1841 - Evidence on the employment of children

This is a well-ordered and conducted manufactory. The premises large, spacious, and generally airy. Some of the newer parts are fine rooms, particularly well lighted and ventilated. In some shops there are special ventilators. The privies are quite separate.
Very creditable attention is paid by Mr. Elliott to the good conduct of the work-people.

No. 362.—Mr. William Elliott.
Is proprietor of one of the largest manufactories of buttons in the town. Employs, when trade is tolerably good, in the manufactory and out of it, about 500 people.
Has paid considerable attention to the habits and condition of mechanics. Has found that consideration and attention to the welfare and happiness of the workpeople on the part of the employer have produced the best results. Decidedly thinks the people are quite conscious of such attention, and grateful for it. Thinks that the circumstances of manufacturers with-drawing children from parental care and bringing them together in numbers imposes the moral duty of superintending carefully their conduct, and of preventing contaminating examples. On this principle witness's manufactory is conducted. Would not admit any new comer from a manufactory where the conduct of the mechanics was known to be bad. Has rejected many applications on this ground. Thinks that next to a sound, moral, and religious education, such a plan of scrutiny, if universally adopted, would materially lessen, and in many instances obviate the moral evils of the manufacturing system. The superintendence of witness is not restricted to the conduct of the workpeople whilst actually engaged on the premises, but extends to their private character. Has had occasion to dismiss some for immoral conduct out of the manufactory, and this rule is known to those employed. If any unmarried female becomes pregnant, she is immediately dismissed.
Thinks it is the duty of the employer, where men, woman and children work together, that there should be separate and distinct privies.
Is of the opinion there are certain branches of trade in Birmingham, in which children under 9, might be safely employed as to health. In many of these trades there are branches where the work is very light, requiring but little bodily exertion. The reason for this opinion is, that if the children were excluded from the manufactories, they would be neglected by their parents, and not sent to school, and left to stroll about the streets. But abstractedly speaking, is decidedly of opinion that children under 9 years should not be permitted to labour. In the event of any legislative restriction on this point it would be imperatively necessary that attendance at school should be enforced, or the most dangerous consequences would result.
[Note —Mr Elliott presented some beautiful specimens of his manufactures.]

No. 363 January 6, 1841 —Mr James Gardiner
Has been foreman to Mr. Elliott 19 years. There are employed at this time 39 adult males, 78 adult females; 5 males and 81 females between 13 and 21 years; 10 males and 40 females under 13 years. This is about the average proportion of men, women, boys, and girls employed in gilt, plated, silk, and florentine button manufacturing. In this branch of button making the work for the children is very light and does not at all fatigue them. Thinks it is much better that young children, having due regard to the hours they work, should be employed than left at home; because they would be locked out of the house by the parents when they go out to work, it being the common custom for the mother and father to go to the manufactories. When the children have been left at home and in the house, many instances of burning have occurred; has known several cases of this within the last 4 years happening to the children of people employed at this manufactory. Thinks that children younger than 9 might be employed for limited hours at “putting in” without any injurious results to their health.
Great benefits have resulted from the establishment of a sick-club here; last year 83£. 16s. 20d. were paid to the sick members, and at the last day of the year a dividend of 6½d. in the shilling was paid to the contributors. Is of opinion that the greatest good would be produced if such clubs were universally established in manufactories. One good of this club is that it provides a fund sufficient to maintain the workpeople at Christmas, during the week which is the time occupied here in taking stock The circumstance of the manufactories being closed “to take stock” at Christmas must cause great distress, unless such a provision is made as the above to meet it, or, which very rarely happens, the mechanics themselves are sufficiently provident to lay up a part of their wages.
It is common for the mechanics “to feast away from Saturday till Tuesday or Wednesday,” and in the rest of the week they may live on bread and cheese.
Thinks that a good intellectual, moral, and religious education would be the most efficient means of making the work people more provident, “and also to create kindly feelings between them.”

No. 364. January 6, 1841.—Betsey Toe, 7 years old.
Cannot read. Has been at work “putting in” about 2 or 3 months. Earns 1s. 6d. a-week. Comes to work at half-past 8 A. M. and leaves at half-past 8 P.M. Has 1 hour for dinner. Has half an hour tea. Does not get tired at night. Lives rather less than half a mile from the manufactory.

No. 365.—Amelia Delany, will be 6 years in a month.
Reads a little; never went to school. Goes to chapel every Sunday. Has worked at “putting in” 12 months. Earns 1s. 6d. a-week. Does not get tired; it is easy work. Sometimes gets a box on the ear; not often; it she was hurt she should complain to Mr. Wittingham. Has never had occasion to complain.
(Signed) AMELIA DELANY X her mark.

[Evidence at the Town Hall.]
No. 366 January 4, 1841.—Samuel Guest, Pope Street
Is a tool-maker or die-sinker in Mr. Elliott’s button manufactory. The tool-makers have free access to all parts of the manufactory. In this manufactory the hours are from half-past 8 till half-past 7 P.M., and in the Summer from 8 A.M. till 7 P.M.; an hour being allowed for dinner, and a quarter of an hour for tea. These hours are very rarely exceeded; on these occasions the work goes on till 9 P.M.; scarcely ever later than this.
Children generally begin to work at. 8 or 9 years; very few, if any, earlier. Out of 23 children under 13 years 17 attended Sunday schools, 5 did not attend any school, and 1 attended an evening school. Is afraid that a great many parents are perfectly indifferent to the education of their children. Those among the mechanics who are themselves instructed are decidedly anxious that their children should be also. Thinks if it were rendered compulsory that children employed in manufactories should attend school during some part of the day the best results would be obtained. Is convinced that there is a strong desire among the manufacturers of the town to educate the children of mechanics.
Thinks that the morals of the women employed in manufactories are on the whole equal, if not superior to those of the agricultural population, among whom witness lived in the earlier part of his life.
The health of children employed in manufactories in this town is as good as that of other children; as an instance of this would mention that in a sick club which among others about 23 children contribute, not one child has died since its establishment, now 4 years. Thinks that the town generally is healthy. Out of 239 members of the sick club of this manufactory only 1 has died during the last year.
The influence of the employer is very great as regards the happiness and welfare of the mechanics employed, especially of the children who are withdrawn from their natural protectors. There is a marked difference in the appearance and welfare of the children who are employed and paid by the proprietor and those who work for the adults. Thinks that the welfare of the children would be greatly promoted if all were paid directly by the master. Those who are employed by the adults whom they assist are often hurried and overworked; and thinks they are, of all parts of the manufacturing community, the worst treated. They are often hurried whilst at work, in order that they may go on errands, sometimes a considerable distance, for the workmen; so that they, in fact, are the only mechanics who do not obtain any benefit by hard work. The lower the mechanic whom the child assists the worse is its lot; this is a general fact.
Thinks there is a moral duty to be performed by proprietors in protecting the children whom they withdraw from their natural guardians, and is happy to believe that the principal manufacturers of this town act upon this conviction. Is of opinion there is a great want of a general system of superintendence and regulation respecting the protection of children which should bear equally upon all parties; because beyond the individual suffering of the children, the least scruupulous among the employers reap the advantage of the consideration and humanity of the better disposed. In this manufactory the shops are well ventilated and lighted. The yard is large and open, and there is every convenience for the people. The privies are kept separate for the sexes and general decency attended to.


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