Royal Commission on Employment of Children in Factories (1833): William Firth, Newtown, Huddersfield
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 William Firth of Newtown, Huddersfield, are reproduced below.