Glossop Before the Cotton Industry

This article is transcribed from one written by Robert Hamnett. It was originally published in the Glossop Advertiser of 17th January 1913 under the title The Early Glossop Farmers: Their Up To Date Methods: How the Local Industry was Established.

Agriculture was the first occupation that our ancestors followed, and today it is the main occupation of all civilised people. We cannot live without food, we cannot eat machinery, though the products of such add to our comfort and enjoyment.
Besides food, we require (except in some portions of the globe), clothing and shelter. Uncivilised people, where clothing is a necessity, wear the skins of animals; civilised people have the hairs of animals spun and woven into cloth, as well as the cocoon of the silk worm, the hairs encircling the seed of the cotton tree, and the fibre of the flax. Uncivilised people's feet are so thick skinned and hardened by use that they need no other protection. Civilised people must have some protection of one kind or other, so the skins of animals, when cured and made into leather, are brought into use.
For shelter, anything, in any form, that will keep the heat, cold and wind out is used.

Therefore to provide us with these three essential things there must be agriculturalists and artisans, and these have always been in existence since civilization began. In every hamlet or parish there was a husbandman, tailor, tanner, shoemaker, smith, etc., from the earliest times. In the British period the Briton tilled the land in the Hamlet of Glossop, looked after the cattle and sheep; had no need to keep pigs, for there were wild boars in the forests surrounding him. His womenfolk spun and wove the wool required by the household and performed other domestic duties. He kept himself proficient in the use of the arms used in those days, and when times of strife came, which was often, he was fit for the fray. He was skilled in the management of horses, and could drive a chariot as well as any Roman charioteer whoever won a prize in the Coliseum of Rome, so says Julius Caesar, and other early writers.

It took the Romans many years to bring the country into a reasonable state of subjection, and the Britons thought it a great hardship to be under the Roman yoke, but they reaped many benefits by it. Agriculture was thought very highly of by the Romans, and they had brought agriculture and horticulture to a high state of perfection, even some of their Emperors did not think it any lowering of their dignity to cultivate with their own hands their land and gardens in their leisure time. Many new plants, fruits and vegetables were introduced by them, as well as improved methods of cultivation. The Britons cultivated wheat, barley, oats and rye, and in some favourable parts of the country, the vine.
Their beverages were barley wine (ale) wine from the grapes, and mead, a fermentation of honey. They got more civilized and wealthy owing to peace, improved methods of culture; and the artisans having copied the better methods of Roman workmen, they lived on better and more varied food, and clothed themselves with more costly clothes, and became accustomed to the luxuries of the Romans. They neglected to keep themselves used to weapons of defence and the consequence was, when, the Romans left, they fell an easy prey to the Picts and Scots who swarmed over the Roman Wall in the North, and slew, burned and plundered everything that came in their way. The country was in a more highly civilized condition than the majority of people are aware of, and was a tempting bait to these Barbarians.

The Britons in their distress, called on the Saxons for assistance, and they got it, but also a rope round their necks. The country was such a contrast to the one that the Saxons had left that they stopped, seized the lands, and made the Britons their serfs. If the Glossop valley and hills could speak what a tale of bloodshed and cruelty they could tell. Many centuries of oppression followed, and civilization was hindered, thrown back, and Paganism became rampant. It was not until the Anglo-Saxons began to become Christians that matters improved, and then they did rapidly.

In Anglo-Saxon times there were three classes, the noble or Thane; the Freeman, who was the husbandman, who rented land from the Thane; and serf, or slave, who could be sold with the land. Some serfs were employed in the master's household, others on the land or craft. The serfs wore a leather smock, sandals of boar skin, and their legs were protected by leather thongs, worn similar to our soldiers puttees; round their necks was a brass ring with the name of their owner on, like a dog collar. The serfs were the artisans and had a measure of land allotted to them. They could, if skilful and industrious, accumulate sufficient to purchase their freedom, when they were called freedmen and could leave the district if they so desired. The Saxon nobles and ladies were fond of costly dresses and loved jewellery of all kinds, but their homes were of mean pretensions, their household goods were strong and ornamented with rude devices. Owing to the faulty construction of their houses they were obliged to have many hangings to keep the wind out, these were of silk or woollen cloth.

The Saxons were fond of hawking, and kept trained falcons for the sport, and, as there would be plenty of game in this district, the Thanes and their wives, who also followed the sport, would have many a day hawking in the Glossop forests. The forests of those days were not as we know them today, but a tract of land containing trees, moorland, cultivated and waste land, and unenclosed for freedom of access.

When the Normans came and conquered, the Saxons lost their possessions, and from owners became tenants. With the Normans came also new customs and improvements, churches and abbeys were built in great numbers, and learned monks came to occupy them, and pious learning became more general. It must have been a red letter day in the annals of Glossop when the Abbot of Basingwerk came in official state, with his clerical staff and retinue, to take official possession of the Church and Manor of Glossop. The Abbey of Basingwerk was at Holywell, in Flintshire, and in those days, considering the state of the roads, it must have been a long and tedious journey from there to Glossop. Short stages would be the rule, timed no doubt according to the hospitality that could be obtained from the clergy en route. Notice of their coming would be conveyed by trustworthy and well armed servants to those able and likely to entertain the cavalcade.
Invitations would also have been sent off to the Bishops, Abbots, and clergy of the surrounding dioceses. Of course, the neighbouring clergy from Ashton, Stockport, Manchester, and other towns would meet them with an address of welcome to the district, because the Manor of Glossop was no mean gift to the Church. And as the Abbey of Basingwerk had only quite recently been built, there would be a natural desire to make the acquaintance of their new neighbours.

The Abbey belonged to the Cistercians, one of the most severe religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church, and one of the wealthiest. At this period they were reputed to have 1,800 rich abbeys in Europe. They wore white robes, with black scapularies. Their stay in Glossop would be of considerable duration, as there would be much business to be done - perambulating, or "beating the boundaries", of the Manor, examining the state of the tenant farmers, confirming and adjusting rents, settling grievances, etc. Although we have no direct evidence to prove, yet we may assume that the Abbots during the time they possessed Glossop were just and humane landlords, from the fact that so many of the old farmers descendants living amongst us today. Had the tenants been dissatisfied with the conditions of their tenancy, they would have removed to other districts.

During the 380 years that Glossop belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, great improvements would be made, not only for the benefits of the tenantry and occupants, but also to increase the revenue. They built a chapel of ease at Charlesworth, St. Mary Magdalene, and no doubt Hayfield and Mellor Churches were built, as they were in the Parish of Glossop. Crosses were erected, and roads made - Monks Road, for instance.
The serfs, slaves or villeins, as they were variously called, would live under happier conditions. Slavery was not abolished in this country until 1660. When the Manor of Glossop came into the possession of Althea, daughter of the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury's successor, a survey of the whole Manor was made in 1660; the tenants were required to produce their leases for inspection and verification, and where they were lost, either the tenants or the estates copies were made. This record of the names of the tenants is still preserved at the Glossop Estate Office. It is very interesting and I am hoping to have permission to publish it.

I have a copy of a lease made the 10th day of November, 1764 between the most noble Edward (9th) Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshall and Hereditary Earl Marshall of England, and William Harrop, clothier of Whitfield. It relates to "All that messuage or tenement with the buildings, yard, orchard, garden and backside, and all those closes, pieces, or parcels of land, meadow and pasture, thereunto belonging, called the Higher Croft and the Lower Croft, which said premises are situate, lying and being in Whitfield aforesaid." containing two roods and thirty two perches (yearly rent 23s). W. Harrop had the right of pasturage on the wastes, commons and common land that was not enclosed, also turbary in the wastes and moors of the Manor of Glossop.
He was allowed timber for repairs, hedge-boot, plow-boot, and cart-boot, also a reasonable quantity of stone and slate for the necessary making, repairing and keeping in repair the buildings and fences. He was prohibited from hunting, hawking, fishing, fowling, chasing and coursing on his land. If he wanted any corn grinding he had to take it to the Manorial Corn Mills, which were still in existence in Corn Street.
A very important clause of the lease was "And likewise shall and will, upon every acre length of hedges, fences or walls belonging to the said premises, within the first seven years of the said term (20), plant and set, or cause to be planted and set, three oaks or other trees and shall do his best endeavours to preserve the same; and in case of failure of the growth of any of them, shall and will, every next year then following, plant and set fresh ones to supply the place and number of those that shall have failed, the said Duke, his heirs and assigns causing trees to be delivered to the said William Harrop for that purpose."
What a pity that these conditions were ever abandoned! Glossop would have looked much prettier had they still been in force. How bleak some parts of the Hamlet of Whitfield look where the owners are freeholders. The conditions of Mr. Harrop's lease were the same as others in the Manor.

At the time of this lease, viz. 1764, there were no cotton mills in the Hamlet of Glossop, and very few houses besides the farm homesteads. What houses there were, clustered round the Parish Church. The farms were at Mossy Lea, Woodcock Road, Cowbrook, Tan Yard, Hawkshead, Moorside, Blackshaw, Windy Harbour, Lane Head, Lane Side, Wimberry Hill, Allman's Heath, Bettin Hill, Spire Holly, Glossop Hall, Howard Arms, and Milltown.

Hand loom spinning and weaving was carried on by those who had no other trade. What cloth could not be sold locally was bought by the clothiers, who sold it to Manchester merchants, and brought back with them suits of clothes for their customers. The clothiers thus made a double profit, and were generally well to do.
The Churchwardens and Overseers took good care that no person who could work should be on the rates, as the following extract shows from the 1767 Churchwardens' accounts:- "Given for the hire of a pair of looms for James Beeley, 2s 6d."

In the Manchester Directory of 1788 we find attending the Manchester markets:- William Fielding, James Nield, Samuel Roberts, and James Stauney, woollen clothiers of Glossop. James Nield had been in business some time previously, as we find from the churchwardens' accounts; "1766, given to James Nield for clothing Samuel Hekinbotham's wench 21s., her indentures 3s 9d., and given when they bound her 1s 6d."
These parish apprentices were often cruelly used and ill-fed. In the Annual Register are cases where masters and mistresses are tried and convicted for working these apprentices from four o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night.

The farmers of the district laboured under great difficulties in regard to the quantity of manure available for their land. There were no turnpike roads; all the lime had to be brought from Peak Forest and Marple on mules travelling on the old pack saddle roads. Marling was often resorted to, which is the reason we see so many hollows in fields where marl has been got. Leigh, in his "Antiquities of the Peak," published 1700, says of marling: "The marles, where there is depth of soil, are usually the best improvements, and indeed a good marling is often counted equal to the purchase of the land; the marle affords a nitrous salt and oil, which I take to be the principles that make it so fertile."

In 1813 John Farey, who was a Government Surveyor, published the result of his "View of the Agriculture of Derbyshire." Speaking of Glossop he says:- "In Glossop, Mr. James Robinson, of Pyegrove, mixes peat from the high moors east of there, with half the quantity of fresh dung; laying them in layers to heat, and then turns them, and afterwards mixes a horse load of unslacked lime with every ton of the mixture, and in October or March dresses his award land therewith, and finds it highly beneficial. His neighbour, Mr. John Kershaw, of the Hurst, has done the same for eight years, and greatly approves it; he also uses the shillings or husks of oats in his cattle yard, with the best effect, although these husks are almost universally thrown away by the millers into the watercourses, or set fire to, in order to get rid of them as perfectly useless."
"Great part of the farmers here use lime from Marple Kilns, principally on sward, on coal measures, at the rate of 40 to 60 horses loads, or 120 to 190 bushels, per acre, and find it answers better thus than on their arable lands."
"Mr. John Kershaw, of Hurst, uses bones on clayey limestone shale grass lands; fetched from the bone mill at Hyde, near Dukinfield, Cheshire and finds they answer well."
"Mr. James Robinson and Mr. John Aveson make useful manure for grass lands from the shades, shilling or husks of the oats, from the mills where oatmeal is prepared."
From these extracts we see that Glossop farmers 100 years ago were not behind the times in their methods of manuring and tilling their farms.

Seeing that Glossop is mainly a cotton manufacturing town, it may interest some of the cotton operatives, who are readers of these articles, if I give a slight sketch of the men whose inventions in cotton machinery were the means of the cotton industry becoming established in Glossop.
In 1767, James Hargreaves, a poor weaver at Stanhill, Lancashire, invented the spinning jenny, which did as much work as 30 spinners. In consequence attempts were made to destroy it and Hargreaves was obliged to remove, which he did to Nottingham, where he died in poverty 1770.
In 1769 Richard Arkwright, a barber, of Bolton, associated with Kaye, a clockmaker, obtained a patent for a spinning frame, this patent expired in 1785. He erected a large mill at Cromford and adopted water power. For his great invention he was knighted in 1786; died 1792.
In 1775, Samuel Crompton, who was a weaver, invented a spinning machine which was called a mule jenny, because it was a cross between Hargreave's and Arkwright's machines. Unfortunately for himself he did not patent it. He died in 1897, a much disappointed man owing to inadequate recognition of his valuable invention.
In 1785 a power loom was brought out by the Rev. Edmund Cartwright, which proved so successful that the Government in 1809 granted him 10,000, "for the good services he had rendered the public by his invention of weaving."
In 1794, William Ratcliffe, of Mellor brought out his dressing machine.
The success of the water power mill of Arkwright and his patent having expired, led men who wanted to start in business as cotton manufacturers to look out for places where there was a constant supply of water to work the water wheels and Glossop was one of those places, and applications for leases with water rights were soon made to the Steward of the Glossop estate.

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Last updated: 18 December 2022