Coal Mining and the Victorians

What jobs did children do underground?

On 4 August 1842, a law was passed that stopped women and children under ten years from working underground in mines in Britain.

Before this law was passed, it was common for whole families to work together underground to earn enough money for the family to live on. 

The Victorians saw child labour as a normal part of working life. Most children started work underground when they were around eight years old, but some were as young as five. They would work the same hours as adults, sometimes longer, at jobs that paid far less.

The Trapper

The trapper was often the youngest member of the family working underground. Their job was simple: to open and close the wooden doors (trap doors) that allowed fresh air to flow through the mine. They would usually sit in total darkness for up to twelve hours at a time, waiting to let the coal tub through the door. It was not hard work but it was boring and could be very dangerous. If they fell asleep, the safety of the whole workings could be affected.

The Hurrier and the Thruster

The older children and women were employed as hurriers, pulling and pushing tubs full of coal along roadways from the coal face to the pit-bottom. The younger children worked in pairs, one as a hurrier, the other as a thruster, but the older children and women worked alone.

Hurriers would be harnessed to the tub, and thrusters would help hurriers by pushing the tubs of coal from behind with their hands and the tops of their heads. The tubs and the coal could weigh over 600kg, and would have to be moved through roadways which were often only 60-120cm high.

The Getter

Getters were the oldest and strongest members of the family, almost always grown men or strong youths. Their job was to work at the coal face cutting the coal from the seam with a pickaxe. Getters were the only members of the family who would work continually with a candle or safety lamp, as they needed the light to see the coal face.

Activity ideas:

Use the images and information on this page to discuss the different jobs done by children. (You can download a Mining Vocabulary sheet to help with these activities).

  • Role play the different jobs that children did in the mines - imagine doing them in the dark for 12 hours.
  • Create illustrations of the mining jobs done by children, inspired by the images from the 1842 report.
  • Discuss how the children’s health may have been affected by working underground.
  • Children were also employed in other industries, such as textile mills and farms. Research other jobs done by children in Victorian Britain and compare them with those done by children in coal mines.
  • Discuss the types of work children under 16 do today and modern regulations.
Test your knowledge with our  Victorian Coal Mining Quiz!

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

Scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.

Document icon Learning article provided by: National Coal Mining Museum for England | 

Comment on this page

  • Posted by Sebastain Exum on 08/11/2016

    This website has good information but it wasn't very helpful for my project

  • Posted by aimee leigh on 12/01/2015

    thnx this helped a lot O.O

  • Posted by tyler on 13/10/2014

    thx it helped a lot

  • Posted by 245617 on 17/09/2014

    lol this is good

  • Posted by Annie on 24/11/2013

    Your infomation was very helpful and I got a lot out of it. Please coul you put some on about what the conditions were in the mines.

  • Posted by Carmel Burke on 16/12/2012

    Your information is very very helpful I even told my teacher about this website and she came ebacause a lot of my classmates had trouble with coal mines... therefore I would like you to send a newsletter to as Earlsmead Primary School,London,Tottenham,n15 4pw

  • Posted by melissa kingston on 09/12/2012

    thank u for this information it is very helpful but please could u put a list of dangers in s coalmine thanks, Melissa x

  • Posted by keeley on 24/11/2012

    I am doing this in learning to learn and i am founding it very hard to find information on the internet, so please can you put on some information of kids jobs down the mine. This is for homework and I'm founding it very hard because there is hardly any information out there and this is the first website i have found that has jobs on mines, as i said before please put information on kids jobs down the mine. Much appreciated Keeley. P.S your information is very helpful.

  • Posted by joshua gilfillan hessle high school on 07/11/2012

    its been banned in most countrys some do offer better and safer work instead of this like servants and other things

  • Posted by caitlin on 27/03/2012

    i think i would not like to be down thair now i am worred i am just a child and i might have to work down thair.

  • Posted by emily rodriguez on 24/02/2012

    i think this is terrible it should be banned and its just soo bad they were in the dark omg im scared of the dark those poor lil kids

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