Children's Jobs in the Mines

Extracts from Report by Robert Hugh Franks, Esq. on the Employment of Children & Young Persons in the Collieries and Iron-Works in South Wales; and the State, Condition, and Treatment of Such Children and Young Persons. (1842)

'The particular labour in which children and young persons are employed in the collieries is of three kinds - colliers; horse-drivers or hauliers, as they are called, air-door boys; and, in some collieries, carters and skip-haulers.

The duty of the haulier is to drive the horse and tram, or carriage, from the wall-face, where the colliers are picking the coal, to the mouth of the level. He has to look after his horse, feed him in the day, and take him home at night: his occupation requires great agility in the narrow and low-roofed roads; sometimes he is required to stop his tram suddenly- in an instant he is between the rail and the side of the level, and in almost total darkness he slips a sprig between the spokes of his tram-wheel, and is back in his place with amazing dexterity; though it must be confessed, with all his activity, he frequently gets crushed. The haulier is generally from 14 to 17 years of age, and his size is a matter of some importance, according to the present height and width of the main roads.'

'The air-door boy is generally from five to eleven years of age: his post is in the mine at the side of the air-door, and his business is to open it fro the haulier, with his horse and tram, to pass, and then to close the door after them. In some pits the situation of these poor things is distressing. With his solitary candle, cramped with cold, wet, and not half fed, the poor child, deprived of light and air, passes his silent day: his or her wages 6. to 8d. per day. Surely one would suppose nothing but hard poverty could induce a parent so to sacrifice the physical and moral existence of his child! Yet I have found such to be the case, arising as much from the cupidity (greed) as from the poverty of the parents.'

'Carters are employed in the narrow veins of coal in parts of Monmouthshire; their occupation is to drag the carts or skips of coal from the working to the main roads. In this mode of labour the leather girdle passes around the body, and the chain is, between the legs, attached to the cart, and the lads drag on all fours’.