Employment of children in the button trade, Hammond Turner & Sons, 1833, 1841 and 1864
In 1833, 1841 and 1864, the premises of Hammond Turner and Sons were inspected to check on the conditions under which children were working. The links below will take you to the two later inspections.
In this 1833 report, John Turner (died 1840) gives simple answers to simple questions.
Disposition of John Turner, sworn to before Leonard Horner and John Spencer, Esquires, 1st May 1833.
Will you state the trade in which you are engaged? —Button manufacture.
Have you any mechanical moving power? —No steam-engine or water-wheels.
What number of workmen do you employ on your premises? —From one hundred and thirty to one hundred and fifty. We employ besides about three hundred and fifty out-workers; either working for us entirely or partially.
Will you state what number of children in the manufactory under fourteen years of age?—From twenty-five to thirty.
What is the earliest age?—I think nine.
What are the hours of work?—From seven till seven, with two hours for meals.
Do you leave off sooner on a Saturday?—We pay our wages on Friday, and have done so for many years. The work-people generally leave a little earlier on a Saturday.
What is your impression of the state of education of the children, in your employment?—They generally can read, and frequently write, and they in general attend Sunday-schools.
Have you any work in the night?—No.
Is there anything in the nature of your work calculated to injure the health of the children?—None, nor other persons, except gilding, and that under the improved system with little inconvenience.
In the course of your long experience, would you say that the health of the children in your employ was generally good?—Yes.
What is your impression of the moral character of the children, male and female, in your employ?—Good; it has been my invariable practice to attend to the morals of the people in our employ, discountenancing vice by every means in my power.
Are you acquainted with the nature of the dwellings of your work-people, both as to healthiness as well as comfort?—These are in exact proportion to the moral conduct of the parties. Where they are religious, they are clean; where they are drunken, dirty.
From your local knowledge of Birmingham, do you consider that the work-people live in health and comfort?—Yes; arising from the general custom, of each family having a separate house and access to good pump-water.
Has this proposed Ten Hours Labour Bill excited any attention among manufacturers or workmen, with reference to the town of Birmingham?—None whatever, as being inapplicable to the place.
Have you ever heard of a factory of any description in Birmingham where it is alleged that the children employed are over worked? —Never.
Do you believe the operatives are generally well off at present, taking into account the rate of wages, and the prices of the necessaries of life?—I have known them many times during the last forty years much worse off than at present, and I believe that a part of the proportion of the present distress arises from their improvidence.
Does the distress to which you allude extend generally to all classes of trades in Birmingham?—I think not.
Have you ever known in the course of your experience Birmingham without distress existing among some descriptions of employment?—Uninterrupted prosperity must have been very partial, and of short duration.