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Stories about the lives we've made

module:Textiles: From domestic to factory production

The Industrial Revolution and the textiles industries

page:Domestic production

Using the evidence

The shift from domestic to factory production had an enormous impact on people's lives and their freedom to control their day to day activities. How far, for example, could they control their own use of time? Evidence and extracts from contemporary sources can show something of this changing world of work.

The next two sections of this learning module explore evidence - in this section of the domestic system and the next section the world of the factory. Work through the extracts, compare them, and answer the questions. This should help you understand some of the main contrasts between the domestic and factory system.

Domestic production

Cornelius Ashworth was an obscure farmer and weaver in the cloth-producing area called the West Riding of Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire). His diary may not make an exciting read but it gives us a fascinating insight into how he could combine work at both the various tasks in agriculture and industry.

Some things had to be done at a particular time. Farming and harvesting had their own requirements and if Cornelius Ashworth needed money then he would need to finish a cloth and sell it. This still left him with freedom to decide what should be done on a particular day. He was able to spread his time between the different requirements of farming, while deciding when to finish and sell his cloth.

It was certainly not an idyllic world. If Cornelius Ashworth wanted to take time off, he would have to make up for it later. But he did enjoy significant control over his time. While reading the text of the diary, look out for any evidence to support this idea of flexibility.

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The diary of Cornelius Ashworth, a weaver (1752-1821)
  Oct 11 Fri a dull morning with some rain at noon but verry fine in the Afternoon this day 6 Men shave 57 Hattock in all 118 large Hattocks in Pomfret. [a field name]
  Oct 14 Mon a dull Soft day Several Showers and Carried a Piece and wove 4¾ yds.
  Oct 15 Tues a Soft Morning but a moderate Droughty day Wove 9 yds
  Oct 16 Wed a dull day with some little rain in the Afternoon 2 Men and my self housed 40 Hattocks of Corn and thrasht corn.
  Oct 18 Fri 3 men and myself and Thomas Marsden Housed 78 Hattocks of Corn between 7 O’clock and a little past 9 O’clock in the forenoon I and George Town mooed before noon and thrasht in the Afternoon.
  Oct 19 Sat a verry high wind with heavy Showers of rain and Hall I and G. Town Winowd 13 quarters of Oats.
  Oct 20 Sun began Fodering the Cows once a day.
  Oct 21 Mon a Cold high wind I and George Town Thrasht
  Oct 22 Tues and G. Town thrasht and winowd 3 quarters in afternoon.
  Oct 23 Wed Showers in the forenoon Droughty in the Afternoon I worked out till 3 O’clock Wove 2 yards before Sun set Clouted [Patched] my Coat in the Evening.
  Nov 1 Fri a fine frosty clear droughty day Sized a warp and Churned in the forenoon. In the Afternoon wove 5 yds.
  Nov 2 Sat a fine frosty morning. Snowd from 7 O’clock … Woved 6 yds
  Nov 4 Mon a fine frosty droughty day. Wove 6¾ yds
  Nov 5 Tues a fine frosty morning but Overcast and was dull. went with my Piece went to Halifax and Loomed a Warp
  Nov 6 Wed a fine bright day and frosty Wove 3¼ yds
  Nov 7 Thurs a bright frosty day. wove 6½ yds
  Nov 8 Fri Churned till After 10 O’clock and off again from 12 to 3 O’clock. Went to Halifax in the Evening. Wove 2¼ yds
  Jul 1 Tues a Dull misty morning but Clear’d & was hot I wove 5½ yds. Churned & other jobbs after
  Jul 2nd Wed a Dull day verry hot with a good deal of Thunder & a little Rain in the afternoon I carried my Piece went to Halifax & into Wheatley in fore and Sised a Warp in the after but did not get it dried weeded garden & other jobbs.
  July 3rd Thurs a Dull day with a little Rain I went into wheatley & made Rope Shacles [part of a simple piece of equipment for carrying a ‘burden’ of hay] & other Jobbs in forenoon got my warp dried and Sised it over again & Loomed Part of it in afternoon.
  July 4th Fri a Bright warm day. I loomed a warp I wove 4½ yds
  July 5th Sat I wove 3 yds in fore & helped Jas. Charnock to flit in afternoon
  July 7th Mon a Bright hot day I wove 6½ yds & was jobbing Several hours
  July 8th Tues a Bright hot day I was that day Employ’d in Churning helping To fetch the Turfs home & houseing them and other jobs.
  July 9th Wed a Bright hot day I wove 5¼ yds and was jobbing Several hours.
  July 10th Thurs ….I wove 10 yds
  July 11th Fri … I wove 2 yds & Carried my Piece mended Rake
  July 14th Mon a Bright hot day we began mowing this day I mowed all day had 2 haymakers
  July 16th Wed … we had 6 haymakers housed about 2 days work of hay..
  July 18th Fri a Dull wet day I worked in Pulling up weeds in Summer Pastures
  July 19th Sat a fine droughty forenoon but wet in the after we had 6 haymakers employ in the hay in till 4 Oclock afterwards in Pulling up weeds & spreading dung in the Summer Pastures.
  July 22nd Tues … we had 5 haymakers in afternoon worked in the hay till 4 Oclock weeded Corn in long field after.
  July 26th Sat a Dull forenoon but bright afternoon we had 3 hay makers
  July 28th Mon a verry hot bright droughty day we had Six haymakers and got all our hay in Except 3 Burdens of Rakeings
  July 30th Wed a Dull but Moderate droughty till 4 Oclock and a little rain after I wove 5 yds.
  July 31st .. I wove 7 yds.
Source:Some aspects of the eighteenth century woollen and worsted trade in Halifax, ed. Atkinson, F., 1956, Halifax Museums. Reprinted in Shalloons & Kerseys, 1979, Ruth Bean Publishers




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