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Quorn hosiery industry and 'Webster's Whistle'

Until the early nineteenth century the hosiery industry was organised on the domestic system; the knitters and other who made the knitwear worked in their own homes or in small workshops attached to the homes of workers. These became more widespread when framework knitting became common. Many men, women and children worked in the industry from the mid-eighteenth century. The Rev Ford Kelcey wrote in 1895: “Three factories were set up in Quorn around 1826. Two are now incorporated in Wright’s factory; the other stood just above the churchyard and was only recently demolished. The first two were hosiery, the third for lace-making.”

By the mid nineteenth century Joseph Webster’s factory manufactured socks and gloves and J & J Archer made hosiery. Joseph Balm, a staunch non-conformist and proprietor of a Nottingham factory, occupied housed by the upper gate of the churchyard as a factory. His firm made twist lace, silk net and cotton-tatting. These factories brought some prosperity and it reached a peak in the mid nineteenth century when in 1849 between 200 and 300 people worked in the industry but by 1863, numbers declined to about 100 people. Some framework knitting continued into the latter years of the nineteenth century. (Bygone Quorn in photographs). This letter appears to be a tongue-in-cheek rebuff to a law curbing the use of loud factory whistles.

Loughborough Advertiser - October 3rd 1872

To the Editor of the Loughborough Advertiser

Dear Sir:-
I enter upon the scene in all humility. I am only a poor Factory Whistle, but at the same time I do think I have been cruelly treated. I came into the parish last Easter, and since my residence have done good service by proclaiming in a “loud voice” the time when all good people should be up and stirring, the hours for breakfast, dinner and tea; and I can assure you that many a labouring man who works upon the land will be sorry when I am gone. I believe, indeed I have been a general favourite; but alas! What moral, much more a whistle, can please everybody? Unfortunately a recent Act of Parliament puts it in the power of odd individuals to upset the will of the multitude in such cases as mine; and Quorndon not being short of such petty-minded creatures, I am literally floored.

My voice was heard for the last time on Saturday last; I must confess to having felt emotional and my voice was rather shaky.

In bidding the people of Quorn farewell, I feel bound to express my satisfaction at the fact of my elder brother, the “horn at the Mountsorrel works” being permitted to exist; it speaks well for the good-will of the inhabitants of that town.

Feeling assured that my efforts to please have been appreciated by the majority, who will regret my untimely fate,
I am, sir, yours respectfully,

“Webster’s Whistle”

 Submitted on: 2010-12-15
 Submitted by: Kathryn Paterson
 Artefact ID: 1035
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page

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