H. Rider (Henry Rider) Haggard.

Regeneration: being an account of the social work of the Salvation army in Great Britain online

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the past twelve months he had been living in
this Shelter upon some help that a friend gave
him, for all his own money was gone. Now he
was trying to write books, one of which was in
the hands of a well-known firm. He remarked,
pathetically, that they ' have had it a long time.'
He was also waiting ' every day ' for a pension
from America, which he considered was due to
him because he fought in the Civil War.

Most of these poor people are waiting for


This man added that he could not find his
relatives, and that he intended to stop in the
Shelter until his book was published, or he could
' help himself out.'

The next man I spoke to was the flower artist,
whom I have already mentioned, whose work, by
the way, if a little striking in colour, was by no
means bad, especially as he had no real flowers
to draw from. By trade he was a lawyer's clerk;
but he stated that, unfortunately for him, the head
partner of his firm went bankrupt six years before,
and the bad times, together with the competition
of female labour in the clerical department, pre-
vented him from obtaining another situation, so
he had been obliged to fall back upon flower
painting. He was a married man, but he said,
1 While I could make a fair week's money, things
were comfortable, but when orders fell slack I
was requested to go, as my room was preferable
to my company, and being a man of nervous
temperament I could not stand it, and have been
here ever since ' that was for about ten weeks.
He managed to make enough for his board and
lodging by the sale of his flower-pictures.

A third man informed me that he had opened
twenty-seven shops for a large firm of tobacco-
nists, and then left to start in business for
himself; also he used to go out window-dressing,
in which he was skilled. Then, about nine years


ago, his wife began to drink, and while he was
absent in hospital, neglected his business so that
it became worthless. Finally she deserted him,
and he had heard nothing of her since. After
that he took to drink himself. He came to this
Shelter intermittently, and supported himself by
an occasional job of window-dressing. The
Salvation Army was trying to cure this man of
his drinking habits.

A fourth man, a Eurasian, was a schoolmaster
in India, who drifted to this country, and had
been for four years in the Colney Hatch Asylum.
He was sent to the Salvation Army by the After
Care Society. He had been two years in the
Shelter, and was engaged in saving up money
to go to America. He was employed in the Shelter
as a scrubber, and also as a seller of food tickets,
by which means he had saved some money. Also
he had a ^5 note, which his sister sent to him.
This note he was keeping to return to her as a
present on her birthday ! His story was long and
miserable, and his case a sad one. Still, he was
capable of doing work of a sort.

Another very smart and useful man had been
a nurse in the Army Medical Corps, which he left
some years ago with a good character. Occasion-
ally he found a job at nursing, and stayed at
the Shelter, where he was given employment
between engagements.


Yet another, quite a young person, was a
carman who had been discharged through slack-
ness of work in the firm of which he was a servant.
He had been ten weeks in the Institution, to
which he came from the workhouse, and hoped
to find employment at his trade.

In passing through this building, I observed
a young man of foreign appearance seated in a
window-place reading a book, and asked his
history. I was told that he was a German
of education, whose ambition it is to become a
librarian in his native country. He had come to
England in order to learn our language, and
being practically without means, drifted into this
place, where he was employed in cleaning the
windows and pursued his studies in the intervals
of that humble work. Let us hope that in due
course his painstaking industry will be rewarded,
and his ambition fulfilled.

All these cases, and others that I have no space
to mention, belonged to the class of what I may
call the regular ' hangers-on * of this particular
Shelter. As I visited it in the middle of the day,
I did not see its multitude of normal nightly
occupants. Of such men, however, I shall be
able to speak elsewhere.

The Spa Road Elevator

next Institution that I inspected was
that of a paper-sorting works at Spa Road,
Bermondsey, where all sorts of waste paper are
dealt with in enormous quantities. Of this stuff
some is given and some is bought. Upon delivery
it goes to the sorters, who separate it out accord-
ing to the different classes of the material, after
which it is pressed into bales by hydraulic
machinery and sold to merchants to be re-made.

These works stand upon two acres of land.
Parts of the existing buildings were once a pre-
serve factory, but some of them have been erected
by the Army. There remain upon the site
certain dwelling-houses, which are still let to
tenants. These are destined to be pulled down
whenever money is forthcoming to extend the

The object of the Institution is to find work for
distressed or fallen persons, and restore them to
society. The Manager of this ' Elevator,' as it
is called, informed me that it employs about 480


men, all of whom are picked up upon the streets.
As a rule, these men are given their board and
lodging in return for work during the first week,
but no money, as their labour is worth little. In
the second week, 6d. is paid to them in cash ; and,
subsequently, this remuneration is added to in
proportion to the value of the labour, till in
the end some of them earn 85. or 95. a week in
addition to their board and lodging.

I asked the Officer in charge what he had
to say as to the charges of sweating and under-
selling which have been brought against the
Salvation Army in connexion with this and its
other productive Institutions.

He replied that they neither sweated nor
undersold. The men whom they picked up had
no value in the labour market, and could get
nothing to do because no one would employ
them, many of them being the victims of drink
or entirely unskilled. Such people they over-
looked, housed, fed, and instructed, whether they
did or did not earn their food and lodging, and
after the first week paid them upon a rising scale.
The results were eminently satisfactory, as even
allowing for the drunkards they found that but
few cases, not more than 10 per cent, were hope-
less. Did they not rescue these men most of them
would sink utterly; indeed, according to their
own testimony many of such wastrels were


snatched from suicide. As a matter of fact, also,
they employed more men per ton of paper than
any other dealers in the trade.

With reference to the commercial results,
after allowing for interest on the capital in-
vested, the place did not pay its way. He said
that a sum of ,15,000 was urgently required for
the erection of a new building on this site, some
of those that exist being of a rough-and-ready
character. They were trying to raise subscrip-
tions towards this object, but found the response
very slow.

Me added that they collected their raw material
from warehouses, most of it being given to them,
but some they bought, as it was necessary to
keep the works supplied, which could not be
done with the gratis stuff alone. Also they
found that the paper they purchased was the
most profitable.

These works presented a busy spectacle of
useful industry. There was the sorting-room,
where great masses of waste-paper of every kind
was being picked over by about 100 men and
separated into its various classes. The resulting
heaps are thrown through hoppers into bins.
From the bins this sorted stuff passes into
hydraulic presses which crush it into bales that,
after being wired, are ready for sale.

It occurred to me that the dealing with this


mass of refuse paper must be an unhealthy
occupation ; but I was informed that this is not
the case, and certainly the appearance of the
workers bore out the statement.

After completing a tour of the works I visited
one of the bedrooms containing seventy beds,
where everything seemed very tidy and fresh.
Clean sheets are provided every week, as are
baths for the inmates. In the kitchen were great
cooking boilers, ovens, etc., all of which are
worked by steam produced by the burning of the
refuse of the sorted paper. Then I saw the house-
hold salvage store, which contained enormous
quantities of old clothes and boots; also a great
collection of furniture, including a Turkish bath
cabinet, all of which articles had been given to
the Army by charitable folk. These are either
given away or sold to the employes of the factory
or to the poor of the neighbourhood at a very
cheap rate.

The man in charge of this store was an
extremely good-looking and gentlemanly young
fellow of University education, who had been a
writer of fiction, and once acted as secretary to a
gentleman who travelled on the Continent and
in the East. Losing his employment, he took to
a life of dissipation, became ill, and sank to the
very bottom. He informed me that his ideals
and outlook on life were now totally changed. I


have every hope that he will do well in the future,
as his abilities are evidently considerable, and
Nature has favoured him in many ways.

I interviewed a number of the men employed
in these works, most of whom had come down
through drink, some of them from very good
situations. One had been the superintendent of
a sewing-machine company. He took to liquor,
left his wife, and found himself upon the streets.
Now he was a traveller for the Salvation Army,
in the interests of the Waste-Paper Department,
had regained his position in life, and was living
with his wife and family in a comfortable house.

Another was a grocer by profession, all of
whose savings were stolen, after which he took
to drink. He had been three months in the
works, and at the time of my visit was earning
6s. a week with food and lodging.

Another had been a Barnardo boy, who came
from Canada as a ship's steward, and could find
nothing to do in England. Another was a gentle-
man's servant, who was dismissed because the
family left London.

Another was an auctioneer, who failed from
want of capital, took to drink, and emigrated to
Canada. Two years later he fell ill with pleurisy,
and was sent home because the authorities were
afraid that his ailment might turn to consump-
tion. He stated that at this time he had given


up drink, but could obtain no employment, so
came upon the streets. As he was starving and
without hope, not having slept in a bed for ten
nights, he was about to commit suicide when
the Salvation Army picked him up. He had
seen his wife for the first time in four years on
the previous Whit Monday, and they proposed
to live together again so soon as he secured
permanent employment.

Another had been a soldier in the Sea-
forth Highlanders, and served in the Egyptian
Campaign of 1881, and also in the American
Army. Subsequently he was employed as a
porter at a lodging-house at a salary of 255. a
week, but left because of trouble about a woman.
He came upon the streets, and, being unable to
find employment, was contemplating suicide,
when he fell under the influence of the Army at
the Blackfriars Shelter.

All these men, and others whom I spoke to at
random but have no space to write of, assured
me that they were quite satisfied with their treat-
ment at the works, and repudiated some of
them with indignation the suggestion that I put
to them tentatively that they suffered from a
system of sweating. For the most part, indeed,
their gratitude for the help they were receiving
in the hour of need was very evident and touching.

The Great Peter Street Shelter

THIS fine building is the most up-to-date
Men's Shelter that the Salvation Army
possesses in London. It was once the billiard
works of Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, and is
situated in Westminster, quite near to the Houses
of Parliament. I visited it about eight o'clock in
the evening, and at its entrance was confronted
with the word ' Full,' inscribed in chalk upon its
portals, at which poor tramps, deprived of their
hope of a night's lodging, were staring discon-
solately. It reminded me of a playhouse upon a
first-night of importance, but, alas ! the actors
here play in a tragedy more dreadful in its
cumulative effect than any that was ever put upon
the stage.

This Shelter is wonderfully equipped and
organized. It contains sitting or resting- rooms,
smoking-rooms, huge dormitories capable of
accommodating about 600 sleepers; bathrooms,
lavatories, extensive hot-water and warming
apparatus, great kitchens, and butteries, and so


forth. In the sitting and smoking-rooms, numbers
of derelict men were seated. Some did nothing
except stare before them vacantly. Some evidently
were suffering from the effects of drink or fatigue ;
some were reading newspapers which they had
picked up in the course of their day's tramp. One,
I remember, was engaged in sorting out and
crumpling up a number of cigar and cigarette
ends which he had collected from the pavements,
carefully grading the results in different heaps,
according to the class of the tobacco (how strong
it must be I) either for his own consumption or
for sale to other unfortunates. In another place,
men were eating the id. or %d. suppers that they
had purchased.

Early as it was, however, the great dormitories
were crowded with hundreds of the lodgers, either
in bed or in process of getting there. I noticed
that they all undressed themselves, wrapping up
their rags in bundles, and, for the most part slept
quite naked. Many of them struck me as very
fine fellows physically, and the reflection crossed
my mind, seeing them thus in puris naturalibus,
that there was little indeed to distinguish them
from a crowd of males of the upper class engaged,
let us say, in bathing. It is the clothes that make
the difference to the eye.

In this Shelter I was told, by the way, that
there exists a code of rough honour among these


people, who very rarely attempt to steal anything
from each other. Having so little property, they
sternly respect its rights. I should add that the
charge made for accommodation and food is 3^.
per night for sleeping, and id. or %d. per portion
of food.

The sight of this Institution crowded with
human derelicts struck me as most sad, more
so indeed than many others that I have seen,
though, perhaps, this may have been because
I was myself tired out with a long day of

The Staff-Captain in charge here told me his
history, which is so typical and interesting that
I will repeat it briefly. Many years ago (he is
now an elderly man) he was a steward on board
a P. and O. liner, and doing well. Then a terrible
misfortune overwhelmed him. Suddenly his wife
and child died, and, as a result of the shock,
he took to drink. He attempted to cut his throat
(the scar remains to him), and was put upon his
trial for the offence. Subsequently he drifted on
to the streets, where he spent eight years. During
all this time his object was to be rid of life, the
methods he adopted being to make himself drunk
with methylated spirits, or any other villainous
and fiery liquor, and when that failed, to sleep at
night in wet grass or ditches. Once he was picked
up suffering from inflammation of the lungs and


carried to an infirmary, where he lay senseless for
three days. The end of it was that a Salvation
Army Officer found him in Oxford Street, and
took him to a Shelter in Burne Street, where he
was bathed and put to bed.

That was many years ago, and now he is to
a great extent responsible for the management
of this Westminster Refuge. Commissioner
Sturgess, one of the head Officers of the Army,
told me that their great difficulty was to prevent
him from overdoing himself at this charitable
task. I think the Commissioner said that some-
times he would work eighteen or twenty hours out
of the twenty-four.

One day this Staff-Captain played a grim little
trick upon me. I was seated at luncheon in a
Salvation Army building, when the door opened,
and there entered as dreadful a human object as
I have ever seen. The man was clad in tatters,
his bleeding feet were bound up with filthy rags;
he wore a dingy newspaper for a shirt. His face
was cut and plastered over roughly ; he was a
disgusting sight. He told me, in husky accents,
that drink had brought him down, and that he
wanted help. I made a few appropriate remarks,
presented him with a small coin, and sent him to
the Officers downstairs.

A quarter of an hour later the Staff-Captain
appeared in his uniform and explained that


he and the ' object ' were the same person.
Again it was the clothes that made the difference.
Those which he had worn when he appeared at
the luncheon-table were the same in which he had
been picked up on the streets of London. Also
he thanked me for my good advice which he said
he hoped to follow, and for the sixpence that he
announced his intention of wearing on his watch-
chain. For my part I felt that the laugh was
against me. Perhaps if I had thought the
Salvation Army capable of perpetrating a joke,
I should not have been so easily deceived.

This Staff-Captain gave me much information
as to the class of wanderers who frequent these
Shelters. He estimated that about 50 per cent of
them sink to that level through the effects of
drink. That is to say, if by the waving of some
magic wand intoxicants and harmful drugs should
cease to be obtainable in this country, the bulk
of extreme misery which needs such succour, and
it may be added of crime at large, would be les-
sened by one-half. This is a terrible statement,
and one that seems to excuse a great deal of what
is called ' teetotal fanaticism.' The rest, in his
view, owe their fall to misfortune of various
kinds, which often in its turn leads to flight to
the delusive and destroying solace of drink.
Thus about 25 per cent of the total have been
afflicted with sickness or acute domestic troubles.


Or perhaps they are ' knocked out ' by shock, such
as is brought on by the loss of a dearly-loved
wife or child, and have never been able to recover
from that crushing blow. The remainder are the
victims of advancing age and of the cruel com-
mercial competition of our day. Thus he said that
the large business firms destroy and devour the
small shopkeepers, as a hawk devours sparrows;
and these little people or their employes, if they
are past middle age, can find no other work.
Especially is this the case since the Employers'
Liability Acts came into operation, for now few
will take on hands who are not young and very
strong, as older folk must naturally be more liable
to sickness and accident.

Again, he told me that it has become the custom
in large businesses of which the dividends are
falling, to put in a man called an ' Organizer,'
who is often an American.

This Organizer goes through the whole staff
and mercilessly dismisses the elderly or the least
efficient, dividing up their work among those
who remain. So these discarded men fall to
rise no more and drift to the poorhouse or the
Shelters or the jails, and finally into the river
or a pauper's grave. First, however, many spend
what may be called a period of probation on
the streets, where they sleep at night under
arches or on stairways, or on the inhospitable


flagstones and benches of the Embankment, even
in winter.

The Staff-Captain informed me that on one
night during the previous November he counted
no less than 120 men, women, and children sleep-
ing in the wet on or in the neighbourhood of the
Embankment. Think of it in this one place 1
Think of it, you whose women and children, to
say nothing of yourselves, do not sleep on the
Embankment in the wet in November. It may
be answered that they might have gone to the
casual ward, where there are generally vacancies.
I suppose that they might, but so perverse are
many of them that they do not. Indeed, often
they declare bluntly that they would rather go
to prison than to the casual ward, as in prison
they are more kindly treated.

The reader may have noted as he drove along
the Embankment or other London thorough-
fares at night in winter, long queues of people
waiting their turn to get something. What they
are waiting for is a cup of soup and, perhaps, an
opportunity of sheltering till the dawn, which
soup and shelter are supplied by the Salvation
Army, and sometimes by other charitable Organi-
zations. I asked whether this provision of gratis
food did in fact pauperize the population, as has
been alleged. The Staff-Captain answered that
men do not as a rule stop out in the middle of


the winter till past midnight to get a pint of soup
and a piece of bread. Of course, there might be
exceptions; but for the most part those who take
this charity, do so because it is sorely needed.

The cost of these midnight meals is reckoned
by the Salvation Army at about ,8 per 1,000,
including the labour involved in cooking and
distribution. This money is paid from the
Army's Central Fund, which collects subscrip-
tions for that special purpose.

1 Of course, our midnight soup has its critics,'
said one of the Officers who has charge of its
distribution ; ' but all I know is that it saves many
from jumping into the river.'

During the past winter, that is from Novem-
ber 3, 1909, to March 24, 1910, 163,101 persons
received free accommodation and food at the
hands of the Salvation Army in connexion with
its Embankment Soup Distribution Charity.

The Free Breakfast Service
Blackfriars Shelter

ON a Sunday in June I attended the Free
Breakfast service at the Blackfriars
Shelter. The lease of this building was acquired
by the Salvation Army from a Temperance
Company. Behind it lay contractors' stables,
which were also bought; after which the premises
were rebuilt and altered to suit the purposes
to which they are now put, the stabling being
for the most part converted into sleeping-

The Officer who accompanied me, Lieut.-Colonel
Jolliffe, explained that this Blackfriars Shelter is,
as it were, the dredger for and the feeder of all
the Salvation Army's Social Institutions for men
in London. Indeed, it may be likened to a drag-
net set to catch male unfortunates in this part of
the Metropolis. Here, as in the other Army
Shelters, are great numbers of bunks that are
hired out at 3^. a night, and the usual food-
kitchens and appliances.

I visited one or two of these, well-ventilated


places that in cold weather are warmed by means
of hot-water pipes to a heat of about 70 deg., as
the clothing on the bunks is light.

I observed that although the rooms had only
been vacated for a few hours, they were perfectly
inoffensive, and even sweet; a result that is
obtained by a very strict attention to cleanliness
and ample ventilation. The floors of these places
are constantly scrubbed, and the bunks undergo
a process of disinfection about once a week. As
a consequence, in all the Army Shelters the
vermin which sometimes trouble common lodging-
houses are almost unknown.

I may add that the closest supervision is
exercised in these places when they are occupied.
Night watchmen are always on duty, and an
Officer sleeps in a little apartment attached to
each dormitory. The result is that there are
practically no troubles of any kind. Sometimes,
however, a poor wanderer is found dead in the
morning, in which case the body is quietly con-
veyed away to await inquest.

I asked what happened when men who could
not produce the necessary coppers to pay for their
lodging, applied for admission. The answer was
that the matter was left to the discretion of the
Officer in charge. In fact, in cases of absolute
and piteous want, men are admitted free, although,
naturally enough, the Army does not advertise


that this happens. If it did, its hospitality
would be considerably overtaxed.

Leaving the dormitories, I entered the great
hall, in which were gathered nearly 600 men
seated upon benches, every one of which was

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Online LibraryH. Rider (Henry Rider) HaggardRegeneration: being an account of the social work of the Salvation army in Great Britain → online text (page 2 of 14)