Child Labour Learning Journey
Follow the Learning Journey steps and travel across time and space with our special correspondents in our groundbreaking investigation into the use of child labour in cotton manufacturing.
Click on the steps below to explore.
Child Labour Learning Journey Step 1
If you are unfortunate enough to be a poor child in 18th and 19th century Lancashire you won't spend your days playing marbles. If your mother has to work in the mill, you will be left with a nurse (child minder) until you are old enough to go to work yourself - when you are six or seven. These "nurses" have a special way of keeping children quiet:
In the first of our reports from Lancashire Angus Bethune Reach, Morning Chronicle correspondent in 1849, reports on the scandal of early childhood deaths in the cotton manufacturing districts of Lancashire:
".... The undue proportion of infant mortality arises from the neglect of mothers who are compelled to leave their young children at home while they labour in the mill. This I hold to be the blackest blot on the factory system.
In Ashton-under Lyne says Dr. Coulthard it is no frequent occurrence for mothers of the tenderest age to return to their work in the factories on the second or third week after confinement (the birth of a baby) and leave their helpless offspring in the charge of mere girls or superannuated (retired) old women. The inevitable result of this system is the reckless and almost universal employment of narcotics (drugs).
First, the child is drugged until it sleeps and then only too often it is drugged until it dies. There is to be found in the druggist shops in the lower districts here "Baby Mixture", "Mother's Quietness", "Childs Cordial", "Soothing Syrup" every one of these lulling beverages being a sweetened preparation of laudanum (opium).