Victorian Voices

Cocker Brothers, Sheffield (part 1)   

The following text is a transcript of a page from the 1862 Royal Commission report into Children's Employment.

It describes the Cocker Brothers Factory in Sheffield, which made wire. An interviewer went to speak to the children who worked there.

In one of the shops in which two young boys work there is a considerable amount of steam machinery and bands, the boys winding wire at one machine. In another room, where four or five young boys work, the side of a wire-drawing table, which ought to cover up the machinery, has come away and not been replaced.

The boys have nothing to do with it; but as the machinery consists of many cog-wheels, and dangerous machinery is often found tempting to boys, it would be better safely covered up again. No accident, however, has happened here.

One boy (No. 149) gave an account of serious overwork elsewhere, and volunteered more than once the remark, that a boy upstairs (No. 150) had worked at the same places, and could tell me about them.

I immediately afterwards questioned No. 150 upstairs, making no reference to No. 149 so that he cannot have known of my having questioned the first boy.

I afterwards returned to No. 149, telling him what No. 150 said, but he repeated that he himself had worked as he had stated. The two accounts should be compared, as they differ in slight detail; but from the manner in which the boy (No. 149) gave his statement, and the clearness with which he stuck to it after several questionings, coupled with the likelihood that if one boy worked the other could on that account be spared, my belief is that the statement of No. 149 may be taken as quite truthful as regards himself.

The manager in stating that he did not think that the boys never made more than a quarter of a day over said that it might happen without his knowledge, the boys being under the men.


Bands - (in a factory) a moving belt in a piece of machinery
Consists of - is made up of
Coupled with - combined with
Statement - a spoken or written account of facts or a viewpoint

Discussion ideas: 

  • What sort of accidents could happen? Look at the pictures in this resource for clues.
  • Why do you think the interviewer wanted to talk to both boy No. 149 and boy No. 150?
  • Do you think the manager really knew how many hours the boys worked in his factory?
  • Read all the other work place descriptions (S Laycock and Thomas Turton) and decide where you would prefer to work.

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

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