Middletonia
People and places of Middleton
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Enter George Booth

George Booth was obviously a well liked local figure. To be asked to take charge of the operation shows that he must have been both respected and trusted by his peers. These would be important qualities to the co-operators if they suspected Jagger to be untrustworthy. He and his wife Mary agreed to run the farm on the same terms as Jagger. However there were two strict conditions that he insisted the co-operators agreed to before taking on the task.

The first was an un-bendable policy of "No Credit - Cash Only". George was by now well versed in the co-operative methods, this was how they ran their retail shops and this was how he would run this business. There wasn't really much choice anyway given the financial position that they were in. However this must have been a far from easy decision to make and the reality of the hardships of this rule are captured by the statement "Owd Joe Ashton never would O' deed if he could ha' kept havin' credit".

The second condition, was that the co-operative would be put on a proper footing and be registered under the newly legislated 1852 Industrial and Provident Societies Act. This act only gave societies legal protection in dealings with their own members and so on the face of it, there seems little advantage to be gained by this. However it could well be that George Booth had entirely different motives in insisting on this condition. I believe that he had three main aims by this action. To make it clear that this was not just a group of men "pottering about" on a farm and thus give the enterprise some credibility, having gained that credibility he would then have greater weight and consideration given to his opinions when speaking to other co-operators about establishing a Wholesale Society. Finally I think that he hoped to raise some capital.

The co-operative was registered under the name of the "Jumbo Co-operative Society limited". Shares were £1 each, no member to hold more than five. As only five persons paid their shares up, this was not a huge success in raising capital. Mr John Taylor, the son of William Taylor of Stocks, was appointed secretary. Joseph Jagger was appointed treasurer. At first reading this may seem a strange choice in view of the cloud hanging over Jagger. However consider for a moment the position George Booth was in at that time. He was coming in to take over and run an operation and his first job would be to tell Jagger that all the others thought he was cheating them, that he'd been asked to take over, that he'd be getting the £1 a week and free coal and "by the way, I'll want to be moving into your rent free house as soon as possible". Even under normal circumstances this would not be anyone's ideal "first day in a new job" but the situation was even worse than this. The lease of the farm was in Jagger's name! He might just have turned round and said, "Get off my land" or some similar phrase using the word "off". Obviously George Booth would have had to choose his words very carefully and some sort of compromise or deal struck. This way Jagger would have retained his reputation and Booth achieved his objectives of running the co-operative. Nevertheless it's interesting that Booth did appoint not one but two auditors, Nathan Thomas and John Andrew, just to be on the safe side perhaps.

1853 was an eventful year in Jumbo. Just down the road at the bottom of Sandy Lane, an inmate burned down the workhouse. There were also wide ranging changes in the structure and operation of the Jumbo Co-operative. All we really know of the original operation of the farm was that they "set aside one acre for the growing of potatoes" and there is no evidence to suggest whether or not the general day to day running of the farm was altered after George Booth became manager. There was however a number of developments and improvements that he instigated in the overall organisation in 1853.

The goods produced on the farm were sold from the farm up to this time. However, George Booth decided to open a shop in connection with the farm. " they open a shop in connection with it in 1853." It has been assumed that this shop was was the beer house and grocery shop that Jagger bought further up Grimshaw Lane. This doesn't fit very comfortably into the situation that existed at the time. If you think someone is cheating you then surely you don't put them in charge of both the cash register and the books by making them shopkeeper and treasurer at the same time! The only reason for this assumption seems that there doesn't appear to be anywhere else that the shop could have been sited. However as we will see this was not so.

Another major change was also put into effect. The original members of the group who met at Jaggers house near the Tonge Lane toll-gate had still continued a silk weaving business there after the start of Lowbands manufacturing velvet waistcoats. This business was transferred to Jumbo in 1853. "While they were farming the Lowbands set were still conducting a silk business which they transferred from Tonge Lane to Joseph Healey's at Jumbo. He had a 'four-loom' house and a 'big chamber' in which a warping mill was erected. Not one of the lot would undertake to superintend the manufacturing business at a £1 a week. They wove silk shot with cotton, the design being home made. On one occasion Jacky Taylor and Jem Ogden were authorised to sell their productions to Alexander Henry, a celebrated Manchester warehouseman. He gladly purchased and ordered more. Mr John Rylands also dealt with the Lowbands manufacturers".

So what seems to have happened is, George and Mary Booth living with George's parents in Jumbo move into the farm. Joseph Jagger and wife thus need a home so they either move back to Tonge Lane prior to selling it and buying their beer-house, or they need to sell the Tonge Lane house in order to buy their new home and business. Either way the silk business had to be moved from Tonge Lane to Jumbo. All the movements now fit neatly and logically with the circumstances. There is just one small snag. The census doesn't show a Joseph Healey living at Jumbo. There could be a number of reasons for this but whatever solution explains his non appearance on the census, it still leaves uneasy questions hanging in the air. If such a large house existed where was it? Why didn't the co-operators use this building from the start instead of Joseph Jagger's house at Tonge? Consider "a four-loom house" and these men were using the large Jacquard looms, "a big chamber", "a warping mill was erected". This was definitely not a "two up, two down" and would seem to be a move of premises with expansion of the silk business in mind.

In 1853 Bradshaw Hall issued indentures for three adjacent plots of land, enabling three silk weavers to build loom houses. The leases were typical of local leases issued at that time. The three plots, each around 132 square yards were perhaps larger than was normal for "two up-two down" weavers cottages. They were situated on the south side of Grimshaw Lane approximately 80 yards to the east of the Lowbands farmhouse and on the farmland.

However this land was already leased out to Joseph Jagger and this is confirmed in the deeds. "All that plot or parcel of land or ground situate lying and being at or near Grimshaw Lane in the township of Tonge in the parish of Prestwich cum Oldham and now or here-fore parcel of a farm called ... (Left Blank by the solicitor indicating the confusion over whether the farm was called Jumbo, Walmsley's, Grimshaw Lane or Lowbands Farm) in the occupation of Joseph Jagger". It follows that Jagger's permission would have been essential or Bradshaw Hall would be leasing out the same land twice. Jagger in turn, would have to seek the sanction of the co-operators, on whose behalf he held the lease of the farm. Why would they want to give up part of their already small six acres of farming land, unless these buildings were to be connected with the Lowbands group? Furthermore, no other part of the Lowbands land was leased or sold by Bradshaw Hall and the the next houses to be built on this side of Grimshaw Lane between the farmhouse and the Victoria Hotel do not appear to have been built until 1880, well after the Lowbands group ended in 1861. This indicates that these three houses were not part of some pre-planned money raising scheme by Bradshaw Hall to lease off land for building along the northern boundary of the farm which was Grimshaw Lane.

The houses now numbered 200-204 Grimshaw Lane were leased to Amos Hyde, William Taylor, and George Booth himself. This raises the question of why would George Booth want a house? He had after all just acquired rent free housing at the farmhouse, and even if he hadn't, he already lived only 150 yards away across the road at Jumbo. The only conclusion that can be drawn that satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, the occupants, Jagger, the co-operators and Bradshaw Hall, is that these three houses were to be specifically built as part of the Lowbands set up.

1853 Map

It seems from the similar design of the houses from the deeds and from such details as "rights of passage etc. being agreed in advance amongst the three men, that these three occupants knew each other and were working in unison. Certainly Booth knew William Taylor. Although some twelve years older than Taylor they had been next door neighbours for many years in Jumbo prior to Lowbands. William was the son of the Thomas Taylor who had attended that first meeting of the retail co-op with Booth in 1846, so the friendship also provides co-operative links. Other Jumbo neighbours prior to Lowbands were a family of Hilton's who I believe, but cannot yet definitely confirm, may be connected with John Hilton who later became Middleton's member on the first board of the CWS. Anyone who has looked into their family tree or conducted similar research in Middleton will be aware of the difficulties caused by the numbers of people bearing the same name. There was a good deal of local inter-marrying and the commissioner for a London newspaper who visited in 1845 said that Middleton had a stamp of its own; "that some of the oldest and purest blood of the Lancashire yeoman kept its current un-mixed by the hearths of the village". The Middleton people brought a new meaning to the phrase, "Love Thy Neighbour". It seemed almost as if on taking a bride from the next street, someone would ask if a local girl wasn't good enough for you! William Taylor adopted this custom and married next-door neighbour Hannah Hilton.

Another fascinating insight into the past obtained from the deeds is the underlining of the opportunities available to the children of the ruling classes, due to the benefits of a sound education, not available to the common person. The deeds were issued in trust under the will of the late James Smith of Bradshaw Hall. The executor's were his two sons, Thomas Chatterton Smith and John Smith, both described as "engineers of Rainhill in the county of Lancaster". Depending on their ages, it is highly likely that these two sons of Middleton worked on the Liverpool to Manchester Railway perhaps under Stephenson himself. To put this into clearer context it should be remembered that in spite of the poverty, Britain was in 1850, literally the richest country in the world. Our engineering and industrial skills were at the leading edge of technology and to be an engineer on the railways would in those days be akin today to something such as working for NASA on the Space Shuttle.

Amos Hyde has yet to be researched in any depth. I do know that by 1871 he had, like many other hand loom weavers in Middleton, given up his trade and he too was working on the railway. However he wasn't working for Stephenson but as a porter at Middleton Junction station. Interestingly his house at 200 Grimshaw Lane was built as a "Club" house. It was not thought that club houses stretched to this part of Middleton. For the record the names and occupations of the club officials who granted his mortgage in 1853, 'Were:- Henry Liddle, Silk Manufacturer: James Wolstencroft, Cotton Spinner; Robert Collinge, Shopkeeper; John Robinson Whitehead, Coal Merchant; Joseph Staveacre, Farmer; James Percival, Silk Weaver; Josiah Wolstencroft, Shopkeeper and James Andrew, Farmer. I shall be very surprised if a fuller investigation of Amos Hyde's family does not produce links with Booth, Taylor or the Lowbands group. As a 28 year old hand-loom weaver with a wife 27, also a hand- loom weaver and a one year old child Dan, it would be feasable, unlike Taylor who had the capital to pay for his house, that they would have opted for a cheaper "two up, two down" house. It must have been a gamble for them in such insecure times to take a larger mortgage 'On a bigger property. It does therefore seem possible that 'other factors, such as being part of a co-operative may well have helped influence them in this decision. I also wonder at the decision of the "club" committee to grant such a loan when two smaller homes housing two families, could have been built for the same cost. It may be that mortgages for larger houses were the norm in Middleton club houses but I suspect not, and that George Booth and the exceptional circumstances of his Lowbands project swung the decision in the granting of this mortgage.

Virtually all the other houses on Grimshaw Lane, even those built at a later date appear to be of the "two up, two down" variety. Considering that, at number 200 Amos Hyde had a wife and son at the time he moved in; at 202, there was just William Taylor and Hannah; and at 204 George Booth and Mary, also with no children, then the decision to build "four up, four down" homes seems to be needlessly extravagant and would seem to indicate that these houses had a duel purpose.

The Jacquard loom came to Britain from Lyons, France around 1816-20. This loom had a mechanism which controlled an elaborate system of punched cards and needles and enabled the weaving of intricate patterns and designs way beyond that which was previously possible and took weaving to a new dimension. That was the good news! The bad news was that this mechanism greatly increased the height of the loom to such an extent that it would not fit into many weavers cottages. In some of the homes where it was installed it literally went right through the ceiling. To compensate for this extra height later loom houses were built with higher ceilings in the workrooms.

In an excellent and informative book, "The Architecture of the Domestic System in South East Lancashire" by W. J. Smith. (Who I believe hails from Middleton) he gives the example of a typical Middleton weavers house which had been built specifically to accommodate this extra height. "No's 50 and 52 Boarshaw Road built by Samuel Fielding a corn dealer, shortly before 1846 had this provision and whereas the living rooms were just short of 8 feet in height, the workrooms were 9ft 3ins". If these heights were typical of a "new" Middleton loom-house built for the Jacquard loom, then with 200 and 202 Grimshaw Lane we are certainly in the territory of the afore-mentioned "warping mills, big chambers and four-loom houses".


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