Child Labor in 19th Century Britain

Stephanie Rivas

Jobs Children Did in Factories

  • Children were forced to work in many different jobs, such as a chimney sweeper, working in the coal mines, and working in factories.
  • Chimney sweeping was one of the most dangerous jobs for children, some being as young as three years old.
  • Children were pften used to work in coal mines as their small bodies allowed for manuvering through tight, and enclosed spaces, and they wouldn't have to be paid as much as an adult coal miner.
  • Factories often found children worked more efficient than adults, sometimes even performing better than the adults working there. Sometimes, the most energy-demanding jobs were given to children, such as fixing the machines while they were still on.

Hours, Food, & Working Conditions

  • Bosses for chimney sweepers often underfed the children in order to keep them small enough to fit in the chimneys.
  • Chimney sweepers would often get their arms, legs, and elbows scraped raw due to the lack of space available to move up and down the chimney comfortably.
  • Children would suffer from respiratory problems in both the mines and the chimnneys.
  • Children who worked in coal mines often had to work 12-18 hour shifts per day.
  • Since it was amost always dark in the mines, children faced eye problems that could become permanent. Some also developed permanent spine deformities due to always having to move around with their backs stooped low.
  • Children working in factoried had shifts from Monday thru Saturday, working from 6 A.M. until 8 P.M.

Accidents That Often Happened

  • Chimney sweepers would often fall to their death sincne they could lose their grip and plummet to the ground.
  • Children who were told to fix machines would have to fix it while it was still running so production could continue, and could get their limbs torn off or even get caught in the machines and die.
  • Children who worked in the coal mines often lost their limbs due to the carts running over them.
  • Many factory workers lost their fingers as the machine would get it caught in there while they were working.

Punishments Children Faced

  • Factory workers who would arrive late, make a mistake, or fell asleep would often be beaten or fined.
  • Some children were sometimes beaten for talking to other children while they were working.
  • The cutting of hair was sometimes a punishment for girls, as the girls back then took great pride in their hairs.
  • While some kids were trying to catch up to the other workers, their "over-lookers" would often beat them until they caught up or were black and blue and could no longer work.

Efforts to Improve/Stop Child Labor

  • The Chimneys Sweeper Act of 1788 made it illegal to use children under the age of eight to work as chimney sweepers. This act also made the bosses of these chimney sweepers offer good living conditions and proper clothing. They were also allowed to go to church on Sundays.
  • In 1833, the Factory Act was passed, making it illegal for children under the age of nine to work in textile mills. Children between the ages of nine and thirteen were only allowed to work nine hours a day, and forty-eight hours a week.
  • The Chimney Sweepers and Chimney Regulation Act of 1840 made it illegal for people under the age of twenty-one to climb up or into a chimney in order to clean it. In 1875, the Chimney Act was passed to supersede the Chimney Sweepers and Chimney Regulation act, making sure that all chimney sweepers were registered with police. Their work also had to be officially supervised.
  • In 1842 the Mines Act was passed, banning employment of boys under the age of ten, and all girls/women from working in the mines. They also banned boys under the age of fifteen from working the machinery.
  • In 1891, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed.