Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Friday, February 14, 2003


SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT HOUSING PROVISION IN THE INTER-WAR PERIOD.



In January 1919 Councillor Emmanuel Shinwell addressed a meeting of the Glasgow Trades and Labour Council and called for a general strike in the city to take place on the 27th January. The purpose of the strike was to support their claim for a forty hour working week. On the 29th of January ‘Red Clydeside’ was on the march with Manny at their head. Some marchers carried weapons which they had brought back from the war. By the 3rd of February the government had moved troops in and had a squadron of tanks parked in the cattle market on the Gallowgate and they were prepared to use them.

Whatever else Manny and his army achieved, they got the government’s attention. This was concrete proof that the Red Tide had reached Britain from Russia and ‘steps had to be taken’. One of the measures to emerge from this collective frisson was the Addison Housing Act. This enlightened measure offered Treasury funding on all housing costs that could not be met by rents or the equivalent of a one penny rate. Although soon repealed as evidence of unrest receded, the Addison Act established the principle that Local Authorities were responsible for assessing and planning housing and that Treasury funding would help to finance the work.

Beyond this, the act alerted local authorities to the possibilities of housing provision, it stimulated planning and building industry capacity and the net result was that by the advent of the Second World War, Britain had a large stock of new municipal and private housing. Many of the old city slums, a hangover from the jerry building of the late 19th century had been done away with.

So there we have it. The basic structure of inter-war housing pared down to three paragraphs. It is a good broad picture of what was happening in the country as a whole. However, like many broad pictures, it fails to describe what happened in every local authority and district. In some cases, even though there was a need for housing improvement, local officials were reluctant to open up what they saw as a whole new field of local authority enterprise. Echoes of ‘Municipal Socialism’ still hung on from the late 19th Century. In other cases, new housing wasn’t needed.

Let’s have a look at a specific case and see what the factors were that were at work there and what resulted. I want to look at two aspects, the quantity of housing and the factors which provided it and, perhaps more important from the point of view of the population, the quality of life it afforded.

TOWN GROWTH AND HOUSING IN BARNOLDSWICK, YORKSHIRE, 1890 TO 1930.

The first thing to note is that I have had to stray outside the inter-war period. This is because what happened between 1890 and 1914 governed the events in the inter-war period. The fact that this is necessary flags up the complexity of the factors involved. This is not a simple story of masses of slum dwellings crying out for renewal.

Barnoldswick in 1890 was a small single industry town on the boundary of the West Riding of Yorkshire situated midway between Skipton and Burnley in Lancashire. Until 1800 it was a small village that divided its economy fairly equally between agriculture and a water-powered cotton spinning industry supporting a domestic economy of hand loom weaving. The advent of the Leeds and Liverpool canal in 1800 which passed through the centre of the town opened a transport link with both Lancashire and Yorkshire. Loads of 50 tons could be moved economically by one horse. This allowed Barnoldswick to exploit the fact that it was the nearest source of high quality lime to Lancashire and allowed the import of cheap coal.

By 1815 one of the old established water powered mills in the town, Mitchell’s Mill, had installed a steam engine and was expanding. A local entrepreneur, William Bracewell built two large steam mills, promoted a branch railway line, bought a colliery at Ingleton and by 1885 controlled most of the town. In that year he died suddenly, the bank foreclosed and the Bracewell empire crashed in a welter of court cases and forced sales. Labour flooded out of their rented accommodation into Lancashire and in September 1888 the Craven Herald reported that there were 300 houses empty in the town.

The workers had perfect freedom to move. The husband jumped on the train, found a job and a housing agent in one of the Lancashire boom towns, fastened a house and the rest of the family flitted by rail to join him. Owners of fixed capital in the town like businessmen, shop keepers and professional persons had no such luxury. They took action and by 1889 two ‘Shed Companies’ had been formed. The Long Ing Shed Company and the Calf Hall Shed Company. These were financed by local subscription, built brand new steam powered weaving sheds and let them out to individual entrepreneurs on the basis that the shed company provided the space and the power. The entrepreneurs provided the looms, preparation machinery and the labour. This Room and Power System provided an opportunity to start a business at very low thresholds of entry and was immensely successful.

The shed companies were very profitable and so was the cotton trade. By 1900 there was great unrest amongst the tenants because they resented the high profits the shed companies were making but couldn’t get hold of any shares because they were so widely scattered. Their reaction was to build sheds of their own.

This ushered in the next stage of expansion in the town, a wave of new shed building that started in 1900 and ended in 1920. Barnoldswick had developed from a sleepy village to one of the heaviest concentrations of weaving ever seen in the North of England.

So, to summarise, we have four stages of growth. First the original village, 1800 to 1885 the Bracewell hegemony, 1885 to 1900 the growth of Room and Power and the shed companies and 1900 to 1920 the expansion into new mills by the successful manufacturers who had made their capital in room and power.

One more look at the basics and then we can actually look at the housing. Two major inputs are needed to fuel the growth of any industry. They are capital and labour. My research into the town has never identified any difficulty in obtaining capital. When the Calf Hall Shed Company was founded, £6000 of the £10,000 starting capital was raised in a fortnight in the town and surrounding district. The majority of this came from small purchasers by workers. (This spread of ownership plus the effects of partiple inheritance was the reason why the manufacturers couldn’t get hold of the shares later on) A contributory factor was that there was no bank in the town and workers not only bought shares but lent money to the shed companies at 1% below bank interest. The factor in short supply was weavers and these were attracted to the town by two things, the availability of work for all members of the family old enough to work and cheap rented accommodation built by the manufacturers.

Here are some statistics which put a scale on these stages of growth.

Year Population houses looms
1811 1946 318 ----
1851 2985 535 500 (estimate)
1861 3618 575 1000(est)
1871 4000(est) 950(est) 2000
1881 4733 979 2000
1891 4938 1040 3500
1901 6500 ---- 7000
1911 8000 ---- 15000
1920(est) 12000 ---- 25000

These figures are not complete but suffice to illustrate the factor which governs Barnoldswick’s need for housing during the inter-war years. The explosion in activity from 1891 to 1920 is the key. Fuelled by buoyant demand and high prices, the town expanded by almost 200%.

THE PROVISION OF HOUSING IN BARNOLDSWICK.

During the Bracewell phase, housing in the town needed a kick start by the manufacturers. Whilst Bracewell was by far the major employer there were others and they all built housing to attract workers. This phase had largely died out by the mid 1860s because the workers were starting to build for themselves. Where did they get the capital?

One of the key features of the textile industry was the ‘Family Wage’. Children could start work half time at ten years old in 1892 and the practice in Barnoldswick was that they ‘tipped up’ their wage until they were 21 years old. This is to say that they gave their wage to their parents and received pocket money. From 21 years onwards they ‘boarded’, paying what was in effect rent and clothing themselves. An example, in 1896 William Clark, his wife and three of his daughters were all working and the family wage was £7 a week. The average weekly wage for a four loom weaver then was 25/-. To make a crude but effective comparison, the average wage for a weaver in 2003 is £250 to £300 a week. This puts the Clark family on the equivalent of £1,250 a week. This is a gross simplification but illustrates the point that such a family was well able to finance not only a new house but house building for provision in old age. The great fear was poverty in old age and the workhouse. The pension fund was to build a row of houses with a bigger ‘landlord’s house’ on the end and often a shop at the other. There are many examples of this type of enterprise in Barnoldswick.

Another factor we should take into account is the disparity between the weaver’s wage and the overlookers or tacklers. They had a very strong union and were essential to the running of the mill and commanded high wages. Many opened shops, built houses and eventually started as manufacturers or invested in new shed building.

This concept of working class capital resources is reinforced by the ease with which the shed companies and manufacturers raised capital in the 1890 to 1920 phase of activity. From 1900 to 1920 there was a massive surge in house building and the physical area of the town increased 200%. This was composed of terraced housing built for rent and a large proportion of large semi-detached and detached houses for the working class aristocracy and the manufacturers. The local Co-operative Society was doing so well that when it needed a new shop it tended to build a row of houses with a shop on the end and either sell or rent the surplus. All this housing was privately financed, none was state sector. The only investment the Local Board and later the Urban District Council put in was to finance and provide the gas, water, and sewage services which they financed by loans initially, but by profits from charges thereafter.

By 1920 the town of Barnoldswick was as we see it today if we ignore post World War Two council housing. There was a very high proportion of owner occupiers and apart from a small number of sub-standard houses in the oldest part of the town, all the housing was of adequate or above average standard.

Barnoldswick is a stone-built town. It had wonderful quarries which were in full production up to the Second World War and there was no local source of bricks. All the building I have described, even the earliest, are of stone. The result of this has been that even the oldest buildings which survived road widening in the town centre were too sound to demolish and have proved attractive to modern developers. They have all been renovated, they have ceased to be slums and become cottages.

In 1920, when the town had reached the peak of its development, the cotton trade cracked once the post war re-stocking boom had finished. On the surface all looked well but the manufacturers margins were squeezed and they entered into the long inter-war conflict in the cotton industry to lower wages and introduce the ‘More Looms System’. Levels of workers employment started to fall. Workers incomes were squeezed and many people left the town to seek work in the hot spots of the Midlands. This reduced demand for housing and in the inter war period Barnoldswick had a surplus of good quality houses.

So, what lesson can we take from this gallop through Barnoldswick history? Certainly nothing that can be employed as a general model, but that actually is my case. Manny and his Brothers got the government’s attention and far reaching changes occurred at central and local government level which were the precursors of the inter war housing policies. However, none of this had any bearing on the specific case we have looked at, the Barnoldswick experience was totally different. General theories are fine and have their place, but the historian who assumes that a general case can be applied to the particular is digging a very deep hole. Housing in Barnoldswick during the inter-war period is a negative report, there wasn’t any. We should note the broad picture but take note of local factors when applying it to specific cases.



THE STANDARD OF HOUSING PROVISION IN BARNOLDSWICK AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF THE INHABITANTS.

Numbers of houses, the availability of a roof, is a poor measure of housing standards. The factors that affect the inhabitants are the soundness of the structure, availability of services and utilities, the density of occupancy and income. The level at which these factors shift from privation for the occupants to acceptable levels of comfort depends on the workers expectations. When we assess these criteria we should remember that if we really want to understand the quality of life at the time we must look at them through the contemporary frame of reference.

In 1890 Barnoldswick had a water and gas supply, most houses were connected to a rudimentary sewage system but the majority of houses still had bucket toilets which were emptied once a week by the scavengers. All other household refuse was dealt with by burning it on the open fire in the house and throwing the ashes into a stone compartment in the backyard which could be emptied by opening a low level door in the back street, raking the detritus out and shovelling it into a cart. This was done approximately every fortnight. By 1910 all new housing was provided with flush toilets connected to a true water carriage sewage system and dustbins were replacing the ash pits. Most of the older houses still worked on the old systems.

The streets were dry macadamed, in winter they were muddy and in summer the dust flew in clouds. This dust contained dry horse manure, the droppings from the scavenging and night soil carts and all the other nastiness that fell in the street. Food storage in shops and houses was at room temperature and largely uncovered. Milk was delivered twice a day because in summer it would go sour in six hours. All milk was untreated and carried infection. Tuberculosis and brucellosis (Contagious abortion in cattle and undulating fever in humans) were common. The whole community was under siege from airborne infection and almost everyone was prone to low levels of diarrhoea. A very good example of our frame of reference compared to the average Barlicker in 1890 is that if we were exposed to these levels of infection we would drop like flies, our immune systems would be overwhelmed.

All the housing stock, apart from the grandest manufacturer’s houses, was poorly heated. There would be one open fire in each house in the kitchen, these usually had an oven on one side and a set boiler on the other. All the cooking and baking was done on this fire. The set boiler provided hot water as long as you remembered to top it up from the one cold tap in the house every time you drew water off.

Most, but not all of the houses had gas light downstairs but none upstairs. Some had incandescent mantles but most were simple fishtail jets. There were some gas lamps in the street, usually on the corner so they lit more than one thoroughfare.
It all sounds pretty horrendous doesn’t it, and in point of fact, levels of infection and mortality were very high. Medical care was rudimentary but one peculiar effect of this was that mortality in childbirth if you were poor was lower than if you were rich. It seems that the lower the level of intervention, the better your chance of survival because the doctors were less competent than the midwives.

The point is that everything I have described was the norm in 1890. Things could only get better. A poor person graduating from a set boiler to a gas boiler or a bucket toilet to a tippler was a king! I have talked to people who lived through these years and the only time they felt deprived was when they were short of work and hungry. None complain about day to day life, indeed, the passing of some aspects is regretted. In those days, in the body of the town, you were never more than 100 yards from a corner shop. Most of these worked on ‘shop books’, a rudimentary form of credit. There was a well frequented pawnshop, Isaac Levi’s in the main street. Isaac would lend money unsecured and I have never heard one complaint against him or his interest rates. Everything you needed could be procured within walking distance.

This walking distance often encompassed the surrounding fields. It was common for people to walk out and harvest berries and nuts from the hedgerows, water cress and earth nuts from the fields and firewood. Hunter gathering persisted far longer than many historians imagine. There was of course a darker side to hunter gathering, poaching of game and salmon was common. My mate Ernie Roberts was very poor. He lived with his mother and three siblings in a one up one down back-to-back house with virtually no income. His father died after being gassed in the Great War. His youngest brother was small enough to be inserted through the bob hole of a locked hen hut to collect the eggs. These people were living on the margin but they survived and looked back on the struggle with some regret but a great deal of good humour.

I think we now have a rudimentary picture of what life in Barlick was like around 1900/1920. Things were starting to change but in the context of our enquiry, how did things change in the inter-war years?

Everything is relative and the first thing to say is that after the horrors of the losses endured in the Great War, things could only get better. Or so everyone thought. In the event, things got worse for a time. A chance mutation of the flu virus with a pig disease on a farm in Iowa in 1917 sparked the biggest epidemic the world had ever seen. They called it Spanish Flu and it hit Barlick in 1919. More people died from this in the town than were killed in the war. The net effect was that it was 1920 before people felt they were climbing out into normality again. This was reinforced by the opening of a new weaving shed in March 1920, 450 new jobs in the town. As we have already noted this was the beginning of the terminal decline in the single industry that the town relied on but it was not immediately evident.

The Urban District Council was busy. They bought Letcliffe Farm and made it into a park with a bandstand, a war memorial, lawns and flower beds and an old army tank on a pedestal. The sewage system was improved and the long process of eliminating bucket and tippler toilets started. The new housing stock had bathrooms, this signalled the decline of the tin bath in front of the fire on Friday night. Electricity reached the town in November 1932 and was, apart from the improvements in the sewage system, probably the biggest improvement to hit the town. Motor transport started to appear. You may wonder how this improved the housing conditions of the workers. I am sure it was not intended but this displaced horses and gradually reduced fouling of the streets thus lowering airborne infection levels. The old dry macadam roads were inadequate for the new vehicles and, starting in the centre of the town, stone paving was laid in the streets reducing mud and dust. Again, this improved air quality.

The Sanitary Inspector was a busy man. The Urban District Council strictly enforced regulation of milk dealers, food shops and slaughter houses. They inspected rented premises and places of work and forced landlords and manufacturers to install and maintain water closets and proper drainage.

Once standards rose in the infrastructure of the town it became easier to raise standards in the home. Because the Council were acting as retailers of gas and electricity they actively promoted the sale on easy terms of appliances to raise consumption of energy. Gas cookers and boilers, rudimentary washing machines, electric fires and lighting systems came within reach of all but the poorest people.

The elderly, the widowed and the infirm benefited from the great social security reforms early in the century and this awareness of what we could perhaps call ‘the benefit culture’ triggered people like Ernie Robert’s mother into asking awkward questions about some recompense for the loss of her husband due to war injuries. She found she was entitled to £2 a week and her life changed. They moved to a bigger house and her life did nothing but improve until she died in the 1950s.

The story in Barlick between the wars isn’t one of massive programmes of slum clearance and new house building. It is a cumulative improvement based on new technology, heightened awareness of public health issues and the availability of new products which eased burdens and improved the quality of life. The beginnings of Social Security, meagre though it may seem to us today was a quantum leap forward from the regime of outdoor relief and charity. The fact that three cinemas opened in the town after the Great War is cited by many old residents. They saw this as being just as important as a good sewage system!

In the case of the improvements to the infrastructure the Treasury played an important role. I haven’t come across a single case of the Council being refuse a loan by central government. The gas and electricity, the improvements to sanitation and even the building of a new road between Barlick and Earby in the early 30s to give employment were all generously funded by central government.

So, what have we to report about housing in Barnoldswick during the inter-war years? If we are talking about new build, the answer is zero. If we take a wider view and consider Central and Local Government investment in the infrastructure of the town with consequent benefit to an existing housing stock, the overall picture is one of steady improvement. Significantly, this improvement took place against the background of falling employment, diminishing profits and mill closures starting in the 1930s. Barnoldswick was bucking more than one trend.

Ironically, the biggest improvement of all was triggered by Herr Hitler. The government started looking for alternative sites for key war industries in the late 1930s, some forward planning was being done despite the appeasers. Barnoldswick had empty mills, skilled workers and was well off the beaten track. The Rover Company moved into the town in 1940 and in Bankfield Shed they found some space for a mad inventor who they were supporting. His name was Frank Whittle and he was developing the world’s first practical jet engine. In 1942 Rolls Royce took over the enterprise and changed the suffix letter of the engine type numbers from ‘W’ for Whittle to ‘RB’ for Rolls Barnoldswick. The town had a new industry and this sustained not only the economy but the addition of a large council estate to the housing stock in the 1950s. At last, Barnoldswick had municipal housing.

CONCLUSION.

Barnoldswick didn’t benefit from inter-war house building under any of the government measures. This was not due to any lack of enterprise by the Urban District Council but because of lack of demand. The rapid expansion of the town form 1890 to 1920 had triggered a housing boom financed by private capital. This raised the overall standard and availability of housing just at the time that the textile industry started to decline and demand for houses diminished. Therefore, during the inter-war years, the Council was able to devote their energies and capacity to draw on Treasury Funds to improvement of the infrastructure. These broad improvements and innovations allowed standards to rise in private housing. Interventions by the Sanitary Inspectors using new powers raised standards throughout the town. Improvements in social security cushioned the effects of recession and the end result was a town with as sound a housing stock as any other in the land but with no new build.

Barnoldswick was, as usual, out of step with national trends. The general course of housing provision by Treasury intervention left the town untouched until the 1950s. This does not invalidate the Treasury’s role as a valuable aid to improving housing conditions overall. It simply flags up a warning that it is a mistake to assume that generous government intervention is universally applicable or taken up. Specific case histories can throw up surprising discontinuities in national trends.

SCG/02 February 2003
4282 words


SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT HOUSING PROVISION IN THE INTER-WAR PERIOD.



In January 1919 Councillor Emmanuel Shinwell addressed a meeting of the Glasgow Trades and Labour Council and called for a general strike in the city to take place on the 27th January. The purpose of the strike was to support their claim for a forty hour working week. On the 29th of January ‘Red Clydeside’ was on the march with Manny at their head. Some marchers carried weapons which they had brought back from the war. By the 3rd of February the government had moved troops in and had a squadron of tanks parked in the cattle market on the Gallowgate and they were prepared to use them.

Whatever else Manny and his army achieved, they got the government’s attention. This was concrete proof that the Red Tide had reached Britain from Russia and ‘steps had to be taken’. One of the measures to emerge from this collective frisson was the Addison Housing Act. This enlightened measure offered Treasury funding on all housing costs that could not be met by rents or the equivalent of a one penny rate. Although soon repealed as evidence of unrest receded, the Addison Act established the principle that Local Authorities were responsible for assessing and planning housing and that Treasury funding would help to finance the work.

Beyond this, the act alerted local authorities to the possibilities of housing provision, it stimulated planning and building industry capacity and the net result was that by the advent of the Second World War, Britain had a large stock of new municipal and private housing. Many of the old city slums, a hangover from the jerry building of the late 19th century had been done away with.

So there we have it. The basic structure of inter-war housing pared down to three paragraphs. It is a good broad picture of what was happening in the country as a whole. However, like many broad pictures, it fails to describe what happened in every local authority and district. In some cases, even though there was a need for housing improvement, local officials were reluctant to open up what they saw as a whole new field of local authority enterprise. Echoes of ‘Municipal Socialism’ still hung on from the late 19th Century. In other cases, new housing wasn’t needed.

Let’s have a look at a specific case and see what the factors were that were at work there and what resulted. I want to look at two aspects, the quantity of housing and the factors which provided it and, perhaps more important from the point of view of the population, the quality of life it afforded.

TOWN GROWTH AND HOUSING IN BARNOLDSWICK, YORKSHIRE, 1890 TO 1930.

The first thing to note is that I have had to stray outside the inter-war period. This is because what happened between 1890 and 1914 governed the events in the inter-war period. The fact that this is necessary flags up the complexity of the factors involved. This is not a simple story of masses of slum dwellings crying out for renewal.

Barnoldswick in 1890 was a small single industry town on the boundary of the West Riding of Yorkshire situated midway between Skipton and Burnley in Lancashire. Until 1800 it was a small village that divided its economy fairly equally between agriculture and a water-powered cotton spinning industry supporting a domestic economy of hand loom weaving. The advent of the Leeds and Liverpool canal in 1800 which passed through the centre of the town opened a transport link with both Lancashire and Yorkshire. Loads of 50 tons could be moved economically by one horse. This allowed Barnoldswick to exploit the fact that it was the nearest source of high quality lime to Lancashire and allowed the import of cheap coal.

By 1815 one of the old established water powered mills in the town, Mitchell’s Mill, had installed a steam engine and was expanding. A local entrepreneur, William Bracewell built two large steam mills, promoted a branch railway line, bought a colliery at Ingleton and by 1885 controlled most of the town. In that year he died suddenly, the bank foreclosed and the Bracewell empire crashed in a welter of court cases and forced sales. Labour flooded out of their rented accommodation into Lancashire and in September 1888 the Craven Herald reported that there were 300 houses empty in the town.

The workers had perfect freedom to move. The husband jumped on the train, found a job and a housing agent in one of the Lancashire boom towns, fastened a house and the rest of the family flitted by rail to join him. Owners of fixed capital in the town like businessmen, shop keepers and professional persons had no such luxury. They took action and by 1889 two ‘Shed Companies’ had been formed. The Long Ing Shed Company and the Calf Hall Shed Company. These were financed by local subscription, built brand new steam powered weaving sheds and let them out to individual entrepreneurs on the basis that the shed company provided the space and the power. The entrepreneurs provided the looms, preparation machinery and the labour. This Room and Power System provided an opportunity to start a business at very low thresholds of entry and was immensely successful.

The shed companies were very profitable and so was the cotton trade. By 1900 there was great unrest amongst the tenants because they resented the high profits the shed companies were making but couldn’t get hold of any shares because they were so widely scattered. Their reaction was to build sheds of their own.

This ushered in the next stage of expansion in the town, a wave of new shed building that started in 1900 and ended in 1920. Barnoldswick had developed from a sleepy village to one of the heaviest concentrations of weaving ever seen in the North of England.

So, to summarise, we have four stages of growth. First the original village, 1800 to 1885 the Bracewell hegemony, 1885 to 1900 the growth of Room and Power and the shed companies and 1900 to 1920 the expansion into new mills by the successful manufacturers who had made their capital in room and power.

One more look at the basics and then we can actually look at the housing. Two major inputs are needed to fuel the growth of any industry. They are capital and labour. My research into the town has never identified any difficulty in obtaining capital. When the Calf Hall Shed Company was founded, £6000 of the £10,000 starting capital was raised in a fortnight in the town and surrounding district. The majority of this came from small purchasers by workers. (This spread of ownership plus the effects of partiple inheritance was the reason why the manufacturers couldn’t get hold of the shares later on) A contributory factor was that there was no bank in the town and workers not only bought shares but lent money to the shed companies at 1% below bank interest. The factor in short supply was weavers and these were attracted to the town by two things, the availability of work for all members of the family old enough to work and cheap rented accommodation built by the manufacturers.

Here are some statistics which put a scale on these stages of growth.

Year Population houses looms
1811 1946 318 ----
1851 2985 535 500 (estimate)
1861 3618 575 1000(est)
1871 4000(est) 950(est) 2000
1881 4733 979 2000
1891 4938 1040 3500
1901 6500 ---- 7000
1911 8000 ---- 15000
1920(est) 12000 ---- 25000

These figures are not complete but suffice to illustrate the factor which governs Barnoldswick’s need for housing during the inter-war years. The explosion in activity from 1891 to 1920 is the key. Fuelled by buoyant demand and high prices, the town expanded by almost 200%.

THE PROVISION OF HOUSING IN BARNOLDSWICK.

During the Bracewell phase, housing in the town needed a kick start by the manufacturers. Whilst Bracewell was by far the major employer there were others and they all built housing to attract workers. This phase had largely died out by the mid 1860s because the workers were starting to build for themselves. Where did they get the capital?

One of the key features of the textile industry was the ‘Family Wage’. Children could start work half time at ten years old in 1892 and the practice in Barnoldswick was that they ‘tipped up’ their wage until they were 21 years old. This is to say that they gave their wage to their parents and received pocket money. From 21 years onwards they ‘boarded’, paying what was in effect rent and clothing themselves. An example, in 1896 William Clark, his wife and three of his daughters were all working and the family wage was £7 a week. The average weekly wage for a four loom weaver then was 25/-. To make a crude but effective comparison, the average wage for a weaver in 2003 is £250 to £300 a week. This puts the Clark family on the equivalent of £1,250 a week. This is a gross simplification but illustrates the point that such a family was well able to finance not only a new house but house building for provision in old age. The great fear was poverty in old age and the workhouse. The pension fund was to build a row of houses with a bigger ‘landlord’s house’ on the end and often a shop at the other. There are many examples of this type of enterprise in Barnoldswick.

Another factor we should take into account is the disparity between the weaver’s wage and the overlookers or tacklers. They had a very strong union and were essential to the running of the mill and commanded high wages. Many opened shops, built houses and eventually started as manufacturers or invested in new shed building.

This concept of working class capital resources is reinforced by the ease with which the shed companies and manufacturers raised capital in the 1890 to 1920 phase of activity. From 1900 to 1920 there was a massive surge in house building and the physical area of the town increased 200%. This was composed of terraced housing built for rent and a large proportion of large semi-detached and detached houses for the working class aristocracy and the manufacturers. The local Co-operative Society was doing so well that when it needed a new shop it tended to build a row of houses with a shop on the end and either sell or rent the surplus. All this housing was privately financed, none was state sector. The only investment the Local Board and later the Urban District Council put in was to finance and provide the gas, water, and sewage services which they financed by loans initially, but by profits from charges thereafter.

By 1920 the town of Barnoldswick was as we see it today if we ignore post World War Two council housing. There was a very high proportion of owner occupiers and apart from a small number of sub-standard houses in the oldest part of the town, all the housing was of adequate or above average standard.

Barnoldswick is a stone-built town. It had wonderful quarries which were in full production up to the Second World War and there was no local source of bricks. All the building I have described, even the earliest, are of stone. The result of this has been that even the oldest buildings which survived road widening in the town centre were too sound to demolish and have proved attractive to modern developers. They have all been renovated, they have ceased to be slums and become cottages.

In 1920, when the town had reached the peak of its development, the cotton trade cracked once the post war re-stocking boom had finished. On the surface all looked well but the manufacturers margins were squeezed and they entered into the long inter-war conflict in the cotton industry to lower wages and introduce the ‘More Looms System’. Levels of workers employment started to fall. Workers incomes were squeezed and many people left the town to seek work in the hot spots of the Midlands. This reduced demand for housing and in the inter war period Barnoldswick had a surplus of good quality houses.

So, what lesson can we take from this gallop through Barnoldswick history? Certainly nothing that can be employed as a general model, but that actually is my case. Manny and his Brothers got the government’s attention and far reaching changes occurred at central and local government level which were the precursors of the inter war housing policies. However, none of this had any bearing on the specific case we have looked at, the Barnoldswick experience was totally different. General theories are fine and have their place, but the historian who assumes that a general case can be applied to the particular is digging a very deep hole. Housing in Barnoldswick during the inter-war period is a negative report, there wasn’t any. We should note the broad picture but take note of local factors when applying it to specific cases.



THE STANDARD OF HOUSING PROVISION IN BARNOLDSWICK AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF THE INHABITANTS.

Numbers of houses, the availability of a roof, is a poor measure of housing standards. The factors that affect the inhabitants are the soundness of the structure, availability of services and utilities, the density of occupancy and income. The level at which these factors shift from privation for the occupants to acceptable levels of comfort depends on the workers expectations. When we assess these criteria we should remember that if we really want to understand the quality of life at the time we must look at them through the contemporary frame of reference.

In 1890 Barnoldswick had a water and gas supply, most houses were connected to a rudimentary sewage system but the majority of houses still had bucket toilets which were emptied once a week by the scavengers. All other household refuse was dealt with by burning it on the open fire in the house and throwing the ashes into a stone compartment in the backyard which could be emptied by opening a low level door in the back street, raking the detritus out and shovelling it into a cart. This was done approximately every fortnight. By 1910 all new housing was provided with flush toilets connected to a true water carriage sewage system and dustbins were replacing the ash pits. Most of the older houses still worked on the old systems.

The streets were dry macadamed, in winter they were muddy and in summer the dust flew in clouds. This dust contained dry horse manure, the droppings from the scavenging and night soil carts and all the other nastiness that fell in the street. Food storage in shops and houses was at room temperature and largely uncovered. Milk was delivered twice a day because in summer it would go sour in six hours. All milk was untreated and carried infection. Tuberculosis and brucellosis (Contagious abortion in cattle and undulating fever in humans) were common. The whole community was under siege from airborne infection and almost everyone was prone to low levels of diarrhoea. A very good example of our frame of reference compared to the average Barlicker in 1890 is that if we were exposed to these levels of infection we would drop like flies, our immune systems would be overwhelmed.

All the housing stock, apart from the grandest manufacturer’s houses, was poorly heated. There would be one open fire in each house in the kitchen, these usually had an oven on one side and a set boiler on the other. All the cooking and baking was done on this fire. The set boiler provided hot water as long as you remembered to top it up from the one cold tap in the house every time you drew water off.

Most, but not all of the houses had gas light downstairs but none upstairs. Some had incandescent mantles but most were simple fishtail jets. There were some gas lamps in the street, usually on the corner so they lit more than one thoroughfare.
It all sounds pretty horrendous doesn’t it, and in point of fact, levels of infection and mortality were very high. Medical care was rudimentary but one peculiar effect of this was that mortality in childbirth if you were poor was lower than if you were rich. It seems that the lower the level of intervention, the better your chance of survival because the doctors were less competent than the midwives.

The point is that everything I have described was the norm in 1890. Things could only get better. A poor person graduating from a set boiler to a gas boiler or a bucket toilet to a tippler was a king! I have talked to people who lived through these years and the only time they felt deprived was when they were short of work and hungry. None complain about day to day life, indeed, the passing of some aspects is regretted. In those days, in the body of the town, you were never more than 100 yards from a corner shop. Most of these worked on ‘shop books’, a rudimentary form of credit. There was a well frequented pawnshop, Isaac Levi’s in the main street. Isaac would lend money unsecured and I have never heard one complaint against him or his interest rates. Everything you needed could be procured within walking distance.

This walking distance often encompassed the surrounding fields. It was common for people to walk out and harvest berries and nuts from the hedgerows, water cress and earth nuts from the fields and firewood. Hunter gathering persisted far longer than many historians imagine. There was of course a darker side to hunter gathering, poaching of game and salmon was common. My mate Ernie Roberts was very poor. He lived with his mother and three siblings in a one up one down back-to-back house with virtually no income. His father died after being gassed in the Great War. His youngest brother was small enough to be inserted through the bob hole of a locked hen hut to collect the eggs. These people were living on the margin but they survived and looked back on the struggle with some regret but a great deal of good humour.

I think we now have a rudimentary picture of what life in Barlick was like around 1900/1920. Things were starting to change but in the context of our enquiry, how did things change in the inter-war years?

Everything is relative and the first thing to say is that after the horrors of the losses endured in the Great War, things could only get better. Or so everyone thought. In the event, things got worse for a time. A chance mutation of the flu virus with a pig disease on a farm in Iowa in 1917 sparked the biggest epidemic the world had ever seen. They called it Spanish Flu and it hit Barlick in 1919. More people died from this in the town than were killed in the war. The net effect was that it was 1920 before people felt they were climbing out into normality again. This was reinforced by the opening of a new weaving shed in March 1920, 450 new jobs in the town. As we have already noted this was the beginning of the terminal decline in the single industry that the town relied on but it was not immediately evident.

The Urban District Council was busy. They bought Letcliffe Farm and made it into a park with a bandstand, a war memorial, lawns and flower beds and an old army tank on a pedestal. The sewage system was improved and the long process of eliminating bucket and tippler toilets started. The new housing stock had bathrooms, this signalled the decline of the tin bath in front of the fire on Friday night. Electricity reached the town in November 1932 and was, apart from the improvements in the sewage system, probably the biggest improvement to hit the town. Motor transport started to appear. You may wonder how this improved the housing conditions of the workers. I am sure it was not intended but this displaced horses and gradually reduced fouling of the streets thus lowering airborne infection levels. The old dry macadam roads were inadequate for the new vehicles and, starting in the centre of the town, stone paving was laid in the streets reducing mud and dust. Again, this improved air quality.

The Sanitary Inspector was a busy man. The Urban District Council strictly enforced regulation of milk dealers, food shops and slaughter houses. They inspected rented premises and places of work and forced landlords and manufacturers to install and maintain water closets and proper drainage.

Once standards rose in the infrastructure of the town it became easier to raise standards in the home. Because the Council were acting as retailers of gas and electricity they actively promoted the sale on easy terms of appliances to raise consumption of energy. Gas cookers and boilers, rudimentary washing machines, electric fires and lighting systems came within reach of all but the poorest people.

The elderly, the widowed and the infirm benefited from the great social security reforms early in the century and this awareness of what we could perhaps call ‘the benefit culture’ triggered people like Ernie Robert’s mother into asking awkward questions about some recompense for the loss of her husband due to war injuries. She found she was entitled to £2 a week and her life changed. They moved to a bigger house and her life did nothing but improve until she died in the 1950s.

The story in Barlick between the wars isn’t one of massive programmes of slum clearance and new house building. It is a cumulative improvement based on new technology, heightened awareness of public health issues and the availability of new products which eased burdens and improved the quality of life. The beginnings of Social Security, meagre though it may seem to us today was a quantum leap forward from the regime of outdoor relief and charity. The fact that three cinemas opened in the town after the Great War is cited by many old residents. They saw this as being just as important as a good sewage system!

In the case of the improvements to the infrastructure the Treasury played an important role. I haven’t come across a single case of the Council being refuse a loan by central government. The gas and electricity, the improvements to sanitation and even the building of a new road between Barlick and Earby in the early 30s to give employment were all generously funded by central government.

So, what have we to report about housing in Barnoldswick during the inter-war years? If we are talking about new build, the answer is zero. If we take a wider view and consider Central and Local Government investment in the infrastructure of the town with consequent benefit to an existing housing stock, the overall picture is one of steady improvement. Significantly, this improvement took place against the background of falling employment, diminishing profits and mill closures starting in the 1930s. Barnoldswick was bucking more than one trend.

Ironically, the biggest improvement of all was triggered by Herr Hitler. The government started looking for alternative sites for key war industries in the late 1930s, some forward planning was being done despite the appeasers. Barnoldswick had empty mills, skilled workers and was well off the beaten track. The Rover Company moved into the town in 1940 and in Bankfield Shed they found some space for a mad inventor who they were supporting. His name was Frank Whittle and he was developing the world’s first practical jet engine. In 1942 Rolls Royce took over the enterprise and changed the suffix letter of the engine type numbers from ‘W’ for Whittle to ‘RB’ for Rolls Barnoldswick. The town had a new industry and this sustained not only the economy but the addition of a large council estate to the housing stock in the 1950s. At last, Barnoldswick had municipal housing.

CONCLUSION.

Barnoldswick didn’t benefit from inter-war house building under any of the government measures. This was not due to any lack of enterprise by the Urban District Council but because of lack of demand. The rapid expansion of the town form 1890 to 1920 had triggered a housing boom financed by private capital. This raised the overall standard and availability of housing just at the time that the textile industry started to decline and demand for houses diminished. Therefore, during the inter-war years, the Council was able to devote their energies and capacity to draw on Treasury Funds to improvement of the infrastructure. These broad improvements and innovations allowed standards to rise in private housing. Interventions by the Sanitary Inspectors using new powers raised standards throughout the town. Improvements in social security cushioned the effects of recession and the end result was a town with as sound a housing stock as any other in the land but with no new build.

Barnoldswick was, as usual, out of step with national trends. The general course of housing provision by Treasury intervention left the town untouched until the 1950s. This does not invalidate the Treasury’s role as a valuable aid to improving housing conditions overall. It simply flags up a warning that it is a mistake to assume that generous government intervention is universally applicable or taken up. Specific case histories can throw up surprising discontinuities in national trends.

SCG/02 February 2003
4282 words


AFTER THE WAR WAS OVER


Jim finally got back to Barlick and Civvy Street in summer 1946. He was thirty years old, married and had had a very close brush with death. He decided to take it easy for a while, enjoy home life and have a look round.

The first thing that struck him was how little Barlick had changed. He didn’t actually say it but I got the impression that after his experiences it must have seemed strange that the town hadn’t changed as much as he had. I asked him what the attitude was to ex-servicemen and he told me there was no reaction at all. The war had ended over a year ago and it was not the thought that was uppermost in people’s minds. He wasn’t Jim Pollard, conquering hero, more a case of ‘Oh, you’re back are you!’

Unlike many places in Britain, Barlick hadn’t suffered from enemy action. Indeed, it could be argued that the war had treated the town very well. In 1940 the government had moved the Rover Company up to Barlick and they took over Grove and Sough Bridge at Earby, Calf Hall, Butts and Bankfield in Barlick and had Bracewell Hall as an administrative centre. Rolls Royce took over the Rover aero engine interests in 1942 and even though this commitment was scaled down after the war, Barlick was left with its first new industry ever and it paid twice the wage that the mills did. This was crucial to the town’s survival and we should always remember that it was not planned help for a failing textile town but a complete accident of fate. Hitler was bad news for so many people but in a strange way, he had brought about an improvement for us.

Jim soon got bored with doing nothing so he thought he’d have a walk down to the Labour Exchange to see what work was going. The clerk offered him a job at the gasworks on the retorts. Jim said “You must be joking!! Can’t you see I’m graded C3?” To no avail, that was it, shovelling coal or nothing, so he decided to take a walk up to Bancroft. The following week Jim was back on his seat behind the looming frame and he stayed there for the next thirty two years.

What interested me when I was talking to Jim in 1978 when we knew we were closing in December was his assessment of what had gone wrong after the war. How could an industry like textiles that was so important to the town fade away? Who was to blame?

He reminded me that after the war the cry was ‘Export or die!’ and ‘Britain’s Bread hangs by Lancashire’s Thread.’ Good weavers were scarce, The supply of itinerant weavers had slacked off before the war, Briggs and Duxbury moved into the redundant Model Lodgings in Butts in 1936. All the manufacturers were concerned with was production, quality didn’t matter, they could sell anything they wove so they recruited labour, trained them in a few weeks and then put them on a set of looms. There were cosmetic changes to attract labour like canteen facilities, transport to and from work and relaxation in rules but the fundamentals didn’t change at all.

The More Looms System was universal by now but in Bancroft’s case, none of the looms were modified to take the larger shuttles that made the system possible. They relied on the skill of the tacklers to time the looms accurately enough to make them weave. This meant more traps and smashes and a reduction in efficiency, remember that most of these looms were secondhand when the mill started in 1920. Worst of all in Jim’s eyes was the fact that men like Wilfred Nutter were still working in the same mind set they had before the war. To them, labour was factory fodder, there was an unlimited supply and all they had to do to make money was to keep wages and maintenance to a minimum and weave as much cloth as they could. The fact that a sweeper at Rolls got more than the best weaver in the shed didn’t even register with them. It was as though the new opportunities didn’t exist.

In the late 1940s Jim hadn’t got this clear insight into what was going wrong. He was concentrating on his job, to get warps into the shed and cloth out as efficiently as he could. The thing that concerned him most was the fact that notwithstanding his increased responsibilities, as short time hit the industry after the post-war boom, he was laid off on the dole with the rest of them. It irked him that he was a key man but was treated like a loomsweeper.

Suddenly there was a ray of light, he got a letter from Ayr Cricket Club offering him the post of professional. At that time he was at his peak as a cricketer and this looked like a golden opportunity. However, there was a problem, Ivy didn’t want to move so Jim swallowed his disappointment and made the best of a bad job. Before he refused the job at Ayr he went to Wilfred Nutter and showed him the letter. He told him that the only thing that would stop him going would be if he was put on a guaranteed wage regardless of whether the mill was stopped or not. Driven by the double prospect of losing a good worker and a mainstay of the Barlick cricket team, Wilfred agreed and Jim wrote to Ayr declining the post. The sad thing is that he always regretted doing this.

There is little doubt that the causes of the death of the mills in Barlick were more complicated than Jim’s version. However, there is also no doubt that a man of his experience knew what he was talking about. I have little doubt that most of the manufacturers were in a time warp. They had a choice, they either grabbed their capital and got out or they risked losing it all on modernisation. I think that in terms of their own wealth, they made the right decision and the end result was to drag Barlick kicking and screaming into the twentieth century. The bottom line is who paid the price? In the short term it was the people who made it all possible, the workers.


SCG/30 December 2002
1077 words.



JIM POLLARD’S WAR.

One of the things you had to learn to deal with when you were in the army was the fact that you had no control over your life. The upper classes specialised in not letting the squaddies know anything. You weren’t there to think, simply to follow orders. You always got to the stage where you knew you were going to be sent somewhere to do something you didn’t like but nobody ever told you what it was. In my case, even though the war was over, we knew that there was an odds on chance we were going to be sent to Korea. I can tell you this, forget the heroics, we didn’t want to go! In the event, we were sent to Berlin and had a fairly exciting but uneventful life.

Jim of course had a far higher chance of being sent somewhere dangerous and one day they got orders to pack up and get ready for a move. This was bad news because they had a fairly cushy job. In the middle of the night they were loaded on to a blacked out train and set off. It was a bit of an anti climax when, the following morning, they found themselves huddled in rough billets at Headingley, near Leeds!

They were there for about three weeks and Ivy managed to get to visit Jim a couple of times but then they were off again and this time, it was no picnic. After a night on another blacked out train, they weren’t even allowed to lift the blinds, they all piled out on the dockside at Gourock and boarded the biggest ship Jim had ever seen. They still had no idea where they were going. Offered the choice of a mattress or a hammock, Jim thought he’d try the navy way. He soon found out that this was an acquired taste and spent the rest of the voyage sleeping on a table in the mess deck!

The ship sailed and after swanning around for a day or two in the Atlantic, joined up with a convoy. Apart from a brief stop at Gibraltar to pick up an aircraft carrier, they didn’t stop again until three weeks later they pulled into Durban on the East Coast of Africa where they had four days of leave on shore.

Now we’ve got to take a step back here and try to understand how this would feel to Jim. Here we have a young lad from Barlick who has never been further than Blackpool in his life and has just come from a small island suffering under attack, food rationing and northern weather. Durban was possibly one of the most privileged places in the world in 1941. They had a wonderful climate, a rich country and an unlimited supply of cheap black labour. The inhabitants knew about the war of course and the last thing they wanted to do was have it hit them and so they welcomed the cannon fodder that poured off the boat with open arms. Nothing was too good for them. To Jim, it must have seemed like heaven!

They sailed from Durban and then one night the engines stopped. Jim and his mates weren’t naval experts but they knew that this wasn’t the safest thing to do in war time. They were like a sitting duck for any stray U-boat that was around. Eventually they got going but were on their own as they limped into Mombasa further up the coast. For whatever reason, fate had dealt them a lucky hand. Jim was to spend the rest of his war there training Askaris recruited from the Kenyan tribes for service in Burma.

Jim was promoted to sergeant and he used to go up-country to Nairobi to collect the recruits or rather the conscripts. He saw the selection process in the villages and he said that they all sat round in a circle and the chief told the ‘volunteers’ they were in!

They soon found out that once they had trained the men up, all the lot of them were to be shipped out to fight the Japanese in Burma. This was seriously bad news but fate had another hand of cards to deal for Jim. He was up in Nairobi picking another bunch of Askaris up and didn’t feel very well. It dawned on him that he was very ill and he managed to organise a truck to take him back to Mombasa. Six weeks later he regained consciousness in a hospital on the coast, he weighed about five stone and was told he had got a bad case of Black Water Fever and was being invalided home. He was in hospital from the 10th of May 1942 until the 13th of November before he was well enough to be repatriated. He said that it was a nurse from London called Sister Osborne who got him through this and he kept in touch with her for the rest of his life. The only thing he could remember about his treatment was that he had champagne and four bottles of Guinness each day.

After a long sea journey home and about three months in hospital at Liverpool Jim arrived back in Barlick late in 1943. He weighed 5 stone 13 lbs and was so weak he couldn’t carry his suitcase. He was sent to recuperate to Calderstones Hospital near Whalley and eventually was taken back into the army on light duties until he was demobbed in 1946.

So, our hero is back in Civvy Street complete with his demob suit and suitcase. He might not have seen a lot of the enemy but he’d had a rough war. The question that fascinates me is this; was the Jim Pollard that came back to Barlick in 1946 the same as the one who left in 1940? I don’t think so. He was 30 years old and had seen the world. The funny thing about being under strict discipline in the army is that it makes you more independent thinking when you come out. Jim’s eyes had been opened and he had a very clear idea about what he wanted from life from now on.

I wanted a picture of the Askaris but when I searched for an image there was no mention of them. I looked on the Burma Star Association site and under 11th East African Regiment it simply said ‘no information available’. A further search revealed that they call themselves ‘The Forgotten Army’. I leave you to work out why it is that after sixty years they seem to be invisible. Now that really is a sad reflection on our priorities.



SCG/29 December 2002
1123 words.



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