Open for business : textile manufacture in Northamptonshire, c.1685-1800
The small and transient worsted industry in Northamptonshire has attracted little notice from textile historians. Likewise the debate on early modern rural industry and the factors involved in its location has so far taken no account of it. But the industry did exist, and an examination of its nature, progress and economic impact has a contribution to make to the national debate. Contemporary accounts and a twentieth century study by Alan Randall concentrate attention on the town of Kettering. But though this was undoubtedly the largest textile centre, evidence from hitherto neglected sources reveal a rural manufacturing district, together with a centre of raw material distribution at Northampton. The relationship between town and country remain largely inferential. In this study the products, processes and organisation of the industry are established and its scale, chronology and distribution are considered in the light of national developments in the textile industry and the rise of the consumer society. Building on the work of E L Jones, Joan Thirsk and Pat Hudson, the agricultural influence on the location of the textile district is examined, particularly in the light of the enclosure history of this county. Consideration of the influence of social structure on industrial location, already explored by Alan Rogers and Dennis Mills in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire in the context of framework knitting, is here extended to Northamptonshire worsteds. The findings of the study are focused down from the aggregate to the individual in a number of case studies of individual villages and families to arrive at an understanding of the industry’s impact on the local economy.