Emanuel Lovekin (1820-1905): Life and Labour

Emanuel began working during his early childhood however he continued to carry on working for as long as he had enough health to perform it. Therefore it is evident that discussing working life is, without a doubt, the focal experience of any labourer’s life and that is precisely what Emanuel’s autobiography expresses.

One analysis of working class writers that really stood out to me was by Vincent. He suggested that ‘As a generalization, the less literate the writer, and the less he was involved in specific activities of self-improvement or political activity, the greater his preoccupation with the details of his life as a worker’ (pg.62) Emanuel’s autobiography was mainly centred around his working life and how proud he was of all he had achieved throughout his working life. It is also evident that his spelling and grammar are not always correct, suggesting that he chose to work more than he did choose to spend a lot of time when it came to his education.

His work began down the mine at a very young age, however his job allowed him to start off with small tasks but then helped him progress to other bigger jobs. He states that ‘it was little I could be exspected to do except open a door for wagons to pass through’. However as his strength increased, more opportunities opened up to Emanuel and he was then ‘promoted to drive a Donkey’.

Emanuel’s working life was not just to work for years in a coal mine. Instead he described himself as ‘a bit given to roaming about and he therefore began working as a navvy. Emanuel suggested that ‘Railway tunneling was very rife, at this time’ (pg.6) and also ‘But my mate and I, had the getting of quirry stone for putting in the Locks in the severn reiver between Stourport and Worscester’. Working as a navvy had its perks. He was able to work and travel and said that he found ‘very good jobs and plenity of money’.

Coal Mining

Emanuel’s life as the breadwinner was perhaps ultimately decided when he was at a young age. His father spent a lot of the money that he made on drink, leaving Emanuel’s mum struggling to look after Emanuel and his siblings. Therefore Emanuel was pulled out of school at a young age to work in order to help support his large family. His childhood consisted of working. This aspect in life did not change even as he grew much older and had a big family of his own. Emanuel also moved around a lot for work opportunities which were the best decisions in supporting his family. However even though Emanuel’s working life was imposed on him at a young age, I believe that he was proud to be a working man. He was proud to work hard in order to support the family he helped raise. This may be seen through all the different jobs that Emanuel carried out but it may also be portrayed through Emanuel joining the Chartist movement.

The aim for the chartists was to help gain political rights and influence for the working classes. The movement became extremely popular after the 1832 Reform Act. Emanuel felt so passionate about his rights as a working man that he even became secretary of the local branch of Chartists. This indicates that Lovekin felt so passionate about his working life that he risked getting arrested in order to take a stand and to help gain rights for workers just like him.


Humphries, Jane. Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010

Lovekin, Emanuel. ‘Some notes of my life’, MS, pp.32 (c.7,000 words). Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Useful Toil. Autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1974), pp.290-6.

Vincent, David. Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: Study of Nineteenth Century Working Class Autobiography. Routledge London, UK. 1982.



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