Weaste Cemetery

Children in the Cotton Industry

Children in the Cotton Mills

by Peter Ward
(Please visit the Peter's web site: WWW.peterward@ourwardfamily.com)


A third of all cotton mill workers were children because their labour was so cheap.
In the days when the textile industry was cottage based, women did the spinning, children carded and wound the yarn while the man of the house did the weaving.

In Victorian times, children were expected to work for a living, with most children starting their first full time job at around the age of seven.
Wages were very low and children needed to work so that their families would not starve.
Mill owners saw children as cheap labour and sometimes mills employed more children than adults.
The hours at work were long and conditions hard.
The only future available to them was to spend their lives working in the mills.
Children were given the dirtiest and most boring jobs in the mills.
Many worked as piecers, tying yarn threads together when they broke.
The job of scavenging (picking up pieces of loose cotton from underneath textile machinery) was given to children because they were smaller and more nimble than adults.
Many children were badly injured and some were killed.
The spinning sheds were usually too hot; the weaving sheds too cold.
Mill workers suffered from chest complaints, headaches, and stomach ailments.

If children were late they were fined.
If children made a mistake or fell asleep on the job they were beaten.
Children's wages were very low, sometimes just a few pence for working sixty hours a week!

Working in textile mills was completely different from working at home in the textile industry.
In the textile mills, there were rules and regulations.