By Joan Lane
A social background of the altering fortunes of apprentices and the approach of apprenticeship over 3 centuries of English background.
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Extra resources for Apprenticeship In England, 1600-1914
Two younger children, a boy aged five and a girl of nine, each had money bequests but with no mention of apprenticeship, while the eldest son inherited the land and all five shared the family chattels. 74 The two sons intended for apprentices did not die as children and presumably were indentured, for their names disappear from the parish records. Such testamentary provisions, in a remote midland village of less than 300 inhabitants, as early as 1633, indicate an unexpected awareness and acceptance of the apprenticeship premium.
In spite of such problems, parishes can be found with apparently complete records to illuminate aspects of pauper apprenticeship. All evidence suggests that the industrialized parish, growing in population and poverty after the later eighteenth century, most often used the long-term apprenticeship to be rid of younger children, a major liability. The mining and weaving community of Bedworth, in north Warwickshire, whose population rose from 1,220 in 1730 to 3,161 in 1802, was such a parish. In the early decades of the eighteenth century the overseers there, like their neighbours, bound 2 or 3 children a year, 6 or 7 by the 1770s and 11 by 1789.
Most of these occupations required only moderate premiums and did not involve high setting-up costs. Equally, the profits were never very great, but trades such as those of the plumber, tinman, fellmonger, staymaker, mason or turner would always be sure of at least an adequate livelihood. These and many others were “respectable” trades, regarded by society as honourable, and comprised the majority of occupations to which non-pauper children were bound. At the lowest level of public esteem there was a further category of employment recognized by all as humble, even demeaning, impoverished and unappealing, with poor or non-existent career prospects for the apprentice.