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STATE OF LABOUR IN THE COAL, IRON, TIN, COPPER, LEAD AND ZINK MINES OF GREAT
BRITAIN AND IRELAND, AND IN THE SURFACE WORKS FOR REDUCING THE OBES OF THESE METALS. [Compiled from the First Report of the Children's Employment Commission, 1812.)
1.-COAL MINES. The “Coal Measures," as the geological at one extremity into Nottinghamshire. Be. formations comprising the strata of coal are
sides supplying with fuel a vast surrounding designated, are variously dispersed in the
region, especially to the east and south, in
the counties of Leicester, Nottingham, and midland, northern, and western portions of Lincoln, it has a considerable home conSouth Britain, and in a broad belt of country sumption in iron-works. The northern, or which traverses the centre of Scotland, from
Yorkshire portion, which is wholly comthe shores of Ayrshire to those of the Frith
prised in the West Riding, has extensive
iron-works, and supplies with fuel the Ebole of Forth.
of Yorkshire, except the coast, and even The most important of the English mid. makes some shipments down the Humber land coal tracts, or coal fields, is that of for London. South Staffordshire, which, lying to the On the opposite side of the mountains west and north of Birmingham, is remarka which enclose Yorkshire on the west are the ble for the extent to which its vast beds are great coal-fields of Lancashire, extending worked, as well for the purpose of smelting southward into the eastern part of Cheshire, the iron ores, which are raised from strata and worked to an enormous extent for the interspersed among the coal strata, as for supply of the manufactures and the manuthe consumption of the neighbouring popu. facturing and commercial population which lous towns, which are the seat of the metal have congregated in their neighbourhood and manufactures, and for an extensive “land upon their surface, although there is no masale,"—as the supply of the surrounding nufacture of iron native ores. country with fuel is frequently designated ; North of this is the Cumberland coal-field, the country southward, where canals extend, in which likewise the pits are wrought only as far as the Thames, being in great part for sale, to supply the counties of Cumber. supplied from this region. The Shropshire land and Westmoreland, and for shipment, district of Coalbrookdale, lying midway be chiefly at Whitehaven, to Ireland and the tween Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, opposite shores of Scotland. though much smaller in extent, is in like Again crossing the mountains to the east. manner the seat of great iron works, and is ern side of the island, we find a large por. the source of a supply of fuel for a great tion of the counties of Durham and North. part of the vale of the Severn, and the country umberland occupied by the coal tract, which, to the west of it, to the borders of Wales. of all the districts having pits wrought al. The Warwickshire coal field occupies a large most wholly for sale, and only to a very tract on the north-eastern verge of that small extent for the manufacture of metals, county, from Coventry to Tamworth ; and is by far the most important. It supplies the Leicestershire coal field surrounds the not only the whole of those counties, the town of Ashby-de-la Zouch. The coal of North Riding of Yorkshire, and the conthe latter is far more extensively wrought tiguous Scottish counties, but the whole of than that of the Warwickshire field; but the eastern and southern coasts of England both being without iron furnaces, their pro as far as Cornwall, including the metropolis duce is required only for the land sale, which itself, and the great south-eastern region, extends southward even through Bucking into which the sales of the inland coal-dis. hamshire to the Thames.
tricts do not penetrate, because of the greater In North Staffordshire, besides the coal cost of land-carriage and the want of canals. field of the potteries, in which there are ex The export to foreign parts is likewise very tensive ironworks at Kidscrew, there is a extensive; and the whole region is so imsmaller tract contiguous to the town of portant as to have rendered necessary, for Cheadle. The consumption of the produce the purposes of investigation, its division of both, however, extends little beyond the into two districts; that of South Durham, northern parts of that county.
south of the river Wear, and that of North In the vale of the Trent, between Not. Durham and Northumberland, comprising tingham and Derby, commences the great the rest of the field. coal-field of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, which The Coal Districts of the East of Scot. extends hence northward, and of which the land encircle the Firth of Forth in tracts of southern, or Derbyshire portion, occupies very irregular form, occupying large portions the eastern side of that county, and extends of the counties of East Lothian, Mid-Lo.
STATE OF LABOUR IN THE MINES OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND. 427 thian and West Lothian, of Stirlingshire, It is for a similar land sale that the valu. and part of Dumbartonshire, of Clackmann able mines of north Somersetshire, on the anshire and Perthshire ; and of Fifeshire, in other side of the Avon, are wrought; the the districts of Dunfermline, Kirkaldy, Cu. principal being those to the south-west of par, and St. Andrews; the coal of the whole Bath, which not only supply the contiguous of these districts is extensively wrought, country, but have an extensive sale eastward chiefly for land sale to Edinburgh and the in Wiltshire and Berkshire. surrounding counties, though partly for ship Of the comparatively unimportant coalment coastwise, and for the celebrated iron fields of Ireland, the principal are those of works of the Carron Company in Stirlingshire. Castlecomer in Kilkenny and the Queen's
Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Renfrewshire County, where pits are worked for country comprise nearly the whole of the irregularly sale by three proprietors; that near Killescattered coal fields of the West of Scot. naule, in the county of Tipperary, where land, and their mines have been chiefly there are three pits worked by the Mining wrought, like those of Lancashire, for the Company of Ireland ; and that of Drosupply of the manufacturers, and of the great magh and Dysart, in the county of Cork, manufacturing and commercial population where there are pits worked by Messrs. which have seated themselves upon their Leader. There are also a few pits at Drumsurface, or in their vicinity, with Glasgow glass and Coal Island, in the county of Tyfor a centre; but of late years the district of rone, which, with the Arigna coal pits at Airdrie, to the east and south-east of Glas the northern extremity of Roscommon, supgow, has so rapidly extended its importance plying some contiguous iron works, complete in the manufacture of iron from the excel the list of the Irish coal mines which are now lent ores there found, as greatly to have aug worked. mented the working of its coal for that pur• From a great mass of evidence collected, pose also. Returning southward, we find, on the east
respecting the practices of these various col. ern border of North Wales, in the counties
lieries, the Commissioners have been led to of Denbigh and Flint, where they border the following conclusions : upon Cheshire, a large coal-field, heretofore
1. That instances occur in which children possessed of considerable iron-works, which,
are taken into these mines to work as early however, seem now to be sinking before the
as four years of age, sometimes at five, and competition of those in the West of Scot
between five and six, not unfrequently beland, and other districts : it still, however, tween six and seven, and often from seven supplies with fuel nearly the whole of North
to eight, while from eight to nine is the orWales, and a large portion of Cheshire and
dinary age at which employment in these Shropshire.
mines commences. But the greatest coal-basin of the West is
2. That a very large proportion of the that of South Wales, which, commencing in
persons employed in carrying on the work the politically English county of Monmouth, of these mines is under thirteen years of age; occupies a considerable portion also of the and a still larger proportion between thirteen counties of Glamorgan, Carmarthen, and and eighteen. Pembroke. The internal consumption of 3. That in several districts female children its coal in the manufacture of its native
begin to work in these mines at the same ores of iron, and of those of copper and tin
early ages as the males. brought from Cornwall and other parts, is 4. That the great body of the children enormous ; and besides supplying with fuel
and young persons employed in these mines the whole of south Wales and its borders,
are of the families of the adult workpeople Cornwall, and a considerable part of Somer engaged in the pits, or belong to the poorest setshire, it exports large quantities of stone population in the neighbourhood, and are coal, even to London.
hired and paid in some districts by the work. The Forest of Dean is a singular detached people, but in others by the proprietors or coal field in Gloucestershire, between the
contractors. confluent rivers Wye and Severn, in which 5. That there are in some districts also a pits are wrought for the manufacture of its
small number of parish apprentices, who are excellent iron ores, and for the supply not bound to serve their masters until twentyonly of the contiguous parts of Hereford.
one years of age, in an employment in which shire and Gloucestershire, but also for a
there is nothing deserving the name of skill considerable land sale eastward towards Ox.
to be acquired, under circumstances of freford. South Gloucestershire is, in great quent ill-treatment, and under the opprespart, occupied by a coal field which extends
sive condition that they shall receive only northward from Bristol, and supplies that food and clothing, while their free comcity and the contiguous country with fuel. panions may be obtaining a man's wages.
6. That in many instances much that skill 12. That, in the east of Scotland, a much and capital can effect to render the place of larger proportion of children and young perwork unoppressive, healthy, and safe, is sons are employed in these mines than in other done, often with complete success, as far as districts, many of whom are girls; and that regards the healthfulness and comfort of the the chief part of their labour consists in car. mines; but that to render them perfectly rying the coals on their backs up steep lad. safe does not appear to be practicable by ders. any means yet known; while in great num 13. That when the workpeople are in full bers of instances their condition in regard employment, the regular hours of work for both to ventilation and drainage is lament hildren and young persons are rarely less ably defective.
than eleven ; more often they are twelve; in 7. That the nature of the employment some districts they are thirteen ; and in one which is assigned to the youngest children, district they are generally fourteen and upgenerally that of “ trapping,” requires that wards. they should be in the pit as soon as the work 14. That in the great majority of these of the day commences, and according to the mines night-work is a part of the ordinary present system that they should not leave system of labour, more or less regularly car. the pit before the work of the day is at an ried on according to the demand for coals, end.
and one which the whole body of evidence 8. That although this employment scarcely shows to act most injuriously both on the deserves the name of labour, yet, as the physical and moral condition of the workchildren engaged in it are commonly exclud. people, and more especially on that of the ed from light and are always without com children and young persons. panions, it would, were it not for the pass 15. That the labour performed daily for ing and repassing of the coal carriages, this number of hours, though it cannot amount to solitary confinement of the worst strictly be said to be continuous, because, order.
from the nature of the employment, intervals 9. That in those districts in which the of a few minutes necessarily occur during seams of coal are so thick that horses go di which the muscles are not in active exrect to the workings, or in which the side ertion, is nevertheless generally uninterpassages from the workings to the horse rupted by any regular time set apart for rest ways are not of any great length, the lights and refreshment; what food is taken in the in the main ways render the situation of these pit being eaten as best it may while the lachildren comparatively less cheerless, dull, bour continues. and stupifying ; but that in some districts 16. That in well-regulated mines, in which they remain in solitude and darkness during in general the hours of work are the short. the whole time they are in the pit, and, ac est, and in some few of which from half an cording to their own account, many of them hour to an hour is regularly set apart for never see the light of day for weeks to meals, little or no fatigue is complained of gether during the greater part of the win after an ordinary day's work, when the ter season, excepting on those days in the children are ten years old and upwards ; but week when work is not going on, and on the in other instances great complaint is made Sundays.
of the feeling of fatigue, and the work people 10. That at different ages, from six years are never without this feeling, often in an old and upwards, the hard work of pushing extremely painful degree. and dragging the carriages of coal from the 17. That in many cases the children and workings to the main ways, or to the foot of young persons have little cause to complain the shaft, begins; a labour which all classes in regard to the treatment they receive from of witnesses concur in stating requires the the persons in authority in the mine, or from unremitting exertion of all the physical the colliers ; but that in general the younger power which the young workers possess. children are roughly used by their older com
11. That, in the districts in which females panions; while in many mines the conduct of are taken down into the coal mines, both the adult colliers to the children and young sexes are employed together in precisely the persons who assist them, is harsh and cruel; same kind of labour, and work for the same the persons in authority in these mines, who number of hours ; that the girls and boys, and must be cognizant of this ill-usage, never in. the young men and young women, and even terfering to prevent it, and some of them married women and women with child, com distinctly stating that they do not conceive monly work almost naked, and the men, in that they have any right to do so. many mines, quite naked; and that all 18. That, with some exceptions, little classes of witnesses bear testimony to the interest is taken by the coal owners in the demoralizing influence of the employment children and young persons employed in of females underground.
their works, after the daily labour is over;
STATE OF LABOUR IN THE MINES OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND. 429 at least little is done to afford them the taking recreation in the fresh air, or attend. means of enjoying innocent amusement and ing a place of worship, is that they have no healthful recreation.
clothes to go in; so that in these cases, not19. That in all coal-fields accidents of a withstanding the intense labour performed fearful nature are extremely frequent; and by these children, they do not procure even that the returns made to our own queries, as sufficient food and raiment : in general, well as the registry tables, prove that of the however, the children who are in this unworkpeople who perish by such accidents, happy case are the children of idle and disthe proportion of children and young persons solute parents, who spend the hard-earned sometimes equals and rarely falls much be wages of their offspring at the public-house. low that of adults.
25. That the employment in these mines 20. That one of the most frequent causes commonly produces, in the first instance, an of accidents in these mines is the want of extraordinary degree of muscular developsuperintendence, by overlookers or other ment, accompanied by a corresponding de. wise, to see to the security of the machinery gree of muscular strength : this preternafor letting down and bringing up the work. tural development and strength being acpeople, the restriction of the number of per quired at the expense of the other organs, sons that ascend and descend at a time, the as is shown by the general stunted growth of state of the mine as to the quantity of nox the body. ious gas in it, the efficiency of the ventila 26. That partly by the severity of the la. tion, the exactness with which the air-door bour and the long hours of work, and partly keepers perform their duty, the places into through the unhealthy state of the place of which it is safe or unsafe to go with a naked work, this employment, as at present carlighted candle, and the security of the prop ried on in all the districts, deteriorates the pings to uphold the roof, &c.
physical constitution; in the thin-seam 21. That another frequent cause of fatal mines, more especially, the limbs become accidents in coal mines is the almost univer. crippled and the body distorted ; and in gesal practice of intrusting the closing of the neral the muscular powers give way, and air-doors to very young children.
the workpeople are incapable of following 22. That there are many mines in which their occupation, at an earlier period of life the most ordinary precautions to guard than is common in other branches of inagainst accidents are neglected, and in which dustry. no money appears to be expended with a 27. That by the same causes the seeds of view to secure the safety, much less the com painful and mortal diseases are very often fort, of the workpeople.
sown in childhood and youth ; these, slowly 23. That there are moreover two prac but steadily developing themselves, assume tices peculiar to a few districts which de. a formidable character between the ages of serve the highest reprobation; namely, first, thirty and forty; and each generation of the practice, not unknown in some of the this class of the population is commonly exsmaller mines in Yorkshire, and common in tinct soon after fifty. Lancashire, of employing ropes that are un The Commissioners have, notwithstand safe for letting down and drawing up the work people ; and, second, the practice, oc
ing the preceding conclusions, felt bound to casionally met with in Yorkshire, and com report upon the whole : mon in Derbyshire and Lancashire, of em First. That the coal mine, when properly ploying boys at the steam-engines for letting ventilated and drained, and when both the down and drawing up the workpeople. main and the side passages are of tolerable
24. That in general the children and height, is not only not unhealthy, but, the young persons who work in these mines have temperature being moderate and very unisufficient food, and, when above ground, form, it is, considered as a place of work, decent and comfortable clothing, their usu more salubrious and even agreeable than ally high rate of wages securing to them that in which many kinds of labour are carthese advantages ; but in many cases, more ried on above ground. especially in some parts of Yorkshire, in Second. That the labour in which child. Derbyshire, in South Gloucestershire, and ren and young persons are chiefly employed and very generally in the East of Scotland, in coal mines, namely, in pushing the loaded the food is poor in quality, and insufficient carriages of coals from the workings to the in quantity; the children themselves say mainways or to the foot of the shaft, so far that they have not enough to eat ; and the from being in itself an unhealthy employSub-Commissioners describe them as co ment, is a description of exercise which, vered with rags, and state that the common while it greatly develops the muscles of the excuse they make for confining themselves arms, shoulders, chest, back, and legs, to their homes on the Sundays, instead of without confining any part of the body in an
unnatural and constrained posture, might, and sand; and in this case more room is but for the abuse of it, afford an equally usually afforded for work. healthful excitement to all the other organs; the physical injuries produced by it, as it is
The Commissioners report with regard at present carried on, independently of those
to labour in these mines which are caused by imperfect ventilation That on account of the greater weight of and drainage, being chiefly attributable to the material to be removed, the labour in the early age at which it commences, and to these mines, which are worked on a system the length of time during which it is conti. similar to that of the coal mines, is still nued.
more severe than that in the latter, and ren
ders the employment of older and stronger When we consider the extent of this
children a matter of absolute necessity ; branch of industry, the vast amount of ca. while the ironstone pits are in general less pital embarked in it, and the intimate con. perfectly ventilated and drained than the nexion in which it stands with almost all the
coal mines, and are, therefore, still more
unhealthy, producing the same physical deother great branches of our trade and manu terioration and the same diseases, but in a facture, these conclusions are of a very con more intense degree. soling and satisfactory character.
And in regard to the blast furnaces for One intolerable case there is, however, reducing the ores of iron, they findfor which the Commissioners seem to admit That the operations connected with these there is no remedy but entire abolition.
works involve the absolute necessity of night
work; that children and young persons inBy the evidence collected under this Com
variably work at night with the adults; that mission, it is proved that there are coal mines the universal practice is for one set of workat present in work in which these passages are people to work one week during the day, so small, that even the youngest children can and the same set to work the following week not move along them without crawling on during the night; and that there is, moretheir hands and feet, in which unnatural over, in addition to the evil of alternate and constrained posture they drag the loaded weeks of night work, a custom bearing with carriages after them; and yet, as it is impos extreme hardship upon children and young sible, by any outlay compatible with a pro
persons, namely, that of continuing the fitable return, to render such coal mines, work without any interruption whatever happily not numerous nor of great extent, during the Sunday, and thus rendering every fit for human beings to work in, they never alternate Sunday the day during which the will be placed in such a condition, and con labour of one set of workpeople is continued sequently they never can be worked without
for twenty-four hours in succession ; a cusinflicting great and irreparable injury on the tom which still prevails, notwithstanding that health of the children.
a considerable proportion of the proprietors
have dispensed with the attendance of the II.-IRON MINES AND WORKS.
workpeople during a certain number of hours The characteristic differences between the on the Sunday, without disadvantage to their ironstone mines and the coal mines, as far
works. as those differences influence the manner of
The necessity of Sunday labour to a large
extent at the blast furnaces, is thus ex. working the former, are chiefly these : In the ironstone mines the beds are, for
plained by Mr. Lane, one of the superinthe most part, thin, generally from two to
tendants of the Colebrook Dale Company. three feet, a little more or less. In many of
For these twelve years past the furnaces
have stood six hours on the Sundays, and these pits the ore is in thin bands of two or
sometimes a little longer. No injury arises three inches in width, and very often two if the furnace be at the time in a good work. thin beds lie near each other, with a sub.
ing state ; but if not in a good working stratum of indurated clay beneath them.
state, or if it was to stand too long, the iron
would be thick and hard, and would fall into The miners have only the space between the the hearth and set ; that is, it would congeal bands to work in; or if they clear away and pass from a fluid into a solid state, and, some space more, it is the smallest possible, consequently, when the time came for tap. on account of the expense. The ironstone
ping the furnace to let out the melted iron,
it would be necessary to make the opening found in the form of rounded boulders is
higher up to let out the fluid iron, and it distributed through strata of clay, or of clay would be, perhaps, three weeks before all the