We are living in a golden age for employment. We have paid holidays, paid sick pay, share options, we can contest in law the times when we have been wrongly dismissed, and employers have brought in flexible working and
dependency leave plus the right to work in a safe environment. 150 years ago, they also believed they were living in a golden age and if you were the owner of a cotton mill it certainly was. But life for the workers was a far cry from the environment that employees creating Farah Shirts like ejmenswear.com/men/farahenjoy today.
The Mill was a symbol of a revolution in Britain. Driving entrepreneurs were making the most of the Empire and the wealth it was bringing in through colonialism and the development of the steam engine. The world of the semi- skilled mass rural farmworker living in a village or small market town was rapidly changing as the work forced them from the land to the urban growing cities such as Manchester and Salford and the Mills and factories there that awaited them. One such example remains with working machines; Quarry bank Mill
It is quite hard for us to comprehend what life must have been like for these workers. They had been poor in the country and the wages that the Mills offered were much greater. However, in most cases the owners viewed the
simple fact that they provided them with employment and a meagre wage as sufficient. It soon became apparent that the male population would not be enough to fuel the machine and soon women were being employed, albeit on lower pay, and then finally children as young as 5 on virtually non-existent pay. Your working life started at 5 years old. There was no pension, there were no working rights, and if you were sick you were not paid and risked being dismissed. Any kind of voicing of dissatisfaction was also met with dismissal. The people who worked in the mill, whatever age, were little more than paid slaves.
Pauper children, boys and girls who were orphans or were given up by their parents as they could not afford to feed them are an example of this. Owners made deals with the Guardians of the children that they would be provided to make labour. Apprenticed to the Mill, so sealed to it in law, they could expect to work fifteen hour shifts and have cramped sleeping conditions. As one set of children came in, another replaced them. They paid 2 pence a day, a pittance even then.
The mill’s spinners deafened you. You would wad used cotton in your ears to stop the noise leading to infection; the cotton dust gave you cancer and various fatal or debilitating lung diseases (meaning that you could not work so you would be dismissed bring destitution to your family). You were in this working environment for thirteen hours a day 6 days a week. Dark satanic mills indeed.