Factory Reform

Evidence of Poor Working Conditions in Factories

Factory Commissioners were appointed to gather evidence about working conditions in the mills and factories.  You can read some first hand accounts below: 


Evidence received regarding Robert Blincoe, an apprentice, 1833:

'Blincoe commenced working in the factory at the age of seven, but being too little to reach the machinery, he was placed on a block, but he could not keep pace with the machinery and so was beaten repeatedly until his body became covered with bruises. Sometimes the hours of labour extended to sixteen per day.

Four years later he was transferred, along with other apprentices, to another factory, where the treatment meted out was even more savage and brutal.

Wounds were inflicted on his head and body by blows from rollers; plasters were put upon the wounds, and then forcibly wrenched off before the sore was healed; small hand-vices were fixed to his nose and ears; his teeth were filed; his hands were tied behind him, and then one of his legs fastened to his hands, and, in addition, he had to endure long continued and merciless floggings.'

Evidence given by a lame Huddersfield child - name not stated:

'I live over a mile from the mill where I work and can only move with difficulty, so my brother and sister used to take me under each arm and run with me to the mill and my legs dragged on the ground. I could not walk and if we were five minutes late the overlooker would take a strap and beat us till we were black and blue.'

Evidence given by Joseph Habergam of Northgate Huddersfield:
'I was obliged to work from five in a morning till half past ten at night, sometimes till eleven, for four months together and once all night. They do not use the strap there, they used to strike with the fist and kick with the foot.'


Commissioners - group of people working on a project

Inflicted - cause harm, hurt someone

Merciless - harsh, showing no mercy

Meted out -given out

Overlooker - manager

Vice - a medal tool used to hold something open

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: Huddersfield Local Studies Library | 

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