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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Work, Hours, Wages, Working Conditions.


Listening the other day to the Radio, I was left wondering, if anyone today truly has a grasp as to what hardship really is. Some " deprived and Poverty stricken " indidvidual, was moaning about some of the Government cuts. When has not being able to afford, the latest 52 inch flat screen telly, been seen as " deprived ". Maybe these people should be made to research and read some of the stories from the past, thats of course, if they can read. Unlike in the past, when schooling was a low priority, and a living had to be earned, there is no such excuse in this modern world.


The Young Jappaner.

This young man is just 14 years old, his father died when he was 7, he works in an industry that use's chemicals like arsenic and lead. In his short life he has learned much, although sadly, not how to read or write, skills, which may have lifted him above his peers, and given him a slightly better life. There's a lesson in there somewhere.


I live at home with mother. The parish have stopped her allowance now, and my elder sister, ( 18 ) has a very bad foot. One Sunday her was drunk and kicked up a noise and fell off the doorstep and her ankle fell out. ( I did say he was uneducated ) Her used to bring men home with her. My next sister is about 15. Her's awful. Her swears awful at mother, and mother don't like to here it, and says that some night the devil will come to the house to fetch her. ( I bet he wouldn't have dared ) Her learns it off some of the bad girls. Her goes to clean the bad girl's houses every day but Sunday, and has gone for two or three years. ( I said he'd learned a bit ) I have never been at Sunday School or any other except a long time ago. They put me right through my A.B.C. I could go with'em now if they would tell me the next letters, not without though. I was never in a church or chapel or heard anyone preach or pray. Mother don't say anything about it. We had a Bible, but it had to be sold. It's a great big thing and ain't got nothing in. ( no pictures ) A reader, the " track " ( tract ) woman, came round once, and said it was a Bible and good. I do not know who Christ was, or if he was a person or a man, or who made the world. After people die they go to heaven, everybody, the bad the same as the good. No one told me about Heaven, except when father died long ago mother said that he was going to heaven. The devil is a good person; I don't know where he lives. He puts 'em ( the bad ones ) in a great big fire.


There's a brief history of the family as well, from a neighbour who added her own thoughts as well.


The boy knows nothing. He was never taught nothing, and his mother never thinks of nothing. Her husband was a steady good man, and owned all that shopping ( workshops ), and a good few working in it, and when he dies seven years ago left it to her as well as a lot of money in the bank. But she took to drinking and made away with it all, now she looks the poorest creature, and has not a thing to stand up comfortable in. All has had to be sold. She says it is her daughters who make her drink by their behaviour. The two eldest are such that no one will have anything to do with them. Their brothers have families of their own to concider, would not have such girls, ( in the house ) but one of them has taken care of the third sister. (12 ) I would take the boy, only I have so many children of my own to keep, and my husband earns so little, only 9 or 10 shillings a week, that I cannot.


The sister she was referring to also worked at Jappaning. She had not yet encountered the headaches and sickness that they all suffered from after a few months, in the hot and fetid workshop. She had attended School once, for just the two weeks, never went to a Sunday School, but said she could spell. As it turned out, only words with two or three letters in them. You can make up your own mind, what  you would concider to be a reasonable response, to anyone today claiming a bit of hardship. I can only think of two words, and yes, I can spell them if required.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 2, 2011 at 5:34 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Jobs, Wednesbury, Oldbury, Smethwick, Aston.


In order to find work, and earn money, it was neccessery to go where jobs could be found. Born in Wednesbury, in 1816, young James Tyler, as soon as he was old enough, headed for the smoky envirions of Birmingham, where he got a job at the trade he had learned, Hoe Making. After a few years he married, and by 1855, he and his wife had 7 children. Conditions weren't good as far as housing went, and hearing of a better situation in Oldbury, Worcestershire, the family moved. The job he got, at James Spade Works, alongside the canal in Rounds Green, was bigger than in Birmingham, although the cottage they rented in Dudley Road, was as cramped as the one they had left. His eldest son was employed at the same works, also making Hoes, as was I suspect his eldest daughter. More children arrived, until the total was 10, and money would have been very tight. In the records, he claimed that his daughter Eliza, was at School, but as it later turned out, just like many others, he lied. In 1863, a commision went round the district, after many complaints about the working conditions, and Eliza was one of many who was spoken to. She had just moved to another job, and was discribing the conditions at her previous workplace.


I worked at James  Spade factory at Oldbury some six months before. There were hardly any other factories there for girls, but some wasted "  gledes " at one puddling and blacksmith factory, and there was another puddling place. ( The girls were employed to carry out the waste slag from the puddling furnaces, and tip it in the yard some distance away. It was heavy work ) I ground spades, ( smoothing down the edges and putting a sharp edge on the blade ) on a large dry stone wheel; the dust did not fly much. It was a very large place, should think there was as many as at Nettlefold's, ( where she now worked in Smethwick ) a great many  girls and also men and boys. Some girls carried spades, others ground them, but more on wet grindstones than on dry. They liked the dry best, because it did not wet them as the wet stones did.( In fact the wet stones were the better option if you valued your heatlh, as the water kept the dust and sparks down )  They wore aprons to keep them dry, but nothing else. ( ? ) They were very wet, them that was at the wet stones, and got wet through their aprons and the bodices of their frocks, and changed them when they got home at night; but they did not complain or have colds, and said they liked the work very much. Some had coughs, and thought that it was from the wet on the ground, which was deep enough to cover the soles of their boots, but it did not do to put them on and they wore leather nailed ones; but when the shoes wanted mending they thought that the water would perhaps run in. The hours were from 6 am to 6 pm, never longer, and the same meals as at Nettlefolds, and the noise also about the same. The girls were by themselves, and very quiet; some gentlemen overlooked them. Got 6 shillings a week, and mother generally gave me 6d, which I put to buy me clothes. I was never at work before, but did not go to day School for more than about six monthes, as I had to help mother, Have been to Sunday and night school, as I have had to help mother; know the letters but cannot read.


As I said, her father told a few porkie pies, which was entirely understandable, he had 10 young mouths to feed, and every penny that the famliy earned, was vital. Mr James was obviously aware of the dangers of the dust from the dry grindstones he used, and it would appear, that when a young girl developed a cough, he moved them onto the wet stones. Eliza did not stay long at Nettlefolds either, she turned her hand to domestic service, working for a flour and corn dealer in Wheeler Street in Aston. In 1875 she married a Carpenter, and they moved to the notoriously overcrowed houses and courts of Cromwell Street, Aston. She gave up the domestic service, she had to really, because by 1881 she had given birth to 4 children. Perhaps her husband was a bit more fortunate than Eliza's father had been, and got into the position of not having to send out his children to work at such a young age. Then again, it was 1881, and the chances of that were very slim indeed.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 3, 2011 at 5:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Jobs, Chimney Sweep, Bilston.


Meanwhile on the mean streets of Bilston, a living had to be earned. Thomas Jones, was lucky, he had two jobs, one as a Chimney Sweep, and the other propping up the bar of whatever Public House happened to be handy. When sober, he did a very good job, and was in and out of some of the bigger establishments in town, on a regular basis. Known to his more intimate friends as " Sooty ", ( no, I didn't make that up ) he had a tendency , when drunk, to fall asleep in the most stupid places. Sadly, on this occassion, it was halfway through a job, in a rather tricky turn of the Flue. The parlour Maid, a certain Miss Bird, who, unbeknown to her employer, was partially deaf, returned from shopping, and noticed the fire had not been lit. Yes, you've guessed it, she started the fire, and in no time had a good old blaze going to warm up the room. It must have been even hotter up the Chimney, for it was sometime before anyone noticed the sweeps extra brushes, propped up against the wall in the back yard. I wonder how many people in Bilston, making their way home after work, thought to themselves, " my, someones having a nice roast for dinner ".

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 27, 2012 at 4:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Jobs, Farm Workers,


Way back in the 1870s, it should be remembered, a large part of the Black Country, was still very rural. Life was just as hard and tough, as it was in the grim and dirty towns. Farm workers, just like their counter-parts in other industries, signed papers called " Bonds ", which committed them to working solely for one employer, for a set wage. All well and good, up to a point, as this next little sorry tale illustrates. In 1877, a local Farmer summoned one of his workman for failing to adhere to his contract. Appearing in front of the Magistrates to put his case, the labourer gave this explanation. " I had already been at work for 14 hours, with just the 1 hour for my dinner. The work that day was loading carts with the bean harvest. I had already loaded 17 carts, when Mr....................., ordered me to carry on and load another 3 carts, which would take a further 2 hours, as the crop was in the farthest fields away. I thought this to be a bit unreasonable, and refused. The Farmer disputed this version of the events, and demanded that the Court respect his rights in the matter as he deemed the order perfectly lawful. Under the law, he was right, and the poor labourer was fined the sum of £2.00. The Magistrates, to be fair, took into account the number of hours the man had already worked, and while having to administer the correct fine, under the Law, only set the costs of the case at 8 shillings. This left the Farmer well out of pocket, and no doubt hopping mad. How on earth the poor labourer managed to feed his family, after paying such a large fine, isn't recorded.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 29, 2012 at 10:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Jobs, Brierley Hill, Earl of Dudley. Round Oak Works.


The Government have just announced that unemployment has risen again this month. Our ancesters had the same problem, a 100 years ago, but they didn't have a welfare state to fall back on. The old Earl of Dudley, laid off hundreds of his workers in Brierley Hill, as did all of the major employers in the Blackcountry. No work, no Money, and no Food, but some members of the towns did whatever they could to help, setting up soup kitchens. One man was Alfred Tandy, the Landlord of a Public House that stood almost opposite the Round Oak Steel Works. He turned his brewing equipment into a soup making enterprise, which every day, he dispensed to the hungry and desperate who turned up at his door. Discribed as " a true Christian man ", in 1912, he put some of the richer members of the area to shame. When things got better, I hope he made some money, he would certainly have needed it, the Brewing equipment was totally knackered. Photo's in the Gallery.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 15, 2012 at 3:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Jobs,1914. Factories, Munitions, Beer, Bullets and Wages.


Having survived all that in 1912, the next great event, The Great War, in 1914, put even more pressure on family life. Young Men volunteered in their thousands, believing that it would all be over before Christmas, and they would miss out on an adventure of a lifetime. The Battle of the Marne soon dispelled any doubts they had of not getting a bit of excitement. Working conditions soon became almost intolerable, as hours were increased, and wages fell. There were many factory owners, who made a great deal of money out of the War, all made with the sweat off workers backs. Under the Defence of the Realm Act, introduced in 1914, it was illegal to strike, but this did not prevent the Miners of South Wales doing just that, in 1915. They were supported by the Miners in the Black Country, and other regions, and were accused of stabbing the country, and the men fighting the War, in the back. The Government stepped in and introduced better working conditions, and a minimum wage. They also began to take over factories for Munition production, following the scandel over the discovery of Shells that failed to explode, and bullets that were next to useless. There were dark mutterings over the descision to introduce Licencing hours, and have the Beer watered down to reduce the strength. " I never noticed the difference " said my grandfather, who believed that most Landlords had been doing that since he was a lad. Mind you, he was at the time in France, presumable drinking wine. Food was rationed as well, as prices shot up, and every available piece of land was commandered for growing food crops. Now came the biggest boost that the countries women had ever had, they took over the jobs that previously only men had been doing. They filled the Factories, tilled the land, and kept the country on the move by driving Ambulances, Trains, and the Trams. For once, it was the women, earning between £2 and £4 a week who put the food on the table while the men were away. The reward for all this hard work was that they were given the right to vote in 1918. Not all of them mind, just the ones who could prove they had money, and owned property. Not that it did a lot of good in the region, for just a few years later, recession hit again, and it was back to the struggle to survive.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 5, 2012 at 11:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Work and Jobs. Nailmakers, Foggers, Miners, and Wages.


Despite several Royal Commisions, conditions for the regions workers, barely altered. In one area, it was the Miners case under the spotlight, and in another, the plight of the Nailer. One local Magistrate, gave voice to a problem that other's missed. The Nailers, he said, were even more ignorant than the Miners, which given the appalling level of education amongst the Pitmen, doesn't seem possible. In reality though, it was, as at least the miners could actually count the money they earned. To illustrate the Miners case, a typical budget was prepared, and included a Wife and two children.


Rent.         3s a week

Food.         9s a week

Clothing and Shoes   1s 6d a week

Houshold goods.   1s 6d a week

Education, Medicine.   2s od a week.

Travel and other costs.  1s 6d a week

Total Cost.                        18s 6d.


A Miners wages, could exceed 19 shillings a week, and in good times would be around 21 shillings. But it was a very dedicated familyman who actually worked a full week, reducing the average to around 18 shillings. When the price of Coal fell, they could, and did drop a lot further, and more often than not, there was no work at all. Not included in the Budget, were all the other items that whoever wrote up the budget forgot about.  There was no provision for illness or accidents, nor for saving for old age or holidays. Forgotten too, was the fact that most Miners liked to drink, smoke, and gamble, eating into the money they earned. This of course reduced the Miners family to subsistance level and below, and to be brutaly honest, was entirely the Miners fault. The few who did have some education, were much better off, working all their shifts over 6 days a week, and were rewarded with about 25 shillings payment. Not a fortune, but a long way from the poverty level. To be fair though, the poor old Nailer had to put with the price of the finished product being set by the scurge of the trade, " The Fogger " or " Nail Master ". The same Budget, would apply to the Nailer as well, where, unlike the Miner, the entire family, if the children were about 7, would have to make nails, for the payment was seldom above 9d a day. It would be a good week, if between them, they managed to earn 15 shillings. This didn't stop the husband though, from spending part of his working hours, in the local beerhouse. It's easy to see, where either the Miner or Nailmaker could make savings, thats why they were discribed as under-nurished, dressed in rags, riddled with desease, and lived short lives. You can imagine the plight of many of them when they struck for higher wages. In October,1864, the Nailers around Dudley, did just that. The strike lasted many weeks, and in early January 1865, after the strike had entered it 11th week, they marched into Halesowen, in an attempt to get the Towns nailers to join them. By carrying on making nails, they were undermining the efforts to get the price raised. The attempt failed, and a short time later they were forced back to work, for less money, or face certain starvation. Educated people would have quit the nail trade, and sort out better employment, so perhaps that Magistrate was right, they were more stupid than the Miners.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 22, 2012 at 3:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Jobs, Work, Wages, Victorian age.


After reading that life, ( at least for those of the lower order ) was hard and brutal during the Victorian Age, would you then believe, that this Country was the richest in the World. Well it was, its gross Domestic National Earnings were approaching £750 million in the 1870s, while at the other end, the gross earnings of the workers who made this possible, was a mere £34 per year. ( an average adult wage then, of about 8 shillings a week. )  The unmarried could just about manage not to starve, but with women and childrens wages half of that figure, families had a really tough time. There were very few actual skilled men at this level, most of our regions workforce, at the time, would be classed today as Labourers. There was no great skill in making nails, chains, mining coal, or hammering bits of Iron into useful items. It was said, that over 90% of the Country's wealth, was controlled by 10% of the population, most of them from the Upper Class Aristocracy, and large Landowners. Very little ever filtered down to poor and starving masses. ( does that sound a bit familar? ) There was a basic reason why the Country was in such a position, there was virtually no competition, which is why this Nation was known as the Workshop of the World. One little example of this, would be the production of Black Country Clocks. Now I bet you didn't know, that thousands of time pieces were made in the region. Firms in both Wolverhampton, and Dudley, mass produced many of the parts, non of which of course were up to the standards of say, J.B.Joyce, of Whithchurch, Shropshire, or John Smiths, of Derby. They did at least tick though, and sold well, for they were cheap, and in comparison to a marked candle, could be carried in a pocket. Were they accurate though I hear people say, well, let me put it this way, when have you ever seen, a Black Country made watch or clock given any value on the Antiques Roadshow? The competition came just before the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, when both sides stepped up the production of their industries, mainly to make weapons. The real hammer blow came with its end, just a year later, and the slump was most keenly felt at the lower end of the social spectrum. Nor only were thousands thrown out of work, but from 1873, the regions of this country began to experience strikes and civil unrest, largely due to the appalling conditions many found themselves in. Huge numbers of children were sent as domestic servants, (on wages as low as 2 shillings a week) by their parents, as they couldn't afford to feed them at home. Employers reduced the wages, and with no Unions to fight this exploitation, the working class were reduced to what some called, Slavery. The next time you watch a Victorian " Period Drama ",  give a thought to what your ancesters may have been going through, for its from their sufferings, that the fine Dresses and Large Houses came from. They do say that history has a habit of repeating itself, I certainly hope not, for belt tightening, back in 1870s, was done to reduce the size of the stomach, and reduce the pangs of real hunger.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 6, 2013 at 3:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Someone enquired about the wage his great grandfather would have received, driving a Coach for the upper classes. The answer, is not that much really, he would have been, in the 1870s, in the same bracket as a Miner. ( Between 21 and 23 shillings a week ) He would have had the advantage of a roof over his head, maybe a uniform, and the scraps from M'lords table, but only as long as he held the post. The rest of the domestic staff he would have mixed with, were no better off either. A Cooks wage during the period was about £19 a year, food and shelter came with the job of course, and most concidered themselves well off, well you would, when compared to the lowly maids, whose wages barely exceeded £12 a year, and the young ones, £5. They all worked long hours for the wages, non more so than the girls under 15, who were all at the bottom of the social ladder. There was no doubt who had the upper hand when it came to employment. In the 1880s, almost 16% of the working population of England and Wales, was in domestic employment. Our friend the Coachman had several employers over the year, for the rich were always quick to replace older hands with younger and cheaper labour. Female servants ages ranged from 5 to 17 years old, and any hint of male friends would be a case for instant dismissal. Be a bit unkind to his Lordship's horses, and you would be sure to find work hard to come by after you had been sacked. Animals were far more precious than humans. Interestingly, the Coachman went on to become a Cabman in the 1890s, this was mainly because the use of domestic servants was becoming far too expensive for many. He didn't earn much more at this work, about 23 shillings a week, for he had neither the money, or the inclination, to set up on his own. Still, it could have been worse, he could have been a Coalheaver, thats the man who loaded and unloaded narrowboats and railway waggons, or a Bootmaker, or even a Chimney Sweep, they were all more or less in the same wage bracket. He might have thought of becoming a Policeman, but that would have meant a drop in wages, or maybe work in a brewery, for both jobs paid about a £1 a week. From what I find in the records though, both jobs also involved a lot of beer, one made it, the other seems to have drunk it, mainly it seems, while still on duty.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 21, 2013 at 4:22 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Not much of place to write home about was Willenhall. In the 19th century, it was just a dirty little speck on the road out of Wolverhampton towards Walsall.  There was employment though, a scattering of little Collieries, some owned by petty little tyrants like John Lowbridge. He employed miners on a contract, better known then as " Bondsmen ", which entailed them working a number of set hours and days a week. Fail to carry out the work, and the employer had the legal right to summon the worker before the Magistrates,  recover his costs, and have a man heavily fined. Not a good a thing for a miners reputation this, for work could be very scarce at the best of times. In 1857, John Lowbridge summoned, Samuel Mainwaring, Isaac Bailey, and Samuel Carter, for leaving their work without due cause, and Breach of contract. It was perfectly true, for they had refused to work down his pit on occasions, this time for a very good reason. Mr Sill, ( Solicitor ) for the defendants, told the Bench that the mine was full of " Foul Air ", and they were fearful of an explosion. This was denied by Mr Shipman, ( Solicitor ) on behalf of Lowbridge, so the Magistrates called upon the services of Mr L. Brough, who was the local Government Inspector of Mines. A few days later, and back in Court, the Inspector reported that the Mine was poorly ventilated, and there were indeed traces of Gas and Sulpher detected. Mr Sill asked the Magistrates to dismiss the charges and claimed damages. Mr Shipman tried to introduce evidence of the Breach of Contract, no mention or explanation of the conditions down the pit, and the Magistrates refused. In conclusion, The Chairman of the Bench said, " That although they were mindful of the Technical Legalities, There was no way, that the Court could be expected to support an action that very clearly, put the Health and Lives of the three miners at risk ". In dismissing the case, and thanking the Inspector for his diligence in the matter, he ordered John Lawton to pay the costs. A very early blow then, struck in defence of Health and Safety at work.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 10, 2016 at 8:21 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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