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Research Methodology

Portlaw A Nineteenth Century Industrial Village

2. Research Methodology

As shall be submitted in the Literature Review, the main type of research in this work, was researching the majority, if not all, the articles written about Portlaw during the nineteenth century. As the title implies, the study undertaken is a case study. The author was not focusing on just one aspect of the village during the nineteenth century, but many overlapping areas of interest, as is outlined by virtue of the title of each respective chapter. For my study to be somehow original it was quite necessary to go further than researching and editing books, articles etc. In light of this, tables and graphs were devised and compiled by means of information gathered from parliamentary papers in the National Library, Dublin and from Censuses reports ranging from 1821 to 1901. Also Griffith's valuation was a main source of Information for original work, and also for supplying information and material not to be found in any book.

Griffith's valuation was used to try and outline some trends occurring in tenement leasorship and rateable value for the period around 1852. Some graphs were compiled from this material which gave interesting results. In compiling the graphs for tenement leasorship, three main Land Leasors at the time' were taken into account. Namely the Malcolmsons, Medlycotts and Richard Curtis, the other leasors leasing, only a few houses each are classified as "other" on the graph. The total number of houses taken into account were 425, this number was equated as 100% on the graph, therefore showing the percentage leased by the respective leasors as mentioned above. See graph No (1).

Graph No (2) gives the overall percentage of valuation classes, the class value was attributed as follows: five categories were devised in all, the first category being houses with the net annual value ranging from £1 up to but not including £2, and so on up to £6+. As many of the houses above the valuation of £6 spanned quite a large range it was thought that £6+ would be an appropriate category to use in order to give an overall indication of the percentage of houses above this value.

Later when contrasting house values as attributed by 1901 Census, and by my own categories from the 1852 data. I devised the following categories so as to class the houses (i.e. class as regards quality etc.). The houses in the £1 - £2 category and £2 - £3 category were taken as 3rd class houses and the £3 - £4 and £4 - £5 categories as 2nd class, the last two categories i.e. £5 - £6 and the £6+' being categorised as 1st class. This proved to be quite beneficial as is outlined in Table 6. Here the eye immediately perceives that many of the houses leased by the Malcolmsons in 1852 had the same class value in 1901, and houses in the other streets which in 1852 according to my classification are classed as 2nd class, and have a low number leased by the Malcolmsons, have changed hands over the intersecting years and dropped to the standard of 3rd class. Graph No (3) is a superimposition in effect of Graph No (1) and No (2), as regards information pertaining to Malcolmsons. By virtue of comparison, the graph allows the percentage valuation classes leased by the Malcolmsons to be compared to the overall percentage of the valuation classes.

Data from the Census reports gave a comprehensive division of the male and female labour force in 1871, giving an overall indication of employment structure. Similar but shorter accounts were obtained from the 1821 Census and the numbers of families dependant on various trades is given in the Census of 1841.

Table 4 was again constructed from the Censuses which gave invaluable information as regards number of population, number of houses inhabited, uninhabited. When all the data from the relevant years is compiled and contrasted, trends in the prosperity of the village can be seen, also the general health of the village at that given time can be immediately observed. Taking, for example 1841, here 458 houses were inhabited, none were uninhabited and 31 were being built, whereas later in 1881 and 1891 a significant decline in inhabited houses is perceived. In 1891 alone 144 houses were uninhabited. Even the censuses themselves i.e. the reports indicated this decline and gave an explanation for the decline saying: "The decrease in 1881 was attributed to the closing of a Cotton Factory, and in 1891 to reduced employment in a Spinning Factory" (Report of Census for 1881 and 1891.) In the Parliamentary papers on various years under Factory Inspector reports, the Portlaw Cotton Factory is mentioned three times, in the 1836, 1839 and 1852 reports. This information allowed the author to compile tables, which outline the numbers employed and their sexes, as well as allowing for comparison with other factories of the time. By mere comparison, how extensive the works in Portlaw were, is easily comprehended and realised.

Trade Directories also proved to be valuable sources of information. In the trade directories the main persons in the village at the time are named and also their occupation. In compiling the graphs the author perceived that a certain Richard Curtis, was leasing a relatively large amount of property in Portlaw at the time of the research done in Griffiths Valuation. However, no one seemed to be able to tell the author who this person was, and what status he held in the village. However, when his name was referred to Slater's commercial directory of 1846, he was listed as Coal Merchant, Grocer, Baker and Flour Dealer, thus giving further insights into the social life of the village at that point-in time and the main persons there within.

With a compilation of this material and the written literature studied by the author, the various chapters were research and compiled.

The Malcolmsons - Corn & Cotton Magnates - deals with the Malcolmsons, their origins, how they acquired their wealth, how they became involved in the Cotton trade, and subsequently their eventual arrival in Portlaw

The Portlaw Cotton Factory - follows on from this, dealing with the Cotton factory - the conditions, the number of workers, employed, the uniqueness of the engineering of the factory and other such details.

Village Types - Inspirations For Portlaw - deals with the main village types in Ireland at the time. This discussion is very general, this being a result of the diversity involved in all these villages. Therefore, only general remarks were made ,and a small, yet clear account of Gilford, an industrial village similar to Portlaw, is given.

The Model Village Of Portlaw - is a description of the model village of Portlaw. It discusses the layout and structure of the village. Also it looks at population figures, house inhabitation figures etc. it was in this Chapter that Griffiths Valuation was analysed.

Victorian Virtues And Social Control - looks at the benefits that Portlaw received as a consequence of being an industrial village, and also by the fact that it's benefactors were a Quaker family. Therefore, the chapter also looks at the Malcolmsons as philanthropists and their Quaker philosophy.

The Conclusion - outlines the eventual decline of the factory - the factors conditioning this decline and inevitably the subsequent decline and demise of Portlaw.

As already mentioned, the study undertaken being a cease study, had to look at many aspects of the village during the nineteenth century. Thus prohibiting extensive research and subsequent writings on any one area of village life at the time. Many aspects had to be covered, and hopefully in doing so the author hopes that this was acquired with satisfaction for the reader.

Author: Tina Foran

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