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The Butty System - 3
The butty contracted to deliver coals into carts and wagons at bank at a price per ton.

Researched by John Lumsdon

Mr. Thomas Baggnall, junior also expressed his intention of making a similar experiment. It is much to be desired that the result should encourage a further extension of the new system in their own and other works. But it dose not follow that if the butty system were generally abandoned, which it could not be until after many years, even if there were a general wish among the masters to do so.

The alleged social disadvantage of the system, that of keeping the men apart from the masters, and preventing that knowledge of each other which so much tends to harmonise society, would necessarily be replaced by greater opportunities of intercourse and the benefits which flow from it.

While it is alleged, on the one hand, that the butty system is not inconsistent with such mutual intercourse, and that in point of fact many masters who employ butties enjoy the confidence of their men, and are well known by and are greatly esteemed by them, and are always ready to attend to any reasonable complaints.

It is asserted on the other hand, that the new system would not necessarily lead to any greater amount of mutual knowledge or personal intercourse. The most common opportunities for both parties being brought together are the paydays. But where the pits are scattered, or the number of men great, the payments must be made at several places, to comparatively small numbers of men at each, in order that the men may be detained as short a time as possible, all being anxious to be paid at an early hour, in order to have the rest of the afternoon for going to market or for recreation.


The master, it is said, cannot always be present at more than one or two such places in the course of one pay day, and if his habits and inclination dispose him to take a personal interest in his men, he will find or make opportunities of becoming personally acquainted with them, and of making them understand him, although not he himself but the butty is the intermediate employer. And that this has long been so in the instances of many masters in the district is well known, and at times when a question of wages arises between the butty and the men, the opinion and advice of those masters has often been effectual in preventing a strike or leading to amicable settlement.

The more it becomes the habit of the masters to interest themselves in the welfare of the men, and to show personal sympathy with them in the matters that most affect them, the more they will obtain their confidence and the more any just ground of complaint, arising from the butty system or any other source, be removed. But the spread of improvement among the great body of the men is quite as essential towards the production of a better state of things. It is asserted by masters most desirous of promoting every good work in the district, that the number of men addicted to drinking habits and who consequently lend themselves willingly to the butty system which ministers to those habits prevents any decided stand being made by the men themselves as a body against it. Also the insubordinate habits of a large proportion of the men prevent them being dealt with by their masters directly effectually as through the butty, but consequently, that in a great majority of cases the only road of getting the mineral economically worked is to give the butty a direct interest in it. Accordingly, to raise the general standards of morals and intelligence in this district must long remain the principal object to which the minds of all with in it that look beyond the material occupation of the passing moment must be directed.

After the 1872 Coal Mines Act the "butty" system disappeared.

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