1842: Life expectancy in Victorian England was around 40 years. The simple reason for this was that children grew up faster, often starting work as blacksmiths, chimney sweeps or adorable mobile hatstands as early as three years old. They were generally regarded as disposable labour by the industrial middle classes; the work was hard, the hours gruelling, and the lovemaking often less than tender. Here four 19-year old factory workers are photographed at their retirement party, shortly before being taken out the back and dismantled for spares.

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