Oldham Historical Research Group

William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard


June 5th -The spiners at most of the factorys are now out of employ, having refused to work at a reduced price. The present price is 2 3/4d. per score of 24 hanks, and 3d. per score for finer sorts. The masters insist on a reduction of 1¼. per score, and the spiners refuse to comply. And about the middle of July they mostly returned to there employ having subdued there masters by compelling them to give the usual wages.

My Uncle Johnny went to Rhodes factory in the year 1809. He was a master cotton spinner and had one carding engine, and when the number was increased to two there was a hue and cry in the town, as if some great wonder had come. At the same mill were other small masters, as George Earnshaw, brother of old Dr. Earnshaw; John Whittaker, an old bachelor; “Little David” or David Walton, who afterwards built Flat Top Factory; and James Binns. These were for the most part a set of broken-haired Quakers, who owned and worked in several tenancies, about eight carding engines altogether, my uncle’s making a total of ten at Rhodes Factory, which, I warrant you, was looked on at that times as a decent-sized mill. Many of my readers will remember, as I do, Rhodes Factory being burnt down over forty years ago. It has been made into sites for shops, livery stables and that kind of thing. A strike extending over six weeks on the part of the spinners shows the trade was fairly organised at this time. Perhaps a peep into this old mill, as given by one who worked there, may be interesting. First there was an Oldham willow, and the person who tended it had to weigh the cotton and feed it on behind the carding engine. The drawing frame dropped its sliver at the last box into a lantern; these lanterns were taken. Behind the rover and were tended by stretchers, who were little boys and girls, whose duty it was to prevent the sliver being ruffled. The rover made a cop, which was set in the mule. The mule contained 17 to 20 dozen spindles, and the spinner was paid by the score hanks, having to pay out to the master 6 ½. Per dozen for steam (turning), candles, which sometimes cost 3s. 6d. a week according to the time run, and piecer’s wages, say 7s. to 8s. a week. The spinner was a good hand who could earn 30s. a week, and for this he would sometimes work 72 to 76 hours a week. The carder was paid on the weight of yarn weighed in by the spinner, and he received 11s. per 100 lbs. Out of this he paid his own cardroom hands. It will be seen that the spinners were paid by the score hanks, whereas they are now paid by the 1,000 hanks. The price per 1,000 hanks for spinning 24’s to-day is 11 1/2d. to 1s.; the price then was 137 1/2d, or 11s 5 1/2d, and a strike at that price. So much for improvements in machinery.

Writing of this turnout, E. Butterworth says: “At this time the cotton trade was extremely depressed, and in a memorial which the manufacturers addressed to the Government in July, 1815, they made the startling assertion that upon an average of the preceding five years the losses had exceeded the profits. They also added that whilst the trade had been stationary in this country during the previous seven years the manufactories on the continent had increased five-fold in the same period.” In quoting this statement of Butterworth’s, I ought to recall to the mind of my readers that the wars between England and other countries, America among the rest, had seriously interfered with our cotton trade. I called attention to this in a previous note.

The extent of the misfortune at Heaton Colliery:- Mr. Miller, the underviewer, who has left a wife and 8 children; 32 workmen, 42 boys, and 37 horses have perished, and 25 widows, and about 80 children are left to bemoan the sudden death of their husbands and fathers.

June 9th -One Woolfenden, a marine and pensioner, and who had lost one hand, was riding on a loaden cart, and in Werneth he fell off, and one of the wheels went over his belly. Notwithstanding there is strong hopes of his recovery.

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June 12th -Samuel Taylor, of Moston, and Joseph Norden, of the Lodge in Failsworth, two of his Majesty’s justices of the peace, held there first sessions at the Pack Horse, in Failsworth, this day.

The old system established by the country justices of holding a court in the next convenient public-house has long since fallen into disuse. Failsworth, Hollinwood, Royton, and other considerable villages had each its courtroom at some old “pub.” Perhaps this was an improvement on the older system of bringing up their culprits at the hall of the ancient feudal lord.

The manner in which justice was dispensed in hose days was not very creditable to our English system. Who has not read the sarcasms of Henry Fielding, Esq., magistrate and novelist, of “Tom Jones” notoriety? Though applying to a time some fifty years earlier than his, the evil still survived in country places, one law being for the rich and another for the poor. At the same time country justices in those times were looked upon with a respect amounting to awe. Have we not learnt the old prayer, perhaps written in a fine veil of irony?

From fire, from water, and all things amiss,
Deliver the house of an honest justice.

Who has not read of the exploits of Ready Money Jack and starlight Tom, with Master Simon as clerk of the court, and the old squire in his chair at the hall of Bracebridge?

June 15th - One Thomas Haigh, a boy of about 11 years of age, an inhabitant of Oldham, in a fit of despair, hung himself to a thorn stump in a hedge, near Horsedge Fold, this day.

June 20th -Died, Nanny, wife of Joseph Birket, of Horsedge Fold; he is now in the marines.

June 27th -Tuesday was the prize ringing at Bury, when the prizes for both the round peal and changes were woon by Radcliffe Bridge ringers, and the second prizes were both won by the Middleton Ringers. Saddleworth, Prestwich, Ecles, Rochdale and Bolton rung, but unsuccesful.

June 28th -A letter arrived from Brussels from Joseph Lord, son of Ann Lord, now wife of Joseph Travis, of Nin Nook, in wich he gives an account of his brother John being slain and he himself wounded in the bloody battle of Waterloo, on the 18th inst.

This seems to be the first arrival of personal news from Waterloo – ten days after the battle. Many an Oldhamer was there. I have heard many a tale about the arrival in Oldham of the first news. People were almost frantic with excitement, and there was such a rush for the Church bells! It is said that the ringers rang as if they would pull the bells down. One thing is certain at a little village outside Oldham, where there was only one chapel bell. The people would not let the bell alone until they had cracked it with ringing, and broken the bell rope into the bargain. There must have been form thirty to forty soldiers at Waterloo from the district of Oldham. I well remember a tale from one of them, who shall be nameless. He was wounded on the second day of the fight, and lay most of the day and a whole night with others on the field in a helpless state.

As the morning approached he observed a French horse soldier riding over the field, trampling some of the corpses under his horse’s feet, and slashing out right and left, and putting the wounded out of their misery – at least, such as appeared to have any life left and came within his reach. “Now,” though he, as he lay in a gutter, which he had made into a temporary bed, “My turn is coming shortly, and I have as much right to live as this horseman, though I have got a bullet in my leg.” He had kept his shooter by his side ready for any emergency, and as the Frenchman came nearer and would soon have despatched him, he took aim, and picked the Frenchman clean off his horse, though he said it was the only shot of his that he ever knew to take effect.





June 30th -Died, awfully sudden, as she was at her wheel winding, Ann, wife of James Jackson, of Coldhurst, High Barn. Her age about 46 years.

The conclution of this month was exalent fine weather for the hay harvest, and the farmers have mostly finished, and never such heavy crops before in the memory of man.

July 4th -Last night, Joseph Taylor, master of the Spread Eagle Inn, in Oldham, cut his troat in a dreadful manner. A surgeon, Mr. Kinder Wood, sewed up the wound, wich fortunateley was not fatal, and there is strongest hopes of his recovery. He had for some time been in a despondent gloomy state of mind. Never was a man more universally pityed, for, by his genteel, upright, humane, and courtious behaviour, he was universally respected by all ranks of people.

July 6th -Died, at London, Samuel Whitebread, Esquire. The virtues of this man where many; he was a firm patriot, a fine orator, a friend to those in distress. It is said he cut his own troat, in a fit of dispair.

Great Victory, - Sunday, June 18, 1815, was fought one of the most sanguinary and blody battles ever recorded in ancient or modern history at Waterloo, or otherwise La Bell Alliance, near Brussels, in wich was obtained such a victory as surpasses those at Cressey, Agincourt, or Blenhiem, over the French army, commanded by Bunaparte in person, consisting of 153,000 men. The allied army commanded by Wellington consisted of – British, 27,000; German Legion, 5,000; Brunswick and Nassau, 10,000; Dutch, 5,000; Belgie, 50,000; total infantry 76,000; artillery, 5,000. Cavalry: British, 7,000; German Legion, 35,000; Dutch, 3,000; in all under Wellington, 94,5000 men.

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The Prusans came up at the close of the victory. The allies took 210 pieces of cannon, two eagles, his baggage and store of all kinds. The French loss was upwards of 40,000 men killed, wounded and missing, and a deal of inferior officers where prisoners. The Duke of Wellington’s loss was – exclusive of the Prusions – officers, 148; non-commissioned, 144; rank and file, 2140. Killed: Officers, 670; non-comisoned officers, 536; rank and file, 8,320. Wounded: officers, 28; non-comisoned officers, 74; rank and file, 1,763, grand total, 13,838.

July 7th -The alied English and Prusian armys, under the comand of the Duke of Wellington and Prince Blucher, according to a convention, entered Paris, and Louis XVIII entered the day following, being the 8th.

Total loss of British at the battle of Waterloo: 2 generals, I colonel, 3 lieutenant-colonels, 6 majors, 46 captains, 26 lieutenants, 19 ensighns or cornets, 5 staff officers, 2 troop quarter-masters, , 100 sergeants, 13 drummers, 1,536 rank and file, and 1,462 horses, killed; 10 general staff-officers, 4 colonels, 21 lieutenant-colonels, 28 majors, 105 captains, 202 lieutenants, 47 cornets or ensighns, 11 staff, 3 troop quarter-masters, 330 sergeants, 36 drummers 508 rank and file, 863 horses wounded: 1 lieutenant-colonel, 4 captains, 5 lieutenants, 2 cornets, 17 sergeants, 15 drummers, 779 rank and file, 762 horses missing.

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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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