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Bygone Stanley - 18th Century Opinions


Since Stanley was a mining village, it may be of interest to hear of what was said about miners a couple of centuries ago

Thomas Hargreaves, in the late part of the 18th century, said of the collier, 'they' are loose, idle men, not much esteemed and not to be depended upon. They are only common colliers and are employed by the day or week.' A school board report of 1876/77 in this area said, the colliers are a very rough lot; inability to read or write is by no means unusual.

One of the Fentons, owners of Stanley Colliery said, 'On the whole their colliers were a well behaved lot finding their pleasure in the pub, the chapel, cockfighting and gaming or other innocuous pastimes.'

Frank Hodges in his write up of 'The Men and His Union' said, 'In 1799 men, women and children earned their living in the bowels of the earth. The conditions under which they worked were little short of slavery. Tiny children, too frail and tender to stand the fatigue of walking to the place of work underground, were oft times carried on the backs of their fathers or mothers, who by this means, economised the pitiful faltering energy of the infant during the long hours of work. Accidents were numerous; explosions occurred with great force and frequently.

It was no rare thing for many to be killed in one explosion, fatalities were considered to be inevitable. Previous to 1814 there were no inquests and widows had no compensation, Some of the coal owners made a generous offer of making a coffin available of good stout timber for colliers killed at work.

One could enlarge very much, but this gives a little background on the collier's life in Stanley during that period.

As educational facilities improved, these poor creatures, almost slaves, produced sons and daughters who, within a few generations, became the present residents of Stanley - engineers in mining, electrical and mechanical, surveyors, magistrates, teachers, nurses, professional men and women and skilled workmen of many trades and businesses. Many Stanley villagers of today can trace their forefathers back to this period. At least one of my ancestors, a great, great grandfather, was one of the early colliers (1840).

The agricultural worker during this period of late 18th and early 19th centuries worked in better conditions than miners, but wages were poor. They lived in poor houses and had to work the land almost by hand. The cottages in which they lived were owned by their employers and they were obliged to work for that employer for wages which he could afford to pay. If they left this employer to take another job, he was expected to leave his cottage or, failing to do so, his family were evicted.

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