Henry Harrisse.

Britain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries online

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grade of steel, stamp out the complete scissor,
blade, shank, and bow ; and the}* have in
recent years secured the bulk of the world s
trade so far as cheap scissors are concerned.
Man} German scissors are made and used in
Sheffield itself, and lately scissors drop-forged
in German} from Sheffield steel are imported
in large quantities and finished in Sheffield,
on account of the scarcity of local forgers.
Man}- people look upon the scissors trade
of Sheffield as a dying industry, and, owing
to the small number of apprentices IKUV
entering it, the means of production are
dwindling in an alarming way. The fancy
work on scissors is done by means of filing,
which fiftv to a hundred years ago was a




pf t>*1

very notable art in Sheffield. All sorts of
pretty designs, such as monograms, with
decorative engraving of flowers or birds,
were carved on the bow and shank ; and
for exhibition purposes a workman would
sometimes spend four months ornamenting
one pair of scissors in this way, the value
of the finished article being one hundred
pounds or more. The delicate tracery of
some of these patterns resembled lace. With
the decline of fancy work for ladies of title
elaborate scissors have practically gone out,
but such little ornamentation as remains in
vogue is still clone by hand filing.

The razor is another important item of
cutlery which Sheffield still supplies to all
parts of the world, except America. Until
the passing of the McKinley tariff, about
twenty years ago, America was a great
customer for Sheffield razors as well as other
classes of cutlery. Indeed, it is said that
a greater proportion of people shave in
America than in any other part of the world ;
and the effect upon the Sheffield manu
facturers of the Act referred to may be
imagined when, by a single stroke of the

pen, this lucrative connection was annihilated.
All that Sheffield exports to America now
is a few high-class, expensive pocket knives,
of a kind so little in demand that it is not
worth the while of the Yankee maker, with
his peculiar methods of production, to tackle.
The discovery of hollow grinding by the
Germans about thirty years ago revolutionised
the razor trade. It was some time before
the Sheffield manufacturers appreciated the
significance of the new departure, and when
they did for a long time they bought hollow-
ground razors from Germany, and in some
cases imported German grinders to teach
the trade. The Germans introduced new
and improved processes of polishing and
burnishing superior to our own, and they
are still regarded as leading the way in the
matter of hollow-ground razors though this
is more tradition than anything else, inas
much as Sheffield can now turn out an
article of this class equal to anything on
the market. In this branch of the cutlery
trade, also, the scarcity of apprentices con
stitutes a serious danger. Razors are forged
and ground in a similar manner to knives



and scissors, except that the concavity in
hollow-ground blades is made by holding
the blade lengthwise to the stone instead of

Sheffield has a monopoly of the cutlery
trade of the United Kingdom, and it is
probably no exaggeration to say that up to
twenty years ago Sheffield manufactured
cutlery for the world. The passing of the
McKinley Act robbed her in a moment of
practically the whole American trade, the
United States from that time beginning to
supply their own requirements. Of late years
Germany has been a keen rival both in
English and foreign markets, and a consider
able quantity of cutlery is now made in
Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland, while
Portugal and Russia are the latest com
petitors to enter the field. Remarkable
instances might be given of the value of
cutlery trade marks, due to the fact that it
is impossible for the inexpert buyer to tell
good cutlery from bad. Hence, if a really
good knife is wanted, it is better to buy
one bearing the mark of some firm of repute.
A good deal of the foreign machine-made
cutlery is of inferior quality.

It must be admitted that serious dangers
threaten the supremacy of Sheffield in her
oldest manufacture. The trade suffers from
the want of mechanical progress, and from

the survival of antiquated methods which
tend to check enterprise. Some indication
has been given of the way in which the
trade is split up amongst the " little mesters,"
and, although many firms have recently put
themselves into a position to manufacture
cutlery on more modern lines, the ill effects
arising from lack of co-ordination are not
altogether outgrown. The system of piece
work which still obtains is in many ways
remarkable; even in a factory cutlers will pay
rent for the place where they work, with some
thing for materials, light, and fires, receiving
so much per gross for the articles they put
together. They are not workmen in the ordin
ary sense, and this unusual relationship makes
it difficult in some cases to apply the regula
tions of the Eactory Acts. The most serious
danger menacing the trade is, however, the
want of a proper succession of skilled workmen.
It is in the most highly skilled branches,
such as the making-up of pocket cutlery, that
there is the greatest shrinkage in the supply
of workmen. That the position is some
what serious may be seen from the simple
fact that although the world s requirements
have grown enormously, there are actually
fewer people engaged in the manufacture
of cutlery in Sheffield to-day than at any
time during the last hundred years, and the
means of production are undoubtedly less.




s 1 o w 1 y
and steadily,
and scarce
his pace, even
w hen the
whip cracks
like a pistol-
s h o t near
him, an old
horse plods
on the canal
He is hauling
behind him a heavily laden barge which
seems almost to glide over the water by its
own volition, for sometimes the tow-rope
hangs quite loosely between its gaily painted
post in front and the old horse on the path.

At the stern of the barge, near the little
chimney from which light smoke is flying,
stands a healthy and comely woman with a
child in her arms, and on shore, beside her
father, not far from the horse, trots a little

Here the} all are, the bargee and his
family, living on their barge, and conveying at
the rate of about three miles an hour a heavy
load of bricks t:> the heart of might} London.
Lo:>k in the little cabin at the stern of the
boat, near which the good woman is standing.
Your first impression would probably be of
bright blue and red colours. A very gaudily
depicted Windsor Castle might strike your
eye from the wooden panelling, then a soldier
in startling uniform, anon a mermaid, and
then, perchance, a peacock in more brilliant
dress than ever Dame Nature designed in her
most lavish moods. Bargee and his family
evidently like bright colours.

But a cheery stove beams red and warm
close to the hatchway door a stove shaped
something like an egg, its upper part narrow
ing to the pipe which rises as a chimney
without. Beyond the stove extends a set of

cupboards, and opposite, on the right hand
as we enter, stretches a broad seat on which
a bed can be spread at night ; in front of us,
at the end of the cabin, between the cup
boards and the broad seat, projects a smaller
seat, where probably the chubby children
may rest their healthy limbs.

A bright brass lamp, polished to shine like
gold, gleams near the stove, a few cooking
utensils hang here and there, and a small
clock ticks loudly, making like some persons
great noise for such a little thing.

The cabin is the bargee s home, and it
reminds us of the tiny kitchen of a well-kept
cottage, with, of course, certain characteristic
differences, clue to the fact that it is built on
a floating craft. In spite of apparent dis
advantages, the bargee, as a rule, prefers his
home and his life to a London lodging. And
it is doubtful if he is unwise in his preference,
for really his cabin, with the fresh air he can
always obtain outside, is surely better than
many a city slum.

In fine weather the life of a bargee is,
no doubt, pleasant enough, as he glides
smoothly through the quiet country, bathed
in the bright sunshine and the fresh air, and
surrounded by the song of birds. But his life
has other aspects, as when he voyages through
a drear} manufacturing or mining district,
when rains fall heavily and the wind is cruel,
when snow lies thick on the tow-path, and
ice hampers or blocks entirely the passage of
his boat. Yet the liking of bargee for his
calling is genuine enough.

There are varieties of bargees as of other
folk, and not all of them may present the
picture just described. The tendency in these
days is for a number of barges to be owned
by one firm, and some of the proprietors will
not permit women and children on their
boats, only unmarried men or widowers are
employed, or, should a man have a wife and
young family, they must dwell ashore. On
the other hand, some large barge-owners
permit the wives and families to dwell on the
boats, subject to the regulations of the law ;
and barges may still be found which are


I 22





owned by the bargee himself. The legal
regulations, passed in 1877 and amended in
1884, only permit a man and his wife and
two children to inhabit a cabin of a certain
si/.e ; but some barges are fitted with two
cabins, one fore and aft. Further, the sani
tary inspector and the " School Board man,"
as the bargees call him, are abroad, and the
boat children have to attend school like their
fellows on shore. Some difference has thus been
caused in the use of canal boats as dwellings
and fewer women and children are to be found
iboard than a comparatively few years ago.

It is difficult to give an accurate idea of the
average earnings of canal -boatmen, because
they are paid so differently. Some, no
doubt, receive a weekly wage but others are
remunerated by a fee for the trip, and others
at a rate per ton according to the merchandise
they carry. Bad weather involving a stop
page of their craft would inflict serious loss on
these latter, should the masters not make
them some allowance. Perhaps an estimate
of from eighteen to twenty-five shillings
weekly would not be far wrong as an aver
age. Living is cheap for the bargee, especially
if he uses the boat as a dwelling A man
owning his own barge and horse might do
fairly well if he were thrifty and business-like,
and it would appear that there arc worse
callings, and certainly more unhealthy trades,
than that of an inland boatman.

But, perhaps, many persons may be sur
prised to learn that the conveyance of freight
by barges, on inland waterways, still forms
a somewhat large industry in the United
Kingdom ; they may have thought that the
railways had killed the traffic. Such is not
quite the case. For a time, undoubtedly, the
prosperity of canals was greatly checked by
railways, but about 1878-80 it began to
revive, and. in the opinion of some among us,
the barge industry is likely to increase rather
than diminish.

Quite an army of men are employed,
estimated to be about a hundred thousand in
number ; nearly four thousand miles of canals
and inland navigations are open for trade,
while about forty million tons of freight are
conveyed in the course of the year. In fact,
so complete is the system that you could float
from London to Liverpool on inland water
way s ; and as far back as 1836, there was, it is
said no place in England south of Durham
that could be found fifteen miles fiorn a canal
or navigable river.

This statement may possibly have been an
exaggeration, but the system was, and still
is, very extensive. Some of those old canals
have ; no doubt, been allowed to run dry ;
others, again, have been converted into rail
ways about 1 20 miles, it is said, altogether ;
but there still exists a great network of inland
navigation in the country, an important centre



of which, so far as England is concerned, may
be found at Birmingham. 1 1 ere sexeral
waterways meet and a canal reservoir is

The freight coin-eyed on these inland navi
gations, including navigable rivers, is, as may
be supposed, hea\ y and bulky ; such as bricks,
ore, coal, and lime, straw, sand, and manure.
At Paddington Basin, where the Grand
Junction Canal may be said to end, you
may see many examples of this water-borne
merchandise. Here is a sailing-barge, with
tall mast and picturesque brown sail, which
has voyaged up the Thames, and entering the
Regent s Canal through Limehouse Dock, has
been towed through London until it rests at
this wharf. Its cargo is a load of broken
cockle-shells for powdering the gravel paths
of Hyde Park.

Next to this vessel lie half a do/en or
so towing barges which have brought heavy
loads of bricks from the country ; yonder
lie a fleet which will transport refuse from
dust-carts out of the town ; hard by are
waiting other barges to float away with
street sweepings and stable-manure to be
used on the land.

Not long since, salt used to be brought
to London by barge, but the salt wharf at

Paddington now appears to have passed
into other hands. On the Thames you
would find cargoes of clay, probably from
Poole in Dorsetshire, floating quietly up to
the Potteries at Lambeth. The clay may
be brought by vessels to the docks far
down the river, and then be borne by
lighters or barges higher up the stream ;
but barges are also built to sail the sea,
and the barge itself may have conveyed
the raw material round the coast to the
place of manufacture. Glass bottles from
the Continent have often been conveyed to
this country by sea-going barges. Those
brown sails, looking so picturesque at the
mouth of the Thames, are not outspread for
the river alone.

A characteristic feature of a freight barge,
either with or without sails, is of course
that it is a flat-bottomed boat very suitable
for conveying heavy and bulky goods, if
speed be no object. In canals where sails
are unavailable, the barge is still usually
towed along by a horse walking gravely
on the tow-path beside the water ; but
steam has made its appearance on the quiet
inland waterway as elsewhere, and trains
of barges may be seen tugged along on
other inland waters as well as on the

a, t






U & Co., Ltd.

Thames. When a horse tows along two
craft, one behind the other, the second is
called, in canal language, a "monkey" barge.
The horse indeed, as a rule, still holds its
own on the tow-path ; and dotted at intervals
on the canal banks stand shanties or stables,
often in connection with a public-house,
where Dobbin may be installed for the
night at the modest charge of fourpence.
This fee pays for the shelter and the bed
on which the animal may repose its weary
limbs. Not far distant the barge is moored
out of the passage-way, and the bargee and
his family, having obtained such food and
drink as they may require from the inn,
retire to their
cabin, shut their
door, and sleep
as soundly and as
comfortably as
their countrymen

1 he slowness of
barge traffic is not
altogether clue to
its motor power
being c h i e f 1 y
haulage by horses.
Passing through
the numerous locks
adds greatly to the
delay. Thus, be
tween Paddington
and T r i n g a
distance of some
thirty - two miles
by rail there are

no fewer than forty-five locks by which the
canal surmounts the rising ground. Then
the barge finds itself on the high level ; but
before very long meets with seven other
locks to enable it to descend again with
safety to a lower plane. The first
lock out of London is at Cowley,
near Uxbridge, and the time oc
cupied by a barge in passing from
London to Tring is about
two days. It is clear, there
fore, that perishable goods
would not form suitable
freight, but for heavy freight
such as bricks and timber, or
for bulky merchandise such
as straw or manure, the barge offers a very
suitable and, no doubt, very cheap means
of conveyance.

The two great waterways out of London
arc, of course, the Thames running eastward
and the Grand Junction tending north-west.
The Thames communicates with several
other waterways at intervals and running
north and south ; it also joins the Severn
by canal. The longest canal tunnel in
England known as the Sapperton is, it
may be said, in parenthesis, on the Thames
and Severn. It is over 11,000 feet in length.
Horses are not used for haulage here, but
the men push the barges through.




The Grand Junction communicates with
North and East London by means of the
Regent s Canal, and entering the Thames
at Limehouse ; but it also joins the royal
river again about eleven miles west of
London, through the Brent at Brentwoocl.
As it passes on to the north-west it throws
out branches to Aylesbury and to Bucking
ham, and loses itself finally in the Union,
leading to Leicester, and the Birmingham,
which not only leads to the metropolis of
the Midlands but to a number of other
canals. Among these are the Ox
ford, the Birmingham and Worcester,
the Birmingham and Coventry, and
the Grand Trunk, which onward wends

through the wires overhead ; but though
this system would quicken the pace on
stretches of water free from locks, it would
not obviate the delay occasioned by passing
through these necessary works.

It would seem that travel on our inland
waterways must be comparatively slow ; but
that is no reason for their neglect. They
carry much heavy freight now, and could
convey more, especially if a uniform gauge
of lock and canal could be adopted. Canals

its way to the Bridgwater Canal and to

From the Mersey the Liverpool and Leeds
Canal takes its way, and at Leeds joins the
Aire and Calder, which communicates with
the Ouse and Hull. These two, therefore,
form a waterway across northern England,
just as the Grand Junction, Birmingham and
Grand Trunk form a north-westerly, and
the Grand Junction, Union, and the rivers
Soar and Trent form a northerly navigable
line through the country.

Suggestions have been made that electric
wires should be stretched above the canals,
and electric motors being fitted to the
barges, they should travel somewhat after
the fashion of electric tram-cars, empowered

Photo: Casstll & Co., Ltd

have been known to the world from
the earliest ages, but their great ex
tension in England did not occur until the
latter half of the eighteenth century. The need
for more efficient communication between
various parts of the country became keenlv
realised, and the development was largelv due
to the skill of James Brindley and the energy
of the Duke of Bridgwater. It was about
that time that the greater part, at least, of
the English canal system came into exist
ence. For a hundred years or more the
patient horse and the long and heavy boat
have formed a picture in the peaceful
country-side ; and in spite of all changes
the barge still glides on quietly and uncon
cernedly, forming with its master and
mistress a feature in the many-sided life of
Old England.





IT may safely be said that every inhabitant
of these islands however ragged his
habiliments has some wool on his
back. Among all peoples living in temperate
climates, the wearing of wool fabrics of some
sort is indeed practically universal. The first
fibre ever woven into cloth was probably
goat s hair or the wool of the primitive
mountain sheep, and the term " spinster "
carries us back to the time when it was the
part of every maiden to hold the distaff and
spin the yarn from which the clothing of the
family was to be woven.

Before the advent of the locomotive there


were two high roads from London to Scotland.
They correspond pretty closely to the east
coast and west coast railway routes of
to-day, the one passing through Doncaster
and York, the other through Warrington and
Preston. Within the parallelogram formed
by these four towns -roughly sixty miles by
thirty very nearly the whole of the two
great textile industries is carried on. The
great Pennine chain running north and south
divides the counties of York and Lancaster,
and cuts this limited area into two fairly
equal portions, the Lancashire side being
given up to cotton, the eastern or Yorkshire
half mainly to wool.

It is a land of high moorlands
and rushing streams, and its
people have many of the
strenuous characteristics of
hillmen all the world over.
Leeds, Bradford, Halifax,
Iluddersfield, Wakcficlcl, Batley,
Dewsbury, Keighley are all
large and important towns,
almost united into one vast city
by smaller towns and villages
innumerable, every one of them
engaged in some branch or
other of the wool industry.
According to the report of the
Chief Inspector of Factories for
1889, the number of persons
employed in the woollen and
worsted industries was 297,053,
of whom nearly 168,000 were



females. This return, of course, takes no
account of the immense number of persons
engaged in the handling and transport of
the ra\v material, in the collection, packing,
and distribution of the manufactured article,
or in catering- for the manifold wants of
the workers themselves. Altogether the
population dependent upon wool for a liveli
hood cannot be far short of three millions.

It is estimated that the value of the wool
worked up in one year is not less than
^"23,000,000, and that in the course of its
progress to the shelves of the tailor and
draper it is increased in value between three
and four fold. Whence comes this vast mass
of material ?

A hundred years ago we were dependent
almost entire!} upon our own sheep. There
are nearly 27 million sheep in Great Britain,
and the weight of one year s clip of their wool
is about 140,000,000 lb., of which
one-sixth is sent away in the raw
state. We import, in addition,
for consumption here some
400,000,000 lb. of wool, mohair,
alpaca, camel s hair, and goat s
hair. The great bulk of it
comes from Australia, New
Zealand, arrd South Africa ; but
a considerable portion, perhaps
20 per cent., comes from the
River Plate, Asia Minor, the hill
country of North India, and
even Tibet.

The great marts for imported
wool are London and Liverpool,
and periodical auction sales are
held in both places, which are
attended by buyers not only
from Yorkshire, but from France, German}-,
Belgium, and even the United States. Of
late years some of the largest users send out
their own buyers to purchase at sales in the
colonies. The sale room in the Wool Ex
change, in Coleman Street, London, during
the progress of one of the six scries of sales
held there annually, presents an interesting
and exciting scene. As many as twelve
thousand bales of wool, averaging 400 lb.
in weight each, and worth from ten to
twenty pounds a bale, are disposed of
by auction at one sitting of two or three
hours, and the sales go on day after clay,

sometimes for three weeks at a stretch. The
merchants who deal in the home-grown wool
are called woolstaplers, and they either go
round to the farmers and haggle with them
about the price, or attend the annual wool
fairs in the wool-growing counties of England
and Scotland. Most of the Irish wool is
collected by dealers, and finds its wav either
to Dublin, for sale there, or direct to Bradford


and Halifax, where the whole business, so
far as this country is concerned, is finally

A generation ago the spinner bought the
wool and combed or carded it himself, and
in what is called the woollen branch of the
trade this is still a common practice, but the
tendency of late years has been to specialise
the various processes. Very much of the
wool which comes to us is, in the first
instance, bought by top-makers. On arriving
at the top-maker s warehouse the bales are cut
open. The wool, which has been tightly
compressed perhaps for six or nine months,




is shaken out, fleece by fleece, and divided

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 13 of 39)