5 September 1903

From the Manchester Evening News

Though lying somewhat outside the area of the great cotton spinning and manufacturing district of this country, the pleasant little Derbyshire town of Glossop is largely dependent upon the industry for the support of its inhabitants, and being to a great extent a self-contained community, it has been one of the first to feel, and to feel deeply, the pinch caused by the present shortage of cotton and the enforced working of short time brought about by the crisis.

The town has a population of some 22,000, 70 per cent of whom are closely associated with the cotton trade in its various branches. The two largest industrial concerns in the town are the Howard Mills of Messrs Wood Bros Limited, with 3,400 looms and over 200,000 spindles, and the Wren Nest Mills of Messrs F Summer and Co, with 2,050 looms and 122,000 spindles.

In addition to these there are the Shepley Mills with about 43,000 spindles, the Messrs Edward Platts’ Limited, four mills with about 70,000 spindles and 1,300 looms, the Hurst Mills with 21,000 spindles, Messrs J and W Shepley’s Limited Brookfield Mills with 18,000 spindles and 470 looms, and Messrs Thomas Rhodes’ Limited Mersey Mills, with 81,000 spindles and 1,600 looms.

These are all in the Employers’ Federation, and in accordance with the decision of that body arrived at some time ago they are compelled to close their mills for two working days each week, or to stop for an equivalent time in some other way. As a matter of fact they are only working alternate weeks just a present and it is understood that they are but working even to this limited extent in order to ameliorate the unhappy position in which the operatives now find themselves after a long period of comparative prosperity.

Some idea of the number of people affected by the present condition of affairs may be formed upon learning that over 2,000 workpeople are employed at Messrs Wood’s mills, and about 1,500 at Messrs Summer’s, with a like proportion at the other mills.

Fortunately Glossop does not rely altogether upon the cotton trade, otherwise the amount of misery entailed would be appalling. There are Messrs Olive and Partington’s large paper mills and the Dinting Print Works of the Calico Printers’ Association, both of which are in full work, and provide employment for an important section of the townspeople.

Whilst the poverty existing amongst the working classes is perhaps not quite so great as has been represented in some quarters, it is sufficiently widespread and severe to have induced the local Co-operative Society to undertake measures for relieving distress. Each Wednesday and Saturday 400 loaves of bread and a large quantity of soup are being distributed from the Masonic Rooms to deserving women and children, but the supply is by no means equal to the demand, and there is now every reason for the exercise of private benevolence to supplement the efforts of the society.

To some degree this has already been forthcoming, amongst the contributors in money or kind being the Educational Committee (Co-operative Society), Mr Abel HARRISON, a member of the Co-operative Society, Mr W JONES, Mr John ASHWORTH (Rochdale), Messrs J and E T MALKIN, Mr J E PLATT, Mr H PARTINGTON, Mr Albert THORP, Mrs A W WRIGHT, Mrs Annie GOWIN, and others. The following information is posted on the outer doors of the Masonic Hall — “bread and soup given to those in need on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 11 o’clock am till 12.30 noon.”

Amid the misery which the workers are suffering there are, unfortunately, to be found those who abuse the means provided for their relief, and a striking illustration of this is seen in a notice appended to the announcement mentioned above. It runs: — “On Wednesday and Saturday a person, not being satisfied with the quantity of soup given to her threw it away. Will someone kindly tell in the soup kitchen who that person was?” It is to be hoped, for the sake of the others, that this person will be found, and that she will be made an example of.

So far it has not been deemed necessary to organise a municipal scheme of relief. The Deputy Mayor (Mr H PARTINGTON), in consultation with the Town Clerk (Mr T W ELLISON), has been giving the matter very earnest consideration, and has come to the conclusion that for the present, at any rate, there is no justification for calling a town’s meeting to take the matter up.

The position, however, is growing worse every day, and there is no doubt that unless a change for the better takes place very shortly — and of that there appears very little hope — a relief fund will have to be organised on a representative basis, and that a generous response will be required to any appeal that may be made to the public.

The situation is unfortunately complicated by an outbreak of smallpox in one of the most respectable quarters of the town. The first case came under notice on Friday, and since then eight patients suffering from the disease have been removed from the same neighbourhood to the isolation hospital at Gameswell, near Dinting.

The medical officer’s department is, of course, fully alive to the grave condition of affairs, and all possible steps are being taken to prevent any further spread of the malady. Strange to say, it broke out in a household, members of which had but a little while previously returned from a visit to the seaside.

In the course of conversation with some of the representative townspeople one learnt that a serious drain had been made upon the capital funds of the Co-operative Society, no less than £3,296 having been withdrawn during the past three months out of a total share capital at the beginning of the year of £38,197. In the same period £1,285 has been withdrawn from the penny bank, and in addition practically the whole of the last quarter’s dividend has been withdrawn instead of being allowed to remain in the society’s keepings as is the case in normal times.

Other indications of hard times are afforded by the fact that the rates are coming in very slowly, and that the recent Wakes holidays 1,200 fewer excursionists left the town than was the case a year ago. The town has not experienced anything like the present depression for 30 years or more, and indeed, in the opinion of many people qualified to judge, it is necessary to go back to the time of the great Cotton Famine for a state of affairs at all approaching it in seriousness.

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