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Newtown and district
The flannel industry
  Working conditions in the hand-loom era  



We know what working conditions were like in the flannel industry in Newtown, because a local doctor called William Lutener wrote a report for parliament.
His report gives us a good idea what working in the industry must have been like in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign.
Dr Lutener was particularly concerned at the number of children working long hours.

  He found that there were around 270 children under 16 at work in the local woollen factories, and that some as young as seven were working 12 hour days !
Children would often be given the job of feeding wool into the carding machines. After several hours of this (especially at night) the children would become tired and accidents were common.
Dr Lutener said in his report:
"We have frequent accidents because the children get sleepy at night and get their hands in the work; I and my partner have had frequently to amputate the hands and fingers of children"
For more on the Chartist movement and their struggle for better conditions for working people go to the Llanidloes pages on Chartism
The Victorian picture opposite shows a factory inspector checking on children in a factory to make sure that they are not too young to work.
Although there was a Factory Act in 1833 which made it illegal to employ children under 9 in factories, the law was often broken and weavers often had to let their children work because they were desperate for extra income.
The new law protected children from exploitation, but made some of the poorest families even poorer.
The young children who were not allowed to work were left roaming the streets on their own while the families worked long hours for poor pay.
Local workers protested at these conditions. Many joined the Chartist movement and sometimes there were strikes, but the manufacturers were in control and the workers had a very difficult time of it.
factory inspector

During the 1840s and 1850s the industry began to go into a decline as other parts of the country began to produce flannel more cheaply.

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