Author Topic: Conditions in Lancashire during the Cotton Famine  (Read 2632 times)

Offline andrewalston

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Conditions in Lancashire during the Cotton Famine
« on: Wednesday 04 June 08 11:17 BST (UK) »
The following report appeared in the Preston Guardian on 7 Nov 1863. Although slightly sanitised, it gives quite an insight into the conditions suffered by our ancestors in the Cotton Famine brought about by the American Civil War. Eight out of ten adults were  unemployed – along with the children of many others. Even the Relief Committee only had two weeks’ funding available, and they had already spent two years’ worth at that rate.

THE DISTRESS IN WIGAN.-A very interesting report on the state of the town of Wigan has just been issued by Mr. Richard Lea, one of the secretaries to the Relief Committee. From the statistics the document contains it appears that there are now 1,506 factory operatives in full work, 212 are employed five days, and about 100 handloom weavers are working. As the total number of operatives in the district is 9,910, these figures show that there are still out of employ 8,092 persons. Last week the committee relieved 7,405 persons, principally through the medium of the sewing schools, at a cost of £495 16s. There are 1,368 girls attending sewing schools and 100 young men employed by the guardians on the road, who attend part of their time at an adult school supported by the Relief Committee. The sum which has been subscribed is £57,544 11s. 7d., and the balance now in hand is £1100. One mill has entirely stopped work during the past month, and the number of persons employed is less by 15 than the last return. The report proceeds to state that the high price of cotton had, as was feared, had the effect of reducing very considerably the cotton consumed, as compared with the preceding month - ¬much more so, in fact, than the small decrease in the number of hands employed would seem to imply. Through the rapidly increasing price of cotton and the consequent decrease of the margin between cotton and yarn (for yarn does not advance in the same proportion as cotton) several spinners, that they may keep themselves out of the market the longer, and in order that they may continue to employ some, however few, of their hands, have been induced to lessen the number employed in the spinning department, and, instead of disposing of their yarn, make it into cloth and employ more hands in the weaving department. Thus, while they have been enabled to defer buying cotton at the present high prices, they have also been enabled to keep up the number of hands employed. It is, however, continues the secretary, natural to suppose the spinners holding stocks of cotton purchased a few weeks ago, and before the recent heavy advances took place, considering that the profit of making it into yarn, if any at all, would be so very small, and seeing that if they were to sell their cotton at present prices they would realise so much more, should prefer the latter course to the former comparatively unremunerative one. If such a course be adopted, it can easily be imagined that the state of things in Wigan would be much worse. The relief has of late continued to show an improvement, but as winter approaches each week may be expected to increase the numbers requiring relief. Persons employed in building trades and in other out-door work have begun to suffer, and the children (who formerly worked in factories) of those employed in such trades will come upon the relief books. Still, thinks the secretary, there is no reason to fear that the same amount of distress which existed last winter, either a shown by the books or in individual suffering, will be experienced in the coming winter for several reasons. Through the greater experience of the Relief Committees, many who received relief last year and were unworthy of it, or did no require it, will now be refused. Many others of both sexes have obtained employment - some of the girls as domestic servants, and some have left the town. Another reason to which much importance is attached is that last winter the people were suddenly reduced from a state of comfort and independence to poverty and dependence; whereas now, free from habit and in the absence of much mental or bodily exertion they are enabled to live on the amounts they can earn, increased by the allowances of the Board of Guardians and the Relief Committee in comparative comfort. The bells of the parish church will today (Saturday), in compliance with a request from Mottram, ring a funeral peal to the memory of the late Lord Mayor. It is expected this will be general throughout the distressed district.

Looking at ALSTON in south Ribble area, ALSTEAD and DONBAVAND/DUNBABIN etc. everywhere, HOWCROFT and MARSH in Bolton and Westhoughton, PICKERING in the Whitehaven area.

Census information is Crown Copyright. See www.nationalarchives.gov.uk for details.

Offline Mr. MIGKY

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Re: Conditions in Lancashire during the Cotton Famine
« Reply #1 on: Thursday 05 June 08 10:13 BST (UK) »
This thread has some interesting links to the cotton famine

Famine link

Offline Biko

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Re: Conditions in Lancashire during the Cotton Famine
« Reply #2 on: Saturday 07 June 08 00:48 BST (UK) »
http://www.dingquarry.co.uk/location--geography/cotton-famine-road.asp

Cotton Famine Road

Ongoing research by Ding Quarry protestors is confirming the historic importance of the upper sections Rooley Moor Road above the Spodden Valley, known for generations as the “Cotton Road” or “Cotton Famine Road”.

Many visitors to the tranquil Pennine moorland beyond Catley Lane Head are amazed to find a picturesque Victorian stone road untouched by the tarmac and concrete of the twentieth century. At an altitude of over 1500 feet this historic feature may also lay claim to being one of the highest roads in England. Enjoyed by walkers and cyclists, this moorland route also forms part of the Pennine Bridleway allowing safe access for horse riders on the Mary Townley Loop.

Reference to published work by local historians and research collated by the Local Studies Section of Touchstones reveal a connection between Rooley Moor and Lancashire Mill workers in their support of US President Lincoln and the Union cause in the American Civil War.

How did the “Cotton Famine Road” get its name?

The Union blockade of Confederate ports during the American Civil War led to shortages of raw cotton supplies to Lancashire- then the world’s leading producer of finished cotton goods. Although there were some supplies of Indian short staple and Egyptian cotton, the deficit caused by the lack of American supplies was described at the time as a “famine”. Such an emotive phrase could have been particularly poignant for the Irish migrants to Rochdale who had sought sanctuary in the mill town as a result of the “Potato Famine” a generation earlier. They had swapped the blighted fields of Ireland for Lancashire’s dark satanic mills. Unfortunately, in the troubled mid 1860s they were dependent on a factory system that was failing them.

Rochdale District had a mixed economy with wool and fustian textile production in addition to cotton. However, there remained significant hardship for many in the town as a result of the American Civil War:

As the battle of Gettysberg raged throughout 1863, the Rochdale (Poor Law) Union minutes recorded 19,374 town folk receiving “outdoor relief” – a quaint reference to the widespread poverty and starvation that was occurring. The police reports for 1864 show that many of the remaining cotton workers were on short time. In those days before the Welfare State, Rochdale, like many other Lancashire Districts, organised its own Cotton Famine Relief Fund.

Instead of siding with the cotton-producing Confederate States, many impoverished Lancashire cotton workers expressed support with the Union’s cause- in particular, with support for the abolition of slavery.

An explanation was offered by Karl Marx writing in the New York Daily Tribune on 14th March 1861:

'As long as the English cotton manufacturers depended on slave-grown cotton, it could truthfully be asserted that they rested on a twofold slavery, the indirect slavery of the white man in England and the direct slavery of the black men on the other side of the Atlantic.'

Rochdale has a long history of international solidarity with other working people. In 1844 our Rochdale Pioneers formed the modern structure of the Co-operative movement.

The Rochdale Observer on 13th March 1864 reported the following rousing address from Chartist orator Ernest Jones:

'I have not forgotten the men of Rochdale, their love of freedom and of truth, and I trust that those who are now struggling, honourably and constitutionally, for the freedom of the black will join in every effort for a fresh instalment towards the Charter of an Englishman's liberty (applause). Those who pat the slave-owners of America on the backs would like to be slave-owners in England too (cheers and hear! hear!)...I trust that we shall find that in establishing liberty universally throughout the American continent we shall be placing the crowning pinnacle on the edifice of freedom here as well'.

In September 1862 US President Lincoln had issued his Proclamation of Emancipation. On New Years Eve 1862, Lancashire cotton workers attended a public meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. A letter was drafted and sent to President Lincoln. An excerpt reads:

'...the vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Christianity - chattel slavery - during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity. We are certain that such a glorious consummation will cement Great Britain and the United States in close and enduring regards.'
WORRALLS. HURST, HIGHFIELD
Manchester-Hulme, Deansgate, Earlstown (Newton in Makerfield) Chorlton on Medlock, Newton Heath, Ardwick.

Offline Biko

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WORRALLS. HURST, HIGHFIELD
Manchester-Hulme, Deansgate, Earlstown (Newton in Makerfield) Chorlton on Medlock, Newton Heath, Ardwick.


Offline Heyesie

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Re: Conditions in Lancashire during the Cotton Famine
« Reply #4 on: Saturday 07 June 08 16:02 BST (UK) »
This is an interesting article
I remember reading about the effect of the American cival war on the Lancs cotton industy a few years back
My family were weavers around the Rainford Scarrasbrick and Billinge area's around the mid 1850's
It was no coincidence that they changed their occupations to mining around the mid 1860's or so.