Wollaton, August 1720: Children in Mr Willoughby`s Pits

Wollaton, August 1720

Joseph started work in one of Mr Willoughby`s pits, he is only 10 but we need to get some money to buy food, to put upon the plates of our children.



Early mining boys- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The industrial revolution started when these unsung heroes. Most were as young  as eight years old working for just enough to keep them alive. They were paid for what coal they dug. The hours could have been as much 16 hour per day, in conditions that were damp, cold and dangerous.

The early bell pits  could often collapse in on itself.  Some of the tunnels were only twelve to forty inches high, they had to crawl into, then start and dig the coal in the pits all over England and Europe.

Child Labour & The Industrial Revolution

Education for children was rare, as too many of the children had to work to bring in what little food they could for their families.


A small Group of miners- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

During the 1800s with the Industrial Revolution spreading throughout Britain the use of child labour became more and more prevalent. Steam and water powered machines, led to a massive increase in the number of factories (particularly in textile factories or mills) of the cotton and lace making Industries of the north of England.


The Way out by Sledge- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

This type of work was not only dangerous where someone could loose a limb, you could die with the inhaling of dust which came off the machines. Other dangers were by gas and dangers of being buried alive.


Bell Pit- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.


Early mining children worked  in bell pits which was just a hole in the ground about 2ft wide, going down about 4 meters. It then opened out into bottle or bell shape (for example see above).


The Text and Illustration was taken the from Employment Commission 1842.

Article originally published by Peter Woodward of My Broxtowe Hundred Journal Website. 



About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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