Free Trade in Ability - The Strike - Death of my Father


Origin of mechanical instinct in Lancashire and Cheshire ,
Hugo de Lupus ,
The Peter Stubb's files ,
Worsley labourers ,
Promotion from the ranks ,
Free trade in ability ,
Foreman lieutenants, Archie Torry ,
James Hutton ,
John Clarke ,
Thomas Crewdson ,
Trades' Union interference ,
A strike ordered ,
Workman advertised for ,
A reinforcement of Scotch mechanics ,
The strike scotched ,
Millwrights and engineers ,
Indenture- bound apprentices ,
Visits of my father ,
Enthusiastic reception ,
His last work ,
His death ,
Testimony of Sir David Wilkie

I HAD no difficulty in obtaining abundance of skilled workmen in South Lancashire and Cheshire. I was in the neighbourhood of Manchester, which forms the centre of a population gifted with mechanical instinct. From an early period the finest sort of mechanical work has been turned out in that part of England. Much of the talent is inherited. It descends from father to son, and develops itself from generation to generation. I may mention one curious circumstance connected with the pedigree of Manchester: that much of the mechanical excellence of its workmen descends from the Norman smiths and armourers introduced into the neighbourhood at the Norman Conquest by Hugo de Lupus, the chief armourer of William the Conqueror, after the battle of Hastings, in 1066.

I was first informed of this circumstance by William Stubbs of Warrington, then maker of the celebrated "Lancashire files." The "P. S.," or Peter Stubbs's files, were so vastly superior to other files, both in the superiority of the steel and in the perfection of the cutting, which long retained its efficiency, that every workman gloried in the possession and use of such durable tools. Being naturally interested in everything connected with tools and mechanics, I was exceedingly anxious to visit the factory where these admirable files were made. I obtained an introduction to William Stubbs, then head of the firm, and was received by him with much cordiality when I asked him if I might be favoured with a sight of his factory, he replied that he had no factory, as such; and that all he had to do in supplying his large warehouse was to serve out the requisite quantities of pure cast steel as rods and bars to the workmen; and that they, on their part, forged the metal into files of every description at their own cottage workshops, principally situated in the neighbouring counties of Cheshire and Lancashire.

This information surprised as well as pleased me. Mr. Stubbs proceeded to give me an account of the origin of this peculiar system of cottage manufacture in his neighbourhood. It appears that Hugo de Lupus, William the Conqueror's Master of Arms, the first Earl of Chester, settled in North Cheshire shortly after the Conquest. He occupied Halton Castle, and his workmen resided in Warrington and the adjacent villages of Appleton, Widnes, Prescot, and Cuerdley. There they produced coats of steel, mail armour, and steel and iron weapons, under the direct superintendence of their chief.

The manufacture thus founded continued for many centuries. Although the use of armour was discontinued, the workers in steel and iron still continued famous. The skill that had formerly been employed in forging chain armour and war instruments was devoted to more peaceful purposes. The cottage workmen made the best of files and steel tools of other kinds. Their talents became hereditary, and the manufacture of wire in all its forms is almost peculiar to Warrington and the neighbourhood. Mr. Stubbs also informed me that most of the workmen's peculiar names for tools and implements were traceable to old Norman- French words. He also stated that at Prescot a peculiar class of workmen has long been established, celebrated for their great skill in clock and watchmaking; and that, in his opinion, they were the direct descendants of a swarm of workmen from Hugo de Lupus's original Norman hive of refined metal-workers, dating from the time of the Conquest. To return to my narrative. In the midst of such a habitually industrious population, it will be obvious that there was no difficulty in finding a sufficient supply of able workmen. It was for the most part the most steady, respectable, and well-conducted classes of mechanics who sought my employment -- not only for the good wages they received, but for the sake of their own health and that of their families; for it will be remembered that the foundry and the workmen's dwellings were surrounded by the fresh, free, open country. In the course of a few years the locality became a thriving colony of skilled mechanics. In order to add to the accommodation of the increasing numbers, an additional portion of land, amounting to eight acres, was leased from Squire Trafford on the same terms as before.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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