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Mat Making

In the days when prisons were under the local authorities, mat-making and its allied trades for sale to the public formed the staple of the industrial employment of prisoners.

This, of course, gave rise to pressure from rival manufacturers or workmen, who complained of prison competition as unfair, but the Visiting Justices of Quarter Sessions, not being elected by household suffrage, could deal with this matter on its merits...

The late Prison Committee, indeed, very truly state that the amount of competition from prison-made mats was so small compared with the total volume of trade that it practically could make no difference to the free employers or workmen...

But this abstract truth is of no avail against a number of agitators and voters whose 'invincible ignorance' leads them to maintain that it does...

This trade, therefore, gradually and largely diminished as a prison employment...

Extract 1: Mat Making

The mat making account showed a net profit of 37l 12s 2d, leaving a balance of 7l 2s 6d in the treasurer's hands. There is a large quantity of mats on hand, and there is difficulty in disposing of them.

Report of the Visiting Justices to the Huntingdonshire Michaelmas Quarter Sessions, 1870

Extract 2: Mat Making

The prisoner is at once put into a separate cell, and provided with labour...if he is a man without any faculty for learning a trade, he is consigned to the exceedingly low occupation of mat-making, which any creature slightly above a quadruped can manage.