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What jobs did children do underground?

The Royal Commission

People began to become concerned about the plight of children working in coal mines. Lord Ashley, later the Earl of Shaftesbury, campaigned for the protection of children, and helped to set up a Royal Commission (an inquiry) to investigate the working conditions of children working in mines.

The aim of the Commission was ‘to collect information…as to the actual state, condition and treatment of such children.’

Britain was divided into districts and each district was assigned a sub-commissioner. For Yorkshire these were Jeinger Cookson Symons, Samuel Swain Scrivens and William Raynor Wood. They interviewed men, women and children to find out the following information:

  • age employed
  • numbers of women and children employed
  • how they were hired
  • working conditions
  • hours of work, including meal times
  • holidays
  • wages
  • treatment of children
  • accidents
  • effects of work on physical condition

This report also contained tables of statistics and was the first to contain illustrations of what some of the sub-commissioners actually saw.


Assigned - to give someone a job to do

Campaigned - a planned series of actions to achieve a set goal

Commissioners - people given an official task (like a government report)

District - an area of a town or country

Plight - a difficult, dangerous or sad situation

Statistics - a collection of numerical data

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. 

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Cover of 1842 Royal Commission into Children's Employment (Mines) Report
Printed text from 1842 Royal Commission into Children's Employment (Mines) Report.