Enterprise, Industry and Benjamin Gott
Benjamin Gott was born in 1762 into a society where many children began work as young as 6. Luckily for Gott, his father was a civil engineer and the family were quite well to do. What do you think being ‘middle class’ might have meant in the 1760s? Gott was sent to Bingley Grammar until he was 17, and when he finished school his father apprenticed him to a firm of wool merchants. The pictures on the left above show Gott’s ‘Indenture of Apprenticeship’ stating:
‘The said Benjamin Gott of his own free will and with the covenant and approbation of John Gott his father doth hereby put place and bind himself to and with said Wormald and Fountaine in the manner of an apprentice.’
As you might guess by words like ‘bind’ and ‘covenant’ in those days becoming an apprentice was a serious and costly business. Gott had to obey his masters, and pay £400 in fees for the privilege! During his training Gott was able to observe business dealings, examine the accounts and travel everywhere with his bosses. It might sound like Gott had an easy job gadding about the countryside, but while he was an apprentice his father had to pay his expenses so he was probably not having much beer at the inns. He wasn't travelling in style either, this was before the Yorkshire railways so people travelled rough roads by carriage or on horseback.
When Gott finished his apprenticeship he was 21, understood all aspects of the wool trade and had travelled widely in England. His bosses were obviously impressed by Gott, and offered him the opportunity to become a partner in their firm for £3600. You can see his partnership contract pictured on the right, the document states Wormald and Fountaine ‘from the great confidence they have in the integrity, honesty & abilities of the said Benjamin Gott we have agreed to take in and enter into co-partnership for the term of five years’.