Information Sheet 1 - Factories and Mines Acts in the 19th Century
By 1800 it was common for children to work in factories or mines. Very few children went to school. Laws were passed throughout the 19th century to protect children working in factories and mines. They were largely due to the work of Robert Owen and Lord Shaftsbury who visited the factories and mines and were appalled by the way children were treated at work.
1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act – attempted to:
- Limit the hours children could work down the mine each day
- Improve the conditions of pauper (apprentice) children employed in early mills.
(The law failed as there was no-one to enforce it and the mine owners ignored it.)
1819 Factory Act – attempted to:
- Prevent employment of any children under nine in a mill
- Limit the hours of work for older children.
(The law also failed for the same reasons.)
1833 Factory Act
- No child under nine could work in a mill
- Limited working hours for older children
- All working children should receive some schooling
(This law was better enforced because inspectors visited the factories. People were beginning to care more about children and gradually learning how cruel conditions often were. After 1836 all children had to have a birth certificate to prove their age.)
1842 Mines Act
- No women or girls and no boys under 10 were allowed underground.
- Inspectors were appointed to inspect the mines.
1844 Factory Act (Twelve Hours Act)
- Women and children could work no more than twelve hours a day
- Dangerous machinery had to be fenced.
1847 Factory Act (Ten Hours Act)
- Women and children could work no more than ten hours a day.
1867 Factory Act
- Extended factory laws to all other places of work, not just woollen or cotton mills.
1878 Factories and Workshops Act
- No children under 10 were allowed to work
- Compulsory schooling was introduced for all children
- It was still normal for children over 10 to go out to work