Stephen Binns was born in 1792. He began work as a piecener in the local textile mill when he was seven years old. When he was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 2nd June, 1832, he was working as an overlooker in a factory in Leeds. Binns told the committee that the children were treated better when the factory had visitors: "Yes, and the children have less to do, and the girls wash their faces, and comb their hair, and make themselves look better; and being in their Sunday clothes, they appear to be in more prosperous circumstances then they really are."
Question: What is the temperature in the rooms in which hot-water spinning is carried on?
Answer: It varies; at the factory where I was employed, it was about 80.
Question: Is there any reason why the windows could not be kept open?
Answer: Yes; because as soon as the windows are opened the yarn becomes injured, because the temperature of the room is lessened; it cools the water, and the hot water dissolves the gum, and assists the rollers in breaking the flax.
Question: What is the temperature of the water?
Answer: About 110, sometimes about 120.
Question: Have the children to plunge their hands and arms into the water?
Answer: Yes, continually.
Question: What is the effect of the heat of the rooms, and the water, and the steam?
Answer: Their clothes are steamed, as it were, partially wet.
Question: Are the children endangered in going out into the street after labour, especially in winter time?
Answer: Yes, I should think they would be frozen.
Question: What are the hours of labour at Mr. Stirk's factory?
Answer: Thirteen hours a day.
Question: Could you keep the children to their work for that length of time without chastisement?
Answer: No; it is impossible to get the quantity of work from them without punishment.
Question: Was the chastisement inflicted principally at the latter end of the day, when they became weary?
Answer: Principally about two or three, or four or five o'clock, and in some degree all the day at times, but more after dinner than any other time.
Question: Have the children any opportunity of resting.
Answer: It is not allowed in any factory. Whenever I see a seat in our factory, a log of wood, or anything to sit upon, I order it to be taken away immediately.
Question: Have you any reason to think that, upon inspections of visitors, the sickly children are kept away?
Answer: I have heard say so.
Question: Then the difference made in the mill by preparation for visitors is, that matters are made more tidy and clean than usual.
Answer: Yes, and the children have less to do, and the girls wash their faces, and comb their hair, and make themselves look better; and being in their Sunday clothes, they appear to be in more prosperous circumstances then they really are.