THE NORWICH WEAVERS REVOLT OF 1826
The Little Norwich Shawl Worker
by Joseph Clover and engraved by T Overton, (below)
This sketch illustrates an idyllic scene of a Norwich child weaver, of course nothing could be further from the truth.
In the same year as this popular engraving was produced the Weavers of Norwich were on the point of open revolt.
For despite, the long history of weaving in the City and the highly skilled nature of it's weavers, the immediate years after the Napoleonic Wars had, had a devastating impact on the textile industry in Norwich, culminating in a protracted depression between 1825 and 1837, throwing an estimate 11,000 weavers from the City into unemployment and poverty, while many others were forced to accept huge pay cuts.
Barely surviving, the tightly knit Weavers of the City fought back in the only way they could.
On the 13th February 1827 they armed themselves and stormed the Counting Houses, Warehouses and Manufacturers Warehouses, Manufacturers and where possible the owners private homes breaking many pains of glass and destroying yarn.
Alarmed, the leading Alderman, Ald Francis first offered to convene a meeting of Manufacturers in the City to discuss the crisis, then scared at the ever growing revolt in the City, sent word to the Castle to "have a party in readiness".
Ald Francis then proceeded to read the Riot Act and "call out" The Royal Scot's Grey's Calvary stationed in the Castle barracks, who dutifully formed up outside the Maids Head close to Wrights Factory, Elm Hill, where they then proceeded to charge the crowd of Weavers on three occasions with untold (and unreported) injuries and 12 arrests
In the aftermath, a number of Manufactures did issue statements informing the populace that they would not in future "send work to the country" at a cheaper rate.
But, this was to be just one of a number of number of acts of defiance by Weavers of Norwich
John Harvey is credited with introducing shawl weaving to Norwich, an invention that maintained weaving in the City for many years. By the 1840's Norwich could boast 28 manufacturers of shawls.
At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 a number of Norwich shawl manufacturers exhibited.