Children's Jobs in the Ironworks
Extracts from Report by Robert Hugh Franks, Esq. on the Employment of Children & Young Persons in the Collieries and Iron-Works in South Wales; and the State, Condition, and Treatment of Such Children and Young Persons. (1842)
John Lewis, aged 10, labourer in smithy:
'I fill the barrows with iron, and run them to the forges or where wanted; work every day, and have done so six months. Have been burned in the face and feet, but never off work for many days. Was at the free Welsh school; did learn the a, b and the ab. (Does not know a letter).'
Sarah Davis, aged 14, piler:
'Works 12 hours daily at piling iron bars for the puddlers (refiners); been two months only at the work. Was at the free school, and got a bit of the spelling (cannot spell any). God made man; never heard of hell or heaven. Twelve pennies in 1 shilling; twice 2 are 4; does not know what 4 and 4 make.'
Catherine Hughes, aged 14, water carrier:
'Carry water on the hill for the men who char the coal for the blast furnaces; work seven days or seven nights; less work on Sundays, 12 to 13 hours on other periods; works for step-father, as own is dead; cannot read yet, but go to the Sunday school to hear the preacher and see about. (Does not know how to read.) No questions in the Catechism are taught at school. God made me; Jesus is God; Adam was the first man; Job was the wisest man. Twelve pennies in a shilling; five fingers on each hand; six days in the week; not say how many months in the year; a month contains more days then a week.'
Susan Davis, aged 17, piler:
'Been at work 12 months; kept house before for mother, and nursed the children, never was at any day-school (can't read Welsh or English); got the English from neighbours; works with father, who is a puddler; earns 24 shillings a month; never heard of the Bible, but knows there is a Testament; has never been taught any Commandments- there may be some, not any to my knowledge; mother taught me to knit and to sew my clothes, which I do after I get home.'
Mary Powell, aged 13, helper to fill:
'Been 12 months helping to fill at the blast furnaces; earns 3s. 6d. a week; works all day and every day, Sunday as well as week-day, on the nights which the gangs take turns about; never was at school in the day; when time will allow goes to hear the preacher; does not know what he says, or what he means exactly; never was taught English, has got a little from lodgers and hawkers. (Very ignorant, does not know a letter in the English or Welsh primers).'
Mary Williams, aged 15, limestone breaker:
'Breaks the limestone for the blast; has done so three years; works every day for 12 hours; the work is very hard, have not much rest, as have to assist in house-cleaning when home; my wages are 5 shillings a week, in seven days or nights of 12 hours each; sometimes we do not the whole 12 hours on Sunday, as it depends on the limestone which is broken. I never was at dayschool; now I go to the Independent Sunday-school, and am learning to spell; they say God made me, and he is Jesus Christ; can't say whether there be any Commandments; there may be two, but I know nothing about them. (Cannot read, speaks welsh only).'
Evan Gray, aged 16, miner:
'Been worked in the mines since seven years; works at the coal, assists in cutting under, father picks and blasts; had two toes torn off my foot as ascending the Balance Pit at Cyfarthfa; been laid by three months, cannot put my foot on the ground yet; when at work have to go below at four and six in the morning, and return at three and four in the afternoon; never been to any school; I know nothing about any Commandments, or who made me; when, well I go to the Independent chapel to hear the preacher.