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Jobs in the Mills

As well as the terrible accidents that could occur, mill work was bad for your health in other ways. Working in heat, dust and noise for long hours took their toll and many workers suffered illnesses as a result. Living in poor conditions with a bad diet also affected the health of the working classes.

“Permanent deterioration of the physical constitution”

"Us at the mules could easily walk 12 miles a day moving backwards and forwards with the carriages. My poor bones ached all day every day."

CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Robert Owen's Report to the Peel Committee

“my legs are now as bent as you see. Got my knees bent with standing so long. Remember when my knees began to fail my knees hurt me very bad then: when we tired, you know there was nought to sit on… we used to get thumped sometimes by the overlooker.”William Pickles 1833

"The [Factory] Commissioners were told about children working in Wolverhampton. [Their] report states "Lads of fifteen and sixteen years of age are the size of ordinary English boys of twelve and fourteen, but not as strong and healthy." 
Factory Commission Report 1843.

 

Amongst mill workers, terrible diseases like Tuberculosis and Byssinosis (Brown Lung Disease) were common. The chemicals used in bleaching and dyeing of fabrics were highly toxic, and often used in rooms with little or no ventilation. Mill workers were also prone to Mule Spinners' Cancer (cancer of the groin) or cancer of the mouth from "kissing the shuttle" caused from exposure to the oil on the mule spindles or the shuttles.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Eyes
“The room was always thick wi' fluff and it could be quite dark in the mill...not that we saw much sunshine, but for a Sunday."

 

CLICK TO ENLARGE: NoiseDue to the constant noise of the machines during the long hours worked, mill workers suffered hearing problems.

To communicate when they couldn't be heard, they used a kind of sign language.

 

Life expectancy in the 1800s was alot lower than it is today. Due to the hard life they experienced, mill workers didn't live as long as other people who were richer or worked in better environments. Although living and working in rural mill villages like New Lanark and Quarry Bank Mill in Styal in England were thought to be better for workers' health than in the cities. 

Some mills were considered bad for children's behaviour and manners. People thought the mills were an environment in which child workers would pick up bad habits from adult workers.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: 2 views on the moral effects of mill work

 
 CLICK TO ENLARGE: Interview with a mill worker

  
CLICK TO ENLARGE: Extract from the New Lanark Medical Records

CHILD LABOUR IN THE PAST
CHILD RIGHTS 
NEW LANARK CASE STUDY
FAIRTRADE & COTTON      

CHILD LABOUR TODAY

FURTHER RESOURCES  
 
                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Lanark World Heritage Site
South Lanarkshire, Scotland, ML11 9DB
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