Marsden Through The Ages Cover

This book was published in 1984 by the Huddersfield and District Woollen Export Group.  It was written by Phyllis Bentley and illustrated by Harold Blackburn.  It has been scanned in and is available here as is a good source of information on Marsden and the Colne Valley.

Colne Valley Cloth Marsden Through The Ages Cover
Inner Cover
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 CONTENTSI. Wool and Water Page 5 II. Home and Market 18 III. Machines and Men 35 IV. Colour and Design 55 V. Quality Tells 62LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONSNight in the Colne Valley, 1947 frontispiece A West Riding Beck Page 5 Map of England showing the Colne Valley 7 The Pennines: West Riding Scenery 8 A Walkie Mylne 11 Fulling Stocks 11 King’s Mill, 1944 12 Cropper’s Shears 14 Spinning from the Distaff 15 ‘Wuzzing’ Skep and Bar 16 Map of the Colne Valley District facing 16 Weaver’s Cottage 18 Map of the Colne Valley:Home and Market 19 Clothier going to Market 20 Pack-horse Bridge 21 Marketing Cloth, Huddersfield Parish Church, 1671 22 Children Carding Wool 24 Spinster at the Great Wheel 24 Handthrown shuttle,17th century Loom 25
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Streching a wet kersey on the tenter page 26 Deanhead, an old weaving hamlet 29 Business in the Cloth Hall, Huddersfield 32 An 18th century Clothier’s Patten Book facing 32 Estimating the width of the corridor 33 Kay’s Flying Shuttle, 1733 35 Yeoman Clothier and his family at work 37 Outsteps at High Kinders, Greenfield 39 Cog Hole: last water-driven scribbling mill 40 Cloth Dressing: Interior of a Cropping Shop 42 John Wood’s Cropping Shop 44 ‘Old Enoch’ 46 Horsfall’s route on the day of his murder 47 Ottiwells Mills, Marsden, 1812 48 Geology of the Woolen District 50 Factory Children of 1826 51 Richard Oastler 52 Advent of Tweeds among the Sporting Fratrnity 55 Colne Valley Quality 62 Map of the Colne Valley, Present Day 64 View across the Colne Valley at Milnsbridge 66Sir John Ramsdens’s Canal 69‘Night in The Colne Valley’ is reproduced by courtesy of The Yorkshire Post.   
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COLNE VALLEY CLOTHCVCPage5ImageA tumbling beck amid the heather and bracken. WOOL AND WATERCLOTH has been woven of wool in the Colne Valley for at least six centuries. It may, indeed, have been woven there for nearly twelve centuries, for as far back as A.D. 796 the great Emperor Charlemagne over in France wrote to King Offa to ask him to see that the woollen cloaks sent to France might be made the same as used to come in the olden time. As King Offa then ruled over the north-midland part of England, which includes what we now call the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the Colne Valley lies, the cloth in Charlemagne’s cloaks may have come from some weaver’s cottage on the Golcar hillside. However, we will make no claims for the Colnee Valley which we cannot substantiate, so we will
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 claim only the six hundred years which we can prove by records.England, that green and pleasant land of grass, has always been a wool-growing country. Long before the Norman Conquest in 1066 wool was exported from England to the continent of Europe, and in the Middle Ages the monks of England had dealings in wool with customers as far afield as Flanders and Northern Italy. England’s wealth, her trade, her politics, her traditions of craftsmanship and freedom, have all been built upon the sheep. (In 1303 Earl Lacy owned 3,000 sheep in Yorkshire.) That the Lord Chancellor of England sits today on a Woolsack is not just a piece of nonsensical frippery, but a relic of the days when the clip from England’s sheep was her main export, which paid her taxes and created trade treaties and, if need be, made loans to her kings to furnish armies, or redeemed a pawned crown. As an in-scription above a merchant’s house in the West of England, built in the Middle Ages, runs:‘I praise God and ever shall It is the sheep hath paid for all’.How did it happen that this particular district of England about which we are writing, the West Riding of Yorkshire, became the centre of the cloth trade? It is a small stretch of country, tucked away in hills, not very conveniently situated as regards ports and railways; how did it achieve a world-wide reputation? Its greatness is chiefly due to its geography and its climate; to the rocks beneath the West Riding man’s feet and the air above his head.Rolling down the middle of England, from the Lake District in the north to the Peak in Derbyshire, runs a range of interlocking spurs of hills called the Pennine Chain—the backbone of England, as we who live amongst these hills like to think of them. The geology of these hills varies. In the north of Yorkshire they are composed of white limestone, on 
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CVCPage7 which grows short sweet grass, very green, very good for eating by long-woolled sheep. But there are few springs, few streams, on limestone rock, and the limestone water is harsh to fibres though kind to children’s teeth. Below these limestone hills comes a sudden break in the Chain, the Aire gap, 
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through which the River Aire flows, just north of Skipton. South of that gap there is no more limestone; the hills are composed of rock called millstone grit, with a fringe of coal measure. Now this hard, dark, millstone grit, which is often coated with peat or clay, does not grow rich grass or good crops. It cannot pasture many cows, it cannot grow fields of waving corn; oats, and sparse coarse grass, which short-haired sheep can feed on, are its only products. Both coal and grit country, however, are rich in springs and streams; so here the hillsides are seamed by countless deep and narrow valleys, each with its tumbling thread of water. Rough, sweeping, interlocking hills, crowned with dark rocks and purple heather, with many cold, rocky little ‘becks’, as Yorkshire folk call streams, rushing swiftly down from the moorland through the fields to the little river in the steep, wooded, winding valley below—that is the scenery of the West Riding. You are scarcely ever out of the sound of falling water. This water contains no lime, it is soft and kind to fibres. Nor does it often fail, for the great winds which sweep across the Atlantic, moisture-laden, strike the Pennine Hills and dissolve into abundant rain. On the west side of the hills, in Lancashire, the rain is so abundant that the cotton fibre can be woven in the moist air. On the eastern slopes, in Yorkshire, the rain is somewhat less, so that it does not rot the sheep’s hoofs and wool, but it is still plentiful. Wool, then, and soft water—those two prime necessities of the cloth trade—were plentiful in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Coal lurked beneath the soil, which we shall need to speak of later; while not very far away, to the south of the county, were beds of precious iron ore. As there was not much of a living to be won by farming the inhospitable land, and the wool and the water were close at hand, the dwellers in this West Riding began to make for sale what in those far-off days many households made for their own use—woven woollen cloth.
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 The Colne is one of the small rivers I have spoken of above. Winding down the Colne Valley from the Pennine Heights, fed as it goes by innumerable becks pouring fromthe hills on its flanks down clefts which we call ‘sykes’ and ‘cloughs’, it joins the Calder, a rather larger but similar stream as it reaches the plain.The first we hear of any part of the Colne Valley district in recorded history is a mentions in 1086 of Golcar, Huddersfield and Almondbury, which were then written Guldeagscar, Odersfelt and Almanberie. After William of Normandy conquered England in 1066, he sent commissioners round the country to note down all about  the land, its crops and stocks and buildings, its water-mills and pastures and fishponds, who owned it, and who paid rent. These details were all set down in Domesday Book, which formed a kind of gigantic rent roll and estate book for the whole country. At that time it seems that the Colne Valley was thickly forested, for a few years later it was said that a squirrel could travel the seven miles from Marsden down the Huddersfield leaping from branch to branch, without putting foot to the ground, while stags were hunted in the Marsden forest for more than two hundred years after the conquest. William the Conqueror divided the land of England between his nobles, who had come over with him on the invasion from Normandy; the Colne Valley was part of the estate of one of these, Ilbert de Lacy.I have mentioned William the Conqueror and his Norman barons because to understand the story of the West Riding cloth trade it is necessary to know something of the way the Normans ruled. Kind William did not give away the land for nothing, naturally; he rented it, and the barons paid, not in money but in service; they were bound to provide so many armed men to follow him so many days a year. The barons rented parcels of land to their knights, on similar through lesser terms, and so it wend on down the scale to
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 CVCPage17ImageAPrimitive method of fulling The Walke Mylnethe simple people, amongst whose duties came that of having their corn ground and their cloth fulled at the lord of the manor’s water-mill, paying him in money or kind for this service. I am writing this for textile manufacturers, who do not need to be told what ‘fulling’ means, but in case some others chance to read it let me explain that fulling or milling a woollen cloth is pounding it until the fibres of the wool hook closely into each other, and the cloth becomes thickened and felted and has sufficient substance. At first this was done by trampling on it with the feet, so that a man who fulled cloth was often called a ‘walker’ ; later cloth was fulled by vertically falling stocks, that is big wooden hammers which beat on it. The lord of the manor owned the fulling mill,CVCPage17ImageBThe fulling stocks
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 CVCPage12ImageThe King’s Mill, 1944. Site of the manorial corn and fulling mills on the River Colne which was also the corn mill; it ran by water-wheel, and he built it, naturally, in the valley, where the stream was big enough to give  a good force of water. such a fulling mill was built by the Lacys at the foot of the Colne Valley, near Huddersfield. Later, through various marriages, the lands of the Lacys fell into the hands of the crown, and this fulling mill became the King’s Mill. This fulling mill was already in existence before 1340; a modern textile factory stands on the site and is still called the King’s Mill today. Down to this King’s Mill in the valley, and later to other water-mills like it, the cloth weavers on the hills around in Norman times brought their cloth to be scoured and fulled.In England in the Middle Ages a person was given a second name often either from the place where he lived or from this trade. So in the West Riding of Yorkshire people were called John Sykes or John Clough, meaning John who lived beside a stream or John who lived in a cleft in the hill – there are hundreds of people called Sykes in the Huddersfield district today. So, too there were men called Thomas
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 Webster, or Ralph Fuller, or Gilbert Lister, or John Walker. A webster is a weaver, a lister is a dyer, a walker is the same as a fuller. Whenever we meet these names in old records, then, we know that cloth manufacturing was being carried on. The Norman barons held law courts for their tenants to settle their disputes, the Norman kings exacted taxes from the people, and the records of these cases and taxes were carefully and accurately kept, just as they would be today. Wills, too, were carefully preserved. Now the wills and the records of cases and taxes in Yorkshire, from the thirteenth century onwards, are full of these textile trade names. We meet Roger the Fuller of Holme acting as a juryman in 1274 and being in trouble the following year for ‘four beasts escaping’. Ralph Fuller pays a tax on eight sheep in 1297, Thomas Webster is in trouble for letting his donkey stray in 1275; William Fuller has a little trouble about his rent in 1277, Gilbert the Lister is fined in 1307, though history doesn’t relate for what offence; while John the Walker of Holme has unlawfully detained two stones of wool in the same year. Unluckily the Lacys’ Court records which include the narrow strip of actual Colne Valley land have not be preserved, so that we can usually only catch glimpses of Colne Valley folk in this period when they are paying taxes or in litigation with people outside the valley.  Thus we find John the Dyer of Almondbury paying a ninth of his good in 1297, William Walker of Crosland paying fourpence tax in 1379, while in 1316 we meet John Walker of Gouthelakkers, that is, Golcar. When, therefore, historians state that King Edward III, who reigned from 1327 to 1377, introduced the cloth trade into England, they are entirely wrong, for the cloth trade existed in England at least a hundred years before he came to the throne. Indeed, in the parish church of my own native town in Yorkshire, Halifax, there stands a gravestone of the date of 1150, on which is engraved quite clearly and .
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 CVCPage14ImageCropper’s Shears, perfectly kept and still hanging in the factory where more and a century ago they were in use; mute evidence of a local pride in skillunmistakably a pair of cropper’s shears – that is, a pair of the shears with which a clothdresser in the days before machinery cropped his cloth by hand. But to say that Edward encouraged the cloth atare and caused it to increase enormously is true enough. He persuaded Parliament to pass a law prohibiting the importation of foreign cloth, which it was declared should be worn by none but the King and Queen and their children; he forbade the export of English woo without special licence, and most important of all – he invited many skilled clothiers from Flanders to come and reside in England, with their goods and chattels and servants and apprentices, promising them many privileges if they would do so. Seventy families took advantage of this offer in the first year after it was made, two settling at York in the Yorkshire plain and carrying on their trade there. These Flemish clothiers taught us to spin a greater length of yarn from a pound of wool, and so much finer yarn than we had managed to achieve before, and other refinements of the cloth trade. These Flemings, says an old book called The Golden Fleece, ‘shifted their residence according to facility which which they could obtain water or fuel, of the material on which they worked’ – that is, they sought the districts where they could find wool and wood
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 and water. Accordingly we find a Simon Fleming appearing on a tax record in Almondbury in 1379. But I do not think the Flemings ever came in great numbers to the Colne Valley of the other uplands of the West Riding. These skilled craftsmen would have scorned the rough ‘kerseys’, narrow cloths of white or plain crude colours, rough and uneven in texture, short in length, which were what we chiefly made at that time. They preferred East Anglia and the West of England or York, where there were already great guilds of clothworkers, much more skilled at that time than our West Riding weavers.As woo was no longer to leave the kingdom without a special licence, the King’s revenue dropped, for he had hitherto drawn a fee on every, outward-going sack of wool, as well as on every incoming yard of cloth. To make up for the loss of this, Parliament in 1353 granted him a subsidy of fourpence on each cloth offered for sale. This subsidy was collected at the same time as the cloth was measured by an official to see that it was the right breadth and length. The fee of this official, a halfpenny a cloth, was called Ulnage, from the old measure of length called an ell, and he himself was called the Ulnager. The local Ulnager was an important personage, and his post was a profitable one. He measured the cloth on a long stone table, then affixed a lead seal, stamped with its length. In the early days of the industry this UlnageCVCPage15Imagespinning from the distaff
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 cvclothPage16Image The ‘wuzing’ skep and bar.A primitive method of extracting water from woolceremony was usually performed at the fulling mill after the cloth had been shrunk by fulling; later, as the trade grew, the Ulnager would call at the houses of the more important clothiers or seal the cloths at the market. The kerseys caused a great deal of the trouble at first because they were so short they escaped the tax, which was obviously unfair. In 1393 this was altered, and any weaver was allowed to make and offer for sale cloths ‘of such length and breadth as him shall please’, provided he paid tax proportionately. The kerseys, which were a quarter the length of the better cloths, paid a penny each as tax. It was not till nearly three hundred years later that this tax was abolished, and the Ulnagers and the clothiers were apt to quarrel with each other about the tax throughout that time. The records of their disputes prove to us the continued existence of the cloth trade.In the early days, the market for the Colne Valley district cloth was on the hill-top at Almondbury. A descendant of Ilbert de Lacy secured a licence from the King to hold a market in Almondbury every Monday, in 1294,and to Almondbury the Colne Valley weavers took their weekly pieces. There chances to to be a record preserved of the number of cloths sealed by the Ulnager in Almonbury for the two years 1473-1475. The number recorded is 427. This means whole cloths which paid fourpence, or their equivalent, that is four kerseys. All the Almondbury cloths at that time would
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 be kerseys, so this means that 1,708 kerseys were sealed in Almondbury in two years. The average for one year was therefore 854. A weaver could weave rather more than a cloth a week when he gave himself to it, but then so often he did not give himself wholly to his weaving. He made hay, or churned, or sowed his oats instead. Besides, he had to fetch and carry his wool and his cloth to and from the market, and supervise the oiling and carding and spinning, and set up his warp, and perhaps wait a day or two for his fulling till the river was running strongly enough to turn the water-wheel at the fulling mill, if the season was dry, as well. If we say that about twenty-one weavers were weaving and selling their goods in Almondbury market in 1475, that is forty pieces a year each,perhaps we shall not be far wrong. It is a small beginning to an industry which has lined the banks of the Colne with huge textile factories. But then, 1475 is a long time ago. A good deal of water has flowed down the Colne, a good deal of wool has been spun in the Colne Valley, in five hundred years.
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 CVCImagePage18 A typical weaver’s cottage in the Pennines
II. HOME AND MARKETDuring the next two centuries, 1500-1700, the West Riding cloth trade grew and flourished, but continued in the same type of organization. It was still domestic, carried on at home, and still an adjunct to farming. A man was granted leave to ‘intake’ a piece of upload moor, he cleared it and put it under grass and oats, gradually built a homestead and bought a horse and a cow, and paid for all this by weaving. His little holding of land perhaps just sufficed to feed his family but could do no more because of its harsh nature; his loom paid for rent, more intake, and any luxuries. One of his sons perhaps repeated the intake process higher up the moor, so that the strip of cleared land between windy moor and wooded valley steadily broadened. Such men we call yeoman clothiers, master clothiers, and almost every weaver
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CVCPage19Image in the West Riding during this period was in this sense a master clothier. He owned his own loom, and wove in his own home, whether his holding of land was large or small. Gradually, as the weaving of the cloth brought wealth to the uploads, cloth became more, and land less, important.
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 The clothier’s home stood below the brow of the hill beside one of the tumbling streams he needed for his trade. His house, formerly of timbered oak, was now built of the strong local stone, the hard grey millstone grit, and stood two storeys high. The upper storey held the loom, and to give the weaver light as he sat at his work, this loom-chamber was built with a long row of mullioned windows – sometimes six or seven windows, sometimes in a larger homestead as many of fourteen or nineteen. Through these windows could be heard, as one passed from one house round the fold of the hill to the next, the thud of the treadles and the clack of the shuttle – the sound of the weaver at his loom.But today the shuttle is silent in all the folds of the Colne Valley Hills, for it is Market Day, and our clothier is going to market to sell his weekly piece. In the room below the loom-chamber stands a big stone hearth and a large wooden chest; the latter is the meal ark, it holds the oatmeal on which the clothier chiefly lives. His wife is already astir, baking an oatcake on the backstone of the hearth, and some other of the long porous flexible oatcakes hang over a rack to dry by the fire.Our weaver breaks his fast on porridge and oatcake and perhaps a slice from the cured ham hanging from the rafters. Then he saddles the donkey browsing by the door, throws his piece over its back, mounts himself behind, and sets off along the rough stone lane towards Almondbury. After a mile or two he overtakes one ofcvclothPage20ImageClothier going to market
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CVCImagePage21 An old pack-horse bridgehis neighbours, a man less well furnished with this world’s goods, who is carrying his piece over his shoulder, his arm held akimbo to support it. In a few more miles he himself is overtaken by a richer neighbour, who owns a sturdy horse. Each in turn crosses a narrow stone bridge, gracefully arched, with low parapets; this is a pack-horse bridge, the parapets are purposely built low so that the cloth on the horseback may swing safely over them.What year is it? It might be any year between 1500 and 1700. Perhaps it is 1552, and Parliament has passed an Act regulating the weight of wool to be put into each length of cloth; it is 1612 and a great lawsuit is being tried between the Yorkshire clothiers and the local Ulnagers
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 CVCPage22ImageMarketing cloth in the churchyard, Huddersfield Parish Church, 1671
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 Perhaps it is 1643, and King and Parliament are at war and fighting all over the country, so that trade is very bad; in that case our clothier is thinking soberly how much money he can spare to send to the Parliament’s Yorkshire general, Fairfax. The Royalists he has heard are firing on the West Riding town of Bradford, whose clothiers on the Parliament’s side to a man, have hung sacks of wool round the church tower to protect it. Perhaps it is 1666, and Parliament has just enacted that every person shall be buried in a woollen shroud, for the good of the cloth trade, which has recently experienced such ‘blasts of adversity’, owing to the fighting. Perhaps it is after 1671. If so, the day is Tuesday and our clothier is riding towards Huddersfield and not Almondbury, for in that year Huddersfield obtained a licence to hold a weekly Tuesday market. Standing at the foot of many Pennine valleys it was easier of access that Almondbury, and so soon became more frequented.Yes, it is after 1671, for here is our clothier dismounting by the church in Huddersfield. A good many other clothiers are there already, and the church wall is almost covered by their pieces, for it is on the church wall that they display their wares. Our weaver is lucky and soon sells his kersey; then he goes to look for the wooldriver and buys four stones (56 pounds) of wool. His poorer neighbour has been before him and bought one stone of wool, which he is carrying to his upland cottage on his back. Their richer neighbour does not buy wool in small quantities in the local market, but travels about to the bigger Yorkshire fairs, and even to the best wool-producing county in England, far-off Lincolnshire.
Our clothier reaches home that evening, and early next morning, with the assistance of his wife and family, sets to work on his fresh stock of wool. He spreads it out on the house floor, tosses it with sticks and picks out any bits of foreign matter in it, and then perhaps dyes it in his lead dyeing vat, which stands outside his door. Then the wool is thoroughly
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 CVCCloth24aChildren carding wooloiled – our clothier may use butter for this purpose. This it is carded, teased into a flossy silver, by hard of course. Hand-cards were made in pairs, and consisted of sharpened bent iron pins, set in leather and mounted on wooden backs with handles, so that they looked like a pair of iron hairbrushes. Iron was handy, so there were many local card-makers in the West Riding for our weaver to buy cards from-there are many there still, today, who make the great carding machines. Now our weaver’s wool is ready to be spun. Most likely it will be a spinster, a woman spinner, who will spin it, and very likely it will be out weaver’s wife who will spin most of it, just as it will probably be his children whose hands will do the carding. In the early days of the industry the wool was spun on the distaff, but by the sixteenth century the spinning-wheel was prevalent. Spinning by hand, whether by distaff or wheel, is a slow business, and while our weaver would probably keep his spinning in his family to save expense, the richer clothier would put his spinning out to be done by women (windows and spinsters) in the neighboringCVCCloth24bSpinster at the great wheel
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 cvccloth25aThe handthrown shuttle of a seventeenth-century loomhouses, or even much further afield. In 1588 it was estimated that it took forty spinners and carders to supply eight weavers, so spinsters were in great demand.To make the yarn weaver more easily the hands or bobbins of weft were dipped in the nearby stream, then to shake out the water they were ‘wuzzed’ round in a basket slung from a stick, one end of the stick being inserted into a ‘wuzzing hole’ in the nearest field wall. The wall was useful for another purpose too, for after the yarn had been warped and sized, the warp was hung on sticks protruding from the wall, to dry. When our weaver had finished weaving his piece he lays it on the floor and tramples into it such amomoniacal liquid as he can get usually human and animal excrement, then throws it across his donkeys’s back and takes it down to the fulling mill in the valley to be cleansed by scouring, then carries it back home again to be dried and burled. Again it goes to the fulling mill, and is placed in the fulling stocks with soap, which reduces its dimensions. At the fulling mill it is measured and sealed by the Ulnager.
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 cvccloth26imageStreching a wet kersey on the tenterThen home once more, and the still dripping cloth is fastened to those long wooden frameworks in the field beside the weaver’s door, which we call tenters. As the cloth is fastened to the tenter-hooks, the family pull on it to lengthen it. I suppose it is human nature to stretch the cloth sometimes a little further than it ought to go , by hand or by the broad beam on its lower edge; at any rate down through the centuries come occasional echoes of complaints about ‘deceitful’ cloths which have been over-tentered. ‘Giants to the eye but dwarfs in the use thereof’, complains one writer of some cloths in the seventeenth century, while another remarks bitterly: ‘if a gentleman makes a liverie for his man, in the first shower of rain it may fit his Page for Bigness!’ At one time a law was passed forbidding any use of the tenter, Since untentered cloth would be unkempt and uneven, however, the law was resisted fiercely, and eventually was modified to permit tentering within specified limits.When our weaver’s piece comes off the tenter, it is Tuesday again, and time to ride to market.Our weaver doe not ‘finish’ his piece himself; he sells it in this condition, just off the tenters, to the merchant at
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 Huddersfield market, who will have it dressed to suit himself, possibly at the nearby fulling mill. In the finishing process, the cloth had its nap raised by means of teasel-heads mounted on handles, then it was spread on a curved shearing board and its rough nap cropped by huge shears, to wield which required both strength and skill. After this came perching, mending and pressing.In the early days of the industry these finishing processes were always carried out at the fulling mills. We have seen that a ‘Walker’ was the same as a fuller, and the shears for cropping the nap  were originally called  walkers’ shears. When the industry grew, and the yeoman clothiers flourished, the richer clothiers carried on every process of the industry under their own roof. But the smaller clothiers, having neither the skill nor the tools nor the time to do this, took their cloth to the market undressed. To supply the merchants’ demand for finishing near at hand, ‘croppers’ shops’ gradually grew up in the towns, where they were near their customers.For the richer clothiers, who kept apprentices and employed outside spinners, the local markets were not enough, and they sent their cloth to sell in London, at the weekly cloth market at Blackwell Hall and the yearly cloth fair head on St. Bartholomew’s Day. They might perhaps go themselves to London once a year at Bartholomew’s tide, but it was impossible to take so long a journey (three or four days on horseback) very frequently, so they sent their cloth by pack-horse carrier to London and employed agents, called cloth factors, there to sell it for them. On one occasion, in 1636, and Ulnager pounced on a pack-horse train travelling to London and seized some cloth from it which he said had not been sealed. The West Riding merchants in this period exported cloth, too, sending it by ship from Hull to all parts of the continent of Europe. In the seventeenth century, when England and Holland were fighting for the mastery of the seas, these ships had to be
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 convoyed to their destination, and great was the vexation of the West Riding when their carrier missed a convoy’s departure by unpunctuality, great the indignation when a ship full of broadcloth and kerseys was sunk by enemy action. In the eighteenth century the cloth trade in the West Riding went forward in long swift strides. This was due to several causes: some national and some local. To take the national causes first: the export trade of the whole country increased tremendously in this period, owing largely to the development of British settlements overseas. Canada, India, the North American ‘colonies’, as they were then, formed ever-expanding sources of raw material and markets for British products, while in Europe the struggle for naval supremacy was over, and merchant ships could journey safely across the seas. The home market also expanded because the home population was increasing rapidly, so that the buyers were there in plenty if the clothiers could reach them and could please them.As regards reaching customers, the eighteenth century helped the clothier by tremendous development of two important means of communication: the turnpike road and the canal. Clothiers and landowners joined together to find the money and get permission from Parliament for these schemes. They subscribed to build the roads and dig the canals, then recouped themselves by tolls from those who used them. In 1759 a turnpike road was brought from Lancashire over Standedge Moor to Marsden, and down the Colne Valley into Huddersfield, thus changing the valley, as one of its historians has remarked, from a cul-de-sac into a corridor. Even more important was the opening of canals, for since one horse dragging a barge on a canal could pull as much weight as six hundred pack-horses could carry, the saving in time and labour by the use of canal transport was immense. By 1758 the Calder River was made navigable as far as Cooper’s Bridge, and then a canal was constructed
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A woollen-manufacturing hamlet which flourished in the seventeenth century

Inset shows cropping shop, remain of fulling mill, and the breached reservoir

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from that point to the King’s Mill. When this was finished, there was an uninterrupted waterway from Huddersfield to Hull-the Colne Valley clothier need no longer rely on carriers and pack-horses to get cloth to the ship sailing for Holland. He surely wished that the canal could be extended all the way up the Colne Valley and through to Lancashire, but how was it to mount the gradients and cross the Pennine Chain? at that time the engineers could not give the answer, and it was the next century before the hills were tunnelled and the canal went through.
The local cause of the great expansion on the cloth trade in Yorkshire was the introduction there of the worsted trade, which hitherto had belonged almost entirely to East Anglia.In case this comes to the hands of readers who are not ‘in textiles’, I had perhaps better explain in non-technical terms the difference between worsted and woollen cloths. Woollen cloths were (and are) woven of soft yarn, spun from wool carded but not combed. By carding, the maze of short curly fibres of the wool are made to hook into each other criss-cross – like the Yorkshire hills. Such woollen cloth felted itself into a strong matted mass beneath the hammering stocks of the fulling mill. The worsted cloths which began now to be made in Yorkshire were woven of smooth thin strong yarn, spun from combed wool, whose long fibres, combed out straight and parallel by a woolcomber using a heated comb, did not felt of interlock when spun but twined snakily round each other. This worsted cloth was strong from the tension of the cloth; it was not, of course, fulled; and the weavers were able to make clear delicate patterns in it from yarn dyed in the wool. The manufacture of this worsted cloth was a novelty for Yorkshire; it did not oust the woollen cloth manufacture, but grew beside it.How the waving of worsted was first begun in the West Riding we do not know. Perhaps some East Anglian manufacturers came north and settled in the West Riding, where
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 water was so abundant; perhaps the West Riding clothiers, find that their continental customers were beginning to weave woolen cloth for themselves, determined to capture the worsted trade and sent weavers to East Anglia to learn it. Learn it they did, at all events, and their trade increased enormously in consequence. By 1770 the West Riding worsted output was equal to that of Norwich, and Yorkshire worsteds went to Turkey and Astrakhan. One great clothier who lived on a hillside a couple of valleys away from the Colne, had a yearly turnover of twenty thousand pounds ($100,000) in 1737. We still their clothier’s pattern book in Yorkshire, and a wonderfull piece of work it is. The little squares of cloth have the most attractive names (birdseyes, amens, callimancoes, tammys), the daintiest designs and all the colours of the rainbow, and beside them Mr. Samuel Hill, clothier, has made his comments. ‘1,200 bales of this provided in one year for St. Petersburg’, he writes beside in clear blue, and beside another: ‘ The most perfect cloth made in this kingdom’. It seems he did not lack conceit – but his turnover justified it! Mr. Hill’s brother-in-law, Jospeph Holroyd, was a cloth factor or agent, who bought cloth from Yorkshire clothiers for merchants in both London and in Holland. (Later he settled as a resident in Holland.) A portion of the letter-books of these two men, in which they took copies of the letters they wrote, is still in a Yorkshire museum, and from this we can see the magnitude of the orders Holroyd was placing and Hill was carrying out. Two hundred and fifty pieces form one order for a good customer in Rotterdam.

Of course Hill did not weave all these pieces himself, or event have them woven in his house. he employed men to weave for him. He bought wool and put it out to spin, and then weavers fetched it to their homes on their donkeys, returning the woven pieces to him by the same transport. An old firm in the Colne Valley district, who have records

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 of cloth-making in their family in an unbroken line from 1541, still own a field behind their mill call ‘th’ owld Neddy-field’, which being translated, means ‘the old donkey field’. It is a relic of the days when the weaver’s donkey (whom we first met in a court case in 1275) played an essential part in the domestic cloth manufacture system. When the master-clothier received his weaver’s pieces, he marketed them.

Naturally a low wall round a churchyard was not a good enough market for such a volume of trade, and so in this century we find Cloth Halls and Piece Halls being erected all over the West Riding. A fine large Cloth Hall was built in Huddersfield in 1766. This Cloth Hall was a striking example of a graceful building perfectly adapted to its purpose, for it consisted of a one-storeyed (later, two-storeyed) arcade built round a practically circular court. The main hall of the building was built along the shorter axis of this oval, and within this hall stood, in ‘streets’, the benches or stalls on which the cloth was displayed. The covered arcade was divided into many small numbered rooms, each light from the inside of the circle by one window, and this rooms.


Business in the Main Hall, Cloth Hall, Huddersfield 


 An eigtheenth-century clothier’s pattern book


 Another page from the eighteenth-century clothier’s pattern book

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 were rented to clothiers, more than one of whom sometimes shared a room. A corridor ran around the outside of these rooms, booths as they were called, so that a buyer could pass rapidly round, looking in at the wares in each room. There were no windows on the outside of the hall – this was arranged to prevent loss by theft and minimize risk by fire. Above the main entrance stood a small bell-tower. The Cloth Hall was built by Sir John Ramsden, a landowner who at that time owned most of the land in Huddersfield town. The neighbouring clothiers were troubled because they feared the passages of the Hall were being built too narrow and a deputation went to Sire John to ask him to have them made wider. A Colne Valley clothier from Milnsbridge, a very board man, was amongst the deputation; he showed how a piece of cloth was carried on the shoulder, and Sir John measured the width and from his left shoulder to his extended right elbow, and ordered that the passages should be made twice that width with a little to spare, so that two men each carrying a piece could pass each other.


Estimating the width of the corridor

Very strict rules were observed at the Cloth Hall. The hours for bringing in the cloth were from 8.30 – 10am., after which the doors were closed and the clothiers within arranged their wares. Presently a bell was rung, the merchants and factors then entered and made a round of the rooms and stalls, carrying in their hands patterns they wished to match, notes of the pieces they wished to order. They leaned across the wooden trestles on which the cloth was displayed, and bargained with the clothiers in whispers so that the

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 neighbouring clothiers should not know each other’s business. A bell sounded to warn them that only a few minutes of market time remained; then the clock struct half-past twelve, the bell sounded again, and the market was over. The Hall closed, to open again at 3 p.m., when the pieces sold could be taken away by the buyer. Meanwhile the merchants and the clothiers had dinner at the Pack Horse Inn nearby, perhaps where they had stabled their horses. There were 150 stalls in Huddersfield Cloth Hall, but 600 manufacturers regularly brought their wares to be sold there.

That is a long step forward from the twenty-one clothiers who marketed at Almondbury in 1473. But as regards the organization of the cloth trade, it is a step along exactly the same road. Bigger markets, better means of communication, more artistic designs, more distant customers; but no radical changes either in process or in the use of labour. The tools which a Yorkshire clothier left by will to his family in 1576, the loom, the spinning-wheel, the shears and the shear-board, the tenter ropes, might seem of rather clumsy and antiquated pattern to the weaver of 1756, but he still used the same tools and called them by the same names, still wove his cloth by hand on his own loom at home. The cloth trade was still organized on the Domestic System.

Within the next few years all that was to change.

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Inner Rear Cover
Rear Cover