The plight of 'climbing boys', 1818
HLRO HL/PO/JO/10/8/1064/473


(5)
Die Veneris, 13° Martii 1818.
The Lord AUCKLAND in the Chair.
ORDER of Adjournment read.
The Counsel and Parties are ordered to be called in.
Order read, referring to this Committee the Petition of certain Parishioners of the Parish of Woolwich, in the County of Kent: Also, the Petition of certain Inhabitants of the Town of Birmingham: And also, the Petition of certain Inhabitants of the Town and Neighbourhood of Sunderland near the Sea, in the County of Durham, against the Employment of climbing Boys.
The said Petitions are read.
[The Proceedings of the Committee on the Bill on Wednesday last, are read.]
The Title of the Bill is read and postponed.
The Preamble is read.
Dr. Lushington is heard in support of the Bill.
WILLIAM COOPER is then called in, and examined as follows by William Cooper.
Dr. Lushington:
Are you a Chimney Sweeper by Trade? - Yes.
Were you an Apprentice to the Trade? - Yes.
At what Age were you apprenticed? - I was Ten Years old; they said I was Nine; that was what my Father told me; he put me down so.
Do you remember being taught to climb Chimneys? - Yes.
What did you feel upon the first Attempt to climb a Chimney? - The first Chimney I went up, they told me there was some Plumb-pudding and Money up at the Top of it, and that is the Way they enticed me up; and when I got up, I would not let the other Boy get from under me to get at it, I thought he would get it; I could not get up, and shoved the Pot and Half the Chimney down into the Yard.
Did you experience any Inconvenience to your Knees, or your Elbows? - Yes, the Skin was off my Knees and Elbows too, in climbing up the new Chimneys they forced me up.
How did they force you up? - When I got up, I cried out about my sore Knees.
Were you beat or compelled to go up by any violent means? - Yes, when I went to a narrow Chimney, if I could not do it, I dare not go home; when I used to come down, my Master would well beat me with the Brush; and not only my Master, but when we used to go with the Journeymen, if we could not do it, they used to hit us Three or Four Times with the Brush.
B
(25.)
How

( 6 )
William Cooper. How long was it, according to the best of your Recollection, that the Skin upon your Knees and Elbows continued to be sore, when you first began to learn? - I suppose about a Month before they thoroughly got well at all.
Were you under the Necessity of climbing the Chimneys while in that State? - Yes, I climbed them, and I climbed the Chimneys with a great Swelling on my Knees, which came of itself.
Is it usual to teach Boys to climb by Means of Blows or Threats, when they first begin? - Yes, nothing else, and enticing them up by Money; and if they will not go with being enticed up, they beat them, and force them to go up.
Beat them with a Stick? - No, a Brush; they have not a Stick with them; some of them carry a Piece of twisted Cord, twisted round like a Cat-of-nine-tails.
Do they call it a Cat in the Trade? - Yes, it is known by that Name.
That is applied with some Severity to the Boys sometimes, is it? - Yes, I went the other Day down to Marybone Court, to Mr. Wright's, who buys my Soot of me; I went down into the Cellar to talk to him; the other Boy says, George has not swept out the cellar; he did no more, than brought our this Piece of Cord, and cut the Boy shockingly; he is not above Eight or Nine Years old.
How long ago is that? - About a Month ago; he began to halloo out, and the Master said not a Word more about it.
Do you know how the Boys are generally treated along with the Chimney Sweepers? - Yes, many of them let out for what they call going out a Queering, to those Men that go hawking about the Streets, calling "Sweep for the Soot."
How are they lodged in general? - Very badly indeed in some Places; in other places, they are very well.
For the most Part are they ill or well lodged? - Very bad indeed,; some have no more than One Blanket, some a Bit of Straw, and some a few Sacks to lie on.
Where do they generally lie? - In the Cellar, and up in the Loft.
When they sleep in the Cellar, is the soot put into the same Place? - Yes, always.
What Sort of Clothing are they generally allowed? - According to the Masters; some Masters use the Boys pretty well as to giving them Clothes, other Masters altogether keep them Months and Months before they are washed to the Skin.
During the Winter-time, when the Boys go out on their Duty, have they Shoes and Stockings? - If I go out with a Journeyman in the Morning, if I have got bad Chilblains, and if I cannot get on fast enough, I must off with my Shoes, or they will knock me down with their Hand, and I must run through the Snow without Shoes, which I have done many times.
How often are they washed? - Sometimes every Week, sometimes every Fortnight, and sometimes not more than once a Year. A great many Masters if they have got a new Suit of Clothes for them, the Mistresses, to get a Drop of any Thing to drink, will go and pawn the Clothes; and then when Sunday comes, "My Man, you must have a Dose of Physic, you are not well;" and so they do not want their Clothes.
Do you know of the Boys being subject to any Accidents? - Yes, I have known one at Temple Bar: I came myself, and went up to him, but it was too late; the Boy was lost through a Woman forcing him up, it was his Mistress; he was not thoroughly learned, and he stuck himself in, and it was the Death of him; it was up Devereux Court, Temple Bar; he was dead.
Do you know of any other Instances? - There was another at the Corner of Green Street; One of our Boys who is in the Workhouse now, unless he is dead. I went
and
4

close window
image
back to top of page