Thursday 14 March 2019.
“It will do him more good than going to school”: Child Labour in Nineteenth century Oxfordshire.
The quotation which began the title of Liz Woolley’s lecture comes from a poor law guardian at Cottisford and reflects an attitude that was widespread in rural England in the nineteenth century – that it was perfectly normal – and indeed necessary – for children, even those under the age of ten, to contribute to family income by undertaking full-time work. Building on the work of the late Dr Pamela Horn, Liz Woolley used a variety of sources, including school long books, poor law records, census returns and some remarkable photographs, to give a detailed picture of ways in which young children were employed in the county, in agriculture and domestic service virtually everywhere, in lacemaking around Bicester and Thame, in glove-making around Woodstock, in brickmaking at Headington Quarry and in slop tailoring around Abingdon. Liz showed how, in the early decades of the century, parish apprenticeships might be sent to employers in distant parts of the country, to Benjamin Smart’s cotton spinning mill at Milverton, Warwick, to fishermen at Gorleston or to a coal mine at Dudley. It was cheering to hear that research on a topic which has been well-investigated in the past is taking forward our understanding of the county’s past.