Come, all you croppers stout and bold,
Let your faith grow stronger still,
For the cropper lads in the county of York
Have brocken the shears at Foster’s Mill.
Around and around we all will stand
And sternly swear we will,
We’ll break the shears and the windows too
And we’ll all set fire to tazzlin’ mill.
The wind it blew and the sparks they flew,
Which alarmed the town full soon,
And out of bed poor folk did leave,
And they run bi the light o’ the moon.
Around and around they all did stand
And solemnly did swear,
Neither bucket nor kit nor any such thing
Should be of any assistance there.
All dark and dreary is the day
When men ’ave to feight for their bread;
Some judgment sure will clear the way
And the coach of triumph shall be led.
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire, collected in Yorkshire.
Foster’s Mill stood between Horbury and Ossett and the attack took place on 9th April 1812. The crowd of hundreds armed with ‘hatchet, pike and gun’ destroyed the tazzling or gig mills and the shear-frames. The gig mill raised the nap on the woven woollen cloth so that the shear-frame could crop it. See song TYG62 The Cropper Lads for another song on these Luddite riots, and the notes following.
Before the introduction of this machinery the croppers were well-paid skilled men, but they were quickly reduced to penury after this. It has been estimated that between 1806 and 1817 the number of shear-frames increased from 100 to 1,462 and by 1817 of the remaining croppers more than a third were unemployed and the rest working part time.
(Information from Roy Palmer’s influential Poverty Knock CUP 1976, p9)