Working Conditions at The Llanymynech Limeworks in the 19th Century
Men were employed in many jobs at Llanymynech. The main jobs were:
- Powder Monkey - In charge of setting the explosives at the quarry
- Throwing down gang - Men who broke the shattered rock and loaded the trucks
- Packer - He unloaded the limestone rock and used it to build walls
- Burner or Firer - He pushed barrow loads of coal across the top of the kiln
- and shovelled it down the stoke holes
- Lime Drawer - Removed quicklime from the kiln after it had been burnt
In the 1890s, boys working at the quarry face earned about 5/- (5 shillings) a week. This might be the equivalent of £20.00 in today’s money. The Packers earned about 6/- for a week’s work. They worked from 6.30am to 5.30pm on weekdays, and from 6.30am to 1.00pm on Saturdays.
Men were paid “Piece Work” – the more work they completed, the more they were paid. In the evenings they often did extra work on the farms, or on their own pieces of land called smallholdings, to make extra money. The work was hard and there were particular dangers:
- There were accidents in the quarries when gunpowder exploded unexpectedly – see the Cooper’s Rock Explosion.
- The Burners or Firers above the Hoffmann Kiln did heavy manual work in very hot conditions, and it was even more backbreaking for the Packers inside the kiln.
- Quicklime irritated or burnt the skin, especially if it was wet or sweaty, often leaving the Lime Drawers with pock-marked skin.
- There could be accidents with moving machinery such as the brake drums or the tramway trucks, especially if men got fingers or toes trapped.
However, there were plenty of jobs in the late 19th century, so if a man was sacked for poor work or for breaking company rules, he could soon get a job elsewhere. Work at the Limeworks was considered to be man’s work – women did not work here. The men were considered “hard” – they often became involved in fights and brawls and did not welcome visitors to their village!
During the 19th Century attempts were made to improve conditions for the workers. Men could pay into Friendly Societies which offered a form of insurance if a man was off sick or if he died. John Roberts, a company foreman, was a member of the Grand Order Of Druids – his membership scroll is displayed in the Stables Education Block.