For one of the objects today, I had to find out some information about Spode/Copeland, the potters. I’m a big fan of Spode (Mirinda even bought me a book on it) and already knew a little bit. Trouble is, in 1833, Spode became Copeland and Garrett so I had to do some digging for the piece I was researching was from 1835.
Anyway, in the course of my investigations I came across a report of the House of Commons in 1840. Samuel Scriven was tasked with interviewing workers at factories in Stoke-on-Trent. The purpose of the report was to look into the child workforce and, to this end, he interviewed both adults and children he found working in many of the potteries.
He wrote transcripts of the interviews and they formed a large part of the report. They make very interesting reading. They are also quite poignant. I include this one to give a flavour of their content:
EARTHENWARE FACTORY, Eldon Place, Stoke; Proprietors Messrs. MINTON and BOYLE
Herbert Bell, (looks very pale and phthisical) – aged 12
“I have worked in this room 4 years as handle-presser; I come at 6, and leave at 6 in the evening; I live about a mile off; I do not go home to breakfast; I go home to dinner; am allowed half an hour for breakfast and 1 hour for dinner; I work in the same room with my father; father gets so much a week piece-making; does not know what father earns; all I get goes to him and mother; have a mother and sister, one works at the china-works. I get no holidays; remember, now, that I get about five weeks in the year: a week at Martilmas, 2 weeks in August, and 1 at Whitsuntide; all the other boys get the same and a day at Christmas. I get meat at home, and have clothes enough; I get a strapping sometimes; think I deserve it; father is good to me; have got a cough, have had it 3 or 4 years; feel it more in winter; I do not think the jumping on the moulds hurts me; feel no pain from it; I do not like it; I want to go into another room; I like potting; would rather be a potter than a tailor or shoemaker; I never do night-work. Master and overseer are very good to me; they never beat me.”
I thought of dad when I figured out the boy started working there when he was 8! Incredible. Another of the interviewees complains about poor Herbert’s coughing.
The rest of the interviews can be seen here, under ‘Testimony of Workers’. There’s also the rest of the report if you feel like having a read. It’s a pretty fair example of what the Industrial Revolution did for the north of England.