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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.