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THE LONDON OMNIBUS MAN.
The Introduction of Omnibuses into London -Their previous Establishment in Paris - The Enterprise of Mr. Shillibeer in starting them in the English Metropolis, the Difficulties he encountered, and his subsequent Ruin - The Frenchified character of the first London Omnibuses - The Paris and London Omnibuses of the present day compared - The constant Litigation between the Proprietors of London Omnibuses, after Mr. Shillibeer's Failure - The consequent Establishment of large Omnibus Companies for the sake of mutual protection - The immense Amount of the Capital and Annual Expenditure of the London Omnibus Trade - The vast Sums spent by the London Population in Omnibus Riding - The large Amount of Revenue which London Omnibuses produce to the Government - The very small Number of Omnibuses in the remainder of England, as compared with the Number in London - The almost incredible Length of Distance traversed periodically by the London Omnibuses -The constant Increase of London Omnibuses - The Metropolitan Omnibus Traffic greater, in the Number of Passengers, than the Metropolitan Railway Traffic - Condition of the Omnibus Men - Their present Number - Their Sunday Occupation in the Metropolis of a Professedly Christian Country scarcely less than on Week-days, and sometimes greater - The extreme Amount of Labour imposed on Omnibus Men during the Week - Lord Shaftesbury's Testimony of the Success of an Omnibus Proprietor who discontinued Sunday-work - Testimonies as to the Toil of Omnibus Men (1) from the Early-Closing Association - (2) From an Occasional Paper of Church Pastoral-Aid Society - (3) From Rev. J. T. Baylee's "Statistics and Facts in Reference to the [-199-] Lord's-day - Extract from "Silverpen," as to the Effect on the Wives and Families of Omnibus Servants - Medical Testimony of Dr. Parks, as to the Injury inflicted on Omnibus Men by their Hard Labour - Testimony given to Mr. Mayhew, as to the Severity of the Labour, by a Driver, a Conductor, and a Time-keeper-Their Wages - Temptations to Drink - To Embezzlement - Urgent Appeal as to the Heathenism of so large a Body of Men - Reference to the Efforts of the London City Mission in a Pamphlet entitled, "The Omnibus Men of London" - Recent Efforts of Omnibus Servants themselves to Improve their Condition - Appeal to Proprietors - Speech of Rev. W. B. Mackenzie - "The Grand Junction Omnibus Company" - Extracts from last Annual Reports of Missionaries of London City Mission on their Visits to Omnibus Yards - The Introduction of Omnibuses has brought more together the different Parts of London - Concluding Appeal.
The Introduction of Omnibuses into London, and their previous Establishment in Paris.
TWENTY-FOUR years since, and an omnibus was a thing unknown in the streets of London. The absolutely prodigious and almost incredible traffic which now exists in the use of these vehicles has all sprung up and attained to its present height within this short period of time, in addition to the very extensive and multiplied traffic in metropolitan hackney carriages. Like the cabs, they are of French invention, for we imported their use from the gay city of Paris, while, as with the cabs, we were 10 long years before our strong English prejudices gave way to the use of a convenience, which may almost now be considered, with the Londoner, not as a luxury, but as a necessary of life.
The Enterprise of .Mr. Shillibeer, in starting Omnibuses in the English Metropolis, the Difficulties be encountered, and his subsequent Ruin.
It is somewhat interesting to trace from
its first small commencement what has now become so very important a [-200-]
feature in our metropolitan habits. The early history of these vehicles, and of
the gentleman who first introduced them in this country, is thus given in a
letter of the Special Correspondent, inserted in the "Morning Chronicle" of
September 26, 1850:-
"It was not until July 4, 1829, that Mr. George Shillibeer, now the proprietor of the patent mourning-coaches, started the first omnibus. . . . The first omnibus, or rather the first pair of these vehicles, for Mr. Shillibeer started 2, ran from the Bank to the Yorkshire Stingo. Mr. Shillibeer was a naval officer, and in Isis youth stepped from a midshipman's duties into the business of a coach-builder, learning that business from the late Mr. Hatchet, of Long Acre. Mr. Shillibeer then established himself in business in Paris, as a builder of English carriages, a demand for which had sprung up after the Peace, when the current of English travel was directed strongly to France. In this speculation Mr. Shillibeer was eminently successful. He built carriages for Prince Polignac, and others of the most influential men under the dynasty of the elder branch of the Bourbons, and had a bazaar for the sale of his vehicles. He was thus occupied in Paris, in 1819, when Mr. Lafitte first started the omnibuses which are now in common use, and so well managed, in the French capital. Lafitte was the banker (afterwards the minister) of Louis Philippe, and the most active man in establishing the Messageries Royales. Five or six years after the omnibus had been successfully introduced into Paris, Mr. Shillibeer was employed by Mr. Lafitte to build 2 in a superior style. In executing this order, Mr. Shillibeer thought that ~o comfortable and convenient a mode of conveyance might be advantageously introduced into London. He accordingly disposed of his Parisian establishment, and came to London, and started his omnibuses, as I have narrated. In order that the [-201-] introduction might have every chance of success, and have the full prestige of respectability, Mr. Shillibeer brought over with him from Paris 2 youths, both the sons of British naval officers, and the young gents were for a few weeks his 'conductors.' They were smartly dressed in 'blue cloth and togs,' to use the words of my informant, after the fashion of Mr. Lafitte's conductors, each dress costing 5l. Their addressing any foreigner in French, and the French style of the affair, gave rise to the opinion that Mr. Shillibeer was a Frenchman, and that the English were indebted to a foreigner for the improvement of their vehicular transit; whereas Mr. Shillibeer had served in the British navy, and was born in Tottenham Court-road. His speculation was particularly and at once successful. His 2 vehicles carried each 22, and were filled every journey. The form was that of the present omnibus, but larger and roomier, as the 22 were all accommodated inside, no one being on the outside but the driver. Three horses, yoked abreast, were used to draw these carriages. There were, for many days, until the novelty wore off, crowds assembled to see the omnibuses start; and many ladies and gentlemen took their places in them to the Yorkshire Stingo, in order that they might have the pleasure of riding back again. The fare was 1s. for the whole, and 6d. for half the distance, and each omnibus made 12 journeys to and fro every day. Thus Mr. Shillibeer established a diversity of fares, regulated by distance; a regulation which was afterwards in a great measure abandoned by omnibus proprietors, and then re-established on our present 3d. and 6d. payments, the 'long-uns' and the 'short-uns.' Mr. Shillibeer's receipts were 100l a-week. At first, he provided a few books, chiefly magazines, for the perusal of his customers; but this peripatetic library was discontinued, for the customers (I give the words of my informant) 'boned the books.' When the young-gent conductors retired [-202-] from their posts they were succeeded by persons hired by Mr. Shillibeer, and liberally paid, who were attired in a sort of velvet livery . . . The short-stage proprietors were loud in their railings against what they were pleased to describe as a French innovation. In the course of from six to nine months, Mr. Shillibeer had twelve omnibuses at work. he feels convinced that had he started fifty omnibuses instead of two in the first instance, a fortune might have been realized. In 1831-2, his omnibuses became general in the great street thoroughfares; and as the short stages were run off the road, the proprietors started omnibuses in opposition to Mr. S. The first omnibuses, however, started after Mr. Shillibeer's were not in opposition. They were the Caledonians, and were the property of Mr. Shillibeer's brother-in-law. The third started, which were two-horse vehicles, were foolishly enough called, 'Les Dames Blanches' but as the name gave rise to much low wit, it was abandoned. The original omnibuses were called Shillibeers, from the name of their originator, on the panels; and the name is still prevalent on those conveyances in New York, which affords us another proof that not in his own country is a benefactor honoured, until, perhaps, his death makes honour as little worth as an epitaph. The opposition omnibuses, however, continued to increase, as more and more short stages were abandoned, and one oppositionist called his omnibuses Shillibeers, so that the real and the sham were not known in the streets. The opposition became fiercer. The 'busses,' as they came to he called in a year or two, crossed each other, or raced, or drove their poles recklessly into the back of one another; and accidents, and squabbles, and loitering, grew so frequent, and the time of the police magistrates was so much occupied with 'omnibus business,' that, in 1832, the matter was mentioned in Parliament as a nuisance requiring a remedy; and in 1833 a Bill [-203-] was brought in by the Government, and passed, for the 'regulations of omnibuses,' (as well as other conveyances,) 'in and near the metropolis.' Two sessions after, Mr. Alderman Wood brought in a Bill for 'the better regulation of omnibuses,' which was also passed; and one of the provisions of the Bill was, that the drivers and conductors of omnibuses should be licensed. The office of Registrar of Licenses was promised by a Noble Lord in office to Mr. Shillibeer (as I am informed on good authority), but the appointment was given to the present Commissioner of City Police, and the office next to the principal was offered to Mr. Shillibeer, which that gentleman declined to accept. The reason assigned for not appointing him to the Registrarship was, that he was connected with omnibuses. At the beginning of 1834, Mr. Shillibeer abandoned his metropolis trade, and commenced running omnibuses from London to Greenwich and Woolwich, employing 20 carriages and 120 horses; but the increase of steamers, and the opening of the Greenwich Railway in 1835, affected this trade so materially that Mr. Shillibeer fell into arrears with his payments to the Stamp Office, and seizure of his property, and re-seizures after money was paid, entailed such heavy expenses, and such hinderance to Mr. Shillibeer's business, that his failure ensued. I have been somewhat full in my details of Mr. Shillibeer's career, as his procedures are, in truth, the history of the transit of the metropolis, as regards omnibuses.
The Paris and London Omnibuses of the present day compared.
Although we have copied the French in the extensive use of
omnibuses in the metropolis, it is not very creditable to us that in many
particulars of comfort and convenience with reference to these vehicles, we have
yet to imitate them. It is true, indeed, that in our horses and their
trappings, [-204-] as also in the celerity of their movement, we are superior to
our models; but we are yet without the advantage of the cachet de
correspondance, which shall carry us from almost any one point to any other
point of the metropolis for the six sons, a lower sum than will carry us in
London from one end to the other of almost any direct route of street. We are
also yet without the very great convenience of our neighbours in their bureaux,
or waiting-rooms, at special places in the routes, and the scarcely less
important convenience of admission to the omnibus on its arrival, by the number
of the ticket received in the waiting-room, to denote the priority of the
entrance of the respective passengers there; so that the rude man who comes last
on a wet day does not, as with us, by His obtrusiveness obtain a seat, while
ladies and retiring persons wait in vain for their turn of accommodation. We
seem also most remarkably and obstinately to adhere to the inconvenience
peculiar to ourselves of omnibuses so narrow that the knees of the passengers,
near the door, almost effectually prevent their comrades from entering or
departing, while the hand-rail at the top, to steady us in the difficult
passage, is still omitted, with a prejudice as if it was really hurtful,
although the scanty width of our vehicles, and the English rudeness of our
conductors, who will start before we can possibly reach our seat, render so
small and inexpensive a convenience, so far more important in our vehicles. Nor
have we yet copied the exhibition of the important sign-board of complet, when
the omnibus is full; but we are still left to run after the vehicle, in rain and
mud, while the conductor, with all the independence of a man who can serve no
more customers, scarcely deigns to intimate to us that he has no room remaining,
after we have striven to keep pace with his rapid movement, and to render more
audible our wants than we foolishly supposed, from his silence, we had failed
to do in the first effort we made.
[-205-] Nor, again, with all our eager desire for hurrying onwards in our journeys without delays, and with something more than Paris speed, have we (which is, perhaps, the most remarkable of all,) yet copied the practice of our French friends, so far preferable to our own, of the fare being paid as soon as the passenger is conveniently seated; but with each passenger that alights there is still with us the sometimes very tedious process, especially on a cold day, to be gone through, of fumbling for some stray shilling carefully concealed in some inside pocket, for which, when found, the silver and the copper change have also to be counted out, while all the passengers within are left patiently to wait the completion of the reckoning before they can advance on their journey. Some day, and it is to be hoped at no distant one, we shall probably be wise enough not to stop short in our imitation at the present point. But as we were foolish enough to wait ten years before we would consent to imitate at all the omnibuses of the French metropolis, we seem disposed to wait another thirty years before we are willing to make the arrangement of our omnibuses resemble theirs, when theirs are so manifestly superior.
The constant Litigation between the Proprietors of London Omnibuses after Mr. Shillibeers Failure, and the consequent Establishment of large Omnibus Companies for the sake of Mutual Protection.
The constant litigation, of an expensive character, which attended the early history of London omnibuses, led to the union of numerous small proprietors for mutual protection, and the formation of large and important companies, which, to the present day, prevail to a far greater extent than with cabriolets, though even with the hatter there are both Joint Stock Companies and large proprietors. To the Harp [-206-] Company pertain 50 cabs; to the Baker-street Company, 35. Mrs. Birch, Horseferry-road, is proprietor of 40 cabs; Mr. Mayhew, Great Ormond-yard, of 35; and Mr. Emmett, Webber-street, Mr. Fishier, Lisson-grove North, and Mr. Pittens, of Lisson-grove, have each 50. But there are, nevertheless, a large number of small proprietors, many of whom have only a single cab, a practice which has no parallel in the omnibus trade, although a single omnibus would of course involve a larger capital than a single cab. The largest omnibus proprietor is Mrs. Wilson, of Holloway. She is the proprietor of the "Favourite" omnibuses, which are 56 in number, and her establishment is probably, on the whole, as well regulated as, if not better than, any other which exists. The London Conveyance Company, from Paddington to the Bank, was the second largest establishment, but that was recently sold up, as not paying, after a great many years' almost entire monopoly of the two lines of important road.
The Immense Amount of the Capital and Annual Expenditure of the London Omnibus Trade.
The amount of capital invested in the London omnibus traffic is very great indeed. Each omnibus costs somewhat more than 100l., and it requires to work it 10 horses, which, at 20l. each, is 200l., besides harness and other items, which may be reckoned at 30l. This is the prime cost. The annual expenditure subsequently incurred is scarcely short of 900l. for each omnibus; and it is reckoned that an omnibus, to pay, ought to receive in fares, in round numbers, 1,000l. a-year. There are nearly 3,000 London omnibuses, which gives an original cost of 1,020,000l., and an annual outlay of 2,700,000l.
The vast Sums of Money spent by the London Population in Omnibus Riding.
Low as omnibus fares now are, there is probably expended every year by the public of the metropolis the enormous sum of 3,000,000l. in omnibus fares. The population of the metropolis is only about 2,500,000 persons; so that there is an average expenditure of 24s. by each inhabitant in London every year in omnibus riding, which would pay for 96 three- penny rides. But as infants in arms ride free, and are all, therefore, an addition to the number of riders, and as the inmates of workhouses, prisons, hospitals, &c., on the one hand, and those, on the other hand, too high in rank to patronize such plebeian conveyances, and many other classes, are shut out from these conveniences, the parties actually using our metropolitan omnibuses must each, on an average, expend nearly double the amount specified, and have probably each an average of 200 economical rides during the year. This vast branch of locomotion is, in fact, the greatest in the country, next to railway traffic; and, as will hereafter be shown, even greater than that, so far as the metropolis is concerned. Thirty thousand horses are employed in connexion with the London omnibuses. It costs very nearly 1,000,000l. each year to provide them with necessary hay and straw, and more than three-fourths of that sum to buy them corn. The mere shoeing of the horses may be reckoned at 7,800l. a-year, and the wear and tear of each omnibus is at the rate of 50l. a-year.
The Large Amount of Revenue which London Omnibuses produce to the Government.
The taxes paid by these carriages are also considerable. Some of our readers will probably be surprised to learn that each London omnibus pays about 108l. each year (some [-208-] a still larger sum) for duty to Government, or, in all, 324,000l. annually. This is charged in the form of a mileage duty of l½d. for every mile traversed. It was previously 2½d. The duty is, of course, in addition to turnpikes, and the Favourite omnibuses are reported to pay not less than 2,000l. a-year for the toll at Islington-gate.
The very small Number of Omnibuses in the remainder of England, as compared with the Number in London.
To what an extent omnibuses are in use in the metropolis, as compared with the rest of England, is shown by the return of these duties, from which it appears that London pays four-fifths of the entire mileage duty of England on stage-carriages.
The almost incredible Length of Distance traversed periodically by the London Omnibuses.
Nor is the amount of distance annually travelled by omnibuses
in London less remarkable. The following statement is made by the special
correspondent of the "Morning Chronicle":-
"The average journey, as regards length, of each omnibus, is 6 miles, and that distance is, in some cases, travelled 12 times a day by each omnibus; or, as it is called, '6 there and 6 back.' Some perform the journey only 10 times a day, and some, but a minority, a less number of times. Now, taking the average as between 40 and 50 miles a day travelled by each omnibus (and that, I am assured, is within the mark, while 60 miles a day might exceed it), and computing the omnibuses running daily as 3,000, we find a 'travel,' as it was worded to me, of upwards of 140,000 miles daily, [or nearly a million miles weekly!] or a yearly travel of more than 50,000,000 of miles, an extent that almost defies a parallel in any distances popularly familiar; [-209-] and that this estimate in no way exceeds the truth is proved by the sum annually paid to the Excise for 'mileage.' . . The extent of individual travel by some of the omnibus drivers is enormous. One man told me, that he had driven his 'bus' 72 miles (12 stages of 6 miles) every day for 6 years, with the exception of 12 miles less every second Sunday, so that this man had driven, in 6 years, 179,568 miles."* (* Letter lxxi) The man here referred to had driven his omnibus, according to this reckoning, through London streets, a distance more than 7 times round the entire globe in 6 years!
Each omnibus was reckoned to have, on an average, 15 of the 22 seats which were ordinarily provided occupied by passengers, but since the practice has become more general of providing additional accommodation for a double row of gentlemen on the roof, the number has probably somewhat increased. But reckoning only 15 passengers each Journey, and 10 journeys a day, we have 150 passengers by each omnibus, or 450,000 by the London omnibuses in general riding daily, which is nearly a fifth of the entire population. The number of passengers by the London omnibuses every week consequently exceeds 3,000,000, and during the year amounts to 156,000,000 persons. And all this has sprung up within 24 years. It is perfectly amazing.
The constant Increase in the Number of London Omnibuses.
And it is constantly on the increase. Mr. Charles Pearson, the city solicitor, in the speech which he delivered on Nov. 1, 1852, at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate-street, on the subject of the Central City Railway Terminus, is reported in the "Times" of the succeeding day to have said, "During the last 10 years, the number of cabs in the city has trebled; and in the leading thoroughfares alone of the city of London [-210-] there are now not fewer than 12,000 omnibus journeys made daily.
The Metropolitan Omnibus Traffic greater in the Number of Passengers than the Metropolitan Railway Traffic.
Even the railway traffic connected with the metropolis, immense as it is, is less, in the number of its passengers, than the metropolitan omnibus traffic, according to the same authority. For at a subsequent "numerously attended meeting of the Committee, Directors, and Shareholders of the City Terminus Company, held [on December 29, 1852] for the purpose of hearing the Directors' 'Report on the present position and aspect of the affairs of the Company, and of considering what further steps should be taken under present circumstances,' - Mr. Croll, Sheriff of London and Middlesex, in the chair," - Mr. Charles Pearson is reported in the "Times," of Dec. 30, to have said: "He had ascertained the fact, that 200,000 people came into and went out of London every day by the present railways." And in the "Times," of the same day, at an inquest on a fatal railway accident at Harrow, Capt. Huish is reported to have given evidence to the effect, that "the North Western Company ran 300 trains per day." Now 200,000 people daily coming in and out by all the metropolitan railways, when multiplied by 365, gives an annual number of 73,000,000 travellers by the metropolitan railways, which is less than one-half of the 156,000,000 annual passengers by the metropolitan omnibuses ; while with 300 trains a-day by the greatest of the metropolitan railways, 12,000 omnibus journeys through the main streets alone, or 450,000 passengers in general, will sustain a comparison. The recent introduction of penny omnibuses, and the still more general admission among omnibus proprietors of the principle of railway traffic for the masses (acted on, however, [-211-] on rails chiefly by Parliamentary trains, run but once a-day, and at the most inconvenient hours which can be selected), by carrying passengers at the rate of ld. a mile, are likely far more extensively to develop the capabilities of omnibus traffic. The recent reduction of omnibus fares and the removal of the metropolitan toll-gates are said to have much benefited the omnibus trade. But fine seasons are more profitable to omnibuses than rainy ones, as so few ladies leave home in bad weather.
The Condition of the London Omnibus Men, and their present Numbers.
The importance and the vastness of the London omnibus traffic have been thus fully referred to, that with increased force the solemn question may be asked, "And what is the position of omnibus men ?"-by whom are meant the driver, the conductor, and the ostler, for each omnibus gives full employment to these three parties, in addition to stablekeepers, time-keepers, and a variety of other dependents. Seven persons may be reckoned as required for every two omnibuses, which will give a total of 10,500 persons, if the number of London omnibuses is reckoned at 3,000. As, however, the driver and the conductor are the parties with whom the public are chiefly familiar, in connexion with omnibuses, to them more particularly reference will here be made. The number of licensed omnibus-drivers on Dec. 31, 1852, was 1,949, and of licensed omnibus-conductors, 2,227. To these may probably be added 2,000 supernumeraries, or "odd hands," as they are called, by which is meant men who drive or conduct occasionally, and 3,000 horsekeepers.
Their Sunday Occupation in the Metropolis of a professedly Christian Country scarcely less than on Week-days, and sometimes greater, while an Extreme Amount of Toil is imposed on them during the Week.
Like the cabman, the omnibus-man has no Sabbath. Regarding the Sabbath only as a day of rest to the body, he is in this respect ordinarily worse off than the horses he drives. If he be even regarded as possessing no soul to whose immortal interests he needs to give heed, and if he be degraded to a level with his cattle, and regarded as only possessed hike them of a body, he is even then sunk below them,-for they enjoy a day of rest, but he does not. They are property, and cost money. He is to be had at any time, and a slavish amount of work is to be had out of him beyond what it would be for the interest of omnibus proprietors that their horses should render, and, indeed, beyond what they would be able to render. Much of what is written in the previous chapter concerning the drivers of cabs on the Sunday is equally applicable to the men engaged in omnibuses. Indeed, in some respects, the case of the hatter is the worse. For, first of all, the running of omnibuses on the Sunday is more general than the running of cabs, because it is more profitable, and the labour of the omnibus servant on other days is far the more severe, rendering a loss of the rest of the Sunday the greater hardship and oppression. The feelings of the men with reference to the numerous riders in their vehicles with Bible and Hymn-book in their hands, who are set down at church and chapel-doors, is also much the same, as any reader may discover by seating himself on a Monday morning by the side of an omnibus-driver on his box, and inquiring of him respecting his customers on the previous day. Considering that gentlemen do not come to town on Sunday, and that business [-213-] is suspended on that day at the exchange, the bank, the counting-house, and the warehouse, it seems surprising that there should scarcely be an omnibus less plying the streets on Sunday than on other days, while on some lines of road omnibuses are even more numerous. What must the foreigners who visited us in 1851 have thought of our boasted Sunday observance (notwithstanding the closing of the Crystal Palace of that year on that day) when they saw our extensive Sunday travelling ? "What will they say of us? Never since England has been what she is have so many foreigners visited her as during the year 1851 They came from all countries, . . . the Italian, the Spaniard, and the American. . . . No doubt they will speak highly of the Great Exhibition and of London sights. But what will they say of a London Sabbath, . . . when they find that, to say nothing of carriages a ad hackney-cabs, two to three thousand omnibuses, requiring at least 20,000 horses, run on a Sunday, as well as on other days, employing 11,000 individuals, 6,000 of whom are drivers and conductors, who work more than 16 hours a-day? . . . What, under such circumstances, are these foreigners likely to think, and what will they say of us?"* (* "Illustrated Tracts, published by Partridge and Oakey. No. I.)
Lord Shaftesbury's Testimony of the Success of on Omnibus Proprietor who Discontinued Sunday Work.
And yet Lord Shaftesbury, at a Meeting held in the Town Hall,
Manchester, on Monday, November 24, 1851, on the subject of "Amusements
for the People," stated, that a clerical friend of his had persuaded a large
proprietor of omnibuses to attend church regularly on the Sunday - neither he nor
his family had ever been in the habit of doing so before - and also to stop the running of his omni-[-214-]buses
on the Sabbath-day. At the end of the year, the omnibus proprietor came to the clergyman, and said,-
"The experiment has answered so well, that I will continue it to the end of my days; so far from suffering financially, I am a better man by several pounds this year than last year. In the first place, my horses, by having one day's complete rest, are better able to do their work during the week, and not so subject to accidents. But the principal point is, that I receive more money than I used to do, and I trace it to this. It is not that the receipts, I believe, are actually larger, but it is that the men, having a better moral example set them, and having a day of repose, which they devote to honest, sober, and religious purposes, and being by that greatly improved in moral condition, do that which they have never done before - faithfully bring to me every farthing which they earn."
Testimonies as to the Toil of Omnibus-men from the Early Closing Association.
A public Meeting was meld in the parish of Islington on
October 27, 1851, on behalf of the poor omnibus men. The Rev. W. B. Mackenzie
presided on the occasion. In the course of his remarks, he narrated an affecting
case of a driver whom he was called to visit. He found him near his final
change. "On speaking to him as to his preparation for a better world," said
Mr. M., "he looked up in my face, and with an affecting glance, such as I
shall not soon forget, he faintly exclaimed, 'I've had no Sundays, Sir.'"
A number of testimonies, (chiefly collected by Mr. Lilwall, of the Early Closing Association,) from drivers and conductors on the various lines of road, were laid before the Meeting.
The following selections are a sample of the whole:-
[-215-] No. 1.- -- "I have driven for seven years on the Paddington line. Never have more than one Sunday to myself in the course of 12 months. Have 45 minutes for my meals, but cannot get them at home. I commence work at 8 in the morning, and leave off at 11 at night. Would gladly go to a place of worship if I could."
No. 2.- --" I have been a driver for 14 years. Seldom can get to a place of worship. I have sometimes asked master for a day's rest on a Sunday, but his reply has always been, 'Rest when you are dead.' My wife is a religious woman, and it is a sad trouble to her that I can never go with her to church.
No. 3.- --"I leave home for the stables at half-past 7, and I never see my own door again until 12 at night. Week days and Sundays are all alike to me. I get 2 or 3 Sundays in the course of a year, but I have to sacrifice my wages, and employ a substitute."
No. 4.- --" I am time-keeper at ---. My day's work commences at 9 in the morning, and finishes at 10 at night. I have no leisure for meals, but have to get them as I stand in the street. I never have a Sunday's rest."
No. 5.- --" I am on the Islington road. I have 1 Sunday in every 5, but am generally so worn out, that I am glad to spend most of that day in bed. I should rejoice to have every Sunday to myself, and would willingly sacrifice my day's wages for this purpose. I was once a Sabbath-school scholar, and know that I ought not to work on the Sabbath, but what am I to do? I have no other employment to go to, and my wife and family must not starve."
No. 6.- --" We have a hard life of it. I sometimes think that omnibus-men are regarded as beings without souls, or else the religious people would surely do some- tiring for us. I never have a Sunday. I believe God intended that not only my horses but me should have a day [-216-] of rest, and I think that I ought to have it. To have an evening with any family is a pleasure unknown to me."
From an Occasional Paper of the Church Pastoral-Aid Society.
The following extract from the Occasional Paper of October,
1851, of the Church Pastoral-Aid Society, illustrates the melancholy results
which flow from the Sunday traffic of the London omnibus:-
"--- had been an omnibus-driver for 16 years; could not recollect when he was at church last. Sundays and week-days were all alike to him. It was quite impossible for him to make any arrangements by which he could ever attend church. He wished very much to go there, for he knew what was right, although he could not follow it."
From the Rev. J. T. Baylee's "Statistics and Facts in reference to the Lord's-day."
The following are additional testimonies, as taken from
" Statistics and Facts in reference to the Lord's-day;" by Rev. John T.
Baylee, Clerical Secretary of the Society for Promoting the Due Observance of
"The number of these men was, in October, 1851:-
Drivers . . . . 1,907
Conductors . . . 2,137
Watermen . . . . 350
Supernumeraries . . 2,000
Horse-keepers . . . 3,000
"No. 1.- ---, coachman, examined. Commences work at
10 in the morning, finishes at 12 at night. Has 40 minutes allowed for meals.
Has no other respite during the whole [-217-] time, all week-days are alike, and Sunday also during the
summer season. Runs one journey less on Sundays during the winter; this
admits of a little time for rest, but not for attending a place of Divine
"No. 2.- ---, conductor. Has been employed for 18 years as a conductor, during which period has not attended worship more than about 6 times. Has wished to go regularly, having been brought up to attend church."
"No. 3. - --- , employed from Paddington to Blackwall. Commences at 9 o'clock a.m., leaves off at about half-past 10 p.m. Has 40 minutes for meals. On Sunday commences at half-past 10 a.m., finishes at half-past 11 p.m. On this day has an hour for dinner, and the same for tea. Does not attend a place of worship oftener than once or twice a year. Believes it to be a common thing for persons to ride on Sundays to their places of worship."
"No. 4.- The proprietors do not allow a servant to rest unless he is exceedingly ill and cannot work; then he must pay a substitute to work for him. There is no proprietor in London who discontinues any portion of his business on the Sabbath in order to give his servants rest for religious or physical improvement: when any portion of their business is discontinued, it is owing to the weather or the scarcity of passengers. I think, since the first introduction of omnibuses, there never was known 50 omnibuses quiet on any Sabbath-day. The horse-keepers, some of them, commence work at 6 in the morning, and do not leave off until past midnight; having to labour the whole of the time, Sundays and all days, cleaning, feeding, and attending to 10 dirty horses every day, also their harness: they never have any time set aside for their meals, generally taking them when they can, and then in the stables: in fact, some I have known to sleep in the stable upon the hay for months together, never caring for home, body, or soul, through the labour [-218-] that has been imposed upon them. To be brief, the proprietors care nothing for their servants; but their horses are generally taken great care of, not working more than about 3 hours out of 24 ; but the men work 15 or 16. The masters say the horses come from the pocket,-the men cost nothing."* (pp.78-81)
The last of these testimonies is most distressing.
Extract from "Silverpen" as to the Wives and Families of Omnibus Servants.
The amount of labour which the drivers and conductors of
omnibuses have to perform is most truly such in itself, that it needs no Sabbath
addition. It is thus powerfully described by a female writer, who assumes the
name of Silverpen (Eliza Meteyard) in the "Working Man's Friend and Weekly
Instructor" of August 3, 1850.
" Of the 6,000 drivers and conductors, numbers work on an average rather more than sixteen hours a-day; namely, from before eight o'clock in the morning till after twelve o'clock at night. The labour connected with railway omnibuses is still severer than this, being twenty hours each third day, and fourteen on alternate ones. Nor does the seventh day bring rest, as in most laborious occupations; work goes on in precisely the same manner: and, as on some lines of road, the traffic is greater on Sundays than on other days, the work is so far heavier. During the number of hours the men are employed they have no rest. The driver never leaves his box, except during a few occasional minutes whilst his horses are changed; and he has, therefore, to take his meals during those periods, and sometimes upon the coach-box, as, where the men have wives and families, some member of them may be often seen handing up the tea or dinner in a can or basket. As the married portion of [-219-] these men universally say, 'they never see their children except as they look at them in bed;' and as for homne, in its commonly-received sense, or any of the moral duties connected with it, the one is unknown, and the other is impossible. The case of the conductors is precisely the same, neither having a day's rest for months together, for if they take one they have to pay a substitute; and in many cases the proprietors object to a day's relaxation, and will not hire men who need, or may ask for it, such indulgence being against the laws of their particular Association. For a loss of time they are fined 2s. 6d., and for a second or third offence, suspended from a week's employment, or else dismissed. Against stringent rules of tins kind we should take no objection, were the hours of labour in any degree of reasonable length ; in that case, stringency would be doubly effective, both as regarded the interest of the proprietary and public convenience."
What is this but Engiish bondage?
The same graphic, writer, in the succeeding number of the same periodical, thus draws a picture, if not taken from actual fact, yet embodying the experience of not a few of the wives of omnibus men.
"'Men there are, Sir, who have never seen their children run, or laugh, or talk, or eat ; all they perhaps recollect, if these children die, is their sleep, and their last rest in the coffin! Oh! Sir, hard things must come when men never rest - neither Sabbath-day nor working-day; nor have no time for their little ones, or their wives, or to make home - as it really may be made, through a poor one - a cheerful place, when a good and sober husband is there.'
"'And what is worser, Sir,' weeps a half-dad woman, with a baby at her breast, 'is the drinking that comes out of this weariness. It ain't to be wondered at, and the sin on it god must half forgive, seeing such a reason. But O the [-220-] homes it makes, of misery, and dirt, and want o' bread, and the sort o' wives it makes! And then the children. Eh! that is worser still. Ignorant, dirty, and often no other way to go, but one a' wickedness. Oh! the drink, the drink!' and the miserable woman bends down her face upon her baby, and weeps tears that tell a story in themselves.
The same omnibus servant, whose striking evidence was just quoted on the Sunday work of omnibuses, thus describes the every-day work of omnibus men
"Some omnibus servants work 14, some 16, and some nearly 20 hours. Those who work nearly 20 hours are railway omnibus drivers and conductors. They commence at four in the morning, and continue, with the exception of about an hour and a-half, until twelve o'clock at night. But the average is about 15 hours, out of which, on some roads, they have only about seven minutes to dinner, and no more time scarce all day. On some roads they have about twenty minutes between each journey, but are only allowed ten minutes out of the twenty for meals. The other ten minutes are spent in the conductor standing at the door of his omnibus, and the coachman standing at his horses' heads, or sitting on the box, in the wet and cold. . . In fact, the treatment the poor creatures receive is shocking, and I think a disgrace to a Christian land. I have known men's wives to be dying, their children to be dying, or relatives dying, and time refused them to visit the afflicted, or to pay the last tribute of respect to a departed friend or relative. The man who earns most money is the most cared for, regardless of his general behaviour or character."
Every expression in this last extract, cannot be vindicated as what a servant should employ towards his master, but great allowance may nevertheless be made for it.
So unremitting is the toil of these poor fellows that the Meetings of a Society recently formed by themselves to [-221-] improve their moral and social condition, have to be held after midnight, as the only time which they can command to attend.
Medical Testimony as to the Injury of Labour so hard on the Constitution of the Men.
The following is the testimony of W. B. Parks, Esq., M.D., 31, Great
Marlborough-street, the Medical Officer of the "Metropolitan Omnibus
Servants' Provident Society," as given in Mr. Baylee's "Statistics and Facts:"-
"I have always had a great sympathy with the hardships of omnibus-drivers and conductors, the greater part of whom are honest, civil, and obliging - a sympathy which every benevolent person cannot fail to feel, from simply observing and reflecting upon the unremitting nature of their toil, and their exposure to weather of every kind.
"But when, from my experience as a medical maim, I know that nearly all of them, though young, are shattered in constitution - that, while yet young, they are subject to debility, acute rheumatism, and bronchial affections of so severe a nature, that they are most difficult to remove, from the men's remaining under the operation of the same causes which originally produccd their complaints, and which in many cases terminate in consumption,- my sympathy is increased. Much more is this the case when I reflect that these diseases arise entirely from the nature of their occupation, their long hours (from 7 or 8 in the morning often till past midnight), not excluding the Sunday; from the few brief moments they have, in which to take their necessary food, affording no relaxation to body or mind; and lastly, from their exposure to the variations of heat, cold, and moisture in the atmosphere. When I consider the importance of the service rendered by these over-worked servants to the public, and the conveyance of [-222-] persons and property, a mode of conveyance which has become an integral part of our social system, I greatly rejoice that the 'Metropolitan Omnibus Servants' Provident Society' has received so much of the public support. I have undertaken the important office of Consulting Medical Officer to this Institution; and I shall be most happy to carry out any suggestions I may receive for promoting the welfare of these hardworking useful men."
Testimonies given to Mr. May/new, as to the Severity of the Labour, by a Driver, a Conductor, and a Time-keeper.
Mr. Mayhew reports interviews which he had with an
omnibus-driver, conductor, and time-keeper, in which the driver said- "I'm an
unmarried man. A 'bus driver never has time to look out for a wife. Every horse
in our stables has one day's rest in four, but it's no rest for the driver. The
conductor's statement was- "I never get to a public place, whether it is a chapel
or a play-house, unless, indeed, I get a holiday, and that is not once in two
years. I've asked for a day's holiday, and been refused. I was told I might
take a week's holiday, if I liked, or as long as I lived. . . . In winter I never see my three children, only as
they're in bed. The observation of the time-keeper was- "Mine is not hard
work, but it's very tiring. You hardly ever have a moment to call your own. If
we only had our Sundays, like other working-men, it would be a grand relief. It
would be very easy to get an odd man to work every other Sunday, but monsters
care nothing about Sundays. . . . I can't be said to have any home - just a bed to sleep
I'm never 10 minutes awake in the house where I lodge."
The severe toil of the drivers in general (and that of the conductors is probably even still greater) is thus stated by the same writer :- "Their work is very hard, their lives being almost literally spent on their box. The most of [-223-] them must enter 'the yard' at a quarter to 8 in the morning, and must see that the horses and the carriages are in a proper condition for work, and at half-past 8 they start on their long day's labour. They perform (I speak of the most frequented lines) 12 journeys during the day, and are so engaged until a quarter past 11 at night. Some are on the box till past midnight. During these hours of labour they have 12 'stops,' half of 10, and half of 15 minutes' duration. They generally breakfast at home, or at a coffee-shop, if unmarried men, before they start, and dine at the inn where the omnibus almost invariably 'stops,' at one or other of its destinations. If the driver be distant from his home at his dinner hour, or be unmarried, he arranges to dine at the public-house. If near, his wife or one of his children brings him his dinner in a covered basin, some of them being provided within hot-water plates to keep the contents properly warm; and this is usually eaten at the public-house, with a pint of beer for the accompanying beverage. The relish with which a man who has been employed several hours in the open air enjoys his dinner can easily be understood, but if his dinner is brought to him on one of his shorter stops, he often hears the cry before he has concluded the meal, 'Time's up!' and he carries the remains of his repast to be consumed at his next resting-place. His tea, if brought to him by his family, he often drinks within the omnibus, if there be an opportunity. Some carry their dinners with them, and eat them cold. . . . From a driver I had the following statement:- 'I have been a driver 14 years. . . · It's hard work, is mine, for I never have any rest but a few minutes, except every other Sunday, and then only 2 hours,-that's the time of a journey there and back. If I was to ask leave to go to church, and then go to work again, I know what answer there would be- "You can go [-224-] to church as often as you like, and we can get a man who doesn't want to go there. "'" * (*Letter Lxxi)
For this heavy amount of labour a driver generally receives about 34s., and sometimes rather more, a-week, a conductor, 4s. a-day, and a time-keeper, 21s. a-week. The other men are paid by piecework, at the rate of about 18s. a-week.
Their Temptations to Drink.
The temptation to drink to which omnibus-men are exposed, is
another serious peril in their path, and which, with proper care on the part of
proprietors, might most easily be avoided, to the advantage of themselves as
well as their men. How much force is there in the following extract from "
"Why is it that almost all omnibuses start from public-houses? From any convenience which may arise from this custom, the proprietors pay nothing to the landlords, though it is not likely that landlords would allow their several pavements to be blocked up without some source or other of remuneration. This, therefore, consists in the custom of omnibus servants, who are only too apt, from exhaustion of body, consequent on long hours and the laborious nature of their work, to spend all, or nearly all, their earnings in stimulating drinks. A proprietary that would employ, and would estimate the services of a respectable body of men, would not place such a form of continuous temptation in their way; whilst, as to the public themselves, particularly females, this plan has long been strongly objected to. Why should not a rich proprietary have for their omnibuses [-225-] termini-houses of their own? Therein a large part might he made to pay their own expenses by affording, at a cheap rate, tea and coffee, and even dining accommodation, to the proprietary servants, whilst rooms enough would remain for passengers to shelter and wait in, for the purposes of offices, and as a look-out for the time-keepers, whose weather-bearing capabilities seem now to be on a par with a church vane or barn weathercock. Harshness gives no facility to labour, and that the world may depend upon. What an improvement such houses would be over existing circumstances! Instead of the gin-shop bar, and the public-house tap-room, the men would have a place for decent rest, for purposes of cleanliness and for changing clothes in wet and bad weather, instead of being, as now, compelled to sit or stand the day through in the same soddened clothes. We scarcely need a registrar-general, or a physiologist, to point out the physical benefits which would arise out of such improvements. But whilst the gin-shop and the tavern are made any part of the connecting link between the public and their accommodation, many of the evils complained of, both by servants and masters, must still exist."* (* "Working Man's Friend," August 3, 1850.)
Their Temptations to Embezzlement.
Embezzlement is also a great temptation to omnibus men. No
effectual check can, in this country, as in Paris, be devised on their receipts.
Various plans have been tried, but the result has been found to be, that the
manifestation of suspicion only increased the evil, and that the men became
honest somewhat in proportion as they were trusted and confided in. At the
present time, a conductor may be discharged at a day's notice, and the true
reason not assigned; and proprietors are supposed occasionally to commission a
friend to ride an entire journey- and to count the passengers,
[-226-] in order that the report may be compared with the way-bill,
which the conductor fills in. Still there is much temptation to fraud. This is
supposed by no means to be practised to the same extent as at first, but no
doubt there are still many petty delinquencies on the part of some of the men
employed. While the men are so over-taxed in work, it is not to be expected that
they will be of the first order of servants. Mistrust, and liability any day to
be discharged without it reason being assigned, add also materially to the
difficulty. "Not many years ago, the horses in omnibuses and carts were a
disgrace to civilized humanity, and, as Mr. Youatt justly says, 'there was an
atrocious system of over-work;' but proprietors, at length finding that the
speed the public more and more required in vehicular accommodation would never
be attained by over-worked, ill-fed, worn-out hacks, changed their plan of
horsing the metropolitan stages, with a result that is visible in every street,
to every eye ... Give but omnibus servants that proportionate rest which
civilization demands for its laborious classes, and proprietors will soon find
a respectable class of men demanding service. A relay system would give
partial rest on alternate Sabbaths to every man, and enable him three days a
out of every seven, to cherish the domestic affections, and to advance in some
degree with the other classes in mental and moral culture. As it is, these men
say, 'they have never an instant to read book or paper; most of the circumstances
of the day which influence so beneficially the other processes of labour, pass
by almost unknown to them; and what little they hear, even when a passenger
condescends occasionally to converse with them, usually concerns a fancy
spaniel or a horse-race.' Information addressed to them rarely takes a higher
flight than this.
"Throughout every inquiry made into the state of the labouring classes, from the testimony of every manufacturer, [-227-] capitalist, and master, both French and English, who has, through his own practical operations, proved the truth, as well as worth, of enlightened views of labour, we have testimony, that it is not by mistrusting a low, ill-paid, uneducated class of servants, but by trusting, and well paying (even in some cases to the extent of an interest in the concern), a body of educated and responsible servants, that capital is best gathered and increased.
"To show that there exist moral qualities, which might be made equivalent to those needs of honest service, were hint these reciprocal duties of masters and men better understood, the spirit of fellowship amongst the men themselves bears evidence. According to the Act 6 and 7 Vic., drivers are held responsible for all accidents and damages done to property; and whatever the amount of such damages may be, the proprietor can recover it from his servant, or, as is usually the case, by stopping the amount out of wages. Mostly, in occurrences of this sort, the men assist each other by their contributions, as they also do in cases of sickness or distress amongst themselves. The proprietaries have, in too many instances, sought, rather than rejected, a low class of servants." * (* "Working Man's Friend," August 3, 1850.)
Urgent Appeal as to the Heathenism of so Large a Body of Men.
Let us only seriously imagine these 10,000 men, with a
corresponding proportion of women and children, all concentrated in one spot,
instead of, as now, scattered through various districts of the metropolis; let
us try to think of them as inhabiting a separate portion of London, and
exhibiting palpably to the eyes of the neighbouring people all the peculiar
characteristics of what they practically are, HEATHENS IN THE MIDST OF A
CHRISTIAN CITY. If Christians saw them thus locally isolated; and their
condition more [-228-] strongly brought to the light by viewing them in the mass, we
are sure that the sympathies of Christians would be as much drawn out towards
these unfortunate classes as they now are to the dark tribes of Africa, or the
more polished heathens of China.
" Yet wherein lies the difference? Only in this: that in Christian England the wants of civilized people, and too often the requirements and example of real Christians, force these 10,000 men to be habitual Sabbath-breakers, and, consequently, as much estranged from God and the realities of eternity, as if they were dwellers in a land that knew not God." . . .
"Ten thousand men in London alone! Would that these and their too-much neglected families, a total, probably, of some [30,000 or] 40,000 souls, could be collected together as one distinct perishing population, their spiritual condition made apparent, and the absence of all remedy hitherto existing brought vividly home to the consciences of Christians !"
"It is indeed no narrow question, but an evil of gigantic dimensions and of peculiar moment. When recently, the religious spirit of the country was roused in respect of the transmission and delivery of letters on the Lord's-day, it was stated that, setting aside 2,000 persons in London unemployed on Sunday, there were 10,000 in the provinces, holding situations directly from the Postmaster-General, all engaged for the Post-office, in the every-day business of life, some part of Sunday. The hardship so inflicted was thought, and justly so, to be grievous. But the writer pleads, not for 10,000 scattered throughout England, but for 10,000 in the metropolis alone; and those not partially employed only, but interminably and slavishly, - on the Sunday exactly as on other days. This phase of London life is truly surprising in its character, and cannot but induce thoughtfulness in every Christian mind.
Reference to the Efforts of the London City Mission, in a Pamphlet entitled The Omnibus Men of London.
With respect to these men, how little has been done for their
improvement! The London City Mission supports one solitary missionary 'to
omnibus-stations and cab-stands;' but even this limited agency, in the summary
of subscriptions on the cover of the 'Mission Magazine,' dwindles into a 'Missionary to
Cabmen;' thus leaving the vast numbers of men employed in
connexion with the omnibuses of London almost uncared for. . . . More might
surely be done by a wealthy city; - and shall it not be done? * (* "The Omnibus Men of London; their Occupations, Lives,
and Deaths," pp. 25, 6, 24, 14, 31.)
It is added, with much truth, by the writer of the interesting pamphlet just quoted from :-" So vast is the work of this admirable Society [the London City Mission], that it can scarcely touch the case described in this paper. . . . The establishment even of a large corps of special missionaries to omnibus men, however valuable and desirable, would only achieve a certain reformation and improvement in individuals. The system would remain. Can nothing be attempted to reach and loosen the fetters of this? The evil is, that though 'the omnibus men of London' are really and truly servants of the public, they are under the control of a few proprietors. These proprietors, however, derive their remuneration from the public; and is it quite impossible for the religious feeling of a large proportion of the customers to be brought systematically to bear upon the masters? These points the writer throws out suggestively."* (*pp.31-2)
Recent Efforts of Omnibus Servants themselves to Improve their Condition.
Some of the omnibus men are themselves now seeking to
their condition elevated. The following is an extract from a speech delivered at one of the Meetings which have
been recently held by them for that purpose.
It is from the Rev. W. B. Mackenzie:-
"He said they were met to consider the present condition of a large and industrious class of men, and to devise some means for the improvement of their condition, which was a great deal harder than the public were aware of. It only required that the attention of a benevolent public should be drawn to their condition, in order that it might not only be alleviated, but entirely reformed. Whenever great evils were found to exist in this land, such was the national spirit, that from the moment of its discovery its hours were numbered. Improvements were sometimes show, but when the public was once aware of the nature of the evil, the improvement was always sure. So it had been with the mining population, until recently; they had suffered under all the evils arising from children and females working in the mines, but the public became acquainted with it, remedies were applied, and their condition had undergone, and was now undergoing, the greatest amelioration. The omnibus servants might rest assured that the public would not show less gratitude to men from whose services they derived such manifold convenience. He was not very old, but he could well recollect the different state of things with regard to conveyance under the hackney-coach regime, and the public too well appreciated the conveniences and advantages of the present system of transit, not to be quite willing to support the drivers and conductors in any scheme which would tend to their improvement either in a social or religious point of view. . . . He inquired the other day of a driver about their meal times, and found that the time allowed them for their dinners was only seven and a half minutes! and the breakfast which they had before starting, was almost the only meal they had during the day, which deserved the name. [-231-] It was true that a driver might occasionally have a day's rest, but it was only by paying a substitute, and even that was unwillingly accepted, because the horses got accustomed to their regular driver, and did not go well with strangers. The situations of the conductors were even more precarious; many of them were only daily servants, and how was at possible for them to take any interest in the prosperity of their employers, when they were not sure of remaining with them a single day? The sure way to render a servant not trustworthy, was not to trust him. Another of the crying evils of the present mode was the drinking habits which it almost forced upon the men. Could it be possible for men to avoid drinking, when they stopped at public-houses, wet, cold, and weary from the continued fatigues of a long day? . . . He entered into a long detail of the various circumstances which led to the untimely deaths of large numbers of the omnibus servants, and for the accuracy of which his having attended their dying moments enabled him to vouch, and concluded with an earnest appeal to the public sympathy on behalf of such a hardly-used and hardly-worked class of men. The proprietors took care to let the horses rest 1 day out of every 4; and why should not a man, having a family to provide with comforts, an eternity to attend to, a death to prepare for, and a Saviour to meet, have the same indulgence allotted to him as to the brute creation?"
The Grand Junction Omnibus Company.
A new Omnibus Company, called "The Grand Junction," is contemplated at
this moment, and some progress has been made towards its formation. It is
registered by Act of Parliament, and the capital it is seeking to raise is
100,000l. in shares of 5l. each. "The scheme embraces the prominent
features of the Parisian omnibus system, including arrangements for
correspondence of different lines of route, so that
[-232-] passengers for cross routes may change their conveyance without
paying a second fare. There are also to be waiting- rooms, time-tables, and
return tickets; and the fares are to be on a scale of unprecedented moderation.
The scheme promises an amount of locomotive accommodation far beyond anything
before attempted. But a still more interesting feature in the arrangements of the
Company is its bearing upon the moral, social, and religious well-being of
what may truly be called the Omnibus Community. The hours of daily labour are to
be reduced to 12; proper time is to be allowed for meals; every man is to have
alternate Sundays entirely free from labour, and on other Sundays, liberty is to
be given for attending divine service. The movement
is in the right direction; and its benevolent objects must command
sympathy. It is satisfactory to observe that the new company propose, if
possible, to carry out their plans rather by an amalgamation of existing
interests than in the spirit of reckless competition. . . .
"At a Public Meeting held at the Eclectic Institute, Denmark-street Soho, on Wednesday, October 13, 1852: - The Secretary, Mr. Scully, in explaining the origin and objects of this Company, stated that it was the intention of the Company to abolish Sunday traffic as far as they were concerned, and thus give the whole of their servants that day for relaxation, instruction, and religious services. It had been found that Sunday traffic was an exceptional traffic, and taking it altogether, perhaps, not profitable; but whether that was the case or not, the Company were so fully convinced of the manifold advantages of abolishing Sunday labour, that they, at least, would act upon the determination he had stated. The Company also made provision in its deed for setting aside part of its profits towards endowing and properly providing for their superannuated servants, and also a burial fund in case of death. He believed [-233-] that these arrangements, in conjunction with superior accommodation for the public, would be sure to secure the co-operation of those who felt an interest in measures calculated to improve the condition of the labouring classes. So confident did the Directors feel upon the subject that they had that day ordered a number of omnibuses to be constructed on the principle of the model omnibus which had been exhibited for the last 2 days. The first order would be sufficient to cover 1 line of traffic in the metropolis to begin with. The Directors would gradually occupy other lines in connexion with it, and afterwards graft upon the system, the parcel traffic also." * (* Prospectus of Grand Junction Omnibus Company.)
Should this scheme succeed, it will, of course, be most important. But it should ever be borne in mind that, after all, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the sovereign and only remedy for human disorders. Civilization is calculated to prepare the way for religion, but it is far more frequently that religion is the means by which civilization is advanced. A force of special missionaries would doubtless lead to the remedy of many social evils, as well as be made the means of diffusing the knowledge of salvation. It has at present not even received a trial, either by the London City Mission or by any other Society. All which has been done has been the visitation of the men in the omnibus yards, or in cases of sickness at their abodes, when these have happened to be in the districts of City missionaries and Scripture-readers, or when a Christian minister has rarely endeavoured to give passing instruction. As an illustration of this character of Christian effort, the following are given as
Extracts from 3 Reports of Missionaries of the London City Mission during the present Year, on their Visits to Omnibus Yards :-
Report 1.- "I am accustomed to visit the 8 omnibus-[-234-]
of the district, in which there are 33 omnibuses, requiring 330 horses to work
them, and employing 115 men, that is, 33 drivers, 33 conductors, 11 washers, 5
chaff-cutters, and 33 horse-keepers, making together 115. They all have to
work the 7 days. Many of them have told me they don't know the day when they
saw the inside of a place of worship. I think some of them would attend the
means of grace if they had the opportunity, and all of them would be glad to
have the Sabbath to themselves. The masters that I have spoken to on the
subject all think the men ought to have a day's rest in the seven, and would be
glad to adopt any plan if it could be shown them how it is to be carried
out; but they say that the public compel them to work on the Sabbath,
and that they are obliged to work in order to keep down
their expenses. These, however, are excuses which will not
bear scrutiny. I visit these men at their work every alternate Sunday
afternoon, when I always find them willing to receive the tracts,
and most of them will listen
to the remarks that I have to make, but as a body of men they are the most
immoral and ignorant that I have met with. They are especially addicted to
drink, with all its attendant evils . . . .
"I trust that I have been made useful to a man named --- living at No. ---, --- street, who for the first time opened his mind to me while visiting at the stables more than a year since, when he said, 'I am convinced that I have done wrong all my life in not attending to those things that on have been speaking about, but what am I to do? If I was to follow your advice and go to a place of worship I should have a nice life of it.' Soon after this he was taken ill, and confined to his home, where I continued to visit him. He remained in an unhappy state of mind for some time, believing that he was too great a sinner to be saved - so much so that his wife said he was going mad, but now I trust he has been led to see the all-sufficiency of the Saviour. [-235-] He attends a place of worship as often as he can, and his wife says that he is no sooner in-doors than he gets his Bible and begins to read, not only to himself, but to her also. I am glad to be able to say that she is also inquiring after good things. She said on one occasion that she had always looked upon religion as a very gloomy thing, but since her husband had taken to it, she had begun to think all was not right with herself. She now attends with him a place of worship. His attendance, however, is necessarily only occasional. But he reads his Bible, and continues to manifest concern for his soul."
Report 2.- "The number of yards, omnibuses, and omnibus-men in my district, stand as under:-
|Yards||Omnibuses||Drivers and Conductors|
"At first, and for some time, I visited these men on the
Lord's-day exclusively. For some time past recently, however, I have called on
them occasionally on the Sabbath, but chiefly on a week-day, because on
week-days I meet with the coach-builders and blacksmiths as well as with the
omnibus-men and horse-keepers. I not only present each man with a tract, but as
far as practicable draw their attention, separately, to the relation in which
they stand to God, their spiritual necessities, danger, and destiny, the
provisions of the Gospel, the fact that redeeming mercy is all-sufficient to
transform, elevate, and eternally save even them, &c., &c., and when
surrounded by some 4 or 6 men [-236-] (which is not unfrequently the case) portions of God's word
are read and explained by me, and their attention to what has been said
affectionately entreated. Sometimes they will endeavour to blunt the edge of an
appeal to the conscience by alleging their inability to attend to religion,
arising from the fact that their employers compel them to 'work as hard on the
Sabbath as on any other day, and even harder,' and by expressing it as their
opinion that their masters ought to answer for their sins. Their repose is
disturbed, however, by my custom of inquiring whether their masters will answer
for their swearing, drunkenness, and other irregularities, and by showing that
their general ungodliness proves that they are themselves daring transgressors
against God, and therefore are obnoxious to the threatenings of his Word. Although
I thus endeavour to deal faithfully with their souls, even the more hardened
and obdurate among them have long since discontinued every indication of
hostility and ill-will; and it were easy to show that many of them receive me,
and listen to me, with feelings of apparent affection and gratitude. The smiths
when about to strike the red iron will beg me to 'mind the sparks,' and will
subsequently lay down their hammers for a few moments and listen to God's word; the
horse-keeper when 'singeing' his horse will, unsolicited, bring his gas-burner to
my side to light me while I read a portion of Scripture; and when in the larger
yards I have approached a number of them standing together, I have overheard the
welcome, 'Here comes our old friend.'
"If it is remembered how degraded and destitute the generality of these men are, and that the amount of toil exacted from them (beginning at half-past 6 in the morning, and not ending till near 11 p.m., and frequently not till after midnight) constitutes them little better than slaves, there seems but little encouragement to look for bright results. But when it is also remembered that under the operations of [-237-] the Omnipotent Spirit of God 'lions and beasts of savage name, put on the nature of the lamb,' hope cheers the desponding heart, and success sooner or later is still prayed for, and looked for by me.
"In the month of May last, a man named ----, formerly living at No. --, --- mews, died of consumption, after a lingering illness. I visited him regularly while he remained in the district, and several times, at his own request, after he was removed from it. He searched the Scriptures daily himself, and listened earnestly to instruction and prayer. When I last saw him (about 12 hours before his death), he expressed a hope, and I really believe it was a well-founded one, that he was going to be with Christ.
"At the present time, the case of a man, named ---, appears increasingly hopeful. This man works in --- mews, and is the father of a somewhat large family. He manages to follow his wife on a Sunday evening (himself perhaps half an hour too late) to a Wesleyan chapel, and assures me that he attends to private prayer. His wife has voluntarily assured me that her husband is very often talking about the missionary.
"A young man, who formerly laboured in --- mews, called after me some 3 weeks ago, and with apparent pleasure and gratitude informed me that he had left the mews, had obtained a respectable place, and was now attending church on the Sunday.
"The number employed in --- mews is not so large as it formerly was, a large number of horses and omnibuses having been sold by the firm with which it is connected."
Report 3.- "There is no class of men for whose spiritual and temporal state I feel a stronger sympathy than those connected with our metropolitan omnibuses.
"There are 7 yards and stables in the district, worked by about 36 men. I have also a number of drivers, conductors, [-238-] and horsekeepers living in the district, who are connected with other yards. Their state, spiritually, morally, and physically, is very bad. Among the whole number, I am only acquainted with one man who is to any extent influenced by Divine truth. There is not one who frequents the mouse of prayer, and, as a natural consequence, they remain dead in trespasses and sins. Drunkenness and swearing prevail to a fearful extent among them, their children are neglected, and their homes are often dirty and unhealthy. Their physical state is worse than that of any other class of men I am acquainted with. I am now more particularly referring to horsekeepers. They frequently complain of their work 'breaking them up.' They suffer mostly from rheumatism and chest diseases. There are several causes which produce this state of firings. The horsekeepers work from 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning till after 12 at night, and drivers and conductors from 8 or 9 till 11 or 12 o'clock. They are constantly exposed to the weather, and many are badly paid. They have but short intervals for food, and consequently no time for spiritual or mental improvement, to attend to gamily duties, or to enjoy the pleasures of home. But these things, bad as they are, would not have such a crushing influence upon the men, if they were not robbed of 'Heaven's antidote for the curse of labour,' the blessed Sabbath. Theirs is incessant toil from year's end to year's end, except when interrupted by illness. Each omnibus always runs an extra journey on the Sabbath, if the weather is fine. A horsekeeper once said to me, 'We poor fellows only know it's Sunday by having more work to do, and by seeing other labourers at rest.' One man I visited when ill, told me that he hind not been into a place of worship for 12 years, and another for 8. The only difference I notice in the yards on the Sabbath is, that the stable-men get forward with their work in the morning, so that in the afternoon, [-239-] they may snatch half an hour, between changing their horses, for home, or spend it in drinking together in the hay-loft.
"When I commenced visiting the district, I found them a difficult class to work upon. I was received in several yards with cursing and bitterness, and I was turned out of others. I soon found with these, as with other classes of men, that a knowledge of their condition and habits of life was absolutely necessary for efficient visitation among them. I felt it prudent to devote part of the Sabbath to them, as they received me better on that day. I made a rule not to go into the yards till the roughest of the work was over, and, when there, I avoided conversation with any man I saw hurrying to get the horses ready for his omnibus. By these means I gradually overcame their opposition, and gained their confidence. I am now blessed in being able to make known to them the tidings of great joy, designed for all people. I now go into the yards, give tracts, and, where opportunities offer, get into conversation within the men. I am often able to read from the page of life while I stand among them, and sometimes I sit upon a truss of hay, with several men round me, listening to its teachings.
"The migratory habits of the men, and the difficulty in the way of forming an acquaintance with them sufficiently intimate to be able to report faithfully, will prevent much being known till the day of the Lord shall declare it. But, though this is the case, it has pleased the Lord to strengthen and encourage me with several proofs that he is the faithful God.
"Mr. ---, who lived at --, --- street, is a horsekeeper. He has four children. He rejected my tracts with oaths when I first went into his yard, and his wife refused to admit me into the house. Their opposition gradually gave way, and I induced the wife to attend my meeting. [-240-] Soon after they expressed a wish for a Bible, and I gave them one. I had the pleasure of knowing that it was often read. I went to see them one Sunday afternoon. After I had closed my Bible, he said to me, 'There is one thing that has lately made us miserable, - it is that we are not married, and God is angry with us. Soon after you gave us the Bible, we began to save up our money to be married with, but the children were taken bad with the fever, and we spent it.' As I saw that to live longer in sin was bitter to them, I mentioned their case to the Rector, who kindly married them free of expense. The Sunday after their wedding I called upon them. As I entered the room, I said, 'Well, Mr. ---, are you happy?' 'Yes, Sir,' he replied; 'I was never so happy in my life. Thank God that you came to see us.' His wife then joined in the conversation. She kissed the youngest child, which was in her lap, and said, 'I love my children better. I feel as if I had a right to them. I am so happy that I am a wife.' He has left off both drinking and swearing, and their home has much improved. A short time back I was visiting a bedridden old woman, who mad been moved into the house. She remarked to me, 'that God was very kind in sending her there, as the horsekeeper's wife, who lived up stairs, came down and read out of the Bible to her every evening.' This I considered as a pleasing circumstance, and as manifesting a sign of spiritual life. The cases of both husband amid wife are decidedly hopeful.
"A man, named ---, worked in one of the yards. He never opposed me, but from the first received the Word gladly. He had not been into the house of prayer for six years, and he was fearfully ignorant of Divine truth. I was interested one day with something he said to me, and I asked him if he read his Bible, as he appeared to know more than he once did about Gospel truths. 'I can't get time to [-241-] read the Bible, Sir,' he replied; 'but since you came among us, I'll tell you what I do. I get my horses forward on Sunday evenings, so that I have half an hour before changing horses for myself. I then run round the corner to the Methodist Chapel, and stand in at the door while the sermon is going on.' The man continued to do this for many months, and there was a visible change in his life and conversation. He has lately left my district.
"Mr. ---, who lived at --, --- street, is a coarse, ignorant man. He worked in one of the yards. I frequently spoke to him about his soul and the Saviour, but was unable to get on friendly terms with him. One day the woman he lived unlawfully with run after me in the street, and said that her husband had poisoned his hand, and that the doctor had told him he was in danger of losing his life. She added, that he had asked several of the men 'to look out for the parson that goes about, and get him to come and read his Book to him.' I went immediately, and found him anxious to be instructed in the things of God. I was pleased to discover that words I had dropped in the yards were remembered by him. I visited him through a long illness, and induced him to separate from the woman he was living with. A moral change was the result of my efforts, but more than this I am unable to say.
"The condition of these men is worse than it formerly was. The horse-keepers, some five or six years back, used to have half of every other Sunday for themselves. Three years back they had half of every fourth Sunday; but during the time the Exhibition was opened this small boon was taken from them, and has not since been restored. I feel strongly on behalf of these oppressed men. I think their condition a disgrace to us as a Christian people. When I meet with men opposed to the proper observance of the Christian Sabbath, I point them to the condition of these [-242-] horse-keepers, as a proof of the baneful influences of uninterrupted toil, and also as a proof of the mercy of God in protecting the poor man's Sabbath with all the power of a Divine sanction: 'In it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou nor thy servant.'"
The Introduction of Omnibuses has brought more together the different Parts of London.
There is one result which has followed from the establishment of London omnibuses, which calls for a concluding remark. It has removed to a great extent the barrier which previously existed between one part of the metropolis and the other. "The West-end," before omnibus days had arrived, was far more distinct from the East than since. It was only rarely visited, except by its own residents and their friends. But now, the West lies become familiar to all, and is most extensively resorted to for purposes of both trade and pleasure. That which omnibuses have effected in this respect is precisely what it is so desirable should be effected on behalf of omnibus-men. They ask that other classes should acquaint themselves with their position, in order that pity may be exercised towards them, and the charitable hand of Christian benevolence stretched out for their aid.
Far more needs to be done for their welfare. They have been too long neglected and forgotten, as a class. They have carried Christians in their omnibuses, but Christians have little carried them in their hearts. Are they sometimes rude and unmannered? What else could be expected in men who are so deprived of time and opportunity for improvement ? Instead of these circumstances hardening us against their instruction, they only illustrate how urgently [-243-] this instruction is needed. The Gospel will elevate them. They are now estranged from, and unacquainted with, its blessings. Let our readers consider for a moment how it would be with them, if they were thus situated,-if they had no Sabbaths,-if they could never enter the house of God,-if they were robbed of almost every endearment of social life, and through a long London winter, saw their children only asleep,-if they had only the public-house in which to take shelter from the wet, and cold, and fatigue, of the sixteen hours' daily labour,-if they were treated with almost constant scorn and suspicion, and had as their associates only those whose position was alike disadvantageous. It is easy to blame these men, but how would it have been with ourselves? God in his great goodness has dealt more mercifully with us. His providence has cast our lot more favourably; and his grace alone has made us to differ. But these men are our brethren. They minister to our comforts. They have introduced a new order of convenience and luxury, which would have surprised a former generation. Let us, then, consider them as above their cattle, and as possessed of souls in value equal to our own. And let us not be unmindful to provide for them means by which their peculiar snares may not prove their eternal ruin, but by which their souls may be sanctified and fitted for glory.