The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

Rowbottom's Comments on Trade and Politics - 1800 to 1819
As Recorded in the Diary of William Rowbottom
Comments and additional information (in italics) are from the transcription by Samuel Andrew,
serialised in the 'Oldham Standard' between 1887 & 1889
Cost of Provisions HERE


The year 1811 commenced on Tuesday, wich was a frosty day, attended with a little snow, bit in consequence of the distressedness of the times, ancient Christmas as hid her cheerful face in the lap of misery, for the lower class of people cannot raise a Christmas pie or a pot of English beer, for poor hatters and weavers are very poorly off indeed, and provisions of all kinds are extremely dear, as will be found by the following correct statement. We must own that factory work is going very brisk, and wages good, but this destructive war will make thousands smart that are yet unborn.

... white cotton wool, from 12d. to 14d. per pond. Hatting is extremely bad; there is at this time 92 hands without work in Oldham, and they receive weekly subsistence from the different hatter’s societys in several parts of England, which is distributed in meal, flour, butter, &c., at a house in Brick Croft, Oldham, according to the number of mouths in each family in want.

Bale cotton and white cotton wool are still mentioned in the list of domestic articles, though cotton was only used in a very limited quantity at this time for domestic spinning. The factories had almost taken the place of the domestic spinner. This portion of the population had been absorbed in the factory system, but the hand weavers who formed the other portion had not yet been absorbed, and they entered an indignant protest against the idea of being swallowed up in this manner. They had an intense hatred of machinery and looked on it as their natural enemy – as the robber who was to steal their living. Hence they wished only to destroy it, and as power looms grew in numbers so their wrath increased to destroy them.

Fustian weaving is torable in consideration of other trades being bad. The prices are from 2s. 2d. to 2s. 8d. for 24 hanks per pond. Velveteens, cords, &c., light goods, are extremely bad, the prices very low indeed, and several hundreds in this neighbourhood without work. Factory work is very brisk and wages good. Husbandry work and out-work is plenty. Timber is still very dear, although much lower than it was twelve months ago. Good deal 3s. 2d. a foot. 2s. 2d. to 2s.8d. per lb. for only weaving 24’s into fustian.

These prices must be watched, as the introduction of the power loom becomes general. As yet we have heard of no power looms in Oldham, though we are told factory work was brisk and wages good.

January 10th -
The following statement shows the rapid rise of some articles in the hatting business [prices in 1779 and 1811; - Best stuff, 11s. a pond, now £1 1s.; teal wool, 3s. 6d. a pond, now 6s.; stage hare wool, 4s. a pond, now 15s.; English hare 9s. 6d. a pond, now 15s.

I suppose the extreme prices of wool and other stuff for hat making would be one cause of the extreme depression in the hatting trade at this time. Of course, the hat of the period was the beaver hat, silk hats being a luxury at that time out of the reach of the common people.

January 26th
The distress of the country still continues to increase, especially weaving. Masters are now giving for calico, 32 yards, 50 reed, 3s. 6d.: but to have 4lbs. of 40 hank weft in its nankeens, 36 reed, 64 yard, is wove at 7s. which some years ago was only 45 yards long and the price 14s.

The prices of weaving were evidently undergoing a change. 10 1/2d. for weaving 40’s into calicos, and the price for nankeens reduced from 14s. to 5s. for the same length. Though there might be no power looms in Oldham, other parts of the country had them, and the prices would fall all through the trade.

May 22nd and 23rd
The spinners in Oldham manifested some signs of comotion. The magistrates and constables by parading the streets prevented any serious mischief. Their complaint was Mr. Daniel Lees lowering their wages.

This is certainly the first attempt at a spinners’ strike in Oldham, and it occurred at Bankside Mill owned by Mr. Daniel Lees. We have no idea what the prices paid were, but improvements in machinery and increased competition caused these reductions. Ellison says that in 1799 40’s yarn was sold for 7s. 6d. per pound, the cotton costing 3s. 4d., leaving 4s. 2d. a pound to be divided between the employer and his workpeople, but in 1812 there was only 1s. to divide, hence the necessity for reducing wages. This annal marks an era in the history of our trade, as the spinners seem to be numerous, and well organised enough to make their first strike.

An Act passed for a return to be made to Government to be returned this month July, By every township.

Manchester Parish

Inhabited Houses
Number of Families
Houses in Building
Houses Uninhabited
Familys employed in agriculture
Familys employed in trade, &c
Other familys








Townships in Manchester Parish:-
Manchester, Salford, Heaton Norris, Hume, Failsworth, Ardwick, Chorlton Row, Blakely, Droilsden, Newton, Stretford, Denton, Houghton, Gorton, Cheetham, Withington, Broughton, Rushhulme, Didsbury, Levenshulme, Crumsal, Chorlton-with-Hardy.

Oldham inhabitants, 16,690;
Royton, 3,910;
Cromton, 4746;
Chadderton, 4133;
Chadderton inhabited houses, 709 and 878 familys; new houses building, none; uninhabited houses, 4; familys imployed in agriculture, 35; manufacture, &c., 659; other familys, 26; males, 1,960; females, 2,173; Chaderton total, 4,133.

The following is familys in the township of Oldham in 1714:-
Oldham, 431;
Royton, 69;
Chaderton, 190;
Cromton, 218.

Familys in 1786:-
Oldham, 1,784;
Royton, 360;
Chaderton, 540;
Cromton, 440.

Despite the hard times Oldham had increased about 600 per cent in the century. During this time there must have been numerous importations into Oldham. Accordingly we find in these annals Yorkshire men, Shropshire men, and others, who no doubt seeing the growth of the town were attracted to it as mechanics and other craftsmen.

July 24th -
All sorts of trade is daily worse and worse, and especially hatting and weaving, and a deal of familys are in a state of actual starvation. Great numbers of weavers of lyght goods and hatters without work, and in that state lamentable must be their situation.

The industrial depression still continued for many years, with only short periods of improvement.

September 2nd -
A deal of company, and moderate spending with those that had money, but poor hatters in general had a poor Wakes of it in consequence of the poorness of their trade; weavers also fared bare.

September 7th
Died at Strangeways Hall, Manchester, Joseph Hanson, Esq., a truly great and good man; a staunch friend to the cause of liberty, and a true advocate for the poor. His age, 39 years.

The life of Joseph Hanson was evidently worn out of him by the distress of the poor. He seems to have always taken their part against the rich, and looked on the cause of distress as preventible ... As already stated, it was almost a dangerous thing in those days to be a friend of the poor, as such people were looked on as egging on the popular discontent, which had to be met by repression.Mr. Axon gives the date of Hanson’s death as September 3 and says he was the author of “The Defence of the Petition for Peace,” 1808. He also says that after retiring from business he lived at Strangeways Hall. “Mr. Joseph Hanson, in giving evidence before the House of Commons in 1811 on the petition of the Manchester weavers, stated the number of spinners to be 9,000, and the number of weavers 12,000, the latter earning 11s. per week, and the former 7s., when fully employed.” Of course he would be speaking of handloom weavers, and of a class of spinners who probably used Dutch wheels before Crompton’s mule came into operation.

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