Watts and her Guide: a timeline

Mid-C18th: Development of the hosiery industry – networks of domestic production and sale, ‘putting out’ by master hosiers – no factory infrastructure as such – created high employment rates, but the work was relatively low-skilled and vulnerable to fluctuations in demand.  Master Hosier Richard Garle said (1753) he ‘owned and hired out a hundred frames, and knew a dozen other men in the town with business of the same order’

1748 Redevelopment of the market place – building of the Exchange; new shops and warehouses in the main market

1753 The ‘Leicester Journal’, the first town newspaper

1753-86 Eight visits by John Wesley; the increasing influence of non-conformism, especially amongst the master hosiers, who were excluded as dissenters from any role in the Corporation.  A new power-centre grew up; elections to Parliament were increasingly hotly contested

1763 New Wednesday cattle market

1765 Impact of the boycott of English hosiery in the American colonies following the Stamp Act – significant unemployment and falling real wages

1768 Susanna Watts born at Danett’s Hall

1773 Machine breaking, and again notably in 1787; “Two of these machines are said to have been already demolished, but the invention is not destroyed … violence and intemperate riot may prevent its operation, but also drive away the whole manufacture” – Leicester Journal)

1777 onwards; John Throsby publishes his histories of Leicester (Memoirs of the Town & County of Leicester, 1777; History & Antiquities of Leicester, 1791 and A Guide to the History, Antiquities and Curiosities of Leicester and its Neighbourhood, 1795)

1778, 1779 Local petitions for regulation of wages presented (and defeated) in the House of Commons

1754-65 Progressive turnpiking of the roads from the town to the county boundaries

1765 Daily coach to London; 25s inside[1], 12s6d outside

1774 Demolition of the medieval gates (perhaps as a small child she was taken to see the work, as I was to see the demolition of the Blue Bell at Haymarket? – that’s the sort of connection public history is all about …)

1783 Robert Bakewell (another Leicestershire native) forms the Dishley Society, formalising the tools and techniques of the agricultural revolution; the selective breeding of horses, sheep, and cattle steadily transforms tractive power, wool, dairy and meat in the countryside and the city.  During the C18th, the average weight of a beef steer at market increases from 300 to 800 lbs.

1787 Lighting and paving the streets ‘after the London fashion’; but they were still in a very poor state when Watts wrote, and she apologised to her Stranger for ‘the rough forest stones of our streets’

1771 The Infirmary opened

1785 Mail coaches at Leicester

1785 New Walk laid out

1795 John Nichols publishes his History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester in eight parts, to make up four volumes, between now and 1815

1799 Iron Foundry at the Canal Basin

1800 First purpose-built theatre, Horsefair Street

1804 Enclosure of the South Field; publication of the first edition of A Walk Through Leicester.  Elsewhere, Napoleon proclaimed Emperor of France; Trevithick’s Steam Locomotive; and Beethoven Symphony No3.

[1] This is about £200, double the current price of a first-class train ticket (The Value of Money in Eighteenth-Century England: Incomes, Prices, Buying Power; Hume, R: Huntington Library Quarterly, 2015: Vol 77, no. 4).