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Working Children


Back to the introduction to working children

Chimney Sweeps | Factories | Street sellers | Coal mines

Street Children

Thousands of poor children worked and lived on the streets. Many were orphans, others were simply neglected. They worked very long hours for very little money. To buy bread, they sold matches, firewood, buttons, flowers or bootlaces, polished shoes, ran errands and swept the crossing places where rich people crossed the busy roads.

Coal Mines

Trappers | Drawers | Dangers of working in a mine

When did children stop working in the mines?

Coal was the main source of power in Victorian times. It was used for cooking and heating, and for driving machinery, trains and steam ships.

Until 1842, children under the age of 10 worked in coal mines

In order to produce more coal, the mines needed more workers and children as young as 5 years old were used to supply this need. They worked for up to 12 hours a day.

cola mine


Trappers were children who operated the air doors providing ventilation for the miners. By keeping the fresh air flowing they prevented the build up of dangerous gases. The children would sit in the draft of the doors, cold, damp and very frightened, with little or no light for 12 hours a day.

"I sit in the dark down in the pit for 12 hours a day. I only see daylight on Sundays when I don't work down the pit. Once I fell asleep and a wagon ran over my leg" Boy aged 7

"I hate the dark, it scares me. I never go to sleep. Sometimes I sing, there is nothing else to do other than open and close the door." Girl aged 8


Drawers pulled heavy carts of cut coal to the pits surface with heavy chains around their waists.

" I am a drawer, and work from six o'clock in the morning to six at night. stop about an hour at noon to eat my dinner: I have bread and butter for dinner; I get no drink.

I have a belt round my waist, and a chain passing between my legs, and I go on my hands and feet. The tunnels are narrow and very wet where I work. My clothes are wet through almost all day long." Girl aged 10


The coal mines were dangerous places where roofs sometimes caved in, explosions happened and workers often injured themselves.

Below is a small sample of how children were killed working in coal mines (information from

  • A trapper, only 10 years old killed in an explosion.
  • A horse driver aged 11. Crushed by horse.
  • A driver, aged 14 fell off limmers and was crushed between the tubs and a door.
  • A token keeper aged 14. Crushed by surface wagons on branches.
  • A screenboy aged 12. Crushed by surface wagons.
  • A trapper aged 12. Crushed by tubs.
  • A driver aged 12. Horse fell on him.
  • A bank boy aged 11. Caught by cage.
  • A driver aged 12. Head crushed between tub top and a plank while riding on limmers.
  • A trapper aged 13. Head crushed between cage and bunton while riding to bank.
  • Tub Cleaner, aged 13. Fell down the shaft off a pumping engine.
  • Boy aged 14, drowned.
  • Boy, aged 7. Killed in an explosion.
  • Trapper , aged 9. Killed in an explosion.
  • Driver, aged 14. Crushed against wall by a horse.
  • Screen Boy, aged 15. Head crushed between a tub and screen legs ; too little room.

When did children stop working in the mines?

The Mines Act was passed by the Government in 1847 forbidding the employment of women and girls and all boys under the age of ten down mines. Later it became illegal for a boy under 12 to work down a mine.

Other Websites

Working Children (C4)

Channel 4

Nettlesworth Primary School


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