Apr 102020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Janet Barrie.

The growth of industrialisation unfortunately also led to the growth of opportunities for those with power to impose long or unsafe working conditions on those who depended on them for a livelihood. Gradually it was felt that these conditions were unacceptable and throughout the first half of the 18th century in the UK a series of Factories Acts were passed which gradually limited working hours, initially of children then later of adults too.

Accrington, Lancashire

Accrington, Lancashire

There were four main acts:

1833: Children 14-18 not to work more than 12 hours a day with an hour lunch break. Children 9-13 not to work more than 8 hours a day with an hour lunch break and two hours education. That is still 13 hour day for a 9 year old.

1844: This applied to the textile industry.Working hours of 9 year olds extended to 9 with a lunch break with the age of children being verified by surgeons. Women could not work longer than 12 hours. Machinery was to be fenced in and accidental deaths to be reported to surgeons and investigated.  The factory was to be washed with lime every fourteen months.  Thorough records of compliance were to be kept.

1847: Again applied to the textile industry except silk and lace. Women and children’s working hours were limited to 63 hours/week, reduced in 1848 to 58 hours/week - effectively a 10-hour day.

1850: Women and children could only work from 6 am to 6 pm in the summer and 7-7 in the winter, extending the working week to 60 hours.

Crucially the 1833 Act provided for the routine inspection of factories and four men were appointed to this role. With that number, even supported by sub-inspectors, many owners must have thought the chances of getting away with it were high. Tupling, in his ‘Economic History of Rossendale’ summarises it thus:

“The Factory Inspectors’ Reports of the middle decades of the nineteenth century give yearly evidence of wilful evasion of the Factory Laws and of a somewhat unfeeling exploitation of the workforce. The starting before and working after legal hours, the employment of children under age, or without allowing them to attend school at ages when the Factory Act required them to do so, seem to have been common practices which the penalties imposed by the magistrates, who were too often themselves owners, were too small to suppress.”

Rules from Helmshore Mill, 1851

Rules from Helmshore Mill, 1851

It was in this context that the inspectors of factories did their work. Their powers are summarised in the 3rd section of the 1844 Act (7&8 Victoria c 15)

 “That every inspector and sub-inspector shall have the power to enter every part of any factory at any time, by day or by night, when any person shall be employed therein; and to enter by day any place which he shall have reason to believe to be a factory, and to enter any school in which children employed in factories are educated, and at all times to take with him into any factory the certifying surgeon of the district hereinafter mentioned, and any constable or other peace officer whom he may need to assist him; and shall have power to examine, either alone or in the presence of any other person, as he shall think fit, every person whom he shall find in a factory or in such a school, or whom he shall have reason to believe to be or to have been employed in a factory, within two months next preceding the time when he shall require him to be examined, touching any matter within the provisions of this act; and the inspector or sub-inspector may, if he shall see fit, require such person to make and sign a declaration of the truth of the matters respecting which he shall have been or shall be so examined; and every inspector and sub-inspector shall have power to examine the registers, certificates, notices, and other documents kept in pursuance of this act; and every person who shall refuse to be examined as aforesaid, or who shall refuse to sign his name, or affix his mark, to declaration of the truth of the matters respecting which he shall have been examined, or who shall in any manner attempt to conceal, or otherwise prevent any child or other person from appearing before, or being examined by, an inspector or sub-inspector; or who shall prevent, of knowingly delay the administration of an inspector or sub-inspector to any part of a factory or school, or shall prevent an inspector or sub-inspector from examining any register, certificate, notice or other document kept in pursuance of this act, shall be deemed guilty of wilfully obstructing the inspector or sub-inspector in the execution of the powers entrusted to him.”

Basically they could:

 - come and go as they wished

 - see whoever and whatever they wished

 - be accompanied by the verifying surgeon and law enforcement to ensure compliance if necessary.

One such person (actually a sub-inspector) was Charles Patrick of Springhill House. How he came to the role is not known, he is known to be in Ontario, Canada, reservist for the mounted section of the army then pops up in Rochdale as sub-inspector of factories in 1855 when he marries Springhill landowner Mary Ann Ashworth and moves to the area. He remained in that role for the remainder of his career.

Newspapers provide good insights into the nature of the role. A couple of examples:

 - On one occasion a mill owner was acquitted of employing people before 6 am when it was demonstrated that the mill owner ran the mill according to the clock on one parish church, whilst Patrick had set his watch according to the clock on a different parish church. You’d think he’d get that right.

 - On a separate occasion the workers going early into a mill were surprised to see a tramp loitering in a nearby doorway. Once they were in, but before the official starting time, the ’tramp’ revealed himself as Patrick the factories’ inspector and nabbed the mill owner.

Patrick was active in the social live of the community, particularly in hunting, small scale farming and Conservative politics. He would therefore move in the same circles as the mill owners and magistrates, perhaps reinforcing Tupling’s point in the quote above. The impression from newspaper reports and his obituary however paint a man who was fair in his work.

  One Response to “I is for Inspector of Factories”

  1. Very interesting – thanks! Also worth remembering that from the factories inspecting became a key model of state interaction with employers on other spheres – railways (1840) and mines all followed.

    On the railways, Inspectors focused on passenger crashes till the 1890s when they started investigating worker casualties. Find out more about that, including our free database of British & Irish staff accidents, from the Railway Work, Life & Death project.

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