Find your ancestors in Britain, Children's Employment Commission Part 2, 1842

These documents are presented in a Portable Document Format (PDF). You can search the documents by name or keyword, or you can read the entire commission from beginning to end. If you discover your ancestor’s name within the document, your ancestor most likely owned a factory or was employed in a factory. However, the commission does not hold many names; it was created to record working conditions for children in various trades, rather than to record the names of factory workers.

The Children’s Employment Commission Report is the second report created by the Royal Commissioners. The Royal Commission of Inquiry was championed by Lord Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury, to investigate the condition and treatment of child workers. Sub-commissioners travelled across Great Britain and Ireland interviewing children and young adults, as well as parents, adult employees, educators, medical professionals, and clergymen. The segments that dealt directly with the condition of workers in Ireland have been published separately on Findmypast as Ireland, Children’s Employment Commission.

The first report focused on the working conditions within the mines and led to reform through the 1842 Coal Mines Act. The second report, found here, covered a variety of trades: textiles (including weaving, stitching, bleaching, and dying), printing, tobacco production, and more. The report shed light on the harsh reality faced by child labourers. It documented the hours they worked, their ages, and the dangerous nature of some of their work such as being exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time, over-crowded spaces, and lack of safety procedures. For example, the report recorded an incident with a paper making machine in which Andrew Loman, 14 years old, lost his arm. The report states that Lomas ‘was feeding the cylinder, and put his arm too forward, it was caught by the machine, broken, and then cut off. Another lad lost his arm by the same machine 1 year ago,’.

The report caused a shift in public opinion and lead to the Factory Act of 1844, which reduced the number of hours children worked in a day from up to thirteen hours to six and a half. After reading the report, Charles Dickens was inspired to write A Christmas Carol. The story offered commentary on greed, wealth, and power, wrapped in an unsuspecting Christmas narrative.