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Mining North Wales & Anglesey

Mining North Wales & Anglesey

(North) Wales and Anglesey circa 1900

At the time this map was produced in 1900, it was a period of huge social change and upheaval. Living standards were low and much of the population lived in poverty. Despite the Mines and Collieries Regulation Act of 1842, where it became illegal for women or any child under the age of ten to work underground, mining remained a significant form of income for many families and it was more important to bring home a wage than to get an education.

Life was very hard and the successful exploitation of child labour was vital to Britain’s economic success. Children were cheaper to employ than adults, easier to discipline and often forced to work longer hours than their adult counterparts. Before the Mines and Collieries Act was introduced in 1842 it was common practice for whole families to work underground together in order to provide enough money for the family to live on. Children could work alone, in the dark, for up to twelve hours a day. Most children started working underground at the age of eight, sometimes as young as five. Life was cheap, injury and death common place. Despite the hardship, miners showed a high degree of solidarity and often lived in isolated villages where most of the population were workers. At the end of the nineteenth century the Penrhyn Slate Quarry, North Wales, was the largest in the world.

In nineteenth century Britain, schools were few and far between, and there was no such thing as a free education for everyone. Education was solely for the rich and most schools were church run, focusing on religious education. It was not until 1870 that the government introduced free education in Britain for all children and 1880 when the Elementary Education Act made schooling in England and Wales compulsory until the age of ten. Although attitudes to children were steadily shifting in to the twentieth century, and the need for education was being recognised, child labour remained commonplace in the poorest areas.

The Isle of Anglesey, “Hook Island”, the largest island in Wales and the seventh largest in the British Isles, is a county of Wales and includes Holy Island, amongst others. The coastal areas have been designated an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Unesco World Heritage Site Beaumaris can be found there. Pary’s Mountain, located south of the town Amlwch, has been mined for copper ore since the Bronze Age. Excavated in 2002, prehistoric evidence, for the beginnings of the British metal mining industry, was found there. At the time of this map, two copper mines - Mona to the East and Pary’s to the West, had been extensively exploited since the late 18th century and the copper mined there dominated the worlds markets until their decline in the 1880’s.

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