Treasure of the week no. 15: Tinners and bonnet-makers: The working classes of 1851

JND 197/23 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

BAKER, Robert.  The Present Condition of the Working Classes. Considered in two lectures delivered before members of the Bradford Church Institute. Bradford: H. O. Mawson, C. Stansfield, J. Dale, H. B. Byles, and other Booksellers.  1851. 62 pages.


I recommend this substantial booklet to anyone interested in mid-nineteenth-century Bradford. The print is small and the prose dense, but it is factual (with statistical tables), wide-ranging, objective, detailed, and contemporary with the scene it describes: a sort of textbook of the times. Chapter headings are:

  • The Working Classes as a Body Considered
  • Their Hours Work – Legal and Conventional
  • Their Intellectual State
  • Their Social State
  • Their Morality
  • Strikes

But who were the working class? The author excluded ‘Domestic Servants, Labourers, and those who work in Manufacture and Mines’, but the list of those included in one of the statistical tables gives a useful picture of the ‘Labour Trades’ of old Bradford:

  • Bakers
  • Brewers
  • Butchers
  • Brick-makers
  • Bricklayers
  • Joiners
  • Masons
  • Painters
  • Sawyers
  • Plasterers
  • Blacksmiths
  • Cabinet-makers
  • Engineers
  • Iron manufacturers
  • Nail makers
  • Glass maker
  • Potters
  • Tinners
  • Wheelwrights
  • Shipbuilders
  • Coach makers
  • Curriers
  • Boot & Shoe makers
  • Tailors
  • Carters
  • Hawkers
  • Milliners & dress-makers
  • Sempsters & stresses
  • Stay-makers
  • Straw-plaiters
  • Strawboard-makers
  • Bonnet-makers

An aside it is frequently unknown how the library acquired its pamphlets, but not this one. It is stamped: British Museum Duplicate Transferred.


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