the local history of Stoke-on-Trent, England

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'When I Was a Child' - autobiography of Charles Shaw
a first hand account of life as a child worker in the North Staffordshire
Potteries in the 1840's



Charles Shaw (b.1832 d.1906) was born in Tunstall and worked in the North Staffordshire Potteries - he started work at about the age of 7. 

In 1842, as a result of unemployment the family were forced into the workhouse at Chell for a few weeks until his father found a new job - these few weeks left a lasting impression on the young Charles - the events that Shaw recorded were used by Arnold Bennett in his novel Clayhanger.

His book is a facinating insight into life in the Potteries in the mid 19th Century. Shaw's writings were first printed in 1892/3 and the book was published in 1903, Shaw died in 1906 so the material is out of copyright now. 

It is reproduced here with pictures added to illustrate the text and additional notes, related pages for further research. 

select from the list below or click 'next' to step through each chapter

 Chapter titles show in bold are available - others will be added weekly.


Ch Title
1 Education
2 Work as a Mould-runner
3 First Knowledge of Disadvantage
4 My Native Town and its Social Conditions
5 My Native Town - Some other Social Aspects
6 A New Situation
7 New Experiences in a New Situation
8 Paying Wages at Public Houses
9 Special Incidents
10 Happy Days and Sad Changes
11 Parentage
12 A Strike and its Consequences
13 A Glimpse of Workhouse Life Sixty Years Ago
14 Other Workhouse Glimpses - A Case of Discipline
15 Beginning of life Again at Ten Years of Age
16 The Sunday School and My Young Life
17 Joseph Capper of Tunstall
18 The Pottery Riots of 1842
19 Joseph Capper Again
20 Some Special and Industrial and Social Conditions Then Prevailing in the Potteries
21 "An Out" to Trentham at Tunstall Wakes
22 A Contrast Between This and the Generation of My Early Youth
23 The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties
24 Local Preachers: How I Became One
25 Closing Incidents






Related Pages..

Scriven report on child labour  - In 1840 the House of Commons set up a commission to inquire into the state of children employed in the mines and  manufactories. Samuel Scriven visited the area of Stoke-on-Trent from December 1840 onwards to collect evidence.

also see... 

index page for 'focus on'

external links..

Charles Shaw - the Wikipedia entry