Pre-1842: England


from REPORT by JOHN L. KENNEDY, Esq., on the Employment of Children and Young Persons in the Collieries of Lancashire, Cheshire and part of Derbyshire; and on the State, Condition and Treatment of such Children and Young Persons.



hundredweight (CWT) = 112 pounds

1 = 20s. (shillings)

fathom = 6 feet 

12d. (pence) = 1s.
  (In 1842,  1 = about US$4)


The operation of ascending is shown. In this case a woman is the drawer for males and females are employed indiscriminately), and a little boy is assisting behind the thrutcher. This woman was dressed in a flannel shirt and trousers, and she wore on her head a small cap. The sex of the female is best discernible by the necklace of blue or red glass beads, and by her earrings, which are usually worn. The mine where this drawing was taken being rather steep, a rope was attached to a post at the top, and by taking hold of this the woman assists herself in ascending to the place where the collier was at work.


This sketch represents two little girls propelling a tram loaded with two baskets of coal on the level.


BETTY WARDLE, housewife, Outwood, near Lever:-

Have you ever worked in a coal pit ? - Ay, I have worked in a pit since I was six years old.

Have you any children ? - Yes, I have four children; two of them were born while I worked in the pits.

Did you work in the pits whilst you were in the family way ? - Ay, to be sure. I had a child born in the pits, and I brought it up the pit-shaft in my skirt.

Are you quite sure you are telling the truth ? - Ay, that I am; it was born the day after I was married, that makes me to know.

Did you draw with the belt and chain ? - Yes, I did.


No. 103 BETTY HARRIS, aged 37, drawer in a coal-pit, Little Bolton:-

I was married at 23 and went into a colliery when I was married. I used to weave when about 12 years old, and can neither read nor write. I work to Andrew Knowles, of Little Bolton, and make sometimes about 7s. a week, sometimes not so much. I am a drawer, and work from six o'clock in the morning to six at night. stop about an hour at noon to eat my dinner: I have bread and butter for dinner; I get no drink. I have two children, but they are too young to work. I worked at drawing when I was in the family way. I know a woman who has gone home and washed herself, taken to her bed, been delivered of a child, and gone to work again under a week. I have a belt round my waist, and a chain passing between my legs, and I go on my hands and feet. The road is very steep, and we have to hold the rope; and, where there is no rope, by anything we can catch hold of. There are six women and about six boys and girls in the pit I work in; it is very hard work for a woman. The pit is very wet where I work, and the water comes over the clog-tops always, and I have seen it up to my thighs: it rains in at the roof terribly; my clothes were wet through almost all day long. I never was ill in my life but when I was lying-in. My cousin looks after the children in the day-time, I am very tired when I get home at night; I fall asleep sometimes before I get washed. I am not so strong as I was, and cannot stand my work so well as I used to do. I have drawn till I have had the skin off me: the belt and chain is worse when we are in the family way. My feller [husband] has beaten me many a time for not being ready. I were not used to it at first, and he had little patience: I have known many a man beat his drawer. I have known men take liberties with the drawers, and some of the women have bastards. I think it would be better if we were paid once a week instead of once a month, for then I would buy victuals with ready money. It is bad to live on 7s., and rent 1s. 6d.

I have been hurt once: I got on a waggon of coals in the pit to get out of the way of the next waggon, and the waggon I was on went off before I could get off, and crushed my bones about the hips between the roof and the coals: I was ill 23 weeks. Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Fletcher will not have Mr. women in the pits. I have heard of knocks or joults: I had my arm broken by a waggon; I had gotten all out of the road by my arm. and it broke my arm.

The women are frequently wicked, and swear dreadfully at the bottom of the pit at each other, about their turn to hook-on. They are like to stand up for themselves; keeping one from hooking-on is like taking the meat out of one's mouth. There are some women that go to church regularly, and some that does not. Women with a family can seldom go to church. Some have a mother to look after. Collier's houses are generally ill off for furniture. I have a table and a bed, and I have a tin kettle to boil potatoes in. I wear a pair of trousers and a jacket, and am very hot when working, but cold when standing still. They beat the children badly; if they are very little they get beat. There is a great deal on managing a house; some can manage better than others; those that can write and have been properly taught can manage best. My husband can read and write.

MARY HARDMAN, housewife, Outwood, near Lever:

What age are you? - I am 38 years old.

Have you ever worked in a coal mine? - Ay. I believe you; I went into the pits when I was seven years old.

Are you a married woman? - Yes. I am.

Were you married whilst you worked in the pits? - Yes I was; and I have when pregnant.had eight children, and they were all born while I worked in the coal pits. I have had either three or four born the same day that I have been at work, and I have gone back to my work nine or ten days after I lay down almost always.

How many of your children were born alive? - Four out of the eight were still born.

Did you like working in the pits? - No, I did not; a coal-pit is not a fit place for a woman to work in. I am not going to them again.


ROSA LUCAS, nearly 18 years old, at Mr. Morris's, Lamberhead Green, May 19, 1841:-

You are a drawer, I believe, when at work ? - Yes, I am.

Where do you work ? - At Mr. Morris's. I used to work at Blundell's.

What age were you when you first began to work in the pits ? - I was about 11 I think.

Do you work at night in Morris's pits ? - Yes, when I was able to work. I worked one week in the day time and the next at night, the same as the drawers did.

Are there any children in the pit where you work ? - Oh, yes, both little employed in the pits.and big some not older or bigger than him [pointing to a little boy of six or seven years old]; they put them to tenting air-doors.

What hours do you work ? - I go down between three and four in the morning and sometimes I have done by five o'clock in the afternoon, and sometimes sooner.

Have you any fixed hour for dinner ? -Yes, we have an hour for dinner dinner during the the day-time, but we don't stop at night.

When you are working the night-turn, what hours do you work ? - I go at night at two o'clock in the afternoon, and sometimes three. I come up it will be about three o'clock in the morning, and sometimes before.

You have no regular times for meals at night ? - No, we never stop at during the night.

Do you find the work very hard ? - Yes, it is very hard work for a woman. from over work.I have been so tired many a time that I could scarcely wash myself. I was obliged to leave Mr. Blundell's pit, it was so hot, and my work was a deal Effect of this.harder; I could scarcely ever wash myself at night, I was so tired; and I felt very dull and stiff when I set off in the morning.

What distance did you draw ? - 23 score yards in length.

That is 460 yards each way, or 920 yards ? - Yes.

How many times had you to draw this distance ? - 16 and sometimes 18 in one day,


[Taking 16 times, she would have to draw 14,720 yards daily.]


Have you ever had many accidents besides the one you are now suffering from ? - Yes, I had once a great big hole in my other leg. I thought it was the water that did it, for I was working in a wet place then.

Are Mr. Morris's pits dry ? - Yes, very dry.

How did the accident happen you are now suffering from ? - I was sitting on the edge of a tub at the bottom, and a great stone fell from the roof on my foot and ankle, and crushed it to pieces, and it was obliged to be taken off.

Have you ever seen the drawers beaten ? - Yes, some gets beaten. Mary inflicted on drawers. Tuity gets beaten nearly every day.

What do they beat her with ? - A pick-arm.

What do they beat her for ? - I suppose it is for 'sauce;' she has a very saucy tongue.

What age is she ? - She is 23 years old.

What is your father ? - He was a collier, but he was killed in a coal-pit. I go past the place where he was killed many a time when I am working, and sometimes I think I see something.


MARGARET WINSTANLEY, Drawer, aged 24, at Mr. Thickness's Colliery, Wigan:-

In whose employ are you ? - Mr. Thickness's.

How long have you been a drawer ? - For 14 or 15 years.

Are you married ? - Yes, I am, and this is my first child, it is 11 months old.

Have you been at work since the birth of your child ? - Oh, yes; I went back in a month after it was born.

How does it happen that you are not at work today ? - Why, the pit I work in is very wet - the water is half a yard deep in some places; and my husband has gone to his master to see if he won't put him in a dryer place, for he cannot work where he is.

Have you good health ? - Not lately. I have been very ill. I lay in my bed several days, and my child was ill, too, from my working in the wet so much.

Why do you not change your place of work ? - My husband is bound for 11 months to Mr. Thickness; and his master says he must work either there or go to Kirkdale [i.e., the goal], which he pleases. my husband has worked in wet places for many a year; sometimes he has worked up to his knees in the wet, and does now when he is at work. When I am drawing for him my clothes are all wet through.

Will not his master allow him to give up this agreement ? - No, he has lent him money, and he will have to work for 11 months before it is paid off.

Have you ever been injured in the coal-pit ? - No, not to signify. I have been hurt, but colliers don't make any account of being hurt, unless their bones are broken. My brother had his leg hurt by the roof falling, and his leg has been taken off; he is getting well now very nicely.


JANE SYM, aged 26, Waggoner at Mr. Craig's, Blackrod, May 13, 1841:-

You are a drawer in Mr. Craig's coal-mine ? - Yes, I am.

Are you a married woman ? - Yes, I am.

How long have you been engaged in this employment ? - About 12 months. I used to weave, but the trade is so bad that I was obliged to leave it.

Do you like your present employment ? - No. I don't, but if I did not do it I could get nothing to do.

What hours do you work ? - I go down between five and six in the morning, and I come up sometimes as early as twelve o'clock in the day, and sometimes between five and six o'clock in the evening.

Do you work at night in the pit ? - Yes, I work night and day week about, that is, I work in the day one week and in the night the next.

What hours do you work at night ? - From six at night till six in the morning.

Do you like working the night shift ? - No. I don't, it makes me very tired sometimes, and I am ill with it, but I must keep my turn, or 'clem' [go without food].

Do you always get enough to eat ? - No, to tell the truth, I do not always.

How many children have you ? - I have buried two, and I have none left at present.

What can you earn a week ? - I can get about 8s. a week, and my husband about 14s. when he is at work.

What are his present earnings ? - No so much now.


[This was a delicate and rather interesting looking young woman; the neatness and cleanliness struck me as remarkable when compared to collier-girls in general; with all this, her appearance denoted great distress, and from what she said I inferred that the misery arose from her husband being a drunkard.]


DINAH BRADBURY, Waggoner at Mr. Evan's Haydock Colliery, May 19, 1841:-

What age are you ? - I cannot tell you, to tell the truth, but I think I am between 18 and 19 years old.

You are a drawer I believe ? - Yes, I am; I draw for two men, but one of them was hurt himself, so I am out soon today.

Do you use the belt and chain ? - No, we don't need them, we have rails laid in these pits; the rails are laid up to every man's place, and we waggon between them.

What length of hours do you work ? - I go down between four and five o'clock in the morning, and I come up between five and six in the evening.

Do you ever work at night ? - No, we never work in these pits at night.

Have you any small children in the pits ? - Oh, yes, a deal.

Have you any time for meals ? - We generally stop to eat when we have time, and generally find time. At what age do you intend to turn us out of the pit ? Put me down 15 years old - I should like to be turned out.

Do you not like your present employment ? - No, I don't, and I would not go down if I could get anything else to do.


[Mr. Evan's colliery in which 1,000 hands are employed, is beautifully situated in the neighbourhood of Newton-le-Willows. Great credit is due to this gentleman for the pains he is taking to ameliorate the condition of the colliers in his employ. There is a day school attached to the premises, and on the day I was there 70 children were being educated - there would be nearly an equal number of boys and girls; the school was exceedingly neat and the children very orderly and clean. The school-room is attended by 200 children and young persons on the Sunday, and as many of the workpeople are Methodists. Mr. Evans allows their clergy to preach in the school-room; all sects are allowed to preach there if they think fit. The Sunday-school is very well conducted, and the ladies of the family take a great interest in its success. Mr. Evans has built a row of 30 cottages, and they each contain four rooms, and to each is attached a small garden of nearly a rood of ground; I was glad to see many of the colliers busy working in their gardens at the time I was there; pigsties are also built about 20 yards from the house; in several of these I saw pigs, a good sign of the condition of the colliers. I went through many of their houses, and found them, with a few exceptions, exceedingly neat and tidy and several were remarkably nicely kept, and well stocked with furniture. The privies are detached from the cottages, and appeared tolerably clean. The condition of the colliers of Haydock contrast most favourably with those of Wigan, Pemberton, Orrell, Blackrod and Aspall, who are without exception, the most degraded and wretched class of beings which has ever fallen under my notice. There seems to be nothing to which this can be attributed but the attention of a resident master.]