Account of Blaenavon Iron-Works from the 1842 Mines Report
'Blaenavon Iron-Works, belonging to the Blaenavon Iron and Coal Company, employing about 2000 people, and making about 400 tons of iron per week in five furnaces. May 3.
No. 31. Thomas Deakin, aged 65, mine agent, and John Samuel, aged 31, coal agent, examined together.
There are about 230 young persons under 18 years of age employed in the mine-works, and about 136 in the coal-works. Their parents take their children into the works very young, when not more than six or seven years old, but we do not employ them under the company before they are eight or nine, and then but a very few to keep the doors or something like that. We have sometimes girls to keep doors, but not many; there is only one at a door at present in the mine-works, but there are a great many at the pit's top and on the mine-banks. There is only one girl at present employed about the coalworks; she is about 14 years of age and "tips" or empties rubbish trams on the bank. There are in the colliery 10 or 12 boys at the air-doors; the youngest is from seven to eight years old; the boys, when they get from 9 to 15 years of age, go to drive the horses.
The door-boys and most of the drivers are paid by the company. The doorboys get 10 shillings or 12 shillings per month; they do not burn a light, but are in the dark excepting when the trams come out, when they see by the driver's candle. They work 12 hours, from six o'clock in the morning to six in the evening; they sometimes come up at five o'clock, and do not always go down as soon as six; we do not work the night turn in either the mine or the coal works.
The drivers or "hauliers" get about 10shillings or 12 shillings per week; some are employed and paid by the men, when they work by contract.
After the age of 15 or 16 years the boys go to assist the miners and colliers in getting the mine and coal and bringing it out. We have no boys working with the "belt and chain"; he had himself worked with the "belt and chain" in Shropshire at nine years of age. The children do not work here one-fourth part so hard as they do in Shropshire. I would not allow my children to work as I did fifty years ago, I would sooner send them to the West Indies for slaves. We have no children in our works in any way overworked, and they are all in general well clothed and well fed.
The pits are stopped for an hour at dinner time, but the miners and colliers take their dinners at different times, when they like, as they work by the ton, and the boys working with them do the same.
The air in the works is generally pure and free from damp; there have been explosions - one happened within the last two years; one man was burned to death, but no others were hurt at the same time; there have been other small explosions, but no boys have been hurt. The boys are seldom ill; they lose very little time from sickness, not so much, on the whole, as the men. Many of the men are ruptured, but we do not think they get so before they are grown up.
The only particular complaint that we think the colliers and miners are affected with more than other men is a complaint of the chest and lungs, like asthma, when they get about 50 years old.'