Leisure activities in Industrial Ages
ONCE UPON A TIME, so we'd like to believe, we lived in an idyllic, ale-quaffing, morris-dancing, cricket-on-the-village-green kind of Merrie England with wall-to-wall laughter and summer-long sunshine.
Then along came the Industrial Revolution and put an end to all that. The factory smoke blotted out the sun, demands of industry destroyed our innocence and long working hours took away any chance we had of finding pleasure in leisure.
In fact, for most people there never was such a pre-industrial golden age. High days and holidays were strictly rationed. Apart from hiring fairs and annual rushbearing ceremonies, most people were far too busy trying to make ends meet to think overmuch about enjoying themselves.
But the Industrial Revolution certainly made matters worse. If you work 14 or 15 hours a day in a factory, there is precious little time left for anything other than eating and sleeping.
Whole generations of workers existed in this way before the law was changed to make their lives a little easier and the pursuit of knowledge and happiness less daunting.
First success came with the Factory Act of 1833, which prohibited the employment of children under nine in cotton mills and restricted the hours that older children could work. It also prohibited night work for youngsters and made educational provisions.
A new Factory Act of 1844 further increased the restrictions and extended its terms to the employment of women, and it was this that was to open the way, in 1847, for the full Ten-Hour Act to become law for workers of both sexes and all ages.
It was patchy in its coverage and less than ideal in its provisions, but it was a start and for many, it opened the door to a new life in which education, self-improvement, sport and pastimes began to take their rightful place.
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Growing veggies safely in your backyard: avoiding the 'legacy of our industrial activities'. 702 ABC Sydney. By Georgia Wilson. Updated August 29, 2014 16:44:22.