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Richard Ryley's Diary

Richard Ryley’s Diary

Date 1 January 1862 to 22 June 1864

The diary of a cotton weaver from Barnoldswick.


Who was Richard Ryley?

Richard Ryley was born in Barnoldswick in around 1821. He lived with his wife and child and was a cotton weaver who worked in the local mill. He kept a diary for three years starting on 1 January 1862.

Richard suffered many hardships throughout his life. When he could get work, hours were long and wages low. During the period covered in his diary, the American Civil War (1861-65) disrupted the textile industry by cutting off the main supply of raw cotton. For people like Richard, this meant unemployment, which often led to malnutrition and disease.

Richard made his last diary entry on 11 June 1864. He died later that year at the age of forty-three.

Black and white photograph of the inside of a Church showing pughs

Interior of St Mary Le Ghyll's Church, Barnoldwick. Richard mentions attending Gill Church in his diary.

Line drawing of an old street with terraced mill houses and 3 working class figures

A street scene in Barnoldswick. Illustration by Ken Wilson from his book 'My Days are Swifter than a Weaver's Shuttle'.

Why is the diary so unique?

Unlike most working-class men at the time, Richard could read and write well. His diary offers a rare and unique insight into the daily struggles of the working poor. He records the amount of money given to him by the relieving officer, ill health and the anniversary of the death of his first child.

Whilst life could be difficult, his diary also pulls out other more joyful times. These include attending church services, playing music as part of a travelling set of musicians, and a family Christmas.