Friends of Middleton Park


Friends of Middleton Park

Middleton Colliery - 1842 Children's Employment Commission (Mining)



Background to the Commission ...

In the 1830's there was a movement towards social reform, especially towards the employment of children in the burgeoning industry of the early industrial revolution. In 1833 Parliament enacted the Factory Act which prevented the employment of children under nine from working in textile mills. Following this was a campaign to offer similar protection to children, and women, employed below ground. This effort was led by Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper (later the Earl of Shaftesbury). Strangley, it was not until 1875 that Parliament prohibited children being employed as chimney sweeps.

A Royal Commission was set up to enquire into the employment of children and women in mines. The Commission was led by several commissioners and sub-commissioners who gathered evidence, by interview and visits, on the conditions for women and children in the mining industry. The appendices to the report contain summaries of findings and statements from interviews with named people involved in the industry, and of children employed.

Child working underground
Child working underground

The commission report was the first to use illustrations, some of which are are shown here, which probably helped the report make a decisive impact. The reported conditions shocked much of Victorian society, especially the revelation that women miners wore trousers and, as conditions were often hot, sometimes worked naked from the waist up in the presence of men and boys. Following the report, parliament passed the 1842 Mining Act, which made it illegal to employ a female to work underground, or a boy under the age of ten.

Following the 1842 act, generally more children aged 10 and up were employed down mines, and there was gradually more use made of horses or pit ponies. Children and women were still employed in collieries, but above ground.


William Raynor Wood's Findings ...

The sub-commissioner covering Leeds and Bradford was William Raynor Wood Esq. and his findings are included in Apendix H to the report. Of course Middleton Colliery was visited and two adult employees and 12 child miners were interviewed along with the local school teacher, and these sections from the report are quoted, verbatim, below. The adults interviewed were: Thomas William Embleton (the Viewer or Manager), Charles Wailes (Bottom Steward) and George Wormald (School Teacher).

Conditions at Middleton Colliery, especially its education provision, impressed Commissioner Wood ...

(from paragraph 71.) ... There can be a little ground for doubting that the general standard of education, comfort, and happiness throughout the district might be raised to a level with that which prevails at Middleton, by the general introduction of similar measures, wisely planned and judiciously administered.

... and throughout the general sections he holds Middleton Colliery up as an example to other mine owners in the area. Middleton did not employ young children or women, and the colliery provided educational facilities. It might just be a coincidence that the Proprietor of Middleton Colliery at the time was a man of the cloth, The Rev. Ralph Henry Brandling.

Two Children hurrying
Two Children Hurrying

Generally, the children employed down mines either worked opening and shutting trap-doors, or as "hurriers" - pushing or pulling the waggons full of coal from the coal face to the bottom of the shafts. Interestingly, it appears that all the children at Middleton Colliery were employed as hurriers, maybe there were no ventilation trap-doors to open and close! Children were often employed not by the mine owners, but by the miners themselves under a contract with the children's parents.

Illustration of Nor and Spell
George Walker's illustration of Nor and Spell

Commissioner Wood reports on holidays and how the child miners enjoyed their leisure time. The children tell of spending time "laking" [playing] at various games, chief of which seems to have been nor and spell, sometimes called Knurr and spell, - a game involving hitting a "nor" (ball) with a stick to see who can hit it the furthest. George Walker drew an illustration of the game for his 1814 book "The Costume of Yorkshire".

Generally the children worked 6 days a week, starting in the early hours, and finishing about mid-afternoon. Child miners sometimes worked nights, though not frequently. They had sundays off, and all profess to attend sunday school and/or attend religious "meetings" with their parents. It is interesting that nearly all could read and most could write - which was certainly not the norm.

Below are quotes from Commissioner Wood's report that pertain to Middleton Colliery and the general conditions of mining in the area - followed by extracts of the interviews with people from Middleton.

Paragraphs in the Report are numbered, and these numbers are given at the beginning of the paragraphs quoted. In the interviews, the interviewee number from the report is also given.

There is more about Thomas Embleton and Rev. Ralph Brandling in John Newbould's Middleton History notes. It is hoped to learn more about the boys interviewed and their families from the 1841 and 1851 censuses.


Some Paragraphs from the General Report ...


17. With the exception of the very trifling employment of opening and shutting trap-doors, the entire labour of the children employed in mines consists in drawing, or thrusting, along rail or tram-roads, small waggons of coal, from the place where the miners happen to be working to the bottom of the shaft, whence the waggons are raised to the surface by horse or steam-power. This operation is technically called "hurrying", and the children engaged in it are "hurriers".

A child Hurrier at work
A Child Hurrier at work

18. There is one essentially feature of the occupation from which the health of the children may be liable to injury - the lowness of the passages in which their work is carried on, compelling them to use more or less a stooping posture. The liability to injury depends materially upon the degree of lowness, which varies greatly in different mines. What degrees of injury actually results from it in the district which is the subject of this Report will be best considered under the head of "Physical condition." With this general exception there is no branch of work specially unfavourable to health carried on either by children or adults.



21. These appear to occur in the following ways :-

First, the most serious and fatal from explosions of fire-damp, or from the falling in of the roof of the pit.

Secondly, from falls in ascending or descending the pit, generally serious when they occur.

Thirdly. more frequent and trivial, bruises, or sometimes broken bones, from accidents with the coal waggons, from boys riding them for amusement, &c.

22. The diminution of accidents cannot probably be carried to the extent of preventing them altogether, but the degree of frequency depends wholly upon the amount of skill and attention apllied to the subject.

23. Accidents under the two first heads may arise from the absence or inefficiency of the proper arrangements on the part of the employer. They may also arise the want of proper care on the part of the workman, for much depends upon him which is out of the province and byond the control of the master. The attention of the master seems, generally speaking, to be to a considerable extent alive to the importance of the subject; but there appears to be amongst the workmen much of the rashness which results from ignorance. It is difficult on this subject to speak with certainty, and I am fearful of saying anything which may have the possible effect of relaxing vigilance on either side, but I am inclined to believe that accidents at present occur from the carelessness of the workmen more frequently then from the neglect of the employer; and I unhesitatingly recommend as the best safeguard against accidents the improved education of the workmen.

24. No accidents occur from cleaning the machinery whilst in motion.


25. Beyond Christmas-day and Good Friday there are no stated holidays. As already mentioned, however, under the head of Hours of Work, the children have, on the average, not less than one unoccupied day in the week, besides a fair portion of time for recreation and play in the evenings, and they avail themselves of these opportunities to a considerable extent for engaging in the healthful games of cricket, nor and spell, and foot-ball. This they are fortunately enabled to do from the circumstance of there being generally in the neighbourhood of mines a good deal of waste land. I apprehend, that both in the periods they have for relaxation, and in the facilities which they thus have for taking it in the most favourable manner, children engaged in mines have a decided advantage over the factory population of towns; and I am inclined to think that the consequences upon their general condition are most important and beneficial.


Some Paragraphs mentioning Middleton Colliery ...

31. With regard to the care of children after they finished their daily labour, the subject is in many instances never thought of. In many others some interest in it is felt by the employers, without producing the slightest practical result. The only practical measure taken that I am aware of with a view to the welfare of the children after they have finished their daily labour, is the provision, in one or two cases, of night schools, which, however, are not attended by more than a most trifling proportion of the children and young persons employed. An exception may perhaps be made in reference to the general measures of the welfare of the work people adopted at the Middleton Collieries near Leeds, which will be more particularly mentioned hereafter.


44. Before entering the mines some of the children attend day schools for a short period, but the methods of instruction pursued are of the lowest possible kind, and no instruction is given to the girls in needle or other household work. No provision is made for training the children in moral habits, for affording them religious knowledge, or for exercising them in the practice of religious duties.* Cases of children employed in the mines who have attended schools of a better description are occasionally to be found, but they are so few as to be the exception, not the rule.

* An exception must on this, as on several other points, be made with regard to the School at Middleton Collieries, near Leeds.


50. From personal examination of the children in the several establishments which I visited, I am sorry to state that with the exception of a few rare cases, the amount of instruction conveyed to the children is little better than nothing. Without undervaluing the benefits which Sunday School education undoubtedly confers, especially in giving some habits or order and neatness, it certainly is totally inadequate to the communication of instruction in secular subjects (Evidence of the Rev. Joshua Fawcett, M.A.). Some instances presented themselves of boys who had attended Sunday School for years without advancing further than a knowledge of the alphabet. (Examination of witness Nos. 38, 96, 97.)* Of eighty two boys whom I personally examined (exclusive of the Middleton Collieries), less than half of them could read, upon the most qualified use of the term which it is possible to admit. Of the rest many knew their letters. Five only of the eighty-two could write their names.


52. Some of the principle coal and iron works have schools in connexion with them, to which the proprietors of the works more or less contribute. At Middleton, near Leeds, the education of the children is efficiently provided for. There is also a school at the Waterloo Collieries, near Leeds. The Low Moor Iron Company have for many years provided a schoolmaster, at an annual salary of 50l. (£50) with a charge to the children of one penny per week, but this school is attended by very trifling proportion of the neighbouring mining population. The Bowling Iron Company supply, free of charge, two very commodious school-rooms in different localities, and there are, in both, masters possessing fair qualifications for the office, who appear to succeed in gaining a maintenance; but upon minute investigation I discovered that the attendance in no degree consists of the children of miners, but of the children of overlookers of mills, publicans, shopkeepers, forgemen, &c., all of whom are superior to the ordinary class of operatives. So far as the mining population is concerned, therefore, these schools cannot be said to produced any result whatever. At Byerley Iron Works, considerable pains are taken with the education of the children, not, however, by week-day school, but through a well conducted Sunday School for children of all denominations.


70. Having faithfully described to the best of my ability the general condition of the children engaged in mining labour in the district which I have examined, I have to notice the more favourable picture presented by one particular establishment. At the Middleton Collieries near Leeds, belonging to the trustees of the Reverend R.H. Brandling, the following regulations are in practice: *

I. Steady and respectable men only are allowed to work as miners.

II. as a general rule, children are not taken into the mines until they are nine years old, unless it be the child of a widow, or some case of that sort.

III. An efficient schoolmaster is provided. The colliers are encouraged to send their children by the personal influence of the proprietor, and the children of widows or infirm persons are sent at his expense.

71. The consequence is that ability to read is the general rule and not the exception, knowledge of writing is common, and the general result upon the character of the workpeople is most favourable,** I have sincere pleasure in bearing this testimony to the successful result of the benevolent and judicious exertions of the proprietors and of their agent Mr. Embleton; and in referring to it as a specimen of what may be accomplished for the welfare of a mining population. There can be a little ground for doubting that the general standard of education, comfort, and happiness throughout the district might be raised to a level with that which prevails at Middleton, by the general introduction of similar measures, wisely planned and judiciously administered.

* Evidence of George Wormald (No. 91). Evidence of Thomas William Embleton (No.77). Evidence of Charles Wailes (No. 78).

** At the Middleton Collieries, of nineteen children employed, sixteen could read well and one indifferently, and seven could write. At Rothwell Haigh, distant about three miles, of eighteen children employed in Sand Coal-pit, six could read well, four indifferently, and only one could write.

Child Hurrier underground
Child Hurrier underground


Evidence given by Interviews with people from Middleton Colliery ...

No.79. March 1st., 1841. Thomas William Embleton, Agent and Manager of the Middleton Colliery, Leeds.

About what number of hands do you employ? - Two hundred and eighty six.

What proportion of those are children under the age of thirteen? - Only eighteen.

What number are young persons from thirteen to eighteen? - We have taken it from the age of thirteen to twenty-one. The number of those is fifty-six.

Have you any girls in your employment? - None at all.

Are girls employed in this neighbourhood that you are aware of? - Not nearer than Wakefield, I think.

At what age do children generally enter the mines? - About nine years of age. I find the youngest in our employment did not begin to work till he was eight and a half years old. As a general rule we never take them till they are about nine years old, unless it be the child of a widow, or something of that sort. The youngest now in our employment is eight years and ten months old.

Do you know how they were employed previously? - Before the passing of the Factories Regulation Act they used to be in the mills before coming to us.

Are you aware whether they have received any education before entering the mines? - I believe that most of them have attended a day-school before they come. All those under thirteen can read an easy book.

Are you aware what has led to this amount of education? - The feeling of the parents , and encouragement given to them by Mr. Brandling, the proprietor of the colliery.

Have you a school connected with the colliery? - Not exactly, but the schoolmaster has his school and coal free of charge, and Mr. Brandling pays the charge of about twenty children, sons of colliers, before the age at which they enter the mines.

Do you find that the children commencing work at nine or ten years of age are too old to adapt themselves to the employment? - Oh no. In some places where the seams are very thin ten would be fully old enough.

Would you have the kindness to state the general hours of work? - From a little before six in the morning till two or four in the afternoon. That is the time they are in the pit, but they do not work the whole of the time.

Are there any stated stoppages for meals? - No, they eat when they choose.

Would there be any objection to the children taking their meals above ground? - The danger of accidents would be considerably increased in the ascent and descent of deep shafts. There would be a greater labour to the children in having to walk half a mile to three quarters, in some cases, from the place of work to the bottom of the shaft. There would be very serious loss of time. I have calculated that the ascent and descent in some cases could not be made in less than an hour and a half, in others less than an hour.

You wish to state that the practical inconvenience would be serious? - Yes, and with the present hours of labour, and with the frequent opportunities they have of stopping when they like, it would be no advantage either to the men or the boys.

Would it be regarded as a trouble by the men and boys? - It would, certainly. Their one set when they get down is to get their work done and get up again.

Do you ever work during the night? - Yes, very frequently we do.

Is that usual with other coal-masters in the district? - Yes, occasionally.

What are the circumstances under which you do it? - One circumstance is this that in the winter, when the demand for coal is considerable, we cannot work the quantity required during the day time, owing to the particular state of the works at the time. The number of places at which the men can work is so small that it is impossible to get the required quantity of coal within eight hours. We have frequently two and sometimes three sets of men. Another case in which we are obliged to work in the night is in removing the pillars of coal left to support the roof as if there were an interruption of work for twelve hours. the roof would come down and the coal is buried. Another case is, where there is constant influx of water, which if not removed, as it comes in during the night as well as the day, would prevent the mine from being worked at all. We are also enabled by night-work to prepare coal in the summer for winter working in the winter, and thus give the men and children more regular employment, for in preparing that coal the man earn the same wages as in winter, but raise less coal. But we had always rather confine ourselves to day work, if we can.

But your night-work does not involve the working of any set of hands constantly in the night, and it does not bring young persons of both sexes together? - No.

It is not then open to the most serious objections of night work? - No.

Have you had many accidents? - We have had one man killed since 1825 by an explosion, and one by the roof falling.


No.80. Charles Wailes, Bottom Steward, Middleton Colliery; March, 3, 1841 :-

You do not generally take children into the pit till they are about nine years old ? - Very seldom; not unless we are solicited by widows, or something of that sort.

Do you find boys at nine years old too big to get accustomed to work in the thinnest seams of coal? - No.

What is the thinnest seam you have? - Two feet four.

Will you state what the boys, whom you do take, have been doing up to the time they come to you? - A few have been at the mills half time but not many.

Are you aware whether they can generally read when they come to you? - Some can, and some cannot. Most of them can read an easy book.

You find there is not difficulty in their learning to read if pains are taken so that they make the best use of their time? - None at all; they are out of the pits at two, three or four o'clock.

Are they not too tired to go to school after that time? - No, they run about like park hares; they are quite full of action.

You were a collier yourself? - Yes, I was brought up to it from infancy.

At what age did you go into the pit? - Eight or nine years of age.

Did your companions who worked with you go to night-school also? - Odd individuals; it was not a general thing.

Have you observed that those who attend the night-school with you have got on better than those who did not? - I cannot say, having left the country in which I was brought up.

If you had not been to the night-school and improved yourself, could you have got on as you have done? - Certainly not.

Will you state how frequently accidents occur in the Middleton colliery? - Very seldom indeed; there is the least accidents in the Middleton colliery of any that I have been at, either slight or fatal.

How do you manage that there shall be so few? - There is great caution used by the steward, and by the agent, and directions given to the men.

When accidents do happen is it from unavoidable causes, or from carelessness of the men when they have been cautioned? - The last fatal accident that occurred rather more than twelve months ago was a man named Joseph Crossly, who took a candle in opposition to express orders.

The boys now present and whose names follow, are the whole of the children under the age of thirteen in the Middleton collieries? - Yes, except two who work above ground.

The boys, it appears, generally attend school before they come to the pit and can generally read? - Yes.

Will you state what measures have been used by the employers to accomplish this? - By engaging steady men, and the men set a good example to the boys, and look after them.



Evidence given by Child Miners at Middleton ...

HURRIERS: Middleton Colliery, near Leeds. March 3, 1841.

No.81. - Joseph Butterfield, 13 years old :-

Went into pit at 11 years old; wages 3s. 6d.

Went to day-school two years before going into the pit; learnt to read a bit; has gone on at Sunday-school. When he first went into pit did not like it; was put to hurry coals by himself; work was too hard: mother said he must go back to school: went to school four months more; then went to drive the gin horse; drove it fourteen weeks; then went into the pit again; liked it very well; had to hurry with another boy.

Comes at five in a morning; gets up at half-past four; father calls him; is ready to get up when called; with being used to it is almost always awake; breakfasts before he goes; gets milk and bread; gets dinner in pit; stops about half an hour; stops many a time besides when they are waiting for coals; gets for dinner some fat and bread; and when at home, for dinner, about once in the week besides Sundays, gets meat and potatoes; comes out of the pit at night at three at the soonest, and at half-past five at the latest; washes himself clean at night; gets cheese and bread for supper; has always plenty to eat; could sometimes eat more; not often; work is not hard; sleeps well at nights; is sometimes tired when he goes to bed; not next morning when he wakes; has always good health; is sometimes beaten in the pit by his partners (other boys); men never beat him; has never seen a man beat a boy; goes to Sunday-school, and sometimes goes to chapel from there; has very good Sunday clothes; Sunday nights goes to the Methodist meeting with his father; fine summer evenings he lakes at nor-and-spell.

Never works at night.

No.82.- Thomas Crossley, 13 years old :-

Went into the pit at ten years old; wages 7s.

Went to day-school a year before coming into the pit, and to Sunday-school since; has not learned to read much; knows his letters; gets up four to half past; begins at five; is ready to get up when called; breakfasts before he leaves home; gets coffee and butter and bread; does not stop for dinner; gets butter and bread for dinner; comes out at night three, four, and sometimes five; gets for supper potatoes and meat.

Works in the night sometimes.

No.83.- William Taylor, 9 years old :-

Began at 9 years old; wages 3s.

Went to school four years before he began to work; learned to read; can read the Testament.

Gets up at half-past three; goes with his father; always gets up when his father does; is there sooner than the other lads; is in the pit about five; breakfasts before he goes; gets boiled milk and sops in it; gets bread and drink and meat at eleven o'clock; does not stop work; at two o'clock gets the same to eat as at eleven: sometimes leaves the pit at three o'clock; sometimes as late as six; at night gets meat and potatoes; washes himself clean; father pays (beats) him if he does not.

Work is not so very hard, is not tired when he goes to bed, sleeps well; has good health, never wants a doctor; has never lost a day's work yet.

Is never beaten: men sometimes beat lads, but not often, he thinks.

On Sunday goes to school, and to church every first Sunday in the month: has good Sunday clothes.

On fine summer evenings plays at cricket, nor and spell, football, or shuttlecock.

Sometimes works in the night; has worked sometimes a week, sometimes a day; does not like it so much, had rather work in the day; it never did him any harm.

No.84. - Benjamin Liversedge, 13 years old :-

Began at 9 years old: wages 7s. 6d.

Before he began to work in the pit, went to school for half a-year: knows his letters; goes to Sunday school now.

When first came into a pit, liked it very well; comes in a morning about five; gets up at half past four; is ready to get up when he is called. Gets tea and a bit of butter and bread for breakfast: gets a bit of bread and a sup of drink any time when work is standing. Gets dinner when he gets home about four o'clock, and never later than five; gets for dinner pudding and potatoes, and a bit of meat. Is never pinched for anything to eat, could not eat more if he had it.

Work is not so very hard: is sometime tired when he goes to bed; is not tired next morning, gets well rested. Has good health, has never had to go to a doctor.

Is never beaten; some of the lads are beaten now and then, not to hurt them.

On Sundays goes to church Sunday school; other nights often lakes at crickets, and nor and spell almost every night, except in winter. Has good Sunday clothes.

Sometimes works in the night a week at a time, not oft; does not dislike it, but had rather work in the day. Works less hours when it is night work, and the same wages.

No.85. - John Caley, 13 years old :-

Began at 9 years old: wages 7s. 6d.

Has been to day school a year and a-half; learned to read, has since learned to write at night school: does not go to night school now, because the master is not keeping it: seven boys attended; would go now if there was a school.

When he went to night school, went at six o'clock, stopped till eight; was sometimes a bit tired, but could go on with what he was doing; never fell asleep at night school that he recollects: went to night school of his own choice; asked his mother. Cannot go on with his writing now, as there is no night school, and they don't teach it at Sunday School.

Has not good health, is not well in his inside, is sure he never felt it before he went into the pit; it is with bending when it is low. Does not know that any of the others boys have anything the matter with them. Never tells the other boys that he is ill with bending. They never tell him they are. The pain he feels is, his inside keeps rolling: has told his mother may a time he is not well.

Gets up about half past four, is at the pit at five. Gets for breakfast sometimes tea and bread, sometimes boiled milk; does not stop for dinner, takes a piece of bread, and sometimes a bottle with some drink or coffee. Comes out of the pit between three and four; washes himself when he gets home; gets bread and potatoes when he goes home, sometimes meat.

Sleeps well at nights. Is never pinched for meat; can always eat it when it is set before him.

Pain in his inside does not hurt at all, but his inside keeps rolling; feels it perhaps once a day.

Sometimes plays nor and spell; is poor hand at laking.

On Sundays goes to school; has good clothes to go in.

Never works at night.

No.86.- William Crossley, 12 years old :-

Began at 10 years old: wages 4s.

Went to school two or three years before he began to work; can read and write and goes to Sunday school now.

Works as a hurrier, likes hurrying; it is hard work: is tired at night; sleeps well, is not tired next morning when he gets up. Has always enough to eat and drink. Has good clothes.

No.87.- John Wood, 13 years old :-

Began at 11 years of age: wages 3s. Father a collier.

Went to Middleton day school for two years: learned to read and write there.

Did not like work at first, but got used to it; likes it now, it is not very hard work. Sleeps well at night; is not tired at nights. Gets plenty to eat and drink, could not eat more if he had it; gets plenty, as much as he wants. Has good health, never wants the doctor. Is never beaten. Goes to Sunday school, and to chapel once a-month from school. Has good clothes to go in.

On fine nights lakes at ought, nor and spell sometimes, sometimes stops i' t' house, sometimes lakes at crickets.

Sometimes works in the night, sometimes a week at once, sometimes a night or two; does not dislike it, but had rather work in the day: night work does not come very often; works shorter hours night work, and gets same wages.

Boys sometimes get lamed in the pits when they are going fastish with a waggon: it is when they go too fast they get lamed.

No. 88. - Thomas Cope, 11 years old :-

Began at 10 years old : wages 6s. Father a collier.

Went to Middleton school a year before he bgan work: learned to read and write there.

When he began to work he liked it very weel. Work is hard, is tired at night; is not tired when he gets up, feels right for work then. Has always plenty to eat and drink. Sleeps well at night. Has good health, never wants a doctor. Is never beaten.

Goes to Sunday school, and to church from there; has good clothes to go in. On Sunday nights goes to meeting with his mother; on weekday nights lakes about, lakes at bed-stocks (running about and catching one another), nor-and-spell, &c.

Has worked night work for a month and a-half. Has never been lamed; boys do not often get lamed.

No.89. - Benjamin Dickson, 13 years old :-

Began at 11 years old: wages 6s. Father a collier.

Was at Middleton school about two years, and at Hunslet school; can read and write: has been at night school, liked going; gave up going because the schoolmaster had illness, and dropped it; is going to start again when the master gets right.

Did not like going into the pit; "I waur flaid o'gettin' hurten." Is not flaid now, likes it now: work is not hard. Sleeps well; is not tired when he goes to bed. Has middling good health: nought ails him now, but has had rheumatics; could not sleep i'bed: had it before he ever went into the pit; has had better health lately. Has plenty to eat and drink. Is never beaten in the pit.

Goes to Sunday school, and to Chapel in the afternoon: has good clothes. On Sunday evenings goes to meeting, weekday evenings goes to t' cinder-holes and watches 'em lake: can not lake mich himself; cannot run.

Sometimes does night work a week at a time; does not do day work then: works shorter hours at night work; gets the same wages.

Boys don't get much lamed; they do sometimes.

No.90. - William Wright, 12 years old :-

Began at eight years old: wages 6s. Father a collier.

Went to Morley school two years; can read a little.

Likes hurrying weel enough; it is sometimes hard work, sometimes easy; is sometimes tired at night. Sleeps well, is not tired in the morning, is right for work. Has plenty to eat and drink. Has good health, never wants the doctor. Is never beaten.

Goes to school on Sundays, and to Chapel: has good clothes. On Sunday nights sometimes reads; on weekday nights lakes at nor-and-spell sometimes.

Never has worked in the night; has been lamed twice; once the galloway (horse) fell on him, and l lamed his leg; another time another boys and he were riding a horse; the other boy tumbled off and pulled him off, and he broke his shoulder-bone.

No.91. - James Handforth, 10 years old :-

Began at 10 years old. Wages 3s.

Father a collier.

Began to go to day-school when he was a little one, and went till he was nine years old; can read and write.

Likes being in the pit; work is not hard; is not tired at nights; sleeps well; has plenty to eat and drink; has good health.

Goes to school on Sundays.

On week-days, when they have done at two o'clock or so, lakes a bit at nor and spell.

Has not worked at night.

Has never been lamed.

No.92. - George Caley, 9 years old :-

Began at 8 years old; wages 3s.

Father dead; was a collier.

Went to Middleton school about two years; can read pretty well.

Liked work middling well at first; does not like it now "because our William (His brother) pays (beats) me;" does not know that there is any good reason; work is hard; tires him; is tired when he goes to bed; not when he gets up next morning; sleeps well; has plenty to eat and drink; has good health.

Goes to school on Sundays; has good clothes; Sunday nights goes to meeting with his mother; week-day nights lakes at nor and spell.

Sometimes works in the night; not often.

Has never been lamed.


Evidence given by George Wormald, School Master ...

No.93. - George Wormald, Schoolmaster, Middleton.

How long have you kept school here? - Ten years.

What made you become a schoolmaster? - I was thrown out of a situation at Wakefield.

Are you paid at all by Mr. Brandling, the proprietor of the Middleton colliery? - Yes; fifteen pounds twelve shillings a-year, and my schoolroom and coals.

You have what you can make besides? - Yes.

How many scholars have you? - About thirty-five.

Do the children of the colliers mostly attend? - Yes.

Do the colliers pay for the children? - No, not always; four-and-twenty come free for the sum Mr. Brandling pays.

What children are they that Mr. Brandling pays for? - Orphan children; children of widows and infirm persons; where it is most needed.

Do those colliers, whose children are not paid for by Mr. Brandling, pay for themselves? - Yes.

Are the colliers here more steady and respectable than at other places? - Yes, I think they are.

What is that owing to? - The agents look for them to be steady that are employed here.

Do the children of the colliers in the Middleton pits generally go either to your school, or to some other before going into the pits? - Yes, generally; some go to factories but they go to school there.


References and Further Reading ...

Children's Employment Commission First Report of the Commissioners (Mines) 1842.
Evidence collected by William Raynor Wood, Esq. - Apendix h
Copy at Leeds City Library F331.31/GRE (Information and Research)

Nor, or Knurr, and Spell on Wikipedia.
The game of Nor and Spell Yorkshire Folk Arts
Knur and Spell Video on the BBC web site.

Thomas William Embleton

The Rev. Ralph Henry Brandling.

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