Child Employment Commission, 1841:: Rev. Joshua Fawcett


No. 34.- February 9, 1841. The Rev. Joshua Fawcett, M.A. Trinity College, Cambridge, Incumbent of Wibsey Low Moor, Parish of Bradford :-

How long have you been incumbent of Wibsey? - Eight years.
You are in the immediate neighbourhood of the Low Moor Iron Works? - Yes.
Do the children attend religious worship generally? - Generally they do.
Do you know what sort of religious instruction they get at school? - Generally the Catechism, reading the Bible, Watts's Hymns, and so forth.
You visit the working-people? - Yes, from house to house.
As to the houses, is the interior arrangement such that the men and women are obliged to sleep in the same apartment? - Yes, I conceive that to be one of the greatest promotives to crime possible, and one of the greatest evils. I can mention a case of a family of fourteen in one room at night, and out of those five grown-up persons.
And yet in this neighbourhood land is plentiful and stone cheap? - Yes; there are cases of four or five brothers, from the age of 12 to 20, sleeping in the same room with four or five sisters of the same age. The number of illegitimate children is fearfully great.
Are you aware that the children are ever taken to beer-houses, or scenes of drunkenness and profanity? - I think not; they are turned out to play on the moor.
What becomes of the children in after-life, who have been employed in night-work? - There are not many cases of night-work, and what there are are of night-work alternate weeks; and therefore the effects are scarcely perceptible.
Do the children employed in mines appear to enjoy the same health as other children? - There is no difference at all, it is equally as good.
It is not, I believe, the custom to employ girls in pits here? - It is not the custom certainly, though I know of an instance of two girls, sisters, age about 12 or 13, whose mother is a very dissolute character, and spends their wages in drinking.
But the feeling of the people here is against employing female children? - I should say so decidedly.
Do the colliers generally enjoy good health? - Oh, very good; the occupation here is remarkably healthy, both for men and boys.
Do the colliers attain to any great age? - Yes, I should say the colliers attain the usual age of man.
Are there any diseases to which they are peculiarly subject? - I should say none.
Are serious accidents frequent? - I should say not.
Are the women good household managers? - No.
Can you state their deficiencies? - I believe very few can sew; baking and cooking they can just do.
Would not the education of females in household economy contribute very much to the comfort, respectability, and general well-being of the working population? - Most decidedly.
Are you aware of cases in which families, in the receipt of large wages, live in discomfort, from want of household economy and management? - Many.
What is the consequence upon the husbands? - They are driven to seek comfort in beer-shops and public houses.
What is the consequence upon the families? - That they are left to take care of themselves.
What do you think would be the effect upon the labouring classes of the instruction of females in household economy? - Most beneficial, decidedly.

                                                                                                            February 12, 1841.
There are day, evening, and Sunday schools, in the immediate vicinity of, and in connexion with, the Low-Moor Iron Works? - Yes.
What do you observe as to the disposition of the children employed in the mines to attend evening and Sunday schools? - I should say general indifference.
What is the proportion of children attending evening and Sunday schools? - In the evening school there are only about twenty, and of those several are young men. In the Sunday school there are of boys about 120.
There would appear, then, to be much less disposition to attend evening than Sunday schools? - Yes.
To what would you attribute this indisposition to attend the evening school? - To real exhaustion, in many cases, from the labour of the day. To use the expression of the parents, when I speak to them, "Its hard when the bairns have fallen asleep by the fire-side, after their supper, to wakken 'em up to go to school."
The consequence is, that children entering the mines ordinarily at seven or eight years old, or even younger, get no education at all, except what little they may get at a Sunday school? - Certainly.
What does Sunday-school education, without the opportunity of attending day or evening schools, really amount to, as regards, not those who attend it under favourable circumstances, but the mass of the population? - As to the amount of instruction it amounts to a mere nothing. And as they are running wild six days of the week, it is impossible, upon the Sunday alone, even to instill into them habits of order and subordination.
You can observe a marked difference between those Sunday scholars who attend week-day school and those who do not? - Yes.
Will you state at what points? - An inaptitude to learn, a want of the power of application, and towards the teachers a want of respect, marks those who have none but Sunday-school education.
You have stated that children entering the mines ordinarily at 7 or 8 years old, or even younger, have no subsequent opportunities for instruction, excepting through Sunday schools, and that the instruction there obtainable is very trifling. What opportunities of instruction exist prior to the above mentioned age? - A school, supported by the gentlemen of the works, at which the children may attend on payment of about a penny per week.
To what extent is this school made use of? - Very partially.
To what does the instruction communicated in it amount in the case of those who attend? - Reading and writing, though imperfectly, in consequence of the early age at which the children are removed.
What proportion of the young population do you suppose obtain these advantages? - A fifth at the very outside.
Then, as regards the other four-fifths, there is no instruction whatever obtained, excepting their chance of Sunday-school instruction, which, if obtained, amounts, you have stated, to a mere nothing? - Yes..
Can you observe any marked difference between those children who have, and those who have not received efficient school education? -  O, you can't meet a boy in the road without knowing it.
Can you trace any marked difference in after life? - General decency of behaviour, thriftiness, saving, and a desire to improve their condition in life, are the characteristics of those who have received efficient school education.
Are the mass of the population marked by the absence of these qualifications? - Unfortunately this is too true.
From the general extension of efficient school-education what effects would you anticipate? - The general diffusion of the benefits above stated.
Are the schoolmasters in the neighbourhood, apart from the Low-Moor school, generally well qualified for their duties? - I should say decidedly not. Many are ignorant of their own ignorance, and perpetuate in their scholars their own deficiencies.
Have you observed, as the result of education, any tendency to doctrines dangerous to society? - I have, in particular instances; but I regard this as a purely contingent and accidental evil.
You do not consider that there is any danger on this head in the aggregate? - No.
Is it your opinon that the better the education the less the danger? - Yes.
Can you state that the danger is greater with educated than with uneducated persons? - I should think the danger is greater with uneducated persons, because the uneducated will hear dangerous doctrines from designing persons, without the power of judging for themselves; wheras the educated, not being dependent upon the testimony of others, are much more likely to arrive at safe conclusions.
February 16, 1841.
In the day-school at Low Moor is any provision made for moral and religious training? - Yes, there is.
Will you state its nature as to moral training? - They read the Scriptures, and are examined by the schoolmaster as to the meaning of what they read.
Is it the custom to take the children in the week-school to a place of worship? - Yes, to church.
Is it a regulation that they shall attend church? - Yes.
Do you not think that this may operate to prevent attendance at school in some cases? - In the case of Low Moor I should say not.
In the case of conscientious scruples against attending church, would you require it? - I do not think it would be required in that case.
Practically speaking, pains are taken to communicate moral and religious training beyond mere instruction? - Yes.
Through yourself merely, or through the schoolmaster? - Through both.
Will you state to what proportion of the whole population, moral and religious training, to the extent you have stated, are thus communicated? - To a very trifling proportion; it is a mere drop in the bucket.
So far as it exists, can you trace from it beneficial results? - Certainly.
And from the extension and general diffusion of such training what results do you anticipate? - The most satisfactory.

Do you think the feeling of parents and the exertions of benevolent individuals can accomplish the object without legislative interference? - No; the influence of benevolent individuals is but trifling, without a cordial co-operation on the part of the parents, which co-operation can scarcely be expected from parents who do not feel the value of education themselves.