Employment of Children in the Button
In this report, John Turner (died
1840) gives simple answers to simple questions.
Disposition of John Turner, sworn
to before Leonard Horner and John Spencer, Esquires, 1st May
Will you state the trade in which you are engaged? Button
Have you any mechanical moving power? No steam-engine
What number of workmen do you employ on your premises? From
one hundred and thirty to one hundred and fifty. We employ
besides about three hundred and fifty out-workers; either
working for us entirely or partially.
Will you state what number of children in the manufactory
under fourteen years of age?From twenty-five to thirty.
What is the earliest age?I think nine.
What are the hours of work?From seven till seven, with
two hours for meals.
Do you leave off sooner on a Saturday?We pay our wages
on Friday, and have done so for many years. The work-people
generally leave a little earlier on a Saturday.
What is your impression of the state of education of the children,
in your employment?They generally can read, and frequently
write, and they in general attend Sunday-schools.
Have you any work in the night?No.
Is there anything in the nature of your work calculated to
injure the health of the children?None, nor other persons,
except gilding, and that under the improved system with little
In the course of your long experience, would you say that
the health of the children in your employ was generally good?Yes.
What is your impression of the moral character of the children,
male and female, in your employ?Good; it has been my
invariable practice to attend to the morals of the people
in our employ, discountenancing vice by every means in my
Are you acquainted with the nature of the dwellings of your
work-people, both as to healthiness as well as comfort?These
are in exact proportion to the moral conduct of the parties.
Where they are religious, they are clean; where they are drunken,
From your local knowledge of Birmingham, do you consider that
the work-people live in health and comfort?Yes; arising
from the general custom, of each family having a separate
house and access to good pump-water.
Has this proposed Ten Hours Labour Bill excited any attention
among manufacturers or workmen, with reference to the town
of Birmingham?None whatever, as being inapplicable to
Have you ever heard of a factory of any description in Birmingham
where it is alleged that the children employed are over worked?
Do you believe the operatives are generally well off at present,
taking into account the rate of wages, and the prices of the
necessaries of life?I have known them many times during
the last forty years much worse off than at present, and I
believe that a part of the proportion of the present distress
arises from their improvidence.
Does the distress to which you allude extend generally to
all classes of trades in Birmingham?I think not.
Have you ever known in the course of your experience Birmingham
without distress existing among some descriptions of employment?Uninterrupted
prosperity must have been very partial, and of short duration.