Servants of the Empire

Extracts from the 1842 Mines Report upon which the video script is based.

Air Door Keepers

Josiah Jenkins, aged 7 (Monmouthshire):

'Has been down 18 months; gets 8d. a day; has never got hurt. It is very wet underground; goes down the shaft with men; works 12 or 13 hours every day. Did read a little before he came to work, but has worn it out; father taught him to read; father is the Independent preacher; attends father's Sunday School. Has a brother working below, who is older, and he can read and write.'

Mary Read, aged 12 (Merthyr Tydfil):

'Been five years in the Plymouth Mine. Never leaves till the last dram (cart) is delivered by the horse. Works from six till four and five at night. Has run home very hungry along the level, or hangs on a cart as it passes. Does not like work in the dark; does not mind the daylight work. Never been to dayschool; goes sometimes to learn the letters at Sunday chapel school. (Scarcely able to find one letter from the other). The man in the sky made me, but I do not know who he is; never heard of Jesus Christ; no one has told me about such things. I run about the roads after work, and wash before I go to bed.'

Susan Reece, aged 6 (Merthyr Tydfil):

'Been below six or eight months. Don't much like the work. Watches the doors from six in the morning till six at night; not so long at times. Never been hurt. Sometimes runs home when lamp is out and am hungry. Always brings bread and cheese.'

Sarah Gooder, aged 8 (Northern England):

'I'm a trapper* in the Gawber pit. It does not tire me, but I have to trap without a light , and I'm scared. Sometimes I sing when I have a light, but not in the dark; I dare not sing then. I don't like being in the pit. I go to Sunday schools and read Reading Made Easy. (She knows her letters and can read little words.) They teach me to pray… I have heard tell of Jesus many a time. I don't know why he came to earth, I'm sure, and I don't know why he died, but he had stones for his head to rest on. I would like to be at school far better than in the pit.'

*In England, air door keepers were called trappers.


John William, aged 16 (Carmarthenshire):

'I cart coal in the golden vein; the place is low, I creep on my knees, and often on my belly; I draw with a "trace and chain", another boy (Henry Green) "carts" with me in the same place; the vein pitches and the place is steep, and we have a chain through a block at the top, and one boy goes up when the other goes down; we fill and empty the carts as well as draw them. It is hard work, sometimes we have but little time to eat our bread and cheese, we mostly eat barley bread. We "cart" about 40 carts, which makes 20 baskets in a day, and get 24shillings per month each; sometimes when we do more work than common we get 14d. per day; we work as long as we are down without stopping, no one stops for breakfast or dinner in the pit.'

Henrietta Frankland , aged 11 (Merthyr Tydfil):

'When well I draw the drams (carts), which contain 4 to 5 cwt. of coal, from the heads to the main road; I make 48 to 50 journeys; sister, who is two years older, works also at dramming; The work is very hard, and the long hours before the pay-day fatigue us much. The mine is wet where we work, as the water passes through the roof, and the workings are only 30 to 33 inches high. I have been laid idle two months, as a horse fell upon me and the cart passed over me and crushed my inside; no ribs were broken, but the pain was very great and continues still. Sister Maria (13 years old) as well as myself have not been to school since at work; I do not know whether God made me, nor anything about Jesus; there are no Commandments; none of us read any book; sister is learning in the spelling book; she has been 12 months at Sunday School and not yet in a book. (The sister was present, having just returned from the mine; she did not know the letters).'


John Evans David, aged 42:

'I have been upwards of 35 years in mines about this quarter of Wales. I have suffered much from asthma, which has been caused by the air of the mines, and smoke which gathers after blasting. I spits a black fluid; have done so for five years. The fluid thrown up is like black paint; and many miners are afflicted with the complaint; should think one in ten are touched after they arrive at 40 years…. I work 10 to 12 hours. The gunpowder consumed in blasting in my work costs about 1s. to 1s. 6d. weekly. Have brought my boy to work; he is eight years of age.'

William Smith, aged 10 (Monmouthshire):

'Worked below four years and a half; works with father and brother; brother is seven years old, and has assisted father three years. We cannot read. Sometimes go to chapel on Sunday. (No religious knowledge whatsoever)

William Skidmore, aged 8 (Monmouthshire):

'Don't know how old I am; father thinks he is eight years; doesn't know when first went to work, it is so long since -(the steward here stated he was certain the boy had been down four years)- place is very wet where I work; I got my head crushed a short time since by a piece of roof falling; kept me idle a short time; I go to the Sunday school; I get washed every night; I have seven brothers and sisters; I go to Sunday school; I know a,b,c.'


Morgan Lewis, aged 9 (Merthyr Tydfil):

'I pull up the door of the puddling furnaces for the men; have done so for two weeks; was two years at the squeezing machine, straightening bars of iron. Straightening is harder than pulling up. Work 12 hours when on day work, and 12 on night; change from day and night work alternate weeks. Now and then get a little burned, but not so much as to be idle. The work fatigues me, but my dinner gives me strength, as my father always has meat, and I get a bit with him. We rest half an hour at each meal, and have two meals a day in the works. I have never been at any day school; am sent to Mr. Jones' Sunday school to learn the Welsh letters; can't say I know them yet. I do not know what you mean by catechism or religion; never was told about God. The sky is up above, and no one ever told me about Jesus Christ; cannot say what he is. When I leave work I play about the road and mother makes me wash before she lets me get into bed. Sometimes I get stripes for playing about. Earns 14s. a month.'

Edward Davis, aged 10 (Merthyr Tydfil):

'Began working in the forges 14 months since; am employed to hook on the metal at the squeezing machine; it is good hot work, and very hard too; work 12 hours daily, and other weeks same time at night. I get two rests for meals while at work, of half an hour each. Do not get meat every day; may do so three times a week. Have not much time after work, as always wash. Never spoke any English; father and mother speak Welsh, and so does Mr. Jones, the preacher, whose Sunday school I go to. I can say the Welsh letters, for I have been two years at school. (Not able to manage the letters, said D was G and C the letter A). I do not know anything about God. They tell me I shall go to the fire if I curse and swear, after I am dead. Can't say how many pennies in a sixpence; thinks four pennies make a shilling or 18 pence. If my two thumbs were cut off I should have eight fingers left.'

Catherine Pritchard, aged 13 (Merthyr Tydfil):

I carry iron trams to the new mill. Am obliged to carry great weights, which is fatiguing. Have been working here three years. I get 13s. a month, but expect to rise after this month to 28s. Father is a roller of iron, and two brothers work with him. None of us read yet; we are in the AB book at the Sunday school. I do not know my own age. I work from six in the morning till seven at night, and assist to get water for the house after, so have no time for play. I think Christ is God. Never heard of Communion. Have heard of London, as my uncle is there; thinks it is in Bristol. I am Welsh but I do not know whether I live in England or Wales.'