As new technologies emerged throughout the 19th century, and the use of water and steam power became commonplace, millions of rural workers, including thousands of children, descended on the growing industrial towns to work in mills and factories. Northern cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield became industrial powerhouses, exporting textiles such as cotton, wool, silk and linen worldwide to Britain's expanding empire. As well as producing textiles, these establishments would generate enormous profits for a new class of industrialists and entrepreneurs.
In the first episode of this two-part series, History Hit presenters Luke Tomes and Louee Dessent discovered what a working day was like at Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire in the 1800s, for both a wealthy Victorian industrialist and a poor Victorian labourer respectively.
But what was life like for a Victorian factory worker and mill owner outside of the cotton mill? What conditions did they have to live in? What did they eat? How did they spend their leisure time? And how did their lives compare to ours today?
In this second episode, Louee Dessent travels to the Apprentice House located just up the road from Quarry Bank Mill, to find out how young indentured children lived before and after working hours, before heading north to the model village of Styal, set up by the Greg family to provide workers with decent accommodation and facilities close to the cotton mill itself, and with the intention of keeping them loyal.
Meanwhile, Luke has a short commute to Quarry Bank House, home to Samuel Greg and his wife, Hannah. Here he learns why the family chose to build a seemingly modest, yet lavish property so close to the factory where they employed thousands of working children, and the values both Samuel and Hannah Greg held dear to their hearts.
The question, as always, is - could you survive as a Victorian factory worker? Watch the video to find out!