Mill Workers and Owners

Working rights and responsibilities

Wives and children of weavers were employed in the mills and were a preferable workforce to men as they were less expensive. Children were also small enough to crawl into the space under the machines.


As public opinion began to disapprove of the long working hours of young children, the minimum age of workers in the Strutt mills increased. Jedediah Strutt did not like to employ anyone who was under nine years of age.


However, it was reported that parents doctored birth certificates to make children look older than they were so that they could work in the mill.


I got my penknife and cut the certificate out of the certificate book, and holding it up to the light, I found that the child was born in 1828, and that the parent had altered the 8, making it into 6, making the child thereby two years older.

Mr Bury, Factory Inspector



What are your rights, at school? Home? Work? What are your responsiblities in each of these settings? Make a list under the headings 'rights' and responsiblities'. A template is available here.


In the UK today, children are protected from exploitation in the workplace or from performing work which may be dangerous.


How old you think you should be to be able to have a job? What restrictions would you put in place for young people to keep them safe?


Have a look at the link at the bottom of this page to working regulations for young people. Do they think these rules are fair? Should there be more or less rules or perhaps different ones?


Employers and employees have responsibilities to each other and should expect their rights to be upheld. A trade union is an organisation of workers who have joined together to achieve common goals in areas such as wages, working hours and to protect workers' rights.


This activity should be approached as a teacher-led discussion about pupils' knowledge of the world of work and the activities and systems common to most work places. If pupils have no experience of work, they could gather this information by speaking to a family member or older pupil, as a homework assignment.


Use the 'Working rights and responsibilities activity sheet' to brainstorm employees' and employers' rights and responsibilites in the workplace, e.g. working hours and breaks, conditions, health and safety issues, rules in the work place and pay.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site | 
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