My Mather family were originally weavers from Radcliffe in Lancashire. Weaving was a cottage industry which worked alongside local agriculture. However, with the advent of the industrial revolution, home looms were replaced by factories full of machinery. Workers had to adapt to the changes in the textile industry or start completely new careers. I can see this happening in my family, especially as the 19th century progressed. Some were better than others at handing these changes.
This wikipedia entry about Radcliffe has a good description of the textile industry in the area: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radcliffe,_Greater_Manchester
The earliest Mathers I have currently identified is the family of James MATHER (-1809) and Mary PENDLEBURY (-1801) who were married in the Radcliffe parish church of St Mary on 13th May 1750 1, and yes James was a weaver. James must have been quite successful as a weaver as his estate was valued around £300 on his death in 1809.
Not all of James’ children continued as weavers. For example, his son John MATHER (1761-1829) was a cordwainer (i.e. a shoemaker who makes new shoes from leather). However, son James MATHER (1766-1835) (who was my great (x4) grandfather) was also a weaver and must have been very successful as he was described as a gentleman in later life (he was probably able to retire and live off his savings).
James MATHER (1766-1835) and his wife, Mary Melling had four surviving sons – unfortunately both their daughters died young. The eldest son, Thomas MATHER (1793-1873) , was a Shopkeeper on Spring Lane in Radcliffe (his father also lived on Spring Lane). The second son, James MATHER (1795-1860), worked in the textile industry like his father, but is described as a manufacturer and later as bleacher, dyer and finisher. This James lived just outside Radcliffe at a place called Crow Oaks and even applied for patents of invention in 1850 and 1863 for “certain improvements in Machinery or apparatus for scouring, finishing and stretching woolen, cotton and other woven fabrics”. The two younger sons, Peter MATHER (1798-1868) and Miles MATHER (1801-1877), do not seem to be as accomplished as their older brothers. They both started out as weavers but Peter moved to Glossop in Derbyshire in the 1850’s and became a shopkeeper. Miles is described as a labourer and farm servant in the 19th century census’ at Mount Pleasant which is just north of Radcliffe (this is a bit baffling as I have him listed on two electoral registers as the leaseholder of houses on Mount Sion Road in Radcliffe).
Peter’s eldest son, another James MATHER (1821-1881) (my gggrandfather) also worked in the textile industry. He is described as a machine printer in the census. He worked in Bury, Alexandria near Glasgow, Scotland and Schusselburg, near St Petersburgh in Russia before finishing his career at the Dinting Vale Printworks, near Glossop.