Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter LVIII

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LETTER LVIII.

Thursday, June 27, 1850.

In my last Letter I gave an account of the supply and consumption of timber throughout the country generally. In the present I shall confine myself to the importations of the condition of the labourers connected with the foreign and colonial timber trade.
    The quantity of colonial and foreign timber that has been brought into the Port of London since the year 1843 has been as follows:

Imported into London

1844 1845 1846

Colonial Deals and Battens (in pieces) 

2,025,000 2,349,000 2,355,000

Foreign ditto (in ditto) 

2,130,000 2,290,000 1,242,000

Total pieces 

4,155,000 4,639,000 3,597,000

Colonial Timber (in loads)

57,200 55,800 53,600

Foreign ditto (in ditto)

58,200 68,100 86,000

Total loads 

115,400 123,900 139,600
1847 1848 1849

Colonial Deals and Battens (in pieces)

3,339,000 2,740,000 2,722,000

Foreign ditto (in ditto) 

1,996,000 2,044,000 1,903,000

Total pieces 

5,335,000 4,784,000 4,625,000

Colonial Timber (in loads) 

49,600 38,300 38,600

Foreign ditto (in ditto) 

79,100 69,000 61,400

Total loads 

128,700 107,300 100,000

The consumption of the metropolis has been little less than the quantity imported. In the six years above enumerated, the total importation of foreign and colonial deals and battens was 27,135,000 pieces, of which 26,695,573 were consumed in London; and the total importation of foreign and colonial timber was 714,900 loads of which 644,224 were consumed. This gives an average annual importation of 4,522,500 deals and battens, of which only73,238 have been sent out of the country every year. Of timber, the average annual importation was 119,159 loads, and the average annual exportation only 11,779 loads.

The number of wood-laden ships that have entered the Port of London since 1840, together with the countries whence they came, is given below. By this we shall perceive that our trade with Norway in this respect has sunk to exactly one-half of what it was ten years back; while that with Sweden and Finland has been very nearly doubled in the same time. The timber ships from the Prussian ports have increased little less than one-third, while those from Russia have decreased in the same proportion. The trade with Quebec and Montreal also appears to be much greater than it was in 1840; though, compared with 1841, there has been a considerable falling off; that of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia remains very nearly the same as it was at the beginning of the decennial period. Altogether the great change appears to have been the decline of the Norwegian and Russian timber trade, and the increase of that with Sweden and Prussia. It is also worthy of notice that, notwithstanding the increase of population, the number of wood-laden ships entering the Port of London every year has not materially increased within the last ten years.

 

THE NUMBER OF CARGOES OF TIMBER, DEALS AND BATTENS IMPORTED INTO LONDON IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS:-

1840  1841 1842 1843 1844 1845 1846 1847 1848 1849
Christiana and Sannesund 49 50 47 27 36 27 22 32 39 23
Other Ports of Norway 52 43 38 36 49 39 17 28 25  27
Gothenburg 61 64 49 59 59 66 30 67 55 41
Swedish Ports and Finland   85 84 85 102 90  149 103  101  138  154
Russian Ports 181 108 130 119 163 115 146 91 113 136
Prussian Ports 70 70 52 104 143 124 100 187 108 100
Quebec and Montreal 168 224  188 230 206 206 166 216 179 196
New Brunswick and Novia Scotia 104 97 62 134 90 102 127 145 108 105
Sierra Leone, Moulmein, &c 16 20 29 31 5 10 20 21 13 20
[Total] 786 760 681 842 841 838 740 868 778  790

The next step in our inquiry is what becomes of the 800 "wood-laden" ships that annually enter the Port of London? Whither do they go to be unladen - to what docks or places of "special security" are they consigned to be discharged, and to have their cargoes delivered or bonded?
    For this purpose there are five docks, three of which lie on the Surrey side of the river. These three are the Commercial Docks, the Grand Surrey Canal Dock, and the East Country Dock, and they are almost contiguous to each other - the Surrey Canal Dock lying immediately alongside the Commercial, and the East Country at the upper end of it. They are situated in, and indeed occupy nearly the whole of, that small cape of land which is formed by the bending of the river between the Pool and Limehouse Reach. The docks on the Middlesex side of the river, which are used for the reception and unlading of timber ships, are the West India and the "Regent's Dock," or the entrance to the Regent's Canal.
    The number of wood-laden ships that have entered the three principal docks for the last ten years is given below. I am informed by Mr. Jones, of the Commercial Docks, that for every ship above 100 tons, six men are required to sort and pile away. Rafting from ships of the above burden requires one or two men daily, according to circumstances.

THE NUMBER OF WOOD-LADEN SHIPS WHICH ENTERED THE DIFFERENT DOCKS UNDERMENTIONED, IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS: -

Year West India Docks Commercial Docks Grand Surrey Docks
Vessels Tons Vessels Tons Vessels Tons
1840 155 62,024 211 65,809 135 40,447
1841 201 82,196 215 70,438 114 34,594
1842 136 54,931 250 87,124 100 29,596
1843 169 71,211 368 121,846 108 31,299
1844 121 53,581 480 142,223 173 48,896
1845 149 70,514 424 137,047 155 43,211
1846 182 88,308 351 111,189 195 50,908
1847 228 124,114 423 143,966 226 64,433
1848 138 76,650 412 132,406 195 53,423
1849 138 67,860 410 136,329 212 58,780
Total 1617 751,389 3,544 1,148,377 1,613 453,587
Average number of ships per year, and their average tonnage 161 4,464 354 321 161 281

The foreign and colonial timber trade is, then, confined to five of the seven docks belonging to the port of London. Of these five, three - the Commercial, the Grand Surrey Canal, and the East Country - are situate on the Surrey side of the river, occupying altogether an area of 172½ acres, of which 100½ are water, and 72 land, and offering accommodation and protection for no less than 678 vessels. Here the principal part of the timber and deal trade is carried on - the Commercial receiving the greatest number of wood-laden vessels - perhaps greater than any other dock in the world. These together with that portion of the West India Dock which is devoted to the same purpose, make the entire extent of the timber docks attached to the port of London about 250 acres, of which upwards of 140 are water - a space sufficient to give berths to no less than 940 ships.
    I now come to speak of the condition and earnings of the labourers connected with the "timber" and "hardwood" trade. Of these it appears there are 1,000 men casually employed at all the timber docks, of whom only 132 obtain work all the year round. How the 900 casual "deal porters" and "rafters" live during the six months of the year that the "slack season" usually lasts in the timber trade, is another of the great mysteries of London life. As not a sixpence of their earnings is saved in the "brisk season," their fate in the winter is to suffer privations and afflictions which they only know.
    I shall begin with the state of the Dock labourers employed at the Furniture and Hard Wood Trade. This trade is confined mainly, of not solely, to the West India Dock.
    Concerning this branch of the wood trade, I give below the statement of a man who has worked at it for many years, and in doing so I wish to draw attention to the latter part of the narrative, as a proof of what I have repeatedly asserted respecting the regard exhibited by the authorities of the West India Dock, and in particular by Mr. Knight, the superintendent, for the welfare of all the men, whether directly or even indirectly employed by them.
    This indirect employment of workmen, however, is the great bane of the industrious classes. Whether the middleman goes by the name of sweater, chamber-master, lumper, or contractor, it is this trading operative who is the great means of reducing the wages of his fellow-working men. To make a profit out of the employment of his brother operatives he must obtain a lower-class labour. He cares nothing about the quality of the work, so long as the workman can get through it somehow, and will labour at a cheap rate. Hence it becomes a business with him to hunt out the lowest grades of working-men - the drunken, the dishonest, the idle, the vagabond, and the unskilful - because these, being unable to obtain employment at the regular wages of the sober, honest, industrious, and skilful portion of the trade, he can obtain their labour at a lower rate than what is usually paid. "Boy labour or thief labour," said a middleman on a large scale, as I showed in a former letter, "what do I care, so long as I can get my work done cheap?" I have already shown that the wives of the sweaters not only parade the streets of London on the look-out for youths raw from the country, but that they make periodical trips to the poorest provinces of Ireland, in order to obtain workmen at the lowest possible rate. I have shown, moreover, that foreigners are annually imported from the Continent for the same purpose, and that among the chamber-masters in the shoe trade, the child market at Bethnal-green, as well as the workhouses, are continually ransacked for the means of obtaining a cheaper kind of labour. All my investigations go to prove that it is chiefly by means of this middleman system that the wages of the working men are reduced. This contractor - this trading operative - uses the most degraded of the class as a means of underselling the worthy and skilful labourers, and of ultimately dragging the better down to the abasement of the worst. If men cannot subsist on lower prices, then he takes apprentices, or hires children; or if workmen of character and worth refuse to work at less than the ordinary rate, then he seeks out the moral refuse of the trade - those whom none else will employ; or else he flies to the workhouse and the gaol to find labour meet for his purpose. Backed by this cheap and refuse labour, he offers his work at lower prices, and so keeps on reducing the wages of his brethren, until all sink in poverty, wretchedness, and vice. I am, therefore, the more anxious to impress upon the minds of those gentlemen who are actuated by a sincere regard for the interest and comforts of the men in their employ the evils of such a system; for, however, great may be the saving of trouble effected by it, unless it be strictly watched (as I must confess it is at the West India and Commercial Docks), it can only be maintained by the employment of a cheaper and worse-class labourer, and therefore must result in the degradation of the workmen. I have said thus much because I find this contract system the general practice at all the wood docks, and because I am convinced that the gentlemen to whom the management of those docks is entrusted - Mr. Knight, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Cannan - have the welfare of the men in their employ sincerely at heart. Of the evils of lumping, or discharging wood ships by contract, I have already treated at considerable length. Under that system, it will be remembered, I showed that the contractor, who is commonly a publican, makes his profit not by cheapening the labourer, but by intoxicating him. Like the contractor for ballast, he gets his money out of the drunkenness of the workmen, and by this means is enabled to undersell the dock proprietors - or, in other words, to discharge the wood-laden ships at a less rate than they could possibly afford to do by the fair and honourable employment of their men. Of the effects of this system - the drunkenness of the men - the starvation of the wives - the squalor and ignorance of the children - the wretchedness and desolation of the homes - I have already treated at some length; and it will be seen at the end of the present letter, that in those docks where the supervision that is maintained at the West Indias and Commercial is not kept up, the labourers are reduced to almost the same state of poverty and destitution.
    
    But to return. A man living in a small room, in a poor neighbourhood, but in a tidy apartment, and with a well-kept little garden at the back, gave me the following account of his earnings and labour in the Mahogany Department of the West India Docks:
    "I have worked in the West India Docks for eleven years, and for the last half of that time in the mahogany part of the wood-yard. Before that, I was eleven years in the merchant service as able seaman. But I got married, and thought I could do better in the docks, for, after all, what is £18 a year, supposing I had the luck to be at sea for nine months every year, at £2 a month? What is £18 a year, sir, to keep a wife and family on, as well as a man himself, when he's ashore? At the West India Dock we unload the mahogany, or logwood, or fancy woods, from the ships, and pile them wherever they're ordered. We work in gangs of six or seven, with a master at the head of the gang. The logs are got out of the hold with a purchase and a jigger, and heaved ashore by a crane on to a truck, and we drag the truck to the place to stow the timber. In the wood-yards a machine lifts the timber up, by us men turning handles to work the machine, and puts it into its place in the warehouse. We are paid 2s. 6d. a day, working from eight to four. If only employed for four hours - and we're not set to work for less than four hours - we have ls. 4d. If I could get 2s. 6d. a day all the year through I'd be a happy man, but I can't. Me, and such as me, earns 10s., 11s., or as far as 15s. a week when we are wanted. But, take the year through, I make between 9s. and 10s. a week. Out of that I have to keep a wife and four children. I've lost one child, and my wife can get little or nothing most times to do with her needle, and if she does get work, what can she make at five farthings or three-halfpence a shirt for the slop-shops? My eldest child, however, does make ls. or ls. 6d. a week. I live on bread and butter, with a drop of beer now and then, six days out of the seven. On Sundays we has mostly a shilling's worth of meat - bullock's head generally. Sometimes our work is very hard with heavy lifting. A weakly man's no use, and I've wondered how I have the strength I have on bread and butter. We are all paid in the dock, and there's nobody allowed to get the men to drink or to traffic with them anyhow, but in a fair regular way. There's plenty hang about every day, who would work a day's work for 2s. There's a good many Irish. I don't know that there's any foreigners, without it be on the sugar- side. Sometimes 100 men are employed in our part of the business. To-day there was from 40 to 50 at work, and 100 more was to be had if they'd been wanted. Jobs often come in in a lump - all at once or none at all; very often with the wind. We run backwards and forwards to the sugar-side or the Surrey Dock as we expect to be wanted. We don't know what the foremen of the gangs get, but the company won't allow them to underpay us, and I've nothing to complain about either of them or the company, though we're bad off. The foreman can pick his men. Many of us has to go to the parish. Once learned only 3s. in three weeks. Our best time is from June or July, continuing on for two, three, four, or five months as happens. We live half the year, and starve the t'other. There's very few teetotallers among us. Men want beer if they live on bread and butter. There's many, I know, lives on a meal a day, and that's bread and butter. There's no drunkards among our men. We're mostly married men with families. Most poor men is married, I think. Poor as I am, a wife and family's something to cling to, like."
    I now come to the Timber and Deal trade. The labourers connected with this portion of the trade are rafters or raftsmen, and deal or stave porters; these are either "permanently" or "casually" employed. I shall give an account of each, as well as of the system pursued at each of the docks - beginning with the Commercial, because it does the most extensive business in this branch of the wood trade; and here let me acknowledge the obligations I am under to Mr. Jones, the intelligent and courteous superintendent, for much valuable information.
    The Working Lumpers, as I before explained, are the labourers employed to discharge all wood-laden vessels except foreign ships, which are discharged by their own crews. The vessels unladen by the lumpers are discharged sometimes in the dock, and sometimes (when too heavily laden) in the river. The cargoes of wood-laden vessels are termed either landed or rafted goods. The landed goods are deals, battens, sleepers, wainscot logs, and, indeed, all but hewn timber, which is "rafted." When a vessel is unladen in the river, the landed goods are discharged by lumpers, who also load the lighters; whereas, in the dock, the lumpers discharge them into the company's barges, which are loaded by them as well. With smaller vessels, however, which occasionally go alongside, the lumpers discharge directly to the shore, where the "goods" are received by the company's porters. The lumpers never work upon shore. Of the porters working on shore, there are two kinds, viz., deal and stave porters, whose duty it is to receive the landed goods, and to pile and sort them, either along the quay or in the bonding ground, if duty has to be paid upon them.
    The hewn timber or rafted goods the lumpers thrust through the porthole in the water; and there the raftman receives them, puts them into lengths and sizes, and then arranges them in floats - there being 18 pieces to a float. If the ship is discharged in the river, the rafter floats the timber to the docks, and then to the "ponds" of the company. If however, the ship is discharged in dock, then the raftman floats the timber only from the main dock to the ponds.
    The Rafters are all freemen, for otherwise they could not work on the river. They must have served seven years to a waterman, and they are obliged to pay 3s. a year to the Watermen's Company for their license. There are 16 or 17 rafters (all preferable men) employed by the Commercial Dock Company, and in busy times there are occasionally as many as 40 casual rafters, or "pokers" as they are called (from their poking about the docks for a job). These casual men are not capable of "rafting a ship," nor are the free watermen. They are only employed to float the timber from the ship up to the ponds and stow it, or to attend to deliveries. The skill of the rafter lies in gauging and sorting the timber according to size, quality, and ownership, and making it up into floats. It is only an experienced rafter who can tell the different sizes, qualities, and owners of the timber. This the "pokers," again, cannot float the timber from the river to the t,onds. This is owing to two reasons - 1. They are not allowed to do so, on account of not being free watermen; and 2. They are unable to do so from the difficulty of navigation. The pokers work exclusively in the docks. Neither the rafters nor pokers work under contractors; but the deal and stave porters invariably do.
    The following statement of a rafter at the Commercial Dock, I had from a prudent, well-behaved, sober man. He was in company with another man, employed in the same capacity at the same docks, and they both belonged to the better class of labouring men: - 
    "I am a rafter at the Commercial Dock. I have been working at that dock for the last six years in the same capacity, and before that I was rafter at the Surrey Dock for between five and six years. I served my apprenticeship to a waterman. I was bound when I was sixteen. We are not allowed to work till we have served two years. In my apprenticeship I was continually engaged in timber towing, lightering, and at times sculling, but that I did only when the other business was slack. After my time was out I went lightering, and about a dozen years after that I took to rafting. I had been a rafter at the Surrey Canal before then - while I was in my apprenticeship, indeed. I had 18s. a week when I first commenced rafting at the Surrey Canal; but that of course, all went to my master. I was with the Surrey canal about two years as rafter; and then I joined another party, at 30s. a week, in the same capacity. This party rented a wharf of the Surrey Canal Company, and I still worked in the Dock. There I worked longer time - four hours longer. The wages would have been as good at the Surrey Canal at outside work as they were ·with the second party I joined. The next place that I went to as rafter was the Commercial Dock, where I am now, and have been for the last six years. I am paid by the week. When I work at the dock I have £1 1s. a week; and when I am rafting short-hour ships (i.e., ships at which we work only from eight till four), I get 4s. per day. When I am working long-hour ships (i.e., ships at which the working lasts from six till six), I get 5s. a day. The other rafters employed by the company are paid the same. Our wages have remained the same ever since I have been in the business. All the other men have been lowered - such as carpenters, labourers, watchmen, deal- porters, and the like; but we are not constant men, or else I dare say ours would have been reduced too. They have lowered the wages of the old hands, who have been there for years, ls. a week. Formerly they had £1 1s., now they get £1. The men are dissatisfied. The wages of the casual dock labourers have been reduced a great deal more than those of the constant men. Three months ago they all had 18s. a week, and now the highest wages paid to the casual labourers is 15s. The reason why the wages of the rafters have not been lowered is, I take it, because we are freemen, and there are not so many to be had who could supply our places. Not one out of a hundred lightermen and watermen are able to raft. We are only employed at certain times of the year. Our busy time begins at July, and ends in October. We are fully employed about four months in the year, and get, during that time, from £1 1s. to 30s. a week, or say 25s. upon an average. The rest of our time we fills up as we can. Some of the rafters has boats, and they look out for a job at sculling, but that's poor enough now. "Ah! very poor work, indeed," said an old weather-beaten man, who was present, and had had 40 years' experience at the business. "When I first joined it, it was in the war time," he added, "and then I was scarcely a day idle, and now I can't get work for better than half my time. "For the other eight months," continued the other man, "I should think the rafters upon an average make 5s. a week. Some of them has boats, and some gets a job at timber towing, but some (and that's the greatest number) has nothing at all to turn their hands to excepting the casual dock labour - that is, anything they can chance to get hold of. I don't think those who depend upon the casual labour of the docks, after the fall-season is over (the fall-ships are the last that come), make 5s. a week, take one man with another. I should say, more likely their weekly earnings is about 4s. There are about sixteen rafters at the Commercial Docks, and only one single man among the number. They none of them save any money during the busy season. They are in debt when the brisk time comes, and it takes them all the summer to get clear, which perhaps they does by the time the fall-ships have done, and then of course they begin going on in the old strain again. A rafter's life is merely getting into debt and getting clear of it - that is it - and that is a great part of the life of all the labourers along-shore."
    He then produced the following accounts of his earnings for the last year:

£ s d

1st week

1 1 0

2d

1 8 0 (a)

3d

1 4 0

4th

1 5 6

5th

0 0 0

6th

1 1 0

7th

0 0 0

8th

1 1 0

9th

0 0 0

10th

1 1 0

11th

0 4 0 (b)

12th

1 1 0

13th

0 4 0 (c)

14th

0 17 6

15th

0 0 0

16th

0 0 0

17th

1 1 0

18th

0 10 0 (d)

19th

1 4 0

20th

0 17 6 (e)

21st

0 13 0

22d

0 7 0

23d

1 1 0

24th

0 10 0 (f)

25th

0 2 6

26th

0 4 0

27th

0 1 0

28th

1 1 0 (g)

29th

1 4 0

30th

1 3 0

31st

1 1 0

32d

1 6 0

33d

1 3 0

34th

1 1 0

35th

0 14 0

36th

1 7 0

37th

2 0 0 (h)

38th

1 5 0

39th

1 0 6

40th

1 4 0

41st

1 10 0

42d

1 4 0

43d

1 10 0

44th

1 14 0

45th

1 5 6

46th

1 10 0

47th

0 5 0

48th

1 10 0

49th

1 10 0

50th

1 10 0

51st

1 7 0

52d

1 1 0

1850

1st week

1 10 0

2d

0 10 6

3d

1 1 0

4th

0 12 6

5th

2 10 6 (i)

6th

1 1 0

7th

1 7 0

8th

1 8 0

9th

0 19 0

10th

1 1 0 (j)

11th

0 3 0 (k)

12th

0 18 0 (l)

13th

0 10 0 (m)

14th

0 0 0

15th

1 0 0

16th

0 12 0

17th

1 1 0

18th

1 5 0 (n)

19th

1 0 0

20th

0 0 0

(a) Outside work.
(b) Jobbing.
(c) Jobbing.
(d) Jobbing.
(e) Jobbing.
(f) Jobbing.
(g) Busy time begins.
(h) Working Sunday and nights.
(i) Contract job on river.
(j) Dock work.
(k) Jobbing.
(1) Dock work.
(m) Jobbing.
(n) Dock work.

This gives an average, for the seventy-two weeks above cited, of 18s. 6 ¼d. per week. "Where I get £1," the man continued, after I had copied his accounts, "many don't get 5s. I know many friends on the river, and I get a number of odd jobs which others can't. In the last six years my earnings have been much about the same. But others, I am sure, don't make half what I do. I have earned £1 8s. when I know they have been walking about and not earned a penny. In busy times as many as forty pokers' are employed, sometimes for as many as five weeks in the year. They get 3s. 6d. a day, from six to six. After they are out of work they do as best they can. It's impossible to tell how one-half of them live. Half their time they are starving. The wives of the rafters go some of them charing, some are glove- makers, and others dressmakers. None that I know of do slop-work."
    I now come to the deal and stave porters. First, as to those employed at the Commercial Docks.
    From a man who has an excellent character given of him by his employers I had the following account:
    "At our dock," he said, "timber and corn are the principal articles, but they are distinct branches, and have distinct labourers. I am in the deal part. When a foreign timber ship comes into the dock, the timber is heaved out of the port-hole by the crew themselves. The deal ships, too, are sometimes unloaded by the foreigners themselves, but not often; three or four out of a dozen may. Ours is very dangerous work. We pile the deals sometimes 90 deals high - higher at the busiest time - and we walk along planks with no hold, carrying the deals in our hands, and only our firm tread and our eye to depend upon. We work in foggy weather, and never stop for a fog; at least we haven't for eight or nine years, to my knowledge. In that sort of weather accidents are frequent. Last year there was, I believe, about 35 falls but no deaths. If it's a bad accident the deal porters give 6d. a piece on a Saturday night to help the man that's had it. There's no fund for sickness. We work in gangs of five usually, sometimes more. We are paid for carrying 100 of 12 feet deals, 1s. 9d.; 14 feet, 2s. 2d.; 20 and 21 feet, 3s.; 22 feet, 3s. 8d.; and from 24 to 27 feet, 4s. 3d. That's at piecework. We used to have 3d. per 100 more for every sort, but it was reduced three or four months back, or more, may be. In a general way we're paid nothing extra for having to carry the deals beyond an average distance, except for what we call 'long runs;' that's as far, or about as far as the dock extends from the place we start to carry the deals from. One week with another the year through, we make from 12s. to 15s. - the 15s. by men that have the preference when work is slack. We're busiest from July to Christmas. I'm the head of a gang or team of five, and I am only paid as they are; but I have the preference if work is slack, and so have the men in my team. Five men must work at the Commercial, or none at all. We are paid in the dock at the contractor's-office (there are three contractors), at four o'clock every Saturday evening. Drinking is kept down in our dock, and with my contractor drunkards are discharged. The men are all satisfied but for the lowering of their wages. No doubt they can get labour cheaper still; there's so many idlers about. A dozen years back or so they did pay us in a public-house. Our deal porters are generally sober men. The beermen only come into the dock twice a day - ten in the morning and half- past three in the afternoon - and the men never exceed a pint at a time."
    An older man in the same employ said:
    "I've known deal-portering for twenty years back, and then, at the Commercial Dock, men was paid in a public-house, and there was a good deal of drunkenness. The men weren't compelled to drink, but was expected to. In that point it's far better now. When I was first a deal porter I could make half as much more as I do now. I don't complain of anybody about the dock; it an't their fault; but I do complain uncommon about the times; there's so little work, and so many to snap at it."
    From a stave porter at the same dock I had the following account:
    "We are paid by the piece, and the price varies according to size - from 1s. 6d. to  10s. the 1,000. Quebec staves, 6 feet long by 2 inches thick, and a few inches broad, are 10s. the 1,000, and other sizes are paid in the same proportion, down to 1s. 6d. We pack the bigger staves about our shoulders, resting one stave on another, more like a Jack-in-the-Green than anything else, as our heads comes out in the middle of 'em. Of the biggest, five is a good load, and we pack all sizes alike, folding our arms to hold the smaller staves better. Take it altogether, we make at stave work what the deal porters do at their work; and indeed, we are deal porters when staves isn't in. There's most staves comes to the Surrey Canal Dock."
    A man who had worked at the West India Dock as a deal porter informed me that the prices paid were the same as were paid by the Commercial and East Country Dock Companies before the reduction, but the supply of labour was uncertain and irregular - chiefly at the spring and fall, and in British American ships. As many as 100 men, however, my informant stated, had been so employed at this dock, making from 15s. to 25s. per week, or as much as 30s. on occasions, and without the drawback of any compulsory or "expected" drinking. Such, as far as I could learn, is the condition of the labourers employed at these timber docks, where the "drinking system" and the payment of men in public-houses are not allowed. Concerning the state of the men employed at the other docks, where the public-house system still continues, I had the following details:
    A deal porter at the Surrey Canal Dock stated - 
    "I have worked a good many years in the Surrey Dock. There were four contractors at the Surrey Canal, but now there's one, and he pays the publican, where we gets our beer, all that's owing to us deal porters, and the publican pays us every Saturday night. I can't say that we are compelled to take beer - certainly not when at our work in the dock; but we're 'expected' to take it when we're waiting. I can't say either that we are discharged if we don't drink; but if we don't we are kept waiting late on a Saturday night on an excuse of the publican's having no change, or something like that; and we feel that somehow or other, if we don't drink, we'll be left in the background. Why don't the superintendent see us paid in the dock? He pays the company's labourers in the dock - they're corn-turners and rafters - and they are paid early, too. We now have 4s. 4d. a day of from eight to four, and 5s. 8d. from six to six. It used to be, till four months back I think, 4s. 10d. and 6s. 4d. In slack times, say six months in the year, we earns from 10s. to l2s. a week; in the brisk times, 30s., and sometimes more, but 30s. is about the average. We are all paid at the public-house. We gathers from after five or so every Saturday night. We are kept now and then till twelve, and after twelve, and it has been Sunday morning before we've got paid. There is more money spent, in course, up to twelve than up to ten. To get away at half-past nine is very early. I should say that half our earnings, except in our best weeks, goes to the publican for drink more than half oft enough, if it's a bad week all our earnings, or more. When it waxes late, the wives, who've very likely been without Saturday's dinner or tea, will go the publican's for their husbands, and they'll get to scold very likely, and then they'll get beaten very likely. We are chiefly married men with families. Pretty well all the deal porters at the dock are drunkards; so there's misery enough for their families. The publican gives credit two following weeks, and encourages drinking in course, but he does it quietly. He'll advance any man at work 1s. a night in money, besides trusting him for drink. I don't know how many we are - I should say from 50 to 200. In old age or accident, in course, we comes on the parish."
    Other men whom I saw corroborated this statement, and some of their wives expressed great indignation at the system pursued in paying the labourers. None of them objected to their husbands having four pints of beer when actually at their work in the dock; it was against the publican's temptations on Saturday and other nights that they bitterly inveighed.
    At the earnest entreaty of a deal porter's wife, I called on Saturday evening at the public-house where the men were waiting to be paid. I walked into the tap-room as if I had called casually, and I was then unknown to all the deal porters. The tap-room I found small, dark, dirty, and ill-ventilated. What with the tobacco-smoke and the heat of the weather, the room was most disagreeably close and hot. As well as I could count - for, though it was a bright summer's evening, the smoke and gloom rendered it somewhat difficult - there were twenty-four men in this tap-room, which is fitted up in boxes, and the number completely filled the apartment. In the adjoining room, where was a small bar, there were some six or eight more deal porters, lounging about. These numbers, however, fluctuated, for men kept coming in and going out; but all the time I was there thirty men might be stationery in the two hot, dirty, little rooms. They were strong-looking men enough, and all sunburnt; but amongst them were some with pinched features and white lips. There they sat, each man with his beer before him. There was not the slightest hilarity among them; there was not the least semblance of a convivial Saturday night's gathering. The majority sat in silence. Some dozed - others drank or sipped at their pint measures, as if they must do it, or to while away the time. These deal porters were generally dressed in corduroy, fustian, or strong coarse blue woollen jackets, with trowsers of similar material, open big woollen waistcoats, and with coloured cotton handkerchiefs rolled round some thick substance in the way of a stock, and tied loosely round their necks over a striped cotton or coarse linen shirt. All had rough bristly beards, intimating that their shaving was confined to the Sunday mornings. With respect to the system pursued at this dock in the payment of the deal porters, it is right that I should state that I heard from many deal porters praises of the superintendent, though certainly not of the contractor or the publican. I am glad to be able to state, however, that it is the determination of the company to attempt - and that, indeed, they are now attempting - the abolition of the system of public-house payment. Mr. M'Cannan, the superintendent of these docks, to whom I am indebted for many favours and courtesies, informs me that an arrangement was once made for the payment of the deal porters in "an old box" (a sort of wooden office) within the dock; but the impatience and struggling of the men who had to wait a little while for their weeks earnings almost demolished the frail timbers of the old box, and the attempt was abandoned. Within the dock the supply of beer is now limited to three times a day, with a "vend" of half-a-pint a man each visit.
    A middle-aged man, sun-burnt, and with much of the look of a seaman, gave me an account of his labour as a deal porter at the East Country Dock. His room - and he, with his wife and children, had but one - was very sparely furnished, the principal article being a large clean bed. He complained that his poverty compelled him to live in the neighbourhood of some low lodging-houses, which caused all sorts of bad characters to resort to the locality, while cries of "murder" were not uncommon in the night: - "I have been a deal porter," he said, "nearly 20 years, and for the last few years I have worked at the East Country Dock. Sometimes we work single-handed, sometimes in gangs of two, three, or four. The distance the deals have to be carried has a good deal to do with it, as to the number of the gang. We're paid nothing extra for distance. Mr. contracts with the Dock Company to do all the deal portering. There are three gangs regularly employed, each with a master, of foreman, or ganger over them. They have always the preference. If three ships were to unlade on one day, there would be one for each gang, and when more hands are wanted the men of the regular gangs are put over deal porters, such as me, who are not regularly employed, but on the look-out for piece work or a day's work. We reckon when that happens that the ganger's men have 9s. for our 4s. We are paid at a public-house. The house belongs to the company. We pay 4d. a pot for our beer, and we're expected to drink no less than four pints a day. We're not obligated, you understand, sir, but we're expected to drink this; and if we don't do as we're expected, why we're not wanted next time, that's all. But we're only expected to take our regular beer when work's brisk. We're not encouraged to run into debt for drink, and work it out. Indeed, if a man be 1s. or 1s. 6d. in debt to the publican, he can't get credit for a bit of bread and cheese, or a drink of beer. We have good beer, but sometimes we'd rather be without it. But we can't work without some. Many deal porters I know are terrible drunkards. We are paid the same as at the Commercial Dock, and were reduced about the same time. If I had a regular week's work now, and no stop, I could make 26s. - less by 8d. a day, or 4s. a week, for beer. We're not expected to drink any gin. Before wages came down I could have made 30s. Our beer money is stopped out of our earnings by the masters, and paid to the publican. It's very seldom, indeed, we get a regular week's work, and take it the year through I don't clear 12s. a week. To-day there was only sixteen men at work, but sometimes there's eighty. From June to Christmas is the best time. Sometimes we may wait three or four days for a job. The regular pay for the Custom-house hours, from eight to four, is 4s. a day to a deal porter, but there's plenty to do it for what they can catch. Lots of Irish, sir. They'll work for anything, and is underselling all of us, because an Englishman and his family can't live like them. In the winter my family and me starved on 4s. or 5s. a week, but I kept clear of the parish, though plenty of us have to come on the parish. Much in pawn, sir? I have so. Look at my place - it was a nice place once. Most of what you may call the regular hands has been brought up as deal porters. I don't know how many you may call regular at our dock; it varies - working and waiting for a turn; but we're no regular turn at work; there's 100 perhaps, or near about it. Ours is very hard and very dangerous work. Last year one man was killed by a fall, and two had broken legs, and two broken thighs, but it was an easy year for accidents. There is no fund to help or to bury us; only the parish. In a bad case were carried to the Dreadnought, or some hospital. We are all of us dissatisfied. I wish I could have 2s. 6d. a day for regular work, and I'd live twenty years longer than I shall now, with nothing to do one day, and tearing my soul out with slaving work at others."
    The result of all my inquiries shows that the deal porters in no wise exaggerated the hardness or the danger of their labour. I saw them at work, walking along planks - some sloping from an elevated pile of timber to one somewhat more elevated, the plank vibrating as two men, carrying a deal, trod slowly, and in measure, along it; and so they proceed from one pile to another, beginning perhaps from the barge, until the deals have been duly deposited. From a distance, when only the diminished thickness of the plank is visible, they appear to be walking on a mere stick. The space so traversed is generally short, but the mode of conveyance seems rude and primitive.
    In the foregoing narratives frequent mention has been made of the casual labourers at the timber docks, and I now proceed to give some short account of the condition and earnings of this most wretched class. On the platform surrounding the Commercial Dock basins are a number of men whom I heard described as "idlers," "pokers," and "casual labourers." These men are waiting "in hopes of a job," which they rarely obtain until all the known hands have been set to work before them. The casual labourers confine themselves to no particular dock, but resort to the one which they account the most likely to want hands; and some even of the more regularly employed deal porters change their docks occasionally for the same reason. These changes of locality puzzle the regular deal porters in their estimation of the number of hands in their calling at the respective docks. On my visits the casual labourers were less numerous than usual, as the summer is the season when such persons consider that they have "the best chance" in the country. But I saw groups of ten or twenty waiting about the docks - some standing alone, and some straggling in twos or threes as they waited, all looking dull and listless. These men, thus wearisomely waiting, could not be called ragged, for they wore mostly strong canvas or fustian suits - large, and seemingly often washed, jackets predominating; and rents and tatters are far less common in such attire than in wool cloth garments. From a man dressed in a large coarse canvas jacket, with worn corduroy trowsers, and very heavy and very brown laced leather boots, I had the following statement, in a somewhat provincial tone: - 
    "My father was a small farmer in Dorsetshire. I was middling educated, and may thank the parson for it. I can read the Bible, and spell most of the names there. I was left destitute, and I had to shift for myself; that's nine year ago, I think. I've hungered, and I've ordered my bottle of wine since, sir. I got the wine when railways was all the go, and I was a navvy; but I didn't like wine drinking; I drank it just for the fun of the thing - or, mayhap, because gentlemen drunk it. The port was like rather rough beer, but stronger, certainly. Sherry I only had once or twice, and liked good old ale better. I shifted my quarters every now and then till between two and three years ago, and then I tried my hand in London. At first Mr. (a second cousin of my father he was) helped me now and then, and he gave me odd jobs at portering for himself, as he was a grocer, and he got me odd jobs from other people besides. When I was a navvy I should at the best time have had my 50s. a week and more, if it hadn't been for the tommy shops. And I've had my 15s. in portering in London for my cousin, but sometimes I came down to 10s. - and sometimes to 5s. My cousin died sudden, and I was very hard up after that. I made nothing at portering some weeks. I had no one to help me; and in the spring of last year - and very cold it often was - I've walked after ten, eleven, or twelve at night, many a mile to lie down and sleep in any bye-place. I've never stole, but have been hard tempted. I've thought of drowning myself and of hanging myself; but somehow a penny or two came in to stop that. Perhaps I didn't seriously intend it. I begged some times of an evening. I stayed at lodging-houses - for one can't sleep out in bad weather - till I heard from one lodger that he took his turn at the Commercial Docks. He worked at timber, or corn, or anything; and so I went - about the cholera time last year - and waited, and run from one dock to another, because I was new, and hadn't a chance like the old hands. I've had 14s. a week sometimes, and many's the week I've had 3s., and more's the week I've had nothing at all. They've said I don't know you.' I've lived on penny loaves - one or two a day - when there was no work; and then I've begged. I don't know what the other people waiting at any of the docks got. I didn't talk to them much, and they didn't talk much to me."