On Tuesday 1st November 2016 at 7:30pm at East Bridgford Methodist Chapel Peter Hammond will give a talk on Robert Blincoe ‘The Nottinghamshire Oliver Twist’.
Robert Blincoe was born in 1792. At four years old he was placed in St. Pancras Workhouse, London. At the age of six he was sent to work as a chimney boy. However, he was not a success and after a few months he was returned to St. Pancras Workhouse.
In 1799, Lamberts recruited Robert and eighty other boys and girls from St. Pancras Workhouse to be instructed in the trade of stocking weaving and the girls in lacemaking at Lowdam Mill, situated ten miles from Nottingham. Blincoe completed his apprenticeship in 1813, worked as an adult operative until 1817, when he set up his own small cotton-spinning business. Blincoe married a woman called Martha in 1819.
John Brown, a journalist from Bolton, met Robert Blincoe in 1822. He later explained: “It was in the spring of 1822, after having devoted a considerable time to the investigating of the effect of the manufacturing system, and factory establishments, on the health and morals of the manufacturing populace, that I first heard of the extraordinary sufferings of Robert Blincoe. At the same time, I was told of his earnest wish that those sufferings should, for the protection of the rising generation of parish children, be laid before the world. If this young man had not consigned to a cotton-factory, he would probably have been strong, healthy, and well grown; instead of which, he is diminutive as to statue, and his knees are grievously distorted.”
Brown interviewed Blincoe for an article he was writing on child labour. Brown found the story so fascinating he decided to write Blincoe’s biography. John Brown gave the biography to his friend Richard Carlile who was active in the campaign for factory legislation.
Robert Carlile eventually decided to publish Robert Blincoe’s Memoir in his radical newspaper, The Lion. The story appeared in five weekly episodes from 25th January to 22nd February 1828. The story also appeared in Carlile’s The Poor Man’s Advocate. Five years later, John Doherty published Robert Blincoe’s Memoir in pamphlet form.