1880 Batley Reporter Article About Benjamin Law

Land Introduction
Benjamin Law

1880 Batley Reporter

In May of 2006 Wendy Rose of Batley emailed to graciously share some articles published in the Batley Reporter in the late 1880s. Wendy transcribed the following article and accompanying letters from microfilm. I have used excerpts from this article at Benjamin Law

The discovery and early history of the shoddy and mungo trades.

Article by Edwin Law BR 13/11/1880

The dimensions which the shoddy trade has attained to, the wealth which it has given to the country and accumulated for individuals, have caused inquiring minds to ask to whose genius the origin of this industry is due. Several attempts have been made to answer these inquiries but with very various degrees of accuracy. The first and least reliable, so far as the origin is concerned, is one published in 1860, written by Mr. Samuel Jubb. In this publication Mr. Jubb would leave the public to infer that the origin of the trade was involved in obscurity. This is by no means the case as will be seen in the course of this article. Another account, having reference to the same subject is "Batley Past and Present" by Mr. James Willans. In this work the date of the invention of the application of shoddy is placed as late as 1820. This, as will be shown, is far too late. The best account that has yet appeared on this subject is the one in Cassells Great Industries of Great Britain. But even this, excellent as it is, is not free from errors in placing the date some four years too late and in ascribing the discovery of mungo to Samuel Parr instead of to his brother George. The date usually ascribed to the introduction of shoddy by traditions in the Law family is 1813, the same as that ascribed to it by Cassells, but the writer has ascertained from recent enquiries that the manufacture of shoddy cloth dates as far back as 1809. He obtained the information from Mr. Joseph Parker of the firm of Joseph Parker and sons, manufacturers, Batley, who is well known for his connection with the Board of Health of which he was 8 years a member and 6 years the chairman. He was one of the Board of Surveyors and in 1837 was one of the last overseers of the poor under the old law and one of the first members under the new law. Mr. Parker will also be remembered as the founder of the Batley Chamber of Commerce and the promoter of various important improvements in the town. He is one of the oldest aborigines of Batley and was born in the year 1799 at "Lane End" - now Wellington Street, near the residence of Mr. Benjamin Law, the inventor of shoddy cloth who is the subject of this article, where he resided until he was about 11 years of age. The 2 families were on very intimate terms and Mr. Parker remembers distinctly Mr. Law carrying on the business of the manufacturer of shoddy cloth. He has a clear recollection of the dyers' carts coming for the material and returning with it dyed. As Mr Parker left this residence when 12 years old and as he has a rememberance of the trade being carried on some years previous, he assures the writer that the shoddy trade must have been in operation as early as 1809.

Mr. Law had the whole business to himself until 1812, when others seeing the progress the Laws were making, entered into a business they had hitherto considered somewhat wanting in respectability. In those early days of the shoddy trade people looked askance and with aversion on the heaps of old woollen garments which had been collected with much trouble and care for the purpose of being reconverted into wool and in passing them described an arc of no mean radius, avoiding them as they would a plague spot. But the desire of riches is superior to even John Barleycorn in inspiring us with contempt of dangers and the vision of large profits and glittering gold at last removed the aversion and overcame all squeamishness.

The progress of the shoddy trade was such, said Mr. Parker, that in 1813 it had taken hold in Batley and in 1815 had become the staple trade of the village, of which the population at that time was about 3,000. It was in this year that Mr. Parker went as an apprentice to Mr. John and Phineas Fox to learn the shoddy trade. The dates furnished by Mr. Parker are by no means mere guesses. He has a clear and lively recollection of incidents which settle the early dates given above and which carry the shoddy trade back to 1809. In 1811 Mr. Parker's family removed from the house at "Lanes End" or Wellington Street, near Mr. Benjamin Law's house, to a house behind Mr. John Cowling's residence in Ward's Hill, the landlord, Mr. T. Lake, requiring the house at Lane's End for his son. This date is positively settled by a melancholy incident which happened to one Mr. Parker's youthful companions, named Mark Stubley and which resulted in his death. They were playing during the interval allowed by the mill for dinner at "buttons" and young Stubley having some in his mouth, swallowed one which stuck in his throat. Although it was extracted by the surgeon, the young man died of inflammation occasioned by the irritation. Mr. John Cowling, near whose house Mr Parker's family then resided had sons in the British Army, then serving in Spain under General Beresford and letters came from them to the Cowlings giving an account of the Battle of Albuera and the defeat of the French General Soult. It was noticed that this battle was fought on the very same day that young Stubley died, vix., May 16th, 1811.

In 1812 whilst living near the Cowlings, Mr Parker's mother observed one Saturday night that she was sure there must be some disturbance at Heckmondwike as she had heard the reports of firearms in that direction. Mr. Parker was then attending the Sunday school in Wm Fearnside's Fold (which afterwards removed into the Up Lane School when it was built) and next day being Sunday, instead of going to school in the afternoon he walked to Heckmondwike and found that Rawfold's Mills, at Littletown, had been attacked by the Luddites. Mr. Cartwright, the owner, anticipating an attack, had called in the assistance of the military who, being stationed in the mill when the attack took place, fired upon the mob killing 2 and wounding others. These were the shots heard by Mrs Parker. These incidents in Mr. Parker's early life are mentioned as he distinctly remembers that when they happened the shoddy trade had been in existence some years and that up to this date Mr. Law was almost the sole manufacturer as well as inventor of shoddy cloth.

Mr. Law prospered and so, to use Mr Parker's words "no family rose like them". Mr. Law was a manufacturer of woollen cloth before he made his great discovery which resulted in the application of shoddy to the manufacture of cloth, a discovery which not only added to the prosperity of the district, but has proved from a political economy point of view, an immense addition to the wealth and industries of the country. In the course of his business Mr. Law frequently visited London for the purpose of disposing of his manufactured goods and it was on one of these occasions that he made his discovery. The discovery is vulgarly relegated by "Cassell's Industries of Great Britain" to the chapter of accidents - but inventor's discoveries are never the result of accident. A chimney pot falling on a man's head may be an accident. Chemists, in their investigations, have more than once alighted upon results quite different from those they were seeking and so have been led to a new discovery. But these were not accidents. New combinations are produced by accident if you like, but it is the trained mind which infers or comprehends their new applications. A thousand may see the new combinations but only the thoughtful man of genius can see the uses to which they may be applied and that he does so is no accident, but the natural result of quick perception and a powerful intellect, ever ready to make its own whatever may appear of advantage. The circumstance which led Mr. Law to the discovery of the purposes to which shoddy might be applied are simply these:- He was one day trying to dispose of a quantity of flocks to a saddler in London when he was shown a material which it was said answered equally as well as flocks and was cheaper. Whilst handling this substitute for flocks, which was woollen rags torn into shoddy and twirling it in his fingers to test its textile qualities, he conceived the idea of applying it to the manufacture of cloth. He purchased a quantity to try the experiment. It was successful. This is the accident of the invention, as it exists in the family and is corroborated by the account which Mr. Parker received in 1843 from Mr. Gunnis who was formerly Mr. Law's London agent for the sale of his goods.

Mr. Jubb in his "History of the Shoddy Trade" says "it is uncertain who first produced rag-wool, or shoddy, but the presumption is in the favour of Mr Benjamin Law". Now it will appear from the above that this statement is without even the shadow of a foundation, for Mr. Law found shoddy ready made to his hand and Mr. Gunnis told Mr. Parker at the time mentioned above that he at first obtained it principally from the pullers for the saddlers in London. The invention did not consist in the converting of rags into shoddy but in the application of an almost worthless material to the manufacture and cheapening of cloth.

As the demand increased attempts were made to obtain this material nearer home and the refuse of the manufacture of fine cloth, known as "fud", was eagerly collected. At this time there were at Brighouse, near Huddersfield, some rag machines not used for pulling shoddy but for grinding "thrumbs" i.e. hard bits of worsted waste and to these machines Mr. Law began to send rags to be made into shoddy. But the first rag machine set up expressly for the purpose was one belonging to Mr. Fozard at Howley Mill, some years before Mr. Benjamin Parr took it on a lease .

Such was the discovery, and it ranks amongst the greatest and most important of those of the 19thc. By contributing to the comfort and wealth of the whole nation and ameliorating the condition of society, it takes its place by the side of the railway and the electric telegraph, and Benjamin Law was not less a benefactor to his country than George Stephenson.

The house occupied by Mr. Law still stands in what is now a kind of fold or court off Wellington St. It is a stone fronted house and at the time he resided there it was one of the best houses in Batley. It had four rooms on the ground floor and a detached kitchen or wash house at the back. It had a garden in front and at the back was a field some 2 acres in extent used by Mr. Law as a tenter field where he dried and stretched his cloth. There were stalls for 2 cows. A pear tree grew against the house. There was nothing but hay and corn growing in the vicinity. All around was the open country and the house had all the appearance of the residence of a well-to-do family. But this prosperity was not destined to last. Mr. Law appears to have found it necessary to open out foreign markets for his manufactured goods and with this purpose in view he sent his eldest son, John, then a youth of some 17 or 18 years, to America with a quantity of goods to dispose of. The venture appears to have been very successful, for the young man, much against his inclination, was ordered by his father to undertake a second expedition. The second consignment was much larger than the previous one. Mr. Law, in the hope of reaping a rich harvest of profits had invested the greater portion of his capital in the venture. John sailed with the cargo but was never heard of again. After he had sailed, it was said to his father that he had said that if compelled to go, he would never return. Whether this was a mere idle threat, uttered in the vehemence of his displeasure and afterwards fulfilled by accident, can never be known. When this utterance of his son came to Mr. Law he followed him to New York and there heard that a youth, answering his description, had sailed for New Orleans where it was said the yellow fever was raging. He did not attempt to follow him farther but returned home, having lost his son and the greater portion of his capital. From this time the prosperity of the family declined and finally, the lucrative business from which others have reaped such a rich harvest and which has found employment for thousands of people and opened out a new era for the West Riding of Yorkshire, was abandoned and at the present time not one of his descendants, so far as the writer is aware, is in any way connected with the trade originated by their ancestor. The family left Batley and went to reside at Hyde, whence they removed to Stockport where the founder of the shoddy trade died 21st February 1837 at the age of 65 and was buried in the burial ground of Batley Parish Church. His tombstone which is broken across may be seen opposite the clock tower, close by the wall separating the church yard from Church Lane. Mr. Law was not a native of Batley. He was born at Great Gomersal 8th November 1772 and was the son of Mr. George Law of the same place. Although the grave is neglected and the tombstone broken his best monument is the prosperity of the town where he resided and which is due to his genius.

That Mr. Willans is in error in placing the invention of the application of shoddy to the manufacture of cloth so late as the year 1820 is capable of easy demonstration by other evidence. Howley Mill has already been mentioned as being the place at which a rag machine was first set up to produce shoddy for cloth. This mill was taken on a lease in 1825 by Mr Benjamin Parr, father of the late occupant of the mill of the same name. Mr. Parr jnr., informs the writer that at that time shoddy had been in use many years and had given rise to the erection of the old Hick Lane Mill, Mr. Parr senior being one of the company to whom it belonged. Some years previous to this, Mr. Parr had been in partnership with Mr. Law, the originator of the shoddy trade, in the rag trade, or (but less probably) in the manufacture of cloth from the new material and at the erection of this mill, shoddy was comparatively old. During the partnership Mr. Parr senior went to Scotland for the purpose of searching for a supply of rags from which to produce the new material and on setting out, he was strictly enjoined by Mr. Law not to led even the shirt on his back know the purpose of his expedition. From this caution as to secrecy it is evident that Mr. Law had a clear perception of the value of his discovery and although he never was the happy possessor of a patent right, he had at any rate the animus rem sibi habendi. At Edinburgh he met one Samuel Illingworth, a country hawker who exclaimed at seeing him a such a distance from home. It would appear that this incident took place when the Parrs were residing at a place known as Goodhall's Fold, from which residence they removed to a house lately occupied by "Lawyer" Walker which Mr. Parr had purchased in Upper Commercial Street Batley. Here Law and Parr continued to carry on the business till the partnership was dissolved. Mr. Parr snr. resided here 9 years and then removed to Howley Mill which he had taken on a lease as above stated in the year 1825 (one year before he removed to it) and had left in the care of eldest son John. Here he resided until his death and his son Benjamin succeeded him and occupied the same house and mill until 1879, a period of 53 years. This alone would bring the shoddy trade back to 1817. These particulars which the writer obtained from Mr. Benjamin Parr, the son of the contemporary of Mr. Law, confirm in a remarkable degree, the recollections of Mr. Joseph Parker. But Mr. Parker is some 12 years Mr Parr's senior and therefore his memory carries him further back.

That they are in error, who assign to the introduction of shoddy cloth a later date than 1809, the evidence given above is sufficient to prove and that the trade had become general in 1824 the writer has authentic evidence before him in some old M S account books , lent him by Mr. Benjamin Parr of Batley which record a number of his father's business transactions with names yet familiar in Batley. There are the Speddings, the Foxes, the Days, the Dixons, the Blakeleys, many of whose representatives still carry on the trade. In the same book there is also, under date July 24th 1824, an account with Mr. Gunnie, the same gentleman no doubt, who had transacted Mr. Benjamin Law's business in London. At this time Mr. Benjamin Parr snr. had in conjunction with others a warehouse in Basinghall Street, London to which the goods manufactured in Batley were sent for disposal. It is in one of the account books of this establishment that the above particulars are recorded. The earliest transaction found in it is November 26th 1823 and the latest, August 28th 1825. Amongst these transactions is a record of "carriage of white rags from London to Dewsbury Moor" on August 24th 1824. This book establishes the fact without a shadow of a doubt that the trade was in full operation in 1823. The invention of mungo, or rather the discovery of the application of it to cloth manufacture may be considered but a corollary to the application of shoddy to the same purpose. The relation of the one to the other is much the same as that of the phonograph to the telephone. But the requisite deduction did not take place till 25 years had expired from the discovery of shoddy and the deduction was reserved for Mr. George Parr, nephew of the inventor of shoddy and the son of Mr. Benjamin Parr snr. who was for some time in partnership with Mr. Law. The date usually assigned to it is 1834. It came about much in the same way that Mr. Law discovered shoddy. Mr. Parr was examining some flocks which had been pulled from tailors clippings and old cloth garments when he conceived the notion of manufacturing cloth from it. In order to test the value of his conception he purchased a quantity of the material and induced a Mr. Watson of Hunger Hill, Morley, to try the experiment. The result was sufficient to prove the value of the discovery but the pieces of cloth were spoiled by the presence of the cotton thread with which the garments had been sewed. Mr. Watson, however, encouraged Mr. Parr to proceed with his experiments, assuring him that the material would be of great value in the manufacture of cloth if only the difficulty which the presence of cotton induced could be overcome. This Mr. Parr easily effected by employing women to cut off the seams of the garments. Thus the material which, as yet , was without a name to distinguish it from shoddy was presented to the manufacturing community and to the public, a perfect success. It differs from shoddy in being of a finer nature and is used in the manufacture of a higher class of goods. It was first used at Morley and continues to be the staple trade of that village. The material, however, did not long want a name. Mr. George Parr's brother, Samuel, was offering a quantity for sale and being unable to persuade a customer to purchase, and who had perhaps expressed some doubt as to its saleable qualities, remarked with the emphasis of one who knows the value of his merchandise "but it mun go" which means in the vernacular of the district "it must go". In this peculiar way was a name given to the new article. The faith of the salesman in the value of his brother's material is preserved in its name.

Since the above was written the writer has received from Mr. George Parr, who now resides at Perth, the particulars of his invention. They do not differ materially from the account given above, but as it may be of interest it is here given in the inventor's own words. He says "I bought 2 sheets (of pulled cloth) which were in the Bridge Mill garret, pulled with all the seams in it. It was intended for bed flocks and it struck me that if it was wrought with fine cards it would do for fine cloth, so I took a sample and went to Morley where I knew they had fine cards and sold it to Mr. John Watson, Hunger Hill who paid one penny per pound for the cotton threads picking out. I sold it at fivepence per pound, I think I bought it at two pence per pound. The cloth was spoiled in consequence of the cotton threads being in it; they could not pick it clean after it was pulled. My brother Samuel and I consulted together and bought a few cwts of cloth and scarried it and put sweet oil on it. Then John Mitchell introduced it to John Harrop of Ossett. After that it went off like wild fire; we could not get enough of it. Previous to this the cloth was sold for manure and sent into Kent to till the hop grounds.

Such is an account of the ushering into the world of the 2 materials to which the whole wealth of Batley, Dewsbury and the surrounding districts is due. It has raised Batley from a country village to a busy manufacturing town and the numerous and extensive mills, the handsome stone warehouses and palatial residences all testify to the importance of the discoveries of Benjamin Law and George Parr.


  • Flocks are shredded wool used for stuffing cushions mattresses etc.
  • Mr. Joseph Parker was listed in the 1881 census in Batley at Field Lane, widower, age 82, born Batley, woolen manufacturer employing 101 men women and boys.
  • Edwin Law was the son of Abraham Law (Benjamin Law's youngest son). Edwin married his cousin Elizabeth Parr, the daughter of Benjamin Parr who Edwin quotes in his article.
  • Mark Stubley who died of the "button"incident was the son of Joseph Stubley born in 1795. Joseph Stubley was a brother of Rachael Stubley (Benjamin Law's first wife).
  • Benjamin Parr Senior ( 1781-1829) was the son of Thomas Parr and Rachael Walker. He married Elizabeth Sheard the daughter of Michael Sheard and Sarah Barber. He died in 1829 at the very young age of 49.
  • Benjamin Parr, junior (1810) was the son of Benjamin Parr and Elizabeth Sheard (the sister of Benjamin Law's second wife, Lydia Sheard). His brother, George, was the inventor of mungo.
  • The Jubbs were major manufacturers of shoddy in Batley and at least two of the children of Benjamin Law rented property from the Jubbs.
  • Cartwright's story was part of the plot of Charlotte Bronte's novel Shirley. The novel is overly romantic and deals only peripherally with the Luddite movement.

Letters to Editor Batley Reporter 20 November 1880

Sir will you kindly permit me to correct 1 or 2 inaccuracies in the very able article "the discovery and early history of the shoddy and mungo trade" by E Law which appeared in the Reporter on 13th November. The oldest son of the late Mr. Benjamin Law was not John Law but George Law, my grandfather, who was by Mr Benjamin Law's first wife Rachel and born 1792. Mr. George Law was educated partly at Batley Grammar School and partly at Aberford. He lived in Batley all his lifeand died there in 1864. John Law was the eldest son by his second wife, Lydia and was born in 1801. Although several members of the Law's family accompanied him into Lancashire yet some remained here and continued to be engaged in shoddy trade though perhaps in more humble ways than the discoverer himself. For information, Mr. Edwin Law is the grandson of the late Mr. Benjamin Law and was educated at Batley Grammar School.

Benjamin Law MA 19/11/1880


  • Benjamin Law barrister, the writer of this letter, was born 1844, the son of John Law and grandson of Geroge Law.

Sir I was pleased to see in your paper today an article on the introduction of shoddy into the district by Mr. E Law of Manchester, a linear descendant of the late Mr. Benjamin Law of Batley, the first who made use of it in the manufacture of cloth. He has edificed ever valuable information regarding the earliest applications and from reliable source, he being a near relation of the Laws & Parrs. He has been able to obtain information which no other person would have obtained and in addition the particulars given by the venerable town man Mr. Joseph Parker son of Batley who has witnessed its growth from its infancy, the astonishing results accomplished in Batley from its very commencement. As to the discrepancies in the date put down by me at 1820 I had gathered that it was about that time from my informant but I must admit the correctness of Mr. Law's date. As to the 1st maker of rag machines Mr. Archer might be one but Mssrs, Jonas Haley & son and Mr. Joseph Chadwick were the makers of the 1st of any note or to any extent.

James Willans Batley Carr 13/11/1880

Note: James Willans was a local historian who wrote James Willans The Rise and Progress of Batley in 1880

Letter to Editor Batley Reporter 27 November 1880

Sir Allow me to thank Mr. B Law for calling my attention to the first family of Mr. Law which I ignored unintentionally. I always knew that they existed but simply continued the family way of describing its members. I doubt not that Mr, Willans is perfectly correct in his statement that Mssr. Jonas Haley & son and Mr, Joseph Chadwick were the first makers of rag machines to any extent but Mr. Gibson and Mr. Archer were the first makers. It is not a matter of importance except every item of intelligence connected with so great an invention as shoddy has a certain amount of interest.

E Law Manchester

Letter to Editor Batley Reporter 4 December 1880

Sir - will you kindly give publicity in your columns to the following correspondence, which will explain itself! Edwin Law 30th November 1880

Batley November 25th

Mr. Edwin, Law Dear Sir, Having inadvertently omitted to acknowledge receipt of your pamphlet duly on the the "Discovery and early history of the Shoddy and Mungo Trades" I hasten to thank you for your courtesy in the matter. You speak of my account of the rise of the early shoddy trade as being "unreliable". To this I can only reply that at the time I wrote my book on the subject I made all the enquiry I well could and I think and am almost sure I consulted Mr. Parker upon whom you so much rely for your information. I had no object other than to narrate the truth and to do justice to everybody. I believe I mentioned no name but that of Mr. Benjamin Law to whom I assigned the honour of being probably the party who first applied shoddy in the manufacture of woollen goods.

I hope to have the opportunity of talking the matter over with Mr. Parker with a view to the confirmation of your remarks and shall be happy to give "honour to whom honour is due".

I agree with you that this district has benefited largely, very largely by the discovery in question and that the credit of it should be given to those to whom it rightfully belongs.

I am yours truly.

Saml Jubb

Patricroft November 30th

To S Jubb

Dear Sir

I beg to acknowledge the receipt this morning of your courteous communications of the 25th. In reply I may say that I do not soley "rely upon Mr. Parker for my information" respecting the origin of the shoddy trade, but I do look up on Mr. Parker's narration to myself as most valuable. (1) as setting the early date of discovery and (2) as confirmation of the story of the origin of the trade I have heard from more than one member of the family. I remember the publication of your book and that, at the time it was considered by the Law family that you had not quite done justice to their ancestor. My father, I remember, extremely regretted the tone of the book. Why it was left to me to vindicate my grandfather's right to the honour of being the inventor of shoddy cloth I cannot say, seeing that there were and are others more particularly interested than myself.

Some time after the publication of your book I left Batley and it was not until some years had elapsed that, happening to be looking over the old books stalls at Shudehill Market, Manchester, and seeing a larger number of new copies of your work exposed for sale, the subject again recurred to my mind. I at once wrote a letter on the subject ot the Batley papers. In the letter I referred to a certain old man, since decease, as the reputed weaver of the first shoddy piece. I heard incidentally, some time afterwards, that you had some conversation with him on the subject, the purport of which I do not know, but I suppose it was confirmatory of my statement, otherwise you would not, doubtless, have allowed it to go uncorrected.

You say, in your note, that at the time you wrote your book you made all the enquiry you could. Now I believe that most historians consider family reminiscences of some value and worthy of consultation, even though they might find it necessary to question their accuracy. May I therefore ask you which of the members of Mr Benjamin Law's family you consulted with when composing your book?

I am sure you will pardon me for pointing out your inaccuracy in stating in your note to me that you "assigned to Mr Benjamin Law the honour of being probably the party who first applied shoddy in the manufacture of woollen goods". This is just what you omitted to state. You tell us, on page 17 of your book, that it is uncertain who first produced ragwool or shoddy but the presumption is in the favour of Mr Benjamin Law and then diminish "the presumption" by stating that several persons began running rag machines almost simultaneously. Then you go on to say that there were earlier machines than these elsewhere, particularly at Brighouse, where Mr Law sent his rags to be ground. You further state that rag machines were used in London prior to their use in the West Riding. All we can gather from this is "a presumption" that Mr. Law was NOT the first producer of ragwool or shoddy. The argument proves too much, and mole ruit sua - it falls by its own weight. He, indeed, found it ready made, and had sufficient discernment to see its value in the manufacture of cloth, to which he applied it.

I have taken the liberty of forwarding your letter and my reply to the Reporter and am sure you will not be slow to avail yourself of the same means of performing an act of justice to the memory of one to whom Batley owes so much.

I am dear sir, yours faithfully.

Edwin Law

Sir (slightly abbreviated by me!)

The following may interest your readers as a contribution to the history of shoddy. Some years ago I passed an evening in the company of a numerous party of merchants in London. Someone mentioned that I came from Yorkshire and at once the talk ran on shoddy. I was asked who invented it. I replied it was attributed by some to a gentleman named Law, of Batley and by others to a Mr. Parr. An elderly Jewish gentleman told me I was mistaken, neither Law nor Parr invented it, they adopted it. My father was the first man who ever thought of, or made it. My father told me thus: He was an extensive dealer in second hand clothes in Whitechapel here, and when the Penisular War broke out, after old Boneparte had overrun Spain, owing to the stoppage of the supply of Spanish wool and the brisk demand for army goods for Sir John Moore's expedition to Spain, Spanish wool, which was then used for making them, rose to a tremendous price and my father, who as a "clothes duffer", had been used to seeing the lot of woollen dust or "mill puff" as it was then called pulled off old clothes in preparing them for market, got a new idea into his head. It occurred to him, he said, that if he bought wool in London, opened the bales, and inserted among the fleeces 50 per cent of old blankets or white flannels, torn up with curry combs, it would be a paying speculation. He flung aside second hand coats and trousers and covered his "doffing cushions" with old blankets and sent off a lot of doctored bales and realised full prices in Yorkshire. After this he kept at it till no more white flannels were to be got in London and when wool fell in price he turned to making flocks for stuffing saddles and mattresses to replace wool, which had previously been used for these purposes.

This is confirmatory of Mr. Edwin Law's dated of 1809 as the epoch when his ancestor met shoddy in a saddler's shop in London. For our acute Jew must have made his first trial of mixing it with his Spanish wool about 1805-6 and an examination of the wool market quotations of 1805-6 might almost fix the month when he began it. It would also here appear that there were many involuntary users of "shoddy" at the very opening of the century.

The word shoddy itself is, I believe of Hebrew origin. I would give you the root but have not my lexicon at hand. However, in a cognate language, the Persi-Arabic "shodjy" or "shodjah" signifiesa tangled mass of ??, "sedge-wool" and other allied ideas. This fact tends to confirm the accuracy of the statement of the gentleman that I relate above and no doubt brings me to the very root of the origin of the article that next to cotton has made one of the greatest revolutions in the textile industry.

Ferrar Fenton 1st December 1880. Batley.

Ferrar Fenton

Birth: Ferrar Fenton Gender: Male Baptism Date: 4 Dec 1832 Baptism Place: Waltham,Lincoln,England Father: Richard Fenton Mother: Anne FHL Film Number: 508068, 508083

1841: Hameringham, Hill Hundred, Lincolnshire, England, Richard Fenton 50 Anne Fenton 40 Margaretta Fenton 13 Felia Maria Fenton 6 Frrar Fenton 8, Lincolnshire, England Richard Fenton 5 Reginald Fenton 1

1851: Walsham, Lincolnshire, England Anne Fenton 51, annuitant, Letitia Maria Fenton 19 Ferrar Fenton 18, Walsham, Lincolnshire, England Richard John Fenton 15, apprenticed druggist

1875: Ferrar Fenton, shoddy and manure merchant, absolved his partnership with Samuel Firth, Dewsbury.

1881: Bradford road, Batley Yorkshire, Ferrar Fenton 48, born "Waltham", Menswear Manufacturer Business Manager Letitia Fenton 43, wife, born Maidstone


From the finishing processes of the woollen trade, such as raising, cropping, etc. a considerable quantity of fibrous matter ia obtained. These are called "croppings," "cuttings," "shorts," &c., and are the result of the shearing action of a machine employed to cut down the nap of the cloth after raising to a uniform level. This material also has been rendered available for the production of a very useful fabric, especially suited for the sharp winter temperature of such countries as New England, Canada, and Europe. This invention is of American origin, and consists in mixing "croppers' " dust in a strong solution of soap and size, in which a very loosely-woven fabric is then milled; this fabric takes up the short fibres, and can be worked up to any required weight or thickness, and afterwards be finished to a good surface. It is serviceable, durable, and cheap. An Englishman returning from the States is said to have brought back with him a knowledge of the process, which he introduced into Leeds. It has since spread into many other districts of Yorkshire, and other parts of the country where its raw material is plentiful, and has become a considerable industry. The demand for products of this kind outrunning the supply of croppers' dust, in 1873, Ferrar Fenton, of Batley, designed a machine for its artificial production from waste, since which, of course, the supply has been adequate to nil requirements. Spons' Encyclopædia of the Industrial Arts, Manufactures, and Commercial ... By Francis N. Spo
The Bankruptcy Act, 1869. In the County Court of Yorkshire, holden at Dewshury. In the Matter of a Special Resolution for Liquidation by Arrangement of the affairs of Ferrar Fenton, of Batley, in the county of York, Engineer, Chemist, Shoddy and Manure Manufacturer. The creditors of the above named Ferrar Fenton who have not already proved their debts are required, on or before the 9th day of February next, to send their names and addresses, and the particulars of their debts or claims to me, the undersigned, the present Trustee under the liquidation, at the address hereunder written or in default thereof they will be excluded from the benefit of the Final Dividend now proposed to be declared Dated this 20th day of January, 1897. E. E. DEANE, Bank-chambers, Batley, Official Receiver and Trustee.
1891: St. Philips London, Ferrar Fenton 59, born Waltham Lincolnshire, land and share broker, Letitia Fenton 55, born Maidstone, Kent (The London Gazette

Ferrar Fenton of Batley translated the bible - fist published in 1884 - see Ferrar Fenton Bible

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Pioneers of the Textile Trade in Batley, Reminiscences from 1909, Transcribed from the Batley News by Wendy Rose Wendy Rose 2

Land Introduction
Benjamin Law