Child Labour: Hidden Stories of Cumbria (18 May - 28 Sep)

18 May to 28 September

Discover the role children played in the industries that shaped the Lake District in the Victorian era. A great exhibition for families and perfect for children with interactive elements of the exhibition that share insight into the lives of those as young as five who went to work.

What's there:

This exhibition covers industries and events such as mining and the 1910 Wellington Pit disaster that rocked Cumbria where 136 miners died, including children as young as 15.

There are interactive experiences for all the family demonstrating why small children were considered ideal for roles where they needed to work in smaller spaces.

You can test your speed and agility at bobbins. Could you keep your job in the bobbin mill?

Chart your speed and share with us on social media with #MOLLIChallenge 

Step back in time to what it would be like in a Victorian classroom.

Learn about the dunces hat and ‘tawse’ - a kind of whip - used to discipline. Get a real sense of the huge gap between Cumbrian schooling now and then.

A great opportunity for grandparents to talk to grandchildren about memories and tales from this time.

An exhibition interpreted for all ages

Pupils from the local Dean Gibson School have also added their perspective on the stories with their thoughts and art featured on panels.

Child labour in Cumbria

Before the late 1700s children usually worked at home helping their parents with farming, wool production or knitting. With the onset of the industrial revolution child labour moved into factories or large mines.

At the time 30% of the population of Cumberland and Westmorland were under 15 and there were few regular free schools for them to go to, they represented an almost unlimited source of cheap unskilled labour.

The exhibition will look into the truth of how children worked and how that affected public and government opinion.


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  • Workers who died during the 1910 Wellington Pit disaster.
  • © The Beacon Museum, Copeland Borough