London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Dustmen of London.
DUST and rubbish accumulate in houses from a variety of causes, but principally from the residuum of fires, the white ash and cinders, or small fragments of unconsumed coke, giving rise to by far the greater quantity. Some notion of the vast amount of this refuse annually produced in London may be formed from the fact that the consumption of coal in the metropolis is, according to the official returns, tons per annum, which is at the rate of a little more than tons per house; the poorer families, it is true, do not burn more than tons in the course of the year, but then many such families reside in the same house, and hence the average will appear in no way excessive. Now the ashes and cinders arising from this enormous consumption of coal would, it is evident, if allowed to lie scattered about in such a place as London, render, ere long, not only the back streets, but even the important thoroughfares, filthy and impassable. Upon the Officers of the various parishes, therefore, has devolved the duty of seeing that the refuse of the fuel consumed throughout London is removed almost as fast as produced; this they do by entering into an agreement for the clearance of the "dustbins" of the parishioners as often as required, with some person who possesses all necessary appliances for the purpose—such as horses, carts, baskets, and shovels, together with a plot of waste ground whereon to deposit the refuse. The persons with whom this agreement is made are called "dust-contractors," and are generally men of considerable wealth.
The collection of "dust," is now, more properly speaking, the removal of it. The collection of an
|article implies the voluntary seeking after it, and this the dustmen can hardly be said to do; for though they parade the streets shouting for the dust as they go, they do so rather to fulfil a certain duty they have undertaken to perform than in any expectation of profit to be derived from the sale of the article.|
Formerly the custom was otherwise; but then, as will be seen hereafter, the residuum of the London fuel was far more valuable. Not many years ago it was the practice for the various master dustmen to send in their tenders to the vestry, on a certain day appointed for the purpose, offering to pay a considerable sum yearly to the parish authorities for liberty to collect the dust from the several houses. The sum formerly paid to the parish of , for instance, though not a very extensive , amounted to between or per annum; but then there was an immense demand for the article, and the contractors were unable to furnish a sufficient supply from London; ships were frequently freighted with it from other parts, especially from Newcastle and the northern ports, and at that time it formed an article of considerable international commerce—the price being from to per chaldron. Of late years, however, the demand has fallen off greatly, while the supply has been progressively increasing, owing to the extension of the metropolis, so that the Contractors have not only declined paying anything for liberty to collect it, but now stipulate to receive a certain sum for the removal of it. It need hardly be stated that the parishes always employ the man who requires the least money for the performance of what has now become a matter of duty rather than an object of desire. Some idea may be formed of the change which has taken place in this business, from the fact, that the aforesaid parish of , which formerly received the sum of per annum for liberty to collect the dust, now pays the Contractor the sum of per annum for its removal.
The Court of Sewers of the City of London, in , through the advice of Mr. Cochrane, the president of the National Philanthropic Association, were able to obtain from the contractors the sum of for liberty to clear away the dirt from the streets and the dust from the bins and houses in that district. The year following, however, the contractors entered into a combination, and came to a resolution not to bid so high for the privilege; the result was, that they obtained their contracts at an expense of By acting on the same principle in the year after, they not only offered no premium whatever for the contract, but the City Commissioners of Sewers were obliged to pay them the sum of for removing the refuse, and at present the amount paid by the City is as much as This is divided among great contractors, and would, if equally apportioned, give them each.
I subjoin a list of the names of the principal contractors and the parishes for which they are engaged:—
All the metropolitan parishes now pay the contractors various amounts for the removal of the dust, and I am credibly informed that there is a system of underletting and jobbing in the dust contracts extensively carried on. The contractor for a certain parish is often a different person from the master doing the work, and who is unknown in the contract. Occasionally the work would appear to be subdivided and underlet a time.
The parish of is split into no less than districts, each district having a separate and independent "Board," who are generally at war with each other, and make separate contracts for their several divisions. This is also the case in other large parishes, and these and other considerations confirm me in the conclusion that of large and small
|dust-contractors, job-masters, and middle-men, of kind or the other, throughout the metropolis, there cannot be less than the number I have stated—. With the exception of , there are no parishes who remove their own dust.|
It is difficult to arrive at any absolute statement as to the gross amount paid by the different parishes for the removal of the entire dust of the metropolis. From the contractor, as we have seen, receives ; from the city the contractors receive as much as ; but there are many small parishes in London which do not pay above a tithe of the last-mentioned sum. Let us, therefore, assume, that with another, the several metropolitan parishes pay a year each to the dust contractor. According to the returns before given, there are parishes in London. Hence, the gross amount paid for the removal of the entire dust of the metropolis will be between and per annum.
The removal of the dust throughout the metropolis, is, therefore, carried on by a number of persons called Contractors, who undertake, as has been stated, for a certain sum, to cart away the refuse from the houses as frequently as the inhabitants desire it. To ascertain the precise numbers of these contractors is a task of much greater difficulty than might at be conceived.
The London Directory gives the following number of tradesmen connected with the removal of refuse from the houses and streets of the metropolis.
But these numbers are obviously incomplete, for even a cursory passenger through London must have noticed a greater number of names upon the various dust carts to be met with in the streets than are here set down.
A dust-contractor, who has been in the business upwards of years, stated that, from his knowledge of the trade, he should suppose that at present there might be about or contractors in the metropolis. Now, according to the returns before given, there are within the limits of the Metropolitan Police District parishes, and comparing this with my informant's statement, that many persons contract for more than parish (of which, indeed, he himself is an instance), there remains but little reason to doubt the correctness of his supposition—that there are, in all, between or dust-contractors, large and small, connected with the metropolis. Assuming the aggregate number to be , there would be contractor to every parishes.
These dust-contractors are likewise the contractors for the cleansing of the streets, except where that duty is performed by the StreetOrder- lies; they are also the persons who undertake the emptying of the cesspools in their neighbourhood; the latter operation, however, is effected by an arrangement between themselves and the landlords of the premises, and forms no part of their parochial contracts. At the office of the Street Orderlies in , they have knowledge of only contractors connected with the metropolis; but this is evidently defective, and refers to the "large masters" alone; leaving out of all consideration, as it does, the host of small contractors scattered up and down the metropolis, who are able to employ only or carts and or men each; many of such small contractors being merely master sweeps who have managed to "get on a little in the world," and who are now able to contract, "in a small way," for the removal of dust, street-sweepings, and night-soil. Moreover, many of even the "great contractors" being unwilling to venture upon an outlay of capital for carts, horses, &c., when their contract is only for a year, and may pass at the end of that time into the hands of any who may underbid them—many such, I repeat, are in the habit of underletting a portion of their contract to others possessing the necessary appliances, or of entering into partnership with them. The latter is the case in the parish of , where a person having carts and horses shares the profits with the original contractor. The agreement made on such occasions is, of course, a secret, though the practice is by no means uncommon; indeed, there is so much secrecy maintained concerning all matters connected with this business, that the inquiry is beset with every possible difficulty. The gentleman who communicated to me the amount paid by the parish of , and who informed me, moreover, that parishes in his neighbourhood paid twice and times more than did, hinted to me the difficulties I should experience at the commencement of my inquiry, and I have certainly found his opinion correct to the letter. I have ascertained that in yard intimidation was resorted to, and the men were threatened with instant dismissal if they gave me any information but such as was calculated to mislead.
I soon discovered, indeed, that it was impossible to place any reliance on what the contractors said; and here I may repeat that the indisputable result of my inquiries has been to meet with far more deception and equivocation from employers generally than from the employed; working men have little or no motive for mis-stating their wages; they know well that the ordinary rates of remuneration for their labour are easily ascertainable from other members of the trade, and seldom or never object to produce accounts of their earnings, whenever they have been in the habit of keeping such things. With employers, however, the case is far different; to seek to ascertain from them the profits of their trade is to meet with evasion and prevarication at every turn; they seem to feel that their gains are dishonestly large, and hence resort to every means to prevent them being made public. That I have met with many honourable exceptions to this rule, I most cheerfully acknowledge; but that the of tradesmen are neither so frank, communicative, or truthful, as the men in their employ, the whole of my investigations go to prove. I have already, in the , recorded the character of my interviews with an eminent Jew slop-tailor, an
|army clothier, and an enterprising free-trade staymaker (a gentleman who subscribed his guineas to the League), and I must in candour confess that now, after years' experience, I have found the industrious poor a -fold more veracious than the trading rich.|
With respect to the amount of business done by these contractors, or gross quantity of dust collected by them in the course of the year, it would appear that each employs, on an average, about men, which makes the number of men employed as dustmen through the streets of London amount to . This, as has been previously stated, is grossly at variance with the number given in the Census of , which computes the dustmen in the metropolis at only . But, as I said before, I have long ceased to place confidence in the government returns on such subjects. According to the above estimate of , and deducting from this number the master-dustmen, there would be only labouring men to empty the dust-bins of London, and as these men always work in couples, it follows that every dustmen would have to remove the refuse from about houses; so that assuming each bin to require emptying once every weeks they would have to cart away the dust from houses every month, or every week, which is at the rate of a day! and as each dust-bin contains about half a load, it would follow that at this rate each cart would have to collect loads of dust daily, whereas loads is the average day's work.
Computing the London dust-contractors at , and the inhabited houses at , it follows that each contractor would have houses to remove the refuse from. Now it has been calculated that the ashes and cinders alone from each house average about loads per annum, so that each contractor would have, in round numbers, loads of dust to remove in the course of the year. I find, from inquiries, that every dustmen carry to the yard about loads a day, or about loads in the course of the year, so that at this rate, there must be between and carts, and and collectors employed by each master. But this is exclusive of the men employed in the yards. In yard that I visited there were people busily employed. of these were women, who were occupied in sifting, and they were attended by men who shovelled the dust into their sieves, and the foreman, who was hard at work loosening and dragging down the dust from the heap, ready for the "fillers-in." Besides these there were carts and men engaged in conveying the sifted dust to the barges alongside the wharf. At a larger dust-yard, that formerly stood on the banks of the Regent's-canal, I am informed that there were sometimes as many as people at work. It is but a small yard, indeed, which has not to labourers connected with it. The lesser dust-yards have generally from to sifters, and or carts. There must, therefore, be employed in even a small yard collectors or cartmen, sifters, and fillers-in, besides the foreman or forewoman, making altogether persons; so that, computing the contractors at , and allowing men to be employed by each, there would be men thus occupied in the metropolis, which appears to be very near the truth.
who has been all his life connected with the business estimated that there must be about dustmen to each metropolitan parish, large and small. In Marylebone he believed there were eighteen dust-carts, with men to each, out every day; in some small parishes, however, men are sufficient. There would be more men employed, he said, but some masters contracted for or parishes, and so "kept the same men going," working them hard, and enlarging their regular rounds. Calculating, then, that men are employed to each of the metropolitan parishes, we have dustmen in London. The suburban parishes, my informant told me, were as well "dustmaned" as any he knew; for the residents in such parts were more particular about their dust than in busier places.
It is curious to observe how closely the number of men engaged in the collection of the "dust" from the coals burnt in London agrees, according to the above estimate, with the number of men engaged in delivering the coals to be burnt. The coal-whippers, who "discharge the colliers," are about , and the coal-porters, who carry the coals from the barges to the merchants' wagons, are about the same in number. The amount of residuum from coal after burning cannot, of course, be equal either in bulk or weight to the original substance; but considering that the collection of the dust is a much slower operation than the delivery of the coals, the difference is easily accounted for.
We may arrive, approximately, at the quantity of dust annually produced in London, in the following manner:—
The consumption of coal in London, per annum, is about tons, exclusive of what is brought to the metropolis per rail. Coals are made up of the following component parts, viz. () the inorganic and fixed elements; that is to say, the ashes, or the bones, as it were, of the fossil trees, which cannot be burnt; () coke, or the residuary carbon, after being deprived of the volatile matter; () the volatile matter itself given off during combustion in the form of flame and smoke.
The relative proportions of these materials in the various kinds of coals are as follows.—
In the metropolis the Newcastle coal is chiefly
|used, and this, we perceive, yields per cent. ashes and about per cent. carbon. But a considerable part of the carbon is converted into carbonic acid during combustion; if, therefore, we assume that -thirds of the carbon are thus consumed, and that the remaining remains behind in the form of cinder, we shall have about per cent. of "dust" from every ton of coal. On inquiry of those who have had long experience in this matter, I find that a ton of coal may be fairly said on an average to yield about - its weight in dust; hence the gross amount of "dust" annually produced in London would be tons, or about tons per house per annum.|
It is impossible to obtain any definite statistics on this part of the subject. Not in every of the contractors keeps any account of the amount that comes into the "yard." An intelligent and communicative gentleman whom I consulted on this matter, could give me no information on this subject that was in any way satisfactory. I have, however, endeavoured to check the preceding estimate in the following manner. There are in London upwards of inhabited houses, and each house furnishes a certain quota of dust to the general stock. I have ascertained that an average-sized house will produce, in the course of a year, about cart-loads of dust, while each cart holds about bushels (baskets).—what the dustmen call a chaldron. There are, of course, many houses in the metropolis which furnish and times this amount of dust, but against these may be placed the vast preponderance of small and poor houses in London and the suburbs, where there is not quarter of the quantity produced, owing to the small amount of fuel consumed. Estimating, then, the average annual quantity of dust from each house at loads, or chaldrons, and the houses at , it follows that the gross quantity collected throughout the metropolis will be about chaldrons per annum.
The next part of the subject is—what becomes of this vast quantity of dust—to what use it is applied.
The dust thus collected is used for purposes, () as a manure for land of a peculiar quality; and () for making bricks. The fine portion of the house-dust called "soil," and separated from the "brieze," or coarser portion, by sifting, is found to be peculiarly fitted for what is called breaking up a marshy heathy soil at its cultivation, owing not only to the dry nature of the dust, but to its possessing in an eminent degree a highly separating quality, almost, if not quite, equal to sand. In former years the demand for this finer dust was very great, and barges were continually in the river waiting their turn to be loaded with it for some distant part of the country. At that time the contractors were unable to supply the demand, and easily got per chaldron for as much as they could furnish, and then, as I have stated, many ships were in the habit of bringing cargoes of it from the North, and of realizing a good profit on the transaction. Of late years, however—and particularly, I am told, since the repeal of the corn-laws—this branch of the business has dwindled to nothing. The contractors say that the farmers do not cultivate their land now as they used; it will not pay them, and instead, therefore, of bringing fresh land into tillage, and especially such as requires this sort of manure, they are laying down that which they previously had in cultivation, and turning it into pasture grounds. It is principally on this account, say the contractors, that we cannot sell the dust we collect so well or so readily as formerly. There are, however, some cargoes of the dust still taken, particularly to the lowlands in the neighbourhood of Barking, and such other places in the vicinity of the metropolis as are enabled to realize a greater profit, by growing for the London markets. Nevertheless, the contractors are obliged now to dispose of the dust at per chaldron, and sometimes less.
The finer dust is also used to mix with the clay for making bricks, and barge-loads are continually shipped off for this purpose. The fine ashes are added to the clay in the proportion of - ashes to -fifths clay, or chaldrons to cubic yards, which is sufficient to make bricks (where much sand is mixed with the clay a smaller proportion of ashes may be used). This quantity requires also the addition of about chaldrons, or, if mild, of about chaldrons of "brieze," to aid the burning. The ashes are made to mix with the clay by collecting it into a sort of reservoir fitted up for the purpose; water in great quantities is let in upon it, and it is then stirred till it resembles a fine thin paste, in which state the dust easily mingles with every part of it. In this condition it is left till the water either soaks into the earth, or goes off by evaporation, when the bricks are moulded in the usual manner, the dust forming a component part of them.
The ashes, or cindered matter, which are thus dispersed throughout the substance of the clay, become, in the process of burning, gradually ignited and consumed. But the "brieze" (from the French , to break or crush), that is to say, the coarser portion of the coal ash, is likewise used in the burning of the bricks. The small spaces left among the lowest courses of the bricks in the kiln, or "clamp," are filled with "brieze," and a thick layer of the same material is spread on the top of the kilns, when full. Frequently the "brieze" is mixed with small coals, and after having been burnt the ashes are collected, and then mixed with the clay to form new bricks. The highest price at present given for "brieze" is per ton.
The price of the dust used by the brickmakers has likewise been reduced; this the contractors account for by saying that there are fewer brickfields than formerly near London, as they have been nearly all built over. They assert, that while the amount of dust and cinders has increased proportionately to the increase of the houses, the demand for the article has decreased in a like ratio; and that, moreover, the greater portion
|of the bricks now used in London for the new buildings come from other quarters. Such dust, however, as the contractors sell to the brickmakers, they in general undertake, for a certain sum, to cart to the brick-fields, though it often happens that the brick-makers' carts coming into town with their loads of bricks to new buildings, call on their return at the dust-yards, and carry thence a load of dust or cinders back, and so save the price of cartage.|
But during the operation of sifting the dust, many things are found which are useless for either manure or brick-making, such as oyster shells, old bricks, old boots and shoes, old tin kettles, old rags and bones, &c. These are used for various purposes.
The bricks, &c., are sold for sinking beneath foundations, where a thick layer of concrete is spread over them. Many old bricks, too, are used in making new roads, especially where the land is low and marshy. The old tin is sold to trunk-makers to form the japanned fastenings for the corners of their boxes, as well as to other persons, who re-manufacture it into a variety of articles. The old shoes are sold to the London shoemakers, who use them as stuffing between the in-sole and the outer ; but by far the greater quantity is sold to the manufacturers of Prussian blue, that substance being formed out of refuse animal matter. The rags and bones are of course disposed of at the usual places—the marine-store shops.
A dust-heap, therefore, may be briefly said to be composed of the following things, which are severally applied to the following uses:—
. "Soil," or fine dust, sold to brickmakers for making bricks, and to farmers for manure, especially for clover.
. "Brieze," or cinders, sold to brickmakers, for burning bricks.
. Rags, bones, and old metal, sold to marinestore dealers.
. Old tin and iron vessels, sold to trunkmakers, for "clamps," &c.
. Old bricks and oyster shells, sold to builders, for sinking foundations, and forming roads.
. Old boots and shoes, sold to Prussian-blue manufacturers.
. Money and jewellery, kept, or sold to Jews.
The dust-yards, or places where the dust is collected and sifted, are generally situated in the suburbs, and they may be found all round London, sometimes occupying open spaces adjoining back streets and lanes, and surrounded by the low mean houses of the poor; frequently, however, they cover a large extent of ground in the fields, and there the dust is piled up to a great height in a conical heap, and having much the appearance of a volcanic mountain. The reason why the dust-heaps are confined principally to the suburbs is, that more space is to be found in the outskirts than in a thickly-peopled and central locality. Moreover, the fear of indictments for nuisance has had considerable influence in the matter, for it was not unusual for the yards in former times, to be located within the boundaries of the city. They are now, however, scattered round London, and always placed as near as possible to the river, or to some canal communicating therewith. In St. George's, , Ratcliffe, , Poplar, and , on the north side of the Thames, and in Redriffe, , and , on the south, they are to be found near the Thames. The object of this is, that by far the greater quantity of the soil or ashes is conveyed in sailing-barges, holding from to tons each, to Feversham, Sittingbourne, and other places in Kent, which are the great brick-making manufactories for London. These barges come up invariably loaded with bricks, and take home in return a cargo of soil. Other dust-yards are situated contiguous to the Regent's and the Surrey canal; and for the same reason as above stated—for the convenience of water carriage. Moreover, adjoining the , which is a branch of the Lea River, other dust-yards may be found; and again travelling to the opposite end of the metropolis, we discover them not only at Paddington on the banks of the canal, but at in a similar position. Some time since there was an immense dust-heap in the neighbourhood of Gray's-inn-lane, which sold for ; but that was in the days when and per chaldron could easily be procured for the dust. According to the present rate, not a tithe of that amount could have been realized upon it.
A visit to any of the large metropolitan dustyards is far from uninteresting. Near the centre of the yard rises the highest heap, composed of what is called the "soil," or finer portion of the dust used for manure. Around this heap are numerous lesser heaps, consisting of the mixed dust and rubbish carted in and shot down previous to sifting. Among these heaps are many women and old men with sieves made of iron, all busily engaged in separating the "brieze" from the "soil." There is likewise another large heap in some other part of the yard, composed of the cinders or "brieze" waiting to be shipped off to the brickfields. The whole yard seems alive, some sifting and others shovelling the sifted soil on to the heap, while every now and then the dustcarts return to discharge their loads, and proceed again on their rounds for a fresh supply. Cocks and hens keep up a continual scratching and cackling among the heaps, and numerous pigs seem to find great delight in rooting incessantly about after the garbage and offal collected from the houses and markets.
In a dust-yard lately visited the sifters formed a curious sight; they were almost up to their middle in dust, ranged in a semicircle in front of that part of the heap which was being "worked;" each had before her a small mound of soil which had fallen through her sieve and formed a sort of embankment, behind which she stood. The appearance of the entire group at their work was most peculiar. Their coarse dirty cotton gowns were tucked up behind them, their arms were bared above their elbows, their black bonnets crushed and battered like
|those of fish-women; over their gowns they wore a strong leathern apron, extending from their necks to the extremities of their petticoats, while over this, again, was another leathern apron, shorter, thickly padded, and fastened by a stout string or strap round the waist. In the process of their work they pushed the sieve from them and drew it back again with apparent violence, striking it against the outer leathern apron with such force that it produced each time a hollow sound, like a blow on the tenor drum. All the women present were middle aged, with the exception of who was very old— years of age she told me—and had been at the business from a girl. She was the daughter of a dustman, the wife, or woman of a dustman, and the mother of several young dustmen—sons and grandsons—all at work at the dust-yards at the east end of the metropolis.|
We now come to speak of the labourers engaged in collecting, sifting, or shipping off the dust of the metropolis.
The dustmen, scavengers, and nightmen are, to a certain extent, the same people. The contractors generally agree with the various parishes to remove both the dust from the houses and the mud from the streets, and the men in their employ being indiscriminately engaged in these diverse occupations, collecting the dust to-day, and often cleansing the streets on the morrow, are designated either dustmen or scavengers, according to their particular avocation at the moment. The case is somewhat different, however, with respect to the nightmen. There is no such thing as a contract with the parish for removing the nightsoil. This is done by private agreement with the landlord of the premises whence the soil has to be removed. When a cesspool requires emptying, the occupying tenant communicates with the landlord, who makes an arrangement with a dust-contractor or sweep-nightman for this purpose. This operation is totally distinct from the regular or daily labour of the dust contractors' men, who receive extra pay for it; sometimes set go out at night and sometimes another, according either to the selection of the master or the inclination of the men. There are, however, some dustmen who have never been at work as nightmen, and could not be induced to do so, from an invincible antipathy to the employment; still, such instances are few, for the men generally go whenever they can, and occasionally engage in nightwork for employers unconnected with their masters. It is calculated that there are some hundreds of men employed nightly in the removal of the nightsoil of the metropolis during the summer and autumn, and as these men have often to work at dust-collecting or cleansing the streets on the following day, it is evident that the same persons cannot be thus employed every night; accordingly the ordinary practice is for the dustmen to "take it in turns," thus allowing each set to be employed every night, and to have nights' rest in the interim.
The men, therefore, who collect the dust on day may be cleaning the streets on the next, especially during wet weather, and engaged at night, perhaps, twice during the week, in removing nightsoil; so that it is difficult to arrive at any precise notion as to the number of persons engaged in any of these branches
But these labourers not only work indiscriminately at the collection of dust, the cleansing of the streets, or the removal of nightsoil, but they are employed almost as indiscriminately at the various branches of the dust business; with this qualification, however, that few men apply themselves continuously to any branch of the business. The labourers employed in a dust-yard may be divided into classes: those paid by the contractor; and those paid by the foreman or forewoman of the dust-heap, commonly called hill-man or hill-woman.
They are as follows:—
I. LABOURERS PAID BY THE CONTRACTORS, OR,
. , or superintendent. This duty is often performed by the master, especially in small contracts.
. or These are called "fillers" and "carriers," from the practice of of the men who go out with the cart filling the basket, and the other carrying it on his shoulder to the vehicle.
. Loaders of carts in the dust-yard for shipment.
. Carriers of cinders to the cinder-heap, or bricks to the brick-heap.
. Foreman or forewoman of the heap.
II. LABOURERS PAID BY THE HILL-MAN OR HILL-WOMAN.
. , who are generally women, and mostly the wives or concubines of the dustmen, but sometimes the wives of badlypaid labourers.
. , or shovellers of dust into the sieves of the sifters ( man being allowed to every or women).
. of bones, rags, metal, and other perquisites to the various heaps; these are mostly children of the dustmen.
A medium-sized dust-yard will employ about collectors, fillers-in, sifters, and foreman or forewoman; while a large yard will afford work to about people.
There are different modes of payment prevalent among the several labourers employed at the metropolitan dust-yards:—() by the day; () by the piece or load; () by the lump; () by perquisites.
. The foreman of the yard, where the master does not perform this duty himself, is generally of the regular dustmen picked out by the master, for this purpose. He is paid, the sum of per day, or per week. In large yards there are sometimes and even yardforemen at the same rate of wages. Their duty is merely to superintend the work. They do not labour themselves, and their exemption in this respect is considered, and indeed looked on by themselves, as a sort of premium for good services.
. The carters or collectors are generally
|paid per load for every load they bring into the yard. This is, of course, piece work, for the more hours the men work the more loads will they be enabled to bring, and the more pay will they receive. There are some yards where the carters get only per load, as, for instance, at Paddington. The Paddington men, however, are not considered inferior workmen to the rest of their fellows, but merely to be worse paid. In , or years ago, the carters had per load; but at that time the contractors were able to get per chaldron for the soil and "brieze" or cinders; then it began to fall in value, and according to the decrease in the price of these commodities, so have the wages of the dust-collectors been reduced. It will be at once seen that the reduction in the wages of the dustmen bears no proportion to the reduction in the price of soil and cinders, but it must be borne in mind that whereas the contractors formerly paid large sums for liberty to collect the dust, they now are paid large sums to remove it. This in some measure helps to account for the apparent disproportion, and tends, perhaps, to equalize the matter. The carters, therefore, have each, per load when best paid. They consider from to loads a good day's work, for where the contract is large, extending over several parishes, they often have to travel a long way for a load. It thus happens that while the men employed by the Whitechapel contractor can, when doing their utmost, manage to bring only loads a day to the yard, which is situated in a place called the "ruins" in Lower , the men employed by the contractor can easily get or loads in a day. loads are about an average day's work, and this gives them per day cach, or per week. In addition to this, the men have their perquisites "in aid of wages." The collectors are in the habit of getting beer or money in lieu thereof, at nearly all the houses from which they remove the dust, the public being thus in a manner compelled to make up the rate of wages, which should be paid by the employer, so that what is given to benefit the men really goes to the master, who invariably reduces the wages to the precise amount of the perquisites obtained. This is the main evil of the "perquisite system of payment" (a system of which the mode of paying waiters may be taken as the special type). As an instance of the injurious effects of this mode of payment in connection with the London dustmen, the collectors are forced, as it were, to extort from the public that portion of their fair earnings of which their master deprives them; hence, how can we wonder they make it a rule when they receive neither beer nor money from a house to make as great a mess as possible the next time they come, scattering the dust and cinders about in such a manner, that, sooner than have any trouble with them, people mostly give them what they look for? of the most intelligent men with whom I have spoken, gave me the following account of his perquisites for the last week, viz.: Monday, ; Tuesday, ; Wednesday, ; Thursday, ; Friday, ; and Saturday, This he received in money, and was independent of beer. He had on the same week drawn loads each day, to the yard, which made his gross earnings for the week, wages and perquisites together, to be which he considers to be a fair average of his weekly earnings as connected with dust.|
. The loaders of the carts for shipment are the same persons as those who collect the dust, but thus employed for the time being. The pay for this work is by the "piece" also, per chaldron between persons being the usual rate, or per man. The men engaged at this work have no perquisites. The barges into which they shoot the soil or "brieze," as the case may be, hold from to chaldrons, and they consider the loading of of these barges a good day's work. The average cargo is about chaldrons, which gives them per day, or somewhat more than their average earnings when collecting.
. The carriers of cinders to the cinder heap. I have mentioned that, ranged round the sifters in the dust-yard, are a number of baskets, into which are put the various things found among the dust, some of these being the property of the master, and others the perquisites of the hill man or woman, as the case may be. The cinders and old bricks are the property of the master, and to remove them to their proper heaps boys are employed by him at per day. These boys are almost universally the children of dustmen and sifters at work in the yard, and thus not only help to increase the earnings of the family, but qualify themselves to become the dustmen of a future day.
. The hill-man or hill-woman. The hillman enters into an agreement with the contractor to sift the dust in the yard throughout the year at so much per load and perquisites. The usual sum per load is , nor have I been able to ascertain that any of these people undertake to do it at a less price. Such is the amount paid by the contractor for Whitechapel. The perquisites of the hill-man or hill-woman, are rags, bones, pieces of old metal, old tin or iron vessels, old boots and shoes, and -half of the money, jewellery, or other valuables that may be found by the sifters.
The hill-man or hill-woman employs the following persons, and pays them at the following rates.
. The sifters are paid per day when employed, but the employment is not constant. The work cannot be pursued in wet weather, and the services of the sifters are required only when a large heap has accumulated, as they can sift much faster than the dust can be collected. The employment is therefore precarious; the payment has not, for the last years at least, been more than per day, but the perquisites were greater. They formerly were allowed -half of whatever was found; of late years, however, the hill-man has gradually reduced the perquisites " thing and then another," until the only they have now remaining is half of whatever money or other valuable article may be found in the process of sifting. These valuables the sifters often pocket, if able to do so unperceived, but if discovered in the attempt, they are immediately discharged.
. "The fillers-in," or shovellers of dust into the sieves of sifters, are in general any poor fellows who may be straggling about in search of employment. They are sometimes, however, the grown--up boys of dustmen, not yet permanently engaged by the contractor. These are paid per day for their labour, but they are considered more as casualty men, though it often happens, if "hands" are wanted, that they are regularly engaged by the contractors, and become regular dustmen for the remainder of their lives.
. The little fellows, the children of the dustmen, who follow their mothers to the yard, and help them to pick rags, bones, &c., out of the sieve and put them into the baskets, as soon as they are able to carry a basket between of them to the separate heaps, are paid or per day for this work by the hill-man.
The wages of the dustmen have been increased within the last years from per load to among the large contractors—the "small masters," however, still continue to pay per load. This increase in the rate of remuneration was owing to the men complaining to the commissioners that they were not able to live upon what they earned at ; an enquiry was made into the truth of the men's assertion, and the result was that the commisioners decided upon letting the contracts to such parties only as would undertake to pay a fair price to their workmen. The contractors, accordingly, increased the remuneration of the labourers; since that principal masters have paid per load to the collectors. It is right I should add, that I could not hear—though I made special enquiries on the subject—that the wages had been in any instance reduced since Free-trade has come into operation.
The usual hours of labour vary according to the mode of payment. The "collectors," or men out with the cart, being paid by the load, work as long as the light lasts; the "fillers-in" and sifters, on the other hand, being paid by the day, work the ordinary hours, viz., from to , with the regular intervals for meals.
The summer is the worst time for all hands, for then the dust decreases in quantity; the collectors, however, make up for the "slackness" at this period by nightwork, and, being paid by the "piece" or load at the dust business, are not discharged when their employment is less brisk.
It has been shown that the dustmen who perambulate the streets usually collect loads in a day; this, at per load, leaves them about each, and so makes their weekly earnings amount to about per week. Moreover, there are the "perquisites" from the houses whence they remove the dust; and further, the dust-collectors are frequently employed at the night-work, which is always a distinct matter from the dust-collecting, &c., and paid for independent of their regular weekly wages, so that, from all I can gather, the average wages of the men appear to be nearer a week than Some admitted to me, that in busy times they often earned a week.
Then, again, dustwork, as with the weaving of silk, is a kind of family work. The husband, wife, and children (unfortunately) all work at it. The consequence is, that the earnings of the whole have to be added together in order to arrive at a notion of the aggregate gains.
The following may therefore be taken as a fair average of the earnings of a dustman and his family The elder boys when able to earn a day set up for themselves, and do not allow their wages to go into the common purse.
These are the earnings, it should be borne in mind, of a family in full employment. Perhaps it may be fairly said that the earnings of the single men are, on an average, a week, and for the family men all the year round.
Now, when we remember that the wages of many agricultural labourers are but a week, and the earnings of many needlewomen not a day, it must be confessed that the remuneration of the dustmen, and even of the dustwomen, is comparatively high. This certainly is not due to what Adam Smith, in his chapter on the Difference of Wages, terms the "disagreeableness of the employment." "The wages of labour," he says, "vary with the ease or hardship, the cleanliness or dirtiness, the honourableness or dishonourableness, of the employment." Nevertheless it will be seen—when we come to treat of the nightmen—that the most offensive, and perhaps the least honourable, of all trades, is far from ranking among the best paid, as it should, if the above principle held good. That the disagreeableness of the occupation may in a measure tend to decrease the competition among the labourers, there cannot be the least doubt, but that it will consequently induce, as political economy would have us believe, a larger amount of wages to accrue to each of the labourers, is certainly another of the many assertions of that science which must be pronounced "not proven." For the dustmen are paid, if anything, less, and certainly not more, than the usual rate of payment to the London labourers; and if the earnings rank high, as times go, it is because all the members of the family, from the very earliest age, are able to work at the business, and so add to the general gains.
The dustmen are, generally speaking, an hereditary race; when children they are reared in the dust-yard, and are habituated to the work gradually as they grow up, after which, almost as a natural consequence, they follow the business for the remainder of their lives. These may be said to be born-and-bred dustmen. The numbers of the regular men are, however, from time to time recruited from the ranks of the many illpaid labourers with which London abounds. When hands are wanted for any special occasion an employer has only to go to any of the dockgates, to find at all times hundreds of starving wretches anxiously watching for the chance of getting something to do, even at the rate of per hour. As the operation of emptying a dustbin requires only the ability to handle a shovel, which every labouring man can manage, all workmen, however unskilled, can at once engage in the occupation; and it often happens that the men thus casually employed remain at the calling for the remainder of their lives. There are no houses of call whence the men are taken on when wanting work. There are certainly publichouses, which are denominated houses of call, in the neighbourhood of every dust-yard, but these are merely the drinking shops of the men, whither they resort of an evening after the labour of the day is accomplished, and whence they are furnished in the course of the afternoon with beer; but such houses cannot be said to constitute the dustman's "labour-market," as in the tailoring and other trades, they being never resorted to as hiring-places, but rather used by the men only when hired. If a master have not enough "hands" he usually inquires among his men, who mostly know some who—owing, perhaps, to the failure of their previous master in getting his usual contract—are only casually employed at other places. Such men are immediately engaged in preference to others; but if these cannot be found, the contractors at once have recourse to the system already stated.
The manner in which the dust is collected is very simple. The "filler" and the "carrier" perambulate the streets with a heavily-built high box cart coated with a thick crust of filth, and drawn by a clumsy-looking horse. These men used, before the passing of the late Street Act, to ring a dullsounding bell so as to give notice to housekeepers of their approach, but now they merely cry, in a hoarse unmusical voice, "Dust oy-eh!" men accompany the cart, which is furnished with a short ladder and shovels and baskets. These baskets of the men fills from the dust-bin, and then helps them alternately, as fast as they are filled, upon the shoulder of the other man, who carries them by to the cart, which is placed immediately alongside the pavement in front of the house where they are at work. The carrier mounts up the side of the cart by means of the ladder, discharges into it the contents of the basket on his shoulder, and then returns below for the other basket which his mate has filled for him in the interim. This process is pursued till all is cleared away, and repeated at different houses till the cart is fully loaded; then the men make the best of their way to the dust-yard, where they shoot the contents of the cart on to the heap, and again proceed on their regular rounds.
The dustmen, in their appearance, very much resemble the waggoners of the coal-merchants. They generally wear knee-breeches, with ancle boots or gaiters, short dirty smockfrocks or coarse gray jackets, and fantail hats. In particular, however, they are at sight distinguishable from the coal-merchants' men, for the latter are invariably black from coal dust, while the dustmen, on the contrary, are gray with ashes.
In their personal appearance the dustmen are mostly tall stalwart fellows; there is nothing sicklylooking about them, and yet a considerable part of their time is passed in the yards and in the midst of effluvia most offensive, and, if we believe "zymotic theorists," as unhealthy to those unaccustomed to them; nevertheless, the children, who may be said to be reared in the yard and to have inhaled the stench of the dust-heap with their breath, are healthy and strong. It is said, moreover, that during the plague in London the dustmen were the persons who carted away the dead, and it remains a tradition among the class to the present day, that not of them died of the plague, even during its greatest ravages. In Paris, too, it is well known, that, during the cholera of , the quarter of Belleville, where the night-soil and refuse of the city is deposited, escaped the freest from the pestilence; and in London the dustmen boast that, during both the recent visitations of the cholera, they were altogether exempt from the disease. "Look at that fellow, sir!" said of the dust-contractors to me, pointing to his son, who was a stout redcheeked young man of about . "Do you see anything ailing about him? Well, he has been in the yard since he was born. There stands my house just at the gate, so you see he hadn't far to travel, and when quite a child he used to play and root away here among the dust all his time. I don't think he ever had a day's illness in his life. The people about the yard are all used to the smell and don't complain about it. It's all stuff and nonsense, all this talk about dust-yards being unhealthy. I've never done anything else all my days and I don't think I look very ill. I shouldn't wonder now but what I'd be set down as being fresh from the sea-side by those very fellows that write all this trash about a matter that they don't know just about;" and he snapped his fingers contemptuously in the air, and, thrusting both hands into his breeches pockets, strutted about, apparently satisfied that he had the best of the argument. He was, in fact, a stout, jolly, red-faced man. Indeed, the dustmen, as a class, appear to be healthy, strong men, and extraordinary instances of longevity are common among them. I heard of dustman who lived to be years; another, named Wood, died at ; and the well-known Richard Tyrrell died only a short time back at the advanced age of . The misfortune is, that we have no large series of facts on this subject, so that the longevity and
|health of the dustmen might be compared with those of other classes.|
In almost all their habits the Dustmen are similar to the Costermongers, with the exception that they seem to want their cunning and natural quickness, and that they have little or no predilection for gaming. Costermongers, however, are essentially traders, and all trade is a species of gambling—the risking of a certain sum of money to obtain more; hence spring, perhaps, the gambling propensities of all low traders, such as costers, and Jew clothes-men; and hence, too, that natural sharpness which characterizes the same classes. The dustmen, on the contrary, have regular employment and something like regular wages, and therefore rest content with what they can earn in their usual way of business.
Very few of them understand cards, and I could not learn that they ever play at "pitch and toss." I remarked, however, a number of parallel lines such as are used for playing "shove halfpenny," on a deal table in the tap-room frequented by them. The great amusement of their evenings seems to be, to smoke as many pipes of tobacco and drink as many pots of beer as possible.
I believe it will be found that all persons in the habit of driving horses, such as cabmen, 'busmen, stage-coach drivers, &c., are peculiarly partial to intoxicating drinks. The cause of this I leave others to determine, merely observing that there would seem to be reasons for it: the is, their frequent stopping at public-houses to water or change their horses, so that the idea of drinking is repeatedly suggested to their minds even if the practice be not of them; while the reason is, that being out continually in the wet, they resort to stimulating liquors as a preventive to "colds" until at length a habit of drinking is formed. Moreover, from the mere fact of passing continually through the air, they are enabled to drink a greater quantity with comparative impunity. Be the cause, however, what it may, the dustmen spend a large proportion of their earnings in drink. There is always some public-house in the neighbourhood of the dust-yard, where they obtain credit from week to another, and here they may be found every night from the moment their work is done, drinking, and smoking their long pipes—their principal amusement consisting in "chaffing" each other. This "chaffing" consists of a species of scurrilous jokes supposed to be given and taken in good part, and the noise and uproar occasioned thereby increases as the night advances, and as the men get heated with liquor. Sometimes the joking ends in a general quarrel; the next morning, however, they are all as good friends as ever, and mutually agree in laying the blame on the "cussed drink."
-half, at least, of the dustmen's earnings, is, I am assured, expended in drink, both man and woman assisting in squandering their money in this way. They usually live in rooms for which they pay from to per week rent, or dust-men and their wives frequently lodging in the same house. These rooms are cheerless-looking, and almost unfurnished—and are always situate in some low street or lane not far from the dustyard. The men have rarely any clothes but those in which they work. For their breakfast the dustmen on their rounds mostly go to some cheap coffeehouse, where they get a pint or half-pint of coffee, taking their bread with them as a matter of economy. Their midday meal is taken in the publichouse, and is almost always bread and cheese and beer, or else a saveloy or a piece of fat pork or bacon, and at night they mostly "wind up" by deep potations at their favourite house of call.
There are many dustmen now advanced in years born and reared at the East-end of London, who have never in the whole course of their lives been as far west as Temple-bar, who know nothing whatever of the affairs of the country, and who have never attended a place of worship. As an instance of the extreme ignorance of these people, I may mention that I was furnished by of the contractors with the address of a dustman whom his master considered to be of the most intelligent men in his employ. Being desirous of hearing his statement from his own lips I sent for the man, and after some conversation with him was proceeding to note down what he said, when the moment I opened my note-book and took the pencil in my hand, he started up, exclaiming,— "No, no! I'll have none of that there work— I'm not such a b—— fool as you takes me to be —I doesn't understand it, I tells you, and I'll not have it, now that's plain;" —and so saying he ran out of the room, and descended the entire flight of stairs in jumps. I followed him to explain, but unfortunately the pencil was still in hand and the book in the other, and immediately I made my appearance at the door he took to his heels, again with others who seemed to be waiting for him there. of the most difficult points in my labours is to make such men as these comprehend the object or use of my investigations.
Among men whom I met in yard, there were only who could read, and only out of that could write, even imperfectly. These are looked up to by their companions as prodigies of learning and are listened to as oracles, on all occasions, being believed to understand every subject thoroughly. It need hardly be added, however, that their acquirements are of the most meagre character.
The dustmen are very partial to a song, and always prefer of the doggrel street ballads, with what they call a "jolly chorus" in which, during their festivities, they all join with stentorian voices. At the conclusion there is usually a loud stamping of feet and rattling of quart pots on the table, expressive of their approbation.
The dustmen never frequent the twopenny hops, but sometimes make up a party for the "theaytre." They generally go in a body with their wives, if married, and their "gals," if single. They are always to be found in the gallery, and greatly enjoy the melodramas performed at the -class minor theatres, especially if there be plenty of murdering scenes in them. The Garrick, previous to its being burnt, was a favourite
|resort of the East-end dustmen. Since that period they have patronized the Pavilion and the City of London.|
The politics of the dustmen are on a par with their literary attainments—they cannot be said to have any. I cannot say that they are Chartists, for they have no very clear knowledge of what "the charter" requires. They certainly have a confused notion that it is something against the Government, and that the enactment of it would make them all right; but as to the nature of the benefits which it would confer upon them, or in what manner it would be likely to operate upon their interest, they have not, as a body, the slightest idea. They have a deep-rooted antipathy to the police, the magistrates, and all connected with the administration of justice, looking upon them as their natural enemies. They associate with none but themselves; and in the public-houses where they resort there is a room set apart for the special use of the "dusties," as they are called, where no others are allowed to intrude, except introduced by of themselves, or at the special desire of the majority of the party, and on such occasions the stranger is treated with great respect and consideration.
As to the morals of these people, it may easily be supposed that they are not of an over-street character. of the contractors said to me, "I'd just trust of them as far as I could fling a bull by the tail; ," he added, with a callousness that proved the laxity of discipline among the men was due more to his neglect of his duty to them than from any special perversity on their parts, " You see they're not like other people, they're reared to it. Their fathers before them were dustmen, and when lads they go into the yard as sifters, and when they grow up they take to the shovel, and go out with the carts. They learn all they know in the dustyards, and you may judge from that what their learning is likely to be. If they find anything among the dust you may be sure that neither you nor I will ever hear anything about it; ignorant as they are, they know a little too much for that. They know, as well as here and there , where the dolly-shop is; " [With such masters professing such principles—though it should be stated that the sentiments expressed on this occasion are but similar to what I hear from the lower class of traders every day—how can it be expected that these poor fellows can be above the level of the mere beasts of burden that they use.] "As to their women," continued the master, "I don't trouble my head about such things. I believe the dustmen are as good to them as other men; and I'm sure their wives would be as good as other women, if they only had the chance of the best. But you see they're all such fellows for drink that they spend most of their money that way, and then starve the poor women, and knock them about at a shocking rate, so that they have the life of dogs, or worse. I don't wonder at anything they do. Yes, they're all married, as far as I know; that is, they live together as man and wife, though they're not very particular, certainly, about the ceremony. The fact is, a regular dustman don't understand much about such matters, and, I believe, don't care much, either."
From all I could learn on this subject, it would appear that, for dustman that is married, live with women, but remain constant to them; indeed, both men and women abide faithfully by each other, and for this reason—the woman earns nearly half as much as the man. If the men and women were careful and prudent, they might, I am assured, live well and comfortable; but by far the greater portion of the earnings of both go to the publican, for I am informed, on competent authority, that a dustman will not think of sitting down for a spree without his woman. The children, as soon as they are able to go into the yard, help their mothers in picking out the rags, bones, &c., from the sieve, and in putting them in the basket. They are never sent to school, and as soon as they are sufficiently strong are mostly employed in some capacity or other by the contractor, and in due time become dustmen themselves. Some of the children, in the neighbourhood of the river, are mud-larks, and others are bone-grubbers and raggatherers, on a small scale; neglected and thrown on their own resources at an early age, without any but the most depraved to guide them, it is no wonder to find that many of them turn thieves. To this state of the case there are, however, some few exceptions.
Some of the dustmen are prudent well-behaved men and have decent homes; many of this class have been agricultural labourers, who by distress, or from some other cause, have found their way to London. This was the case with whom I talked with: he had been a labourer in Essex, employed by a farmer named Izzod, whom he spoke of as being a kind good man. Mr. Izzod had a large farm on the Earl of Mornington's estate, and after he had sunk his capital in the improvement of the land, and was about to reap the fruits of his labour and his money, the farmer was ejected at a moment's notice, beggared and broken-hearted. This occurred near Roydon, in Essex. The labourer, finding it difficult to obtain work in the country, came to London, and, discovering a cousin of his engaged in a dust-yard, got employed through him at the same place, where he remains to the present day. This man was well clothed, he had good strong lace boots, gray worsted stockings, a stout pair of corduroy breeches, a short smockfrock and fantail. He has kept himself aloof, I am told, from the drunkenness and dissipation of the dustmen. He says that many of the new hands that get to dustwork are mechanics or people who have been "better off," and that these get thinking about what they have been, till to drown their care they take to drinking, and
|often become, in the course of a year or so, worse than the "old hands" who have been reared to the business and have "nothing at all to think about."|
Among the dustmen there is no "Society" nor "Benefit Club," specially devoted to the class— no provident institution whence they can obtain "relief" in the event of sickness or accident. The consequence is that, when ill or injured, they are obliged to obtain letters of admission to some of the hospitals, and there remain till cured. In cases of total incapacity for labour, their invariable refuge is the workhouse; indeed they look forward (whenever they foresee at all) to this asylum as their resting-place in old age, with the greatest equanimity, and talk of it as "the house" par excellence, or as "the big house," "the great house," or "the old house." There are, however, scattered about in every part of London numerous benefit clubs made up of working-men of every description, such as Old Friends, Odd Fellows, Foresters, and Birmingham societies, and with some or other of these the better class of dustmen are connected. The general rule, however, is, that the men engaged in this trade belong to no benefit club whatever, and that in the season of their adversity they are utterly unprovided for, and consequently become burdens to the parishes wherein they happen to reside.
I visited a large dust-yard at the east end of London, for the purpose of getting a statement from of the men. My informant was, at the time of my visit, shovelling the sifted soil from of the lesser heaps, and, by a great effort of strength and activity, pitching each shovel-full to the top of a lofty mound, somewhat resembling a pyramid. Opposite to him stood a little woman, stoutly made, and with her arms bare above the elbow; she was his partner in the work, and was pitching shovel-full for shovel-full with him to the summit of the heap. She wore an old soiled cotton gown, open in front, and tucked up behind in the fashion of the last century. She had clouts of old rags tied round her ancles to prevent the dust from getting into her shoes, a sort of coarse towel fastened in front for an apron, and a red handkerchief bound tightly round her head. In this trim she worked away, and not only kept pace with the man, but often threw shovels for his , although he was a tall, powerful fellow. She smiled when she saw me noticing her, and seemed to continue her work with greater assiduity. I learned that she was deaf, and spoke so indistinctly that no stranger could understand her. She had also a defect in her sight, which latter circumstance had compelled her to abandon the sifting, as she could not well distinguish the various articles found in the dust-heap. The poor creature had therefore taken to the shovel, and now works with it every day, doing the labour of the strongest men.
From the man above referred to I obtained the following statement:—"Father vos a dustie;— vos at it all his life, and grandfather afore him for I can't tell how long. Father vos allus a rum'un; —sich a beggar for lush. Vhy I'm blowed if he vouldn't lush as much as half-a-dozen on 'em can lush now; somehow the dusties hasn't got the stuff in 'em as they used to have. A few year ago the fellers 'u'd think nothink o' lushin avay for or days without niver going anigh their home. I niver vos at a school in all my life; I don't know what it's good for. It may be wery well for the likes o' you, but I doesn't know it 'u'd do a dustie any good. You see, ven I'm not out with the cart, I digs here all day; and p'raps I'm up all night, and digs avay agen the next day. Vot does I care for reading, or anythink of that there kind, ven I gets home arter my vork? I tell you vot I likes, though! vhy, I jist likes or pipes o' baccer, and a pot or of good heavy and a song, and then I tumbles in with my Sall, and I'm as happy as here and there von. That there Sall of mine's a stunner— a riglar stunner. There ain't never a voman can sift a heap quickerer nor my Sall. Sometimes she yarns as much as I does; the only thing is, she's sitch a beggar for lush, that there Sall of mine, and then she kicks up sitch jolly rows, you niver see the like in your life. That there's the only fault, as I know on, in Sall; but, barring that, she's a hout-and-houter, and worth a halfa- dozen of t' other sifters—pick 'em out vare you likes. No, we ain't married 'zactly, though it's all for all that. I sticks to Sall, and Sall sticks to I, and there's an end on't:—vot is it to any von? I rec'lects a-picking the rags and things out of mother's sieve, when I were a young 'un, and a putting 'em all in the heap jist as it might be there. I vos allus in a dust-yard. I don't think I could do no how in no other place. You see I vouldn't be 'appy like; I only knows how to vork at the dust 'cause I'm used to it, and so vos father afore me, and I'll stick to it as long as I can. I yarns about half-a-bull  a day, take day with another. Sall sometimes yarns as much, and ven I goes out at night I yarns a bob or more, and so I gits along pretty tidy; sometimes yarnin more and sometimes yarnin less. I niver vos sick as I knows on; I've been queerish of a morning a good many times, but I doesn't call that sickness; it's only the lush and nothink more. The smells nothink at all, ven you gits used to it. Lor' bless you! you'd think nothink on it in a veek's time,—no, no more nor I do. There's tventy on us vorks here—riglar. I don't think there's von on 'em 'cept Scratchey Jack can read, but he can do it stunning; he's out vith the cart now, but he's the chap as can patter to you as long as he likes."
Concerning the capital and income of the Lonnon dust business, the following estimate may be given as to the amount of property invested in and accruing to the trade.
It has been computed that there are contractors, large and small; of these upwards of twothirds, or about , may be said to be in a considerable way of business, possessing many carts and horses, as well as employing a large body of people; some yards have as many as hands connected with them. The remaining masters are composed of "small men," some of whom are
|known as "running dustmen," that is to say, persons who collect the dust without any sanction from the parish; but the number belonging to this class has considerably diminished since the great deterioration in the price of "brieze." Assuming, then, that the great and little master dustmen employ on an average between and carts each, we have the following statement as to the—|
If, therefore, we assert that the capital of this trade is between and in value, we shall not be far wrong either way.
Of the annual income of the same trade, it is almost impossible to arrive at any positive results; but, in the absence of all authentic information on the subject, we may make the subjoined conjecture.
Thus it would appear that the total income of the dust trade may be taken at between and per annum.
Against this we have to set the yearly outgoings of the business, which may be roughly estimated as follows:—
The above estimates give us the following aggregate results:—
Hence it would appear that the profits of the dust-contractors are very nearly at the rate of per cent. on their expenditure. I do not think I have over estimated the incomings, or under estimated the out-goings; at least I have striven to avoid doing so, in order that no injustice might be done to the members of the trade.
This aggregate profit, when divided among the contractors, will make the clear gains of each master dustman amount to about per annum: of course some derive considerably more than this amount, and some considerably less.