On this day … 8 March 1811

Map of New Preston
1840s 60in OS map of Preston: https://maps.nls.uk/view/231280347

An extra rate was levied on Preston residents to pay for the Lancashire militia, a sort of Home Guard for the county at a time when invasion by Napoleon’s French army was being treated as a serious threat.

The rate, based mainly on property values, that was levied shows just who were the wealthiest inhabitants and commercial enterprises in the town at that time, for the contributions levied were ranked in descending order:

Horrocks and Co., Stanley street
John Myres, Abbatt’s Row
E. Clough, Church Street
Ainsworth and Co., Derby Street
Jas. Spencer, Church Street
Ryley and Payley, Heatley Street
Geo. Blelock, Mount Street
Michael Whitehead, Church Yard
Lord Derby
Canal Company
Betty Whittle, Church Street
Saml. Horrocks and Co., King Street
Earl of Balcarres, Theatre Street.

By contrast, in the New Preston weaving ‘colony’ on New Hall Lane, where there were 115 ratepayers, the levy on ninety-five of them amounted to just 1s. 8d. each.

The sums levied throughout the borough ranged from nine pence to £23 17s. 11d; the larger sum would have been the Horrocks and Co. contribution.

What is of interest for the historian in such lists is not just the information they provide, but also the questions they raise.

Who were E. Clough, Jas. Spencer and Betty Whittle in Church Street? And John Myers in Abbatt’s Row, Geo. Blelock in Mount Street and Michael Whitehead in Church Yard? And what was the source of their property wealth that put them amongst the richest in the town? What was the Earl of Balcarres, or at least his agent, doing in Theatre Street?

The New Preston weavers’ colony, with its 115 ratepayers, was newly built at this time, consisting of terraces of tiny houses for the weavers and their families. The men, it was a male trade then, worked in weaving sheds built between the terraces.

The 1840s map captures it just before its decline, as mechanised weaving put handloom weavers out of work and cost hundreds of men their livelihoods. Weaving in the new mills was a predominantly female occupation.

Marx’s pal, Friedrich Engels, was incensed by this turn of events, which he felt emasculated the men, ‘One can imagine what righteous indignation this virtual castration calls forth and what reversal of family relations result from it …’

The New Preston ‘colony’ and its emasculated menfolk raise so many questions about how life was lived there that suggests a fascinating story is waiting to be written.

3 thoughts on “On this day … 8 March 1811

  1. Have you any more information about the militia and the ‘trouble’ in Ireland for this period – or any suggestions for me to read & research. ie the time of the arrival of William of Orange –  I am doing my family history – and unfortunately none of my ancestors were ‘toffs’!  So they are not mentioned as paying large increases in their taxes – nor are they ‘mentioned in dispatches’!  I expect they just volunteered for the money !   Are they any records or lists of these volunteers in the C17 – I can find their names on the muster rolls for the Napoleonic period – but nothing earlier – mainly because I don’t know where to start looking !!   So any ideas or suggestions would be most welcome!  Now and then I have come across books, diaries and official records that mentioned these humble soldiers / privates.  I would appreciate any help or suggestions you may have……. Thank you again for providing this free daily history lesson, it is good to read about the  less dramatic, the more day to day accounts of life in the C17 & C18 !  Best Regards,  Patricia Gray


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