The manufacture of tinplate in Britain began early in the eighteenth century and involved rolling iron plates and coating them with tin. You can read an excellent article on this here – An Industrial Work-Force – Kidwelly Tin Workers 1881 by Muriel Bowen Evans.
Charles Chilcott, my 3rd great-uncle, was born in 1851 at Stogursey, Somerset, England to William Chilcott and Jane Webber, the 3rd of 9 children. In 1869 he was married in Neath, Glamorgan, Wales to Elizabeth Thomas and they had 10 children.
Like many of my ancestors from Somerset, he had migrated to Wales, presumably for work. He and some of his children worked in the tin industry at Margam.
Based on Census data, Charles was a yellow metal furnaceman in 1881 and a copper works furnaceman in 1891. His two sons, Robert Charles and William were copper works furnacemen in 1891 and became a coaltrimmers by 1911. His two daughters Elizabeth and Mary Jane were picklers at the tin plate works in 1891 at the ages of 17 and 15 respectively. The family lived all this time at Cotton Row in Margam. Some of his other children may also have work in the industry.
Pickling is a surface treatment to remove impurities from a metal surface where an acid solution called pickle liquor is used. The pieces would be dipped into vats of the solution prior to rolling.
I can imagine this to be hard hot work and I am surprised that they are handling the tin without wearing gloves. It must have been hard on the hands.
The Chilcotts likely worked at the Margam and Mansel Tinplate Works. This must have caused some hard times as the works were often stopped – sometimes due to the shortage of coal, and once in 1904 due to the slackness of demand caused by the Russo-Japanese war. It could also get exciting at times, the Cardiff Times of 15 Mar 1884 reported that a boiler explosion had occurred at the Mansel Tin-plate Works shortly before seven o’clock on Saturday morning, when the fireman and two other men sustained injuries which, fortunately, were not of a serious nature.
Western Mail 15 September 1893
Location of Mansel Tin Works