A trade dispute between the weavers of Frome, Somerset and their employers in June 1823 resulted in the jailing of about 20 of the weavers following disturbances in the area. The following two reports are from “The Western People Flyer”.
7th July 1823
We are sorry to state that a great degree of disturbance exists in Frome and it’s neighbourhood, on account of some disagreement which has arisen between the operative manufacturers and their employers. Colonel Horner, at the head of six troops of yeomanry cavalry, was in attendance on Tuesday last, to give assistance to the civil power during the examination of some of the ringleaders before the Magistrates of the division. In the evening the following individuals were committed to hard labour in Ilchester gaol, and sent off under a strong guard of yeomanry, for refusing to finish the work they had taken out for manufacturing; W. Edwards, J. Keene, and W. Allen, for three months, W. Butler, J. Keene jun, J. Allen and W. Butler, for two months, C. Long and W. May for one month, and J. Deverell for six weeks. On Wednesday night ten more were sent to Shepton Mallet house of correction, for various periods, under a military escort. We regret to hear that these examples have not yet had the effect of restoring the town to complete tranquillity.
17th July 1823
The operative weavers of Frome have issued an address to the Gentlemen and Tradesmen of the town and it’s vicinity, descriptive of the causes of their present distressed state, and soliciting aid towards the establishment of a society for the purpose of removing their grievances. The document appears to us to be written in a very temperate spirit, and on that account is entitled to attention and sympathy. In it the weavers say, ” It is the well known fact, that whilst the price of our labour has been considerably reduced, the kind of work that we have been expected to perform has been rendered much worse for us as weavers, than it formerly was, and from hence it must be unquestionably manifested that we have for some time past been labouring under many disadvantages. Nor is this all, for in addition to the grievance above stated, we have been exposed to the most cruel and unprincipled imposition which the truckstering spirit of the age could possibly devise. Woollen cloth and linen-drapery articles, of very inferior quality have been forced upon us at an excessive and unreasonable price; knives, spoons, tickets, stone blue, &c. have been tendered to us as an equivalent for our labour. To complain was useless, and to inform against our employers had been our destruction, as too many of the master manufacturers have in some way or other given in to this iniquitous practice. To remedy these evils, and to obtain redress, is the sole object which we have in view; and we appeal to the justice, the honour, and the liberality of our countrymen to assist us in this important struggle.” With this view they announce that they have formed a “Society for the Suppression of Truck,” whose business it will be ” to detect as much as possible those persons belonging to the trade that offer to work for truck, and to look into the causes of those men that may be turned out of employ for refusing truck; such men will be allowed 2s. per day, or 12s. per week, until they can get work.” The meetings of this society will be held, by permission of the Magistrates, every six weeks, at the Unicorn Inn, commencing on the 12th of August.