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When I Was a Child by Charles Shaw


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Published 1998 by Churnet Vallery Books.

160 pages.

When I was a Child is a classic of working class autobiography. It was written as a series of articles for the Staffordshire Sentinel in the 1890s when Charles Shaw was 60 years old, and published as a book in 1903 under the name of "An Old Potter", 3 years before he died.

Charles Shaw's story is of a childhood in the Potteriies towns of Tunstall and Burslem in the 1840s. He recounts the pleasure of his early childhood and his short education in a dame school, and then the horrors of his subsequent employment from the age of seven in the local pottery industry, at first working 12-14 hours a day, 6 days a week as a mould runner. The only escape from the cruelty and debauchery of the young "masters" he worked for, was his 'oasis' Sunday and Sunday School.

The time was the worst point of the Industrial Revolution, when greed and progress had yet to be tempered by humanity. The Corn Laws and the suppression of the working class rights meant that, as he writes "industrial and national matters in 1839-40, had got rather awry." Here we have at first hand, as if written today, the Chartists riots and the horrors of the new workhouse.

The book is illustrated with plates from Ward's "The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent" 1893 and Scarratt's "Old Time in the Potteries" 1906 as well as specially commissioned illustrations by the artist Susan Purdy.

 Approx Size: 15.5cm x 23.5cm or 6.25" x 9.25"

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