Wednesday, 11 October 2017

11th October 1817: A correspondent to the Nottingham Review blames Parish Officers for the poverty of Framework-knitters

At a time (says a correspondent of the Nottingham Review,) when the public mind is much exercised, on account of the lamentable, and much to be regretted dispute between the Hosiers and their workmen, any means that can be devised to remove the evil, in my opinion ought to be immediately put into practice, therefore I will, by your permission state, that as it is admitted almost by every one who has directed his attention to the subject, that overseers of parishes telling their parishioners, the framework-knitters, that if they could not obtain work at the best prices, to get it at any price rather than come away without, and that they would make up the deficiency, has been a great evil to the trade―I say this has already been proved an evil, and that to an alarming extent, which the parishes little thought of. Therefore in my opinion, (and it is also the opinion of several well informed gentlemen) the parishes should each have a meeting, and resolve not to relive any Framework-knitter, who is in health and strength, and in full work, and if he is so reduced in the price of his labour, that he cannot maintain his family at his business, he ought to leave it, and got to house-row work, or any other work that he can get to do; for it is a shame that men should work fourteen or sixteen hours a day, and after that be obliged to go to the Overseer for relief, as it is now quite common for them to receive from two to seven shilling per week, and in many instances more; and can but just live at that. While this system is pursued, there never will be any peace and comfort amongst the men, for some unfeeling masters, when they find that their poor workmen are relieved by the Parishes, say, “it does not matter to you, what your price is, when the deficiency is made up to you,” so they take off another penny or two—pence per pair, and the workman goes to the Overseer to receive what the Hosier has paid him short of his wages. The fact is, that we now have a new race of paupers* sprung up, for the workman does not receive so much for the quantity of labour, from the hosier and overseer both put together as he formerly did. I saw this week in Nottingham a poor framework-knitter, with some of his work that he had made before the frames were stopped and real good stockings they were, and he declared that he had been making them for 5s. 6d. per dozen, and the same article I am sure was 17s. per dozen in 1814! and a few hosiers to my knowledge have not paid less than 11s. for the same, thus they have been paying 5s. 6d. and he is making other articles nearly as cheap. I must beg pardon of you for taking up so much room of your valuable paper, hoping it will have a good effect, and beg to subscribe myself to your constant reader.

J. H.

N.B. To average the hands, they would not make above a dozen per week, which would be 5s. 6d. at first hand, then if it was a journeyman there would be his expenses, which in winter would be 4s. per week, leaving him only 1s. 6d. to subsist upon; but candour obliges me to acknowledge that this is the worst work I have heard of.

*I allude to those who are paying the lowest of prices, and have run down the poor workman on all occasions.

This was re-published by the Leicester Chronicle on 11th October 1817.

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