Tuesday, 29 December 2015
Time for Work
I am a member of the White Peak Writers group and recently some of us went on a visit to the museum. It was a very interesting visit and I was motivated to write the following. I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone born and bred in the country, who had worked on a farm, to suddenly move into Belper and start work at the Mill. What about that situation would they find strange and maybe disorientating. I hope you enjoy it. Errol Butcher. Time For Work. Before I came to work at the Mill in Belper I used to live with my extended family near the village of Windley. When I was fifteen I moved to Belper with my parents and three sisters as we did not have much money. We’d heard that Mr Strutt looked after his workers and treated them well. I started work at the Mill in June but it took me a while to get used to it. I was used to being in the country with only a few people about but in Belper there were so many people crowded together. The Mill was strange at first too, there was dust everywhere, it got in the eyes, blocked the nose, coated the back of my mouth and made my hair feel dirty. We couldn’t take time to drink much, though, ‘cos that would have stopped us working. Another bad thing at the start was we had to walk around barefoot and the floor was covered with oil and dust that got ground into the feet. Also, it smelt horrible, though you got used to it quite quick. There were also loads of rats about. The hardest thing I found to get used to was how to keep time. The shift started at 6am and if I wasn’t on time the gates would clang shut and I would have my wages docked. We then worked ‘til lunch and the afternoon session went on ‘til 7pm. I was used to long days on the farm so hard work wasn’t a problem but keeping time was. When I worked on the farm time was fluid. If the weather was bad I would wait and start work later. When I finished a particular task I could stop, have a drink or some food. I judged time by the Sun and the seasons. Time was imprecise; all that mattered was getting your jobs done. Not at the Mill, Being on time and working to time was very important. When I first started I was often late, particularly if it was raining as I would hang around waiting for it to stop before going to work. I often had my wages docked early on. It also took a while to get used to having lunch at the same time every day and finishing every day at 7pm. Also, I used to be able to mess around with my sisters on the farm but things were much more serious at the Mill. I often had to pay small fines, or forfeits, for doing things like, ’looking out of the window,’ or ‘riding on someone’s back,’ or ’neglecting my work to talk to someone’. I don’t think I was a very good worker to start with but as I got used to things, especially the new version of time, I became a better worker, seldom late, used to set times and being less frivolous.