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Luddites 2

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Cropping Shears

 Cropping shears, like the ones shown above,  had already been in use with little change for generations by the 1800's. Measuring over 3 feet long and weighing over 40 pounds they would have needed a great strength and skill to operate them.
The picture to the right is a period painting of a master cropper at work. 

Fabric production has been carried out in Mirfield and the surrounding area for at the last 800 years and in 2003 there are four remaining active mills still producing fabric for export all over the world. In the 1750's Hopton alone was listed as having forty weaving looms, the industry in those days being largely a cottage based one. Local families would have specialised in the different processes involved in the manufacture, a system known as "Putting out" was operated where by a "Master Clothier" would have delivered by packhorse the raw wool and yarn to separate cottages to be spun into yarn or woven into fabric.  Later this would have been collected to be taken on to further cottages to be fulled, a process whereby the cloth is pounded to "full out" the fibres giving it a softer and thicker feel. Then finally it would have been delivered to a "Dressing shop" for finishing and from there to market.

Cropping shop

The dressing shop was the only non-cottage based part of the process. It was carried out by men known as "Croppers", compared to the numbers involved in other processes their numbers were small. The Croppers were highly skilled craftsmen upon which the end quality and hence value of the finished product depended. A well finished cloth's value could be increased by a third. Entry to the trade was strictly controlled and an apprenticeship had to be served, the skill was often  handed down from father to son. They even formed their own institution operating much like masonic societies.
They were well paid, for example an inn keeper of the time was quoted as saying "The cropper lads drink three times the amount of ale per night the spinners do!". Records show the croppers were indeed being paid at least three times the wages of most labourers.
 The craft that earned them such great esteem and wages involved raising the napp, (loose fibers in the cloth). This was done by stretching the cloth over an upright frame known as a "nelly" and combing it with teasels attached to a wooden frame. The cloth now with a raised napp would have a fluffy, furry surface that needed to be removed, this was done by laying the cloth over a "cropping board" (a long narrow table with a curved surface). The cloth would then be pulled taut using a system of hooks and lead weights. Next, the cropper would use the huge cropping shears who's blades were curved to match the cropping board to crop away the nap This resulted in a cloth with a smooth and even surface. The job was slow and laborious, the cloth needing to be continually advanced over the cropping table, the shears themselves weighed in excess  of 40lbs. The strength the croppers used to weald these shears would later be put to a less constructive purpose.

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