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Henry Harrisse.

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

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the surface of the street. There
arc three miles of double rails,
and eleven stations approached
by stairs from the footpath.
The work is a splendid piece
of engineering, which meets
satisfactorily the requirements
of pedestrian traffic while also



preserving the beaut}- of the city. So
admirably has the scheme worked that
it has been adopted in the busiest
district of Boston, with characteristic
American modifications. Glasgow has
possibly the finest service of trams in
the United Kingdom ; and about four
hundred cars are in regular use. Edin
burgh, for aesthetic reasons, adopted
what is known as the " cable " system.
The Scottish capital is quite pleased
with its service, but, considering the
stead\- progress of electrical invention,
the prudence of its policy in this
particular seems highly problematical.
Dublin, Manchester, Nottingham,
Middlesbrough, Belfast and Cork, to select
a few places at random, are all more up-



A SHEPHERD S IH SH TRAM.





A LONDON COUNT V COUNCIL TRAM : THE RUSH FOR SKATS.



to-date than London. The
overhead wire or " trolley "
system is the one which has
been generally adopted in
England and on the Con
tinent. Its distinctive feature
is that iron posts are required
to support overhead wires ;
and these are of necessity
out of harmony with the
appearance of a really hand
some thoroughfare. Merrion
Square, Dublin, for example,
with its noble mansions and
delightful old gardens, has
not been improved by their



OMNIBUS AND TRAMWAY TRAFFIC.



153



introduction. It \vas to avoid
such transgressions against
taste that the Edinburgh
Corporation refused to have
anything to do \vith the
" trolley " system.

The march of knowledge
is so swift there is always
some danger that a new
discovery may render old-
fashioned to-morrow what
yesterday bore the hall-mark
of Progress. Not long ago,
however, the London County
Council agreed that this very
reasonable fear should not
any longer deter them from
deciding how the Metropolitan
street-car system could be
improved. After a painstaking
investigation by the Council s
representatives of what had
been done, and was being done,
in Europe and America, it was resolved to
follow the example of New York, and have
the London tramway system reconstructed
on the " conduit " electric principle. The
revolution will be effected vcrv crraduallv.




KLECTRIC TRAM AT Hl LL.

But within the next few years the old style
shall have completely given way to the new ;
and the horseless carriage will be the popular
mode of street locomotion throughout the
Metropolis. P. V. WILLIAM RYAN.




_:



A FAMILIAR SCHNK IN LONDON": J.-OUCKMAN KKGULATING THK TRAM- It.



20



154




SAWING LOGS FOR CHAIR LKGS.



A CHAIR-MAKING TOWN.



THE chair plays such an important part
in our modern social economy that
it is difficult for us to imagine a
chairless state of society. Though Orientals
may be content to squat or recline upon the
ground, we feel that it would be impossible
tu support the dignity of our Western
civilisation without chairs. A throne, which
is but a glorified chair, is the symbol of
the most exalted rank ; to invite a man to
take the chair is to pay him a recognised
compliment, and to invest him, for the time
being, with almost despotic authority over
some section of his fellows ; while the offer
of a chair is one of the commonest forms
of conventional politeness.

There is one district in England where
the demand of the civilised world for chairs
is being met in a very effective manner,
and under conditions that are probably
unique. At High Wycombe, and in the
villages surrounding it, the one aim of the
population seems to be to produce chairs
in endless variety and almost unlimited
quantity. Amsterdam is said to be built
upon herring-bones, and with at least equal



truth High Wycombe may be said to be
built upon chairs.

For generations past the youth of this
part of Buckinghamshire have been brought
up as a matter of course to take some share
in converting the beech, ash, and elm trees
of their native woods into chairs, just as
the boys of a mining district almost inevit
ably become miners.

Within recent years the industry has
increased enormously, stimulated by the
introduction of machinery and the impor
tation of foreign timber. One result of this
growth is the curious one that the casual
visitor is likely to be less struck with the
extent of the trade than he was formerly.
In the earlier days of the industry nearly
ever}- inhabitant of the town was a chair-
maker, and nearly every cottage was a work
shop. The visitor walking through the town
on a summer day would see through the
open door of each cottage the occupier at
work at his bench or lathe, while stacks of
chairs or parts of chairs stood around, and
the women, and often the children, sat at
the door caning or rushing the chair seats.



A CHAIR-MAKING TOWN.



1



To-day the great majority of the men arc
engaged in factories, some of which employ
as many as 300 hands, while others are
quite small ; the women are occupied in
domestic duties in the trim little red brick
cottages, from which, as a rule, all signs of
the owners occupation are banished ; and the
children are being looked after by the School
Board. The well-to-do manufacturers live
in pleasant villas on the hills surrounding
the town, and to meet the needs of the large
industrial population there is, of course, a
considerable trading- community. The town,
therefore, now presents at first sight much
the same appearance as any other country
town of similar size.

Yet even to-day the observant visitor
cannot fail to detect signs of the exceptional
and distinctive character of the place. In
the station yard are great stacks of " dimen
sioned wood," just delivered from Canada
that is to say, parts of chairs cut to standard
sizes, and needing only to be jointed together
and stained or varnished ; loads of chairs
are being despatched by rail, and waggons,
on which the chairs are piled up to a great
height, are leaving the town by road for
London chair frames are being taken from
the factories to the cottages, for the cottage
industry is not wholly extinct, or the com
pleted chairs are being delivered at the
factories. Here and there at a cottage
door a woman or girl is sitting, interweaving
with deft fingers the split cane to form a
chair seat ; and, if it is market day, the
visitor may see in the market
place a little crowd of buyers,
or merely curious onlookers,
gathered round a
voluble gentle
man, who, with
the aid of a loud
voice, a facetious
manner, and a
notebook, is
selling small
quantities of tim
ber by auction.

Few manufac
turing towns are
so pleasantly
situated as High
Wycombc. It lies



in a beautiful valley, flanked by beech-clad
hills ; down the valley flows a shallow stream.
which wanders through the streets of the
town, adding to its picturcsqueness, and
affording fine opportunities for sport to
juvenile anglers. If we pass through the
town and continue along the Oxford road
for a couple of miles we come to West
Wycombe, a charming old village, which
contains one old-established factor}-, a single
street of delightfully quaint houses, and a
church, which is quite a curiosity owing to
its extraordinary mixture of architectural
styles.

It has been estimated that the output of
chairs from Wycombe amounts to seven or
eight for every minute of the day and night ;
in other words, Wycombe supplies in the
course of a year the equivalent of a chair
apiece for every man, woman, and child in
London. When occasion requires, some of
the Wycombe firms can turn out chairs with
astonishing rapidity ; 5,000 chairs were made
for the Alexandra Palace in six days, and
19,000 were made and delivered in London
in a few weeks for use at Messrs. Moody
and Sankey s revival meetings.

Scarcely less striking than the quantity
of the chairs produced is the variety of their
patterns. These are numbered by thousands,
and are constantly being added to. It is




>



SIM.ITTINd LOGS FOR CHAIR I.K(iS.



1 5 6



BRITAIN AT WORK.



astonishing to find, when one begins to
investigate the subject, how wide is the
scope for the artistic designer in respect to
so simple an article as a chair. Chairs are
like ladies hats, there seems to be no limit
to their possible variations ; and if at times
the novelties verge on the grotesque, or
the designer seems to have forgotten that
a chair is intended to be sat upon, there
are nevertheless always to be seen in the
Wycombe workshops new patterns that are




TURNING CHAIR LKGS IN A COTTAGE.

both artistic and convenient, as well as
plentiful reproductions of the old and ap
proved forms. From the state chair of the
mayor, with its rich upholstery and elaborate
carving, down to the humble "Windsor"
chair, which has always been the staple
product of the Wycombe trade, every
imaginable variety of chair may be seen
in process of manufacture in the Wycombe
factories.

Xor is it chairs alone that occupy the
attention of the Wycombe manufacturers.
Of late years several firms have added to
their business other branches of the furnish
ing and cabinet-making trades, and some
of the handsomest sideboards and the
daintiest cabinets to be seen in Tottenham
<Jourt Road were made at High Wvcombe.



To see the newest methods of furniture
production in operation, we cannot do better
than pay a visit to the factories of Messrs.
W. Birch, Limited, one of the oldest and
largest firms in the town. Very interesting
is it to watch the progress, say, of a beauti
fully inlaid drawing-room chair from the
rough timber stage through the various
processes of moulding, inlaying, framing,
polishing, and upholstering. Probably the
most fascinating department to most visitors
would be the Machinery-room, which
is equipped with circular saws, frame
saws, band saws, and fret saws ;
planing, moulding, mortising, tenon
ing, boring, turning, and sand-papering
machines. With the aid of these an
immense amount of labour is saved,
and it would be a revelation to
main- persons to see how important
a part machinery may play in the
production even of high-class
furniture.

It is inevitable, and no
doubt on the whole beneficial,
that in furniture making, as
in other trades, machinery
should be taking the place
of hand labour. But, watching
the wonderful machines per
forming their various functions
with dead accuracy, and ap
parently with little exercise
of skill on the workman s
part, one cannot but feel
that the new conditions must tend to the
decay of artistic taste and skilful crafts
manship. There is, of course, scope for
these qualities in the designing of new pat
terns with which, however, the workman
has nothing to do and in the blending
of the beautifully coloured woods to form
elaborate inlaid patterns ; but, on the whole,
the conditions of modern industry seem
unfavourable to the development of great
artist-craftsmen like Chippendale, Sheraton,
and Hepplewhite. Happily, there seems to
be a desire in the town to develop, as far as
may be, the artistic capacity of the young
people. A school of art has been established
for several years, and is well attended by
workers in the furniture trade, who find the
instruction in wood-carving specially valuable.



A CHAIR-MAKING TOWN.



157



From the economic point of vie\v it is
hardly disputable that the machinery, which
r s no\v so generally adopted, has proved
a boon to the worker as well as to his
employer. The trade of the town has so
enormously increased that, notwithstanding
the numerous labour-saving devices, the
number of men employed is far greater than
in the days when even-thing was done by
hand. The population of the town, which




the last-named work is being carried en.
The cottage is fitted with the old-fashioned
pole lathe, and its present occupant carries
on the work under much the same conditions
as his father and grandfather did before him.
Most of these small traders keep a pony
and cart, and when they have a good stock
of parts turned up to certain standard sizes
they take them into town and sell them
to the large manufacturers.

There is one delightful
form of the industry which
belongs, unfortunately, to
the past. Some of the
men, in order to save the
labour of carting the
timber to their workshops



is now a little over 20,000, has doubled within
the last thirty years a sure sign of the
growth of the town s staple industry. Under
the old system piece-work was universal,
and employment was very irregular, but in
the modern factories payment is almost in
variably by the hour, and the great majority
of the workers are assured of regular and
continuous employment. Then, again, wages
are much higher than they were a genera
tion ago.

It must not be supposed that up-to-date
methods have entirely superseded the old
cottage industry. It still survives in the
outlying districts, but is confined to one or
t\vo branches of the trade namely, the
caning and rushing of chair seats and the
turning of legs and spindles. Our illustra
tion shows one of these cottages in which




used to go out to the woods and improvise
with a screen of boughs a truly Arcadian
workshop. Here, just where the trees were
felled, they would cut them up into billets
of various sizes, which they would shape on
the spot into chair legs and backs.

But though the wanderer in the neighbour
hood of High Wycombe to-day is not likely
to stumble upon one of these sylvan work-,
shops, he may well regard the lot of the
worker in his thatched cottage, amidst the
beautiful surroundings of the Buckingham
shire hills and woods, as in many respects
an enviable one. .And even in the factories
in town the conditions under which the work
is carried on are mam* decrees better and



153



BRITAIN AT WORK.




FRAMING ROOM.



healthier than those \vhich obtain in the
neighbourhood of Curtain Road, the centre
of the London furniture trade. At Wycombe
the men may work in the sunlight, within sight
of the wooded slopes of the Buckingham
shire hills, and within sound of innumerable
singing birds, while in their homes there is
no lack of " room to live," for each family
has its own cottage, and each cottage its
strip of garden. And the Buckinghamshire
chair-maker pays no more for his cottage



and garden than the London workman often
docs for a single room. Work is fairly
regular, but should trade be very slack the
workman can often tide over the hard times
by getting a job at a neighbouring farm.
In view of these comparatively favourable
conditions, it is not surprising that many
London workmen who have wandered to
High Wycombe in search of work should
have settled down permanently in the



town.



HUGH B. PuiLroTT.



ON THE ROAD
TO LONDON.




159



BEER-MAKING.



1^1 1 E vastness and importance of the
brewing interest in the British Isles
is shown by the fact that the revenue
derived from beer in a recent year was more
than /"i 3,000,000. The duty is fixed at seven
shillings and ninepence on a barrel of 36



four barrels of mild ale, but only two 1 of
strong ale, and the quantity used in pale ales
and stout varies between these. The duty is
collected by Excise officers, who supervise
every brewer}-.

Beer being an article of daily consumption,




THK MALT ROOM, MESSRS. WHITBREAD S BREWERY.

THE FIGURES 7, 8, Q, IO, II AND 12 ARE NUMBERS OF HOPPERS THROUGH WHICH MALT FALLS INTO

MILL; THE SMALL SQUARES UNDER FIGURES ARE OF GLASS, so THAT IT CAN BE SEEN WHEN



THEY ARE EMPTY.



gallons of a certain strength, which is termed
the standard specific gravity. This standard
of strength on which the duty on a barrel
amounts to seven shillings and ninepence
may be taken as being the ordinary strength
of mild ale. The duty, therefore, on pale ale,
stout, and strong ale is proportionately more
on each barrel. An idea of the relative
strength of beers may be easily gained by
a comparison of the different quantities of
malt used in their manufacture. One quarter
(which equals eight bushels; of malt will make



of a bulk out of all comparison to the in
gredients required, it follows that the place of
manufacture, or the brewery, is as a matter of
economy always in the centre of the densest
population. The principal exception is Burton-
on-Trent, and in a lesser degree Dublin and
London. The fame of the brewing qualities
of the Burton water dates from the thirteenth
century, when the discovery was made bv the
monks of \Vetmore. The peculiarity of the
Burton water is an almost entire absence of
carbonate of soda and sulphate of soda, so



i6o



BRITAIN AT WORK.



millions sterling. A large
proportion, however, of the
capital of a brewery company
is invested in public-houses
by way of loan to the tenant,
or purchase of the freehold,
thus securing the custom of
the house for beer. This
system of tied houses was
to an extent forced on the
brewers by public opinion
being not only averse to the
granting of new public-house
licences, but showing a ten
dency to demand a reduction
of those already existing.
The brewers quickly recog
nised that a licence had

EXTERIOR OE MASH Tl N (MESSRS. UARCLAY. PERKINS AND CO. S , , i 11

HRKW1 , RV) become not only a valuable

asset, but a modified inono-

largely present in London deep well water, poly, and they each secured as many as
It also has present a high percentage of possible to " tie " a trade for their respective




sulphate of lime, which makes a hard water
eminently adaptable for brewing a light,
delicate beer. The water of Dublin and
London has much greater extractive qualities
than that of Burton, and for that reason is
admirably suitable for brewing stout and porter.



breweries. At the present time the number
of "free houses," or public - houses which
are under no obligation to buy beer from
a particular brewery, are under ten per cent,
of the total number of licences ; there is thus
little scope for further expansion among



There is no difference in the processes existing breweries, and practically no opening

of brewing light and dark ales, the

darker colour of stout being caused

by roasted malts being used. Burton

is a town entire!} given over to the

brewing interest. It brews not only

for local consumption, or to supply the

needs of any particular district, but

for the beer-drinking world. The fame

of Dublin stout also causes a demand

throughout England and the colonies,

and London enjoys a considerable

export trade, besides an increasing

outside bottling trade.

There is hardly a town in England
without a brewery, and certainly none
with any pretensions to importance.
The tendency with breweries, as with
most other industries, has within recent
years been to amalgamate, which has
led to the creation of enormous under
takings with stupendous totals of

capital that of Messrs. Watney, INTERIOR OK MASH TUN (MESSRS. WATNEV S HREWERV).
Coombe and Reid the largest com- THE MECHANISM is SHOWN STATIONARY. THE MAN is REMOVING

, . & ONE OF THE SLOTTED PLATES THROUGH WHICH LIQUID

pany, being upwards of seventeen DRAINS FROM GRAINS.




BEER-MAKIN<S.



161



for a new brewery to start business, as the
extent of a brewer s business is practically
limited to the number of public-houses he
can control. The only exceptions are cer
tain brewers with a family trade, and some
of the large firms of world-wide reputation.
It is generally understood that Guinness, of
Dublin, own no tied houses.

The number of men employed in breweries
is enormous, the staff of a small brewery
being at least 100, while the average may
be taken as from 400 to 700 in the large
breweries. Of the total
number of men em
ployed on the premises,
those actually engaged
in the process of beer-
making is comparatively
small, the reason being
that everything in a
brewery is done that can
be done by machinery,
with a view to perfect
cleanliness and uni
formity in process. The
manual workers are
mostly cellarmen, yard
men, coopers, draymen,
sawyers, carpenters,
engineers, farriers,
stablemen, bottlers,
washers, and label lers.
The great attraction of
e m p 1 o } m e n t in a
brewery is that it is per
manent. Work is con
stant the whole year

round, few extra hands are ever taken on,
and the regular weekly workman can count
on fifty-two weeks wages a year.

The actual process of making beer has not
varied for over two centuries, but the resources
of science have led to an almost absolute
certainty of result. Beer is an infusion of hot
water and crushed malt boiled with hops, and
when cold fermented ; but this simple state
ment implies rapid fluctuations of temperature
and intricate chemical changes. The chemical
action that takes place is now thoroughly
understood, and the changes of temperature
controlled by appliances with perfect ex
actitude. Years ago the motto of the country
brewer was " Time corrects the errors of the
21



operators," which led to long and unprofitable
storage ; but now the aim of every brewer is
to bring his beer quickly into condition for
immediate sale. So rapidly is this accom
plished, that the contents of Monday s mash
tun will be ready for drinking the following
Friday. The science and high technical
skill the brewer now brings to bear on his
calling has been principally developed in
the study of natural chemical action and
careful analysis of the ingredients and
water used. Pasteur, it may be mentioned,




THE BIG COPPER (MESSRS. WHITBREAn s BREWERY).



THIS IS HEATED BY STEAM.



APERTURE IS SHOWN THROUGH WHICH HOPS ARE
INTRODUCED.



carried on the interesting series of experi
ments which led to his highly important
discoveries regarding micro-organisms at
\Vhitbrcad s Brewery. A minority of brewers
have experimented to find substitutes for
the time-honoured original materials, ac
complishing little of a satisfactory nature,
but the majority have chiefly interested
themselves in securing the perfect purity of
their product by entirely natural methods. In
many breweries the sole ingredients used
are malt and hops, and in others, where invert
sugar is added, it is not from any motive
of economy, but to make the beer drinkable
quicker. The present cheapness of hops
has rendered adulteration quite unnecessary,




THK COPPER STAGE AT MKSSRS. KARCLAY S BREWERY.
THESE. ARE HEATED BY FURNACES BURNING ANTHRACITE COAL. THE HOP POCKETS CONTAIN l l / 2 C\VT.




THK COOLING LOFT AT MKSSKS. BARCLAYS BRFAVKRY.

THIS CONTAINS TWO COPPER COOLERS l6 INCHES DEEP.



BEER-MAKING.



163



even to those smaller brewers that at one
time may have used substitutes ; but as regards
the large and well-known breweries, nothing

o o

but malt and hops and sometimes sugar is
ever used. The price of hops varies greatly,
according to the quality and amount of the
crop. It may be as high as four shillings
a pound, or as low as sixpence, the latter
being about the present price. This value is
not expected to fluctuate so much in the
future, as the cold storage of hops is being
introduced, it being found that at a tempera
ture of from 25 to 28 Fahrenheit they will
keep for years. The price
of malt is more stable, the
average quotation being about
forty shillings a quarter.

Ale is known by three
definitions according to its
strength mild, pale, and
strong. Brown beer, when of
similar strength to mild ale,
is known as porter, and when
equal to pale ale or bitter
as stout. The quantity of
hops used varies according
to the quality and class of
beer to be brewed. It may
be as low as 6 Ib a barrel
for mild ale, or as high as
1 8 Ib. a barrel for strong ale.

Beer- making commences
with cleaning and crushing
the malt, which is the chief
ingredient and factor in beer-
making. Malt may be pro
duced from any of the cereals by process
of germination stopped at appropriate
stages, but barley is the only grain which
combines in itself all the requisites for the
production of a perfect malt. The barley is,
after being steeped in water to induce ger
mination, turned on floors to allow develop
ment of the acrospire and to prevent the
undergrowth of rootlets ; when the acrospire
is two-thirds up the back of the grain the
vegetation is arrested, and the barley allowed to
wither previous to passing to the kiln for dry
ing. This is first effected at a low temperature
to freely evaporate the moisture, but gradually
rising to 200 Fahr. In the country the malt-
ings are frequently an adjunct to the brewery,



Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 16 of 39)