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Calderdale history timeline 1700 - 1800AD : Section 2

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Joseph Holroyd, Cloth Factor of Sowerby

Joseph Holroyd's letter book breathes life into the daily business of men who would otherwise pass silently into history.

Holroyd's letter bookActing as a commission agent Holroyd carefully watched the market and mailed lists of prices to his clients in London, Amsterdam and Rotterdam ever three or four weeks.

On receiving a merchants instructions he attended the weekly market and also visited clothiers at their workshops to arrange the making up of an order. When a consignment was ready he made payment to the clothier, attended to packing and transport to Hull, loading on a convoy and the settling of outstanding customs and excise duties.

Although Holroyds surviving letters only cover from 22 July1706 to 18 February 1707 we can calculate from his usual commission of one and a half percent for each transaction that his annual turnover was about £30,000. At least £10,000 or more of this was from orders taken from John dOrville in Rotterdam.

View of Amsterdam from IjWe know that Holroyd regularly visited the Netherlands seeking new customers and calling on existing patrons. He may have eventually retired there. In 1742 John Wood, his former apprentice who had run away and joined the army, dined with his one time master at a house in Mons. They met again in 1745 at Bruges where Wood tells us that Holroyd "lived splendidly and was held in great esteem". The last time we hear of him is in 1762 at Amsterdam where he "looked aged, but very healthy and well at that time".

Halifax 25 Octr. 1706 To Mr William Crowle "Sir, I am glad to heare the ships went with a faverable wind, pray god send us the good news theire safe Arrivall..."

Halifax 5 Nov. 1706 To Mr Charles Bollinger "Sir, I have a letter from Mr John Field of Hull that the ship was lost near Yarmouth. The Almighty help all Sufferers."

Merchant vesselsHalifax 22 Nov 1706 To Mr Ludovicus de Wulf "Sir, You have a copy of myne of 22 past and the invoice. I suppose the Packett Boatt of the above date was taken by the French."

Joseph Holroyds letters show that ship wreck and piracy were real dangers in the early 1700s.

"They have entered upon a new manufacture which was never made in this parish before. I mean the manufacture of Shalloons of which they now make a hundred thousand pieces a year in the Parish and yet do not make fewer kerseys than they did before". Daniel Defoe 1724

For most of the eighteenth century lightweight, colourful and patterned Worsted fabrics were the height of European fashion.

Worsted production in Calderdale began in the early 1700s with the making of Shalloons, a fabric much used for lining coats and as a dress fabric, and also "Bays" a mixed cloth made with a worsted warp and a woollen weft. Flowered and figured fancy worsted cloth became a local speciality widely exported to Portugal and Spain, and the Mediterranean

Wool comb, Calderdale Industrial Museum Combing was an essential process in making worsted yarn (see hand wool comb opposite). Compared to making woollen cloth, combing the wool, spinning fine yarn and weaving fancy worsteds required longer and more complicated processes. Unlike the woollen clothier, who was directly involved in the production of cloth, worsted manufacturers were essentially managers of workers, processes and finances. Because each stage of production was "put-out" to domestic workers the northern worsted trade developed distinct organisational features. Characteristics that would, in turn, fundamentally influence the future growth of the West Riding textile industries.

A page from Sutcliffe's day bookWithin the eighteenth century northern worsted trade the equivalent of the small independent woollen clothier did not exist.

Worsted manufacturers needed substantial means to support their business and pay wages to their workers during the lengthy periods between the purchase of wool and the sale of cloth. Because the turnover time on profits involved delay worsted manufacturers were often innovative entrepreneurs drawing money from various sources.

Like other men in the trade at this time, John Sutcliffe of Ovenden combined his textile business with partnerships in coal mines, the leasing of corn mills and ownership of land and houses. See a transcript of Sutcliffe's day book.

Wool combing was an essential process for the preparation of wool to be spun into worsted yarn. It was a skilled job that demanded physical strength, as a consequence it was the only hand preparation process in woollen textiles to be dominated by men.

Bishop BlaizeOriginally woolcombers were members of a medieval fraternity or guild under the patronage of Bishop Blaize. During the eighteenth century strict control of apprenticeship enforced by a powerful trade organisation ensured high wages and the status of a labour "aristocracy".

The organisation of worsted making had important social consequences. Individual worsted workers did not carry out the entire sequence of production but specialised in one particular part of it. The break down of production into discrete tasks, undertaken on different sites, demanded a workforce capable of completing their jobs within a strict production schedule.
Each particular part of the process became a full time occupation that encouraged a rigid division of labour.

  Order of the Procession of the Wool-Combers, on Coronation Day.Although skilled craft specialisation may have resulted in relatively higher wages most worsted workers had little chance of earning enough to aspire to the status of their masters. By the 1770s worsted weavers were conspicuous in the emergence of a considerable number of wage dependent landless cottager artisans.

"Besides the hall, where undressed cloth is sold, there is every Saturday morning great quantities of coloured cloth sold in the butcher's shambles, placed on stalls".

Old Houses, Hall End, HalifaxAlthough the original cloth hall at Hall End had been enlarged in 1708 it could not accommodate the increasing number of clothiers and merchants visiting the weekly market. Clothiers with little alternative but to set up their stalls in the street and carry out their business regardless of unpredictable weather knew that a new market was urgently needed.

In April 1774 a public meeting was held at the Talbot Hotel to discuss proposals for financing the building of a new market. A committee of local clothiers was appointed as trustees and construction began later that year.

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