30. Woollen Manufacture
All through the middle ages in this country, woollen manufacture was carried on as a domestic industry. The earliest reference
found for this district, is in a document relating to Glusburn in 1558. There "a payre or tentars, a payre of sheares, and a
payre of homes wythe a shearborde" are mentioned. Evidently the industry has been carried on in the district from the 16th
century, and probably earlier.
In Sutton there are several 17th century houses. Most of these old homes have what is known as a "Wuzzing" hole outside the
door. The wool was washed, and fastened onto a stick. One end of this was put into the hole and it was then "wuzzed" or
whirled round until the wool was dry. Up to 20 years ago there was a house standing in Sutton which had an attic built for
hand loom weaving. Most of the cottages would not have been so fortunate. The weaving would be done in the room where the
Another source of information about the domestic industry is he township account books. There are many references to providing
new spinning wheels and hand looms and repairing old ones, for people who were getting parish assistance.
The following are examples of these entries.
|April 1790||To two spinning wheels for Betty Shackleton ||3/8|
|Sept 1790 ||Two wheels mending for Betty and Luke Shackleton||2/4|
|Oct 1811 ||To Peter Gregson for Robert Heaton loome ||£2.8.0|
|Jan 1812 ||To Jno Walters for Betty Shopham loome||8/8|
|Mar 1829||John Gill 2/2 Shuttle|| |
|Nov 1829||Iram Barret wif's loom repairing ||3/2|
|Sept 1830||Looms for Mary Dale 26/- and repairing 5/5½||£1.11.5½|
The township also paid experienced weavers to teach young persons. For example on April 19th 1833 Thos Midgley received 2/-
"for setting Ann Dale on weaving". In the same year on May 7th we find that "George Kidds expense of starting to weave" was 2/6.
Besides the purely cottage industry small factories grew up. One of these existed up to 50 years ago. Four looms were worked
in a room where houses now stand in the Town Gate.
Side by side with the hand loom weaving, the power loom weaving grew up. After 1780 looms could be run by water power, to get
this the mills were built in the Pennine Valleys. The men who started these mills were village men who had saved a little capital,
and started in business for themselves. They could not afford to wait long for their returns, and it was in these mills that the
terrible conditions grew up.
The first water power mill in Sutton was owned by John Smith who died in 1793. From the parish register he was "for many years
an eminent worsted manufacturer". He may possibly have had a hand loom factory earlier. His mill stood on the stream at the
bottom of Sutton Clough.
In the township accounts are many references to boys and girls being put out as apprentices, but none say definitely that they
were going to any of the mills.
By 1807 there were quite a number of manufacturers in the village. John Smith, worsted manufacturer was probably the son of
the first John Smith mentioned above. John Clough and John Spencer carried in the same trade. John Feather was a Stuff maker.
David MacRoby was a cotton spinner, Benjamen Smith and Francis Stirk were Cotton Manufacturers. In 1838 the late Thomas and
Matthew Bairstow laid the foundations of what has since proved to be a most successful business.
The change from hand loom weaving to power loom weaving was evidently resented by the people of Sutton. They would see the new
looms doing more work in one day than they could do in several. Many of the villagers depended on their handloom weaving for
their Livelihood. They would think that the new looms meant unemployment and poverty for themselves and their families.
They therefore took the only course which suggested itself to them. They tried to check the course of the new industry by
breaking the looms. In 1827 is the entry "expenses of power looms breaking £4.14.0½. Evidently the township had
to compensate the mill owner for the damage. Later a manufacturer, Mr John Preston, received £72.17.0½ from the
township for the same reason.