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Industrial Conditions in Manchester

At the time of writing this account, Greville was a guest of Sir Francis Egerton at Worsley. Egerton was the heir of the Duke of Bridgewater who had developed the mines and built underground canals in his mines. He was also responsible for the Bridgewater Canal.

I have passed these few days in seeing this place and some of the manufacturing wonders at Manchester. ... On Wednesday I went through the subterraneous canal, about a mile and a half long, into the coal-pit, saw the working in the mine, and came up by the shaft; a black and dirty expedition, scarcely worth the trouble, but which I am glad to have made. The colliers seem a very coarse set, but they are not hard worked, and, in fact, do no more than they choose. There are many miles of this underground canal. On Thursday I went to Manchester, and saw one of the great cotton and one of the great silk manufactories; very curious even to me, who am ignorant of mechanics, and could only stare and wonder, without being able to understand the niceties of the beautiful and complicated machinery by which all the operations of these trades are performed. The heat of the rooms in the former of them was intense, but the man who showed them to us told us it was caused by the prodigious friction and the room might be much cooler, but the people liked the heat.

Yesterday I went to the infant school, admirable managed; then to the recreation-ground of the colliers and working-hands - a recent establishment. It is a large piece of ground, planted and levelled round about what is called the paying house, where the men are paid their wages once a fortnight. The object is to encourage sports and occupations in the open air, and induce them not to go to the ale-house. There are cricket, quoits, and football, and ginger-beer and coffee are sold to the people, but no beer or spirits. This had only a partial success. Afterward to Patricroft, to see Messrs Nasmyth's great establishment for making locomotive engines, every part of which I went over. I asked at all the places about the wages and habits of the workpeople. In Birley's cotton factory 1,200 are employed, the majority girls, who earn from ten to fourteen shillings a week. At Nasmyth's the men make from twenty to thirty-two shillings a week. They love to change about, and seldom stay very long at one place; some will go away in a week, and some after a day. In the hot factory rooms the women look very wan, very dirty, and one should guess very miserable. They work eleven hours generally, but though it might be thought that domestic service must be preferable, there is the greatest difficulty in procuring women-servants here. All the girls go to the factory in spite of the confinement, labour, close atmosphere, dirt, and moral danger which await them. The parents make them go, because they earn money which they bring home, and they like the independence and the hours every evening, and the days from Saturday to Monday, of which they can dispose.

Greville, Memoirs, 1845.

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