Labour and the Wage

 

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Introduction

This chapter analyses a number of aspects of labour during the period. It takes the deployment of the labour resource as a significant determinant of economic importance, and applies this measure to the economy of Manchester, illustrating how the different deployment of labour reflected the changing economic role of the town during the period. Changes in the nature of labour, and the experience of skilled and manual workers, arising from the transformation of the economy in Manchester and its region are shown, and the inherent flexibility of the labour market and of labourers' practices are shown to be one of the features that allowed the economic changes to take place. Finally the culture of work is discussed, and the responses of the working poor to the major changes of the period are shown, especially in the realm of conflict with employers of labour, which became a crucial element of the mode of working in the new urban industrialised economy.

The Changing Occupational Structure

This section demonstrates the importance of textile and related industries to the economy of Manchester during the period. The chronological pattern of changes to the occupational structure also suggest the impact of innovation on the town. No similar study has been made of Manchester's occupational structure during the period, although Wadsworth and Mann undertook a similar exercise in abstracting the number of persons engaged in different trades listed in the 1773 and 1781 trade directories for the town. [1] They did not, however, include non-textile trades in their figures, and therefore did not show the proportionate importance of textiles in the town's trading system. This section illustrates a very clear pattern.

A traditional economic historical method of determining the relative economic importance of different industries within a town or village is to use a proxy for an occupational structure. Such a proxy is used because it is rare that a comprehensive listing of the whole of a town or village's inhabitants' occupations exists. One of the most easily used proxies, for English local history, is provided by the Church of England parish register, which often, from the mid-seventeenth centuries onwards, lists the occupation of male grooms, or fathers of baptised children. [2]

Table 5.1 shows the different significant industries in the town and the percentages of grooms marrying at Manchester Parish Church, at various dates, following each occupation. The figures are used as a proxy to show the changes which took place in the economy. The limitations of such figures must be acknowledged: they completely ignore the work of women and children, which was significant and will be discussed later, and miss the gender dimension which was particularly important during the end of the period under study, when the expansion of the industry had a distinct gender impact, they are also probably age-biased, tending to under-represent older men, who would probably have married in their twenties.

The figures do however, show a series of trends, which can be referenced to the innovation of the industrial processes described in previous chapters. In the first four of the time periods tabled below, there are virtually no (male) spinners at all. Spinning was overwhelmingly, as contemporaries acknowledged, a task for women and children. By 1790, spinning employed over 9% of (probably young) grooms, falling to 7% by the end of the decade. This transition can only be explained in terms of the commencement of the factory spinning of cotton in Manchester. Likewise with weaving, a third of grooms in the period 1754-7, were weavers. Weaving was therefore the single largest employer of male labour in the town in the mid-century. This remained relatively constant until around 1770, when the proportion of grooms employed as weavers fell to 20%, below which it remained for perhaps two and a half decades, recovering slightly to 24% by 1799. Calenderers, very much a minority occupation throughout the period, when compared with spinning or weaving, after a brief increase in the figures for 1770, fell below their 1754-7 level of 2.2% and remained constant at around 1.6% then after. There is some suggestion (see Table 2.1 in The Manchester Region), that there was a brief expansion of the fustian industry, of which calendering was a finishing process, during the 1770s and 1780s, after which it was eclipsed, but not destroyed, by the growth of the pure cotton industry.

SECTOR

1754-7

1765-6

1770.00

1780.00

1790.00

1799.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Textiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinners

0.20

0.00

0.00

0.00

9.20

7.20

Warpers

1.60

2.00

1.60

1.60

0.00

1.60

Weavers

33.30

29.10

20.40

16.20

18.20

24.00

Dressers

0.80

1.20

1.60

2.90

3.20

0.40

Bleachers

0.00

1.20

0.80

0.40

0.40

0.00

Dyers

2.00

0.40

2.00

2.40

2.80

2.80

Cutters

1.60

0.80

3.20

2.50

3.20

2.00

Calenderers

2.20

2.00

2.80

1.70

1.60

1.60

Shearers

1.00

0.40

0.40

0.40

0.40

0.00

Other

2.20

1.60

2.00

5.30

6.40

6.40

Distribution

7.00

7.60

6.80

7.10

4.40

2.90

Total Textiles

51.90

46.30

41.60

40.50

49.80

48.90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clothing

13.00

12.80

12.40

9.70

10.00

9.60

Building

5.20

9.60

10.00

6.00

12.40

1.60

Agric & Food

7.60

9.60

10.00

8.00

7.60

12.00

Soldiers

1.60

3.60

8.00

11.80

1.20

5.60

Other

20.70

18.10

18.00

24.00

19.00

22.30

 Table 5.1. Occupations of Grooms Married at Manchester Cathedral (percentages) [3]

 The table shows that throughout the period, the different branches of the textile industries employed between forty and fifty per cent of grooms in the town of Manchester. Wadsworth and Mann have suggested that "It is highly probably that with the increasing variety of the finishing processes and the expansion of the markets, the Manchester manufacturers tended to become more dealers and merchants than direct employers..." [4] Table 5.1 would tend to confirm this supposition, there being a drop in the percentage of grooms recorded as weavers from 33% in the  mid 1750s, to 16% in 1780, at the end of the authors' period. However, there was an increase in weaving grooms to 24% in 1799, and the introduction of a new class of male manufacturer- the machine spinner. This suggests a resurgence of the importance of the Manchester manufacturer as an employer of labour, after a period of decline.

 The table shows the importance of the textile industry to male employment throughout the period. It also shows the significance of the clothing industry comprising tailors, shoemakers and hatters, the latter using the large quantities of felt produced in the town and in the surrounding countryside. There was a relatively large number of soldiers in the town during the latter part of the period, perhaps as a consequence of the industrial unrest and factory burning which occurred in late 1779, and the French Wars of the 1790s. The erratic percentage of persons employed in the building trade suggests intermittent growth in the town.

 Williamson, taking aggregate data for the whole country, has suggested that "manufacturing was hardly the leading sector driving non-agricultural employment growth during the French Wars... employment growth in manufacturing was a bit below that of services and far below that of mining." [5] The evidence of the occupational structure shown above very clearly attributes Manchester's growth to the growing textile industry: where there was an absolute increase in the numbers employed, as well as a slight relative fall in percentage terms. There was a slight increase in the percentage of men employed in agriculture and food-related occupations, as a result of Manchester's growing importance as a market-centre for both textile products and non-textile goods, such as food.

 One of the weaknesses of  Table 5.1 is that it relates solely to the employment of men (and predominantly young men as well). The surviving evidence for women's "market" employment does not yield to the easy quantification of the marriage registers. Some historians have asserted that industrialisation generated a far greater rigidity in the sexual division of labour: "Technological change brought with it a clearer division of labour between women and men: such a division had always existed within the family... Now the line between 'men's work' and 'women's work' was to be much more sharply drawn, in the home, the workshop and the factory." [6] However, in the Manchester of the turn of the century, certainly in the textile industry, and also in business proprietorship, women had work opportunities which had not been open to them earlier in the century, and which were not open to women of their daughters' generation. There was therefore a wider window of opportunity towards the end of the period- not as great as that open to men- but it was a window which had largely closed by the opening of the Victorian era.

 Women and Work

 This section looks at the role of women in the labour force during the period. It stresses the enormous difficulties of quantification which result in a full assessment of women's involvement in the formal world of work being, if not impossible, then not comparable with the assessment which can be made of that of men. It also shows the importance of women's proprietorship during the period, and raises the question of there having been a network of employment and consumption which, during the closing years of the eighteenth century could briefly have constituted a "women's economy".

 The initial innovation of the factory primarily provided job opportunities for women: throughout the period the textile factory existed to spin yarn, and women had been the traditional spinners in the proto-industrial economy. It was therefore natural that the factory labour force should be largely female. During the factory burning months in 1779, a gentleman warned irate weavers against attacking Arkwright's Cromford factory, claiming that "6000 Men, Miners &c can at any Time be assembled in less than an Hour... [to defend the factory] by which many hundreds of their Wives and Children get a decent and comfortable Livelihood." [7]

 By the 1790s, many men had become industrial mule spinners, and had established their trades unions, making up perhaps 9% of the young male workforce of the town, but women continued to be employed in the spinning factories, especially those on the semi-rural parts of the Manchester region. In 1797, Oldknow announced of his Mellor factory, that "it is my intention gradually to increase my Establishment of Female Apprentices from 50 to 100", and sought "Healthy and good looking girls" to achieve this objective. [8] Women had also been involved in weaving from the early part of the period. A woman was mugged and robbed "of the Money which she had receiv'd for weaving a Piece of Check, and the Warp of a new one, which she was carrying home to weave." [9] By the end of the period, there were many women weavers. In 1803, a Bolton weaver opined "The women's talent is equal to the men's when the work is not too heavy; we have some women whose talent is equal to any man's in the middle kind of work." [10] Another Bolton weaver, when asked how many cotton worker there were in the county, declared that "there are, perhaps, as many Females as Males in some Parts." [11]  By the end of the period, therefore, the gender division of labour was far from resolved and certain: both women and men were engaged in the two main processes in textile production.

 The problem of quantification remains: it is impossible to determine with any numerical certainty just how many women were involved in these processes. However, there are quantifiable series of data relating to women's proprietorship available for the period, from the trade directories, comparable to those data used by Wadsworth and Mann for traders as a whole. [12]

Occupation

1772.00

1788.00

1800.00

 

 

 

 

black working

2.00

8.00

4.00

clear starching

0.00

1.00

12.00

flour dealing

0.00

3.00

36.00

fustian working

2.00

6.00

14.00

grocery

6.00

2.00

4.00

linen drapery

4.00

11.00

7.00

mantua making

4.00

11.00

29.00

millinery

4.00

20.00

24.00

school teaching

3.00

6.00

29.00

tea dealing

2.00

12.00

4.00

victualling

11.00

0.00

28.00

other

38.00

80.00

191.00

Total

71.00

156.00

316.00

 

 Table 5.2. Businesses of Women Proprietors. Manchester 1772-1800 [13]

 The most conspicuous feature of the table is the diversity of businesses of which women were proprietors. In each of the three years, between fifty and sixty per cent of the businesses did not fall into one of the major groups separately listed above. Some of the businesses could be regarded as the specialisation and sale of traditional, "female", domestic skills in the market place: the clear-starching, school teaching and victualling businesses falling into this category. Some widows took over the businesses of their husbands, especially in retail trades. In 1790 Alice Wilson took over the business of her late husband Thomas, a woollen draper. [14] Such businesses could also be enduring: in April 1790, Ann Birch took over the calendering business of her late husband, and the business was listed in the Manchester directory of 1800. [15]

 It may be rash to write of Manchester having a distinct "women's economy" during the period, but the above table does suggest that the some of the main areas of women's proprietorial involvement were those activities where the likely purchaser would be female: clear-starching, flour dealing, grocery, mantua making and millinery, (girls') schooling, and tea dealing (the consumption of tea having been a distinctly feminine activity). To some extent, consumption and sale may have developed a "gendered dimension" during the 1790s.

 This section has shown the difficulty of assessing the nature and concentration of women's employment in the same terms as men's during the period. It has also shown the diversity of women's employment during the period, and the increased opportunity for women to have extra-mural remunerated employment, which may have increased their independence. The growing significance of female proprietors in the later decades of the eighteenth century has also been illustrated.

 The Changing Nature of Labour

 This section describes the nature of labour as it was conducted in and around Manchester during the period. The geographical mobility of workers and mutability of labour and occupations are demonstrated, and the importance of kinship in both securing employment and in providing a supportive household network when such employment was commenced is shown. This section shows that there was a fluid labour force, both geographically and occupationally, and that this fluidity predates the classical industrial revolution, at least within the geographical confines of the study. These characteristics are in contrast to those found in some other proto-industrial areas.

 There are a number of key features of labour during the period which stand out, particularly in comparison with the experience of other regions. Writing of late eighteenth century Upper Normandy, like Manchester a classic proto-industrial region, Gullickson found that "most children, both daughters and sons, remained at home until they married". [16] In the Manchester region there appears to have been a substantial amount of premarital geographical mobility, although such mobility was often within a relatively confined area. [17] The initial departure from the family home was usually to commence an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships usually began when a child was in the age range 11 to 16.

 The children of those who were burdensome on the poor rates were often apprenticed by the overseers of the poor. Simonton argues that "Parish apprentices were more prevalent in poorer trades, such as cordwaining and weaving, than in prosperous ones, which lends weight to [the argument about] their being cheap supplementary labour instead of receiving meaningful training." [18] In the Manchester region, overseers from a number of parishes predominantly apprenticed boys to weavers, but by the middle of the period in question (say 1775) probably half the young adult males in the region were weavers: there is therefore no reason to suggest that pauper apprentices were disadvantaged in comparison to "private" apprentices from the same social strata as themselves, indeed they may have been at an advantage because the parish paid the apprenticeship premium, which Simonton sees as a means by which the parish could end their relationship and responsibility towards the apprentice, but which was a common feature of the apprenticeship system. In Blackburn the apprenticeship premium varied over time and according to the trade to be taught, but never appears to have been in excess of £10. [19] Even a modest premium of £2 would put an enormous burden on a poor family, the weekly earnings of which were unlikely to be much in excess of 22s.

 Apprenticeship often involved residing with the master. Kussmaul has described apprenticeship and service as "early modern institutional conveyors, moving people from their place of birth to new parishes, and from parish of employment to another". [20] It also involved being subjected to the in loco parentis authority of the master and mistress, which was bolstered by the legal form of the apprenticeship indenture which often required "Ale-houses, Taverns or evil Company he shall not frequent unless it be about his Masters Business thereto be done. Fornication or Adultery he shall not commit, nor Matrimony contract during the said Term." [21] Not withstanding the latter prohibition, during Stephen Hitchen's apprenticeship "he had connection with Joanna Ellis a young woman who lived in the same Family [the family of his master] with him and who happening to be with child his Master persuaded this examinant to Marry her..." [22] In the mid 1790s Robert Aspden apprenticed himself to a firm of calico printers, and lived with his father for the first two years of his apprenticeship, and John Cottam, after becoming an apprentice to the calico printing firm of the Peels of Blackburn, "boarded with several different families in the Townships of Clayton le Moors, Rishton, Accrington and Church." [23] Even for apprenticeships to the more middling occupations "living out" became increasingly important "An Apprentice Wanted To a Silk Manufacturer in Manchester... out of a respectable Family, with which (or some other Friend), he must board during his Term, which is to be considered as Part of the Premium." [24] For the women who were apprenticed, "living in" was more likely because even when apprenticed to a "conventional" trade, they were expected to combine this with household duties: in 1769, Anne Ashton was apprenticed "to be Taught or Instructed in the Trade or Occupation of a Cotton Spinster and housewifery." [25]

Apprenticeships could be terminated for a number of reasons, the most common of which was probably mutual agreement. After apprenticeships concluded apprentices sometimes spent some time working as journeymen for their old masters, but often became journeymen for others, usually moving out of their old master's home. It was common, during this phase of working life, to live in the houses of kin and pay for board. Ralph Almond lived in his brother's house for most of a year "weaving and paying for his Board". [26] In the proto-industrial household, therefore, not everyone was a member of an integrated household production unit: members could act independently in the market, rather than support the activities of the head of the household. Richard Clarke learned to weave in the 1760s at the house of his uncle, initially without wages. [27] It was also common to live with a master, and receive board as part of the wage.

 Marriage was the time after which most couples set up home for themselves. John Tomlinson rented a cottage near Blackburn for 35s per year after he got married, Ralph Almond also took a cottage just before he married, his widowed mother moving with him, Peter Haworth took a farm with his wife when they married in 1755. [28]

The second feature of labour during the period was its occupational mobility. To some extent there was a "labour life cycle", whereby with effort and initiative it was possible to move up what amounted to a proto-"career ladder". James Holcroft of Bolton worked as a weaver for 15 years, before becoming a warehouseman. [29] Bamford became a warehouseman in a far shorter period of time. Radcliffe ascended even higher in the occupational hierarchy by becoming a master at the age of 24, with the savings he had made as a journeyman. [30]

 Other people however, abandoned the trade to which they had been apprenticed. Robert Starkie, who had served an apprenticeship as a weaver, enlisted as a soldier in 1773, and there was an enlistment frenzy in the 1790s, when the French wars made the continental markets almost inaccessible. [31] John Tomlinson was taught weaving by his uncle, and made his living by it for some years, but he made an agreement to work for a carpenter for a year who was "to find and provide for him... meat Drink washing and Lodging and instruct him in the Trade of a carpenter." Richard Clarke had also been taught weaving by his uncle, but by the time of his examination he had become a gardener.

 There was also a fundamental difference in the labour of weavers and that of spinners. The emphasis on discipline on the part of the early factory masters such as Oldknow was a consequence of this difference. The organisers of the weaving process bought labour, and paid for it according to the number of pieces, of a pre-determined length and quality, or paid commission to intermediate manufacturers on the same basis. The factory masters, however, did not buy according to the piece, but they bought a general right over labour between certain times, and it was in their economic interests to both maximise the output of that labour and the concomitant productivity of their fixed capital investment.

 This section has illustrated the considerable mobility of labour within the Manchester region. This mobility was both geographic, whereby young man and women were willing to travel (albeit frequently within the region, rather than outside it) in order to take up apprenticeships or fixed term employment, and also occupational, whereby individuals would undertake a variety of different employments during the course of their lives, even to the extent of moving into and out of notionally skilled work, such as weaving. This mobility was, however, likely to be curtailed somewhat at marriage, when household formation often commenced and couples usually rented a place to live.

 The Wage and its Form

 Various efforts have been made to analyse both the absolute value of and changes in textile employees' wages during and after the period: Baines tabled wages of textile employees, but focused on the period after 1800, central to Chapman's study was a consideration of wages, but his interest focused on the 1890s and the opening years of the twentieth century. The table below is based largely on published material, but as a table it is original.

 Details of wages paid in Manchester for textile and other employments during the course of the late eighteenth century are fragmentary. Table 5.3 collates available evidence.

 

DATE

WAGE

JOB

COMMENTS

SOURCE

 

 

 

 

 

1756.00

1s 6d

smallware weaver

Manchester

Shuttle

1779.00

10s - 16s

sail canvas weaver

Warrington

HMM 1421

1779.00

4s

sail canvas weaver (boy)

Warrington

HMM 1421

1786.00

13s 11d

weaver (1 loom)

Mellor

MF 731

1786.00

48s 4d

weaver (4 looms)

Mellor

MF 731

1794.00

7s 1d

weaver (1 loom)

Mellor

MF 731

1794.00

23s 6d

weaver (4 looms)

Mellor

MF 731

1780.00

2s - 2s 6d

female (hand) spinner

 

Case of Poor Cotton Spinners

1790.00

25s - 50s

calico printer

 

HMM 2041

1793.00

10s

weaver

Bolton

H of C (1808)

1795.00

20s - 30s

mule spinners

 

HMM 2298

1795.00

9s - 12s

labourer

Standish

Aikin

1795.00

18s - 24s

adult

Royton

Aikin

1795.00

16s - 17s

women spinners

Royton

Aikin

1797.00

16s

manufacturing worker

Manchester

Eden

1797.00

£1 1s - £2

cotton printers

Manchester

Eden

1797.00

6s - 12s

women

Manchester

Eden

1797.00

12s - 15s

common labourers

Manchester

Eden

1803.00

15s

weaver (hard work)

Bolton

H of C (1803)

1803.00

12s (less)

fustian &c weavers

Bolton

H of C (1803)

1806.00

£1 8s 3.5d

calico printer

 

Calico Printer Comb pamph

- All day rates are given as weekly values. It is assumed that weekly rates can be determined by calculating six days' work.

- Because of the trade depression arising from the outbreak of war with France, weavers in Bolton were only allowed to do enough work to earn 10s per week.

 

Table 5.3. Wages in Late Eighteenth Century Manchester

 The following features stand out: the pay of women was less than that of men, there was a distinct "hierarchy of remuneration", and that even amongst men, money wage differentials between different trades could be significant. Weavers were paid more than common labourers throughout the period, the new trade of mule spinning was well paid, at least during the mid-1790s, but the best paid trade was that of printing, a trade of considerable significance in encouraging the concentration of textile production in the Manchester region.

 There are numerous problems with the data presented above, which renders its value highly questionable: the chronological coverage is patchy, it is compiled from a number of quite disparate sources, some of the wages are given as day rates and others as weekly rates. The nature of the wage itself was not necessarily time-based.

 It was not uncommon for a weaver to contract with an employer to weave a particular pattern for a particular period of time. James Draper, a Bolton weaver, agreed to weave a particular pattern for his employer for a year in 1802. [32] In weaving, the "wage" was paid according to the piece. [33] The payment of piece rates did not only apply to weavers. In the 1780s Henry Bamber worked as a printer for Daniel Burton a Manchester printer, and was paid 6d -9d per colour printed. [34] However, masters could sometimes effectively renege on their promises. leaving weavers with only the uncertainty of recourse to law. In 1803, a warehouseman said "the Manufacturer will reduce the Wages although the Work is worked in a good and workmanlike Manner, upon some Pretence, either of Hamburgh being taken, or that such a Person has failed, which makes it necessary to reduce the Wages; or that the Markets are so low, the Master cannot give what he promised." [35]

The piece rate paid to the weaver did not solely represent the weaver's income on the transaction. The weaver was often as much of a subcontractor in the production process as was his master. In the early eighteenth century it is probable that weavers arranged for yarn to be bought direct from spinners, and would weave on their own account, and sell their finished cloth to whoever would pay the price they required. By the 1750s it is likely that the manufacturers contracted with the spinners direct, and put out yarn to be woven by the piece, however the weaver had to arrange for other processes, and other expenses to be incurred in order to allow the completion of the weaving. In 1808, a Bolton weaver explained these additional costs "We always paid one fourth for winding, dressing, and implements necessary; besides that, we have candles to find, which cost us one shilling a cut [a 24 yard piece of cloth]... we have looming, and oil and tallow, which cost us about 10d per cut." [36] Some weavers may have some of these operations performed by family members and therefore not incur a extra-household monetary payment, but would still have to pay for consumables such as candles.

 It was not uncommon, especially in the semi-rural parts of the Manchester region for the weaver to lodge with his employer, and in these cases the wage might include board and lodging, or the wage might include board, but the employee had to provide for his own meat and laundry.

 This section has endeavoured to quantify wages paid in the Manchester region during the period, but illustrates the shortcomings of the evidence. There are relatively few references to money wages paid to textile employees (at least within the town of Manchester), wages were not necessarily time-based (even after the advent of the factory they could be piece-based), and a physical handover of cash may only have been a part of the payment of wages: board, food, or the right to take "waste" were all elements of the wage in the experience of some trades.

 The Culture of Manual Workers

 The labouring classes themselves continued to strive to maintain some control over the organisation of work. By about 1790, resistance to the factory system per se, as manifested by the mass burning of factories, and threats of violence against their innovators, had been abandoned as a tactic, and this suggests that the factory system had been accepted by the labouring classes. [37] Ogden dates this acceptance to around the year 1780, and to the publication of a local gentleman, Dorning Rasbotham, who explained the benefits of machinery to the labouring classes. It is likely that mass acceptance took place some time during the 1780s, because the debate about machinery and the factory was very much alive in 1780, and evidenced by the publication of anti-machine pamphlets, and by the burning down of factories.

 In the 1790s, the locus of conflict shifted from the introduction of a factory system, to control over aspects of its organisation. "The struggle between labour and capital often took the form of conflict between capitalist attempts at subordination and labour's cherished independence."[38] A comparison of the organisation of the old artisanal production system upon which worsted smallware manufacture was conducted, with that of the new factory-based machine spinning of cotton will highlight the conflict.

 One of the conspicuous features of smallware weaving, as revealed in a contemporary rule book, [39] was pride in the "beautiful and beneficial Branch of Business", which took a seven year apprenticeship to learn. Hobsbawm's view of the artisan status and pride was that "From the men's point of view it represented the qualitative superiority of the skill so learned - the professionalism of craftsmanship- and simultaneously of its status and rewards." [40] This is more emphatically described by Rule, "The sense of a property of skill was then deeply embedded in the culture and consciousness of the artisans, as was the assumption of the respect of others for it." [41] This contrasts strongly with the evidence of the 1790s when the more proletarianised workforce would abandon the practice of the "beautifulest branch of trade" to enter more prosaic employments such as soldiery or even gardening, according to the rewards arising from these.

 The weavers were keen to limit entry into the trade and thus safeguard their market position, and were quite conscious of the economic consequences of an over-supply of skilled labour. The means of controlling entry to the trade which they sought to enforce was to limit the number of apprentices each weaver could take (to three), and to enforce a seven year apprenticeship, compliance with the latter to be evidenced by a certificate.  There were efforts to prohibit weavers working for, or with, "unfair men", who had either not previously employed weavers (prior to the passage of the rule), or who had not served a "regular" apprenticeship; such weavers as did work for such a man would similarly be deemed "unfair". The maximum price for a week's work was set at one shilling and sixpence. Each workshop, which employed weavers, appointed a man to represent it at the Weavers' monthly meeting. In justifying the existence of the society, the appeal is to the past, weavers sought "to retrieve the lost Character of one of the beautifulest Branches of Trade in this Town". [42] This character had been lost as a result of the lack of careful thought on the part of its practitioners, who had taken on too many apprentices, and had worked for "unfair men". It is interesting to see this appeal to the past, because the trade had only been carried on in its current form, using the productive Dutch-loom, for about thirty years. 

By contrast, the mechanised cotton spinners could not find legitimacy in the past: their trade was a new invention, without a past, and custom specific to the trade had not been created. The evidence of the 1790s, is that in factory employment as a whole, there was a hotly-contested battle between capital and labour for control of some elements of the process of production. In the absence of “tradition”, justification for the existence of the spinners trade society lay in their desire to relieve distressed members who had places of legal settlement outside Manchester, and would not otherwise be relieved by the town's overseers.[43] The spinners, like the weavers, had head shop-men, who represented their shops at the weekly meetings of the society. The society's objectives were to provide relief for distressed members and to regulate their behaviour, any member assaulting a master or committing a similar malfeasance, being liable to expulsion.

 The spinners also sought to control entry to the trade: members were forbidden to instruct anyone in the trade who had not joined the society (except their own children or paupers), although the expansion of the trade, and the growing demand for labour during the period, meant that it was unnecessary to limit the numbers admitted to cotton spinning. Members were also prohibited from boasting about the amount of cotton they had spun, perhaps because, in common with other trades during the period, spinners had an implicit work quota, and to let it be known that it was possible to exceed "customary" production levels might raise uncomfortable questions. The Society, once again, in common with other trade societies, sought to regulate disputes between its members. The rule book of 1795 is different in a number of major respects to that produced in 1792. [44] The most significant difference is the 1792 prohibition on members working at a shop where there has been a "lawful" turnout, that is a strike. The penalty for defaulting members was permanent expulsion from the society.

 The trade of calico printing was a similarly new one, where there was little "custom" to which to appeal, and the relations between masters and men were uncertain during the course of the last two decades of the century. [45] Their main concern, in common with the weavers of the 1750s, had been to limit the numbers coming into the trade via apprenticeships. Many of the printing apprentices were paupers taken from distant parishes to the large factories on the Manchester periphery. However, they also sought to prevent the masters from docking wages for substandard work, and from employing "unfair men". During the boom year of 1789, the trades society recruited extensively, seeking to "prevent persons from becoming masters who were ignorant of the business... to prevent the increase of hands, advance the wages, and diminish the number of working hours." [46] The printers sought "to compel the masters to comply with their laws and regulations; in fact nothing would satisfy them but having power and dominion." [47] They quite clearly lacked deference towards their masters.

 Harris has argued that "When 'innovating' employers were increasingly seeking to impose changed methods of working and of organising labour over a range of manufactures, then skilled men, seeing in this an attack on their living standards or even fearing displacement by cheaper labour, organised to oppose change." [48] There can have been few areas in England with a pace of change to rival that experienced in the Manchester region. The artisanal culture, in which skilled men in their producer households or small workshops, such as the weavers, had exerted some control over the organisation of their work, was being adapted to the new industrial culture of the factory. This attempt to "transplant" a culture can be seen in both the concerns of the weavers of the 1750s, which were almost identical to those of both the cotton spinners and calico printers of almost forty years later, and even in the form of their cultural defence: the rule-bound "Friendly-Society", with its emphasis on sobriety, and disciplined proceedings. Whilst this contest was eventually lost by the neo-artisans, it was still very much in progress in the 1790s.

 This section has shown how skilled male workers tried to maintain some control over the conduct of their respective trades, in which they believed they held personal property: that of "skill". Whilst this effort to control initially focused on opposition to technological innovation, when this became "inevitable", the focus changed to that of control of the conditions of work within the factory. This effort to control was keenly contested both by the entrepreneurs and the new breed of salaried managers.

 Conflict with Employers

 This section shows the different sorts of conflict which took place between masters and men during the period, and how they were conducted, especially by the latter. An assessment is made of the causes of some of these conflicts and how efforts to advance the interests of workers changed over time and according to the nature of the conflict in progress.

 In the arena of conflict between Masters and Men, the Friendly Societies were eager to stress their role as being charitable: they sought to  provide for their distressed fellow workers when they were unable to work for any reason. Shuttle tried to assure manufacturers that his society merely "merely do all that lies in our power to promote theirs [apprentices] and our own Interest, by taking care that our Lads serves their legal Apprenticeships... [so they] can do their Work without botching or spoiling of it; and likewise by taking all the care we can that none of them runs away in their Debts." [49] Likewise, the spinners in 1792 asserted that their Society was formed for the benefit of fellow spinners "in order to raise a Fund, for the Maintenance of such as shall hereafter be in Distress, and to defray the Funeral Expences of those who may die Members of this Society." [50] However, they were also engaged in underwriting strikes. Shuttle had published his Apology in 1756, and despite having written "We apprehend that our Meeting once a Month hath given Offence to some of our Masters, they imagining that we meet to their Detriment" and assuring his readers that this was not the case, a strike amongst them began in September of that year.[51] The Articles of the Cotton Spinners was republished in 1795, just before or during the protracted strike of that year.

 The main reasons for strikes was to raise wages, or to have wages return to their "former level". The 1758 strike was described in the exaggerated language of the 1750s elite, which was peppered with "riots, tumults, burnings, &c", they said there were "great Disturbances in Lancashire, occasioned by several Thousands having left their Work, and entered into Combinations for raising their Wages... they had insulted and abused several Weavers, who had refused to join in their Schemes and  continued to Work; and had also dropt Incendiary Letters, with threats to Masters that opposed their Designs." [52] The masters responded by making a report to the Assize and threatening to prosecute any weavers who persisted in their actions. [53] The Mule Spinners took a less aggressive approach during the early stages of their dispute. In March 1795, they explained that "the Reduction of our Wages is the real Cause" of their striking and told their Masters that they "humbly hope you will take into Consideration the present excessive Price of Provision, and every other necessary of Life" when the masters gathered to discuss the strike. [54] The strike continued throughout the summer, sorely testing the Masters' patience. In September they declared that they had been deserted by their spinners, and they would employ anyone with any familiarity with spinning "provided they are not in any degree connected with the combined Journeymen Spinners." [55]  This same tactic was adopted by the firm of Messrs Philips, Nash and Lowe, in 1790 during a strike by calico printers. They also specifically sought workers "having no concern with the Fund and Combination of the Men against their Masters". [56] The 1799 strike amongst journeymen shoemakers was also an effort to procure higher wages. The masters responded by commencing a prosecution against two of their number. [57]

Strikes sometimes began for other reasons. In 1791 the hat finishers, employed by Thomas Philips and Co had "entered into a Combination not to finish any more Hats for that House". [58] In July 1793, seven paper makers advertised for the services of Scottish and Irish paper makers, in defiance of a combination "amongst the Journeymen Paper Makers in England, not to work at their Business with either the Scotch or Irish paper-makers, (but particularly in the Neighbourhood of Manchester)" and further declared "we will not submit to their unwarrantable and injurious Combinations." [59]

The other source of conflict between masters and men was embezzlement, which appears to have been practised by both groups. Ogden complained that "there was no detecting the knavery of spinners", but others have suggested that embezzlement was practised by all groups involved in the manufacture of cloth. A woollen manufacturer complained that embezzlement was practised by pickers, scribblers, spinners and weavers. [60] Such practices certainly took place in Manchester where a weaver "was convicted of embezzling Materials... which had been delivered to him [by his Masters] to be prepared and worked up into fustian..." [61] Many similar cases are recounted in the Manchester newspapers of the 1790s. Masters however also engaged in practices which could be regarded as embezzling. A warehouseman, who had been a weaver for fifteen years, complained that "the Manufacturer will reduce the Wages although the Work is worked in a good and workmanlike Manner, upon some Pretence, either of Hamburgh being taken, or that such a Person has failed, which makes it necessary to reduce the Wages; or that the markets are so low, the Master cannot give what he promised." [62] The poor's recourse to the law was, of course, difficult to exercise because of the cost of bringing prosecutions, and the likelihood of punitive sanctions from other masters.

 New tensions were introduced into the world of work as new systems of production were introduced. The new, mechanised works of the calico printers were operated by vast numbers of apprentices, and it is probable that, along with the cotton spinning factories, these were the first testing grounds for the new factory discipline, of which Thompson wrote "The first generation of factory workers were taught by their masters the importance of time, but it was the textile mills where the new time-discipline was most rigorously imposed and that the contest over time became most intense." [63] The time discipline of the textile mill was partly imposed by the action of the powered machinery which required constant attendance, unlike the old manually operated apparatus of domestic manufacture. In calico printing, new technology imposed similar discipline on the workers, in the same environment as that of the factory. In April 1790, the firm of Roe and Kershaw lost 13 apprentices from their factory at Chadkirk, near Manchester, in June they received the following letter "NOBSTICK KERSHO. You damd Nobstick if you dont stop your copperplate machins and Nobstick Shop and take all your old oppest gornemen & prentices and stop your low We are sworn not to stop till we have destroyed both you and them", the author simultaneously complaining of the new technology, the oppression the firm's employees, and probably the firm's refusal to take back the runaways. [64] Part of the "oppression" experienced by apprentices was probably that of physical cruelty exercised in the factories, although evidence from the Manchester newspapers suggests that cruelty to apprentices who lived with their masters in the more traditional crafts was also widespread. The frequency with which apprentices ran away from calico printing works suggests that they were protesting in the only way that they could.`

 This section has shown that the traditional wage-related strike was probably the most common cause of dispute during the period. The new technological changes taking place did, however, introduce a whole new focus of protest, and these were often the cause of disputes which became increasingly violent towards the end of the period.

 Conclusion

 This chapter has shown how apparent quantifiable changes in the deployment of (predominantly male) labour during the period can be used as a measure of economic importance, and how they illustrate the changes which took place to the economy of Manchester as a result in the technological and other changes in the textile industry. It has highlighted the problem of quantifying the deployment of female labour, at least in a fashion comparable to that of men, whilst showing that there were both increased opportunities for extra-mural salaried work for women, and for women to control their own businesses. Labour has been shown to have been very flexible, both geographically and in terms of specialisation, at least until marriage when this flexibility may have reduced. Crucially, this flexibility was a pre-existing feature of labour in the Manchester region. The wage was a complex phenomenon, and consisted of different elements. Finally, one of the most conspicuous features of labouring culture was the desire to maintain some of the control over the process of production which had been a feature of the old mode of domestic working.


 

[1] - Wadsworth & Mann, pp 254-260.

 

[2] - Church of England parish registers, and similar registers produced by other religious denominations are subject to a series of shortcomings: they are not comprehensive in their coverage, and they do contain inaccuracies. This is a particular problem of the period and place in question: a new migrant community was in the process of formation, and church attendance, and recognition of key events in life may have suffered in importance.

 

[3] - This is derived from the Registers of Manchester Cathedral Church, Manchester City Library, MFPR 37 and MFPR 40.

 

[4] - Wadsworth and Mann, p 251.

 

[5] - Williamson, in Floud & McCloskey (eds.), p 341.

 

[6] - Rendall, p 5.

 

[7] - HMM 1454, 12th Oct 1779.

 

[8] - Manchester Central reference Library, MF 1020, letter from S Oldknow to London Foundling Hospital, 23rd August 1797.

 

[9] - HMM 156, 18th Feb 1755.

 

[10] - House of Commons, 1803, p 27.

 

[11] - House of Commons 1803, p 13.

 

[12] - Wadsworth & Mann, pp 254-260.

 

[13] - The data are derived from the Manchester directories of the three dates given. The table shows all those occupations with more than six references in one of the three years, and at least one reference in another year.

 

[14] - HMM 2015, 19th January 1790.

 

[15] - HMM 2028, 20th April 1790, and 1800 directory.

 

[16] - Gullickson, G.L., in Berg, (ed.)  1991, p 207.

 

[17] - The bulk of the arguments made in this section are derived from data contained in Manchester Central reference Library, MF209, Settlement Examinations for the parish of Blackburn, to 1800, and MF209, miscellaneous Blackburn Poor Law documents.

 

[18] - Simonton, D., in Berg, M. (ed.), 1991, p 232.

 

[19] - The £10 premium was paid by the overseers of Blackburn to Thomas Lind of Great Heywood, a check weaver, in respect of the apprenticeship of John Haydock in 1729. (op cit).

 

[20] - Kussmaul, in Floud & McCloskey (eds.), p 2.

 

[21] - Indenture of Thomas Ellison of Blackburn 16th June 1752, Ellison was apprenticed to Thomas Tomlinson to learn weaving.

 

[22] - Settlement of Stephen Hitchen of Blackburn, 12th Feb 1783. His wife decided to remain a member of their master's family when Hitchen moved elsewhere.

 

[23] - Examinations of Robert Aspden 31st May 1800, and John Cottam, 26th November 1796.

 

[24] - HMM 1432 11th May 1779.

 

[25] - Indenture of Anne Ashton 27th December 1769.

 

[26] - Examination of Almond 21st November 1789.

 

[27] - Settlement Examination of Richard Clarke, 12th May 1780.

 

[28] - Examinations Tomlinson n.d., Almond 21st November 1798, Haworth 6th February 1789.

 

[29] - House of Commons, 1803.

 

[30] - Radcliffe, p 10.

 

[31] - Examination of Robert Starkie, 19th March 1785.

 

[32] - H of C, 1803.

 

[33] - H of C 1803, evidence of Joseph Gee of Romiley.

 

[34] - Manchester Central Reference Library, MF210, examination of Henry Bamber of Blackburn.

 

[35] - H of C 1803. evidence of James Holcroft.

 

[36] - H of C, 1808, evidence of James Atherton, p 21

 

[37] - The burning of factories and use of threats of violence against individuals remained an important cultural tool in the hands of the labouring poor, but it was directed on a more individual basis towards those employers or traders who incurred the displeasure of individuals, or were perceived to have committed some offence against broader society.

 

[38] - Rule, in Harris, T (ed.), p 185.

 

[39] - Shuttle.

 

[40] - Hobsbawm, p 358.

 

[41] - Rule, in Joyce (ed.), p 104.

 

[42] - Shuttle, p 7.

 

[43] - "Articles, Rules, Orders and Regulations... [of the] Cotton Spinners.", Manchester, 1795. The Friendly Societies could indemnify the Overseers of the Poor against one of their members (from outside the town or village) becoming chargeable upon the local poor rate. See MF210, Manchester Central Reference Library, indemnity certificate from the stewards of the Union Society in Blackburn, to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor in Blackburn, 16th Nov 1796.

 

[44] - Rules, Orders and Regulations, [of the]... Cotton Spinners..., Manchester, 1792.

 

[45] - The evidence in the paragraph is, unless otherwise stated, derived from "Facts and Observations to prove the Impolicy and Dangerous Tendency of the Bill now before Parliament, for limiting the number of Apprentices, and other Restrictions in the Calico Printing Business....", Manchester, undated [1807].

 

[46] - Ibid, p 16.

 

[47] - Ibid, p 19.

 

[48] - Rule, in Harris, (ed.), p 182.

 

[49] - Shuttle, p 8.

 

[50] - Articles of Agreement..., 1792, preamble.

 

[51] - Shuttle, pp 7-8, Wadsworth & Mann, p 361.

 

[52] - HMM 333  25 July 1758.

 

[53] - Whitworth's Manchester Advertiser, April 25th 1758.

 

[54] - HMM 2280  3 Mar 1795.

 

[55] - HMM 2298  8 Sep 1795.

 

[56] - HMM 2051  28 Sep 1790.

 

[57] - HMM 2480  26 Feb 1799.

 

[58] - HMM 2095  2 Aug 1791.

 

[59] - HMM 2195  2 Jul 1793. This may have simply been a case of the "racism" of the poor, but Dunn, the unreliable informant against the Manchester Reformers, had implied that some Scots and Irish were disloyal during the previous month. Walker, op cit., p 106-7.

 

[60] - Ogden, p 28 and Rule, 1992, p 183.

 

[61] - HMM 2027  13 Apr 1790.

 

[62] - House of Commons, 1803.

 

[63] - Thompson, 1991, pp 389-90.

 

[64] - HMM 2027  13 Apr 1790 and HMM 2038  28 June 1790.