Victorian London - Professions and Trades - Clothing - Conditions in shops

    Messrs Jay, Mourning Establishment, Regent Street, London.—Miss L.—I have been in this establishment as first hand or as forewoman in the work-room or the show-room for many years. We very rarely have apprentices or even improvers; they are much more in private houses. Scarcely any of ours are under 20. We have 39 in our work-room, of whom 14 sleep in the house; the rest are day-workers. Of the 14, eight are milliners and six dressmakers.
    We are of course liable to sudden pressure at all times of the year, but more especially in the London season, though not to the same extent as the court milliners. From April to July we breakfast at 7~, begin our work at 8½, and leave off at 9p.m., or at latest 10p.m. At all other times our hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.... We have not worked all night for years, except, that is, one night at the death of the Prince Consort; we had then to work for several nights till 12 or 1 ...
    If those in the house have parents or friends to go to, we let them go out for Saturday and Sunday—that is to say, the younger ones. We cannot ask questions of the older ones as to where they intend to go; they have dinner and a home here on Sunday, if they prefer to stay. They can all go out for half an hour's walk in the morning before 9, if they like; some do, but it is a common fault with them to neglect exercise. Our doors are always locked at ii every night; I could not myself get in after that time.
    Our work-room here, I must admit, is not as nice as I should like to see it; but all the rooms are ill adapted for the purpose. Mr Jay has spent a good deal of money on it, but it is still very close and hot, especially on foggy days in the winter, when the gas is lit. In the summer they can have the windows open; but you see they have stuffed up the ventilators, which were over the gas jets; they said they made the gas blow about and gave them cold...
    Those that are in the house have a fortnight's holiday; they arrange so as to take it at different times. They are paid monthly. All but two or three have a salary.

Children's Employment Commission, 2nd Report, 1864