London millwrights: masters and journeymen in the late 18th and early 19th centuries

    Full details

    Authors & editors

    Moher, James G [Author]

    Publisher The Mills Archive Trust
    Year of publication 2018

    English (main text)

    Medium Book
    SeriesMills Archive Research Publications
    No. in series8

    Arts, culture and heritage > Traditional millwrighting
    People and communities


    Scope & contentThis study traces the pivotal role of the millwright in the London area during the early industrial revolution when horses, wind and especially water, were the primary power sources. They first came to public notice as a London Society of Journeymen in 1795 on account of a four-month strike at the Old London Bridge waterworks with its huge wheels and millwork driven by the tide under the arches as illustrated in the cover. A few years later, this 'union' was the subject of an attempt by their masters to outlaw it, leading to the passage of the infamous Combination Act of 1799, banning all such clubs.

    The millwrights were at the heart of technological change as the design, structure and materials (wood to iron) of the power sources (including steam engines) developed. This book charts the struggle to control the emerging engineering industry in London and twenty-five miles around from the 1780's to the 1820's. The people who drove the change - James Watt, John Rennie and William Fairbairn - clashed with the journeyman millwrights who, under the Master Millwrights Association, controlled the trade with a guild-like grip of the skilled labour supply and the small workshop nature of their trade. This was broken by the capitalist engineering employers who offered better terms of employment in larger works, employing non-apprenticed specialist engineering skills - fitters, turners, filers and machinists - leading to the demise of all-round journeyman and master millwrights. Main chapters: One - A millwrights' dispute at London Bridge Waterworks 1795; Two - The Millwrights Bill 1799; Three - The development of millwrighting; Four - The pricebooks of the Masters; Five - The pressure for change to and engineer's economy. Appendix 1 - The waterworks at London Bridge. Appendix 2 - London Master Millwrights 1794. London Master Millwrights and Engineers 1805. Appendix 4 - Summary of rules of the Society of London Journeymen Millwrights. Appendix 5 - Millers on the Darent and mills on the other London area rivers.

    Copies held

    Accession no. 230155

    • Shelf location: A045-08
    • Notes: Signed by the author