Factory apprentices

What does 'apprentice' mean?

An apprentice is someone who learns a trade by working with an expert. In the past, the apprentice or their parents would sign a contract called an indenture, promising to live and work with their master for a set time, which could be for up to seven years.

(Download examples of indentures belonging to apprentice John Walton and Harriet Senior via the links below.)

Who became a factory apprentice?

Children who were sent to factories as apprentices were usually orphans. Orphans and abandoned children were the responsibility of their local parishes. The parish authorities often apprenticed children to help them learn a trade and support themselves in later life. 

Was a factory apprenticeship a good thing?

Often apprenticeships gave children useful training and a more secure future. Yet, they could also lead to exploitation as there were few checks to make sure that apprentices were well treated. In some cases, very young children were sent to factories because it was cheaper than educating them.

What happened when things went wrong? 

The system was often abused. Many children were homesick, or found that they could not take the life of an apprentice, and tried to run away. However, the apprentice was considered to be the mill owner's property - almost a slave - and newspaper advertisements would offer rewards for the return of runaways  (see top left image above above).


Abused - When something is used in a way it is not meant to be

Apprentice - Child or young person who is learning a trade

Effectively - Might as well have

Indenture - Contract between an apprentice and their master

Orphan - Someone whose parents have died

Parish - Local area responsible for looking after people living there

Poor Law - Law passed in 1837 which forced poor people to go into a workhouse to receive help from the state


Links to the other 'Craft Made From Graft' resources are at the bottom of this page.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Huddersfield Local Studies Library | 
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