Vultures and Limbo

Do these sources, and the site at Quarry Bank Mill; fully explain what working conditions were like for children in textile mills, such as the one at Quarry Bank, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Explain your answer with reference to your site study at Quarry Bank Mill; the sources and knowledge form your studies.

Firstly, I am going to study Sources A-E. Source A is an eyewitness account of a visit to Quarry Bank Mill in 1845. This is quite useful in the sense that it is an eyewitness account, and is first hand evidence. Frederick Engles, the writer was obviously an educated man and a respected writer. Engles was also a campaigner for the rights of the labouring classes such as the very young children. The report that he gave the mill was in favour of the owner, because Greg had shown him around all of the best areas of the mill. Greg would not want to paint a bad picture of his mill, and probably had had many practices and run-throughs of what he was going to show Engles, and what the children were to say to him. Overall a reliable source, but there is still hints that it could have been changed for Greg’s benefit.

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Source B, an interview between the superintendents who looked after Greg’s apprentices at Quarry Bank Mill and a government official checking on how apprentice children were treated and their living conditions,The source is quite reliable because of how old the evidence is, it may also suggest that there could have been a possible ‘deal’ between Greg and His Superintendant and his wife. The childreen were described that they looked more ill before they came to gregs mill, and a short time after being at the mill, they looked as healthy as ever. However, it only shows a small part of the interview.

Although the site visit and other sources back up what the extracts from the interview were saying, Greg was present and there is no evidence of the officials visiting the mill. Im not saying this is true but because of Gregs presence when the official was talking to the Superintendants, they may have said things that wernt true in fear that if they told the truth, Greg would have them sacked. Overall the source is quite reliable but it could do with more of the interview and possibly an interview with the superintendants on thier own.

In Source C, there is information from a textbook by Dr Pauline Gregg (who was of no relation to Samuel Greg), gives evidence about the poor areas of the mills. The source is limited by the fact that it was just from a textbook and didnt focus on any particular aspect of the mills, just mills in general. It does not give information about other mills and her account of punishments seems to rely on Robert Blincoe. A historian wrote it, however, so lots of research will have been done and it should have no bias although it may not be reliable for specific examples. Although not a primary source of evidnce, it was well planned and the writer was taking information from both sides before coming to a conclusion, I dont think this source is good enough to fully explain working conditions for children in mills. It may be true for other mills but she has just taken an average and thought that in was inevitable in all mills.

Source D, is an account of the punishment of Esther Price by Robert Hyde Greg, (who was Gregs Nephew) describes punishments at Quarry Bank and shows how they were softer than other mills. This is backed up by evidence from the site visit, which shows that punishments were not as harsh at Quarry Bank. However, only one punishment is mentioned and Greg would want to appear to be a good and kind man. There is also other evidence which isnt included in this source which shows more accurately the punishments at the mill. I dont think this source is reliable enough to make any judgemnts from, but is good the way it illustrates the lightness of the punishments gave out at Quarry bank mill.

The fifth and last source, Source E, is a picture of a mule-spinning mill in 1835 and shows visual evidence from inside the mill. Other evidence such as the machines can back up this source. However, the picture only shows one part of the mill, other evidence contradicts this and we do not know where the artist of the picture got his evidence. The picture could have been made up as propaganda against the mills, as a way to help get them shut down. We do not know waht side the artist was on, was he for or against the mills? Overall, again not another reliable source, when I vistited the mill I seen the machines in working order and how loud and dangerous they can be.

Other research that I did backs up evidence that Quarry Bank Mill was a good place to work. Samuel Greg put guards on machines and extractor fans before legislation forced him to do so. Greg’s punishments were not harsh compared to a lot of other mills. However, most other evidence about mills is bad – my research states that children were hung over machinery by their hands and one girl lost her leg after having been caught in the dangerous machinery. The sanittaion at the mill was much better, there was an apprentice house, where they had clean beds, clean toilets and a healthy diet.

In conclusion, I think that the above information sources are too unreliable to tell us fully what mills were like in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For example, most sources have been influenced by Samuel Greg to make his mill look better and due to health and safety rules, the site visit was also too limited to get a good picture of what Quarry Bank Mill used to be like.