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Working Conditions in Bradford

Woolcombers' hours arc, I believe, proverbially long. The men in Bradford said they were sometimes forced to work most of the night. Low as their wages are, they were recently still lower; but since the revival of trade in the district, the wool combers have raised the amount of their remuneration upwards of 3s. by three successive strikes. The combers have now to compete with machinery. Each machine will do about ten times the work of a hand labourer, but it employs several hands, two of whom get good wages. These machines are in general, however, only used for the coarsest work, and did not seem to excite any great apprehension among the workmen. Woolcombing is the only branch of manufacturing industry which I have yet met with supporting a fair proportion of adult Irish males. A number of them have been bred to the employment at Mount Mellick, in Queen's County. The mass of the woolcombers of Yorkshire includes natives of almost all the southern counties of England. One and all, they were loud in their denunciations of the accommodation provided for their labour. In the south the masters used to provide shops for the work. Here the men had to labour in their houses, and often to sleep in the room in which they toiled...
LETTER XV
[Thursday, Dec. 6, 1849] Supplement to the Morning Chronicle, 22 Jan 1850
Morning Chronicle, 18 and 22 Jan. 1850; in J. T. Ward, ed., The Factory System, Vol. I, Birth and Growth (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1970), pp. 160-174.)

 

 

 

 

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