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Character Witness : A former convict gives his own account of his debt to Thomas Wright, the prisoner’s friend.
Character Witness

As quoted in ‘Household Words’ Vol. 4, No. 102 (March 6th, 1852).

Thomas Wright (1789-1875) was a foreman in a Manchester iron foundry and a father of nineteen, who never earned above £3 10s a week in his life. But he helped hundreds of ex-convicts back into society, using his own money to indemnify their employers against any relapse.

“FIVE years ago I was” owns a certain G. J. “in the New Bailey, convicted of felony and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. When I was discharged from prison, I could get no employment. I went to my old employer to ask him to take me again.

“He said that I need not apply to him, for if he could get me transported he would; so I could get no work until I met with Mr Wright, who got me employed in a place where I remained some time, and have been in employment ever since.

“I am now engaged as a screw-cutter - a business I was obliged to learn - and am earning nineteen shillings and twopence a week. I have a wife and four children, and but for Mr Wright I should have been a lost man.”

* 19s 2d in 1852 is roughly equal to £93.88 per week or £4,880 per annum today. At 33d (2s 9d) per day, this is a little short of the average male wage for the time as calculated by Gregory Clark of the University of California, Davis, for Measuring Worth (.pdf file). Mr Wright’s wage as a foreman would be equivalent to around £15,000 a year now.

As quoted in ‘Household Words’ Vol. 4, No. 102 (March 6th, 1852).

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Picture: © Steven Lek, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 4.0. View original
‘G.J.’ was a screw-cutter, a labourer who made screws using a small lathe, the culmination of a series of British inventions from the 1760s onwards and especially associated with Henry Maudslay (1771-1831). The screw itself was invented by the ancient Greeks.
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