Anonymous artist, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Only a minority of journeymen could ever rise to become successful masters and not all had the benefit of a well rounded and happy apprenticeship.  John Buckley, for example, was sold into virtual slavery in the Chiltern Hills at the age of ten.  Indentured to his wicked uncle for £50 to cover his seven-year apprenticeship, Buckley’s contract provides us with an example of the strict nature of that system:

This Indenture witnesseth John Buckley, of Claywick, who of his own free will and accord, and by consent and approbation of his father, doth put himself apprentice to Joseph Shapward, of Oxenbridge, to learn the art, trade, or business of a carpenter and joiner from the 1st of December, 1833, to the 1st of December, 1840.  During his apprenticeship the said John Buckley shall go regularly to church, shall faithfully serve his master and keep all secrets, gladly do his lawful commands, shall not commit fornication nor contract matrimony within the said term of seven years, and shall not play at cards, dice, tables, or any other game of chance; he shall neither buy nor sell, he shall not haunt taverns nor playhouses, keep bad company, nor absent himself from his said master’s service day or night, and the said Joseph Shapward, in consideration of the sum of fifty pounds, doth covenant to teach his apprentice the art, trade, or business of a carpenter and joiner, finding the said apprentice sufficient meat, drink, and lodging, and for the due performance of every and all the said covenants and agreements, the said parties hereby bind themselves …

In a situation reminiscent of a Dickens novel, Buckley was abused both physically and mentally by his sadistic and alcoholic uncle until, as an adolescent, he attempted to run away.  Caught by the local constable and returned to his master, he eventually was successful in his escape through the aid of a “secret society”.