Henry Harrisse.

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

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Germany, however, pins its faith to the
potato, and there is in France a considerable
manufacture of starch from the chestnut,
which reaches this country from that in
genious land in the more toothsome form of
the in irron glace.

The invention of starch as a dressing for
fine linen seems to belong of right to a Conti
nental genius. Its origin goes back to the
misty days of the Plantagenets, and it was
not until Mary came to the throne that a
Flemish lad}- crossed the Channel in order to
show the good dames of London town how
ruffs ought to be starched. In those days the

starch was of a yellowish hue, and the profes
sion of starching flourished exceedingly in
the spacious days of Elizabeth, whose ruffs
cost a fortune to laundry. Then it fell on a
day that one Mistress Anne Turner, who was
concerned in the poisoning of Sir Thomas
Overbury, went to the scaffold in all the
bravado of a huge ruff. On this account, in
1615, the women of England turned their
backs for ever upon an article of attire with
such unpleasant associations, and the days
of ruffs were over. But throughout the
Puritan period the art of the starcher con
tinued, the Roundheads being very partial to
blue starch for their dainty collarets, and ever
since, while fashions have come and gone,
the demand for starch has grown with the
years, until to-day its manufacture gives
employment to a larger number of people
than ever before.

The earlier stages in the preparation of
starch are those through which all food-grains
pass, and comprise the winnowing of the
grain, and the removal of the epidermis by
means of decorticating mills. Much of this
work is now done at the port of shipment,
especially in the case of East Indian rice, the
employment of which for the production of
laundry starch is increasing relatively by



leaps and bounds. First steeped in water for
the purpose of being softened, a process
which is in some instances accelerated by the
use of a weak caustic lye, the grain swells and
becomes fit to be deprived of its gluten, the
stick}- ingredient of the seed, which is at the
proper stage floated away and dried into
cakes as a food for swine.

This separation, however, is precede:! by
the process of grinding between mill stones,
with the result that the material assumes a
cream-like form, in which state it is pumped
into vats, in whose sides are inserted glazed
windows through which the condition of the
various strata of the mass can be inspected.
Water being added, the whole mass is
agitated, and the starch} particles are held
in suspension in the water, just as chalk
would be if it were treated in the same way.
At this point it is drawn off into settling
tanks, and being allowed to settle there
comes a time when it is read} to be dug out
and packed in the form of small lumps into
huge calico-lined boxes. Agitation being
once more set up, the starch is reduced to a
liquid form by virtue of its inherent moisture,

and the application of the tender mercies
of an hydraulic press removes the moisture,
and leaves the mass dry and solid. It is
now sawn into cubes about 4 Ib. in weight,
hardened for a da}- or two in a stove at a
temperature of 170 Fahr., scraped free from
its outer crust the work often of girls
wrapped in paper, and restoved for weeks
at a time in ovens, each of which frequently
contains about a do/en tons. The bundles
are at length removed to flat tables, and
scarcely a touch is required to cause the
cube, apparently a mass of glittering in
destructible rock, to fall to fragments, in the
-.strange crystaline forms in which starch is
known to the washerwoman.

The packing of starch for sale is essentially
the work of cleft, tireless women. One 01
them seizes a heap of straw boards and feeds
a machine which swiftly cuts them into
shape, and at the same time scores them
halfway through with the invisible lines with
whose aid the four sides of the box are
formed. The making of the box, with its
inside lining, its top, its label, and so forth, is
the labour of a dozen specialists. When dry




the boxes a r e
removed to the
department in which
they are filled with
starch. For this
purpose one girl
weighs out the
proper quantity, an
other fits it into the
box, a third checks
the weight of the
filled box, another
pastes the strip,
which is placed in
position by a col
league. A similar
course is pursued
w h en s t a r c h i s
packed in paper
parcels for laundries,
when it is packed
in wood b:>xes in bulk for export, and so
forth. The celerity which is attained by
long practice in the performance of simple
acts may be illustrated by the fact that
one girl is able to put together the bodies
of no less than 2,300 starch boxes every
day of the week.

The spectacle of a mustard and starch
factory, such as that of Messrs. J. and J.

Photo : Cassell & Co.,



Cohnan Limited, of Norwich, with its
hundreds of separate acts, is impressive in the
extreme. This well-managed factory, which
was visited for the purpose of this article, re
sembles a complex army, and the virtues of
precision and disciplined routine are of
paramount importance. In such an in
dustry there is no room for the performance
of auxiliary duties at
home, and the opera
tions are more com
pletely centred in the
factory than in the
metal industries. It is
in such factories that
the amicable adjust
ment of interests
between capital and

i | ||j labour is of supreme

importance, and this is
why these branches of
manufacture afford to
the industrial world an
excellent example of
the supremacy attained
by Great Britain over
her rivals in other parts
of the universe.




7 HEN the Great Fire of London
occurred, during the first week of Sep
tember in the memorable year 1666,
the only appliances for the extinction of fire
were a few buckets and brass squirts, worked
by hand. Water engines had been invented
1, 800 years before, and at that very time
there existed in the city of Nuremberg a
horse engine which, with the aid of twenty-
eight men, was capable of throwing an inch
jet to a height of 80 feet. But it was not
until four years after the Great Fire that a
Dutch engineer invented the suction pipe and
hose. The seventeenth century had almost
expired before an enterprising insurance
company the famous Hand-in-Hand Office
determined to take measures to
protect itself against serious losses by
establishing a fire brigade of its own.
Another century elapsed before a regular
fire watch was organised in London,
and in 1832 the brigades belonging to
the insurance companies were combined
into the London Fire-engine Establish
ment, and placed under the charge ot
the heroic James Braidwood, who lost
his life in the terrible Tooley Street fire
of 1861. Four years after that disaster
the establishment was taken over by
the Metropolitan Board of Works, and
in 1889 by the London County Council.
The number of men employed by the
insurance companies in 1832 was 80 ;
the fire staff of the brigade in 1901
was I , I 36.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade
lias served as a model and training
ground for most of the brigades
now scattered throughout the king
dom. Some account of its adminis
tration is therefore essential to a
proper understanding of the question
how firemen are made.

Candidates for appointment as
firemen must not be more than
thirty years of age, must have a
chest measurement of not less

than 37 inches, a height of not less than
5 feet 5 inches, and a record of continuous
employment since their seventeenth year.
It was formerly a rule that they must be
seamen, but the rule is not now enforced, in
order to give stalwart and agile artisans an
opportunity of entering the service if they
can prove themselves to be capable. It is
the experience of the authorities, however,
that a maritime training is the best, and of
the present strength of the Brigade no less
than 335 men have served in the Royal Navy,
while of the remainder the greater number
have spent their early years in the mercantile
marine. In some provincial brigades, espe
cially in the Midland districts, it is found that


1 ho!o ; ( , Strxiui.





members of the building- trades make ex
cellent firemen, because of their familiarity
with building- construction and their agility in
mounting scaffolding. A large number of
provincial brigades are branches of the local
police, and for this reason a good many
firemen throughout the country are landsmen
by origin, and in many instances are drawn
from the agricultural classes. But of this

The routine of the drill class is no child s

the scene of a conflagration. In the Glasgow
Fire Brigade practical joking is punishable
by fine, all members must subscribe to the
library, and no games are permitted in the
stations before seven o clock in the evening
or before four o clock on Saturdays.

Under the London County Council the pay
of firemen under instruction is 24s. per week.
It rises through the four grades to 3/s. 6d.
per week in the case of a first-class fireman ;
and the pay of a superintendent may reach a

maximum of ,295,
inclusive of the esti
mated value of rent,
coals, and gas. After
fifteen years service
a fire m a n m a y
obtain a life pension
reckoned at 30 per
cent, of his pay, and
should he complete


play. By eight (/clock each morning the
recruits have already done an hour of clean
ing work. After forty-five minutes allotted
to breakfast, the whole morning is occupied
in instruction, drill, and cleaning, with the
exception of a quarter of an hour of standing
easy. After dinner, two hours and a quarter
are spent in further drill ; and in the evening
the practical class engages in evolutions, the
theoretical class being an eager and critical
audience. At ten o clock all lights are turned
down. The routine of the men on duty at
the stations covers the same hours, and every
minute is occupied, even if it be only with the
duty of standing by in readiness to spring up
at the tinkling of a bell and to hasten off to

twenty-eight years of service he receives a
pension of two-thirds of his pay. The
widow of a first-class fireman who is killed
in the discharge of his duty receives a
pension of 20 per annum, with is. 6d. per
week for each child until it is fifteen years
old. There is also a scale of gratuities based
upon length of service. The amount paid
in pensions during 1901-2 was 13,907, and
it is significant that among the 179 persons
upon the list only nine were widows and
six children.

London has always been fortunate in the
men to whom the supreme control of its fire
service has been entrusted. To mention no
others, the names of James Braid wood and



Sir Eyre Massev Shaw arc familiar through-

* * ?">

out the world as names of officers \vho have
brought to the discharge of their tasks
unbounded enthusiasm and resource. By
them, at any rate, the duty of fighting the
flames was never treated as an opportunity
for the display of mere physical courage. It
was always that, but more and more it is
realised that the protection of life and
property from the fire demon requires brain
and thought and patient organisation, without
which the fire fighters would be powerless
in the presence of a pitiless foe. Even the
simplest drill books contain information
about the laws of matter about vacuums,
latent heat, hydrostatics, the properties of air,
the meaning of the co-efficient of expansion,
and a maze of chemical and mechanical
detail which must be studied by all those
who desire to rise in their profession. Your
sound fireman must not only be able to
mount a tottering ladder, he must know
something about the construction and
materials of buildings ; not only must he
be ready to stand in a fierce blast, but be
acquainted with the theory of steam. In

Photo; l.nysiy C~ C<>.,



Potato : Gregory & Co.,

many instances the risk
of fire would be far greater
but for the practical advice
which is given by a fire
officer when- new factories
or theatres are being built;
and the true aim of such
a man is not to figure in
a roaring fire, but to
reduce the number of fires
more and more evcrv year.
Eire protection is very
different from fire extinc
tion; it is less heroic, less
conspicuous, but it is of
infinitely greater import
ance to the State.

This is an account of
the human side of fire-
manship, but it will help
us to understand the
tremendous forces at the
disposal of the metropolitan
service to mention that
the staff have within their
reach 73 steam fire engines,



21 manuals, 40 miles of hose, 104 hose carts,
174 escapes, 55 ladder vans, 260 horses, 275
telephone lines, and 694 alarm calls. A
canteen van for the refreshment of the
brigade on heavy days is a recent innovation ;
and barges, tugs, floats, bicycles, and a
hundred and one other appliances are avail
able for service on land and water. With the
improved water supplies of the large towns
the need for powerful engines is less than
it would otherwise have been, and it is not
the least arduous of the duties of the brigade
to subject the 26,097 hydrants within the
I 17 miles of the metropolitan area to a rigid
scrutiny. Owing to difficulties of gravitation
the pressure in the mains in London is less
than in some other cities and towns. Thus
Huddersfield has a night pressure of 160 lb.,
Bradford 140 lb., Edinburgh, Glasgow, and
Manchester 100 lb., and so on, whereas
London does not exceed a nominal 70 lb.
In some of these industrial centres the high
pressure permits of sprinklers being fixed in
the ceilings of the factories, and whenever the
temperature rises above a certain minimum
the valves are automatically released. Such
a system is not so ready of adaptation to
the needs of London, although it has been
adopted in many factories, and for the highest
buildings the most powerful engines are

All these appliances have to be studied
and cleaned and repaired from hour to hour,
and a peaceful day of drill is often more
tiring than one on which disastrous fires
spring up in every quarter of the city. Each
man is expected to familiarise himself with
the duties of his immediate superior, so as
to be able to take his place in a sudden
emergency ; and the record of the men is
carefully followed by the superior officers, in
order to make the best appointments when
vacancies occur. In this service it is merit
that wins the race, and the esprit of the corps
is such that each member realises instinctively
that he is the master of his own fate.

It almost invariably happens that the
appliances sent to a fire are in excess of the
actual requirements. Of the number of fires
attended by the metropolitan brigade in 1901
only 99 out of a total of 3,684 were classed as
serious. The I lolborn station sent steamers
no less than 463 times during the year, but

only 21 were used. The number of historic
fires is happily small, largely owing to the
great celerity with which conflagrations
are tackled in their early stages. It is only
on rare occasions that a pitched battle is
fought with the devouring element. At the
fire in Finsbury in the summer of 1894 a
force of 256 men had at their disposal 41
steamers, 14 manuals, 2 hydrants, a water
tower, and 15 escapes. At Cripplegate in
November, 1897, the number of men was 294,
with 5 i steamers, and the quantity of water
used was estimated to reach the total of
15,000,000 gallons. Water was being played
upon the ruins seventeen days after the
outbreak occurred.

The arrangements for the prompt extinc
tion -of fires throughout the kingdom are by
no means so complete as they might be. The
whole question was examined by a Select
Committee of the House of Commons, and
the evidence collected served to show that in
many important centres of population there
are practically no efficient appliances at all.
Out of 1,025 urban districts in England
alone, at least 262 admitted that they had
no brigades, and many existing brigades are
little more than a name. Provincial brigades
may be classed as paid, part paid, voluntary,
and private. Paid brigades are formed either
o civilians or of police, and the important
part that is taken by the police force in the
boroughs may be gauged from the fact that
out of the 13,511 men forming the borough
police of England and \Vales, 132 are wholly
employed, and 1,263 are partly employed, in
the fire service of their own localities. Thus
there are 1,900 policemen in Liverpool, of
whom 55 perform no duties except those of
the fire brigade, while 357 others come up for
a month s fire duty 18 at a time, at intervals
of about twenty months. By this means there
is always a large reserve force of constables
with a technical fire training, who are avail
able for emergencies. These fire policemen
receive 2s. per week extra pay in acknowledg
ment of their special training, as well as a
small additional sum, beginning with 2s. for
the first hour, for any fires that are attended
by them in this capacity. So also at Ports
mouth 19 policemen are told off for
permanent fire duty, and the whole con
stabulary force is also trained in sections as



a reserve. At Cardiff 26 constables have
a special training, and are therefore available
when required to go to the assistance of
the permanent brigade, which in
consists of a dozen civilians.
and towns have adopted the
of a police reserve, including Bristol, Norwich,
Nottingham, and Sunderland. The Man
chester brigade of 100 men is entirely civilian,
and has no such relationship to the police,

that case
Other cities
same system

also in reserve. At Newport (Mon.) the chief
officer of the brigade is a solicitor, and the
mechanics who serve under him receive no
retainer, but only their honorarium for work
done. The same plan is adopted at Llanelly,
except that here the brigade contains a
leaven of seamen within its ranks. An
excellent example of a voluntary brigade
is to be seen at Pembroke, where there is
a company of a dozen drilled men, who have


being in that respect modelled upon the
metropolitan system. Glasgow also has its
independent fire staff, a body of 124 picked
men, each of whom must have had previous
experience in a handicraft, and it is a
justifiable pride with which their chief points
to the fact that he has attended nearly six
thousand fires with his brigade without losing
the life of a single man.

At Kxeter a still less expensive system
is adopted. There are only two permanent
officers, and the rank and file consists of a
body of mechanics employed by the munici
pality. They receive a retaining fee of two
guineas per annum, and a small payment
for each fire attended. A few police are

no engine, but rely entirely upon a couple of
hoses. The Rickmansworth brigade is also
voluntary, the chief officer being a medical
man and a justice of the peace. His force
consists of thirty men, and they have no less
than three engines, one of them worked by
steam The Teddington brigade obtains no
funds except such as are contributed volun
tarily or obtained from the owners or insurers
of property that has been saved.

All over the country there exist elaborate
organisations within docks, factories, asylums,
and other large institutions for the extinction
of fire by private effort. As these lines were
being written a fire broke out within Marl-
borough House, and it was promptly attacked



by the private brigade formed of the royal
domestics. The fire precautions at Bucking
ham Palace and Windsor Castle are on a still
more elaborate scale, each man having his
recognised station, to \vhich he repairs
without delay upon the least alarm. One
of the most interesting developments of
private fire brigade training is to be found
at Xewnham College. Each of the three
halls has its o\vn divisional brigade, with
a captain, two lieutenants, and sixteen
members, and the women students are
able to point with satisfaction to the fact
that they have been able to extinguish
two fires within their own domain without
help from outside. They have no engine,
as the hydrants within each hall suffice for
all emergencies, and the fire drill is an
interesting and attractive physical exercise
on its own account, apart from its ulterior

It has been estimated that the total annual
loss from fire throughout the world averages
the huge sum of "45,000,000. Of this it
is generally said that a fourth represents the
loss in the United Kingdom alone, and the
importance of fire fighting as a national
industry will thus be clearly seen. The

expert officials arc- do.- -.irons of some reform
of the statute law, in order to improve the
status of firemen and to relieve them of
some disabilities. Thus, with respect to the
damage done by voluntary brigades when
engaged in fire extinction, the law does
not protect them from the liability to an
action for indemnity. The use of the
brigade uniform and helmet by bogus
brigades should be forbidden in the same
way as the unauthorised use of the Army
and Xavy uniform. It is believed that
firemen would welcome the possession of
a badge of efficiency, conferred after an
independent inspection. And the liabilitv
to be called off at a critical time to perform
jury service is another anomaly which ex
perienced officers wish to get altered. As
the local bodies, which are still in the
infancy of their work, settle down to the
serious duties of reform, the imperfections
which at present abound in many parts of
the realm will gradually be removed. In
no direction is this more needed to be done
promptly than in that of guarding the
national wealth against the insidious foe
to combat which the firemen and their
appliances were called into existence.


Photo: lluinhy & Co., Southamft^




FOR the big guns which bustle menac
ingly from the turrets of her ships of
war or grimly stand guard on her
fortress ramparts, Great Britain depends on
three English ordnance works the Govern
ment Arsenal at Woohvich, the great Elswick

factory on the banks of the Tyne, and the
growing works of Yickers, Sons and Maxim
at Barrow-in-Furness. Another establishment
there is that founded by Joseph \Vhitworth
at Openshaw, Manchester but it has been
amalgamated with the larger concern at
Elswick, to which it is now auxiliary, and
under whose name and management it is
carried on. Openshaw and Barrow produce
chiefly quick-firing machine guns of special
design and of relatively small size, such as
the Maxim, the Gatling, and the Whitworth,
together with torpedoes and armour plate ;

it is from Woolwich and Elswick that the
nation s heavy ordnance is mainly turned out.
It is an impressive and almost a be
wildering sight to see, as the writer has
seen, the nation s guns in the making at
Elswick, the premier ordnance manufactory.
It is a sight that monarchs, potentates,
and ambassadors from every clime
have travelled far to see. Elswick
is famous for its entertainment of the
world s notabilities who visit Britain s
shores. Shahs from Persia, princes
from India, nobles from China and
Japan, crowned heads from European
States, and uncrowned presidents
from American republics, learned
societies, and royal pleasure parties
have held it a privilege to pass
through its maze of shops teeming
with human life, reverberating with
the shriek of steam, the clang of
hammers, and the whirr of machinery,
and there witness the manifold pro
cesses through which modern ord
nance passes in its evolution from
the molten metal to the bright
burnished gun complete in all its
intricate parts, and ready at the
instant call cf the gunner to hurl its
death-dealing missile far beyond the
range of human vision. You may
pass from shop to shop, until you
have walked three miles or more,
: , rfj until your ears are deafened by the

ceaseless buzz of machinery, until
your eyes are dazed with glowing furnace

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 22 of 39)