A report produced in 1843 for the Children's Employment Commission

Children’s Employment in Wednesbury, 1843
Children’s Employment Commission 1843

Frederick Lees, Esq., aged 34, Surgeon:

Has practised ten years in the parish of Wednesbury, and also in West Bromwich. His practice leads him a great deal among the working classes. Considers the children and young persons employed, to be extremely well treated, particularly in the mines. Thinks the indoor apprentices with few exceptions are well fed, well clothed, and not beaten beyond ordinary correction. They are generally encouraged to attend schools and places of worship.

There are many schools, and the attendance at each is large; very large at some. The Wesleyan Methodist school has some hundreds regularly attending; so has the Church, and the other schools. Thinks they are not overworked as to hours; they all seem hearty and well; means the manufacturers as well as the miners.

Thinks they have quite sufficient time allowed for their meals; half an hour for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and half an hour for tea. There is no night work except at the ironworks, (rolling, smelting, and puddling,) and those who work in the night do not work in the day; there is very little of working over hours, in this place.

Thinks the general health is good; scarcely ever meets with a bad case of typhus, and then it does not spread. Hernia is rather prevalent in this neighbourhood, especially among the females; much more than among the men. Attributes it to their carrying heavy loads on their heads; these loads are mostly coals for their own use - the quantity is owing to greediness. Some of the women will carry as much as two cwt. on the top of the head.

They carry those great weights very frequently indeed when pregnant, and sometimes even when in an advanced state of pregnancy. There are very few cases of malformation of the pelvis, and labours are comparatively easy; though in some of these cases of weight carrying on the head, the labour is prolonged. But the women are generally strong. There is not much hernia among the children, but a good deal of scrophula; it is born with them from diseased parents.

There is much atrophy, and consumption; but does not consider there is more than the average quantity throughout England. There are a great number of diseases of the liver from excessive drinking. Saturday and Monday are the favourite days for getting drunk; with those men who work all night at the ironworks, it is quite common for them to get drunk next day. They are old constitutions at 40 years of age - many of them.

A great many accidents are occurring in the mines and ironworks always: very few indeed in the manufactories. Thinks the better class of employers here take an interest in the education of the children, and in their attendance at places of worship. The parents take an interest in this also, if we may judge from the fact of their sending the children to Sunday schools in such very great numbers. The teaching is gratuitous at all the Sunday schools.

There are very few girls employed here in manufactories. The boys usually go to work at 10 or 11 years of age; is of opinion that they ought not to be sent to any hard work, especially if it lasts all day, until 10 or 11 years of age.

Attributes the good health and strength of the boys in this parish, and also in West Bromwich (so far as he has seen of the latter, which is the Hill Top part) very much to the fact that they seldom are employed in any hard work until 10 or 11 years of age.

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