This well-illustrated talk described the Yorkshire Weavers’ Riots of 1826 and made use of newspaper extracts, Home Office papers, coroners’ and court reports as well as specially commissioned artwork.

In Spring 1826 with the recent revolution in France, many people starving and full workhouses, the establishment were already fearful of rioting. The disturbances started in Lancashire on 24th April where hundreds of hand loom weavers blamed the new power looms for taking their jobs and tried to smash them. On 26th and 27th April rioters came over from Clitheroe and Laneshaw Bridge and were joined by others from Skipton to attack Low Mill at Addingham (the first worsted wool mill in Yorkshire and second in the world). However, Dragoons had been deployed around the mill and about 200 rioters went on instead to High Mill in Gargrave. North Wing Mill at Bradford was attacked on 1st May and again on 3rd May by a crowd of 1 000. There was shooting by the military from inside the mill: men and boys were shot, some died and many were wounded. Others were arrested and sent to the Assizes in York where death sentences were passed, though there is no evidence these sentences were carried out. Yorkshire Hussars were garrisoned also in Halifax, Skipton, Leeds, Bingley and Otley. In consequence only 25 looms were broken in Yorkshire compared to 1,000 in Lancashire.

Some local clergy took the official line since they were also magistrates, others were more concerned over the poverty of their parishioners. They petitioned the Home Secretary for funds, but it was the Lord Mayor of London’s relief committee, including Dr George Birkbeck from Settle, which distributed money to towns and villages for the poor. There was also compensation for the mill owners. Although the number of hand loom weavers declined, there were still 10 000 in Bradford in 1838. Their conditions remained poor. Dr Ingle
concluded his clear and informative presentation by showing a picture of Timmy Feather of Stanbury who still worked as a hand loom weaver in 1890, though he made more money having his photograph taken!

Dr Ingle’s talk was based on his book, Trouble At t’Mill, published by Royd Press. Report by Dave Knight.