Historic Trades and Industry

Examples of Working Life

Columns below identify Sutton residents, but are additionally extracted from the Free Press as they provide living memory examples of industrial employment among the areas two principal trades. Their experiences were certainly not uncommon, but when average working lives largely passed by unrecorded, their longer lifetime and a remarkable fifty years of marriage was an achievement worthy of 24th March 1933 mention.

Recognising long service through a successful career, an 83 year old Jim Butler ably reminisced about the changes witnessed among the hosiery trade. The early use of Framework Knitting machines brought mass employment to also initially support majority of Huthwaite families. William Hill profited in making visiting repairs between numerous house installations, at least until the huge cottage industry shifted into powered factories. Census records reveal commonest male occupation was FrameWork Knitter (FWK), repetitively operating machinery given pride of place in family homes, tended to by wives and unschooled children.

Child labour was common practise prior any national schooling. Indeed to support large households many depended upon their meagre contributions. Mr. and Mrs. Guy both started pit work aged nine. No doubt that when New Hucknall Colliery began inviting mining families into Huthwaite, many of those so widely arriving from various coal mining areas had likewise already gained pit experience from such tender age. Twelve hour shifts however, only usually followed our village schooling nearer twelve years old. A 1918 Education Act eventually raising that minimum leaving age to fourteen, upon which my grandfather began a pit career.


Mention of the name of Mr. Jim Butler at the Sutton hosiery workers' concert a fortnight ago was a happy thought on the part of Councillor H.C. Wright, for he is one of the few remaining who belonged to the old school of hand frame hosiery workers. Mr. Butler, who is now 83 years of age, worked at the hand frame until the year 1880, when he entered the employ of the Midland Hosiery Co. and worked at what was known as an eight legger, 33 gauge. The company, he states, had a preference for Sutton men because they were old handframe workers and knew the trade better. When power machines were introduced the men received as wages 25s. a week to learn the various operations of the machines, but after a month they were put on piece work. Mr. Butler recalls working by the aid of candle-light, the paraffin oil lamp, gas, and finally electric light, but observes that there was another light which was better than all - daylight.
  After spending some sixteen years with the firm he decided to go into business on his own account, and on leaving the Co.'s employment he was presented by the officials and his colleagues with a gold medal, which he still wears. He built up a successful business in the town, and only recently retired after 42 years. Though he has never actively associated himself with the town's affairs, he has always shown a practical interest in its many organisations, and been a supporter of many charitable causes. In the old days he was a great friend of one of the town's bands which, he says, was always in a hobble, and sometimes when they obtained an engagement the men had no clothes, and he helped them out of their difficulty by financial aid. Never was he let down however. The men always paid up. He has been associated with various sports and other organisations, and his reminiscences of days gone by are full of interest.


A Sutton couple who both worked at a colliery when they were nine years of age celebrate their golden wedding next Sunday. They are Mr. and Mrs. James Guy, of 28 Carsic Lane, Sutton, who were married at Cannock Church, Staffs, on March 26th, 1883.
  Born at Cuckoo Oak, Madeley, Shropshire, 75 years ago, Mr. Guy has worked in the pit for 56 years. He started work on the pit top at the tender age of nine, and a year later he was down the pit working 12 hours a day for 8d. a shift.
  Mr. Guy retired when he was 66, having then been working at the Sutton Colliery for nearly 20 years. When he first started work he received his wages only once a fortnight, and the blank week used to be termed "one-eyed Saturday."

Worked on Pit Top.

  Mrs. Sarah Guy, who is 77 years of age, was born at Dawley, Shropshire. She never attended school, but in her younger days she, along with other children, was put under the care of an old woman, who was paid 2½d. per week for each child for looking after them whilst their parents were at work. Like her husband, Mrs. Guy started work on the pit top when nine years of age, and although she was at the colliery for several years she never worked underground. Her job was picking ironstone out of the coal, and for this she was paid 6d. per shift of 12 hours.
  Mr. and Mrs. Guy came to Sutton 27 years ago, and have lived in the same house in Carsic Lane all the time. There were two children of the marriage, only one of whom, a daughter, who also resides in Carsic Lane, is living. The other, a son, was killed in action on the Somme in 1916, having served in the Forces since the commencement of the Great War. There are ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Of a previous marriage, Mrs. Guy has two sons and a daughter living.

Written 14 May 12 Revised 14 May 12 © by Gary Elliott