William Rastrick

William Rastrick had worked as an overlooker at Shute's Silk Mill in Watford. Rastrick was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 23rd July, 1832.

Primary Sources

(1) William Rastrick was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 23rd July, 1832.

Question: How young have you known children go into silk mills.

Answer: I have known three at six; but very few at that age.

Question: What were your hours of labour?

Answer: From six in the morning till seven at night.

Question: Was it found necessary to beat children to keep them up to their employment?

Answer: Certainly.

Question: Did the beating increase towards evening?

Answer: Their strength relaxes more towards the evening; they get tired, and they twist themselves about on their legs, and stand on the sides of their feet.

Question: As an overlooker did you stimulate them to labour by severity?

Answer: Certainly, my employer always considered this indispensable.

Question: Did you not find it very irksome to your feelings, to have to take those means of urging the children to the work?

Answer: Extremely so; I have been compelled to urge them on to work when I knew they could not bear it; but I was obliged to make them strain every nerve to do the work, and I can say I have been disgusted with myself and with my situation; I felt myself degraded and reduced to the level of a slave-driver in such cases.

Question: Is not tying the broken ends, or piecing, an employment that requires great activity.

Answer: Yes.

Question: Does not the material often cut the hands of those poor children?

Answer: Frequently; but some more than others. I have seen them stand at their work, with their hands cut, till the blood has been running down to the ends of their fingers.

Question: Is there more work required of the children than there used to be when you first knew the business?

Answer: Yes; on account of the competition which exists between masters. One undersells the other; consequently the master endeavours to get an equal quantity of work done for less money.