Jobs and Work

The Industrial Revolution started in the 18th century which created big changes in the kinds of jobs people did. Before this there were no factories and everything was made by hand. During the 18th and 19th centuries, machines were invented which speeded up production and increased the quantities of items manufactured in factories.

Many people moved from the countryside to cities to work in factories. Factories were dangerous to work in and the hours were long. Women and children were employed as unskilled labour because they could be paid less than men. Gradually regulations were introduced from the mid-1800s to improve working conditions. Children's working hours were reduced to a maximum of 6.5 hours a day.

The first factories were mills making cloth. There were several mills in Aberdeen. Adults and children worked in hazardous conditions to produce cotton, linen and woollen cloth. Children as young as ten could have been employed there.

Comb making was a huge industry in Aberdeen in the 19th century (1800s). One factory alone had almost 1000 workers. The factory was noisy, smelly, hot and dusty.

By the time the last comb factory and mill closed in Aberdeen, conditions were different. They were much safer places to work. Children had stopped being employed and women were entitled to be paid the same as men for doing the same work.

There are far fewer factories in Britain today than there were in the 19th and early 20th century. The oil and gas industry is very important to Aberdeen. Many people in this industry work in offices, others make equipment in workshops or work offshore. There are many rules and regulations in place to make sure that working conditions are as safe as possible.

Horn and Combs Carpet Yarn Samples

Related Timelines

Local History - Industry


  1. There are far fewer factories in Britain than there used to be. Look at the labels on your clothes to find out where they were made.
  2. Look at the pictures of factories in Aberdeen in the timeline. Do you recognise where they are? Try to find out what has happened to some of the buildings and if they still exist today. If so what are they used for now?
  3. Think about what it was like for children working in factories. How would their life be different from yours? Find out if they went to school and what they studied.