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The Resources Available To Those At Risk Of Poverty In Clitheroe’s Cotton Famine

2428 words - 10 pages

The Resources Available to Those At Risk of Poverty in Clitheroe’s Cotton Famine

In 1860 Lancashire cotton district was at its peak, by 1861 it was
fast collapsing as was the economy and people’s welfare, surrounding
it.

The American Civil War in 1861 not only created dire consequences for
American civilians and over four million slaves, but the North
blockaded the southern ports preventing mills from receiving raw
cotton supplies. Mills imported cotton from other countries but
social factors, such as the peasant economy in India, equated in
supplies being slow and inefficient. By Autumn of 1861 prices for
cotton had soured and mills were closed or merely opened part time.
Lancashire was thrown into a state of poverty and distress. One town
in particular, Clitheroe, saw its economy dramatically collapse from
the previous peak of prosperity in 1860 dragging down with it the
personal finances, and livelihoods, of its cotton labourers making up
almost 40% of the town. These labourers were temporarily, possibly
permanently, unemployed, at risk of poverty, susceptible to
peasantry.

As a poor town Clitheroe was at first ignored whilst larger Towns such
as Blackburn and Darwin were almost immediately provided with relief
and observational attention

A new Poor Law Act had been passed in 1852 called ‘the Outdoor
Regulation Order’ stating labour tests should be undertaken by
able-bodied men enabling them to work in return for outdoor relief,
the Clitheroe board of Guardians objected to this. Perhaps to save
the cotton weavers from damaging their ability of fragility on return
to the mills, as the unemployed steadily increased, as did the
applications for relief, two months on they formed a committee to seek
work for the able bodied. Labour testing is expensive and it can be
perceived the Clitheroe board of Guardians were not concerned with the
weavers’ distress but had been unprepared to surpass the expenditure
or the time. They could have created a workhouse but one to
accommodate all unemployed weavers would have been a costly project,
this lack of movement from the Guardian’s however was a blessing on
the weavers and their families as “a ruthless attempt in the 19th
Century to solve the problems of poverty”, where inmates receive less
food than those in a prison and have poor, unhealthy living
conditions.

It was the Board of Guardians responsibility, with the support of the
Poor Law, to help the people of Clitheroe. What is out rightly
obvious by historical resources from today is that they had no
interest in helping and were keen to ignore the thousands of newly
unemployed needs. Rosalind Hall informs us that although there was a
blatant need for extra relief there was no mention in the Guardian’s
minutes regarding the weavers until November 1861 until the...

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