1841 - Evidence on the employment of
January 6, 1841.MR. ELLIOTT'S BUTTON MANUFACTORY, REGENT
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
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
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
(Signed) WILLIAM ELLIOTT.
[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
(Signed) JAMES GARDENER.
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. Elliotts 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
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.
(Signed) SAMUEL GUEST.