Sunday, 12 February 2012

12th February 1812: Thomas Hayne, Lace manufacturer, to Home Office

Nottingham12, February, 1812


In compliance with your request yesterday I have the honor to send you a hasty sketch of a few of the leading circumstances which have occasioned the disturbances at Nottingham during the last and present year.

In the early part of last year, a few frames were broken, the property of Mr. Bolton, the alledged cause for which was that they required more work to be put into their Stockings than other Houses: the fact was that some Houses were content to receive Stockings, with less work in them than common, this applies principally to the well shaping of them.

No further disturbances took place ‘till the beginning of October 1811, when some more frames were broken at Arnold, at Bulwell, Basford etc. The alledged cause of breaking these Frames, was their making Stockings upon wide Frames, two at once, & were also ‘cut-ups’ It may be proper to observe here, that these wide Frames, were originally constructed for the purpose of making pantaloons, which required wider Frames than were then in use, & for the making of fancy Stockings called ‘Twills’, which were made the length way of the Frame. This description of Stocking, is now out of use, and Pantaloons not being wanted for the Continent, these frames were not employed in the work they were originally intended for, but being applicable to make two Stockings at once, many of them were put to work in that way. The men can gain as much or more by their labour on this Work — as in Frames of other descriptions.

The first considerable number of Frames broken were at Sutton belonging principally to Mr. Betts who made for the most part cheap Grade at reduced prices, and paid for a considerable proportion of the labour in Goods — some frames were broken at the same time & place, belonging to Mr. Gadsby who makes the same kind of Work as Mr. Betts & pays in the same way — his Frames & the remainder of those in Sutton were saved by the arrival of the Military.

The complaints of the Workmen, as applying to the Hosiery are as follows - viz. that the price paid for their labour has not increased in proportion to that of the necessaries of life. I consider that common or Lazy Workmen on stockings in general cannot earn more than 10/- pr week better and expert Men from 12/- to 15/- — per week — upon fancy and superior work more is to be gained, & it is to be considered that all the Branches of his Family may be employed in the manufactory — and each gain something by seaming, winding, Embroidering etc.

Sometime elapsed after the breaking of Hose Frames before they commenced their Attack upon Lace Frames, alledging complaints against a certain description of Work made in those Frames — the Lace Frames are of two kinds, the one which is called a ‘Point Nett Frame’ consists of the old Stocking Frame complete, with a Machine applied to produce the Nett Work ~ the other is a combination of the Weaving Loom & a small part of the Stocking Frame & is called a ‘Warp Frame’ — annexed I beg leave to hand you Samples of the produce of each machine, with the Work approved of by the Workmen, & also that which they now oppose being made.

Upon any of these Lace Works, the Men can earn by their weekly labour from 20/- to 30/- and many much more — and it must be observed here that the Lace hands seldom work more than Four days in the week.

A great proportion of the Lace Frames are the property of the Workmen, or hired by them from Persons not connected with the Trade — who speculate in the same and let them out to hire as a means of obtaining more than Legal Interest for their money.

Besides the Weavers of the Net work a much greater number of persons are employed in embroidering patterns or designs upon the Net, according to the purposes for which it may be intended. These are principally Females and are called Runners, of which at least Twenty Thousand are employed in this manufacture: these work at their own houses & spread thro’ most of the adjoining counties. Children, boys or girls five years old & upwards can be employed at it: the common payment for a good hand is two Pence pr hour: Children earn from l/6 to 3/- a week, Girls 7/- to l2/- — on best work from l5/- to 21/- a week, l beg leave generally to remark that I am of opinion that the disturbances at Nottingham have arisen more from want of work than the prices given for their labour, and generally speaking they would have been content with the prices if they could have had full employment.

The price paid for some sorts of stockings is very low, though no material abatement has taken place — and an advance will be paid whenever the trade requires a greater supply. From the flatness of Trade which has existed about two years, many schemes are adopted by the little makers to get their work produced at a lower cost & in some instances by paying less for the labour — in others reducing the quality, and lastly, by paying about two-thirds in Goods which is almost universally the case at Sutton — this last practice is not followed by any of the respectable manufacturers but I must observe that although confined to the lesser Houses it is still very extensive and its consequences are very ruinous to the Workmen and injurious to the trade at large.

When the Workmen receive this payment in goods, except in that part which may consist of the necessaries of life, they have no other means of turning these into money but by having recourse to the Pawnbroker, and we can pretty well estimate what such a man will leave for the Workmen. The Smaller Manufacturers having by these various means reduced the price of their Goods, have compelled the principal Manufacturers either to discharge their Workmen or reduce the price in some measure to enable them to meet them in a fair competition in the Market, otherwise they would be undersold.

In the Lace trade the practice of paying wages in Goods is more extensive than in the Hosiery line, & as Girls or Women are chiefly employed as ‘Runners’, they are frequently paid two thirds, in articles of dress: These things are in the first place laid in badly & retail’d at a great profit — bought of Hawkers who frequently are the medium of disposing of stolen goods, or of goods obtained by various frauds from London, — they become a source of great injury to the honest Shopkeeper: this practice prevails also in other manufactures.

The Lace hands object to the making of what is called Single Press Point of Single Yarn, not on account of the price paid for it, but its being of an inferior quality, & the double press we can not sell as it costs much more than the other & we can not obtain the price.

Their objections are not against any particular Machine, but to the Sorts of Work produced: to explain the difference between these two sorts of Point Net, one is looped once through-the other twice, which were stiled ‘Double & Single Press’.

The Warp Work they object to, is called ‘Two Course’ or two operations in making the Hole ~ the one they approve is 6 Course requiring 6 Operations.

The length of a piece of Lace should be 20 yards, measured Height by the yard ~ from the Trade being flat sooner than be without employment the Workmen have consented to make their pieces longer for the same price and many of the manufacturers have got their pieces made considerably longer, even to 30 yards for the same price which some Houses gave for the piece of 20 yards.

The same observations which I have made respecting the Hosiery, equally apply to the Lace Y that when lesser Houses reduce the prices by any means, the others must in some degree follow as they would otherwise be undersold.

The foregoing remarks are very hastily drawn up, but I hope they will convey as clear an explanation of the present state of things in the Nottingham manufactory as the shortness of the time would permit.

I remain [etc.]

Thos. Hayne

The letter can be found at HO 42/131.

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