These are the two staple trades of Nottingham, and to them the town owes its rising wealth and magnitude. The hosiery trade was not of much importance till the middle of the eighteenth century, nor that of lace till the year 1778, when the point net machine was invented - an improvement which has been superceded in later times by warp and bobbin net machines. Many females used to be employed in the making of bone or cushion lace, till they found a more profitable occupation in ornamenting hosiery and embroidering wrought lace net.
The invention of the bobbin net machine was claimed by Robert Brown and George Whitmore of Nottingham, and John Lindley of Loughborough, about the year 1799. In 1807, the machine was much improved by Edward Whitaker of Nottingham. But not one of these poor, but ingenious artisans reaped any retuen for their labour; bobbins and carriages of the same construction being included in the specifications for the Loughborough machines for which a fourteen years' patent was granted to Messrs Heathcote and Lacy in 1809. This firm, which acquired an immense amount of wealth, levied taxes upon all persons using the same bobbins and carriages, amounting on some machines to upwards of £30 per annum. in 1823, when their patent expired, a lace manufacturing mania prevailed in Nottingham for a couple of years; capitalists eagerly embarked their all in bobbin net machines; the wages of artisans rose to a most extravagant height; hundreds of machanics poured in from the manufacturing districts of England; machines and houses sprang up like mushrooms; till at length a temporary and unstable prosperity was dispelled in 1823. Machines which at that period had cost from £400 to £500, subsequently sold for less than £100.
Improved bobbin net machines have been introcuced during the present century, the chief of which are the Traverse Warp, invented by John Brown and George Freeman Esq. in 1810; the Straightbolt, by William Morley in 1812; the Pusher, by James Clark and Joshua Roper; the Levers', by three John Levers (father, son and nephew) in 1814; the Rotary, by John Lindley in 1816; the Circular Bolt, by William Morley, before mentioned, in 1817; and the Rotary Levers' Traverse Warp, by William barnes in 1827. The point-net machine (appended to the stocking frame) was invented in 1778 by Messrs Lindley, Taylor and Flint, of Nottingham. Mr Jos. Crowder of Nottingham, who has made considerable improvements in lace machinery, and applied his ingenuity to the stiffening of lace, in which the French greatly excelled; and ultimately succeed in producing an article from the bobbin net machine, equal in appearance to the French tulle, but decidedly superior in stamina. In 1833, Messrs Fisher and Crofts procured a patent for improvements in the machinery for ornamenting bobbin net with patterns of opaque clothwork, made by the employment of additional warp threads to each carriage or bobbin. In 1837, William Bull Dexter obtained a patent for applying the Jacquard principle to the manufacture of warp lace, the first application of this principle in Nottingham for the figuring of lace. In 1844, William Clark obtained a patent for improvements in bobbin net, or hoist lace.
The introduction of the round frame in 1851, attributed to M. Claussen, has had the effect of centralising the hosiery manufacture. Hitherto small workshops and large warehouses have been the characteristics of the Nottingham lace and hosiery trades - the poor rooms of poor dwellings have been the most numerous of the workshops; but "Claussen's Roundabout" has led to the establishment of large factories and thus, instead of being scattered in the detached dwellings of the operatives, as was the case with the old-fashioned frame, the stockings can be manufactured by steam power. Thus, the amount of hosiery has increased, while at the same time an immense pecuniary saving has been effected. The factory of Mr Hine, in Station Street, one of the most handsome buildings in the town, is the best specimen of the new species of factory yet erected.
Among the traders and manufacturers of the town are lace manufacturers, lace agents, lace makers, bobbin net makers, lace edging manufacturers, lace merchants, lace cap makers, and lace thread manufacturers, all in connection with the lace and bobbin net departments. The hosiery department has its own distinct series of branches, and, further, the making of the numerous machines gives occupation to framesmiths, machine needle makers, bobbin and carriage makers, frame needle makers, sinker makers, and many others.
The cotton manufacture was inaugurated in Nottingham in 1769, by the erection of the first cotton mill in the world, built in Hockley by Sir Richard Arkwright. The machinery introdiced originally to this mill was invented in Lancashire, and the chief cause which led to Nottingham being the firstplace where it was applied was the mistaken determination of the Lancashire operatives to resist al improvements which were likely to supercede manual labour. There are now in the borough, and its vicinity, several silk, cotton and worsted mills, chiefly for supplying the lace and hosiery manufactures.
The manufacture of woolen cloth was the first manufacture of any importance prosecuted in the borough. It flourished as early as the twelfth century. Among the later improvements in Nottingham manufactures is the making of cloth, Indian shawls, and fancy goods, from the lace machine, for which a firm in Nottingham obtained the Council Medal a the Great Exhibition. More recently, cloth of a superior nature has been manufactured from the round hose frame. Besides being equal to ordinary cloth in the firmness of the fabric, it is considerably superior in elasticity.
The malting business has, ever since the period of the Norman Conquest, been a source of profit to the town and suburbs where there are now upwards of thirty maltsters. The goodness of the barley grown in some parts of Nottinghamshire, and in the vale of Belvoir; the excellent quality of the coal used in the malt kilns; and the deep and cool rock cellars, possessed by almost every house in the town, have long since established the fame of Nottingham ale, which Stukely noted as being "highly valued for softness and pleasant taste". There are, however, no common brewers of any extent in the town, as many of the private families, and nearly all the publicans, brew their own beer, and many of the latter are sholesale as well as retail dealers. From 1800 to 1804, the Newark brewers attempted to force their liquor upon the town, by purchaing all the public houses they could obtain; but the great aversion of the inhabitants to what is termed "brewery ale", and the determination of the magistrates to withhold the licences of all such houses, destroyed the monopoly in the latter year, so that the traveller may still regale himself in almost any inn or tavern in the town with a "can" (a plated gill) of that excellent and wholesom beverage, which many years ago inspired Mr Gunthorpe, a naval officer, but a native of Nottingham, with a popular bacchanalian song, of which the following is the last verse and chorus:-
"Ye poets who brag of the Helicon brook,
The nectar of gods, and the juice of the vine;
You say none can write well, except they invoke
The friendly assistance of one of the nine -
Here's liquor surpasses the streams of Parnassus,
The nectar ambrosia, on which gods regale;
Experience will show it, nought makes a good poet,
Like quantum sufficit of Nottingham ale!
Nottingham ale, boys, Nottingham ale;
No liquor on earth like Nottingham ale!"
Besides the numerous machine works, there are in the town several iron and brass foundries, a steam engine manufactory, an extensive white lead works, and an extensive marble works, for sawing and polishing marble by the aid of steam power. In 1843 there was established a steam confectionery manufactory in Glasshouse Street, by Mr R.F. Bingham, the only one in the county, who has two omnibuses constantly out visiting every place within fifteen miles of the town. There were formerly two glass houses and two potteries in the town, but they have long since disappeared. The tanners here once formed a numerous and respectable company, with a master and two wardens, chosen annually. In 1664, there were 47 tan yards, but in 1750 they were reduced to three, of which only one now remains, besides three fellmongers' yards and eleven curriers. In the vicinity there are no fewer than thirty windmills, which supply the town and surrounding villages with flour.
White's "Directory of Nottinghamshire," 1853