[LMB] TSK - Echoes

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 23 18:35:41 BST 2019

From: Eric Oppen <ravenclaweric at gmail.com>

The thing was, the "dark satanic mills" in Victorian England WERE
progress!  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the surplus rural population
had only a few options, and none of them were good.  After the factories
were there, they could go and work in them.
Also, the Industrial Revolution made a lot of things more accessible to the
poor, like making clothes cheaper.
Most of the sneering at factories was by people who were too rich to have
any idea of what life was like for the real poor.  They would rhapsodize
about how much better life was in the country.  Which it was, _if you owned
land!_  Tenants, OTOH, were at the mercy of their landlords, and life in
those quaint, picturesque country cottages was often pretty hellish.

Gwynne: Up until the industrial revolution there wasn't a huge amount of
unneeded population. It wasn't until machinery came along to displace
workers that there was the workforce available for mills, etc. Instead of a
dozen men doing the harvest, you needed one or two and a machine. So
ten men lost their jobs, and their homes - since farm workers usually lived
in tied cottages.

Spinning and weaving was done in cottages. Then the factories came along
and took over the process. So instead of working at home the workers were
herded into factories. There was little or no effort at safety procedures, or
good conditions for the workers.

Employers often preferred children, because they were cheaper. And they
could be chained to the work benches. They slept under the benches, and
worked on them by day. Some employers banned the children from
speaking, others stuck pins in them to make them work faster.

If there was an industrial accident, such as a machine catching hair and ripping
most of the scalp off, or chewing up a few fingers, the worker would be
turned out and a new one taken on. There was no compensation or ongoing

In a carpet factory there was a large press, operated by steam power, that
rose and fell automatically, all day. Each carpet had to be spread under the
press, then children would rush out to pick up any loose threads or waste,
before the press came down. There was no safety stop if a child fell or was
too slow. They were paid slightly extra, but most of them couldn't do the
job for too long.

Young women making matches died early from a nasty condition caused
by the chemicals. Women who worked painting the luminous hands on clocks,
and other luminous markings, died early as their jaws rotted away - they'd
lick the brushes to keep them the right shape, and absorbed the radioactive
material. Hatters did go mad, from mercury poisoning as they worked with
the felt.

A few mill owners tried to do better. There were a few who built homes
for their workers, tried to make conditions more liveable. There were regarded
as anomalies by the rest of them.

Make no mistake, the mills weren't a better life than farm work.

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