Scientists find remains of pauper children in North Yorkshire

The village church at Fewston, North Yorkshire

A research paper has been published by academics at Durham University showing their findings from a project that examined skeletons found in a North Yorkshire graveyard.

The skeletons were found as a result of excavation works taking place next to a church in Fewston, Yorkshire. Construction workers were preparing the land to build a heritage centre when the skeletons were discovered.

The research paper says that 150 skeletons were found and the majority of them were teenagers. However, they were very short and had a variety of diseases.

The researchers looked for help from local historians and gradually the story of the skeletons has been revealed.

The children, known as pauper apprentices, were brought up to the north of England from workhouses in London to work in the cotton mills. Although they were promised a better life they were quickly put to work for long hours in a noisy polluted atmosphere amongst heavy machinery.

The children appeared to be underfed with a diet low in animal protein and one researcher compared it to the diet of the victims of the Great Irish Famine. Their bones were short and they lacked vitamins.

Many were suffering from respiratory diseases.

Rebecca Gowland a bioarchaeology professor at Durham University said it was the first bioarchaeological evidence of the lives of pauper apprentices. Written accounts of people’s lives in the cotton mills exist. Accounts said that the paupers worked from 6am to 8pm feeling constant tiredness and fear of the overlooker’s leather strap.

Gowland also said that whilst these pauper children worked in the past there were still children in the world working like they did, today.

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Written by

Julia Cameron

Julia is an ex-pat writer from Brighton living in a small village close to the Andalucian town of Priego de Cordoba. When she's not working she enjoys reading, tracing her ancestry and swimming. She especially loves the summer when she can get down to the coast and chill on the beach.