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Smith, George, Of Coalville

SMITH, GEORGE, OF COALVILLE [" George Smith of Coalville "] (1831-1895), English philanthropist, was born near Tunstall, Staffordshire, on the 16th of February 1831. His father was a brickmaker, and when nine years old George Smith was working thirteen hours a day in the brickfields. Nevertheless he contrived to obtain some education, so that in time he improved his position, becoming manager of a brick and tile works. In 1857 he discovered, at Coalville, Leicestershire, valuable seams of clay, and on the strength of this discovery organized a large brick-making business there. He advocated legislation in the interests of brickmakers, and in particular called attention to the cruelty suffered in the brickfields by child-workers, whose claims he pressed at the Social Science congresses. In 1871 he published The Cry of the Children. This work awoke the interest of the (seventh) earl of Shaftesbury and of A. J. Mundella, and, in the same year, was passed an act providing for the government inspection of brickyards, and the regulation of juvenile and female labour there. Smith's share in this act aroused great antagonism, and at the end of 1872 he was dismissed from his position at Coalville, and reduced to great poverty. Nevertheless he turned his attention to the conditions of life of the hundred thousand persons living on canals. As the result of his representations on the subject the Canal Boats Bill was introduced by Mr Sclater-Booth (afterwards Lord Basing). This bill, which came into force in 1878, provided for the education of children on canal boats, and regulated the sanitary condition of life on board. In 1884 was passed another bill strengthening the provisions of the first. From that date onwards Smith devoted his attention to improving the condition of Gipsy children which he had described in his Gipsy Life (1880). A Moveable Dwellings Bill embodying his views was several times introduced into parliament, but always defeated. In 1885 Smith received a grant from the royal bounty fund. He died at Crick near Rugby on the 21st of June 1895.

See George Smith of Coalville, the Story of an Enthusiast, by E. Hodder (1896).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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