Pit Lasses Research - Barnsley Area

Barnsley Women and Girls who gave evidence in March 1841 to the Children's Employment Commission. They were interviewed by government inspector, Jelinger Symons. These are their statements with comments by Symons and my research into their families.

No 85 Elizabeth Day aged 17 Hopwood Pit

I have been nearly nine years in the pit. I trapped for two years when I first went in and have hurried ever since. I have hurried for my father until a year ago. I have to help to riddle and fill and sometimes I have to fill by myself. It is very hard work for me at present. I have to hurry by myself. I have hurried by myself going fast on three years. Before then I has my sister to hurry with me. I have to hurry up hill with the loaded corve. When I riddle I hold the riddle and have to shake the slack out of it and then I throw the rest into the corve. We always hurry in trousers as you saw us today when you were in the pit. Generally I work naked down to the waist like the rest. I had my shift on today when I saw you, because I had to wait and was cold but generally the girls hurry naked down to the waist. It is very hard work for us all. It is harder work than we ought to do a deal. I have been lamed in my ankle and strained my back. It caused a great lump to rise on my ankle bone once. The men behave well to us and never insult or ill use us. I am sure of that. We go to work between five and six but we begin to hurry when we get down. We stop an hour for dinner at twelve. We generally have bread and a bit of fat for dinner and some of them have a sup of beer, that's all. We have a whole hour for dinner and we get out from four to five in the evening so that will be 11 hours before we get out. We drink the water that runs through the pit. I am not paid wages myself. The man who employs me pays my father but I don't know how much it is. I have never been at school. I had to begin work when I ought to have been at school. I don't go to Sunday School. The truth is we are confined bad enough on week days and want to walk about on Sunday but I go to chapel on Sunday night. I can't read at all. Jesus Christ was Adam's son and they nailed him to a tree but I don't rightly understand these things.

Comment by Symons in main report - oppressive female labour

The evidence of Elizabeth Day and of Ann and Elizabeth Eggley are deserving of special notice and more so because I believe both the elder of these witnesses to be respectable and credible and both gave their evidence with much good feeling and propriety. The work of Elizabeth Day is rendered more severe by her having to hurry part of the way uphill with loaded corves, a very unusual circumstance.

Elizabeth's parents were Peter and Esther and her siblings were Mary, John, Esther and Peter. Peter Snr and John died in the Oaks Colliery disaster in 1847. Peter Jnr died at the same colliery in 1866. Elizabeth married Edwin Rock at St Mary's Church Barnsley 3/5/1846. She died in Quarter 4 1849.

No 86 Ann Mallender Hopwood Pit

I am 15 years old. I went into the pit when I was nine years old. I trapped a door for about three years. I have been hurrying since then. I always dress as you saw me today, naked to the waist and with trousers on. I hurry with another girl. I don't hurry the corves full up hill and it does not tire me very much but sometimes it does. I have never been poorly with the work. I work with James Martin who is no relation but he is the getter that employs me. They use me pretty well in the pit. I have not been a good deal at school but I was at a day school when I was a little girl before I began going into the pit. I have to riddle and help fill always. All the girls and boys have to do this. I cannot read. I go to Sunday School at St George's. I learn my letters. I don't often go to Church or Chapel. God made the worlds. I don't know who Jesus Christ was. I am sure I don't know. My father and mother never tell me about such things but they have taught me to pray.

Comment by Symons

This girl scarcely knows her letters.

No 87 Betty Mallender Hopwood Pit

I was 11 last November. I have been two years in the pit. I trapped for the first years. I liked to trap and don't mind sitting in the dark. I have hurried since with my sister. I always wear trousers and am naked down to the waist. It is not very hard work hurrying. I don't help to fill or riddle. I don't like being in the pit but I'm forced. I would rather be at school. They never abuse me nor hit me. I never hear them curse or swear. I go to the Sunday School at St George's. I learn a, b, ab. I can't read little words. I know I shall go to hell if I'm not good. If I'm good I will go to Heaven. I say the Lord's Prayer but I don't know what the words mean. I can't tell what trespass means.

Comment by Symons

This witness was only 3 feet 10 1/2 inches in height.

Both girls died in the Hopwood Pit explosion Tuesday 22/2/1842

Their father, Joseph, had died three weeks earlier. Their mother, Sarah, who was ill, was reputedly refused parish relief by St Mary's as she was not living in that parish. The parish where she was living also denied it as she was not from there. These two girls and their younger sister (no 95) were reputed to be the mother's sole source of support.

No 88 Bessy Bailey Hopwood Pit

I shall be 15 next Tuesday. I hurry in the pit you was in this morning. I have been in a year and never in any pit before. I like it very well. I hurry with my brother. It does not tire me very much. I always work naked down to the waist and with trousers on and all the girls I know hurry in the same way except two. I have been three years at Sunday School. I cannot read much. I have not been at Sunday School for a year now because I have to work at home to help my father get the dinner and to wash the pots up. I go out to walk a bit in the afternoons. I go to the Methodist chapel every Sunday evening. I think it is the best place on Sunday nights. Jesus Christ died for his son to be saved. I know who the apostles were. 22 pence of 3 shillings and 4 pence. I don't know how many weeks there are in a year. I don't know what Ireland is, whether it is a town or a country.

The 1841 census and the IGI have not revealed any other family with two children who fit the profile of Bessy and her brother Charles who were both interviewed by the Royal Commission. The following identification has been made on this basis.

Her father was shoemaker Barnet Bailey and her siblings were Harriet, Jacob, Ann, Charles, Sarah, Jane and Martha.

It appears that Elizabeth married George Darley Quarter 3 1846 , moved to Doncaster and died in 1907. She had no children.

No 89 Mary Day Hopwood Pit

female miner moving coal
Female miner pushing a coal truck

I am going on 16. It is six years since I first went into the pit. I work in trousers and sometimes with my shift on and sometimes off. I have been hurrying about four years. I have a little brother with me who is nine years old and he helps me. We have to hurry the loaded corves up hill a little way sometimes as well as along the level. It is not such hard work nor so very easy. The getter or collier shovels and I riddle and help to fill. I work for my father. I never hear bad language or swearing in the pit. [If] I had anything to do out of the pit and had good wages I should like it better. I go regularly to the Methodist Sunday School. I can read little words only. I hear about religion there. I have heard of Jesus Christ, but 'please Sir we haven't taken a deal of notice of that'. 4 times 5 is 20, 5 times 6 is 40. I don't know how many weeks there are in one year. I have never been badly. I look pale but I am very hearty.

Mary died in the Hopwood Pit Explosion Tuesday 22/2/1842 along with Ann and Elizabeth Mallender.

No 95 Maria Mallender aged 9 1/2 Hopwood Pit

I am a trapper. I have not been here a year. I don't like it because I sit in the dark but they often give me a bit of candle. I go to a Church of England Sunday School and can read in the Reading Made Easy.

Maria married Joseph Brooks 12/08/1849. Their children were Joseph, George, Walter, Sarah, Thomas and Harry. The couple died between 1901 and 1911.

No 102 Matilda Carr aged 12 Silkstone

I have been here week in the pit. I hurry with my brother. I don't like it but my father can't keep me without going. It's hard work and it tires my back. I think it will continue to tire me(n) after I am accustomed to it. I go down the shaft at half past five and stop a bit and then begin again. I stop for dinner I should think for an hour. I can read the testament every Sunday. Jesus died on earth but I am not sure I do not know what sort of death he died. They use me well at the pit and don't beat me or call me but I'd rather be at school than in the pit. I can't write.

Matilda's parents were Isaac and Jane and her siblings were Elizabeth (who died at Huskar), George, Hannah and Eliza.

In 1851 Matilda was a servant with the Hinchcliffe family in Holmfirth. She married tailor Joshua Bailey at Huddersfield in Quarter 1 Mar 1852, signing the marriage papers. She appears to have been widowed not long after her marriage. There is only evidence of one child, a daughter Elizabeth born c1853.

By 1871 she had returned to Silkstone and become housekeeper to William Ainley. Matilda died 23/03/1905 aged 75 and was buried at Silkstone. She left £379 5s 11d. This went to Estella Wilson Newcombe, her granddaughter who appears to be her only surviving descendent.

No 103 Mary Shaw Silkstone.

I am 19 years old. I hurry in the pit you were in today. I was between nine and ten when I first went, I trapped at first for three or four years and have hurries since. I go down between five or six in the morning and I come up generally about five in the evening. It depends on what the hurrier (getter?) gets how much we have to hurry. I have ever been much tired with my work. The children are generally well treated. I have been to Sunday School all the time I have been in the pit. I was at day school before I went into the pit. I can read. I can't write.

Comment by Symons

She reads fairly. She has a very slight knowledge of the Scriptures.

Mary Shaw is not a unique name in the area. Mary, the illegitimate daughter of Ruth Shaw, matches the age in records throughout her life. I have discovered no other birth which does. On this basis it is felt that this is likely to be the witness.

She married John Mann. Their children were Ann, George, Joseph, Hannah, Arthur. Emmanuel, Herbert and Sarah. She was buried at Silkstone 10/9/1862.

No 104 Hannah Clarkson Silkstone.

I am not 17 yet. I have been in the pit seven years. I have been four years hurrying. It does not tire me to hurry now. It did tire when I was little. I like going to the pit but I'd rather go to service. I don't like the confinement but it does not tire me much. I have never been insulted by the men in the pit and I have never known it happen. If I had a girl of my own I would rather send her to the pit than clem (go hungry) but if I had the choice I would send her to some other work. I cannot read. I have been to Sunday School. I learn to read but cannot read yet.

Hannah was the daughter of David and Elizabeth Clarkson. Her siblings were James and Elizabeth, both of whom died at Huskar, Ann, Harriet and Charles. Hannah was buried 23/9/1843 at Silkstone.

No 105 Ann Holling Silkstone.

I am 16. I am a hurrier. We go down between five and six and come up about five in the evening. We do not stop for dinner sometimes and sometimes we do. The work does not tire me. I like being down the pit well enough. I can read a bit. I have not learned to write. I go to Sunday School.

Her parents were George and Mary Holling. Her siblings were Elizabeth (who died at Huskar) Mary, Harriet, Charles and Israel.

There are no leads for Ann after the 1841 census. One possibility is that she was working as a cook for the Copper family in Ardsley in 1851 but the census details are insufficient to conclude that this is definitely the commission witness.

No 112 Maria Gooder aged 12 Thorpe's Colliery Gawber

I work in Thorpe's Pit at Gawber. I have been working about two years in the pit. I have been hurrying all along. I hurry with our Ann who is going on 18. It is hard work and tires me a good deal in my work mostly. I go at half past four in the mornings. I go in winter and whether it is raining or not. It's cold very often. I have my breakfast before I go, milk porridge. I begin to hurry at five o'clock, every morning the same. We have dinner at noon when they stop. They stop the engine sometimes an hour and sometimes half an hour. We have dry bread for dinner and nothing else. We don't have cheese or butter nor meat. There is water in the pit but we don't sup it. Sometimes the men let us have a little beer but not always. We come out at four and sometimes five. We hurry always except when they stand for dinner. I don't know how many corves we hurry but today I think it was two dozen (ie eight to the dozen). When we come up we go and have our dinner. Sometimes it is meat and potatoes and sometimes pudding. We generally have meat. Every day we have meat we have water to drink. I live with my mother and father. We hurry for a man who is no relation to us. He is good to us and uses us well. I don't like being in the pit. I am tired and afraid. I was at day school half a year before I went into the pit. I go to Sunday School now every Sunday. I can read. Jesus Christ came to us from Heaven. I know I must pray myself to go to Heaven. I have heard of Christ performing miracles but I don't know what sort of things they were. He dies by burning fire and brimstone down his throat. I think that once I did hear that he was nailed to a cross. Three times ten makes ten and twenty. Three times four is fourteen. There are fourteen months in the year. I don't know how many weeks there are. I would rather go to school than the pit.

Comment by Symons

She knows her letters but cannot read.

Her parents were Joseph and Martha Gooder and her siblings were Ann, Benjamin, Mary, Sarah, Ellen and Charles.

Maria married Charles Coats, the brother of Eliza (No 115) Quarter 4 1851. He died in 1857 It appears they had two children, Sarah b 1855 and Eliza b 1856 who are recorded on the 1861 and 1871 census with Maria's mother and stepfather James and Martha Gilpin.

Maria married Sagar Wilson Quarter 2 1858. She has not been located on 1861 census. Sagar Wilson died 1870 in Leeds. Wilson too common a surname to trace her further.

No 113 Ann Eggley aged 18, Thorpes Colliery Gawber

I'm sure I don't know how to spell my name. We go at four in the morning and sometimes half past four. We begin to work as soon as we get down.We get out at four, sometimes five in the evening. We work for the whole time except for an hour for dinner and sometimes we haven't time to eat. I hurry by myself and have done so for long. I know the corves are very heavy. They are the biggest corves anywhere about. The work is far too hard for me. The sweat runs off me all over sometimes. I am very tired at night. Sometimes when we get home at night we have not the power to wash us and then we go to bed. Sometimes we fall asleep in the chair. Father said last night it was both a shame and a disgrace for girls to work as we do but there was nought else for us to do. I have tried to get winding to do but could not. I began to hurry when I was seven years old and have been hurrying ever since. I have been 11 years in the pit. The girls are always tired. I was poorly twice this year. It was with headache. I hurry for Robert Wiggins. He is not akin to me. I riddle for him. We all riddle for them except the littlest when there is two. We don't always get enough to eat and drink but we get a good supper. I have known my father go in at two in the morning to work when we worked at Twibell's where there is a day hole to the pit and he don't come out till four. I am sure that we work constantly twelve hours except Sundays. We wear trousers and our shifts in the pit and great big shoes clinkered and nailed. The girls never work naked to the waist in our pit. The men don't insult us in the pit. The conduct of the girls in the pit is good enough sometimes and sometimes bad enough. I never went to school. I went a little to Sunday School but I soon gave it over. I think it too bad to be confined both on Sunday and on weekdays. I walk about and get the fresh air on Sundays. I have never learnt to read. I don't know my letters. I never learnt nought. I never go to Church or Chapel as there is no Church or Chapel in Gawber. There is none nearer than a mile. If I was married I would not go into the pits but I know some married women that do. The men do not insult the girls with us but I think they do in some. I have never heard that a good man came into the world who was God's Son to save sinners. I never heard of Christ at all. Nobody ever taught me about him nor have my father and mother ever been taught to pray. I know no prayer. I never pray. I have been taught nothing about such things.

Anne's parents were James Eggley and Ann Hinchcliffe. Her siblings were Elizabeth, Martha, Mary, George, Sarah, and Ellen.

Anne married John Hardcastle Quarter 2 1841. Their children were Charles, Emma, William and Eliza. She died at the Union Workhouse Quarter 1 1884 and was buried in Barnsley Cemetery Plot Q863.

No 114 Elizabeth Eggley aged 16 Thorpe's Colliery Gawber

I am the sister of the last witness. I hurry in the same pit and work for my father. I find my work very much too hard for me. I hurry alone. It tires me in my arms and back most. We go to work between four and five in the morning. If we are not there by half past five we are not allowed to go down at all. We come out mostly at four, five or six at night as it happens. We stop generally twelve hours and sometimes longer. We have to hurry only from the bank faces down to the horse gate and back. I am sure it is very hard work and tires me much. It is too hard for girls to do. We sometimes got to sleep before we go to bed. We haven't a very good house. We have but two rooms for all the family. I have never been to school except four times and then I gave over because I could not get things to go in. I cannot read. I do not know my letters. I don't know which Jesus Christ was. I have never heard of Adam either. I never heard about them at all. I have often been obliged to stop in bed on Sundays to rest myself. I never go to Church or Chapel. Comment by Symons in main report, oppressive female labour The Eggley's are however doing the ordinary work of hurriers in the collieries. It is a large, well regulated, well ventilated dome but owing to the size of the corves which weigh 12 1/2 cwt it is work far beyond the strength of females at any age especially females of 16 and 18 years of age.After taking the evidence of the two Eggley's I saw them both at work and hurrying their corves and also performed the work that they had to do at the bank faces. I can not only corroborate their statements but ave no hesitation in adding that were they galley slaves their work would not be more oppressive and I believe would not in all probability be so much so. Elizabeth Eggley the younger who is about 15 whilst doing what is called topping the corves lifted a coal which must have weighed at least a hundred pounds. It measured 30 inches in length and 10 by 7 inches in thickness. This she lifted from the ground and placed on the top of the corve, above three feet and a half high. She afterwards lifted a still larger one which was probably done to show what she could do. The former one was lifted in the ordinary course of her work. This girl was working for her father who was standing by at the time. I would beg you to refer to his evidence in which he expressed dislike of such employment of his daughters but that 10s a week was his inducement.

Detail about the Eggley sisters has been confirmed by a family historian.

Elizabeth married George Goodall 30/10/1843 at All Saints, Barnsley. Their children were Ellen, Emma, Joseph, James, Sarah, Frederick, George, Ada.

She died 16/9/1897, aged 71 from chronic bronchitis for 2 years, diarrhoea for 7 days and heart failure. She was buried at Barnsley Cemetery Plot H1066. There is no headstone.

No 115 Eliza Coates aged 11 Thorpe's Colliery Gawber

I hurry with my brother. It tires me a great deal and tires my back and arms. I go sometimes at half past four and sometimes at five. It is dark when I go. It often rains and we get wet and we take off our top clothes when we get into the pit. They never lace or ill use me in the pit.I can't read. I have never been to school I do nought on Sundays. I have had no shoes to go into school. I don't know where I shall go if I am a bad girl when I die. I think God made the worlds but I don't know where God is. I have never heard of Jesus Christ.

Her parents were George and Margaret and her siblings were James, Ann, Charles, Eliza, Rebecca and Hannah. She married Nathanial Hitchen Quarter 2 1847. Their eldest children were James and Mary. There is no trail after 1851. They may have moved to Halifax.

No 116 Sarah Gooder aged 8 Thorpe's Colliery Gawber

I'm a trapper in the Gawber pit. It does not tire me but I have to trap without a light and I'm scared. I go at four and sometimes half past three in the morning and come out at five and half past at night. I never go to sleep. Sometimes I sing when I've light but not in the dark. I dare not sing then, I don't like being in the pit. I am very sleepy when I go sometimes in the morning. I go to Sunday School and read Reading Made Easy. I have heard tell of Jesus many a time. I don't know why he came to earth I'm sure and I don't know why he died but he had stones for his head to rest on. I would like to be at school far better than in the pit.

Comment by Symons

She knows her letters but very imperfectly and ran on with the following addition ' God bless my father and mother and sister and brother, uncles, aunts and cousins, and everybody else and God bless me and make me a good servant. Amen.'

See No 112 for parents and siblings.

In 1851 She was a nurse with the Firth family. She married James Marsland Quarter 2 1854 and had two sons Alfred and George.

Sarah died Quarter 1 1912, aged 80 and was buried in unconsecrated ground in a family grave at Barnsley cemetery Plot X729.

No 117 Ann Gooder aged 17 years 11 months Thorpe's Colliery Gawber

I am the sister of the girl you last examined. She does sometimes go into the pit at half past three in the morning. We go also but at four in the morning. We come out at about five or between five and six. My sister hurries with me and it is not so hard as for those who go alone. We are often tired through the night. I have not been to school. I never heard of Jesus Christ. They don't teach me much about religion.

Comment by Symons

She can read a little.

See No 112 for parents and siblings. Ann was born before her parents were married. She was baptised as Ann Lockwood, daughter of Martha Lockwood, miner. It is possible that she featured in official records as Lockwood. There are no leads for her after the 1841 census.

No 136(a) Rebecca Hough aged 14, Charlesworths Pit, Silkstone

I am a regular hurrier. I am used to help the getter. I often do it three or four times a week. I help fill and riddle and then I hurry the corves to the bull stake. It tires me a good deal. I have always enough to do to tire me well at night. I find hurrying the hardest work. It is because I don't always do much at getting that it tires me less. I have never been to school. I don't go to Sunday School. I like to have a rest day on Sunday and not to go to school. I come down between five and six. I go out mostly between five and six. I stop perhaps ten minutes. The engine stands an hour. We have always somewhat to do you know at noon. I always work some time at beginning as well as at the end. I've learned to read. I don't know my letters. I never go to Church and Chapel. I have a mother and sometimes I go on Sunday but not often. Jesus Christ was God's Son, he came to save sinners. He was nailed upon the cross. I went to Sunday School when I was less. What I did learn I have forgotten. I don't like being in the pit if I could get anything else. I have not tried to get a place. I know I could not, there is over many put out of place already.

Rebecca was the daughter of William and Betty Hough. She married John Nixon Quarter 3 1853 John was usually known as Sunderland. Nickson was his mother's maiden name and he was born before his parents married. Their children were Alice, Amanda, Eliza, Tom and James. The family use both names interchangeably. She is thought to have died in Quarter 3 1889 in Dewsbury.

No 136(b) Ann Fern aged 14, Charlesworths Pit, Silkstone

I am a hurrier and help to fill and riddle. I have been in the pit five years last July. It tires me enough sometimes and sometimes not. I don't go to Sunday School because I think I ought to rest on Sundays but sometimes I go to Chapel. I can read in the Bible. I am up at half past four and go down at five and go out at four, sometimes five. I like being in the pit but I would rather got to service but I never tried. It's hard work going on the pit. I care nothing about where I am. I should be worked hard anywhere I dare say. I have had my leg broken in the pit. I was a trapper. I was poorly with the work when I was at Clarke's pit for I had to work harder there, often 13 hours. I have been ill at times two days and three days. The water used to make my feet raw it was bad water. I have been in this pit four or five months.

Ann was the daughter of Samuel Fearn. She had a sister Ruth, a half sister Sarah and a step-sister Martha Newton. A family historian has confirmed that Martha Newton is the cousin of Sarah Newton who died at Huskar.

Ann married John Hollings in Quarter 1 1844. Their marriage was recorded as John Holland and Ann Feran. They moved to Crigglestone and then Morley. Their children were Sarah, Ruth, Martha, Mary Eleanor, and Arthur. She brought up her niece and nephew Lydia and Thomas Mellor after her sister Ruth died.

I have not been able to trace her after the 1891 census.

No 144 Mrs Fern, collier's wife, Silkstone

I am the mother-in-law to Ann Fern. She has not been quite five years in the pit. There is nothing else for her to do. I couldn't get her into service. There are good and bad in the pits as well as above ground. I was 11 years in the pits. I don't find that Ann is much tired except sometimes. It is a deal harder some days than what it is others. Ann goes at half past five and mostly gets home at half past four and often before. They have about four days a week at that pit just now. She has not gone to Sunday School this winter for I wanted her to stay at home and learn some jobs about the house. She has been at a Sunday School and a day school before she went into the pit. She can read pretty well at the Testament. There is a difference in the girls as to their learning to sew and knit and to do housework. Ann can knit very well and sew middling but some will do nought. Ann earns 6s now in four days and I didn't know what they would do if they might not go into the pits. When they come home the girls mend their clothes and wash dishes and they have their dinner at night and they go to bed sometimes sooner and sometimes later. They go to bed later at eight, more at ten. They would think it summat to send them to bed a eight. My husband is a banksman at another pit. My own daughter does not got to the pit. She'll be 16 next month. The health of those who go to the pit never ails nought.

A family historian identified that Mrs Fern was Mary Swinding. She married George Newton 26/5/1817 and then Samuel Fearne 7/10/1835. Both marriages were in Silkstone.

No 147 Sarah Ann Swaine, aged 10 1/2 years Mr Wilson's Pit

I like trapping. It doesn't tire me. I don't go to Sunday School, my father and mother won't let me, so I do nought but lake on Sunday's.

There are no leads for Sarah Ann. From the date of her evidence it is likely the Commission was in the Penistone / Holyandswaine area. It is possible that something went adrift in the note-taking or transcribing and she is Sarah (unknown) from Hoylandswaine.

No 149 Ann Mellor aged 14 1/2 years Clarke's Pit, Silkstone

I was a trapper for two years. I don't like it so very well. I am nearly always in the dark but it doesn't tire me. I go to Sunday School but I cannot read very well. I shall hurry soon if I can. I shall like it better though it's harder work but I should get more money. I come in at six and leave at five in the afternoon.

Ann was the daughter of John and Mary Mellor of Hoylandswaine. Her siblings were James, Martha, Mary and Harriet. She never married, earned her living as a charwoman and was buried at Silkstone 13/3/1877.