Mould Running | Pottery industry Jobs


Mould Running

[ Web Site Index ]


Boys were often employed as 'mould runners' which consisted of running in all weathers from one building to another and placing the newly made ware in rows near a stove for hardening, and returning with an empty mould. No child was too young - it's little legs work fast enough as a 'mould runner'. 
These children, often at work from 6am to 9pm, had several miles to walk home then too exhausted to eat their frugal suppers, they would tumble into bed, their sleep disturbed fearing they would not be back at work by 6am, through over-sleeping.


"Some of the processes through which the ware passes, at an early stage of its production, are carried on in apartments considerably heated. The plate-maker, and all those who make flat ware, work in rooms, adjoining which there is another apartment called the stove, as it is heated by a stove to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. A little boy, without shoes or stockings, is kept constantly running between the plate-maker, from whom he receives the plate or dish newly formed on a mould, and the stove, into which he carries this mould with the moist plate upon it. These moulds, thus charged, are ranged upon shelves to dry, and as soon as they are sufficiently dried the boy liberates the mould and carries it back to receive a new layer of clay.
These boys, generally under 13 years of age, besides the high temperature to which they are exposed, have a very laborious occupation, being kept on the run from morning to night. A good plate maker will sometimes make from 400 to 500 plates in a day, generally about 320, each of which has to be separately removed into the stove, and another mould returned - all which is accomplished by one boy"

Report by J. B. DAVIS, Surgeon (c.1840)

"At the age of seven, his education being complete, he was summoned into the world...
Darius was first taken to work by his mother. It was the winter of 1835, January..... The next morning, at half-past five, Darius began his career in earnest. He was ‘mould-runner’ to a ‘muffin-maker,’ a muffin being not a comestible but a small plate, fashioned by its maker on a mould. The business of Darius was to run as hard as he could with the mould, and a newly, created plate adhering thereto, into the drying-stove. This ‘stove’ was a room lined with shelves, and having a red-hot stove and stove-pipe in the middle. As no man of seven could reach the upper shelves, a pair of steps was provided for Darius, and up these he had to scamper. Each mould with its plate had to be leaned carefully against the wall and if the soft clay of a new-born plate was damaged, Darius was knocked down. The atmosphere outside the stove was chill, but owing to the heat of the stove, Darius was obliged to work half naked. His sweat ran down his cheeks, and down his chest, and down his back, making white channels, and lastly it soaked his hair.

Darius reached home at a quarter to nine, having eaten nothing but bread all day. Somehow he had lapsed into the child again. His mother took him on her knee, and wrapped her sacking apron round his ragged clothes, and cried over him and cried into his supper of porridge, and undressed him and put him to bed. But he could not sleep easily because he was afraid of being late the next morning."

Clayhanger - Arnold Bennett



1840 Report:-

In 1840 the House of Commons set up a commission to inquire into the state of children employed in the mines and  manufactories. Samuel Scriven visited the area of Stoke-on-Trent from December 1840 onwards to collect evidence.


these are some of his interviews of children who were  'mould runners' >>> 

Messrs. HOOD and BUXTON'S Egyptian Ware Factory, Burslem.
No. 180.-Robert Hood,  aged 10
I run moulds for father; have been employed three years for Mr. Hood. 
I cannot read; I cannot write; never went to day school ; I go to Sunday school. My father is a saucer- maker; he is always in work; don't know how much he gets a week; but I get 3s. 
Have no mother. Have one sister and one brother. My sister stops at home to look after house; she cannot read. My brother goes to school, but he is young yet. I go home to breakfast, and have milk-meat ; and go home to dinner, when I get bacon and tatees. 
I like my work very well; would like to work in the warehouse better, cause they are paid there for working till nine, and I am not; I think ours harder: and get so much a day. I am always very tired when I go home at night, get my supper, and be glad enough to go to bed. 
'Tis very hot in the mould-room, and a good deal hotter in summer; it makes us sweat, and we drink plenty of water. I catch cold very often, but have never been laid up with it. Father flogs me some-times, if I let go a mould or break a saucer ; nobody else. Master is very good to me.

These premises have very small work-rooms, are hot, and ill-ventilated.
February 1st. (1842)

Mr. THOS. GODWIN's Earthenware Factory, Burslem.
No. 183: Sampson Beard,  aged 12
I run moulds for Wm. Machin ; I cannot read, I cannot write; I never went to day school; I go to Sunday school 'top of the hill chapel ; father is dead ; mother does nothing, her stays at home; I have two sisters, one a painter, the other a cutter of paper; I get 3s. 6d. a-week; I and my sisters all carry our wages home to support mother ; she is too old to work, she used to make triangles and spurs.
I first came to work when I was five years old ; I am sure I was not more than five; I am twelve now ; I have been to work seven years ; father died before I came. I don't go home to breakfast because I take it here in the paint room with one of my sisters; I get my dinner with her, I get it in half an hour and work the other a half; I come at six in the morning and go home at six and eight o'clock, sometimes at one time, sometimes at the other, all depends ; we work six days in the week.
I am always tired when I go home. 

This is a good and well regulated factory, the rooms are comparatively large, light, and tolerably ventilated : situation on the side of the canal.

Messrs. MADDOCK and SEDDONS' Earthenware Factory, Burslem.
No. 184.-Jos. Wilkinson, aged 11
I run moulds and wedge clay for Wm. Bentley; have been at work five years; I am sure I was but six years old when I began ; cannot read or write ; never went to day school ; go to Sunday school and learn a bab have got a father; he's a collier, but has had no work this good while; my mother is a baller (supplies the thrower with balls of clay); she is out of work ; have three sisters and four brothers; one brother drives donkeys, another works in pit another has got nothing to do ; one sister turns wheel, 'tother two canna work, them is little 'uns. I get 3s 3d. a-week ; come at half-past six to work, go home at nine; work Mondays and every day.
Wm. Bentley licks me sometimes with his fist; he has knocked me the other side the pot-stove for being so long at breakfast; half an hour is allowed, but he makes me work before the half hour is up. I go home to dinner, but only stop half an hour, he won't let me bide an hour; I live a quarter of a mile away, and have to run home and back out of it, and get my dinner to ;
I never get a bit of play, am very tired when I get home at night, get my supper, and am glad to go to bed. I get milk-meat for breakfast, and taters and salt for dinner, sometimes a bit of bacon ; would rather work 10 hours a-day than 15; should not care then if I had less wages a good sight. I should go to school then, and have a bit of time for play. I don't wear shoes and sockings while I am at work; have got a pair at home and better clothes than this, what they gave me at school: my father is very good to me; he is a totaler.



Examples of "mould runners" from the 1881 census for the Potteries area:-


1881 census:
Dwelling: 35 Wise St
Census Place: Trentham, Stafford, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Joseph HURST  M 42 M  Head Cheadle, Stafford Potters Placer
Elizabeth HURST  M 43 F Wife Longton, Stafford Potters Paintress
James HURST  13 M  Son Longton, Stafford Potters Mould Runner


1881 census:
Dwelling: 15 Villiers St
Census Place: Trentham, Stafford, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
William MALPASS  M 49 M Head Longton, Stafford Coal Dealer
William A. MALPASS 11 M  Son Dresden, Stafford Potters Mold Runner


1881 census:
Dwelling: Dunrobin St
Census Place: Trentham, Stafford, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Charles FARMER  M 34 M  Head (British Subject), France Potters Flat Presser
Martha FARMER M 32 F Wife Stoke, Stafford Potters Painter
George FARMER  U 14 M Son Longton, Stafford Potters Mould Runner
Charles FARMER  U 12 M  Son Longton, Stafford Potters Mould Runner