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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Nottingham

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Black lead and bleaching - the Nottingham lace industry

Lace mill
Draycott Mill tenement factory
However horrifying the hours and conditions of work in the lace industry may seem from a 21st Century point of view in the 19th Century machine-made lace work was considered better than other industries.

Males had a definable career structure and training and a comparatively high level of remuneration compared to many occupations. And, even though for females there was little scope for advancement and their low remuneration and poor working conditions attracted unfavourable comment, yet in 1833 the hours of seven and eight year old warehouse girls were considered better than those of factory children as they were more regular, usually from 8am to 1pm and 2pm until 6pm, with an hour off for lunch.

In 1873 the lace warehouse worker's position was described as 'enviable' in comparison to that of other factory workers as she could sit at her work and her hours, over 52 per week, were considered short. Moreover, however awful the evidence about outwork seems, it did enable women with young children and, in the days before pensions, the elderly to remain out of the workhouse.

Further reading / sources


Industrial Museum, Wollaton Hall, Nottingham Costume Museum, Nottingham (now only open by appointment).


First Report from Commissioners appointed to collect Information in the Manufacturing districts, relative to the Employment of children in Factories…1833 450 (XX.I)

Second 1833 519 (XX.1), supplementary Reports 1834 167 (XIX.259) Second Report of the Commissioners (Trades and Manufactures), with Reports and Evidence…1843 431, 432 (XIII).

Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the condition of the Framework Knitters 1845 609 (XV)

Report addressed to the Home Secretary upon the expediency of subjecting the lace manufacture to the regulation of the Factory Acts: with Appendix of Evidence; 1861 2797 (XXII)

Report to the Local government Board on proposed changes in hours and ages of employment in textile factories by J.H. Bridges, M.D. and T. Holmes; 1873 C.754 (LV)

Summary of returns…of Persons employed in 1907 in Textile Factories (London: HMSO, 1909).


Mason, Sheila A., Nottingham Lace: 1760s-1950, (Ilkeston; Cluny Lace Co., 1994).

Mason, Sheila A., The History of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters, (Leicester; Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters, 2000).

(Both these books are fully indexed for sources).

Words: Sheila A. Mason, BA (Hons), FRSA

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