APPRENTICESHIPS were once the way that thousands of young people found their way into the workplace. The system dates back to the middle ages but was remodelled in the 1960s and again in the 1990s and more recently.
This relic of the past, almost 120 years old, has been loaned to us by Bernard Francis of Walsall. It is the indenture paper of a relative of his, William Hubbard, who became an apprentice when he was 14. Printed on velum, the handwritten black ink has faded to sepia over the years, the document was drawn up by Dudley solicitor Jesse Wright, who practised in the town from 1890 until his sudden death in 1911.
Young William lived in Dudley Road, Tividale, and on August 26, 1895, he became apprenticed to John Webb of Hopkins Street, Burnt Tree, Tipton, a "plumber, glazier, paperhanger and house decorator".
William was to work for John Webb until he was 21, learning his trade and his hours were from 6am to 5.30pm, except on Saturdays when he finished at 1pm.
The indenture sets out William's pay for the next six and a half years: "four shillings per week until the first day of December [William turned 15 on December 1, 1895] and the sum of five shillings per week until he is sixteen, then six shillings per week until he is seventeen, then seven shillings per week until he is eighteen, then eight shillings per week until he is nineteen, then nine shillings per week until he is twenty, then eleven shillings per week until his is twenty-one."
During the apprenticeship William's father, also named William Hubbard, agreed to "provide for his son sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging, medicine, clothing and all other necessities."
And William had to behave himself while an apprentice: "He shall not contract matrimony within the said term nor play at cards or dice tables or any other unlawful games whereby his said master may have any loss with his own goods or others during the said term without licence of his said master, shall neither buy nor sell. He shall not haunt taverns of playhouses nor absent himself from his said master's service day or night unlawfully."
The conditions may seem harsh but this was all quite normal in Victorian days.
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