|Todmorden Mills circa 1900|
Millstead Mill known as “Bancrofts Mill” together with Cinderhill Mill and Lob Mill were all in the town of Todmorden, in the Upper Calder Valley, close to the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, and all trading as ‘James Bancroft & Co’ at different times between 1890 to 1899.
James Bancroft was born around 1855 in a tiny weavers cottage at ‘Higher Hob Cote’ on the outskirts of Oakworth, Keighley, West Yorkshire. His parents Stephen and Hannah Bancroft brought up a family of thirteen children in this small cottage as a hand-loom weaver. I wrote an article about the difficult existence hand-loom weavers had some time ago, which can be read by clicking here. The family moved over to Burnley in Lancashire when James was a boy, probably because his father Stephen, found work in one of the local cotton mills. James went on to marry a Frances Davenport of that town around September 1874. The 1881 census shows him living at 139 Abel Street Burnley with his wife and two young daughters, and lists his occupation at that time as a ‘Cotton Clothlooker’ which was an inspector in a cotton mill, in charge of checking finished woven cloth, and who would also remedy slight defects where required.
During the Bancroft's time of manufacturing cotton from the mill there was a great deal of industrial unrest with the workers, leading to many strikes and walk outs, as well as much intimidation of the workers who continued to go into the mill during the unrest. The greatest period of unrest seems to have been shortly after James Bancroft took over the running of the mill.
'The strike of weavers at Millstead Mill, Todmorden, occupied by James Bancroft and Co is still unsettled and there are no signs of a settlement. The masters have issued notices asking for experienced workers to apply for the work, and stated that they are paying full price list for the wages. Also guaranteeing 24s a week for weavers who have four looms. The weavers issued a notice in reply asking weavers to keep away from Millsteads Mill during the dispute, and calling upon them not to be mislead by statements made by Bancroft and Co. The weavers also state that if the firm of masters will pay full list prices, they will resume work. A crowded meeting of workers employed by Bancroft and Co of Todmorden, was held on Monday evening, when deputations from the Northern Counties Weavers Association, and from Bolton and Todmorden were present, and urged the weavers to go on strike till the masters agreed to pay the fixed standard prices. The result of that is that about 150 weavers struck work yesterday afternoon’.
‘The strike at Bancroft Millstead Mill has now entered its 14th week. There has been some lively proceedings between strikers and the new hands, and it is said that a considerable number of summonses are to be issued regarding this.’
‘Were charged with assault against weavers in the strike, and later that month allegations of intimidation were made against non-union weavers.’
|The new steam fire engine - 1885|