Not long ago I wrote a post for the Austen Authors blog about Charles Bingley, a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (You can click on the Austen Authors logo to read the post.)
If you’ve read Austen’s classic novel, you know that Charles Bingley and his sisters are quite wealthy by the standards of their day. They certainly enjoyed the finer things in life and spent their money freely on travel, clothes, and large, expensive homes. Austen told us the Bingley siblings inherited their wealth from their father, and that the family fortune had been “acquired by trade.”
I’ve often believed “trade” meant ownership in a textile mill, a belief I explained in the Austen Authors post. Also in the post, I wondered what kind of mill owner the Bingley’s father would have been.
My opinion has always been that the elder Mr. Bingley would have been among the enlightened brand of mill owners. By that, I mean that he treated his employees with respect and probably established churches and schools for his workers. I based my theory on research I did about Quarry Bank, a real-life mill founded in 1784 in Manchester, England.
At the time I wrote that post, I didn’t know there was a book about Quarry Bank Mill that described the workers and the conditions at the mill. Nor was I aware English television had broadcast a dramatic series that told the stories of the children who worked at the real Quarry Bank Mill.
I haven’t seen the series, but last week I discovered the book on Amazon. You can click on the book cover to read more about it
I just ordered my copy, and it’s on it’s way (Thank you, Prime two-day-shipping!).
On a whim, I switched from the U.S. Amazon site to the U.K. Amazon site to see if I could find a DVD of the TV series. Lo, and behold, Amazon U.K. has quite a few books about Quarry Bank Mill! Oh, how I wish I had known about them before!
This book, for example, is only 128 pages long, but contains over 250 pictures of life at the mill:
And this one really piqued my interest:
It tells the story of the wife of Quarry Bank Mill’s owner, and her life-long efforts to improve the education, health and welfare of Quarry Bank’s workers.
Both of these books are must-haves for me! And if you’re a fan of North and South (another classic novel that centers around early English Textile mills), or ever wondered how those Bingleys got so rich, you may find these books of interest, too.
If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to know what you think of them!