The Two Grinders
Date Made/Found: circa 1858
, British, 1824 - 1866
Material and Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 656 x 812 x 68mm
Sight size: 453 x 615mm
Department: Social History
Accession Number: K1921.28
This painting shows the interior of a small water-powered grinding hull. These grinding hulls were notoriously cold and damp, as they were always situated beside a stream. The boy who is grinding blades would have been unlikely to live beyond 30, as grinding was a very dangerous and unhealthy occupation. The grindstones at this time were made from natural stone and often had hidden flaws which might cause them to explode when rotating. Blade grinding produced clouds of dust which could cause serious lung disease, known then as grinder's asthma.
Many workers in the cutlery trade belonged to a trade union and the unions struggled hard in the nineteenth century to maintain and improve rates of pay. Some union members went to great lengths against employers using non-union labour, who risked having their grinding hulls vandalised. The reward notice on the door possibly refers to an incident like this.
Weston Park Museum