London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Rubbish Carters.
THE public cleansing trade, I have before said, consists of as many divisions as there are distinct species of refuse to be removed, and these appear to be . There is the -refuse, consisting of different kinds, as () the wet house-refuse or "slops," and "night-soil," and () the dry house-refuse, or dust and soot; and there is the -refuse, also consisting of distinct kinds, as () the wet street-refuse, or mud and dirt; and () the dry street-refuse or "rubbish."
I now purpose dealing with the labourers engaged in the collection and removal of the lastmentioned kind of refuse.
Technologically there are several varieties of "rubbish," or rather "," for such appears to be the generic term, of which "rubbish" is a species. Dirt, according to the understanding among the rubbish-carters, would seem to consist of any solid earthy matter, which is of an useless or refuse character. This dirt the trade divides into distinct kinds, viz.:—
, "Soft dirt," or refuse clay (of which "dry dirt," or refuse soil or mould, is a variety).
. "Hard dirt," or "hard-core," consisting of the refuse bricks, chimney-pots, slates, &c., when a house is pulled down, as well as the broken bottles, pans, pots, or crocks, and oyster-shells, &c., which form part of the contents of the dustman's cart.
The phrase "hard-core" seems strictly to mean all such refuse matter as will admit of being used as the foundation of roads, buildings, &c. "Rubbish," on the other hand, appears to be limited, by the trade, to "dry dirt;" out of the trade, however, and etymologically speaking, it signifies all such and refuse matter as is rendered useless by wear and tear. The term , on the other hand, is generally applied to refuse matter, and to refuse matter in a state of minute division, while is the generic term for all or refuse matter. I shall here restrict the term rubbish to all that dry and hard refuse matter which is the residuum of certain worn-out or "used-up" earthen commodities, as well as the surplus earth which is removed whenever excavations are made, either for the building of houses, the cutting of railways, the levelling of roads, the laying down of pipes or drains, and the sinking of wells.
The commodities whose residuum goes to swell the annual supply of , are generally of an earthy nature. Such commodities as are made of or materials, go, when "used up," chiefly to form manure if of an animal nature, and to be converted into paper if of a vegetable origin. The refuse materials of our woollen clothes, our old coats and trousers, are either torn to pieces and re-manufactured into shoddy, or become the invigorators of our hop and other plants; whereas those of our linen or cotton garments, our old shirts and petticoats, form the materials of our books and letters; while our old ropes, &c., are converted into either brown paper or oakum. Those commodities, on the other hand, which are made of materials, become, when worn out, the ingredients of the prussiate of potash and other nitrogenised products manufactured by our chemists. Our old commodities, again, are used principally to kindle our fires; while the refuse of our fires themselves, whether the soot which is deposited in the chimney above, or the ashes which fall below, are employed mainly to increase the fertility of our land. Our worn-out commodities, on the other hand, are newly melted, and go to form fresh commodities when the metals are of the scarcer kind, as gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, and even iron; and when of the more common kind, as is the case with old tin, and occasionally iron vessels, they either become the ingredients in some of our chemical manufactures, or else when formed of tin are cut up into smaller and inferior commodities. Even the detritus of our is used as the soil of our market gardens. All this we have already seen, and we have now to deal more particularly with
|the refuse of the sole remaining materials, viz., those of an kind, and out of which are made our bricks, our earthenware and porcelain, as well as our glass, plaster, and stone commodities. What becomes of all these materials when the articles made of them are no longer fit for use? The old glass is, like the old metal, remelted and made into new commodities; some broken bottles are used for the tops of walls as a protection against trespassers; and the old bricks, when sound, are employed again for inferior brickwork; but what becomes of the rest of the earthen materials—the unsound bricks or "bats," the old plaster and mortar, the refuse slates and tiles and chimney-pots, the broken pans, and dishes, and other crocks—in a word, the potsherds and pansherds, as the rubbish-carters call them—what is done with these?|
But rubbish, as we have seen, consists not only of refuse earthen commodities, but of refuse earth itself: such as the soil removed during excavations for the foundations of houses, for the cuttings of railways, the levelling of roads, the formation of parks, the laying down of pipes or drains, and the sinking of wells. For each and all of these operations there is necessarily a certain quantity of soil removed, and the question that naturally occurs to the mind is, what is done with it?
There is, moreover, a kind of rubbish, which, though having an animal origin, consists chiefly of earthy matter, and that is the shells of oysters, and other shell-fish. Whence go they, since these shells are of a comparatively indestructible nature, and thousands of such fish are consumed annually in the metropolis? What, the inquirer asks, becomes of the refuse bony coverings of such fish?
Let us , however, endeavour to estimate what quantity of each of these kinds of rubbish is annually produced in London, beginning with the refuse earthen commodities.
There is no published account of the quantity of annually manufactured in this country. Mr. McCulloch tells us, "It is estimated, that the of the various sorts of earthenware produced at the potteries may amount to about or a year; and that the earthenware produced at Worcester, Derby, and other parts of the country, may amount to about or more, making the whole value of the manufacture or a year." What proportion of this quantity may fall to the share of the metropolis, and what proportion of the whole may be annually destroyed, I know of no means of judging. We must therefore go some other way to work in order to arrive at the required information. Now, it has been before shown, that the quantity of "dust," or dry refuse from houses, annually collected, amounts to tons or chaldrons yearly; and I find, on inquiry at the principal "yards," that the average quantity of Potsherds and broken crockery is at the rate of about half a bushel to every load of dust, or say per cent. out of the entire quantity collected. At other yards, I find the proportion of sherds to be about the same, so that we may fairly assume that the gross quantity of broken earthenware produced in London is in round numbers loads or tons per annum. The sherds run about pieces to the bushel, and assuming every of such pieces to be the remains of an entire article, there would be in each bushel the fragments of earthenware vessels; and thus the total quantity of crockeryware destroyed yearly in the metropolis will amount to vessels.
As to the quantity of , the number annually produced, which is between and , will give us no knowledge of the quantity yearly converted into rubbish. In order to arrive at this, we must ascertain the number of houses pulled down in the course of the twelvemonth; and I find, by the Returns of the Registrar-General, that the buildings removed between and have been as follows:—
Thus, then, we perceive that there have been, upon an average, very nearly houses annually pulled down in London within the last years, and I find, on inquiry among those who are likely to be the best-informed on such matters, that each house so pulled down will yield from to loads of rubbish; so that, altogether, the quantity of refuse bricks, slates, tiles, chimneypots, &c., annually produced in London must be no less than loads.
But the above estimate refers only to those houses which have been pulled down and never rebuilt; so that, in order to arrive at the gross quantity of this kind of rubbish yearly produced in the metropolis, we must add to the preceding amount the quantity accruing from such houses as are pulled down and built up again, or newly fronted and repaired, which are by far the greater number. These, I find, may be estimated at between and per cent. of the gross number of houses in
|the metropolis. In some quarters (the older parts of London, for instance,) the proportion is much higher, while in the suburbs, or newer districts, it is scarcely half per cent. Each of the houses so new-fronted or repaired may be said to yield, on an average, loads of rubbish, and, at this rate, the yearly quantity of refuse bricks, mortar, &c., proceeding from such a source, will be loads per annum; so that the total amount of rubbish produced in London by the demolition and reparation of houses would appear to be about loads yearly.|
The quantity of refuse may easily be found by the number of oysters annually sold in Billingsgate-market. These, from the returns which I obtained from the market salesmen, and printed at p. of the volume of this work, appear to be, in round numbers, ; and, calculating that - of this quantity is sent into the country, the total number of shells remaining in the metropolis may be estimated at about . Reckoning, then, that shells go to the bushel (the actual number was found experimentally to be between and ), and consequently that are contained in every load, we may conclude that the gross quantity of refuse oyster shells annually produced in London average somewhere about loads. That this is an approximation to the true quantity there can be little doubt, for, on inquiry at of the largest dust-yards, I was informed by the hillman that the quantity of oyster-shells collected with the refuse dust from houses in the vicinity of , Whitechapel, and other localities at the east-end of the metropolis, averages bushels to the load of dust; about the west-end, however, half a bushel or a bushel to each load is the average ratio; while from the City there is none, the house "dust" there being free from oyster-shells. In taking district, however, with another, I am assured that the average may be safely computed at bushels of oyster-shells to every loads of dust; hence, as the gross amount of house-dust is equal to tons or loads per annum, the quantity of refuse oyster-shells collected yearly by the dustmen may be taken at loads. But, besides these, there is the quantity got rid of by the costermongers, which seldom or never appear in the dust-bins. The costers sell about oysters per annum, and thus the extra quantity of shells resulting from these means would be about loads; so that the gross quantity of refuse oyster-shells actually produced in London may be said to average between and loads per annum.
There still remains the quantity of to be calculated; this may be estimated as follows:—
. —Each house that is built requires the ground to be excavated from to yards deep, the average area of each being about yards square. This gives between and cubic yards of earth removed from the foundation of each house. A cubic yard of earth is a load, so that there are between and loads of earth displaced in the building of every new house.
The following statement shows—
Hence, estimating the number of new houses built yearly in the metropolis at , the total quantity of earth removed for the foundations of the buildings throughout London would be loads per annum.
. —The railways formed within the area of the metropolis during the last years have been—the Great Northern; the Camden Town, and Bow; the and Bow; and the North Kent Lines. The extension of the Southampton Railway from to Waterloo-bridge, as well as the Richmond Line, has also been formed within the same period, but for these no cuttings have been made.
The Railway Cuttings made within the area of the Metropolis Proper during the last years have been to the following extent:—
Hence, the gross quantity of earth removed from railway cuttings within the last years has been loads, or say, in round numbers, loads per annum.
. —According to a Return presented to Parliament, there were miles of new streets formed within the metropolitan police district between the years -; but in the formation of these no earth has been taken away; on the contrary a considerable quantity has been required for their construction. In the case of the lowering of , that which was removed from the top was used to fill up the hollow.
. —The only park that has been constructed during the last years in the metropolis is Victoria Park, at the east end of the town; but I am informed that, in the course of the works there, no earth was carted away, the soil which was removed from part being used for the levelling of another.
. —The earth displaced in the course of these operations is usually put back into the ground whence it was taken, excepting in the formation of some new sewer, and then a certain proportion has to be carted away. Upon inquiry among those who are likely to be best informed, I am assured that loads may be taken as the quantity carted away in the course of the last year.
. —In this there has been but little done. Those who are best informed assure me that within the last years no such works of any magnitude have been executed.
The account as to the quantity of rubbish removed in London, then, stands thus:—
Thus, then, we perceive that the gross quantity of rubbish that has to be annually removed throughout the metropolis is upwards of loads per annum.
Now what is done with the vast amount of refuse matter? Whither is it carried? How is it disposed of?
is of no value to the master carter, and is shot gratuitously wherever there is the privilege of shooting it; this privilege, however, is very often usurped. Great quantities used to be shot in what were, until these last years, Bishop Bonner's Fields, but now Victoria Park. At the present time this sort of rubbish is often slily deposited in localities generally known as "the ruins," being places from which houses, and indeed streets, have been removed, and the sites left bare and vacant.
But the main localities for the deposition of this kind of refuse are in the fields round about the metropolis. Each particular district appears to have its own special "shoot," as it is called, for rubbish, of which the following are the principal.
The rubbish of Kensington and is shot in the Pottery Grounds and Kensington-fields.
The rubbish of St. George's , Marylebone, and Paddington, is shot in the fields about Notting-hill and Kilburn.
The rubbish of , Strand, , St. Martin's, St. Giles's, St. James's, , West London, and , is shot in Cubitt's fields at and improvements.
The rubbish of Hampstead is shot in the fields at back of .
The rubbish of Saint Pancras is shot in the Copenhagen-fields.
The rubbish of , Clerkenwell, and St. Luke's, is shot in the Eagle Wharf-road and Shepherdess-fields.
The rubbish of East London and City is shot in the Haggerstone-fields.
The rubbish of Whitechapel, St. George's in the East, and Stepney, is shot in Stepney fields.
The rubbish of Hackney, Bethnal-green, and , is shot in the Bonkers-pond, Hackney-road.
The rubbish of Poplar is shot in the fields at back of New Town, Poplar.
The rubbish of is shot in the fields.
The rubbish of , Camberwell, and , is shot in Walworth-common and Kennington-fields.
The rubbish of Wandsworth is shot in Pottershole, Wandsworth-common.
The rubbish of Greenwich and Lewisham is shot in Russia-common, near Lewisham.
The rubbish of is used for ballast.
The quantity of rubbish annually shot in each of the above-mentioned localities appears to range from up to as high as and loads.
Of the earth removed in forming the foundation of new houses, between - and onesixth of the whole is used to make the gardens at the back, and the bed of the roads in front of them, while the entire quantity of the soil displaced in the execution of the "cuttings" of railways is carted away in the trucks of the company to form embankments in other places. Hence there would appear to be about from to loads of refuse bricks, potsherds, pansherds, and oyster-shells, and about loads of refuse earth deposited every year in the fields or "shoots" in the vicinity of the metropolis.
The refuse earth displaced in forming the foundations of houses is generally carted away by the builders' men, so that it is principally the refuse bricks, &c., that the rubbish-carters are engaged in removing; these they usually carry to the shoots already indicated, or to such other localities where the hard core may be needed for forming the foundation of roads, or the rubbish be required for certain other purposes.
|is for levelling, when the hollow part of any newly-made road has to be filled up, or garden or lawn ground has to be levelled for a new mansion. Rubbish, at time, was in demand for the ballasting of small coasting vessels. For such ballasting a ton has to be paid to the corporation of the Trinity House. This rubbish has been used, but sometimes surreptitiously, for ballast, unmixed with other things. It is, however, light and inferior ballast, and occupies more space than the gravel ballast from the bed of the Thames.|
Suppose that a collier requires ballast to the extent of tons; if house rubbish be used it will occupy the hold to a greater height by about inches than would the ballast derived from the bed of the Thames. The Thames ballast is supplied at a ton; the rubbish-ballast, however, was only to a ton, but now it is seldom used unless to mix with manure, which might be considered too wet and soft, and likely to ferment on the voyage to a degree unpleasant even to the mariners used to such freights. The rubbish, I am told, checks the fermentation, and gives consistency to the manure.
I am assured by a tradesman, who ships a considerable quantity of stable manure collected from the different mews of the metropolis, that comparatively little rubbish is now used for ballast (unless in the way I have stated); even for mixing, but a few tons a week are required up and down the river, and perhaps a small quantity from the wharfs on the several canals. Nothing was ever paid for the use of this rubbish as ballast, the carters being well satisfied to have the privilege of shooting it. of the principal shoots by the river side were at Bell-wharf, , and off . The rubbish of , it will be seen, is mainly "shot" as ballast.
The "" is readily got rid of; sometimes it is shot gratuitously (or merely with a small gratuity for beer to the men); but if it have to be carted or miles, it is from to a load. This is used for the foundations of houses, the groundwork of roads, and other purposes where a hard substratum is required. The hard-core on a new road is usually about inches deep. There are on an average miles of streets, yards wide, formed annually in London. Hence there would be upwards of loads of hard--core required for this purpose alone. Where the soil is of a gravelly nature, but little hard rubbish is needed. Oystershells form a much greater portion than they do now of the hard substratum of roads. or years ago the costermongers could sell their oyster-shells for a bushel. Now they cannot, or do not, sell them at all; and the law not only forbids their deposit in any place whatever, but forbids their being scattered in the streets, under a penalty of But as the same law provides no place where these shells may be deposited, the costermongers are in what of them described to me as "a quandary." man, who with his wife kept stalls in Tottenham Court-road, for fish (fresh and dried) and for shell-fish, and the other for fruit and vege- tables, told me that he gave " of those poor long-legged fellows who were neither men nor boys, and who were always starving and hanging about for a -penny job, to carry away a hamper-full of shells and get rid of them as he best could. O, where he put them, sir," said the man, "I don't know, I wouldn't know; and I shouldn't have mentioned it to you, only I saw you last winter and know you're inquiring for an honest purpose."
Another costermonger who has a large barrow of oysters and mussels, and sometimes of "wet fish" near King's-cross, and at the junction of with , Hatton-garden, was more communicative: "If you'll walk on with me, sir," he said, " show you where they're shot. You may mention my name if you like, sir; I don't care a d—— for the crushers; not a blessed d——." He accordingly conducted me to a place which seemed adapted for the special purpose. At the foot of and the adjacent streets runs the Fleet-ditch, now a branch of the common sewers; not covered over as in other parts, but open, noisome, and, as the dark water flows on, throwing up a sickening stench. The ditch is indifferently fenced, so that any with a little precaution may throw what he pleases into it. "There, sir," said my companion, "there's the place where more oyster-shells is thrown than anywhere in London. They're thrown in in the dark." Assuredly the great share of blame is not to those who avail themselves of such places for illegal purposes, but to those who leave such filthy receptacles available. The scattered oystershells along all the approaches, on both sides, to this part of the open Fleet-ditch, evince the use that is made of it in violation of the law. Many of the costers, however, keep the shells by them till they amount to several bushels, and then give the rubbish-carters a few pence to dispose of them for them.
Some of the costermongers, again, obtain leave to deposit their oyster-shells in the dustmen's yards, where quantities may be seen whitening the dingy dust-heaps, and a large quantity are collected with the house-dust and ashes, together with the broken crockery from the dust-bins of the several houses. The oyster-shells are carted away with the pansherds, &c., for the purposes I have mentioned.
I now come to deal with the rubbish-carters, that is to say, with the labourers engaged in the removal of the "hard" species of refuse; of which we have seen there are between and loads annually carted away; the refuse earth, or "soft dirt," being generally removed by the builders' men, and the refuse, crockeryware, &c., by the dustmen, when collecting the dust from the "bins" of the several houses.
The master are those who keep carts and horses to be hired for carting away the old materials when houses or walls are pulled down. They are also occasionally engaged in carrying away the soil or rubbish thrown up from the foundations of buildings; the excavations of docks, canals, and sewers; the digging
|of artesian wells, &c. This seems to comprise what in this carrying or removing trade is accounted "rubbish."|
Perhaps not of these tradesmen is solely a rubbish-carter, for they are likewise the carters of new materials for the use of builders, such as lime, bricks, stone, gravel, slates, timber, ironwork, chimney-pieces, &c. Some of them are public carmen; licensed carmen if they work, or ply, in the City; but beyond the City boundaries no licence is necessary. This complication perplexes the inquiry, but I purpose to confine it, as much as possible, to the rubbish-carters proper, having defined what may be understood by "rubbish." These carters are also employed in digging, pick-axing, &c., at the buildings, the rubbish of which they are engaged to remove.
Among the conveyors of rubbish are no distinctions as to the kind. Any of them will week cart old bricks from a house which has been pulled down, and the next week be busy in removing the soil excavated where the foundations and cellars of a new mansion have been dug.
From inquiries made in each of the different districts of the metropolis, there appear to be from to tradesmen who, with the carting of bricks, lime, and other building commodities, add also that of rubbish-carting. These "masters" among them find employment for labouring men, some of whom I find to have been in the service of the same employer upwards of years.
The Post-Office Directory, under the head of rubbish-carters, gives the names of only of the principal masters, of whom several are marked as scavagers, dust-contractors, nightmen, and roadcontractors. The occupation abstract of the census, on the other hand, totally ignores the existence of any such class of workmen, masters as well as operatives. I find, however, by actual visitation and inquiry in each of the metropolitan districts, and thus learning the names of the several masters as well as the number of men in their employment, that there may be said to be, in round numbers, master rubbish-carters, employing among them operatives throughout London.
A large proportion of this number of labouring men, however, are casual hands, who have been taken on when the trade was busy during the summer (which is the the "brisk season" of rubbish-cartage), and who are discharged in the slack time; during which period they obtain jobs at dust-carting or scavaging, or some such outdoor employment. Among the employers there are scarcely any who are purely rubbish-carters, the large majority consisting of dust and roadcontractors, carmen, dairymen, and persons who have or horses and carts at their disposal. When a master builder or bricklayer obtains a contract, he hires horses and carts to take away any rubbish which may previously have been deposited. The contract of the King's Cross Terminus of the Great Northern Railway, for instance, has been undertaken by Mr. W. Jay, the builder; and, not having sufficient con- veyances to cart the rubbish away, he has hired horses and carts of others to assist in the removal of it. The same mode is adopted in other parts of the metropolis, where any improvements are going on. The owners of horses and carts let them out to hire at from for horse, to for per day. If, however, the job be unusually large, the master rubbish-carters often take it by contract themselves.
Although the may be classed among unskilled labourers, they are, perhaps, less miscellaneous, as a body, than other classes of open-air workers. Before they can obtain work of the best description it is necessary that they should have some knowledge of the management of a horse in the drawing of a loaded carriage, or of the way in which the animal should be groomed and tended in the stable. I was told by an experienced carman, that he, or any with far less than his experience, could in a moment detect, merely by the mode in which a man would put the harness on a horse and yoke him to the cart, whether he was likely to prove a master of his craft in that line or not. My informant had noticed, more especially many years ago, when labour was not so abundantly obtainable as it was last year, that men out of work would offer him their services as carmen even if they had never handled a whip in their lives, as if little more were wanted than to walk by the horse's side. An experienced carter knows how to ease and direct the animal when heavily burdened, or when the road is rugged; and I am assured by the same informant, that he had known of his horses more fatigued after traversing a dozen miles with a "yokel" (as he called him), or an incompetent man, than the animal had been after a miles' journey with the same load under the care of a careful and judicious driver. This knowledge of the management of a horse is most essential when men are employed to work "single-handed," or have confided to them singly a horse and cart; when they work in gangs it is not insisted upon, except as regards the "carman," or the man having charge of the horse or the team.
The master rubbish-carters generally are more particular than they used to be as to the men to whom they commit the care of their horses. It may be easy enough to learn to drive a horse and cart, but a casual labourer will now hardly get employment in rubbish-carting of a "good sort" unless he has attained that preliminary knowledge. The foreman of of the principal contractors said to me, "It would never do to let a man learn his business by practising on our horses." I mention this to show, that although rubbish-carting is to be classed among unskilled labours, training is necessary.
I am informed that - of the working rubbish-carters have been rubbish-carters from their youth, or cart, car, or waggon-drivers, for they all seem to have known changes; or they have been used to the care of horses in the capacity of ostlers, stable-men, helpers, coaching-inn porters, coachmen, grooms, and horse-breakers. Of
|the remainder, -half, I am informed, have "had a turn" at such avocations as scavagery, bricklayers' labouring, dock work, railway excavating, night work, and the many toils to which such men resort in their struggles to obtain bread, whatever may have been their original occupation, which is rarely that of an artizan. The other, and what may be called the greater half of the remaining number, is composed of agricultural labourers who were rubbishcarters in the country, and of the many men who have had the care of horses and vehicles in the provinces, and who have sought the metropolis, depending upon their thews and sinews for a livelihood, as porters, or carmen, or labourers in almost any capacity. The most of these men at the plough, the harrow, the manure-cart, the hay and corn harvests, have been practised carters and horse drivers before they sought the expected gold in the streets of London. Full a of the whole body of rubbish-carters are Irishmen, who in Ireland were small farmers, or cottiers, or agricultural labourers, or belonged to some of the classes I have described.|
The mechanics among rubbish-carters I heard estimated, by men with equal means of information, as in and in . Among these mechanics were more farriers, cart and wheel wrights, than of other classes.
It seems to be regarded as an indispensable thing that working rubbish-carters should have quality—bodily strength. I am told that employer, who died a few weeks ago, used to say to any applicant for work, "It's no use asking for it, if you wish to keep it, unless you can lift a horse up when he's down."
As I have shown of the scavagers, &c., the employers in rubbish-carting may be classed as "honourable" and "scurfs." The men do not use the word "honourable," nor any equivalent term, but speak of their masters, though with no great distinctiveness, as being either "good," or "scurfs." As in other branches of unskilled labour where there are no trade societies or general trade regulations among the operatives, there are few distinctive appellations.
From the facts I have collected in connection with this trade, it would appear that there are master rubbish-carters in the metropolis, about of whom pay or more per week as wages, while the remaining pay less than that amount. The latter constitute what the men term the scurf portion of the trade; so that the honourable masters among the rubbish-carters may be said to comprise -ninths of the whole.
I will treat of the circumstances, characteristics, and wages of the men employed in the honourable trade.
And , as regards among the operative rubbish-carters, the work is as simple as possible.
. proper, or "carmen," who are engaged principally in conveying the refuse brick or earth to the several shoots.
. , or "gangers," who are engaged principally in filling the cart with the rubbish to be removed. Generally speaking, the offices are performed by the same individual, who is both carter and shoveller, and it is only in large works that the gangers are employed.
Master builders and others who require the aid of rubbish-carters for the removal of earth or any other kind of rubbish from ground about to be built upon, or from old buildings about to be repaired or pulled down, either hire horses, carts, and carmen, by the day, of the master rubbishcarters, or pay a certain price per load for the removal of the rubbish. If the job be likely to last some length of time, the builders pay the masters so much per load for carting away the rubbish; but if the job be only for a short period, the horses, carts, and carmen are hired of the masters for the time. The price paid to the master rubbish-carter ranges from to per load for the removal of rubbish and bringing back such bricks, lime, or sand as may be required for the building. The master rubbish-carter, in all cases, pays the men engaged in the removal of the rubbish.
The operative rubbish-carters (except in a very few instances) never work in gangs, either in the construction of new buildings or in old buildings about to be pulled down or repaired. In digging the foundations of new houses, the master builders, or speculators, building upon their own ground employ their own excavators, and engage rubbishcarters to remove the refuse earth, the latter being merely occupied in carting it away.
The principle of simple co-operation or gangwork occasionally prevails; and, when this is the case, the gang is employed in shovelling and picking, while the carman, as the shovellers throw out the rubbish, fills or shovels the rubbish into the cart.
Each rubbish-carter will, on an average, convey away from to loads a day, according to the distance he has to take it. Calculating men to remove loads per diem for months in a year, the gross quantity of rubbish annually removed would be very nearly loads.
In the regular trade are , or from to ; but the men are allowed half an hour for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and half an hour for tea, and almost invariably leave at half-past , so postponing the "tea" half-hour until after the termination of their work. In winter the hours are generally "between the lights," but on very short, dark, or foggy days, lanterns are used. The men employed by firm "often made up," I was told by of them, "for lost time, by shovelling by moonlight." The carman, however, has to get to his stable in the summer at o'clock in the morning, and to tend his horse after he has done work at night; so that the usual hours of labour with him are and per day, as well as Sunday-work.
The rubbish-carters are to being the weekly amount; and by which is indeed piece-work. The payment to the
|operatives by the load varies from to for it is necessarily regulated by the distance to be traversed. If the rubbish have to be carted a mile to its destination—or, as the men call it, to "the shoot"—of course it is to be so conveyed at a proportionally lower rate than if it had to be driven or miles. The employment of men by the load, however, becomes less every year, and the reason, I am assured, is this:— The great stress of the labour falls upon the horse. If the animal be strong and manageable, a man, for the sake of conveying an extra load a day, might overtax its powers, injure it gradually, and deteriorate its strength and its value. The operative carters, on their part, have complained that sometimes even "good" employers have set them to work by the load with "hard old horses," which no management could get out of their slow, long-accustomed pace. Thus a man might clear by the piece-work but a day, with a horse not worth ; while another carter, with a superior animal worth twice as much, might clear or Some "hard" masters, I was informed, liked these old horses, because they were bought cheap, and though they brought in less than superior animals they were easier kept; while if less were earned by the piece-work with such horses, less was paid in wages; and if the horse broke its leg, or was killed, or injured, it was more easily replaced. This mode of employment is, as I have said, less and less carried into effect; but it is still of the ways in which a working carter may be made a sufferer, because a principal accessary of his work—the horse—may not be capable of the requisite exertion.|
of the rubbish-carters in the best employ are from to a week; in the worse-paid trade is the more general price; but even as little as is given by some masters.
are the same as the nominal in the honourable trade, with the addition of perquisites in beer to the men of from to weekly, and of "findings," especially to the carmen, of an amount I could not ascertain, but perhaps realizing a week. carman put all he found on side to buy new year's clothes for his children, and on new year's eve last year he had , "money, and what brought money;" but this is far from an usual case.
The rate of wages paid to the operative rubbish-carters throughout the different districts of London, I find, by inquiries in each locality, to be by no means uniform. For instance, at Hampstead the wages are unexceptionally per week; while at Kensington, , and indeed the whole of the west districts of London, they are weekly; in St. Martin's parish, however, a week is paid by masters. In the north districts again, a week is generally paid; with the exception of Hampstead, where the weekly wages for the same labour are as high as and , where they are as low as In the central districts, too, the wages are generally ; the lower rate of and per week being paid in certain places by "cutting" and "grasping" individuals, who form isolated exceptions to the rule. In a certain portion of the eastern districts, such as , St. George's in the East, and Stepney, and a week appears to be the rule; while in and Poplar is paid by all the masters. The southern districts of the metropolis are equally irregular in their rates of wages. Lewisham pays as low as and Woolwich the same weekly sum, with exception. Wandsworth, on the other hand, pays uniformly ; while in , , , and Camberwell, the wages paid by all are In as much as is given by masters out of ; whereas, in Greenwich master pays , and the other even as low as a week. When I come to treat of the lower-paid trade, I shall explain the causes of the above difference as regards wages.
The analysis of the facts I have collected on this subject is as follows:—Out of masters, employing among them men, there are—
Hence, -fourths of the operatives may be said to receive weekly, and about -
in this trade are more in beer than in money, nor are they derived from the employers, unless exceptionally. They are given to the rubbish-carters by the owners of the premises where they work, and may, in the best trade, amount, in beer or in money to buy beer, to from to weekly per man. The other perquisites are what is found in the digging of the rubbish for the carts, and in the shooting of it. As in other trades of a not dissimilar character, there appears to be no fixed rule as to "treasure trove." man told me that in digging or shovelling each man kept what he found; another said the men drank it. Anything found, however, when the cart is emptied is the perquisite of the carman. "It's luck as is everything;" said carman. "There was a mate of mine as hadn't not no better work nor me, once found an old silver coin, like a bad half-crown, as a gen'lman he knowed gave him good shillings for, and he found a silver spoon as fetched in week, and that same week on the same ground got nothing but bad ha'pennies. I once worked in the City where the Sun office now is, just by the Hall of Commerce in , and something was found in the Hall as now is; it was a French church once; and an old gent gave us on the sly a day for beer, to show him or tell him of anything we
|turned up queer. We did show him things as we thought queer, and they looked queer, but he all'us said 'Chi-ish,' or 'da-amn.' From what I've heard him say to another old cove as sometimes was with him, they looked for something Roman Catholic." My informant no doubt meant "Roman," as in digging the foundations of the Hall of Commerce a tesselated Roman pavement was found at a great depth.|
Among these workmen are and, indeed, no measures whatever for the upholding of accustomed wages, or providing "for a rainy day," unless individually. If a rubbish-carter be sick, the men in the same employ, whatever their number, or , contribute on the Saturday evenings each, towards his support, until the patient's convalescence. There are no Houses of Call.
The on the Saturday evening, and always in money. There are no drawbacks, unless for any period during the hours of regular labour, when a man may have been absent from his work. Fines there are none, except in large establishments among the carmen where many horses are kept, and then, if a man do not keep his regular stable-hours in the mornings, especially the Sunday mornings, he is fined These fines are spent by the carmen generally, and most frequently in beer.
The is to call at the yards or premises, or, more frequently, to take a round in the districts where it is known that buildings or excavations are being carried on, to inquire of the men if a hand be wanted. Sometimes a foreman may be there who has authority to "put on" new hands; if not, the applicant, with the prospect of an engagement in view, calls upon any party he may be directed to. Several men told me that when they were engaged nothing was said about character. The employers seem to be much influenced by the applicant's appearance.
I must now give a brief description of the rubbish-carter, and the scene of his labours.
Any who observes, and does not merely see, the labour of the rubbish-carter, will have been struck with the stolid indifference with which these men go about their work, however much the scene of their labours, from its historical associations, may interest the better informed. So it was when the rubbish carters were employed in removing the ruins of the old Houses of Parliament, and of that portion of the Tower which suffered from the ravages of the fire; and so it would be if they were directed to-morrow to commence the demolition and rubbish-carting of , the Temple Church, or St. Paul's, even in their present integrity.
Sometimes the scene of the rubbish-carter's industry presents what may be called a "piteous aspect." This was not long ago the case in , City, and the adjacent courts and alleys; when the houses had been cleared of their furniture, the windows were removed (giving the house what may be styled a "blind" look); most of the doors had been taken away, as well as some of the floors. Large cyphers, scrawled in whitewash on the walls and woodwork, intimated the different "lots," and all spoke of desertion; the only moving thing to be seen, perhaps, was some flapping paper, torn from the sides of a room and which fluttered in the wind.
A scene of exceeding bustle follows the apparent desolateness of the premises. When the whole has been disposed of to the several purchasers, the further and final work of demolition begins. Baskets filled with the old bricks are rapidly lowered by ropes and pulleys into the carts below, it being the carter's business to empty them, and then up the empty baskets are drawn, as if by a single jerk. The sound of the hammer used in removing and separating the old bricks of the building, the less frequent sound of the pickaxe, the rumble of the stones and bricks into the cart, the noise of the pulleys, the shouts of the men aloft, crying "be-low there!" the halfarti- culate exclamations of the carters choked with dust, form a curious medley of noises. The atmosphere is usually a cloud of dust, which sticks to the men's hair like powder. The premises are boarded round, and if adjoining a thoroughfare the boards are closely fitted, to prevent the curious and the loiterers obstructing the current of passengers. The work within is confined to the labourers; "no persons admitted except on business" seems a rule rigidly enforced. The only men inside who appear idle are the over-lookers, or surveyors. They stand with their hands in their breeches' pockets; and a stranger to the business might account them uninterested spectators, but for the directions they occasionally give, now quietly, and now snappishly; while the Irishmen show an excessive degree of activity, the assumption of which never deceives an overlooker.
From to is the customary dinnerhour, and then all is quiet. On visiting some new buildings at Maida-hill, I found men, out of about , all fast asleep in the nooks and corners of the piles of bricks and rubbish, the day being fine. The others were eating their dinners at the public-houses or at their own homes.
In the progress of pulling down, the work of removal goes on very rapidly where a strong force is employed—the number varying from about to men. A -storied house is often pulled down to its basement, and the contents of the walls, floors, &c., removed, in days or a fortnight.
As the work of demolition goes on, the rubbishcarter loads the cart with the old bricks, mortar, and refuse which the labourers have displaced. In some places, where a number of buildings is being removed at the same time, an inclined plane or road is formed by the rubbish-carters, up and down which the horses and vehicles can proceed. Until such means of carriage have been employed, the rubbish from the interior foundation is often shot in a mound within the premises, and carried off when the way has been formed, excepting such portion as may be retained for any purpose.
In hot weather, many of the rubbish-carters in the fair trade work in their shirts, a broad woollen belt being strapped round the waist, which, they
|say, supports "the small of the back" in their frequent, bending and stooping. Some wear woollen night-caps at this work when there is much dust; and nearly all the men in the honourable trade wear the "strong men's" halfboots, laced up in the front, as the best protectors of the feet from the intrusion of rubbish.|
In the cold weather, the rubbish-carter's working dress is usually a suit of strong drab-white fustian. The suit comprises a jacket with large pockets. The cost of such a suit, new, at a slop-tailor's, is from to ; from a good shop, and of better materials, to Some prefer stout corduroy to fustian trowsers; and some work in short smock-frocks.
Having thus shown the nature of the work, the class of men employed, and the amount of remuneration, I proceed to describe the characteristics of the rubbish-carters employed by the honourable masters; I will then describe the state of the labourers who are rather than employed; and finally speak of the condition and habits of the lower-paid workers under the cheap masters.
—I think I heard of fewer instances of defective education among the rubbish-carters than among other classes of unskilled labourers. The number of men who could read and not write, I found computed at about -half. It appears that the children of these men are very generally sent to school, which is certainly a healthful sign as to the desire of the parents to do justice to their offspring. As among other classes, I met with uneducated men who had exaggerated notions of the advantages of the capability of reading and writing, and men who possessed such capability representing it as a worthless acquirement.
The in the honourable trade I am informed, and have families "born in lawful wedlock." decent and intelligent man, to whom I was referred, said (his wife being present and confirming his statement): "I don't know how it is, sir, but they say scabbed sheep will affect a flock." "Oh! it's dreadful," said the wife; "but some way it seems to run in places. Now, we've lived among people much in our own way of life in Clerkenwell, and , and Paddington. Well, we've reason to believe, that there wasn't much living together unmarried in Clerkenwell or , but a goodish deal in Paddington. I don't know why, for they seemed to live with another, just as men do with their wives. But if there's daughters, sir, as is growing up and gets to know it, as they're like enough to do, ain't it a bad example? Yes, indeed," said the wife, "and I'm told they call going together in that bad way—they ought all to be punished—without ever entering a church or chapel, getting 'ready married.'" I inquired if they were not perhaps married quietly at the Registrar's office? "O, that," said Mrs. B——, "ain't like being married at all. would never have consented to such a way, but I'm pretty certain they don't as much as do that. No, sir," (in answer to another inquiry), "I hope, and think, it ain't so bad among young couples as it was, but its bad enough as it is, God he knows." The proportions of Wedlock and Concubinage I could not learn, for the woman, I was assured, always took the man's name; and both man and woman, unless in their cups or their quarrels, declared they were man and wife, only there was no good in wasting money to get their "marriage lines" all for no use.
are, I am assured by some of the best informed among them, of no fixity, or principle, or inclination whatever, as regards -half of the entire body; and that the other half, whether ignorant or not, are Chartists, the Irish generally excepted; and they, I understood, as I had learned on previous occasions, had no political opinions, unless such as were entertained by their priests. Strong, rude, and ignorant as many of these carters are, I am told that few of them took part in any public manifestation of opinion, or in any disturbance, unless they were out of work. "I think I know them well," of their body said to me, "and as long as they have pretty middling of work, it'll take a very great thing indeed to move 'em. If they was longish out of work and felt a pinch, very likely they'd be found ready for anything."
I am told that these men sometimes discuss it, and formerly discussed it far more frequently among themselves, but that it was not above in a dozen, and of the better sort only, who cared to talk about it either now or then. There seems no doubt that the majority, whether they understand its principles and working or not, are favourable to it; I may say, from all I could learn, that the majority are. I heard of rubbish-carter, formerly a small farmer, who left London for some other employment, in the spring, contending, and taking pains to enforce his conviction, that Free Trade would ruin the best interests of rubbish-carters, as year by year there would be more agricultural labourers resorting to the great towns to look for such work as rubbish-carting, for every farmer would employ more Irish labourers at his own terms, and even the a week, the extent of the earnings of the agricultural labourers in some parishes, would be undersold by the Irish. Last winter, he said, very many countrymen came to London, and would do so the next, and more and more every year, and so make labour cheaper.
As far as I could extend my inquiries and observations, this man's arguments—although I cannot say I heard any offer to controvert them—were not considered sound, nor his facts fully established. There were certainly great numbers of good hands out of employment last winter, and many new applicants for work; "but buildings," I was told by a carman, "are of course always slacker carried on in the winter. Now, this year, so far (beginning of October), things seem to promise pretty well in our business, and so if it's good this winter and was bad the last, why, as there's the same Free Trade, it seems as if it had nothing to do with it. There's not so
|much building going on now as there was a few years ago, but trade's steadier, I think."|
Other rubbish-carters, in the best trade, said that they had found little difference for or years, only as bread was cheaper or dearer; and, if Free Trade made bread cheap, no man ought to say a word against it, "no matter about anything else." Of course I give these opinions as they came to me.
these labourers, when in full work, generally live what they consider that is, they eat meat and have beer to their meals every day. of them told me that they could not say what their living cost separately, as they took all their meals at home with their families, their wives laying out the money. couple had children, and the husband said they cost him about a week in food, or about per head, reckoning a pint of beer a day for himself, and not including the youngest, which was an infant at the breast. The father earned weekly, and the eldest child, a boy, a week for carrying out and collecting the papers for a news'--agent. The wife could earn nothing, although an excellent washerwoman, the cares of her family occupying her whole time. She always had "the cold shivers," she said, "if ever she thought of John's being out of work, but he was a steady man, and had been pretty fortunate." If these men were engaged on a job at any distance, they sometimes breakfasted before starting, or carried bread and butter with them, and eat it to a pint of coffee if near enough to a coffeeshop, but in some places they were not near enough. Their dinners they carried with them, generally cold meat and bread, in a basin covered with a plate, a handkerchief being tied round it so as to keep the plate firm and afford a hold to the bearer. "It's not always, you see, sir," said a rubbish-carter, "that there's a butcher's shop near enough to run to and buy a bit of steak and get it dressed at a tap-room fire, just for buying a pint of beer, and have a knife and fork, and a plate, and salt found you into the bargain, and pepper and mustard too, if you 'll give the girl or the man a week or so. But we're glad to get a good cold dinner. O, as to beer, it would be a queer out-of-the-way place indeed where a landlord didn't send out a man to a building with beer." single man, who told me he was only a small eater, gave me the following as his bill of fare, as he rarely took any meals at his lodgings:
This was the average cost of his daily food, while on Sundays he generally paid for breakfast and tea, and a good dinner off a hot joint with baked potatoes from the oven, along with the family and other lodgers. He had a good walk every Sunday morning, he said, but liked to sleep away the afternoon. He found his own Sunday beer, costing dinner and supper, but he didn't eat anything at supper, as he wasn't inclined after resting all day, and so his weekly expenses in food were:—
To this, in the way of drink or luxuries, I might add, the carter said, a day for gin (although he wasn't a drinker and was very seldom tipsy), "for I treat a friend to a quartern day and may-be he stands treat the next." Also for Sunday gin, as he and the other men took a glass just before dinner for an appetite, and he took after dinner to send him asleep. Add, too, a week for tobacco. In all which swells the weekly cost of eating, drinking, and smoking to His washing was a week (he washed his working jacket and trowsers himself), his rent for a bed to himself; so that, being spent out of an earning of he had but a week left for his clothes, shoes, &c. If he wanted a shilling or for anything, he said, he knocked off his supper, and then nothing was allowed in his reckoning for perquisites, so he might be in hand, at least every week in a regular way of living. This man expressed his conviction that no man, who had to work hard, could live at smaller cost than he did. That numbers of men did so, he admitted, but he "couldn't make it out." The ways of living which I have described may be taken as the modes prevalent among this class of labourers, who seek to live "comfortably." Others who "rough it" live at less cost, dining, for instance, off a pennyworth of pudding and half a pint of beer.
I ascertained that among the rubbish-carters, and such Englishmen as had been agricultural labourers in rural parishes, and had been reared in the habit of church-going; a habit in which, but not without many exceptions, they still persevere. Among London-bred labourers such habits are rarely formed.
are not generally in those localities which are crowded with the poor. They reside in the streets off the Edgeware and Harrow-roads, as building has been carried on to a very great extent in Westbourne, Maida-hill, &c.; in Portlandtown, Camden-town, Somers-town, about King'scross; in , , and Clerkenwell; off the Commercial and Mile-end-roads; in , Camberwell, , and ; and, indeed, in all the quarters where building has been prosecuted on an extensive
|scale. I was in some of their apartments, and found them tidy and comfortable-looking: was especially so. Some stone-fruit on the mantelshelf shone as if newly painted, and the fender and fire-irons glittered from their brightness to the fire of the small grate. The husband, however, was in good earnings, and the wife cleared about weekly on superior needlework. There was thing painful to observe—the contrast between the robust and sun-burnt look of the husband, and the delicate and pallid, not to say sickly, appearance of the wife. The rents for unfurnished apartments vary from to , but rarely the latter, unless the wife take in a little washing. I heard of some at , but very few; to are common prices.|
, beyond what my informant spoke of—a visit to the play. Some, I was told, but principally the younger men, never missed going to a fair, which was not too far off. I think not quite -half of those I spoke to, with the best earnings, had been to the Exhibition. Of the worst paid, I am told, not in went; man told me that he had no amusements but his pipe and his beer. Some of them, I was assured, drank half a gallon of beer in a day, but at intervals, so as not to be intoxicated. "A hand at cribbage" is a favourite public-house game among a few of these men; but not above in half-a-dozen, I was assured, "knew the cards," and not in dozen played them.
These, then, are the characteristics of the labouring rubbish-carters employed in the honourable trade.
A fine-looking man, upwards of feet in stature and of proportionate bulk, with so smart a set to his bushy whiskers, and a look of such general tidiness (after he had left off work in the evening), that he might have been taken for a lifeguardsman had it not been for a slight slouch of the shoulders, and a very unmilitary gait, gave me the following account:—
 The core in this term may be a corruption of the Saxon Carr, a rock, rather than that which would at first suggest itself as its origin, viz., the Latin cor, the heart. Hard-core would therefore mean hard rock-like rubbish, instead of lumps of rubbish having a hard nucleus or heart.
 The term rubbish is a polite corruption of the original word rubbage, which is still used by uneducated people; ish is an adjectival termination, as whitish, slavish, brutish, &c., and is used only in connection with such substantives as are derived from adjectives, as English, Scottish, &c. Whereas the affix age is strictly substantival, as sewage, garbage, wharfage, &c., and is found applied only to adjectives derived from substantives, as savage. A like polite corruption is found in the word pudding, which should be strictly pudden: the addition of the g is as gross a mistake as saying garding for garden. There is no such verb as to pud whence could come the substantival participle pudding: and the French word from which we derive our term is poudin without the g, like jardin, the root of our garden.
 This is the Saxon sceard, which means a sheard, remnant, or fragment, and is from the verb sceran, signifiing both to shear and to share or divide. The low Dutch schaard is a piece of pot, a fragment.