Working conditions, wages and social activities – brick and tile manufacturing industry.

17/06/1820 – Caledonian Mercury – The brick s making business is now extremely flat. There are thirty-five brick manufactories within about two miles of Glasgow, of these only 10 are working and twenty-four are totally idle. Every field is supposed to produce 500,000 bricks yearly, consequently, there has been a falling off of 12,000,000 in the demand this year. The former summers making used to be all sold off by this time, but there is still on hand an average surplus of 100,000 to each field, though the bricks have fallen from 30s to 25s a thousand. The workmen’s wages have also been reduced from 1s 3d a thousand to 10d, the rate at which the making was paid about 24 years ago …

29/04/1829 – The Scotsman – Bricks – Monday the manufacture of bricks for the season commenced at Glasgow. The moulders wages are 11d per 1000 – a penny higher than last year. Good old brick brings 25s per 1000.

Below  – 24/11/1830 – Glasgow Free Press – The brick-making season is now finished.  Owing to the variable weather, there was a great diminution of the usual make; and the number of tables were fewer than formerly.  This year they amounted to 20, and the average make of each was 4000,000.  The moulder was paid 9d per thousand; the rates of former years ran from 1s to 13d.  Public works have, during the year, required double the ordinary quantity of repairs, and other buildings have been going on very spiritedly; and the brick layers are well employed at 2s 6d a day.  Bricks have advanced five shillings a thousand; the current rates are from 25s to 30s.  From the quantity of building in agitation, tradesmen and builders are anticipating that the spring trade will be more lively than for several years past …


25/11/1863 – The Scotsman – An article on the employment of women … He had seen in the fields work allotted to women by the men, coolly and deliberately, which ought not to be thrown upon women. And there were other departments of labour in which the same held true. He supposed that everyone who had looked at the operations of a brickfield must have been struck with this. The man stands on a platform of wood, high and dry, comparatively comfortable, and makes the bricks. While the poor women have to carry the clay to the kiln, generally in her arms, through all the manner of sludge and mud so that in the course of a day she is a moving mass of mud …

Below – 23/04/1864 – Glasgow Herald – The advantage of temperance V beer drinking by manual labourers including brick makers.

Below – 03/08/1867 – Glasgow Herald – Article regarding Scottish Trade Unions and a letter from John Hurll brickmaker which was presented by Mr Harrison – Please see link for the full article.

Sir-Referring to our conversation on Friday lasts, I find the make and produce of fire-bricks has increased, say within a radius of 10 miles round Glasgow within 10 years, from 50,000 daily make to 100,000 daily. At the present time, there is an annual export from the West of Scotland of about 3,000,000 fire-bricks. Of these, about 2,000,000 go to the continent of ‘Europe, and about 800,000 to Valparaiso; the balance to the various British colonies; only a very few to the United States. The wages during that time have advanced from 15s in 1857 to 20s weekly at present. There is no union among the men, nor has there been any strike. The hours are according to the ability of the workmen; many of them work only nine hours, others nine or ten hours. They have to make only 2000 bricks daily, then their day’s work is done. If more is wanted more money is paid so that some men make 25s to 28s weekly, and even 30s working only 10 hours daily. The hands are not plenty nor are they very scarce. The carriers-off come to be moulders in two or three years. Yours truly, John Hurll

01/07/1871 – Dundee Peoples Journal – Mr Mundella has brought in a Bill for the purpose of bringing under the operation of the Factory Act of 1864 persons employed in the manufacture of bricks and tiles, not being ornamental tiles. It proposes to prohibit the employment in such works of females and children under ten years of age and to allow the employment of males above the age of sixteen between March 31 and October 1 in any year, from six a.m (0600) to nine p.m (2100). on three days of the week, with an additional half-hour for meals on such days of extra employment. It is designed that the measure (in the event of its passing) shall come into operation on the Ist of January next.

11/07/1871 – Lords Debate – contains graphic descriptions of the conditions and practices of the brickworks at this time. Brickworks having been excluded from the earlier reforming Factory Acts.

Lord Shaftsbury – in rising to move an Address to the Crown relative to the state of children employed in brickfields, said: My Lords, this numerous class is excluded, only by a technicality, from the protection enjoyed by children engaged in other occupations, and yet they stand as urgently in need of legislative care. Your Lordships will perhaps remember that, in 1842, after the Factories Act had been in operation a few years, I moved for a general inquiry into the employment of children and young persons in various departments of trade. That Commission made its Report, and upon it certain remedial measures were granted, and in 1862 I moved for a renewal and an extension of the Commission and for further inquiries, several trades having in the meanwhile risen up and others having become extinct. The result of their inquiries was the passing of the Factories Act Extension Act and the Workshops Act, and I am glad to be able to say that for both these beneficial measures the country is indebted to both sides of this and the other House, and to the Governments which have respectively done their best to enact these laws. When, however, the trades to be included in the operations were to be settled, the children and young persons engaged in the manufacture of bricks and drainage tiles – for what reason I cannot say—were excluded, those employed in pottery and porcelain works alone being included. Now, the state of things existing in the brickfields has risen to such a height of cruelty and abomination that a cry has gone forth through the whole country, and I most earnestly appeal to your Lordships to step in and arrest it. I shall not require much time to prove my case. I will only cite the evidence drawn from the Reports of the Commissioners, the Report of Mr Inspector Baker, and a pamphlet by George Smith, of Coalville, near Leicester, the zealous and long-tried friend of these sufferers, and who has himself been a lad in the brickfields and has described what he endured during his childhood. The brickyards in this country number about 3,000; there being more in some parts of the country than in others, and the number of children and young persons employed in them amount to nearly 30,000, their ages varying from 3½ to 17. A very large proportion of them, especially in the Midland districts, are females; and the hours during which they are kept to this monstrous toil are from 14 to 16 per day. Such being their tender age and their sex, I feel sure that your Lordships, after I have produced some illustrations on unquestionable evidence of the cruelty and hardship to which these persons are exposed, will readily assent to my Motion. I will first quote the evidence of Mr Smith, who has worked in a brickyard for many years. Here are his words— As a child and lad I have myself gone through what thousands are going through today. It is the very bondage of toil and a home of evil training. When seven years of age I was employed in making bricks. At nine years of age my employment consisted in continually carrying about 40 lb of clay upon my head from the clay heap to the table on which the bricks were made. When there was no clay I had to carry the same weight of bricks. This labour had to be performed, almost without intermission, for 13 hours daily. Sometimes my labours were increased by my having to work all night at the kilns. In a yard which he described were several children, Mostly nine to ten years. They were of both sexes and in a half-naked state. Their employment consisted in carrying the damp clay on their heads to the brick makers and carrying the made bricks to the ‘floors’ on which they are placed to dry. Their employment lasts about 13 hours daily, during which they traverse a distance of about 20 miles. It may be asked why the Inspector did not interfere. He could not, the Act not applying to establishments in which less than 50 persons are employed. … As a further proof of the severe and extremely heavy nature of the toil undergone by the children, I would submit to your inspection a lump of solid clay, weighing 43 lb. This, in a wet state, was taken a few days ago from off the head of a child nine years of age, who had daily to walk a distance of 12½ miles, half that distance being traversed while carrying this heavy burden. The clay was taken from the child, and the calculation made by me, in the presence of both master and men. To give an idea of the physical effects, Mr Smith continued – I had a child weighed very recently, and although he was somewhat over eight years of age, he weighed but 52½lb. and was employed carrying 43lb weight of clay on his head an average distance of 15 miles daily, and worked 73 hours a week. This is only an average case of what many thousands of poor children are doing in England at the present time, and we need not wonder at their stunted and haggard appearance when we take into account the tender age at which they are sent to their Egyptian tasks. Your Lordships will understand that Mr Smith’s testimony may be received without the slightest hesitation, for it has been before the public for sometime and has been circulated in the brickyards, while nobody has ventured to gainsay it. The description given by Mr Smith applies to what is actually being done and suffered by thousands of children at the present moment. Can, then, your Lordships wonder at their degraded condition, when you consider the tender age when they are condemned to such an Egyptian bondage? Let us now take the evidence, quoted by Mr Inspector Baker, of a master brickmaker, as to what he has seen in many yards but has corrected in his own. This is a specimen he gives of the work – Those who carry clay to the moulders, called clay carriers, remove on an average 21 lb to 40 lb of clay on the head and about 10 lb to 20 lb in their arms; say one of 10 years old, carrying in all 30 lb of clay, each journey of 40 yards, and traversing 250 journeys per day, removing 3½ tons a distance of 40 yards daily, walks 4½ miles in doing it and 4½ miles back; walks three miles in ‘rearing,’ ‘gorming,’ and ‘hacking’ the bricks, and, on an average, two miles going to and returning from work, giving a total distance traversed by the younger clay carriers of 14 miles. I will next quote the observations of a distinguished American writer, a distinguished and venerable man of whom your Lordships must have heard, Mr Elihu Burritt. Speaking of a little girl about 13 years of age, whom he saw during an inspection of the fields, he said – She first took up a mass of the cold clay, weighing about 25 lb upon her head, and while balancing it there, she squatted to the heap without bending her body, and took up a mass of equal weight with both hands against her stomach, and with the two burdens walked about a rood and deposited them on the moulding bench. No wonder, we thought, that the colour in her cheeks was an unhealthy flush. With a mass of cold clay held against her stomach, and bending under another on her head, for 10 or 12 hours in a day, it seemed a marvel that there could be any red blood in her veins at all. How such a child could ever grow an inch in any direction after being put to this occupation was another mystery. Certainly, not an inch could be added to her stature in all the working days of her life. She could only grow at night and on Sundays. Now, this is not exaggerated by a hair’s breadth. Indeed, from my own personal observation, I can state that it is under the mark in regard to the abominations which are practised. But, mark, my Lords, the fact mentioned – “a mass of cold clay held against the stomach,” and this for many consecutive hours during the day by poor little females just emerging into puberty. The thing is horrible. The moral results are such as may be expected. Let us again hear Mr Smith –  Of course, the natural results ensue. Ignorance and immorality prevail to a fearful extent among the workmen and children so employed. How could it be otherwise? All goodness and purity seems to become stamped out of these people and were I to relate what could be related, the whole country would become sickened and horrified. The master brick maker bore the same testimony in equally strong language. Those are his words – But there are often phases of evil connected with work in brickyards and clay yards generally which I must not overlook, especially the demoralizing effects ever accruing from the mixed employment of the sexes. A flippancy and familiarity of manners with boys and men grow daily on the young girls. Then, the want of respect and delicacy towards females exhibits itself in every act, word, and look, for the lads grow so precocious, and the girls so coarse in their language and manners from close companionship at work, that in most cases the modesty of female life gradually becomes a byword instead of a reality, and they sing unblushingly before all, while at work, the lewdest and most disgusting songs till oftentimes stopped short by the entrance of the master or foreman. The overtime work is still more objectionable, because boys and girls, men and women, are less under the watchful eye of the master, nor looked upon by the eye of day. All these things – the criminality, levity, coarse phrases, sinful oaths, lewd gestures, and conduct of the adults and youths, exercise a terrible influence for evil on the young children. The whole may be summed up in the words of Mr Inspector Baker, who has so judiciously and calmly carried the present Act into operation, and who, after visiting these brickfields, deeply regretted their exclusion from the beneficial provisions of the Act – I consider the employment of children in brickyards absolutely cruel, and that the degradation of the female character in them is most complete. I have known parents in receipt of two, three, and four pounds a week send their children out to work at clay works, for a few shillings per week, hung in rags, while the parents themselves rioted at home in luxuries and drink. My Lords, shall we ever hear again the old objection, so often rung in our cars, that children may, in the matter of labour and wage, be safely left in the arms of parental kindness? I trust, never. My Lords, I will add the testimony of my own experience. I went down to a brickfield and made a considerable inspection. On approaching, I first saw at a distance what appeared like eight or ten pillars of clay, which, I thought, were placed there in order to indicate how deep the clay had been worked. On walking up I found to my astonishment that those pillars were living beings, They were so like the ground on which they stood, their features were so indistinguishable, their dress so besoiled and covered with clay, their flesh so like their dress, that until I approached and saw them move I believed them to be products of the earth. When I approached they were so scared at seeing anything not like themselves that they ran away screaming, as though something Satanic was approaching. I followed them to their work, and there I saw what Elihu Burritt has so well described. I saw little children three parts naked tottering under the weight of wet clay, some of it on their heads and some on their shoulders, and little girls holding up their shifts with large masses of wet, cold, and dripping clay pressing on the abdomen. Moreover, the unhappy children were exposed to the most sudden transitions of heat and cold; for after carrying their burdens of wet clay they had to endure the heat of the kiln and to enter places where the heat was so fierce, that I was not myself able to remain more than two or three minutes. Can it be denied that in these brickfields men, women, and children, especially poor female children, are brought down to a point of degradation and suffering lower than the beasts of the field? No man with a sense of humanity or with the aspirations of a Christian could go through those places and not feel that what he saw was a disgrace to the country, and ought not for a moment to be allowed to continue. Therefore, my Lords, I hope that not a day will be permitted to pass until an Address is sent up to the Queen, praying Her Majesty to take the condition of those poor people into her gracious consideration, in order that such abominations may be brought speedily to an end. Let it not be said that these things are the result of poverty and necessity. No doubt there is much poverty and necessity – I have myself seen too many cases – but confirming the words of Inspector Baker, avarice, and where poverty does not exist, profligacy have stifled all the feelings of nature, and these poor children are sent to slave in the brickfields in order that they may minister to the luxury and rapacity of their parents. On this point, the master brickmaker said – I have known parents in receipt of two, three, and four pounds a week send their children out to work in the clay fields for a few shillings per week, hung in rags, while the parents themselves rioted at home or in the pothouses, in every form of beastly excess. When children are thus treated by the parents it is time for the State to come forward and stand in the place of the parents, and rescue the children in the earliest stage of what must otherwise be a life-long degradation. I need not urge further arguments in support of my Motion. In those days, when the right of every child to be educated is no longer contested, I am certain that the benefit of that just and humane provision will not be denied to these small and helpless sufferers. The principle of State protection to those who are unable to protect themselves has been admitted over and over again, as well as that they are entitled to such a limitation of the hours of labour as will enable them to enjoy some physical repose, and acquire the elements of education. I do not believe that in the whole of England a person can now be found to question that right. It has also been proved that the Factories Act has worked, in every instance, for the benefit both of the employers and the employed. The employers now admit that they have suffered none of the evils which some of them anticipated from the Acts; and the employed, on their side, admit that under the present limitation of the hours of labour, labour so far from having lost its price has risen in value. I may mention that this very day I have received a letter from a very high authority saying that the limitations of the Factory Acts have been brought into operation in the Middlesex yards, and in some of the yards in Kent, with this result – that the work done by the men is not only better, but is greatly increased in quantity, because the effect of the limitation of the hours of labour and of the regular, but restricted attendance of the children, is that no time can be thrown away or lost in idleness. It seems to me, moreover, to be a matter of great importance in these days that Parliament should do all it can to wipe away such blots as those to which my Motion refers. The more that Parliament interferes to abate the difficulties of the labouring classes and to assert and protect their rights the greater will be the union between the Parliament and the people, and the final reason why I now call upon your Lordships to repress this great evil is in the justice we owe to that immense majority of English employers who have cordially accepted the Factories Extension and the Workshops Acts. It is greatly to their credit that such numbers of them have made these large concessions, and have cheerfully consented to carry into effect these Acts because they believe them to be for the benefit of the whole community, and it is very unjust that the fair fame of the great body of English employers should suffer reproach because a small, but a very rapacious number of them refuse to give their workpeople the benefit of these wise provisions.

Moved that a humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to take into Her consideration the state of the children in the brickfields as reported by the Commissioners in 1864, with a view to their being brought under the protection of the Factory Acts. – (The Earl of Shaftesbury.)

THE BISHOP OF LONDON – said, that he was sure the Motion would be unanimously accepted by their Lordships. He could fully bear testimony to the necessity for action in the matter. Middlesex was a county in which a very considerable number of persons were employed in the clay industry; and although, perhaps, the darkest features of the description drawn by the noble Earl would not be found in the Middlesex clay fields, he was yet prepared to say that few subjects better merited the attention of Parliament. Its evils were such as could only be cured by the action of the Legislature. There were considerable difficulties in limiting children’s labour in brickmaking, partly arising from the custom of the trade, and partly from the peculiar character of the manufacture itself. Brickfields were generally divided into certain sections, each of which was worked by a separate gang, the man at the head of it paying it, while he himself was paid by the master brickmaker. A gang consisted generally of two strong men and one woman; the other three members of it might be, and generally were, children, whose age varied from 6 to 13 years. Each gang was only just strong enough to carry out the work assigned to it, so that if any one member was absent the whole work of the gang was stopped. The ordinary hours of labour in summer were from 5 in the morning to 7 in the evening, with three short intervals for meals; and the three children in each gang were, for the reason that he had explained, obliged to work the whole of that time. There was another reason why the work of the brickfield, although intermitted, was extremely severe at times. The manufacture could only be carried on in fine weather; so that not only were there months together in the winter when no work could be done, but even a 10 minutes’ shower in the summer time put a stop to the whole of the labour for that day. The natural result was that there was a great desire on the part of the employers and of the labourers themselves to work every hour that they could; and he had been told by the manager of a brickfield that they thought they did very well if they kept it within 60 hours a week. He had already pointed out that the evil was one which could only be cured by the intervention of Parliament; and under any circumstances some difficulties must be experienced, because in this instance they would have to apply the half-time system not to children who were employed day after day all the year, but to children for whose labour there was a great demand in fine summer weather, and none at all in many of the winter months. The employment of girls in these brickfields was a serious point. The effect of that employment was the entire deterioration of their moral character. In this part of England the girls so occupied in summer went out to service in the winter, and returned to the brickfields in the summer, being tempted by the higher wages; but the outdoor work and life so roughed them that generally they could only obtain in the winter months places of the wost kind, and they were unfitted to become wives and mothers. He trusted that the appeal now made by the noble Earl would meet with a ready response from their Lordships, and that a remedy would be speedily applied, and would be effectual.

THE EARL OF MORLEY – said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had drawn a most graphic picture of the condition of the labourers in our brickfields, and he regretted that he was obliged to corroborate what he had stated. No one could deny that the reports that had been made from time to time of the condition of these persons were deplorable. The noble Earl had said that brickfields were excluded from the Act of 1864; but he must remind the House that they were included under the two Acts passed in 1867, one of which included all brickyards employing more than 50 people, and the other – the Workshops Act – included all brickyards employing less than 50 people. There was no doubt that those workshops in which the smaller number was employed had not the provisions of the Workshops Act applied to them. No one who had listened to the description which the noble Earl opposite had given could deny that he had made out a case for the interference of the Legislature. A Bill had been introduced in “another place” by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) to extend the application of the Act of 1864 to brickfields; but with the view of obviating the necessity of having two Bills, where one was sufficient, he (the Earl of Morley) proposed to introduce into the Bill of which he had the honour to move the second reading on the previous night the main provisions contained in the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Sheffield. The chief points of these provisions were that no female under the age of 16, and no boy under 10, should be employed in a brickfield under any circumstances. The provisions now carried out under the Workshops Act would, if the Bill became law this Session – of which, notwithstanding the scant encouragement given by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) last night, he was sanguine – be enforced by the local authorities, and would not therefore, as in many instances, become a dead letter.

VISCOUNT MIDLETON  – said, he also could corroborate the statements of the noble Earl in moving the Address. On reading Mr. Smith’s pamphlet he thought the statements contained in it utterly monstrous, but he had seen the gentleman himself and questioned him very closely about them. After a careful cross-examination he had arrived at the conclusion that, if anything, the writer had rather understated his case. Many of their Lordships would remember the state of things disclosed by the Committee appointed to inquire into the gang system, as connected with agriculture. But great as was the amount of vice disclosed by that inquiry it fell very far short of what might be seen and heard every day in some of the brickfields. There was, also, one very important difference between the two cases. The difficulty of legislating for the agricultural poor had always been that the wages of the agricultural labourer were so very low that he was often removed one stage from the workhouse. But that was not the case with brickfield labourers. He had ascertained from Mr. Smith that the average wages which a workman received in the brickyards were sufficient to maintain him and his family in decency and comfort if he was only steady and sober. But working men in these yards were in the habit of working only a certain number of days in the week and spending Sunday in “fuddling.” As a consequence, they were unfit to go to work on Monday, and very frequently they did not return to work on Tuesday, and even on Wednesday there were many absentees. The wretched children were constantly kept at such work as could be intrusted to them in the absence of the adults; and the men after returning to work in the middle of the week had to make up in the last three days for the time they had lost by drunkenness, and this re-acted upon the children. This state of things was absolutely intolerable, and the result was what might be expected – an utter absence of modesty – vice beginning at an age when vice ought to be utterly unknown, stunted frames arising from over work and vicious indulgence, songs and stories of an improper character, young women universally becoming mothers before they were wives and bringing up their children to the same wretched fate to which they themselves had been brought up long before they could be considered accountable beings. He regretted that the terms of the present Motion had not been extended to females as well as children. He knew the difficulties of legislating in that direction, but Parliament had already banished females from underground work, and he would not be unwilling if their Lordships would go the length of asking Her Majesty to widen the scope of the Commission, and inquire how far the labour of females could be dispensed with. There would not be a single doubt in the minds of their Lordships as to the desirability of stepping in and protecting those wretched people who were not able to protect themselves.

Motion agreed to.

Below – 05/08/1871 – Fife Free Press – British slaves.  Lord Shaftesbury was in his right place the other evening when he stood up in the House of Lords to plead for thirty thousand English slaves. The present generation has almost forgotten the battles which were fought thirty years ago on behalf of the children of the manufacturing districts. The story of the miseries which were inflicted on them in the days when the iron wheels went onward “grinding their souls down in the dark,” and when the legislature was still doubtful of its right to interfere on their behalf, comes to us now like a tale of little meaning. When we hear how Gerald Massey in his infancy danced with joy when he saw the flames devouring the mill where his young body was bent to the rack of the loom, or when we read the pathetic cry which Mrs Browning sent up to heaven on behalf of the children, we are accustomed to think that these things belong to the past of English history and that the horrors which existed before the Factory Acts were passed are now as completely extinct as are the miseries of negro slavery in the United States. But sad the thought, it is not so, there being still more than thirty thousand young children daily undergoing hardships which are not less in severity than those the revelation of which roused the public to so fierce a heat of indignation more than thirty years ago. It is in one district of merry England—the boasted Land of freedom—that these thirty thousand young slaves are to found, namely, the Leicestershire brickfields. By some curious technical flaw in the Factory Acts, it would appear that the young persons engaged in the manufacture of bricks and drain pipes have hitherto been excluded from the protection which those measures afford to most children employed in daily labour. How such an exception was ever made, it is not easy to understand. Certain it is that there are few industries in which the watchful eye of the Government Inspector seems to be more needed than in this. have stretched the rights of the legislature to the furthest extent in our endeavours to protect the young employed in workshops, mills, mines, and manufactories of all descriptions. It is only those very young children who have the misfortune to live among the brickfields who are still left without any protection whatever. The consequences of this legislative oversight have been truly deplorable. It seems that of the thirty thousand boys and girls of from three and a half to seventeen years of age, engaged in making bricks, the large majority are females. are not told how many of those are really under ten years of age, but the many statements of thoroughly impartial and unbiassed persons show that the number who have not reached even this tender age is very considerably. Whatever their age may be, however, these children are kept hard at work for from ten to sixteen hours a day for six days in the week. And what is their work? Mr Smith, of Coalville, who was himself employed as a child in the brickfields gives us the clearest indication of its nature when referring to his own case, he tells that at nine years of age his employment consisted in continually carrying about forty-pounds weight of clay upon his head from the clay heap to the tables which the bricks were made.  This labour had to be performed almost without intermission for thirteen hours a day. In one of the yards recently visited, many children of nine years of age were found who had to carry between forty and fifty pounds of wet clay in the same manner, and whose daily journeys under this intolerable load averaged twenty miles, and the neighbourhood of London have the testimony of the Bishop of London to the facts that infants —for can call them nothing else—of six and seven years of age have been kept this work for sixty hours per week. Let any of our readers, whose hearth is made happy by the presence of young children, think of the tenderness, the weakness, the immature frame, the constant need of nourishment and care, which distinguish a child of nine years of age; and let him also ascertain for himself, by practical experiment, what 431b. weight actually is. He need do nothing more in order to convince himself of the unutterable cruelty of employing these young children to carry such a weight almost constantly upon their heads or in their arms, for ten, twelve, or fourteen hours during every working day in the year. Lamentable as the physical consequences of labour like this necessarily must be, they are, we need hardly say, surpassed by the moral evils resulting from it. The more than half-naked girls who, almost from the time when they are able to walk alone, are sent into the brickfields to spend their days, and frequently a great part of their nights also, with some of the roughest specimens of the other sex, suffer – just might expect them to suffer. They become degraded, hardened, impure in speech, and indeed —in one word—savages. And whose is the fault it these tender, brickyard children are found in after-life preying upon society as thieves and prostitutes? Is there anyone who will lay the sole or the chief part of the blame upon these girls themselves? We can hardly conceive that a stronger case for immediate legislative interference could have been made out, and are thankful to find that the Government is resolved to act at once, in order to mitigate, if it cannot altogether remove, the intolerable evils of which complaint has been made. We know but too well that there are many other social problems, connected with the fate of the young among us, pressing for a solution. We have not yet settled the fate of our Ginx’s babies we are still busy with our high politics, our amusements, our political factions, while the broad river of sin and misery flows through our streets unchecked and almost unheeded. But the case of these brickfield children is an exceptional one. In this matter at least there are certain principles in which the nation has agreed, and immediately applied for the protection of those neglected little ones. The sooner they are applied the more it will be to our credit nation.

01/10/1874 – The Scotsman – Lord Rosebery’s address … we know that equal horrors existed in the brickfields two or three years ago when there were 30,000 children employed, looking like moving masses of the clay they bore, whose ages varied from 3 1/2 years to seventeen and when an average case was thus described:-“I had a child weighed very recently and though he was somewhat over eight years old, he weighed about 52 1/2 lbs and was employed carrying 43 lbs of clay on his head an average distance of 15 miles daily and worked 73 hours a week. This is only an average case of what many poor children are doing in England at the present time and we need not wonder and their haggard and stunted appearance when we take into account the tender age at which they are sent to their Egyptian tasks” Then again all goodness and purity seems to become stamped out of these people and were I to relate, says a witness who worked himself in the brickfields, what could be related to the whole country, the whole country would become sickened and horrified. It would not indeed be difficult, and it would be painfully instructive to draw out a dismal catalogue of facts to prove how little the splendour of our civilisation differs from the worst horrors of barbarism …

13/08/1898 – Glasgow Herald – … A curious instance of the inconsistency of the Factory Acts is given by one inspector. He relates the case of an employer who is both a colliery owner and a fire-brick manufacturer. In working at the fire clay among the coal seams underground, a boy of 12 years of age may be legally employed full time, but in the much safer process of making the clay into bricks on the surface, a boy of 12 is disqualified for full-time employment. Thus it happens that when a boy is stopped by the inspector in the brickyard he is sent to work belowground. But, the Factory Acts are among the marvels of our legislation …

Below- 01/08/1906 – Kirkintilloch Herald – Messrs John G Stein & Co Ltd, brickmakers, Castlecary were in court for employing two women to work at 0300 in the morning when women were not permitted to start work until 0600.

27/11/1909 – Fifeshire Advertiser – Kirkcaldy workman’s record service – For a period of sixty-three years.  Mr Andrew Hunter, Links Street, has been employed by the service of Messrs D. Methven and Sons, Links Pottery.  Mr Hunter was born in 1836 and received his education under the renowned late Baillie Paterson.  When he had reached the age of ten years, Andrew had the misfortune to lose his father, and consequently, he was sent to work at this early age to assist to keep the house ‘going.’  He found employment with Messrs Methven and Sons and was engaged in making bricks.  His wages were extremely low, and he only received 1/2d per hour.  Work lasted for 10 1/2 hours each day, and his weekly wage amounted to 2s.  All the bricks had to be made by hand.  Andrew had the assistance of six others, and between them they were able to turn about 4000 bricks per day, the remuneration being 2s 6d per 1000, which had to be divided between the seven hands.  Mr Hunter is now able to make 2000 bricks per day himself and is paid at the same rate as seven were paid at in 1846.  He can well remember when the present railway was laid between Perth and Edinburgh, and his first journey was to Perth in a third-class carriage,  which was exactly similar to the present coal wagons.  he used to carry the meals to the navvies who were engaged in laying the rails and cutting the excavations.  Mr Hunter is still hale and hearty and is still engaged with the same firm, being quite capable of doing the full day’s work.  He is a well-known authority on wild birds.  He is a great believer in the fresh air, and after his days’ toil is over he goes out for his usual constitutional, while on Sunday he often winds his way to Burntisland and back, a distance of ten miles.  Mr Hunter has three sons and four daughters alive and has 19 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  His eldest son John is also putting up a splendid record, having been employed under Messrs Methven & Sons for 39 years.  It is interesting to note that Mr Hunter has never had the attendance of a doctor during the 73 years of his life.

18/08/1917 – Coatbridge Leader – Brickworkers’ wages increased. Professor Irvine has sent to Baillie Climie, Workers Union, the following award dealing with the men employed at the Dundyvan and Garnqueen Works of the Eglinton Silica Brick Company Ltd. ” That as from 19th April 1917, the wages of male workers of 18 years of age and over in the employ of the firm shall be increased by 4s per week, and that the wages of boys and youths under years of age in the employ of the firm shall be increased by 2s per week. The amounts hereby awarded are to be regarded as war advances, intended to assist in meeting the increased cost of living and are to be recognised as due to and dependent on the existence of the abnormal conditions now prevailing in consequence of the war; that the advance of 2s per week offered by the firm to the workmen on or after 19th April, and accepted by certain of the workmen, shall merge in the advance hereby awarded; and that the claim for double-time payment for Sunday work has not been established.”

20/10/1917 – Falkirk Herald – Workers wages – arbiters awards. There has been received from the Ministry of Labour copies of awards by Professor Irvine, Aberdeen on the claims of female workers against the following Bonnybridge firms:- Messrs Smith and Wellstood, Gillespie (Limited), the Stirlingshire Iron and Stove Company, and Lane and Girvan. The following are the awards; (1)women employed in fitting shops, brass finishing shops, and smith shop departments, 6s per week; (2) in all other departments than the above, women over 18, 4s and women under 18 2s 6d per full ordinary week; (3) pieceworkers in departments other than the fitting, brass, and smith shops to be paid at the rate of 4s or 2s 6d over and above the weekly earnings calculated on the present basis;  (4) the bonus of 1s 6d paid to continue, where bonus less than 1s 6d is paid to be raised to that amount. In addition, Professor Irvine has awarded 4s per week to women workers in Messrs Smith and Wellstood’s brickworks, with similar applying pieceworkers and bonus paid in the above awards. The awards come into operation from and including October 1, 1917.

Below – 12/07/1918 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Brick and clay workers demands for a wage increase.

19/03/1937 – The Scotsman – Brickworkers wages dispute – There was a further development last night in connection wages dispute at Blantyre Ferme Brickworks. Officials of the Transport and General Workers Union met representatives of the brickworks employers on Wednesday and yesterday when a proposed agreement was drawn up. This introduced uniform rates of wages covering ten brickworks in Glasgow and Lanarkshire, on the understanding that where higher rates of wages are at present in operation these are to remain without being interfered with. The agreement provides for an increase in wages to a large number of workers, and it also provides for a further, conference between the employers and the officials of the Union in June. These proposals were put before a meeting last night of the brickworkers employed at Blantyre Ferme Brickworks and were unanimously rejected. Union officials advised the workers to remain at work pending negotiations, but they decided to stop work at once. The men demand an 8-hour shift on night-shift work, with an increase in wages.

19/10/1946 – The Scotsman – Building materials such as bricks, roofing slates and dinitro-ortho-cresol preparations cannot be exported from Britain on and after Monday next without a Board of Trade licence.

Below – 27/04/1946 – The Scotsman – Servicemen for brickworks.

Below – 29/10/1948 – Motherwell Times – On the spot welfare helps brickworkers … Clay Works (Welfare) Special Regulations 1948 which came into operation on 01/10/1948 …


The relationship between employers and workers in Glenboig.

Who prospered from all the innovation and improvements to working practices in Glenboig Brickworks?  Not the workers themselves, although it could be argued that they were lucky to be in employment. Their work was hard, and their houses were overcrowded and of a rudimentary standard which wouldn’t be tolerated today.  Their employer was also their landlord with all the insecurity of that situation, and many of them were Irish immigrants who had been forced to leave their homeland and their culture behind to find work and enough money to survive.  How did they fare in the hands of the Dunnachies and Hurlls?

Throughout most of the Glenboig Union Fireclay Company’s history, and certainly, in the era of the Dunnachies, the relations between employers and workers at Glenboig were said to be very much of the master-servant type, an attitude of benevolent despotism on the part of the management and of necessitous acceptance on the workers’ side. Born at Pollockshaws, son of a Renfrewshire bleacher, James Dunnachie came to Glenboig at the age of 28.  He was a striking figure, of greater than average height, with a reddish-brown flowing beard, and he always wore a Glengarry bonnet.  A driveway ran from his house (Glenboig House), down through the works to Glenboig station, and each morning there was something of a ‘royal procession’ of one, with the 8.15 am train unloading workers who touched their forelocks as he passed them by.

Anecdotes exist of summary dismissals from job and house for non-compliance with a managerial order, or even for so simple a matter as requesting a pay increase. However, there is evidence to suggest some benevolence on the part of the Dunnachies in that both James and Thomas Dunnachie lived in the village, with Thomas lecturing at ambulance and other classes attended by the workmen, and both men being very active in the Temperance movement.
There are a good few occasions where Glenboig is mentioned in the Airdrie Advertiser.  Although the articles are obviously selective of what was deemed ‘newsworthy’, they do however paint the only picture we can have of what life may have been like at this time for the people of Glenboig as far as  ‘organised entertainment’ went.  It appears to have meant entertainment dominated by the influence of their employers.
Excursion of workmen  

An excursion of the workmen employed at the Glenboig Union Fire Clay Company Works, Glenboig and Cumbernauld, took place last Saturday under most favourable auspices, both as regards excellent weather and a good turnout of the workmen with their wives and families.  The party numbered over 400 including fifty of a contingent from Cumbernauld.  The place chosen to visit was Ayr, “The Land of Burns”.  Considerable interest was taken in the event, as the trip, last Saturday was the first that has taken place in connection with the works for the last twelve years. The committee that was appointed to make the arrangements wrought assiduously to make the trip a success.  They also received every encouragement from Mr James Dunnachie, managing partner of the firm, who gave a handsome donation that helped to reduce the price of the ticket, also silk material for a fine new flag which was painted in a fine new style by Mr Andrew Sneddon, painter of the works.  Previous to leaving in the morning, the excursionists, headed by the village brass band and the new flag, proceeded to the residence of Mr James Dunnachie, when upon the motion of Mr James Jack, three hearty cheers were given to Mr Dunnachie for the interest he had taken in the trip.  The excursionists left Glenboig in a special train at 7.55 a.m.  The route taken was by Muirkirk, though much longer than the route by Paisley, the journey was very much enjoyed.  The fields from Muirkirk to Ayr were ripe with the golden grain, far in advance of anything in this quarter.  Ayr was reached at 10.50, where everyone took their several ways, some to the seashore, others drove to “the banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon”, and for the first time saw Burns’ Cottage, the Monument, the Auld Brig o’ Doon, Alloway’s Auld Haunted Kirk, and ‘the thorn abune the well where Mungo’s mither hang’d hersel’, alas but “nae man can tether time nor tide” the oor too soon approached when all had to wend their way to the station for the return journey, which was fixed at 5.55 p.m. Home was reached safely after nine o’clock, everybody being satisfied with the day’s outing, and hoping it will not be the last.  The behaviour of the excursionists was all that could be desired, very few having tasted too much of the ‘barley bree’.  Source: Airdrie Advertiser Sept. 1890

Worker earnings.

The company had formed a Workmen’s Compensation Fund of 10s per £100 of wages paid which equated to £125 per year in the Fund. However, there was some reluctance to dispense the fund.

The agreed expense for a fatal accident in 1884 was £50 plus funeral expenses, but a similar situation in 1885 was disposed of for only £10 plus expenses while the same meeting allocated £100 for a billiard room for James Dunnachie’s home.

If men wanted a wage rise a ‘deputation’ was sent to make the request, and the result depended on market forces.  The ‘master’ complex was in evidence in 1889 when there was a strike for a wage increase which was handled by James Dunnachie reporting to the Directors that ‘others had been employed and the matter was now finished’.  Despite the attitude of absolutism within management, there was some desire for amicable relations. In 1897 the men were given a holiday with pay for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

A Pay Book kept by James Dunnachie in 1876 (James Dunnachie & Company, Star Works) shows that there were deductions from the workers’ earnings for the doctor and the schoolmaster.  Many workers may have paid into this system of deductions if James Dunnachie brought it with him when he amalgamated with the Hurlls.  There was no Welfare State at that time, and it wasn’t until 1911 with the introduction of the National Insurance Act, and its setting up of workers’ contributions for unemployment and health benefits, that there was any vestige of real security for people.  Employees would have been entirely dependent on the benevolence of the Dunnachies, and they would always be mindful of how easily they could lose their jobs and consequently their homes.

The 1876 Pay Book shows that James Dunnachie employed 18 miners and 74 others including six women, fourteen boys and five tradesmen at The Star Works.  There would also be some ‘drawers’ or miners’ assistants who were not paid directly by the firm.  A Millman worked 137 hours for £2 3s 6d at a rate of 3s 2d over a two-week period.  Another Millman worked 143 hours for £2 9s 6d.  A woman helped at the kilns for 1s 10d per day, working 132 hours for £1 4s 2d.  A boy brick carrier carried 25,950 bricks for 17s 4d, and the post-boy worked 90 hours for 9s 5d. Moulders, or brick-makers, were paid 2s 1d per thousand bricks and made, on average, about 2,000 bricks each per day.  Miners’ earnings were based on output and their earnings ranged from £3 9s 10d to £6 6s 4d for two weeks, less the cost of their own ‘drawers’.  By 1881 the workforce totalled 157 including 29 miners and 24 drawers. There is no record of James Dunnachie’s salary in 1876, but six years later, in 1882 when he had set up the Glenboig Union Fireclay Company with John Hurll and others, his salary was £600 per annum with a free house and fuel, plus £20,000 and 2d per ton royalties for three patents of his inventions which then became the property of the company.  In 1888 after the Hurlls left the Company and James Dunnachie assumed control, his salary rose to £800 per annum.

Wage reductions and strikes.

The years 1882-1895 saw the company struggling and wages were reduced in 1884, 1885 and 1892.  But the company came through it and were in a healthy condition by 1895.  They suffered a recession in 1901 partly due to the fact that there was a general recession in the country, but also as a result of a breakdown in labour relations.  In November 1900 the clay miners began a four day week instead of a six-day week when they were refused a 10s per week increase.  After four months they began a total strike, by which time 400 men had been laid off in the yards. James Dunnachie employed a professional strikebreaker, Graham Hunter, to fill the mines with men.  The Directors were reluctant, but ‘friendly efforts with the men direct’ having failed, they brought in foreign workers, mainly Lithuanian, and the strike ended ten months after the original dispute, with victory for the management but at a considerable loss in productivity, revenue and wages, and a cleavage of the former pleasant terms between management and men.  We can only wonder at the hardship suffered by the workers during their strike for better pay, and how they must have struggled to feed and clothe themselves and their families.

There was further depressed trade in 1908 and 1909 when production was lost in the Star Works and also in the Old Works.  However, 1913 saw their order books full and this carried through to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.  In 1915 sales were slow and wages began to spiral upwards.  There was a shortage of labour due to recruitment for the armed forces and the Company resolved to ask the Government to exempt brick-workers since difficulty was being experienced in meeting urgent Government orders.  Increased mechanisation was seen to be one answer to the labour shortage, but wages continued to soar along with the overall cost of production. By 1917 a new aspect of labour relations appeared in Glenboig when the National Union of General Workers held a meeting in the Free Church Hall and enrolled all miners except two, and some yard hands.  Despite unionisation, 1917 was the best year ever experienced in the firm’s history which saw them making massive profits. Profits reached their highest ever peace-time figure by 1921.


Scottish employers council for the clay industries.

Objects: — To promote and further the interests of Employers engaged in the Clay Industries in Scotland by mutual support and co-operation, and to act as their representative in dealing with wages questions and other matters of importance affecting the Industries.
President, James Rule, Callendar Coal Co., Ltd., Falkirk.

Secretary, Robert Fleming, C. A. (Fleming & Wilson), 200 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow. Telephone, 2523 and 2524. Telegraphic Address, ” Scrutators.”


29/10/1948 – Motherwell Times  –  On the spot welfare helps brickworkers – Employees in brickworks in Lanarkshire and throughout the country have now been brought into line with workers in other industries in the provision of welfare facilities which include canteen or mess room accommodation at their places of employment. These welfare innovations have been granted to the brickworkers by The Clay Works (Welfare) Special Regulations 1948 which came into operation on 1st October.

The facilities which now become available to brickworkers are washing facilities with clean towels, protective clothing and adequate accommodation for this clothing, together with laundry and canteen or mess room accommodation, a shelter for kiln workers and an ambulance room with equipment and first aid requisites.

Interviewed by the ‘Times’ reporter Mr W Scholes, district organiser for the Transport and General Workers Union said that these revolutionary changes in welfare facilities in the clay industry though long overdue, were satisfactory to officials and employees and placed the latter on the same scale as other factory workers.  The greatest benefit in Scotland through the changes will be experienced in Lanarkshire and Fife where the largest number of brickworks are in operation. Lanarkshire clay industries where the new welfare facilities will be enjoyed are

Broomhouse Brickworks.

Blantyreferme Brickworks, Uddingston.

Fallside Brickworks, Tannochside.

Rosehall Brickworks.

Garrowhill Brickworks.

Airdrie Brickworks.

Stippends (Stepends)  Brickworks.

Chapelhall Brickworks.

Whistleberry Brickworks, Blantyre.

Hamilton Brickworks.

Birkenshaw Brickworks.

Auchenheath Brickworks.

Mayfield Brickworks.

Holytown Brickworks.

Auchenlea Brickworks. (Auchinlea?)

17/11/1951 – Falkirk Herald – Clay Miners required. Wages for 5 3/4 days – £7 13s. This can be further increased by piece work. 12 days paid holidays per year at 27s per day. Experience is not necessary. Hostel accommodation is available. Apply Manager, John G Stein & Co Ltd, Manuel Mine nr Linlithgow.

15/10/1952 – British Clayworker Magazine – Incentives for Bricklayers. For the first time since before the war, bricklayers on a Glasgow housing scheme have laid more than 800 bricks a day-the figure shot up by more than 58 per cent. In the first week of a new incentives plan.  The basis is that men are paid a bonus of about 5s. per hundred for bricks laid in the excess of the target of 480 a day.
Different rates operate for different types of buildings.  The average number of bricks laid by bricklayers at Glasgow housing schemes since the war has been slightly more than 450.  In the first week of the incentives experiment, the bricklayers averaged 820 a day.  In the second week the figure dropped to about 700, but last week the figure had gone up again, to about 740.

Below – 24/07/1961 – The Glasgow Herald – Truck Acts
Garnkirk Company Store
Below – Written by Eric Flack and reproduced with kind permission.

Reporting on an inquiry into the Truck system in the Scotsman of 5th Sept 1870. David Cumming the storekeeper at Garscadden Village stated  “I don’t know of any (workers) book having been stopped during the two and a half years I have been a storekeeper. Fully the half of our trade comes from outside. The advance men are expected to come to the store, but no compulsion is used to carry out the system.”

David Anderson, Merry and Cunningham’s local manager at Garscadden states “ No books have been stopped at Garscadden for the last five years, so far as I am aware.

I have no commission, but I get a 5 per cent discount when I pay my account half-yearly.

It is evident the men understood they were to go to the store because they did go regularly. I never undeceived them. The men gradually ceased to go to the store as the pressure upon them relaxed – in fact, the less the men were prepared to go to the store, the less they went. In the pay clerk’s office, there was no means of checking the men who “sloped” the store. I don’t think many of the pay-men go to the store. They get credit in the village.”


Master and Servant Act – ‘required the obedience and loyalty from servants to their contracted employer, with infringements of the contract punishable before a court of law’.

In 1844, an attempt was made to further extend (and clarify) the 1823 Master and Servant Act. The proposed reform would have made workers paid by the piece (hourly paid) subject to the Master and Servant Act, regardless of their trade.

This may account for such articles appearing frequently in the press at the time.

Adverts such as this would have formalised and publicised that a contract between the named individual and the named employer was in existence and thus making it ‘easier’ to prosecute for a breach of contract.



Thanks to Chiz Harvard for the following information he unearthed.

…. A Proclamation by Charles 1 in 1625 on London brickmaking … ‘The earth to be dug between the feast of St Michael the Archangel and St Thomas the Apostle. Second digging or turning up before the last day of February, then following. No digging or brick to be made within one mile of city gates or one mile of the Palace of Westminster. Moulding is only to be done between the feast of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the last day of August’ …


These echo an earlier statute of Edward 4 in 1477 on tiles which referred to ‘great damage’ being done by making tiles out of season …’the Earth shall be digged and cast up before the first day of November next before that they shall be made and that the same Earth be stirred and turned before the First Day of February then next the following the same digging and casting up and not wrought before the First Day of March next following’ … It also specified sizes for tiles (as did Charles 1’s statute).


There is a Charter for tilers and bricklayers in London in 1567, but Lloyd doesn’t mention set sizes for bricks and tiles …


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