Oldham Historical Research Group

William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard





October 17th – Died Hannah, wife of James Dunkerley, of Northmoor, near Burnly-gate. Her age about 26 years. Disorder, consumtion.

October 19th – A party of the 32nd Regement of Foot arived at Oldham to do duty during these troublesome times.

Soldiers were called in to assist in quelling any riot that might take place between employer and employed. It must be remembered that a strike of operative spinners was now in operation, and though some were willing to work at reduced prices, the majority resented this in an aggressive manner by visiting the mills.

October 20th – Died at Dunsters, within Thornham, Robert Whitehead, farmer, of that place; disorder, a fever.

Died awfully sudden, he having dropped down dead in the White Horse publick-house, Oldham, John Hall, a joyner by trade, aged 70 years.

November 8th – Last night the refractory spinners made a most desperate assault on the knobsticks spinners at Mr. Lees’s, comonly called John O’Sally’s, and Mess. Colling and Lancashire factorys at Greenacres Moor. The spinners, when darkness apeared, furiously broke into these two mills and made a furious attack on the knobstick spinners then at work. They seriously wounded all they found at work, and a dangerous riot ensued. Mr. Holme, the magistrate, with constable and a party of the 32nd of Foot, arived, and the Riot Act was read, wich had the effect of apeasing the tumult a little. The knobsticks where most dangerously wounded, but no one killed. Several of the wounded where sent to the Manchester Infirmary. Several of the spiners where taken into custody and taken to the lock-ups, and on the 9th where examined before Mr. Holme. The spinners where prepared with Mr. Folkes, of Manchester, as their solicitor. Several where bound over to the Quater Sessions. Mr. Holme ajourned the buisness from this place (the Buck, Hollinwood) to the Angel, Oldham. On the 10th Mr. Holme and Mr. Folkes again attended, when the remainder of the prisoners where examined. The result was several where bound to the sessions. The Angel Inn was powerfully protected by a large number of soldiers and constables.

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November 15th – Was intered at Royton, Jenny Hooton, of Chadderton; her age 32 years; disorder, consumption.

November 22nd – Last night, about ten o’clock, a most destructive fire took place at the mill of Messrs. Couzens, Bradley, and Wild, wich rendered the factory and all the extensive and valuable machinery, the power looms, &c., where reduced to a heap of rubbich. Fortunately no lives were lost. The proprietors had insured for £26,000, and the loss is supposed to be £30,000. The mill was situate in the Union Ground, Oldham.

November 28th – Died in Fog-lane, Joseph Knott; disorder, asthma, wich he had a long time been afflicted with; his age 59 years.

A few days since three men of the name of Midgely where so much burned by the fire-damp at there work at Hunt Clough – they where father and two sons – that they died a few days after.

December 2nd – This day the turn-out spinners assembled at the factory of Colling and Lancashire, at Greenacres Moor, and forceably broke open the doors, and fetched out the knobstick spinners. A few days after fourteen of the most active where aprehended, and taken to the New Bailey, Manchester. Upon examination they were admitted to bail. On the 8th they returned to Oldham, accompanied by their friends and a band of musick.

December 8th – Died, Nanny, wife of Robert Ogden, comonly cald Robin-o’th’-Quakers, of Maygate-lane; her age, 59 years.

December 11th – Died, John Rowbottom, the younger, of Hunt-lane, blacksmith; age, 35 yrs; disorder, consumption.

December 16th – Died at Hargreaves, Oldham, Mrs. Ann Hadfield, mother of Mr. George Hadfield, of the firm Barker, Hadfield, and Taylor of that place; her age, 84 years.

A few days since William Harrison left the Joyner’s Arms, alias the Trap Inn, Magot-lane, he retiring from the public line, and was succeeded by………….

December 21st – An apointed day for giving blankets and other necesarys to the poor in the township of Oldham, when a few blankets were given to the most necessitous poor.


And an unfortunate boy of the name of John Mellor, from Hollinwood, a collior, was unfortunately killed in a coal pit at the collory in Hunt-lane fields.

December 22nd – Last night the turnout spinners of Oldham assembled at Heyside, at the mill of Mr. Daniel Neild, and compelled his workpeople to leave the mill.

December 23rd – The most distressing times still continue. The poor are in a lamentable situation; having neither food nor rayment their situation is most misserable.

December 28th – This day a quantity of blankets, coats, waistcoats, trowsers, legings, stockings, shoes, &c., where given to the most nessesitious at Thomas Ogden’s, Maygate-lane. They where Government stores, and where disstributed in several parts of this disstressed country, and several of the neighbouring gentry threw in their mite by making a pressent of their cast off coats, shirts, waistcoats, trowsers, breches, shoes, &c., &c.

December 31st – This misserable year is nearly at an end. It as been such fine soft weather such as was seldom seen before. It was as warm as in a fine spring, and there was an abundance of grass which proved very fortunate for those that had but a little hay, which was a general complaint in consequence of the great drought of last summer. The poor people of this country are now in that miserable condition that it was truly stated future ages would doubt the truth of it. The workhouses are not sufficient to acomodate the numerous poor. In Chadderton Workhouse on the 26th instant there were 84 souls dined, but some were lodged out, and their dinner, as was proved before the Rev. Mr. Holme, the magistrate, consisted of two pounds of butcher’s meat, only wich was stewed and hashed with pottatoes. No doubt but there was hundreds all over the country who could not get any dinner at all.

The flints or turn-out spinners still continue hostile to their masters, and refuse to work at the prices or the wages offered by the masters.

The boom of the good trade in Oldham in 1825 caused the operative spinners to put their heads together for the formation of a new standard list to regulate spinners’ wages. In those days spinners were paid by the score hanks, and out of this they paid for turning at a rate of so much per dozen spindles. We have seen that the spinning price was 3d. per score ten years before, but some of the new mills built in 1824, were constructed to accommodate sixty dozen mules, and the price per score for spinning, from 50’s to 60’s counts, was twopence. Out of this the spinner paid 612d. per dozen for turning per week, and 15s. for his piecer. The average out-turn from such a pair of mules was about 9,600 hanks per week, or say 13 hanks per spindle. Thus a spinner in 1825 would earn £4 per week spinning only on one mule, but of this £4 he would pay £2 7s. 6d. for turning and piecing, leaving a net wage of 32s. 6d. This was surely a good wage as things went then, but the operatives, not content with this payment, constructed a list on the basis of 3d. per score and 612d. for turning. This list was printed by the Operatives Association, and, had trade continued good, it was obviously intended to put it into operation.

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This would have enabled the spinner to earn £6 per week, out of which he would have to pay £2 7s. 6d. for turning and piecing, leaving him with £3 12s. 6d. for his week’s earning, and advance of over 100 per cent. What prevented this list being put into force was the fearful panic of 1826, when banks were braking on every hand, and a general monetary crisis prevailed throughout the country. It was this exorbitant list which called into operation the first Oldham Master Cotton Spinners’ Association. It seems to have been well known by employers that a return of good trade would only bring the new proposed list of the operatives to maturity, and as trade at that time was in a fearful state from various causes, the employers forestalled the operatives by demanding a reduction of one-eighth per score, making the price 178d., demanding at the same time, a half-penny advance for turning. In December 1826, notice was given by over 20 firms to reduce the price by one-eighth per score, and this led to a strike, though many individual firms had previously brought on strikes by giving notice of this reduction. Indeed the trade had been disturbed since April. This strike was carried on with great asperity. Parson Holme, the magistrate, did what he could to mediate between employers and employed. Lists of prices were obtained from neighbouring districts , and submitted to him, but on account of the bad conduct of the operatives, employers declined to abide by the lists obtained, and insisted on a reduction of 1/8th per score, and on 7d. per dozen being paid for turning. At some of the mills matters were carried to great lengths. The “flints” as they were termed surrounded the mills where the spinners were working at the reduction. At one place the workpeople were provided with beds as it was not safe for them to be exposed to the fury of the turnouts. In one case a man was visited at his home and badly used by moonlight visitors. In another case, a cotton spinner, Daniel Neild, had pressed his family to work in the mill, who along with some of his workpeople kept the machinery at work, when one day the mill was visited by the “flints,” and everyone driven from the mill and shamefully beaten. The two names which appear most conspicuous in this dispute were those of Mr. Greaves and Mr. Lancashire. We may here compare results of cotton spinning then and now:- No. of spindles per man in 1825 360, in 1888 850; No. of hanks per spindle (60’s) 13 in 72 hours in 1825, 26 in 56 hours in 1888; cost per pound for spinning alone 312d in 1825, 78d. in 1888 in wages alone.

December 31st – Utmost misserey still continues, and the lower class of people are in a misserable situation. A deal of poor children have never a clog, shoe, or stocking put on, and have to encounter the winter storms bareleg and barefoot. Butchers’ meat at this time may be reasonable. Mutton from 4 ½d. to 5 ½d. per pond; beff from 2 ½d. to 5 ½d. per pond; chees 6d. to 7d., butter (old) 10 ½d. to 11d. a pond, meal 2s. 6d. per peck; flour (and wich is an exalent quality) 2s. to 2s. 2d. per peck, 12 pond to the peck; pottatoes 9d. per score, or 20 ponds; salt 4 pond for a penny.

James Butterworth’s second edition of the “History and Description of the Parochial Chapelry of Oldham,” with an appendix was published. It was printed by J. Dodge, High Street. It is dedicated to Earl Wilton and to the worshipful magistrates of Oldham, the Rev. J. Holm and James Lees, Esq. He acknowledges the help of Mr. Radley of Oldham, solicitor, and Mr,. Kinder Wood, surgeon, King Street, Manchester. Sir Joseph Radcliffe also comes in for favourable mention. The dedication is dated St. Helens, near Oldham, June 1st 1826.

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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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