New Working Children's Memorial Stone dedicated
On Sunday March 29th a new stone, made of Honister slate, was dedicated at Englesea Brook in memory of children who died at work in the nineteenth century. In a special service video dramatisations based on actual testimony provided an insight into the appalling conditions faced by children working in mills between the 1820s and the 1840s. Hannah Brown told a House of Commons Committee in 1832 that fifteen hour days working in one position led to great pain in her legs and eventually to deformity. David Rowland, who began work at the age of six, found himself exposed not only to the physical danngers of machinery that claimed all too many fingers from his workmates, but the long term health damage of working in badly ventilated conditions (one doctor wrote of workers coughing up balls of cottonthat they had inhaled over time). On top of all these concerns was the issue of discipline. Sarah Carpenter recalled in 1849 that 'the master started beating me with a stick over the head till it was full of lumps and bled. My head was so bad that I could not sleep for a long time, and I have never been a sound sleeper since.' In such harsh and hateful conditions as these it is liittle wonder that so many children found great solace in the emerging Sunday School movement of the time.
It would be nice to think that such stories could be consigned to the dustbin of history. However, as the congregation were reminded, the exploitation of children at work is a painful reality for millions of young people around the world today. Millions of children endure terrible conditions, hazards to health and even slavery at a time when they should be busy being children. Project Director Kevin Watson drew attention to the plight of such children and the responsibility of everyone to make the world a fairer place for the young. He reminded the congregation of an often repeated rallying call of Dr Martin Luther King who used to say that 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' A colllection was taken for Save the Children, a charity with many projects among working children.
We were delighted to welcome Jo Hibbard, who was recently appointed as Methodist Heritage Officer, to unveil the new monument and Chair of District Peter Barber, to lead us in an act of dedication. Thanks to everyone who helped to make the event such a success.