HST 122 -- The Industrial Revolution: the Human Toll
                        Case Study: Robert Blincoe

I. Introduction
   - Robert Blincoe (1792-1860) told his story
to a working class journalist named John Brown in 1822
[only surviving photo: Blincoe in his late 50s]

II. Early Life (1792-96)
   A. Robert was an orphan
. his parents had probably died
2. but his nickname (Parson) tells us that he could have been
the unwanted child of a member of the clergy
   B. he probably spent his early years with a parish wet nurse
. probably neglected
2. they usually only took in children for the money

III. St. Pancras Workhouse (1796-99)
   A. workhouses were common in England by the late 18th century
1. Poor Laws
2. huge increase in poverty [appealing for help at a workhouse]
   B. St. Pancras workhouse was founded in 1722 [Location]
1. it outgrew the original building
2. larger workhouse built in 1787
   C. pitiful conditions
1. 5-6 people to a bed
2. infested with bugs
3. lack of bathing
4. hard labor: breaking stones, oakum picking
5. workhouse boys: group photo, boys eating
   D. apprenticeship
1. workhouse children were apprenticed earlier than usual
2. it was basically indentured servitude
3. parish officials tried to apprentice children in other parishes
- they didn't want to have to care for them, even in adulthood
   E. the chimney sweeps
1. worst apprenticeship a child could get
2. London chimneys were convoluted mazes
3. children died of asphyxiation
4. chimney sweeps would poke them with sharp sticks
to make them keep working
5. some even lit fires under the apprentices to get them moving
6. when you got too big, you were simply fired
7. Robert actually WANTED to be apprenticed to a chimney sweep
   F. off to the north
1. workhouses often sent children to work in mills in the midlands
2. St. Pancras signed over Robert and 31 other children
to a representative of the Lambert brothers
3. workhouse officials told the children that their lives would be much better

IV. Lowdham Mill (1799-1803) [Location]
   A. Robert was initially a scavenger
1. both boys and girls worked as scavengers
2. very dangerous job
3. constantly stooping, crawling
   B. he worked 14-15 hour days
1. woke at 5am; porridge for breakfast
2. worked from 5:30am to 8 or 9pm
3. short break for lunch (bread or oat cake)
4. small bit of dinner (maybe potatoes)
5. church and then cleaning of machines on Sundays
6. constant beating to keep the children working
   C. escape
1. Robert couldn't take the horrible conditions
2. he made a break for it
3. but he was caught by a local tailor and returned to the mill
4. he was severely beaten by his supervisor
   D. roving winder
1. he was given the job even though he was only 8 years old
2. had to stand on a can to reach the machine
3. fed cotton pieces through rollers that twisted them into long strands
4. caught his finger in the machine; a local surgeon stitched him up
   E. Mary Richards
1. her apron got caught in a spinning machine
2. Robert yelled for someone to stop the water wheel
3. it was too late
4. her body was shattered, but she survived
   F. the mill had to shut down in 1803
1. Robert thought he was finally free
2. but the owners sold his indenture to Ellis Needham

V. Litton Mill (1803-13) [Location]
   A. it was similar to Lowdham Mill
   B. sadistic supervisors
1. Robert and the other apprentices were abused for entertainment
2. kicked, slapped, punched, whipped
3. flogged with belts
4. picked up by the ears and thrown to the ground
5. spit on
6. forced to work with weights attached to their shoulders
7. forced to work with vices screwed into their ears
8. metal rods thrown at their heads
   C. the owner and his sons also abused the children
- the sons sexually assaulted the girls
who worked at the mill
   D. the only escape was death
1. suicide
2. abuse
3. poor diet
4. the machines
   E. Ellis Needham split the burials between the local parishes
1. Tideswell
2. Taddington

   F. Why did they treat the children this way?
1. profit
a. paid them nothing
b. fed them the bare minimum
c. forced them to work long hours
d. beat them to keep them working
e. loads more workhouse children available
if you worked these to death
2. power
a. the supervisors were poor men, living hard lives
b. they weren't getting paid much
c. they had no power over anything in their lives
except their apprentices
d. so they took out their frustrations on them
e. many of them had been beaten as apprentices themselves
- thus, they probably saw it as only fair
   G. Why didn't anyone do anything about the abuse?
1. Parliament passed the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act in 1802
a. girls and boys to be housed separately
b. only two children per bed
c. twelve-hour work day
d. school every day
e. lessons in Christianity every week
2. hardly any officials ever checked on the mills
a. those who were supposed to check on the mills
were often investors in the mills
b. they usually had more pressing issues to deal with
3. even when Litton Mill was inspected,
nothing was done about the abuses
   H. Robert Blincoe earned his freedom in 1813 when he turned 21
1. he stayed on at the Litton Mill as a supervisor
2. he had no choice in the matter; he had no money
3. but he only stayed until he managed to save some travel money

VI. After Litton (1813-60)
   A. Robert worked at various mills between Litton and Manchester
- the opportunities were limited
   B. finally made his way into Manchester in 1815
1. took a job stoking boilers to save up money
2. this allowed him to become a waste cotton dealer
3. within a few years he had enough money to rent
some warehouse space
   C. he was one of the lucky ones
1. he persevered and he overcame
2. he ended up making a decent life for himself
   D. thousands of other children never made it out of the
mills, factories and mines