Chapter 5. How was their new Life in the Factory?

5.1. Long Working Hours

5.2. Working Conditions

5.3. Children’s Employment

5.4. Life in the Mills outside the Towns

5.5. New Wage Conditions in the Factory

            The earliest existing advertisement of Arkwright for factory workers offers “good wages”:

(Derby Mercury, 10th December 1771)

We have seen that the people who entered into the textile factories in the towns, that is, “the first generation”, in general came from the same town, or from regions (urban or rural) nearby; they will have been spinners working in a house in town or in their farmhouse, or artisans (carpenters, masons, tailors) from the town. The men had been earning 7 to 10 shillings per week; in many cases the wife or a son or daughter of 10 to 15 years old had been earning 5 or 6 shillings extra. The work was hard, but with opportunities for rest. 

In the cotton factories, the best spinners earned over 30 shillings a week, and the average spinners about 20 (but there were only about 2,000 spinners in Manchester mills in 1830). The women and children could earn somewhat more than previously. We note that the men who went into the factories, did not do so because they were poor and needed a better job; they did so, because they were offered much higher wages than in their previous occupation. The difficult part of the transaction was that they all had to work very long hours, without rest (except at mealtimes), often in bad postures or moving all the time, and in rooms at high temperatures and with cotton flakes in the air.

The description by Mr. Chadwick, Treasurer of Salford, in 1859, is that “Cotton factories are generally very clean, well ventilated, and healthy. The labour of the various persons consists mainly in watching and directing the operations of the various machines, the placing of material in the machines, the “tenting” or watching the processes, the “piecing” or tying of loose ends or threads, and the removal of the finished products in the various stages of manufacture. 

It cannot, therefore, be considered very laborious work for even Women or Children; and the amount of their earnings, and the comparatively agreeable nature of their occupations, present a constant temptation for girls and young women to enter the factory rather than engage in domestic service”. (But this is 1859; things were not so good in 1810!)

Dean Mills: The Doubling Room

(Illustrated London News, October 25th, 1851)

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