Friday, May 17, 2013

Follow Friday - Weekly Research

It is one week until I head off on my genjourney to the UK, so this week I have been concentrating on information and websites that will give me some background to my research in Lancashire.  It is amazing what you can find when you focus on one particular area.

I was searching for books on Amazon about Lancashire and came across Nicholas Hartley’s book Bittersweet: The Story of Hartley’s Jam*. In my readings about Colne and the district I had come across a number of mentions of William Hartley and his connection with Colne, the Hartley’s Grocery Story and the Hartley Jam factory, so thought I would check it out. With the wonders of instant purchasing on my kindle account I had a copy of the book in a couple of minutes and started reading.  I found the book fascinating, engaging and very informative, especially in relation to the living conditions that existed in Lancashire and England through from 1840’s. 

William Pickles Hartley was born in 1846 in Colne, Lancashire and married Martha Horsfield in 1866.  Martha was the daughter of Henry and Ann Horsfield, Grocers of Colne.  The business grew, William and his family moved into the wholesale trade and a chance event in 1871 started the Hartley business rolling.  A supplier failed to deliver an order of jam and William decided to make his own jam. The business flourished and Hartley's jams, in their distinctive eathernware pots flourished.

The story of William's life and generosity to the community is fascinating, however, for me the real value of the book is the descriptions of the life and social conditions of the common people, for example, "Sanitation was poor and mortality rates high.  Industrialisation had brought prosperity to the mill owners, but life for the workers was a constant struggle.  In the mills, children toiled alongside their parents to make ends meet........ people lived in cellars, families were large.  There were too many mouths to feed".

Colne and the surrounding towns were heavily industrialised and this industrialisation was touted by some as progress, and however the effects on the population was devastating.  Another section of Hartley's book describes the social conditions, "The heavily industrialised landscape produced a marked decline in health.  ...... "It is saddening to see the pallid, stunted,ill-set up lads and girls, many of them married, streaming out from the factory gates at closing time and still more saddening to see the puny infants, of perhaps a few months old, with emaciated faces and the weary careworn look of old age, who are brought by their ill-developed mothers to the out patients rooms of our hospitals."

Hartley Homes, Alms House in Colne
The positive side to this story, was that William was not simply a man who sought to make a profit.  Eventhough he had a clear vision of commercial progress, he was also endowed with a strong belief in the essential goodness of human nature.  He build a model village for the workers of his factory and introduced innovative schemes that considered their welfare. Amongst his generous donations was money to establish an almshouses and hospital in Colne.

 I can thoroughly recommend this book, not only as a story of an interesting, resourceful and generous man but also as a wonderful commentary on the social conditions and events in England from the mid 1880's through to the 1930's.
* Hartley, Nicholas, 2011 Bittersweet: The Story of Hartley’s Jam, Amberley Publishing, UK.


  1. What an interesting book! It's true that focusing in on one area, and in this case, one man and his business make for a great social study of the time, as well as a fascinating personal tale. Thanks for the review, I might be looking this one up. I love books like this. Thanks :)

  2. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

  3. I was just researching our Lancashire relations yesterday and posted one find on my blog! Have a great trip.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)