Family and Community in a Small Industrial Town: Hathersage in the Nineteenth-century


This thesis focuses on one north Derbyshire township and its response to industrialization. Wire-drawing was just one of the crafts practiced in the Hope valley but chance played a part in the development of needle-making factories and workshops in the village of Hathersage. The role of chance in the conduct of the business and particularly in its total collapse by the end of the century is discussed. The relationship with the Arrow Valley where needle-making was more enduring and the development of needle-making in England is documented.

The effects of transient industrialization on a relatively stable land based economy were investigated but in general, changes in demographic parameters followed national trends. For example, mean household size declined with a decrease in fertility. Changes in co-resident kin suggested more local influences. Potential care pathways for the elderly were examined in detail suggesting low levels of isolation. Women and children employed in the metal trades providing labour elasticity and occupational health risks are examined revealing a real improvement of life expectancy in needle-grinders. Migrational behaviour changed little throughout the nineteenth century; the exception being the accelerated migration of metal workers northwards as the local industry declined.

Transport links between Hathersage and larger towns such as Manchester and Sheffield remained primitive until the railway was opened in 1894. This late appearance importantly contributed to the needle industry’s decline. The two events were pivotal in demographic changes and alterations in social mix which occurred in Hathersage as the twentieth century dawned. Hathersage became less self-contained.

The detailed account of the metal industry in Hathersage during the nineteenth century is important and timely as there is a risk that its existence might otherwise fade into obscurity.



Due to copyright restrictions some images have been removed from the electronic version of this thesis. The unabridged version can be consulted, on request, at the University of Leicester Library:






Side, Christopher Douglas, “Family and Community in a Small Industrial Town: Hathersage in the Nineteenth-century,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed December 9, 2023,