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Horatio Ridings 1805 - 1887

Antique Canton Shawl

Antique Canton Shawl
Re: Ian's great great grandfather:

Kindly contributed by Mike Williams

Horatio Ridings was born "i'th hottell", a detached house (long since pulled down) near the canal bridge, Failsworth, November 24th, 1805. He was the seventh son of James Ridings, who was father of 12 children.

When a little boy he, returning from school, and, being venturesome spirit, he got immersed in the canal and would have been drowned had he not been rescued by a boatman.

Horatio began active life as an assistant to a hand-loom weaver. He was what was then called a "draw-boy," when "Canton shawls" were in fashion. Weavers of the present day can form no idea of what was the work of a "draw-boy." But he was the jacquard machine of the time, and had to work the pattern of the cloth with his fingers, as the Eastern carpet weavers do to this day. As he grew up he got exalted to the seat-board and became a weaver himself. On the introduction of the jacquard machine Horatio learned the business of card-cutting, and became so proficient that he ultimately set up for himself, following up the trade until within a few years of his death. His work was much sought after by people who had commenced the figured shawl and toilet trades, to "gait" their looms.

In 1868 he commenced the manufacture of "lettered coat-hangers," and gradually gave up the business of card cutting, finally retiring about seven years ago. But his connection with manufactures was not the most remarkable feature of a long life. He had a mind above the loom, and a sympathy beyond the manufacture of cloth. He was a sturdy politician of the old Radical school - not a "trimmer" to compromises, nor political "fads" - but an upholder of the dictum of Peterloo, which he would swear by. Often has his voice been heard in keen debate in the parlour of "Owd Raiph's," the Unicorn, in Church-street, Manchester, then frequented by both parties, and often mode the battle ground of fierce controversy, as well as a school in which the humble hand-loom weaver had an opportunity of forcing political truths into the minds of the then ignorant middle classes.

Horatio was always to be counted on at election times, when his services and his purse were placed at the disposal of the party he supported. His labours in this respect were so much appreciated that in 1887 he was presented with a testamonial by his co-workers at the lower end of Newton Heath. But years previous to this event he was a conspicuous member of the Local Relief Committee, during the dark and never to be forgotten days of the cotton famine, and so great was the confidence in his integrity and moral worth that he was made the almoner of the charities which were then so liberally administered; and his little workshop in Blomely-street was the scene of many touching episodes, when hearts were made glad by the cheery manner and kindly sympathetic heart of the little fellow who had an encouraging word for every applicant.

In 1855 he applied for a patent on "An improved manufacture of woven fabric". This invention consists in producing a double fabric which is woven together in such manner that the weft is floated on the face of the upper fabric. The floated portions of the weft may be cut asunder lengthwise of the piece to make ribbons or trimmings, or be cut in suitable pieces to form flounces or tassels and fringes, or other ornamental articles.

In all local movements Horatio Ridings took great interest. He was a member of the Anti-Corn Law League, though comparatively a young man at the time; and the greatest apostles of Free Trade he exalted to the sphere of heroism.

Horatio Ridings did not end his days in Newton Heath. Some years before his death he went to reside with his eldest daughter in Derbyshire; but he always yearned to "come back to th'owd greaund." On the marriage of his youngest daughter he came to reside at the "Woodlands," Clayton Bridge, where he died on 17 Oct 1887, and was buried at Christ Church, Haphurley.

His father, James Ridings was a silk weaver, but was most noted for being a loading amateur vocalist.

James Ridings was born in the year 1769, and resided the whole of his lifetime within four miles of our Exchange. His parents were of the honest and industrious class; consequently the son, when in tender years was compelled to apply himself to the loom. It was during this early period he first began to woo the " heavenly maid," and for some time his whole energies were devoted to gaining a perfect acquaintance with the intricate system of "Fa sol Ia," which is yet considered by Lancashire men the best groundwork for vocal efforts, as, when completely mastered, it enables them to read music at first sight with facility. He soon after joined himself to the associations styled at that time "Musical Clubs," which were then to be found flourishing, sometimes in the most secluded and inaccessible parts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Jaquard Weaving

Jaquard Weaving

One thing to be aware of, when you read the original biographical notes, is that "Sunday School Teacher" meant something very different from what it does these days. In the days when young boys worked full six days in the cotton mills, their only education came through Sunday Schools. These Sunday Schools taught general education as well as religion.

People in that area were severely affected by the great cotton famine. In the US Civil War, the North blockaded cotton exports from the South, and that slave-picked cotton was the raw material of the Lancashire cotton industry. For the duration of the war, there was little cotton, and therefore no work for large numbers of mill workers. Horatio, as Almoner of the Relief Committee, had the task of allocating alms to the impoverished workers.