Parliamentary Investigations into Child Labor in the Factories The Sadler Report
Chapter 26

William Cooper, laborer at a flax mill since age 10.
William Osburn, overseer of Leeds, trustee of the workhouse.
Thomas Daniel, superintendent at a silk mill.
Emphasis added to responses to aid you in your study of these interviews.

William Cooper, called in ; and Examined.

What is your business? --I follow the cloth-dressing at present.
2. What is your age ? --I was eight-and-twenty last E'ebruary.
3. When did you first begin to work in mills or factories: --When I was about 10 years of age.
4. With whom did you first work? --At Mr. Benyon's flax mills, in Meadowlane, Leeds.
5. What were your usual hours of working? --We began at five, and gave over at nine; at five o'clock in the morning.
6. And you gave over at nine o'clock? --At nine at night.
7. At what distance might you have lived from the mill? --About a mile and a half.
8. At what time had you to get up in the morning to attend to your labour? --I had to be up soon after four o'clock.
9. Every morning? --Every morning.
10. What intermissions had you for meals? --When we began at five in the morning, we went on until noon, and then we had 40 minutes for dinner.
11. Had you no time for breakfast? --No, we got it as we could, while we were working.
12. Had you any time for an afternoon refreshment, or what is called in Yorkshire your "drinking."? --No; when we began at noon, we went on till night; there was only one stoppage, the 40 minutes for dinner.
13. Then as you had to get your breakfast, and what is called " drinking" in that manner, you had to put it on one side? --Yes, we had to put it on one side; and when we got our frames doffed, we ate two or three mouthfuls, and then put it by again.
14. Is there not considerable dust in a flax mill? --A flax mill is very dusty indeed.
15. Was not your food therefore frequently spoiled? --Yes, at times with the dust; sometimes we could not eat it, when it had got a lot of dust on.
16. What were you when you were ten years old? --What is called a bobbin-doffer ; when the frames are quite full, we have to doff them.
17. Then as you lived so far from home, you took your dinner to the mill? --We took all our meals with us, living so far off.
18. During the 40 minutes which you were allowed for dinner, had you ever to employ that time in your turn in cleaning the machinery? --At times we had to stop to clean the machinery, and then we got our dinner as well as we could ; they paid us for that.
19. At these times you had no resting at all? --No.
20. How much had you for cleaning the machinery? --I cannot exactly say what they gave us, as I never took any notice of it.
21. Did you ever work even later than the time you have mentioned? --I cannot say that I worked later there : I had a sister who worked up stairs, and she worked till 11 at night, in what they call the cared-room.
22. At what time in the morning did she begin to work? --At the same time as myself.
23. And they kept her there till 11 at night? --Till 11 at night.
24. You say that your sister was in the card-room? --Yes.
25. Is not that a very dusty department? --Yes, very dusty indeed
26. She had to be at the mill at five, and was kept at work till eleven at night? --Yes.
27. During the whole time she was there? --During the whole time ; there was only 40 minutes allowed at dinner out of that.
28. To keep you at your work for such a length of time, and especially towards the termination of such a day's labour as that, what means were taken to keep you awake and attentive? --They strapped us at times, when we were not quite ready to be doffing the frame when it was full.
29. Were you frequently strapped? --At times we were frequently strapped.
30. What sort of a strap was it? --About this length [describing it.]
31. What was it made of? --Of leather.
32. Were you occasionally very considerably hurt with the strap? --Sometimes it hurt us very much, and sometimes they did no lay on so hard as they did at others.
33. Were the girls strapped in that sort of way? --They did not strap what they called the grown-up women.
34. Were any of the female children strapped in that sort of way? --Yes ; they were strapped in the same way as the lesser boys.
35. What were your wages at 10 years old at Mr. Benyon's? --I think it was 4S. a week.
36. When you left Mr. Benyon, to what mill did you then go? --To Mr. Clayton's ; that was a flax mill.
37. What age were you when you went there? --I was at Mr. Benyon's nearly a year and a half.
38. Then you were eleven years and a half old? --Yes.
39. What were your hours of work at Mr. Clayton's? --We started at five in the morning, and worked till ten minutes past eight at night.
40. That is 15 hours and 10 minutes? --Yes ; and we had only 40 minutes out of that for dinner.
41. You assembled at five in the morning? --From five in the morning until ten minutes past eight at night.
42. Had you any time allowed for breakfast or drinking at that mill? --No it was just the same as the other, with only 40 minutes for dinner.
43. So that, in point of fact, you had to be attending to your work on your legs for that length of time, with the short intermission of 40 minutes? --Yes, we had to get our meals as we could get them, all but our dinner.
44. Were your punishments the same in that mill as in the other?--Yes, they used the strap the same there.
45. How long did you work in that mill? --Five years.
46. And how did it agree with your health? --I was sometimes well, and sometimes not very well.
47. Did it affect your breathing?--Yes ; sometimes we were stuffed.
48. When your hours were so long, you had not any time to attend to a day-school? --We had no time to go to a day-school, only to a Sunday-school ; and then with working such long hours we wanted to have a bit of rest, so that I slept till the afternoon, sometimes till dinner, and sometimes after.
49. Did you attend a place of worship? --I should have gone to a place of worship many times, but I was in the habit of falling asleep, and that kept me away ; I did not like to go for fear of being asleep.
50. Do you mean that you could not prevent yourself from falling asleep, in consequence of the fatigue of the preceding week? --Yes.
51. Did you work in any other flax mill? --In no other flax mill.

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William Osburn, called in ; and Examined.
9 July 1832


9854. WHERE do you reside? --At Leeds.
9855. Have you been an overseer of the town of Leeds? --I have ; I was an overseer from Easter 1830 to Easter 1831, at which time the overseers are changed.
9856. Have you also been one of the trustees of the workhouse there? --yes, I was a trustee of the workhouse at Leeds from May 1831 to last May.
9857. Then you, of course, are thoroughly conversant with the administration of the poor-rates in that great manufacturing town? --I attended the Board regularly, and a very great number of cases came under my observation ; so that I became perfectly familiar with the mode of relieving them.
9858. Will you state upon what scale or rule you acted, in affording relief to families out of employment? --The scale of relief was 1S. 6d. per week for children under 10 years of age ; no relief for the parents, nor any for the children above that age, except in case of sickness, or when they had been a very long time out of employment.
9859. Do you think that, generally speaking, the hours of labour in the mills and factories of Leeds and the neighbourhood are excessive, at least with respect to the capability of the children and young persons employed? --Very excessive indeed ; a case came under my observation only the other day, of a girl who was labouring in Mr. Hogg's factory, at Holbeck, nineteen hours a day.
9860. What were the intervals for rest or refreshment during those nineteen hours? --I am not able exactly to speak of that ; it came casually to my notice from a complaint of the mother.
9861. You made no particular inquiries with a view to this examination? --None whatever with that view.
9862. Supposing that the parents applying for relief for their children, refused to allow them to labour in mills or factories, in consequence of their believing and knowing that such labour would be prejudicial to their health, and probably destructive of their lives, would they, in the mean time, have had any relief from the workhouse Board, or from you, as overseer, merely on the ground that the children could not bear that labour? --Certainly not.
9863. So that you would not relieve those children unless the labour had actually destroyed their health? --They are only relieved in case of positive sickness, a report of which from one of the town's surgeons would be required, who, having visited the applicants, should state to the Board that they are absolutely ill, and incapable of working ; if the persons applying are able to work in some degree, a mitigated relief is given to them, but still all paupers are expected to work to the extent of their capability of working.
9864. Would it be accepted as an excuse for not working, that they could not conform to those long hours of labour? --Certainly not.
9865. So that the children of the poor, and their parents, have no alternative in such cases, but submitting their children to this extravagant length of labour, or exposing them to absolute want and starvation as the consequence of refusing so to be employed? --None whatever.

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9904. Do you coincide with the general impression, that this severe and long labour imposed upon the children in factories is very prejudicial to their health, to their morals, and to their future welfare? --Certainly ; entirely so.
9905. You have already alluded to the fact of the appearance of weakly health that prevails among them, and also to the deformity that is so common, have you the same impression regarding the bad effects, in a moral point of view, produced upon the rising generation? --Certainly ; I believe the moral effects of the system to e, if possible, worse than the physical ones ; I will mention only one fact ; vast numbers of girls who have wrought in factories are driven to prostitution when they are deprived of employment ; girls not belonging to the parish of Leeds, probably to distant parishes, in some case to no parish at all, have absolutely no other alternative but that of prostitution when trade is low and times are bad, so that they have no employment in mills ; this was the universal complaint when I was at the workhouse Board.
9906. Have you not observed, that an excess of work at one period has been followed by a diminution of it at another, in consequence of the fluctuations and alternations in the market? --That is the observation, I may almost say, of every inhabitant of the town ; it presses itself on the notice of every one.
9907. And is not the excessive labour of children, according to your opinion accompanied by this pernicious effect, that the parents and the adults are in many instances thrown out of employment, either altogether or partially, by that practice? --That is exceedingly commons ; a great number of persons are now out of employment, and entirely supported by the labour of their children ; some of them, I fear, have got to such a depth of degradation that they are even willingly so.
9908. Is it not peculiarly distressing to those parents who are not so degraded in their minds, and so utterly debased in their feelings, that they have to subsist upon the labour of their children, themselves remaining idle? --Many of them have expressed that sentiment to me, and very forcibly.

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Thomas Daniel, called in ; and further Examined.

9931. HAVE you been employed in any other business in mills and factories besides cotton? --In the silk mills I have been employed.
9932. Where both silk throwing and silk spinning have been conducted? --Yes. 9933. In what departments were you in any such mills? --I was a superintendent in throwing and spinning the silk.
9934. In both instances, therefore, you are competent to speak as to questions relating to that branch of business? --I am.
9935. Is a great proportion of children employed in that manufacture? --There is a great number.
9936. Does the proportion of boys or girls preponderate? --They are girls principally.
9937. Do you think that girls are as well capable of sustaining long-continued exertion as boys? --By no means.
9938. You have already mentioned that the labour of the children in the cotton factories has been considerably increased of late years? --It has been very considerably increased.
9939. Will you state whether that is the fact in regard to the labour of children in silk mills? --It is ; their labour has been increased very much.
9940. Has the number of spindles that they have to attend been considerably increased by recent alterations in the machinery? --They have, more than one-half, I should think.
9941. Do you consider that those improvements or alterations in the machinery have materially lessened their labour with respect to the same number of spindles that children had previously to endure? --No, it has increased their labour very materially ; they have as much labour again, thereabouts now, as they had to perform before.

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