Oldham Historical Research Group

William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard


June 1st – For several nights past very severe frosts, insomuch that it has destroyed a deal of blooms and buds.

You that have feelings for a tear,
Give nature vent and drop it here.

The poor of this neighbourhood and country in general experienced the most tortureing misery, owing to the dearness of every necessary of life, and the scarceness of work and uncommon low wages.

It would be about this time that the following petition was presented to the county magistrates. The document was found among the old papers of Chadderton Hall some years ago, and is in the possession of Mr. Hollinworth, of Queen-street, Oldham.

“To the Worshipful the several justices of the Peace and Quorum belonging to the hundred of Salford, is humbly represented. The humble petition of the weavers of checques, Gowns and so on, of this division.

“May it please your Worships, for as much as weaving is well-known to be an ancient, useful, and beneficial art, especially those parts of it which we are taught and profess to perform, such as checques, gowns, handkerchiefs, &c. And that it is the general occupation in which the poor of this country endeavoureth to get themselves a livelihood. Be it known therefore, that whereas the master tradesmen of the town of Manchester and other places adjacent, have from time to time not only abated our wages for our several sorts of work, but also lengthened our pieces 8 or 10 yards more than aforetime; by which means our labour is reduced to so small account that many of us cannot procure sufficient maintainance for our families, pay our rents, and live honestly, without the assistance of the several towns we belong to, as several of the overseers of the poor can testify. We have therefore unanimously agreed with one consent to appeal to your worships for redress, hoping that of your clemency our humble petition may be regarded; for may your worships be pleased to consider that fourteen or sixteen years since several sorts of provisions and house rents was much cheaper, our wages much greater, and the length of our pieces much shorter than at this time. For narrow checques and handkerchiefs 2s. more for eighty in a piece than now for eighty-eight or ninety yards. Formerly the wages for gowns were 1s. more each gown, whether plain or castup, than now. We do not desire to raise our wages in any lawful method, nor to an unreasonable height, but that we may get our livelihood with reasonable satisfaction, and do justly by our masters’ goods; that we may neither embezzle them for want, nor waste them wilfully.


For we hope that this lawful method will prove an effectual means for prevention of all unlawful practices for the future, which has been of late too much used, to the great disgrace of our trade and impoverishing of our masters.

“May your worships be pleased to consider the great importance of the case before you for the good of the poor, the better payment of your rents, and the prosperity of this country in general; for the forementioned facts can be proved by many sufficient witnesses if required.

“And we as in duty bound shall every pray.”

June 11 – In the months of May and June subscriptions where set on foot in Manchester, Oldham, Hollinwood, &c., and relief thereby given to the starving poor.

June 14th – Abraham Crosley, chandler, of Royley, died; disorder, a rupture.

Manchester, June 15th – There is a great bustle here at present owing to some of the Constitutional Society being taken up, whereof, some are committed to the New Bayly, and some to Lancaster, but more of this in some future page.

June 15th – At Oldham this day new potatoes sold 4d. per lb, and gooseberrys 8d. per quart.

Oldham, June 22nd – Pottatoes 1½ d. per lb., and gooseberrys 5d. per quart.

Manchester, June 22nd – Old potatoes 11s. 6d. per load.

Oldham, June 26th – Sergant Clough arrived wanting a few recruits for the Derbyshire militia such was the pant in the path of glory that a great number of recruits flocked to his standard so that his order soon stocked, and it is supposed he might have had hundreds more had he wanted them.

Oldham, July 4th – New potatoes 1½ d. per lb.; of an inferior sort 1¼ d. per lb.

Manchester, June 20 – Old potatoes 10s. 6d. to 13s. per load.

Oldham, July 5th – This morning died William Frith, stationer and bookbinder.

This William Frith was evidently a very worthy man. Besides being a bookseller, &C., he was also a schoolmaster in Oldham. He was also one of the first Sunday School teachers in Oldham, taking the leading part at the Grammar School on Sundays in 1783 both as head teacher and as musical leader.


He played the hautboy and conducted the singing. C. A. O’Neel tells as that this Sunday School opened at eight o’clock with singing and prayer, and that the favourite hymns were: “Come sing the great Jehovah’s praise” morning. Noon, “The Lord my pasture shall prepare,” closing with “Glory to Thee my God this night.” These hymns were printed on single sheets and sold to the scholars at ½ d each. Mr. Frith appears to have been getting into years when Sunday Schools came into vogue.

Joshua Horton, Esq., of Horlroyd, Yorkshire, interred at Oldham, July 6th.

Busk, July 8th – This day a swarm of bees, from a place unknown, hived in an old pigeon box of Tom Cheetham’s, and they, supposing them to be of a dangerous tendency, got scalding water and destroyed them.

Thursday, July 8th – Some fine rain fell, which, with some cool breezes, made it more pleasant than it has been for some time, for, on the 11th, it was so excessive hot that it was soposed to be the hottest day ever felt in this country, and in the south of England several men, whilst labouring in the fields, dropt down dead.

Manchester, Sauterday, July 27th - This day, at the sessions here, Benjn. Booth, for uttering treasonable expressions, found guilty. Sentence, twelve months’ imprisonment.

Royton, July 31st – This day, at the sessions here, Susan Mills, upon complaint of the overseer of Chadderton, for having born a bastard child, committed to the New Bailey for one year.

August 3rd – This day the remains of Joseph, son of James Andrew, of Boggard Hole, were interred, and while the funeral rites were performing, his brother John expired. Disorder, a spotted or patrid fever; John, age 20, Joseph, 18 years.

According to an old medical treatise, by Salmon, dated 1695, spotted fever was a continual malignant burning fever, the sick person being afflicted with great hear, thirst, and pains in the head and other parts of the body, after some days small spots coming out, sometimes all over the body, of a reddish, purplish, livid, leaden and sometimes black colour, these spots being most visible where the larger veins and arteries do pass.

August 3rd – Most tremendous cracks of thunder with vivid flashes of lightning, set a hedge on fire near Chadderton.

August 1st – The relentless cruelty exercised by the fustian master upon the poor weavers is such that it is unexampled in the annals of cruelty, tyraney, and oppression, for it is nearly an impossibility for weavers to earn the common necessaries of life, so that a great deal of familys are in the most wretched and pitiable situation.

Oldham, August 17th – Sarah Fielding, and her son, a boy of 11 years of age, of Shaw, were detected stealing shoes in Oldham, for which the woman was committed, and the boy discharged.

Saturday, August 31st – This day being Oldham rushbearing, owing to the adversity of the times, was very thinly attended, and graced with only three rushcarts – that is, one from Cowhill, one from Hollins, and one from Greenacres Moor.

On Sunday, September 1st was an uncommon wet day, so that very few strangers attended the Wakes. At Oldham it was observeable at these Wakes that people having put little money in their pockets were consequently better behaved than at anny former Wakes.

In Wheeler’s “Manchester Chronicle” of August 31st. That since January last, owing to these dismal times, no less than 873 commissions of bankruptcy had been issued out.

1793. – Baines says this year proved one of the most trying periods for trade and commerce ever experienced in this county. The number of bankruptcies in England was increased from an average of 816 for the three preceeding years to 1,956, and Manchester felt its full share of the public distress.

Thursday, September 5th – A very large eclipse on the sun. There had not been one so large since April, 1764.

Sep. 8th – The remains of John Smith, of Dolstile, were interred at Oldham this day. He was one of the oldest fustian manufacturers in the parish of Oldham, and died poor.

Edwin Butterworth says:- The spinning of cotton yarns for warps and hosiery by means of machinery called Dutch wheels, was extremely prevalent at this time – they were horizontal wheels, moving various numbers of spindles, but generally twelve to twenty. Amongst the earliest possessors of these warp spinning machines was John Smith, of Dolstile, who appears to have been overtaken by misfortune, like many others, no doubt on account of the improvements in machinery always taking place.

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William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard
Transcribed by Mary Pendlbury & Elaine Sykes
Courtesy of Oldham Local Studies & Archives
Not to be reproduced without permission of Oldham Local Studies & Archives.
Header photograph © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for re-use under the C.C. Licence.'Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0'

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