Monday, 7 March 2016

Child labour in the Potteries

Sometimes even old cups and saucers have a slice of social history to relate. The above cup and saucer dates from round about 1840 and although unmarked is typical of wares made by the Hilditch and Hopwood pottery at Longton. It was made in part by child labour.

In Scriven's Report on Child Labour in the pottery industry in 1840, Richard Moreton – then aged 9 and working at Hilditch and Hopwood reported.

‘I am a figure maker for William Moreton [Richard’s father], I work by the piece and can make 40 dozen (480) small figures a day: I get 1d for ten dozen, that is about two shillings [10 pence] a week.’

So little Richard Moreton did not work for Hilditch and Hopwood, but for his father William who subcontracted figure making to his 9 year old son.

The 'figures' little Richard made in such vast quantities may have been something like the lilac coloured sprig mouldings on the above cup and saucer. The sprig mouldings were made from soft coloured clay rather like Plasticine. Richard would press them out of the clay using moulds, carefully remove them, then either he or someone else would stick them to the cup or saucer with liquid clay before firing.

These are not high class items of bone china; they were intended for middle class markets to be brought out the china cabinet for genteel afternoon tea parties.

Also from Scriven's report

employments of families

13) The processes being such as to admit of the employment of whole families father, mother, and some two, three, or more children - their united earnings are sometimes £3. or £4. per week: but, proverbially improvident, and adopting the adage,- "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof", they squander the proceeds of their labour in gaudy dress, or at the skittle-ground and ale-house; so that, when overtaken by illness or other casualty, and thrown for a few days out of work, they resort to their masters for a loan, or to the parish workhouse for relief.


Demetrius said...

If you go to Workhouses dot org you could have a look at the local workhouses, fascinating site.

Sam Vega said...

I quite like the idea of subcontracting some of my work to my children. At times, it could have been useful for everyone concerned. Filing and tidying for the little ones, and IT for the eldest.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we could bring back child labour - or at least end our obsession with education till 18. By starting at say 9 they could expect to retire at say 70 on a tolerable pension. Their slightly cleverer brothers and sisters who went to uni and got a Desmond in Geography will on current estimates have to flog on till 80 as a burger flipper and never have paid back the uni fees. We might remember that Mozart and Michelangelo started early, indeed for many artistic professions formal schooling after say 12 seems a barrier to progress.

Michael said...

If beer back then was a penny a pint, by today's price of about £3.50, he would be getting roughly £85.00 a week!

That buys quite a lot of texts and calls to his mates...

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - it is and I'll bookmark it.

Sam - good idea. I could have subcontracted a few meetings.

Roger - I'm not at all convinced about formal schooling for very bright kids. Chess prodigies need to be making their mark long before their 18th birthday and many other bright kids might be better off learning at home.

Scrobs - yes it may be more than it sounds to us - a useful boost to the family income.