Telling weaver William’s tale

A fascinating glimpse into the life of a 19th century Todmorden handloom weaver was given by local historian Malcolm Heywood – thanks to the survival of a diary for the single year of 1825.

William Greenwood lived with his parents at Carrbottom, Cornholme in the area known as Pudsey in 1825. He wove calico cloth and on delivery of finished pieces his spinning master, Joseph Firth, paid 2s 6d per cut.

It took him about half an hour to weave a yard of cloth and the amount of weaving done each day varied from a few yards to 30 yards.

His average wage for weaving would have been about £10 for the year, but fortunately he found other ways of supplementing his income.

William “twisted in” for other weavers who couldn’t or wouldn’t take on the tedious job of joining on new warp threads, for which he charged 5d per time.

He was also a small scale school teacher and moneylender. The total of his additional income amounted to about £20 per year, and given his single status at this time would have been adequate.

Indeed, his life was relatively easy and varied.

Some days he didn’t work at all, choosing instead to follow the local hare-hunts, take long walks or enjoy the knur and spel contests.

However, had more entries survived they may have told a different story, as 1826 saw a trade recession leading to the Lancashire riots on power-loom mills.

From later census records it seems that William Greenwood had married and forsaken weaving by becoming a grocer. He died in 1876 aged 79.

On Tuesday, March 27, Margaret Curry will speak on “Beatrix Potter, Industrial Inheritance” at 7.30pm in Todmorden Town Hall.