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Pauperdom - Stones for Bread-What is a Pauper? - The Labour Test - Involuntary Paupers-The Casual as he was - Newport Market - Sheer Destitution - Playhouse -yard - Shelter - Rogues' Fair - Thieves, Tramps, and Beggars - The Casual as he is - Field-lane Refuge - What the Poor - law says - What the Parish does - Carter's Kitchen - Erwin Workhouse to Gaol - The only Way - London Interiors - The Model Lodger - Commercial Charity - Clerical Claims - Sensational Examples - Pious Bribery - Misrepresentation -Sunday down East - Who does the Work?
IT is seldom that a week passes
without some disclosure of the reasons for that antipathy to the receipt of
parochial relief which is characteristic of even the destitute poor in the
metropolis. It is seldom that so long even as a week passes without ample proofs
that of the two public institutions the prison is by far the more popular with
that section of the community which has passed. the boundary line dividing the
honest labourer from the occasional thief; and it is a matter for serious
consider-[-364-]ation how this conclusion may affect the judgment, and ultimately
the conduct, of those who find honesty such very hard work, and the result of
failure in striving to keep body and soul together so very much more penal than
that of the bold abandonment of the attempt.
In one respect, the arrangements at the union workhouse are like those of the criminal prison - there is no classification. To become a pauper is to forfeit all the advantages of respectable antecedents, to be reduced to the dead level of utter poverty, and to submit to all the degrading conditions which are imposed on those who, having struggled and failed, fought and been beaten, acknowledge their defeat, and take the punishment that our social, as well as our national, laws impose upon the admission of poverty and weakness. In this respect, the present union workhouse system is less merciful in its operation than the old Poor-law. In the 'poor-houses' of fifty years ago, with all the abuses of the system, it was no uncommon thing to find some kind of distinction between the inmates who, having seen 'better days,' had come to pauperdom through inevitable misfortune, and the ordinary resident, to whom pauperism was to some extent a natural condition, and who certainly felt no shame at being the recipient of the relief afforded in the house. This classification, of course, depended very greatly on the guardians, and still more upon the master or matron; but it was not unfrequent; and elderly ladies of reduced circumstances sometimes had the remainder of their long lives made bearable, and were suffered to wear their own dresses, [-365-] and. to live a little apart from the rest in a select society of their own. It happens now and then, perhaps, under the present system, that just so much of distinction is made in a few cases; but the system itself discourages it. Guardians, in their natural antipathy to the pauper as a perverse means of raising the rates, mostly refuse to acknowledge any but one dead level, which, if it is likely to deter anybody from 'coming on the parish,' is just the thing required. Masters and matrons, regarding nearly all the inmates as their natural enemies, or being at the best, anxious to secure the good opinion of the board which places them in their situation, are mostly willing to administer the 'rules and regulations' according to the very letter of the Poor-law, and seldom according to its spirit.
It is not very long since the public was startled with the disclosures made on the subject of workhouse infirmaries, and an association was formed for the purpose of compelling some improvement in those most loathsome and terrible departments of the buildings to which we consign our poor. It was hard work, for board met board with remonstrance, and retorted with defiance. The Poor-law was a dead letter -let us rather say it was the letter that killed; and 'guardians' - Heaven save the mark! - cared nothing for the spirit that might have made alive. To diminish, or at all events to keep down, the rates is the whole duty of a parochial officer, according to the received opinion; and as the control of parish business has mainly fallen into the hands of those whose interest it is to consider the ratepayers, [-366-] who are also customers, there seems little chance of a remedy against the cruelties practised in some of the metropolitan unions, until gentlemen of independent position will recognise their duties, and fulfil local offices with the consciousness that the best work a man can do is that which lies nearest to his hand.
The horrors of certain infirmaries caused a shudder to pass through society; but the shudder passed. Very little, comparatively, has come of it. The association fought and fought well, and effected a large amount of amelioration in a few flagrant instances; but the officials followed their usual course - kept quiet, grinned at each other over their board-room tables, relegated remonstrances to the waste-paper basket, sent impudent replies to the recommendations of the Poor-law authorities, and trusted to the remembrance of their atrocities dying out, and the whole affair 'blowing over.'
That the improvements effected are not so extensive as might have been supposed, and that parochial magnates still defy the law with impunity, has received ample illustration in the inquests held on the bodies of infant and adult paupers, done to death by neglect, overcrowding in a foul ward, and supervening gangrene, in the workhouse of St. Pancras, the patron saint of helpless children.
It is not in the infirmaries alone, however, that the present condition of pauperdom is illustrated - neither in the infirmaries, nor the stone-yards, nor the casual wards. An intelligent visit to four out of five union workhouses would reveal to the moderately careful observer the ne-[-367-]cessity for some independent inspection, associated with an authority which could at once demand compliance with the claims of humanity and decency, and of some judicial recognition of the fact that parochial relief is not for ever to be accorded as though its recipients were the basest and most degraded of human beings; while the unhappy creatures who, having paid rates for years, fall into distress and become destitute, are liable to be worse off than the ruffianly desperado who claims his full dole of union fare, and swears at and bullies a whole ward, the inmates of which have no remedy, and can claim no distinction which may serve to preserve their last remnants of self-respect.
Go into the yard on a bright day, and note the wistful hopeless looks of the old men who sit in the sun on that deal form against the wall. Go into the infirm ward and note the long line of beds, where, in the close and fetid atmosphere, the workhouse flies settle on faces upon which the lineaments of death are settling also; and unless some kind hand be there to fan away these foul precursors of the last indignities of the parish, the patient lies tormented and helpless in the dread. paralysis of age and mortal sickness. Walk into the place devoted to children, and mark the woe-begone faces, the sullen looks, the evidence of much threatening, and of brute remedies for brute instincts; see the twisted limbs, the scrofulous skins, the deformities of all that should be beautiful in childhood, and also the round ruddy beauty that even workhouse discipline cannot wholly destroy. Note the little corpse laid out [-368-] carelessly in a chair; the little rough parish coffin, so soon to lie with those other coffins in the dead-house at the end of the yard.
Listen to the murmured talk, which resolves itself into remarks about food; and then remember that here, as in a prison, extra rations, and an increase in meat and the privilege of beer, are the great topics of conversation. Well they may be, for that dietary scale hanging on the wall-strict enough in its provisions, even if they were administered according to the intentions of the Poor-law Board - is at the mercy of guardians and master and matron, and may be reduced so much below prison fare, that life in a workhouse comes to be but a continuance of that struggle against hunger which preceded it in the world outside those grim brick walls.
A dream of food - but a dream seldom realised - must be the daily amusement of some of the more robust paupers; while those for whom better provision should be made sicken at the faint and tasteless skilley, or shrink from the rations that are served them in more repulsive style than that of the prison plate and pannikin. Let those who wonder at the long bitter endurance of the destitute wretches who cling to their one miserable room, with its fireless grate, and refuse to break up their 'home' and be separated into various wards of the big Bastille, visit the nearest workhouse with open eyes and discriminating ears, and they will learn how it is that even such dire poverty is preferred to pauperdom.
We have all learned - and most of us have bitterly [-369-] felt - how inadequate is the provision for the relief of want under the chaotic and contradictory rules by which the poor-laws are administered; how hopeless it seems to obtain any redress while guardians are permitted either to misinterpret or to defy the orders of the Board, which professes to control their operations, but which is powerless either to enforce its 'recommendations,' or to bring its opponents to account.
Surely I need not set down examples. They occur almost daily in newspaper reports and the records of police-courts. Only yesterday (dating from the present writing), one of the relieving-officers of the City of London Union, St. Mary-axe, was summoned before Alderman Lusk, M.P., at the Guildhall, for assaulting a pauper receiving outdoor relief at that branch of the union. I will quote the report as an example of what is not only a possible, but, alas, too frequent an example of the kind of temper in which 'relief' is administered in the name of the 'guardians of the poor.'
'The complainant said that she had a husband and four children, and lived at 18 Holliday-Yard, Ludgate-hill. She had received parish relief to the extent of 2s. per week and four loaves. On Friday last she went to the defendant about ten o'clock in the morning, and saw him at the office in St. Mary-axe. She asked him if he could give her a little more outdoor relief, as what she received was insufficient; and he replied that he could not. She then said that she would rather go into the house at once; and be said he would give her the order, but she must go into the workhouse in two hours.
[-370-] She told him that that was impossible; and then he told her to go away and bring her children when she was ready, and he would give her the order. She told him her children had not had any breakfast that morning, and she wanted some food to give them. The defendant closed the window, and she waited about twenty-five minutes, when he opened it again, and asked her what she wanted. She asked him to give her the order, and he said he would give her a good showing-up, for he knew her case well. She went into Whitechapel sometimes with a baby, and sometimes without, and he asked her which she found the most convenient. She asked him what authority he had for saying that she walked Whitechapel, and told him she would see into it. He then came out of his office and caught hold of her by the two hands, and she said, "Do not strike me." He struck her on the shoulder, pushed her against the partition, and violently pushed his knee against the left side of her stomach. She told him she was near her confinement, and asked him not to hurt her; but he hurt her very much. A policeman was then sent for, and she went away. She had been under the treatment of Mr. May, a surgeon, for the bruise on her stomach; and he was now called, and said that the bruise was more serious as the woman was near her confinement. For the defence, the assault was denied. Alderman Lusk said he had listened very carefully to the case, and, after making due allowance for the provocation on the one side and the other, he could not come to any other conclusion than that the defendant had used more [-371-] violence than was necessary. He did at last that which he should have done at first-sent for a constable. He should remember that when starving people came for relief they might be irritable and annoying; but an officer should be above such feelings, and should not give way to his temper. He fined him 40s. and costs, or in default fourteen days' imprisonment. The fine and costs were paid.'
This is not the first time within a very short period that a relieving-officer at this union has been accused, and, if not sentenced at the police-court, at least convicted before public opinion, of brutality in dealing with the poor who seek the scanty aid of which the 'board' are the almoners. But what do we learn by turning to another part of the newspaper, where there is a paragraph under that fearful heading, 'Starvation in the Metropolis'? The capitals are of course my own, and I would print them on the workhouse wall if I could.
'Yesterday Mr. Humphreys held five inquests upon the bodies of persons who expired from destitution. One was held at the vestry-hall, Cable-street, St. George's- in-the-East, on the body of John White, a coalwhipper, AGED SEVENTY-TWO. Mary White, of 39 Devonshire-street, deposed that the deceased was her husband. On Tuesday last he, witness, their grown-up daughter aged 22, and their son aged 12, became destitute, and her husband applied for relief at the workhouse. He was sent into the labour-yard, where he earned FOR THE WHOLE DAY'S WORK TWOPENCE AND 3 lbs. OF BREAD, and he continued that work, receiving the same pay, until Friday.
[-372-] On Saturday he said, "Mary, I am done for;" and he shortly after died. Witness believed that her husband died from destitution. The relieving-officer put the labour-book in in evidence; and the coroner, after examining it, said, "I do not like the look of this book. There are in it over 100 names, and the only name that has the age opposite it is that of the deceased." James Verdent, a pauper, stated that shortly before the deceased expired he said to him, "I was exposed to the cold in the open air while I was at work in the stone-yard." Dr. Whitmore, medical officer of health for Holborn, stated that the body of the deceased was very emaciated. He died from peritonitis, caused by an ulcer in the stomach. A man in the emaciated condition that the deceased was ought not to have been placed to pick oakum in any open yard. The jury, after a very long consultation, returned a verdict of "Natural death; and we request the coroner to write to the board of guardians, requesting them to cover over places where men are put to labour during severe weather. "'
It will perhaps be denied that all the cases reported are genuine, or that the circumstances are not capable of some more favourable explanation. Such a declaration would scarcely affect the main issue. There cannot be a conspiracy on the part of the whole temporarily destitute, as well as on that of the pauper community, to promote false accusations; so that every day brings its addition to the revelations of Poor-law mismanagement, parochial cruelty, and official imbecility. If there were no other evidence, the proceedings at such a board [-373-] as that of St. Pancras would be sufficient warrant to regard some of the proceedings of 'local self-government' as outrages of public decency.
But the confusion in which the whole operation of the poor-laws seems to be involved makes the administration of relief a puzzle; and not only benevolent persons desirous of helping the poor, but guardians amenable to sentiments of pity, and even magistrates and unpaid justices at county sessions, are at a loss to know what to do to discover some method by which they may proceed. It is not very long ago (and this shall be my last direct illustration) that, at the Dewsbury Sessions, an old man, whose wretched and de pressed appearance was obviously to be attributed to distress and the want of sufficient food, was placed in the dock under the Vagrancy Act, and charged, that he, having no visible means of subsistence, had that morning been found in an enclosed place for an unlawful purpose.
This is the legal phraseology, which may mean - and frequently does mean - that the prisoner, being utterly destitute, sick, and starving, and unable to obtain work, or even to do work if he could get any one to give him any, has, in defiance of our humane and Christian laws, crawled into some place where he may obtain a few hours' shelter, lose the sense of his memory in sleep, or quietly die, that he may no longer provoke boards of guardians, county magistrates, and professed philanthropists with the spectacle of a helpless and despairing human being.
[-374-] The miserable old creature in question was asked by his masters what he had to say for himself; and had very little indeed to say. What he did say was, that he was too old and too weak to work; a statement, the latter part of which was confirmed by the police-officer who took him in custody, and had to let him lean against the walls now and then as they went along to the station-house.
For five-and-twenty years this poor old feeble starving man had lived in Lepton till his daughters got married, and were so burdened with the necessity for supporting their own children, that they could do nothing for him when he had no longer any hope of keeping a home over his head. He had then applied to be taken into the Golcar Workhouse.
The last provision for the destitute, designed by the laws of the country for the relief and succour of the poor, was granted to this broken-down old pauper until it pleased the board of guardians (of which one of the justices appears to have been the chairman) to turn him out, on the ground that he was able to work and get a living for himself.
He was too weak to work, if anybody would have found him work to do, at threescore-and-four years old; and so he wandered hopelessly away and subsisted as he best could, keeping life and soul together on such chance scraps of food as he could beg on the way, and resting at night wherever he could find an unnoticed corner in which to hide his poor old head.
? It was after a lucky discovery of this kind that he [-375-] was taken into custody; lie had crawled into a glass-works at Thornhill Lees, and there, on a board not far from the warmth of a furnace where bottles were made, slept the sleep of the persecuted until the constable in the course of his early round came upon him, and learnt, not only that he had nowhere to go, but that he was nearly dying of hunger - two conditions which the laws of this country cannot be supposed to tolerate.
Now, I venture no opinion on the decision of the court on this case; I only record the facts according to the report which, I may remark in passing, makes no mention of any strictures passed by the learned bench upon the conduct of the Golcar Workhouse officials.
The justices consulted together, whispered, nodded, agreed, and said that they should commit the accused - the miserable pauper who had offended against the law by being old and destitute - and send him to prison for three weeks, because they thought it would be the truest charity.
'O, don't send me to prison!' said the poor old man, evidently confused, and thinking, in his innocence that the House of Correction at Wakefield was a place either more degrading or more penal in its character than Golcar Workhouse. 'Don't send me to prison!' Stand down!' said the constable shortly; and who can wonder at his shortness of temper with such a ridiculous old pauper, who hadn't learnt in all his sixty-four years' experience that what the learned justices said was true, and that the best place to which to send the starving and exhausted vagrant, who had been refused the aid [-376-] supposed by a legal fiction to be provided for him, was the county gaol? I know not what may be the interior arrangements of the Wakefield House of Correction; I ardently hope that it is conducted on the principle which seeks not revenge on, but a reformation of, the prisoner whenever such a result seems reasonable. I ardently trust that the old man who was left to starve and die until the law humanely stepped in and saved him under the Vagrancy Act, by committing him to a criminal prison - regained some little strength in the gaol infirmary, and recovered to bless the Dewsbury justices; but can we forbear wondering what power is vested in the Poor-law Board, and whether local bodies are not only above public opinion, but are absolutely irresponsible to the law itself?
These, then, are the references which we meet with every day; and they are but indicative of a dozen forms of that cruelty with which the relief of poverty is associated. Of course, whenever these matters are brought forward, the officials fall back on allusions to the ruffianism of the casual, and the impossibility of regarding 'these sort of people' as possessing the ordinary feelings of humanity; but it is not the casual pauper who fares worst, it is the suddenly stricken, the destitute, the poor who hide their poverty to the last, all of whom are subject to the degradation that is constantly made to accompany the claim that the law professes to give them; a degradation so deep, that even the prison brand is little more repulsive.
Not a week ago a poor woman carrying an infant [-377-] was brought before a London police-magistrate. She was destitute, but had refused to remain in the work-house where she sought admittance, because they insisted, as a condition of her reception, that she should be separated from her baby of eleven months old. His honour was able to do no more than to express an opinion that the child was too young to be entirely separated from its mother, and to urge the woman to return; he had no power over the parish officials and their arbitrary rules. Well, yes, he had one alternative. On the poor mother steadily refusing to return and relinquish the child, he informed her that he should be compelled to commit her to prison.
'I would rather go to prison than give up my baby,' was the reply. And to prison she went, where it is very likely that both she and the child are better off than they would have been in the workhouse.
'And that's what she meant to do all along - to stick to the child and so get off work; and that's where it is, if they knew they'd get sent to prison, half of 'em would do the same.' This is the sort of sneering comment that a parochial official would probably make on the case. Let the sneer stand. Two things at least are obvious: that, in many instances, the gaol is at a premium as against the hateful oppression and neglect of the union; and that any woman who had read the reports of inquests on the bodies of children, the inmates of the infant-wards of workhouses, would have a right to refuse to deliver up her own little one to the paternity of the parish.
[-378-] But let us turn to the consideration of pauperdom, apart from its accompanying brutalities. What is the actual condition of the metropolis, with regard to the number of those destitute poor who receive some degree, but too frequently an altogether insufficient amount, of out-door relief, compared with that of the chronic pauper, who returns again and again to the union whenever it suits his idle convenience, and has from these recurrent visits come to be called 'the casual'?
On the 1st of January this year there were 127,588 'out-door paupers' receiving relief in the metropolis; or, deducting 6,240 lunatics and 286 vagrants, 121,012 poor, sick, or destitute persons receiving assistance in the shape of small allowances of food, with or without money; such allowances varying from a loaf or two of bread to bread and meat with a little tea and sugar, or bread with a small sum of money - a shilling or two shillings a-week. It must be remembered, however, that the larger amount of assistance is given only where there are several in family; so that the returns - including the children of widows, and of women without support from their husbands - only represent a very small amount of relief per head.
From these returns, however, we gather the reassuring intelligence that the pressure of idle pauperism on out-door relief must be so small as to be scarcely perceptible. So far, then, this is in favour of an out-door system altogether; retaining the workhouses only for such inmates as are both helpless and destitute; mostly [-379-] indeed for the aged, the infirm, and for persons temporarily prostrated with sickness, and therefore infirmary patients. For orphan pauper children of the parish it has been already discovered that the separate schools are far more advantageous in every respect than the inclusion of young boys and girls in the barrack-like buildings to which the adult chronic paupers are consigned.
These considerations inevitably lead us to hope for a time when education in these as well as in other schools for poor children will have done its own work; when in the trunk of the Great City there will have been a new graft sprung, so that ignorance and crime having been cut off at the cankered bud, pauperism will not long remain; for pauperism, in one of the senses in which we now use it, will then be a crime, and will meet with reformatory punishment. The aged, the sick, and the temporarily destitute will be permanently or temporarily aided; the merely lazy, the chronic slow-blooded pauper, will have the heaviest punishment that can be inflicted on him - that is to say, he will be made to work; while the incidental pauper, from misfortune, will not be known by that name; he will be regarded as a worker who has fallen out of gear, and will be restored to his right place by having such work as he can do found for him, that he may not perish of want before he can get back again into his place in the social machine.
But to return to uninviting yet suggestive figures:
Of these 121,012 destitute and sick persons relieved on the 1st of January, there were 8,394 men, 24,917 [-380-] women, whose plea for aid was that of old age or permanent disability to labour for their own entire support, and on these 4,199 children were dependent; so that 37,510 persons, or about 30 per cent of the whole, came under this class.
Of widows there were 9,968, with 23,928 children dependent on them, making 33,896, or 28 per cent of the whole. Of wives deserted by their husbands, 1,003, with 2,617 children, amounting together to 3,620, or 3 per cent.
Of men relieved on account of their own sickness there were 4,010; and of those who applied for and received aid on account of the sickness of a member of their family or a funeral, 1,267; while the number of those who were in want because they could not obtain work was 4,599. It will be seen how great was the necessity in these cases, by the fact that there were dependent on these three classes, 8,464 wives and 22,861 children, or 31,325 persons; making a total of 41,201 persons relieved, or above 33 per cent of the full number. How small the relief was in some cases, however, may easily be estimated by any one who will take the trouble to examine the lists printed for the parochial authorities; and in some cases it amounted to little more than the advice and medicine of the parish doctor.
The remaining number of applicants relieved consisted of 462 unmarried women, on whom were dependent 886 children; 310 wives of prisoners, with 867 children; 108 wives of soldiers and sailors, with [-381-] 271 children; 911 orphan children; 970 single women - a remarkably small proportion, showing the energy and endurance of women, as do the figures representing the women who have the charge of children, to whom a very little help - even half-a-crown a-week - is often enough to keep them striving on; whereas, to withhold such aid is at once to force them into the union, where they are separated from those for whose sake they willingly work, and where the whole family is reduced at once to absolute pauperism, a burden on the rates. The present mode of out-door relief is too often the minimum of a minimum; and a judicious liberality would; by rendering more effectual help, quickly redeem the temporarily sorrowing and afflicted from the ranks of pauperism altogether.
For what is a pauper?
There is no practical answer to this inquiry; since, while the Poor-law declares that utter destitution is the only acknowledged claim to relief, it becomes necessary to define what is understood by the words. Is a human being to be regarded as utterly destitute only when death from starvation is imminent, or is the point reached when the last penny is expended? The latter conclusion would, in the majority of cases, be almost synonymous with the former; as anybody may know who is acquainted with the long period of comparative starvation undergone by the decent poor before they will submit to the conditions often imposed on them in order to make them declared paupers. If we abandon this hard and almost inhuman interpretation, we have [-382-] yet to fix on the degree of destitution which shall be recognised as a claim to out-door relief; and also on the minimum amount of assistance which shall be effectual, by its insufficiency, in driving the temporarily distressed to absolute, instead of comparative, pauperism; or, by its adequate and judicious application, in lifting them out of their immediate difficulties and enabling them to regain a position of self-support.
It surely needs no elaborate argument to show that what is now called 'the labour test' is totally inapplicable to this class of poor distressed persons. The stone-yard and oakum-shed may be useful institutions when they are designed as wholesome discipline to the indolent vagrant or the sturdy beggar; they may even have some appreciable effect, as a kind of penal reminder to the 'tramp' - so long as we do not mean by 'tramp' a workman or labourer who can show that he is on a journey to seek employment, with a reasonable hope of obtaining it; but what can he the use of inflicting on an unfortunate and comparatively destitute mechanic the torture of unaccustomed labour, at which he cannot, by the utmost exertion, earn even the bare bread that he needs for his starving wife and little ones?
Of course, as a partial reply to this, another question will be asked: would you, then, make the Government, through the Poor-law Board, manufacturers and employers of labour, to the detriment of the regular labour-market?
This question asks too much at once, inasmuch as it presupposes its second clause.
[-383-] Why should the Government not be an employer of labour, in this as well as in other departments? And why should the honest but unfortunate, or even improvident, and therefore destitute, poor, be worse off than the convicted criminal, in this as well as in other respects? The work done in prisons is intended not only to produce something in support of the felons undergoing punishment, but to restore them, if possible, to that position in the commonwealth which they have forfeited, or which they were never able to achieve. Surely, if a thief is a human being out of social and moral relation with his fellows, a destitute and starving father of a destitute and starving family is scarcely less so; and the main question must ultimately be, - not how are we to continue to support the life of such a man and such a family at the smallest possible continued expense, but what are the best, because the readiest, means to restore them to their place in the social economy? It would probably be found that the national loss, even from the competition of what is called a Government employment of labour, with ordinary markets, would be far less than from the heavy burden of taxation that is now sustained for the purpose of an altogether ineffectual relief of the poor. But the labour need not be of such a character, nor offer such advantages, as to be an inducement for even destitute persons to seek it for any longer period than will suffice to tide over their present difficulties; nor need it include many industries. It might be adapted to the principle, acknowledged by us all in our best moments, [-384-] that no man should be punished for his misfortunes; and that in recognising the rule of Christian faith and practice, we are bound to extend to our neighbour such aid as may be needed to make him a worker in the community of which he forms a part. If, when the conditions are reasonably adapted to the end, he should refuse them, and claim to live on the labour of others, his refusal would become a social crime, the remedy for which would be not merely restorative, but penal work, yielding him only a bare subsistence.
I do not underrate the difficulties that would beset the entire subject on any attempt to reduce such a plan to practice; but the theoretical obstacles are augmented by our obstinately regarding the 'Government' or the 'State' as an abstraction, instead of the machinery by which the nation, the whole social community, carries on its operations. As representative government advances, the 'State' will come more and more to mean the nation; and the 'Government' the national will, as represented by a deliberative assembly intrusted to express in action the moral as well as the legal obligations of the people in relation to each other.
Now how have the oppressive and degrading conditions imposed on the poor who sought relief operated to increase the general amount of pauperism? In a word, how have paupers been made?
The answer may be discovered by referring to the condition of that 'East-end' of the Great City of which we have heard so much. For years the public had been shocked, as they may be yet again, by recurrent reports [-385-] of the treatment of the destitute poor by relieving-officers, and by the accounts of defiant guardians, to whom Poor-law Board recommendations were but, subjects of coarse merriment. For years the dens and byways of those foul neighbourhoods had been breeding pestilence, to add to the famine-fever that was almost chronic in the district. Then there came a period of epidemic, a newspaper inquiry, special articles written by visiting leader-writers, and an official interference which just served to stir the surface but left some of the deep stagnant pools of mismanagement to settle down again.
However, public feeling was aroused; it was evident that there was a large amount of want, and that it was fruitless to hope in the Government department that had been established to relieve it. The poor were starving in the very streets, as well as in the foul and rotting tenements, or the bare and filthy rooms where they had crawled to die. Following this was the want of employment in that part of the East-end where fairly-paid labour had previously been more abundant. The decline in the ship-building trade, and the influence of the strikes in sending what trade there was to the Clyde and other dockyards, brought Poplar, Shadwell, and all that neighbourhood to want. For a time the Poor-law machinery broke down utterly, and such had become its reputation everywhere that very few people believed in its power of reorganisation. On every hand charitable aid was solicited and obtained; subscriptions flowed in; a dozen different and disconnected agencies [-386-] began to distribute indiscriminate alms; there was at once an immigration of actual pauperism to participate in these benefits, while the worst class of the poorer population became demoralised. Even where an influential committee for relieving the 'East-end Distress' was formed - and it was hoped that it would be able to absorb and include in its own very complete organisation other less regular efforts - it was discovered that the mischief of this indiscriminating endeavour to undo the evils originally wrought by inadequate and oppressive Poor-law regulations, was too widely spread to make any such temporary organisation for poor relief effectual.
In other East-end parishes the result was little less deplorable. As is usual, the least worthy of the poor - the chronic paupers and idle cadgers who were ready to push to the front, and to run the gauntlet of half-a-dozen separate and independent 'charities,' for the sake of obtaining something from each - made a profitable trade. of waiting on the almoners of the public money; and even now the artful applicant, who has acquired the conventional whine and the humble tone, and has also learnt where he may apply to benevolent persons at the West-end on behalf of the poverty-stricken East, will be very likely to 'make two or three shillings pretty easy;' while cadgers who have filled their wallets with contributions of broken victuals, or food given to be taken home, may sometimes be seen by the initiated visitor to Wentworth-street and some other places 'down Whitechapel way,' selling to the really poor the meals which they have obtained in the name of charity. It is [-387-] when the reaction comes that the flood of pauperism breaks over all official boundaries, and the parochial system once more finds itself unable to cope with the demands of the poverty that it has created that under the present irresponsible system, the formation of a pauper population goes on as surely as, by the ebb and flow of the sea, the chalk-cliffs are washed away on one coast, while on the other the long stretch of sand and shingle is left, a landmark of the tides of past years.
The shameful spectacle of groups, and in many instances of crowds, of houseless, starving, and half-naked creatures huddled about the doors of workhouse wards, to which they had been refused admission in direct defiance of legislation specially declaring that there should be accommodation for the casual pauper who applied for food and shelter, led to the establishment of night-refuges. 'The casual,' in our present acceptation of the term, was scarcely distinguished then from the ordinary destitute poor. The wards were intended for his accommodation only, and the 'general public' of distress were not supposed to have any claim till it was established in their own various settlements. There was no time to dispute; while boards and committees were squabbling and vilifying each other, the poor were perishing; and so, among other efforts of the same kind, which had already been for some years carrying on their useful efforts,
[-388-] NEWPORT-MARKET REFUGE
was established as a means of receiving houseless and starving
creatures left to roam the streets, or to crouch for shelter in some deserted
doorway out of the beat of the policeman, who, if he were charitably inclined,
must have wished that they would in some way come under the criminal instead of
the poor-law, as the only way of attracting attention and obtaining succour.
I make this Refuge my example not because it is the only institution of the kind, or the earliest, or even because it is in everything superior to several others in various parts of London, but because it well represents what it was intended to effect, and has sustained its first reputation by adapting its provisions to those cases for which it was designed - the destitute and starving poor in need of temporary food and shelter, and not the 'casual pauper' of to-day, that is to say, the regular tramp, the professional mendicant, and the relentless cadger, who does well on eleemosynary meals, and wears warm duds beneath his rags in cold weather.
I have already referred to the institution in Newport Market as one of a number of connected, but not identically associated, charities in the same district. Its industrial school for boys is a part of its internal economy; but all that part of the building originally devoted to the purpose of a nightly shelter for the houseless is held [-389-] for its original purpose, and indeed considerable additions have been made to it.
Now for some time past great doubt has been expressed as to the continued necessity for such institutions; one daily newspaper has even gone so far as to publish an article on the 'Mischief of Night-refuges,' entirely based on the groundless assumption that the 'Houseless Poor Act of 1864' - the demands of which It have not yet been carried out or enforced-rendered any other provision than the casual wards which were ordered to be built or enlarged altogether unnecessary. Not only does the writer of that article (and most of those who so regard the question) ignore the fact that there has been no legislation yet devised which will immediately compel parochial authorities, but also that the regulations which exact from the applicant a labour payment in exchange for casual food and shelter, are calculated to make paupers of those who are temporarily distressed, but who would be able to find employment if they could obtain a little relief while seeking it. It is obvious surely that the workhouse labour-test, which detains a casual inmate until nearly noon on the day following his night's lodging, deprives him of his best, if not his only, chance of obtaining work elsewhere. When he can get out to look for a job it is too late. The day's engagements are made, and he is compelled to return to the casual ward to repeat the same process until hope dies within him, and he is made into a pauper against his will.
Now to the idle scoundrel who is a chronic pauper, [-390-] except when he can avail himself of some lucky chance by cadging or theft, the workhouse bread and hot gruel, the bed of the casual shed, and the labour over which he can dawdle away the morning, are no great hardships, and as he is pretty well known by the officials, or at all events by the attendant police at the Refuges, he has very little chance, even if he has the opportunity, of defeating the real objects of these institutions. Of course it is not difficult to prove that when the Refuges were opened, after the Houseless Poor Act of 1864,. the numbers in the casual wards diminished; but before any real argument against the Refuges themselves can be based on such evidence, it is necessary to show that the decrease in the numbers arose from the defection of the idle and the vicious, and not from the happy recognition, by those who desired to work, of such temporary aid as would leave them a chance of restoration to self-support, and would even assist them in finding employment.
This Refuge may be said to have been established by the influence, or I should better say by the personal exertions, of Mrs. Gladstone; who, recognising the deep necessity of the poverty-stricken district around Seven Dials, set about providing some remedy against the misery that every winter night brought to the houseless. It begun, as most of these Labours of Love do begin, in the establishment of a 'Mission;' and so, as a necessary adjunct, there was formed a refuge for the most destitute; first for six, then for twelve, and afterwards for twenty. At last Mrs. Gladstone obtained enough money to enable the committee to occupy the old slaughter-[-391-]house of Newport Market, for which they were charged a heavy rent; and where, after very great difficulties in cleansing and repairing, they divided the premises into large whitewashed wards or rooms, and opened them under the earnest superintendence of the Rev. J. Williams, at that time the incumbent of the parish of St. Mary. It was at this period that I first made acquaintance with the institution, and it was indeed a Labour of Love that required the noble self-sacrifice of earnest men and women who had devoted themselves to the work. Mr. Williams himself was almost nightly in the streets, rescuing from suffering, or even from death by hunger and exposure, the rejected of casual wards, or the hopeless wanderers who knew not where to go for relief in their last extremity. In this he was especially aided by 'sisters,' who - by means of the special dress they wore, a dress not unlike that of the Roman-catholic Sisters of Charity-were enabled to go about in the most depraved neighbourhoods without being molested, and with a .recognition of their benevolent purpose. The work was arduous; and, under the constant exposure, not only to cold and wet, but to the influences of the vitiated atmosphere in which so much of her time had to be passed, the health of the superintending sister at first gave way; and Mr. Williams himself was smitten down with fever, and lay long in a precarious condition. Happily the sister recovered on her removal to East Grinstead, and Mr. Williams resumed his duties, to bring the Refuge to more complete organisation before he became vicar of Beaumaris, whence he comes occa-[-392-]sionally to visit the old Home for the Homeless, in which he takes a constant interest.
It is now less necessary to seek the houseless creatures who become the inmates of this Refuge, for the place is well known; and subscribers or visitors who apply for them are furnished with printed tickets, entitling those to whom they may give them to a night's shelter, with a supper and breakfast.
No visitor who stands at the entrance to the building where the applicants are admitted can fail to see that they are not cases for the casual ward. Just as in some other institutions the pain of the spectacle is the degraded poverty of those who seek aid, the most affecting element at Newport Market is utter destitution, without that accustomed degradation which would find a fitting resource at the workhouse-door. There are broken-down men and women. Old men beaten in the battle of life and full of present sorrow; young men who, having eaten of the husks, seek yet another opportunity of arising in a better mind; men of middle age, not altogether hopeless, but crushed for the present, and with sore need of the sound of a kindly voice, the touch of a friendly hand. Women who have lost youth and worldly hope together; women who come dazed with want and the bitter dregs of that draught that they have drunk to the very lees; women who, more weak than wicked, seek some stay for their wandering souls; women worn with ill-paid labour, and almost despairing for want of rest and food while they can seek better employment. Men and women who, if they [-393-] could but secure a few days ' -say a week's-lodging, with just a mouthful of bread while they sought for work, would go forth with fresh hope, and would 'thank God and take courage' till they found what they sought.
In that large clean kitchen is this mouthful of bread, and more - there is occasional soup for the nightly supper; and when there is no soup, the bread is supplemented with hot cocoa or coffee. O, that sweet nutritious cheering draught, which makes the hunch of bread into a goodly meal, and converts the clean wooden bunk with its covering of rugs into a cosy bed to those who have long been without soft lying! Even as we stand aside and see the poor creatures come in, we can trace in many of their marred faces a refinement which makes them half ashamed. They need not be; for there are gentlemen here who, with a true manly instinct, know how to take poverty by the hand without offensive patronage. And herein Newport-Market Refuge is fortunate; for among its constant visitors are those whose social influence can often supply the most pressing needs of individual cases, by letters for admission to hospitals, reformatories, or other institutions, or even by obtaining employment for applicants who are all the more pitiable because they are 'above the common.'
Even as I speak to one or two of the latest corners, who have passed the policemen and the keen-eyed door-keeper with his entry-book of new cases, a fine tall man, whose bearing shows him to have been a soldier, but whose grizzled hair and beard proclaim that he has had his discharge, comes in cap in hand, and in an-[-394-]swer to some inquiry is directed to speak to Mr. J. A. Shaw-Stewart, the chairman of the charity, who is present. In a few seconds the man's papers are examined, two or three searching questions are asked; and as we go out we overhear the direction of the chairman - to keep the applicant for a day or two, in the hope of some situation being found for him. It is this personal interest of its supporters, this direct participation in the work on the part of ladies and gentlemen of position and influence, which happily distinguishes Newport-Market Refuge; just as the calm but cordial presence, the homelike manner, and yet the distinctive dress and mild authority of the 'sister' invites the confidence of many of the poor women, who find in her the sympathy that her official name implies, and at the same time a friend ready and often able to help them in their need, to a change of life.
For the tickets will admit the really deserving nightly for a week, with supper and breakfast of bread and cocoa; and even this time may be extended, should there be reasonable expectations of their obtaining work. To quote the words of the last report, which have about them something suggestive of a pure free atmosphere of loving kindness:
'The mechanic from the north, who finds work slack at home, and who, weary and footsore, accosts the passing policeman, and is directed to Newport Market; the discharged soldier and sailor, who, having snatched at liberty when offered, and foolishly foregone the permanent advantages of reengagement and a pension, often [-395-] find themselves, with constitutions enfeebled and seeds of disease sown by early excess, incapable of hard and continuous labour; the law-writers and young clerks (not perhaps always the most steady in the office), who have been the first victims of an autumn reduction, and whose prospects will brighten after Christmas; the navvy or common labourer, perhaps three or four weeks out of a job, and who will get "taken on again" as the days lengthen ; - these new faces present themselves and are freely admitted; and having a week's lodging before them, with the prospect of extension if the committee see a reasonable chance of their getting work, recommence their search for employment with increased vigour. On the other hand the practised casual or "loafer," whose face and appearance are known to the officials who are brought in nightly contact with them, and to the police, who regularly attend at the hour of admission, are systematically excluded.
The practice is continued of issuing refuge tickets to all who ask for them, whether subscribers or not - entitling the bearer to seven nights' shelter and homely fare - and as the holders of these tickets are admissible after the usual hour of admission, no charitable person need doubt that in bestowing one they are conferring a real favour on the recipient; but it is, perhaps, right to mention that street beggars most rarely present these tickets; it is believed that the rough accommodation, cleanliness, and order of this Refuge do not suit them, and that they go farther and fare better.
'12,990 nights' lodgings and 30,668 rations have [-396-] been granted in 1869, and 307 men and women have obtained employment, or been sent home, through the instrumentality of the Refuge.
'The women's ward has been unusually crowded; it has become a well-known harbour, a sure house of refuge. Many are brought by district-visitors, by visitors in workhouse wards, and by ladies connected with other charities, to be housed temporarily, till some permanent help can be obtained. Many more come unsolicited; frequently to pour out to the sister a weary tale of shame, sorrow, and suffering, and by her large and wise sympathy and unwearied exertions, a locus penitentia is found for them.
' In this manner no less than 180 women during the past year have either been restored to their homes, placed out more or less permanently in penitentiaries, or supplied with situations. Surely by such results, obtained by working cordially with other charitable institutions, we are solving one phase of a great want of the day, "the organisation of charity." '
Among the men who received the benefits of the Refuge last year were 178 labourers of all kinds, 54 painters, 49 clerks, 43 carpenters, 46 discharged soldiers, 42 porters, 31 tailors', 28 grooms, 27 servants, 23 seamen, 18 printers, 18 stablemen, 18 waiters, 16 shoemakers, 11 bakers, 11 bricklayers, and about 330 of various other mechanical trades.
Among the women were 202 servants, 84 charwomen, 55 cooks, 57 laundresses, 37 wives of labourers, 86 tailoresses, 32 needlewomen, 19 shirtmakers, 12 seam-[-397-]stresses, 12 nurses, 12 portresses, 12 factory girls, 12 ironers, 13 hawkers, 11 field-labourers, 11 artificial-flower makers, 10 governesses; and 108 belonging to other employments, including 5 teachers and 2 actresses.
With these women there were also 67 children who participated in the benefits of the institution.
I have alluded to the Refuges already established before the failure of the Houseless Poor Act; and in speaking of these I cannot omit some reference to that which has just published its fiftieth report, namely, the Institution for the Houseless Poor in Playhouse-yard. This is one of the most remarkable institutions in London; and since it is situated in that foul neighbourhood near Chequer-alley, of which I have already said something, it has few visitors except those who go to claim the nightly shelter and the half-pound of bread, which is all that is granted in the way of relief. A pleasant gossipping magazine-paper might be written about Playhouse-yard and the theatre from which it derived its name, where children were trained as actors, and afterwards taken to perform parts at the King's Theatre. Any touch of romantic association that might be supposed to linger about the place, however, has vanished long ago. The yard itself, turning out of Whitecross-street, is, if possible, more sordid even than the neighbourhood of which it is the fitting representative; and with a wide experience of 'low London,' I think I never saw a more painfully-suggestive crowd than that which waited outside the door of that blank building, on the cold drizzly afternoon when I recently called there to [-398-] make inquiries. I cannot deny, however, that the crowd consisted of those individuals for whom the provisions of the institution seem to be especially designed. The very lowest class of poverty - the representatives of sheer destitution - made up the 350 men and the 150 women who were to occupy the wards that night.
I call them 'wards' for want of another name; but they bear but little resemblance to the large and airy, but comfortable, apartments with which that term is usually associated. The building itself was formerly a floor-cloth manufactory; and here on the ground-floor the roof rises far overhead, while the great space is divided only by a kind of platform rising some five feet above the ground, and reached by a short flight of steps. Above this again is a staircase leading to an enclosed room, warmed by a pipe-stove, for the reception of infirm applicants, or those suffering from colds and coughs, while a similar room, with a side-slip or supplementary gallery, receives the women; the latter being devoted to those who have infants, while the platform on the ground-floor is intended for boys. There is a strange sense of chill on first entering this place, not because it is really cold, but on account of its great size and the bare space, which is scarcely broken by any object that can serve to arrest attention. Emptiness is the great peculiarity; and this is scarcely relieved by the long row of wooden bunks upon the floor, so close together that they are only divided by the thickness of the wood that forms their sides, and might be so many orange-chests stowed in warehouse, if they did [-399-] not look more like a row of coffins ranged in a vast vault - a fancy which is promoted by the black waterproof- covered mattress lying on each, and the sheet of wash-leather (the only coverlet) which hangs in stiff and yet shrunken folds from a nail in the wall at the head of every berth.
It is little wonder that just outside the door a baked-potato can, which adds to its regular trade a supplementary kettle of stewed eels or hot pea-soup, should find customers among those 500 destitute creatures, some of whom may have contrived to secure a penny to buy some taste of warming food to prepare them for the half-pound of bread, wholesome, but dry and difficult to swallow, in the dead faintness of hunger. I do not intend to call the wisdom of the arrangements in question; for the professed intention of the charity is to afford nightly shelter and assistance to those only who are really houseless and destitute, during inclement winter seasons, and the consequent suspension of outdoor work. To fulfil this intention, it is provided that an asylum shall be open and available at all hours of the night, without the need, on the part of the applicant, of a ticket or any other passport but his or her own statement of helpless necessity.
But in order to limit the relief to the really house-less, this has been confined to bread (in a sufficiency to sustain nature), shelter, and the means of rest.
Those admitted on Saturday evening are permitted to quit the asylum on Sunday morning, and apply for readmission on Sunday evening, or may remain [-400-] in the asylum until Monday morning. On Sunday Divine service is performed by a clergyman of the Church of England, who occupies a desk on the edge of the platform on the lower floor. No other minister than the appointed clergyman is permitted to address the inmates in the asylum. In the course of Sunday, an additional ration of half a pound of bread, with three ounces of cheese, is given to each inmate who remains there for the day.
This, then, is a mere record of what is being done in a building only opened during the severe nights of winter - a building that will soon cease to hold its present character, since the association will celebrate its jubilee year by opening a larger structure, now being erected for the purpose of a refuge in Banner-street, not very far from Playhouse-yard itself. The committee of the institution, whose office is at 75 Old Broad-street, will probably require extra contributions to meet this fresh effort; but these will doubtless be obtained without any check to the operations next winter (even should it be a severe one), since this old-established charity has been so endowed as to have assets in trust to the amount of nearly 20,000l.; while last year's subscriptions amounted only to 351l., and the expenses to some 1,400l.
Twenty-eight years ago 'Field-lane' was
the name for a district which was regarded as the haunt of some of the most
desperate inhabitants of the Great City. So [-401-] ignorant, so steeped in
poverty and vice, so lawless were these people, that even police-officers would
not go alone to some of the courts and alleys where they lived. The place was a
terror to London; and close to the main thoroughfare of Holborn a rogues' fair
was held, where stolen handkerchiefs fluttered at the shop-doors, and every
other house was the resort of thieves, mendicants, and cadgers, who held their
orgies there in the days when there really were thieves' kitchens, and Mr. Fagin
held his own in a den where no officer dare claim admission unaided by an armed
At that time, or soon afterwards, a few earnest Christian people secured a room in one of these courts, and induced a few young children to attend a school there. The improvement in the appearance and behaviour of these little neophytes checked the opposition even of the rough people about them; and the work went on, growing in the estimation of the poor by whom it was surrounded, till it became necessary to extend it; and the leaven that began in that single room soon exerted a wide and lasting influence on the whole lump of the hitherto wretched and lawless neighbourhood. In the course of years, the recognition given to this successful effort enabled the committee to build a refuge and infant-schools, in which they laboured successfully till 1866, when their premises were required by the Corporation. They at once purchased a piece of land on Saffron-hill, and erected a large building on a site popularly supposed to be that of the house of the famous Jonathan Wild; and it is rumoured that por-[-402-]tions of a human skeleton were discovered in digging the foundations. Whatever evil influences may have been associated with the place, however, were exorcised long ago. On the 15th of June 1865 Lord Shaftesbury laid the foundation-stone of the present Field-lane Refuge, and the following statement was made on the occasion:
'The building, fittings, and expenses under contract involve an outlay of 10,000l., and when complete will carry out the following operations: Free day-schools for the accommodation of one thousand children; night-schools for boys in situations; a free library and reading-room for lads after working hours; tailoring and shoemaking industrial classes; night-school for elder girls at work during the day; elder girls' industrial classes; mothers' sewing class ; clothing club for mothers and children; maternal department; penny bank (six hundred depositors); baths and wash-houses for the homeless; Bible schools (eighty-four voluntary teachers); ragged church (present attendance, three hundred to five hundred); Lord's-day evening service for parents; male refuge to accommodate eighty persons; female refuge to accommodate ninety persons; training home for thirty servants.
'Over ten thousand persons annually share some of the benefits of the institution, out of which, on an average, one thousand seven hundred are placed in a position to earn their daily bread, the whole cost only averages 2,600l.
'Since the first opening of the institution in 1842, [-403-] and during the twenty-three years that have elapsed, 955 children have been instructed in the infant-schools; 8,953 have been instructed in the day-schools, of whom 3,079 have been placed in situations; 3,850 have been instructed in the evening schools; 9,000 in the refuge evening classes; 3,930 in the tailoring and shoemaking classes; 812 girls in the night-school ; 2,100 girls in the industrial classes; 670 have been taught in the mothers' sewing class; 8,500 garments have been made by the children for the clothing society; 900 prizes given to the children remaining in places over twelve months; 3,000 depositors in the penny bank; 111,832 men, boys, women, and girls have passed through the refuges, 10,747 of whom have been provided with situations or work. The greater majority of these have attended the Bible-schools and ragged-school church-services on the Lord's-day, to instruct in which there are 93 voluntary teachers.'
So thoroughly has this noble establishment carried on its extended work of usefulness, that it includes within itself examples of almost all those Labours of Love, among the most destitute portion of the community, which have been already noticed with reference to other institutions, - with the additional advantage of having a building constructed for the purpose.
This advantage is seen at once on entering the great wards devoted to the purpose of night-refuges, where, instead of being cramped for space, the unfortunate inmates can sit comfortably at large tables, and on backed benches, to take their bread and cocoa, or even to read [-404-] such books and magazines as are provided for them. The beds here too differ from those previously described, since they consist of strips of sacking stretched on iron struts from the wall, and so form a series of bedsteads about a foot apart, and covered with comfortable rugs. The great height and space of the rooms-the walls of which have been inscribed with texts and mottoes by an ornamental 'writer,' who was for some time an inmate of the institution - give plenty of ventilation, while at the same time an even temperature can be maintained. The day-school, which is at the very top of the building, is a grand room, extending over nearly the whole area, and consists of a boys' and girls' school, which can be divided if necessary.
To begin at the beginning, however. Field-lane has its 'babies' nursery' - a step preliminary even to the infant-school, - where, in one of the large upper rooms, thirty-seven little wide-eyed wondering mites, who are taken care of daily during the winter months, are provided with suitable food and milk.
This feature of the institution arose from the fact that the little girls were formerly allowed to bring a baby sister to school with them, as the only chance of their being able to obtain instruction; but the numbers of baby sisters multiplied, until teaching itself became impossible amidst such a force of infantry; and so special juvenile nurses were told off for the work of minding, and I for one am confident that they do their work well. The way in which one of them attended to the requirements of an infantine nose at the time that she [-405-] was answering my questions, assured me that she at least was fully qualified.
An infant-school, where 140 children in the morning and 147 in the afternoon are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and Scripture lessons, as ,well as those on natural history and common objects, receives the little ones of from three to seven years old, after which age they are transferred to the regular day-school. It should be recorded, however, that during last year the infants paid 9l. 8s. 4d. into the clothing club, for which they received 224 garments made by themselves. In fact, the institution at Field-lane is another organisation of charity in a single district, which has been attended with the happiest results, each department being directly associated with the other.
The average attendance in the boys' day-school is 174, and in the girls' school 186. During the year 100 girls left the school to take situations or to follow some employment, and sewing is a part of the regular instruction. Of course the condition of many of the children is often deplorable; but a clothing society formed of several ladies is continually making efforts to provide suitable garments and shoes for these half-naked little ones, the parents paying something towards the cost, and the remaining expense being defrayed by the ladies themselves. Prizes in the shape of articles of clothing for regular attendance have also been given by the visiting superintendent of the schools.
In reference to a subject on which I have previously spoken, I cannot refrain from extracting from the ap-[-406-]peal of the committee the following remarks in reference to gifts of broken or remaining food, or of soup and other nourishment, to such institutions:
'No language can adequately express the amount of good these combined gifts have been the means of conferring upon the poor, not only in adding to their comfort, but, under God, in the preservation of precious lives : were the full amount of blessings thus conferred more generally known, many broken fragments, now literally wasted, would find their way to homes where the gifts would be received with grateful thanks.
'During the past severe winter loss of work compelled many to part with their last piece of furniture and their last garment, and to seek a temporary home in the poor-house or elsewhere, until they could again obtain employment, when new homes had to be made, and the children fresh clad. Many have struggled like giants with low wages, and in spite of temporary loss of work and sickness, to attain that end. Whole courts and alleys have been swept away, and the poor had to turn out and find homes in other still more crowded places. In one house there are fifty-five human beings, nineteen of whom attend the night-school. Many houses have a family in every room, and take a lodger besides.'
Even at the risk of seeming. to recapitulate some Labours of Love already considered in previous pages, I must mention that this wonderfully inclusive charity has a 'night-school for boys in situations,' with 200 names upon the book, and an attendance varying from 70 to about 200, according to the season. From seven [-407-] till nine o'clock these lads assemble on three evenings a-week, and are thus kept out of the streets and receive useful instruction. A similar school, where from 50 to 100 girls are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, is also well supported; while a large industrial class, where 300 girls of from ten to sixteen years old are taught to sew, and to cut out and make their own clothes, is so highly beneficial, that nearly half the class over twelve years of age are now earning their own living in workrooms, domestic service, and other employments, owing to the instruction first imparted to them at the day-schools, and afterwards improved in these classes.
Then there are industrial classes to teach men and boys such tailoring and shoemaking as will enable them to mend their own clothes; a mother's class; a maternity society; and special relief in food, clothing, the loan of blankets, and sometimes in money, to meet some of the various necessities of the poverty-stricken district.
One of the most hopeful departments of this Labour of Love is the servants' training home, for which some of the upper rooms of the great building are appointed. This institution is designed not only to train elder girls for service, but to protect friendless young women who are out of situations. They are placed under religious influences, and during the day they are employed making garments for those going to service, each of whom is provided with an entire change of clothing. When situations are obtained from this room, [-408-] the girls are not allowed to come back, unless on special recommendations from their mistresses. The report says, one great good conferred by the servants' room is the immense number who obtain situations with respectable Christian families. Some of the girls received here are found to have been dismissed peremptorily from service, without a moment's notice, so that they have been almost driven to vicious lives. Others, discharged from hospitals, are allowed to stay for a time, until they become strong enough to work.
During the last official year 96 additional servants were admitted to the training home; of these, and those formerly in the institution, 90 have been provided with outfits and sent to service; 4 restored to their friends; 3 sent to training schools; 10 are now in training; 574 garments have been made; 511 garments given away; 8 girls received prizes for keeping their situations twelve months and upwards.
The younger girls in training are at the time of my visit engaged in so hearty a game in one of the large wards, that I am pleased to be able to record that their activity and general soundness of breath indicate a very fair state of physical strength, and a full appreciation of the liberty to play as well as work. With the youths' institute, already referred to in my account of the 'Working Boys' Club,' I must close a brief sketch of my visit to an established charity, of which the people of this Great City may well thankfully acknowledge the benefits, and acknowledge them too by such gifts as may serve to sustain one or other of the operations [-409-] carried on in that large building on Saffron-hill; gifts of food, or garments, clothes or linen, books or flannel, soup or meal, all such things are daily needs there; and money, too, is needed to keep that vast home full of inmates; to feed the hungry, cover the naked, advise the sad, comfort the sorrowful, and visit the poor and needy in their affliction.
The actual refuge work, which is most to my present purpose, included in the official year:
Strangers received, 8,524; lodgings supplied, 22,407; loaves of bread, 101,747; provided with situations and work, 628; restored to friends, 47; sent from the streets to the industrial schools, 10; sent to other refuges, 30; garments given, 450; admitted to infirmary, 9.
And in the boys' refuge and industrial schools:
Boys admitted under seventeen years of age, 103; sent to industrial schools by the magistrates, 27; sent to sea, 25 ; sent to other refuges, 39; restored to friends and home, 13; sent to infirmary, 6.
Thus 809 men and boys were taken from the streets and provided for by their own exertions.
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