Did you know that we crafters have a Robin Hood of our very own? We do and his name is Ned Ludd.
He didn’t rob people and I don’t think he hooked up with any Maid Marrian types. But he was a beloved folkhero for middle class workers that supposedly lived in Sherwood Forest. He snuck out into the night and smashed up knitting machines and spinning jennys and powered looms. So today I’m telling his story and the story of the real-life Luddites.
The Luddites were either rebels, heroes, labor-rights advocates, criminals, drunkards, or technophobes. They have been called all of that. Specifically they were men in parts of England who organized themselves and performed acts of sabotage in the early 1800’s. Their targets were textile factories. They broke into them, smashed up all the machines and sometimes burned them to the ground. The Luddites took up the legend of Ned Ludd. He became their public face, their leader. Letters and declarations and demands were signed “King Ludd”. Ned Ludd was given jokingly given credit for every act of sabotage.
The British government didn’t consider it to be a joke. Wealthy factory owners were loosing money and the government was loosing TAXES. Plus socks were not getting made. We may laugh and shake our heads but this rebellion was so disruptive that the British government sent more troops out to deal with the Luddites then they sent to the Duke of Wellington when he fought the Peninsular War.
Kick back and enjoy the story of these truly subversive crafters and their (probably) mythical hero.
Want to know more about the Luddite movement? Of course you do! Here are some resources to get you started:
- The Luddite Link – a source of information on the Luddite movement in West Yorkshire provided by a cooperative of universities, museums and libraries.
- Lord Byron’s speech against the 1812 Frame Breaking Act
- Piecework Magazine, July/August 2015 issue – Framework Knitters, Luddites and the Capital Crime of Poverty (page 18)
- Shirley by Charlotte Brontë – a novel published in 1849 set against the backdrop of the Luddite rebellion in Yorkshire
I love to spin and I love to ramble. Sometimes I do both. Here are my other Spinning in Cowgirl Boots posts.