An Indenture was a contract of labour, whereby a worker bound himself to his employer for a number of years, often receiving no monetary reward, but being provided with accommodation and food for his services. The term originates in Medieval English, and relates to a contract written in duplicate on the same page. The contract is cut along a 'toothed' or jagged line to provide a copy each for employer and employee. The edges could be fitted together along this irregular cut in order to confirm the document's validity.

This custom came to form the basis for the apprentice system. This particular indenture relates to a 'David Hopkins of the Town of Swansea, in the County of Glamorgan, aged about seventeen years' who, ' of his own free will doth put himself apprentice to James Richardson of Swansea aforesaid, Shipbuilder, to learn the art of a shipwright.' A seven year apprenticeship, to be completed in 1846, this would give David the skills required to earn a living. It appears that David had some sort of prior education, as he is able to sign his own name to the indenture.

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