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Both sources E and F are accounts of Esther Price?s escape from Quarry Bank Mill to Liverpool at end of August 1836 with her friend Lucy Garner. Esther Price had asked to go to Liverpool during Wakes week, a holiday week when the factory was shut, but she was refused. She had two reasons for running away, she had heard that her father was ill and wanted to visit him. The other reason was to collect her birth certificate to prove that she was actually older than her indenture said so that she could get a paid job earlier as apprentices were not paid. An indenture was the contract that an apprentice signed to say that the child would work for Mr. Greg for a set amount of years, normally seven, and that if they broke any of the rules of that contract the boss had permission to punish them.
In source E it says that Esther price and her friend Lucy Garner ran away from the apprentice house on Saturday night. Lucy came back 5 days later on Thursday and Esther came back 5 days after that on Tuesday.
When the girls came back, they were each put into solitary confinement. Lucy Garner did not have her windows boarded up. However Esther Prices did, Robert H. Greg said it was also ?partly to prevent her escape.?
It says in source E Robert H. Greg wanted to punish them by cutting off the girls? hair, but his sister sally Greg and Mrs Shawcross, the former superintendent argued against this.
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During their confinement the girls were given milk, porridge and bread. But no bed or fire.
While Esther Price was serving her punishment, the Superintendents wife Mrs. Timperley, died of apoplexy. She was laid to rest in the room next to Esther. Somehow Esther was made aware of this fact and was very alarmed of being on her own in the room next to a dead body.
The next time someone went to check on her she rushed passed and declared ?She would remain there no longer.? It was never recorded that Esther price ever completed her punishment.
However, there are discrepancies between the two accounts of Esther?s escape. Source E states that Esther came back to Quarry Bank Mill ?The Tuesday but one after.? her initial leaving. In source F she is said return on Wednesday, 3 days after she left on Saturday. The reasons for this mistake could be that Robert H. Greg wrote the account seven years after the incident happened. This could be because he thought that it wasn?t that important. He might have been embarrassed that such a thing ever took place in his mill. He might have written it when Esther?s indenture finished.
I feel that the most likely reason was that the factory was due to be inspected and Robert H. Greg needed all factory paperwork and records to be up to date.
However, John Doherty may also have tampered with some of the facts. This was because he had spent a few years in prison as a result of a magistrate who was also a close friend of Samuel Greg. John Doherty had a personal vendetta against anybody connected to the magistrate. This meant that he despised and campaigned against Robert H. Greg.
Sources E and F are very useful for and explanation of how apprentices were punished in the 1840s. They were confined in rooms for about five days. In extreme cases girls would have their hair cut-off. This was a punishment that was originally used for criminals, so it was regarded as a very shameful punishment to receive. There were other punishments used by the Greg?s at Styal, but none of them were corporal because the Gregs were Nonconformist Christians. This meant that it was against their religion to beat anyone. Instead the Gregs used punishments like giving fines or making them stand against the wall with their arms held straight out at the sides with a light weight in each hand. As apprentices were not paid, they paid their fines back by doing extra work at lunchtime like cleaning and oiling the machines.
I think that the sources E and F both described some of the punishments in lots of detail. There is a discrepancy about the number of days that Esther Price was away, I believe that this is partially because of the amount of time between the incident and the accounts written.
Although both sources are accurate descriptions of the incident of Esther Price?s escape from Quarry Bank Mill, Source E by Robert H. Greg highlights the more positive aspects of mill life because he was the owner of the mill and he needed to show that he was a reasonable mill owner and treated his charges fairly. On the other hand Source F by John Doherty, a campaigner against long hours for children, shows the negative aspects of a life as an apprentice in Styal mill. It shows this because his campaign would be stronger if he could prove that Robert H. Greg was ill-treating his charges.
Life for an apprentice at Styal mill was considerably better than some other mills. Most apprentices came from orphanages or workhouses all around the country, most of them were from Liverpool like Esther Price.
When each child came to the mill they were given a full medical examination by the doctor that the Greg?s employed, Dr Holland. He was paid a salary of £20 a year, which was an extremely high wage for that time. Dr Peter Holland kept detailed accounts of all of his examinations and patients.
He mainly treated people for their eyes, breathing and stomach aches. There were very little records of contagious diseases. This shows that conditions at Quarry Bank Mill were generally clean with no cross contamination of water sources. Every Sunday the apprentices would give their clean clothes to the skivvies and receive a fresh clean set. The skivvies were 16 or 17 year old girls that worked inside the apprentice house for the children. They would clean the apprentice house and cook the food. The older apprentice girls, as well as the skivvies, would mend the clothes and sew new ones.
The children were fed three times a day, they had porridge with meat stew or fresh fruit and vegetables, meat was eaten twice a week and all food was boiled. The children had their food brought outside the factory and they ate in the factory grounds. They were allowed as many helpings of the food as they wanted.
The apprentices? house was built sometime in the 1790s. It had four dormitories one for the girls to share and three for the boys. The apprentices shared two to a bed, the bedding of which was filled with straw and changed twice a year .There was a large kitchen and private living areas for the Superintendents. At the back of the house there were two privies (toilets) and a water pump that was separated so there was no contamination. There was also an extremely large vegetable plot with an enormous variety of exotic vegetables like custard marrows.
In total there were about 90 apprentices living in the house at one time. There were 60 girls and 30 boys. Mr Greg preferred girls as they were much easier to discipline and more of them would stay on as adult workers. The boys would often leave and get better paid jobs as clerks and occasionally accountants. This was possibly because the boys were better educated. They would learn reading, arithmetic and letters once a week for an hour after work at about 8pm. They would also have lessons for 1 to 2 hours on Saturdays.
Most of the girls could not read or write. This was proved as they signed their indentures, and later their marriage certificates with a cross.
The people in charge of their education and all round well-being were the superintendents. For 25 years this was Mr and Mrs Shawcross. This changed in the 1830?s when Mr Shawcross died, as the job required a husband and wife, Mrs Shawcross could not carry on with the job. The Shawcrosses were replaced by Mr and Mrs Timperly.
The superintendents? job was to look after the children, make sure they had enough food and the right clothing. They also took care of the discipline, education and medical care,
On a typical day the apprentices woke up at 5:30am and started work at 6:00am. Between 8:00am and 8:10am they would have their breakfast porridge outside the factory. They would stop at midday, to have lunch and finish work between 7:00pm and 8:00pm. In total, the apprentices worked for about 14 hours a day. Saturdays were ?half-days? and the apprentices worked for 9 hours.
On Sunday, they did not go to work. Instead they walked for two and a half miles twice a day to the nearest Church of England church in Wilmslow. There was a Methodist and a Unitarian church in Styal village. However the apprentices had to worship at a Church of England church.
In conclusion, the apprentice life was quite pleasant as there was no corporal punishment due to the Greg?s nonconformist Christian beliefs. They could eat as much as they wanted and the boys were taught to read and write.