To give the reader an idea of the motley assemblage to be found in these places, I subjoin the following table (taken from the Report), by which it will be seen that almost every quarter of the globe contributes its quota of wretchedness:—
|PLACES TO WHICH THE INDIVIDUALS SHELTERED BY THE HOUSELESS POOR SOCIETY DURING THE WINTER||1848||-||49||APPEARED TO BELONG.|
| ||Africa . . . .|| ||12|| ||Hampshire . . .|| ||414|| ||Russia . . . .|| ||7|| |
| ||America . . .|| ||78|| ||Herefordshire . .|| ||45|| ||Rutlandshire . .|| ||24|| |
| ||Bedfordshire . . .|| ||55|| ||Hertfordshire . .|| ||181|| ||Scotland . . .|| ||230|| |
| ||Berkshire . . .|| ||267|| ||Huntingdonshire . .|| ||25|| ||Shropshire . . .|| ||42|| |
| ||Buckinghamshire . .|| ||88|| ||Ireland . . .|| ||8068|| ||Somersetshire . .|| ||246|| |
| ||Cambridgeshire . .|| ||88|| ||Italy . . . .|| ||7|| ||Spain . . . .|| ||10|| |
| ||Cheshire . . .|| ||40|| ||Jersey . . . .|| ||15|| ||St. Helena . . .|| ||8|| |
| ||Cornwall . . .|| ||32|| ||Kent . . . .|| ||523|| ||Staffordshire . .|| ||129|| |
| ||Cumberland . . .|| ||12|| ||Lancashire . . .|| ||811|| ||Suffolk . . . .|| ||133|| |
| ||Derbyshire . . .|| ||48|| ||Leicestershire . .|| ||75|| ||Surrey . . . .|| ||204|| |
| ||Denmark . . .|| ||6|| ||Lincolnshire . . .|| ||85|| ||Sussex . . . .|| ||147|| |
| ||Devonshire . . .|| ||209|| ||London . . .|| ||343|| ||Wales . . . .|| ||122|| |
| ||Dorsetshire . . .|| ||46|| ||Middlesex . . .|| ||214|| ||Warwickshire . .|| ||160|| |
| ||Durham . . .|| ||54|| ||Norfolk . . .|| ||163|| ||West Indies . . .|| ||25|| |
| ||East Indies . . .|| ||19|| ||Northamptonshire .|| ||67|| ||Westmoreland . .|| ||6|| |
| ||Essex . . . .|| ||392|| ||Northumberland . .|| ||72|| ||Wiltshire . . .|| ||87|| |
| ||France . . . .|| ||14|| ||Nottinghamshire . .|| ||68|| ||Worcestershire .|| ||36|| |
| ||Germany . . .|| ||53|| ||Oxfordshire . . .|| ||100|| ||Yorkshire . . .|| ||126|| |
| ||Gibraltar . . .|| ||3|| ||Poland . . . .|| ||4|| ||Unknown . . .|| ||29|| |
| ||Gloucestershire . .|| ||163|| ||Portugal . . .|| ||5|| ||Born at sea . . .|| ||5|| |
| ||Guernsey . . .|| ||32|| || || || || || || || || |
These places of shelter for the houseless are only open at certain periods of the year; and at this season a large proportion of the country labourers who are out of employ flock to London, either to seek for work in the wintertime, or to avail themselves of the food and lodging afforded by these charitable institutions. Others, again, who are professional vagrants, tramping through the country, and sleeping at the different unions on their road, come to town as regularly as noblemen every winter, and make their appearance annually in these quarters. Moreover, it is at this season of the year that the sufferings and privations of the really poor and destitute are rendered tenfold more severe than at any other period; and it is at the houses of refuge that the great mass of London, or rather English and Irish, poverty and misery, is to be met with.
The congregation at the Refuges for the Destitute is, indeed, a sort of ragged congress of nations—a convocation of squalor and misery—a synopsis of destitution, degradation, and suffering, to be seen, perhaps, nowhere else.
Nor are the returns of the bodily ailments of the wretched inmates of these abodes less instructive as to their miserable modes of life, their continual exposure to the weather, and their want of proper nutriment. The subjoined medical report of the diseases and bodily afflictions to which these poor creatures are liable, tells a tale of suffering which, to persons with even the smallest amount of pathological knowledge, must need no comment. The catarrh and influenza, the rheumatism, bronchitis, ague, asthma, lumbago— all speak of many long night"s exposure to the wet and cold; whereas the abscesses, ulcers, the diarrhœa, and the excessive debility from starvation, tell, in a manner that precludes all doubt, of the want of proper sustenance and extreme privation of these, the very poorest of all the poor.
|Medical Report for|| ||1848||-||49||.||Of the persons who applied at the general asylum, there were afflicted with||—|
| ||Catarrh and influenza . . . .|| ||149|| |
| ||Incipient fever . . . . . .|| ||52|| |
| ||Rheumatism . . . . . .|| ||50|| |
| ||Atrophy . . . . . . .|| ||3|| |
| ||Dropsy . . . . . . .|| ||3|| |
| ||Incised wounds . . . . .|| ||3|| |
| ||Diarrhœa . . . . . . .|| ||60|| |
| ||Cholera . . . . . . .|| ||2|| |
| ||Bronchitis . . . . . .|| ||13|| |
| ||Abscess . . . . . . .|| ||15|| |
| ||Ulcers . . . . . . .|| ||11|| |
| ||Affections of the head . . . .|| ||12|| |
| ||Ague . . . . . . .|| ||13|| |
| ||Excessive debility from starvation . .|| ||17|| |
| ||Inflammation of lungs . . . .|| ||2|| |
| ||Asthma . . . .|| ||10|| |
| ||Epilepsy . . . . . . .|| ||4|| |
| ||Diseased joints . . . . .|| ||4|| |
| ||Erysipelas . . . . . .|| ||3|| |
| ||Rupture . . . . . . .|| ||3|| |
| ||Cramps and pains in bowels . . .|| ||2|| |
| ||Spitting of blood . . . . .|| ||4|| |
| ||Lumbago . . . . . . .|| ||1|| |
| ||Rheumatic ophthalmia . . . .|| ||2|| |
| ||Strumous disease . . . . .|| ||2|| |
| ||Sprains . . . . . . .|| ||1|| |
| ||Fractures . . . . . . .|| ||4|| |
| ||Pregnant . . . . . . .|| ||30|| |
The returns of the different callings of the individuals seeking for the shelter of the refuges are equally curious and worthy of study. These, however, I shall reserve for my next letter, as, by comparing the returns for each year since the opening of the institution, now years ago, we shall be enabled to arrive at almost an historical account of the distress of the different trades since the year . These tables I am now preparing from the valuable yearly reports of the Society, of the most deserving among all our charitable institutions, and which, especially at this bitter season, calls for the support of all those who would give a meal and a bed to such as are too poor to have either.
I will now proceed to a description of the Refuge itself.
The only refuge for the houseless now open which is really a home for the homeless, is that in Playhouse-yard, Cripplegate. The doors open into a narrow by-street, and the neighbourhood needs no other announcement that the establishment is open for the reception of the houseless, than the assembly of a crowd of ragged shivering people, certain to be seen on the night of opening, as if they knew by instinct where they might be housed under a warm and comfortable roof. The crowd gathers in Playhouse-yard, and many among them look sad and weary enough. Many of the women carry infants at the breast, and have children by their sides holding by their gowns. The cries of these, and the wrangling of the hungry crowds for their places, is indeed disheartening to hear. The only sounds of merriment come from the errand-boys, as they call themselves, whom even starvation cannot make sorrowful for hours together. The little struggle that there usually is among the applicants is not for a rush when the doors are opened, but for what they call the "front rank." They are made to stand clear of the footpath; and when o"clock—the hour of admission—comes, an officer of the Refuge steps out, and quietly, by a motion of his hand, or a touch on the shoulder, sends in about men and boys, and about women and girls. He knows the great majority of those who have tickets which entitle them to or nights" further lodging (the tickets are generally for nights), and these are commonly in the foremost rank. The number
thus admitted show themselves more or less at home. Some are quiet and abashed; but some proceed briskly, and in a business-like way, to the process, to wash themselves. This is done in large vessels, in what may be called the hall or vestibule of the building. A man keeps pumping fresh water into the vessels as fast as that used is drained off, and soap and clean towels are supplied when thought necessary; the clean towels, which are long, and attached to rollers, soon becoming, in truth, exceedingly dirty. I noticed some little contention—whether to show an anxiety to conform to the rules of the Refuge, or to hurry through a disagreeable but inevitable task, or really for the comfort of ablution, I will not pretend to determine—but there was some little contention for the turn among the young men at the washing. To look down upon them from the main staircase, as I did, was to survey a very motley scene. There they were—the shirtless, the shoeless, the coatless, the unshaven, the uncouth, ay, and the decent and respectable. There were men from every part of the United Kingdom, with a coloured man or , a few seamen, navigators, agricultural labourers, and artizans. There were no foreigners on the nights that I was there; and in the returns of those admitted there will not be found Jew. It is possible that Jews may be entered under the heads of "Germans" or "Poles"—I mean, foreign Jews; but on my visits I did not see so much as any near approach to the Hebrew physiognomy. To attempt to give an account of anything like a prevailing garb among these men is impossible, unless I described it as rags. As they were washing, or waiting for a wash, there was some stir, and a loud buzz of talk, in which "the brogue" strongly predominated. There was some little fun, too, as there must be where a crowd of many youths is assembled. in a ragged, coarse, striped shirt, exclaimed as he shoved along, "By your leave, gentlemen!" with a significant emphasis of his "gentlemen." Another man said to his neighbour, "The bread"s fine, Joe; but the sleep, isn"t that plummy?" Some few, I say, seemed merry enough, but that is easily accounted for. Their present object was attained, and your real professional vagabond is always happy by that—for a forgetfulness of the past, or an indifference to it, and a recklessness as to the future, are the primary elements of a vagrant"s enjoyment. Those who had tickets were of course subjected to no further examination, unless by the surgeon subsequently; but all the new candidates for admission—and the officers kept admitting fresh batches as they were instructed—were not passed before a rigid examination, when a ticket for nights was given to each fresh applicant. On the right hand, as you enter the building, is the office. The assistant-superintendant sits before a large
ledger, in which he enters every name and description. His questions to every fresh candidate are:—"Your name?" "How old are you?" "What trade?" "How do you live (if no trade)?" "Where did you sleep last night?" "To what parish do you belong?" In order to answer these questions, each fresh applicant for admission stands before the door of the office, a portion of the upper division of the door being thrown open. Whilst I was present, there was among a portion of the male applicants but little hesitation in answering the inquiries glibly and promptly. Others answered reluctantly. The answers of some of the boys, especially the Irish boys, were curious. "Where did you sleep last night?" "Well, then, sir, I sleep walking about the streets all night, and very cowld it was, sir." Another lad was asked, after he had stated his name and age, how he lived? "I beg, or do anything," he answered. "What"s your parish?" "Ireland." (Several pronounced their parish to be the "county Corruk.") "Have you a father here?" "He died before we left Ireland." "How did you get here, then?" "I came with my mother." "Well, and where"s she?" "She died after we came to England." So the child had the streets for a stepmother.
Some of the women were as glib and systematic in their answers as the men and boys. Others were much abashed. Among the glib-tongued women, there seemed no shamefacedness. Some of the women admitted here, however, have acquitted themselves well when provided (through charitable institutions) with situations. The absence of shame which I have remarked upon is the more notable, because these women were questioned by men, with other men standing by. Some of the women were good-looking; and when asked how old they were, they answered at once, and, judging by their appearance, never understated their years. Many I should have pronounced younger than they stated. Vanity, even with silliness and prettiness, does not seem to exist in their utter destitution.
All the regular processes having been observed (and the women have a place for their ablutions after the same fashion as the men), the applicants admitted enter their several wards. The women"s ward is at the top of the building. It supplies accommodation, or berths, for women in an apartment yards in length and in width. At corner of this long chamber, a few steps lead down to what is called "the nursery," which has berths. Most of these berths may be described as double, and are large enough to accommodate a mother and her children. The children, when I saw them, were gambolling about in some of the berths as merry as children elsewhere, or perhaps merrier, for they were experiencing the unwonted luxuries of warmth and food. The matron can supply these women and their
children with gruel at her discretion; and it appeared to be freely given. Some who had children seemed to be the best of all there in point of physiognomy. They had not, generally, the stolid, stupid, indifferent, or shameless look of many of the other women; it was as though the motherly feeling had somewhat humanized them. Some of the better sort of women spoke so low as to be hardly audible. Among them were, indeed, many decentlook- ing females.
The men"s wards are the Chapel Ward (for the better sort of persons), containing berths, line being ranged berths deep; the Lower Ward, containing berths; the Boys" Ward, containing berths; and the Straw Loft, . There is a walk alongside the berths in each ward. What is called the Boys" Ward is not confined to boys: it used to be so, but they were found so noisy that they could no longer be allowed a separate apartment. They are now scattered through the several wards with the men, the officers arranging them, and varying the arrangements as they consider best. Before there can be any retirement to rest, each man, woman, and child must be examined by a surgeon. Whilst I was present, a young assistant conducted the investigation in a careful, yet kindly and gentlemanly manner. Indeed, I was much struck with the sympathy and gentleness he displayed; and it was evident from the respect of the people, that kindness and consideration are the very qualities to impress and control the class he has to deal with. All afflicted with cutaneous disorders (and there were but men so afflicted) were lodged apart from the others. Bronchitis and rheumatism are the prevalent disorders, occasioned by their exposure to the weather, and their frequent insufficiency of food. per cent of them, I was told by Mr. Gay, the intelligent surgeon of the establishment, might have coughs at some periods, but of that they thought nothing. Women advanced in pregnancy, and men with any serious (especially any infectious) ailment, are not permitted to sleep in the Refuge; but the institution, if they have been admitted, finds them lodgings elsewhere.
Each person admitted receives in the evening half-a-pound of the best bread. Every child has the same allowance. If a woman be admitted with children, she receives half-pounds of bread—a half-pound for every , no matter if be at the breast, as is not unfrequently the case. The same quantity of bread is given in the mornings. In the night that I was present, were admitted, and consequently (including the evening and morning allowances), lbs. of bread were disposed of. On Sundays, when Divine Service is celebrated by a clergyman of the Church of England, half-pounds of bread and ounces of cheese are distributed to each inmate, children and babies
included. I witnessed a number of young men eating the bread administered to them. They took it with a keen appetite; nothing was heard among them but the champing of the teeth, as they chewed large mouthfuls of the food.
The berths, both in the men"s and women"s wards, are on the ground, and divided from another only by a wooden partition about a foot high; a similar partition is at the head and feet; so that in all the wards it looks as if there were a series of coffins arranged in long catacombs. This burial-like aspect is the more striking when the inmates are all asleep, as they were, with the rarest exceptions, when I walked round at o"clock at night. Each sleeper has for covering a large basil (dressed sheep-skin), such as cobblers use for aprons. As they lie in long rows, in the most profound repose, with these dark brown wrappers about them, they present the uniform look and arrangement of a long line of mummies. Each bed in the coffin, or trough--like division, is made of waterproof cloth, stuffed with hay, made so as to be easily cleaned. It is soft and pleasant to the touch. Formerly the beds were plain straw, but the present plan has been in use for years. In this Refuge only men have died since it was established, years ago. fell dead at the sink-stone while washing himself; the other were found dead in their berths during the prevalence of the cholera.
Every part of the building was scrupulously clean. On the night of the opening, the matron selects from the women who have sought an asylum there, , who are engaged for the season to do the household work. This is done during the day when the inmates are absent. All must leave by in the morning, the doors being open for their departure at , in case any wish to quit early —as some do for the chance of a job at Covent-garden, Farringdon, or any of the early markets. The women-helpers receive a-week each, the half of that sum being paid them in money every Saturday, and the other half being retained and given to each of them, in a round sum, at the closing of the Refuge. The premises in which this accommodation to the houseless is now supplied were formerly a hat manufactory on a large scale; but the lath and plaster of the ceilings, and the partitions, have been removed, so that what was a suite of apartments on floor is now a long ward. The rafters of the ceilings are minutely whitewashed, as are the upright beams used in the construction of the several rooms before the place was applied to its present charitable end. Those now are in the nature of pillars, and add to the catacomb-like aspect that I have spoken of. In different parts of each ward are very large grates, in which bright fires are kept glowing and crackling; and as these are lighted some time before
the hour of opening, the place has a warmth and cosiness which must be very grateful to those who have encountered the cold air all the day, and perhaps all the night before.
In order to arrive at a correct estimate as to the number of the really poor and houseless who availed themselves of the establishment (to afford nightly shelter to whom the refuge was originally instituted by the benevolent founder, Mr. Hick, the City mace-bearer) I consulted with the superintendent as to the class of persons he found most generally seeking refuge there. These were—among the men—mostly labourers out of work—agricultural, railway, and dock; discharged artisans, chiefly carpenters and painters; sailors, either cast away or without their registry tickets; broken-down tradesmen, clerks, shopmen, and errand-boys, who either through illness or misfortune had been deprived of their situations; and, above all, Irish immigrants, who had been starved out of their own country. These he considered the really deserving portion of the inmates for whom the institution was designed. Among the females, the better and largest class of poor were needlewomen, servants, charwomen, gardenwomen, sellers of laces in the street, and occasionally a beggar-woman. Under his guidance I selected such as appeared the most meritorious among the classes he had enumerated, and now subjoin the statements of a portion of the number.
The of the houseless that I saw was a railway navigator. He was a fine, stoutlybuilt fellow, with a fresh-coloured open countenance, and flaxen hair—indeed, altogether a splendid specimen of the Saxon labourer. He was habited in a short blue smockfrock, yellow in parts with clay, and he wore the heavy high lace--up boots, so characteristic of the tribe. These were burst, and almost soleless with long wear.
The poor fellow told the old story of the labourer compelled to squander the earnings at the public-house of his master:—
I have been a navvy for about eighteen years. The first work that I done was on the Manchester and Liverpool. I was a lad then. I used to grease the railway waggons, and got about 1s. 6d. a-day. There we had a tommyshop, and we had to go there to get our bit of victuals, and they used to charge us an extra price. The next place I had after that was on the London and Brummagem. There I went as horse-driver, and had 2s. 6d. a-day. Things was dear then, and at the tommy-shop they was much dearer; for there was tommy-shops on every line then; and indeed every contractor and sub-contractor had his shop that he forced his men to deal at, or else he wouldn"t have them in his employ. At the tommy-shop we was charged half as much again as we should have had to pay elsewhere; and it"s the same now, wherever these tommy-shops is. What the contractors, you see, can"t make out of the company, they fleeces out of the men. Well,
sir, I worked on that line through all the different contracts till it was finished: sometimes I was digging, sometimes shovelling. I was mostly at work at open cuttings. All this time I was getting from 2s. 6d. to 3s. and 3s. 6d. a-day; that was the top price; and if I"d had the ready-money to lay out myself, I could have done pretty well, and maybe have put a penny or two by against a rainy day: but the tommy-shop and the lodging-house took it all out of us. You see, the tommyshop found us in beer, and they would let us drink away all our earnings there if we pleased, and when pay-time came we should have nothing to take. If we didn"t eat and drink at the tommy-shop we should have no work. Of an evening, we went to the tommy-shop after the drink, and they"d keep drawing beer for us there as long as we"d have anything coming to us next pay-day (we were paid every fortnight, and sometimes every month), and when we had drunk away all that would be coming to us, why they"d turn us out. The contractor, who keeps these tommy-shops, is generally a gentleman, a man of great property, who takes some four, five, or seven lengths to do. Well, with such goings on, in course there wasn"t no chance in the world for us to save a halfpenny. We had a sick fund among ourselves, but our masters never cared nothing about us further than what they could get out of us at their tommy-shops. They were never satisfied if a man didn"t spend all his money with them; if we had a penny to take at the month"s end, they didn"t like it; and now the half of us has to walk about and starve, or beg, or go to the union. After I left the Brummagem line, I went on to the Great Western. I went to work at Maidenhead. There it was on the same system, and on the same rules— the poor man being fleeced and made drunk by his master. Sometimes the contractor would lot the work out to some sub-contractor, and he, aftor the men had worked for a month, would run away, and we should never see the colour of his money. After the Great Western, I went into Lancashire, on the Manchester and Oldham branch. I started there to work at nights, and there I worked a month for the contractors, when they went bankrupt, and we never received a farthing but what we had got out of the tommy-shop. Well, I came away from there, and got on to the London and Brighton, and I worked all up and down that, saving the tunnels; and it was the same there—the tommy-shop and imposition was wherever we went. Well, from there I went on to the London and Dover. It was monthly payments on that. There, too, I worked for a month, when the sub-contractor runned away with all the men"s money—900l., sir, it were calculated. After that another party took it, and it was the same all the way up and down—the tommy-shop and beer as much as we liked, on credit. Then I went on to the London and Cambridge, and there it
was the same story over and over again. Just about this time, railway work began to get slack, and then farmers" work was slack too; and you see that made things worse for the navvies, for all came to look for employment on the railroads. This is about seven years ago. After that some more fresh lines started throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire, and trade being bad in them parts, all the weavers applied for work on the railways, and the regular navvies had a hard time of it then. But we managed to get on somehow—kept lingering on—till about three years agone, when trade got a little bit better. That was about the time when things was very dear, and our wages was rose to 3s. 6d. a-day.: they"d been only 2s. 6d. and 3s. before that; and we did much better when our pay was increased, because we had the ready-money then, and there was no tommy-shops that summer, for the company wouldn"t have them on that line. At the end of that year the work was all stopped, on account of the Chartist rising, and then there was hundreds of men walking about begging their bread from door to door, with nothing to do. After this, (that"s two years ago, the back end of this year,) I went to work on the London and York. Here we had only 2s. 9d. a-day. and we had only four days" work in the week to do besides; and then there was a tommy-shop, where we were forced to get our victuals and drink: so you see we were very bad off then. I stopped on this line (for work was very scarce, and I thought myself lucky to have any) till last spring. Then all the work on it stopped, and I dare say 2000 men were thrown out of employ in one day. They were all starving, the heap of them, or next door to it. I went away from there over to the Brummagem and Beechley branch line. But there I found things almost as bad as what I left before. Big, strong, able-bodied men were working for 1s. 8d. a-day, and from that to 2s.: that was the top price; for wages had come down, you see, about one-half, and little or no work to do at that price; and tommyshop and beer, sir, as before, out of the little we did get. The great cause of our wages being cut down was through the work being so slack in the country; everybody was flocking to them parts for employment, and the contractors, seeing a quantity of men walking backwards and forwards, dropped the wages: if one man wouldn"t work at the price, there was hundreds ready to do it. Besides, provisions was very cheap, and the contractors knew we could live on less, and do their work quite as well. Whenever provisions goes down our wages does, too; but when they goes up, the contractors is very slow in rising them. You see, when they find so many men walking about without work, the masters have got the chance of the poor man. Three year agone this last winter—I think it was "46— provisions was high and wages was good; and in the summer of the very same year, food got
cheap again, and our wages dropped from 3s. 6d. to 3s. and 2s. 9d. The fall in our wages took place immediately the food got cheaper. The contractors said, as we could live for less, we must do the work for less. I left the Brummagem and Beechley line, about two months before the Christmas before last, and then I came to Copenhagen-fields, on the London and York—the London end, sir; and there I was till last March, when we were all paid off, about 600 on us; and I went back to Barnet, and there I worked till the last seven weeks, and had 2s. 9d. a-day for what, four years ago, I had 3s. 6d. for; and I could only have three or four days" work in the week then. Whilst I was there, I hurted my leg, and was laid up a month. I lived all that time on charity; on what the chaps would come and give me. One would give a shilling, another sixpence, another a shilling, just as they could spare it; and poorly they could do that, God knows! I couldn"t declare on to the sick fund, because I hadn"t no bones broken. Well, when I come to look for work, and that"s three weeks agone, when I could get about again, the work was all stopped, and I couldn"t get none to do. Then I come to London, and I"ve looked all about for a job, and I can"t find nothing to do. I went to a lodging-house in the Borough, and I sold all my things—shovel and grafting-tool and all, to have a meal of food. When all my things was gone, I didn"t know where to go. One of my mates told me of this Refuge, and I have been here two nights. All that I have had to eat since then is the bread night and morning they gives us here. This will be the last night I shall have to stop here, and after that I don"t know what I shall do. There"s no railway work—that is, there"s none to speak of, seeing the thousands of men that"s walking about with nothing to do, and not knowing where to lay their heads. If I could get any interest, I should like to go away as an emigrant. I shouldn"t like to be sent out of my native country as a rogue and a vagabone; but I"m tired of stopping here, and if I can"t get away, why I must go home and go to the parish, and it"s hard for a young man that"s willing and able like me to work, and be forced to want because he can"t get it. I know there is thousands—thousands, sir, like I am—I know there is, in the very same condition as I am at this moment: yes, I know there is." [This he said with very great feeling and emphasis.] "We are all starving. We are all willing to work, but it ain"t to be had. This country is getting very bad for labour; it"s so overrun with Irish that the Englishman hasn"t a chance in his own land to live. Ever since I was nine years old I"ve got my own living, but now I"m dead beat, though I"m only twentyeight next August.
The next man to whom I spoke was tall and hale-looking, except that his features were pinched, and his eyes had a dull lack-lustre
look, common to men suffering from cold and hunger. His dress was a coarse jacket, fustian trousers, and coarse, hard-worn shoes. He spoke without any very provincial accent.
I am now forty-eight, and have been a farm-labourer all my life. I am a single man. When I was a boy of twelve, I was put to dig, or see after the birds, or break clods, or anything, on a farm at Croland, in Lancashire. I had very little school before that, and can neither read nor write. I was then living with my parents, poor people, who worked on the land whenever they could get a day"s work. We had to live very hard, but at hay and harvest times we had meat, and lived better. I had 3s. a-week as a boy. When I grew up to fourteen I left home. I thought my father didn"t use me well: perhaps it was my own fault. I might have been a bad boy; but he was severe when he did begin with me, though he was generally quiet. When his passion was up, there was no bearing it. Anyhow, I started into the world at fourteen to do the best I could for myself—to make my fortune if I could. Since then, I have had work in all sorts of counties; Midland counties, principally. When a boy, I got employment readily enough at bird-scaring, or hay-making; but I soon grew up, and took a man"s place very early, and I could then do any kind of farmer"s work, except ploughing or seeding. They have men on purpose for that. Farm work was far better in my younger days than it is now. For a week, when hired by the day, I never get more than 15s., regular work. For taken work (by the job), I have made as much as 42s. in a week; that is, in reaping and mowing, when I could drop on such jobs in a difficult season, when the weather was uncertain. I talk of good times. The last good job I had was three years ago, come next summer. Now I should be glad to get 9s.
a-week, constant work: anything but what I"m doing now. As I went about from place to place, working for farmers, I generally lodged at the shepherds" houses, or at some labourer"s. I never was in a lodging-house when I was in work, only when money runs low one must have shelter. At some lodginghouses I"ve had a good feather-bed; others of them are bad enough: the best, I think, are in Norfolk. I have saved a bit of money several times—indeed, year after year, until the last three or four years; but what I saved in the summer, went in the winter. In some summers, I could save nothing. It"s how the season comes. I never cared for drink. I"ve done middling till these last two seasons. My health was good, to be sure; but when a man"s in health his appetite is good also; and when I"m at regular work I don"t eat half so much as when I"m knocking about idle, and get hold of a meal. I often have to make up for three or four days then. The last job I had was six weeks before Christmas, at Boston, in Lincolnshire. I couldn"t make 1s. 6d. a-day
on account of the weather. I had 13s., however, to start with, and I went on the road, not standing for a straight road, but going where I heard there was a chance of a job, up or down anywhere, here or there, but there was always the same answer, "Nobody wanted —no work for their own constant men." I was so beat out as soon as my money was done—and it lasted ten days—that I parted with my things one by one. First my waistcoat, then my stockings (three pair of them), then three shirts. I got 2s. 4d. for three shirts, and 6d. a pair for my stockings. My clothes were done, and I parted with my pocket-knife for 2d., and with my "bacco-box for 1 1/2d.
After I left Boston, I got into Leicestershire, and was at Cambridge, and Wisbeach, and Lynn, and Norwich; and I heard of a job among brickmakers at Low Easthrop, in Suffolk, but it was no go. The weather was against it, too. It was when the snow set in. And then I thought I would come to London, as God in his goodness might send me something to do. I never meant anything slinking. I"m only happy when I"m at work, but here I am destitute. Some days as I walked up I had nothing to eat. At others I got halfpennies or pennies from men like myself that I saw at work. I"ve given shillings away that way myself at times. Sometimes I had to take to the road, but I"m a very poor beggar. When I got to London I was a stranger, and lodged here the first night—that"s a week ago. A policeman sent me here. I"ve tried every day to get work—labouring-work for builders, or about manure-carts, or anything like that, as there"s no farming in London, but got none; so but for this place I had starved. When this place is closed I must tramp into the country. There are very many farmlabourers now going from farm to farm, and town to town, to seek work, more than ever I saw before. I don"t know that the regular farm-workmen come so much to London. As I travelled up from Suffolk I lay rough often enough. I got into stables, or any places. Such places as this save many a man"s life. It"s saved mine, for I might have been found dead in the street, as I didn"t know where to go.
This man appeared to me to be a very decent character.
The large number of Irish found among the inmates of these establishments is of the peculiar features of the Refuges. By the returns above given, it will be seen that they constitute more than -half of the total applicants. Such being the fact, I selected from the more decent, as types of the better class of immigrants, and subjoin their narratives.
of these men had a half-shrewd, halfstolid look, and was clad in very dirty fustian. His beard was some days old, and he looked ill-fed and wretched. His children—for he had boys with him, and years
old—were shoeless, their white skins being a contrast to their dirty dress, as the former appeared through the holes in their jackets. They looked on with a sort of vacant wonder, motionless, and without a word. The father said:—
I"ve been knocking about in England these four years from place to place. I"m telling you the truth, sir. [This he often repeated.] I came here to betther myself, to knock out something betther; but I wish to God I"d been buried before I buried my wife and children. I do, indeed, sir. I was a labourer in Ireland, working in farms and gardens for anybody. My wages warn"t much, only 3s.
a-week, and my datal house (that is, a house rent-free), and two meals of victuals a-day, sometimes "taties and milk for meals, and sometimes "taties and fish, and sometimes— aye, often—"taties and nothing. My wife and me, and four children, came from Cork—it was in the county Cork I lived—to Wales. I don"t know the name of the part; they"ve such queer names there; sure, then, they have, sir. It cost me half-a-crown a-piece for the six of us. I raised the money partly by digging up a garden I had, and selling what stuff there was, and the rest was made up by the farmers in the neigh bourhood giving their 3d. or 6d. a-piece to me, so that I might lave. I wasn"t on the poor-law rate, but I soon might. When I got to Wales, I had only 6d. left. I went to the workhouse for a night"s lodging, to be sure—what else? I started next day for London with my wife and children, begging as we came, and going from workhouse to workhouse; and very badly we got along. It finished a fortnight to get to London. When we got to London (that"s about four years agone) we got work at peas-picking, my wife and me, in the gardens about. That is for the summer. In the winter we sold oranges in the streets while she lived, and we had nothing from the parishes. I can"t complain of the living till this time, sir; it was better than I knew in Ireland. I don"t know what we got, she managed all. Last autumn we went into the hop county, to Ellis"s farm. I don"t know the town nearest; and there my wife and two children died of the cholera at the farm. The three of them wern"t a week ill. The parish kept them and buried them. Since that I"ve been worse off than ever, and will always be worse off than ever, for I"ve lost a good wife. Since her death I jobbed about in the country, living very bare, me and the children, till the frost came, and then we came to London. I was knocking about for a fortnight, and begged a little; but sorrow a much I got by that. How did I know of this place? Musha, all the neighbours know about it.
The younger man, who was tall and gaunt, more intelligent than the other, and less squalid in his appearance, said:— "I have been in England years in
August. I came to better my living. I tilled a portion of land in Ireland. It was a-year rent, and acres. That was in the county Cork, parish of Kilmeen. I rented the land of a middleman, and he was very severe. My family and I couldn"t live under him. I had a wife and children. We all came to England, from Cork to Bristol. I kept a little substance back to pay my way to England. The voyage cost From Bristol I went to Cardiff, as I got no work at Bristol. At Cardiff I worked on the railway at
a-day. I did well for a couple of months. I would like to continue at that, or at a-day here, better than in Ireland these times. I worked in Cardiff town with a bricklayer, after I"d done on the railway, at a-week. I next year had a twelvemonth"s work, on and off, with a farmer near Bristol, at a-week, and was still plenty comfortable. I made for London at the hay-harvest. I had a little money to start with, but I got no hay-work, only a trifle of work at the Docks. In cornharvest, near Brighton, I worked for weeks, making an acre for cutting wheat by piecework, and for oats, and for any day"s work. I made altogether. I got back to London with I could get no work at all, but days" work at a stone-yard, at a-day. I sold a few things in the streets, oranges and apples; so did my wife. It helped to keep us. All was gone at last, so I got in here with child (a fine boy). My wife"s got with her. She"s in a lodging in Gray"sinn- lane. She"s starving, I"m afraid; but she wished me to come in here with the child, as I could do nothing at night-time. I don"t know how many came over about the time I did. The gentry give poor men money, or did give it to them, to send them over here, to free the land from its expenses."
To complete the picture of this Irish destitution, I add the following.
wretched creature had come to the Refuge with her children. She herself was habited in a large blue cloth cloak, her toes were through the end of her shoes, and her gown clung tight to her limbs, telling that she was utterly destitute of under-clothing. In her arms she carried an infant, round which were wound some old woollen rags. As the little thing sucked at its mother"s breast, it breathed so hard that it needed no words to tell of its long exposure to the cold. Though the mother was half-clad, still there was the little bit of clean net inside the old rusty straw bonnet. The children were respectively , , and years old. The eldest (a goodlooking grey-eyed girl, who stood with her forefinger in her mouth, half simple) was covered with a tattered plaid shawl. This, at her mother"s bidding, she drew from her shoulder with an ostentation of poverty, to show that what had before appeared a gown beneath was nothing more than a bombazine petticoat. On her feet were a pair of women"s
old fashionable shoes, tied on with string. These had been given in charity to her by a servant a week back. The next child—a boy —laughed as I looked at him, and seemed, though only years old, to have been made prematurely "knowing" by his early street education. He put out his foot as he saw my eye glance downward to his shoes, to show me that he had boot and shoe on. He was clad in all kinds of rags, and held in his hand a faded velvet cap. The youngest boy was almost a dwarf. He was years old, but so stunted that he seemed scarce half that age.
I come from the county of Corruk, the worst and the poorest part of it—yes, indeed, sir, it is," said the woman; "and the gintlemen know that I do. When I had it to do, I manufactured at flax and wool. I knit and sewed, to be sure I did; but God Almighty was plazed to deprive me of it. It was there I was married. My husband was a miner. Distress and want, and hunger and poverty — nothing else—druv us to this counthry. It was the will of God—glory be to his holy and blessed name!—to fail the "taties. To be sure, I couldn"t dig one out of the ground not fit to ate. We lived on "taties, and milk, and fish, and eggs. We used to have hins then. And the mining failed, too; and the captains came over here. Yes, to be sure; for here they lived, sir. Yes, sir, indeed; and I could tell you that I used to be eight days—yes, that I did—before I could get one ha"porth to ate—barring the wather I boiled and drank to keep the life in myself and children. It was Doctor O"Donovan that paid for our passage. When he see all the hunger, and distress, and want—yes, indeed, sir—that I went through, he gave a letther to the stame-packet office, and then they brought me and my three childer over. It was here that this baby was borrun. My husband was here before me, he was, about seven or eight months. He hadn"t sent me any money, for he couldn"t a penny. He wrote home to see if I lived, for he didn"t think I lived; and then I showed the letther to Dr. O"Donovan. My husband niver got a day"s work since he came over; indeed, he couldn"t give the childer their breakfast the next morning after they came. I came to London-bridge, and met my husband there. Well, indeed, that is nearly three years agone. Oh, thin, I had nothing to do since but what little we done at the harvest. It was tin weeks before Christmas that I came over, and I don"t know what month it was, for I don"t read or write, you know. Oh, thin, indeed, we had to live by begging from that up to harvest time. I had to beg for him sooner than let him die with the hunger. He didn"t do any work, but he"d be glad of a sixpence he"d earn. He"d rather have it that way than if he"d begged tin pound—it would be more plisure. Never a day"s work could he get; and many beside him. Oh, Lord, there is
many, sir. He never does anything but at the harvest-time, and then he works at raping the corrun. I know nothing else that he does; and I bind the shaves afther him. Why, indeed, we get work then for about a fortnight or three weeks—it don"t howld a month. Oh no, sir, no; how could my children do anything, but as fast as we"d earn it to ate it? I declare I don"t know how much we"d make aweek then. They got only eight shillings an acre last year for it. I declare I don"t know what we made; but whatever we had, we hadn"t two shillings laving it. Ah, indeed, I had to beg all the rest of my time. My husband doesn"t beg—I"ll tell you the thruth. The thruth is the best. When he has e"er a penny, he tries to sell a handful of oranges; and, indeed, he had to lave off silling, for he couldn"t buy half a hundred of "em to sill back. He done pritty well when the onions were in season, he did, sir; but there"s so many silling oranges, he can"t sill one of "em. Now he does nothing, for he has nothing to reach half a hundred of limons with, and that isn"t much. When I gets a pinny to pay for the lodgings, then we lodges and sleeps together; but when I can"t, I must go about this way with my children. When I go out begging, he-remains at home in the lodginghouse; he has nothing else to do, sir. I always go out with my childer; sure I couldn"t look at "em die with hunger. Where"s the use of laving them with the husband; what has he to give them? Indeed, if I had left them last night with him, he couldn"t have give them as much as they"d put in their mouths onced. Indeed, I take them out in the cowld to big with me to get a bit of victuals for "em. Sure God knows I can"t hilp it—he knows I can"t —glory be to his holy name! Indeed, I have a part of the brid I got here last night to carry to my poor husband, for I know he wanted it. Oh, if I"m to go to the gallows, I"m telling you the thruth. Oh, to be sure, yes, sir; there"s many a one would give a bit to the childer when they wouldn"t to me— sure the world knows that; and maybe the childer will get ha"pence, and that will pay my lodging or buy a loaf of brid for "em. Oh, sir, to be sure, you know I"d get more with all my little childer out than I would with one, and that"s the rason indeed. Yes, indeed, that"s why I take them out! Oh, then, that"s what you want to know! Why, there"s some people wouldn"t believe I"d have so many. Maybe, some days I wouldn"t get a pinny, and maybe I"d git a shilling. I met a gintleman the other day that gave me a shilling together. I"d all my childer out with me then. The sister carries the little fellow on her back, no more would he stop afther me nayther. Only twice I"ve left him at home. Oh thin, indeed, he do cry with the cowld, and often again with the hunger; and some of the people says to me it"s myself that makes him cry; but thin, indeed, it ain"t. Maybe I"ve no home to give my
husband, maybe it"s at some union he slept last night. My husband niver goes bigging, he didn"t, sir—I won"t tell a lie—he didn"t, indeed; but he sinds me out in the cowld, and in the wit, and in the hate, too: but thin he can"t help it. He"s the best man that iver put a hat on his hid, and the kindest.
She persisted in asseverating this, being apparently totally incapable of perceiving the inhumanity of her husband"s conduct.
He don"t force me—he don"t, indeed—but he sits idle at home while I go out. Ah, if you knew what I suffers! Oh, yes, he"d rather work, if I"d got a guinea in gowld for him tonight; and yesterday morning he prayed to God Almighty to put something in his way to give him a day"s work. I was in prison onced for bigging. My children was taken away from me, and sint to some union. I don"t know the name of it. That was the time my husband was silling the limons. He niver came to spake for me when I was going to prison, and he doesn"t know whether I"m in prisin to-night. Ah, I beg your honour"s pardon, he would care, but he can"t help me. I thought I"d ind my life in the prisin, for I wouldn"t be allowed to spake a word. The poor man, my husband, can"t help it. He was niver counted lazy in his counthry; but God Almighty plazed to deprive him of his work, and what can he do?
The next was a rather tall and well-spoken woman of .
When I was young," she said, "I used to go out to day"s works, or charing, and sometimes as a laundress. I went charing till five years ago, sometimes doing middling, often very badly, when I burst a blood-vessel in lifting a weight—a pail of water to fill a copper. I fell down all at once, and bled at the ears and nose. I was taken to St. Bartholomew"s, and was there four months. When I came out, I took to sell things in the street. I could do nothing else. I have no friends in London—none in the world. Sometimes I picked up a living by selling laces, and ironholders, and memorandum-books, in the City. I made the memorandum-books myself— penny books. The pincushions I made myself. I never had anything from my parish, or rather my husband"s—that"s Bristol. He was a bricklayer, but I chared when he was out of work. He died eighteen years ago. I was known by ladies and others in the City, who would sometimes give me a sixpence for a lace. I was working two months back—it was the general thanksgiving-day—when I was working at a fishmonger"s in Gresham-street, and fell down the cellar stairs and broke my arm. I was again three weeks in Bartholomew"s hospital. I have been destitute ever since. I have made away with everything. A little quilt is all I have left, and that would have gone last night if I hadn"t got in here.
The poor woman whom I next accosted was a widow (her husband having died only a few
months before). She had altogether what I may call a faded look; even her widow"s cap was limp and flat, and her look was miserably subdued. She said:—
My husband was a journeyman shoemaker. Sometimes he would earn 20s. a-week; but we were badly off, for he drank; but he did not ill-use me—not much. During his last illness we raised 5l. on a raffle for a silk handkerchief among the shoemakers, and 10s. from the Mendicity Society, and a few shillings from the clergyman of the parish. The trade buried him. I didn"t get 1s. as his widow— only 5l. to bury him; but there was arrears of rent to pay, and about a month after his death I hadn"t a farthing, and I took the cholera, and was eight days in St. Bartholomew"s, the parish officers sending me there in a cab. I lived in furnished lodgings before that, and had nothing to call my own, when I had pawned my black for my husband. When I got out I helped a neighbour at shoe-binding. One time I have earned 15s. a-week at shoebinding for ——, Regent-street. Now I can only earn 5s. with full work. I have seldom earned 3s. of late weeks. I had to leave my neighbour, because I felt that I was a burden, and was imposing upon her. I then had a shelter with a young woman I once lodged with, but I couldn"t stay there any longer. She was poor, and had nothing for me to do. So, on Saturday last, I had no work, no money, no friends, and I thought I would try and get in here, as another poor woman had done. Here I"ve had a shelter.
A pretty, pleasant-spoken young woman, very tidy in her poor attire, which was an old cloak wrapped close round her, to cover her scanty dress, gave me the following statement very modestly:—
I am twenty-two; my mother died six years ago; my father I never knew, for I"m an unlawful child. My mother had a small income from my father, and kept me at school. I can"t even guess who my father was. I am an only child. I was taken from school to wait upon my mother; very kind indeed she was to me, but she died in three weeks after I came from school. She"d been in a consumption for six years; she fretted sadly about me. She never told me I was an unlawful child. My aunt, my mother"s sister, told me one day afterwards. My mother always said my father lived in the country. I loved my mother, so I seldom spoke of my father, for she would say, "I don"t wish to hear about him." There was nothing for me at my mother"s death, so I put myself to learn fancybox-making for grocers and pastrycooks, for their sweetmeats, and for scents. My aunt assisted me. She is now poor, and a widow. I could never earn more than 3s. or 4s. a-week at box-making, the pay is so bad. I lived this way for four or five years, lodging with my aunt, and giving her all I earned, and she kept me for it. I then went to learn the
Macintosh coat-making. I went into lodgings, my aunt being unable to help me any longer, as at my uncle"s death she could only keep a room for herself and children. She makes pillboxes. I could earn at the Macintoshes only 4s. a-week and my tea, when in full work, and when work was bad, I earned only 2s. 6d. It was 8d. a-day and my tea. I parted with a good box of clothes to keep myself; first one bit of dress went, and another. I was exposed to many a temptation, but I have kept my character, I am happy to say. On Monday night I was in the streets all night—I hardly knew in what part, I was so miserable—having no place to put my head in, and frightened to death almost. I couldn"t pay my lodgings, and so lost them—I was locked out. I went to the station-house, and asked to sit there for a shelter, but the policeman said it was no place for me, as I was not guilty of any offence; they could do nothing for me: they were all very civil. I walked the streets all that cold night; I feel the cold of that night in my limbs still. I thought it never would be over. I wasn"t exposed to any insults. I had to walk about all Tuesday, without a bite either Monday or Tuesday. On Tuesday evening I got admitted into this place, and was very thankful. Next day I tried for work, but got none. I had a cup of tea from my aunt to live on that day.
This girl wished to get into the parish, in order to be sent out as an emigrant, or anything of that kind; but her illegitimacy was a bar, as no settlement could be proved.
It was not difficult to see, by the looks of the poor woman whom I next addressed, the distress and privation she had endured. Her eyes were full of tears, and there was a plaintiveness in her voice that was most touching. She was clad in rusty black, and had on a black straw bonnet with a few old crape flowers in it; but still, in all her poverty, there was a neatness in her appearance that told she was much unused to such abject misery as had now come upon her. Hers was, indeed, a wretched story—the victim of her husband"s ill treatment and neglect:—"I have been working at needlework ever since the end of August. My husband is living; but he has deserted me, and I don"t know where he is at present. He had been a gentleman"s servant, but he could attend to a garden, and of late years he had done so. I have been married years next April. I never did live happily with him. He drank a very great deal, and when tipsy he used to beat me sorely. He had been out of work for a long time before he got his last situation, and there he had a-week. He lost his place before that through drink. Oh, sir, perhaps he"d give me all his money at the end of the week within ; but then he"d have more than half of it back again—not every week alike, of course, but that was mostly the case—and in particular,
for the last year and a half, for since then he had been worse. While he was with me I have gone out for a day"s charing occasionally, but then I found I was no for"arder at the week"s end, and so I didn"t strive so much as I might have done, for if I earned he"d be sure to have it from me. I was a servant, before he married me, in a respectable tradesman"s family. I lived years and a half at my master"s house out of town, and that was where I fell in with my husband. He was a shopman then. I lived with him more than years, and always acted a wife"s part to him. I never drank myself, and was never untrue to him; but he has been too untrue to me, and I have had to suffer for it. I bore all his unkindness until August last, when he treated me so badly. I cannot mention to you how—but he deceived me and injured me in the worst possible manner. I have child, a boy, years old last September; but this boy is with him, and I don"t know where. I have striven to find him out, but cannot. When I found out how he had deceived me we had words, and he then swore he wouldn"t come home any more to me, and he has kept to his oath, for I haven"t set eyes on him since. My boy was down at a friend"s house at Cambridge, and they gave him up to the father without my knowledge. When he went away I had no money in the house. Nothing but a few things—tables, and chairs, and a bed in a room. I kept them as long as I could, but at last they went to find me in food. After he had gone I got a bit of needle-work. I worked at the dress-making and several different kinds of work since he left me. Then I used to earn about a-week; sometimes not so much. Sometimes I have made only , and lately—that is, within the last weeks—I have earned scarcely anything. About October last I was obliged to sell my things to pay off my rent and get myself something to eat. After that I went to lodge with a person, and there I stopped till very lately, when I had scarce nothing, and couldn"t afford to pay my rent. Then I was turned out of there, and I went and made shift with a friend by lying down on the boards, beside her children. I lay down with my clothes on. I had nothing to cover me, and no bed under me. They was very poor people. At last my friend and her husband didn"t like to have people about in the room where they slept; and besides, I was so poor I was obliged to beg a bit of what they had, and they was so poor they couldn"t afford to spare it to me. They were very good and kind to me so long as they could hold out anyhow, but at last I was obliged to leave, and walk about the streets. This I did for whole nights—last Sunday and Monday nights. It was bitter cold, and freezing sharp. I did go and sit on the stairs of a lodging-house on Monday night, till I was
that cold I could scarcely move a limb. On Tuesday night I slept in the Borough. A lady in the street gave me threepence. I asked her if she could give me a ticket to go anywhere. I told her I was in the deepest distress, and she gave me all the halfpence she had, and I thought I would go and have a night"s lodging with the money. All these days and nights I had only a piece of bread to keep down my hunger. Yesterday I was walking about these parts, and I see a lot of people standing about here, and I asked them if there was anything being given away. They told me it was the Refuge, or else I shouldn"t have known there was such a place. Had I been aware of it, I shouldn"t have been out in the streets all night as I was on Sunday and Monday. When I leave here (and they"ll only keep me for nights) I don"t know what I shall do, for I have so parted with my things that I ain"t respectable enough to go after needlework, and they do look at you so. My clothes are all gone to live upon. If I could make myself look a little decent, I might perhaps get some work. I wish I could get into service again. I wish I"d never left it, indeed: but I want things. If I can"t get any things, I must try in such as I have got on: and if I can"t get work, I shall be obliged to see if the parish will do anything for me; but I"m afraid they won"t. I am years old, and very miserable indeed."
From the opening of the Refuges for the Houseless in , until , as many as homeless individuals received "nightly shelter" there, being an average of upwards of a-year. Some of these have remained or nights in the same establishment; so that, altogether, no less than nights" lodgings were afforded to the very poor, and lbs., or nearly cwt. of bread distributed among them.