The Shoddy Industry

Shoddy is the Recycling or remanufacturing of wool and was first made in Batley, Yorkshire by Benjamin Law in 1813. He was the first to organise, on a larger scale, the activity of taking old clothes and grinding them down into a fibrous state that could be re-spun into yarn.

The shoddy industry was centred on the towns of Batley, Morley, Dewsbury and Ossett in West Yorkshire, and concentrated on the recovery of wool from rags. The importance of the industry can be gauged by the fact that even in 1860 the town of Batley was producing over 7000 tonnes of shoddy.

At the time there were 80 firms employing a total of 550 people sorting the rags. These were then sold to shoddy manufacturers of which there were about 130 in the West Riding.

The collection of the rags for this process started in streets all over Britain by rag dealers or rag and bone men as they became more commonly known.

Shoddy is inferior to the original wool; Therefore "shoddy" has come to mean "of poor quality" in general.

Charles Day writes about The Shoddy Industry & The History of Henry Day & Sons Ltd