Pit Lasses Research - Lancashire Area
Lancashire women and girls who gave evidence to the Children's Employment Commisison in Spring 1841. They were interviewed by government investigator, John Kennedy. Below are their witness statements and my research about their families.
No 20 Mary Ann Hunt, waggoner, Mr Foster's Outwood near Bolton
What age are you? I am going on fifteen.
How long have you been in the pits? I have only been at work eight months. I was a weaver for two years.
Do you like your present employment? I like the coal pit best. I made very badly at weaving. I could only make 5/3d a week weaving and I can make more now.
What hours do you work? I come down at six o'clock in the morning and I go up again at five or six in the evening.
No 21 Eliza Hunt, drawer, Mr Foster's Outwood near Bolton
What age are you? I am thirteen years old.
How long have you been in the pits? I have been eight months in the pit.
What did you work at before you came down here? I never worked before I came here.
Are you ever beaten? Yes, sometimes.
The parents of Mary Ann and Eliza were Robert and Ellen. Their siblings were Alice, Simon, Ellen, George and Robert. In 1851 and 1861 Mary Ann was unmarried and worked as a winder in a textile mill. I have no leads for Mary Ann after 1861, or for Eliza after 1841.
No 24 Alice Hatherton, collier, 20, Forsters, Ringley Bridge
What age are you? I am twenty years old.
You are getting coals, I see, do you always work at the pick? No I am at coal getting now that the colliers are turned out but generally I am a drawer.
At what age did you first go into the pits? When I was between nine and ten years old, I was a drawer then.
You come from the neighbourhood of St Helen's? Yes, from Bickerstaffe.
Are there any other girls at work besides you? No, I am the only one that gets coals in the pit, my sister is riddling and drawing and there is a woman, Peggy Lowe, who hooks on the baskets at the pit cage.
Can you read and write? Yes, I can read pretty well. I cannot write yet but I am getting on.
Do you attend the Sunday Schools? Yes, and I go to a night school three days a week.
What books do you read? The Testament and we get some tracts to read sometimes.
What hours do you come to your work? I come at five o'clock in the morning now that there is a push, and I go up at four and five in the afternoon and sometimes it is six.
Comment by Kennedy.
The woman Peggy Lowe has the neatest house in Ringley; her husband was killed by falling down a pit; she has no family and her house is quite exemplary in the way of cleanliness; she is a hard working woman. I saw her when in the pit; she was dressed in a jacket and trouser and wore a low-crowned hat and a close-fitting cap to keep the coal dust out of her hair; she is a rare instance of a female collier being neat and tidy.
In his statement Joseph Hatherton, Alice's father, reported that Alice could read and write and taught at Sunday School. Hatherton is a common name in Lancashire, making it difficult to locate Alice who does not appear on the 1841 census with her father. It is possible, though not proven, that she and her sister moved to Wigan to work. Peggy Lowe is probably the woman recorded on the census as Margaret Lowthward 35 Coal miner.
No 25 Mary Hardman, housewife, Outwood, near Lever
What age are you? I am 38 years old.
Have you ever worked in a coal mine? Ay I believe you; I went into the pits when I was seven years old.
Are you a married woman? Yes I am.
Were you married whilst you worked in the pits? Yes I was and I have when pregnant. I had eight children, and they were all born when I worked in the coal pits. I have had either three or four born the same day that I have been at work, and have gone back to my work nine of ten days after I lay down, almost always.
I have not located Mary on the 1841 census.
No 26 Mary Glover, Waggoner, 38, Fosters, Ringley Bridge
At what age did you first go into the coal mine? I went into the coal pit when I was seven years old and began by being a drawer.
How many children have you had and have they all been born alive? I have five children alive now and I have buried two.
Were these two born alive? Yes.
Did you work in the pits when you were in the family way? I never worked much in the pits when I was in the family way but since I gave up having children I have begun again a bit.
Is your husband a collier? Yes.
What time do you go in the morning when you are at work? I go at half past five in the morning and come out at between four and five in the afternoon, sometimes later.
How are you dressed when at work in the pits? I wear a shift and a pair of trousers when at work and I always will have a good pair of trousers. I have had many a 2d given me by the boatmen on the canal side to show my breeches.
Did you ever see women work naked? No, but I have seen men work without breeches in the neighbourhood of Bolton. I remember seeing a man who worked stark naked and we would not go near him. We used to throw coals at him. He was killed afterwards; some coals fell upon him.
What sort of language do the women generally use in the pits? I have heard very bad language used many a time by women in the pits.
Have you ever seen the men take liberties with the women? Aye, many a time.
Were you ever seriously hurt? No I was never hurt so as to 'play' me.
Are any of your children in the pits? No, they are too young at present; but I don't think I shall let my children into the pits, that is the girls. The boys may go there if they have a mind but I don't think it is proper work for a woman.
Can you read or write? No I was bound down to my work too soon to learn very much.
What wages had you when you first began to work? I had 6d a day and now I have half a kale (half a collier's wages- a kale in these pits means three tons of coal) when I am at work.
Who takes care of your children whilst you are in the pits? A wench of mine takes care of the children; she has been struck with a palsy and cannot do any great deal of work. I have a father and mother that live with us but they are old people.
Mary (nee Garswood) was married to Edward. Their children were Margaret, Ellen, John, Ambrose and Alice. Edward's father also lived with the family. I have no information for Mary after the 1851 census.
Comment by Kennedy (summarised).
Her mother is 84 and her father 80. Kennedy visited the house where he found the children covered with lice and the house wretched in the extreme. Her husband would earn 25-30s and Mary 14 15s a week when working but house far worse kept than that of a poor woman in a neighbouring cottage who had 5s a week and three children to keep.
No 36 Margaret Winstanley Drawer, 24, Thickness's Wigan
In whose employ are you? Mr Thickness's.
How long have you been a drawer? For 14 or 15 years.
Are you married? Yes I am and this is my first child, it is 11 months old.
Have you been at work since the birth of your child? Oh yes, I went back in a month after it was born.
How does it happen that you are not at work today? Why, the pit I work in is very wet - the water is half a yard deep on some places and my husband has gone to his master to see if he won't put him in a dryer place, for he cannot work where he is.
Have you good health? Not lately. I have been very ill. I lay in my bed several days and my child was ill too from me working in the wet so much.
Why do you not change your place of work? My husband is bound for 11 months to Mr Thickness and his master says he must work either there or go to Kirkdale [ie the gaol] which he pleases. My husband has worked in wet places for many a year, sometimes he has worked up to his knees in the wet, and does now when he is at work. When I am drawing for him my clothes are all wet through.
Will his master not allow him to give up this agreement? No, he has lent him money and he will have to work for 11 months before it is paid off.
Have you ever been injured in the coal pit? No, not to signify. I have been hurt, but colliers don't make any account of being hurt unless their bones are broken. My brother had his leg hurt by the roof falling and his leg has been taken off, he is getting well now very nicely.
It appears, but has not been proven, that Margaret's maiden name was Smalley and that she was married to Peter. This couple's children were Thomas, Elizabeth, James, Margaret and Mary. Margaret appears on the 1891 census and is assumed to have died before the 1901 census.
No 39 Betty Houghton, waggoner Blundell's Wigan
What age are you? Nearly fifteen.
When did you begin first to work? I have been between five and six years in the pits.
You are a waggoner, I believe? Yes, I am.
Do you use the belt and chain? No there is no belt and chain work in the pit, the coal is all waggoned.
What time do you get to work in the morning? At six o'clock.
Do you stop for breakfast? Sometimes we do for a quarter of an hour.
Do you stop for dinner? Yes, an hour from twelve til one.
Is this full hour always taken for dinner time? Yes, mostly.
What time do you come up at night? Between five and six o'clock. [It was half past when this was taken.]
Do you like this employment? No, I don't so well, I would rather work above but I am liked [obliged] to like it.
Have you ever been to school? Yes, a bit.
Can you read or write? I can read i' th' Testament but I cannot write. I wish I could.
Betty was the daughter of John Houghton and Ellen. She had a brother John. The surname is too common to locate her in records after the 1841 census.
No 40 Ellen Taylor, Blundell's Wigan
What age are you? Eleven years old.
How long have you been in the pits? About four years.
Do you ever attend church or chapel? Yes.
Do you go to any Sunday School? Yes, sometimes.
Have you ever been to a day school? Yes.
Can you read and write? I can read but I cannot write.
Do you ever get beaten? No, not i' th' pit, but my mother beats me sometimes when I'm 'naught' [naughy].
There are three girls in Wigan on the 1841 census who could be this witness as they live in mining families. The most likely seems to be the daughter of Peter and Mary Taylor as she is listed on the census as a coal drawer, along with sisters Ann and Rachael. Her brothers are Henry, John, Peter and Thomas. I have no leads after 1841.
No 42 Betty Laws, Blundell's Wigan
What age are you? Fourteen years old.
How long have you been at work? Three years.
You work the same hours as the other waggoners in this pit? Yes I do.
Do you attend a Sunday School? No, I don't.
Have you ever been to school? No.
Do you ever attend Church or Chapel? No.
Can you read or write? No.
I have not located Betty on the 1841 census.
No 72 Jane Sym, 26, waggoner, Craig's, Blackrod
You are a drawer in Mr Craig's coal mine? Yes I am.
Are you a married woman? Yes I am.
How long have you been engaged in this employment? About twelve months. I use to weave, but the trade is so bad that I was obliged to leave it.
Do you like your present employment? No I don't but if I did not do it I could get nothing to do.
What hours do you work? I go down between five and six in the morning and I come up sometime as early as twelve o'clock in the day and sometimes between five and six o'clock in the evening.
Do you work a night in the pit? Yes I work night and day week about that is I work in the day one week and in the night the next.
What hours do you work at night? From six at night till six in the morning.
Do you like working the night shift? No I don't. It makes me very tired sometimes and I am ill with it but I must keep my turn or clem [go without food].
Do you always get enough to eat? No to tell the truth I do not always.
How many children have you? I have buried two and I have none left at present.
What can you earn a week? I can get about 8s a week and my husband about 14s when he is at work.
What are his present earnings? No so much now.
Comment by Kennedy
This was a delicate and rather interesting looking young woman. The neatness and cleanliness struck me as remarkable when compared to collier girls in general; with all this her appearance denoted great distress and from what she said I inferred that the misery arose from her husband being a drunkard.
The 1841 census shows Jane married to Thomas. She was living with her in-laws. I have not located any leads for her after 1841.
No 73 Dinah Bradbury, waggoner Evans' Haydock
What age are you? I cannot tell you to tell the truth, but I think I am between 18 and 19 years old.
You are a drawer I believe? Yes I am. I draw for two men but one of them has hurt himself so I am out soon today.
Do you use the belt and chain? No we don't need them. We have rails laid in these pits, the rails are laid up to every man's place and we waggon between them.
What length of hours do you work? I go down between four and five in the morning and I come up between five and six in the evening.
Do you ever work at night? No we never work in these pits at night.
Have you any small children in the pits? Oh yes, a deal.
Have you any time for meals? We generally stop to eat when we have time and generally find time. At what age do you intend to turn us out of the pits? Put me down for 15 years old - I should like to be turned out.
Do you not like your present employment? No I don't and I would not go down if I could get anything else to do.
A family historian has provided the information that Dinah married James Leatherbarrow in Quarter 1 1844 and had a daughter Mary. She was widowed in 1845 and in Quarter 1 1848 she married James Orrell. They had two sons Peter and James. Dinah died in Quarter 1 1891.
No 74 Ann Stevenson Drawer, Bridgewater Colliery, Worsley
What age are you? I am twenty three years old.
How long have you been employed (at Worsley)? I have been at work twelve years.
What are you? I am a drawer.
What hours do you work? I come down at seven in the morning and go out at five in the afternoon, sometimes six or eight, just as there is work. I have done now (1pm) for today. Work is very slack.
How much can you earn per week? I can earn 7s 6d a week on average.
Have you ever met with any accidents? I have had my ankle put out and a small bone broken in my leg by the roof falling in.
What number of girls are employed in this pit? There are about 25 girls and women in this pit.
Should you prefer other work out of the pit or do you like your present occupation? I should like to work on the top better than in the pit if I could get enough to live on, but I should have to work such long hours at weaving to make the same wages that I would rather work in the pit.
Have you a helper? Yes, my brother thrutches for me.
What wages does he get? 5s a week.
Do you ever thrash him? I thrash him sometimes when he does not behave himself. I sometimes hit him with my hand and sometimes with my foot.
What distance do you draw the tubs? I have to draw 150 yards up brow with he empty and 150 yards down with the full ones - 300 yards. I have to go eight up and eight times down, and sometimes 10 or more [6000 yards].
Have you regular hours for your food? No, we never stop at any time, we eat when we have time.
I have not located Ann on the 1841 census.
No 75 Mary Jones, Drawer, Bridgewater Colliery, Worsley
How old are you? Twenty one years old.
How long have you worked in the pit? Seven or eight years.
What wages do you earn? About 7/6d a week.
What distance do you draw? The same as Ann Stevenson [300 yards]
Do you hear much bad language used by the girls in the pit? Yes, sometimes there's a very great deal of swearing and bad language, when there are many girls and boys together in the pits; but every lass thinks herself best.
How do you work? We draw with a belt and chain.
For whom do you work? I draw for my father.
I have not located Mary on the 1841 census.
No 76 Alice Singleton Bridgewater Colliery, Worsley
What age are you? I am going on thirteen.
How long have you been in the pits. About half a year.
What hours do you work? I go down at six o'clock in the morning and come up at seven at night for regular.
Are you ever beaten? Yes, I get beat sometimes.
What do they beat you with? With a pick arm or a belt or 'cut' or anything just as it happens.
Do all they boys work the same hours? Yes, all alike.
Alice was the daughter of Peter and Ann Singleton. Her siblings were William, Ann, Peter and Thomas. I have no leads after the 1841 census.
No 90 Betty Harris, drawer 37, Knowles Pit, Little Bolton
I was married at 23 and went into the colliery when I was married. I used to weave when about 12 years old, can neither read nor write. I work for Andrew Knowles of Little Bolton, and make sometimes 7s a week, sometimes not so much. I am a drawer and work from 6 o'clock in the morning to six at night. Stop about an hour at noon to eat my dinner; I have bread and butter for dinner. I get no drink. I have two children but they are too young to work. I worked at drawing when I was in the family way. I know a woman who has gone home and washed herself, taken herself to bed, been delivered of a child and gone to work again in under a week. I have a belt round my waist and a chain passing between my legs, and I go on my hands and feet. The road is very steep and we have to hold by a rope, and when there is no rope, by anything we can catch hold of. There are six women and about six boys and girls in the pit I work in; it is very hard work for a woman. The pit is very wet where I work, and the water comes over our clog tops always; and I have seen it up to my thighs. It rains in at the roof terribly; my clothes are wet through almost all day long. I was never ill in my life but when I was lying-in. My cousin looks after my children in the day time. I am very tired when I get home at night, I fall asleep sometimes before I get washed. I am not so strong as I was and cannot stand my work so well as I used to. I have drawn till I have had the skin off me; the belt and chain is worse when we are in the family way. My fella [husband] has beaten me many a time for not being ready. I were not used to it at first and he had little patience. I have known many a man beat his drawer. I have known men take liberties with drawers and some of the women have bastards.
I think it would be better if we were paid once a week instead of once a month for then I could buy my victuals with ready money.
It is bad work to live on 7s and rent 1/6d. I have been hurt once. I got on a wagon of coals in the pit to get out of the way of the next wagon and the wagon I was on went off before I could get off and crushed my bones about the hips between the roof and the coals; I was ill 23 weeks. Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Fletcher will not have women in the pits. I have had bits of knocks or jolts; I had my arm broken by a wagon; I had gotten out of the road but my arm and it broke my arm. The women are frequently very wicked and swear dreadfully at the bottom of the pit to each other, about their turns to 'hook on'. They are like to stand up for themselves; keeping one from hooking on is like taking the meat from one's mouth. There are some of the women that go to church regularly and some that does not. Women with a family can seldom get away to church. Some have a mother to look after the house. Colliers houses are generally ill off for furniture. I have a table and a bed and I have a tin kettle to boil potatoes in. I wear a pair of trousers and a jacket and am very hot when working but cold when standing still. They beat the children very badly; if they are very little they get beat. There is a deal in managing a house, some can manage it better than others; those that can write and have been properly taught can manage it best. My husband can read and write.
I have not located Betty on the 1841 census.
No 92 Rosa Lucas nearly 18 at Morris's, Lamberhead Green
You are a drawer I believe, when at work? Yes I am.
Where do you work? At Mr Morris's. I used to work at Blundell's.
What age were you when you first began to work in the pits? I was about 11, I think.
Do you work at night in Morris's pit? Yes, when I was able to work. I worked one week in the day and the next at night, the same as the drawers did.
Are there any children in the pit where you work? Oh yes, both little employed in the pits and big, some not older or bigger than him [pointing a finger to a little boy of 6 or 7 years old] they put him to tenting air doors.
What hours do you work? I go down between three and four in the morning and sometimes I have done by five o'clock in the afternoon and sometimes sooner.
Have you any fixed hour for dinner? Yes we have an hour for dinner during the day in the daytime but we don't stop at night.
When you are working the night turn what hours do you work? I go at night at two o'clock in the afternoon and sometimes three. I come up it will be about three o'clock in the morning and sometimes before.
You have no regular times for meals at night? No we never stop at during the night.
Do you find the work very hard? Yes, it is very hard work for a woman from over work. I have been so tired many a time that I could scarcely wash myself at night I was so tired; and felt very dull and stiff when I set of in the morning.
What distance did you draw? Twenty three score yards in length.
That is 460 yards each way or 920 yards? Yes.
How many times had you to draw this distance? 16 and sometimes 18 in one day. [taking 16 times she would have had to draw 14720 yards daily]
Have you had many accidents besides the one you are now suffering from? Yes, I once had a great big hole in my other leg, I thought it was the water that did it for I was working in a wet place then.
Are Mr Morris's pits dry? Yes, very dry.
How did the accident happen you are now suffering from? I was sitting on the edge of a tub at the bottom and a great stone fell from the roof on my foot and ankle and crushed it to pieces and it was obliged to be taken off.
Have you ever seen the drawers beaten? Yes some gets beaten. Many inflicted on drawers. Mary Tuity gets beaten nearly every day.
What do they beat her with? A pick arm.
What do they beat her for? I suppose it's for 'sauce'; she has a very saucy tongue.
What age is she? She is 23 years old.
What is your father? He was a collier but he was killed in a coal pit. I go past the place where he was killed many a time when I am working and sometimes I think I see something.
It is possible that her name was Roseann and that she was the daughter of Elizabeth and had a sister called Elizabeth. There are no further leads.
Mary Tuity has not been found on the 1841 census. It seems likely that her surname was Twitty.
No 94 Martha Haslam, Knowles, Clifton
What age are you? I am twelve years old.
How long have you been at work? Four years.
What wages do you get? I get a quarter of a kale (kale = a man's day's work).
What hours do you work? I go down at six o'clock in the morning and I come up at seven and sometimes eight o'clock at night.
What hours have you for meals? I stop a bit for dinner but have no regular time. We never stop for 'baggin' (tea).
Are you ever beaten? No, they never beat me,
No 95 Eliza Haslam, Knowles, Clifton
Have you ever been to school? No, I can neither read nor write.
Have you ever been hurt? I have had my thumb slit with a waggon wheel.
What are you? I am a thruster.
What age are you? Near ten years old.
How long have you been at the pits? A year and a half.
Do you like working in the pits? No, I don't, it makes me so tired but I'm like to work.
What hours do you work? I come down at six o'clock in the morning and I come up at the same time as my sister, seven o'clock at night and sometimes it is eight.
The Haslam sisters lived with their widowed mother Frances, a weaver. They appear to be helping their older brother John who was recorded on the 1841 census as a miner. Their elder sister Ann may also have been working at the mine. In 1851 the sisters were working in a cotton mill. Eliza married John Sharples Quarter 1 1852. She died sometime before the 1861 census. Martha was still unmarried and working in a cotton mill. She was still working in the mill in 1871. I have not located her on the 1881 census.
No 96 Ellen Yates, drawer, Bridgewater Colliery
What age are you? I am sixteen years old.
How long have you been in the pits? I have been four years in the pit. I am a drawer and I work for my father.
What hours do you work? Sometimes I come at five o'clock in the morning, sometimes six and seven; and I go up at three, four, five and six o'clock at night, just as it happens.
What distance do you have to draw? 180 yards.
How many times a day? Ten or twelve times a day, sometimes more and sometimes less, just as it happens.
Do you draw with a belt and chain? Yes.
Have you wheels to your tubs? No we sled 'em. (ie use a sledge).
This is a very common name in the area. I have not identified Ellen on the 1841 census.
The following appears in the main report for Lancashire but not in the witness statements.
Betty Wardle, housewife, Outwood, near Lever
Have you ever worked in a coal pit? Ay, I have worked in a pit since I was 6 years old.
Have you any children? Yes, I have four children, two of them were born while I worked in the pits.
Did you work in the pits when you were in the family way? Ay, to be sure I had a child born in the pits and I brought it up the pit shaft in my skirt.
Are you quite sure you are telling the truth? Ay, that I am. It was born the day after I was married, that makes me know.
Did you draw with the belt and chain? Yes I did.
I have not located Betty on the 1841 census.
Other Lancashire female miners on the 1841 census
Alice Gaskell 25 (Worsley)
Emma Lord 15 (Prestwich)
Ann Taylor 20 (Wigan)
Mary Walker 35 (Pilkington)