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Minutes of the evidence taken before the Committee on the Factories (1833)

The Select Committee investigating the working conditions of children in textile factories and collected evidence from witnesses who had first hand experience of those conditions. One such witness was Samuel Coulson, whose daughters worked in a textile mill. The original questions are numbered 5044-5065 and 5080-5084

The evidence of Samuel Coulson, 4 July 1832.

Have you any family?

Have any of them worked in a mill?
Yes, three daughters.

At what age did they begin to work?
The elder was going 12, and the middlemost going 11 and the youngest going 8 when they went to the mill first; they are older now.

At what time in the morning, in the brisk time, did those girls go to the mills?
In the brisk time, for about six weeks, they have gone at 3 o'clock in the morning and ended at 10 or nearly half past at night.

What sort of mills were those?
The worsted mills.

What intervals were allowed for rest or refreshment during those 19 hours of labour?
Breakfast a quarter of an hour, and dinner half an hour, and drinking a quarter of an hour.

Is that all?

Was any of that time taken up in cleaning the machinery?
They generally had to do what they call drying down; sometimes this took the whole of the time at breakfast or drinking, and they were to get their diner or breakfast as they could; if not, it was brought home.

Sometimes they could not get their breakfast at all?
Sometimes they could not.

How long ago was this?
It is better than a year since.

Had you not great difficulty in awakening your children to this excessive labour?
Yes, in the early time we had them to take up asleep and shake them, when we got them on the floor to dress them, before we could get them off to their work, but not so in the common hours.

What were the common hours?
Six o'clock in the morning till half past eight at night.

Supposing they had been a little too late, what would have been the consequence during the long hours?
They were quartered in the longest hours, the same as in the shortest time.

What do you mean by quartering?
A quarter [of a day's pay] was taken off.

If they had been how much too late?
Five minutes.

What was the length of time they could be in bed during those long hours?
It was near 11 o'clock before we could get them into bed after getting a little victuals, and then at morning my mistress used to stop up all night, for fear that we could not get them ready for the time: sometimes we have gone to bed, and one of us generally woke up.

What time did you get them up in the morning?
In general me or my mistress [wife] got up at 2 o'clock to dress them.

So that they had not above 4 hours sleep at this time?
No, they had not.

For how long was that?
About six weeks it held; it was only done when the throng was very much on; it was not often that.

The common hours of labour were from 6 in the morning till half past eight at night?

With the same intervals for food?
Yes, just the same.

Were the children excessively fatigued by this labour?
Many times; we have cried often when we have given them the little victualling we had to give them; we had to shake them, and they have fallen to sleep with the victuals in their mouths many a time.


What were the wages in the short hours?
Three shillings a week each [15p]

When they wrought those very long hours, what did they get?
Three shillings and sevenpence halfpenny. [18p]

For all that additional labour they had only 7½d [4p] a week additional?
No more.

Could you dispose of their wages, when they had received them, as you wished?
They never said anything to me: but the children have said, "if we do not bring some little thing from the shop I an afraid we 'shall lose our work'": and sometimes they used to bring a bit of sugar or some little oddment, generally of their own head.

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