* Handloom weavers (2)

I’ve deleted my first version of this, by accident, because WordPress have gone to a new editing process which is a minefield.

Hilary Pollard informs us – The handloom Weaver you show is Ishmael Whittle who lived in Lepton and was a Churchwarden for many years. He married Anne Spivey of Almondbury and they adopted Louisa Duran’s, the daughter of Anne’ sister after the sister’s death and the father could not cope with a child. Though we are not related to him we always call him Uncle Ishmael as that was how Louie always referred to him. My son has the writing slope which the congregation of T John’s Church Lepton gave to him when he retired as Churchwarden and Sunday School teacher. Brilliant Hilary thank you.

I need to point out that my kin, Eli, is not in the pic.

The point of this piece is a random discovery of historical contexts around the time of my hand loom weaver, Eli. That is 1820s to 1870s. It’s the Regency period which can refer, according to Wiki, ‘to various stretches of time; some are longer than the decade of the formal Regency, which lasted from 1811 to 1820. The period from 1795 to 1837, which includes the latter part of George III’s reign and the reigns of his sons George IV and William IV, is sometimes regarded as the Regency era, characterised by distinctive trends in British architecture, literature, fashions, politics, and culture.’

Note: French Revolution 1789-99; Napoleonic wars 1803-15; American Civil war 1860s.

Andrew Taylor, Times November 7th reviews ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain’ by Ian Mortimer. It is a cheat and a cheek, but I will not be buying the book. Time of extremes, ‘Britain attained unparalleled wealth and power, but more than a quarter of its population needed poor relief, and almost one in five died before their fifth birthday.  … the Earl Of Essex spent £10000 a year merely on maintaining his garden and park. Forty odd miles away by contrast, an agricultural labourer and his wife were trying to feed themselves and their five children under eight on a combined annual income of £22 2s.’ There was the expensive war with France. Sewage-strewn squalor as 300 people in Liverpool shared a couple of privies. Huge alcohol intake. Time of Beau Brummell, wit, elegance and simplicity in clothes, gambling in all classes. Yet a glimmer of change – an evangelical movement concerned with slavery, the condition of the poor and feminism.

My handloom weaver would not have been aware of all this, isolated up in Cowrakes, Lindley. I like to think of him as a skilled weaver, so life was hard but his family would have been reasonably comfortable. Cowrakes is still a bit out of the way, but the housing estates are gradually taking over.

In addition to the Times curation, I’m grateful to Derran, one of my coffee-zoom pals for reminding me of ‘The 4 loom weaver’ from an album called ‘Gallant Lads are We; Songs of the British Industrial Revolution’. The ‘4 loom weaver’ comes from the Lancashire cotton industry, starting in the 1790s as the ‘Oldham Weaver’, then ‘Poor Cotton Weaver’ or ‘The Poor Cotton Wayver’, published on a broadsheet during the depression years that followed The Battle of Waterloo and the close of the Napoleonic Wars. Ewan MacColl some twenty-five years ago, sang it in the earliest days of the folk song revival. He collected it from Becket Whitehead of Delph, near Oldham, Lancashire. The current version of the ‘4 loom weaver’ is factory version from the 1860s during the Lancashire Cotton famine. The mills were on short time due to American Civil War when north blockaded the south and cotton could be not exported.

Michael Morpurgo of ‘Warhorse’ fame has recorded a series of Radio4 podcasts about folk songs – songs of the people. The ‘4 loom weaver’ is one of his examples of a protest song, a long tradition maintained to the present. The best come from personal tales of lived experience rather than a call to action advert more about the singer than the song. We live in times of economic uncertainty when stuff is not our fault which we did not sign up for. Poverty and inequality are still with us. These are some of the injustices found in protest folk songs.

4 Loom Weavers by Louis Killen

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