14.15. New Occupations

Our first question was: “did the persons who changed from rural activities to manufacturing activities have an improvement or a disadvantage in their situation?” This could not be answered by inspecting time series of income for a set of activities (data for answering the second question), as the activities noted were not common to a person’s “before” and “after”. The hand loom weavers disappeared.

In the same way, there came into being new activities or occupations in the later stages of the First Industrial Revolution, such that these were also not part of the time series of incomes. Thus the calculation of the improvement in the average wages over all the population does not show the totality of the change in the economic positioning of the people. As noted above, work was created for 200,000 well paid railway labourers.

This phenomenon goes under the title of “labour aristocracy” (although this term is sometimes is used in a different way in Marxist theory). We have a number of jobs for people from the working class, who have been able to improve themselves, either in administration/leadership or in technical excellence. These may be: constructors of metal buildings and bridges, mechanics for complicated tools, makers of steam engines, engine drivers, foremen and heads of plants, factory clerks and warehousemen, constructors of textile machinery, die makers.

These people had a good social position, better educational level, and better incomes. In commercial establishments in Lancashire in 1859, salesmen and buyers earned more than 100 pounds a year (40 shillings a week), cashiers more than 80 pounds a year (30 shillings a week), and book keepers and clerks more than 50 pounds a year (20 shillings a week). In Leeds in 1839, millwrights, gunsmiths, iron moulders and brass founders earned more than 25 shillings a week.

In Manchester in the 1840’s there were a pair of machine-making companies, the Atlas companies owned by Messrs. Sharp and Roberts. One was for general machinery (primarily for weaving and spinning), and the other for locomotives (49 built in one year). The persons employed were 800, and everyone earned more than 25 shillings, and some, four or five pounds a week.

(Kohl, 1844, p. 125)

Steam-Engine Manufactory and Iron-Works, Bolton, 1832; engraving by William Watkins after a drawing by John Harwood; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Hick

Table 9.i – Average Weekly Wages in Leeds Trades, 1839

25s. and over:            Millwrights, gunsmiths, iron moulders,     
                                       brass founders                         
20s. to 24s.                 Painters, cloth dresser and drawers, printers,
                                       plumbers, slubbers, woolsorters, bricklayers, 
                                       warehousemen, masons, saddlers, plane
makers, paper stainers, hatters, mechanics,
dyers, curriers, wood sawyers, coopers,
turners                         
10s. to 19s.:               Tailors, shoemakers, joiners, smiths,
plasterers, wood turners, weavers,
woolcombers, wheelwrights                         
Under 10s.:                 Woollen piecers and fillers, worsted piercers
and preparers  

(Ward, 1972, p. 289, quoting the Report of the Statistical Committee of the Town Council, Leeds, 1839)

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