As part of the parliamentary inquiry which led to the 1833 Factory Act, the Royal Commission conducted a widespread investigation into the working conditions within mills and factories. At the request of the House of Commons, their findings were published in a two-volume report in 1834 which ran to over 1,100 pages.
The bulk of the report contains responses by manufacturers to set lists of questions regarding the nature of their business and the treatment of children employed.
- What is the manufacture or description of work performed at this mill?
- What is the date of its erection, or application to its present purpose?
- Is the power employed steam or water, or both? If waterpower, state the name of the river or stream producing it.
- What is the power of the engine or wheel? Do you employ the whole power, or is part of it let off to other, and what purposes?
- How many persons are employed in your mill, (exclusive of those in the counting-house and warehouse department) distinguishing them into the following classes?
- What is the average of standing weekly wages of those who are paid by time, according to the following classes?
- What number and description of persons are paid by piece-work, and what is the average amount of their weekly earnings in a regular week's work, according to the following classes?
- What number and description of persons are employed in your mill, whose wages are paid by the workpeople under whom they work?
- Is the pay of those who receive standing weekly wages, the same per hour for over-hours, as during the regular time? If not, state the difference.
- At what hour does your regular day's work begin? and when does it terminate? If the regular hours are different at different times, distinguish the periods of alteration, and the reasons of them.
- If a water-mill, state how far your hours of work are dependent on the supply of water from other mills. State your usual hours of commencing and concluding work in droughty seasons.
- Is the regular day's work less on Saturday, than on the other days of the week? If so, is the time made up in any manner on the other live days, and how?
- What time is allowed for each meal, and at what hours are they usually taken? If any persons take their meals at a different time from the others, state the number, and why.
- Does the moving power stop during all or any of the meal-times? If not, mention the processes in which those are engaged who take their meals whilst at work.
- Explain your practice with regard to making up the time lost by reason of accidents to the machinery; or in water-mills by defect or excess of water, or injuries to the dam or watercourse. Is it allowed and paid for to the workpeople? is it lost to you and to them? is it made up by working extra hours? and if so, at what rate are the hands paid for that extra time?
- Is any time allowed to the hands during sickness, or absence from the mill arising from accidents? Explain your practice in this respect.
- How many regular holidays and half-holidays have your workpeople in the year besides Sundays?
- Explain your practice with respect to allowing holidays. Are the workpeople paid for any part of their holiday time? Is that time made up at any other time? If so, in what manner?
- Explain your rules with respect to fining for absence or irregularity, or to enforce obedience. What interval is allowed to elapse beyond the proper time of attendance, before the fine is imposed?
- Do you work more than one set of adult hands? If so, explain the succession and intervals of their labour.
- Have you ever employed more than one set of children to relieve each other during the labour of the same set of adult hands? State the objections to such a practice.
- Are corporal punishments sanctioned? If so, to what age are the children considered liable to it?
- Does the nature of your work require the employment of children under twelve years? State the processes in which the greatest number of young children are employed in your works?
- During how many days of the week has your machinery been at work for the purpose of your manufacture, during each quarter of the years 1830, 1831, 1832, beginning respectively 1st of January, 1st of April, 1st of July, and 1st of October? How many of these were Saturdays? N.B. This question has no reference to the hours of work, but to the days only
- During how many hours has your machinery been so at work in each quarter of the years 1830, 1831, and 1832?
- Have any alterations taken place in this mill since 1st of January 1830, (except in the answers to questions 5, 6, 7, 8,) other than you have mentioned in your answers?
- State any remarks you may be desirous of making on the subject of regulating the hours of factory labour by act of parliament.
The responses given by Abraham Wilkinson of Dalton are reproduced below.
Abraham Wilkinson, Dalton
No. 77. A. Wilkinson. ANSWERS of Aduaiiam Wilkinson, Dalton. A. 1. Woollen, scribbling, slabbing, mul spinning. A.'2. Rebuilt in 1807 and 1808. A. 3. Steam and water on the Colne river. A. 4. Engine, thirty five horse, water wheels, say sixty five horse. A. 5. Twenty three persons; viz. MALES. FEMALES. Yorkshire. Under 10 years of age 10 and under 12 years 12 and under 14 14 and under 16 16 and under 18 18 and under 21 21 and upwards 4 1 2 2 3 ”* 1 “ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 I 1 1 1 1 A. Wilkinson. A. 6. The standing weekly wages are: Males and females, piecers, chiefly under fourteen years of age, three shillings and sixpence per week; engine feeders, six shillings per week. A. 7. Five males, from eighteen years and upwards, slubbers; earning from 17s. to 18s.; in a regular week of sixty eight hours. A. 8. Ten piecers, males and females, chiefly under fourteen years of age, at three shillings and sixpence per week. A. 9. The same ratio per hour as their weekly wages. A. 10. Six o’clock in the morning, and eight in the evening throughout the year. A. 12. From six o’clock in the morning till five o’clock in the evening during the summer season; in the winter season until four o’clock in the afternoon, and pay the same for Saturdays as the other days. A. 13. Half an hour at eight o’clock, one hour at twelve, and half an hour at four o’clock. A. 14. Stops half an hour at twelve o’clock at noon, or from half past twelve to one. The scribbling engine feeders are employed during meal times, with the exception of the half hour at noon, when the moving power stops, but by our method of feeding the engines, their labour is only about one minute in six. A. IS. Complete loss both to me and the workpeople. A. 16. No rule; if anything is allowed, it is gratuitously given. A. 17. Three days at Christmas; half a day Shrovetide; two half days at Easter; one half day at Whitsuntide, and one day at May fair. A. IS. If we are very busy at the holidays, I pay them for over time, and seldom abate them for holidays at the busy seasons. A. 19. No lines, but change them for others as soon as possible. A. 20. Only one set of hands. A. 21. Never employed more than one set of hands, because the children will bear their work equally as well as the adult hands. A. 22. My orders are to send the children home if they won’t do without beating. A. 23. The greatest number in our employ are carding piecers at the billy, from ten to thirteen years of age; if above thirteen years of age, they are either sent home or employed at work that a (lords a greater wage. A. 24. 1830: From January 2d to March 27th, only sixty lour days ; from March 27th to July 3d, only sixty seven days and a half; from July 3d to Sept. 25th, fifty days and a half; from Sept. 25lh to December 31st, fourteen weeks, only fifty live days. IS31 : From January 1st to April 1st, thirteen Saturdays, seventy eight days; from April 1st to July '2d, seventy six days and a half; from 2d July to October 1st, seventy eight days; from October 1st, to December 31st, seventy eight days. 1832: Short of employment, only wrought two hundred and seventy two days the whole year. A. 25. 1S30 and 1S32 was short of employment. 1831: 1st quarter, one half of the machines, 1001 hours; the other half S84 hours. 2d 947 836 3d 1001 884 4lh 961 S48 A. 26. None, except the adults having more to labour for the same amount of earnings, on account of the domestic clothier (on which our mill entirely depends) giving a lower price, to enable them to sell with the opulent factory master. A. 27. My opinions as to restricting the hours of labour for factory children by steam, water power, &c., are as follows: the more you shorten the duration of hours in the factories, (I mean where power is applied) the more you enable the industrious and highly valuable domestic clothier to come nearer in competition with the great and opulent factory master, and thereby diminishing the evils of the factory system. The opulent factory master, with his machinery from the agency of steam, water, gas, &c., enables him, with little extra expense, to work his machinery almost day and night when trade is brisk, and during a depression of trade, rather than his machinery should stand, would run them with little or no profits; this I consider most injurious to the domestic clothier. The above considerations, coupled with the cause of humanity, I think warrants the legislature in shortening the duration of labour in woollen factories. Various are the opinions as to the exact number of hours per day; I should suggest sixty three hours per week, that is, eleven hours for live days, and eight hours for Saturday; I should further suggest, that the above sixty three hours be performed from a certain time in the morning to a certain time in the evening, and that wherever boys and girls under (Ai'p. C. l.) F f twenty twenty years of age are employed, where the first moving power is steam, water, &c., should Yorkshire. not be allowed to run more than the above number of hours per week. If the time for May, June, July and August was from or betwixt the hours of four o’clock in the morning to eight A. Wilkinson. o’clock in the evening, it would, I think, enable the mills generally that are turned solelvbv water power, to make up their sixty three hours per week. Where steam is the moving power, it would enable the employer and employed so to arrange together, that the greatest part of the afternoon might occasionally be set apart, either for improvement in reading, needlework, Stc., or assisting their parents at home in their domestic concerns; the other eight months, that is, from September to April, betwixt the hours of six in the morning and seven o’clock in the evening. With regard to employing two sets of hands, I am decidedly against; my children, in any employment they are engaged in, will bear their work equally as well as the adults. I have been overlooker of men and children near forty years, and am not aware of a single instance where a child has been deformed in any manner from excessive labour in factories; besides, to employ two sets of hands, one of the two sets would be employed in untimely hours, and the pernicious effects of congregating boys and girls in such a way, would be, instead of a humanity Bill, a Bill to encourage vice and immorality. Ann aha m Wilkinson.