Ickornshaw 1800, Conditions of Work

The evidence relating to Ickornshaw Mill given on June 2nd 1832 before the Committee of the House of Commons on the Bill to regulate the labour of children in mills and factories.

Stephen Binns called in and examined:

What age are you? – Turned 39

Have you worked in Factories? – Yes

What age did you commence? – A little before I was 7, or about 7.

In what situation were you? – A pieceman for my father.

In what sort of mill? – A cotton factory.

What were your hours at that time? – Twelve hours per day; but we had a quarter of an hour at breakfast, and a quarter at drinking; on account of being under my father, he was not so particular; he had what he earned.

Is that not generally the case in the cotton trade? – It was rather different at that time to what it is now. I had a machine to turn by hand, and he could not both attend to the machine and get his drinking at the same time, and I sat down with him.

Are they not obliged to put up the mule by hand now? – Yes.

How then now can they get their drinking while it is going on? – It will take half a minute or a minute coming out; I have solved many mathematical questions upon the floor at intervals while it came out.

Where did you work? – Ickornshaw, seven miles beyond Keighley; the persons name was Binns, a distant relation of mine.

What sized mill was it? – A small one.

How many Jennies were there? – They were mules; our master had no Jennies there; he had at another mill; he had eight or ten mules, perhaps.

Did you find the work of piecening laborious? – Yes.

It was fatiguing to you as a child? – Yes.

It required constant attention? – Yes, and great activity.

Were you punished to get that degree of work out of you? – Yes, if I was not sharp enough, whatever went on the mule, my father lost that quantity of yarn; he had a certain quantity of yarn to produce for a certain quantity of money; and my father sometimes threw a rope at me, and sometimes a small roller, and sometimes he laced me.

Did this go principally at the latter end of the day? – It was principally after dinner.

What did you become then? – A card minder.

What age were you then? – I cannot exactly say it was so long back; I might be about ten years of age, I think; I spread cotton on the card.

Were you still under your father? – No I was under another man.

Was your business one that required great activity then? – I never had a worse employment, and was never so hard roughed in all my life as then.

What were your hours then? – The same as before.

Had you any time allowed for your breakfast or afternoon meal? – No.

How came your work to be so hard in this carding, it is not usually a laborious employment? – The reason for it being so laborious is I had a new card on an improved plan made, having a petition between like two cards.

Do you mean it gave out two rovings? – Yes in two separate slivers; I had to weigh a weigh every two minutes; and  having two of them, I caused that I had one to weight per minute, and I had to go fifteen yards to weight the cotton; I had to spread it on so that it kept me constantly at work.

Is it not usual to have the scale close by? – It was a small factory.

You felt occasionally fatigued at the latter part of the day? – Yes and I had one card to mind; they went on at that time to a sort of cylinder, and I had to drag it off and put it on a new card.

Was your food frequently spoiled by not being able to take it? – Yes, every day.

How? – Because I could not take it; we had nothing but porridge, with sometimes treacle and sometimes butter; it was stood by the window till it was covered with cotton down; I used to clean it off, throw it out the window and sometimes get a little, and then leave it again, and then it would get covered again.

What employment did you go to then? – I went to spin on a mule on my own account.

What age were you then? – I might be been 12 and 13 or about 13.

Of course then you were under your own control? – Yes.

Where did you go next? – My father left the place, and I went with him to a place called Harden, three miles from Bingley.

Evidence ends.