Within one room being large and long,
There stood two hundred looms full strong:
Two hundred men the truth is so,
Wrought in these looms all in a row.
And in another place hard by
A hundred women merrily,
Were carding hard with joyful cheer,
Who singing sat, with voices clear,
And in a chamber close beside,
Two hundred maidens did abide
In petticoats of stammell red
And milk-white kerchers on their head.
These pretty maids did never lin
But in that place all day did spin;
And spinning so with voices meet,
Like nightingales they sung full sweet,
Then to another room came they.
Where children were in poor array:
And everyone sat picking wool,
The finest from the coarse to cull.
A dye-house likewise had he then,
Wherein he kept full forty men;
And likewise in his fulling mill,
Full twenty persons kept he still.
'In my grandfather's time the cloth weavers had their looms and did their work at their houses. The
broad cloth loom was worked by two persons and this way of working the broad loom had always
been adopted, I should say, from the first time that weavers began to weave broad woollen cloth. This
double handed weaving as it was called, often brought on disputes between the parties who had to
work at the looms, for when one person was absent the other was obliged to remain idle, but by and by
there was a very simple plan adopted, by which one person could work the broad loom much better
than two persons could before.
Though simple, it was an excellent discovery for before it was adopted the weavers stood at each side
of the loom. The shuttle was thrown across the loom by the weaver at the right hand side and caught in
the left hand by the other weaver; so the shuttle in that old fashioned way was continuously thrown
from one person to the other.
There were, at that time, many master weavers who were rather respectable men who kept from 4 to 6
looms in their house - those who had room for them. The master weaver kept journeymen and women,
and gave the journeyfolk about 2/3 the price of the work so as to pay himself for the loom room. Some
ill feeling often existed on account of this, for the master weaver became too pressing on the
At this time there were small makers of cloth, and they sometimes went by the name "slingers" or
"embezzlers" and sometimes tempted the journeymen to purloin yarn so as to get a cheap lot to help
them make a piece of cloth. Work people were often tempted or entrapped by those slingers or
embezzlers and if they were not actually caught doing the thing, they were sometimes informed against
and brought before a magistrate to answer the charge of receiving embezzled wool or yarn. If the small
clothmaker could not give a fair account of it he came under a fine and non-payment subjected him to a
period of imprisonment.
There were persons who kept little mills and who rather connived at those things for they took the
slingers cloth to hire to finish it for them. Now this was a very bad system going on at the time
inasmuch as people who had been strictly honest before, sometimes became enticed by those slingers
and lost their employment and their character and perhaps were never likely to get work at a regular
master clothiers again. These things going on often made the large master clothiers' suspicious, and
justly so; for these slingers often ran into the market with a piece or two of cloth and sold it at a
reduced price - and still getting a good profit from it. I believe now that all those slingers have died out.
Fatherless and motherless boys and girls were often apprenticed by the parish to some master weaver.
They had to do all the drudgery of the house and were kept almost as petty slaves and wore through an
irksome life. The master weaver claimed the honour to himself of making the cloth. Certainly he wove
the yarn to form the cloth but of the forwarding machines in making the and finishing the cloth he knew
The power loom was gradually introduced into the clothing trade of the Stroud district without any
opposition or particular excitement. The power loom was complete in itself and was an acceptable
acquisition to the other machinery employed in the clothing trade. The hand loom weaving was hard,
About the time the power loom was being introduced there were advantages held out to persons to
emigrate to Australia* which drew many of the hand loom weavers away, and young persons did not
care very much about learning the hand loom work, for young females who had followed the hand loom
had gradually swollen and ganty looking legs and by their half sitting position at their work they often
became short and mumpy in their persons, for their feet, hands and head went together.'
*Free settlers to Australia were enticed by the cheap passage available from landlords, workhouses or
central government. They were also given the opportunity of acquiring land on which to raise sheep and
they could see the possibilities of a new woollen trade growing up.
This was particularly attractive to people from the Cotswolds who had been raised in this industry and
who thought they could profit from their knowledge.
The sailing time to Australia was three months but this didn't deter; by 1851 the population of Australia
was 437,665 and had grown rapidly to three million by 1889.
Sir William Marling wrote a paper on the Woollen Trade and read this extract at a speech he gave at
Stroud Textile School in 1908.
"On the whole Mr Mile's recital is a sad one (he was describing the report put together by W.A.
Miles in 1838) and in striking contrast to the happier conditions prevailing today in the Stroud valley.
Various remedies were devised to cope with the distress; amongst them the cultivation of allotment
gardens, and the encouragement of migration to other districts where labour was in more demand, while
not a few benevolent residents in the district exerted themselves in assisting emigration. Some parishes,
such as Uley and Bisley, borrowed money for this purpose, and Mr Miles gives a statement of the cost
of emigrating 68 persons from Bisley Parish, who sailed on August 31st 1837 from Bristol. The total
cost of these 68 persons was 191 pounds the whole of which sum was defrayed by public subscription
or by borrowing on the security of the rates."
THE LIFE OF A WEAVER IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY
Hard Work and Low Wages
The following extract is from the Stroud Journal, published in 1868. It was further
reproduced in the booklet "The Stroudwater Riots of 1825 by John Loosely and published by
the Stroud Museum Association in 1993
In the extract the author remembers the life for his grandfather around the time of the riots
Wool Pickers (Women)W6s
Wool Feeders (Children)W3s
Mule Spinners (Men)M20s
Drawers and Markers (W)D9s
This can be compared to the typical farm labourers weekly wage at the time which was 9s with cottage and garden.
The table below details the weekly wages earned by workers in the cloth trade during 1839.
The week always meant 60 hours and sometimes more.
This page last modified on Sunday, March 01, 2009
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