Hood Family and Coal Mining

Newton Parish - New Statistical Account

Newton:  1-Topography and Natural History  |  2-Civil History  |  3-Population  |  4-Industry  |  5-Parochial Economy


New Statistical Account for the Parish of Newton

Part 3 - Population




Population in 1801,
Government census, 1060

* This and the following were taken by the writer personally in his annual visitations of the parish, and he has the utmost confidence in their accuracy.

The rapid decrease, as here shown, has been owing to the state of the collieries, which are not wrought to the same extent as formerly. The Sheriffhall Colliery, belonging to the Duke of Buccleugh, is nearly wrought out; and in that of Edmonstone, belonging to John Wauchope, Esq., a few years will suffice to exhaust all that can be wrought by levels from the present engines. The field, however is far from being exhausted, and by a powerful engine further to the dip than the present, a large winning of very valuable coal may be obtained, * [see footnote] which would maintain the population to as great an amount as it has ever reached, otherwise there must be a very great diminution indeed at no distant period.
The whole of the collier population, and artisans connected with the collieries, may be considered as living in villages, and amount to 1074. To this there must be added the population of Edmonstone and Woolmet, (which may be regarded as forming one village,) amounting to 145.
Newton Parish averages of births marriages and deaths


John Wauchope Esq. of Edmonstone is the only individual of independent fortune resident in the parish, and is also the principal proprietor, having five-eighths of the value rent. After him comes the Earl of Wemyss two-eighths, and the Duke of Buccleugh one-eighth. Sir John Hope of Pinkie is also possessed of a property of greater year the value than L. 50, but enjoying it free from all public burdens, he is not rated as a heritor.


Newton Parish - table of children and unmarried persons
There are two fatuous persons belonging to the parish, but none insane, blind, deaf, or dumb.

1st foot note:
* This is now (1845) in the course of being done. Sir John Hope has taken a lease of the Edmonstone colliery; has erected one of the most powerful engines in the country, which was constructed in Cornwall on the model of those employed in the mines there, and is engaged in sinking an engine pit at the depth of about 100 fathoms, and at the lowest dip, so that all the remaining jewel coal and seams above it may be won, and will probably give employment to the collier population for half a century.
2nd foot note:
† this average has been raised by the deaths 4th 18th that too, which amounted to 117, owing to the prevalence of collar, there having been 257 cases,. Were these deducted at the number for that year would be 50, and the average for the seven years be reduced to 52 ½.


The collier population is subject to a particular disease which is vulgurarly called the black-spit, and by the faculty is dignified with the Greek term melanosis. It is a wasting of the lungs occasioned, as is supposed, by the inhaling of the coal dust while working, and the expectoration is as black as the coal itself. Many strong men the cut off by it before they reach the age of forty, especially if they have, for any length of time, been engaged in what in opposition to coalhewing is called stonework, (sinking of pits, driving of mines, &c). Almost all men are affected by it sooner or later, so as to be rendered unfit for any active exertion for years before they drop prematurely into the grave, between the ages of forty and sixty or sixty-five. The vicissitudes of temperature to which they are daily exposed on issuing from the pits throughout a great part of the year, coupled with the irregular habits in the case of too many, no doubt contributes to this mortality.
Though their earnings are such that the collier population might enjoy the comforts of life in a superior degree to agricultural labourers, yet, from want of management, this is far from being generally the case. In too many instances, this happens from excess in eating and drinking followed by the necessary abstinence imposed by exhausted resources, the wages being no sooner got than with many they are spent in sensual indulgence, as they know no other. It is their custom, also, to procure everything upon credit, which makes their expenditure much more and their enjoyment much less than they would be, if they were in the habit of husbanding their resources. Instead of independent action, according to what prudence may dictate as for the best, they are entirely regulated by custom; and hence there is little hope of there being speedily elevated from the degraded condition indicated by such a state of things. To this, however, there are honourable exceptions, and there are individuals and families that, for character and the manner in which their households are conducted, may stand a favourable comparison with those of their own rank and any other sphere of life. When the parties are free from indolence, and, above all, intemperate habits, the actual condition, in respect of food, clothing, and other comforts, is exceedingly good, the working classes connected with the collieries earning very good wages, so that it is only intemperance, vice, and mismanagement that renders it otherwise. Indeed those who have tastes and inclinations elevated above the prevailing sensuality and vice have it in their power to gratify them, and hence in their dress and household equipment are distinguished for cleanliness and comfort; while in the very next dwelling, and with an income no way inferior, there may be nothing but squalor and hardly a seat to sit upon.
While habits are dissolute, intelligence and morality are low. Ignorance and ungodliness go hand in hand. Nor can it well be expected to be otherwise. The young, even when not previously neglected as to their education, are taken from school often as early as eight years of age, to be set to work in the pits, and soon forget any smattering they may have acquired, and being, from so earlier period of life, daily exposed to the most corrupting influences, nothing else can result but that the tastes and habits they acquire should be of a vitiated nature, and their notions of morality perverted and debased.
It is pleasing to record, however, amid so much that is unfavourable, that a marked improvement has been going forward, and that means that have been used to render them as a class more intelligent, moral, and religious, have not been altogether unavailing, so as perhaps to warrant the expectation that by perseverance therein, still more cheering results may yet be produced, and a reformation be gradually affected, alike happy for the individual and profitable for society. These, however, are prevented from taking effect with numbers, who are continually shifting from place to place, removing whenever they can get no more credit, and in order to get quit, it may be feared, of the debts that have been contracted. This mode of life they can all the more easily follow, that coalmasters generally make no inquiry as to character, and if they have need of workmen, give employment to the first that offers. As far as obtaining employment is concerned, good and bad are on equal footing. In this respect, it is no advantage to have a good character, while a bad one subjects to no penalty, so that self-interest does not require that the latter should be avoided or maintained; and thus one of the sanitary influences subjected to in their dependent relations in society is rendered inoperative. This is a very great disadvantage,--must have contributed not a little to make them what they are, and renders more hopeless their ever being raised out of it while such a state of things continues.


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