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Explain how children lived and worked in British textile mills and at Quarry Bank Mill, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

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Introduction

* Does the site at Quarry Bank Mill provide a full and accurate picture of children's living and working conditions at British textile mills and particularly at Quarry Bank Mill, in the nineteenth century? This essay will explain how children lived and worked in British textile mills and at Quarry Bank Mill, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It will compare Quarry Bank Mill to other country and urban mills as well as using written and photographic evidence. It will also compare the apprentice house at Quarry Bank Mill to those of other mills and describe how the apprentices were treated. This essay will begin by describing the working conditions endured by children in British textile mills. Thomas Priestly, who is one of the few apprentices from Quarry Bank Mill to give evidence in court, about the working conditions at Quarry Bank Mill, says that whilst he was working on one of the spinning machines, his finger became trapped and the top torn off by the machine. This piece of evidence indicates that working in the mills could be dangerous at times, but Thomas Priestly goes on to say that he was treated by the surgeon and recovered within 6 weeks. Thomas Priestly may have lied whilst giving evidence, as he wouldn't have wanted to offend Mr Greg, although he would have been prosecuted for lying in court. ...read more.

Middle

However, a work-related illness due to the environment was more common. At Quarry Bank Mill, the mill was set in the countryside, which provided clean fresh air and reduced the possibility of catching a disease from the mill. Friedrich Engels writes in his book, published in 1844, that this was one of the benefits of siting a mill in the countryside, but he goes on to say that it will be a long time before manufactures will show a visitor around the mills of Manchester. This indicates that the factory towns and cities were dirty, disease ridden places, mainly caused by the smoke and dust from the mills. Friedrich Engels was a Chartist and a friend of the man who invented communism, Karl Marx. He favoured the working classes and therefore would have given a biased view of the factory system, meaning his evidence is unreliable. A piece of evidence that is more reliable, that suggests the mills in factory towns and cities had a high rate of work related illness, is Pauline Gregg. She comments that factories were often dirty, ramshackle affairs, but she does not say if these factories were country or urban mills. The Shawcrosses comment that only 17 deaths had happened in the 22 years they had worked at Quarry Bank Mill. They say that only one had been caused by machinery, which suggest that Quarry Bank Mill was reasonably safe to work in, compared with other country and urban mills. ...read more.

Conclusion

They also go on to say that they do not know of any deformed children whilst they have been working at the mill. Thomas Priestly, who had the top of his finger removed, was treated by the doctor and recovered within 6 weeks. These 2 pieces of evidence seem to suggest that employing a doctor was beneficial to the productivity of Quarry Bank Mill, as the idea at the time was that the healthier a worker was the more work he would produce. Other mills would have employed a doctor to look after the health of the workers, for example Richard Arkwright and Robert Owens Mills would have done so, but more specific evidence is needed to reliably compare Quarry Bank Mill to other mills. Quarry Bank Mill is a good place to learn about living conditions for children in the 19th century, because it shows children's living conditions in the apprentice house, as well as their education, food and the medical arrangements for them. We cannot reliably compare the food and education children received in other mills to Quarry Bank Mill because there is insufficient evidence to do so. Quarry Bank Mill is a good example of a 19th century country mill because the working and living conditions are similar to that of other country mills, including Richard Arkwright and Robert Owens Mills. Quarry Bank Mill cannot be reliably compared to town or city mills, because the size and living conditions of factory towns are very different to that of country mills. ...read more.

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