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Harry Townsend was known as the little wonder walker, son of Mr George Townsend he was born in Bacup in 1895.  A frail little boy who suffered often from ill health the Bacup Times reported in 1902, that after taking a vegetarian diet and plenty of fresh air he had become stronger and as recently undertaken some remarkable walks for one so young. He walked from Ilford to Romford, a distance of 21 miles  in 4 and 3/4 hours.  Next he managed a circular walk from Rochdale to Bacup, Walsden and Littleborough  distance of 21 miles in 5 hours 10 mins though  he apparently had a head wind against him for 10 miles. He also walked from Rochdale to Halifax and on Saturday 17th October 1902 he covered the 19 miles from Chorley to Southport on foot. The following Saturday he was due to walk from Bury to Manchester but he died that morning. The doctor had been to see him on the Thursday noting he had a little inflammation of the tonsils an ailment he frequently had but was otherwise perfectly well and had later enjoyed some football practice. He later  became ill again and on the Friday the doctor was once again called and diagnosed broncho pneumonia, and despite all that could be done for him he died about 1.30 am on Saturday at just nine years old and was buried in Bacup Cemetery. Unfortunately his grave  was vandalised and the top is now missing.
The little wonder walker. Children of Dale Street.
Sadly accidents to children were commonplace, many of them ending tragically to read some of these click
Boys in 1902 hang about the center of Bacup under the big lamp. Children look on while the cameraman takes his snap of the broken traction engine.
Many of the mills, coal mines, factories, in and around Bacup and Stacksteads employed children, the pittance they earned ofen meant the difference between their families starving.In 1840 the mills ran for  14- 16 hours a day six days a week and this applied to children as well as adults. Itwas commonplace to bring in children from other parishes, children who were orphaned living in workhouses were often brought to work in the mills as the folliwng report from the Bacup Times of 1866 shows: Such is the difficulty experienced in obtaining hands for the cotton manufacturers that applications have been made by several firms to the board of guardians for all the children they can send to be apprenticed to the trade. The hours of labour, education and other  advantages offered are more favourable than usually fall to the lot of the parish apprentice. Children were often apprenticed to other trades  as well and not all were treated well, in 1863 a young man named Ralph Jackson, who had been a resident of the Blue Coat School in Oldham, had been apprenticed to a Mr Moorey of Union Street, Tailors and drapers. Following Mr Mooreys death, Ralph ran away citing ill treatment as a reason for doing this, after being apprehended and appearing in the Bacup Court he said that Mrs Moorey ill treated him by making him wear thick iron clogs which hurt is feet dreadfully. Following the Education Act of 1870 all children were supposed to receive compulsory education, by the 1890’s the working week was typically 54 hours, with children restricted to being able to work only when they reached the age of 10 and then only has half-timers the other half of the day being spent in school. The new Factory Act which came into effect on 1st January 1893 stated that no child under the age of 11 should be allowed to commence work as a half-timer in a factory or workshop this raised the age by one year from the previous ruling. In 1892 the minimum age for working was raised from 10 to 11 years and in 1900 to 12 years. The Bacup Times often carried stories of horrific accidents that had occured to child workers click HERE to access some of these. You can also read the memories of one child worker HERE
Mending thier top and whip. Child doffers of Bacup. The Grave of the little Wonder Walker Group of children from Cowpe