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Factory Acts

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Factory Acts

Children at work in a cotton mill (Mule spinning England 1835) [1]

The Factory Acts were a series of Sidney Webb reviewing the cumulative effect of century of factory legislation felt able to write

The system of regulation which began with the protection of the tiny class of pauper apprentices in textile mills now includes within its scope every manual worker in every manufacturing industry. From the hours of labour and sanitation, the law has extended to the age of commencing work, protection against accidents, mealtimes and holidays, the methods of remuneration, and in the United Kingdom as well as in the most progressive of English-speaking communities, to the rate of wages itself. The range of Factory Legislation has, in fact, in one country or another, become co-extensive with the conditions of industrial employment. No class of manual-working wage-earners, no item in the wage-contract, no age, no sex, no trade or occupation, is now beyond its scope. This part, at any rate, of Robert Owen's social philosophy has commended itself to the practical judgment of the civilised world. It has even, though only towards the latter part of the nineteenth century, converted the economists themselves -converted them now to a " legal minimum wage " — and the advantage of Factory Legislation is now as soundly " orthodox " among the present generation of English, German, and American professors as " laisser-faire " was to their predecessors. ... Of all the nineteenth century inventions in social organisation, Factory Legislation is the most widely diffused.[1]:Preface

He also commented on the gradual (accidentally almost Fabian) way this transformation had been achieved

The merely empirical suggestions of Dr. Thomas Percival and the Manchester Justices of 1784 and 1795, and the experimental legislation of the elder Sir Robert Peel in 1802, were expanded by Robert Owen in 1815 into a general principle of industrial government, which came to be applied in tentative instalments by successive generations of Home Office administrators. ... This century of experiment in Factory Legislation affords a typical example of English practical empiricism. We began with no abstract theory of social justice or the rights of man. We seem always to have been incapable even of taking a general view of the subject we were legislating upon. Each successive statute aimed at remedying a single ascertained evil. It was in vain that objectors urged that other evils, no more defensible existed in other trades, or among other classes, or with persons of ages other than those to which the particular Bill applied. Neither logic nor consistency, neither the over-nice consideration of even-handed justice nor the Quixotic appeal of a general humanitarianism, was permitted to stand in the way of a practical remedy for a proved wrong. That this purely empirical method of dealing with industrial evils made progress slow is scarcely an objection to it. With the nineteenth century House of Commons no other method would have secured any progress at all.[1]:Preface


  • Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 1
  • Cotton Mills and Factories Act 1819 2
  • Cotton Mills Regulation Act 1825 3
  • Act to Amend the Laws relating to the employment of Children in Cotton Mills & Manufactories 1829 4
  • Labour in Cotton Mills Act 1831 (Hobhouse's Act) 5
  • Labour of Children, etc., in Factories Act 1833 (Althorp's Act) 6
    • The first 'Ten Hour Bill' - Sadler's Bill (1832), Ashley's Bill (1833) 6.1
      • Sadler's Bill (1832) 6.1.1
      • Ashley's Bill (1833) 6.1.2
    • 1833 Factory Commission 6.2
    • Althorp's Act (1833) 6.3
  • 'Ineffectual attempts at legislation' - (1835 - 1841) 7
    • Poulett Thomson's Bill (1836) 7.1
    • Fox Maule's Bill (1838) 7.2
    • Ashley denounces government complacency 7.3
    • Fox Maule tries again (1839-41) 7.4
  • Graham's Factory Education Bill (1843) 8
    • The education issue and Graham's bill 8.1
    • Reaction, retreats, and abandonment 8.2
  • Factories Act 1844 (Graham's factory act) 9
  • Factory Act 1847 10
  • Factory Act 1850 (the 'Compromise' Act) 11
  • Factory Act 1856 12
  • Factories Act Extension Act 1867 13
  • Factory and Workshop Act 1870 14
  • Factory and Workshop Act 1871 15
  • Factory and Workshop Act 1878 16
  • Factory Act 1891 17
  • Factory and Workshop Act 1895 18
  • Factory and Workshop Act 1901 19
  • Factories Act 1937 20
  • Factories Act 1959 21
  • Factories Act 1961 22
  • See also 23
  • Notes 24
  • References 25
  • References 26
  • External links 27

Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802

The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 (42 Geo III c.73) was introduced by Sir Robert Peel ; it addressed concerns felt by the medical men of Manchester about the health and welfare of children employed in cotton mills, and first expressed by them in 1784 in a report on an outbreak of 'putrid fever' at a mill at Radcliffe owned by Peel. Although the Act included some hygiene requirements for all textile mills, it was largely concerned with the employment of apprentices; it left the employment of 'free' (non-indentured) children unregulated. It allowed (but did not require) local magistrates to enforce compliance with its requirements, and therefore went largely unenforced. As the first attempt to improve the lot of factory children, it is often seen as paving the way for future Factory Acts. At best, it only partially paved the way; its restriction to apprentices (where there was a long tradition of legislation) meant that it was left to later Factory Acts to establish the principle of intervention by Parliament on humanitarian grounds on worker welfare issues against the "laissez-faire" political and economic orthodoxy of the age which held that to be ill-advised.

Under the Act, regulations and rules came into force on 2 December 1802 and applied to all textile mills and factories employing three or more apprentices or twenty employees. The buildings must have sufficient windows and openings for ventilation, and should be cleaned at least twice yearly with quicklime and water; this included ceilings and walls.[2]

Each apprentice was to be given two sets of clothing, suitable linen, stockings, hats, and shoes, and a new set each year thereafter. Apprentices could not work during the night (between 9 pm and 6 am), and their working hours could not exceed 12 hours a day, excluding the time taken for breaks.[2] A grace period was provided to allow factories time to adjust, but all night-time working by apprentices was to be discontinued by June 1804.[1]

All apprentices were to be educated in reading, writing and arithmetic for the first four years of their apprenticeship. The Act specified that this should be done every working day within usual working hours but did not state how much time should be set aside for it. Educational classes should be held in a part of the mill or factory designed for the purpose. Every Sunday, for one hour, apprentices were to be taught the Christian religion; every other Sunday, divine service should be held in the factory, and every month the apprentices should visit a church. They should be prepared for confirmation in the Church of England between the ages of 14 and 18 and must be examined by a clergyman at least once a year. Male and female apprentices were to sleep separately and not more than two per bed.[2]

Local magistrates had to appoint two inspectors known as visitors to ensure that factories and mills were complying with the Act; one was to be a clergyman and the other a Justice of the Peace, neither to have any connection with the mill or factory. The visitors had the power to impose fines for non-compliance and the authority to visit at any time of the day to inspect the premises.[2]

The Act was to be displayed in two places in the factory. Owners who refused to comply with any part of the Act could be fined between £2 and £5.[2]

Cotton Mills and Factories Act 1819

The 1819 Cotton Mills and Factories Act (59 Geo. III c66) stated that no children under 9 were to be employed and that children aged 9–16 years were limited to 12 hours' work per day.[3] It applied to the cotton industry only, but covered all children, whether apprentices or not. It was seen through Parliament by Sir Robert Peel; it had its origins in a draft prepared by Robert Owen in 1815 but the Act that emerged in 1819 was much watered-down from Owen's draft. It was also effectively unenforceable; enforcement was left to local magistrates, but they could only inspect a mill if two witnesses had given sworn statements that the mill was breaking the Act.

Cotton Mills Regulation Act 1825

' A large manufactory' : the (water-powered) mill complex at Darley Abbey viewed end-on

In 1825 John Cam Hobhouse introduced a Bill to allow magistrates to act on their own initiative, and to compel witnesses to attend hearings; noting that so far there had been only two prosecutions under the 1819 Act.[4] Opposing the Bill a millowner MP [2] agreed that the 1819 Bill was widely evaded, but went on to remark that this put millowners at the mercy of millhands "The provisions of Sir Robert Peel's act had been evaded in many respects: and it was now in the power of the workmen to ruin many individuals, by enforcing the penalties for children working beyond the hours limited by that act" and that this showed to him that the best course of action was to repeal the 1819 Act.[4] On the other hand, another millowner MP [3] supported Hobhouse's Bill saying that he

agreed that, the bill was loudly called for, and, as the proprietor of a large manufactory, admitted that there was much that required remedy. He doubted whether shortening the hours of work would be injurious even to the interests of the manufacturers; as the children would be able, while they were employed, to pursue their occupation with greater vigour and activity. At the same time, there was nothing to warrant a comparison with the condition or the negroes in the West Indies.[4]

Hobhouse's Bill also sought to limit hours worked to eleven a day; the Act as passed (the Cotton Mills Regulation Act :6 Geo. IV., c. 63) improved the arrangements for enforcement, but kept a twelve-hour day Monday-Friday with a shorter day of nine hours on Saturday. The 1819 Act had specified that a mealbreak of an hour should be taken between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. ; a subsequent Act (60 Geo. III., c. 5) allowing water-powered mills to exceed the specified hours in order to make up for lost time widened the limits to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Hobhouse's Act of 1825 set the limits to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A parent's assertion of a child's age was sufficient, and relieved employers of any liability should the child in fact be younger. JPs who were millowners or the fathers or sons of millowners could not hear complaints under the Act.[1]

Act to Amend the Laws relating to the employment of Children in Cotton Mills & Manufactories 1829

In 1829, Parliament passed an 'Act to Amend the Laws relating to the employment of Children in Cotton Mills & Manufactories' which relaxed formal requirements for the service of legal documents on millowners (documents no longer had to specify all partners in the concern owning or running the mill; it would be adequate to identify the mill by the name by which it was generally known).[6] The Bill passed the Commons was subject to a minor textual amendment by the Lords (adding the words 'to include'[4]) and then received the Royal Assent without the Commons first being made aware of (or agreeing to) the Lords' amendment.[7] To rectify this inadvertent breach of privilege,a further Act (making no other change to the Act already passed) was promptly passed on the last day of the Parliamentary session.[8][5]

Labour in Cotton Mills Act 1831 (Hobhouse's Act)

Mule Spinning in action : child 'piecers' spent their day mending broken threads on the moving machinery

An Act to repeal the Laws relating to Apprentices and other young Persons employed in Cotton Factories and in Cotton Mills, and to make further Provisions in lieu thereof (1 & 2 Will. IV c39)

(Acts repealed were 59 Geo. III, c. 66; 60 Geo. III, c. 5; 6 Geo. IV, c. 63; 10 Geo. IV, c. 51; 10 Geo. IV, c. 63)

In 1831 Hobhouse introduced a further bill with - he told the Commons-[9] the support of the leading manufacturers who felt that "unless the House should step forward and interfere so as to put an end to the night-work in the small factories where it was practised, it would be impossible for the large and respectable factories which conformed to the existing law to compete with them." The Act repealed the previous Acts, and consolidated their provisions in a single Act, which also introduced further restrictions. Night working was forbidden for anyone under 21 and if a mill had been working at night the onus of proof was on the millowner (to show nobody under-age had been employed). The limitation of working hours to twelve now applied up to age eighteen. Complaints could only pursued if made within three weeks of the offence; on the other hand JPs who were the brothers of millowners were now also debarred from hearing Factory Act cases. Hobhouse's claim of general support was optimistic; the Bill originally covered all textile mills; the Act as passed again applied only to cotton mills.[1]

Labour of Children, etc., in Factories Act 1833 (Althorp's Act)

Carding, roving, and drawing in a Manchester cotton mill c. 1834

The first 'Ten Hour Bill' - Sadler's Bill (1832), Ashley's Bill (1833)

Dissatisfied with the outcome of Hobhouse's efforts, in 1832 Michael Thomas Sadler introduced a Bill extending the protection existing Factory Acts gave to children working in the cotton industry to those in other textile industries, and reducing to ten per day the working hours of children in the industries legislated for. A network of 'Short Time Committees' had grown up in the textile districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, working for a 'ten-hour day Act ' for children, with many millhands in the Ten Hour Movement hoping that this would in practice also limit the adult working day.[1] Witnesses to one of the Committees taking evidence on Peel's Bill had noted that there were few millworkers over forty, and that they themselves expected to have to stop mill work at that age because of 'the pace of the mill' unless working hours were reduced.[10] Hobhouse advised Richard Oastler, an early and leading advocate of factory legislation for the woolen industry, that Hobhouse had got as much as he could, given the opposition of Scottish flax-spinners and 'the state of public business':[6] if Sadler put forward a Bill matching the aims of the Short Time Committees “he will not be allowed to proceed a single stage with any enactment, and … he will only throw an air of ridicule and extravagance over the whole of this kind of legislation”.[11] Oastler responded that a failure with a Ten Hour Bill would "not dishearten its friends. It will only spur them on to greater exertions, and would undoubtedly lead to certain success "[12][13]

Sadler's Bill (1832)

Sadler's Bill when introduced indeed corresponded closely to the aims of the Short Time Committees. Hobhouse's ban on nightwork up to 21 was retained; no child under nine was to be employed; and the working day for under-eighteens was to be no more than ten hours (eight on Saturday). These restrictions were to apply across all textile industries.[1]:51 The Second Reading debate on Sadler's bill did not take place until 16 March 1832, the Reform Bill having taken precedence over all other legislation. Meanwhile, petitions both for and against the Bill had been presented to the Commons; both [14] In his long Second Reading speech, Sadler argued repeatedly that a Committee was unnecessary, but concluded by accepting that he had not convinced the House or the Government of this, and that the Bill would be referred to a Select Committee.[15] (Lord Althorp, responding for the Government, noted that Sadler's speech made a strong case for considering legislation, thought it did little to directly support the details of the Bill; the Government supported the Bill as leading to a Select Committee, but would not in advance pledge support for whatever legislation the Committee might recommend).[15] This effectively removed any chance of a Factories Regulation Act being passed before Parliament was dissolved. Sadler was made chairman of the Committee, which allowed him to make his case by hearing evidence from witnesses of Sadler's selection, on the understanding that opponents of the Bill (or of some feature of it) would then have their innings.[16] Sadler attempted (31 July 1832) to progress his Bill without waiting for the committee's report; when this abnormal procedure was objected to by other MPs, he withdrew the Bill.[17] Sadler, as chairman of the committee, reported the minutes of evidence on 8 August 1832, when they were ordered to be printed.[18] Parliament was prorogued shortly afterwards: Sadler gave notice of his intention to reintroduce a Ten-Hour Bill in the next session [19]

Ashley's Bill (1833)

Sadler, however, was not an MP in the next session: in the first election for the newly enfranchised two member constituency of Leeds he was beaten into third place by Thomas Babington Macaulay a Whig politician of national standing and John Marshall, the son of one of Leeds' leading millowners. Casting around for a new parliamentary advocate for factory reform, the short-time movement eventually secured the services of Lord Ashley, eldest son of the 6th Earl of Shaftesbury. By the time the new parliament met, public opinion (especially outside the textile districts) had been powerfully affected by 'the report of Mr Sadler's Committee'. Extracts from this began to appear in newspapers in January 1833 and painted a picture of the life of a mill-child as one of systematic over-work and systematic brutality. The conclusion many papers drew was that Sadler's Bill should be revived and passed. However, when Ashley introduced a Bill essentially reproducing Sadler's MPs criticised both the report (since the only witnesses heard had been Sadler's, the report was unbalanced; since witnesses had not testified on oath, doubts were expressed about the accuracy/veracity of the more lurid accounts of factory life) and Sadler's conduct. 'An air of ridicule and extravagance' had been thrown not upon factory legislation, but upon the use of Select Committees for fact-finding on factory conditions.[20] A Factory Commission was set up to investigate and report. Sadler and the Short Time Committees objected to any further fact-finding[21] and attempted to obstruct the work of the Commissioners.[22] Ashley's Bill proceeded to a Second Reading in early July 1833 (when the likely main recommendations of the Commission were known, but its report was not yet available to MPs); Ashley wanted the Bill to then be considered by a Committee of the whole House and defeated Lord Althorp's amendment to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.[23] However at Committee stage the first point considered where the Bill differed from the Commission's was the age up to which hours of work should be limited Ashley lost (heavily) the vote on this, and left it to Althorp to pilot through a Factory Act[24] based upon the Commission's recommendations.[1]:54

1833 Factory Commission

This toured the textile districts and made extensive investigations. It wasted little time in doing so, and even less in considering its report; as with other Whig Commissions of the period it was suspected to have had a good idea of its recommendations before it started work. During the course of the Factory Commission’s inquiries, relationships between it and the Ten Hour Movement became thoroughly adversarial, the Ten Hour Movement attempting to organise a boycott of the Commission's investigations: this was in sharp contrast with the commissioners' practice of dining with the leading manufacturers of the districts they visited. The Commission’s report[25] did not support the more lurid details of Sadler's report - mills were not hotbeds of sexual immorality, and beating of children was much less common than Sadler had asserted (and was dying out). Major millowners such as the Strutts did not tolerate it (and indeed were distinguished by their assiduous benevolence to their employees). Working conditions for mill-children were preferable to those in other industries: (after a visit to the coal mine at Worsley one of the Commission staff had written "as this was said to be the best mine in the place, I cannot much err in coming to the conclusion, that the hardest labour in the worst-conducted factory is less hard, less cruel,and less demoralizing than the labour in the best of coal-mines"[25]:D2, 79–82)

Nonetheless, the Commission reported[25]:35–36that mill children did work unduly long hours, leading to

  • Permanent deterioration of the physical constitution:
  • The production of disease often wholly irremediable: and
  • The partial or entire exclusion (by reason of excessive fatigue) from the means of obtaining adequate education and acquiring useful habits, or of profiting by those means when afforded

and that these ill-effects were so marked and significant that Government intervention was justified but where Sadler's Bill was for a ten-hour day for all workers under eighteen, the Commission recommended an eight-hour day for those under thirteen, hoping for a two-shift system for them which would allow mills to run 16 hours a day.

Althorp's Act (1833)

The Factory Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV) c103 was an attempt to establish a regular working day in textile manufacture. The act had the following provisions:[1]

  • Children under 9 could not be employed in textile manufacture (except in silk mills).
  • Children under 18 must not work at night (i.e. after 8. 30 p.m. and before 5.30 a.m.)
  • Children (ages 9–13) must not work more than 8 hours with an hour lunch break. (Employers could (and it was envisaged they would) operate a 'relay system' with two shifts of children between them covering the permitting working day; adult millworkers therefore being 'enabled' to work a 15-hour day)
  • Children (ages 9–13) could only be employed if they had a schoolmaster's certificate that the previous week they had had two hours of education per day[1] (This to be paid for by a deduction of a penny in the shilling from the children's wages. A factory inspector could disallow payment of any of this money to an 'incompetent' schoolmaster, but could not cancel a certificate issued by him.)[26]
  • Children (ages 14–18) must not work more than 12 hours a day with an hour lunch break.
  • Provided for routine inspections of factories and set up a Factory Inspectorate (subordinate to the Home Office) to carry out such inspections, with the right to demand entry and the authority to act as a magistrate. (Under previous Acts supervision had been by local 'visitors' (a Justice of the Peace, and a clergyman) and effectively discretionary). The inspectors were empowered to make and enforce rules and regulations on the detailed application of the Act, independent of the Home Secretary
  • Millowners and their close relatives were no longer debarred (if JPs) from hearing cases brought under previous Acts, but were unlikely to be effectively supervised by their colleagues on the local bench or be zealous in supervising other millowners

The Act failed to specify whether lunar or calendar months were intended where the word 'monthly' was used, and one clause limited hours of work per week where a daily limit had been intended.[27] A short amending Act was therefore passed in February 1834[28]

'Ineffectual attempts at legislation' - (1835 - 1841)

The 1833 Act had few admirers in the textile districts when it came into force. The short-time movement objected to its substitution for Ashley's Bill, and hoped to secure a Ten-Hour Bill. Millowners resented and political economists deplored legislatory interference in response to public opinion, and hoped that the Act could soon be repealed (completely or in part). In 1835, the first report of the Factory Inspectors noted that the education clauses were totally impracticable, and relay working (with a double set of children, both sets working eight hours; the solution which allowed Althorp's Bill to outbid Ashley's in the apparent benefit to children) was difficult if not impracticable, there not being enough children.[29][7]They also reported that they had been unable to discover any deformity produced by factory labour, nor any injury to health or shortening of life of factory children caused by working a twelve-hour day.[29]

Poulett Thomson's Bill (1836)

Three of the four inspectors had recommended in their first report that all children 12 or older should be allowed to work twelve hours a day.[29] This was followed by an agitation in the West Riding for relaxation or repeal of the 1833 Act;[31] the short-time movement alleged that workers were being 'leant on' by their employers to sign petitions for repeal, and countered by holding meetings and raising petitions for a ten-hour act.[32] Charles Hindley prepared a draft bill limiting the hours that could be worked by any mill employing people under twenty-one, with no child under ten to be employed, and no education clauses.[33] Hindley's bill was published at the end of the 1834-5 parliamentary session, but was not taken forward in the next session, being pre-empted by a government bill introduced by Charles Poulett Thomson, the President of the Board of Trade, allowing children twelve or over to work twelve hours a day.[34] The second reading of Poulett Thomson's Bill was opposed by Ashley, who denounced the bill as a feeler towards total repeal of protection for factory children. The Bill passed its second reading by a majority of only two (178-176) - a moral defeat for a government measure. Furthermore, although Poulett Thomson had opened the debate by saying that "at the present moment he was unwilling to re-open the whole factory question", Peel had said he would vote for the second reading, not because he supported the bill, but because its committee stage would allow the introduction of additional amendments to factory legislation.[35] Poulett Thomson (eventually) abandoned the bill.[36]

In 1837 Poulett Thomson announced his intention to bring in a factory bill; consequently Ashley, who had intended to introduce a ten-hour bill, dropped this, promising instead a ten-hour amendment to the government bill.[37] No progress had been made with the government bill when the death of King William, and the consequent dissolution of parliament, brought the session to an end.

Fox Maule's Bill (1838)

In the 1838 session another government factory bill was introduced by Fox Maule Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Children in silk mills were not to work more than ten hours a day (but this was not backed up by any certification of age). Otherwise, the bill made no changes to age limits or hours of work, but repealed the education clauses of the 1833 Act, replacing them with literacy tests. After a transitional period, children who could not read the New Testament were not to be employed more than nine hours a day; children who could not read an easy reader to be published by the Home Secretary could not be employed.[38] His political opponents mocked the thought of Lord John Russell turning his undoubted talents to the production of a reading primer, and it was soon announced that once the Bill went into committee it would be amended to restore the 1833 education clauses.[39] The second reading of the bill was scheduled for 22 June, but in early June Russell announced that the bill had been abandoned for the session.[40]

Ashley denounces government complacency

On 22 June, when the government intended to progress a bill on Irish tithes, Ashley forestalled them, moving the second reading of the factory bill. He complained of the evasive conduct of ministers and government apathy and complacency on factory reform. Peel (who normally, even in opposition, deprecated obstruction of government business by backbenchers[8]) supported Ashley: he held very different views on the issue from Ashley, but the issue was important, contentious, and should not be evaded : "so long as ineffectual attempts at legislation remained on the table of the house, the excitement of the manufacturing districts would continue to be kept up"[41] [9] Ashley's motion was lost narrowly 111 to 119.[41]

Ashley later attacked the government and its complacency and connivance at the shortcomings in the current Factory Act identified by the government's own Factory Inspectors:[44]

  • Althorp's Act had claimed superiority over Ashley's Bill of 1833 because of its shorter working hours for children and its provision for education. Those provisions had been violated from the outset, and continued to be violated, and the government connived at those violations: "notwithstanding the urgent representations and remonstrances of their own inspectors, the Government had done nothing whatever to assist them in the discharge of their duties"
  • Millowners sat on the bench and adjudicated in their own cases (because Althorp's Act had repealed the provisions in Hobhouse's Act forbidding this): they countersigned surgeon's certificates for children employed in their own factory .[10] One factory inspector had reported a case of a millowner sitting as magistrate on a case brought against his own sons, as tenants of a mill he owned.
  • Magistrates had the power to mitigate the penalties specied in the Act. The inspectors reported that magistrates habitually did so, and to an extent which defeated the law; it was more profitable to break the law and pay the occasional fine than to comply with the Act.
"After these representations .. by his own inspectors, how could the noble Lord opposite reconcile it with his conscience as an individual, and with his public duty as a Minister of the Crown, during the whole course of his administration, never to have brought forward any measure for the removal of so tremendous an evil?"
  • The education clauses were not observed in one mill in fifty; where they were, the factory inspectors reported, "the schooling given is a mere mockery of instruction"; vice and ignorance, and their natural consequences, misery and suffering, were rife among the population of the manufacturing districts. "Would the noble Lord opposite venture to say that the education of the manufacturing classes was a matter of indifference to the country at large?"
"He wanted them to decide whether they would amend, or repeal, or enforce the Act now in existence; but if they would do none of these things, if they continued idly indifferent, and obstinately shut their eyes to this great and growing evil, if they were careless of the growth of an immense population, plunged in ignorance and vice, which neither feared God, nor regarded man, then he warned them that they must be prepared for the very worst result that could befall a nation."

Fox Maule tries again (1839-41)

In the 1839 session, Fox Maule revived the 1838 Bill with alterations. The literacy tests were gone, and the education clauses restored. The only other significant changes in the scope of the legislation were that working extra hours to recover lost time was now only permitted for water-powered mills, and magistrates could not countersign surgeon's certificates if they were mill-owners or occupiers (or father, son, or brother of a mill-owner or occupier). Details of enforcement were altered; there was no longer any provision for inspectors to be magistrates ex officio, sub-inspectors were to have nearly the same enforcement powers as inspectors; unlike inspectors they could not examine witnesses on oath, but they now had the same right of entry into factory premises as inspectors.[45] Declaring a schoolmaster incompetent was now to invalidate certificates of education issued by him, and a clause in the bill aimed to make it easier to establish and run a school for factory children; children at schools formed under this clause were not to be educated in a creed objected to by their parents.[26]

The bill, introduced in February, did not enter its committee stage until the start of July[46] In committee, a ten-hour amendment was defeated 62-94, but Ashley moved and carried 55-49 an amendment removing the special treatment of silk mills.[46][47] The government then declined to progress the amended bill.[48]

No attempt was made to introduce a Factory Bill in 1840; Ashley obtained a Select Committee on the working of the existing Factory Act,[49] which took evidence, most notably from members of the Factory Inspectorate,[50] throughout the session with a view to a new Bill being introduced in 1841.[51] Ashley was then instrumental in obtaining a Royal Commission on the employment of children in mines and manufactures,[52] which eventually reported in 1842 (mines) and 1843 (manufactures): two of the four Commissioners had served on the 1833 Factory Commission; the other two were serving factory inspectors.[53]

In March 1841 Fox Maule introduced a Factory Bill[54] and a separate Silk Factory Bill.[55] The Factory Bill provided that children were now not to work more than seven hours a day; if working before noon they couldn't work after one p.m.[56] The education clauses of the 1839 Bill were retained.[56] 'Dangerous machinery' was now to be brought within factory legislation.[57][58] Both the Factory and Silk Factory bills were given unopposed second readings on the understanding that all issues would be discussed at committee stage, both were withdrawn before going into committee,[59] the Whigs having been defeated on a motion of no confidence, and a General Election imminent.

Graham's Factory Education Bill (1843)

The Whigs were defeated in the 1841 general election, and Sir Robert Peel formed a Conservative government. Ashley let it be known that he had declined office under Peel because Peel would not commit himself not to oppose a ten-hour bill; Ashley therefore wished to retain freedom of action on factory issues.[60] In February 1842, Peel indicated definite opposition to a ten-hour bill,[61] and Sir James Graham , Peel's Home Secretary, declared his intention to proceed with a bill prepared by Fox Maule, but with some alterations.[62] In response to the findings of his Royal Commission, Ashley saw through Parliament a Mines And Collieries Act banning the employment of women and children underground;[63] the measure was welcomed by both front benches, with Graham assuring Ashley "that her Majesty's Government would render him every assistance in carrying on the measure".[63] In July, it was announced that the Government did not intend any modification to the Factory Act in that session.[64]

The education issue and Graham's bill

The Royal Commission had investigated not only the working hours and conditions of the children, but also their moral state. It had found much of concern in their habits and language, but the greatest concern was that "the means of secular and religious instruction.. are so grievously defective, that, in all the districts, great numbers of Children and Young Persons are growing up without any religious, moral, or intellectual training; nothing being done to form them to habits of order, sobriety, honesty, and forethought, or even to restrain them from vice and crime."[65] [11] In 1843, Ashley initiated a debate on "the best means of diffusing the benefits and blessings of a moral and religious education among the working classes..."[68]

Responding, Graham stressed that the issue was not a party one (and was borne out on this by the other speakers in the debate); although the problem was a national one, the government would for the moment bring forward measures only for the two areas of education in which the state already had some involvement; the education of workhouse children and the education of factory children. The measures he announced related to England and Wales; Scotland had an established system of parochial schools run by its established church, with little controversy, since in Scotland there was no dissent on doctrine, only on questions of discipline. In the 'education clauses' of his Factory Education Bill of 1843, he proposed to make government loans to a new class of government factory schools effectively under the control of the Church of England and the local magistrates. The default religious education in these schools would be Anglican, but parents would be allowed to opt their children out of anything specifically Anglican; if the opt-out was exercised, religious education would be as in the best type of Dissenter-run schools. Once a trust school was open in a factory district, factory children in that district would have to provide a certificate that they were being educated at it or at some other school certified as 'efficient'. The 'labour clauses' forming the other half of the bill were essentially a revival of Fox Maule's draft; children could work only in the morning or in the afternoon, but not both. There were two significant differences; the working day for children was reduced to six and a half hours, and the minimum age for factory work would be reduced to eight. Other clauses increased penalties and assisted enforcement.

Reaction, retreats, and abandonment

A Second Reading debate was held to flush out major issues before going into committee.[69] At Lord John Russell's urging, the discussion was temperate, but there was considerable opposition to the proposed management of the new schools, which effectively excluded ratepayers (who would repay the loan and meet any shortfall in running costs)and made no provision for a Dissenter presence (to see fair play). The provisions for appointment of schoolmasters were also criticised; as they stood they effectively excluded Dissenters.

Out of Parliament, the debate was less temperate; objections that the Bill had the effect of strengthening the Church became objections that it was a deliberate attack on Dissent, that its main purpose was to attack Dissent, and that the Royal Commission had deliberately and grossly defamed the population of the manufacturing districts to give a spurious pretext for an assault on Dissent.[70] Protest meetings were held on that basis throughout the country, and their resolutions condemning the bill and calling for its withdrawal were supported by a campaign of organised petitions: that session Parliament received 13,369 petitions against the bill as drafted with a total of 2,069,058 signatures.[71] (For comparison, in the same session there were 4574 petitions for total repeal of the Corn Laws, with a total of 1,111,141 signatures.[72] )

Lord John Russell drafted resolutions calling for modification of the bill along the lines suggested in Parliament;[73] the resolutions were denounced as inadequate by the extra-parliamentary opposition.[74] Graham amended the educational clauses,[75] but this only triggered a fresh round of indignation meetings[76] and a fresh round of petitions (11,839 petitions and 1,920,574 signatures).[71] Graham then withdrew the education clauses[77] but this did not end the objections,[78] since it did not entirely restore the status quo ante on education;[79] indeed the education requirements of the 1833 Act now came under attack, the Leeds Mercury declaring education was something individuals could do for themselves "under the guidance of natural instinct and self-interest, infinitely better than Government could do for them".[80] Hence "All Government interference to COMPEL Education is wrong" and had unacceptable implications: "If Government has a right to compel Education, it has right to compel RELIGION !"[80] Although as late as 17 July Graham said he intended to get the bill though in the current session,[78] three days later the bill was one of those Peel announced would be dropped for that session.[81]

Factories Act 1844 (Graham's factory act)

In 1844 Graham again introduced a Bill to bring in a new Factory Act and repeal the 1833 Factory Act.[82] The Bill gave educational issues a wide berth, but otherwise largely repeated the 'labour clauses' of Graham's 1843 Bill, with the important difference that the existing protection of young persons (a twelve-hour day and a ban on night working) was now extended to women of all ages.[83] In Committee, Lord Ashley moved an amendment to the bill's clause 2, which defined the terms used in subsequent (substantive) clauses; his amendment changed the definition of 'night' to 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.-after allowing 90 minutes for mealbreaks only ten-and-a-half hours could be worked;[84] this passed by nine votes.[85] On clause 8, limiting the hours of work for women and young persions, the motion setting a twelve-hour day was defeated (by three votes: 183-186) but Lord Ashley's motion setting the limit at ten hours was also defeated (by seven votes:181-188).[86]

Voting on this Bill was not on party lines, the issue revealing both parties to be split into various factions. On clause 8, both 'ten' and 'twelve' hours were rejected (with exactly the same members voting) because five members voted against both 'ten' and 'twelve'.[87] Faced with this impasse, and having considered and rejected the option of compromising on some intermediate time such as eleven hours,[12] Graham withdrew the Bill, preferring to replace it by a new one which amended, rather than repealed, the 1833 Act.[88] A Radical MP warned the government during the debate on clause 8 that Ashley's first victory could never be undone by any subsequent vote: morally the Ten-Hour question had been settled;[86]:c1402 Government might delay, but could not now prevent, a Ten-hour Act. However, the new bill left the 1833 definition of 'night' unaltered (and so gave no opportunity for redefinition) and Lord Ashley's amendment to limit the working day for women and young persons to ten hours was defeated heavily (295 against, 198 for),[89] it having been made clear that the Ministers would resign if they lost the vote.[90]

As a result, the Factory Act of 1844 (citation 7 & 8 Vict c. 15) again set a twelve-hour day,[91] its main provisions being:[1]

  • Children 9–13 years could work for 9 hours a day with a lunch break.
  • Ages must be verified by surgeons.
  • Women and young people now worked the same number of hours. They could work for no more than 12 hours a day during the week, including one and a half hours for meals, and 9 hours on Sundays. They must all take their meals at the same time and could not do so in the workroom
  • Time-keeping to be by a public clock approved by an inspector
  • Some classes of machinery: every fly-wheel directly connected with the steam engine or water-wheel or other mechanical power, whether in the engine-house or not, and every part of a steam engine and water-wheel, and every hoist or teagle,[13] near to which children or young persons are liable to pass or be employed, and all parts of the mill-gearing (this included power shafts) in a factory were to be "securely fenced."
  • Children and women were not to clean moving machinery.
  • Accidental death must be reported to a surgeon and investigated; the result of the investigation to be reported to a Factory Inspector.
  • Factory owners must wash factories with lime every fourteen months.
  • Thorough records must be kept regarding the provisions of the Act and shown to the inspector on demand.
  • An abstract of the amended Act must be hung up in the factory so as to be easily read, and show (amongst other things) names and addresses of the inspector and sub-inspector of the district, the certifying surgeon, the times for beginning and ending work, the amount of time and time of day for meals.
  • Factory Inspectors no longer had the powers of JPs but (as before 1833) millowners, their fathers, brothers and sons were all debarred (if magistrates) from hearing Factory Act cases.

Factory Act 1847

After the collapse of the Peel administration which had resisted any reduction in the working day to less than 12 hours, a Whig administration under Lord John Russell came to power. The new Cabinet contained supporters and opponents of a ten-hour day and Lord John himself favoured an eleven-hour day. The Government therefore had no collective view on the matter; in the absence of Government opposition, the Ten Hour Bill (also known as the Ten Hour Act) was passed, becoming the Factories Act 1847 (citation 10 & 11 Vict c. 29). This law limited the work week in textile mills (and other textile industries except lace and silk production) for women and children under 18 years of age. Each work week contained 63 hours effective 1 July 1847 and was reduced to 58 hours effective 1 May 1848. In effect, this law limited the workday for all millhands to 10 hours.

This law was successfully passed due to the contributions of the Ten Hours Movement. This campaign was established during the 1830s and was responsible for voicing demands towards limiting the work week in textile mills. The core of the movement was the 'Short Time Committees' set up (by millworkers and sympathisers) in the textile districts, but the main speakers for the cause were Richard Oastler (who led the campaign outside Parliament) and Lord Ashley, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (who led the campaign inside Parliament). John Fielden, although no orator, was indefatigable in his support of the cause, giving generously of his time and money and - as the senior partner in one of the great cotton firms - vouching for the reality of evils of a long working day and the practicality of shortening it.

Factory Act 1850 (the 'Compromise' Act)

A Victorian power loom (Lancashire loom)

The Acts of 1844 and 1847 had reduced the hours per day which any woman or young person could work but not the hours of the day within which they could do that work (from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.). Under the 1833 Act millowners (or some of them) had used a 'relay system' so that the mill could operate all the permitted hours without any protected person exceeding their permitted workday. The 1833 Act had hoped that two sets of children would be employed and each work a full half-day (the 'true relay' system, which left the other halfday free for education). Instead, some mills operated a 'false relay' system in which the protected persons worked split shifts. The false relay system was considered objectionable both because of the effect on the protected persons [14] and because an inspector (or other millowners) could relatively easily monitor the hours a mill ran; it was much more difficult if not impossible to check the hours worked by an individual (as an inspector observed "the lights in the window will discover the one but not the other")[1] Section 26 of the 1844 Act required that the hours of work of all protected persons " shall be reckoned from the time when any child or young person shall first begin to work in the morning in such factory." but nothing in it or in the 1847 Act clearly prohibited split shifts (although this had been Parliament's intention).[15] The factory inspector for Scotland considered split shifts to be legal; the inspector for Bradford thought them illegal and his local magistrates agreed with him: in Manchester the inspector thought them illegal but the magistrates did not. In 1850 the Court of Exchequer held that the section was to be too weakly worded to make relay systems illegal.[93][16] Lord Ashley sought to remedy this by a short declaratory Act restoring the status quo but felt it impossible to draft one which did not introduce fresh matter (which would remove the argument that there was no call for further debate). The Home Secretary

  • Aspects of the Industrial Revolution in Britain : Working Conditions and Government Regulation - a selection of primary documents
  • The 1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act
  • Timeline of Factory Legislation in Britain
  • Ten Hours Act

External links

  • Hutchins, B. L.; Harrison, A. (1911). A History of Factory Legislation. P. S. King & Son. 
  • Encyclopedia of British History
  • W.R. Cornish and G. de N. Clark. Law and Society in England 1750-1950.  (Available online here).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Hutchins & Harrison (1911).
  2. ^ a b c d e Statutes at Large: Statutes of the United Kingdom, 1801–1806. 1822. 
  3. ^ Early factory legislation. Accessed 2 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "Cotton Mills Regulation Bill". Hansard House of Commons Debates 13 (cc643-9). 16 May 1825. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Member Biographies: George Philips". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "Employment of Children". Manchester Times. 30 May 1829. p. 263. 
  7. ^ "Imperial Parliament". Morning Post (23 June 1829). 
  8. ^ "Imperial Parliament (subheading: Legislative Mistake)". Hull Packet. 30 June 1829. 
  9. ^ "Appentices in Factories". Hansard House of Commons Debates 2 (cc584-6). 15 February 1831. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "Section I: Extracts from the evidence of Working Spinners, Overlookers, and Managers Shewing the mode of conducting Cotton Factories; the Hours of Working; and the Effects of the System on the Health and Constitutions of the Children". Reasons in favour of Sir Robert Peel's bill, for ameliorating the condition of children employed in cotton factories; comprehending a summary view of the evidence in support of the bill, taken before the Lords' committees in the present session of parliament. W. Clowes. 1819. pp. 1–39. Retrieved 23 July 2014.  see in particular the evidence of a 36-year-old spinner Robert Hyde pp 25–30
  11. ^ John Cam Hobhouse to Richard Oastler, 16 November 1831, quoted in 'Alfred' The History of the Factory Movement from the year 1802, to the Enactment of the Ten Hours' Bill in 1847, (1857) vol I, pp 138–41 , reproduced in Ward, J.T. (1970). The Factory System: Volume II: The Factory System and Society (David & Charles Sources for Social & Economic History). Newton Abbot: David & Charles.   (pages 92–94; quote is from page 94 of Ward)
  12. ^ Richard Oastler to John Cam Hobhouse, 19 November 1831, quoted in 'Alfred' The History of the Factory Movement from the year 1802, to the Enactment of the Ten Hours' Bill in 1847, (1857) vol I, pp 141–6, reproduced in Ward, J.T. (1970). The Factory System: Volume II: The Factory System and Society (David & Charles Sources for Social & Economic History). Newton Abbot: David & Charles.   (pages 94–98; quote (italics are in original) is from page 98 of Ward)
  13. ^ the correspondence can also be found as "Correspondence Relative to the Factories Act". Leeds Intelligencer. 24 November 1831.  in the British Newspaper Archive
  14. ^ "Factories Regulation Bill". Hansard House of Commons Debates 11 (cc 204-5). 14 March 1832. 
  15. ^ a b "Factories Regulation Bill". Hansard House of Commons Debates 11 (cc340-98). 16 March 1832. 
  16. ^ "Factories' Commission". Hansard House of Commons Debates 17 (cc79-115). 3 April 1833. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Factories Bill". Hansard House of Commons Debates 14 (cc965-6). 31 July 1832. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Friday's Express". Stamford Mercury. 10 August 1832. 
  19. ^ "Local Intelligence". Leeds Intelligencer. 11 August 1832. 
  20. ^ "As to the proceedings of Mr Sadler and his committee, or rather Mr Sadler in committee, last year, they are a perfect burlesque on legislative inquiries" Sheffield Independent. 23 March 1833.  quoting Manchester Guardian (date not given)
  21. ^ "Mr Sadler's Speech". London Standard. 2 May 1833. 
  22. ^ "The Factory Commission – Replies to Mr Sadler's Protest". London Standard. 30 May 1833. 
  23. ^ "FACTORIES REGULATIONS". Hansard House of Commons Debates 19 (cc219-54). 5 July 1833. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  24. ^ "FACTORIES' REGULATIONS". Hansard House of Commons Debates 19 (cc898-913). 18 July 1833. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c (Report of the Commissioners on Conditions in Factories, Parliamentary Papers, 1833, volume XX ), subsequent extracts are as given in extracts from Young, G M; Hancock, W D, eds. (1956). English Historical Documents, XII(1), 1833-1874. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 934–49. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  26. ^ a b R J Saunders "Report on the Establishment of Schools in the Factory District" in Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons (1843). Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command. H.M. Stationery Office. 
  27. ^ "Factories Regulation Bill". The Examiner. 9 February 1834. p. 8. 
  28. ^ "Parliamentary Analysis". Morning Post. 21 February 1834. p. 3. 
  29. ^ a b c "Factory Bill". Caledonian Mercury. 23 February 1835. p. 4. 
  30. ^ "Factory Question". Evening Standard (London). 10 June 1836. p. 2. 
  31. ^ "Information on the Factory Act". Leeds Times. 28 February 1835. p. 3. 
  32. ^ "Factories Regulation Bill". Manchester Times. 14 March 1835. p. 3. 
  33. ^ "New Factory Bill". Bolton Chronicle. 19 September 1835. p. 2. 
  34. ^ "The Factory Bill". Westmorland Gazette. 26 March 1836. p. 1. 
  35. ^ "FACTORIES REGULATIONS BILL". Hansard, House of Commons Debates 33: cc737–88. 9 May 1836. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 34: cc306–7. 10 June 1836. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  37. ^ "The Standard". Evening Standard (London). 6 April 1837. p. 2. 
  38. ^ full text of the draft Bill is given in "New Factory Bill". Leeds Mercury. 28 April 1838. p. 7. 
  39. ^ "Imperial Parliament". Bell's Weekly Messenger. 6 May 1838. p. 4. 
  40. ^ "Factory Bill". Sherborne Mercury. 11 June 1838. p. 3. 
  41. ^ a b "Factories". Evening Standard (London). 23 June 1838. p. 4. : not to be found in the on-line Hansard,; that jumps from volume 42 to volume 44
  42. ^ "Great Radical Demonstration on Kersal Moor". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 29 September 1838. p. 4. 
  43. ^ "The Peep Green Demonstration". Leeds Times. 20 October 1838. p. 5. 
  44. ^ "CHILDREN IN FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 44: cc383–443. 20 July 1838. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  45. ^ full text is given in "New Factory Bill". Leeds Mercury. 2 March 1839. p. 6. 
  46. ^ a b "FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 48: cc1063–94. 1 July 1839. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  47. ^ "The Parliament". The Champion. 7 July 1839. p. 2. 
  48. ^ "FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 49. 26 July 1839. 
  49. ^ "THE FACTORY ACT". Hansard House of Commons Debates 52: cc860–1. 3 March 1840. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  50. ^ "Factory Bill". Leeds Mercury. 28 March 1840. p. 5. 
  51. ^ "Factory Bill". Leeds Mercury. 18 July 1840. p. 4. 
  52. ^ "EMPLOYMENT OF CHILDREN". Hansard House of Commons Debates 55: cc1260–79. 4 August 1840. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  53. ^ "List of commissions and officials: 1840-1849 (nos. 29-52):29 . CHILDREN'S EMPLOYMENT 1840-3". British History Online. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  54. ^ "Children in Factories". Morning Post. 27 March 1841. p. 2. 
  55. ^ "The Poor Law Amendment Bill". Evening Mail (London). 31 March 1841. pp. 5–6. 
  56. ^ a b "Factories Bill". Yorkshire Gazette. 1 May 1841. p. 7. 
  57. ^ "Factories". Birmingham Journal. 3 April 1841. p. 3. 
  58. ^ "Notice of Motions". Evening Mail. 24 May 1841. p. 6. 
  59. ^ "Church Rates". Evening Chronicle. 9 June 1841. p. 2. 
  60. ^ "Lord Ashley and the Ten Hours Factory Bill". London Evening Standard. 8 September 1841. p. 2. 
  61. ^ "Factory Bill". Evening Standard (London). 3 February 1842. p. 2. 
  62. ^ "POOR-LAW —FACTORY REGULATIONS.". Hansard House of Commons Debates 60: cc100–2. 7 February 1842. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  63. ^ a b "EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN MINES AND COLLIERIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 63: cc1320–64. 7 June 1842. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  64. ^ "House of Commons, July 11". Evening Standard (London). 12 July 1842. p. 2. 
  65. ^ 2nd Report of the Commission on the Employment of Children (Trades and Manufactures), (1843) Parliamentary Pap[ers volume XIII, pp 195-204 as quoted in Royston Pike, E, ed. (1966). Human Documents of the Industrial Revolution. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. pp. 204–208. 
  66. ^ Horner, Leonard (7 March 1843). "Reports of the Inspectors of Factories". Morning Post. p. 3. 
  67. ^ "The Government Factory Bill". Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser. 25 March 1843. p. 20. 
  68. ^ "CONDITION AND EDUCATION OF THE POOR". Hansard House of Commons Debates 67: cc47–114. 28 February 1843. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  69. ^ "FACTORIES—EDUCATION". Hansard House of Commons Debates 67: cc1411–77. 24 March 1843. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  70. ^ e.g. open letter by  
  71. ^ a b "Petitions Against the Factory Bill". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 19 August 1843. p. 5. 
  72. ^ "Political Intelligence". Leeds Times. 22 July 1843. p. 3. 
  73. ^ "NATIONAL EDUCATION". Hansard House of Commons Debates 68: cc744–7. 10 April 1843. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  74. ^ "The Factories Education Bill". Staffordshire Advertiser. 15 April 1843. p. 1. 
  75. ^ "FACTORIES—EDUCATION". Hansard House of Commons Debates: cc1103–30. 1 May 1843. Retrieved 30 August 2015.  reports his exposition of the amendments; text of amended clauses is in "Factories Education Bill Amended clauses proposed by Sir James Graham". Evening Chronicle. 3 May 1843. pp. 3–4. 
  76. ^ e.g. "Factories Education Bill Large and Important Meeting in the Tower Hamlets". Morning Chronicle. 12 May 1843. p. 6.  - page 6 also gives accounts of a similar meeting at "St James Clerken Well" and a "Great Meeting at Manchester"
  77. ^ "THE FACTORIES—EDUCATION.". Hansard House Of Commons Debates 69: cc1567–70. 15 June 1843. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  78. ^ a b "STATE OF PUBLIC BUSINESS". Hansard House of Commons Debates 70: cc1215–23. 17 July 1843. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  79. ^ "THE FACTORIES BILL". Hansard House of Commons Debates 70: cc483–4. 30 June 1843. Retrieved 30 August 2015.  gives Graham's explanation of this
  80. ^ a b "Sir James Graham's Third Edition. Labour clauses - Compulsory Education". Leeds Mercury. 1 July 1843. p. 4. 
  81. ^ "PUBLIC BUSINESS— WITHDRAWAL OF, MEASURES" 70. 20 July 1843. pp. cc1281–3. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  82. ^ "EMPLOYMENT OF CHILDREN IN FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 72: cc277–86. 6 February 1844. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  83. ^ brief abstract is given in e.g. "The New Factory Bill". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 17 February 1844. p. 7. 
  84. ^ "HOURS OF LABOUR IN FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 73: cc1073–155. 15 March 1844. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  85. ^ "HOURS OF LABOUR IN FACTORIES—ADJOURNED DEBATE". Hansard House of Commons Debates 73: cc1177–267. 18 March 1844. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  86. ^ a b c "HOURS OF LABOUR IN FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 73 (cc1371-464). 22 March 1844. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  87. ^ names and constituencies given in "The Worcester Journal". Berrow's Worcester Journal. 28 March 1844. p. 3. 
  88. ^ a b "HOURS OF LABOUR IN FACTORIES". Hansard House of Commons Debates 73: cc1482–525. 25 March 1844. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  89. ^ see account given by Sir James Graham in 1846 "THE FACTORIES BILL". HANSARD House of Commons Debates 85 (cc1222-50). 29 April 1846. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  90. ^ Letter Sir Robert Peel to Frederick Peel dated Friday June 1844 printed in Peel, George (1920). The Private Letters of Sir Robert Peel. London: John Murray. pp. 257–8. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  91. ^ Hutchins, B L; Harrison, A (1903). A History of Factory Legislation. Westminster: P King and Sons. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  92. ^ "The Ten Hours Act The Relay System at Colne". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 25 August 1849. 
  93. ^ "Factories". Hansard House of Commons Debates 109 (cc883-933). 14 March 1850. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  94. ^ "A Manufacturer" (27 April 1850). "The Ten Hours Act". Leeds Mercury.  giving text of a letter to the Times - John Walter, both the editor of the Times and a Government MP, was said by contemporaries to have discussed such a scheme before the date the letter was supposedly written
  95. ^ a b letter Lord Ashley , dated 7 May , to "The Short Time Committees of Lancashire and Yorkshire""Lord Ashley and the Factory Act". London Standard. 9 May 1850. 
  96. ^ "The Factory Question". Preston Chronicle and Lancashire Advertiser. 18 May 1850. 
  97. ^ "FACTORIES BILL". Hansard House of Commons Debates 141 (cc351-77). 2 April 1856. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  98. ^ a b Martineau, Harriet (1855). The factory controversy; a warning against meddling legislation. Manchester: National Association of Factory Operatives. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  99. ^ The Short Titles Act 1896, section 2(1) and the second schedule
  100. ^ "House of Commons Hansard; vol 319 c1199".  
  101. ^ Factories Act 1937 (PDF). London:  


  1. ^ On the left an (expensive) adult male - on the left a female 'piecer' (mending broken threads) and a 'scavenger' (sweeping up debris before it can contaminate the threads) (the children may be drawn to look older than in real life: scavenger looks a bit too big/old for the job
  2. ^ George Philips; "the Member for Manchester" in fact MP for Wootton Bassett but his mill was in Salford and his business interests in Manchester[5]
  3. ^ William Evans, MP for East Retford; he and his step-father had a variety of commercial interests in Derbyshire, including large water-powered mills at Darley Abbey on the Derbyshire Derwent
  4. ^ to make a list indicative, rather than prescriptive ; a prudent amendment and not as trivial as it sounds. An Elizabethan parliament, feeling that nobody should take up a trade without having served an apprenticeship, passed a law to that effect. However since the law listed the trades then practised, without any preceding 'to include', the Act was subsequently held to cover only the trades it listed: trades which developed subsequently did not (legally) require an apprenticeship. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations mocked the consequent illogicality.
  5. ^ Unfortunately Hansard for 1829 is not accessible online; nor do Hutchins and Harrison appear to take any notice of these very minor bits of Factory Legislation. The necessary trawl through contemporary newspapers for 1829 throws up some interesting straws in the wind on the spirit of the age: two very young children accidentally locked in a Bolton cotton mill over the weekend (Lancaster Gazette, 13 June 1829) were there from 5 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday , and a millowner working a nine-year-old more than twelve hours was fined £20 thanks to a prosecution at Stockport brought by a member of a society for enforcing the provisions of the 1825 Act ('Overworking Children in Cotton Factories' Manchester Times 25 April 1829). The same prosecutor had less success with a later prosecution at Macclesfield ('Overworking Children and Paying in Goods' Manchester Times 15 August 1829) (but if laws are passed to change behaviours not to punish wrongdoersthe Truck Act action was successful : the millowner having been found not guilty (on a defence that his tokens could be exchanged for legal tender at face value at the company shop) promised to take the bench's advice and to henceforth pay in coin of the realm )
  6. ^ by which he meant that Parliament had been fully occupied with the Reform Bill, so time could not have been found for a debate on opposed clauses: as noted above the Third Reading debate on Hobhouses's Bill took place c. 2 am
  7. ^ As of May 1835, there were reported to be 360,000 employed in factory labour, of whom 100,000 were children under fourteen, 80-90,000 adult males, and the remaining 170-180,000 women and young persons (aged 14-20)[30] The 1841 Census reported that in England, Scotland and Wales there were about 7.3 million people under 21, which would appear to imply that whilst less than 3% of the adult population of the UK were factory workers, factory children constituted about 7% of the total 10-13 age-group. The 1841 Census reported the population of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire to be about 10% of the total British population.
  8. ^ In this case and presumably on Peel's instructions, obstruction seems to have been avoided: once the debate on Ashley's motion was complete the reading of the Irish tithes bill was unopposed
  9. ^ 1838 had seen the first flowering of Chartism in the manufacturing districts, which would lead to monster meetings at Kersal Moor (September 1838)[42] and Peep Green (Hartshead Moor)(October 1838):[43] the speeches at those meetings suggest however that the New Poor Law was the major immediate issue, rather than factory legislation.
  10. ^ age certificates for children could be issued by surgeons other that those approved by a factory inspector, provided the certificate was counter-signed by a magistrate
  11. ^ A member of the Commission separately suggested, in his capacity as Factory Inspector, that the Plug Plot Riots and other Chartist disturbances in Ashton-under-Lyne could have been averted had more attention been paid in the past to the education of the humbler classes of the district by their superiors).[66] It is unclear how far this political aspect drove the education initiative. For the record, the Chartist Northern Star supported Graham's education clauses; education and intellectual culture were the means "by which the working man comes to know something of the framework of society, and to understand what his rights are, as a first step towards the assertion of them"[67]
  12. ^ of the five MPs who voted 'against both 'ten' and 'twelve', three seem to have given no explanation, of the other two William Aldam spoke in support of an eleven-hour day in the 22 March debate,[86] William Ewart spoke in favour of an eleven-hour compromise in the 25 March debate[88]
  13. ^ dialect word for 'hoist' (OED)
  14. ^ both because thrown out of mill for a couple of hours in all weathers, and because releasing teenagers from factory discipline and leaving them to their own devices for a couple of hours in the proximity of members of the opposite sex (and possibly of dram-shops) was inconsistent with Victorian morals
  15. ^ The legal issues are laid out concisely and in layman's language in a newspaper report of the 1849 prosecution of the employers of Isabella Robinson 15 year-old cotton spinner at a mill in Colne "last Tuesday she began to work at 6 am; she worked until 6:15 , then she gave over working and someone else worked in her place; she returned to work at 8:30 and worked until 12:30, when she went to dinner and was away an hour; she came back at 1:30, and worked till 7:15"[92]
  16. ^ prompting Punch to suggest it would be more appropriate to refer to the Unsatis-Factory Act
  17. ^ at Boott Mills, Lowell Massachusetts, but arrangements in Victorian Britain would have been much the same


See also

This Act consolidated the 1937 and 1959 Acts. As of 2008, the 1961 Act is substantially still in force, though workplace health and safety is principally governed by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and regulations made under it.

Factories Act 1961

Factories Act 1959

The 1937 Act (1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6 c.67) consolidated and amended the Factory and Workshop Acts from 1901 to 1929. It was introduced to the House of Commons by the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, on 29 January 1937 and given Royal Assent on 30 July.[100][101]

Factories Act 1937

Minimum working age is raised to 12. The act also introduced legislation regarding education of children, meal times, and fire escapes.

Factory and Workshop Act 1901

The main article gives an overview of the state of Factory Act legislation in Edwardian Britain under The Factory and Workshop Acts 1878 to 1895 (the collective title of the Factory and Workshop Act 1878, the Factory and Workshop Act 1883, the Cotton Cloth Factories Act 1889, the Factory and Workshop Act 1891 and the Factory and Workshop Act 1895.)[99]

Factory and Workshop Act 1895

Under the heading Conditions of Employment were two considerable additions to previous legislation: the first is the prohibition on employers to employ women within four weeks after confinement (childbirth); the second the raising the minimum age at which a child can be set to work from ten to eleven

Factory Act 1891

  • Now the Factory Code applied to all trades.
  • No child anywhere under the age of 10 was to be employed.
  • Compulsory education for children up to 10 years old.
  • 10-14 year olds could only be employed for half days.
  • Women were to work no more than 56 hours per week.

The Factory and Workshop Act 1878 (41 & 42 Vict. c. 16) brought all the previous Acts together in one consolidation.

Factory and Workshop Act 1878

Factory and Workshop Act 1871

Factory and Workshop Act 1870

In virtually every debate on the various Factories Bills, opponents had thought it a nonsense to pass legislation for textile mills when the life of a mill child was much preferable to that of many other children: other industries were more tiring, more dangerous, more unhealthy, required longer working hours, involved more unpleasant working conditions, or (this being Victorian Britain) were more conducive to lax morals. This logic began to be applied in reverse once it became clear that the Ten Hours Act had had no obvious detrimental effect on the prosperity of the textile industry or on that of millworkers. Acts were passed bringing other textile trades within the scope of the Factories Act : bleaching and dyeworks (1860 - outdoor bleaching was excluded), lace work (1861), calendering (1863), finishing (1864).[1] In 1864 the Factories Extension Act was passed: this extended the Factories Act to cover a number of occupations (mostly non-textile): potteries (both heat and exposure to lead glazes were issues), lucifer match making ('phossie jaw') percussion cap and cartridge making, paper staining and fustian cutting.[1] In 1867 the Factories Act was extended to all establishments employing 50 or more workers by another Factories Act Extension Act. An Hours of Labour Regulation Act applied to 'workshops' (establishments employing less than 50 workers); it subjected these to requirements similar to those for 'factories' (but less onerous on a number of points e.g.: the hours within which the permitted hours might be worked were less restrictive, there was no requirement for certification of age) but was to be administered by local authorities, rather than the Factory Inspectorate.[1]

Factories Act Extension Act 1867

In April 1855 a National Association of Factory Occupiers was formed "to watch over factory legislation with a view to prevent any increase of the present unfair and injudicious enactments". The 1844 Act had required that "mill gearing" - which included power shafts - should be securely fenced. Magistrates had taken inconsistent views as to whether this applied where the "mill gearing" was not readily accessible; in particular where power shafting ran horizontally well above head height. In 1856, the Court of Queen's Bench ruled that it did. In April, 1856, the National Association of Factory Occupiers succeeded in obtaining an Act reversing this decision: mill gearing needed secure fencing only of those parts with which women, young persons, and children were liable to come in contact. (The inspectors feared that the potential hazards in areas they did not normally access might be obvious to experienced men, but not be easily appreciated by women and children who were due the legislative protection the 1856 Act had removed, especially given the potential severe consequences of their inexperience. An MP speaking against the Bill was able to give multiple instances of accidents to protected persons resulting in death or loss of limbs - all caused by unguarded shafting with which they were supposedly not liable to come into contact - despite restricting himself to accidents in mills owned by Members of Parliament (so that he could be corrected by them if had misstated any facts).[97] (Dickens thereafter referred to the NAFO as the National Association for the Protection of the Right to Mangle Operatives.[98]:37 Harriet Martineau criticised Dickens for this, arguing that mangling was the result of workers not being careful and: "If men and women are to be absolved from the care of their own lives and limbs, and the responsibility put upon anybody else by the law of the land, the law of the land is lapsing into barbarism"[98]:47)) For other parts of the mill gearing any dispute between the occupier and the inspector could be resolved by arbitration.[1] The arbitration was to be by a person skilled in making the machinery to be guarded; the inspectors however declined to submit safety concerns to arbitration by those "who look only to the construction and working of the machinery, which is their business,and not to the prevention of accidents, which is not their business" [1]

Power shafting, belts and power looms in operation [17]

Factory Act 1856

Children (8-13) were not covered by this Act: it had been the deliberate intention of the 1833 Act that a mill might use two sets of children on a relay system and the obvious method of doing so did not require split shifts. A further Act of 1853 set similar limits on the hours within which children might work.

Various public meetings in the textile districts subsequently passed motions regretting that the 58-hour week had not been more stoutly defended, with various stalwarts of the Ten-Hour Movement ( various Cobbetts and Fieldens (John Fielden now being dead) and Richard Oastler) offering their support and concurring with criticism of Ashley's actions, but nothing came of this: the Ten-Hour Movement had now effectively run its course.

  • Women and young persons could only work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter : since they were to be allowed 90 minutes total breaks during the day, the maximum hours worked per day increased to 10.5
  • All work would end on Saturday at 2 p.m.
  • The work week was extended from 58 hours to 60 hours.

[1] The key provisions of the 1850 Act were :[96] noting that he acted in Parliament as their friend, not their delegate, explaining his reasons for accepting Grey's "compromise", and advising them to do so also. They duly did, significantly influenced by the thought that they could not afford to lose their friend in Parliament.[95] and Grey's scheme was the basis for the 1850 Act (citation 13 & 14 Vict c. 54). The Short Time Committees had previously been adamant for an effective Ten-hour Bill; Ashley wrote to them,[95] which established a 'normal day' for women and young persons by setting the times within which they could work so tightly that they were also the start and stop times if they were to work the maximum permitted hours per day. Grey's scheme increased the hours that could be worked per week, but Ashley (uncertain of the outcome of any attempt to re-enact a true Ten Hours Bill) decided to support it[94]

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