The Industrial Revolution-By Zach Forster
Third of October, 1801
Dear Diary, the date today is the third of October, 1801. Today was my 15th birthday and as a reward for my effort and work, my family got me this diary.
A loud cough wakes me up. I sit up on my cardboard mat, and my thin cotton sheet falls down to my knees. The cold air bites at me. I open my eyes to see the rest of my family and the other families whom I share this room with, still asleep. The sick and elderly wheeze and cough on their makeshift beds while the rest of us sleep on the cold slate floors. Looking out the window, I see the sun beginning to rise beyond the rows of small, identical houses, all of which house workers in the same position as myself, if not worse. There are stories about the poorer families, living underneath us, where the filthy, disease filled water seeps in through weakened walls. I stand up and walk around my sleeping neighbours. I check on my siblings; hopeful they are still breathing. Relieved, I wake up my family so they can start getting ready for work. I leave the room and begin my descent to the communal toilet outside. Only now am I reminded that I haven't eaten since yesterday morning, and I am hungry, but now isn't the time to eat. Money and food is scarce in my family, regardless of the fact that five of us work every day. I begin walking towards Bradford Colliery in the center of the town, where I work. As I walk through the dirty streets filled with sewage and littered with rats and the occasional lifeless body, I see some boys I know from the mine. I have taught myself not get attached to anyone here, they could die any day. My friend James, aged 9, was crushed by a wagon down in the mines just yesterday. The mines are extremely dangerous, there are very high death rates.
Ninth of October, 1801
Dear diary, today is Sunday, my day off. I usually work for 12-14 hours a day, six days a week but today I can spend time writing in my diary. My father has become very sick, and my family is very scared. Two years ago my brother Robert died from cholera, and we are hoping the same thing doesn’t happen to Charles, my dad. There are rumours of some families in our area sick with cholera.
My family and my elderly neighbours tell me stories about life prior to what they’re calling “The Industrial Revolution”. They told me about how everything used to be made in the home. This all changed when inventions like “The spinning Jenny” were introduced. They told me about mining with “drift mines” and “bell pits”. I was particularly fascinated with stories about fire damp. Fire damp is a flammable gas that’s found in mines. The fire used for lighting mines would mix with the gas and create an explosion, and the mine was at high risk of collapsing. But now, an invention by Humphrey Davy called the “safety lamp” contains the fire and therefore stops firedamp explosions. This has saved my life a multitudinous amount of times. My Grandparents used to work on their own farm, but they moved to Bradford because of something called the “enclosure movement” and started working in factories. They had to use the same basic tools for many years, and there was a high death rate because of malnutrition, poverty, and sometimes plague. I’m told they were very lucky to have survived. I have also been told about the steam engine, by James Watts. Not only did it power many machines including trains, but it also removed water from mines. The steam engine runs on coal, which is where most of the towns business comes from. Mining coal keeps me and my family fed.
Sixteenth of October, 1801
Dear diary, my father has become worse. He has been unable to work, so the family is struggling. Although four of us work, the wages are very low. For some people the revolution meant more money. My father calls them the industrial middle class, which is mainly factory owners. There are three social classes in the industrial revolution. Working class, middle class, and the aristocracy. As the working class, we feel exploited by the higher classes. We are treated unfairly and unjust. The mines are unsafe, we are whipped by supervisors, we work extremely long hours, and we are paid low wages. It's inhumane. Since women and children including myself are in desperate need of work, we are paid lower wages and are left unable to object. In fact, we feel over worked by the owners of our mine.
They’re also building a railway in the town. They say we’re going to make more money now because we can export coal to other towns who need it.
Fourth of April, 1802
Dear diary, it’s been around six months since I last wrote, but I’ve been busy. I’ve had to start working seven days a week ever since my father died. My mother keeps calling me the “Man of the house”. It’s a big responsibility. I decided to write about my family’s jobs today, as I hope in the future this book could be used as a reference regarding the Industrial Revolution.
My brother Samuel and I work as coal miners. Every day we are at risk of gas explosions, collapsing roofs, falling items, falling down tunnels, and drowning. The gas in the mine is sometimes poisonous, and if we live to retirement, we will be in serious pain from bending over and inhaling gas all day. Sam is a trapper. He has to open trap doors to release gas from the mines. He sits in a tight, dark space all day. I used to be a trapper, but I grew out of it. Now I work as hurrier and a hewer. I pull up to 150kg of coal through small tunnels to the horseways, where horses carry it out of the mine. I also cut the coal with the other men. My mother Mary works as a cotton farmer. Every day she complains about how she is treated unfairly and payed low wages. She has lost three fingers. Her supervisor threatens to fire her if she loses another. Sam’s twin sister Alice is forced to work as a child prostitute. My mum also used to work as a child prostitute, and she gave birth to me when she was 13. Some of the men in this town are sick. Alice and Sam are 12, and my younger siblings Grace and William are 2 and 3. We pay our retired neighbours to look after them when the rest of the family are at work.
Eighth of July, 1804
Dear diary, many miners were made redundant today. A new invention named the battery by Alessandro Volta has been putting the steam engine out of the business. I am still employed, but only because I still classify as a child and work for lower wages. My eighteenth birthday is fast approaching, so I am fearful that I will also be made redundant soon. I’m going to have to be working extra hard and looking for possible jobs from now on. I probably won’t get to write for a long time yet.
My neighbours say how much better life would be on a farm, far away from the mines. They argue that life was better in rural England. They talk about how they long to be free and working on their own terms. I don’t blame them. Life here is unfair, our only motivation to keep on living is to make money so our families can live.
Twelfth of August, 1842.
It’s been 38 years. It’s a true miracle my diary hasn’t been destroyed or lost by now, but miracles can happen. Recently a report was released to the public investigating conditions in the mines. The general reaction from the public is shocked, but I’m surprised they cared so much. The unfair treatment has been going on for years, surely someone must’ve known about it. Because of this report, a British Industrial Reformer named Anthony Ashley Cooper composed the Coal Mines Act. No boys under the age of 10 or women are allowed to work underground anymore, this is because some kids working in the mine were as young as 4. The report also states that they’re planning to introduce safety measures and shorten the work hours to eight. I’m glad my kids will be growing up when this act is in action, their lives will be so much better. It’s safe to say they will, because of the Industrial Revolution.