Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

From White’s Directory 1864 - Trades & Manufactures (Pages 176 to 179 inclusive)

The following article was also published in ‘The History of Nottinghamshire 1844’

(Pages 187 to 191 inclusive)

The two great staple trades which have raised Nottingham to its present wealth and magnitude, and which employ many thousands of its inhabitants of both sexes, are the hosiery and lace manufacturers, the former of which, (though the stocking-frame was invented in 1589), was not of much importance till the middle of the 18th century, nor the latter till 1778, when the point net machine was invented and appended to a stocking-frame, but some years ago was superseded by a warp and bobbin net machine, working on various new and improved principles. The BONE or CUSHION LACE was, for an early period, a source of profitable industry to a considerable number of females in this town, till they found a more constant and perhaps a more lucrative employment, in chevening (ornamenting stockings with clocks, &c.) hosiery and in embroidering machine wrought lace net. But the first manufacturer by which Nottingham enriched itself, and which it has long since lost, was that of woollen cloth, for we find that as early as 1199, King John founded in the town a merchants’ guild, and granted a charter to the burgesses, forbidding all persons within ten miles round Nottingham to work dyed cloth, except in the borough. This branch of business was the immediate rise to opulence of several great families in the town, (merchants of Calais), amongst whom may be enumerated the Willoughbys, Binghams, Tennesleys, Plumptres, Thurlands, Mapperleys, Amyases, Allestrees, Salmons, and the Hunts. But no cloth appears to have been made for exportation until after 1331, when Edward III., by an Act passed at Nottingham, induced many of the Flemish and Brabant manufacturers to come and settle in England, where one of them, called Hanks, gave his name to the skein of worsted, as Thomas Blanket, a weaver of Bristol, did to the woollen sheets which cover us in bed. But at the close of the 16th century, the cloth trade in Nottingham gave place to the hosiery manufacture, which soon afforded ample employment for the worsted mills, the weavers, the dyers, and the smiths of the town, the latter of whom were very numerous, and had previously occupied the whole of Bridlesmith-gate, Girdler-gate, (now Pelham Street) and Smithy-row, where they had long manufactured bits, snaffles, buckles and other articles for bridles, girdles, &c.; but they now discarded their ancient occupation, and began to make Stocking frames, many of which consist of 6000 parts, principally of iron. Deering says Nottingham was anciently famous for the production of the most curious articles in iron, and hence, he says, arose the following proverb, recorded by Fuller:-

“The little smith of Nottingham,
Who doth the work that no man can.”

Many hundreds of smiths, and workers of iron and brass, are now employed in the town, in making and repairing stocking-frames, and the various newly improved BOBBIN NET MACHINES, which latter vary in width from five to twenty two quarters, and are worked on the different principles distinguished by the names of Levers, Rotary, Circular-bolt, Straight-bolt, Pusher, Traverse Warp, Loughborough Machines, each containing from 1000 to 4000 bobbins and carriages – the merit of inventing which was claimed by Robert Brown and George Whitmore, of Nottingham, and by John Lindley, of Loughborough about the year 1799; but they were greatly improved in 1807 by Edward Whitaker, of Nottingham, who made them traverse at every motion of the machine from one bar to the other. But none of these ingenious mechanics derived any benefit from their inventions, for bobbins and carriages of the same construction were included in the specifications of the Loughborough machine, for which Mr John Heathcote obtained a fourteen years’ patent in 1809, during the existence of which, he and his partner, Charles Lacy, Esq., of Nottingham, levied a heavy tax upon all persons using the same bobbins and carriages, amounting on some machines to upwards of £30 per annum. – after the expiration of this patent, in 1823, a ruinous speculation prevailed in Nottingham for than two years, during which, almost every capitalist was anxious to embark his money in bobbin net machines, to assist in the construction of which, hundreds of mechanics, tempted by extravagant wages, poured into the town from Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, and other places; machines and houses “sprung up like mushrooms”, money circulated freely, and the town was intoxicated with an unstable prosperity, which was suddenly dispelled by a consequent glut in the home and foreign markets, and by the failure of many of the London and country banks and great commercial houses, in December, 1825, and the following year. Since then, machine which cost from £400 to £500, have been sold for less than £100, and they are now made on the best principles for less than half the amount that was charged for those which were hurried together in the bustling years of 1824 and 1825. Numerous improved bobbin net machines have been introduced during the last forty years, the principal of which are the Traverse Warp, invented by John Brown and George Freeman, Esq., in 1810; the Straight-bolt, by William Morley, in 1812; the Pusher, by James Clark and Joshua Roper; the Levers’, by three John Levers, (the father, son and nephew), in 1814; the Rotary, by John Lindley, in 1816; the Circular-bolt, by the before-mentioned William Morley, in 1817; and the Rotary Levers’ Traverse Warp, by William Barnes, 1827. To enumerate all the inventions of the various kinds of machinery used in the manufacture of hosiery, lace, &c., would greatly exceed our limits, and be uninteresting to the general reader; we shall therefore conclude with the following notice of the founder of framework knitting. Notes: (The first stocking-frame produced only plain work. The Derby-rib machine was invented in 1758, by Jedediah Strutt, of Derby: the Nottingham machine, in 1776, by Mr Horton, and the warp machine, which united the stitch of the stocking-frame with the warp of the weaver’s loom, in 1775, by Mr Crane, of Edmonton. The last was superseded in 1782, James Tarrant’s warp-frame, which makes and inferior kind of shapeless stockings called cut-ups, and is also used in making warp lace. The point-net machine, appended to a stocking-frame, was invented in 1778, by Messrs Lindley, Taylor, and Flint, of Nottingham).

The Rev’d William Lee, M.A., who invented the first STOCKING FRAME in 1589, was a native of either Calverton or Woodborough, in Nottinghamshire. Deering says, that he was heir to a pretty freehold estate and being deeply in love with a young person to whom he paid his addresses, but whom he always found more intent upon her knitting than to his vows and protestations, he was induced to contrive a machine which should render the mode of knitting by hand entirely useless. We have, however, seen it stated differently; that Mr Lee, was a poor curate, and married; and his wife being obliged to occupy herself industriously with knitting, which interfered very much with the attention necessary to her family, he was prompted to attempt the invention of the present complex, yet simple machinery. It is certain that he or his brother exhibited the loom before Queen Elizabeth; but his invention being despised in his native country, he went to France, with several English workmen, where he was patronized by Henry IV. – The murder of that monarch overturned all his hopes of success; he died of grief and chagrin at Paris, and his few surviving workmen returned to England. After some time, a company of framework-knitters was established in London, which was for a considerable time the nursery of this manufacture, and the hose made were principally of silk of the same colour as the dress with which they were worn, and were called fashion work. In time this custom gave way, after which fewer colours were wanted, and as the article could be manufactured cheaper in the country, and of equal quality, thither the manufacture was again transferred, and ceased in town [Nottingham] in 1664, and soon spread itself over a great part of Nottinghamshire, Leicester and Derbyshire, and a few frames are at work in most large towns in the Kingdom.

In 1835, a patent for knitting machine producing distinct loops upon short needles was obtained by Whitworth. In 1839, Mather’s patent stocking-frame was introduced, an invention of great importance to the town and county at large; he has not strayed from the original principle, but finished what Lee began; it is a rotary frame with double tier and parallel motion, and makes four or six hose at the same time, and can be worked by the steam engine.

It appears from a document sent in 1844 to the Board of Trade, that the hosiery frames in Great Britain and Ireland actually at work amount to 33,330, of which about 18,000 are employed in making plain cotton hose, half-hose, drawers, pieces gloves, caps, and shirts; about 9,000 in making plain worsted hosiery; about 1,080, making plain silk hose, purses and gloves; about 70 making plain flax thread hose, principally in Ireland; about 2,770 making worsted ribbed hose; 750 making cotton ribbed hose and tops; and 40 making silk ribbed hose; 200 making silk knotted hose; 40 making silk spider and Jack machine hose; 800 making cotton, tickler, spider, and Jack machine hose; 250 making Berlin warp pieces, &c., about 200 making warp sham knotted hose, cotton worsted, and silk; 550 making plain gloves; 150 cashmere gloves; 20 cashmere hose, 530 tuck hose, cotton, worsted, and silk; 70 making muffatees, muffs, &c., silk, cotton, and worsted; 350 making cravats, shawls, scarves, &c., made from warp and plain frames; 95 warp fancy gloves; being an increase since 1815, over Blackner’s calculation, of about 6,300 frames, of which several are employed in new branches. The wrought cotton hose branch has decreased, since 1815, from 7,589 to 5,580 frames; and the wrought worsted hose from 5,650 to 4,200; whilst the cut-up frames have increased from 370 to 4,500. Blackner gives no worsted hose as being cut-up: now they are estimated at about 6,000 [4,200 in 1844].


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