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Children at work: The money earned by children was vital to most working class families during the early 20th century and before.

Children working in a field

The work undertaken was wide ranging, including agriculture and horticulture, cottage industries, domestic service and crafts. Children began their working life at a very early age, perhaps five or six. Working hours were long. For agricultural jobs such as weeding or stone picking, the working day could run from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening, the children often having to walk long distances to and from their place of work. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the issue of child labour gradually became more prominent and the numbers employed began to fall as changes occurred in farming methods, attitudes towards child labour and increased education legislation. The school boys pictured are working at Windmill Farm, Montacute, Dorset, in the early 1950s. They were temporarily employed to help gather in the potato harvest.

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Children at work



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The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, UK.
Email: merl@reading.ac.uk Telephone: 0118 378 8660