London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Dust of London, and the Loss and injury Occasioned by it.
THE daily and nightly grinding of thousands of wheels, the iron friction of so many horses' hoofs, the evacuations of horses and cattle, and the ceaseless motion of pedestrians, all decomposing the substance of our streets and roads, give rise to many distinct kinds of street-dirt. These are severally known as
() , when mixed with water and with general refuse, such as the remains of fruit and other things thrown into the street and swept together.
() when mixed with streetsewage.
These productions I shall treat severally, and of the street-dust.
The "" of the streets of London assumes many forms, and is known by many names, according as it is combined with more or less water.
. In a perfectly dry state, so that the particles no longer exist either in a state of cohesion or aggregation, but are minutely divided and distinct, it is known by the name of "dust."
. When in combination with a small quantity of water, so that it assumes the consistency of a pap, the particles being neither free to move nor yet able to resist pressure, the detritus is known by the name of "mac mud," or simply "mud," according as it proceeds from a macadamized or stone paved road.
. When in combination with a greater quantity of water, so that it is rendered almost liquid, it is known as "slop-dirt."
. When in combination with a still greater quantity of water, so that it is capable of running off into the sewers, it is known by the name of "street surface-water."
The mud of the streets of London is then merely the dust or detritus of the granite of which they are composed, agglutinated either with rain or the water from the watering-carts. Granite consists of silex, felspar, and mica. Silex is sand, while felspar and mica are also silex in combination with alumina (clay), and either potash or magnesia. Hence it would appear to be owing to the affinity of the alumina or clay for moisture, as well as the property of silex to "gelatinize" with water under certain conditions, that the particles of dry dust derive their property of , when wetted, and so forming what is termed "mud"—either "mac," or simple mud, according, as I said before, to the nature of the paving on which it is formed.
By the street-cleansers mean the collection of every kind of refuse in the dust-bins; but I here speak, of course, of the fine particles of earthy matter produced by the attrition of our roads when in a dry state. Street-dust is, more properly speaking, mud deprived of its moisture by evaporation. Miss Landon (L. E. L.) used to describe the London dust as "mud in high spirits," and perhaps no figure of speech could convey a better notion of its character.
In some parts of the suburbs on windy days London is a perfect dust-mill, and although the dust may be allayed by the agency of the watercarts (by which means it is again converted into "mac," or mud), it is not often thoroughly allayed, and is a source of considerable loss, labour, and annoyance. Street-dust is not collected for any useful purpose, so that as there is no return to be balanced against its prejudicial effects it remains only to calculate the quantity of it annually produced, and thus to arrive at the extent of the mischief.
Street-dust is disintegrated granite, that is, pulverized quartz and felspar, felspar being principally composed of alumina or clay, and quartz silex or sand; it is the result of the attrition, or in a word it is the , of the stones used in pavements and in macadamization; it is further composed of the pulverization of all horse and cattle-dung, and of the almost imperceptible, but still, I am assured, existent powder which arises from the friction of the wooden pavement even when kept moist. In the roads of the nearest suburbs, even around such places as the Regent'spark, at many seasons this dust is produced largely, so that very often an open window for the enjoyment of fresh air is for the intrusion of fresh dust. This may be less the case in the busier and more frequently-watered thoroughfares, but even there the annoyance is great.
I find in the "Reports" in which this subject is mentioned but little said concerning the influence of dust upon the public health. Dr. Arnott, however, is very explicit on the subject. "It is," says he, "scarcely conceivable that the immense quantities of granite dust, pounded by or pairs of wheels (!) working on macadamized streets, should not greatly injure the public health. In houses bordering such streets or roads it is found that, notwithstanding the practice of watering, the furniture is often covered with dust, even more than once in the day, so that writing on it with the finger becomes legible, and the lungs and air tubes of the inhabitants, with a moist lining to detain the dust, are constantly pumping in the same atmosphere. The passengers by a stage-coach in dry weather, when the wind is moving with them so as to keep them enveloped in the cloud of dust raised by the horses' feet and the wheels of the coach, have their clothes soon saturated to whiteness, and their lungs are charged in a corresponding degree. A gentleman who rode only miles in this way had afterwards to cough and expectorate for days to clear his chest again."
In order that the deleteriousness to health incident to the inhalation of these fine and offensive particles may be the better estimated, I may add, that in every hours an adult breathes hogsheads of air; and Mr. Erasmus Wilson, in his admirable work on the Skin, has the following passage concerning the extent of surface presented by the lungs:—
What is the amount of atmospherical granite, dung, and refuse-dust received in a given period into the human lungs, has never, I am informed, been ascertained even by approximation; but according to the above facts it must be something fearful to contemplate.
After this brief recital of what is known concerning the sanitary part of the question, I preceed to consider the damage and loss occasioned by street-
|dust. In no respect, perhaps, can this be ascertained with perfect precision, but still even a rough approximation to the extent of the evil is of value, as giving us more definite ideas on the subject.|
It will be seen, on reference to the preceding table, that the quantity of street-refuse collected in dry weather throughout the metropolis is between and cart-loads daily, or upwards of cart-loads, the greater proportion of which may be termed street-dust.
The damage occasioned by the street-dust arises from its penetrating, before removal, the atmosphere both without and within our houses, and consists in the soiling of wearing apparel, the injury of the stock-in-trade of shopkeepers, and of household furniture.
Washing is, of course, dependent upon the duration of time in which it is proper, in the estimation of the several classes of society, to retain wearing apparel upon the person, on the bed or the table, without what is termed a "change;" and this duration of time with thousands of both men and women is often determined by the presence or absence of dirt on the garment; and not arbitrarily, as among wealthier people, with whom a clean shirt every morning, and a clean table-cloth every , , , or more days, as may happen, are regarded as things of course, no matter what may be the state of the displaced linen.
The Board of Health, in of their Reports, speak very decisively and definitely on this subject. "Common observation of the rate at which the skin, linen, and clothes (not to speak of paper, books, prints, and furniture) become dirty in the metropolis," say they, "as compared with the time that elapses before a proportionate amount of deterioration and uncleanliness is communicated in the rural districts, will warrant the estimate, that , is rendered necessary by the excess of smoke generated in open fires, and the Persons engaged in washing linen on a large scale, state that it is dirtied in the crowded parts of the metropolis in the time in which the like degree of uncleanliness would be produced in a rural district; but all attest the fact, that linen is more rapidly destroyed by washing than by the wear on the person. The expense of the more rapid destruction of linen must be added to the extra expense of washing. These expenses and inconveniences, the greater portion of which are due to —exclusive of the injury done to the general health and the medical and other expenses consequent thereon."
Here, then, we find the evil effects of the imperfect scavenging of the metropolis estimated at between and millions sterling per annum, and this in the mere matter of extra washing and its necessary concomitant extra wear and tear of clothes.
As this estimate, however, appears to me to exaggerate the evil beyond all due bounds, I will proceed to adduce a few facts, bearing upon the point: and as to the expense of washing.
In order to ascertain as accurately as possible, the actual washing expenses of labouring men and their families whose washing was done at home, Mr. John Bullar, the Honorary Secretary to the Association for the Promotion of Baths and Washhouses, tells us in a Report presented to Parliament, "that inquiries were made of several families of labouring men, and it was found that, the total cost of washing at home, for a man and wife and children, averaged very closely on a week, = a head. The cost of coals, soda, soap, starch, blue, and sometimes water, was rather less than - of the amount. The time occupied was rarely less than days, and more often extended into a day, so that the value of the labour was rather more than twothirds of the amount.
As I before stated, I am in no way disposed to go to the extent of the calculation here made. It appears to me that in parliamentary investigations by the agency of select committees, or by gentlemen appointed to report on any subject, there is an aptitude to deal with the whole body of the people as if they were earning the wages of well and regularly-employed labourers, or even mechanics. To suppose that the starving ballast-heaver, the victim of a vicious truck system, which condemns him to poverty and drunkenness, or the sweep, or the dustman, or the street-seller—all very numerous classes— expends a week in his washing, is far beyond the fact. Still less is expended in the washing of these people's children. Even the wellcon- ducted artizan, with clean shirts a week
|(costing him ), with the washing of stockings, &c. (costing or ), does not expend a week; so that, though the washing bills of many ladies and of some gentlemen may average weekly, if we consider how few are rich and how many poor, the extra payment seems insufficient to make up the average of the weekly shilling for the washing of all classes.|
A prosperous and respectable master greengrocer, who was what may be called "particular" in his dress, as he had been a gentleman's servant, and was now in the habit of waiting upon the wealthy persons in his neighbourhood, told me that the following was the average of his washing bill. He was a bachelor; all his washing was put out, and he considered his expenditure far the average of his class, as many used no night-shirt, but slept in the shirts they wore during the day, and paid only , and even less, per shirt to their washer-woman, and perhaps, and more especially in winter, made shirt last the week.
My informant was satisfied that he had put his expenditure at the highest. I also ascertained that an industrious wife, who was able to attend to her household matters, could wash the clothes of a small tradesman's family,—for a man, his wife, and small children,—"well," at the following rate:—
In this calculation it will be seen the cheapest soap is reckoned, and that When I pointed out the latter circumstance, my informant said: "I look on it that the washing labour is part of the wife's keep, or what she gives in return for it; and that as she'd have to be kept if she didn't do it, why there shouldn't be no mention of it. If she was working for others it would be quite different, but washing is a family matter; that's my way of looking at it. Coke, too, is often used instead of coals; besides, a bit of bacon, or potatoes, or the tea-kettle, will have to be boiled, and that's managed along with the hot water for the suds, and would have to be done anyhow, especially in winter."
decent woman, who had children, "all under ," told me she often sat up half, and sometimes the whole night to wash, when busy other ways. She was not in poverty, for she earned "a good bit" in going out to cook, and her husband was employed by a pork-butcher.
I may further add, that a great many single men wash their own clothes. Many of the street-sellers in particular do this; so do such of the poor as live in their own rooms, and occasionally the dwellers in the low lodging-houses. street-seller of ham sandwiches, whose aprons, sleeves, and tray-cloth, were remarkably white, told me that he washed them himself, as well as his shirt, &c., and that it was the common practice with his class. This washing—his aprons, tray-cloths, shirts, and stockings included—cost him, every weeks, or for lb. of soap, which is less than a week. Among such people it is considered that the washing of a shirt is, as they say, "a penn'orth of soap, and the stockings in," meaning that a penny outlay is sufficient to wash for both.
But not only does Mr. Bullar's estimate exceed the truth as regards the cost of washing among the poorer classes, but it also errs in the proportion they are said to bear to the other ranks of society. That gentleman speaks of "the poorer of the inhabitants of the metropolis," as if the rich and poor were equal in numbers! but with all deference, it will be found that the ratio between the well-to-do and the needy is as to , that is to say, the property and income-tax returns teach us there are at least persons with an income per annum, to every having an income it. Hence, the population of London being, within a fraction, ; the numbers of the metropolitan well-to-do and needy would be respectively and , and, allowing the cost of the washing of the former to average per head (adults and children), and, the washing of the labouring classes to come to a head, young and old (the expense of the materials, when the work is done at home, average, it has been shown, about for each member of the family), we shall then have the following statement:—
I am convinced, low as the estimate of a week may appear for all whose incomes are under a year, from many considerations, that the above computation is rather over than under the truth. As, for instance, Mr. Hawes has said concerning the consumption of soap in the metropolis, — "Careful inquiry has proved that the quantity used is much greater than that indicated by the Excise returns; but reducing the results obtained by inquiry in uniform proportion, the quantity used by the labouring classes earning from to per week is lbs. each per annum, including every member of the family. Dividing the population of the metropolis into classes: () the wealthy; () the shopkeepers and tradesmen; () labourers and the poor, and allowing lbs., lbs., and lbs. to
|each respectively, the consumption of the metropolis will be nearly tons per week." The cost of each ton of soap Mr. Hawes estimates at|
Professor Clarke, however, computes the metropolitan consumption of soap at tons per week, and the cost per ton at
Hence it would appear, that viewed either by the individual expense of the great bulk of society, or else by the aggregate cost of the materials and labour used in cleansing the clothes of the people of London, the total sum annually expended in the washing of the metropolis may be estimated at the outside at millions and quarters sterling per annum, or about per head.
And yet, though the data for the calculation here given, as to the cost and quantity of the principal materials used in cleansing the clothes of London, are derived from the same Report as that in which the expense of the metropolitan washing is estimated at per annum, the Board of Health do not hesitate in that document to say that,—"Of the fairness of the estimate of the expense of washing to the higher and middle classes, and to the great bulk of the householders, and the better class of artizans, we entertain no doubt whatever. Whatsoever deductions, if any, may be made from the above estimate, it is, nevertheless, an for maintaining, at the present expense of washing, a proper amount of cleanliness in linen."
Proceeding, however, with the calculation as to the loss from the imperfect scavenging of the metropolis, we have the following results:—
LOSS FROM DUST AND DIRT IN THE STREETS OF THE METROPOLIS, OWING TO THE EXTRA WASHING ENTAILED THEREBY.
Hence it would appear that the loss from dust and dirt is
In a work entitled "Sanatory Progress," being the Report of the National Philanthropic Association, I find a calculation as to the losses sustained from dust and dirt upon our clothes. Owing to the increased wear from daily brushing to remove the dust, and occasional scraping to remove the mud, the loss is estimated at from to per annum for each well-dressed man and woman, and for inferiorly-dressed persons, including their Sunday and holiday clothing.
I inquired of a West-end tailor, who previously to his establishment in business had himself been an operative, and had had experience both in town and country as to the wear of clothes, and I learned from him the following particulars.
With regard to the clothes of the wealthy classes, of those who could always command a carriage in bad weather, there are no means of judging as to the loss caused by bad scavengery.
My informant, however, obliged me with the following calculations, the results of his experience. His trade is what I may describe as a medium business, between the low slop and the high fashionable trades. The garments of which he spoke were those worn by clerks, shopmen, students, tradesmen, town-travellers, and others not engaged in menial or handicraft labour.
Altogether, and after consulting his books relative to town and country customers, my informant thought it might be easy to substantiate the following estimate as regards the duration and cost of clothes in town and country among the classes I have specified.
Here, then, it appears that the annual outlay for clothes in town, by the classes I have specified, is about ; while the annual outlay in the country for the same garments is ; the difference of expense being per annum. I consulted another tailor on the subject, and his estimate was a trifle above that of my informant.
I should remark that the proportion thus adduced holds, worn in the year, or in a series of years, for the calculation was made not as to individual garments, but as to the general wear, evinced by the average outlay, as shown in the tradesman's books, of the same class of persons in town and country.
In the calculation given in the publication of the National Philanthropic Association, the loss on a well-dressed Londoner's clothing, arising from excessive dust and dirt, is estimated at from to per annum. By the above table it will be seen that the clothes which cost per annum in the cleanliness of a country abode, cost , or, within a fraction, half as much again, in the uncleanliness of a London atmosphere and roads. If, therefore, any London inhabitant, of the classes I have specified, expend times in his clothes yearly, as many do, or , he loses , or more than the minimum mentioned in the Report alluded to.
Now estimating as the yearly tailor's bill among the well-to-do (boys and men), and calculating that - of the metropolitan population (that is, half of the - who may be said to belong to the class having incomes above a year) spend this sum yearly in clothes, we have the following statement:—
It would be pushing the inquiry to exceeding minuteness were I to enter into calculations as to the comparative expense of boots, hats, and ladies' dresses worn in town and country; suffice it, that competent persons in each of the vestiary trades have been seen, and averages drawn for the accounts of their town and country customers.
All things, then, being duly considered, the following conclusion would seem to be warranted by the facts:—
In the above estimate I have included the cost of wear and tear of linen from extra washing when worn in London, and this has been stated on the authority of the Board of Health to be double that of linen worn in the country.
In connection with this subject I may cite the following curious calculation, taken from a Parliamentary Report, as to the cost of a working man's new shirt, comprising yards of strong calico.
As regards the loss and damage occasioned by the injury to household furniture and decorations, and to stocks-in-trade, which is another important consideration connected with this subject, I find the following statement in the Report of the Philanthropic. Institution:—"The loss by goods and furniture is incalculable: shopkeepers lose from to a-year by the spoiling of their goods for sale; dealers in provisions especially, who cannot expose them without being deteriorated in value, from the dust that is incessantly settling upon them. Nor is it much better with clothiers of all kinds:—Mr. Holmes, shawl merchant, in , has stated that his losses from road-dust alone exceed per annum." ......... "In a communication with Mr. Mivart, respecting the expenses of mud and road-dust to him, that gentleman stated that the rent of the houses of which his hotel is composed, was ; and that he could not (considering the cost of cleaning and servants) estimate the expense of repairing the damage done by the dirt and dust, carried and blown into these houses, at a less annual sum than that of his rent!"
An upholsterer obliged me with the following calculations, but so many were the materials, and so different the rates of wear or the liability to injury in different materials in his trade, that he could only calculate generally.
The same quality, colour, and pattern of curtains, silk damasks, which he had furnished to a house in town, and to a country house belonging to the same gentleman, looked far fresher and better after years' wear in the country than after in town. Both windows had a southern aspect, but the occupant would have his windows partially open unless the weather was cold, foggy, or rainy. It was the same, or nearly the same, he thought, with the carpets on the places, for London dust was highly injurious to all the better qualities of carpets. He was satisfied, also, it was the same generally in upholstery work subjected to town dust.
I inquired at several West-end and city shops, and of different descriptions of tradesmen, of the injury done to their shop and shop-window goods by the dust, but I found none who had made any calculations on the subject. All, however, agreed that the dust was an excessive annoyance, and entailed great expense; a ladies' shoemaker and a bookseller expressed this particularly—on the necessity of making the window a sort of small glass-house to exclude the dust, which, after all, was not sufficiently excluded. All thought, or with but hesitating exception, that the estimation as to the loss sustained by the Messrs. Holmes, considering the extent of their premises, and the richness of the goods displayed in the windows, &c., was not in excess.
I can, then, but indicate the injury to household furniture and stock-in-trade as a corroboration of all that has been advanced touching the damaging effects of road dirt.