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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tobacco Manufacture

In the mid-1860s, children as young as eight worked in tobacco factories in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield, Scotland and Ireland. The tobacco was imported from Virginia plantations like this one.

In Britain, children were usually employed ‘spinning’ (making rolled tobacco), packing cut tobacco, and making ‘bunches’ of tobacco (stripping the leaves from the stem so they could be used to make cigars).
At Glasgow (Mitchell & Son’s), the youngest workers earned 1s 6d (7½d) per week; they worked from 6am-6.30pm, with two hours for mealtimes. Both boys and girls worked in the industry.
Image: A boy stripping tobacco leaves for cigar manufacture, and achild spinning a wheel to twist ‘pig-tail’ tobacco. Charles Knight’s Pictorial Gallery of Arts, Vol. I, c.1862.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Writers Bureau Blog

Many thanks to Diana Nadin for inviting me to write a guest blog post for the Writers Bureau - you can read 'Voices From the Past' here.  If you are a novice writer, it's well worth checking out the Writers Bureau blog on a regular basis, as there are lots of tips to help you get published.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Rich Child in His Castle, the Poor Child at His Gate

What was life like for a child growing up in Georgian and Victorian times? While researching The Children History Forgot, I was struck by the vast gulf between rich and poor. Children like this smartly dressed boy and girl, born into a genteel family, were educated at home in their early years. Sons were sent to school, then university. Daughters were often educated at home, although some later went to school to learn accomplishments suitable for their future roles as wives and mothers.
Children born into poverty were expected to earn a living from as early an age as possible, like these ‘mudlarks’ scavenging along the banks of the Thames. They collected and sold bits of coal, scrap metal or rope to try to earn a few pennies. The only schools likely to be available to them were Sunday schools, or missions like this one.

Images: Fashion plates, Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, Music and Romance, Vol. XII, 1837.
Children mudlarking on the Thames, Old and New London Vol.III, (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, c.1878).

Friday, 12 August 2011

Children of the Potteries

The pottery industry was heavily reliant on child labour. In 1816 in Staffordshire, Wedgwood’s Etruria works employed over 100 children aged ten to eighteen (a few children under ten also worked there).

In the 1840s, a children’s employment commission discovered that over 1500 children under thirteen worked in the Staffordshire potteries, plus over 3,700 aged thirteen to twenty-one. They usually started work when they were seven or eight years old.
Children did many different jobs in the Potteries. They worked as ‘jiggers’, ‘mould runners’, ‘oven boys’, ‘dipper’s boys’, apprentice painters and figure makers. The jiggers and mould runners helped the dish, plate and saucer makers, and they worked extremely hard. The jigger turned the potter’s wheel. The mould runners carried pots to and from the stoves. They were on their feet all day. Sometimes boys did both jobs. They walked over several miles in a day.
The children, who were directly employed by the potters, typically worked for up to thirteen or even fifteen hours daily. Plate makers’ boys worked in temperatures of up to 120ºF (48 Celsius).
Some of the pottery processes were very unhealthy because white lead, and sometimes arsenic, was used in the glazing agent. The glaze made the pots look beautiful after they had been fired in the kiln, but was highly poisonous. You can find out more about the pottery children of Staffordshire and other counties in The Children History Forgot.

Images: Pottery manufacture: Placing earthenware in the biscuit kiln, putting pots into saggars, ‘turning’ the pots on a lathe to create rims and other decoration, and transferring prints onto pots. Charles Knight’s Pictorial Gallery of Arts Vol. I, (c.1862).
The Wedgwood works at Etruria. Engraving from Staffordshire and Warwickshire Past and Present, Vol. II, (William Mackenzie, London, no date.)
Gladstone Pottery Museum, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. © Sue and Nigel Wilkes.

Out Now!

The Children History Forgot is now available to order from Amazon, or from Robert Hale at a special introductory offer price of £14.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Not long now!

It's less than a month to publication day for The Children History Forgot! Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing the many different jobs done by children in Georgian and Victorian times. Children worked in a huge variety of industries, not just in cotton factories or down coal mines.

Images: Lancashire child miners - 1842 Report on Mines.
A little girl working in a cotton factory. Engraving by G.P. Jacomb Hood. (1857-1929.) Grindon’s Lancashire.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Land of Storks

We very much enjoyed our holiday in Alsace – everywhere we turned there were castles to explore. Alsace is a wine-growing area and I love to see the grapes growing on the vines – the vineyards have a characteristic fruity, earthy scent – the real essence of summer.

Many rural villages in Alsace have storks nesting on the rooftops. Storks suffered years of decline but in recent years their numbers have staged a remarkable recovery, thanks to the efforts of the stork centre at Hunawihr.

One of our most interesting days out was a visit to the Ecomusee near Colmar, where many traditional Alsatian houses from medieval times (and later) have been preserved. As always, I was fascinated to see how our ancestors lived. There were lots of storks here, too, including a very friendly one who came right up to our car in the car park!

Images: An Alsatian vineyard; storks nesting at the Parc des Cignones, Hunawihr; and traditional Alsatian houses at the Écomusée.

All photos © Sue Wilkes, Nigel Wilkes.