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Britaiii

A Study of
Heart Bis^sc



George ,



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

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BRITAIN'S HOMES



BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

NO ROOM TO LIVE.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

Sir WALTER BESANT.



Second Edition, 2s. 6d.



Spectator. — " This is a volume that everybody should read, and
not read only, but keep at hand for reference."

Morning Post. — ". . . Deserves to be widely read and deeply
pondered. '



WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO.,
3 Paternoster Buildings, E.G.



TO-DAY'S WORK.

MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT THE HOPE OF
DEMOCRACY.



Second Edition. 2s. 6d.



Daily Chronicle. — "This vigorous, well-informed, and inspiring
little book."

;l/i<«(a^<i//(7«>-«<i/.—" An excellent piece of work. . . . Perhaps
the most valuable sections are the chapters on the housing pro-
blem."



CLARION PRESS, 72 Fleet Street, E.G.



BRITAIN'S HOMES

A STUDY OF THE EMPIRE'S
HEART-DISEASE



BY

GEORGE HAW



"Who,
Being man, Aurora, can stand calmly by
And view these things, and never tease his soul
For some great cure."

Mrs. Browning



LONDON

THE CLARION PRESS

72 Fleet Street, E.G.

1902



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A3H3



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TO THE

RE^. J. CJRTMEL-ROBINSON, M.J.






CONTENTS



CHAP.

I. A PLEA FOR THE PLAGUE.

II, MOKE DEADLY THAN WAE

III. CONDITION OF THE ENGLISHMAN'S CASTLE

IV. THE FEEE FAIR HOMES OF OUR COUNTRYSIDE

V. WHY THE OLD COUNTRY DOES NOT WAKE UP

VI. HALF A CENTURY OF QUACK MEDICINES .

VII. THE COST OF SLUMDOM

VIII. NO MORE doctors' BILLS .

IX. THE PROBLEM OF THE POOREST .

X. WHY MUNICIPALITIES SHOULD BUILD DWELLINGS

XI. THE DEBT WE OWE TO MUNICIPAL TENANTS

XII. GRANTS IN AID OF RICH MEN's WAGES .

XIII. WORKHOUSE OR DWELLING HOUSE : WHICH IS IT

TO BE ? .

XIV. THE CASE FOR FAIR RENT COURTS

XV. THE FRANKENSTEIN OF THE HOUSING PROBLEM
XVI. HOW THE LAND SYSTEM HINDERS REFORM
XVII. MUNICIPAL RENTS NOT LOW ENOUGH
XVIII. LESSONS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES
XIX. THE PROBLEM OF TRANSIT
XX. BACK TO THE LAND



PAQE
9

21

31

41

53

62

73

82

92

103

119

133

143
153
168
182
190
203
215
230



BRITAIN'S HOMES



CHAPTEE I

A PLEA FOR THE PLAGUE

Down at the Club the other night a party of us,
clustered in a recess, were discussing more or less
despairingly a few of the phases of the omnipresent
Housing Problem, when a sudden remark from
one of the company, seldom given to cynicism,
set us all for the moment agape.

" But is there no way out at all ? " the parson
among us had inquired anxiously.

" Yes," said the medical officer with startling
frankness,—" there's the plague ! "

And hands in pocket he stalked away.

The doctor was angry : not heartless. Nearly
every day of his life he has seen the evils and horrors



lo BRITAIN'S HOMES

of overcrowding in his large and ever-growing
district ; he has shown in reports over and over
aeain what this social sore in our modern civihsa-
tion means, in the way of infectious disease, con-
sumption, stunted growth, loss of vitality, and
high death-rates ; and as next to nothing has been
done, while the evil goes on growing, he throws
out the suggestion in a cynical mood, that what is
wanted to bring home to the public a true sense
of the mischief is the plague.

And the medical officer is about right. Only
a few months ago this country held its breath
apprehensively, lest the plague, which was raging
in Asia, brealdng out in various parts of Europe,
and thi'eatening Glasgow and Hull, should fasten
upon our crowded cities and sea-ports with fierce
hunger.

How alarmed London had become is seen in
the County Council's action. That body took pre-
cautions to guard against the plague in London
on a scale that meant the spending of over
£50,000.

If this is the price of a precaution only, what
would be the cost of the actual hand-to-hand tussle
with the infection ? What tribute should we have
to pay once the deadly contagion invaded the
warrens of one-roomed homes and the overcrowded



HUMAN ROOKERIES ii

disease-spreading districts abounding in all our
big cities ?

Would not the cost be fabulous compared with
the amount now required to put our houses in
order, so that our fellow-creatures might have
the means of ordinary healthy living ? Whatever
the cost of a plague invasion, in pounds, shillings,
and pence, piled up as they would be into many
millions, it would be a mere trifle compared with
the cost to the country in useful human lives.

Let the plague once get its grip upon us, before
we could get rid of it it would settle the housing
problem for us in a very practical way. It would
soon make room to live by sweeping off the excess,
and more than the excess, in overcrowded hovels.
As fire upon oil, so would the plague fasten upon
the human rookeries that stand for the homes of
England. Nor would it leave them until the cities
where to-day people cannot find houses to live in
became cities where the houses could not find
people to dwell in them.

What an outcry would there be. How Parlia-
ment, that merely mocks at the need to-day, would
speedily be brought to its senses.

Yes, there is meaning in the medical man's
cynicism : the plague would solve the problem.

As things are, ordinary contagion already



13 BRITAIN'S HOMES

spreads fast enough in the overcrowded districts.
The death-rate from infectious disease is aheady
four times higher there than it is anywhere else,
while the ordinary death-rate is invariably twice
as high.

But it is idle nowadays to argue about the death-
dealing effects of overcrowding. We all know well
enough that infection always reaps its richest
harvest in the slums. Equally idle is it to argue
about the facts as to overcrowding. Who does
not know them in a general way already ?

Knowledge comes, but ^\nsdom lingers. The
facts have become so familiar that they have ceased
to l)e startling, although in themselves they are
as startling as anytliing possibly can be. When
England can regard with so little concern the over-
crowded eight millions estimated to be liAing in
its midst to-day, truly the times are out of joint.

A state of things forcing workmen in good em-
ployment to leave their wives and children in the
workhouse because they cannot by any human
means find rooms to let outside is surely a sign
of national decay. That is what is happening,
not in London only, where instance after instance
have been made public, but in small villages with
the smilmg open land all round saying, " Build on
me : it is not the earth but man that is at fault."



A TERRIBLE CURE 13

Yet, unmindful of tlie fateful meaning lying
behind these facts, England all heedlessly goes on
its way. Will anything ever bring it to its senses
except oui' medical friend's suggestion— the plague?

With people at their wits' end for want of house
room, the worst kind of property-owners wring
ruinous rents from the poor. Tenants are so^^
terrorised by slumlords in the overcrowded
quarters of our towns that they dare not complain
about a foul or shoddy home, because up goes the
rent again for every little repair carried out.

Not content with silencing the tongues of their
tenants, some of the slumlords hold the Municipal
Councils in check. Nothing is simpler. They or
their agents, or their friends, or their agents'
friends side with the party of interests at election
time, and fuid it easy enough to get elected. With
a seat on the Municipal Council, all fears as to
being put to expense to keep their slums in repair
can then be put aside.

That is one of the reasons why so much slumdom
and overcrowding have grown up in defiance of
the Pubhc Health Act. In fact, the Act has been
a dead letter in many districts. What these dis-
tricts now want in order to be purged is not the
Public Health Act, but our medical officer's
remedy— the plague.



14 BRITAIN'S HOMES

What a cure would it he ! It would invade the
slum tenements and sweep out the slum tenants
at one fell swoop. Where public bodies have failed
the plague would succeed splendidly. How speedily
it would clear out the people living in the base-
ments, where the sewage water floods up and
the rain water floods down ; how remorselessly it
would fasten upon the swarming family on the
ground floor, w^here the ceiling wont keep up nor
the riven boards keep down ; how easily it would
mount up to the tenements above, with people
herding and sw'eltering in every room at the back,
and a greater number, perchance, herding and
sweltei'ing in every room at the front ! What a
feast of human souls awaits it, where the back
courts have no water-supply to closets, no dustbins
for the slummers' garbage, wdiere the drains
leak, the gullies overflow ; where the sun never
shines nor the breezes blow freshly, and pure light
and pure air are as things unknown.

Everytliing is ready for it : the harvest is
ripe. The Municipal Councils have totally failed
to deal with overcrowding and all its ills. What
by being held in check by those of their members
interested in house property, and then over-
whelmed by the clamour of the people to be housed
in any kind of hovel and at any kind of rent,



SLUMS AS THICK AS WEEDS 15

the local authorities have not enforced the health
regulations, even in a moderate way.

Not a single home in England, be it ever so
humble, would continue overcrowded, not a
sohtary slum would remain, were the existing
sanitary laws carried out. That is the law in
theory, but in practice we know dwelling-houses
are constantly becoming slums, and overcrowding
gets worse every year. The Municipal Council
sometimes bestu^s itself when it is too late ; the
slums are then found to be lying around as thick
as weeds ; public decency can stand it no longer,
so down they must come.

But that is no cure at all. While the slums are
being pulled down, not at the expense of the
owners who are responsible for them, but at the
expense of the ratepayers who have the slums
thrust upon them— while this is going on, the
families who have been turned out are crowding
into other tenements in the neighbourhood, and
making new slums faster than the old ones can be
pulled down.

The truth is, public action in cases like these
comes too late. Instead of waiting for the slums
to grow up, and then compensating the slumlords
for cutting down their death-dealing crop, the
wiser course would be to prevent the seeds of



i6 BRITAIN'S HOMES

slumdom from being sown at all. Although the
Municipal Coimcils have full power to do so, they
often remain idle while new slums are steadily
growing up under their very noses. Either they
can't see or they w^ont see ; so the best thing
that could happen to the local authorities would
be to give theu' districts a good dose of the medical
officer's medicine— the plague !

Parliament needs the lesson of the plague more
than any other body. If the local authorities to a
large extent are responsible for the slums, the
Imperial authority to a larger extent is responsible
for the want of houses.

After all, the want of houses is the greatest evil.
If the poor are to be always with us, slums, in
f^ome form or other, will also always be with
us. It is not, however, until houses become
scarce, until, in reality, a house famine sets in,
such as the whole country is experiencing at the
present time, that the worst forms of overcrowding
in the slums takes place, and that other districts
get rapidly turned into slums.

The very crux of the housing question is the
want of houses. This is one of those simple truths
often overlooked. It is bewildering at times to
listen to the elaborate theories about the housing
problem, when the simi)le cause of the problem



THE ANXIOUS GRANDMOTHER 17

is the want of houses, and the simple cure the
provision of houses.

Yet for years past Parliament and Government
departments have piled up all sorts of obstacles
to prevent the local authorities from building
houses. Oddly enough, the Local Government
Board will allow a Municipality to pull down
slums at a heavy charge to the rates, but when
it comes to building new dwellings which do
not cost the ratepayers anything— for municipal
housing schemes are self-supporting —the Board
raises enough objections and obstacles to sink
an ironclad.

What is the reason?— Is it because the clear-
ance schemes benefit the landlords, while the
housing schemes only benefit the tenants ?

Not long ago the Local Government Board
tried to pose as the anxious grandmother in refer-
ence to the housing question. It issued a tearful
circular to the Municipal Councils, affecting
the deepest concern over this growing problem,
ending up by setting out in every detail all
that can be done under the Health and Housing
Acts for dealing with slums. Not a word was
there as to the powers under the Housing Act
for building new dwehings — the one thing
needed. Benefit the lords of the land and the



i8 BRITAIN'S HOMES

lords of the slum l)y clearing away insanitary
property and giving them compensation, but do
nothing to secure more dwellings for the over-
crowded tenants.

What the Local Government Board wants,
then, in order to be brought to its senses, is the
plague— and plenty of it.

As to Parliament, what has it done but tinker
with the question these several years ? Nothing
could have been more meagre than the Bill to
amend the Housing Act introduced in 1900.
In that year the horrors of overcrowding were
on everybody's lips. There was growing clamour
for reform. Something had to be done, so the
Government looked round for the readiest and
easiest thing to do. With the cry for reform
still swelling, there was every promise of serious
trouble unless some sop could be thrown out.

The Government found a way out of its dilemma
by a chance happening. The London County
Council received an offer of a free gift of land
at Edmonton in Essex for housing purposes. A
doubt arose as to whether the Council had power
to build dwellings outside its own area. Although
counsel's opinion ruled that it was doubtful
whether such power did exist, astute lawyers
who act as clerics to some of the chief provincial



DANGEROUS NATIONAL EVIL 19

municipalities claimed emphaticall}^ that it did,
and showed that local authorities were constantly
buying land and building beyond their boundaries
for all kinds of purposes.

But that little doubt was the Government's
salvation. It was seized upon as the needed
sop. With victorious virtue the President of
the Local Government Board introduced a
Housing Bill, which gave practically as its one
solitary concession the right to buy land outside,
a right declared to be already in existence.

Never was a meaner or more meagre measure
brought forward to deal vnth. a national evil,
deep-rooted, widespread, dangerous, and acute.
It was like launching a fishing-smack to combat
a fleet of battle-ships. Parliament had a great
opportunity and wasted it. All parties were
convinced as to the need for at least half a dozen
reforms, but the Government only vaguel}"'
understood the housing question, and had not
the com-age to go forward.

It certainly was reassuring to have the word
of the President of the Local Government Board
that "this Bill is but a step, and has no
finaUty about it." We had seen Parliament take
" a step " of the same diminutive kind in the
previous year. The Small Houses Act of 1899



20 BRITAIN'S HOMES

was to do wonders in the way of accommodating
people in their own houses. Everybody knows
that that Act is practically a dead letter. In
London the Act up to the present time (June
1902) has been absolutely abortive ; and through-
out the whole country only twenty-four loans
have been advanced under the Act. Nor can
it in its widest application ever be of the least
service to the slum-ridden people, who are suffer-
ing, alike in town and country, from the want
of healthy homes.

After this, who dare deny that Parliament
will only learn msdom as to the greatest social
problem of our time by a little application of the
medical officer's lesson— the plague ?



CHAPTER II



MORE DEADLY THAN WAR



Of course the medical officer is impossible. The
plague, no doubt, would be useful, because its
terrible effects would be direct and known to all
in the land. The whole country would live in
dread from day to day, and talk of it with bated
breath. Yet we are really suffering from some-
thing worse than the plague; but because its
effects are indirect and known only to the few,
we go on our way complacently.

If we have not the plague in our midst, we
have a famine in the land. We are sufi'ering
from a house famine as dire in its results as a
bread famine. The want of homes can starve
a nation as well as the want of bread.

Death-rates are not pleasant things to consider ;
but, dull though they are at first sight, they
become very illuminating if you look at them
long enough. Take the first report issued this



31



22 BRITAIN'S HOMES

century by the Registrar-General, and you will
there see something of the ravages this house
famine \\T0ught in a single year. It is a terribly
casualty list confronting us at the dawn of a
new century.

We will not compare town with country, nor
suburbs with slums, in order to get what might
seem a sensational contrast. Eatlier will we
content ourselves by comparing the big towns
only, or, as the Registrar-General prefers to call
them, the " great " towiis, their greatness seem-
ingly consisting, for the most part, in their renown
for slaying people.

The report, which was issued in March 1901,
deals, of course, with the year before. The thirty-
three "great" towns have all a population over
100,000. When you find in tliickly populated
towns Uke these that nearly twice as many people
proportionally die in some of them as die in others,
you can then form an idea of the slaughter going
on in our midst, not from plague, but from house
famine.

Let us take Croydon as our standard. Here
is a thickly populated town, with over 131,000
inhabitants, adjoining London, with its popula-
tion of over 4^ millions. Croydon, therefore,
although fringed on the south by the vales of



THE HOUSE FAMINE 33

Surrey, cannot claim for itself any very great
advantage in its own particular site ; for as the
streets and tramways northward link them
closely together, it is hard to say where London
ends and Croydon begins. Besides, no town.
is likely to have any gain in health by being
linked up with the millions of London.

But Croydon is a healthy town, nevertheless.
This is not due to its situation in Surrey ; it is
mainly because its local rulers have not allowed
bad houses, nor narrow streets, nor slum courts
to be built. They do not, like the councillors
of many other towais, connive at jerry-builders
who disregard the building bye-laws and the
health regulations, nor at manufacturers who defile
the air with foul smells and black smoke. There-
fore the town is wholesome, as all other towns
would be if the Municipal Councils watched
the welfare of their people in the same way.

Its average death-rate for ten years is no higher
than 14*7 per 1000, while Bolton, another " great "
town, with about the same population, shows
an average death-rate for the same period of
22-0. That is to say, eight more people die in
Bolton every year per thousand of the inhabitants
than die in Croydon.

If you find out how many thousand inhabitants



24 BRITAIN'S HOMES

live in Bolton and multiply the thousands by
eight, you then get at the total of unnecessary
deaths in that town. The population of Bolton
is over 164,000. Multiply the 164 by 8 and
you have 1312 as the number of people who
die in Bolton each year solely because Bolton
does not house its people and look after their
health as well as it ought to.

Do not run away with the idea that such a
comparison is unfair. Here we are simply
dealing with two of the so-called " great " towns,
with very little difference in their population.
If Bolton crowds its people in streets and courts
under insanitary conditions, such as would not
be tolerated in Croydon, that is the fault of the
people of Bolton, for they have equally the same
powers to keep their town clean and healthy
as the people of Croydon have. Strange though
it may seem, Croydon is really the more crowded
of the two, for this same report of the Eegistrar-
General shows that while Croydon has 14-6
persons to the acre, Bolton only has 10-8.

On the face of it, then, Bolton ought to be the
healthier. AVhy is it not so ? For the simple
reason that, although it has fewer people to the
acre, it has more people to the house. It is
suffering from house famine, and large numbers



HOW WE SLAUGHTER OUR CITIZENS 25

of its inhabitants, crowding in small, unhealthy
dwellings, are therefore killed off unnecessarily
every year.

Even towns like Huddersfield, Bradford, and
Hahfax have fewer people per acre than Croydon ;
but, because they have neglected to look so well
after the proper housing of their people, their
death-rates are very much higher.

If you compare other '' great " towns besides
Bolton with Croydon you will get a still better
idea as to the way we slaughter our citizens by >
denying them healthy houses and pure air. In
order that the comparison should be a perfectly
fair one we will not take the death-rate figures
for one year only, but the average death-rate
per year for the previous ten years, so that it
cannot be said of any particular town than the
death-rate here given does not represent the true
state of affairs from year to year.

The Ordinary Death-rate.





Population


Annual Death-rate




in 1900.


per 1000.


Croydon .


. 131,186


14.7


Preston .


. 118,902


23.7


Bolton


. 164,240


22.0


Liverpool .


. 634,780


25.7


Manchester


. 548,769


24.3


Birmingham .


. 519,610


20.9


Salford .


. 220,816


24.2



26 BRITAIN'S HOMES

Now, from these figures of the Eegistrar-
General's, we can easily compile a retm-n of oui*
own that will show A\hat ought to be called the
unnecessary death-rate. It would be well if
the Eegistrar - General himself compiled it, so
as to give an official stamp to the record of the
number of people annually done to death by our
" great " towns. You will see I have omitted
the decimals and fractions in giving the un-
necessary death-rate, so that in all cases it is
slightly understated.

Unnecessary Death-rate.

Total

Unnecessary Unnecessary







Deatli- Death-rate


Deaths every




Population.


rate. per 1000.


Year.


Croydon


131,186


14.7





Preston


118,902


23.7 9


1,066


Bolton


164,240


25.7 8


1,312


Liverpool .


634,780


22.0 11


6,974


Manchester .


548,769


24.3 10


5,480


Birmingham


519,610


20.9 6


3,114


Salford


220,816


24.2 10


2,200


Total unnecessary deaths every year in






six Englis


ih towns


.


20,146



Here, in no more than half a dozen of the thirty-
three " great " towns, we have a black list of over
20,000 slain. Here is greatness indeed ! Great
slaughter, great misery, great bereavement in
poor famihes. All this, too, simply because



THE ROCK OF EMPIRES 27

the ordinary decencies of home and the ordinary
standard of health are denied to the inhabitants.
Just think of it. Twenty thousand people are
sacrificed every year in six only of our English
towns, because we deny them the ordinary de-
cencies of home. What a loss to the nation and
the Empire ! These people dying thus around
us every year are for the most part workers,
who in all ages have always been the rock on
which Empires stand.

Through squalid life they laboured,

In sordid grief they died,
Those sons of a mighty mother,

Those props of England's pride.

They are gone ; there is none can undo it,
Nor save our souls from the curse ;

But many a million cometh.
And shall they be better or worse 1

Shall they indeed ? Why cannot we have the
Croydon standard in other towns ? It simply
represents the right of the townsfolk to healthy
homes.

Besides, Croydon's death-rate, though the
lowest among the " great " towns, is by no means
the lowest in the country, nor is it so low as a
city of health ought to be. It was stated at a
recent Public Health Cong-ress that under wise



28 BRITAIN'S HOMES

government the deatli-rate of a liealtliy town
ought in the ordinary way to be about 12 per
1000. Even now several English towns fall below


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