Hebden & Variants Family Website

   Introduction 900 AD - 1500 1501 - 1700 1701 - 1836 1837 - 1913 1914 - 1938 1939 - 2000



1701 - 1836; From Farming to Factory

In 1701 most Hebden families were still Dales folk, earning a living in sheep rearing on the high moors, and homesteading in the valleys. Either way, life would have been a constant struggle. For the landowners, there were rich pickings in the wool trade, cattle could be reared on the lower slopes and valley floors, and the villages were centres for trades which supported the agricultural economy.


From the 1730's, the agricultural revolution brought about many changes to farming, and it was not long before these changes affected even the remote areas of the Yorkshire Dales. The improved production of fodder by planting turnips and clover instead of leaving land lying fallow, meant that livestock could now be kept through the winter. Improved breeding techniques were introduced from the 1750's. These methods proved successful in raising better quality livestock more resistant to local conditions and which fetched a higher price at market.

The labour force was also more efficiently deployed and managed, but the increasing use of machinery and new techniques required fewer workers.

The Agricultural Revolution in Britain proved to be a major spur to population growth. The population in 1750 reached 5.7 million. The increase in population and continuing growth led to more demand  for goods such as clothing and household goods. A new class of landless labourers as a result of Enclosure Acts, provided the basis for cottage industry, a stepping stone to the Industrial Revolution.

To supply a continuously growing demand, Businessmen supported by investors pioneered new technology to mass-produce goods faster and more cheaply than traditional "craft" methods. This led to the "factory" system and rapid industrialisation. Many Hebden (and other) families in the Dales could no longer afford to stay put; - fewer jobs and depressed rural wage rates forced many farm workers to leave the land and seek work in the rapidly growing industrial towns of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire. The population of Burnley was 3,300 in 1801, but by 1840 it had grown to 10,700, and similar growth was happening in most other northern industrial towns. This growth continued until checked by the Lancashire cotton famine in 1861-1865, and the depression in 1920.



"Homeward" A Victorian narrative painting showing a family returning from a day's labour in the fields. The woman in the red skirt is too tired to carry her sack of produce and is dragging it along the ground. The woman behind carries her baby and kindling for the fire. Even the horse looks totally dispirited. The menfolk follow with their scythes over their shoulders.

Read Joseph Hebden's Story    enlisted 6th June 1826 at Leeds


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