picture of Halliwell Bleachworks 1927

Halliwell Bleachworks 1927

Bolton Genealogy


In the 1840's there was a great outcry against the exploitation of women and children in textile factories who were working excessively long hours, often under atrocious and inhumane conditions. Various Parliamentary Commissions were set up between 1854 and 1860 to look into working conditions and the shortening of hours.

This was strenuously opposed by the bleachers, as the nature of their work required long hours for completion, and they feared that it would interfere with the running of their businesses. Although it was generally agreed that conditions in bleachworks were better than those in the factories, a Bill was finally passed giving the Bleaching and Dye Works Act 1860.

The following is evidence given by some female workers at Halliwell Bleachworks to the Commission.


ELLEN SMITH (hooker)

I am 18 years of age. I have been working here going on five years. I have generally made a day and a half's work; that is, beginning at 7 and giving over at 11. I have been agate this way two or three months together; my feet have been so sore in the evening, that I could scarcely walk when I came in the morning. I generally wash them and put soap on them to make them better. I would rather work a day than a day and a half, if the law was to be passed; I should prefer it, though I only got a day's wage. My father works in the stove.

MARY SMITH (hooker)

I am sister to Ellen Smith; I am going on 16. I have been at work here going on three years. I have generally worked from 7 to 11; we never stop long, except at meal times; we have half an hour at breakfast, an hour at dinner, and half an hour at tea. I go home to all my meals; I live close by. Sometimes I am very tired at the end of the day. Sometimes my feet ache; it sometimes keeps me awake at night, the skin is never off; I have never been sick since I came to work; it would be better for us if we only got a day's wage instead of a day and a half.


I am 19. I have been working here 5 or 6 years. The hours have been generally from 6 to half past 9 or 10. My employment is packing cloth. I am generally upon my legs a good deal. I have only been off work one day since I came. I have never had bad feet, but they have ached when we have had to work hard. They burn and ache so as to keep me awake. Sometimes they have felt numb in the morning. I should like very well for a law to be passed to prevent the girls working more than 101/2 hours a day and would rather have it though I should only earn a day's wage instead of a day and a half. Many a time I have heard the girls wish for this.


I am going on 16. I have worked here going for three years. I have worked generally at hooking from 7 till 11. Sometimes I am very tired, when we have worked very hard; the skin was off all my toes last week; it has been so many times before. My feet ache at night and I always fall asleep, because I am so tired. When I wake in the morning my feet smart so I can hardly abide sometimes. I wash them and put soap on them. My father is the watchman at Prospect. I should like very well for a law to be passed saying that the girls should not work more than 10 and a half hours a day. I would rather lose the half day's wage.


I am head maker-up in this room. I have eight girls under me. I was 14 years old when I came to this work, hooking and making up, and I am now 25 next April. I have been head maker-up about three years. When I first began hooking my feet used to be sore when we were very busy and kept long hours. We used often to be very busy. For the first two or three years my feet used to be very sore, and the skin used to come off. I was at the hooking till I was 19 years old. We used then to "make up" from 7 till 12 or half past 11. The hours are now generally from 7 till 10 and 11. I generally make a day and a half's wage per day the week through, sometimes double, that is 48 days in the month. I have been off from sickness, in consequence of those long hours, two or three times. I was off a fortnight and a week. The girls' feet when they are bad are hot. If a girl was to work as hard as she could for 101/2 I do not think she would get foot-sore, because she would have a good night's rest. If the Parliament was to pass a law for the girls to begin at 6 and give over at 6 I should like it, though I should only earn a day's wage instead of a day and a half or two days. I feel tired now when I go home from my work, bending my back all day over my work, folding up the pieces. All the girls say they would like to give over at 6 and start at 6. All the girls here are healthy now, and have been for a long time.


I was 15 on the 16th of October. I have been working at hooking two years and six months. I was before stitching tucks. Since I have been agate with the hooking, the hours I have made have been sometimes from 7 till 11, sometimes from 7 till 10. 7 till 10 have been oftenest, not much. When 10 or 11 o'clock comes I feel very tired; my feet are quite well at present, but they have been very bad. They have been bad 60 or 70 days at different times during those two years and a half. Sometimes the skin was off, sometimes they were bad from pain. They feel better in the morning. When the skin was off I soaped them a little. My father is a millwright in Mr.Ainsworth's employment. I should like very well a law to be passed to prevent the girls working more than 101/2 hours a day. If I only made one day's wage instead of a day and a half, I should not mind. Out of the 60 or 70 days I was off work, I was off a month from scarlet fever. Another time I was off three days from a gathering in my foot, from the heel being rubbed. The skin has been off my feet not so very often. I have come to my work four or five times when the skin has been off my feet. I believe the skin was off my feet, not because my clogs did not fit me, but because of the long time I was working and standing about.


I am in my 20th year. I am a hooker. I have been at this work three or four years. The hours have been generally from 7 till 10, and sometimes 11, resting two hours for meals. I have no rest except at those times. We sometimes take a little longer than the regular times for meals. I have never been sick from the work. I have had bad feet, and I have to wear shoes for it. My feet were hot, and the skin came off. They used to ache. They have not ached or been sore since I began to wear shoes instead of clogs. Nearly all the girls wear clogs. I feel tired after these hours. When I work later I feel more tired. My feet sometimes ache in the morning when I put them down, but they soon give over when I begin to walk. I think if all the girls wore shoes their feet would not ache. I can speak for myself. I should like to have the ten hours Bill, though I should only be able to earn a day's wage instead of a day and a half or two. I think the girls all say so. I worked four or five years at a cotton mill. My feet used to be sore at the cotton mill. I like working at bleach works better than the factory, even with their long hours, because it is cleaner work and not so much noise.


I have been a maker-up 25 years. There have been generally 10 girls here. I think they have been generally healthy. All are very well at present. Our hours have been generally from 7 to 9 or 10 or 11, and sometimes 12. The young ones between 13 and 14 or 15 suffer from their feet and their legs aching, then they get over it, and become healthy and strong.


Agreed in the above and gave similar evidence.


I am nearly 15. I have worked here three years. Before that I worked in the mill. I have never been off work here or had any pains in my feet. The hours have been from 6 to half past 9 and 10 o'clock. I would rather work the same hours as in the mill, though I only earned a day's wage instead of a day and a half. I prefer this work to the mill, it is pleasanter work.


I am going on 16. I have been at work here five years last September. I pull up cambric pieces. I begin at 7 and stop mostly between 9 and 10 - it is oftener 10 o'clock. I have been off work twice with bad eyes, once three weeks, never before above a day or half a day. My feet ache sometimes, but they are not very sore. My father is a stover. I cannot sit down and rest during the hours of work. I am on my legs all the time while the work is going, and sometimes we are a day without sitting down except at meal times. I feel very tired at the end of the day. I have to go home a mile and a half. I should like the short hours very well if it was to be the law. My eyes were made sore from being such long hours close to the gas.

**A.B. (name not given in full).

I have been head maker-up about 20 years. For my part I do not wish the hours to be shortened. Some of the girls do, they would like it. I am very strong, and in very good health.


The above-mentioned workers are shown here on the 1851 census

HO107/2207/205 - Lumwood, Halliwell

John Smith 45 Whitster Cowling, Yorks
Alice Smith, wife 42 Halliwell
HANNAH, daur 15 Whitster Halliwell
ELLEN, daur 13 Scholar Halliwell
MARY, daur 11 Scholar Halliwell

HO 107/2207/271 - New Road, Halliwell

James Ashcroft 47 Whitster Halliwell
Elizabeth, wife 46 Halliwell
MARY, daur 11 Doubler Halliwell

HO107/2207/275 - New Road, Halliwell

James Pendlebury 47 Whitster Halliwell
Elizabeth, wife 46 Halliwell
MARY, daur 21 Maker-up bleachworks Halliwell

HO107/2207/219 - Crofter's Row

Caleb Ashworth 46 Millwright Rumworth
Fanny, wife 48 Heaton
MARIA, daur 11 Scholar Halliwell

HO107/2207/282 - New Road, Halliwell

Jane Swailes, Head 43 Halliwell
JANE, daur 15 Doubler Halliwell

HO107/2207/224 - Doffcocker

Anne Ashworth, Head 73 Middle Hulton
MARY A, daur 34 Whitster Hindley

HO107/2207/286 - New Road, Halliwell

John Cross 42 Carter Ainsworth Sarah, wife 39 Halliwell
ANN, daur 15 Doubler Halliwell

HO107/2207/217 - Crofter's Row

Thomas Slater 47 Carter/ Sand grinder Withnell
Mary, wife 44 Withnell
FANNY, daur 11 Doffer Halliwell

HO107/2207/293 - Holy Harbour, Halliwell

Joshua Mayoh 36 Finisher Halliwell
Jane, wife 36 Halliwell
ISABELLA, daur 12 Finisher Halliwell

* Named Swailes on the census.

** A pity that this worker's name is not given in full, as she appears to be the only one in favour of retaining the longer hours!

Please also see list of employees at Halliwell Bleachworks compiled in 1857 as part of John Horrocks Ainsworth's campaign against shorter working hours (click here)