A Path to Steam
Iron and Coal Exchange
Thousands of workmen of various grades were employed to move the coal from the ships to a customer’s coal cellar, with “coal-whippers” carrying sacks of coal by hand from a ship to a coal merchant’s lighter, and then taken onshore by “coal-backers”. The coal was sorted by “coal-sifter” and put into coal-sacks by a “coal-filler”, then transported by “coal-waggoners” and delivered by a “coal-trimmer”. The work was heavy manual labour, but the trade was essential and workers were reasonably well paid for the period.
In the Coal Exchange, coal factors acted as agents between sellers and buyers. Factors agreed with coal sellers how much coal is available on a particular day, based on the ships available and the market price, with the market meeting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12 noon to 2:30pm. All sales were agreed privately, with no public auction, and factors would take a 0.5% commission.