Royal Commission of Inquiry into the condition of the Hand-Loom Weavers in England and Wales (1837-41)

Gloucestershire Section by W. A. Miles

Click here to download the report (6MB PDF).


A royal commission of inquiry in the period 1815-70 could be composed of a single commissioner with no subordinate staff or of a large group of commissioners backed up by assistant commissioners to gather information in the country, a secretary to conduct correspondence and a body of clerks to assist him. The subject of inquiry could range from the management of an individual prison to the provision of primary education throughout England and Wales [1].

Four Commissioners were appointed in 1837 to inquire into the condition of the unemployed handloom weavers in Great Britain and Ireland and to report whether any measures could be devised for their relief. As the Commissioners were non-salaried they were authorised to appoint up to five Assistant Commissioners to visit and collect information in the districts where handloom weavers were employed. In June 1838 they were permitted to appoint a further five Assistant Commissioners, but chose instead to appoint only four and to use the money set aside for one of the additional Assistants to meet the expenses of sending two of the Assistant Commissioners to the continent and the Secretary to the Midlands to collect information [1].

The Commissioners received no remuneration. The Assistant Commissioners were awarded an allowance of £100 for their services in addition to their actual travelling expenses and an expenses allowance of one guinea a day while travelling. The reports of the Assistant Commissioners were printed and presented to Parliament as they became available between 1839 and 1841 [1].


William Augustus Miles was appointed on 30 December 1837 as the Assistant Commissioner to report on the West of England and Wales [1]. Miles spent 10 months in Stroud during 1838 and his report was possibly first printed in 1839 and appeared in the House of Lords papers for 1840 [2]. He remained in Stroud during 1939 getting deeper into debt and without a job. He was eventually offered the post of Commissioner of Police in Sydney, Australia, a post he held between 1841 and 1848 when he was dismissed from this position. He died in Sydney in April 1851 aged 55 [3].


[1] J.M. Collinge. “Introduction.” Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 9: Officials of Royal Commissions of Inquiry 1815-1870 (1984): 1-8. British History Online. Web. 09 November 2013.

[2] The Sessional Papers Of The House Of Lords, 1840, (3 & 4 Victoriae) Vol. XXXVIII page 373 (sic).

[3] Hazel King, ‘Miles, William Augustus (1798–1851)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 10 November 2013. This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

N.B The photocopy that has been digitised was supplied more than 20 years ago and its provenance is uncertain. The original is possibly the House of Lords sessional paper of 1840 but the starting page number (p. 357) does not appear to match that given in the index to the House of Lords sessional papers of 1840 (p. 373).

Click here to download the report (6MB PDF).