A Royal Commission report, published in 1842, presented evidence of the employment of children in mines and other industry. Following is an extract:-
Talwr Coch Lead Mine, Dyserth Flintshire June 2nd 1841
Thomas Parry, aged 16.
How long have you been at work?About 7 years What is your employment?Washing and dressing the lead ore. Is the work performed on the surface?Yes Were you ever at work in the mine?No, never under ground. What time do you go to work, and what time do you leave off?We go to work at six in the morning and leave off at six in the evening. What time is allowed for meals?An hour only in the middle of the day for dinner. Do you wash yourself before you eat?Yes. Is there a place for the boys to wash in, and soap and towels allowed?No, we wash in the water near the mine. Is there a place under cover for you to eat in?No, except the engine room. Are you quite well in health?Yes Have your bowels been affected since you began to work?No, not at all, except sometimes a little bound. Are the boys all well?Yes, all, I think. Do you work overtime?Sometimes, I have several times since I came to work staid till 11 o’clock at night at work. Were you forced to do so?I was told to work, but I was not forced. Would you have refused if you dared?No, I was paid for a day and a half and wanted the money. Were you very much tired on these occasions?Yes a good deal. Could you eat and sleep as usual?Yes exactly the same. When you worked until eleven at night, could you get up next morning so as to begin work at six o’clock?Yes, the same as any other day. What do you earn?I get 6s a-week. Do you always work six days a-week?Yes, always.
Are there any fixed holidays during the year?No, but we often have a holiday. Were you ever at school?Yes, before I went to work but not since, except to Sunday school in the chapel. Can you read?I am beginning to read in an easy book. Do you go to public worship regularly?Yes, to the chapel three times every Sunday. Do you say any prayers?No, I can’t say any. Do you ever hear any prayers?No, except at chapel. What do you do with yourself after work is over in the evening?I play about and get my supper, and sometimes clean the potatoes. Would you like to go to a night school?Yes, I should. What is the greatest number of hours you were ever made to work without being allowed time to rest?I have several times worked from six in the morning till six next night, being 36 hours. Not in washing ore?No, I was attending the bricklayers when they were making a building in a great hurry. I never worked at washing ore more than from six in the morning till eleven at night. Have you sufficient food, and what does it consist of?Yes, we have potatoes, milk, and bread and butter, and sometimes bacon. Have you a better suit of clothes than what is on you now?Yes, I have a Sunday suit.
Peter Jones, aged 9
How long have you been at work in the mine?Near a year. Were you at school before you came to the mine?Yes, for a very short time. Can you read and write?No, I am beginning to spell in the chapel Sunday-school. Do you go to public worship and Sunday-school every Sunday?Yes, regularly to the chapel. Do you say any prayers?No, none. Does anyone in your house?No. Do you go to chapel in the evenings on week-days?Sometimes. Do you work 12 hours every day?Yes, except an hour at dinner. Does the work tire you much?No, not much. Do you ever work after six in the evening?Yes, though very seldom. Till what time?Till nine or ten o’clock. Are you quite well?Yes, I am quite well. Have you good clothes?Pretty well. Do you get three meals a-day?Yes, every day. Have you plenty to eat at each meal?Yes, plenty.
Thomas Pickering,aged 16
At what age did you begin to work in the mines?At eight. Were you in school before you began to work?Yes. At what school?At the free school. What did you learn?I learnt to read and write. Can you read and write now?Yes, a little. Have you been at school since you began work?No, only at the Sunday-school at chapel. Do you go to Divine worship and Sunday-school regularly?Yes, regularly, three times every Sunday. Have you washed and dressed lead ore for eight years?Yes, but I have begun to work in the mine for some months. During the time you were engaged in washing ore on the surface have you been often ill?Sometimes; I have had the measles and colds, but have never been ill in consequence of being engaged in washing the lead. Did your stomach and bowels never suffer?Very little. Had you never to take medicine in consequence of your bowels being confined?Yes, two or three times. Have you lost much time from confined bowels?No, very little. How many hours-a-day did you work when washing ore?From six in the morning till six in the evening. Did you frequently work overtime?Sometimes in summer till 9 or 10 o’clock, but only very seldom. Were you always very careful in washing your hands and face and in changing your clothes after work?I generally did so, but often neglected it. How many hours a-day do you work now that you are a miner? Six hours; there are four sets of hands, and each set works six hours. Did you go into the mine by your own desire?Yes, my father works in it, and I go with him. Are the miners paid by the day or by a portion of the ore?They are paid according to the quantity of ore raised. What wages do the miners make?Sometimes more than others, but from 10s. to 20s. a-week generally; I only get 6s. a-week. Miners are unhealthy people are they not?Not always. Are you not afraid of losing your health by working in the mine?I have not been thinking about it. How do you go into the mine?By ladders. Are there frequent resting places?Yes. Does it not tire you very much to climb up the ladders?Not much. Have you ever observed whether any of the older miners are much tired by coming up the ladders?Yes, they appear so. Is the air very much heated in the mine?Where I work is well ventilated, but still it is warmer than on the surface. Is there much swearing and bad language in the mine?No, very little. Are wages regularly paid?Yes, regularly. Would you like to go to a night-school?Yes, but there is none. Do you smoke and drink much?No, not at all. Are there many lads under 18 who work in the mine in raising ore?No, but few, only seven or eight I think. Are any younger than you?No, about my age, from 16 to 18. Are they healthy?Yes.
The Sub-Commissioner examined many other boys employed at this mine; they are a healthy and even a robust-looking set of lads, and do not appear to suffer at all from the nature of their employment in preparing the lead ore for the smelting-houses.
Their work is in the open air, and is of such a nature that their feet must often be wet the whole time they are at work. The Sub-Commissioner saw them engaged in their different occupation, and although the work may not be very oppressive, yet it is by no means light, and being continued for 12 hours with little intermission, and occasionally even 14 or 15 hours, it is astonishing they are so healthy and cheerful.
They are all, with only an exception or two, warmly and properly clad, and it is evident, from their appearance, that they have sufficient nutritive diet. They are, however, in utter ignorance, being all taken from school to work, and having little opportunity of improving afterwards. A school is, however, being erected, by the proprietors of the mine, for the benefit of the neighbourhood, and may do good.
Information provided by the late Mr Harry Parker of Dyserth