Child Labour in the 19th Century
As the numbers of factories are growing in the country, many people who live in the countryside seem to be moving to towns and cities to look for better paid work. It seems to be the case that wages of a farm worker are a lot lower than in factories. The city of London seems to be over flowing; now around one-fifth of Britain’s population live in London. Most of the workers houses are usually near the factories.
They are very cheaply made, mostly around 2-4 rooms, one or two rooms downstairs and the same for downstairs. There is no running water or toilet. It seems to becoming a problem that many parents are un-willing for their children to work in the new textile factories. This is becoming a problem as there is a shortage of factory workers. Factory owners seem to be buying children from orphanages and workhouses, these children are known as pauper apprentices.
These children have to sign a contract with virtually makes them the property of the factory owner. In Cotton Mill factory the children are being told that they will be transformed into ladies and gentlemen; that they will be fed on roast beef and plum pudding, be allowed to ride their masters’ horses, and have silver watches, and plenty of cash in their pockets. Many of these children are parish apprentices until they have reached the age of 21.
Punishments in these factories are appalling. The children are made to work long hours to the point where they are very tired and are being hit with a strap to make them work faster. In some factories children are dipped head first into a water cistern. Jonathan Downe quotes “When I was seven years old I went to work at Mr. Marshall’s factory at Shrewsbury. If a child was drowsy, the overlooker touches the child on the shoulder and says, “Come here”.
In a corner of the room there is an iron cistern filled with water. He takes the boy by the legs and dips him in the cistern, and sends him back to work. ” Children are punished for arriving to work late. Joseph Hebergram pointed out “if we were five minutes too late, the overlooker would take a strap, and beat us till we were black and blue. ” One hospital reported that every year it treated nearly a thousand people for wounds and mutilations caused by machines in factories.
Michael Ward, a doctor working in Manchester told a parliamentary committee in 1819: “When I was a surgeon in the infirmary, accidents were very often admitted to the infirmary, through the children’s hands and arms having being caught in the machinery; in many instances the muscles, and the skin is stripped down to the bone, and in some instances a finger or two might be lost. ” Some people have been known to get their whole bodies entangled in the machinery. It is an outrage that children are made to do such horrific jobs in such poor conditions.