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Home  > Show and Tell  > Victorian Child Miners' Stories from Echline Primary School

Victorian Child Miners' Stories from Echline Primary School

June 08 2006

Mining in Victorian Britain was even harder, more tiring, dirty and dangerous than now. Bad enough for adults but did you know that children worked in the mines too?

© Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum.

Photo showing boy miner guiding horse and cart out of mine shaft.

Illustration showing a Victorian child pushing a coal cart in a mine tunnel.

There is lots of evidence from that time online. Here's part of a picture from 1842, from The National Archives collection.

Their site has the full picture and lots more, including tales from Victorian child miners in their own words.

© The National Archives.

Till the 1840s, children as young as 5 years old worked down mines for up to 12 hours a day. Jobs included: opening and closing tunnel doors to let coal carts through, loading coal into the carts, guiding the ponies or even pulling and pushing carts along the tunnels themselves.

© National Coal Mining Museum.

Photo showing boy coal miner with pick-axe in tunnel hacking at coal wall.

It wasn't just dark and noisy (and rat infested) in the mines - accidents and disasters were common: fires could break out, roofs collapsed and there were risks of poisonous gas and flooding.

Children often became deformed from their back breaking work or suffered other injuries and many died in accidents.

There's a true, and very sad, story of a pit disaster on the Durham Mining Museum website.

These lads worked down mines in the Durham area. You can see the rest of this picture and read more about life down the pit on the 4 Schools website.

© Durham County Record Office.

Echline Primary School in Scotland have been imagining what it was like to work down a coal mine in Victorian times.

Read on for some extracts from their amazing work...

James reminds us how tragedy can strike quickly:

My arms are sore because of lifting a pick axe all day long and the constant sound of the trucks trundling along the tracks has almost deafened me, at one point a man called Peter tripped when he was pushing a truck and it came back on him and crushed Peter.

Robyn's written a poignant diary entry too:

It has been my first day of work in a coalmine and I hated it. But my Mam says I have not given it a chance. So I have to keep at it a bit longer. Down in the mine it was disgusting and scary because two mines away from mine, the roof caved in and three of my friends died. Now I am even more scared in case that might happen to me. In the coalmine it is filthy and dusty and I am the same too now. I have a really sore back because no one can stand up straight and it is only my first day! The noise is deafening down at the mine from people screeching at the walls with their pick to get to the coal. The moisture from above leaks down in to the mine so it has no choice but to swivel around our feet. It is as cold as an iceberg.

Thank you to Karen Watters and her pupils from Echline Primary School for their excellent efforts. For more of their stories, just click here!

Photo showing two boy miners seated and holding lamps.

In 1842, a law called the Mines Act was passed to stop children under the age of 10 from working in coal mines. But boys aged 10 and over continued to work in mines throughout the 19th century.

Lastly, this photo and a fascinating day in the life of a 'trappy' boy and his pet rat, Gladstone, can be found at Cleveland Ironstone Museum

© Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum.

If you want to read more stories and get links to other Mining museums, why not check out Show Me surfers, Amber and Daisy's extracts?

Rachel Hayward