History Group Hosiery and Knitting

There were 37 people attending the history group meeting on Wednesday 19th February. We had a fascinating and very interesting talk from Mick Whysall titled “Slum Hardships and Hosiery”. He began by telling us about William Lee from Calverton, who in 1589 invented the stocking frame, but didn’t benefit from his invention and finally died in 1610 in poverty in France. Eventually frame knitting came back to Nottingham where each frame provided work for up to 10 people and although Nottingham was a market town frame knitting took a hold in Sneinton. Frame knitters were crammed into terrace houses in “Narrow Marsh” and there was only one privy to 30 families.
Knitting was a boom and bust industry and as it grew it suffered from action by the Luddites who smashed frames and factories. Then the “Spinney Jenny” was invented in Blackburn by James Hargreaves in 1764 and Hargreaves decided to come across the Pennines to sell his yarn and eventually opened a mill on Lower Parliament Street and employed about 300 people.
Then we heard about Richard Arkwright who invented the spinning frame, and who has been credited as the creator of the modern factory system. He came to Nottingham in 1769 and set up a mill powered by horses. But in 1771, he converted to water power and built a new mill in the Derbyshire village of Cromford. Arkwright encouraged knitters with large families to move to Cromford and whole families were employed, with large numbers of children from the age of seven, although this was increased to ten by the time Richard handed the business over to his son, and the norm was a 13 hour day for a child and they were literally worked to death. However he allowed them a week’s holiday a year, but on condition that they could not leave the village. Later Arkwright was known as ‘The Father of the Industrial Revolution’.
We then heard how lace making developed which grew out of the hosiery industry which in turn enabled Nottingham to become a very diverse industrial town. The framework knitter’s houses can still be seen today throughout Nottingham, denoted by the especially large windows which let large amounts of light in so the knitter could see what they were doing and Mick had several pictures on display showing what an old frame knitter’s house looked like and how we could be spot one whilst out and about.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday 19th March where we will have Michael Cooke who will talk about ‘Turning Points of History – David Painter

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