Pit Lasses Research - Huddersfield Area

Female Miners from the Huddersfield area who gave evidence to the Children's Employment Commission in Spring 1841. They were interviewed by government investigator, Jelinger Symons.

No 175 Hannah Vaux aged 12 1/2, Flockton

I have been working two or three years at a pit. I have been to Sunday School all the time. I read in the Bible and the Irish class books. It is the Sunday School at Mr Stansfield's house. Jesus Christ came to save us from sin and was reviled by men, nailed to the cross and he rose again. He is in heaven now. My father and mother never teach me anything and all I learn is at the evening school once a week and on Sundays.

Comment by Symon

Spells indifferently and knows very little of arithmetic but has a fair knowledge of geography.

Hannah married Thomas Kaye, a carpenter and widower in Quarter 1 1858. She appears to have had one son, Thomas.

No 187 Jane Dewhurst aged 8, Emroyd Pit

I have been half a year in the pit. I hurry with another. I have 2s a week now. William Dixon pays me. I come down at 6 and go up between 4 and 5. I don't like coming, it tires me. I would rather go to school. I can read ABC.

I have no leads for Jane.

No 192 Margaret Westwood aged 14 1/2, Emroyd Pit

I think I've been in the pit five years. I come down at 6 in the morning. I go up the shaft at 5 at the latest. On Saturday's we go out at 3. I always stop an hour for dinner. I am eating now and I am going back to the shaft to eat. I always have a bit of bread like this, as much as I like but I only get a bit of mutton like this in odd times. I get my dinner before I wash. I hurry for Charles Littlewood. I am let to him. I have 6s 6d a week. He does not use me very well. He pays (strikes) me a good deal but has not lately. He hits me with his hand sometimes he hurts me. When we go to pit's bottom sometimes we have to wait for the corves and then he is angry and that is what he pays me for. I have told my mother but not my father of it. He is no kin to me and he works stark naked. He has no waistcoat on, nothing.When he is doing his work right agate I fetch 19 corves a day. I have to riddle sometimes but I never get nor bear. I only hurry. I don't like going into the pit. The work is not too hard but I would rather be outside picking. I have been frightened since Joseph Halliwell was killed last November. It was with the roof falling on him and since John Hall was burnt. I am frightened for fear I should be burnt. I have never been poorly. I have a coarse shift and a pair of trousers on always in the pits as I have now. I can read in Reading Made Easy. My father and mother can't read. They teach me religion at the Sunday School. I don't now who Christ was or whose son he was but he came to save us. I don't know where he is. I have been taught to pray and I pray to my mother every night. I get well washed every night before I go to bed. There are many of the boys and girls get paid when they don't do their work fast enough. I don't like being in the pit at all.

Comment by Symon

She looks robust, strong and very healthy.

Margaret's parents were Thomas and Frances Westwood. Her siblings were Mary, George, Henry, Jane, Frances and James. Margaret is believed to have married John Sugden in Quarter 1 1853. She had a son Henry, born a few years before the marriage, who is described on censuses as wife's son. She died in Quarter 2 1879. Margaret's sister, Mary was also a miner in 1841.

No 201 Amelia Stead, Nixon Pit

I am going on 11. I come at 6 and come out at 5 sometimes. I hurry by myself. It tired me in my legs a good deal. I go to Sunday School. I can read. I'd rather be at school. Sometimes I hurry 12 and sometimes 14 corves a day. I don't like being at pit.

I have no leads for Amelia.

No 204 Harriet Thorpe aged 12, Flockton

I don't like it. It doesn't tire me so much. I get out at 4 o'clock. I set off soon after 5 and get down at 6. I don't stop at all. I keep a gate without there are no corves. I have never been poorly. I am not afraid. I go to the Methodist school. I do not go to school now and have not been for twelve months. I don't know why Jesus Christ came to earth. I'm sure I don't know. If I ever heard the preacher preach about Jesus Christ I have forgotten.

Comment by Symon

This witness won't say why she does not like to come.

Harriet was the daughter of David and Rebecca Thorpe. Her siblings were Joseph, Mary, David, John, Levi and Ann. Harriet is listed on the census as a coal miner.

No 205 Emily Margaret Patterson, Flockton

I am going on 15. I work in the thin pit. The gates are from 27 to 30 inches high. I came down between 5 and 6 in the morning and I get away between 3 and 4 but sometimes almost 5. It tires me a good deal in the back. It is between 5 and 6 years since I started at first. I like it well enough. I don't stop at all at 12 o'clock, I have to fill. I go to Sunday School at John Sorby's. I learn to Reading Made Easy. They don't teach religion much I think. They teach me what will happen to me if I am not a good girl. I don't know whose son Christ was but he's not on earth now. He's in heaven I expect. I'm sure I've [been] taught what I must do to be saved. I don't know what kind of death Christ died. I don't know where he died or where they put him. I can't read. My father and mother have not tried to get me nought to do that I know on besides going to pit. I wear my petticoat and shift when I hurry. I hurry for my cousin. He wears a flannel singlet or waistcoat and might else.

Emily was born in Flockton in February 1827, the eldest child of Joseph and Elizabeth Patterson. Her father was a wood feller and appears never to have worked underground. In this area it was not unusual for men following other professions to find work for their daughters in a coal mine. Emily was known by her second name, Margaret and can be traced in records under this name. Her siblings were Ann (1829), Mary (1831) Harriet (1833), Thomas (1837) Seth (1840), George (1842) and Ellen (1846).

In 1850, Margaret had an illegitimate daughter, Jane who appears to have been cared for by her parents whilst Margaret earned a living. In 1851 she was a servant to a linen draper in Huddersfield.

In 1852 Margaret married Henry Robinson Preston, with whom she had two further children; Thomas born in 1853 and Ann in 1857. Henry was a gardener and the family seem to have moved round for work as they lived at Bolton on Dearne near Doncaster in 1861 and various addresses in Wakefield through until the 1890’s. Henry died in 1897 and Margaret returned to Flockton. By 1911, she was living with Jane’s married daughter, Emily Mountain. Margaret died in 1915 aged 88, and was buried at Flockton. She had outlived two of her three children, Jane and Thomas. Ann had married and emigrated to New Zealand.

Margaret’s younger sister, Ann, born in 1829 was also a female miner. Her name and some physical measurements are included in a list of mining girls. The investigator for this district, Jelinger Symons took his duties seriously and had some mining girls and farm girls measured in an effort to discover what effect mining was having on the physical development of children.

Little is known of Ann’s life. Other than that she had an illegitimate daughter in 1852. In 1867 she married George Nichols at Flockton. There were no further children. She died at Rotherham in 1881.

The lives of Margaret and Ann have been researched by a 3x great niece, Christine Barrows.

No 206 Fanny Drake aged 15, Overton

I have been 6 years last september in pit. I work at Charlesworth's Wood pit. I hurry by myself. I have hurried to dip side for four or five months. I find it middling hard. It has been a very wet pit before the engine was put up. I have had to hurry up to the calves of my legs in water. It was as bad as this a fortnight at a time and this was for half a year last winter. My feet were sinned and just as if they were scalded for the water was bad. It had stood some time and I was off my work owing to it and had a headache and bleeding at my nose. I go down at 6 and sometimes 7 and I come out at 5 and sometimes 6. At least the banksman has told me it was 6 and after 6 but there's no believing him. We stop at twelve but we often have to go into the hole to work at the dinner hour. We stop to rest half an hour and odd times longer. I stop to rest at hole with the getter and there is none else with us. I don't like it so well. It's cold and there's no pan (fire) in the pit. I'd rather be out of the pits altogether. I'd rather wait on my grandmother. I push with my head sometimes, it makes my head sore sometimes so that I cannot bear to touch it, it is soft to. I have often had headaches and colds and coughs and sore throats. I cannot read. I can say my letters. I work for James Greenwood. He is akin to me. I have singlet an a shift and petticoat in the pit. I have had had a pair of trousers. The getter I work with wears a flannel waistcoat when he is poorly but when he is quite well he wears nothing at all. It is about 32 inches high where we hurry and in some places a yard.

Comment by Symon

This girl is 4feet 5 1/2 inches in height and she looked very healthy.

Frances was the daughter of widower James Drake who was an agricultural worker. She had two younger sisters, Ellen and Martha. Her grandmother, Martha Drake, a pauper, looked after the family.

No 208 Mary Margerson aged 16, Overton

I work in the above pit named where Fanny Drake works. We work from 6 in the morning till 5 at night. I don't stop for any dinner. I get muck up generally all the time and I rest at odd times. I hurry alone to dip. I am quite sure I have nobody to help me. I work for Joseph Lister who pays me. The pit is very wet. The water comes up nearly to my calves generally, till they let it off. It is often for a week together. I find it very heavy work. I am very tired when I come home. I hurry both muck and coals and I can't keep count of the number of corves per day. I am well enough used by the men. I can't read. I go to Sunday School. I have been for three years. I wear a petticoat and shift and stays. There is a cold wind in the pit. The man I work for wears nought. He is stark naked. I don't like being in the pit. My father and mother are alive but they are always sickly, I have four sisters and three work in the pit and I have a brother and he is going on 5 years old and he does not work yet. It is the Dial Wood Pit where I work belonging to Messrs Charlesworth.

I have no leads for Mary.

No 209 Sally Ann Margerson aged 18, Flockton

I work in the thick coal pit of Messrs Charlesworth's. I can stand straight in some of the gates. I hurry to the rise. The water is up to our ankles. It is generally so. I have been hurrying two or three years. I hurry from 6 to 4. We come on at all times. We rest generally the whole time at noon. I hurry sometimes 12 sometimes 24 corves a day. It is very hard. It sometimes makes my nose bleed and I have often bled at my mouth but not very great quantity.

It is only when I am at my work that it comes on. I have to riddle and fill every time as well as hurry. The water hurts my feet and takes all the skin off sometimes. I wear stays and breeches when I am working. I hurry for my father. He wears a singlet. I don't like working in the pits. I have generally bad health. I have been sickly before I went into the pits. I read a little bit. I don't go to school on Sundays. I stop and help my mother at home. I have never tried to get anything else to do. My mother would not let me. I have 6s 6d a week wages.

Comment by Symon

This girl looked ill and weak and the family are all delicate.

I have no leads for Sally.

No 215 Jane Margerson, Flockton

I'm going on 16. I hurry. I have been 4 years at pit. The work doesn't tire me. I've never been badly. I come at 6. I go out sometimes at 3, sometimes at 4. I know getters who leave the hurriers corves to fill after they have gone out themselves. I don't mind being in the pit so much. I have been in service till I came to the pit. I like going to service best. My father took me away from service to send me to the pit. I did go to Sunday School but I don't now because I have to help my mother. The men wear trousers in the pit. It's a bit wet but it does not come over my shoes.

It is possible that Jane married William Sykes in Quarter 4 1846.

No 216 Ann Firth, Flockton

I'm going 9. I come down at 6. I live at Middlestown. I go out at 5 sometimes. I go out sometimes earlier. I hurry with another girl who is less than me. Ann Eyre hurries with me. I don't fill or riddle. I go to Sunday Schools, I can read a little bit, not Testament. I am tired in my arms and legs and all. I don't like being in the pit. I'd rather be in school. I've been here a year. It's wet and I get my feet wet sometimes.

It is not possible to identify the witness as several girls fit the details.

No 228 Mary Ramsden, aged 9 1/2, Gildersome

I go down the pit at 6 in the morning and I come up at 4 or 5. I hurry with a little lad. It is hard work and tires my back a good deal. I go to Sunday School at Morley. I read my ABC. I'd rather be in the pit than at school. Nobody ever told me what I was to say before you come.

Comment by Symon

This child cannot read her letters and had no knowledge of Christianity.

I have no leads for Mary.

No 229 Ann Wilson, aged 10 1/2, Gildersome

I go to the pit generally at 6 in the morning. I have to hurry at dinner time and to get sometimes but not often. Sometimes we have to hurry muck and such like. We come out between 4 and 5. I stop till 6 sometimes working all the time. It is the men we hurry for who stop us. I have been bad with influenza. I hurry by myself. I push with my head. I come out at 4 on Saturdays. It doesn't hurt my head pushing. I don't like being in the pit. I am frightened being in. They don't ill use me. Nobody told me what to say before I came here. I did go to Sunday School once but I stop at home now to nurse. I used to read. I can read little words. I've never been taught to pray. I live with Brown who keeps me and not with my father and I hurry for one of the apprentice lads. I never heard of Jesus Christ or of God but I know I shall go to Heaven if I am good but I don't know where it is. I have plenty to eat and drink and they don't ill use me.

Comment by Symon

She didn't know her letters when tried. This child was strong and stunted in growth.

The 1841 census indicates that Ann was living in the household of Joseph Brown who had several apprentices. Very unusually for a girl she was listed on the census as an apprentice.

No 237 Emma Richardson, aged 10, Dewsbury

My work does not tire me at all. I like it and I'd rather be here than not and go to a night school. I went to a night school before when I went to Horbury. I go to Sunday School and to Chapel. I learn ABC. I can't read in a book and I can't say. They teach en that I'll go to a burning place if I am a naughty girl and to Heaven if I'm good. I don't know who Christ was. I hurry with my sister. She behaves to me well. My mother would pay her if she didn't.

Emma's parents were Isaac and Mary Richardson. Her siblings were Thomas, Jane, and Elizabeth.

No 239 Grace Pollit aged15, Dewsbury

She states that she does not like being in the pit and that she would rather be in a factory. She works for her father and that no effort, as far as she knows, had been made to get her other employment.

Grace's parents were Thomas and Harriet Pollitt. Her siblings were Joseph, Joshua, Harriet and Thomas.

No 266 Elizabeth Ibbetson, Gomersal

I am 11 1/2 years old. I don't like being at pit so well. Its too hard work for us. My sister hurries with me. I've been two years and a half in this pit. It tires my legs and arms but not so much my back. I get my feet wet. I come down at 7 and 8. I come out at 4 and sometimes at 2 and sometimes stay until 6. I laked on Saturdays for I had gotten cold. I am wet in the feet now. They are often wet. We test and hour one day with another but we stop none at Saturdays. I push the corf with my head and it hurts me and is sore. I go to Sunday School to Methodists every Sunday. I ABC. I've heard I shall go to Heaven if I'm a good girl and to hell if I'm bad but I never heard nought at all about Jesus Christ. We are used very well but sometimes the hurriers fall out and they pay us. I have no mother. My father works at pit.

Sometimes the specialist knowledge of a family historian is needed to identify a witness. I am grateful to Jane Roberts who researched this branch of her family.

Elizabeth's parents were Jonathan Ibbetson (witness 267) and Elizabeth nee Rushworth. Her siblings were Hannah, John (died in infancy). James (witness 263), William, Martha, John (witness 264) Mary, the younger sister who worked with Elizabeth, and possibly Joseph.

Elizabeth married miner Joseph Haigh in Quarter 2 1850. There is no indication of how she earned a living after 1842 and no indication that she had any paid employment after her marriage. Their children were Nelson, Martha, Emma and Allen. She died in Quarter 1 1883.

Jane Roberts has posted a wealth of information about Elizabeth's family on her website

No 283 Mary Holmes aged 14 1/2, Hepworth

I have been eight years working in the pits. I have always hurried. I never thrust much. I always hurry as you saw me with a belt and chain round my waist and the chain between my legs. I hurry so in the Board gates. I always wear lad's clothes. The trousers don't get torn at all. It tires me middling. My back doesn't ache at all or my legs. I like being in the pit and don't want to do ought else. I never tried to do anything else. Sometimes I get cold by its being so wet. The wet covers my ankles. I am sure nobody has told me what to say. I don't go to Sunday School. I read in the spelling book. I don't know my letters. I don't know who Christ was. I haven't heard that much about him. They thrash me sometimes in the pits. It is not the getters it's the hurriers that does it. They don't hurt me much. There are 13 children on my family now four are boys and are all in the same pit with me. I have no other sisters working in the pit now. I have a shilling for hurrying two dozen that is 16 corves. This is my regular stint. Sometimes I stop and fill the corves after the getter is gone. I don't know how long I shall stop in the pit. I have two sisters married and one is in service. They all hurried before. I am sure I would rather be in the pit where I am thrashed sometimes and work in the wet than do anything else.

Mary's parents were Jonathan and Ann Holmes. Her siblings included Elizabeth, John, Abel, Isaac, Lydia. James, Ellen, Martha and Charlotte.

Mary is believed to have married Abel Hellawell in Quarter 2 1849. Their children included Ben, Emma, Jane, Fred, Ann, Joe, Thomas and Harry. The couple can be located in the Holmfirth area until the 1881 census.

No 285 Rachel Tinker aged 13, Hepworth

I don't think I have worked three years quite. I dress like a lad I the pit and always a belt round my waist and the chain between my legs and then I leaned forward and go on my hands and feet. I tear my clothes sometimes with the chains. They get torn between the legs. It is not hard work. I've never been tired with it. I only hurry in the endings with the belt and chain and there are no rails. It is no such hard work. I have hurried by myself ever since I begun. I would as soon hurry by myself as have one with me. They neer thrash me. I sometimes hurry a run after the getter is gone but not often. I would as soon be in the pits as anywhere else for ought I know. My father is the banksman and had half a dozen girls. We have no boys. We would be fast if he couldn't send us to the pit. I have been at Sunday School. I can read in the spelling book but I don't know all my letters. I don't know which made the world. I never heard Jesus Christ. I wash my hands and face and neck every night when I get from the pit. I wash myself all over every Sunday at morning before I put my clean things on. I am quite sure nobody has told me what to say.

Rachel's parents were James and Jane Tinker and her sisters included Mary, Harriet, Eliza, Ann and Selina. By 1851 the family had moved from Holmfirth and were living at Stalybridge. Rachel was working as a cotton weaver. She married John Green in Quarter 3 1853. Their children were John, Hannah and Sarah. She married Henry Ellam in Quarter 1 1867. She was widowed a second time in 1873 and became housekeeper to her son John in 1881 and her daughter Sarah in 1891. Rachel appears to have moved to Blackpool where she died in Quarter 3 1907.

No 286 Ann Winchcliffe aged 10yrs 3 months, Hepworth

I pull with a belt and chain and have a boy to thrust. It doesn't tire me. I wear trousers and the chain often tears them and makes great holes between the legs. The boys never thrash me. They fight sometimes. I'd rather be in the pit than at school. The gates are often very wet. I always hurry with my shoes and stockings off. I have just began going to school. I don't know my letters. Sometimes I go top the pit at 6 and sometimes at half past 7. I come out about 4 or 5. I don't work much longer. We don't stop for dinner. We get it as we go along any how.

Ann's parents were Job and Mary Hinchcliffe and her siblings were Amelia, Joseph, Julia, John, Mary Ann and James. She may have married Jonathan Taylor in Quarter 4 1856.

No 289 Betty Swallow aged 11yrs 4 months, Hepworth

I always hurry with belt and chain and always dress in trousers. The belt goes round my waist and the chain between my legs. There are no rails. I like it weel enough. The chain never hurts my legs. It tires me when I work till 4 o'clock but I don't often work so long. We thrash one another we lads and lasses sometimes. There they ne'er thrash me. I have been to Sunday School and go now. I can read in the spelling book. Jesus Christ came to save poor sinners. I say my prayers every night. I go sometimes to Church and Chapel. I go down the pit at 7 and have my breakfast before I go. It is milk porridge I have and a bit of bread with it. I have heard about oat cake in the pit at noon. We stop about an hour in the pit at noon. We lake then. We have our dinners when we get home. We have sometimes meat pie and sometimes potatoes. Sometimes nothing but potatoes. I am washed all over on Sundays but not every day.

Swallow is a common surname in this area. I have not located Betty on the 1841 census which suggests that she is not the sister of No 292.

No 291 Sarah Senior aged 13, Hepworth

I began to go into the pit about a year ago. I used to help my mother before. I like being in the pit. It makes my back ache but not so much. I hit my back a bit. I go to Sunday School. I like to read in the spelling book. I don't know my letters so well. They only teach me to know my letters at the Sunday School and I don't know which Jesus Christ was. I never heard of him. I always hurry with the belt round my waist and the chain between my legs.

It is likely that Sarah was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Senior. Her siblings were Joseph, Job, George, William, Jonathan, Ellen and Elizabeth.

No 292 Caroline Swallow aged 8 1/2, Hepworth

I have been two years in the pit. I hurry with another lass. I don't know what time I go down or come up. It tires me a good deal. I hurry with belt and chain. I have given over being at school.

Comment by Symon

She knows nothing.

Caroline was the daughter of Abel and Ruth Swallow. Her siblings were James, Julia, Ann, Abel and Jane.

No 293 Eliza Senior aged 11, Hepworth

I have ben two years in Wagstaffe's pit. I don't like being in the pit. It is bad hurrying. The roads are bad, they are dry. My sister hurried with me. I hurry with belt and chain. It tires me a good deal at night. I go to Sunday School, I don't know whose son Jesus Christ was. They behave very well to me in the pit. I go down at 7 to the pit and come out at 3 or 4. We stop half an hour at noon.

I have not located an Elizabeth Senior who matches the family details given by this witness.