LLANSAMLET COALFIELD IN 1842

[The following is a direct transcription of the evidence presented to the Children's Employment Commission of 1842. Appendix to first report of the Commissioners. P.P. 1842 XVII 560-561 .]

LLANSAMLET COLLIERY, parish of Llansamlet, county of Glamorgan - Charles Henry Smith, Esq., Proprietor.

        Number of persons employed:-
  Adults 290
  Under 18 years age 89
  Under 13 ditto 42

Mr David Hill, cashier and clerk:

Our mines are entered by shafts, the depth of each being respectively 90 to 100 fathoms.

They are ventilated by furnaces at pit-bottom and by air-shafts. Men and boys are not allowed to enter the workings unless they have been first inspected by the overmen, of whom there are 16, whose business it is to make minute examinations in order to 'prevent the accumulation of gas. We have both fire and choke-damp in considerable quantities, but from the., attention paid to ventilation but one accident has occurred within the last two years. The young persons are employed in wheeling coals from the workings to the steam-engine below which drops the coal down an incline to the bottom of the shaft. The average weight of coal in the barrows is from 2 to 4 cwt. We are at present working three seams, 5 feet, 3 feet and 16 inches, and the youngest boys, except the air-door boys, who are employed as early as six years old, work in the small seams. In order to give height we cut away the bottom, and the smallest height of our main road is five feet six inches. We have a medical fund for sickness and accidents, to which the workpeople contribute 13d. per quarter. No organic disease can well be said to exist among the men; they are troubled a good deal with rheumatism.

We have no school supported by the works, but there are several schools in the adjoining village.

As our machinery works the whole 24 hours, that is to say, constantly at work, we employ two sets of men and boys; the latter work shorter turns, rarely averaging more than nine hours. Each class, as colliers, trammers, and others working under ground, are paid separately and are very regular in their work. They work six days a week, and at the conclusion of their monthly work they seldom waste more than half a day after the pay.

We had one strike last year, when the men stood out 13 weeks, and returned to the work with no further advance to themselves. The colliers about this part are quite equal in morals to other workpeople in this neighbourhood; but, from the early age at which it is the practice to take children into the mines, their education is greatly inferior, and I should say that not one-third of the adults can read.

The health of the colliers is greatly to be attributed to the cleanly habits of the females, and their care in providing warm clothing for their children and husbands, a point on which the women of these parts are remarkably particular.

David Davies, aged 16, wheeler

Has been eight years at work; works in the three-foot vein and wheels coals in a barrow from the headings to the main road, a distance of 80 yards; each barrow contains about 2 cwt. of coal. We have to wheel down hill and to throw the coal over into a tram which is dropped down the incline by the steam-engine. I work 12 hours daily; and it is the practice of the men to change every six months, when those who have been at day-work take the night-shifts, and so change about.

I have never been much hurt since I have been employed; never been off work more than two days from any hurt received. Have three brothers working below; one is seven years old and is an air-door keeper; none of us have been to day-school, but all of us are learning to read at the Sunday-school; we learn in Welsh.

[Reads Welsh very well; cannot write. I examined the brother, Isaiah Davies, who seemed to have a great dislike of the darkness of the pit; indeed it seemed to have made the child stupid.]

Benjamin Dunn, air-door boy

Began work only two months ago; wouldn't like to work below, only that he has two brothers below besides. Goes to work at five or six in the morning, and returns at five or six at night. Takes bread and cheese along with him; always has a candle; earns 6d a day. Never got hurt. Brothers and I go to Welsh chapel to learn letters on the Sunday; we are just beginning to spell in Welsh.

David Howard, aged l7, driver

Was eight year old when first taken to work. Always been driving horses below. Used to get rubbed a little at first with the carts, but never got a serious hurt. I drive from the
workings to the engine in the five-foot seam; the roads I drive on are all trammed. Work 12 hours daily; earn about 28s. 7d.. a month. We descend by shaft, although we have a ladder-pit if we like to use it. The dip in the mine in which I work is six inches in a yard.

[Scarcely knows the Welsh letters and otherwise ignorant.]

William Rosser, aged 16, driver

Been seven years below; was two years at the air-door before driving. Has occasionally got hurt, but never off more than two or three days. The length of road I drive is about 400 yards. I make 20 to 25 journeys a day. The roads are all trammed; we work pretty constantly. My wages last month were 28s. 7d., about what I usually earn.

I think I went to school once. I am just learning the Welsh at Sunday-school.

[Just knows the Welsh letters; a very fair religious knowledge.]

David Watkins, 6 air-door boy
Been down three months.