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Luddites 3

This section contains 17 pages use the Navigation Links at the bottom of the page to navigate.

Tolson Museum

A reconstruction of a cropping shop at the Tolson Memorial Museum Huddersfield

In the 1760's things began to change, mechanisation had arrived, the flying shuttle loom was being adopted all over Yorkshire. This new loom was not only faster than anything before but could be operated by one man. Production soared to such an extent that yarn that was still being spun by hand could not be produced in sufficient quantities. This problem was soon addressed with the advent of the spinning jenny capable of spinning up to forty threads at the same time.
At this time the Master Clothier began to see the future, he was still operating the system of "putting out" the individual tasks to the self employed cottage based spinners and weavers.

With increased production he found himself spending more time delivering raw products and collecting the finished product, with all this to-ing and fro-ing he barely had time to sell the finished cloth! So why not bring all the processes together under one roof? The day of the mill owner had arrived.
By the 1770's hundreds of mills had sprung up across Yorkshire; the abundant supply of water providing power to further increase production. The new mill owners were rapidly becoming very wealthy men indeed. The cottage dwellers who's services where no longer required began to relocate from their isolated hamlets to the new towns that were rapidly growing around the new mills, providing labour for what was now becoming the first mechanised  industry.
Meanwhile the croppers weren't doing too bad either, many new mill owners were still sending their cloth to dressing shops for finishing, with increased demand they too had expanded. Other mill owners built their own dressing shops, but the power of the croppers "institutions" let them, to some extent, dictate their own terms and conditions for employment. All in all the cropper's weren't having a bad time of it, but that was about to change!

As the efficiency of the new mills improved it became obvious that the dressing shops were a bottle neck to production. The only way to increase production was to pay more croppers or invent a machine to mechanise the job.
Such a machine was designed by John Harmer in 1787. The first cropping frames, as they would come to be known, mechanically operated the shears and advanced the material automatically by power being provide by pulleys from the mill wheel. One of these crude early frames tended by one unskilled operator could now do the work of ten skilled croppers

Cropping Frame

Period illustration of an early cropping frame similar to the ones produced by James & Enoch Taylor of Marsden.

At around the same time a device known as a "gig mill" was introduced. This simple machine also mechanised the raising of the nap.
With the existence of these two machines the croppers days were numbered and they knew it. Something would have to be done! 

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