What West Haddon manufactory?

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This advertisement appeared in the Northampton Mercury in 1795.

WH manufactory ad_edited-1

What on earth was harrateen? And where was the manufactory?

It’s those weavers again. There were four main types of fabric made by Northamptonshire weavers in the 18th century. And mostly they were cheap substitutes for something else. We’ve already come across tammy and its use as a substitute for dress silk. Shallons, or shalloons didn’t really pretend to be anything other than a cheap, all-purpose, lightweight twilled worsted for coat linings, working dresses etc. (There was a furlong in West Haddon called Shallons – perhaps used for tentering finished fabric as on Tenter Leys).

Harrateen and morine (or moreen) were both used in soft furnishings. The completed lengths were finished by variations in hot pressing. Harrateen was passed under a heated brass roller embossed with a pattern, which left the fabric with a sheen and a texture that might, in the right light, look like damask.

Moreen was sprinkled with water, layered with papers and pressed between two heated metal plates which was supposed to make it look a bit like silk moire. Both of these processes would have required workshops with quite heavy equipment, although the weaving could be done in an ordinary cottage living room or backyard workshop.

John Newton had several lengths of moreen in his houmoreen at Canons Ashbyse when he died. This is what it looked like.

John Walker was a draper. He lived at Crystal House where there were plenty of outbuildings round the back. Were any of them used to finish locally-made fabrics? And would such premises, in a world of the hand-made, be described as a manufactory? And were all those large first floor windows intended to show off products to visiting buyers?

It’s a theory, but John Walker died in 1787. But his widow, Rebecca, was still around in 1795…Stn Rd pc colour_edited-2

Tammy is not a hat

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Weavers in West Haddon at the time of the Enclosure were producing a number of different combed wool fabrics, each of which required a loom to be set up in a different way. And once the fabrics were cut from the loom they were finished in different ways too.

Edward Hipwell passed his tammy loom on to a relative, William Earl, in 1761. (It was Edward’s widow, Elizabeth, who shared accommodation with Mary Kirtland in ‘A house divided’.)

Bolting cloth in frame, Fisher millThere were a number of grades of tammy. It was a loosely woven fabric, using a fine, strong worsted yarn and its coarsest quality was used as a bolting cloth in corn mills. It was stretched over a frame and used as a kind of sieve to catch the bran from freshly ground grain, converting wholemeal flour to white.

A rather finer quality was used like bunting in making flags – a lighbuntingt, flexible fabric that would move well in the wind.

The very best quality was pressed between hot metal plates to give it a glazed finish that, if you didn’t look silk dupiontoo closely, might look a little bit like silk. It was in great demand as a dress fabric for those who were unable to afford the real thing.

Tammy was a Coventry speciality. Earlier in the century the Northampton Mercury carried a report of an incident that befell a Northampton tammy weaver as he came home from market with the day’s takings:

June 23 1721. This day, about 7 in the evening, Mr Treslove a Tammy Weaver of this place, coming from Coventry Market, was robb’d between Crick and Haddon by two Foot-pads of £22.13s [22.65].

(A foot-pad was a highwayman without a horse.)foot-pads

Paid in the church porch.

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John and William Martin were brothers. They were both weavers – the middle of three generations of weavers in West Haddon, from their father in 1707 to William’s son in 1796 (though young William was moving into shop-keeping as the textile trade declined.) They both owned houses (it would be nice to know where!) but no land. There is no evidence of how enclosure affected them, or whether they were involved in the riot.

By the time John came to make his will in 1786 he was not a poor weaver. He had about £600 to bequeath, as well as his house, furniture and silver shoe-buckles.

Rather grander than John Martin, but these are shoe-buckles of the 1780s.
Rather grander than John Martin, but these are shoe-buckles of the 1780s.

He left his wife, among other things, a bed with green hangings – green was evidently a popular colour for bedrooms at this time (compare Mary Kirtland’s bed bequest in 1765).

He had no children. He had a sister, Ann, married to John Haycock the saddler, who had three children, while his brother William had six, including the future wives of John West, who developed the Crown, and Robert Earl, later a village schoolmaster.

All these nephews and nieces were well provided for and he left his wife an annuity for the rest of her life. He also left a weekly allowance to his sister. Did she seem to be struggling? Or was he particularly fond of her?

It would seem that he felt he could trust his wife, Mary, to manage her finances on an annual basis, but Ann’s money was to be paid weekly – it’s tempting to speculate why this might have been.

A whole world of possibilities is conjured up by the clause:

2s 6d per week [12.5p] to my sister Ann Haycock for life, to be paid in the church porch every Saturday morning (or 3 shillings [15p] if greater interest can be got on the principal. Church porch

The church porch was a public place, where village business might be transacted in front of witnesses, where notices might be posted, about, for example, meetings of the Parish Vestry (a forerunner of the Parish Council), or Enclosure Commissioners. And it may also have become a village schoolroom after the loss of the Free School. A chilly one perhaps, but other church porches were used in this way. ‘Master’ Newton was not only village schoolmaster, but also parish clerk.

Poor apprentices

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The Free School was not the only institution set up to serve families in West Haddon. During the 17th century the Apprenticeship Fund was set up by Edward Burnham, a gentleman, Jacob Lucas, a shoemaker and Joan Elmes, the unmarried and independent daughter of a woolman, Thomas Elmes, whose table-tomb can still be seen in the churchyard.

The tomb of Thomas Elmes, woolman, 1657.
The tomb of Thomas Elmes, woolman, 1657.

It was the responsibility of the Overseers of the Poor to provide premiums for poor boys (mostly boys, anyway) to be bound as apprentices to learn a trade, thus increasing their chances of earning a living in adulthood. But some cheaper parish apprenticeships were barely distinguishable from slave labour. The hope was that, by providing resources for higher premiums, they could secure higher quality training.

In March 1751 Thomas Hewitt died. Three of his sons had already died before him, as babies. He left a wife, two more sons and two daughters. The family were not well off.

The younger son, Thomas jun. was only a baby, but John was 8 years old. Less than a week after his father’s funeral, John found himself bound as an apprentice to William Cooke in Lilbourne. A premium of £6.10s [£6.50] would keep him bound to his master until he was 24 years old.

John Hewitt's apprenticeship indenture, 1751.
John Hewitt’s apprenticeship indenture, 1751.

In return for training him as a weaver, William was required to provide ‘meat, drink and apparel, lodging, washing and other things necessary and fit for an apprentice’ and, at the end of the term ‘a good new suit for the Holy-Days and another for the Working-Days’.

Hardly had his mother had time to come to terms with widowhood and her son’s absence when, a month later, her 12-year old daughter Elinor also died. Elinor’s funeral expenses were paid by the parish and recorded in the Overseers Account book:

A cap and jersey for Hewett’s girl                       1s 4d [6p]

Paid Old Adams for a coffin                                  6s  [30p]

Laying her out                                                          2s  [10p]

4 girls carrying her to church                               2s  [10p]

Sitting up                                                                   1s6d [7p]

Master Newton his fees                                          2s  [10p]

Life continued to be hard for the family. Elizabeth was paid a weekly allowance to support herself and the two youngest children, Mary and Thomas. What became of Thomas as he grew up, or John, after his apprenticeship, has yet to be discovered, but at the age of 20 Mary found herself an unmarried mother.

ribbonsAnd when her son John was 7 years old, Thomas Spokes and John Clarke, the Overseers for that year (1775) arranged an apprenticeship for him with a Warwickshire ribbon weaver. John Haycock, the saddler, witnessed the indenture.

The Apprenticeship Fund still survives, as part of West Haddon Charities, but now, instead of paying premiums for apprentices, it gives small grants to students.

“She being his fifth wife…”

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John Newton was a small-scale textile entrepreneur. Though he was a master weaver, he was also sometimes described as a woolcomber and a yeoman. Rather than running a workshop in which weavers and combers worked for him, he put work out to village craftsmen to complete in their own homes.18th century loom warp and shed

So he didn’t need extensive premises when he bought a small building, just 4m by 6m, and yard on High St. for £10 in April 1765. Three years later he bought the cottage next door, with a bit more yard, for £18.15s [£18.75] and built an extension to make a parlour to the cottage. This, with various later additions and alterations, is now known as Manchester House. (His daughter was later to sell the house to John West (of the Crown) who, in 1828, sold it to John Townley whose name is carved above the door.)

Manchester House and Well Cottage, High St. West Haddon
Manchester House and Well Cottage, High St. West Haddon

John Newton’s family life was either very unlucky or perhaps a bit sinister.

His first wife, Alice, had died in 1748, without having any children.

In 1749 his new wife Mary died along with newly-born twins.

In 1751 he married Elianor Radburn of Watford. Seven dead babies later, she died.

His fourth wife was Alice Platt, from Stoke Albany and she died in 1764, leaving him with a 4-year-old son, George.

It was at this point that he took on the High St premises and concentrated on the business, until, in December 1773, the parish clerk (John Colledge) recorded the marriage of John Newton and Ann Cave, “she being his fifth wife”. The following month their daughter Alice was baptised. John was about 60 years old at this stage. He didn’t live to see his daughter’s first birthday.

The 250th anniversary of the West Haddon Enclosure Riots

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June 1st, 1765. The village sheep have been driven down to the Washbrook to clean their fleeces before the sheep-shearing begins…

The Washbrook
The Washbrook, is the stream that runs under the road here, marking the boundary between West Haddon and Watford parishes.

In the village, Richard Beale and John Fisher are just two of the many weavers working in small workshops or the living rooms of their cottages. There is birdsong and the scent of lilac on the air. As their feet work the treadles and they throw their shuttles back and forth, their fabric grows. As does a sense of unrest and apprehension as they contemplate the loss of a landscape they know and have come to depend on.

A weaver
Northamptonshire weavers produced light worsted fabrics made from combed wool. Most of them owned no land, but relied on local customary rights to run a few geese on the rough grazing of the parish, collect firewood and forage for other items to stretch their budgets when trade was bad.

The Enclosure Commissioners have set the surveyors to work, dividing up the open fields of the parish to make separate, self-contained farms. Richard and John aren’t sure what to expect. What they don’t know is that, in a couple of months, they will both face prison…