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The 'big purl time', which was looked back on as a golden age of prosperity, lasted only from 1813 to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and was followed by increasing competition from other districts of England, such as Derby where steam looms were successfully introduced.
Whenever there was a possibility that the prohibition might be lifted or the tariff on imported ribbons reduced there was a protest from Coventry, but as long as the prohibition remained there was no incentive to developments in design or the improvement of machinery.
When it was a question of the fair price there was much sympathy in the city for the weavers, and strikes were accompanied by contributions from manufacturers to funds for the distressed; there would finally be a return to work on the basis of a settlement of a kind.
If there had been a steady development of factories there is every reason to suppose that the ribbon trade in Coventry would have progressed in spite of, or perhaps because of, foreign competition, but the tradition of home working died hard and new enterprises were begun to support the cottage industry.
- Aug 8th 1873 from "British History Online" - RIBBON WEAVING.
- With the decline of the woollen-cloth trade Coventry textile workers naturally turned to the nascent silk-ribbon industry.
By 1836 there were 53 power looms at work in the city, all run by two of the largest manufacturers.
It was only in the city that such innovations could be made, and country weavers, like the city top-shop weavers, stuck to the single-hand loom.It was unpractical for him to buy or lease an engine loom or a Jacquard loom, for by a weavers' agreement neither his wife nor his daughters could work anything but a single-hand loom, and in any case only single-hand looms could be used for certain types of work.The factory, on the other hand, could speed up production by using engine looms or Jacquard looms as required, by the division of labour, by the introduction of definite hours of work, and by the supervision of employees.While the growth of steam power was speeding up the development of factories, a way was being found to perpetuate the small workshop by means of power-run looms.At first it was a make-do arrangement by which a shafting system was run through a row of existing top-shops, with one engine supplying power to them all.Under such conditions a weekly wage could be paid to all weavers.