The 1851 Census of England and Wales shows my ancestors living in Forge Lane, Halesowen (in Worcestershire). Note that not only are all the adult males on the page working as gun barrel forgers, but also every household has at least one female listed as a "nail-maker".
Many local districts in the Black Country now have websites describing these activities in quite colourful terms. My hypothesis is that even the uncertain perils of life in colonial Queensland were regarded as preferable to remaining in Forge Lane.
I have found relevant background to conditions before 1850 in the Second Report of Lord Ashley's Royal Commission of Inquiry into Children's Employment Trades and Manufactures (1842). This can be read at Origins.net. Can someone suggest an authoritative source on how the industry developed through to 1880?