1841 - Evidence on the employment of
December 4. MR. HASLUCK, BUTTON MANUFACTURER, SUMMER LANE.
The premises are very much crowded. The buildings where the
work is carried on partly face the street and partly surround
3 small yards.
There are 2 privies close together in one of these yards,
and a third in another yard These places are used promiscuously
by all the workpeople; they are overlooked by shops in which
men and boys are at work. I have seen, in my visits, young
women and others going in and out of the privies.
The shops are very much crowded, and small when compared with
the number of people employed. They are close and hot; but
the heat is in part caused by the fires, which are not required
in the business, but for the comfort of the people and at
their wish. At night, when the gas is lighted, the heat is
intense, each of the workers in the press shops requiring
a separate burner. In a room measuring 13 feet 8 ½
inches by 12 feet 3 inches, and 7 feet 7 inches high, there
are 9 women employed at the press and 9 little girls who prepare
the buttons by putting in. The females complain
of the great heat, and state it gives them the headache.
The youngest child in this room is 8 years, and she has been
at work about 2 months. Two other girls are 9, and each has
been at work about a year. The work of these children is very
light, and requires no exertion. One of the little girls says,
it does not tire her, does not make her back ache, or
her arms or legs. All the women now in this shop say
the children are well, and that the work does not seem to
disagree with them. The children are not kept constantly at
their work, but have to run about, and have sufficient but
not too much exercise. They have in this shop decidedly a
healthy apparance, and some of them, as well as the women,
have a good deal of colour. One young woman began at putting
in at 8, and has worked 9 years at that and the covering:
says she did not find it laborious; and although her health
is not good, she does not attribute it to the work.
No.357.December 4. Mr. Thomas Hasluck.
Is a manufacturer of buttons generally. Employs a large number
of workmen; as many as any other manufacturer in this business
in the town. Has been in this trade 18 or 20 years. Has always
found that the educated and instructed workpeople, of whatever
age or sex, are the better conducted and more valuable than
the ignorant and illiterate. In a case of strike, thinks that
the educated men are more difficult to manage than others,
and that they are conceited; but has found that the educated
females under these circumstances are decidedly more easily
reasoned with. Is most decidedly in favour of extending
education and mental culture among the manufacturing population.
Every days experience convinces him of the great importance
of diffusing information among the labouring classes employed
No. 358.George Smith, 8 years old.
Cannot read or write. Went for a while to St. Georges
day school; does not recollect how long. Never goes to church
or chapel, because he has no clothes. Cant say the Lords
Prayer: has worked altogether about 2 years. Comes to work
at 8 in the winter, and at 6 in the summer. In the summer
works till it is dark, about half-past 8. In the winter, works
till 8 or 9. In the winter has his breakfast before he comes;
in the summer has half an hour. An hour is allowed for dinner;
half an hour is allowed for tea. The meals are sometimes taken
on the premises, sometimes at home. Works for a journeyman.
Is paid by his master, and takes home the money to his mother.
Gets 2d on Saturday night; his wages are 2s. Is a putter-in,
that is, he puts together or arranges the different parts
of the button for the journeyman.
No. 359.John Built.
Is a button maker. About a month ago a little boy left, brother
of the last witness, his age was not 6. He was removed because
he was too little. These children have no father at home.
No. 360.Samuel Page.
Is a button maker. Is married. In summer begins to work at
6 and works till dark; in winter from 7 till 9. Has worked
at Mr. Haslucks upwards of 5 years. When there is any
particular press of business or order, has to work extra time.
Has sometimes worked as late as 11 or 12 at night, beginning
at 6 in the morning. This might happen when trade was very
brisk, once or twice a-week. It is necessary to have the boy
to work at the same rate, he having to put together the several
pieces of each button before it is stamped by the man. When
the boys first come to the shop, where from the nature of
the work there must be great heat, it is common for them to
be sick and ill; has known a boy working with him to go out
and be sick every 5 minutes, and sometimes they cannot be
broke into it. Boys generally and in common work get tired
and sleepy in the evening, about 8 or so; are inclined to
drop asleep, so that they must be shook, or have a box on
the head to keep them awake. As the workmen are required by
the proprietor to make good any buttons which are imperfect
from the wrong arrangement of. Their parts (7 in number),
and as the boy has to put each part in its place, it often
happens a mistake being made that the lad is corrected; has
known a boy to be knocked down by an aggravated workman. When
the boys get sleepy they do not notice the right side of the
cloth, and so mistakes arise. Has never known a boy disabled
through ill-treatment. Has often heard them say, before they
were broke in, that they would rather go to the work-house.
Knows that sometimes these children get no breakfast and have
nothing till dinner time. If the men did not sometimes help
them by giving them part of their own dinners, they would
have scarcely anything to eat. Today the boy who works with
witness did not bring more than an ounce of dry bread for
his tea; and believes that this system is the same in every
manufactory in the general way of trade. Is confident that
not one-half of them have their fill. When the
boys go home at night, and this applies in a general way,
they only get a little to stay their stomach, and in the morning
they get a crust of bread; some of the masters give them a
little tea or coffee. As to clothing, the greater part of
these children are very badly off and complain of the cold,
so that in the winter the boys may be half an hour before
they can get to work being numbed with cold.
In consequence of the badness of trade and lowness of wages
the children have to help very much in supporting their parents.
There is more demand for the labour of children and young
people than for that of adults, half as much again.
When the children grow up there is a great difficulty of finding
work. Those mechanics who can earn good wages keep their children
creditably, properly clothed, send them to a day school, and
keep them as they ought to be.
The people at this manufactory have often to wait at the privies.
Thinks it is an injurious thing that young women should be
stared at on these occasions, and that if practicable, it
would be desirable to alter this system.
In consequence of the females going so early to the manufactories
they have no time to learn anything of making their own clothes
or those of their brothers or husbands. If the body-linen
gets out of order, it must either be sent out to be mended
at an expense, or left as it is. It would be a great advantage
to the family if the wife knew how to cut out, make and repair
the linen. In this town there are often a number of women
who are unemployed, and who would thus have time, if they
knew how, to repair and make the garments of the family. Generally
the wives of the mechanics do not know how to make the best
of the food or meat which they buy, so that some of them do
not make more of a shilling than others by good management
of a sixpence. Thinks it would be very beneficial and a fine
thing for the comfort and happiness of the family if
girls, when at school, could be taught the proper management
of all common household matters, and that such information
would tend to improve the character of the mechanic's wife
and greatly to promote domestic happiness. Has often known
quarrels between men and their wives in consquence of the
food being ill cooked; has known the husband on such occasions
to throw the meat out into the street.
No. 361 Sarah Mason
Is a widow. Has worked at this place about 13 years. There
is no restriction as to the men and women going into each
others shops; this is not allowed by the proprietor,
but it cant be prevented, as the toolmakers have to
set the tools for the women and children. It is impossible
for the women to set or fix the tools, as many of them are
very heavy. The premises are so small that the privies are
obliged to be in common to the sexes. It often happens that
the women has to wait. Many young girls are employed here,
and fewer boys.