My name is Edith and I work in a local British woolen mill even though I am only 10 years-old. I tried to follow my Mother in service work but I was very young and sent to the woolen mills right after she died. Most mill owners see nothing wrong with children working and it is a very common practice to employ the very young. Children are cheap labour and they like to use orphans as they can be replaced quickly if an accident occurs. I start at 5 am and am not allowed to talk, sit or look out at the sunshine. At 9 pm I go back to the big house and reside in damp filthy conditions as my mother's friends feel sorry for me and feed me scraps of food. They say in a few years I might be able to be a scullery maid and leave the job I have now which is like being in hell to put it mildly. I pray to God a new job comes quickly.
The noise from the belts coming from the line shaft that drives the machinery is extremely deafening. Every single day I breathe air that is full of fabric fluff that fills my lungs. I long to wash dishes or carry wood instead of working as a piecer- leaning over machines and tying broken threads together. I am so lucky I am not like my friend John who has to crawl under the machines while they are still running to do his job. His friend lost some of his fingers last week and a good friend of mine was crushed in one of the machines last year.
If I worked in the big family house I would have a day off if I was sick but in my current position I work 72 hours a week in good health or bad. I envy the rich women of the house sometimes watching them in their regal clothing while my dress is made of material scraps. They all look down on us as the workers get poorer and the rich seem to get richer. I wonder how they would like a very short midday break and then rush to find food for breakfast and tea which are 15 minute breaks.
We are paid just over a shilling a week and the rumour is that they might cut costs if there is more government interference. The bosses have threatened many times of sending me to a hostel for children and giving me just pocket money. If this happens I shall run and hide on the property of the big house until I am old enough to work. I am able however to attend church on Sunday and I visit the grave of two of my younger friends that died working at the mill. The owners of the mill believe hard work is good for children and that living in poverty is natural. I do beg to differ.
One of my friends is a bobbin winder and she has parents that work as handloom weavers. They are talking about immigrating to Canada to work at the woolen mills in Lanark County Ontario. I have no chance of leaving England and will work long and hard until the day I can be placed at the big house.
This was child labour in the 1830's and it still goes on..
"Why do we have to pay the price of poverty. We didn't create poverty, adults did."
Sultana- a twelve-year garment factory worker from Bangladesh, Thailand.
"We want to study and learn, not beg on the streets. During the worldwide march I learnt that I, too, am a real person. Now I want to become an engineer."
Basu, 11, a Nepalese street child, Thailand
Text and Photos of some of the machines from the Rosamond Woolen Mill (Almonte, Ontario) now housed in the Textile Museum next door: Linda Seccaspina 2012
While the British series Downton Abbey was conceived at a later date in the Victorian era there still was a 'class' situation even then.
The words 'High' and 'Clere' were used in reference to the village Highclere near Downton Abbey.
The Rosamond Woolen Mill 1857-1952
A few months before the railroad reached Almonte, Ontario James Rosamond, a director of the company, and a local entrepreneur, resolved to venture additional capital to erect a woolen mill on a site beside No. 2 Falls. It was a stone structure, five stories in height, and was the start of the Rosamond Woolen Company. Only a few years later it gave way to the great undertaking called No.1, the head office and manufacturing center for the next ninety years of the Rosamond Woolen Company at the end of Coleman’s Island.
During those years Almonte was known to travelers on the trains as The Woolen Town, because the Rosamond Woolen Company, the Old Red Knitting Company, the Penman Woolen Mill, Campbell’s Woolen Mill, the Yorkshire Wool Stock Mill and Wm. Thoburn’s Woolen Mills all made the flat metallic clacking of the looms as familiar a sound of Almonte as the whistle of the CPR steam locomotive. (from roots.org)
1844 UK Factory Act: