Eliza Marshall gave evidence before the Factory Commission in 1832. This is her story.
Eliza Marshall tells us: 'I live near the middle of Bayton Street, Top Close, in a cellar. I pay 1s a week for it. Nobody lives with us. I do nothing. I have no mother. I live with my little sisters. The youngest is going fifteen, and the other is sixteen. I am turned eighteen. My sisters work, one at Rush's, the other at Durham. I have 2s 6d a week from the town.'
Eliza was nine when she came to Leeds. She lived in Meadow Lane, and worked in the screwing room at Marshall's. She moved to Burgess's in Lady Lane, a worsted mill, where she learned to spin, using a one-spindle frame. She was paid 3s and then 3s and 6d, and she worked from 6am to 7pm. The firm was taken over by Mr. Warburton, who, because she was a good worker, picked Eliza to work long hours, from 5am to 9pm. There was half an hour for dinner, and no time for breakfast or drinking. Work stopped at 5pm on Saturdays.
'I was not lame then. I had my strength very well. I had my health very well till I took from 5 to 9.' My sister was very well too while we worked from 6 to 7. She began to fail too when we began the long hours. I was turned 10 when I began to work from 5 to 9. My sister was 9.'
Eliza tried to leave Warburton's when her workload was increased. 'I was like killed with it: my legs were like to break in two.' 'It was the work and hours together that hurt me and always having to stop the flies with my knee…..It was having to crook my knee to stop the spindle that lamed me as much as anything else.'
Eliza's mother found work for her and her sister at another factory, Wilkinson's, but Warburton persuaded her to return to work for him. He was a harsh master.
'It was after I came back that he knocked me down. I was very weak, Sir, you know: I was soon knocked down. He came in one Saturday, and was so vexed with me for having left him... It was a common thing for him to beat the hands then...He had not struck me for a long time before. Not since I was little. He has strapped me many a time when I was lesser.'
Eliza tells us about her meals at work:
'I took my meals with me, I generally took a bottle of coffee with me for breakfast, and warmed it at top of boiler. Sometimes with milk and sometimes not. For dinner sometimes bread and butter, sometimes cheese and bread or a bit of meat. My mother used to cook it at night, and we warmed it there when we did not go home to dinner. I used to take no coffee at drinking time, only a bit of bread. Sometimes we did not live so well. We mostly had a bit of meat on Sunday and Monday, sometimes on other days.'
Eliza Marshall had to work, because she had no father, and her mother could not keep her and her sisters unless they worked. When she was 11, she started to become lame. By the time she was 17 she was so ill that she could no longer work in the factory. Then, when she was about 17 and a half her mother died, and her stepfather left her and her sisters to fend for themselves.
Finding any other work was almost impossible. Eliza had been to Sunday school, but when she started the long hours and was so lame, she was not able to work on weekdays, much less go to school on Sundays. She could read a little, had been learning to write, and she could sew.
When her mother died, Eliza was learning to be a dress maker with Mrs. Darley of Timble Brigg; she had to pay half a guinea a year for this, but as she tells us:
'My mother was taken very ill, and I had to mind her, and then I was very poorly, and in the Infirmary myself: I have never been able to go backwards and forwards since. The iron I wear is so heavy. It supports me up, but I don't feel any stronger... Sometimes I get better, and then again I can hardly stir.
By this time Eliza and her sisters were living in a cellar at Bank, opposite Holdfirth's factory. She didn't want to move nearer to Mrs. Darley to resume her sewing lessons, because 'We have lived there seven years among friends nigh at hand to help us, and I shouldn't like to leave them.'
|Click images to enlarge|
Yard off Meadow Lane
Workers in Marshalls Mills
Houses in the Bank area, East Street
Houses in the Bank area, Brass Street
Interior of cellar dwelling