Working-Class Culture in Industrializing Britain

Work Songs and Expressions of Class Consciousness, 1790-1850

[Factory Bell]      [Music Hall Songs, 1870-1914]

"Hand-Loom v. Power-Loom" John Grimshaw ca. 1830

Come all you cotton-weavers, your looms you may pull down;

You must get employ'd in factories, in country or in town,

For our cotton-masters have found out a wonderful new scheme,

These calico goods now wove by hand they're going to weave by


In comes the gruff overlooker or the master will attend

It's you must find another shop, o quickly you must mend

For such work as this will never do; so now I'll tell you plain

You must have good pincop-spinning, or we ne'er can weave by


There's sow-makers and dressers, and some are making warps

These poor pincop-spinners they must mind their flats and sharps

For if an end slips under, as sometimes perchance it may,

They'll daub you down in black and white, and you've a shilling

    to pay.

In comes the surly winder, her cops they are all marr'd

They are all snarls, and soft, bad ends; for I've roved off

     many a yard.

I' sure I'll tell the master, or the joss, when he comes in.'

They'll daub you down and you must pay--so money comes rolling in.

The weavers' turn will next come on, for they must not escape,

To enlarge the master's fortunes they are fines in every shape.

For thin places, or bad edges, a go, or else a float,

They'll daub you down, and you must pay three pence or a groat.

If you go into a loom shop where there's three or four pairs of


They all are standing empty, encumbrances of the rooms;

And if you ask the reason why, the old mother will tell you plain,

My daughters have forsaken them, and gone to weave by steam.

So, come all you cotton-weavers, you must rise up very soon,

For you must work in factories from morning until noon;

You mustn't walk in your garden for two or three hours a-day

For you must stand at their command, and keep your shuttles at


"The Factory Bell" anon. ca.1830's

Oh, happy man, oh happy thou

While toiling at the spade and plough,

While thou amidst they pleasures roll,

All at they labour uncontroll'd

While at the mills in pressing crowds

Where high build chimneys puff black clouds

And all around the slaves do dwell,

Who are called to labour by a Bell.


You have just got time to eat and sleep

A man is set your time to keep;

And if you chance to come too late,

You're mark'd on paper or on slate

No matter e'er what be the cause,

You must abide by their own laws,

All the time you draw your wage

For coming late there's so much charged.

Top ]