Longport: The 'Kingdom' of Davenport (1760's - mid 19th C))
The Workers at Davenports and Scriven's reports
By 1840 Davenports was the largest firm in Longport, indeed one of the largest firms in the Potteries, employing between 1200 and 1400 people.
Evidence about the working conditions at the factory can be found in the report by Samuel Scriven “On the Employment of Children and Young Persons in the District of the Staffordshire Potteries” presented to the Royal Commission on Children’s Employment in 1841.
He interviewed 7 of the employees and their evidence is reproduced below. Note the statement by Moses Lees, the superintendent, “we have but few very young” and the testimony of John Demcile, who started work at the factory when he was 6 years old, and Thomas Massey who began aged 7.
MESSRS. WM. DAVENPORT AND CO., Longport.
No. 257. John Demcile, aged 13:—
I run moulds for Hamel Tilstone; have done so seven years, always in Mr. Davenports factory. I go to Sunday-school top of the hill; never went to day-school above twice or three times. I cannot read or write, they teach me in the spelling-book at Sunday-school. I do not know bow long I have been there, ‘tis ever since it was opened (two years). My father has been dead eight years; he was a kilnman in regular work. Mother did nothing; I’ve got five brothers and sisters; one works in packing-house, another works at Mayor’s as painter, another is at Venables's as squeezer, the other stops at home; she goes to school at Dale Hall. I remember what I did before I came to work, and when father was alive—nothing; sometimes run about the streets at play. I come to work at six, and according how I get up. I go home according what I may have to do, sometimes six and seven, and at nine when I’m very much wanted. Hamel is very good to me, he never “laid on” me. I get my breakfast at home; have coffee or tea and bread and butter, and treacle, just as it happens. I go home to dinner, and get tatees and bacon, not often beer; I am allowed an hour and a half at dinner. I only take half an hour, because I’m wanted back to Hamel to finish my work. I am paid by the week, 3s. 3d. If I work till nine at night I get just the same. Hamel is paid by the quantity he makes.
No. 258. Thos. Massey, aged 13:—
I work in the warehouse; have been employed about six years. I can read; I can write a little. I go to church school to learn on Tuesday nights; I went to day-school about six months before I came here, I go to Sunday-school now. I come at half-past six in the morning, to get the fires in, fetch coals up, and then begin to work in the sorting-room. I go home at six o’clock; I work now and then ‘till nine at night I get play days at Easter and Whitsun, and Christmas, and at wakes and races. I would rather work 15 hours than 12, because I am paid for it half a day extra. I carry home my wages to my mother; she does not allow me any thing out. Father is a turner; he is not at work now; be did work with Mr. Davenport, at Bottom Bank, master turned him away through his drinking; he loves drink too well. I have got six brothers and sisters, one paints, another runs moulds, another works at a farm-house; all of us live at home except the last. I get 3s 6d a week, the others bring home 9s 6d., which together makes 13s. The family lives upon what we bring home. Mother is a very good and careful mother; she is asthmatical and cannot go out of doors; she used to tread lathe.
No. 259. Alfred Downs, aged 12:—
I run moulds for John Dysche; have worked altogether about a year. I can read, and write a little. Went to day school at Newcastle National; go to Sunday-school now at Longport. I come at six o’clock in the morning, and go home at six; I stop now and then till nine. I get 3s 3d. a week; I get no more if I stop till nine. John Dysche pays me for the week if he does not work, it is his own fault; he stays away sometimes to play and goes to a burying. He is very good to me; he gives me a 1d every week. Father is a squeezer, and works in this Bank. I’ve got seven brothers and sisters; one works in biscuit oven, another is a painter, another runs moulds, the other three stop at home; mother looks after them. I have plenty to eat and drink, and more clothes than what I have on.
No. 261. Moses Lee., aged 50:—
I have been the superintendent of Mr. Davenport’s works about 11 years; I make up the wage book of the people, and pay their wages in the shape of bills, called wage-bills, that is, with the names of 10, 15, or 20 persons, with their respective amounts carried out, which they get changed where, they can; some go to the ale-house for it, where they are expected by the landlord to expend a certain quota in consideration of the favour. Boys and girls are included in these wage bills but whether they drink I do not know. I think it a bad practice, but if we were to pay in change many of them would still go to public house. We pay them in the shape I have stated because it is more convenient, for such is the difficulty of obtaining silver and copper for the number of people we have to pay, that before we get it we should be obliged to pay a great percentage.
We have five distinct premises engaged in the manufacture of china, earthenware, and glass, and have, at a rough guess, from 1200 to 1400 hands, many of them children; we have but few very young, and these are the jiggers, paper-cutters, and mould-runners; master, I think, has an objection to take them too early. My opinion of the competency of children so engaged (educational) is that they may be improved if the parents paid more attention to them. Generally speaking they are very ignorant, though I do not think we have much to complain of here; of the four that have been examined, two out of the four can read. Our machinery is well fenced of, and no children have business upon those premises, or are allowed to go near it.
We are well supplied with drains, which empty themselves into the canal at the back of the works. Our privies for the people are private, and separated for the sexes by a wall, the doors being opposed to each other. On no consideration do they interfere with each other; if they did I have no doubt that the parties would be discharged. We have a number of apprentices that are bound by stamped indenture; I believe we are in this particular an exception to the general rule, as other manufacturers bind their children by paper only; but I cannot speak with any certainty.
Rooms lofty, spacious, well ventilated, healthy and clean.
Messrs. WM. DAVENPORT’S Glass Manufactory, Longport.
No. 262. Aaron Maintford, aged 32.
I am the foreman of the Messrs. Davenport’s glass-works; have been so employed 16 years; altogether with them 24 years. We have 64 persons employed; out of this number there are not more than six children under the age of 13, and chiefly to run an errands and sweep and clean the premises; they are not occupied in any department of the manufactory; they are engaged with the view of taking them ultimately as apprentices, beginning at the age of 14. ‘There are 11 apprentices regularly bound by stamped indenture for a period of seven years to the glass-blowing and cutting. They come (the Cutters) at six in the summer, and leave at six. In the winter they come at seven in the morning, and leave at six, being 11 hours per day, deducting an hour and a-half for meals.
The blowers work 48 hours per week, seldom ever more, and work in sets of 16 each, for six hours together, and change every six hours, night and day, excepting Saturday nights, Sundays, and Sunday nights. There is one man employed to supply coal to the oven or furnace, who is changed every 12 hours. We are obliged to keep the furnace up an Sundays. We have no females on the premises, except three women who clean the glass after it comes from the cutting shop. I do not believe that there is any process in glass blowing unhealthy either to the boys or men.
No. 263. Thomas Wiltshire, aged 12.
I am employed by Mr. Davenport to sweep the cutting-shop, run on errands, break pummice-stone - nothing else. I can read and write. I went to day-school before I came to work. I go to Sunday-school now, at New Methodists. They teach me to read the Bible and that. I come to work at half-past six, sometimes a little before, and go into the hovel until the cutting-shop is open, to warm myself. I go home to breakfast at nine o’clock, and always take my half hour. I go in the other bank to dinner with my sister; she is a transferrer; father is a printer; mother is dead; another sister cuts paper; a young brother stops at neighbour Knowles’s between school-times. Two of the other boys can read in the Bible. I don’t know much about the others. I get plenty to eat and drink. I get holidays at wakes, and races, and at Christmas.
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