Child Employment Commission, 1841:: Charles Hardy

No. 1.- Charles Hardy, Esq., Low Moor. Examined February 6, 1841:-

You are the son of the principal proprietor of the Low Moor iron works? - I am.
You are a magistrate of the West Riding? - I am.
Your works are, I believe, the most extensive in the West Riding? - I believe they are.
What number of hands do you employ? - Altogether nearly two thousand five hundred in various ways, as forge and foundry men, moulders, mechanics, colliers, and iron-stone getters.
What number of these are women? - About twenty.
You employ children under the age of thirteen in the mines? - Yes.
Girls as well as boys? - No girls under the age of thirteen.
Have you any girls employed underground above the age of thirteen? - I find upon inquiry that we have two, but I was not aware of the fact before, and it is quite contrary to our rules. Upon inquiry into the case, I find that they were allowed to go in by the pit steward at the particular request of their mother. They will not be allowed to remain there. The mother, I find, had worked in a pit herself till the time she was married.
Are the children hired by yourselves or by the adults whom they assist? - Some in one way, some in another.
Is it not the general practice in this neighbourhood for women and children to be employed in the mines? - No.
Were they not so employed formerly? - I believe they were.
Why are they not so employed now? - Because the mills find them more suitable occupation is, I take it, the main reason, and an unwillingness to employ them. Boys are preferred by the employers and by the operatives.
Can you state on what grounds? - They are better workers, and there is certainly an unwillingness to employ females.
On humane and moral grounds? - On the ground that it is not a proper occupation for females.
Do the working classes themselves, as far as you are aware, object to have their female children employed in mines? - In general, decidedly so; some wretchedly poor families will be an exception.
The working population in this neighbourhood are generally scattered in large villages not crowded in towns? - Yes.
And the houses, from the cheapness of stone, are generally remarkably substantial, well built, and comfortable as compared with the country generally? - Yes.
You are considerable owners of cottage property? - Yes.
Are there back doors to the houses, and are they so planned as to afford separate sleeping accommodation for the different sexes? - Those that are so planned are the exception. There are numbers of houses with only one room, but we don't build any of that class.
Do you think attention to these points material to the welfare of the working population? - I think so. It is my own opinion that the legislature might interfere most beneficially in these matters. I have a very strong opinion about the importance of giving a man a comfortable house. I think the tendency would be to improve their domestic habits. Some regulation enforcing a provision of proper out-door conveniences is sadly wanted.
Have you any stated holidays? - The colliers often do not work, but we have no stated holidays except Christmas-day, Good Friday, and the two days of the Feast.
Have you any opinion about holidays? - I think it would be an advantage to the population generally to have them occasionally.
Will you state the benefit which you think would arise from it? - That it would give men time for recreation, and to attend to their own affairs. There is a difficulty for those who are working where machinery is employed in finding opportunities when they can be absent.
Do the women generally in this immediate neighbourhood remain at home managing their household affairs and taking care of their families? - In this immediate neighbourhood they remain at home, but they have not much notion of keeping their children about them and instructing them. There is not in many cases an appearance of cleanliness and tidy comfort, though there are many cases in which it is otherwise. Still there is much substantial comfort, as that is to a certain degree insured by a good house, good fire, and good wages
To what do you attribute this state of things? - This is a very difficult question to answer, but I should say to the women not having received instruction in sewing, &c., so as to make them good housewives, and to their not having learned good domestic habits, and not having received good moral training.
Are the men great drunkards? - There is a great deal of drinking.
Are the women drunkards? - I should say not. I am not aware that I ever saw a drunken woman here. I cannot recall such a case.
Do the men often drink through the week, or chiefly on Saturday night? - Chiefly Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We rarely have a man absent on Tuesday morning from the mines, and generally they make a short day on Monday. They are more regular than they used to be as we are more strict with them.
Do you pay wages weekly? - Yes.
Have you considered whether there might be an advantage in paying them less frequently? - We consider the advantage for the workmen is in paying them weekly. It would be much less trouble to pay them less frequently.
Why do you consider it an advantage to the workmen? - They have less temptation to run into debt.
Might they not get drunk less frequently if paid less frequently? - I think not, at least they would drink more at a time. There is an establishment in this neighbourhood where they pay once a fortnight, and I am not aware of any difference in the habits of the people.
Do the children in this neighbourhood attend Sunday-schools? - Great numbers of them do.
Do they attend any other schools? - Yes, in many cases.
Up to what age? - Children till they can work, and many afterwards in an evening. Some men come in an evening. I think that almost all those who go to school during the week will continue their attendance till they can read, and very many till they have learned to write and attained some knowledge of accounts.
Do those who thus attend form any large proportion of the whole population? - They do not.
Do you think there would be any objection amongst employers to legislative restrictions upon the working of children? - For myself I should have no objection to any regulation that would benefit the children, and I am decidedly of opinion that the legislature may beneficially interfere to secure to the children time for recreation, and for moral and intellectual training during the week, so as not to leave them entirely dependent for the latter upon Sunday-schools, which can do but little.
Why do you consider that the legislature may interfere beneficially? - Because the parents are more apt to consider the amount of present wages than the labour which a child can bear, and those who have more feeling upon the subject are obliged to go with the stream.
Are there a sufficient number of children to work in double setts? - I think there would be a difficulty in getting a sufficient number of boys in the mines.
A small proportion of the children in your employment are employed in night-work every other week in the forge? - Yes. 
Could not the use of children in the night be dispensed with? - I conceive it is not absolutely necessary to employ children under thirteen years of age, but it would be impracticable to do altogether without children.
You employ no children in night-work except in alternate weeks? - No.
And you employ no girls in night-work at all? - No.
You wish to state that on these grounds night-work for children in your employ is not, in your opinion, seriously objectionable? - I think it is not.
Feb. 15.
You have, I believe, two distinct classes of persons employed in your mines? - We have two distinct classes of miners, those who work the better-bed coal, and those who work what is called the black-bed and iron-stone above it.
They work, I believe, about the same hours, and the adults are assisted in the same manner by children (hurriers) who draw the coal or iron-stone in small waggons, from the place where the miners work, to the shaft bottom? - Yes.
There is, however, I understand, one marked distinction as regards the dinner hour; the iron-stone getters and their hurriers stop an hour regularly for dinner, without leaving the pit, the colliers and their hurriers do not stop regularly for dinner, but eat it as they proceed? - That is generally the case.
Is there any ground but accident for this difference as regards the dinner hour? - I conceive none.
Would it occasion any inconvenience whatever if both classes were to stop an hour for dinner? - None that I am aware of.
Would it occasion any inconvenience, or what, if the hurriers were allowed to leave the pit at dinner hour? - A long time would be lost in drawing them up and letting them down. The man at the top would be occupied during his dinner hour in doing this, and it would consequently be very inconvenient. In some cases the whole dinner hour would be occupied in coming up and going down.

 


 

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