Pit Brow Lass

Pit Brow Lass

Continuing the theme of occupations, this carte-de-visite puzzled me at first. It’s dog-eared appearance did not offer many clues, but persistence paid off; it is the image of a pit brow lass or pit brow girl.

During the second half of the 19th century, and as recently as 1960, female workers were employed by collieries to work at the surface of the coal pit. Their job was to sort through the coal, pulling out stones and separating the coal from dirt. The women generally stayed in the job from the age of fifteen into their early twenties, and while it is easy to imagine the task as heavy and dirty, an account by Frank Hird in 1910 records that the women themselves would dispute that it was ‘hard work’. They must have been made of strong stuff!

The following video shows the women at work in Wigan around 1911:


2 thoughts on “Pit Brow Lass

  1. Fabulous find! The video footage is extraordinary. I wish there had been sound, but that is just quibbling. I wonder who it was that thought to go in there and record the working lives of these women? The Internet is amazing for revealing these historical gems. For some strange reason when video finished, it was grouped with the Monty Python song, I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay.! I enjoyed watching that one too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t help but chuckle, hearing that you enjoyed a Monty Python song too! The internet is truly varied! I just stumbled on the video of the women working at the colliery… when I watched it I suddenly got a sense of them working outdoors, which must have been preferable to being down the mine itself, even if the work was still grimy. Silly really, but it hadn’t occurred to me till then :). Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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