NEW MILLS
Children Employed in Printworks
Children Employed in Printworks

In the nineteenth century, there were three principal forms of industry Mining, Printing and the Factory Production of Cotton or Paper. All of these were to be found in New Mills and in the surrounding area.
Little detail of the working conditions found locally has come down to us. Consequently, it would be easy to view the lives of local people romantically, veneered as they are by the surviving documents. These documents, mostly relate to the more affluent members of local society and little reflect the daily lives and living conditions of normal working families.

Details of conditions within local industries are scarce, but in 1843, the Children’s Employment Commission published a report that examined the working conditions of children in several local printworks. This report gives a snapshot of the industry at that time. It seems that conditions in New Mills and the local district were by the standards of the time quite good. There is for instance little mention in the witness statements of the beating of children in our area. In some areas, beatings were commonplace; one young girl relates how the printer she worked with beat her repeatedly until he caused such physical harm that the girl’s mother admonished him in the street.

Rock Mill, (Torrs) operated by John and Charles Yates - employed 48 men, 17 boys and 4 girls between 13 and 18 years old and 6 boys and 8 girls under the age of 13.

Strines Hall, operated by Charles Robinson – 293 men and 3 women, 93 boys and 10 girls between 13 and 18 years old, and 123 boys and 109 girls under the age of 13.

Furness Print-works, operated by Loyd Buchan and Welch – employed 78 men and 43 women, 28 boys and 54 girls between 13 and 18 years old, and 36 boys and 49 girls under the age of 13.

London Place (Watford), operated by Ingham and Yates, list only 10 boys and 4 girls between 13 and 18

Wood Print-works (Hayfield) operated by Taylor and Lucas – employed 55 men, 28 boys and 5 girls between 13 and 18 years old, and 20 boys and 10 girls under the age of 13.

Garrison (Birch Vale) operated by J. Bennett, Executor to Thomas Oldham, Hayfield – list only 11 boys and 12 girls between 13 and 18 years old, and 23 boys and 13 girls under the age of 13.

A school, supported by the owners operated in connexion with Strines Hall, another supported by George Andrew and Son operated at Compstall Mill.


We can also gleam some information about the general conditions within printworks from the same report, which was prepared by J. L. Kennedy Esq.

“The print-grounds are generally very irregularly built, without any regard to symmetry of architecture. They seem to be a succession of after thoughts and might to the eye of a printer afford an epitome of the rise and progress of calico printing in this country. Blockshops will average from 12 to 30 yards in length and from 7 to 9 in breath. The roof in the old blockshops, in many instances, is not more than 8 feet high; but in almost all the modern shops, which are by far the more numerous, will be found from 9 to 12 feet high and even higher in some cases, where there is no ceiling, and the room is open to the rafters. They are usually heated by a large iron stove, two feet in diameter, the pipe or flue of which passes up the centre of the shop. These stoves are preferred as giving a greater change of air than steam pipes, which are occasionally used. The temperature of the blockshops usually varies from 65 to 80 degrees. This appears essential, in order that the pieces may be dried quickly to prevent the mordants from spreading. The shops are ventilated by revolving fan, sliding parts, and swivels in the windows, wooden ventilators in the walls and roof, and in some cases by a ventilator in the roof (facetiously called a Presbyterian, from its turning with every change in the wind). It seems absolutely necessary to have a free circulation of air in the block shops, as the atmosphere of 65 to 80 degrees soon takes up the moisture from the pieces; and as the temperature could not be conveniently raised (for if it was the men could not work), there is only one alternative left, which is to allow a rapid change of air through the building. These shops are quite free of steam, and the air is perfectly clear. I mention this, as I believe an erroneous opinion exists on this point. The smell of the colour is perceived on entering the room. I made especial inquiry into the cause of this, and was informed that it arose from the acetic acid (or strong vinegar) more or less used in the composition of nearly all colours. It is perfectly innocuous, and is even imperceptible after remaining a short time in the room.
The stoves are often overheated; and I have occasionally seen them nearly red-hot. In some shops, however, a very good regulation exists – the porter of the room keeps the keys of the stoves, and tends the fire when requisite; but in many cases the printers themselves feed the fire, and make it hotter than there is any necessity for.
The rooms are lighted by gas, oil, and candles. I have heard the men complain of the impurity and noxious effluvia of the gas used in some works; but I much doubt whether it was entirely attributable to the gas not being well purified. In justice to the employers, I must say that I have often seen the gas turned up much too high by the workmen themselves, who are unaware that they do not necessarily increase the light by doing so, but a large portion of the gas escapes without being burnt, and in passing through the flame becomes decomposed, and the carbon is precipitated. The air soon becomes loaded with small particles, and in this state it is almost intolerable.
The privies are almost invariably detached from the print shops so that the annoyance from their effluvia is never felt by the workpeople. Decency dictates that there should be separate privies for the males and females, which is not always the case. In one establishment which I visited, observing both me and women standing about the privy, I asked if their was not a convenience exclusively for the females, and was informed “ it was all the place they had for both men and women.”
Print-grounds are usually situated at the edge of streams, or where there are facilities for obtaining water; they are well drained, and, I should say, on the whole not unhealthy. Many of them are not whitewashed, and not sufficiently cared for as regards cleanliness; but there are many branches of the trade in which there is a great deal of dirt and slopping which seem unavoidable.
The dyeing and bleaching departments are usually carried on in detached buildings, open to the roof, ventilated by openings in the roof and windows, to allow the steam to escape. The floors are flagged, and there are gutters for the waste water to run down. The floor however is usually very wet not withstanding this precaution. The work-people are in the habit of wearing thick wooden-soled clogs and oiled woollen leggings, and are therefore not so much inconvenienced by it as might be expected.
Block Printer and Teerer at Work.
The image represents the block-printer and teerer at work. The employment of these children is to spread the colour evenly on a woollen sieve with a small hand brush; this done the block-printer places his block in the sieve, and serves it with colour; he then applies it to the cloth, giving it a slight tap with the mall or mallet which he holds in his left hand. During the time which is occupied in applying the block to the cloth, the teerer draws his brush over the sieve and lays the colour evenly as before, to be ready to the next serving of the block. There is one teerer to each block-printer; there is a plan lately adopted of making long tables at which two men work at the same time; but in these, as in the others, there is a teerer to each block-printer.
The teerer’s work is easy and does not require much muscular exertion. The colours used in the block-printer’s shop are almost invariably thicken with gum Senegal or British gum, and not with starch which was formerly used; they are consequently of such a consistency as to be easily spread.
The monotony of the teerer’s employment is considerably relieved by their having to bring colour from the colour shop, and from it being part of their duty to clean the blocks and sieves. In some establishments these operations are done by a man, but in most are performed by the teerer’s themselves. The sieve and blocks are cleaned in a covered shed, containing a trough, with a tap of hot and cold water; but in many it is done at the margin of the river or brook where the works are situated, and steps are laid down to the waters edge. Covered sheds, for the washing of sieves and blocks, would add much to the comfort of the children in print-grounds. Though many have conveniences of this kind, many which I visited are deficient. The objections to the employment of very young children in the print-grounds do not appear to me to apply to the nature of their employment, but rather to the long and very irregular hours, both in the day and night, during which they are obliged to work, which at a very tender age deprives them of the chance of relaxation at that period in life when the frame most requires it; and in addition to this, takes away the opportunity of cultivating and developing their intellectual powers. Much has been said about the cruelty practised in print-grounds, and I believe there was formerly ground for this allegation; but I do not think it is now much practiced, and if it is, I am persuaded it is entirely without the sanction of the employer. Many instances where corporal punishment has been inflicted are stated in the evidence of teerer’s and block-printers, but as a proof that these chastisements are not very severe, most children laughed when they told me of them.
In the white room there are always several girls employed in every establishment; their work, which is called “hooking,” consists of laying the plain and printed calico in folds. Some of them sew the ends of the pieces of calico together, and others take out the creases from the cloth by striking it against a frame, this operation is called “lashing out.”
The drying room is where the pieces are dried, both after being bleached and before they are finished. In this department, the damp pieces are put through a succession of tin rollers heated by steam. A good deal of steam rises from this process; but there is always a wooden funnel placed over the roller, which conveys the steam through the roof without it coming into the room.
The children and young persons in this department are usually from 10 to 20 years of age. The regular hours are from six in the morning to six at night; but these are frequently parted from.
In the Dyehouse a considerable number of persons are employed in “winching,” or drawing out pieces from the vats, by turning a winch with one hand and laying the cloth in folds with the other; and several are constantly wheeling wet pieces from the Dyehouse and wash-house to the other departments. The persons in this department are usually provided with oiled woollen leggings, and in summer in some cases, they work barefoot. The Dyehouse is the most disagreeable department by far in a print-ground. The floor is always wet, and the steam from the different processes escapes in great quantities. The persons employed in the dyehouse are generally from 13 to 18 years of age, and full-grown men. Their hours of work are generally from six in the morning to six at night, but they are also very irregular. I am told by a witness that he has often seen the boys wheeling pieces almost in their sleep, when they have been working at night, and remember once hearing a boy coming up to the pay table, on being asked how much he wanted, reply half asleep, “two days, thirteen hours overtime.” In the Dyehouse, I find the usual complaints are rheumatism. I have observed also that the men and boys are occasionally affected with a scorbutic affliction in the hands and eyes, which they call scurvy. The blue Dyehouse is a very disagreeable place.
The singeing room is also a disagreeable department for the workpeople, and it is fortunate that not more than three to six persons are required in this process in any establishment. In singeing the cloth, it is drawn over a red-hot cylinder, in order to burn off the nap on the surface. It is also done by gas in some establishments. The air in the singeing room is filled with small burnt particles, which irritate the nostrils and eyes exceedingly. On going into this room with a friend, we were both instantly affected; our eyes began to smart, and we felt a tickling sensation in the throat and nostrils, much the same as that produced by taking snuff. I noticed that all the children who were employed in the room were more or less affected with inflammation and copious discharge from the eyes. The hours of work are here also very irregular. A medical man who attended me stated that he had no hesitation in saying that the small burnt dust inhaled in this room by the workpeople must be exceedingly irritating to their lungs and air tubes.

It will be noticed from the above that it was scarcely possible to define accurately what the regular hours of work were, but Mr Kennedy defined them as twelve hours a day with one and a half hours for meals, beginning at 6 in the morning or 7 as daylight permitted. It was usual for all print-grounds to work overtime and as they were paid by the peace and no machinery was involved they were at liberty to work whatever hours they liked. There are examples of overworking in the report. In one day, a boy was made to work from six o’clock on the Wednesday morning until the morning of Saturday. Another boy worked from four in the morning until ten the following day. One man was asked, “How did the teerer’s stand the fatigue of night work? – “I was often pressed for a teerer; some broke down, and some ran away, some went to sleep under the table; and if you gave overworking for a minute or two they ran off, and you could never find them again. I once worked three weeks night-work, and during that time had three teerer’s working each a week.”
Did you ever see cruelty exercised toward the children? – “I have seen them get many a little tap on the head with the bar; or the printer would send them off to wash their faces many a times during the night to keep them awake, and sometimes made them run up and down the shop.”
Did the children get plenty to eat during the night? – “That was the worst cruelty. Many of the children were without victuals; I always kept mine myself, and gave him some of my own food; the children would often be starved if it was not for the block-printers. Once when my teerer ran away at 10 o’clock at night, I offered another lad a penny or his supper if he would work for me instead, and he chose his supper; so you may guess he was not properly fed, for most children would prefer a penny.”

At the time of the report, printworks and some other manufacturing trades were not subject to the legislation of the Factories Act, which prevented children under nine years working in the local cotton mills. This allowed an undermining of laws, which should have improved the lives and education of children. The following excepts were collected from our area by Mr Kennedy and reveal something of the conditions of the time. They also show how a lack of legislation allowed the printworks to divert children from education. Some enlightened employers such as Mr Clayton at Mellor Mill also took a view and made a stand.

Mr Emery, the master of the school at Disley, gives the following account of the effects produced in that vicinity, by the facility of giving employment to very young children: - “when I first came into this district, which is now many years since, my scholars stayed much longer with me, and I had a chance of making something of them. I had boys in my school from 17 to 18 years of age; but now that a child of seven years old can earn from 2s. 6d to 3s. per week, the temptation to send them to work is too great for the parents, and they are taken away from my school almost before I have had time to teach them anything. The copy-books show the difference in the writing then, as compared with the writing now.”
Mr Kennedy observed “This was very apparent, in many of the older copy-books the writing was beautiful; and I remarked that the examples in arithmetic were of a more useful and improving kind; such for example as the problems on the measurement of land. Whereas the writing of the present scholars was that of beginners only and the examples of arithmetic were of a much more elementary kind.” On looking at the number of scholars, Mr Kennedy found that over the last ten years the number of scholars had fallen by fifty percent, whilst there had been a great increase in population in the district.
Asked to what he attributed the falling numbers of scholars Mr Emery replied. “To three or four causes.
1st. To the facility of getting employment, at very high wages, for very young children, in the immediate neighbourhood.
2nd. To the indifference of parents about the education of their children, numbers of the parents being unable to read and write themselves.
3rd. To the parents trusting entirely to the Sunday-schools for the education of their children: it is not unusual to hear the parents say to the child, “Thou must work, and go to the Sunday-school, same as I did.”

This third point resulted in an exchange between the two men, which was recorded. Mr Kennedy asked “Are there any special inducements held out to Sunday-scholars here? – Yes Sir, there are many; first the books and instruction are given gratuitously; there is also the sum of 5/. And a clock of 6/. 6s. value given to six girls who shall be married; and who are regular attendants at the Sunday-school for two years.
How is the money raised? – There is a bequest of 30/. per annum to the school for this purpose, and the clocks are purchased out of the funds of the sick-club, and this is raised by a subscription of a penny per week. They are allowed 2s. per week when sick, and 2/. 2s. for burial; the boys are not entitled to clocks, and the consequence is that many have left the club.
Do you think this operates favourably or otherwise? – The result is good so far as it goes; but there can be no doubt that it has the effect of making parents trust entirely to the Sunday-school for the education of their children.
What security would you have that a greater number of children come to your day school, supposing that fewer inducements were held out by the Sunday-schools? – None, Sir; the wages are so high for the children’s labour that no parent would hesitate a moment whether he should send his child to school or to work; if he sends his child to school he must pay 2 pennies a week, if he sends him to the print-works he receives for his labour from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per week.
Do you think that it is owing to the workmen’s wages been low that they cannot afford to send their children to school? – On the contrary, the wages in this neighbourhood are comparatively high; the block-printers can make from 20s. to 30s. per week, and I am certain they could afford to send their children to school if they would; they can afford to spend 2s. 6d. a week in drink.
What means do you think would be most effectual to induce the parents to educate their children? Why nothing, Sir, can do it, but not allowing the children to work until they can read and write.
How would such a regulation operate, supposing that it could be carried out? – Why, Sir, it would supply a motive at once to the parents to educate their children, that they might as soon as possible benefit by their labour.
“Then you are led to believe that at present the motive is rather to induce them to neglect the education of their children than otherwise? – Most undoubtedly, as I said before, if they send their child to school they have to pay 2d. a-week for his education, if they send him to work in a mill or a print-works they receive 2s. or 3s. a week for his labour.”

Next Mr Kennedy travelled to Mellor Mill and after speaking with Mr Clayton, the owner interviewed several of the workforce who had worked in print-works before being employed in the mill.

He reports, Mr Clayton, of Mellor Mill, near Stockport, to whom I am indebted for his kindness, and whose beautiful mill is unrivalled probably by any mill in the kingdom, in cleanliness and order, states the following: -
“I have had the greatest difficulty in preventing the works people sending their children to the print-works in the neighbourhood, previously to their offering them for employment in this mill. I have at this time several children and young persons who have been teerer’s before they came here, but I now make a point of refusing all children who have been at print-works as it appears to me, that there is no use in excluding children under nine years of age, from the factories, if they are allowed to work in the print-works under that age.”

Robert Wheeldon -
What age are you? – I am16 years old.
How long have you being at work here? – Three years.
Did you work before you came here? – Yes, I was a teerer in a printworks before I began to work in the mill.
What age might you be when you first began to work in the print-works? – I went first when I was seven years old, and I have two sisters who were teerer’s before they were fit for the mill.
What age did they begin work? – They were going in seven years old when they first went.

Ann Maria Brown –
What age are you – Going in 14.
Where did you work before you came here? – I worked at Wood End Print-works, but I don’t know what the master’s name was; I was a teerer.
What age were you when you first went to work there? – I was seven when I first went there, and I was there above a year.
Why did you not come here at once? – I was too young to work in the mill.

Ellen Wheeldon –
You are the sister of the first witness? – Yes I am.
What age are you? – Near 19.
Did you ever work at any other employment before you came here? – Yes, I worked at Strines Hall Print-works as a teerer for six years.
What age were you when you first began to work there? – I was going in seven years old.
Why did you not come here at first? – I was too young to work in a mill, so I was sent there until I was old enough to come into the mill.

Maria Wheeldon –
You are a sister of the last witness? – Yes I am.
What age are you? – I am going in 14.
Where did you work before you came here? – At Strines Hall Print –works.
At what age did you begin to work there? – When I was going in 7, and I left there when I was going in 12.
What made you leave those works? – I was old enough then to come into the mill.

John Brodick –
What age are you? - I am going in 13.
Where did you begin to work first? – I worked at Compstall Bridge Print-works as a teerer.
How long where you there? – I cannot say exactly, but I stopped there until I was fit for the mill.
What is your father’s occupation? – He is a boatman.

Thomas Radcliffe –
What age are you? - I am going in 17.
Have you ever worked at anything besides cotton spinning? – Yes, I worked at Strines Hall Print-works when I was between 8 and 9 years old.
How long did you work there? – I think about half a year, and then I came here; I worked at teering before I was fit to come here, and when I was old, enough I came here.
How long have you been at work at this place? – Nearly seven years.
Do you like this work better than teering? Yes, we get more money.

Mr Kennedy goes on to explain that the practice of sending children to the print-works before they can enter a more regulated industry was not confined to the cotton mills. The same thing was true of colliers, and in the neighbourhood of Whaley Bridge, he interviewed three witnesses at random who were employed as drawers in the coal-mines of Mr. Boothman.

Joseph Mellor aged 18 –
Where did you work before you went into the coal-pits? – I began by being a teerer in a print-works before I was 7 years old.
How long did you work there? – I teered five years at Furness, and then I came to the coal-pits, and now I am a drawer.
What wages did you get in the print works? – 2s. 6d a week.
And what have you here? – 1s. 2½d a day.
Can you read? – Yes a little bit; but very little.
Can you write? – No.
Do you attend a Sunday-school? – Yes, and I have been to a night school, but it is a great while since.

Peter Southron, going 15 years old.
Where did you work before you came to work here? – I was a teerer at two shops before I came here; first at Rock Mill Printworks, and then at Furness.
What age did you begin to work first? – When I was 6 years old.
What age were you when you first came to the coal-pits? – I was 12 years old.
What wages did you get at the Print-works? – 4d. a day when we worked from six to six, but if we worked till ten at night, they used to reckon it half a day more, and we got 6d. and 7d.
What can you earn in the pits? – I have six tubs, 1s. 2½d.
Can you read? – Not so much, I can read a bit.
Do you attend any school? – Yes, I go to Furness Sunday-school.

Joseph Swindells –
What age are you? – I am 20 years of age.
Were you ever a teerer? – Yes, I teered at Strines Hall for five years.
What age did you begin teering? – When I was about six.
You are a drawer in the pits now? – Yes, I am.
What wages can you earn in the pits? – I have 12 tubs, 2s. 6d.
Do you ever go to school? – Yes, I used to go now and then to Disley Sunday-school, but I was so hard of hearing, I could not hear what they said.
Can you read? – Yes, a bit; I can’t write.
Do you ever read for amusement? – Sometimes I take hold of a book.

It would seem that almost every child in this immediate neighbourhood is sent to the print-works at first, without any reference to its employment in after life.

Jane Bennett, in service in Manchester, age 30 –
What district do you come from? – I come from Disley in Cheshire.
Did you ever work in any print-works? – Yes, when I was a girl I did, before I was fit for service, and so did my sisters and brothers.
Were you ever sent to school? – No, I never went to school.

He concludes –“more evidence of the same description might be adduced, clearly showing the futility of restraining children from working in the cotton, woollen, and flax mills alone, whilst there are other unregulated employments open to them; and consequently the necessity of further legislative interference in extending those restraints, either in their present or an altered form, to other branches of infant labour.
The evidence I last cited will have exhibited in some degree the fluctuating nature of the children’s employment in this district, and the consequent irregularities which must occur if the education of a manufacturing population be derived from schools attached to the places of work; in which case the schooling would be interrupted and frustrated with every change of employment.

Evidence was gathered from children in a number of the local print-works and gives further insight into the lives of local children.

Strines Printing-works
Witnesses interviewed March 6th 1841.

William Marsland, going in 13, plaiter down –
What time do you come in the morning? – At seven o’clock.
And what time do you leave at night? – At six at night.
What time have you for breakfast? – We stop half an hour in summer; but now we eat our breakfast before we come.
Where did you work before you came here? – I worked at Wood End.
What wages did you get there? – I got very little there; I get 3s. 6d. here.
Do you give your father your wages? – No, I live with my grandmother, I don’t live with my father; he is very drunken.

Alice Bennett, near 13 years of age, teerer –
How long have you been at work? – About six years.
What time do you come to your work in the morning? – About seven o’clock.
What time do you go home at night? – At six o’clock generally.
Have you ever worked later than six o’clock? – Yes, I have; I have worked from six in the morning until eight at night.
How long is that since? – About a year ago.
Did you ever work all night? – Yes, I have.
What time did you begin when you worked all night? – I came at six at night and worked till six next morning last Christmas.
What time have you allowed you for breakfast? – Half an hour when we have our breakfast here.
What time are you allowed for dinner? – One hour.
Do you always have a full hour? – Yes.
Do you stay for tea? – No, not generally; but if we are worked till eight we stop half an hour for bagging.
What time have you for meals when you work in the night time? – We have half an hour for breakfast, and an hour for dinner; when we work at night just the same as in the day.
Do you feel sleepy when you are working at night? – Yes, I always went to sleep at dinner time.

Mary Anshead, hooker-on –
What time do you come to your work in the morning? – At six o’clock.
Do you stop for breakfast? – In summer we stop for half an hour, but we get our breakfasts before we come just now.
What time have you for dinner? – We have half an hour for dinner.
Do you stop for tea? – No, we do not stop for tea, but when we work till eight o’clock we stop half an hour for ‘baggin’.
Can you write your name? – Yes.
Have you ever been to school? – Yes, I have.
Do you attend Sunday-school – Yes, I always go to Sunday-school.
What age are you? – I am going on 15, and I was going in 14 when I first got here.
How many sisters have you? – I have three sisters beside myself.
Are they all at work? – Yes, all excepting one, and she is poorly*
(The girl became imbecile after her brother destroyed himself by taking poison, and she partly lost the use of here limbs.)

Elizabeth Bennett, 9 years old –
How long have you been at work? – Four months.
Do you live near this place? – I live about a mile from this.
What time do you come in the morning? – I have left home at seven o’clock since I began, and we shut about eight.
Do you take your breakfast here? – No, I eat my breakfast before I come.
What time do you leave at night? – About six o’clock.
What time do you stop for dinner? – One hour, at twelve o’clock till one.
Have you any time for tea? – No, I never stop for ‘baggin’ longer than my master stops.

James Poden, going in 10 years
How long have you been at work? – For two years.
What time do you come in the morning? – Before seven o’clock.
What time do you give up at night? – Towards six o’clock.
Have you ever worked all night? – Yes, sometimes.
What hour do you go to work when you work all night? – I began at six o’clock at night and worked till six next morning.
How far do you live from this? – About a mile.
What time do you stop for breakfast? – We do not stop at all now, but we shall begin on the 1st of March; when we do stop, we have half an hour.
And how long do you have for dinner? – We have one hour for dinner.

Messrs Taylor and Lucas, Hayfield, Derbyshire.
Witnesses interviewed March 20th 1841.

Mary Rugely, hooker –
What age are you? – Going in twelve.
How long have you been at work? – Since last September.
What hours do you work? – I come at six in the morning, and sometime I go away at six in the evening. It was twelve o’clock last night when I went home. I have stopped till nine and ten o’clock; the last two weeks we have been very busy.

Mary Bursfield, hooker –
What age are you? – I am going in fourteen.
What hours do you work? – I go at six o’clock in the morning, and work till six at night, and sometimes I stop till ten.
Do you like your work? – Yes, I like it very well.

Eliza Wilding, hooker –
What age are you? – Going in fifteen.
What was your employment before you came into this place? – I was a teerer three or four years.
Do you work all night? – No, I used to do occasionally when I was a teerer.
What time have you for meals here? – Half an hour at eight o’clock for breakfast, and half an hour for dinner.

Eliza Gee, teerer –
What age are you? – Twelve years old.
How long have you been at work here? – I came last September.
What hours do you work? – I come at six in the morning and I go at six at night, and sometimes seven.

Sarah Turner, teerer –
What age are you? – I am thirteen years old.
How long have you been a teerer – Three years.
What time do you come in the morning? – At seven o’clock.

Messers. Loyd, Buchan, and Welsh. Furness (Vale).
Witnesses interviewed March 18th 1841.

John Warren –
What age are you? – I am 12.
How long have you been at work? – One Year.
What hours do you work? – I come at six in the morning, and we stop at 10 o’clock at night, and sometimes all night. I have worked two days and a night, though I went to sleep from one o’clock till five in the morning, and then worked on just the same.
What time have you for meals? – Half an hour for breakfast, and one hour for dinner, sometime we work the dinner hour.
Can you read and write? – Yes.

Jonathan Walket –
What hours do you work? – The engine stops at six, and sometimes we stop at six at night, and it is sometimes half past eleven.
What hours have you for meals? – Half an hour for breakfast, and one hour for dinner.

Mary Turner –
What age are you? – Going in 15.
How long have you been at work? – Seven years.
What hours do you work? – I come at six in he morning, sometimes at half past eight, he does not keep us so long as some of them, but I have staid till 10 o’clock sometimes.
Do you live near the works? – No, I live two miles off, and I have stopped all night in the works sometimes.

Ann Hall –
What hours do you work? – I come at six in the morning, and I have staid while four o’clock next morning.

Mary Ann Smith –
What age are you? – Six and a half.
How long have you been at work? – Half a year.
What time do you come in the morning? – Six o’clock.
What time do you go home? – Sometimes at four, but I have staid while eight.
Do you go to school? – I go to Sunday-school, and I read in “Reading made Easy.”

Ellen Manifer –
What age are you? – About seven years old.
How long have you been at work? – About seven months.

Isaac Lomas –
What age are you? – Not six years old.
What hours do you work? – I come at daylight, about six in the morning and I work till six at night.
Have you ever worked all night? – No.

Haworth Gregory –
What age are you? – Between six and seven.
What hours do you work? – I begin to work at five in the morning, and I go away generally between five and six o’clock at night; but I have staid as late as eight o’clock when I worked in the middle shop.
Do you go to Sunday-school? – Yes, to Furness Sunday-school; I can read a bit but not write.

Thomas Turner –
What age are you? – Going in nine years old.
What hours do you work? – I come at six in the morning, and I go whenever my master has finished his pieces, whatever time that is. I have worked all night; once I stopped here all day, and staid till three o’clock in the morning, and then did not go home till three o’clock in the afternoon.
What time does the bell ring in the morning? – At six o’clock
How far do you live from this? – One mile and three quarters.
Can you read? – Yes, a bit, but na much (not much); I read in “Reading made Easy.”

Hannah Part –
What age are you? – I am going in 15.
How long have you been at work? – Eight years in all. Five years I was a teerer, and I have been three years at this work.
What hours do you work? – It is hard to say; yesterday I came at six o’clock in the morning and worked all day and all night till one o’clock this morning.
What time did you begin work this morning? – At six o’clock.
Did you go home? – No; I live two miles off, and so I slept on some pieces in this room.
Can you read? – Yes, I can, but I cannot write. I can sew.
What wages do you get? – 4s. per week.
Are you paid weekly? – No; monthly.

Compstall Bridge, Derbyshire. Operated by Mr Andrews
Witnesses interviewed March 12th 1841.

Joseph Halbert –
What age are you? – Eleven years old.
How long have you been at work? – I have been two years.
What time do you work? – I come at seven o’clock; I have my breakfast before I come. I go home for my dinner, and I stop while the factory looses, at half past seven o’clock, and I have worked all night once.
What have you for dinner? – Potato Pie and sometimes potatoes.
How many brothers and sisters have you? – Two sisters; they don’t work. My mother binds shoes.

James Brindley –
What age are you? – Eleven years old.
What time do you come in a morning? – About seven o’clock.
What time do you leave your work? – I go at dark.
What have you for meals? – I get my breakfast when I am at work, they don’t stop; I stop for dinner one hour at twelve o’clock.
Do you get beaten? – I get thrashed a bit.
What time do you get new clothes? – Mostly I get new clothes at Hyde wakes, 12th September, and Christmas.
How many are you of a family? – I have four sisters; one at work, a tenter, in the factory, one a teerer; my father is a dresser.

Hannah wheelhouse –
What age are you? – Eleven years old.
What time do you come in a morning? – About seven o’clock.
What time have you for meals? – My breakfast is sent here, we don’t stop; we stop an hour for dinner. We go home at dark, but sometimes we light up, and go home at eight o’clock.

Richard Tattersall, back tenter –
What age are you? – 15 years old.
At what age did you begin work? – At nine years at Blackburn.
How was your hand injured? – I was catched in a machine at Reddish, Bickham & Co. at Brookside, near Blackburn, and it took my hand off, excepting this part of my middle finger.
What hours do you work? – From six in the morning till six at night, and sometimes eight, but never all night.

William Makin, machine printer –
What are the regular hours in the machine room? – Ten hours a day; but we often work till ten at night, and sometimes longer; it is just as the orders are. I have worked at Carbrook; they pay monthly there, and sometimes every five weeks; when they pay monthly, they can never get the men back to work as long as the money lasts.

The Teerer’s story
Thomas Hughes, 12 years old, December 10th 1840.
Thomas was employed at Dugin’s, in Green Gate, Salford. Though not a local lad his memories would be typical of many, or all printing establishments of the time.

“I began teering when ten years old; used to go at six in the morning, sometimes seven or eight, according as it was daylight; on a Monday morning I started about nine. The master was tired after drinking; some of the masters used to drink all Sunday. Worked till six at night for regular, sometimes seven, in the winter till it was dark; sometimes when busy we worked all night. Went at six in the evening, and left at six in the morning; used to sleep in the daytime, while five o’clock. Stopped between twelve and one to eat some bread and butter and coffee. Considered myself as working for Mr Dugin, but my master used to fetch my wages out for me; he used generally to pay me on the spot, but sometimes he would get change at the public-house; sometimes he would give me a glass of beer. I never used to get beaten; always did my work well, but other children used to get beaten, some of them. Sometimes the master gave them a slap on the ear, sometimes hit them with a block on the side of the head. Some of the children used to nod and fall asleep over the tub, those that were little and weak. It was very hot sometimes while we were working, the shop had to be kept warm to dry the colours. It was very hot sometimes and we used to sweat; we used to tie our braces round our waists and take our shirts off; we had nothing on but trousers and clogs. We used to have to wash the blocks when they got dirty.
There was a shed to wash in, and a cistern; we were always dry; we always put our clothes or a blanket round our shoulders (the blanket was what we used to put under the cloth to keep the flag level, and keep the pins from being bent); it was generally in the summer that we worked all night. We used to get 3s. a week when we had full work. There was never a regular time for breakfast, but we used generally to have half an hour, but sometimes we had not so much; we always got finished breakfast before nine o’clock. We stopped for an hour at twelve for dinner. Sometimes the printer would not stop at all till “baggin-time”, but he used generally to call another teerer as might be idle, till I could eat my dinner; my sister used sometimes to fetch it to me; got potatoes and bacon and bread along with it; sometimes bread and butter and coffee for dinner; used to get no “baggin,” but got some supper when I got home at night.
I have a sister that works at Coates’s, but she cannot work at merinos, she is not active enough, and cannot change the sieve. She is very weak and thin; she will never be strong, I think. She gets beat sometimes; she never works at night later than nine o’clock; she is nine or ten years old. She goes to work about eight o’clock in the morning, and works until nine o’clock at night sometimes, but not regular. Our work is very irregular, some weeks altogether idle; sometime we would work three days in a week, sometimes we worked five or six days a week for five weeks together, when they had a good order. Sometimes we used to get very wet as we were going to work, I used to put my brat, made of blanket, over my shoulders, to keep the rain off.”


The Foreman Block Printer, Manchester.
Mr. Robert Hampson, April 7th 1841

You are a foreman block printer? – Yes, I am.
Were you ever a teerer yourself? – Yes, I was; when a boy I was very hard worked; sometime we worked all night.
Have you ever seen children beaten? – Yes, I have seen children beaten many a time; some men are more short tempered than others; men who have children are more considerate. It was quite common to beat them when I was a boy; I have worked all night many a time for 24 hours at a time with the same teerer, but I used to let him sleep in the middle of the night for a few hours; but I don’t think that either man or boy is fit for work next day; and as a general rule, I don’t think it would answer to the master; there is a great deal of work spoilt at night; it is usually very bad.
I have often seen children go to sleepover the tub; it is common enough in some places; I think the hours children are worked are too long.
Do you think children would be more active and sprightly if they were employed shorter hours? – I have noticed that children work more sprightly the first few hours of the day, they get jaded after a long days work and do not attend so well: I think they would be more willing to work half a day; there are some who run away because they have to work all day, and I think many of these would stop if they had only to work half a day.
After the children are too old for this work, what are they fit for? – Anything that falls out in the works we put them to; in the hanging room’ plaiting down, and some go away and we don’t know what becomes of them.
Can you form any opinion of the parents from the appearance of the children? – Yes; we almost invariably find that when the education and comfort of the children have to be attended to, that the parents are respectable and orderly themselves. I have often noticed that some parents having the same opportunities as regards means have entirely neglected their children, whilst others have paid some little attention to their education; the parents in general care very little about their children’s education so long as they can get them into work.

The Block Printer
Henry Richardson, April 9th 1841.

Have you ever worked much night work? – Yes, I once worked a month at Strines Hall in Derbyshire. We had four sets, and each worked a week at night in turn, since then I have worked at Gisborne and Wilson’s, at Adelphi, in Salford. I worked there a month and I worked there as much at night as in the day.
Do you remember any instance in particular whilst you worked for that firm? – Yes, the first time I took shop there I went at five o’clock in the afternoon in December. I did not expect to get a job that day; but the foreman came, and said I had better stay as there would be a job for me directly. I waited in the shop till four in the morning before the work was given out. At four o’clock I began to work, and worked all that day, all the next night, and until ten o’clock the following day.
How many teerers had you in that time? – I had only one teerer during that time, and I dare say he would be about twelve years old.
Had you much difficulty in keeping him awake? – I had to shout at him toward the second night as he got sleepy.
Have you any children who are teerers? – Yes, I had one of my own children about ten years old, who was a teerer. He worked with me at Messrs. Wilson and Crichton’s, at Blakely. We began to work together about two or three in the morning, and left off at four or five in the afternoon. Once I remember going on a Friday morning at two o’clock working all Friday and Friday night, and until twelve o’clock on Sunday.
What effect had this on the child? – On Saturday night I sent the child to bed about seven o’clock; the next morning, when the other children got up, I told them to let him lie still a bit as he had little rest during the week. We never disturbed him at breakfast time, and when we returned from chapel at noon he was still asleep, and slept during dinner time. At five o’clock in the afternoon, when I came home from school, I was alarmed at finding him still asleep, and wakened him, but I believe that if I had not done so he would have slept till Monday morning.
Have you ever know children’s health injured by night work? – Yes, I have known children made ill by working too long hours. The boy who worked for me at Adelphi was sometimes unable to come to his work from being sick from overworking; I have known him give another lad his supper to take a nights turn for him; and he often had no appetite for his own.
What is your opinion of night work? – It is very hard upon printers and children too; for if they refuse to work night work they must go, so they are compelled to work at night. I abominably detest night work; it is the worst thing that can come to anyone.
What means did you take to keep the children awake? – We used to make them run races round the shop, and wash their faces often, but they often ran away.
What is the greatest length of time you have worked continuously? – I once worked fifty hours at a time, and did twenty pieces in that time.
Is there any perceptible difference in the character of the men who work habitually at the works where night work is carried on? – Yes, the men working at night work shops are almost all low lived.


General points about the district raised by Mr J. L. Kennedy Esq.

1.“Regarding clothing, and I think this is a point much neglected; they make but little change in the summer or winter, except a worsted neckerchief. I have seen in summer, the girls in the neighbourhood of Disley returning from work at night in the grey woollen cloaks usually worn in the winter season. The girls clothing on going home is usually a bonnet and shawl. It is common for a child to have a new suit of clothes each year. Whitsuntide and the Wakes, throughout the district, are the periods at which the new clothing is generally procured. This by the bye, is one good of these holidays, great exertions are made to have new clothes; and anyone is considered unfortunate who has not some new articles of clothing for these occasions. I have taken an opportunity of noticing the want of cleanliness amongst the children.”

2. The deficiency of room in the dwellings of the working classes is also a crying evil.
In many houses, the whole family sleep in one room. In one case there were nine children a man and wife, sleeping in the same room. The demoralizing tendency of this huddling men and women, boys and girls, into the same apartment, where they are obliged to dress and undress in each others presence, must be apparent. In a number of these cases, the whole family sleep in the same room. One witness said “ fever has been very prevalent a sort of lingering rather malignant typhus fever. I attribute it to inefficient drainage, as it has chiefly prevailed where houses are ill drained, and the people themselves are negligent as compared with others. Sobriety and cleanliness, combined with care selecting the sites and improving drainage of the houses would tend to check fever in this district very much.”

3. Many very gross cases of overworking children have been related to me in the course of this inquiry, but I have thought fit to report such only as were the best authenticated. The following are some of these cases: In one, a boy was made to work from six o’clock on the Wednesday morning until the morning of the Saturday. Another case was stated to me in which a boy of twelve years old had been worked from four o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock the following day.

4. It is usual for the block printers and teerers, in almost all print-grounds, occasionally to work what may be called overtime, and as their work is invariably paid by the piece, and they are quite independent of machinery, they are at liberty to work almost what hours they please.

5. In many print-grounds, and especially those in rural districts, it has been and is customary to pay the people every fortnight, and even every month. The money was paid at the works in a bill (a bill with the printers names on, with the whole amount of the wages of all), this they took to the public-house to divide, and every man was obliged to spend 6d. in drink. One manager reported to Mr Kennedy – “ we had then a great many absent on the Monday after pay-day: we had as many as 20, 30 and sometimes 40 men absent, and generally from drunkenness; but now we have scarcely any case where a man stays away on a Monday morning. We have a very stringent rule suspending those who are drunk on a Monday morning from their work for a week or a fortnight, and, in cases of repeated neglect of this rule, we discharge them.
Do you see any apparent difference in the habits of block-printers as to drunkenness and irregularity? – Yes, there is a very great improvement in these respects.
To what do you attribute it? – I consider the improvement in the habits of the block-printers during the last seven years to proceed from the following causes: - reducing the pay from once a month to once a fortnight. More strictly enforcing the attendance of the men on the Mondays after pay-day, encouraging the steady hands by giving them a better share of work during the slack seasons. The main cause has been in disseminating temperance principles, by lectures, and by distributing tracts, &c., showing the great injury arising from using intoxicating drinks.

6. Do the children ever run away from these works? – There are cases when they have run away, but their parents generally keep them to: sometimes they say they came too late, and they were afraid their masters would scold them; but their stories are generally lies.

7. Hernias – Mr Wood a surgical instrument maker in Manchester speaking to Mr Kennedy of the frequency of hernias in all ranks of life stated that he believes that one person in every seven either requires a truss or uses one. Mr Kennedy goes on to say “I am informed by a competent authority that in the neighbourhood of Bakewell, Ashford and Hassop, in Derbyshire, the number is much greater, being estimated as one in three; the same authority states, that few men arrive at old age in this district without being affected in this manner. The district being hilly, and the fences for the most part of stone, requiring to be climbed over, are supposed to increase any tendency to hernia. A high percentage of hernias reported to Manchester Infirmary in 1837 were to children under 9 years of age and many to children under 5 years.
Mr Wood also reported that 18 out of 20 cases of leg supports were required by under three year olds and he could not attribute crooked limbs to child employment as many of these case occurred before the child had, as he put it “been put to the ground.”


The mechanisation of the printing process produced a new set of problems and a great deal of civil unrest. In 1842, a mob of some four thousand men caused disturbances at Compstall Bridge and marched to Marple before they were dispersed.

Notes -
1s. or one shilling = 5 pence,

2s. 6d = two shillings and six pence (aka half a Crown) would now be twelve and a half pence though of course its value would be much greater in the 1840’s.

Baggin-time refers to tea-time, or the time of the afternoon meal and shows a distinct Lancashire influence in the area.