Life was hard for Kidsgrove’s miners

A GIRL PUTTERDuring the first half of the 19th century, the life of coal miners was hard. Wages were low. Men, women and children worked long hours in semi-darkness. The work was dangerous. Accidents were frequent. Human life was cheap, and colliery owners put profits before safety.

Half naked men and women worked together at the coalface mining coal and putting it into wagons. Young children were employed to open air doors on roadways leading from the coalface to the bottom of the mine shaft.  They sat alone in the darkness and opened these doors for boys and girls who were harnessed to the wagons which they pulled along the roadway.

In the early 1840s, Samuel Scriven who was preparing a report on child labour for the government visited Kidsgrove. He interviewed several coal miners employed by colliery owner Thomas Kinnersley who lived in luxury at Clough Hall.

One of the miners, 17 years old John Vickers said:

“I have been to work for about four years; first worked at a farm for about four years. My business is to attend at the pit’s mouth and haul away the coals that come up from Delph. I get 11 shillings (55p) a week for wages; mother gets it from me; I get it from the charter master. We work by the ton; I get paid at the public-house. I went to day school for a few months before I worked at the farm; I cannot read or write; I go to church pretty regularly. I come to work at six in the morning and go home about six {in the evening}. I am too tired after work to go to school in the evening; I would rather go if I could; but as I said before, I am always too tired. My father is dead. My mother keeps a child’s’ school. I have three sisters; two of them work in the silk factories at Congleton; the eldest is 18 years; she has 5s 6d (27.5p) a week; the other is 14; she has 3s 6d (17.5p) a week; the youngest goes to the National Day School at Mr Wade’s.  I get my breakfast before I come to work and bring my second breakfast with me; I go to dinner at twelve and have ‘tatees’ and bacon. I always take my hour for dinner and get my breakfast how I can. I never do any night work.”