Charles Dickens hosts a chat show. In this episode, he is joined by reforming peer Lord Shaftesbury to discuss child labour.
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'Ladies and gentlemen, live from the 19th-century,
at the heart of her Majesty's empire in the city of London,
'it's the Charles Dickens Show!
'Please will you welcome your host...
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Thank you, thank you, good evening and welcome.
This week on my show, we're going to be investigating a subject
which has been close to my heart for many a year.
Let me tell you,
this is the one that's REALLY guaranteed to get my goat!
And if you knew my goat,
ladies and gentlemen...
..you would not want to get on the wrong side of him. Listen to this.
Did you know, that as we stand here today in Victorian Britain,
80% of all children under the age of 16 years old
are in full-time work.
And in our coal and iron mines,
these children, both boys and girls, are starting work at the age of five.
Isn't that terrible?
Two words which should never have been joined together.
APPLAUSE Well, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, they shall be wrrrenched asunder!
And I aim to strike the heaviest blow in my power
for these poor, unfortunate creatures.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Oh, yes! Now,
we're going to be visiting one of the country's so-called ragged schools,
and talking to some poor children who are receiving
at least some kind of education.
And we'll let them put their points across
to a man who has dedicated his life to helping them
and thousands like them -
Loooord Shaftesbury is in the studio, ladies and gentlemen!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Did you bring your hammer, Lord Shaftesbury?
Yes, I left mine out the back, Charles.
HE LAUGHS I hope it's a big one!
But first up, we're joined by our roving reporter,
the lovely Nelly Trench.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-What've you been up to, Nelly?
-I've been interviewing children
who do some of the dirtiest and worst paid jobs
in towns across the country.
What we discovered was that their plight was so desperate
that they would turn their hand to anything.
John Love has been working as a mudlark on the banks of the Thames
near Execution Dock for almost three years.
John, what is it exactly that you're looking for?
-and iron and rope.
-Where do they come from?
Waste from the ships which is repairing the fitting.
-What's the best thing that you've ever found?
And they fetch a good price.
I got one of them through my foot last winter.
Some people find silvers and hammers that have fallen overboard,
but I never did yet.
I wish I could.
While John is searching the muddy banks of the river,
just a few miles away,
Sally Dunlop is heading to market to buy supplies.
Sally, and the other watercress sellers, pick up their wares
and then strike out in different directions,
with their baskets under their arms.
I'm very good at bargaining.
They can't take me in.
The woman tries to give me a small handful of watercresses,
I say, "I ain't taking that",
and then I go to the next basket and so on, all around.
And how much do you earn if you sell all your baskets?
-Usually it's threepence.
-And what can you buy with threepence?
A pint of milk.
One day, I earned a shilling and sixpence,
and the cresses only cost me the sixpence.
-How old are you, Sally?
-I'm not a child. I'm 11 years old.
There's so much younger than me out here. Some can barely walk.
I don't know how their mums can let 'em sell.
Do many of the little children cry
because the work's hard and they're cold?
-Do you ever feel like crying?
-It's no use crying, is it?
It gets bitter cold sometimes. Lucky I got these.
Some children around here don't even have shoes.
-Where did you get your slippers?
-A gent gave them to me.
He came here one day, asked for some cresses,
I gave him the cresses, and he said to wait here.
I waited here and he brought me back these. I didn't steal them.
Stealing is wrong, miss, and I would never do it.
If I done it, Mummy would beat me.
Here on the riverbank where John Love was taking his lunch,
I asked him if HE had ever been tempted to steal.
One of my mates was caught lifting coal from a barge
and got sent to the House of Correction for seven days.
He did better than mud-larking.
Why is that?
They gave him a jacket, stockings and shoes,
and he was never afraid of going to bed without a meal,
not that that's normal.
-Would you do it?
He says he's going to try it again in the winter.
But would you steal?
Nah. I ain't no thief.
Over on the other side of town, I found nine-year-old Betsy,
who is a pure finder.
Pure-finding is an essential part of the leather-making industry,
and Betsy's here to tell us little bit about it.
Well, I come up before a local magistrate,
and he told me to go and gather pure, and that he'd buy it off me.
-He's a tanner, you see, makes leather.
-So, pure is... Oh, watch out!
-Watch your step.
-Well spotted! You're a natural.
..lovely bit of pure, that.
So, pure is...
Well, it's dung, innit? Dog's muck.
We put it in a bucket like this one. See?
It's good to have a lid on it, then people don't mind it so much.
There we go.
So what do they actually do with the...
They rub it into leather. The gloves and suchlike for the rich ladies.
Like that pair you've got on, I expect.
I think they use it to clean it, to purify it.
That's why it's called pure. I've got a glove here myself.
But I usually just use my hand without the glove to pick stuff up.
It's easier to get a good grip on it,
and you can wash our hands better than you be able to wash a glove.
-But doesn't it smell?
-Depends what they've been eating, I suppose.
Some fellas clean out the kennels, so they make more money.
Although, if you ask me, that pure ain't such good material.
-What, it can make a difference what sort of pure...?
It matters very much what it looks like.
Sometimes prefer the dry stuff, and others like it to be dark and moist.
Let me tell you a secret.
Got a bucket of wet stuff like this, and they want it dry and chalky,
then you can mix it in with a bit of water from the old walls.
You pick the water out...like this and then you mix it in, like.
-You have a go.
-Oh, no, you're fine, thanks.
Go on, it ain't going to hurt you.
No, don't bother with your glove, just get your hands in! Look...
If they caught us at it, we'd be in trouble, mind,
but it's good to know the tricks, innit?
You know what I saw yesterday? Fella calling himself a street cleaner.
Came across him on one of my best patches.
You can always find some good pure.
Clearing up the muck, he was.
I ask you, how's a girl meant to make an honest living
if they go around clearing up all the pure before I can get to it?
In each of these trades,
there are hundreds of children working every day,
trying to make just enough money
to ward off starvation and the workhouse.
Some of these youngsters told me
that they do sometimes attend a ragged school.
But they can see no way out of the desperate poverty
into which they have been born.
This is Nelly Trent for the Charles Dickens Show.
Well, the old adage there, where there's muck, there's brass.
Well done for getting stuck in, Nelly,
and thank you, once again, for another splendid report.
That's my pleasure, Charles.
It's very important that we don't forget about these young innocents, isn't it, Lord Shaftesbury?
Oh, certainly. We shouldn't just think about the children
who are working in the factories and mills, we also need to remember
the children that we pass every day on the street.
Now, let tell you, my friends, I visited a factory up in Yorkshire,
and it seemed to me that the children were being literally worked to death.
And that goes for the whole of the country. In the past three years,
1,287 fingers have been torn off by our factory machines. AUDIENCE GROANS
That's a lot of fingers.
Nearly 1,500 bones have been broken in these workplaces
and over 100 people have been killed.
I only talk about such horrible things because they exist,
and that existence should be clearly known.
That's the reason I thought it might be interesting to bring
one of the factory men responsible for this ongoing misery
on to our show, ladies and gentlemen! BOOING
Why can't we mention his name?
Apparently, ladies and gentlemen,
the man wishes to remain anonymous.
Are we surprised?
Well, let's see what he has to say for himself.
Would you like to be outside on a day like this,
when you can be in the mill, safe and warm? Well...safe.
Of course, I'd like to be able to pay them all more,
but it wouldn't be sound business.
If I'm out of business, then they're out of work.
The cotton trade is worth nearly £40 million for this country.
The industry has to come before the individual.
Every morning, I stand on the bridge between my garden and the mill
and I see them all coming down the lane in their clogs
for the morning shift.
They all look up at me and they wave and they shout,
"Good morning, Mr Dug... Sir."
The noise is terrible but you're not allowed to talk anyway,
so the racket from the machines is no bad thing.
I mean, if a child comes up to me and says he's 16 and I say,
"You look more like you're ten,"
and they say, "Well, I look young for me age,"
how am I supposed to know how old the children are anyway?
They brought in birth certificates in 1837 but...
It's not as easy as that.
The thing about children...
What we have some of them doing is working as "piecers,"
which means they run up and down beside the loom
and when a thread snaps,
they grab the two ends and re-attach them as quick as they can.
They really do scamper about.
We think they can do as many as 20 miles in a day.
It's a bit like a game to them. Hopscotch or...tag!
But it isn't a game.
Cos if they get their timing wrong,
they're likely to get sucked into the machine and crushed to death!
I mean, I do get do-gooders coming up to me and saying,
"Mr Dugd... Dugd..."
# D-d-do, do-do, do-do-do-do, do-do. #
Nice tune, ain't it?
# Do-do... #
One of my favourites.
I built them all houses, of course, and very nice they are too.
They've even got lavatories and they share them! With their neighbours!
I mean, that's what community's all about, ain't it? Sharing.
They're my family and I'm the father. I don't mean literally!
But sometimes... a father has to be strict.
Does that make me a bad person?
Cos if it does, then I hold my hands up and I say, "Yes, I am bad!"
Telegram for you, Mr Duggdale.
Apologies to Mr Duggdale, there, who wishes to remain anonymous!
Now, it's time to meet my very special guest.
A tireless champion of children's rights
who has dedicated his life in parliament to that cause.
Will you feel the love in the room, ladies and gentlemen,
as I introduce the one, the only, Lord Shaftesbury!
Thank you, Charles, a pleasure to be here.
We're thrilled to have you on the show but listen, I have to tell you.
We're all rather confused here on The Charles Dickens Show
cos we haven't got the foggiest idea what to call you!
Ah, well, I was born Anthony Ashley Cooper.
So it's Lord Ashley?
Not quite. I gave up the Lord Ashley when my father...
-..yes, when he died, of course, I then became...
But my father was also the Earl of Shaftesbury.
So you are...
-BOTH: The Earl of Shaftesbury.
-Yes, the seventh earl.
Hold on, one moment. Indulge me, kind sir.
-I think this is going to work a lot better for you.
-There you go.
-Oh. Yeah, that's quite excellent, thank you.
This is just for the duration of the show, you understand?
Of course tomorrow, who knows what the heck we'll have to call him?!
Now, if I may be serious for a moment,
I want to talk to you about that ten-hour act.
This is a bill that was meant to reduce the number of hours
that a child could be permitted to work.
Yes, yes, to ten.
We feel that a child should not be allowed to work
more than ten hours a day.
APPLAUSE Now, tell us a little bit about that.
We introduced the act before parliament but it was rejected.
What went wrong?
There's a lot of opposition to it from factory owners,
from powerful politicians who feared - quite wrongly -
that this act would mean them losing a lot of money.
What happened next?
Then the government realised that something had to be done,
so then they introduced their OWN Factory Act, later the same year.
-Phew! So we got there in the end?
-Yes. And, well, no.
-What happened this time?
The government appointed so few inspectors to police the new laws
that the five-year-olds were all back at their machines
in no time at all.
How many inspectors did the government appoint?
-Four?! Across the entire length and breadth of the country?!
Aargh! Where's my hammer?!
This is going to be quite the long haul, I'm afraid.
You have the patience of Job, sir, you really do.
When we knew you were coming on the show,
we organised a little treat for you.
Now, people at home will know that Lord Shaftesbury here,
he started the Ragged Schools Union back in 1844.
We'll be talking to some of the pupils in one of these classrooms
in just a few moments, but before we do,
explain for us if you would, why are they called, "Ragged schools?"
Cos many pupils have nothing better to wear than rags.
Ah, it's as simple as that?!
But these schools aren't schools as you and I would know them?
No, many classrooms are in ordinary homes.
One of the first that was set up,
was set up by Mr John Pounds in Portsmouth,
who began teaching the pupils in his boot-menders shop after hours.
Now these ragged schools have sprung up in warehouses
and all kinds of buildings, all over the country.
Yes, it's inspiring.
This organisation is the kind of thing
that gets me out of bed in the morning.
Children are the future and the future hopes of any country
lies with the character and education of its children.
-So, education is the key?
You've got to get them when they're young.
For as the sapling has been bent, so will it grow.
Beautiful. Now, let's hear from some of those children
who are the future of our world, right now.
If I didn't work, I couldn't afford to eat.
I don't want to be living like this all my life,
so that's what I want, an education.
Now, this is a real bugbear of mine.
Their circumstances should not deprive those willing to learn.
I accept some families need their children to go out and work
in order to survive.
There's no easy answer, I'm afraid.
This is a huge expectation on the child, though, isn't it -
to come to school after a long day's work?
Yes, of course, it's not ideal but at least this child has now,
within his reach, some sort of education.
My father wouldn't send me to school cos he said we didn't have no money.
He said I should be working rather than coming here.
Even in the nights.
But my sister brings me after work.
She says it's better to be hungry now than poor all your life.
They shouldn't have to go without food in order to go to school
but an education is without doubt
one of the best ways of freeing children from poverty.
If a boy can learn to read and add his numbers,
this is a way to him of getting a better job.
It certainly sounds like she has a very wise sister.
I work every day sticking labels on blacking tins under the stairs.
I want to be a writer some day,
so I come down here to learn how to write, neat and proper.
I recognise that factory!
That's exactly where I started out as a 12-year-old boy,
sticking labels on tins.
I was that boy. Better looking, but that shouldn't hold him back!
Keep writing, young lad,
and may the cares of today put food on your table tomorrow.
I'm afraid that's about all we have time for. Shaft.
It's been a pleasure and a privilege
to have you on our show, it really has.
I'm sure children out there, across the country
would like to thank you from the bottom of their hearts
for all the wonderful work you've done
and are continuing to do on their behalf.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Now, I believe you're due in parliament right after this,
-Will you promise me one thing?
Will you wear your badge? And take this with you!
In case you meet any posh politicians
that need a little extra persuasion!
Lord Shaftesbury, everybody!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
That about wraps it up but before we leave,
I'd like to leave you with this little thought -
A day spent wasted on others is never a day wasted on yourself.
Get to it!
Good night, and God bless you all!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Live from the 19th century, Charles Dickens hosts a chat show. His famous Victorian guests include Doctor Barnardo, Mary Seacole and Queen Victoria.
With a nod to popular magazine programmes like The One Show - and recorded in its London studio - The Charles Dickens Show sees the celebrated author interview A-list guests of the Victorian era like reformers Lord Shaftesbury and Dr Thomas Barnardo, nurses Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, and even Queen Victoria herself.
What was life really like for Victorians? The Charles Dickens Show bursts with shocks, laughs and fascinating facts. Dickens, his roving reporter Nelly and a string of famous guests telly-port us back into a world that's dirty, dangerous and often deeply strange. Special reports include a video diary shot undercover by an orphan in a workhouse; interviews with mudlarks and purefinders on London's mean streets; Ask The Doctors, where Joseph Lister takes on the traditionalists; and Mrs Beeton's guide to Christmas Day. In this episode, Charles Dickens and reforming peer Lord Shaftesbury discuss child labour. With a location report from the streets of London, where young children ply their trades, questions from Ragged School kids, and an interview with a dastardly factory owner.