteenth-century London has shown how even the most lowly of inhabitants in the capital, such as servants and other mobile employees, would have a portable locking box to keep their personal possessions safe.[1] The same source that Vickery used in her examination, the records of the Old Bailey Proceedings, provide ample evidence that London apprentices commonly had their own box, which was usually described in court either as the hiding place for stolen goods, or the site from which items were stolen. Thus in 1794, the court was told that the tailor, Richard Packer, had forced his apprentice, John Piper, to open the locked box which he kept in his room, in which was discovered sewing silk which had been stolen from his master.[2] On 14 September 1808, 13 year-old William Green was sentenced to a year in the house of correction for stealing 39 shillings worth of goods from his master, the shopkeeper, John Wheeler, to whom he had been apprenticed since he was 8.[3] Some of the goods concerned had been found in Green’s locked box. Conversely, in 1821, the plaster’s apprentice, Thomas Harris, accused his own brother, James, of stealing a coat from Thomas’s box that he had subsequently pawned for half a crown.[4] We can find similar cases outside of London as well, with the tailor, John Martin, reporting at the Huntingdonshire Court of Quarter Sessions in 1827 that he had found stolen buttons and cloth in the box of his apprentice.[5] Likewise, the Caernarfonshire Court of Quarter Sessions was told in 1836 that a stolen book had been discoverd in the box of Robert Thomas, apprentice to the printer, Josiah Thomas.[6]

Though no equivalent records have been found for apprentices at Quarry Bank, we do know that it was likely that they each had at least two sets of clothes,[7] and that they sometimes borrowed money from their employer to buy other items, such as a new gown, shoes, a sliding rule, a flute and even a watch.[8] In addition, though some of the Apprentice Indentures (the formal agreements between the mill owners and the apprentices’ parents) at Quarry Bank show that apprentices were provided with clothing by the mill owners, others were paid higher wages (9d or pence a week instead of 1d between 1786 and 1796, the period for which records survive), but that these higher paid apprentices appeared to have to buy their own clothes.[9] These facts – coupled with the ubiquity of apprentices’ boxes in other records – makes it very likely that the Quarry Bank apprentices also had their own boxes, perhaps stored under their beds, in which to keep their possessions. Recreating some of these boxes and their contents, alongside providing details of the lives of their owners using Quarry Bank’s rich archival holdings, will give us a much stronger sense of these children’s experiences working and living at Quarry Bank. I hope it will help visitors to feel both a closer connection with these child workers and develop a clearer sense of what being an apprentice at the mill would have been like.

[1] Amanda Vickery, ‘An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle? Thresholds, Boundaries and Privacies in the Eighteenth-Century London House’, Past & Present, No. 199 (May, 2008), 147-173, pp 163-7.

[2] Old Bailey Proceedings (OBP: available online at www.oldbaileyonline.org), 16 July 1794, John Piper, t17940716-56.

[3] OBP, 14 September 1808, William Green, t18080914-28. For other similar cases, see OBP, 12 September 1804, Hammond Chapman, t18040912-55; OBP, 29 October 1806, Charles Hogg, t1806129-6; OBP, 1 November 1809, Robert Carter, James Furneaux, Robert Shipley, 18110710-76; OBP, 10 July 1811, Joseph Baylis, James Winks, t18110710-76; OBP, 18 February 1818, Henry Wood, t18180218-61.

[4] OBP, 14 February 1821, James Harris, t18210214-141. For other similar cases, see OBP, 17 September 1794, James Brazier, t17940917-54; OBP, 25 October 1797, John North, t17971025-43; OBP, 30 October 1806, John Percival, t19051030-20; OBP, 12 April 1820, Ann Anderson, t18200412-59.

[5] HCP/1/11, Huntingdonshire Archives.

[6] XQS/1836/69, Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon Record Office.

[7] Copy of letter from J. Barton from unspecified parish authority, to Samuel Greg, c. 21 February 1817, C5/8/9/2, Quarry Bank Archive.

[8] Stoppage ledger (children), 1815-47, Quarry Bank Archive.

[9] Apprentice Indentures, 1786-1796, Quarry Bank Archive.