Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

The Weavers

4-7 October 1701
Whereas a report hath been maliciously and industriously spread abroad by persons who are Enemies to the Weaving Trade, that the Company of Weavers of London, or their Trade have employed or encouraged their Journeymen to abuse Gentlewomen and others that shall wear East India Silks. These are therefore to give notice, that the said Company and Trade do utterly detest and abhor the same, and as an Evidence thereof, they do hereby declare, that if any Weavers shall within the Guild of the said Company either by themselves or their procurement, presume to molest or misuse any Gentlewoman or others that shall wear any of the aforesaid Silks, and shall thereof be convicted, the Prosecutors shall have or receive as a reward the summ of 1 Guinea, to be paid by the Clerk to the said Company. [The Post Man]

Saturday, 20 June 1719   Tuesday last several ballad singers, who were singing seditious and riotous songs, tending to encourage the mob and the weavers to tear and burn the callicoes, in breach of his Majesty’s Peace, and the quiet of the subject, were taken up by order of the Hon. Col. D’Oyly, Governor of the Tower, and sent to Goal; as likewise several other persons for raising mobs. These outragious proceedings, has frighted some into fits, and it is said others into miscarriages. Note. The first appearance of these wicked disturbances began on the night of the suppos’d Birth-Day of the Pretender: So that ’tis justly suppos’d to be a mix’d rabble of weavers, pickpockets, house-breakers, and scoundrel Papists and Jacobites. (Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)

13 June 1719   On Wednesday night, and on Thursday, the weaver’s in and about Spittle Fields, assembled in a riotous and disorderly manner, to the number of about 4000, on account of the great scarcity of business, occasion’d by the great importation of foreign silks, and callicoes, whereby many thousand families, as they say, are starving, for want of employ. They tore the English and Foreign callicoes from off the backs of all the women they met, and proceeded to such irregularities, that the Lord Mayor caus’d the City gates to be shut, and the Train Bands to be rais’d, and went himself to the Lord Sunderland, to acquaint his Lordship of what had happen’d; upon this a Troop of Horse, and another of Horse-Grenadier-Guards, were ordered into Spittle-Fields; where one of the Weaver’s attempting to unhorse a Life-Guard Man, was kill’d, and another had his hand cut off. And, upon advice that they had separated, and one part of them were going to Lucem in Surry, to destroy the callicoe printer’s presses, &c. in that town; a detachment of the Guards was sent over the water, who, overtaking them, took two of the ringleaders, who were committed to the Marshalsea, upon the Riot Act: The rest immediately dispers’d, as did those in Spittle-Fields; and the Guards return’d about four yesterday morning to Whitehall, having left all things quiet. (Original Weekly Journal)

20 June 1719   Last Friday 7-night, when the Guards were return’d to Whitehall, the weavers got together again, tearing all the callico gowns that they could meet with, which occasion’d strong detachments of the Guards to be sent again into the City. Some of the rioters were seiz’d that night, and the constables carrying them to New-Prison, the weavers attempted to rescue their fellows; the Train’d-Bands fir’d at them with powder, which had no other effect that to heighten their insolence; whereupon one of the Train’d-Bands fir’d Ball, and wounded 3 persons, one very dangerously. The next day 4 of the rioters were committed to Newgate for a riot; and on Sunday night two more were committed to the same prison for felony, in tearing a gown off the back of one Mrs. Becket.
          On Tuesday one John Humphreys, a clerk, was committed to Newgate, by Justice Tallard of Spittle-Fields, for saying he had spent 5l.to encourage the weavers to rise, and was to receive 10l. for it the next day. (Original Weekly Journal)

Saturday, 20 June 1719   On Monday night last, one John Humphreys was committed to Newgate, for encouraging the late tumultuous weavers in Spittle-Fields, and tell them, he had spent five or six Guineas to excite them to rise, and desir’d them to continue the disorder: He added, That he had a Bill of 10l. in his pocket, to be distributed for the same purpose; and utter’d several treasonable expressions. The weavers whom he tempted, immediately secured and carried him before Justice Tillard, who committed him to Newgate for high-treason, and sent a copy of his commitment to the Secretary of State. (Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)

Saturday, 27 June 1719
Mr. Read,
As the late insurrection of the weavers has made a great noise abroad, and done a great deal of mischief at home, and that they continue privately still to damage persons as they go along the streets; ’twill be necessary to shew what foundation they have for their complaints.

We have the happiness above many other nations, to live in a country, which, by the fertility of its soil, temperature of its climate, and especially by the trade and industry of its inhabitants, affords us not only plenty of what is necessary for the support of life, but all the desirable products of foreign countries; those conveniences which contribute so eminently to the rendring our living both commodious and pleasant: For by the exporting of that part of produce and manufactures, which we have not occasion for our selves, we are enabled to purchase the richest furs of the North, the spices, drugs, muslins and callicoes of the East, and gold and silver of the West, and the wine, oil and sugar of the warmer climates.
          But what signifies all our riches, and that liberty and property that we so justly boast of, except we have the liberty of eating and drinking, or wearing these things when we have earn’d them.
          As the riches of rich people wou’d be of no value to them, if there were not poor to work for them; so the labour of the poor wou’d be of no value to them neither, if there were not rich to pay them for it; which shews the usefulness and conveniency, of some degree of superfluity and extravagancy amongst the richer sort.
          The complaint of the weavers is, that they have not, or cannot have work; and the pretence is, that the wearing of printed callicoe is the reason of it.
          As to the first part of the complaint, viz. That they have not work, ’tis plain indeed that all of them have not.
          To the latter part of the complaint, viz. That the wearing of printed callicoes is the occasion of their wanting work.
          The prices of printed callicoes, do so very far exceed the prices of woolen or worsted-stuffs, that they do not interfere with them; for those that buy stuffs, buy them for their cheapness, which cannot be said of those that buy callicoes; of which truth our wives make us sensible, to our cost.
          But the grand cause of the weavers wanting work, is I fear, the covetousness of the masters, in taking so many prentices for the sake of the money they have with them; not considering whether they shall have employment for them or not.
          Then again, journeymen-weavers come from many parts of England to London, for the sake of easier work, and greater wages, so that their numbers are, (as I am credibly informed) near double what they were ten years ago: These things considered ’tis no wonder, that some of them have not work; especially at this juncture, when our inland trade hath been damp’d by the noise of an invasion, and the foreign by the late rupture with Spain: but as the publick affairs have so good an aspect on our side, we may justly hope, that our trade will soon rreturn with advantage.
          May not many other trades make pretences as well as the weavers; may not the maltsters and brewers rise up against the vintners, because they sell a foreign commodity, which hinders the sale of malt liquors? And may not the ale-house keepers against the distillers, because their spirits, not only hinder the sale of their beer and ale, but enliven, heat, and fuddle people sooner and more effectually? And why mayn’t the weavers of Norwich and Coventry rise against those of Spittle Fields, because their stuffs and silks, hinder the sale of their crapes and tammies? And why not the butchers against the fish-mongers? And so on to the end of the chapter. (Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)

18 July 1719
Mr. Read,
I hope you will oblige some of your Friends, by inserting the following Lines in your Journal.
   Several of the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch, not only Weavers, but divers other Trades, having taken it into their Consideration, and do plainly see that the wearing of Callico [imported cotton cloth] will not only be the Ruin of the weaving Trade, but will likewise be the Ruin of divers others, which must be good, if the weaving Trade be good, and encourag’d: Now, for the discouraging of the Wearing of Callico, several Hundreds have come to a full Resolution not to Buy any one Thing whatsoever of any one Person, after the 25th Day of this Instant July, 1719, that shall suffer his Wife, his Daughters, or his Maids to wear Callico: And ’tis to be hop’d, that all those that are Lovers of our English Nation will endeavour to promote our English Trade. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

17 May 1725   We hear that pursuant to his Majesty’s Letters Patent, Mr. Browne has erected an Engine for beating large Quantities of Hemp, without the intolerable hard Labour of beating by the Hand. This Engine worked for the first time last Week, at Mr. Hauge’s Yard, on the Thames Wall, in the Parish of Lambeth, opposite to Whitehall, before several Persons of Quality, and others, with universal Approbation, performing better and cheaper than any of the Methods now in Use; so that the Invention is like to meet with great Encouragement from the Linnen Manufactury at this Time, when Work-houses are setting up in all Parts of the Kingdom; these Engines being extreamly useful for imploying the Poor in the more easy Parts of the Linnen Manufactury. [Mist's Weekly Journal]

23 October 1725   We have received a Complaint from the Journeymen Upholsterers concerning some Hardships laid upon them by their Masters in employing Women at an under Rate to do the Work, whereby many of those who were Apprentices to the Trade want Employment. — If we were able to redress their Grievances we would; since we are not, they will excuse us for not inserting their Letter. [Mist's Weekly Journal]

19 February 1726   Saturday being the last Day of the Term, eight Journeymen Weavers and Woollcombers, of the County of Southampton, who had formerly been convicted for riotously and unlawfully combining together to raise their Wages, and had been committed to the King’s-Bench Prison in Michaelmlas Term last, were brought from thence to the King’s-Bench Bar at Westminster, to receive Judgment for the same. The court being humbly moved by Counsel on their behalf, it was proposed, that they should pay to Mr. Palmer, the Person who prosecuted them, the Sum of 80l. for his Costs, 40l. immediately, and the other 40l. in the next Trinity Term, and to give Security for their good Behaviour for 2 Years: To which they all agreed, and were discharged accordingly. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

10 December 1726   Froom, Somerset, Dec. 2. We have been visited here by a Body of 5 or 6000 Weavers from Wiltshire; they went to several Houses in the Town to settle the Wages, and, where their Demands were comply’d with, and fair Words given, they did no Harm; but where they imagined themselves not civilly treated, or any Demur made to their Prices, the Windows paid for it.
   Devizes, Dec. 3. We hear the Weavers left Froom the 29th past, and Part of them went to Westbury, and Part to Shepton-Mallet, where some Outrages were committed, and about 1500 returned to Melsham, upon hearing that one Mr. H—t, a Clothier, should say, that he would make the Weavers eat Wash and Grains. They attack’d his House, broke his Windows, and spoil’d his Furniture, to the Damage of 300 l. whereupon the High Sheriff rode into the midst of them, and read the Proclamation [declaring a riot, giving him special powers]; after which they dispers’d; but, they say, one of the Weavers lost his Life in the Tumult. [Mist's Weekly Journal]

25 June 1730   Saturday, June 20. Tuesday was an insurection [sic] of the weavers at Braintree, who went from thence to Mr. Miles at Coggeshal whither they heard Mr. Brown of Braintee had sent some Irish yarn. They attempted to pull down Mr. Miles’s house, and insulted the Justices while the Proclamation was reading, upon which the soldiers fired, killing 4 persons, and wounding 2 or 3. 2 were sent to Chelmsford gaol. The mob having made a collection for the burial of 1 of the persons killed, a weaver of Braintree, brought his corpse in a hearse to Mr. Brown’s door on Wednesday even. broke his windows, and committed several outrages, till Capt. Masterson, marching his men,dispersed them, and took 3 into custody. The yarn proved not to be Irish, but bought of Mr. Sol. Isaac of Braintree. [Grub-street Journal]

10 November 1739   About six o’clock last Monday evening, a great body of weavers collected themselves together under colour of solemnising the night [i.e. the King’s Birthday] in Spital-Fields; and, being assembled, agreed to take that opportunity of demolishing the houses of some of the masters of their trade, who, they pretended, were principally concern’d in a design to reduce the price of their labour; and upon this report, they presently began to execute their intention, by breaking the windows, untiling the penthouses, and other acts of violence; but a detachment of Horse and Foot Guards, that were sent for by the Magistrates, coming seasonably to the relief of the inhabitants, they were dispers’d, leaving several prisoners behind them, who were detained all night in custody under guard; and on Tuesday morning the ten following persons, viz. Samuel Musket, Peter Bellamy, James Crane, James Barton, JOHN Butter, William Dunny, Robert Barnard, Richard Starkey, George Chandler, and Thomas Scott, were committed to Newgate for the said riot by the Justices Harwood, Peck and Fowke, that compos’d a Bench upon the occasion. Two of their associates were also sent to New Prison. They appear to be miserable objects, and at sight of them a man would be more afraid of his cupboard than his purse.
        A party of the Foot-Guards is march’d to Deptford and Woolwich, in order to appease the workmen of those yards, who have refused to work without [i.e. unless] their wages are augmented.
         And Wednesday morning at six o[‘clock the bell at Woolwich was rung, according to custom, for giving notice to the workmen belonging to his Majesty’s yard there, to appear at the muster, and proceed to their business accordingly without molestation; but they all continued in their obstinacy, and none of them (except some smiths) would strike one stroke, unless they had their demands allowed them. A man with a bell was sent about the town to summon them, but to no purpose. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "The Weavers", 15 February 2002, enlarged 10 April 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/weavers.htm>

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