Blincoe’s Progress by Stuart Courtman
Parson Brown is the newly appointed local rector of Tideswell in Derbyshire. He is involved in a shady deal with the London workhouse wardens, resulting in children, including Blincoe, being moved into his parish. Blincoe is apprenticed to Ellis Needham, a friend of Brown’s and the owner of nearby Litton cotton mill.
Due to their immaturity, both Brown and Blincoe make mistakes, and they struggle with the consequences. Eventually, they each fall in love with local girls. But can they have the ones they love, or will the repercussions of their mistakes prevent them realising their dreams?
This is the story of the harsh life surrounding the cotton industry; a life that proves to be difficult and complicated for apprentices, workers, mill owners, and even the local parson.
Stuart moved to the Peak District in 2002 to live in a hamlet established in the eighteenth century industrial revolution. In 1865, the hamlet was described as “a small row of cottages, standing on a bleak and wild looking moor-like prominence, as if the buildings had been lifted out of the adjoining valley to look about them.” That valley is dominated by Litton and Cressbrook cotton mills and Stuart was drawn into the fascinating history of the area. The research threw up many interesting facts but also left unanswered questions.
Stuart’s first novel Blincoe’s Progress fills those gaps with a fiction set in the eighteenth century centred around local characters, including: Molly Baker, Landlady of the Red Lion at Litton; Ellis Needham, owner of Litton cotton mill; William Newton, manager of Cressbrook mill, Parson Brown and his maid, who live in the vicarage at Tideswell, Woodward, the brutal overlooker from Litton mill, and many ill-treated apprentices and mill workers.
Also by Stuart Courtman
Robert Blincoe and the Cotton Trade
‘A Memoir of Robert Blincoe’ published in 1828 was influential in improving the working conditions of children in factories. It is also believed that Charles Dickens based his character Oliver Twist on Robert Blincoe. This book contains the original full 1828 text of the memoir and historical notes by Stuart Courtman.
The historical notes explore the influences that led to the development of mechanised cotton production and discuss the political and economic changes that shaped the industry. There is examination of the treatment of children in workhouses and mills, and discussion of how the relative conditions at Litton and Cressbrook mills have been perceived over the centuries. There are notes on the wider global forces that contributed to the anti-slavery movements and the demise of cotton manufacturing in India. There are chapters which account for the historical agency of individuals such as Ellis Needham, owner of Litton mill, William Newton, manager of nearby Cressbrook mill and Parson Brown, the local Tideswell vicar.
The text of the memoir has been reproduced, unchanged from the 1828 publication. Spellings are retained with some archaic spelling of words, possibly some misspellings and many inconsistencies of spelling. Similarly the punctuation has been reproduced from this version; again with its oddities. No attempt has been made to modernise the words or language.
It is hoped that the notes here will enhance the reading of both the 1828 memoir, and the novel, Blincoe’s Progress.