Tuesday, 15 May 2012

15th May 1812: John Blackner & Edward Allen speak at the Select Committee into the Framework-knitters Petitions

On Friday 15th May 1812, two more framework-knitters gave evidence at the Parliamentary Select Committee into the Framework-knitters Petitions in London.

John Blackner had been a framework-knitter for 32 years. His longevity in the profession allowed him to speak in detail about his profession not juts over his working lifetime, but in that of his forefathers also. He reflected that the legislation that had protected the framework-knitters allowed trade to flourish, and conversely that 'innovations' (not necessarily technological ones) had been detrimental. Blackner described how, when the quality of the goods began to fall due to shoddy practices, "the hosiers began to appear more determined on gaining profit from the smaller quantity of goods sold", which then led to 'cut-ups' being introduced, further deteriorating quality. Blackner stated that the particular branch of the trade that he was describing, utilising two-needle netted frames, had seen the number of frames fall from 500 in 1795 to 'one or two' in 1812, and he  advocated the prohibition of cut-ups for making stockings.

Blackner went on to outline the damage that speculators had done to the trade - i.e. those unconnected with hosiery who had invested capital in frames in order purely to extract profit from renting them, leading to exploitation of the workmen. Again, Blackner believed that those unconnected with the trade should not be allowed to own frames.

Edward Allen next spoke to the Select Committee. He gave evidence about how it had become increasingly common to be paid in goods rather than in cash for work done, which had included 'grocery, such as soap, candles, bacon, tea, sugar', all of which was much less in value than equivalent in cash. Although this practice was illegal where the workman did not consent to it, Allen stated that the hosiers evaded the law by raising the rent on frames and compelling the workmen to buy goods from their warehouses at reduced prices.

This has been summarised from the Report from the Committee on the Framework-Knitters Petitions, 1812 (247) 2, pp.25-32.

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