Home Button

Report on Child Labour in Sedgley 1841

Including Sedgley (Upper and Lower), Ettingshall, Coseley, and Upper and Lower Gornal.

To Her Majesty's Commissioners

Upper Sedgley, 26th May, 1841.

The Parish of Sedgley includes the villages of Sedgley (Upper and Lower), Ettingshall, Coseley, and Upper and Lower Gornal.

Reports by
R.H. Horne, Esq.

All these villages being either united with each other, or within from half a mile to a mile and a half's distance, and the articles manufactured, and the character and circumstances of the manufacturers being the same, I have thought it advisable to comprise my account of the whole under one Report.

There are only two large manufactories in the parish, where numbers of children and young persons of both sexes are employed --the one an iron-foundry, the other a screw manufactory. You will be pleased to observe that I do not include rolling-mills and other iron-works, nor any of the works connected with mines -- many of which are in the neighbourhood of Coseley, Lower Sedgley, and Lower Gornal.

With the exception of about half a dozen locksmiths, one or two chain-makers and screw-makers, and the two large manufactories previously mentioned, the whole population of Upper Sedgley and Upper Gornal, and nearly one-half the population of Coseley and Lower Gornal are employed in nail-making. I allude solely to nails made by the hammer -- that is to say forge-work, not casting.

These villages supply nails to the factors of Dudley and Wolverhampton, and may be regarded as so many colonies for the express production of that particular article.

General Statements

Dwellings of the working-classes

The squalid wretchedness of the abodes of the working classes, described in my previous Reports, deserves particular mention with reference to the parish of Sedgley, from the fact of its being an almost universal characteristic of all the villages; and universal, I believe, without an exception, of two entire villages. Throughout the long descent of the main roadway (or rather sludgeway) of Lower Gornal, and throughout the very long, winding, and straggling roadway of Coseley, I never saw one abode of a working family which had the least appearance of comfort or of wholesomeness, while the immense majority were of the most wretched and sty-like description.


Coseley is a succession of straggling lanes, lined with hovels and hutches, and narrow gaps or "peeps" into other lanes; the whole descending into a hollow which contains what may be termed a miniature city of dirty brick hovels, stuck full of black chimneys, varying from 2 feet to 100 feet in height, and all vomiting thick sooty wreaths of swift-ascending smoke.

Lower Gornal

Lower Gornal is approached by a lane leading out of Upper Gornal; narrow, sludgy, very steep, and a mile in length, till you arrive at the village, through the centre of which the same steep lane descends winding, to the extent of nearly another mile. The invariable sludge occasioned by the rains and water from several springs above, is tendered bestial by the casting forth, both from doors and windows, of everything which would in ordinary cases be deposited on a dung-heap or dust-hole, or carried away by drainage. Low hovels, hutches, and work-shops, resembling little black dens, thickly line the lane or main-way, to the extent of perhaps three-quarters of a mile, and in some places are so crowded as to have two or three houses packed close together, with scarcely room to pass between, and sometimes rendering it difficult to open a door except the door open inwards. Compared with this, some of the worst streets of Wolverhampton would really appear civilised, if not respectable.

No drains nor sewers

Scarlet fever

There is no underground drainage to any of these hovels, nor indeed any special drainage or gutter above ground -- for the mainway is allgutter -- nor have they any privies. But in lieu of the common dunghill, as appropriated by the people of Willenhall, the working classes of Coseley, for the most part, as I am informed, and certainly the great majority in Lower Gornal, are in the habit of fixing a perch (about the size and length of a clothes prop) horizontally across one corner of their little strip of yard or dreary garden. Sometimes several families combine and carry a perch to the corner of a neighbouring field, which act of undue possession being sure to be very soon imitated by others, a disturbance is apt to ensue, if not a fight, the parties being so utterly ignorant and debased as not to be conscious in the slightest degree of the degradation implied in the whole proceeding. Mr. Benjamin Parker, the registrar, told me that he had some land in Coseley, which was almost converted into a nuisance, "from the numbers of people who come there who had no convenience at home." He added that -- "Scarlet fever was in the neighbourhood, particularly at a place called Prince's End (Coseley), where there was no drainage nor any privies." I visited Prince's End, and found it to be a long lane with houses on one side, a ditch all along the other and a revolting slush in the centre -- the lane being little more than 9 feet wide from the hovels to the ditch. Scarlet fever often breaks out in this part of the village.

Amidst this constant scene of filth, groups of infants and children under seven or eight years of age, are playing half-naked round the doors of the hovels. At the age of seven or eight, the children, girls and boys, are put to nailing.


The health of the working classes presents no distinctive features from that described of other parts of the district, being good, bad, and indifferent, according to their several occupations, habits, and circumstances. The health of the people of Lower Gornal is described as being good, by Mr. Hickin, the surgeon residing there, which he attributes very much to the existence of several springs of water in the lane leading down to the village, which, with the addition of the rains, "washes the town in spite of itself." His account of the health and physical condition of the older people of Lower Gornal some years ago, especially with reference to bronchocele, will be found curious.

Hours of work

The hours of work are nearly the same among all the nailers throughout all the villages of the parish of Sedgley, being from 6 in the morning till 9 or 10 at night, and deducting two hours for meals. The younger children, of the ages of seven and eight, are generally allowed to leave off work two hours earlier than the rest; but on weigh-days (the day the nails are taken to the factors) the hours of work are often excessive--i.e. from three or four in the morning till nine at night.

Nature of employment

State of the place of work

The nature of the occupation of the children and young persons in the parish of Sedgley is almost entirely that of nail- making at the forge. The state of the place of work may be inferred from my previous description of the condition of the hovels in which the working classes reside. It will be only necessary to add that, as many of the forges (i.e. workshops) are at the backs of he hovels, and as there is a more constant carriage, in and out, of heavy articles, the state of the ground becomes more filthy with mud, and the atmosphere yet more confined. The best kind of these forges are little brick shops of about 15 feet long and 12 feet wide, in which seven or eight individuals constantly work together, with no ventilation except the door and two slits, or loop-holes, in the wall; but the great majority of these work-places are very much smaller (about 10 feet long by 9 feet wide), filthily dirty, and on looking in upon one of them when the fire is not lighted, presents the appearance of a dilapidated coal-hole or little black den. They are usually 10 to 12 inches below the level of the ground outside, which of course adds to their slushy condition, since they can never be cleaned out except by a shovel, and this is very seldom, if ever, done. In this dirty den there are commonly at work a man and his wife and daughter, with a boy and girl hired by the year. Sometimes there is an elder son with his sister, and two girls hired; sometimes a wife (the husband being a collier, too old to work, has taken to drinking, or is perhaps dead) carried on the forge with the aid of her children. These little work-places have the forge placed in the centre generally, round which they each have barely standing-room at an anvil; and in some instances there are two forges erected in one of these shops. There is scarcely ever room enough for any one to pass round to his or her stand while others are at work, so that men and woman, and boys and girls, are almost continually obliged to clamber over each other's bodies, or else step upon the hot cinders to get over the forge, in order to reach the door. The effluvia of these little work-dens, from the filthiness of the ground, from the half-ragged, half-naked, unwashed persons at work, and from the hot smoke, ashes, water, and clouds of dust (besides the frequent smell of tobacco), are really dreadful.



There are no accidents liable to happen in this kind of work beyond a few burns, scorchings, and the hammering of fingers among "beginners." The holidays are as described in the Report on Wolverhampton.


Hiring and wages

There are scarcely any regular apprentices here. It is not the custom of the place. The children are commonly hired by the year. They work the first half-year for nothing in order to learn the trade. The second half-year their parents sometimes get from 1s. to 1s. 3d. per week for the child. The parents then let the child out for another year, and usually get 2s. per week for the third half-year, and 2s. 6d. a-week for the fourth half-year. At this latter rate of payment the daily stint of work which the child is required to accomplish is 3 1/2 lbs. of 3 1/2 rose-nails. These 3 1/2 lbs. average in number about 1000 nails, all made singly by the hand in the course of one day. The children are first put to nailing from the ages of seven to eight, and gradually advance in the number of the nails they can make per day, till they arrive at the stint of 1000. A girl or a boy of from 10 to 12 years of age continually accomplishes this arduous task from day to day, and from week to week. Sometimes a young person, male or female, thus let out, is able to do more than this, either in number or of a much larger kind of nail, and occasionally can earn 6s. per week, in which case the mater usually gives them 2s . 9d . per week, reserving the remainder for the use of his shop, forge, and tools.

Nail trade

The forged nail-manufacture is entirely carried on by separate families, who work for the factors. A factor entrusts the head of a family with a certain quantity of iron which is to be returned in a certain quantity of nails, and these are paid for at a stated sum per thousand. The employer has consequently no direct authority over the children and young persons who work at nailing, and seldom even knows any part of the family beyond the head, who is responsible for the iron he has received from the factor.

Treatment and care

Of the treatment and care experienced by the children from their parents, it is for the most part bad or indifferent, in the matter of food, clothing, and overwork, while towards those who are hired by the year, together with the few apprentices who are in the place, especially if orphans, there is often great cruelty practised.

Corporal punishments and assaults

Boys are sometimes struck with a red-hot iron, and burnt and bruised simultaneously.

The flash

Boys sometimes have "a flash of lightning" sent at them. When a bar of iron is drawn white-hot from the forge it emits fiery particles, which the man commonly flings in a shower upon the ground by a swing of his arm before placing the bar upon the anvil. This shower is sometimes directed at the boy. It may come over his hand and face, his naked arms, or on his breast. If his shirt be open in front, which is usually the case, the red-hot particles are lodged therein, and he has to shake them out as fast as he can.


A witness told me he knew a boy who was in the habit of making scraps (bad nails), and "somebody" belonging to a warehouse to which the boy carried the nails "took him, and put his head down upon an iron counter, and hammered a nail through one ear, and the boy made good nails ever since."

Winding up

A punishment called winding-up has also been occasionally practised. There is an iron hook in the warehouses, which is used for winding up the nailbags, and this hook has sometimes been fixed in a boy's trousers, and they have wound him up from the floor below through a trap in the ceiling into the room above, with his head downwards.

But atrocious as are these instances of ill treatment, I am happy to say that I believe them not to be of frequent occurrence at the present time, though witnesses Nos. 266 and 268 think they are; and that, on considering all my evidence, and the result of all my various inquiries, I am of opinion they should only be regarded as a small minority among the mass of ordinary hard treatment which is chiefly occasioned by the privations of the working classes.

Instances of barbarous cruelties to apprentices and hired children were formerly of common occurrence. I quote, however, the following story, chiefly on account of the application to the moral degradation of the present time, evinced by the behaviour of the inhabitants on discovering the mouldering remains of a fellow-creature:--


"A good many years ago" (says one of my witnesses), "an apprentice-boy in Sedgley, belonging to a man named Cox, was suddenly missing: the boy disappeared from the place. It was known that Cox used to treat the boy shamefully. However, he disappeared, and nobody knew what became of him. About a year and a half ago some dilapidated houses were pulled down, being in a falling condition, and the house of old Cox, long since dead, among the number. In the corner of a back cellar, or of an out-house, the skeleton of a boy was dug out, as the men were working. Several of the old inhabitants, who recollected the disappearance of the boy exclaimed, "That's old Cox's apprentice as was missing!" The bones were shovelled into a wheelbarrow, carried away, and flung in the lane, where they were left to be kicked about."

Mr. George Jenkins (Evidence, No. 268) told me that he thought the children were worse off here than in any of the cotton factories; that they were fighting fire from six o'clock in the morning till ten at night; and that they were sadly abused during the first year they began to learn, particularly if they were orphans. Mr. Benjamin Parker, registrar, remarked to me, in reply to my questions concerning the manufacturers, that "They make a profit and loss of the children; they make as much as they can of them. If the children, at the same time, have to live hard as to food, it stops their growth, and they never recover it." He thought, however, there was "but little of cruel beating now: the bad treatment was only in excessive labour, beyond what the constitution and age of the children could bear." This is precisely my own opinion, as the sum of all my evidence and inquiries.

Physical condition

The physical condition of the children (more particularly that of the boys) is very low, occasioned by early work, bad food and clothing, dirtiness, and the poverty and bad habits or constitutions of their parents.

Early work

Those children who are put to work as early as seven and eight years of age are very liable to become indifferent workmen in after years. "They make much better workpeople if their parents can keep them away from work till they are nine or ten years of age--much better."


The nursing of infants is left almost entirely to the other young children of the family, and it is quite a common thing for a child of from seven to nine years of age (girl or boy) to be let out as a nurse at 1s . per week.


The physical condition of the girls is much better than that of the boys. They are not put to work so early as the boys, by two years or more: they bear the heat of the forges better, and often become strong by the work. They marry early, and have many children.

Moral condition

The number of girls who work at nailing considerably exceeds that of the boys. Sedgley might appropriately be termed the district of female blacksmiths. They are its most prominent characteristic. Their appearance, manners, habits, and moral natures (so far as the word moral can be applied to them), are in accordance with their half-civilised condition. Constantly associating with ignorant and depraved adults and young persons of the opposite sex, they naturally fall into all their ways; and drink, smoke, swear, throw off all restraint in word and act, and become as bad as a man. The heat of the forge and the hardness of the work render few clothes needful in winter; and in summer, the six or seven individuals who are crowded into these little dens find the heat almost suffocating. The men and boys are usually naked, except a pair of trousers and an open shirt, though very often they have no shirt; and the women and girls have only a thin ragged petticoat, and an open shirt without sleeves. Amidst circumstances like these, it is but too evident that the efforts of the Sunday-schools can only be productive of a very limited good, chiefly confined to the children of those parents who are of a religious turn of mind.

I received very kind and valuable assistance from the Rev. Mr. Lewis, vicar of Sedgley, who accompanied me to various habitations and workshops, and also to the Sunday and day schools in connection with the Church. Great pains were evidently taken to instruct the children, but the schools were very thinly attended. In Mr. Lewis's reply to the Educational Queries, he says, "The children and young persons but too generally grow up in irreligion, immorality, and ignorance, owing to the difficulty of getting them to attend school, or of inducing their parents to send them, and enforce their attendance."

In the Church schools, and in the school attached to the Roman Catholic chapel, there are, I believe, educated teachers; but the teachers of the Methodist schools, of various denominations, are mostly working men, who are themselves scarcely able to read and write. There is a national school, and I was informed that the master had received some training as a teacher. The school, however, is thinly attended; and I have much reason to think that, when a schoolmaster follows any other occupation of a kind which is distasteful to the working classes, there will be a more than usual indisposition on the part of parents to send their children to school. One day, while I was wandering through the muddy roadway of Lower Gornal, I saw the master of the national school acting in the capacity of a collector of taxes, with a bludgeon under one arm, and an enormous bull-dog lounging along close to his legs, ferocious and watchful. A circle of boys and women was formed at a little distance from the schoolmaster, and angry groups were looking suspiciously out of most of the doors (and windows too), apparently ready at a moment to step back and close the entrance.



There are, in the parish, five day-schools in connection with the Church, three of which are infant-schools; and there are two day-schools, and various Sunday-schools, in each of the villages. Even Lower Gornal, which is really a more than half-savage place, has Sunday-schools. The schools which are the most numerously attended are those of the Methodists, and Primitive Methodists (commonly called Ranters), particularly the latter. The superintendent, ministers, teachers, and parties interested in this sect, are most zealous in their efforts to obtain the children as scholars, and to get them away from the Church schools, if possible. They are often up at five o'clock in the morning, canvassing the parents for this purpose.


The children and young persons of this parish are, for the most part, in the lowest state of ignorance conceivable of those who dwell in a civilised Christian country. There is seldom much difference, as to ignorance, between those who attend the Sunday- schools, and those who do not. Out of seven children (taken casually from Sunday-schools, manufactories, and while playing in the street), who were asked if they knew who Jesus Christ was, you will find that three had never heard the name of Christ, and a fourth said he was "Adam.". The two latter -- one a boy of about 12, the other a girl nearly 15 years of age -- had never heard of a place called "London;" and the girl added that she never said any prayers, as "she did not know one." Elizabeth Fellows, aged about 15, did not know who Jesus Christ was; and Sarah Jackson, aged about 16, had never heard of a place called London. Elizabeth Round, aged 19, whose family was very religious, on being asked who were the apostles, replied that Jonah, Solomon, Samson, and Pontius Pilate, were apostles, -- adding that she believed Goliath was the last of them.


"As soon as the children," says the Rev. Mr. Lewis, "can get enough to keep themselves, or think they can, they get rid of parental authority, and either pay their parents for their board, or take lodgings for themselves. Girls frequently do this, as well as boys, at the age of from 14 to 16. The consequences are what may be expected: they grow up without moral restraint. Nevertheless, there are cases," proceeds Mr. Lewis, "in which even so dangerous a proceeding for young persons as this, is attended with advantages. The great number living at home, where there is a large family -- father and mother, brothers and sisters, and young children, all sleeping perhaps in one room -- rendered a change very desirable."


Notwithstanding the existence of three infant-schools, the great majority of the children run wild; and many, even of those who are sent to school, their parents take away at the age of six or seven to nurse infants.

Work and school

It may be doubted whether the devotion of the entire day to work, from six in the morning till nine or ten at night, by the children, is necessary to their obtaining enough for their support, as their parents aver in excuse for not sending them to school. In two instances you will observe that a boy and girl managed to attend a day-school regularly, and yet to earn as much as many of those children who worked the whole day.



There is much drunkenness and improvidence among the parents and adult workmen, and their ignorance is proverbial. They are sometimes drunk for several days together. "They pawn their bundles of iron, and drink on 'em."  I was informed by a clergyman of the place, that some years ago, when the efforts were first commenced, by various ministers of religion, to civilise and instruct the adults of the working classes, there was a general ignorance among them equal to the worst instances now to be found among the children and young persons. When a minister asked a working man if he had any knowledge of Jesus Christ, the reply frequently made was, "Does a'work on the bonk or the pit?" Considerable advances have been made in civilising the people of Upper Sedgley and Upper Gornal, but among those of Lower Gornal very little effect has been produced.

Nicknames of places

All the different localities of these villages are called by a nickname, and of a kind which alone will serve as a very strong suggestive evidence of the moral degradation of the inhabitants. Such, for instance, as Clam-gut Field, Snout's Hollow-way, Can Len, Cinder Hill, Jail Hole, Bull-ring, Sodom, Catch 'em's Corner, Gospel End, Hell Lane, &c.

Religious sects

Primitive Methodists
Mystery, miracle, or morality plays

Amidst all the ignorance and degradation, there is nevertheless a strong religious bias, frequently amounting to enthusiasm, and sometimes to fanaticism, among certain portions of the working classes. There are many Wesleyan Methodists in the parish, but the great majority are Primitive Methodists, or Ranters, who have seceded from the Wesleyans, declaring them to have become proud, and forgetful of the humble character of true Christianity. There are two or three Primitive Methodist chapels in each village, which are all regularly attended, and often densely crowded, by the poorest class. Their ministers are sometimes local residents for a year, by which time the congregations like to have a change; but some of the chapels are only occasionally attended by itinerant preachers, the regular duty being done by certain zealous members of the congregation. These latter preachers are almost always miners: they are very devout, sincere men, and at times are quite carried beyond themselves by excitement, and affect their hearers with terrific pictures of the lower regions, or shake their hearts with Herculean eloquence. The children and young persons are pointedly addressed, and exhorted. Among this sect, there are a great many sacred days held at the chapels and meeting-houses, on which occasions there is sometimes a procession through the streets, the congregation singing and praying as they move forwards; and finally a kind of sacred drama is performed in the meeting-house. The worthy vicar of Sedgley informed me, that one of these dramas, or plays, of the Primitive Methodists, consisted of three children dressed in a sort of loose garment: a boy representing Justice, with a sword; a girl, all in white, Mercy; and a little boy kneeling between them, upon a platform, as the Victim. Justice then makes a speech, and prepares to strike; but Mercy intercedes, &c., and finally the Victim is spared; and the three children sing a hymn, in which the congregation join.* The children of the working classes, as it may readily be supposed, are but too happy to vary the dull monotonous round of their daily labours by attending such spectacles as these, to which they look forward with excitement, and which is doubtless one cause, among the many causes, of the greater numbers of children and young persons who attend the chapels and schools of the Primitive Methodists than those of any other of the sects


The church

The school-rooms in connection with the Church are admirably constructed. Except two or three of the school-rooms in Bilston, there are none comparable in South Staffordshire to these rooms of Sedgley. The Church Sunday-school, and the National, of Upper Sedgley, and the infant-school at Ettingshall, are built with a high arched roof, and thoroughly ventilated by a contrivance in each window for letting in the fresh air over the upper part of the room, instead of directing a column of cold wind to whistle through the ears of all the scholars, as I almost always found to be the case whenever any ventilation was permitted in a school-room. In the Sedgley Church schools, the boys are divided from the girls by a wooden partition, which, however, is only six or seven feet high, so that they all have the benefit of the airy space above. The rooms are warmed by a stove, guarded by a circular iron bar. The floors are all level. Great pains are taken by the Rev. Mr. Lewis to teach the children, several of whom read better than any, of the same age, I had previously examined in the district. They also sang petty well.

Wesleyan evidence refused.

I went to the Wesleyan Methodists' Sunday-school in Can Lane, Ettingshall, and found a small, narrow room, with a very low ceiling, densely crowded with boys of from six to twelve years of age. The effluvium was most sickening: not a window was open, nor an aperture of any kind, for air. Above this narrow low ceiling was another similar room full of girls, the ascent to which was effected by means of a ladder with a rail. I wished to select several children in order to take their evidence; but the superintendent demurred to my speaking with the children in private, and proposed that one or two of the teachers should be present. Finding him continue obdurate, I declined to take evidence of the children. I perceived that I was regarded with suspicion, from a fear that I might be some emissary of the Church, and that they might lose some of their scholars.

Primitive Methodist
Evidence evaded

I also attended the school of the Primitive Methodists, which is not only held in the chapel, but the "teaching" of the children proceeds while the minister is preaching. The attention of the children if fixed by means of several small canes which the teachers have in use; and the monotonous buzzing of their reading lesson does not in the least affect the preacher, whose delivery, in all the meeting-houses of this sect, is invariably of the most vehement and vociferous description. I was promised permission by the superintendent to examine the children separately and alone after the service. This I accordingly attended, waiting till its very protracted close; houses of this sect, is invariably of the most vehement and vociferous description. I was promised permission by the superintendent to examine the children separately and alone after the service. This I accordingly attended, waiting till its very protracted close; but the superintendent immediately commenced a loud hymn, in company with half a dozen others, and remained perfectly insensible to my applications, continually turning his back to me, as if by accident, while he sang louder and louder, until every child had left the place. He then informed me that I had better come again next Sunday, and that meantime the elders of the congregation would have a special meeting on the subject of my visit.

I found the same indisposition to allow me to examine the children at the other schools of the different sects of Methodists, owing to similar apprehensions of losing some of their scholars.

Number of children

Married women

There are a great number of children in each of the villages of Sedgley parish, but the precise amount I had no means of ascertaining. Early marriages being the habit of the place, there is no prostitution; and there are very few illegitimate children. It is common for a young couple to have a family about them when they are scarcely men and women themselves. A married woman here usually has from 6 to 12 children, the latter number being by far the more common. There was a working man here, some years since, who had 36 children. He was married three times, and was presented with 12 children by each wife.

Infants burnt

Infants being left in charge of children of from six to eight years of age, the latter as well as the former are frequently burnt to death. In the year 1838 alone, there were upwards of 10 children burnt to death in Sedgley.

Atkinson's Preservative

The mothers here to not administer Godfrey's Cordial to their infants, but adopt Atkinson's Infant Preservative instead. It was not used in very large quantities until recently, when a "spurious" Atkinson's Preservative was sold by a chemist, whereupon his opponent extensively advertised "the real Atkinson's Preservative," and the contest has brought this pernicious mixture of chalk and laudanum into much more general use.

Works visited

Screw manufactory
Fire-bricks and fire-day works.

I visited many small workshops and dwellings of the manufacturers in company with the Rev. Mr. Lewis, but did not inquire the names of the inmates. I also visited the large screw manufactory (late Isaiah Baker's) at Coseley, and the fire-brick and fire-clay works of Mr. Cartwright at Upper Gornal. The screw manufactory was under the management of a very intelligent and humane individual (Mr. McCarthy); and the excellent arrangement of the building -- in space, cleanliness, and ventilation -- together with the kindness of the treatment, and the happy look of the children's faces, were quite sufficient to convince me that the filthiness and misery I had previously observed in nearly every other screw manufactory were by no means necessary conditions of this class of manufacture. (The processes of screw-making have been described in my Report on Wolverhampton.) The clay-works of Mr. Cartwright were also conducted in manner highly creditable to the proprietor. Of this interesting and little known description of claywork, I shall have occasion to treat more fully in my Report on Stourbridge.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,
Yours most obedient servant,

March 20. Edward Haling Coleman, Esq. , surgeon:
Has practised 20 years in Wolverhampton; extensively among the working classes. Has noticed that a great many children among them are born ruptured. Many of the fathers are ruptured at Wolverhampton; they send to Willenhall for trusses; the trussmaker at Willenhall has made a fortune. Many children are burnt to death, particularly in the winter, by their parents going out to work and leaving them alone all day. Godfrey's cordial is much given by the mothers to infants to quiet them. Has known many infants die from its effects. Considers that children and young persons are worst treated by the small masters among the locksmiths, key-makers, and bolt makers, who are themselves generally poor. Accident sometimes happen at the edge-tool makers: they very often happen in the pits, and also at the mail and tip manufactories, particularly at Hemingsley and Co.'s. Only yesterday a boy was killed, another had both legs fractured, and several were injured. Fevers are not at all prevalent here; the chief complaints are affections of the chest. There is scarcely an old locksmith or collier but has an asthmatic complaint. Attributes it to the north and north-easterly winds from which there is no protection, the town stands so high. Many children die of affection of the lungs.

March 21. ******, aged 19:

Works at tip-punching at Mr. Hemingsley's. Gets 4s. a-week. Was at work at Hemingsley's on Friday night last, when the accident happened. Part of the floor, where she was working, fell. A boy, who worked at the nail-cutting below, was killed on the spot by the weight of the tips that fell upon him; another boy had both his thighs broken and one arm, another boy had his knees hurt, another his arm, and one hurt his back. Attributes the accident to the rottenness of the floor and the weight of the tips. Great weights were constantly laid upon the floor, and the floor was in a broken shattered condition nearly all over; it had been propped up very much, two or three times. You could see from one floor down into the other through the holes. Cannot read or write. Was at a Sunday-school at **** about two years. The teachers came one Sunday and not another -- very neglectful. Was taken away at 10 years of age to go to work; has never been able to go to school since; would be very glad if she could.

(signed)  her mark& ***X***

March 22. Peter Bell , Esq., M.D.:
Has practised in Wolverhampton many years. Has remarked the superior health of the boys in the collieries, in comparison with the children and young persons in the manufactories. The colliers are to healthy that wounds -- large gashes -- are cured with a rapidity quite surprising; compound fractures are cured with scarcely a troublesome symptom. As to formation, -- the collier, as he walks, rolls along, swinging at the hips as if he were double jointed; the manufacturer creeps along as if his bones were all huddled together. The japanners are very little subject to colds, although they go out of heated rooms in a state of great perspiration into the open air; the heart is excited, and resists the cold. Among the women, labours are comparatively easy. Distortion of the pelvis is very rare. Consumption is common; atrophy generally terminates in consumption. Wolverhampton is remarkably free from fever.


Search the whole Sedgley site