The author Stan Barstow, who was born and raised in the area, said that Horbury (my home town) and neighbouring Ossett were the 'border country' where the north-west of the coalfield merged with the south-east of the wool towns. This is borne out in the occupations given for many of my ancestors on the censuses – the vast majority were either miners or textile mill workers.
The women tend to be employed in the mills – presumably considered more suited to female labour. Job titles include ‘Rag sorter’, ‘Piecer’, ‘Spinner’, ‘Rover’ or ‘Reeler’. By contrast, the older men at least are more often listed as labourers or miners – jobs which sound much more physically demanding or dangerous.
I need to do much more research on this subject, as I know that there were many different types of textile milling going on in the area at this period – wool, cotton, worsted, silk and ‘shoddy’ (woollen rag sorting) – and I have no idea which industry many of ancestors were employed in, or where they were likely to have worked.
My parents now live in part of a converted mill building, so it would be nice to think my ancestors might even have worked there once.
I did look into the history of this building when we moved into it, and it’s really quite interesting. For one thing, at one time the business there was owned by a man named Hampshire, which is one of my family surnames – not a direct ancestor, sadly, but almost certainly a distant relative! In later years the building had various uses, most recently as an engineering works. At one time it was also the only place in the country that manufactured the ticket machines used by bus conductors – a fact my mum loved, because her mum used to be a clippy!