Royal Commission on Employment of Children in Factories (1833): Jonas Brook and Brothers, Meltham Mills

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 contained responses by manufacturers to set lists of questions regarding the nature of their business and the treatment of children employed.

The responses given by Jonas Brook and Brothers of Meltham Mills are reproduced below.

Messrs. Jonas Brook and Brothers, Meltham Mills, Honley

1. What is the manufacture or description of work performed at this mill?

Cotton and silk.

2. What is the date of its erection, or application to its present purpose?

A small part has been erected forty years; the rest at different times.

3. Is the power employed steam or water, or both? If waterpower, state the name of the river or stream producing it.

Both steam and water; name of the stream Greave Dike.

4. 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?

Three engines, one fifty, one twenty-six, and one eight-horse power, employed entirely with our own work; water-wheels used occasionally; at such times less steam-power used.

5. How many persons are employed in your mill, (exclusive of those in the counting-house and warehouse department) distinguishing them into the following classes?

Six hundred and twenty-three persons; viz.
Under 10 years of age 8 5
10 and under 12 years 21 48
12 and under 14 26 56
14 and under 16 21 58
16 and under 18 13 50
18 and under 21 11 88
21 and upwards 75 143

6. What is the average of standing weekly wages of those who are paid by time, according to the following classes?

The standing weekly wages are:—
Under 10 years of age 3s. 3s.
10 and under 12 years 3s. 1½d. 3s. 1½d.
12 and under 14 4s. 4s.
14 and under 16 4s. 9d. 4s. 9d.
16 and under 18 7s. 6d. to 12s. 7s. 6d. to 10s.
18 and under 21 7s. 6d. to 16s. 7s. 6d. to 10s.
21 and upwards 16s. to 30s. 7s. 6d. to 10s.
Twenty-one and upwards, average 21s.

7. 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?

Eight persons; viz.
10 and under 12 years 3, earning 4s. 1½d.
12 and under 14 years 4, earning 4s. 2d.
14 and under 16 years 1, earning 4s. 7d.
In a regular week of sixty-seven hours and a half.

8. What number and description of persons are employed in your mill, whose wages are paid by the workpeople under whom they work?

Fourteen females, thirty-three males, paid according to the sixth Question.

9. 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.

It is, except to mechanics, who have two hours a day allowed.

10. 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.

Commences at six o’clock in the morning, and terminates a quarter before eight o’clock at night.

11. 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.

We are not dependent on any other mill, having sufficient steam-power, nor are we affected as to time of working by droughty seasons.

12. 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?

Nine hours on a Saturday, and no time made up on any other day for it.

13. 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.

Half an hour for breakfast, one hour for dinner, and quarter of an hour for tea; breakfast, half-past eight o’clock to nine; dinner, from one to two o’clock; and tea from five to quarter past.

14. 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.

All the moving powers stop.

15. 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?

When the lost time amounts to no more than one day, it is worked up at the rate of half an hour or an hour per day, at the daily wages; if it exceeds a day, it is not worked up, but is lost to us and to them.

16. Is any time allowed to the hands during sickness, or absence from the mill arising from accidents? Explain your practice in this respect.

We have no rule in regard to time lost by accidents; they rarely occur; we in some cases make an allowance during sickness.

17. How many regular holidays and half-holidays have your workpeople in the year besides Sundays?

Six days, and sometimes seven in the year.

18. 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?

The workpeople are not paid for any holidays, nor is any part of the lost time made up.

19. 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?

The bell rings a quarter of an hour before work begins, and five minutes (after it is begun) are allowed before any fines are inflicted. We have fines for various offences and irregularity; an account is kept of the fines, which last year amounted to £12. 0s. 11d., or which £4. 4s. was paid to the Huddersfield Infirmary, on account of the workpeople.

20. Do you work more than one set of adult hands? If so, explain the succession and intervals of their labour.

We do not work two sets of hands.

21. 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.

We have not; our work does not require it.

22. Are corporal punishments sanctioned? If so, to what age are the children considered liable to it?

We do not allow any corporal punishment to be inflicted on the children; if they do not mind their work, they are sometimes sent home half a day, or a day, or dismissed altogether.

23. 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?

It does; in the silk mill, throstle-spinning, and mule-spinning, the greatest number of children are employed.

24. 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.

We work sixty-seven hours and a half per week without variation, except one room, which occasionally works an hour over-time, with hands above eighteen years of age.

25. During how many hours has your machinery been so at work in each quarter of the years 1830, 1831, and 1832?

See above.

26. 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?

No alteration.

27. State any remarks you may be desirous of making on the subject of regulating the hours of factory labour by act of parliament.

We approve of the regulation of hours of factory labour, and from our experience, and careful observation of its effects, we are of opinion, that twelve hours in a well-regulated and cleanly mill is not injurious to the health of children.
We take leave to observe, that the law allowing beer shops has a most injurious effect on the morals of the labouring people in this neighbourhood.

Royal Commission on Employment of Children in Factories (1833): Jonas Brook and Brothers, Meltham Mills


This page was last modified on 28 November 2016 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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