London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Cleansing of the Streets by Pauper Labour.

UNDER the head of the several modes and characteristics of street-cleansing, I stated at p. of the present volume that there were no less than distinct kinds of labourers employed in the scavaging of the public thoroughfares of the metropolis. These were:—

. The self-supporting manual labourers.

. The self-supporting machine labourers.

. The pauper labourers.

. The "philanthropic" labourers.

I have already set forth the distinguishing features of the of these different orders of workmen in connection with the scavaging trade, and now proceed in due order to treat of the characteristics of the .

The subject of pauper labour generally is of the most difficult topics that the social philosopher can deal with. It is not possible, however, to do more here than draw attention to the salient points of the question. The more comprehensive consideration of the matter must be reserved till such time as I come to treat of the poor specially under the head of those that cannot work.

By the Eliz., which is generally regarded as the basis of the existing poor laws in this country, it was ordained that in every parish a fund should be raised by local taxation, not merely for the relief of the aged and infirm, but

It was, however, soon discovered that it was thing to pass an act for setting able-bodied paupers to work, and another thing to do so. "In every place," as Mr. Thornton truly says in his excellent treatise on "Over Population," "there is only a certain amount of work to be done," (limited by the extent of the market) "and only a certain amount of capital to pay for it; and, if the number of workmen be more than proportionate to the work, employment can only be given to those who want it by taking from those who have."

Let me illustrate this by the circumstances of the scavaging trade. There are miles of streets throughout London, and these would seem to require about scavagers to cleanse them. It is self-evident, therefore, that if paupers be "set" to sweep particular districts, the same number of self-supporting labourers must be deprived of employment, and if these cannot obtain work elsewhere, they of course must become paupers too, and, seeking relief, be put upon the same kind of work as they were originally deprived of, and that only to displace and pauperize in their turn a similar number of independent operatives.

The work of a country then being limited (by the capital and market for the produce), there can be but modes of setting paupers to labour: () by throwing the self-supporting operatives out of employment altogether, and substituting pauper labourers in their stead; () by giving a portion of the work to the paupers, and so decreasing the employment, and consequently the wages, of the regular operatives. In either case, however, the independent labourers must be reduced to a state of comparative or positive dependence, for

Some economists argue that, as paupers are consumers, they should, whenever they are able to work, be made producers also, or otherwise they exhaust the national wealth, to which they do not contribute. This might be a sound axiom were there work sufficient for all. But in an overpopulated country there is not work enough, as is proven by the mere fact of the over-population; and the able-bodied paupers paupers simply , so that to employ those who are out of work is to throw out those who are in work, and thus to pauperize the selfsup- porting.

The whole matter seems to hinge upon this question—

Who are to maintain the paupers? The ratepaying traders or the non-ratepaying workmen?

If the paupers be set to work in a country like Great , they must necessarily be brought into competition with the self-supporting workmen, and so be made to share the wage fund with them, decreasing the price of labour in proportion to the extra number of such pauper labourers among whom the capital of the trade has to be shared. Hence the burden of maintaining the paupers will be virtually shifted from the capitalist to the labourer, the poor-rate being thus really paid out of the wages of the operatives, instead of the profits of the traders, as it should be.



And here lies the great wrong of pauper labour. It saddles the poor with the maintenance of their poorer brethren, while the rich not only contribute nothing to their support, but are made still richer by the increased cheapness resulting from the depreciation of labour and their consequent ability to obtain a greater quantity of commodities for the same amount of money.

In illustration of this argument let us say the wages of independent scavagers amount, at a week each the year through, to per annum; and let us say, moreover, that the keep of paupers amounts, at a week each, to, altogether, ; hence the total annual expense to the several metropolitan parishes for cleansing the streets and maintaining paupers would be + =

If, however, the paupers be set to scavaging work, and made to do something for their keep, of things follow: () either the extra hands will receive their share of the devoted to the payment of the operative scavagers, in which case the wages of each of the regular hands will be reduced from to a week; hence the maintenance of the paupers will be saddled upon the independent operatives, who will lose no less than per annum, while the ratepayers will be saved the maintenance of the paupers and so gain per annum by the change; () or else of the self-supporting operatives must be thrown out of work, in which case the displaced labourers will lose no less than , while the ratepayers will gain upwards of

The reader is now, I believe, in a position to comprehend the wrong done to the self-supporting scavagers by the employment of pauper labour in the cleansing of the streets.

The preparation of the material of the roads of a parish seems, as far as the metropolis is concerned, at time to have supplied the chief "test," to which parishes have resorted, as regards the willingness to labour on the part of the ablebodied applicants for relief. When the casual wards of the workhouses were open for the reception of all vagrants who sought a night's shelter, each tramper was required to break so many stones in the morning before receiving a certain allowance of bread, soup, or what not for his breakfast; and he then might be received again into the shelter of this casual asylum. In some parishes the wards were open without the test of stone-breaking, and there was a crowded resort to them, especially during the prevalence of the famine in Ireland and the immigration of the Irish peasants to England. The favourite resort of the vagrants was Marylebone workhouse, and Irish immigrants very frequently presented slips of paper on which some tramper whom they had met with on their way had written "," as the best place at which they could apply, and these the simple Irish offered as passports for admission!

Gradually, the asylum of these wards, with or without labour tests, was discontinued, and in where the labour test used to be strongly insisted upon—in St. Pancras—a school for pauper children has been erected on the site of the stone-yard.

This labour test was unequal when applied to all comers; for what was easy work to an agricultural labourer, a railway excavator, a quarryman, or to any used to wield a hammer, was painful and blistering to a starving tailor. Nor was the test enforced by the overseers or regarded by the paupers as a proof of willingness to work, but simply as a punishment for poverty, and as a means of deterring the needy from applying for relief. To make labour a punishment, however, is to destroy, but really to confirm, idle habits; it is to give a deeper root to the vagrant's settled aversion to work. "Well, I always thought it was unpleasant," the vagabond will say to himself " working for 's bread, and now I'm of it!" Again, in many of the workhouses the labour to which the paupers were set was of a manifestly unremunerative character, being work for mere work's sake; and to apply people to unproductive labour is to destroy all the ordinary motives to toil—to take away the only stimulus to industry, and remove the very will to work which the labour test was supposed to discover.

The labour test, then, or setting the poor to work was a proof of their willingness to labour, appears to be as foolish as it is vicious; the objections to it being—() the inequality of the test applied to different kinds of work-people; () the tendency of it to confirm rather than weaken idle habits by making labour inordinately repulsive; () the removal of the ordinary stimulus to industry by the unproductiveness of the work to which the poor are generally applied.

And now, having dealt with the subject of parish labour as a test of the willingnes to work on the part of the applicants for relief, I will proceed to deal with that portion of the work itself which is connected with the cleansing of the streets.

And as to the employment of paupers at all in the streets. If pauperism be a disgrace, then it is unjust to turn a man into the public thoroughfares, wearing the badge of beggary, to be pointed at and scorned for his poverty, especially when we are growing so particularly studious of our criminals that we make them wear masks to prevent even their faces being seen. Nor is it consistent with the principles of an enlightened national morality that we should force a body of honest men to labour upon the highways, branded with a degrading garb, like convicts. Neither is it to do so, for the shame of poverty soon becomes deadened by the repeated exposure to public scorn; and thus the occasional recipient of parish relief is ultimately


converted into the hardened and habitual pauper. "Once a pauper always a pauper," I was assured was the parish rule; and here lies the of the fact. Not long ago this system of employing paupers to labour in the public thoroughfares was carried to a much more offensive extent than it is even at present. At time the pauper labourers of a certain parish had the attention of every passer-by attracted to them while at their work, for on the back of each man's garb—a sort of smock-frock—was marked, with sufficient prominence, "CLERKENWELL. STOP IT!" This public intimation that the labourers were not only paupers, but regarded as thieves, and expected to purloin the parish dress they wore, attracted public attention, and was severely commented upon at a meeting. The "STOP IT!" therefore was cancelled, and the frocks are now lettered "CLERKENWELL." Before the alteration the men very generally wore the garment inside out.

The present dress of the parish scavagers is usually a loose smock-frock, costing to , and a glazed hat of about the same price. In some cases, however, the men may wear these things or not, at their option.

The pauper scavagers employed by the several metropolitan parishes may be divided into classes:—

. The in-door paupers, who receive no wages whatever (their lodging, food, and clothing being considered to be sufficient remuneration for their labour).

. The out-door paupers, who are paid partly in money and partly in kind, and employed in some cases days and in others days in the week.

These may be subdivided into—() the single men, who receive, or rather used to receive, and a quartern loaf for each of the or more days they were so employed; () the married men with families, who receive and quartern loaves a week to and quartern loaf for each day's labour.

. The unemployed labourers of the district, who are set to scavaging work by the parish, and paid a regular money wage—the employment being constant, and the rate of remuneration ranging from to a day for each of the days, or from to a week.

In pp. , , I give a table of the wages paid by each of the metropolitan parishes. This has been collected at great trouble in order to arrive at the truth on this most important matter, and for which purpose the several parishes have been personally visited. It will be seen on reference to this document, that there is only parish at present that employs its in-door paupers in the scavaging of the public streets; and parishes employing out-door paupers, who are paid partly in money and partly in bread; the money remuneration ranging from a day (paid by Clerkenwell) to a week (paid by ), and moreover parishes employing applicants for relief (paupers they cannot be called), and paying them wholly in money, the remuneration ranging from per week to (paid by the Liberty of the Rolls), and the employment from to days weekly. As a general rule it was found that the greatest complaints were made by the authorities as to the idleness of the poor, and by the poor as to the tyranny of the authorities, in those parishes where the remuneration was the least. In St. Luke's, , for instance, where the remuneration is but a week and loaves, the criminations and recriminations by the parish functionaries and the paupers were almost equally harsh and bitter. I should, however, observe that the men employed in this parish spoke in terms of great commendation of Mr. Pattison the surveyor, saying he always gave them to understand that they were free labourers, and invariably treated them as such. The men at work for parish also spoke very highly of their superintendent, who, it seems, has interested himself to obtain for them a foul-weather coat. Some of the highway boards or trusts take all the pauper labourers sent them by the parish, while others give employment only to such as please them. These boards generally pay good wages, and are in favour with the men.

The mode of working, as regards the use of the implements and the manual labour, is generally the same among the pauper scavagers as I have described in connection with the scavagers generally.

The consideration of what is the rate of parish pay to the poor who are employed as scavagers, is complicated by the different modes in which the employment is carried out, for, as we see, there is—, the scavaging labour, by workhouse inmates, without any payment beyond the cost of maintenance and clothing; , the "short" or -days-a-week labour, with or without "relief" in the bestowal of bread; and , the days' work weekly, with a money wage and no bread, nor anything in the form of payment in kind or of "relief."

Let me begin with the system of labour above mentioned, viz. the employment of the indoor paupers without wages of any kind, their food, lodging, and clothing being considered as equivalents for their work. The principal evil in connection with this form of parish work is its compulsory character, the men regarding it not as so much work given in exchange for such and such comforts, but as something from them; and, to tell the truth, it is precisely the counterpart of slavery, being equally deficient in all inducement to toil, and consequently requiring almost the same system of compulsion and supervision in order to keep the men at their labour. All interest in the work is destroyed, there being no reward connected with it; and consequently the same organized system of setting to work is required as with cattle. There are but inducements to voluntary action—pain to be avoided or pleasure to be derived—or, in other words, the attractiveness and repulsiveness of objects. Take away the pecuniary attraction of labour, and men become mere beasts of burden, capable of being set to work only by the dread of some punishment; hence the system of parish labour, which


has no reward directly connected with it, must necessarily be tyrannical, and so tend to induce idleness and a hatred of work altogether.

Of the different forms of pauper work, streetsweeping is, I am inclined to believe, the most unpopular of all among the poor. The scavaging is generally done in the workhouse dress, and that to all, except the hardened paupers, and sometimes even to them, is highly distasteful. Neither have such labourers, as I have said, the incentive of that hope of the reward which, however diminutive, still tends to sweeten the most repulsive labour. I am informed by an experienced gangsman under a contractor, that it is notorious that the workhouse hands are the least industrious scavagers in the streets. "They don't sweep as well," he said, "and don't go about it like regular men; they take it quite easy." It is often asserted that this labour of the workhouse men is applied as a but this opinion seems rather to bear on the past than the present.

man thus employed gave me the following account. He was garrulous but not communicative, as is frequently the case with men who love to hear themselves talk, and are not very often able to command listeners. He was healthy looking enough, but he told me he was, or had been "delicate." He querulously objected to be questioned about his youth, or the reason of his being a pauper, but seemed to be abounding in workhouse stories and workhouse grievances.

Street-sweeping," he said, "degrades a man, and if a man's poor he hasn't no call to be degraded. Why can't they set the thieves and pickpockets to sweep? they could be watched easy enough; there's always idle fellers as reckons theirselves real gents, as can be got for watching and sitch easy jobs, for they gets as much for them, as three men's paid for hard work in a week. I never was in a prison, but I've heerd that people there is better fed and better cared for than in workusses. What's the meaning of that, sir, I'd like for to know? You can't tell me, but I can tell you. The workus is made as ugly as it can be, that poor people may be got to leave it, and chance dying in the street rather." [Here the man indulged in a gabbled detail of a series of pauper grievances which I had a difficulty in diverting or interrupting. On my asking if the other paupers had the same opinion as to street-sweeping as he had, he replied:—] "To be sure they has; all them that has sense to have a 'pinion at all has; there's not two sides to it any how. No, I don't want to be kept and do nothink. I want proper work. And by the rights of it I might as well be kept with nothink to do as —— or ——" [parish officials]. "Have they nothing to do," I asked? "Nothink, but to make mischief and get what ought to go to the poor. It's salaries and such like as swallers the rates, and that's what every poor family knows as knows anythink. Did I ever like my work better? Certainly not. Do I take any pains with it? Well, where would be the good? I can sweep well enough, when I please, but if I could do more than the best man as ever Mr. Darke paid a pound a week to, it wouldn't be a bit better for me—not a bit, sir, I assure you. We all takes it easy whenever we can, but the work must be done. The only good about it is that you get outside the house. It's a change that way certainly. But we work like horses and is treated like asses." [On my reminding him that he had just told me that they all took it easy when they could, and that rather often, he replied:] "Well, don't horses? But it ain't much use talking, sir. It's only them as has been in workusses and in parish work as can understand all the ins and outs of it.

In giving the above and the following statements I have endeavoured to elicit the of the several paupers whom I conversed with. Poor, ignorant, or prejudiced men may easily be mistaken in their opinions, or in what they may consider their "facts," but if a clear exposition of their sentiments be obtained, it is a guide to the truth. I have, therefore, given the statement of the in-door pauper's opinions, querulously as they were delivered, as I believe them to be the sentiments of those of his class who, as he said, had any opinion at all.

It seems indeed, from all I could learn on the subject, that pauper street-work, even at the best, is unwilling and slovenly work, pauper workmen being the worst of all workmen. If the streets be swept clean, it is because a dozen paupers are put to the labour of , , or regular scavagers who are independent labourers, and who may have some "pride of art," or some desire to show their employers that they are to be depended upon. This feeling does not actuate the pauper workman, who thinks or knows that if he did evince a desire and a perseverance to please, it would avail him little beyond the sneers and ill--will of his mates; so that, even with a disposition to acquire the good opinion of the authorities, there is this obstacle in his way, and to most men who move in a circumscribed sphere it is a serious obstacle.

Of the mode of pauper scavaging, viz., that performed by out-door paupers, and paid for partly in money and partly in kind, I heard from officials connected with pauper management very strong condemnations, as being full of mischievous and degrading tendencies. The payment to the out-door pauper scavager averages, as I have stated, a day to a single man, with, perhaps, a quartern loaf; and this, in some cases, is for only days in the week; while to a married man with a family, it varies between and a day, with a quartern, and sometimes quartern loaves; and this, likewise, is occasionally from to days in the week. On this the single or family men must subsist, if they have no other means of earning an addition. The men thus employed are certainly not independent labourers, nor are they, in the full sense of the word as popularly understood, paupers; for their means of subsistence are partly the fruits of their toil; and although they are wretchedly dependent, they seem to feel that they have a sort of right to be set to work, as the law ordains such modicum of relief, in or out of the workhouse, as will only ward off death through hunger. This "-


The number of men here given as employed by the parishes in the scavaging of the streets will be found to differ from that of the table at page 213; but the present table includes all the parish-men employed throughout London, whereas the other referred to only a portion of the localities there mentioned.table SHOWING THE NUMBER OF MEN EMPLOYED BY THE METROPOLITAN PARISHES AND HIGHWAY BOARDS IN SCAVAGING, AS WELL AS THE NUMBER OF HOURS PER DAY AND NUMBER OF DAYS PER WEEK, TOGETHER WITH THE AMOUNT OF WAGES ACCRUING TO EACH, AND THE TOTAL ANNUAL WAGES OF THE WHOLE.
 PARISHES. No. of married men employed by parishes daily in scavaging the streets. Number of single men employed by parishes daily in scavaging the streets. Number of Superintendents employed by parishes. Number of Foremen or Gangers employed by parishes. Daily or weekly wages of the married parish-men. Daily or weekly wages of the single parish-men. Weekly wages of the Superintendents employed by parishes. Weekly wages of Foremen or Gangers employed by parishes. Number of hours per day each parish-man is employed to sweep the streets. Number of days in the week each parish-man is employed in sweeping the streets. Total annual wages of the whole, including the estimated value of food and clothes. 
 Paid in Money (by Parishes).         s. s. s. s.     £. s. d. 
 Greenwich . . . . . . 7 1 1 1 15 15 30s. and a house to live in. 18 10 6 456 16 0 
 Walworth . . . . . 12 8   3 15 14   18 12 6 899 12 0 
 Newington . . . . .     
 Lambeth . . . . . . . 30   1 5 15   20 18 10 6 1456 0 0 
 Poplar . . . . . . . 20     4 15     18 10 6 967 4 0 
 St. Ann's, Soho . . . . . 4 1     15 15     12 6 195 0 0 
 Rotherhithe . . . . . . 4     1 14     16 10 6 187 4 0 
 Wandsworth . . . . . . 6     1 12     18 10 6 234 0 0 
 Hackney . . . . . . 12 4   4 12 10   18 10 6 665 12 0 
 St. Mary's, Paddington . . . . 8 5 1 2 12 10 20 15 12 6 509 12 0 
 St. Giles's, and St. George's, Bloomsbury . 20 4   4 12 12   18 12 6 936 0 0 
 St. Pancras (South-west Division) . . 10   2   12     18 12 6 93 12 0 
 St. Clement Danes . . . . . 6 2   1 11 11   15 10 6 267 16 0 
 St. Paul's, Covent-garden . . . . 2 5   1 11 11   13 12 6 234 0 0 
 St. James's, Westminster . . . . 6     1 10     12 10 6 187 4 0 
 Ditto . . . . . . . 6     1 10     12 10 6 187 4 0 
 Ditto . . . . . . . 6     1 9     12 10 6 166 12 0 
 St. Andrew's, Holborn . . . . 10   1 1 9   15 12 10 6 304 4 0 
 Marylebone . . . . . . 80 15 1 10 9 9 18 16 10 6 2685 16 0 
 St. George's, Hanover-square . . . 30 6 1 4 9s. a week. 9s. a week. 20 16 10 6 1060 16 0 
 Liberty of the Rolls . . . . 1       7s. 6d.       10 6 19 10 0 
 Bermondsey . . . . . . 13 1 1   1s. 4d. per day. 1s. 4d. per day. 28s. and clothing.   10 5 321 3 4 
 Paid in Money (by Highway Boards).                           
 St. James's, Clerkenwell (1st Division) . 5       15       10 6 195 0 0 
 Islington . . . . . . 7 1   1 15 15   18 10 6 405 0 0 
 Commercial Road East . . . . 4 1 1   15 15 100l. a year.   12 6 295 0 0 
 Hampstead . . . . . . 4     1 15     18 10 6 202 10 0 
 Highgate . . . . . . 3 2   1 14 14   18 10 6 228 16 0 
 Kensington . . . . . . 6 1   1 12 12   18 12 6 265 4 0 
 Lewisham . . . . . . 4     1 12     18 10 6 171 12 0 
 Camberwell . . . . . . 10     1 12     18 12 6 358 16 0 
 Christchurch, Lambeth . . . . 6     1 12     15 10 6 226 4 0 
 Woolwich . . . . . . 5     1 12     18 10 6 202 16 0 
 Deptford . . . . . . 4     1 9     18 10 3 140 8 0 
 Paid partly in kind.                           
 St. Luke's, Chelsea . . . . . 27 9   3 7s., and on an average 3 loaves each, at 4d. a loaf. 7   14 10 6 834 12 0 
 Hans-town " . . . . . 6     1 7s., and average 3 loaves per head.     14 10 6 161 4 0 
 St. James's, Clerkenwell . . . . 6       1s. 1 1/2d. a day, and 1 quartern loaf.       10 3 70 4 0 
 Paid wholly in kind.                           
 St. Pancras (Highways) . . . 10   1   estimated expense of food, 2s. 4d. weekly.   21s. and food.   8 4 128 5 4 
 Total . . . . . 400 66 8 62             15,919 8 8 


days-a-week work" is by the poor or pauper labourers looked upon as being, after the in-door pauper work, the worst sort of employment.

From a married man employed by the parish under this mode, I had the following account.

He was an intelligent-looking man, of about , but with nothing very particular in his appearance unless it were a head of very curly hair. He gave me the statement in his own room, which was larger than I have usually found such abodes, and would have been very bare, but that it was somewhat littered with the vessels of his trade as a street-seller of Nectar, Persian Sherbet, Raspberryade, and other decoctions of coloured ginger-beer, with high-sounding names and indifferent flavour: in the summer he said he could live better thereby, with a little costering, than by street-sweeping, but being often a sickly man he could not do so during the uncertainties of a winter street trade. His wife, a decent looking woman, was present occasionally, suckling child, about years old—for the poor often protract the weaning of their children, as the mother's nutriment is the of all food for the infant, and as the means of postponing the further increase of their family—whilst another of or years of age sat on a bench by her side. There was nothing on the walls in the way of an ornament, as I have seen in some of the rooms of the poor, for the couple had once been in the workhouse, and might be driven there again, and with such apprehensions did not care, perhaps, to make a home otherwise than they found it, even if the consumption of only a little spare time were involved.

The husband said:—

I was brought up as a type-founder; my father, who was one, learnt me his trade; but he died when I was quite a young man, or I might have been better perfected in it. I was comfortably off enough then, and got married. Very soon after that I was taken ill with an abscess in my neck, you can see the mark of it still." [He showed me the mark.] "For six months I wasn't able to do a thing, and I was a part of the time, I don't recollect how long, in St. Bartholomew's Hospital. I was weak and ill when I came out, and hardly fit for work; I couldn't hear of any work I could get, for there was a great bother in the trade between master and men. Before I went into the hospital, there was money to pay to doctors; and when I came out I could earn nothing, so everything went, yes, sir, everything. My wife made a little matter with charing for families she'd lived in, but things are in a bad way if a poor woman has to keep her husband. She was taken ill at last, and then there was nothing but the parish for us. I suffered a great deal before it come to that. It was awful. No one can know what it is but them that suffers it. But I didn't know what in the world to do. We lived then in St. Luke's, and were passed to our own parish, and were three months in the workhouse. The living was good enough, better then than it is now, I've heard, but I was miserable." ["And I was very miserable," interposed the wife, "for I had been brought up comfortable; my father was a respectable tradesman in St. George'sin-the-East, and I had been in good situations."] "We made ourselves," said the husband, "as useful as we could, but we were parted of course. At the three months' end, I had 10s. given to me to come out with, and was told I might start costermongering on it. But to a man not up to the trade, 10s. won't go very far to keep up costering. I didn't feel master enough of my own trade by this time to try for work at it, and work wasn't at all regular. There were good hands earning only 12s. a week. The 10s. soon went, and I had again to apply for relief, and got an order for the stone-yard to go and break stones. Ten bushels was to be broken for 15d. It was dreadful hard work at first. My hands got all blistered and bloody, and I've gone home and cried with pain and wretchedness. At first it was on to three days before I could break the ten bushels. I felt shivered to bits all over my arms and shoulders, and my head was splitting. I then got to do it in two days, and then in one, and it grew easier. But all this time I had only what was reckoned three days' work in a week. That is, you see, sir, I had only three times ten bushels of stones given to break in the week, and earned only 3s. 9d. Yes, I lived on it, and paid 1s. 6d. a week rent, for the neighbours took care of a few sticks for us, and the parish or a broker wouldn't have found them worth carriage. My wife was then in the country with a sister. I lived upon bread and dripping, went without fire or candle (or had one only very seldom) though it wasn't warm weather. I can safely say that for eight weeks I never tasted one bite of meat, and hardly a bite of butter. When I couldn't sleep of a night, but that wasn't often, it was terrible, very. I washed what bits of things I had then myself, and had sometimes to get a ha'porth of soap as a favour, as the chandler said she 'didn't make less than a penn'orth.' If I eat too much dripping, it made me feel sick. I hardly know how much bread and dripping I eat in a week. I spent what money I had in it and bread, and sometimes went without. I was very weak, you may be sure, sir; and if I'd had the influenza or anything that way, I should have gone off like a shot, for I seemed to have no constitution left. But my wife came back again and got work at charing, and made about 4s. a week at it; but we were still very badly off. Then I got to work on the roads every day, and had 1s. and a quartern loaf a day, which was a rise. I had only one child then, but men with larger families got two quartern loaves a day. Single men got 9d. a day. It was far easier work than stone-breaking too. The hours were from eight to five in winter, and from seven to six in summer. But there's always changes going on, and we were put on 1s. 1 1/2d. a day and a quartern loaf, and only three days a week. All the same as to time of course. The bread wasn't good; it was only cheap. I suppose there was 20 of us working most of the times as I was. The gangsman, as you call him, but that's more for the regular hands, was a servant of the parish, and a great tyrant. Yes, indeed, when we had a talk among ourselves, there was nothing but grumbling heard of. Some of the tales I've heard were shocking; worse than what I've gone through. Everybody was grumbling, except perhaps two men that had been 20 years in the streets, and were like born paupers. They didn't feel it, for there's a great difference in men. They knew no better. But anybody might have been frightened to hear some of the men talk and curse. We've stopped work to abuse the parish officers as might be passing. We've mobbed the overseers, and a number of us, I was one, were taken before the magistrate for it; but we told him how badly we were off, and he discharged us, and gave us orders into the workhouse, and told 'em to see if nothing could be done for us. We were there till next morning, and then sent away without anything being said.

It's a sad life, sir, is a parish worker's. I wish to God I could get out of it. But when a man has children he can't stop and say 'I can't do this,' and 'I won't do that.' Last week, now, in costering, I lost 6s.'" [he meant that his expenses, of every kind, exceeded his receipts by 6s.], and though I can distil nectar, or anything that way" [this was said somewhat laughingly], "it's only when the weather's hot and fine that any good at all can be done with it. I think, too, that there's not the money among working men that there once was. Anything regular in the way of pay must always be looked at by a man with a family.

Of course the streets must be properly swept, and if I can sweep them as well as Mr. Dodd's men, for I know one of them very well, why should I have only 3s. 4 1/2d. a week and three loaves, and he have 16s, I think it is? I don't drink, my wife knows I don't" [the wife assented], "and it seems as if in a parish a man must be kept down when he is down, and then blamed for it. I may not understand all about it, but it looks queer.

From an man, looking like a mere boy in the face, although he assured me he was nearly , as far as he knew, I heard an account of his labour and its fruits as a parish scavager; also of his former career, which partakes greatly in its characteristics of the narratives I gave, toward the close of the volume, of deserted, neglected, and runaway children.

He lived from his earliest recollection with an old woman whom he called "grandmother," and was then bid to call "aunt," and she, some of the neighbours told him, had "kept him out of his rights," for she had a week with him, so that there ought to have been money coming to him when he grew up. I have sometimes heard similar statements from the ignorant poor, for it is agreeable enough to them to fancy that they have been wronged out of fortunes to which they were justly entitled, and deprived of the position and consequence in life which they ought to have possessed "by rights." In the course of my inquiries among the poor women who supply the slop milliners' shops with widows' caps, cap fronts, women's collars, &c., &c., I was told by mid- dle-aged cap-maker, a very silly person, that she would be worth , "if she had her rights." What those "rights" were she could not explain, only that there was and had been a great deal of money in the family, and of course she had a right to her share, only she was kept out of it.

The youth in question never heard of a father, and had been informed that his mother had died when he was a baby. From what he told me, I think it most probable that he was an illegitimate child, for whose maintenance his father possibly paid the a week, perhaps to some near relative of the deceased mother. The old woman, as well as I could make the matter out from his narrative, died suddenly, and, as little was known about her, she was buried by the parish, and the lad, on the evening of the funeral, was to have been taken by the landlord of the house where they lodged into the workhouse; but the boy ran away before this could be accomplished; the parish of course not objecting to be relieved of an incumbrance. He thought he was then about or years of age, and he had before run away from schools, a Ragged-school, to which he had been sent, "," he said, "and master, not he as had the raggeds, leathered him," to use his own words, "tightly." He knew his letters now, he thought, but that was all, and very few," he said, gravely, "would have put up with it so long as I did." He subsisted as well as he could by selling matches, penny memorandum books, onions, &c., after he had run away, sleeping under hedges in the country, or in lodging-houses in town, and living on a few pence a day, or "starving on nothink." He was taken ill, and believed it was of a fever, at or somewhere about Portsmouth, and when he was sufficiently recovered, and had given the best account he could of himself, was passed to his parish in London. The relieving officer, he said, would have given him a pair of shoes and half-a-crown, and let him "take his chance, but the doctor wouldn't sartify any ways." He meant, I think, that the medical officer found him too ill to be at large on his own account. He discharged himself, however, in a few weeks from this parish workhouse, as he was convalescent. "The grub there, you see, sir," he said, "was stunning good when I went, but it fell off." As the probability is that there was no change in the diet, it may not be unfair to conclude that the regular meals of the establishment were very relishable at , and that afterwards their very regularity and their little variation made the recipient critical.

When I left, sir," he stated, "they guv me 2s. 6d., and a tidy shirt, and a pair of blucherers, and mended up my togs for me decent. I tried all sorts of goes then. I went to Chalk-farm and some other fairs with sticks for throwing, and used to jump among them as throwing was going on, and to sing out, 'break my legs and miss my pegs.' I got many a knock, and when I did, oh! there was such larfing at the fun on it. I sold garden sticks too, and garden ropes, and posts sometimes; but it was all wery poor pay. Sometimes I made 10d., but not never I think but twice 1s. a day at it, and oftener 6d., and in bad weather there was nothink to be done. If I made 6d. clear, it was 1d. for cawfee—for I often went out fasting in a morning —and 1d. for bread and butter, and 1d. for pudden for dinner, and another 1d. perhaps for beer—halfpint and a farden out at the public bar—and 2d. for a night's lodging. I've had sometimes to leave half my stock in flue with a deputy for a night's rest. O, I didn't much mind the bugs, so I could rest; and next day had to take my things out if I could, and pay a hexter ha'penny or penny, for hintrest, like. Yes, I've made 18d. a hevening at a fair; but there's so many a going it there that one ruins another, and wet weather ruins the whole biling, the pawillion, theaytres and all. I never was a hactor, never; but I've thought sometimes I'd like to try my hand at it. I may some day, 'cause I'm tall. I was forced to go to the parish again, for I got ill and dreadful weak, and then they guv me work on the roads. I can't just say how long it's since, two or three year perhaps, but I had 9d. a day at first, and reglar work, and then three days and three loaves a week, and then three days and no loaves. I haven't been at it werry lately. I've rayther taken the summer out of myself, but I must go back soon, for cold weather's a coming. Vy, I lived a good deal on carrying trunks from the busses to Euston Railway; a good many busses stops in the New-road, in the middle of the square. Some was foreigners, and they was werry scaly. No, I never said nothink but once, ven I got two French ha'pennies for carrying a heavy old leather thing, like a coach box, as seemed to belong to a family; and then the railway bobbies made me hold my tongue. I jobbed about in other places too, but the time's gone by now. O, I had a deal to put up with last winter. What is 9d. a day for three days? and if poor men had their rights, times 'ud be different. I'd like to know where all the money goes. I never counted how many parish sweepers there was; too many by arf. I've a rights to work, and it's as little as a parish can do to find it. I pay 1s. a week for half a bed, and not half enough bed-clothes; but me and Jack Smith sometimes sleeps in our clothes, and sometimes spreads 'em o' top. No, poor Jack, he hasn't no hold on a parish; he's a mud-lark and a gatherer [bone-grubber]. Do I like the overseers and the parish officers? In course not, nobody does. Why don't they? Well, how can they? that's just where it is. Ven I haven't been at sweeping, I've staid in bed as long as I was let; but Mother B.—I don't know no other name she has—wouldn't stand it after ten. O no, it wern't a common lodging-house, a sort of private lodginghouse perhaps, where you took by the week. If I made nothink but my ninepences, I lived on bread and cawfee, or bread and coker, and sometimes a red herring, and I've bought 'em in the Brill at five and six a penny. Mother B. charged 1/2d. for leave to toast 'em on her gridiron. She is a scaly old ——. I've oft spent all my money in a tripe supper at night, and fasted all next day. I used to walk about and look in at the cook-shop windows, and try for a job next day. I'd have gone five miles for anybody for a penn'orth of pudden. No, I never thought of making away with myself; never. Nor I never thought of going for a soldier; it wouldn't suit me to be tied so. What I want is this here— regular work and no jaw. O, I'm sometimes as miserable as hunger 'll make a parson, if ever he felt it. Yes, I go to church sometimes when I'm at work for the parish, if I'm at all togged. No doubt I shall die in the workus. You see there's nobody in the world cares for me. I can't tell just how I spend my money; just as it comes into my head. No, I don't care about drinking; it don't agree with me; but there's some can live on it. I don't think as I shall ever marry, though who knows?

The and last system of parish work is where the labourer is employed regularly, and paid a fixed wage, out of the parochial fund certainly, but not in the same manner as the paupers are paid, nor with any payment in kind (as in loaves), but all in money. The payment in this wise is usually a day, and, but for such employment, the poor so employed, would, in most instances, apply for relief.

In parish, where the poor are regularly employed in street sweeping, and paid a regular wage in money, the whole scavaging work is done by the paupers, as they are usually termed, though they are not "on the rate." By them the streets are swept and the houses dusted, the granite broken for macadamization, and the streets and roads repaved or repaired. This is done by about men, the labour in the different departments I have specified being about equally apportioned as to the number employed in each. The work is executed without any direct intervention of the parish officers employed in administering to the poor, but through the agency of a board. All the men, however, are the poor of the parish, and but for this employment would or might claim relief, or demand admittance with their families into the workhouse. The system, therefore, is of indirect pauper labour. Nearly all the men have been unskilled labourers, the exception being now and then a few operatives in such handicrafts as were suffering from the dearth of employment. Some of the artizans, I was informed, would be earning their in the stone-yard week, and the next getting at their business. The men thus labouring for the parish are about -fifths Irishmen, a Welchmen, or rather more than a , and the remainder Englishmen. There is not a single Scotchman among them.

There is no difference, in the parish I allude to, between the wages of married and single men, but men with families are usually preferred among the applicants for such work. They all reside in their own rooms, or sometimes in lodging-houses, but this rests with themselves.

I had the following account from a heavy and healthy-looking middle-aged man, dressed in a jacket and trousers of coarse corduroy. There is so little distinctive about it, however, that I will


not consume space in presenting it in the narrative form in which I noted it down. It may suffice that the man seemed to have little recollection as to the past, and less care as to the future. His life, from all I could learn from him, had been spent in what may be called menial labour, as the servant, not of an individual, but of a parish; but there was nothing, he knew of, that he had to thank anybody for—parish or any . They wanted and he wanted On my asking him if he had never tried to "better himself," he said that he once as a navvy, but a blow on the head and eye, from a portion of rock shivered by his pick-axe, disabled him for awhile, and he left railway work. He went to church, as was expected of him, and he and his wife liked it. He had forgotten how to read, but never was "a dab at it," and so "didn't know nothing about the litany or the psalms." He couldn't say as he knew any difference between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church-goers, "cause the was a English and the t' other a Irish religion," and he "wasn't to be expected to understand Irish religion." He saw no necessity to put by money (this he said hesitatingly), supposing he could; what was his parish for? and he would take care he didn't lose his settlement. If he'd ever had such a chance as some had he might have saved money, but he never had. He had no family, and his wife earned about a week, but not every week, in a wool warehouse, and they did middling.

The above, then, are the modes in which paupers, or imminent paupers, so to speak, are employed, and in way or other are for their labour, or what is called paid, and who, although parish menials, still reside in their own abodes, with the opportunity, such as it is, of "looking out" for better employment.

As to the I do not know that they differ from those of paupers generally. All men who feel themselves sunk into compulsory labour and a degraded condition are dissatisfied, and eager to throw the blame of their degradation from their own shoulders. But it is evident that these men are unwilling workers, because their work is deprived of its just reward; and although I did not hear of any difficulty being experienced in getting them to work, I was assured by many who knew them well, that they do not go about it with any alertness. Did any ever hear a pauper whistle or sing at his street-work? I believe that every experienced vestryman will agree to the truth of the statement that it is very rarely a confirmed pauper rises from his degradation. His thoughts and aspirations seem bounded by the workhouse and the parish. The reason appears to be because the workhouse authorities seek rather to degrade than to elevate the man, resorting to every means of shaming the pauper, until at last he becomes so utterly callous to the disgrace of pauperism that he does not care to alter his position. The system, too, adopted by the parish authorities of not paying for work, or paying less than the ordinary prices of the trade, causes the pauper labourers to be unwilling workers; and finding that industry brings no reward, or less than its fair reward, to them, they get to hate all work, and to grow up habitual burdens on the State. Crabbe, the poet, who in all questions of borough and parish life is an authority, makes his workhouse boy, Dick Monday, who when a boy got more kicks than halfpence, die Sir Richard Monday, of Monday-place; but this is a flight on the wings of poetical licence; certainly not impossible, and that is all which can be said for its likelihood.

The following remarks on the payment of the parish street-sweepers are from of Mr. Cochrane's publications:—

"The council considers it a duty to the poor to touch upon the niggardly manner in which parish scavengers are generally paid, and the deplorable and emaciated condition which they usually present, with regard to their clothing and personal appearance. contractor pays per week; pay ; (including a Highway Board) pay each; pays ; pay ; and pays so low as On the other hand, parish boards of 'guardians of the poor,' pay only each, to their miserable mudlarks; pays ; another ; a ; a compensates its labourers—in the British metropolis, where rent and living are necessarily higher than elsewhere—with per week! whilst a pays men each, men each, and men each, for exactly the same kind of work!!! But what renders this mean torture of men (because they happen to be poor) absurd as well as cruel, are the anomalous facts, that whilst the guardians of parish pay men each, the contractor for another part of the same parish, pays his men each;—and whilst the guardians of a parish pay only , the Highway Board pays to each of its labourers, for performing exactly the same work in the same district!—Mr. Darke, scavenging contractor of Paddington, lately stated that he never had, and never would, employ any man at less than or per week;—and Mr. Sinnott, of Belvidere-road, , about months since, offered to certain West-End guardians, to take paupers out of their own workhouse to cleanse their own parish, on the street-orderly system;— and to pay them per week each man; but the economical guardians preferred filth and a full workhouse, to cleanliness, Christian charity, and common sense;—and so the proposal of this considerate contractor was rejected! It is certainly far from being creditable to boards of gentlemen and wealthy tradesmen who manage parish affairs, to pay little more than -half the wages that an individual does, to poor labourers who cannot choose their employment or their masters. . . . .

The broken-down tradesman, the journeyman deprived of his usual work by panic or by poverty of the times, the ingenious mechanic, or the unsuccessful artist, applies at the parish labourmarket for leave to live by other labour than that which hitherto maintained him in comfort. . . . . . The usual language of such persons, even when applying for private alms or parochial relief, is, not that they want money, but 'that they have long been out of work;' 'that their particular trade has been overstocked with apprentices, or superseded by machinery;' or, 'that their late employer has become bankrupt, or has discharged the majority of his hands from the badness of the times.' To a man of this class, the guardian of the poor replies, 'We will test your willingness to labour, by employing you in the stone-yard, or to sweep the streets; but the parish being heavily burthened with rates, we cannot afford more than 7s. or 8s. a week.' The poor creature, conscious of his own helplessness, accepts the miserable pittance, in order to preserve himself and family from immediate starvation. . . . . .

The council has taken much pains to ascertain the wages, and mode of expenditure of them, by this uncared-for, and almost pariah, class of labourers throughout the metropolitan parishes; and it possesses undeniable proofs, that few possess any further garment than the rags upon their backs; some being even without a change of linen; that they never enter a place of worship, on account of their want of decent clothing; that their wives and children are starved and in rags, and the latter without the least education; that they never by any chance taste fresh animal food; that one-third of their hard earnings is paid for rent; and that their only sustenance (unless their wives happen to go out washing or charing), consists of bread, potatoes, coarse tea without milk or sugar, a salt herring two or three times a week, and a slice of rusty bacon on Sunday morning! The meal called dinner they never know; their only refection being breakfast and 'tea:' beer they do not taste from year's end to year's end; and any other luxury, or even necessary, is out of the question.

Of the 21 scavengers employed by St. James's parish in 1850, no less than 16," says Mr. Cochrane's report, "were married, with from one to four children each. How the poor creatures who receive but 7s. 6d. a week support their families, is best known to themselves.

Let me now, in conclusion, endeavour to arrive at a rough estimate as to the sum of which the pauper labours annually are mulct by the beforementioned rates of remuneration, estimating their labour at the market value or amount paid by the honourable contractors, viz. a week; for if private individuals can afford to pay that wage, and yet reap a profit out of the transaction, the guardians of the poor surely could and should pay the same prices, and not avail themselves of starving men's necessities to reduce the wages of a trade to the very quick of subsistence. If it be a sound principle that the condition of the pauper should be rendered desirable than that of the labourer, assuredly the principle is equally sound that the condition of the labourer should be made desirable than that of the pauper; for if to pamper the pauper be to make indolence more agreeable than industry, certainly to grind down the wages of the labourer is to render industry as unprofitable as indolence. In either case the same premium is proffered to pauperism. As yet the Poor-Law Commissioners have seen but way of reducing the poor-rates, viz., by rendering the state of the pauper as as possible, and they have wholly lost sight of the other mode of attaining the same end, viz., by making the state of the labourer as as possible. To institute a terrible poor law without maintaining an attractive form of industry, is to hold out a boon to crime. If the wages of the working man are to be reduced to bare subsistence, and the condition of the pauper is to be rendered worse than that of the working man, what atrocities will not be committed upon the poor. Elevate the condition of the labourer, and there will be no necessity to depress the pauper. Make work more attractive by increasing the reward for it, and laziness will necessarily become more repulsive. As it is, however, the pauper is not only kept at the very lowest point of subsistence, but his half-starved labour is brought into competition with that of men living in a comparative state of comfort; and the result, of course, is, that instead of decreasing the number of paupers or poor-rates, we make paupers of our labourers, and fill our workhouses by such means. If a scavager's labour be worth from to per week in the market, what moral right have the to pay for the same commodity? If the paupers are set to do work which is fairly worth , then to pay them little more than - of the regular value is not only to make unwilling workers of the paupers, but to drag down all the better workmen to the level of the worst.

It may be estimated that the outlay on pauper labour, as a whole, after deducting the sum paid to superintendents and gangers, does not exceed weekly per individual; consequently the lowering of the price of labour is in this ratio: There are now, in round numbers, pauper scavagers in the metropolis, and the account stands thus:—

 450 scavagers, at the regular weekly wages of 16s. each . . . £ 18,710 
 450 pauper labourers, 10s. each weekly . . . . . . 11,700 
 Lower price of pauper work . . £ 7,020 

Hence we see, that the great scurf employers of the scavagers, after all, are the guardians of the poor, compared with whom the most grasping contractor is a model of liberality.

That the minimum of remuneration paid by the parishes has tended, and is tending more and more, to the general depreciation of wages in the scavaging trade, there is no doubt. It has done so directly and indirectly. man, who had been a last-maker, told me that he left his employment as a London scavager, for he had "come down to the parish," and set off at the close of the summer into Kent for the harvest and hopping, for, when in the country, he had been


more used to agricultural labour than to last, clog, or patten making. He considered that he had not been successful; still he returned to London a richer man by Nearly of this soon went for shoes and necessary clothing, and to pay some arrears of rent, and a chandler's bill he owed, after which he could be trusted again where he was known. He applied to the foreman of a contractor, whom he knew, for work. "What wage?" said the foreman. " a week," was the reply. "Why, what did you get from the parish for sweeping?" "." "Well," said the foreman, "I know you're a decent man, and you were recommended before, and so I give you or days a week at a day, and no nonsense about hours; " The man closed with the offer, knowing that the foreman spoke the truth.

A contractor told me that he could obtain "plenty of hands," used to parish scavaging work, at to a week, whereas he paid

It is evident, then, that the system of pauper work in scavaging has created an increasing market for cheap and deteriorated labour, a market including hundreds of the unemployed at other unskilled labours; and it is hardly to be doubted that the many who have faith in the doctrine that it is the best policy to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, will avail themselves of the low-priced labour of this pauperconstituted mart.

It is but right to add, that those parishes which pay a week are as worthy of commendation as those which pay , and per week, and and a day are reprehensible; and, unfortunately, the latter have a tendency to regulate all the others.


[] Mr. Sidney Herbert informed me, that when he was connected with the Ordnance Department the severest punishment they could discover for idleness was the piling and unpiling of cannon shot; but surely this was the consummation of official folly! for idleness being simply an aversion to work, it is almost selfevident that it is impossible to remove this aversion by making labour inordinately irksome and repulsive. Until we understand the means by which work is made pleasant, and can discover other modes of employing our paupers and criminals, all our workhouse and prison discipline is idle tyranny.

[] This is done at the Model Prison, Pentonville.

[] To the honourable conduct of the above-named contractors to their men, I am glad to be able to bear witness. All the men speak in the highest terms of them.

This object is in collection Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
DCA Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 Title Page
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Of the Streets of London
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work