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under 10 years
towns of Norwich, Yarmouth, and Lynn, and in 51 rural parishes in various parts of the county, I have founded the observations embodied in this Report.
Towns-Norwich, Yarmouth, and Lynn Regis. I visited 32 schools for the labouring classes in Norwich, and found present at them 3552 children, by far the greater part
old. These schools were held in rooms capable of containing at a moderate estimate 4862 children, or upwards of 1300 more than were actually in attendance. They were supported, some entirely, others in part, by contributions of the wealthier classes; three entirely by endowment. From careful inquiries, and from a comparison of the list of those visited by niyself with one published in 1839 by the Diocesan Board of the National School Society, I believe I left unvisited only four schools, differing in no respect in their general condition from those of a similar class which I was able to see. The common day and dame schools were not taken into the account; but, as far as I could ascertain, they were not numerous or fully attended. The result, as regards numbers, appeared clearly to be, that school accommodation was provided in Norwich for many more children than were actually under instruction in day-schools at the period of my visit.
The labouring population of Norwich, for whose benefit the dayschools partly aided by voluntary contributions are designed, may be classed in two marked divisions; the first consisting of those whose chief support arises from the retail trade and the subordinate occupations common to all towns; the second of those who depend on hand-loom weaving, and on the employments afforded by the factories and the various kindred occupations connected with manufacturing labour. As the ordinary trade of the town arises chiefly from the wealthy agricultural district in which it is placed, the portion of the labouring population deriving support from that department of industry may be said generally to earn a fair subsistence. The condition of the other section of the labouring community,—that depending on manufacturing employments, _and especially and more notoriously that of the hand-loom weavers, is one of great and grievous depression. Accordingly, the children who attended at those schools with tolerable regularity, and who stayed longest, were, as I ascertained in many instances by enumeration, with the aid of the master or mistress, generally the children of parents belonging to the class first mentioned; while for the most part those of the manufacturing class, especially the hand-loom weavers, sent their children very irregularly, if at all; some from poverty, some (though I am inclined to believe a gradually decreasing number) from total disregard of the benefits of instruction, others from inability to clothe their children as they wish, others because they may want them at home, or may be unwilling to lose even a faint chance of making the smallest amount of money by their labour. In the short time I was able to devote to the inquiry, the main object of which was to observe the general amount of instruction professed to be given in those schools, and the method of imparting it, I did not attempt any exact estimate of the proportion which the number attending bore to those who did not. But my own observation and inquiries, which extended widely among the parts of the city inhabited by the lower population, and into their dwellings, coincided with opinions I heard generally expressed, that a large proportion of the children of the manufacturing labourers at Norwich are growing up without any adequate degree of regular and efficient instruction.
That it is important to bring as many as possible of such children under the influence of real instruction is sufficiently obvious; and a conviction of this kind is not wanting at Norwich. Indeed it would appear to be particularly essential to the future well-being of society there, to make some earnest and substantial effort in that direction. Considering the condition of the adult manufacturing population, and how soon those who are now growing up will take their place, either falling into the actual prevailing condition, or into a worse, or contributing towards its gradual amelioration, it would seem especially desirable to seek for every reasonable means of guiding and improving those tendencies which are now in the course of rapid development either for good or for evil.
The state of the weaving population of Norwich is well known. The absence of large capitals, and consequently of adequate commercial enterprise ; ill-judged and unhappily too successful attempts on the part of the operatives to fix the rates of wages; external causes which neither masters nor men could control; have combined almost to extinguish the export trade of the city, and very considerably to limit the demand for its staple articles in the home market. The long war put an end to the supply of the worsted materials for the gay fowered dresses of the peasants of Germany, Switzerland, Russia, and Poland. The camlet trade with the Continent has declined since the peace; the same trade with India and China, through the medium of the East India Company, has nearly disappeared since the expiration of that Company's exclusive privileges. The spinning and weaving of cotton has been transferred to the factories of the north. The wearing and manufacture of crape, bombazines, challis, mousselins de laine, Norwich shawls, and other fancy articles, though exhibiting great skill and beauty of design and effect, are subject to great fluctuations, partly resulting from the caprices of fashion, partly from the competition of the cheaper products of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Scotland. These causes of decline have been greatly aided by the unwise interference of the workmen with the introduction of machinery and the remuneration of labour-an interference which there is now a disposition to abandon when it is too late to repair many of its injurious consequences. The result of these concurring circumstances is a wide-spread and apparently increasing depression. Dr. Mitchell, in his Report on the Handloom Weavers of Norwich (October, 1838), states that the numher of men, women, and children, whose occupation was that of spinning and weaving, was at that time about 5000. The numbers remain nearly the same, but there were not, in the opinion of persons conversant with the subject, more than 2200 employed at the period of my visit, (from 12th of May to 9th of June, 1841); between 600 and 700 of whom have, as I am informed, been since discharged for want of work. It was also stated to me, on competent authority, that for several years past there had seldom been less than 2000 persons belonging to these occupations out of employ from periods varying from one to four months at a time. In reply to extensive personal inquiries among the weavers themselves, at their looms, in their own houses, or elsewhere, the great majority stated that they were unemployed nearly half the year, and when employed could not earn as much as 7s. a week, by from 14 to 16 hours' labour ; the few who earn more at the species of weaving requiring the higher degrees of skill are exceptions. I endeavoured to test their account by information derived from the masters, and by inspection of their books in some instances where I was kindly permitted to do so. I attended at one factory for some hours while the men were bringing in their work, and obtained from
account of his earnings for some months previous. These accounts tallied with those I had before received from others. Reference was then made to the books, which were in most instances found to correspond with the recollection of the
Of the numerous instances that presented themselves, two of the most favourable were the following :W. S., silk-weaver.
d. One week's work
10 3 Deductions stated at
Net earnings for a week of 14 hours/
It appeared from the books that he had been steadily employed from January 2nd to May 29th, 1841, and that his gross earnings had been 81. 2s. 3}d. This sum, divided by the number of days (140), gives ls. 4d. per day. Fourpence however per day must be deducted for expenses, reducing his net earnings for 140 days to ls. per day of 14 hours' work.
W.C., weaver of common plain-loom work, at which the fairest rate of wages can be earned.—This man had been in the service of his present employer for 30 years, and was said to be one of the best and most respectable workmen in Norwich :
£. s. d.
Gross earnings from May 12 to May 29th .
3 1} Beaming
0 34 Twisting
0 Candle (average)
0 8 Wear and tear of loom, &c.
0 5 0
£1 ] 3 This sum, divided by the number of days (17), gives 1s. 4d. per day as bis net earnings. He had been steadily employed from 17th July, 1840, to 29th May, 1841, and had earned in that period
28 3 111 Deductions, calculated as above
7 0 0
£21 3 113
This, divided by the number of days (318), gives ls. 3d. a day, or 78. 6d. a week. A period however is included (from July to December last) when earnings were 20 per cent. higher than they have averaged since. These were among the most favourable specimens; but the intelligent superintendent by whose aid I obtained them is of opinion, from calculations he has made, that the clear earnings of those employed in the weaving trade of Norwich do not exceed 3s. 6d. per week on the year's average; and this falls in with the assertions of the men themselves. The earnings of the women and children are small in proportion and fluctuating, and the occasional work obtained by the men, and of which the master can have no account, cannot be such as to alter materially their real circumstances. From such resources it is impossible to expect that any regular and sustained exertion can be made in behalf of the instruction of their children. It cannot be doubted that the pressure of absolute want is often and severely felt by that portion of the population. I visited personally a large number of the houses and cottages in the various parts of the town, and its suburbs, inhabited chiefly by the weavers and their families. In most cases I went into each house in a court or a row, and often into
every room tenanted by a family in it. In other instances I went only into those where I heard a loom at work, or observed one that was idle. Nothing but ocular inspection can convey a just idea of the poverty and destitution there exhibited. The general characteristic was the almost entire absence of all those articles of furniture and indications of comfort which are usually seen in the dwellings of those in humble life: a table, two or three chairs, a bed, often on the floor, a tea-kettle, a boiler, a few articles of earthenware, and a knife or two, were all that was visible, belonging to domestic use. The clothing was extremely scanty and bad. The diet consisted of bread and boiled Norfolk dumplings, three, or at most four, days in the week, and potatoes for the rest. The pale and emaciated countenances and feeble frames of the men sufficiently indicated a long-continued want of adequate sustenance. Bed-clothes were very deficient; these are often pawned in the summer, in the hope, seldom realized, of redeeming them when most wanted. The deficiency of their earnings obliges them to contract debts with the baker and other small tradesmen who supply the articles of their limited consumption. These in their turn are subject to losses, and to meet this inevitable consequence are compelled to put a high price on every article they furnish.
I am led to believe, from the opportunities of observation I was able to avail myself of, that the suffering class in Norwich may be divided into three sections : First, that of the more respectable and prudent among them, whose privations are great, but whose sufferings no one has the means of estimating; who apply to no one for relief, and who endure, with as much fortitude and resignation as is consistent with an intense anxiety for the future, the spectacle of their family growing up around them with diminishing comforts and resources; who find that they are, year after year, working longer hours for less wages, and are more frequently out of work altogether; their small accumulations of furniture or other store diminishing, and their children ragged and wanting more food than can be given them. The second is that of those with less intelligence, prudence, or principle, and with imperfect habits of management and self-guidance, whose resources are less, from inferior skill or conduct, with less ability to make the most of such as they have. The third is that of the ignorant and improvident, those of the least skill and who are the last to be intrusted with work; whose destitution is often great, and who could not exist at all without frequent aid from public or private charity. There are also others, skilful as workmen, but partaking of the general depression, whose intelligence is considerable but often misdirected. In the minds of these last-mentioned classes there is still much carelessness and much misapprehension regarding the instruction of their children. Among other causes of this neglect may be enumerated the strong impression that seemed to prevail that the anxiety shown by the promoters of various dayschools supported by the different religious denominations could proceed only from selfish motives; and it is to be feared that this impression is strengthened by the common system of giving rewards for regularity of attendance, half or the whole of the schoolfees being returned at stated times in the form of clothing or other articles;
-a habit which cannot fail to break in upon the sense of duty and responsibility, already sufficiently weak in the mind