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

1864 Inspections - All Pages

1864 Inspections - Mr William Aston, Button Manufacturer

1864 Inspections - Messrs Dain, Watts and Manton, Button Manufacturers

1864 Inspections - Messrs Smith & Wright, Button Manufacturers

1864 Inspections - Messrs J & T Chatwin, Button Manufacturers

1864 Inspections - Messrs Iliffe and Player, Button Manufacturers

1864 Inspections - Mr Cope, Button Manufacturer

1864 Inspections - Mr Lepper, Button Manufacturer

1864 Inspections - Messrs Thomas Bullock and Sons, Button Manufacturers

1864 Inspections - Mrs Rowley, Peal Button Manufacturer

1864 Inspections - J Watson, Pearl Button Maker

1864 Inspections - William Lane, Pearl Button Maker

1864 Inspections - Messrs Layton, Japan Button Manufacturer

1864 Inspections - Mr Darlaston, Japan Button Manufacturer

1864 Inspections - Mr Matthews, Glass Button Manufacturer


Employment of Children in the Button Trade

Other inspections - 1864

The 1864 reports refer to button manufactories in Birmingham owned by various people: Mr William Aston (Princip Street), Messrs Dain, Watts and Manton (Regent Street), Messrs Smith and Wright (Brearley Street West), Messrs J&T Chatwin (Great Charles Street), Messrs Iliffe and Player(Newhall Street), Mr J Cope (Cottage Lane), Mr E Lepper (Aston Road), Messrs Thomas Bullock (Cliveland Street), Mrs S Rowley (Clement Street), J Watson (St George's Street), William Lane (New Summer Street), Messrs G Layton (Little Charles Street), Mr S Darlaston (Branston Street), Mr J Matthews (New John Street)

The reports of which these are transcriptions were purchased from an excellent historical documents website, www.lightage.demon.co.uk, which no longer exists.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 you know where similar material can now be sourced, please let me know using 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.

MR WILLIAM ASTON'S, BUTTON MANUFACTURER, PRINCIP STREET.

265. Of several hundred persons employed in this manufactory about 60 only are men; 300 women, 100 girls of from 7 to 13, 200 more under 18, and the remainder boys and youths. From the nature of the buildings the workrooms are unavoidably much overcrowded; but those most so, being at the top, have the advantage of being open to the roof, and thus being enabled to be somewhat higher and have sky-lights; which however, were not open at the time of my visit (in June). In button manufactories generally much of the work is done by women, sitting as close together as they can on one side of a workbench to work the presses; and children, in rows facing, them on the other side, who help them by “putting in” buttons under the press for them, &c. These benches are generally quite narrow for convenience of working. Some here are only 18 inches wide, and so close together that the children's backs touch, being divided only by a board a few inches high, which serves as a back for each seat. In such and like cases the only means by which the children can reach their seats is by creeping under the benches from the end or between the women’s dresses. It is obvious that under such circumstances the amount of cubical space per head must be improperly small, especially considering the obstacles to window ventilation (B. 17). In some rooms the air was noticeably foul and close, though on a cool wet day; in one, occupied however only by women, extremely so; and in another, strong with the smell of cookery, apparently of red herrings. Dinner, as well as tea is taken by large numbers some of these rooms.
266. The rooms generally are heated by steam pipes (as to the effects of which vide Nottingham Lace-finishing Evidence); and much gas is needed. At some of the press benches there is a gaslight to each pair of workers, and this is placed beneath and in front of the child's face at the distance of about a foot.
267. Many of the girls are ragged, and apparently ill fed, and 13 young boys employed in a mere dark out-house or hovel in cracking vegetable ivory nuts appeared especially rough and neglected.
268. There is a considerable amount of machinery, but little within reach in the parts in which most of the children work, and serious accidents are very rare. A girl, however, of 10 years old, who as I was informed elsewhere was caught in a band here, was admitted to the General hospital about the time of my visit to this factory, and was reported on there to me as “having a contusion of the abdomen, and discharged well in six days, the injuries not being severe;” and a recent serious accident to an adult female has led to the fencing of shafts in a room in which she did not work. It is not uncommon in factories generally for persons to be at times in other places besides their own workrooms for errands, meals, &c. The slight injuries, however, to fingers, nails &c., incident to press work, are common here as elsewhere. The noise and vibration caused by the presses, &c. is considerable; and in one room full of young girls is increased by bands, &c., not connected with their work.
269. The general ignorance was great. Of 80 girls between the ages of 7 and 16,—the majority being of from 9 to 11 or 12, whom I questioned in succession, taking the workers by rows and omitting none but the apparent adults, and exclusive of those in whose names statements are given,— one girl of 7 years old, one of 8, nine of 9, 13 of 10, eight of 11, three of 12, two of 13, seven of 14, and one of 15, and seven more between the ages of 8 and 10, and six between the ages of 10 and 13, when asked by me if they could read , said “No.” Of 11 of the 80 who said either “yes,” or that they could read “a little, not much,” “read, but not spell,” “spell a little,” “read a bit,” &c., none could do more than spell short words in a child's book, some not so much, not all knowing all the letters. Of the remaining 11, those whom I set on in a child's book could read easy words with more or less difficulty, and one of the 15 said that she could read anything. Thus, of the whole number, 72.5%admitted themselves unable to read, 13.75 practically were so, 12.5 could read a little, and the remaining 1.25, i.e. one girl, appeared plainly competent. The only one of the readers whom I thought it of any use to ask if she could write said “No.”
270. Of the 13 nut-cracking boys referred to above, two were 13 years old, the others from that age down to 9. I examined them as a class in school, one or two however being occasionally absent and returning, and found that only one or two, or sometimes a third, could answer the simplest questions. None of them knew the Queen's name. Only two knew of London, one because his father was killed there; the other had a brother there and knew that it was a big place. Two had never been at any school, four do not ever go to Sunday school, five only had ever been to a week-day school, one of those for as much as 2½ years, the others only for from four to six months. A few between them named Ireland, Russia and America as other countries. One, aged 10, who stood forward as able to read, could read a little, and one or two others said that they could. Some of the bigger boys laughed at the idea of being supposed to know anything, and the general knowledge of elementary religious matters was almost nil; nine had never hear of the Bible or knew anything that was in it.
271. It is proper to add that school teaching was tried for a short time, but found not to be appreciated and was given up.
 

272. Mr. Wm. Aston.—My manufactory employs between 800 and 900 persons, principally females. About a third of these, including all the youngest, are employed not by me but by the adults whom they assist, the boys by men, the girls by women. I never myself engage persons unless they bring a good character from a former place of work, or are promoted from the lower parts of the work as being promising and well behaved. It is very important to require a character, and the plan of gradually promoting the best hands gives control over all, and works very beneficially. When parents think that their children can earn more, they come and press to have them promoted. The button manufacture employs, I should say, more young girls than any other trade in the town, There are five or six button manufactories of importance, and several smaller. In addition to these there several garret manufactories, employing perhaps on the average about half a dozen persons, or sometimes only their own families. In these cases the work is done either in their own garrets and bedrooms, &c., or in small shops attached, The body of those so employed would be girls. In these places there can be no regularity of work, on account of the smallness and uncertainty of the businesses. The different kinds of buttons are so numerous that they cannot be classified; but the pearl and glass buttons form entirely distinct branches from the general manufacture.
I wish that no manufacturer of any kind could employ children under 16 years of age; but so long as some do so all must, or be undersold. The work now done by young children, of whom I have such a large number, would then be done by the elder persons themselves. The latter would thus produce less, and the cost of the articles would have to be raised a trifle. But this would make no difference at all to the trade if all manufacturers were in the same position.
I also wish that the work could begin earlier in the day than the present hour, 8½, which makes it 9 before the people are set down fairly at work. An hour in the morning is worth two at night; but I must conform to the general hours. If some members of a family had to go to work earlier than others it would involve two breakfasts at home, which would not be put up with if it could be avoided. The hour for leaving off is 7 p.m., and all are paid and gone quite by 4 on Saturdays. It is only seldom, when there is a great deal of work to be done, that these hours are exceeded for an hour or two. To stop at 2 on Saturday would make but little difference, as preparations would be made accordingly.
The hands in the warehouse, &c., are of a higher and more intelligent class than those in the factory and have some education, as they must be able to read, write, and count. Their work is principally looking over, picking out waste, sewing buttons on cards, wrapping up, &c. But few young girls are employed in this. The majority are as much as 18 or 20. Some of the boys in factory are very rough; and I wonder that the men show so little care in improving them, as it would be for their own benefit. If the homes of rough and neglected children were traced out, it would not doubt be found that the fault arose from the parents being worthless or given to drink. Accidents from machinery are very rare; perhaps not one in three years. One happened lately from a girl going into a room in which she did not work and reaching over for something, when her dress was caught in a shaft. Since then I have had screens put to these shafts. She was taken to to hospital and much shaken, but no limbs or bones were injured, and she soon recovered, but now is put to work quite away from the sight of machinery.

273. William Nicholson, age 7.—Shove buckles up. Was at week-day school two months, but mother would not let me go any longer. She paid 2d. a week. Don't know the letters. Have been at Sunday school and church. Don't remember the words I heard there now, but they told us about good and bad people. Christ was a wicked man. He said the people wouldn't believe in him, and He died. Don't know how or if he is alive now. Preacher didn't say.

274. Matthew Collier, age 8.—Here six months. Cob. Hours are from 8½ till 7. Sometimes come at 7½ or 7 in the morning, and stay till 8 at night, but not later. Home for an hour for dinner.
Don't know all the letters. God lives in heaven. Have not heard of Christ or Jesus as I can remember, or of a Christian. Have heard a many things as I can’t remember. Don't know if I’m a Christian. [A boy near says, “Mother told me I was.”] When people die they go to heaven; not all, but most on ‘em does. T‘others go to the naughty man; some on ‘em as is very wicked. Mother told me of the naughty man. God made the world. At the flood there was a good deal of rain, and it lightened and thundered; and the walls fell down the Monday arter {sic} the flood was. There wasn’t many drowned.

275. Joseph Perry, age 8.—Cob and sort work. Know some of the letters. Was at school a good while, and go on Sunday now.

276. William Ridding, age 8.—Cob. Can read. [Reads “must not tease, &c.”] Don’t know what it means. “Sick” is when you throw up.

277. Alfred Harris, age 11.—Don’t know my letters. Was at the day-school for two weeks, but sister came for me to go to work. Was never at Sunday school. Get 1s. 3d. a week. Tea in here at 4½.

278. Horatio Todd, age 11.—Cob. Am paid by the man I work for, 1s. 2d. a week. Here a year. Don’t know “B.” Have left Sunday school. Father does not tell me to go.

279. William Bramhill, stamper.—The boy [last witness] cobs for me; but if I want to work late I can do without keeping him, as he has plenty of time to get beforehand with his work.

280. Alfred Luckman, age under 13.—Our hours are from 8½ a.m. to 7 p.m. Sometimes we work from 7½ till 9, never longer than that, but most nights till 8; till 9 about once a week. The two biggest get 3s. 6d. a week, the little ones 2s. 6d. Are paid by the hundred. So many are set for the day. The rest is overtime. Are paid 2d. or 3d. for ten hundred, according to the size. Some on us bring our dinner here.

281. Samuel Todd, age 12.—Went to night-school for two months, but left because we had to work late. School was at 7½ but we all had to work till 8½ for three months.

282. John Banks, age 11.—Have been to night school for the last month because mother died, and my aunt, with whom I live, now sends me and pays 2d. a week.

283. Thomas Green, age 11.—Went to Sunday school for three weeks but mother would not let me go any longer. She did not say why.

[The last four boys all crack nuts.]

284. Mrs. Huffs.—Overseer in a press shop. There are about 58 presses in it, and a woman and a girl work opposite to one another at each, but they are not all full now. Each press has a gaslight close down to it. The girls come from 7 and 8 years old upwards; some of them get to work presses themselves by 10 at simple jobs. They go away to dinner or stay in here as they choose. There are steam pipes around this and other shops to warm them. The heat in winter when the gas is burning is about the same as in summer; not too warm.

285. Maria Page.—Press woman in the same shop. We open the windows in the morning; feel ready to faint if we don't; it is so very close with so many breaths. When the gas is lighted it is very hot, and we let the skylight up to let it off. Some are subject to headache. The woman next to me is very, and I am. Two of the four little girls just opposite me have the sick headache.

[This woman sits facing a window, with only the bench between. The two girls next named sit with their backs close against sash windows, which are open, it being June, as do two other little girls beside them. The two girls named after the next two work in like positions in another part of the same shop.]

286. Susan Stokes, age 9.—Here 2 years. Have sore throats and sick headaches.

287. Sarah Ebb, age 9.—Have sick headaches.

288. Betsey Walls, age 10.—Have the flannel round my neck because I have had lumps; they were very large, and my throat was sore inside. Have been at the Children’s Hospital for 2 months, and they are gone down nicely now. Have bad boots that let the wet in.

289. Susan Russell, age 12—Wear the flannel round my throat because it is sore. It often is.

290. Emma Millington.—Press woman in another shop. Have worked a press 11 years, and began at 10 years old. Have not the headache; the little ones have before they are used to the work. It is very hot in summer, and in winter when the gas is lit. It does not smell much unless it escapes. The little girls get their fingers squeezed in the press if they look away from their work.

291. Bridget Conroy, age 7.—Put in. Here 8 months. Have the headache many a time here. Was at week day school 3 months.

292. Jane Randall, age 10.—Put in. Here a year. Minded mother’s house before. I have lost the top half of my thumb nail; was putting the button in the die, and the girl didn’t know as my thumb was under the press.
 
Go to Sunday school, but never was at any other. “Can read, but can’t spell it,” i.e. read the letters. [Picture of children kneeling shown.] They are saying prayers. I only know “Our Father,” and say that at night when I go to bed. Mother learned me.

293. Emma Anson, age 7.—Put in. Don’t know the letters.

294. Harriett Rickett, age 7.—Put in. Was never in school except on Sunday. Don't know “A.”

295. Emma Robinson, age 8 years 10 months.—Put in. Here 18 months. Never at school on a week-day, but go on a Sunday. [When asked to read cries.] That picture [bird] is “bird.”

296. Mary Conroy, age 12.—Put in. Get 1s. 6d. a week. Can spell. “Made” is “men.” Ain't been to Sunday school this three weeks. Mother wants me to mind the house. She goes out somewhere.

297 Mary Cox.—Overseer in a press shop. Here 30 years. There are 48 presses in this shop, many of them having a girl as putter in. The women can't do without the girls. Have had as many as 70 women and girls in this room before a small corner was taken off and since then as many as 60, but it is not so full now. The girls come at about 9 years old, but are not so nimble as if they come at 7, but that is against the master's rule.

298. Amelia Rogers.—Overseer in a press shop, in which 29 women and older girls work in pairs with 29 girls, who put the buttons into the die. The putters in are mostly between the ages of 9 and 13. After that age they will have a girl under themselves at a press, or go into other branches. They come to work at 8½ a.m., sometimes at 8, and leave at 7 p.m., but sometimes stay later, as till 8; but very rarely till 8½ or 9. If the women stay the girls must, as the women cannot get on without them. The work obliges the children to keep brisk, and keeps them from going to sleep.
Three parts out of four of them take their meals in this room, and are in it from morning till night. Dinner is from 1 to 2.20, and tea from 4½ till 5. They take their full time or work as they please. They would rather work their dinner hour than have to stay extra time at night.
There is no place to wash in, —not exactly convenient. I don't addict myself to it, so they are not allowed.

[A girl whom I examined at another place (b.202) stated that she had stayed at this (Aston's) manufactory till 9½ p.m.]

299. Emma Green.—I see to the children in the “forming” room, i.e., where the buttons are formed by machines or presses worked by a treadle. The girls are generally between 12 and 15 years old, but some are grown up. There are 46 presses, but they are never all full, not more than 30 or 35. The girls never stay in the work-room at dinner time. I lock the door. Half an hour is allowed at tea; they please themselves whether they work or no then. At the beginning of the week they generally go and play, and at the end stay and work. All work by the piece, and get from 2s. 6d. a week upwards. About 3s. or 4s. is the average. They learn the work in 3 weeks or so. Sometimes they stay till 8½, seldom till 9; half-a-dozen times in the year is quite as much as they do. Do not know whether they can read. They are a pretty lot, considering.
They generally catch their fingers in the press when they first come, because they are awkward; it is when they look off work. They are seldom away ill. Generally open the windows in the day, if warm, and in the winter at night. In every room there is someone to see over the girls.

300 Elizabeth Hope, age 13.—Work in a forming press. Have pinched my thumb three times since I began, i.e. 12 months, and twice left work three or four days for it. Was minding my work. The press tired my leg at first, but did not hurt me.

301. Esther Crowder, age 13.—I and my sister Amelia, 10 years old, who works beside me, have both been at week-day and Sunday school for two years. I can tell my letters and spell the little words; she can't tell any letters at all. I go straight from here to school three nights a week, and pay 2d. She doesn't go because teacher cannot understand her. [She pronounces very imperfectly.]
She came here just before she was 10, and has pinched her thumb two or three times [marks shown].

302. Ann Crompton, age 13.—At a press towards three years, and put in two years before. Have pinched myself once or twice in a month, and have a black nail now [shows]. Have lost a nail once before.
Know some of my letters. Have been at the chapel in the morning, and heard about God being a good man. He makes us everything to eat. The Lord told Adam and Eve not to eat one tree, and they done it, so he turned 'em out of the gate. Don't know if he punished them anyhow else. Christ was a good man.

303. Mary Ann Bartly, age 9.—Put in for a woman. Dine at home Mondays and Tuesdays, and other days in the shop, and fetch mistress's dinner. Very nearly all on 'em stays. Shove the buttons down in the die under the press. The little girl next to me has pinched her finger.

304. Sarah Hooper, age 15.—At a press in another shop. Sometimes stay till 8 or 9 p.m., but not often. Some stay to meals. Am not strong in health. We doesn't have sufficient to eat as we ought. Mother is a cripple with children, and father is dead. Get 3s. a week.
Was at school when father was living, five years ago. Cannot spell.

305. Mary Ann Collins, age 15.—Cannot read. Was at week-day school when going on 12, and did go on Sunday.

306. Ann Maria Thomas, age 13.—“Black stick,” i.e. stick pieces of steel into a round board covered with black sticky stuff. Always go away to dinner. Get 2s. 6s. a week. Put 2d. of it for my own schooling and put the rest in a bank. Have done so for a while. Father is a pork butcher. Am always well and don't have headaches. [Works close by a large fire.]
Was at a week-day school a year; Go on Sundays and three nights a week. If work is going on late I ask for leave to go. Can read [a little]. Cannot spell “cow” from sound. They are “those live things”. Can write a copy but not reckon up figures.



MESSRS. DAIN, WATTS, AND MANTON'S, BUTTON MANUFACTURER, REGENT STREET.

307. This is one of the principal button manufactories, and employs a large number of young children, the greater part of whom are girls who “put in” buttons, for which the women employ and pay one child each. The buildings share the character of so many of the old Birmingham factories which have grown by degrees, by the addition of fresh work-rooms, the original parts being over 100 years old. Many little girls sit with their backs right against the open side windows. In several places, however, ventilators creating and up and down current, the suggestion of one of the firm many years ago, have been placed in the ceiling in places, and much regard has been shown in several ways for the well-being of the work-people. A washing conduit is placed in each room. A night-school was established a few years back, and was well-attended for a time, although it has now fallen through. The great need of instruction shown by several of the girls when questioned by me led one of the principals to express an intention of reviving the school, and, in my hearing, to give directions for the purpose. There are also clubs for several purposes, and a committee of the work people also exercise a control over the conduct of the people in the various rooms.
308. Many of the children are very young indeed, three or four being only 6. The mother of one of these, however, a boy, said that she must have him to work as she saved the value of his labour, and also the expense of his being taken care of by someone else. In another case a girl of 6, i.e. “going 7”, birthday unknown, one of three sisters working here, had worked for a woman here eight or nine months. She was beautiful child, with bright innocent face, but looking lost and bewildered amongst so many workers. Her eldest sister, aged 12, had a sullen hardened look and manner; the middle sister seemed in the intermediate stage. So neglected, however, was their condition, both of body and mind, as shown by their dirty appearance and tattered dress, and the want of even Sunday school instruction, and melancholy ignorance of even the eldest sister, that one of the firm who saw me speaking to them was so struck and pained, that he directed the mother to be informed that they could not be received to work any more more unless she showed more care for them, at least in their outward appearance. The eldest makes 3s. 6d. or 3s. a week, the two younger girls 1s. each, and the father is in work as a mechanic. I have noticed this case as an illustration of the kind of care which many of the children whom I have seen in Birmingham plainly receive from their parents.

309. Mr. John S. Manton.—I have a very strong dislike indeed to any kind of interference by the Government or Parliament with the conduct of private affairs, including in these the employment of labour. It is absurd to think of making people good or wise by Act of Parliament, but there is a strong tendency at the present day in many minds to run in this foolish and mischievous direction. My dislike, however, to government interference is one which I have simply as a man and as a member of the state, not as a manufacturer; as such I have no objection whatever to a Factory Act, such as Oastler wished to introduce. I understand his plan and thoroughly approve of it, and if it could be made applicable in Birmingham I should indorse {sic} it at once. If, however, the Government thought fit to apply it here, some modifications might be required, as the labour of the adults in some cases depends so much upon that of the young.
My belief is that the misery of the working classes can be diminished only the general advancement of education. It is, however, certainly very difficult for the young to obtain the benefit of education under the present system of employment, and external help is probably needed. There are, already, a vast number of the best appliances for education in Birmingham in the shape of schools of all kinds, Sunday, day, and night, and other means, and these have done much good; but that they have not been able to reach a large amount of ignorance is unhappily plain.
Long experience has taught me not to be sanguine in looking for immediate results, but to be content if real improvement can be made, however slow and partial.
I do not think that working children on half-time by relays would be any real obstruction to the business; indeed, I think that such a plan would be better, as it would plainly be so for the children, and they are the most to be considered, as it is they who need protection. They would also probably work fresher. There would no doubt be a little inconvenience at first, but that would be got over.
From the extension of free trade however, and other causes, foreign competition has become so severe in our business, that any measures which deprived us of any now available labour would be a very serious thing, unless their effect also were, as it might perhaps be, to compensate the deficiency by an economy of labour in other ways, as by husbanding the health and strength of the workers.
We had an evening school on the premises for a couple of years, in which one of the men took a very active part; and it worked well for it time, but gradually fell away when, from press of business, I became unable to give it my personal supervision. The only remains of it now are a few women whom this man teaches in their dinner hour. I am speaking to him to use his influence to organize the school again. It is plain that instruction is needed. In addition, however, to the necessary difficulty of producing and maintaining it, other difficulties arise from the light in which the work people are apt to look upon it. If it is given free, many think that it is not for their benefit so much as for some other object of the givers, and that they confer rather a favour by taking it, and, at any rate, are jealous of being forced to it. I was obliged, in consequence, to put on a payment of 1d. I believe that I did mischief by telling some, by way of encouragement, that if they would learn to read and write they would become more valuable, and could, perhaps, be advanced to higher positions. They thought that they were they were being instructed for our benefit, not their own. I have known marked instances of such advancement as I refer to amongst the workpeople here to a greater or lesser degree; one that of a girl who came as a mere child to work, and being a steady good girl, with fair intelligence, rose gradually till she had charge of the book-keeping and business of a department embracing work of 80 persons, and she has since prosperously settled in life.

310. Lydia Brookes, age 12.—Do not go to Sunday school. Never was in a chapel or church, or heard any one preach or pray, and do not know what prayer means, or who it is said to. Do remember mother telling me “Our Father,” but do not remember any more than those words, or what they mean. Think I have heard of Jesus Christ, but do not know what a Christian is. Have a father and mother.

[This girl has two younger sisters at work here, both of whom I saw, but thought it needless to question.]

311. Rosina Marston, age 17.—Cannot read much [only words of one syllable very imperfectly]. Have not heard of France; have of the Queen, but only know that it is the Queen, not what her name is, or what she does for the country. [After much leading, and very doubtingly, says,] Think she sees to us. Have been at Sunday school for eight years, at night school for six months, and at week-day school, but only 6 years old.

312. Emma Clarke, age about 10 or 11 ?—Don’t know how old I am. Don’t know A. Have been in a chapel, but don’t know anything that I heard about. Did hear of Jesus Christ, and that he was good and kind. The “preach” told us. Don’t know if people were kind to Him or killed Him; they did crucify him but I don’t know what that means. Have not heard of an angel. God made everybody; don’t know if He made any one first.

[Very pale and squalid in dress and looks. A younger sister working beside her looks happier. Their father is a pearl-button maker, the mother works in a percussion-cap factory.]

313. Jane Bitter.—Press woman. Emma Clarke works for me at putting in; I give her 1s. 6d. a week. I think she really does not know any more than she has told you. She is very poorly cared for at home. The women would be very glad to do without girls at all, only wages are so low that they must have them to make it up.

314. Harriet Martin, age 12, press girl.—Have worked at the press 18 months. Pinched my thumb under it three times, and once was at home three months for it. Have had several pieces of bone taken out of it. It was dressed by Mr. ___, the doctor here, not at the hospital. Get 3s. 6d. a week now, and pay it to my married sister to keep me. Began as a putter in, at 1s. Do not ever wash here at the basin.
Know my letters, but cannot spell them or tell figures. Never went to school of days, but have on Sundays for four years. Can do better than when I first went; could not say my alphabet then.

315.___Waring, press woman.—Have a little boy here between 6 and 7 years old. He saves me the 1s. a week that I should have to pay for a girl, and the 6d. or 8d. a week which I should have to pay for sending him to where he could be cared for in overhours, i.e., all beyond the regular school-time, while I am here at work. Am not a widow, but my husband has left me for six years. Have on other child, a little girl, who gets 1s. a week at another button factory.

316. Richard Hitchcock, age 7.—Cob for a stamper. Was never at a day school, and don't know my letters.

[Of four other boys in the same place,—a dark place in a apart of it in which large print could scarcely be seem on a bright summer day,—one aged 9 gave precisely the same answers as the boy just named; the three others, two of them 9, one of 10, had been to school of some kind, and could read words of one syllable. All were rough looking.]

317. Josiah Metcalf.—I have been here 20 years. Almost four years ago I took part in working an evening school for the workpeople here. The school was open three nights a week from 7 till 9, and was attended at first by nearly 100, chiefly of the younger. It lasted for a year and a half, or two years. I still teach a few women in their dinner hour, which I was led to do by finding some that could not read at all. Some now cannot tell their letters; one of about 24 could only just tell her letters, and in three months she could read easy things, and now, i.e., in about two years, she can read very nicely indeed.
We have sick and other clubs, to which most of those who are big enough to work for themselves belong; 75 per cent of the sick club subscription is divided out each year to the subscribers. In addition to the regular subscription, each member subscribes 1d. a week towards a fund which purchases tickets for the General, Lying-in, &c. hospitals. I should say that it is the young women of about 22 or so who fall most on the sick club.
The workpeople do not come to work on Monday till 9 o'clock, at least on average, often much later. A great many used not to come on Monday at all; but they are more regular now, since the employers have given an half holiday on Saturday, and insisted that in return people should not be so irregular on Monday. I think that in time they will be brought to be regular.



MESSRS; SMITH AND WRIGHT'S, BUTTON MANUFACTURERS, BREARLEY STREET WEST.

334. These works, except the ivory-nut shop, are clean and light, and attention is paid to ventilation. A school-room has been lately built, and instruction under a certified master is provided for those engaged in the works three evenings a week. Of the eight boys in the ivory-nut shop, a boy of 14 could read a little, one of 13 and one of 10 could spell, two of 10 and two of 9 did not know the letters. Of the latter, one always goes to Sunday school, and went to day school when he was little. The eighth, aged 7, is named below. Nut-cracking boys, however, are probably not a fair specimen of the mass employed either here or elsewhere. Their outward appearance and mental state seem everywhere to point them out as belonging to about the lowest class.

335. Bill Squelch, age 7.—Pick out nuts. Don’t know A. Never was in a church or chapel, or heard a preacher, or heard of Adam and Eve.

336. Annie Brown, age 15 years 11 months.—Don't know all the letters; “g” is “n.”

337. Sarah Wile, age 14.—At work since 9. Was at day school six years ago. Do not go on Sunday now. Cannot read.

338. Herbert Hatton, age 13.—Mind a machine for cutting out buttons.
Go to the night schoo1, and do not miss. Can do sums up to simple interest.

339. Mr. J.S. Wright.—The usual hours of labour in our manufactory are from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., allowing 1¼ hour (1 to 2½) for dinner, and half an hour (5 to 5.30) for tea. The demand in our business is very irregular, and sometimes we have to continue business until 9 or even 10 o'clock. The children and young persons occasionally work with the others those hours, probably about 2 months in the year, for which this overtime occurs. It is at no particular seasons. On Saturday business in the manufactory closes usually from 4 to 5 p.m. We have not tried the system of relays, nor is it necessary, the work not being laborious, and change of posture very frequent.
In our particular trade, as well as in many similar trades in Birmingham, the labour of children if not indispensable is very useful and important. They perform many of the operations more rapidly and effectively than grown-up persons. The boys place and prepare by brushing, &c. the work for the men; sometimes they turn wheels, or perform light operations where steam power moves small “punches,” “rolls,” “saws,” &c. Some girls are employed in placing buttons on paper cards with holes punched in them, and in sewing buttons and hooks and eyes on cards. A large number are employed in this latter operation in their own homes, or in the houses of their neighbours. Some varnish or coat the buttons with japan, others assist the women by placing the various parts together, and some work at small presses like the women. I do not think that any of these operations are unhealthy or in any way injurious to the children, except turning the wheel if long continued.
It would of course be better if the children could be trained in well-regulated homes, and receive a proper education; but as such cases are exceptional, I am of the opinion that the children are on the whole in a better position, both physically and morally, than they would be if their labour was interdicted. The shops are generally warm and dry. No doubt the association of children with young persons and adults tends to a precocious development, but at the same time it appears to have a restraining influence, and must on the whole be beneficial, as there is less amount of female crime in Birmingham than in any other large town in the kingdom concurrently with the unrestricted employment of girls and women in factories and workshops equally or more extensively than in any other community in the kingdom.
The labour of children is very important to our and to kindred trades, as competition is now more severe than ever. The Germans especially, who have an unlimited supply of cheap labour of both sexes, are by reason of this advantage able to undersell us, not only at our own doors, in such articles as brooches, clasps, and buttons, which are made in so large quantities on the Continent as to give employment to many more persons than are engaged in the same trades in Birmingham, and these articles are imported into this country. Though we cannot in any sense be now considered the “toy-shop of Europe,” yet it is of the highest importance, if we would retain any considerable part of this class of trade, that adult male labour should be supplemented by that of children and young girls.
I believe that only in a very few cases where both parents are living, is it necessary for the children to come to work to earn sufficient food. In most cases I fear it is owing to the improvidence of the father who is unable to resist the temptations which public-houses (sanctioned unfortunately, in my opinion, by our social usages and the supposed necessity for Imperial revenue) hold out to our industrious and skilful artiztans {sic}. Still in such cases, as well as those where the father is unable to work, or has died, the labour of the child is the means by which it obtains the necessary nourishment for its health and maturity.
I am of the opinion that there would be great difficulty and but little advantage, all things considered, in carrying the provisions of the “Factory” or any similar Act in Birmingham. The trades are so diverse, and so many persons are employed in places which cannot be called “factories” or even “workshops,” and very large numbers are employed in their own houses by their parents; and these in most cases would stand more in need of protection than those employed in the larger establishments of the town.
I think, however, than an enactment which would make it imperative that no child should be permitted to earn wages away from home, unless he or she could read, write, and do the four first rules in arithmetic, would be found beneficial in such towns as ours, and would only in a very trifling degree interfere with the course of business.
I am satisfied that means would speedily be found, without further Government aid, which would enable every child to receive the required amount of education. I would observe that the inability to write and even read in an adult is not conclusive that they never were taught; as my experience with many proves that these “arts” which they acquired in childhood have been lost by disuse.
Some two years since we created a school-room, and engaged a certified teacher to give instruction three nights a week. It is a matter of regret to my partner and myself that the advantages thus offered are not valued. It is only by threats of dismissal, and sometimes by actually discharging the child, that we can enforce attendance. Some few of the parents appreciate the opportunity, but we have frequently found them conniving at their children's absence.

[The following letters and table were afterwards sent by Mr. Wright.]

Employment of children in Birmingham.
Hotel de France,
Bruxelles, 22/12/63.
DEAR SIR,
The impression which you say would be conveyed by my remarks is what I desire to be conveyed, viz., that in my opinion the operation of the Factory, or any similar enactment, would be to exclude from work, in the larger factories in Birmingham, all children. I think that the system of half-time or relays would not by practicable in the trades that require child labour. I have been informed that in the neighbourhood of Manchcester, the result of the Factory Acts has been to prevent children being employed at all, except to a very limited extent. You ask, do I mean that the masters or the children would be as injuriously affected by such limitation as by exclusion from labour? As stated above, I believe the half-time system to be impracticable; and I think that certain manufactories would be injured if children’s labour were abolished. As regards the children, I have stated, I think, that I consider an elementary education necessary, but it may be obtained without the Factory Act, or exclusion from earning wages before they are 13.
From the extract which I have seen of the report of the Potteries Chamber of Commerce Committee, I concur in their views of the inexpediency of applying the Factory Act, and believe that the same difficulties would arise in our town from relays, changing hands, leaving off work at different periods to adults, &c.
Yours, &c.
J.E. White, Esq. Jno. S. Wright.

165, Brearley Street West,
January 2, 1864.
DEAR SIR,
Here are the additional statistics. They have been carefully made up and may be relied upon. The school is an average one; the scholars are the children of artizans {sic} almost exclusively, and they may be considered as fairly representative of the young working class of our town. There is a class below those, not paupers, who do not attend Sunday school for want of clothes, &c. &C.
It must not be understood that those who are tabulated as being able to read and write can do so efficiently; they can generally read well, but their writing is indifferent. It will suffice as a rule to enable them to keep their “work books” when they become adults, but only a part, not half I should think, would be able to write a letter.
Yours, &c.
J.E. White, Esq. Jno. S. Wright.



MESSRS. J. AND T. CHATWIN’S, BUTTON MANUFACTURERS, GREAT CHARLES STREET.

340. The work-rooms, though low, are not crowded with persons, and pipes have lately been placed over the gas-burners with the view of carrying off the impure air. Some of the women whom I asked said that the rooms had been improved by this; and the employers appear anxious to do what they can for the comfort of the workpeople. A large boiler of water is prepared for tea; the people bring only their own tea and cups.

341. Of 15 girls taken at chance out of the entire number of 20 under 13 employed here, one of 12, who went to day school three months and goes to Sunday school sometimes, knew none of the letters; three of 11, one of 9, and one of 8 did not know all; one of 11, three of 9, and one of 8 could not spell; one of 10 could scarcely be said to read; one of 12 and one of 11 could read; one of 10 could read well: i.e., three out of 15, or 20 per cent only, could read. A girl of 17 could not read without spelling; she goes to school on Sunday.

342. Mr John Chatwin.—Regulations of the young people’s labour would make but little difference to us. If they led to the work beginning earlier than the present hour in the morning, viz., 9 every day except Saturday, on which day it is 8, it would be inconvenient for the married women. It would be better if women with two or three children could stay at home altogether. We do not like children at any time under 9; they are better if they come at about 11. Children should not work more than eight hours a day besides their meals. If children under 13 had only half days, the women for whom they work might prefer girls over that age. They could well afford to pay older girls, as they get very good wages, some as much as 12s. a week, other 10s. and 7s. I think that such little girls, who get only 1s., do not answer so well to the women as helpers, as the bigger who get 1s. 3d. and 1s. 6d.
The most convenient way for us would be for the children to have all Monday for school, or to leave at 5 o’clock on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The workpeople leave at 5 on Saturday now, because the carriers will not come late. When they used to come late work-places were open on Saturday night till 10. But little work is done on Monday, as the women reckon to make enough on the other five days.
If children are to be got to school there should be some attraction, as a meal or a piece of cake every time, which could easily be provided for by voluntary subscriptions. Unless they learn young they will not learn at all. I have tried to get big boys of 17 to learn to write, offering to pay for it, and telling them "you would be worth 1l. a week more;” but they say, “Oh! I don’t like it.” I find the girls more orderly after they have been here a bit. Sometimes women, especially Irish, come unable to tell the clock.
I have put up pipes over the gas to carry away the heat to the outer air. I have found it make a great difference in my own office and in the small workrooms. In the larger the difference in effect is less; but as the people leave at 7 not so very much is burned. The expense of putting up this piping is very trifling. If any one would suggest anything better, I should be very glad to adopt it, even for my own comfort. Where there is gas there must be some bad effects. If the windows are down, the people get toothache, and we are obliged to let them do as they please.
I believe that steam power has been applied to button making (i.e. covered buttons), but experimentally only, and not to any extent so as to answer. Restrictions on labour such as referred to would not practically diminish the labour which we can employ at present. If they did they would probably lead to inventions for economising it, and appliances taking the place of the hand. I consider that children should not be put to press or stamp work at all till they are 13. If they are, they are apt to hurt themselves; nor should they work at all with steam till that age, as they must keep up with the pace of the steam, and the revolutions are sometimes quickened. On this account there is less occasion for restrictions in employments in which steam is not used. Some of the younger ones are less fit for work from not being fed as they should be.

343. Mr. Thomas Chatwin.—I am a very great advocate for the education of the poorer classes, and have taught in a Sunday school. I think that more should be made of Sunday schools as a means of giving some secular education, e.g. in writing, although I am a Churchman myself. There might be classes on the Sunday evening, and people would be more likely to go than on other evenings, as they are clean and dressed. The additional teachers for this are a mere matter of expense, and could be got. I have found on inquiry that many of our people go to the Quakers' Sunday schools, (which is strange, seeing that this is not the national religion,) for the sake of the writing, and because they are more systematically taught, and not confined merely to the Testament. Some go to these schools when far from young. A woman who did not begin learning until 30, can now write, and is our best warehouse-woman; but such improvement at this age is a very rare case.

344. Eliza Rundell, age 8.—Look over buttons. Have been here two years, and was at three button places before. Went when going 7, and “put in.” There were six as little as I at my first place. The hours were from 8 till 7. Here they are from 8½ till 7, and Saturdays till 5.

345. Agnes Overty, age 10.—Can read [well]. Learned at Sunday school, and my brother, 15, taught me at home too.

346. Isabella Glasscott, age 13.—Put in. Can read all manner, and write a little; never did sums. Left school four years ago.

347. Mary Ann Field.—Press woman. It would be just the same to us when we got used to it if the little girls who work for us came one for one half of the day and another for the other. Half days would suit as their working every other day; but we could only pay the two what we now pay the one. There are two women who have three girls each. Coming late in the morning suits me best, because of getting the children's breakfast.



MESSRS. ILIFFE AND PLAYERS, BUTTON MANUFACTURERS, NEWHALL STREET.

348. On the day of my visit many of the hands were away, but if all the benches were filled the space would be but small. On Saturday afternoons instruction is provided for the children by the firm, with very good results.

349. Mr. John Player.—The greater part of the children are employed as putters in of linen buttons, and the bigger girls at presswork.
I do not see that there would be any obstacle to employing two sets of children. We do not think that the women, much less the younger females and children, can work properly more than 10 hours a day, and we should not mind such a limit as that being fixed for all, and think that it should be as to the young. I notice that when we have worked till 9 numbers got locked out the next morning, so we rarely work after 8 now, as it loses as much as it gains.
For the last three or four years we have had a half day on Saturday, and found it very beneficial, and should be very sorry to give it up. I see no disadvantage in it. I doubt, however, if the custom is growing in the town; if anything, I think that it is going back.
I think that our children, as a body, are better educated than the elder workers, and attribute this to a school on Saturday afternoon, kept by one of our women, which we have had for the last four or five years. We do not enforce their attendance, but we tell them to go, and they do regularly, and profit much by it, and also appear grateful for it. We give them prizes.

350. Elizabeth Smart, press woman.—I teach the girls on Saturday afternoon from 1½ to 4½. About 30 come, and out of these the average attendance is about 25. I should say that out of the whole number only five or six are unable to read an easy child’s book at all, and that nearly half could read it without difficulty. They also say tables and sing them, and half a dozen or more copy out pieces in writing from books. They seem to enjoy the singing, and go on fresher with other things afterwards. They are also fond of asking to have interesting stories read out. Some learn things, and repeat when they come on Saturday. I have had this class about five years now. Many, including some of the big ones, used to come unable to tell their letters, and can read very nicely now. Some go to Sunday school, and are in my class there. I have been thanked by children after they have left, when they have met me in the street, and said how thankful they were for having learned their letters here, and told me how nicely they have got on.

351. Sarah Ann Greely, age 9.—Here two or three years; at another button place two years before [“perhaps one year,” a woman with whom she works, says]. Worked there from 8½ to 7, here from 8¼ to 7. Can read. [Reads words of two syllables.] Learned at the school.

352. Elizabeth Porter, age 6.—Put in. Here three months, and was at another button place before, where I worked from 8 to 7. Bring my dinner here. The woman pays me 1s. 1d. a week; a sister here going 11, and another going 12, get 1s. 7d. each.

353. Mary Ann Broderick, age 13.—I japan. Was not 8 when I first went to buttons. Don’t very often go to the school; mother knows when I do not.

354. Thomas Smith, age 11.—Cob. Was never at a day-school. Know the letters.

355. Caroline Perks, age 13.—Japanner. Went to put in when 8.
Can read [one or two words]. Was never at a day school; go on Sunday and at nights. Was never in a chapel or church; have heard a preacher at the school.


MR. J. COPE'S, BUTTON MANUFACTURER, COTTAGE LANE.

356. The buttons made at this factory are principally bone, wood, vegetable ivory, and horn, and . several of the features of the employment in this and factories of the same kind differ considerably from those where other buttons only are made, though some covered linen and silk buttons are made here also.
357. The bone is boiled in a building in the middle of the premises, with an open door leading into a shop in which three boys, one of 8 years old, and. a girl, assist a man and a woman in making horn buttons. The smell in both these shops was offensive; in the bone-boiling shop, though no boiling was going on, apparently from sacks full of bones and refuse bone lying about; in the horn button shop from horn being heated over stoves to soften it for pressing. At the time of the cholera complaint was made of the bone-boiling here.
358. The greater part of the work is done by steam machinery, much of which appears highly dangerous, from exposed shafts, wheels, and bands, the protection originally provided being in many cases quite insufficient, and even that in some cases having been broken away and not replaced. The boxing of a large band, close beside a woman, had been away for several months. I saw, however, none but adults engaged near any parts which I noticed to be dangerous; but it appears that young persons of either sex may be, and the works were but very partially filled.
359. Circular saws for cutting ivory-nuts, &c., a work of great risk, which few appear to escape without more or less serious injury, were attended only by men; but this is said not to be the case in places where the trade unions do not succeed in keeping out youths from the work.
360. Some of the shops are very low, the rafters in one or two cases knocking my hat, and many are dirty from thickly and apparently long accumulated dust of bone, wood, &c., resting on floors, &c., hanging from roofs and ceilings in cobwebs, &c. In one shop flour-like dust fell at intervals from the floor above, shaken down apparently by the vibration caused by the machinery. These unfavourable appearances may be owing in a great measure to the oldness of the buildings and the depressed state of the trade for some time past.

361. Mr. John Cope.—The number of persons that I employ is now about 100, but it varies much, and in good trade would be half as many again; the greater part are females from 7 or 8 years old upwards; but there are some boys, some at machines and some at odd jobs. Of the females, the elder work at steam lathes or hand presses; the children assist by putting in for the press women, being paid by them, at- first about 1s. or 1s. 3d. a week. The women cannot do without these children now. No doubt they did all themselves formerly, but since the prices have sunk so low it is necessary to employ children to make up by saving in the wages.
There would be no inconvenience in having two sets of children, or limiting young persons to work within a day of 12 hours. It is rarely that the hours are exceeded here. It is not to the interest of the manufacturer to work long hours, especially where there is machinery. The shorter the time in which he can get the work done, the better. The people themselves cannot work so well beyond the regular time.
My people generally have a half-day on Saturday, and make up for it by adding an hour to the other evenings during the week. It is much better for both workpeople and the employers. It gives the well-disposed an opportunity of getting into the country and enjoying themselves, and also improving their health.
It is very desirable to see whether anything can be done to better the condition of the working classes. The effect of some restrictive principle, as regards the young, would, no doubt, be beneficial; the work would, no doubt, be done if necessary, arrangements being made earlier and carried out more punctually. The effect would either be that the lazy workpeople would have to give place to those who would work or that more would be employed.
The pearl button trade is an entirely distinct branch of the button manufacture; it has been most seriously affected in common with all haberdashery by the depression of cotton. Youths are kept out of it to a great degree by the combinations of workmen.
A great deal of work is done in the town in little shops in back courts, a dozen children, perhaps, being huddled together in a shop. Perhaps the japan button makers are in as rough a state as any; some of them are as black as little sweeps.
There are a great number of evening schools in the town, and if any of my people want to go I always let them.
362. Robert Harris.—Turn wood buttons. Began at about the age of 15 or 16, at which age boys often begin. Do not consider it unhealthy. Bone working is healthy; know this because when the cholera came the bone boiling here was complained of as a nuisance, and it was decided that it was not injurious. Find no inconvenience from the dust myself. Have not seen any accidents from the shafts.
 
[His face and back of head are yellow with layers of wood dust.]
363. Samuel Hines.—Saw bone for buttons with a circular steam saw. Began the trade at 17, and have worked at it for 40 years, but have only sawn for 20 years. It is very dangerous work; you soon nip a finger off; I have cut a piece off the end of each of my forefingers and slit up my thumb nail, the mark of which will never go. Some work a long time without an accident, but it's all chance. If a bone is cracked you are liable to be hurt;m there are some that are lamed altogether, and no good at all afterwards. Some learn sawing as lads, but we're against lads because of the Society. If many lads learned, it would over-run the trade and give our children no chance. It's that that has ruined the trade; we have about stopped it now.
In Sheffield the work is done in a different and safer way, i.e., with a gauge, instead of pushing the bone against the saw with the hand, but we fancy it don't work so quick.
364. Charles Perkins, adult.—Turn bone buttons on a lathe. Lads begin this at about 15 if big enough.
365. Robert Fillan.—Turn. Sometimes girls have drilled at the lathes opposite. A girl of 12 could do some parts of it.
366. Mary Cardley, age 18.—Drill vegetable-ivory buttons at a lathe, and have done so for six years. Have no particular time of work, because we have what we can get; but usually we work from 9 till 7. Have worked for a week together till 9. Have come at 6 a.m. And worked until 9 or 10 p.m. Five or six years ago, but there has not been much work lately. Bring my victuals with me. Went to the lacquer brass nails when I was, I daresay, turned 7. There were a tidy few girls, and some the same size as I. Our hours were from 8 till 7.
Ain't such a capital reader; daresay I should have to spell some words [reads a child's book]. Cannot write. Have heard that diamonds are got from the seaside.
367. Ellen Moore, age 12.—Sort buttons. Was never at day-school, but go on Sundays sometimes. Cannot read at all. Went to service as a nurse when going in 7.
368. Eliza Owen, age 13.—Card buttons. Sewed for mother at home before. Was at the day-school when living in a village near Birmingham, and could read a little then, but forget it all now, and cannot write; do not go on Sunday now.
369. Berkeley Coleman, age 8.—Carry dies from the press to the emptier in the horn-button shop. Cracked nuts before.
Don't know all the letters. Was never at Sunday school, because I ain't got no clothes to go in.
370. George Mitchell, age 13.—Empty the horn-button dies. Was never at school on a week day but go on Sunday. Know the letters.
[Has perspiration in his place from the heat of the place in which he stands by the stoves.]
371. Thomas Regan, age 13.—Was at week school two or three months. Cannot read.
[These three boys are employed by a man.]
372. Fanny Smith, age 13.—“Crap” {sic} buttons at a press and work for the woman, who pays me 2s. 3d. A week.
Don't know the letters, or what I heard at chapel, or whether I was told about Christ there, or know who He was, or know the Queen's name.

 

MR. E. LEPPER'S, BUTTON MANUFACTURER, ASTON ROAD.

373. Bone and vegetable ivory buttons are made here in a shop in which steam power is hired for the purpose. It is very dirty with rubbish &c., shakes from the vibration of the machinery, and smells strongly of the bone, and the bone and other dust hangs on cobwebs from the roof. Three boys squat on the floor cracking ivory nuts, men and women working round at the machinery, the men sawing and turning, the women drilling and polishing. In a separate room women and girls card the buttons.
374. Mr. Edmund Lapper.—Cannot go beyond 7 in the mill, because the engine stops and we cannot hire the power longer. In the carding shop they may go on perhaps one night a week till 8½ some weeks.
375. Thomas Hughes, age 11.—Crack nuts. Have all I get, i.e. 6d. A thousand, and do three or four or five thousand a week. Was at tin buttons before. From 9 till 9 were the regular hours with an hour for my dinner and nothing for my tea-time. There were three boys and four girls.
Go to school on Sunday and three nights a week, for which I pay 2d. Myself. Have a father and mother. Was at a day-school five or six weeks. Don't know the letters. D is J. Have not heard of king. The Queen belongs to us all. The Bible is a book about Jesus making the world. God maked us all. He maked Jesus first.
376. William Billingley, age 8.—At day-school a short time. Know the letters. People pray to Jesus and the Saviour. Do not know whether those two are the same person. They are not the same person as God. They have got a Testament of mine in the house. They give it me at school and I couldn't read it. The Bible is a big book. Mother reads it out sometimes, but I don't know anything that it is about.
377. Emma Brooks, age 13.—Card buttons. Can tell the letters [can most, but says] “E” is “V.” School on Sunday and went on days till at work.
378. Mary Ann Francis, age 14.—At Sunday school 4 years and at day-school a little. Read in the Testament [spells monosyllables]. Try to spell the words, and if I can't, teacher tells me. 5 times 5 is ten. Have not heard of an apostle, a whale, or the sea. [Other girls tell her she has.] Whales go in the sea. Could have told you that before if I had thought of it.
379. Henry Hands, age 9.—Crack nuts. The engine stops and hour at dinner. Have dinner in here sometimes.
Don't know A. God is Jesus. Don't know whether people killed him, or who made the world. Am a Christian; it is a good thing.



MESSRS. THOMAS BULLOCK AND SON’S {sic}, BUTTON MANUFACUTURERS, CLIVELAND STREET.

380. The greater part of the work of this manufactory, the buildings of which are large and new, is done by means of saws or lathes moved by steam power. The motion of the machinery is very rapid, and unprotected shafts run along a few inches in front of the legs of some of the workers. A shaft of this kind lately caused a serious accident in another factory which I visited, in which all such shafts have since been fenced. Some of the lathe work also appears dangerous to the hands, the small pieces of bone, &c. being held with the fingers. Scarcely any, however, but adults are in contact. With the machinery. The button makers in this district endeavour to prevent the employment of boys or youths at this work; but it is said that this is not the case everywhere, and two boys are engaged in it here; one of 14 was working close before one of the shafts referred to. Owing to the bad state of the trade, far below the full number of persons were at work. The air is full of fine dust thrown off from the lathes, and smells strongly of bone, &c. The dust therefore must be largely inhaled.
381. Mr W.H. Bullock.—We manufacture bone, ivory, horn and wood buttons. The greater part of the machine work is done by men and women, though there are two big boys engaged in it. The button makers' rules here do not allow of boys working machines, though I believe that in Sheffield boys do much of the work done here by men. This is principally sawing and turning by steam power. Th women drill and polish, also by steam power, on lathes. The younger boys fill in dies, the girls sew buttons on cards or work at a press, and the bigger are in the warehouse. Our numbers, however, have never been full since the beginning of the American war. In a time of good trade we should have towards 200 persons, in about the same proportions as to age and sex as at present.
When we are busy we do not work beyond 8. The system will not stand more than a certain amount of work, and if work is carried out beyond that amount it is not well done, as we have found. If the hours of the young were limited in any way we should increase the numbers if necessary at any time, which we can do, as we have enough room and machines to put on more hands. In crowded places, however, this cannot be done so well, and providing more presses, &c., causes and increased outlay of capital.
The workpeople are required to be punctual in coming on account of the machinery. We allow women, not able to come at the proper hour, if they have a good reason, such as staying at home to attend to their families, to come in at 10½.
382. William Jones, age 14.—Turn at a steam lathe. Have done so for 2 years. Never got caught in the machinery or saw anyone else so. Have good health and appetite. Go home to dinner for an hour.
Was at school till I came here. Can read a newspaper, write, and do practice.
383. Louisa Taylor, age 15.—Card buttons. Only know the letters and spell short words like “the.” Was at a day school for a little while.



MRS. S. ROWLEY'S, PEARL BUTTON MANUFACTURER, CLEMENT STREET.

384. This manufactory, though quite small, is said to be about the largest in the trade. The workshops are cheerful and airy, and the place apparently thoroughly well conducted. The dust given off from the lathes, &c., which are worked by treadles, in some of the earlier processes settles on all surrounding objects and on the ceiling like flour in a mill. Two or three of the men, however, who perform the more dusty processes, as cutting out and turning, and whom I questioned on the point, attributed no bad effects to the dust. But lathe work is said to cause considerable strain upon the eyes, and I noticed four not old men working side by side in spectacles.
385. Mr. Joseph Anstey, manager.—I have been in the pearl button trade 39 years. It is a small trade, and confined almost entirely to Birmingham. There are one or two small establishments in London, one in Dublin, and two or three in Sheffield, but they do not average more than half a dozen persons in each, The total number in the trade in the whole kingdom was about 1,200, but now there are not more than 500 or 600 at work. It may be that there are only 300 or 400 trade union men, but the number may be made up by the “black legs,” i.e., men who do not belong to the union. The numbers given are from the Report of the secretary of the trade union. The pearl ornament is quite distinct from the pearl button, and much smaller, and is carried on in Birmingham and London. There are in the pearl button trade probably about 500 women and girls, from 13 upwards, and about the same number of boys from 12 up to 18, all of whom work at the lathe, except some of the boys, who file. Scarcely a dozen in the trade are under the age of 12, except the carders. Boys cannot begin cutting out till about the age of 16, and turning till about 14. Women and girls drill and polish. The work can be done by steam, but no quicker. It must take its time. A shell cannot be forced through. A good sized one weighs 7 or 8 lbs. If more speed were put on it would burn the button to pieces. The shell cannot be softened in any way for working. A great many have tried steam, but never could make any good of it, and, I suppose, never will.
The trade has been crushed down by there being so many intermediate buyers, the larger buying from the less, and there being the profits of so many hands. The profit is so small that it discourages capital, and the work can be carried on with very little, a man merely having to buy a little material. If the trade were better there would be fewer small masters and more larger: There are now about 150 pearl button manufacturers in the town. A great many work in attics, or get just a bit of a shop, working with merely their own family. You would hardly find a dozen that would show outside any sign of the manufacture being carried on. The great evil of the trade is that boys are not apprenticed enough. The trade unions will only allow a certain number. It is generally found that the character is better where boys are compelled to go apprentice. But in other ways the trade unions have done some good to the character of those employed. It was very, bad. The habit of masters drinking with their men is, however, very bad, and brings up boys to the habit.
The general rule of respectable places is to work from 8 to 8, but in the smaller places, which are very numerous, the hours are less regular. The men often play the first two or three days of the week, and work longer at the end. On Monday the little men go to buy their shell, and perhaps take their men to bring it. Then they go drinking, and are not fit for work till Tuesday. This is very bad; not only by the example which it sets their men, but also to the boys, girls, and women. They must work hard at the end of the week to make up for this; some from 5 a.m. till 10 or 11 p.m.; but even then there are very few that do not take their dinner hour and tea half hour, I do not think that they could stand it, without, as they are on foot all day. The work is not so much hard as tiring and dreadfully aching. Though the carders have to card the buttons after they are made, I do not think that they are kept up much later, as they work close upon the makers.
In good trade the rate of wages is,—boys from 4s. or 5s. to 7s. a week; girls as finishers and carders from 3s. 6d. to 9s.; men, cutters, from 25s. to 33s.; turners from 18s, to 26s.; and men who “bottom” or work the back of the button; 17s. Taking all kinds together, men’s wages, working full time, would be about 1l. 1s.
The dust of the work is considered injurious to the lungs, though some men live to a good age. There is dust in all parts of the lathe work, but more in the cutting and turning; but all generally work in the same shops, and the filers close to the men that they work for. The health of’ the people here is generally good; but, of course, if they take to drinking the work injures them more. The common kinds of button are not polished on a lathe at all, but put in aqua fortis and shaken in a jowl. At first they are stirred about with a stick till the strength of the acid is gone off, i.e. for about three minutes, and then the hand is put into it and the buttons rubbed about. This is usually done by boys and girls. It does not hurt the hands unless they are bad or have cuts before. . If it is too sharp they take their hands out and dab them in water. I knew a girl, however, who had “back friends,” i.e., chaps on her hands, who got her fingers bad for several weeks from putting her hand in so. They do not use acid in sufficient quantities to get it on their clothes, though it would burn them if they did.
The lathe work is close for the eyes, as they must watch constantly, and cannot be taken off a moment or the work would be spoiled, but there is nothing really injurious to the eye. Glasses, however, relieve it, and sometimes men who can see without put them on for rest after working three or four hours without them.
The state of education of those employed here is about the same as in other trades. Some of the girls have been in others, as at hooks and eyes, pens, and press work. Many have been kept at home to nurse, the women being away at factories.
386. Sarah Lindford, age 14. Polish buttons at a lathe with soft soap and rotten stone. Drilled at first; am now polishing with “smoking sauce,” [which phizzes {sic}] in a bowl. Have been at the work four years nearly. Have pretty good health and a good appetite; have not often a cough. Was a good deal tired with the lathe at first. My leg used to ache when I got home, and I had a pain it my knee and up the left side above my waist. Have it sometimes now but not often. Began to work full days when I first began, viz., from 9 till 7. Here the hours are from 8 till 8. Go home to dinner. Sit down in the shop to tea.
Can read [not all words of three letters only]. Was half a year at the day school, never at night; go on Sunday afternoon, and to chapel.
387. Jane Shelly, age 13.—Drill at a lathe. Began nearly two years ago; was tired a dood {sic – [presumably 'good'!} deal at first, but could go on without stopping. Gets 4s. a week. Was at errands in a warehouse before.
Cab read. [Reads] “I may of endless life partake.” “Partake,” by itself, without the other words, means “die.” “Endless life” is in heaven.
388. Selina Holmes, age 17.—“Hub” at a lathe. Have finished pearl buttons since 12 years old. Came in from the country (8 miles) to live here.
Can read (a little); not write.
389. Christina Slack, age 12.—Carder three years here and at another place. Can read, write, and sum.
390. Mary Elizabeth Payne, age 11.—Carder. Was at home till a year ago. Can read, write a copy, and sum figures on it slate. Did not ever do addition.



J. WATSON’S, PEARL BUTTON MAKER, ST. GEORGE’S STREET.

391. Only three persons, viz., the master, his son an adult, and a boy of 16 work here. The workshop is a loft over a washhouse used by other persons, neither forming part of a dwelling, in a court reached by a narrow brick arch or open doorway. Waste water from the washing stood on the floor of the washhouse and escaped over the sill into an open gutter running down the whole length of the yard close in front of the long row of houses. The gutter appears common to these houses, and was slimy and stagnant throughout. At the bottom of the yard. is another small manufactory or workshop for thimbles, where two men, a woman, and a boy .work.
392. John Watson.—I have been in the trade 40 years, and am secretary to the pearl button makers’ society. The trade, which is quite distinct from all other branches of button making, till lately contained from 1,000 to 1,200 men, but now there are not more than a third or a fourth of that number in it, probably about 300, and those only half employed, the remainder having gone into other employments, and many to the workhouse. The trade has been in this depressed state for two or three years, in consequence chiefly of the American war, a large proportion; I should say two-thirds, of the goods having formerly been made for America. The manufacture has never been carried on in large factories. The usual number of persons in each ranges from 4 to 40. The greater part of the work is done by men. The first or “piecemaker” cuts out the pearl from the shell with a circular saw. The next or “turner” turns it. Women drill, polish, or “finish.” These processes are all done at a foot lathe. If the piece cut out is too thick a boy splits it with a chisel, and, if the small pieces are uneven, files them even. A. boy or girl sometimes works at a lathe, but it is quite the exception, as it wants strength. A boy is not strong and big enough till 16, as a rule, though he may be at 14. I began at that age. Girls usually card; i.e., sew buttons on paper, which is very light work. Boys and girls do not begin to work at all till about 10 or 12.
In the larger places the work is regular through the week. In the small the hours are not excessive. The men work the hardest, but as they usually do but little on Monday or Tuesday they do not average more than 10 hours a day. The small makers have all to finish and take in on Saturday, but this does not throw much work on those who do the finishing processes. From 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. would be a long day for these.
Steam power is not suitable for this work. It has been tried repeatedly in my memory, but without success, at least for any but the large work. The brittle nature of the material does not allow of working it at a greater rate than a foot lathe will give. Rapid motion would split it, and also heat it and make the edges too hard to work afterwards, and machinery could not be adapted to the different thicknesses of different parts of the same shell as the hand can. Getting steam power, therefore, would be mere outlay without any gain,and must come from the the earnings, which are too small already. In addition to this the maker likes to have his work all done in his own place without going off to hire mill power elsewhere. There is only one pearl button factory in the town that uses steam power, though it is used in America, where, owing to the heat of the climate, the men wish to save themselves the exertion, and the work is also bigger.
With regard to education, pearl button makers are in the same case as people in many other trades. They are so poor that the children must be sent to work as soon as they are able to earn anything. It is said sometimes that the poverty and ignorance of the pearl button people are owing to their habits of drinking and irregularity. I believe, however, that it is owing to their being so ill paid. A marked improvement in the character of the men has taken place since a rise in wages of a farthing a gross was obtained from the large masters and buyers, not by any strike but by quiet reasoning. The obstacle to a slight increase in wages is caused by factors and buyers insisting on a far more than proportionate increase in their own prices for sale. The rate is 2d. for a gross of 150, six pieces being made over to allow for breakage in the later stages, and the increase thus amounts to 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week. Since then many have reformed, and some who merely rambled about idling now teach in schools, &c. The boy there gets ½d.. a gross for filing. He is unable to read, write, or tell figures, but he can tell at the end of the week exactly how many buttons he has done, and they might be in quite a full week 150 gross (150 x 150 = 22,500).
If the object of this inquiry is for the real good of all, I hope it will succeed.
[The witness’s son supplied parts of this statement. Both were men of much clearness and thoughtfulness of mind.]
393. Frederick Tunstall, age 16.—File the pieces. Began at 10 years old, and have been at several places. Was never at a day-school. Know some only of the letters.

 

WILLIAM LANE’S, PEARL BUTTON MAKER, NEW SUMMER STREET.

394. This is merely a dwelling house in a court. By the door of a house in the entrance to the court lay a heap of lettuce leaves and refuse, and down the yard ran a couple of dirty surface drains, bare footed children running about before the houses. The house was marked as a pearl making place by waste round pieces of pearl shell thrown from the windows on the ground: Two women and a daughter of the family were “carding” buttons in the downstairs living room, apparently in great poverty.
395. Emma Lane, age 16.—“How old am I grandmother?” Began sorting blanks up in the attic here at 10 years old, and went on to the lathe at 11, and had learned well by 12, but could not get more than 2s. 6d. a week then.
Went to day school when about 9 years old, and when mother put me on work she sent me to school of a Sunday. I leaned very well for a while, and could spell a bit. Learned more of a Sunday than I had done of a week day, but I stopped away about two years now; don’t know why; and forgot all my reading. Never did any writing or figures. They used to try to learn me, and I learned as well as I could. Teacher never took much notice, and I never took much notice of what they used to say. Believe they used to tell me about God, but I am very bad at remembering. Do not know about the world being made,—whether people were made, or Adam and Eve, or if they were the first people. , I was one as never took much notice, and did not go in till near 10 and came out at half past.
[Has to hold the top of her dress together to cover herself.]
396. Rebecca Lane.—My husband William is almost the oldest little master alive now; has been here 33 years. We had eight or nine at work but now have only two women and my daughter. There were 700 men in the pearl button trade, but trade has been so bad the last three years that now there are not more than half; they’re dead, or gone for soldiers, or in the workhouse, and scattered about. Some work in factories, with 20, 30, 40, or 50, according to their machines and kind of work; others in houses in small numbers, down to three and two, or so like. Fifty is the largest place ever knew. Men cut out and turn, women and girls drill; polish, and fancy edge; all at foot lathes, and generally at so much a gross. Little girls begin at carding and rise to the other parts, but do not begin at the lathe till 10 or so; they are not high enough to reach it. Work is generally from 8 till 7, with an hour dinner. If any work longer it’s over-time for them. When there is trade some may get 3s. or 4s. a week, but have to work from 7 a.m. till 8 or 9 p.m. to do it; quite that long. It is according to how they are in the fingers.



MESSRS. G. LAYTON'S, JAPAN BUTTON MANUFACTURER, LITTLE CHARLES STREET.

397. The workshops are parts of a gloomy and deserted .looking set of: buildings in a back court, reached by a steep narrow passage, and employ besides the master one man, five women, two girls over and one under 13, and two boys of 8 and 9. The nature of the manufacture is described below (b. 402-4). The floor of the shop is covered with apparently long accumulated litter and heaps of waste metal &c. To judge from appearances cleaning is very rare.
398. In the adjoining buildings are shops of the same outward appearance in which various works are carried on; pearl button making, gun-work, glass moulds, stirrups, boots, hinges, &c.
399. Jane Freeman.—Am 20. Work a press. My thumb is tied up because I have pinched a piece out of it with the press. Pinched off the end of my right forefinger at some tin-plate works in cutting out tin cans with a press, and was out-patient at the hospital for two months with it. Have been also in a percussion cap and a pin factory.
Am a tidy scholar; can read [can], but cannot write. Go to Sunday school still, and did go to a night school.
400. Louisa Copeman, age 14.—Press girl. Have pinched the end of my thumb in the press. Work from 8¼ to 7½, sometimes 8. Go home to dinner from 1 to 2¼. Can read [spells “b-e,” “m-y,” &c.] Was never at day school.
[Dress half torn from her bosom.]
401. Ann Taylor, age 9.—Shove buttons on a wire ready for blacking. Was at another place just about like this before, and worked from 8 to 7. Littler girls than me worked there. Get my hands clean before I go away from here. Mother brought me here. Get 2s. a week. Can tell my letters, but not spell them. Go to school every Sunday and three nights a week.
[Sits 4 or 5 feet from the stove. Looks healthy but uncombed, &c. The two boys did not know the letters.]



MR. S. DARLASTON’S, JAPAN BUTTON MANUFACTURER, BRANSTON STREET.

402. A new factory but littery and dirty, and some of the children very forlorn looking. A little girl showing me down some very steep steps, such as have in many Birmingham factories struck me as dangerous, slipped down the two or three last, but without hurting herself. The cutting out of the tin is done by presses like other press work. The japanning is very dirty work indeed, and the smoke from the stoves when opened very strong, and pungent to the eyes, but is said to be healthy.
403. The master's daughter thought that none of the girls could read. Five of 7 years old had never been at any school, an elder girl not since she was 7.
404. Mr. S. Darlaston.—The work consists of several branches, viz., cutting out, drawing through, putting shanks in, and closing, all done with presses, except putting the shanks on. When made the buttons have two coats of japan; this work is done by two women and four girls. A woman takes work from me at so much a hundred, and keeps a girl or two. If they take two or three presses they keep more girls. Think I am nearly the only japan button maker of notice. There are a few quite small employers working almost in their own houses with their own children. Elastic sides and eyelet holes for boots have almost entirely thrown the trade out. Seven or eight years ago I employed three times my present number of hands. Even formerly, if I wanted more work I put on more hands. Always knew that I should lose more than I gained by working overtime. Generally pay more for overtime something like 25 per cent better. When I have had 10 hours amongst them myself I have had enough, but they are no good without me.
405. Kate O’Brien, age 17.—Employ from 15 to 20 girls, and have a press myself, but I have about enough to do in keeping the rest to work. They are all cleared out for dinner. The little ones begin at about 1s. a week.
406. Kate Dowd, age 8.—Put in. Am working at a press now. Don't know O or A.
407. Mary Brady, age 11.—At a press a few weeks. Have pinched half a nail off. Pinched my finger once before. Christ is Jesus—is God.
408. Ann Burns, age 14.—Was never at school except sometimes of a Sunday. Have a brother of 8 and two sisters younger that I who have never been to school on Sunday. Don't know B. Go to church sometimes of a Sunday morning, and hear the preacher, but cannot hear what he says. Have not heard of Noah. Adam and Eve were two wicked men.
[The master's daughter says that the preaching, &c., is all in Latin.]
409. Bridget Fry, age 17.—Cannot tell any letters or tell you what London is; it is a big town in England, but I have not heard whether it is big or little. Don't know where rivers run into. Have crossed the sea coming from Ireland. A mountain would be on the water, I should think. Don't know where the snow falls from, or whether it comes from the clouds, or sky, or where.



MR. J. MATTHEWS', GLASS BUTTON MANUFACTURER, NEW JOHN STREET.

410. Several very young children work here as “nippers,” i.e., clipping off with scissors the corners of small squares of glass previously cut out from sheets or cylinders. The square thus roughly rounded is fastened by cement to the end of a short stick and ground on a grindstone by a woman or bigger girl, and afterwards cut in facets on a small wheel by an adult or at least a person nearly 18, if not over, as more skill is needed, and then polished by a boy, girl or woman. The persons who perform these four processes work usually in sets of four. The “nipper” working faster than the others can finish, spends about half of his or her time in turning a grindstone for a grinder, either alone or merely helping to turn. This they are said not to be obliged to do, but to “do it on their own head.” Two or three girls work in the house carding. This, as I was told, is probably one of the largest manufactories of glass buttons, the manufacture, in which there are different branches, being often carried on by a very few in a room in a house or in one small shop.
411. Mr. Jesse Matthews.—I would not practise overtime. I wish we could have children so as to work and go to school too. It’s lamentable to see them, I assure you. We have been looking for better days, but there is a set in Birmingham who will not send their children to school, but get intoxicated. I am sure we shall never do any good with education unless there is compulsion, but we should then. This, however, is the only means, for if children are left, as they are, to run wild, they are about the streets; and while this is the case it is no use Recorders and so on talking about crime. I think that if there was an Act passed it would be the saving of several of them. It is a fearful looking forward for the working class for the coming generation, though there is more done now in the way of education. But with most it must be very indifferent, as they do not get a chance. There is a want of school for youths at night, but they cannot get it of a week night. A great many places work till 8 and 8½ on Friday night in a general way if the work stops early on Saturday. I have found this very awkward since there has been the half-day Saturday. Our own boys (sons) cannot get to their lectures in time; they attend several. By the time they are home and washed it is 9 o'clock, and then it is too late. In a great many places 8 is a common hour to stay to, but even working till 7½ is too late for school if they come home first, which is wanted sometimes, as some work is much dirtier than others, from grease and oil, and the master does not like to see them dirty. I have a great objection to any being kept late.
Once, when I had not so many lads, I tried to get them together to school, but I found that they did not appreciate it, though here and there one wanted to come Sometimes, too, I was apt to look for fruit before there was any to be had. I have often talked to that big one who could not read (b. 417, age 19), and said “Why don’t you go to night school?” It grieves me when they come to receive payment and say, “Please write my name.”
Several times, too, I have tried to get up general adult schools, and some years ago took a great interest in it But there seemed to be a bashfulness in any who were backward, as if there was something that they could not overcome. The men before joining would begin to ask questions—“Do any lads go?” and I have said “Well, none under a certain age.” I think that the Quakers have a limit of age in this way at their school in Severn Street, to which 300 or 400 go at 7 o’c1ock or so of a Sunday morning. Their plan is, I think, good. They make no difference as to being teetotallers or anything. If you are to do good you must open the to one as well as another. If a man signs the pledge and holds it out a bit, and then after a month or so breaks it, he dares not show his face amongst his own society again. I have known several who have been reclaimed at the Quakers' schools. These schools have wrought a wonderful change in one of my people, a married woman, both in her character and language, though she was always a hard worker. She has told me that she has to get up at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning to be ready to be off to school between 7 and 8, but she says that she would not leave it on any account. I was quite surprised when I heard that she could read after going for only a year, i.e., 52 mornings. I believe now that she is learning her husband, who works beside her, but who slunk away for fear of being asked questions by you; and another was frightened in the same way. She was first picked up from the shop by one of the town mission, and I think that she has now enlisted four or five more out of the shop. The Quakers' schools are setting an excellent example.
I have many very young children who have neither father nor mother. It grieves me to see them so young, and perhaps to be able to give them so little. I have often been grieved to see the little ones come and ask for work and to have to send them back. Some come looking up with such anxious-looking eyes, and their eyes glisten so if they think you can entertain them. It is a shame to put such little things to work. Some's skin is as beautiful as a lady's. One little girl, 8 years old, has to help support the family, but her mother could send her to school. I have thought two or three times of sending her.
They are all off to day at a fete at the Band of Hope, at Aston Park. The Band of Hope are doing a great deal with children. I am not connected with it in any way but approve of it, and have contributed to it, and am so pleased to find that they now interest the children. The have a band, lectures, magic lantern, &c. Some of the young children would work all manner of hours,—would go through fire and water,—sooner than miss a chance. They work hard to get tidy and mend their clothes, &c., to be fit for these holidays. One was laying by for five or six weeks before for a bonnet and frock, and at the same time had not a bed to lie on, and I believe that at the present time she lies on the floor. In this ways the holidays inculcate savings habits. Two could not pay, and their father took no notice of them, so I had to pay their 3d. Or they could not have gone to day.
The little hymns too that they sing are good. Children have no other way of picking them up, as they cannot read; but if one has an ear for music she picks it up, and the others pick it up from her. I always like to hear them sing at their work. I think that it makes the work go as sweet again, and they seem to fancy so too. It relieves the monotony, and the children are as lively again. Also good often arises from it to the grown up. I always like to hear the lads too sing at work, and would sooner hear them sing than talk. Last winter I stood out in the cold listening to them all as they sang carols in the shop, and some took parts as well as in a practised choir.
I have never any trouble with the children. Never a week passes but what they are regular at their posts, and I can rule them with a look. There is something very peculiar in children. If you show them a kind look they never forget you. When they meet me in the street they are respectful, and like to show that they remember me. It is the bigger ones that we have the trouble with. I cannot get them to do much work on Monday. They seldom come till towards 10 o'clock, and some leave after dinner. The women are pretty well behaved altogether, but would be better if they were more educated.
I have heard many complaints of cases where women have to support the family, the husband drinking and working them very hard. I do not say that the men hit them, but talking often leads to blows.
412. Henry Greatorex, age 7, nipper.—Work from 8 to 7, and have an hour or sometimes an hour and a half for dinner, and when I have done eating play in the open.
413. Catherine Coley, age 19.—Cutter for two years. Henry Greatorex has worked for me three or four months, but is not big enough to do anything and gets only {almost illegible, possibly '1s.'} a week. His mother sent him here because he would not go to school and wanted to run the streets. Her said her didn't care if he came and worked for nothing if her could get him out of the way. Two other girls help me, one nearly 9 helps turn the stone and pulls the buttons off sticks on which they are placed in the fire to soften the cement. A little boy did this before.
414. Henry Phillips, age 15.—Polish. Have worked at this trade close on 10 years. Think I was nearer 5 than 6 when I began. Nipped at first. Used to bring my food.
Can read a little [scarcely reads words of one syllable.]
415. William Plant, age 9.—Blow bellows with my foot to heat the gas at which the buttons are made at a glass pot. When one foot is tired can blow with the other, and so on, till I knock off. The loop cuts my boots through on each side. Sometimes put in shanks.
Do not know what becomes of people when they die. They are never alive again.
416. Thomas Eggington, age 10.—Put in shanks. Know a few letters. Was never at a day school but go on Sundays and to Church. They don't tell us nothing at Church. Don't know what they preach about. The preacher preaches and christens. He did preach about Jesus Christ sometimes, sometimes not. Don't know whether He [Christ] died. I am a Christian. Don't know what it means. Think, perhaps, you [J.E.W. {Mr. J.E. White, the Recorder}] are one. Good people live again after they die.
417. William Egginton, age 19.—Make round shoe &c. buttons, taking the glass out of a small pot on an iron and holding them in gas. Have done it for five years. Have the screen in front of me to keep off the heat and look through a glass at it.
Was never at a day school. Can not read, write or sum.
418. Ellen Fletcher, age 12.—Nip and size and turn a grindstone for a woman. Turning don't tire me now, because I am used to it, but it did at first. Am away from work sometimes with a pain in my left side [turns with left hand], but not till the last three weeks. Have been here a year. Sometimes it lasts half a day. When I lie down it goes off. Have the headache very often. [Another girl complained of the tiring in the same way.]
Was at a button factory [a large and very crowded place] before. My head ached more there than here. Sometimes 'played' 3 days a week when there.
Cannot read or spell “on.” Used to play about and mind the baby, not go to school.
419. Janie Scaborne, age 9.—Pull of buttons from the sticks and turn a grindstone. Can turn it quite by myself when I have a mind. Get 1s. 3d. a week.
Can spell “T-o to.” Have often been at chapel. They told about good people.
420. Eliza State, age 11.—Stick on buttons to the sticks, and at other times help a grinder by holding something to keep her work from slipping and hurting her against the stone. Have been cut by the stone. It was worn out, and so my hand slipped against it. In nipping the scissors galled my fingers like this [shows]. It makes all the girls fingers so.
Can read a little bit [with spelling].
421 Elizabeth Thomas, age 13.—Polisher. At it more than four years. Get 4s. 6d. A week. Came to the work first when about 7, about a week over, and dropped blanks of solder of lead and tin over a stove, and then nipped. Have had good health always.
Only a Sunday school a bit, at no other school. Have no father. Can tell my letters and spell a little.
422. Samuel Bickly, age 10.—Here on and off for thee years. Work from 8 till 7, sometimes till 7½ or 8. Sit most of the say close by the fire here sticking on buttons. It makes me hot but not poorly.
Before I came here, I filled gun locks, working from 8 til 7.
Cannot read, but know the letters.
[Of 5 other girls of from 9 to 12, 3 knew no or only some letters, 2 could not spell, and another girl of 17 could not read words of two syllables without spelling.]
423. Martha Ross.—Have been at work since I was 8 years old, am 23 now. Polish for my husband here. The work in not unhealthy.
Went to day school when I was little, and for the last year and a half have been to the Quakers' Sunday school. Could not tell my letters when I first went there, but now can read the Testament pretty well, spelling some of the words, and am beginning to write.

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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!