WHEN the system of sewer cleansing became general, as I have detailed, the number of flushermen employed, I am assured, on good authority, was about . The sewers were, when this process was resorted to, full of deposit, often what might be called "coagulated" deposit, which could not be affected except by constantly repeated efforts. There are now only about flushermen, for the more regularly flushing is repeated, the easier becomes the operation.
Until about months ago, the flushermen were employed directly by the Court of Sewers, and were paid ("in Mr. Roe's time," man said, with a sigh) from to a week; now the work is There are some or contractors, all builders, who underdertake or are responsible for the whole work of flushing in the metropolitan districts (I do not speak of the City), and they pay the working flushermen a week, and the gangers This wage is always paid in money, without drawbacks, and without the intervention of any other middleman than the contractor middleman. The flushermen have no perquisites except what they may chance to find in a sewer. Their time of labour is hours daily.
The state of the tide, however, sometimes, as a matter of course, compels the flushermen to work at every hour of the day and night. At all times they carry lights, common oil lamps, with cotton wicks; only the inspectors carry Davy's safety-lamp. I met no man who could assign any reason for this distinction, except that "the Davy" gave "such a bad light."
The flushermen wear, when at work, strong blue overcoats, waterproofed (but not so much as used to be the case, the men then complaining of the perspiration induced by them), buttoned close over the chest, and descending almost to the knees, where it is met by huge leather boots, covering a part of the thigh, such as are worn by the fishermen on many of our coasts. Their hats are fan-tailed, like the dustmen's. The flushermen are well-conducted men generally, and, for the most part, fine stalwart good-looking specimens of the English labourer; were they not known or believed to be temperate, they would not be employed. They have, as a body, no benefit or sick clubs, but a of them, I was told, or perhaps nearly a , were members of general benefit societies. I found several intelligent men among them. They are engaged by the contractors, upon whom they call to solicit work.
"Since Mr. Roe's time," and Mr. Roe is evidently the popular man among the flushermen, or somewhat less than years ago, the flushermen have had to provide their own dresses, and even their own shovels to stir up the deposit. To contractors, the comforts or health of the labouring men must necessarily be a secondary consideration to the realization of a profit. New men can always be found; safe investments cannot.
The wages of the flushermen therefore have been not only decreased, but their expenses increased. A pair of flushing-boots, covering a part of the thigh, similar to those worn by sea-side fishermen, costs as a low price, and a flusherman wears out pairs in years. Boot stockings cost The jacket worn by the men at their work in the sewers, in the shape of a pilot-jacket, but fitting less loosely, is ; a blue smock, of coarse common cloth (generally), worn over the dress, costs ; a shovel is "Ay, sir," said man, who was greatly dissatisfied with this change, "they'll make soldiers find their own regimentals next; and, may be, their own guns, a'cause they can always get rucks of men for soldiers or labourers. I know there's plenty
|would work for less than we get, but what of that? There always is. There's hundreds would do the work for half what the surveyors and inspectors gets; but it's all right among the nobs."|
Nor is the labour of the flushermen at all times so easy or of such circumscribed hours as I have stated it to be in the regular way of flushing. When small branch-sewers have to be flushed, the deposit must be loosened, or the water, instead of sweeping it away, would flow over it, and in many of these sewers (most frequent in the Tower Hamlets) the height is not more than feet. Some of the flushermen are tall, bulky, strong fellows, and cannot stand upright in less than from feet inches to feet, and in loosening the deposit in low narrow sewers, "we go to work," said of them, "on our bellies, like frogs, with a rake between our legs. I've been blinded by steam in such sewers near from the brewhouses; I couldn't see for steam; it was a regular London fog. You must get out again into a main sewer on your belly; that's what makes it harder about the togs, they get worn so."
The division of labour among the flushermen appears to be as follows:—
The , whose duty it is to go round the several sewers and see which require to be flushed.
The , or head of the working gang, who receives his orders from the inspector, and directs the men accordingly.
The , or man who goes round to the sewers which are about to be flushed, and fixes the "penstocks" for retaining the water.
The , which consists of from to men, who loosen the deposit from the bottom of the sewer. Among these there is generally a "for'ard man," whose duty it is to remove the penstocks.
The ganger gets a week over and above the wages of the men.
*** The above division of districts is the adopted by the Commissioners of Sewers, but the districts of the Flushermen are more numerous than those above given, being as follows:—
and Finsbury districts are under contractor, and so are the divisions of . The same men who flush flush the Finsbury district also, being the average number employed; but the Finsbury district requires rather more men than the ; and the same men who work on the western division of flush also the eastern, the number of flushers in the western district being more, on account of its being the larger division.
The inspector receives per annum.
The table on p. shows the number of clerks of the works, inspectors of flushing, flap and sluice keepers, gangers, and flushermen employed in the several districts throughout the metropolis, as well as the salaries and wages of each and the whole.
None of the flushermen can be said to have been "brought up to the business," for boys are never employed in the sewers. Neither had the labourers been confined in their youth to any branch of trade in particular, which would appear to be consonant to such employment. There are now among the flushermen men who have been accustomed to "all sorts of ground work:" tailors, pot-boys, painters, jeweller (some time ago there was also gentleman), and shoemakers. "You see, sir," said informant, "many of such like mechanics can't live above ground, so they tries to get their bread underneath it. There used to be a great many pensioners flushermen, which weren't right," said man, "when so many honest working men haven't a penny, and don't know which way to turn theirselves; but pensioners have often good friends and good interest. I don't hear any complaints that way now."
Among the flushermen are some or men who have been engaged in sewer-work of kind or another between and years. The cholera, I heard from several quarters, did not (in ) attack any of the flushermen. The answer to an inquiry on the subject generally was, "Not that I know of."
"It is a somewhat singular circumstance," says Mr. Haywood, the City Surveyor, in his Report, dated , "-. I do not state this to prove that the atmosphere of the sewers is not unhealthy—I by no means believe an impure atmosphere is healthy—but I state the naked fact, as it appears to me a somewhat singular circumstance, and leave it to pathologists to argue upon."
"I don't think flushing work disagrees with my husband," said a flusherman's wife to me, "for he eats about as much again at that work as he did at the other." "The smell underground is sometimes very bad," said the man, "but then we generally take a drop of rum , and something to eat. It wouldn't do to go into it on an empty stomach, 'cause it would get into our inside. But in some sewers there's scarcely any smell at all. "
The following statement contains the history of an individual flusherman:—
A man gave me the following account of his experience in flushing:—
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|Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles|
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Trays, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Linen, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Curtains
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Carpeting, Flannels, Stocking-Legs, &c., &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Bed-Ticking, Sacking, Fringe, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Glass and Crockery
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Miscellaneous Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Musical Instruments
Of the Music 'Duffers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Weapons
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Curiosities
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Telescopes and Pocket Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Other Miscellaneous Second-Hand Articles
Of Second-Hand Store Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Apparel
Of the Old Clothes Exchange
Of the Wholesale Business at the Old Clothes Exchange
Of the Uses of Second-Hand Garments
Of the Street-Sellers of Petticoat and Rosemary-Lanes
Of the Street-Sellers of Men's Second-Hand Clothes
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Boots and Shoes
Of the Street-Sellers of Old Hats
Of the Street-Sellers of Women's Second-Hand Apparel
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Furs
Of the Second-Hand Sellers of Smithfield- Market
|Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals|
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Former Street-Sellers, 'Finders,' Stealers, and Restorers of Dogs
Of a Dog-'Finder' -- A 'Lurker's' Career
Of the Present Street-Sellers of Dogs.
Of the Street-Sellers of Sporting Dogs
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Birds
Of the Bird-Catchers Who are Street- Sellers
Of the Crippled Street Bird-Seller
Of the Tricks of the Bird-Duffers
Of the Street-Sellers of Foreign Birds
Of the Street-Sellers of Birds'--Nests
Of the Street-Sellers of Squirrels
Of the Street-Sellers of Leverets, Wild Rabbits, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Gold and Silver Fish
Of the Street-Sellers of Tortoises
Of the Street-Sellers of Snails, Frogs, Worms, Snakes, Hedgehogs, Etc.
|Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities|
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Coals
Of the Street-Sellers of Coke
Of the Street-Sellers of Tan-Turf
Of the Street-Sellers of Salt
Of the Street-Sellers of Sand
Of the Street-Sellers of Shells
Of the River Beer-Sellers, or Purl-Men
Of the Numbers, Capital, and income of the Street- Sellers of Second-Hand Articles, Live Animals, Mineral Producions, Etc.
Income, or 'Takinags' of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
|Of the Street-Buyers|
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Buyers of Rags, Broken Metal, Bottles, Glass, and Bones
Of the 'Rag-and-Bottle,' and the 'Marine-Store' Shops
Of the Buyers of Kitchen-Stuff, Grease, and Dripping
Of the Street-Buyers of Hare and Rabbit Skins
Of the Street-Buyers of Waste (Paper)
Of the Street-Buyers of Umbrellas and Parasols
|Of the Street-Jews|
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Trades and Localities of the Street-Jews
Of the Jew Old-Clothes Men
Of a Jew Street-Seller
Of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers
Of the Pursuits, Dwellings, Traffic, Etc., of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers
Of the Street Jewesses and Street Jew-Girls
Of the Synagogues and the Religion of the Street and Other Jews
Of the Politics, Literature, and Amusements of the Jews
Of the Charities, Schools, and Education of the Jews
Of the Funeral Ceremonies, Fasts, and Customs of the Jews
Of the Jew Street-Sellers of Accordions, and of their Street Musical Pursuits
Of the Street-Buyers of Hogs'--Wash
Of the Street-Buyers of Tea-Leaves
|Of the Street-Finders or Collectors|
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Bone-Grubbers and Rag-Gatherers
Of the 'Pure'-Finders
Of the Cigar-End Finders
Of the Old Wood Gatherers
Of the Dredgers, or River Finders
Of the Sewer-Hunters
Of the Mud-Larks
Of the London Dustmen, Nightmen, Sweeps, and Scavengers
Of the Dustmen of London
Of the London Sewerage and Scavengery
|Of the Streets of London|
Of the Streets of London
Of the Traffic of London
Of the Dust and Dirt of the Streets of London
Of the Street-Dust of London, and the Loss and injury Occasioned by it
Of the Horse-Dung of the Streets of London
Of Street 'Mac' and Other Mud
Of the Mud of the Streets
Of the Surface-Water of the Streets of London
Of the Master Scavengers in Former Times
Of the Several Modes and Characteristics of Street-Cleansing
Of the Contractors For Scavengery
Of the Contractors' (or Employers') Premises, &c.
Of the Working Scavengers Under the Contractors
Of the 'Casual Hands' Among the Scavagers
Of the Influence of Free Trade on the Earnings of the Scavagers
Of the Worse Paid Scavagers, or Those Working For Scurf Employers
Of the Street-Sweeping Machine, and the Street-Sweepers Employed With it
Of the Cleansing of the Streets by Pauper Labour
Of the Street-Orderlies
Street Orderlies -- City Surveyor's Report
Of the 'Jet and Hose' System of Scavaging
Of the Cost and Traffic of the Streets of London
Of the Rubbish Carters
Of Casual Labour in General, and That of the Rubbish-Carters in Particular
Of the Casual Labourers among the Rubbish-Carters
The Effects of Casual Labour in General
Of the Scurf Trade Among the Rubbish- Carters
|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