Hammond Turner

Hammond Turner manufactured this pickle fork in the late nineteenth century in Birmingham, England

Hammond Turner

This is a detail from a 'general service' button

Hammond Turner

This is a detail from a button made by Hammond Turner for the city of Liverpool

Article Index

1841 Inspections - Mr Chatwin's Button Manufactory

1841 Inspections - Mr Hasluck's Button Manufactory

1841 Inspections - Mr Elliott's Button Manufactory

1841 inspections - Mr Aston's Button Manufactory

1841 Inspections - Messrs Smith and Kemp's Button Manufactory

1841 Inspections - Mr Bullock's Button Manufactory

1841 Inspections - Mr Ingram's Button Manufactory

1841 Inspections - The Pearl Button Trade

Other inspections - 1841 - all pages


Employment of Children in the Button Trade

Other inspections - 1841

The 1841 reports refer to button manufactories in Birmingham owned by various people: Mr Chatwin, Mr Thomas Hasluck, Mr Elliott (Regent Street), Mr Aston (St Paul's Square), Messrs Smith and Kemp, Mr Thomas Bullock, Mr TW Ingram, Pearl Button Trade 'AB' 

The reports of which these are transcriptions were purchased from an excellent historical documents website, www.lightage.demon.co.uk, which no longer exists. If anyone knows where similar documents can ow be obtained, please let me know through the 'Contact us' page of this website.

I hope to compile a list of the working people named in these reports - watch this space if you have an ancestor who worked in the button trade as their name may be in the list.

It must be said that these reports are more interesting from a social history point of view than for the button-making details they contain! They make very sad reading - children were employed in this industry, as in so many others at the time, in conditions that were hard and with very long working hours. The inspectors pay close attention to the morals of the workers as well as to the provision, quality and privacy of privies in these factories.

BIRMINGHAM BUTTON MANUFACTORIES. Evidence collected by R.D. Grainger, Esq.

No. 345. May 29.—Mr. Chatwin.
Is a manufacturer of buttons, employing a large number of hands, altogether upwards of 200. The various kinds of button-manufactory are as follows:-
1. Gilt and plated and metal.
2. Florentine and silk.
3. Pearl.
4. Iron.
5. Horn and bone.
6. Glass.
7. White metal.
A great many children are employed in these branches, especially in the pearl and florentine. Many begin at a very young age, at 7. At first they earn about 1s 6d a week.
Thinks it is desirable, if all parties were regulated, that children should not be allowed to work under 9. Such a restriction would not interfere with the button trade in general.
It would be very injurious if children between 9 and 13 were limited to 8 hours a day, especially in those cases, which are numerous, in which they work continuously with the adults. It would be preferable to extend the total prohibition to 10, and at that age children should work 10 hours.
It would cause no inconvenience if young persons up to 18 years were restricted to 12 hours, exclusive of meals.
Is decidedly of opinion that it is desirable the manufacturing population should receive a sound intellectual, moral and religious education. Thinks that education should be compulsory, and it is desirable evening instruction should be continued to the age of 15 or 16. To render the system effective, believes it will be indispensable that national funds should be provided. Has always found that the educated mechanics are more valuable and better conducted than the ignorant and illiterate.

[Evidence at the Town Hall.]
No 346. January 2, 1841.—Mr Daniel Baker
Is a clerk in a manufactory of buttons, where many children and women are employed. In the button trade, generally, many children are employed at an early age, from 6 years upwards. The florentine button trade is a branch in which very young children are employed, particularly girls. The stampers require each a boy, who generally begins to work very young at “cobbing.”* These boy are paid by the men whom they assist, not by the master; they commonly remain the same number of hours at work as the men. The common hours are from 8 A.M. till 7 P.M. in the winter, and from 7 till 7 in the summer, half an hour being allowed for breakfast and one hour for dinner. The boys often go for their master’s tea, but they have no time allowed for their own, unless by quickly working, so as to gain time. When trade is good the regular hours are often exceeded; the men will come, summer and winter, at 6 A. M. if there is a press of work, and remain till 8 or 9 P.M. Has known in the horn button trade the men and boys working an incredible time; in this branch the boys who assist the men must stop till the last button is made, the boy having to put each button into the die before it is pressed. Witness having been employed in another branch of the horn button manufactory, has gone in the winter at 4 A.M. and stayed till 9 and half past 9 P.M., and has found the men and boys at work in the morning and left them there at night. Knows one man who has carried this over-working on for 2 years. There were in the manufactory alluded to two avaricious men who worked overtime, and this made the others imitate them. It has happened that those men have sometimes gone to work for the morning before the family of the proprietor was gone to bed. Never knew on these occasions of a relay of children; knows that the same children worked as long as the men. The boys so employed were often the sons of the men whom they assisted but, as each man requires in the horn button making 3 boys of nearly the same age, they were frequently the children of strangers. All these children were paid by the men whom they assisted, and were by them corrected. Has known the boys severely beaten, and in an extreme case struck with iron tongs. The boys became extremely tired and drowsy, and were often pushed and cuffed about. The proprietor did not take any efficient means to prevent this ill-treatment of the boys, and did not interfere unless he heard them cry, which was not often, as he was at a distance from the shop, or unless the parents made a complaint, which often happened. Does not know of any complaint being carried before the magistrates. Thinks that the boys would not have been ill treated if they had been paid by the master and not by the mechanic.
Has heard of boys being kept till 9 and 10 o’clock P.M. at the pearl button trade. In the horn button trade the workshop is very hot, a high degree of heat being required in order that the horn may take the impression of the die; so that at night the shops get intensely hot.
[ *This is merely arranging the buttons in rouleaux in readiness for the stamper.]

[At the Town Hall.]
No: 347. December 7, 184O.—William Green.
Is a metal button stamper. Each adult requires a boy to help, so that the latter must be in attendance early or late. The common hours of work are from 8 A.M. till 7 P.M., one hour being allowed for dinner. This branch is subject to great fluctuations, so that it often happens there is a press of business, and then there is overtime. On such occasions frequently works from 6 A.M. till 9 P.M., and sometimes begins earlier and leaves off later; has worked from 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning till 9 and 10 at night. During this time the boy has to be in constant attendance. The boys begin to work generally about 7 or 8 years of age. The business these boys have to perform is “cobbing,” or arranging the buttons in a row, in readiness for the hot stamper. This is an easy process in itself, but is fatiguing, from the number of hours the children are employed. About six times a day the boys have to shake the buttons in a bag in order to remove the roughness after they have been annealed. This is very heavy work, and would tire a man; it is also unhealthy, from the dust which arises. Towards the evening when there is extra work, the boys get sleepy and tired, and in order to keep them at their work they must be shaken, or ”otherwise intimidated.” They generally object to the over-hours, and would not of their own accord work so long. More generally the boys do not receive the money which they earn by over-work, but it is given to their parents. The wages of the “cob boys” is from 1s to 2s a week.
In the button maker’s department for manufacturing “patent collet buttons,” the work for boys is more fatiguing. One boy is required for each adult, the age being from 7 to 8. The hours are generally from 7 till 9 in the winter, and in the summer from 6 till 9. The work is often suspended in the middle of the day for an hour or two, waiting for some parts of the buttons from the other departments; on these occasions the mechanics stay late at night to make up the lost time. There is no allowance or payment made for such over-work. The boys in this branch are very much confined, and there is a great heat from the stoves which are used. Thinks that the boys are not well used; they are beaten, especially towards the night.

[At the Town Hall]
No. 348.—John Harrald.
Button stamper. On one occasion, when working at some copperwork, was made ill himself from the dust, and believes the boys suffered from the same work. In the manufactory where he formerly worked, Mr. Ledsam’s, Great Charles Street, it occasionally happened that the stampers would have to wait in the middle of the day an hour or two for “blanks.” When these were procured, the men, anxious to make up the lost time, would work very rapidly and if the boys could not keep up with them they were ill use and knocked about. Has seen little boys, 7, 8, or 9 years old, seriously beaten. All this mischief would not have arisen if the manufactory had been properly conducted, or if the men had been paid by the week. No such delays took place as regards those paid by the week. As it was, the people were treated as if they were machines. Has several times worked all night when there has been an order for stamping copper coin. The boys must work almost as long as the adult; they would then go home for 3 or 4 hours for sleep and return, or sometimes get no sleep at all, but remain on the premises.

December 4.

The premises are very much crowded. The buildings where the work is carried on partly face the street and partly surround 3 small yards.
There are 2 privies close together in one of these yards, and a third in another yard These places are used promiscuously by all the workpeople; they are overlooked by shops in which men and boys are at work. I have seen, in my visits, young women and others going in and out of the privies.
The shops are very much crowded, and small when compared with the number of people employed. They are close and hot; but the heat is in part caused by the fires, which are not required in the business, but for the comfort of the people and at their wish. At night, when the gas is lighted, the heat is intense, each of the workers in the press shops requiring a separate burner. In a room measuring 13 feet 8 ½ inches by 12 feet 3 inches, and 7 feet 7 inches high, there are 9 women employed at the press and 9 little girls who prepare the buttons by “putting in.” The females complain of the great heat, and state it gives them the headache.
The youngest child in this room is 8 years, and she has been at work about 2 months. Two other girls are 9, and each has been at work about a year. The work of these children is very light, and requires no exertion. One of the little girls says, “it does not tire her, does not make her back ache, or her arms or legs.” All the women now in this shop say the children are well, and that the work does not seem to disagree with them. The children are not kept constantly at their work, but have to run about, and have sufficient but not too much exercise. They have in this shop decidedly a healthy appearance, and some of them, as well as the women, have a good deal of colour. One young woman began at “putting in” at 8, and has worked 9 years at that and the “covering:” says she did not find it laborious; and although her health is not good, she does not attribute it to the work.

No.357.—December 4. Mr. Thomas Hasluck.
Is a manufacturer of buttons generally. Employs a large number of workmen; as many as any other manufacturer in this business in the town. Has been in this trade 18 or 20 years. Has always found that the educated and instructed workpeople, of whatever age or sex, are the better conducted and more valuable than the ignorant and illiterate. In a case of strike, thinks that the educated men are more difficult to manage than others, and that they are conceited; but has found that the educated females under these circumstances are decidedly more easily reasoned with. “Is most decidedly in favour of extending education and mental culture among the manufacturing population.” Every day’s experience convinces him of the great importance of diffusing information among the labouring classes employed in manufacturies.

No. 358.—George Smith, 8 years old.
Cannot read or write. Went for a while to St. George’s day school; does not recollect how long. Never goes to church or chapel, because he has no clothes. Can’t say the Lord’s Prayer: has worked altogether about 2 years. Comes to work at 8 in the winter, and at 6 in the summer. In the summer works till it is dark, about half-past 8. In the winter, works till 8 or 9. In the winter has his breakfast before he comes; in the summer has half an hour. An hour is allowed for dinner; half an hour is allowed for tea. The meals are sometimes taken on the premises, sometimes at home. Works for a journeyman. Is paid by his master, and takes home the money to his mother. Gets 2d on Saturday night; his wages are 2s. Is a “putter-in,” that is, he puts together or arranges the different parts of the button for the journeyman.

No. 359.—John Built.
Is a button maker. About a month ago a little boy left, brother of the last witness, his age was not 6. He was removed because he was too little. These children have no father at home.

No. 360.—Samuel Page.
Is a button maker. Is married. In summer begins to work at 6 and works till dark; in winter from 7 till 9. Has worked at Mr. Hasluck’s upwards of 5 years. When there is any particular press of business or order, has to work extra time. Has sometimes worked as late as 11 or 12 at night, beginning at 6 in the morning. This might happen when trade was very brisk, once or twice a-week. It is necessary to have the boy to work at the same rate, he having to put together the several pieces of each button before it is stamped by the man. When the boys first come to the shop, where from the nature of the work there must be great heat, it is common for them to be sick and ill; has known a boy working with him to go out and be sick every 5 minutes, and sometimes they cannot be broke into it. Boys generally and in common work get tired and sleepy in the evening, about 8 or so; are inclined to drop asleep, so that they must be shook, or have a box on the head to keep them awake. As the workmen are required by the proprietor to make good any buttons which are imperfect from the wrong arrangement of. Their parts (7 in number), and as the boy has to put each part in its place, it often happens a mistake being made that the lad is corrected; has known a boy to be knocked down by an aggravated workman. When the boys get sleepy they do not notice the right side of the cloth, and so mistakes arise. Has never known a boy disabled through ill-treatment. Has often heard them say, before they were broke in, that they would rather go to the work-house.
Knows that sometimes these children get no breakfast and have nothing till dinner time. If the men did not sometimes help them by giving them part of their own dinners, they would have scarcely anything to eat. Today the boy who works with witness did not bring more than an ounce of dry bread for his tea; and believes that this system is the same in every manufactory in the general way of trade. Is confident that not one-half of them “have their fill.” When the boys go home at night, and this applies in a general way, they only get a little to stay their stomach, and in the morning they get a crust of bread; some of the masters give them a little tea or coffee. As to clothing, the greater part of these children are very badly off and complain of the cold, so that in the winter the boys may be half an hour before they can get to work being numbed with cold.
In consequence of the badness of trade and lowness of wages the children have to help very much in supporting their parents. There is more demand for the labour of children and young people than for that of adults, “half as much again.” When the children grow up there is a great difficulty of finding work. Those mechanics who can earn good wages keep their children creditably, properly clothed, send them to a day school, and keep them as they ought to be.
The people at this manufactory have often to wait at the privies. Thinks it is an injurious thing that young women should be stared at on these occasions, and that if practicable, it would be desirable to alter this system.
In consequence of the females going so early to the manufactories they have no time to learn anything of making their own clothes or those of their brothers or husbands. If the body-linen gets out of order, it must either be sent out to be mended at an expense, or left as it is. It would be a great advantage to the family if the wife knew how to cut out, make and repair the linen. In this town there are often a number of women who are unemployed, and who would thus have time, if they knew how, to repair and make the garments of the family. Generally the wives of the mechanics do not know how to make the best of the food or meat which they buy, so that some of them do not make more of a shilling than others by good management of a sixpence. Thinks it would be very beneficial and a “fine thing” for the comfort and happiness of the family if girls, when at school, could be taught the proper management of all common household matters, and that such information would tend to improve the character of the mechanic's wife and greatly to promote domestic happiness. Has often known quarrels between men and their wives in consequence of the food being ill cooked; has known the husband on such occasions to throw the meat out into the street.

No. 361 —Sarah Mason
Is a widow. Has worked at this place about 13 years. There is no restriction as to the men and women going into each other’s shops; this is not allowed by the proprietor, but it can’t be prevented, as the toolmakers have to set the tools for the women and children. It is impossible for the women to set or fix the tools, as many of them are very heavy. The premises are so small that the privies are obliged to be in common to the sexes. It often happens that the women has to wait. Many young girls are employed here, and fewer boys.


This is a well-ordered and conducted manufactory. The premises large, spacious, and generally airy. Some of the newer parts are fine rooms, particularly well lighted and ventilated. In some shops there are special ventilators. The privies are quite separate.
Very creditable attention is paid by Mr. Elliott to the good conduct of the work-people.

No. 362.—Mr. William Elliott.
Is proprietor of one of the largest manufactories of buttons in the town. Employs, when trade is tolerably good, in the manufactory and out of it, about 500 people.
Has paid considerable attention to the habits and condition of mechanics. Has found that consideration and attention to the welfare and happiness of the workpeople on the part of the employer have produced the best results. Decidedly thinks the people are quite conscious of such attention, and grateful for it. Thinks that the circumstances of manufacturers with-drawing children from parental care and bringing them together in numbers imposes the moral duty of superintending carefully their conduct, and of preventing contaminating examples. On this principle witness's manufactory is conducted. Would not admit any new comer from a manufactory where the conduct of the mechanics was known to be bad. Has rejected many applications on this ground. Thinks that next to a sound, moral, and religious education, such a plan of scrutiny, if universally adopted, would materially lessen, and in many instances obviate the moral evils of the manufacturing system. The superintendence of witness is not restricted to the conduct of the workpeople whilst actually engaged on the premises, but extends to their private character. Has had occasion to dismiss some for immoral conduct out of the manufactory, and this rule is known to those employed. If any unmarried female becomes pregnant, she is immediately dismissed.
Thinks it is the duty of the employer, where men, woman and children work together, that there should be separate and distinct privies.
Is of the opinion there are certain branches of trade in Birmingham, in which children under 9, might be safely employed as to health. In many of these trades there are branches where the work is very light, requiring but little bodily exertion. The reason for this opinion is, that if the children were excluded from the manufactories, they would be neglected by their parents, and not sent to school, and left to stroll about the streets. But abstractedly speaking, is decidedly of opinion that children under 9 years should not be permitted to labour. In the event of any legislative restriction on this point it would be imperatively necessary that attendance at school should be enforced, or the most dangerous consequences would result.
[Note —Mr Elliott presented some beautiful specimens of his manufactures.]

No. 363 January 6, 1841 —Mr James Gardiner
Has been foreman to Mr. Elliott 19 years. There are employed at this time 39 adult males, 78 adult females; 5 males and 81 females between 13 and 21 years; 10 males and 40 females under 13 years. This is about the average proportion of men, women, boys, and girls employed in gilt, plated, silk, and florentine button manufacturing. In this branch of button making the work for the children is very light and does not at all fatigue them. Thinks it is much better that young children, having due regard to the hours they work, should be employed than left at home; because they would be locked out of the house by the parents when they go out to work, it being the common custom for the mother and father to go to the manufactories. When the children have been left at home and in the house, many instances of burning have occurred; has known several cases of this within the last 4 years happening to the children of people employed at this manufactory. Thinks that children younger than 9 might be employed for limited hours at “putting in” without any injurious results to their health.
Great benefits have resulted from the establishment of a sick-club here; last year 83£. 16s. 20d. were paid to the sick members, and at the last day of the year a dividend of 6½d. in the shilling was paid to the contributors. Is of opinion that the greatest good would be produced if such clubs were universally established in manufactories. One good of this club is that it provides a fund sufficient to maintain the workpeople at Christmas, during the week which is the time occupied here in taking stock The circumstance of the manufactories being closed “to take stock” at Christmas must cause great distress, unless such a provision is made as the above to meet it, or, which very rarely happens, the mechanics themselves are sufficiently provident to lay up a part of their wages.
It is common for the mechanics “to feast away from Saturday till Tuesday or Wednesday,” and in the rest of the week they may live on bread and cheese.
Thinks that a good intellectual, moral, and religious education would be the most efficient means of making the work people more provident, “and also to create kindly feelings between them.”

No. 364. January 6, 1841.—Betsey Toe, 7 years old.
Cannot read. Has been at work “putting in” about 2 or 3 months. Earns 1s. 6d. a-week. Comes to work at half-past 8 A. M. and leaves at half-past 8 P.M. Has 1 hour for dinner. Has half an hour tea. Does not get tired at night. Lives rather less than half a mile from the manufactory.

No. 365.—Amelia Delany, will be 6 years in a month.
Reads a little; never went to school. Goes to chapel every Sunday. Has worked at “putting in” 12 months. Earns 1s. 6d. a-week. Does not get tired; it is easy work. Sometimes gets a box on the ear; not often; it she was hurt she should complain to Mr. Wittingham. Has never had occasion to complain.
(Signed) AMELIA DELANY X her mark.

[Evidence at the Town Hall.]
No. 366 January 4, 1841.—Samuel Guest, Pope Street
Is a tool-maker or die-sinker in Mr. Elliott’s button manufactory. The tool-makers have free access to all parts of the manufactory. In this manufactory the hours are from half-past 8 till half-past 7 P.M., and in the Summer from 8 A.M. till 7 P.M.; an hour being allowed for dinner, and a quarter of an hour for tea. These hours are very rarely exceeded; on these occasions the work goes on till 9 P.M.; scarcely ever later than this.
Children generally begin to work at. 8 or 9 years; very few, if any, earlier. Out of 23 children under 13 years 17 attended Sunday schools, 5 did not attend any school, and 1 attended an evening school. Is afraid that a great many parents are perfectly indifferent to the education of their children. Those among the mechanics who are themselves instructed are decidedly anxious that their children should be also. Thinks if it were rendered compulsory that children employed in manufactories should attend school during some part of the day the best results would be obtained. Is convinced that there is a strong desire among the manufacturers of the town to educate the children of mechanics.
Thinks that the morals of the women employed in manufactories are on the whole equal, if not superior to those of the agricultural population, among whom witness lived in the earlier part of his life.
The health of children employed in manufactories in this town is as good as that of other children; as an instance of this would mention that in a sick club which among others about 23 children contribute, not one child has died since its establishment, now 4 years. Thinks that the town generally is healthy. Out of 239 members of the sick club of this manufactory only 1 has died during the last year.
The influence of the employer is very great as regards the happiness and welfare of the mechanics employed, especially of the children who are withdrawn from their natural protectors. There is a marked difference in the appearance and welfare of the children who are employed and paid by the proprietor and those who work for the adults. Thinks that the welfare of the children would be greatly promoted if all were paid directly by the master. Those who are employed by the adults whom they assist are often hurried and overworked; and thinks they are, of all parts of the manufacturing community, the worst treated. They are often hurried whilst at work, in order that they may go on errands, sometimes a considerable distance, for the workmen; so that they, in fact, are the only mechanics who do not obtain any benefit by hard work. The lower the mechanic whom the child assists the worse is its lot; this is a general fact.
Thinks there is a moral duty to be performed by proprietors in protecting the children whom they withdraw from their natural guardians, and is happy to believe that the principal manufacturers of this town act upon this conviction. Is of opinion there is a great want of a general system of superintendence and regulation respecting the protection of children which should bear equally upon all parties; because beyond the individual suffering of the children, the least scrupulous among the employers reap the advantage of the consideration and humanity of the better disposed. In this manufactory the shops are well ventilated and lighted. The yard is large and open, and there is every convenience for the people. The privies are kept separate for the sexes and general decency attended to.


The shops in general are light and airy; one for 6 workpeople is 18 ft. 9 in. by 9 ft., having one row of windows and a pitched roof. Another, which is considered as the worst on the premises, is for 27 people, 17 of whom are children and 10 women; this shop is 24 ft. 5 in. by 13 ft.; it is high and has a double row of windows. The clerk stated that this was very hot at night. A “cutting-out” shop, for women only, is dark and low; it is for 8 persons, and is 12 ft. by 11 ft. 7 in., and is 7 ft. 3 in. high. The japanning shop has an unpleasant smell, and is hot from the stoves it contains. I saw a boy 10 years’ old at work who was pale and looked sickly.
There are 3 privies placed in different yards; which are, however, used in common, although, by proper regulations, they might easily be kept distinct. The yards are large, and the premises are altogether open and spacious. Being holiday time the people were not at work.
Every facility was afforded by the proprietor.


This is a large establishment. Many of the windows have broken panes and as the people work directly opposite to them, they must be liable to catch cold. Some of the shops are very hot. The privies are used in common by the males and females.

No 367 —Mr. Kemp
Is a partner in the firm. The business carried on consists of the manufacture of metal buttons, and hooks and eyes. The boys are principally employed in assisting the journey-men in “cobbing,” turning the wheel for the lathe and “drawing through.”
It would not interfere with their business if children under 9 years were not allowed to work. It would cause some inconvenience and loss if children between 9 and 13 were only allowed to work 8 hours a day. Such a restriction would principally affect the “cobbers,” and those “drawing through.” The cobbers receive less wages than any other class of workpeople, on an average about 1s. 6d. a-week. On the whole does not think such a limitation would cause much inconvenience. It would not be injurious if young persons under 18 were restricted to 12 hours’ labour, exclusive of meals. Night-work is not required.
(Signed) JOHN KEMP.

No. 368.—Betsey Woodroff, 9 years old.
Can read, cannot write. Has been 1 year at a Sunday-school; is taught to read and spell. There is an evening school twice a-week for writing and accounts; the girls are admitted to this at 12 years.
Has been 1 year at work as a “putter in.”
Comes at 8 A.M. and leaves at 7 P.M.; sometimes stops till 8, 9, and 9½ P.M. This is not often the case. Has 1 hour for dinner, and ¼ of an hour or more for tea.
Earns 1s. 6d. a-week. Works for the firm. Has good health.
(Signed) BETSEY WOODROFF X her mark.

No. 369.—Emma Reeves, 12 years old.
Can read an easy book; can’t write. “Jesus Christ was the Son of God.” Does not know who put Jesus Christ to death.
Went to work at 5, as a “putter in.” Works now at colouring; it is very hot work, over a stove.
Comes at 8 A.M., leaves at 7 or 8 P.M.; sometimes till 9; one night stopped till 11 P.M.
Has 1 hour for dinner, and ½ hour for tea.
Earns 3s. 6d., set wages, from 8 A.M. till 6 P.M.; is paid for over-work; likes overwork. Gives her wages to her mother; has a penny now and then for herself. Work agrees very well with her health.
(Signed) EMMA REEVES X her mark.
[Note.—This girl works with another over a hot stove; one suffers from the heat, the other does not at all.]

No. 370.—Mary Anne Tibbits, 12 years old.
Can read an easy book; can’t write. Has been 18 months at a Sunday-school. Is taught to read and spell. There is an evening school twice a-week, for writing and accounts; intends to go now her mother is better; the work won’t prevent her going. “A year is 12 months.” Does not know what “reason” means. “Jesus Christ was God.” He was nailed to the cross for men. Does not know by whom he was put to death.
Has been three years at lacquering.
Comes at 8 A.M., leaves at 7 P.M. Sometimes stops till 8 or 9½, never later.
Has 1¼ hour for meals.
Had 1 day at Christmas, Good Friday, ½ day at Easter, 1 day at Whitsuntide, and ½ day at each fair. Once a-year for 3 weeks they have no work, whilst stock is being taken.
Earns 3s. 3d., regular wages; is paid for overwork.
The shop is too hot for her; has the head ache; last year had the erysipelas, which they said was from the work. The other girls complain of head ache.
(Signed) MARY ANN TIBBITS X her mark.

No. 371.—William Chaplin, 13 years old.
Can read an easy book; writes a little.
Blacks hooks and eyes.
Earns 3s.; has no over-work. Works for Mr. Jeffson. Gets a box if he neglects his work. Four girls work in the same shop. Has good health; the work agrees with him.

No. 372.—Thomas Baldwin, 9 years old.
Can read well; can write a bit. Went three months to a day school; goes now to a Sunday-school. “Human means woman.” Does not know what future means.
Has worked at turning the wheel for a lathe 12 months.
Comes at 7 A.M., sometimes at 8; leaves off at 8 P.M., sometimes 9; has stopped till 10 P.M. on Saturday night. In the winter came at 8 A.M. and left at 4 or 6 P.M.
Has about 10 minutes or ¼ of an hour for breakfast, 1 hour for dinner, ½ hour for tea, or less, as the man pleases. Earns 2s. 3d. if he comes at 7 and leaves at 8 P.M.
It is not hard work; it makes his legs and arms ache. Stands at his work. Stops for a minute or two when the man sets the tools.
Has a good appetite, and sleeps well at night.
(Signed) THOMAS BALDWIN X his mark.
[Note.—This is a quick boy, but he does not seem to understand much of what he reads. He is very badly clothed.]


The premises are on two sides of a street. The bone button side is very confined; some of the shops are very small and dark, and close. There is a great quantity of dust in cutting out the buttons from the bone. A little girl was employed in shaking buttons; this causes a great deal of dust. The shaking is done by machinery.
Horn-button side. Premises larger and sufficiently spacious; shops very hot from stoves to heat the buttons for stamping, and for boiling horn. In the shop where young women punch out the horn buttons and prepare them for stamping, it is very hot; a large quantity of steam issues from the coppers, and from the buttons, so that the worker were exposed to dampness. No children in this workshop under 13.
In a shop for trimming buttons after being stamped, three children were at work. The shop is close and confined. One little boy, 7 years old, who has been here 2 months, is so small that he is obliged to stand on a stool to reach the lathe. Another little girl was similarly placed. A woman, with a stick by her side, keeps the children at work.

May 24.—

The shops are good, and sufficiently lofty. In those where the horn is boiled, there are means provided for carrying off the steam. The warehouse is a large room where a considerable number of girls are employed; it is well lighted, but as the windows do not open, and there is only one aperture in the ceiling or roof, it hot and close. The premises are whitewashed twice a-year. On the whole the shops, &c., are well regulated.

No 373.—Mr T.W. Ingram
Is principal of the establishment. Employs a considerable number of children and young persons, some of the females are employed in the warehouse in carding the buttons, &c.; others of the females, and all the boys, are engaged in the business, making horn buttons.
This is a manufacture which has long been carried on, certainly for a century; but of late years, from improvements in the dies, the buttons are much more perfect and beautiful, and consequently the demand has immensely increased. The American market consumes the large proportion of what he makes. [Witness presented some very beautiful specimens for the central board.]
If children under 9 were not allowed to work, it would not interfere with his business. He does not like to have children so young, and thinks they ought not to be allowed to labour.
As regards children between 9 and 13, the mode in which his manufactory is carried on would cause a great inconvenience if they were limited to 8 hours a day. It is the custom here, and very generally in all trades in Birmingham, for the people to work 12 hours a day, out of which 2 are deducted for meals, so that they are actually engaged 10 hours. In his business the men require the continuous assistance of the boys (most of whom are under 13,) and could not work without them. Each man has usually 3 boys, who are employed in placing the buttons in the dies, arranging the dies, taking out the buttons after they have been pressed by the adult, &c. Some of the younger girls are similarly employed, as regards the women. If children between 9 and 13 were limited to 8 hours, he must therefore either discharge all of that age, and take on elder hands, or the men must reduce their work to 8 hours; the nature of the business prevents any other arrangement. The wages of the children are already so very low, averaging 2s. a-week, that if two sets, each labouring 5 hours per diem, were to be employed, the remuneration would be so small that he thinks the parents could not keep them.
The processes in which the children are engaged are not unwholesome. Some of the shops are very hot, because the horn is in some required to be boiled and in others heated by the press; there is in some an unpleasant smell, but the people do not think it is unwholesome.
Is very little subject to over-work, as he takes on extra hands whenever any particular orders require it.
The children are not employed where the machinery is at work; no accidents have occurred within the last three years; is very careful in having the machinery fenced off.
With one exception, which the business renders necessary, the males and females work in separate shops; has always been anxious to prevent or limit intercourse in this respect.
The privies are separate, for the girls in the warehouse there is a distinct water closet. Thinks that if the privies in a large manufactory were used promiscuously, that it would tend to destroy proper and decent feelings.
His experience of the habits and conduct of mechanics, induces him to express his decided opinion in favour of their being educated. Thinks it would be a great advantage, in a national point of view, if the children of the labouring classes received a sound intellectual, moral and religious education. An efficient school of design would be of great service in this town; his own business requires varied and tasteful designs.
(Signed) T.W. INGRAM

No 374 —William Hall, 10 years old.
Can read an easy book, can’t write. Went to a national school 12 months, and to a Sunday school 3 months. Does not go now, because his father won’t let him. Used to read the Testament, but has forgotten it; does not try. Can't say the Lord’s Prayer; does not say his prayers; does not go to church or chapel; neither his father nor mother tell him to say his prayers.
Comes at 6½ A.M., and 1eaves at 7 P.M., never later. Comes half an hour before the men to light the fire, &c.
Has ½ hour for breakfast, 1 hour for dinner, and ½ hour for tea. Has all his meals at home.
“Has had many a crack on the head from the fly,” [that is the lever used by the men in working the press]; has a black eye from it.
Had a fortnight at Christmas, 2 days at Easter.
Works for ____ {sic} Routledge; is paid by him. Earns 1s. 6d. a week, set wages.
Gets a rap now and then; has never known any lad seriously beaten. Has good health; it is easy work; is not tired at night.
(Signed) WILLIAM HOLL {sic} XX his mark.
[Note.—The mode in which the lever of the press is used in the horn-button manufacturing appears very dangerous, and liable to cause accidents to the boys.]


No. 377. January 5, 1841.—A.B.
Small masters in this branch employ a considerable number of children at a very early age, “as soon as they are anyway tall enough to reach the lathe.” The hours of work are irregular; when trade is brisk the children are kept later, not beyond 8 or 9 P.M. Thinks they are seldom kept so late. Where her husband works, the children are sent home earlier than the men. Boys and girls are both sent to pearl button-making. It is all standing work. It is very fatiguing for grown-up people, as well as children. The foot is required to turn the “treadle,” at the time the hands are employed. At some places the children are knocked about and severely used. It is considered to be a very unhealthy trade. Thinks the children are stunted in their growth and neglected in their education.
[Note.—This account was given me by a very decent woman, the wife of a mechanic, who is a pearl button-maker. Her house is neat and tidy; there are 4 small rooms; the family consists of the father, mother, and one daughter, grown up. The father earns, at good work, 18s., but the prices are very much reduced, which is attributed to the work of men being done by women. The trade has been very bad for twelve months. The mother can read a little, the daughter was taught to read and write; went to a day-school till 8 years, and to a Sunday-school till 12. Neither the mother nor daughter go out to work; the father thinking “it must be a poor house that will not employ a woman.” This house is well furnished, and has altogether a comfortable appearance. There are sufficient kitchen utensils, candle-sticks, and spoons; a metal soup ladle was on the table for dinner which consisted of meat, potatoes, and bread. A clock in the adjoining room. The house is situated in a court, but this is large and spacious, being towards the outskirts of the town. The rent is 3s. 6d.]

No 378. May 27.—Mr William Tonks.
Employs 2 boys under 13, and 3 under 18, and 1 girl under 13. They all work in the business. The regular time is 10 hours, exclusive of meals, for which two hours or more are allowed. If trade is brisk, they go on till 8 or 8½ P.M.; this hour is rarely exceeded here. In some shops they work later, till 9 or 9½, beginning at 6 or 7 A.M. The children and young persons stop on these occasions; they cannot do without them.
Children in this branch generally begin at 8 or 9 years old. The work is light, but it is not considered healthy. It has not hurt him, but has known several who were not accustomed to it, who have died from it, The dust causes sickness and cough.
Thinks, by all means, that children, instead of coming to work so young, should have an opportunity of going to school.

No. 379.—William Tonks, 14 years old.
Can read a little, can’t write.
Has been in the business 5 years. The work agrees with him; it does not make him sick or cough. Has good health.
(Signed) WILLIAM TONKS X his mark

No. 380.—Edward Tonks, 10 years old.
Can read a little, can’t write.
Has been in the business 3 years. It agrees with him. Has good health; has no cough nor sickness.
(Signed) EDWARD TONKS X his mark

No. 381.—December 3, 1840. A. B.
From the nature of his employment has free and unconstrained access to one of the largest manufactories of the town, where upwards of 200 mechanics are employed; also knows several of the smaller manufactories where from 10 to 18 or 20 persons are employed. Thinks that the workpeople are in all respects, physical and moral, more favourably placed in the smaller than in the larger manufactories. In the large manufactory above alluded to, the workpeople are very much crowded together; in fact, when they are all present, there is hardly room to walk. It is the same in several other florentine button and steel pen manufactories. The men and womens’ shops are close together, and overlook each other. In the above manufactory, with 200 mechanics, there are only two privies, which were designed for the separate use of the men and women, but the fact is that they are promiscuously used by both sexes. Both these privies are in sight of three of the shops where men work. Has often seen, in consequence of the number of people, young girls and women, as many as half a dozen, waiting at the privies till the men came out. On these occasions it often happens that jesting takes place between the parties. A great many young girls, and also boys, belong to this manufactory. Has heard from workmen that the privies are used in common at other large manufactories.
Has seen improper proceedings between the men who set the tools and the women into whose shops they go, and this before the little girls belonging to the shop. The proprietor selects the tool-makers from the married men, but this does not prevent the evil alluded to.
Thinks that one principal cause of the promiscuous intercourse among the sexes depends on the crowded state of the buildings; and that if the shops covered a larger space of ground, there is nothing in the manufacturing process itself, speaking of the florentine button trade, which would interfere with the complete separation of men and women.

[Note.—This evidence was guaranteed by a trustworthy police constable, to whom the witness was known.]

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About us

This web site has been created by Lesley Close as an on-line museum displaying some of the buttons and other artifacts manufactured by Hammond Turner & Sons (and related companies), button makers of Birmingham (and Manchester), England.

Lesley's interest in buttons started when she saw the words 'button maker' in the 'father's occupation' column of her maternal great grandmother's marriage certificate. After rather too many 'ag labs', vicars and sailors, here was a wonderful change of occupation. She thought she might find a picture of a button: instead, she found a picture of the one-time owner of the business and over 200 different buttons made by the company.

What we don't do

The button-making company Hammond Turner no longer exists - we do not make buttons!