1864 - Evidence on the employment of
MESSRS. J. AND T. CHATWINS, BUTTON MANUFACTURERS, GREAT
340. The work-rooms, though low, are not crowded with persons,
and pipes have lately been placed over the gas-burners with
the view of carrying off the impure air. Some of the women
whom I asked said that the rooms had been improved by this;
and the employers appear anxious to do what they can for the
comfort of the workpeople. A large boiler of water is prepared
for tea; the people bring only their own tea and cups.
341. Of 15 girls taken at chance out of the entire number
of 20 under 13 employed here, one of 12, who went to day school
three months and goes to Sunday school sometimes, knew none
of the letters; three of 11, one of 9, and one of 8 did not
know all; one of 11, three of 9, and one of 8 could not spell;
one of 10 could scarcely be said to read; one of 12 and one
of 11 could read; one of 10 could read well: i.e., three out
of 15, or 20 per cent only, could read. A girl of 17 could
not read without spelling; she goes to school on Sunday.
342. Mr John Chatwin.Regulations of the young peoples
labour would make but little difference to us. If they led
to the work beginning earlier than the present hour in the
morning, viz., 9 every day except Saturday, on which day it
is 8, it would be inconvenient for the married women. It would
be better if women with two or three children could stay at
home altogether. We do not like children at any time under
9; they are better if they come at about 11. Children should
not work more than eight hours a day besides their meals.
If children under 13 had only half days, the women for whom
they work might prefer girls over that age. They could well
afford to pay older girls, as they get very good wages, some
as much as 12s. a week, other 10s. and 7s. I think that such
little girls, who get only 1s., do not answer so well to the
women as helpers, as the bigger who get 1s. 3d. and 1s. 6d.
The most convenient way for us would be for the children to
have all Monday for school, or to leave at 5 oclock
on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The workpeople leave at
5 on Saturday now, because the carriers will not come late.
When they used to come late work-places were open on Saturday
night till 10. But little work is done on Monday, as the women
reckon to make enough on the other five days.
If children are to be got to school there should be some attraction,
as a meal or a piece of cake every time, which could easily
be provided for by voluntary subscriptions. Unless they learn
young they will not learn at all. I have tried to get big
boys of 17 to learn to write, offering to pay for it, and
telling them "you would be worth 1l. a week more;
but they say, Oh! I dont like it. I find
the girls more orderly after they have been here a bit. Sometimes
women, especially Irish, come unable to tell the clock.
I have put up pipes over the gas to carry away the heat to
the outer air. I have found it make a great difference in
my own office and in the small workrooms. In the larger the
difference in effect is less; but as the people leave at 7
not so very much is burned. The expense of putting up this
piping is very trifling. If any one would suggest anything
better, I should be very glad to adopt it, even for my own
comfort. Where there is gas there must be some bad effects.
If the windows are down, the people get toothache, and we
are obliged to let them do as they please.
I believe that steam power has been applied to button making
(i.e. covered buttons), but experimentally only, and not to
any extent so as to answer. Restrictions on labour such as
referred to would not practically diminish the labour which
we can employ at present. If they did they would probably
lead to inventions for economising it, and appliances taking
the place of the hand. I consider that children should not
be put to press or stamp work at all till they are 13. If
they are, they are apt to hurt themselves; nor should they
work at all with steam till that age, as they must keep up
with the pace of the steam, and the revolutions are sometimes
quickened. On this account there is less occasion for restrictions
in employments in which steam is not used. Some of the younger
ones are less fit for work from not being fed as they should
343. Mr. Thomas Chatwin.I am a very great advocate for
the education of the poorer classes, and have taught in a
Sunday school. I think that more should be made of Sunday
schools as a means of giving some secular education, e.g.
in writing, although I am a Churchman myself. There might
be classes on the Sunday evening, and people would be more
likely to go than on other evenings, as they are clean and
dressed. The additional teachers for this are a mere matter
of expense, and could be got. I have found on inquiry that
many of our people go to the Quakers' Sunday schools, (which
is strange, seeing that this is not the national religion,)
for the sake of the writing, and because they are more systematically
taught, and not confined merely to the Testament. Some go
to these schools when far from young. A woman who did not
begin learning until 30, can now write, and is our best warehouse-woman;
but such improvement at this age is a very rare case.
344. Eliza Rundell, age 8.Look over buttons. Have been
here two years, and was at three button places before. Went
when going 7, and put in. There were six as little
as I at my first place. The hours were from 8 till 7. Here
they are from 8½ till 7, and Saturdays till 5.
345. Agnes Overty, age 10.Can read [well]. Learned at
Sunday school, and my brother, 15, taught me at home too.
346. Isabella Glasscott, age 13.Put in. Can read all
manner, and write a little; never did sums. Left school four
347. Mary Ann Field.Press woman. It would be just the
same to us when we got used to it if the little girls who
work for us came one for one half of the day and another for
the other. Half days would suit as their working every other
day; but we could only pay the two what we now pay the one.
There are two women who have three girls each. Coming late
in the morning suits me best, because of getting the children's