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The Handloom Weavers

The first definite record of a clothier at Scapegoat Hill is in the Enclosure document of 1823, when 8 people are so described. Nevertheless, it is certain that there were clothiers, and weavers, present before that date.

Within 10 years, Parliament's Select Committee on Handloom Weavers had concluded that, in the face of mechanisation, hand production of cloth was doomed. Nevertheless, the survival of handloom weaving at Scapegoat Hill is remarkable. The 1861 census shows that at least a quarter of adults were handloom weavers and not until 1871 does this cease to be the most common occupation. A very small number of people give their trade as handloom weaver in the 1911 census and a book written in 1935 states that handloom weaving was still taking place at Scapegoat Hill.

This was clearly defiance of progress. Although 1935 would be within the lifetime of the grandparents, and even parents, of present-day residents, no resident speaks of any recollection of family involvement in the trade - although one resident remembers finding a handloom in a house  when moving, as a child.

We can only assume that this very late handloom production was on a very small scale, Perhaps, those who had fallen on hard times, losing their job or perhaps disability, turned to the handloom as a source of a little income in the days before social security. Selling the product cannot have been easy when mills produced vast amounts of cloth. Probably these last handloom weavers provided for domestic consumption, either by their families or their neighbours.


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