Saturday, 23 April 2016

East Lancashire Power Loom Riots 1826 - 190th anniversary next Tuesday

This week is the 190th anniversary of the East Lancashire loom riots that led eventually to changes in factory conditions for working people which began by starving workers marching from Enfield to Grange Mill at the bottom of Manchester Road in Accrington where the first power looms were destroyed.

The power-loom riots of 1826 took place in Lancashire, England, in protest against the economic hardship suffered by traditional handloom weavers caused by the widespread introduction of the much more efficient power loom [4] set against a cost of living crisis following the Napoleonic Wars. Rioting broke out on 24 April and continued for three days, widely supported by the local population, who were sympathetic to the weavers' plight.

Sykes’s Mill at Higher Grange Lane
Courtesy of the Lancashire County Library Service - Accrington Library.
After a period of prosperity in the 1810s the textile industry suffered a serious slump in 1825.

After a period of relative prosperity in the early 1820’s, the winter of 1825-26 was to produce nothing but hardship for the cotton workers of East Lancashire. Some of the banks had not the silver or gold to back up the paper notes they had issued. These were recalled; loans were also revoked causing many bankruptcies. The earlier affluence had increased the number of handloom weavers so much so that it was possible for the manufacturers to reduce the wages of those employed at weaving. The handloom weaver at the end of the cotton manufacturing chain, and unorganised was easy prey to the manufacturers. In the good years, 1802-1806, the handloom weavers were earning up to 23s a week [5] ,by 1826 this had been reduced to less than 8s per week [6].

The good times had brough in 000’s of employed weavers who had been employed to supplement production at local factories were the first to be hit, and by the spring of 1826 there was, once again, real hardship in the county. Pleas to the government for a minimum wage had fallen on deaf ears (In May, 1808, the Weavers' Minimum Wage Bill was rejected by the House of Commons), and attempts by the workers to better their own lot had been met with repression and even, as witnessed in Manchester in 1819, with appalling violence (the so-called “Peterloo Massacre”) The average earnings for weavers had nearly halved, and unemployment was running, in some areas, at a staggering 60%. [3]

A letter to the Blackburn Mail of the 15th February 1826 tells of receiving 1s-9d a piece, considering that in 1814 he would have received 6s-9d- one can see the grounds he has for complaint. He tells of having four children and a wife to keep, and that he works from four in the morning to twelve at night. This family, like many others would be surviving, if that is the word , off one meal of oatmeal porridge a day. [7] That food prices had doubled in a few short years.

On April 12th, Blackburn Weavers' Union secretary John Lancaster wrote to the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, pointing out that wages had been cut repeatedly for 11 years, and now, even those workers in employment could afford no more than one or two meals a day. [8]

"Our dwellings are totally destitute of every necessary comfort," he complained. "Every article of value has disappeared either to satisfy the cravings of hunger or to appease the clamour of relentless creditors: our homes, where plenty and contentment once resided, are now become the abodes of penury and wretchedness." [8]

William Turner’s book ‘Riot’ details the absolute depths of poverty of those in work, the staggering number of those reliant on poor law relief whilst working 78 hours a week or more and the escalating numbers of destitute condemned to the workhouse as unemployment rose. [7] There was simply no way of escaping the starvation. That appeals for a minimun wage or greater relief had fallen on deaf ears. Turner’s book refers to commentary of the time, that such destitution the like had never been seen before.

On Monday the 24th April 1826 a mass meeting of over a 1000 weavers, some armed was held on Enfield Moor, Whinney Hill in Clayton-le-Moors near to Accrington [5]. Speeches were made and then the crowd marched on Sykes’s Mill at Higher Grange Lane, near the site of the modern police station and Magistrate’s Courts, where at 60 looms where smashed. These riots spread from Accrington through Oswaldtwistle, Blackburn, Darwen, Rossendale, Bury and Chorley. In the end after three days of riots 1,139 looms were destroyed, 4 rioters and 2 bystanders shot dead by the authorities in Rossendale and 41 rioters sentenced to death (all of whose sentences were commuted).[1][2]

Over the next few weeks a number of suspected rioters were arrested and sent to prison in Preston and Lancaster. There had been government agents in the mobs, and these men were damning witnesses when the cases came to trial in August. In total 53 men and 12 women were tried for their part in the riots in Lancaster Castle. Of those convicted, 35 men and 6 women received the Death Penalty. In the end all of these people were reprieved, with some receiving short prison sentences or fines. However 8 men and 2 women (Ann Entwistle and Mary Hindle the only female rioters to ever receive such a sentence) were transported for life to Australia. [3]

Mary Hindle’s case was tragic. She had gone to find her small daughter who had run off to watch the riot at Helmshore. A spy in the crowd had cut a piece from her skirt to prove she had been there, and on this evidence she was convicted. Despite pleas from her vicar and William Turner, the mill-owner, she was sent to Australia. For many years her fate remained unknown until the recent discovery of a letter in a family Bible which suggests that, unable to accept her fate, she may well have taken her own life while in the female factory at Paramatta. [3]

Ironically, the mill-owners fared very well as a result of the riots. Compensation (levied on the rates) enabled them to re-stock their mills with new machinery, and most of them became very wealthy indeed. [3]

Despite a charity fund set up to aid them, the weavers had a terrible time following the riots. In Haslingden between May and September 1826, 35 children under 4 died. Between December 1826 and March 1827 a total of 107 people were buried in the churchyard. [3]

1 "Cotton Times". Doug Peacock. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.

2 Turner, William (1992). Riot! Story of East Lancashire Loom Breakers in 1826. Lancashire County Books. ISBN 978-1-871236-17-0.


4 ^ a b Aspin 1995, p. 63

5 Blackburn Mail 1 February 1826 quoted in

6 Preston Chronicle 25 February 1826 quoted in

7 The First Industrial Society. C. Aspin,

8 Cotton Times pg1


Name (men)AgeKnown to be Sentence Commuted to
present at
Josiah Baldwin22W,X,Y,ZDeathTransported for life
James Chambers55E,F,G,H,aDeath Transported for life
Joseph Clayton29Y,ZDeathTransported for life
Thomas Emmet22N,O,W,X,Y,ZDeath Transported for life
Lawrence Hardman37WDeath Transported for life
Isaac Hindle35E,F,G,HDeath Transported for life
John Hoyle27ZDeath Transported for life
Simeon Wright27F,G,HDeath Transported for life
Thomas Dickenson19F,G,HDeath 18 months imprisonment
Thomas Leaver26GDeath 18 months imprisonment
William Winder27F,GDeath 18 months imprisonment
George Ashworth21W,Y,ZDeath 12 months imprisonment
John Ashworth22YDeath 12 months imprisonment
Robert Butterworth30Death 12 months imprisonment
Mark Cockerill29W,Y,ZDeath 12 months imprisonment
John Howarth127FDeath 12 months imprisonment
William Sutcliffe 22FDeath 12 months imprisonment
Michael Tomlinson 28E12 months imprisonment ( not commuted)
Thomas Ashworth27ODeath 6 months imprisonment
James Aspden 23N, H,a Death 6 months imprisonment
James Crawshaw19TDeath 6 months imprisonment
Richard Entwistle 18E, F, G, NDeath 6 months imprisonment
Edward HoughtonGDeath 6 months imprisonment
Richard Kay17FDeath 6 months imprisonment
James Latham18FDeath 6 months imprisonment
James Leaver420F, GDeath 6 months imprisonment
James Ormerod18FDeath 6 months imprisonment
James Shorrock23L,M,NDeath 6 months imprisonment
Thomas Greenhalgh 20TDeath 3 months imprisonment
James Howarth25FDeath 3 months imprisonment
Thomas Lomax30TDeath 3 months imprisonment
Henry Melling21UDeath 3 months imprisonment
Alexander Norris 17E, NDeath 3 months imprisonment
John Orrell25NDeath 3 months imprisonment
James Riding29FDeath 3 months imprisonment
William Almond 25NAcquitted
Thomas Bolton27F, IAcquitted
James Buskey16UAcquitted
William Charnley,5 29F Acquitted
William Cockerill23W, X, Y, ZAcquitted
Patrick Gibbons35W,X,Y,ZAcquitted
Aaron Gregson17RAcquitted
James Grundy27 F, GAcquitted
Anthony Harrison 17RAcquitted
John Holt20W,X,Y,ZAcquitted
John Ingham19P,QAcquitted
Richard Rawsthorne 20W,X,Y,ZAcquitted
James Rostron21P,QAcquitted
Richard Tattersall30W,X,Y,ZAcquitted
James Taylor29W,X,Y,ZAcquitted
William Taylor20NAcquitted
Edward Yates18UAcquitted

1Wounded in shoulder at Jubilee Street
2Died in Lancaster Castle, 26th December 1826
3Wounded in neck and mouth at Park Place
4Wounded at Park Place
5Wounded in arm at Jubilee Street (arm removed)

Name (women)AgeKnown to be Sentence Commuted to
present at
Ann Entwistle46N,S Death Transported for life
Mary Hindle27N Death Transported for life
Betty Cunliffe25W,X,Y,Z Death 12 months imprisonment
Johanna Oldham20E 12 months imprisonment (not commuted)
Phoebe Tomlinson 27E 12 months imprisonment (not commuted)
Betty Marsden35N Death 6 months imprisonment
Alice Grimshaw18E 12 months 3 months imprisonment
Betty Howorth17F,N Death 3 months imprisonment
Ann Ingham29R,W Death 3 months imprisonment
Margaret Yates17N 3 months imprisonment (not commuted)
Alice Lord19O acquitted
Peggy Lord20O acquitted

The Following were tried at the March 1827 assizes at Lancaster Castle.

Name Age Known to be Sentence
present at
George Heys28 N,O 3 months imprisonment (not commuted)
William Barnes57 S Acquitted
John Fairbrother 23 U Acquitted
Lawrence Rostron 30 O Acquitted

Some prisoners were acquitted of offences at one factory, and found
guilty for offences at another.

People arrested but not proceeded against.

Arrested for rioting at Grange lane, Accrington. (B)
John Bentley.

Arrested for rioting at White Ash, Oswaldtwistle. (E)
Jacob Balmer
Joseph Barnes
Benjamin Fish
Joseph Harwood
John Preston
Ellen Grimshaw.

Arrested for rioting at Jubilee Street, Blackburn (F)
John Cook
John Crompton
James Duckworth
Thomas Entwistle
John Hartley
Thomas Leaver
John Lewis
Christopher Norris
Richard Pearson.

Arrested for rioting at Middle Mill, Helmshore (N)
Thomas Almond
William Almond (the Elder)
Henry Baron
Henry Cook
Thomas Duckworth
Christopher Duckworth
Bnjamin Fish (see also E)
John Gibson
Jabez Green
John Hirst
William Hurst
Henry Orrell
Thomas Sutcliffe
Abraham Wade
John Yates
Margaret Hadcroft
Nancy Marsden
Lydia Taylor

Arrested for rioting at Chatterton (S)
William Ratcliffe
William Rawcliffe
William Rishton

East Lancashire factories and their owners involved in the riots.

Ref. No.Situated atOwned/Occupied byDate visitedLooms Destroyed
ALow Moor, ClitheroeGarrett & Horsfall24th AprilNot attacked
BGrange Lane, AccringtonR & T Sykes24th April60
CWoodnook, AccringtonJ Marquis24th April4
DFern Gore, AccringtonB & R Walmsley24th April20
EWhite Ash, OswaldtwistleJ & W Bury24th April94
FJubilee Street, BlackburnB Eccles24th April212
GPark Place, BlackburnJ Houghton24th April25
HKing Street, BlackburnW Throp24th AprilNone
sub total415
ILow Moor, ClitheroeGarrett & Horsfall25th AprilNot attacked
JBowling Green, DarwenW. H & G Carr25th April16
KBowling Green, DarwenJ Garsden25th April6
LBobbin Hall, DarwenJ Garsden25th April16
MHouse, HoddlesdenJ Garsden 25th April14
NMiddle Mill, HelmshoreW & R Turner25th April106
sub total158
OLower Booth, RawtenstallD Whitehead26th April96
PLongholme, RawtenstallT Kay26th April20
QNew Hall Hey, RawtenstallHoyle & Ashworth26th April3
RDearden CloughL& J Rostron26th April56
SChattertonAitken & Lord26th April46
TSummerseatR & D Hamer26th April38
UWoodhill, Elton J Hutchinson26th April49
VHolt Mill, WaterfootJ & D Ashworth26th April20
WWaterbarn, StacksteadsG & J Ormerod26th April50
XTunstead, StacksteadsG & J Ormerod26th April28
YIrwell Mill, BacupHargreaves & Hardman26th april28
ZOld Clough, BacupR & J Munn26th April52
sub total 486
aWater Street, ChorleyLightoller & Harrison27th April80
sub total80
Total looms destroyed1139

Persons killed at Chatterton, Wednesday 26th April 1826

NameAgeOccupationHome townDate buriedPlace buriedRemarks
*John Ashworth27Handloom weaverHaslingden30th AprilSt. James' C of E,
HaslingdenShot in Abdomen
James Lord26Fulling MillerMill End, Newchurch - in - Rossendale30th
AprilSt. Nicholas's C of E, HaslingdenShot in body and head
*Richard Lund23BlacksmithHaslingden29th AprilSt. James' C of E,
HaslingdenShot in abdomen
*James Rothwell22Handloom weaverHutch Bank, Haslingden30th AprilSt.
James' C of E, HaslingdenShot in Heart
*Mary Simpson23Handloom weaverClough End, Haslingden30th AprilSt.
James' C of E, Haslingdenshot in thigh (verdict: Accidental death)
James Waddicar (or Whatacre)40Dresser (powerloom)Ramsbottom30th April
Emmanuel C of E, Chapelry of HolcombeShot in abdomen (verdict: Murder by
rifleman unknown)
* Annotated in Register : 'Shot in a mob'

Further reading:*Version*=1&*entries*=0