Where it all began...
The year is 1703. It is a beautiful autumn day here in Bedlington, and the locals are taking full advantage of the Indian summer to get ahead on the harvest. The bustle is unusual: it is normally quiet in the tiny English village, which is really not much more than a cluster of farms. John Bumbleson (Jack to his friends) joins the others in heading out to the fields. The farm has been in the family for many generations; Jack leases the land from the same family that his father and his father's father once did. This year is proving to be a fruitful one: the wheat has grown tall and the harvest is going well: he already has more than enough grain stored up to pay the tithe and the farmhands, with plenty left to last his growing family through the winter.
As he works, Jack whistles happily, thinking about the day when he will have his sons working by his side. He has been blessed with twin boys who have just recently turned two, and a third may be on the way, as Sarah, his wife, is due in the spring.
Pausing for lunch, he entertains the farmhands with a description of last Sunday's trip into town for a visit with his sister, the wife of Bedlington's innkeeper. He recalls an amusing conversation with one of the boarders, a young man who eagerly described a contraption that plants seeds and is pulled by a horse! The hands chuckle at the implausible idea.
The sun falls low in the sky. After a long day's work, Jack trudges home to his family. By the time he has fed the horses and finished the other chores, it is dark. Inside, the children are ready for bed, so he tells them a story and tucks them in before returning to the kitchen for a candlelit supper during which Sarah, who has already eaten, tells him about her day. Soon, they snuff out the candles and head for bed: they will both rise well before dawn tomorrow for another harvest day. One day in the not-too-distant future life will change for the Bumblesons as the fervour of industrialization hits Bedlington, the same way it eventually takes over all of England. But for now, Jack and the rest of the villagers get on with life much as they have for centuries past.
John Bumbleson and the other characters are fictional, but Bedlington is a real place. Located in the region of Northumberland in Northeastern England, its roots can be traced back to the 10th century AD. The coming of the iron industry with the opening of the Bedlington Ironworks Company in 1736 changed the town from an isolated rural village to an industrial town. A century later, Bedlington was again revolutionized with the coming of the coal mines industry. Today, Bedlington is still a small town whose economy now depends on light manufacturing (Bedlington).
Begin by examining the Causes of the Industrial Revolution >>>