The Preston Chronicle carried the following report, it makes grim reading. How could the court be so uncertain of the boy’s age, did he not have parents? And how could such an easily preventable death be described as an accident?
Inquest.—Yesterday an inquest was held at the Town-hall, before Nicholas Grimshaw, Esq., mayor and coroner for the borough, on view of the body of James Dakin, a boy about ten years of age, who was employed in the factory of Messrs Parish and Co, near Marsh-lane.
The boy was a piecer and near to the place where he worked was a revolving shaft which was not boxed off or protected, and by some means it caught the trowsers of the deceased, and tore off his arm and otherwise injured him. The deceased was carried home and surgical aid procured, but a few hours terminated his sufferings.
His worship, the mayor, went to view the machinery, and spoke in strong terms of reprobation upon the conduct of the owners of the machinery, in not providing better guards against accidents of this kind.
Verdict, ‘accidental death’
At the time, child labour was defended by such worthies as the journalist, Edward Baines, who was born in Walton-le-Dale, and who wrote in his The History of the Cotton Manufacture (1835):
It is not true to represent the work of piecers and scavengers as continually straining. None of the work in which children and young persons are engaged in mills require constant attention. It is scarcely possible for any employment to be lighter. The position of the body is not injurious: the children walk about, and have the opportunity of frequently sitting if they are so disposed.