Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
Newtown and district
The flannel industry
  Working the hand-looms  
  In the early part of Queen Victoria's reign most flannel cloth produced locally was made on hand-looms by local weavers.
  Originally weavers worked in their own cottages and sold their cloth to dealers, but increasingly flannel manufacturers were setting up weaving shops and employing weavers to work together in one workshop.
The opening of the canal to Newtown gave the local industry a means of transporting the cloth more cheaply to markets further away.
Around the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, Newtown had 82 flannel manufacturers,
wool carders,
10 fullers, 5 wool merchants and
2 shuttle makers.
This picture shows a hand-loom in a weaving shop in Newtown. The workshop is on the open upper floors while the weavers cottages are underneath. The premises are now the Newtown Textile Museum.
hand loom
  weaving shops in Newtwon By employing the weavers themselves, the flannel manufacturers took control of production.
In Newtown the system developed even more to their advantage when manufacturers built weaving shops above weavers' cottages (like these on the left.)
In this way the manufacturer even owned the weavers houses and could charge them a high rent. This was bad news for local weavers. Their pay was low, their worker's tokenrent was high and some manufacturers paid workers in tokens which they could only spend in his shop, where he set the prices ! (See one of these right).
These shops were called 'Tommy Shops' and it was easy to get into debt.
  Once a worker's family were in debt they were trapped. They couldn't leave because they owed the manufacturer money and had to work longer and longer hours to try to make up the debt.
The worker's whole family including the children would work to try to earn enough to get rid of the debt.

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