University of Leicester
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Family, work and leisure in a hosiery town. Hinckley 1640-2000

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posted on 2010-04-28, 11:50 authored by Rhianydd Murray
My research concentrates on a social history of the hosiery industry in the Hinckley area. The work undertaken may be divided into three parts – the historical background which commenced with the introduction of the framework knitting machine into Hinckley by William Iliffe in 1640; an outline of power-driven factory production which commenced in the mid nineteenth century; and, oral history research into factory life and the social lives of people from managing directors, supervisors through to overlockers, linkers, folders, baggers knitters, mechanics, counterman and union officials. The research relies heavily on the wealth of recorded memories carried out over a number of years. Framework knitting degenerated rapidly from a respected craft in the early years into a depressed trade. The framework knitter had little choice but to employ the help of his family in order to eke out a living. Parliamentary Papers highlight the plight of the families. Nevertheless, people were reluctant to change to factory-based production. However, by the 1890s the inevitable change had taken place. The hosiery has dominated and shaped the lives of people in the Hinckley area for generations. Manufacturers followed fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers into the workplace, and whole families were employed in the manufacture of hosiery and knitwear. Manufacturers have highlighted the importance of updating machinery and attending exhibitions and fashion shows in order to remain competitive in an industry dependent on the ‘whims of fashion’. Respondents have provided a unique insight into the types of work and its influence on their lives. They have described the ‘larkingabout’, camaraderie and activities in the workplace as well as highlighting that they not only worked together but played together - the ‘monkey run’, dancing and the cinema have all been discussed. The research has highlighted the unique and dominant nature of the ‘hosiery’ in the Hinckley area. However, the industry has been in decline for a number of years and many of the factories have now been demolished or renovated for housing and apartments.



Snell, K.

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Masters

Qualification name

  • Mphil



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