What were factory working conditions like in 1750-1900?
Before the Factory era people tended to work from home in there cottages - What were factory working conditions like in 1750-1900? introduction. It was a bit cramped and there was hardly any where else to move so you couldn’t work as quickly. Inside the cottages it was smelly, due to the open sewers in the middle of the street, next to the house. Generally speaking, the Domestic System was hard, but it could be said that the Factory System was harder.
All the factory owners wanted, was profit. They would employ people as young as six to work at the factories, just because they wouldn’t demand for more money. Doing so, the factories earned more money because the six year olds didn’t get paid as much for the work they do.
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Everyone who worked at the Factories, worked for 13 to 16 hours a day, six days a week. If you think that’s bad try standing in one place for thirteen hours. The kids and adults would have to work the same machine all day every day, which means standing still for all that time. I can barely stand still for more than five minutes let alone thirteen hours. They hardly got any breaks, but when they did go for lunch, he or she would put it forward thirty minutes just so that people would get back to work quicker, and when it drew closer to the end of the day they would put the clock back a couple of hours, just so they would work a couple of hours longer.
Kids and adults were treated with no respect. They would be severly beaten for falling asleep and would be fined for doing practically anything. You weren’t aloud to whistle, eat, drink, talk, looking out of the windows (which was practically impossible as the windows were so high up), and so many more even I forget about them. Also, you would be sack if you worked too slowly. If you think this is a horrible way for people to be treated, you couldn’t do anything. Factory Owners were in charge and could do whatever they wanted to do.
The trip to work for most people was a long one. Usually, three to four miles there and three to four miles back, so no time to muck about. Well you wouldn’t muck about in those times anyway because you would probably get fined.
And the machinery wasn’t much better either. There was no protection against dangerous chemicals or gases. Plus there were no guards on the machines to stop you getting parts of your body caught, and the owner of the factory was not liable for any injuries, so even if you did get injured, there was nothing your family could do about it. Some of these injuries being dislocated shoulders, broken ribs and sometimes even death. Even if you did get killed there was nothing your family could do about it. The reason there were no guards or protection on the machines was, 200 years ago, there was no law for health and safety.
The cotton industries were the first to become factory based. In 1780 Richard Arkwright built the first steam powered cotton mill. In the 60 years after this cotton factories rose dramatically from zero to 61. The first modern factory was founded by Arkwright in Derbyshire in the mid to late 18th century. In 1971 machines were then powered by water but slightly improving to the coal power gradually evolving to steam power.
The earliest factories were considered the most dangerous, unhealthy and miserable of all places. Work conditions varied from factory to factory. In some factories, the rules were very strict whereas in others they were fair. Families were often separated for their first time when working in these plants. Workers were fined sums of money if they made careless mistakes, and if they were unable to pay this, they would be beaten senseless by their bosses. However, after many years, things started to improve slightly.
Not all factory owners treated workers harshly though. The great mill at Saltaire on the river Aire, near Shipley in Yorkshire, was a popular place to work as this was one of the places where workers were treated well within their rights. The great mill was built by Titus Salt and they mass produced weaved mohair. On the opening of the mill Sir Titus entertained 3000 guests at a banquet including over 2000 workers, brought by rail from his factory at Bradford. Publicity helped spread his ideas and ideology and encouraged people to follow his example.
If you lived in one of the towns where a factory was situated, it would have been quite expensive, as everyone living there would wish to be close to the factory, most likely for employment purposes. Work began early at 5.30 and everyone walked the short journey to work. If you did not work at one of the near by plants, you would have surely been woken up by the hundreds of other workers that pounded the streets on their way to work. Thousands of people lived under just one roof and at least half of these would have worked at one of the factories, causing a distinct separation between workers and non-workers in the building. Wages were very low at the factories so families had little money for food and luxuries. This would also cause a problem when it came to the demand of their rent.
A Day in the Life of a Factory Child
Description of Child
Name: Eddie Thomas
Family: 6 Brothers and 5 Sisters
I have just woken up and it is pitch black. I can’t see as far as the end of the room. It is around 3 o’clock in the morning. I have to get up this early as we live 4 miles away from the factory where I work. I stand up put on my working clothes, and set off to work. It has taken me about 1 and a half hours and I have only just gone past the 2 mile mark. I have only an hour and a half to get to work, and it will take me more than that if I don’t speed up.
Yes, I have finally got there, and with 2 minutes to spare. What? Oh, no. The factory owner is complaining that I’m late; he doesn’t like me very much. So far he has fined me about 5 pennies this week. I also nearly lost my arm yesterday when I was trying to thread the machine when it was still on, but oh well, I shouldn’t complain because there are lots of children who are worse off then me.
Life in the factory is hard. You’re not aloud to speak, sleep, look out the window or move from where you’re working, unless its lunch or unless you have to repair a machine.
Today I will be working on the loom I don’t like the loom very much it is always breaking down and the strings are always breaking and it takes me ages to repair them and then it makes my quota of material short and then I get shouted at again.
It’s so cold in here. The factory owner is too stubborn to light the fire. One time, we tried to persuade him to put it on put he said that if we spoke again he’d sack us, so we haven’t talked since.
It’s dark and smelly. The windows are so high up they don’t let any light in and not alot of people wash as they think it warms them up if they are dirty. But because they’re dirty, they attract loads of things, including Rats.
Rats are horrible. They have diseases. Apparently, two hundred years ago they started a plague called “The Black Death” also known as the bubonic plague.
Finally, lunch. Oh, right same as usual then. We only get a slice of bread. I’m so hungry. I haven’t eaten properly my whole life.
What lunch over all ready? It can’t be. We are supposed to have 30 minutes, but that didn’t even seem like ten. The Factory Owner is probably up to his tricks again. Sometimes he puts the clock forward at lunch to get more working time. And then, when it’s about 30 minutes till we get to go home he puts them back a couple of hours. Like we don’t work a long enough day already. I’m 13, and I have to work 16 hour a days, 7 days a week, 52 weeks in a year. It took me 4 months to work this out, as I have never been to school, but I think that in a year I work 5824 hours out of the 8736 hours in a year.
Back to work then. Oh, no. The loom I have been working on has broken. I Have to fix it but they wont let me turn the machine off whilst I fix it. Right, so under the machine I go.
My hand. My hand. Why did it have to rip off MY hand?
Now, I won’t get paid and I will probably get sacked.
Yep, I got sacked. My family are going to be so disappointed in me. So, here I go taking the slow and winding road back to the house.