Henry Harrisse.

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

. (page 28 of 39)
Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 28 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




machine. If it is not absolutely according to
the drawing it will not rivet. When it is
fitted and screwed upon the frames the
riveters come along and rivet plate to plate
and frame, and after the riveter follows the
tester, who "chalks" every rivet which is not
perfectly driven ; these have to come out.
Then the iron caulkers hammer the edges
of the plates ; and by-and-by the hull is
watertight. Tanks, castings, and steel decks
are treated similarly, and the joiners go
aboard with the fittings that have accumulated
in the flats.

When a liner of any size reaches this stage
of her construction, the
nu nber of men at work
on her mav be anywhere

below the bilges are displaced, and the vessel,
through the cradles, rests practically on the
sliding ways. The means used to keep the
sliding ways in these circumstances from
acting up to their description vary in different
districts. At Messrs. Harland and Wolffs
the practice is to hold the sliding ways by
a hydraulic apparatus, from which the
pressure is withdrawn when " All clear " is
signalled. The ordinary method is, however,
to let lengths of wood called "daggers" into
niches in both standing and sliding ways,
and to force them out by blows from heavy

weights. That
is what hap
pens when
the lady who

between 1,000 and 1,500. There is, of
course, a limit to the staff which may be
employed profitably on a single ship, but
I have seen considerably over 1,000 at work
on the Celtic without the slightest sign of

A great deal of the staging and some of
the uprights are removed when the ship is
wholly plated, and a little army of painters
is set to work on the hull. The shipwrights
effect further clearances below the bilges, and
put down what are called " standing ways."
Over these with a liberal coating of tallow
between, of course are laid " sliding ways,"
and stout cradles are built under the ship
forward and aft.

Some time before the launch the wedees

J hoto; Lafayette.


names the ship cuts the mystic cord or
ribbon she releases the weights.

Vessels are rarely in a hurry to leave the
ways, and the first minute of their freedom
represents a rather distressing time for their
builders. Nearly all ways have a camber in
them, to make progress along them easy, and
a jack is used under the forefoot of a vessel
to throw the weight gradually over it. The
woodwork of the cradles creaks ominously as
the pressure is applied, and then loud cheers
greet the first movement of the huge mass of
steel. It gathers way as it proceeds towards
the water, and when the tide bears it all it is
"checked" brought slowly to a standstill,
that is by means of chains whose shore ends
are anchored in the yard.

Tug-boats, which have stood by all day,
tow the new vessel to her fitting-out wharf,




(Photo supplied oy Messrs. Doxford & Sons, Sundcrland.)

and the work of completing her proceeds
apace. Engines and boilers are put aboard ;
masts are stepped, and funnels put in position
and stayed. There is still employment on
her for hundreds of men ; and decks and
alleyways and saloons are to a greater extent
than ever littered with gear. But gradually
everything visible becomes shipshape. The
boats are swung on the davits, and the
lighter superstructures finished off. Painters
swarm along the decks, making everything
glisten in the sunlight ; upholsterers and
polishers throng the saloons and cabins ;
decorators adorn this, that, and the other

thing ; and electricians busy themselves with
clusters and lamps and annunciators.

The number of workpeople grows less and
less, until the day comes for the first of the
steam trials in the open sea. The crew are
on board now, and the officers are bus-*


fitting keys with locks and locks with keys,
and generally assuring themselves that the
contract has been carried out to the letter.
After speed trials, and consumption trials,
and steering trials comes the formal cruise;
then the house flag is broken out at the main
and the Blue Peter at the fore, and another
shuttle in the Empire s loom begins its work.

(Photo supplied l<y Messrs. Djxford Gr Sons, Sunderland.\



OWEETMEAT making is an industry
O which employs a far greater number of
women and girls than men and boys,
since with the exception of the management
of the actual machinery and the cooking, the
work is all light, merely demanding deft
handling ; and its conditions are such that
workers of ages varying from that of the just
emancipated Board School girl to her grand-


mother are equally welcome. It is a healthy
occupation, and as the record of service is,
as a rule, long, one is justified in concluding
that the perpetual smell of hot sugar,
chocolate, fruit-extracts, and peppermint is
not injurious ; also that the constant eating
of such dainties as fondants, burnt almonds,
and the many varieties of " lozenge " is not
detrimental to the health of the workers.

That the fascination of sweet-eating is
much more a matter of temperament than
only dependent on the opportunity to
succumb to it, is proved by the number of
years which it holds some of these factory
hands enthralled. In many cases they keep
up an unending chumping, no sooner having
got rid of one item than they start on the
next like constant smokers with their suc

cessive cigarettes. A wise manager does not
forbid such toll being taken, for that so
demonstrative an appetite will insist on being
satisfied, with or without leave, is too patent
a fact to need reflection. He is therefore
only prohibitive in the matter of wholesale
tax-levying for the benefit of the home circle.
In dealing with such a varied manufacture
as that described as " Sweets," one s chief
difficulty is in selection.
Where to begin, when

SJJl^^^^-i each department is so

full of attraction ; when
acid drops, almond
hard-bake, nougat,
" bull s-eyes," liquorice,
barley sugar, comfits,
and lozenges all demand
attention. To remark
comprehensively that
the beginning of every
thing in this connection
is boiled sugar may
perhaps provide a satis
factory starting point
although maybe of
too obvious a nature
to excuse its intrusion.
Let us visit a large
sweet factory, that of
Messrs. Clarke, Nickolls and Coombs, and
see for ourselves ho\v these ever-popular
articles are manufactured in their countless

Huge coppers line many of the rooms of
the factory, whilst all the centre space is
taken by long metal-topped tables, whereon
the manipulation of the hot sugar takes place.
All the family of transparent " drops " acid,
fruit, etc. are made in the same way, the
difference being merely a matter of flavouring.
Sugar that has been boiled at a temperature
of 320 is allowed to run from beneath an
elevated copper on to a table, where after
getting a little cool it is worked by hand
into great flat cakes and kneaded, just like
dough for bread ; then, when the final state
of it is to be acid drops, a small quantity of




hailstones. Other

extract of lemon is

worked in. More

kneading follows, and

then when cool enough

to have stiffened into

almost a solid mass, it

is pulled into long

n a r r o w b a r s a n d

squeezed between metal

rollers, the surface of

which is stamped with

little round holes ; the

rollers are given a turn,

the dough - like sugar

mass fills every hole ;

another turn, and out

fall the " drops," like a

shower of very large

varieties are stamped out of the flat cake

of material by metal sheets covered with

divisions. After this treatment the fruit

drops remain slightly attached to each other,

and require to be divided by hand, an easy

\vork undertaken by quite young girls, who

are also kept busy filling glass bottles with

these sweets, by means of large-mouthed


In the nougat department we see machines
" whisking " the scores of whites of eggs that
go to its concoction, and standing beside
them we notice the immense barrels of honey
honey from California which, with pis
tachio nuts, completes this delicious com
pound. The ingredients having been amal
gamated, the nougat is laid in wire shelves
to harden, and after a few days waiting it
is submitted in long bars to a machine, which
cuts it with incredible speed into the con
venient little blocks in which it reaches the

In striking contrast to the inviting white
ness of the nougat is the aspect of tubs full
of liquorice, which is capable of being
manipulated by deft hands into a great
number of forms, such as long thin " boot
laces," short thick cubes, sticks, drops, and
" worms." A particularly ingenious machine
not unlike that popularly known as a
" mincer " is employed for the manufacture
of the last variety. Having been filled with
warm liquorice, the machine produces out of
twelve small apertures twelve " worms " a
quarter of a mile long ! Needless to say,

their rash career is harshly checked In-
attendant w r ork-girls before they have had
time to grow to anything like this embarrass
ing length.

Another division of sweet-making capable
of infinite variety is the " lozenge," ranging
as it does from the delicately scented cachou,
through many grades of elegance, down to
the rampant peppermint ; but whatever its
flavour, every lozenge is made in the same
way a sweet, pudding-like mass is taken
from the slab where it has been alternately
thumped and flattened, and is thrown on to
an arrangement called a " traveller," which
passes under a machine fitted with a set
of punches. These, at each stroke, punch
out a row of lozenges at the rate of some
1,500,000 (one and a half millions) a day, the
surplus material between the holes being
automatically carried off to be worked up

Such things as jujubes, and the vast
number of models of the order of the well-
known " bananas " and so on, are classed
professionally under the term " gum work,"
and demand specially careful manipulation.
They are made in moulds, each separately,
in the following manner : A tray is filled
with starch-flour, the smooth surface of which
is indented with rows of little hollows of the
desired shape ; a cylinder filled with liquid
sugar-stuff is allowed to drip into each little
mould, and the tray, when covered with tiny





wells, is set aside to cool, or is put on a shelf
with many hundred others in a hot-air
chamber, according to treatment required.

Cream sweets, fondants and the like, also
result from moulds, but in their case india-
rubber moulds are necessary. The cream,
which is simply boiled sugar beaten into a
thick mass by a sort of gigantic copper
churn, flavoured, and tinted with vegetable
colour), is deposited by machinery into rows
of little wells many at a time. A short
while to cool, then the indiarubber trays
are turned upside-down, and out jump the
finished fondants. Sugar wafers have a little
department to themselves, and a
special set of implements is necessary
for their evolving.

Cocoanuts figure largely in the
manufacture of sweets. They arrive
at the factory in a ceaseless stream,
never having time to do more than
lie a day or so before they are seized
upon and converted into some form
of sweet. Armed with a hammer, a
man knocks off the shell and throws
the nuts into an enormous bin; out
of that two women pick them and
hold them against a set of blades
worked by machinery, which deprive
them of the hard brown rind. Then the
white balls are dropped, several at a time,
into cauldrons containing paddles working
rapidly in opposite directions, so that if a
nut escapes being smashed by one blade
it is caught by another, and before it emerges
becomes reduced to very small pieces ; a
secondary process further "pulps" it, and
the final touch is given by a grinder. Then
the cocoanut is ready to be mixed with
sugar and converted into " ice," rock, and
all the other forms of sweetmeats of which
it is the foundation.

Sugared almonds and caraway comfits look
to the inexperienced eye simple, unpretentious
sort of confections ; but it takes an almond
four days and a caraway seed six weeks
incessant rolling in boiling sugar, poured on
in very small quantities, to reach completion.

The seed, or the almond, serves as the
starting point, it being necessary that the
sugar should hold to something. Having
been given their preliminary dose of sugar,
the caraway seeds or the almonds, as the

case may be, are put into huge copper
pans tilted at an acute angle ; these pans
are kept revolving, so that the sweets
they contain are perpetually rolled in every
direction. The noise made by thousands of
almonds and twice as manv comfits all roll
ing round the sides of the copper pans, and,
when the incline gets too steep, suddenly
falling, is enough to make speech in this
neighbourhood futile. The effect of this
mode of treatment in making almond sweets
and their smaller varieties is, by constant
friction one against the other and round the


pan, they should acquire the desired sym
metry and equal si/.e. This is a division of
confectionery that needs specially careful
watching, and is unusually slow of com

A speciality in the way of sweet preparation
is carried on by Messrs. Mackenzie and Co.,
of Dalston. It lies in the fact that nothing is
issued loose ; every item is wrapped in thin
paper; packets within packets, every division
in its own paper. The advantages of this
arrangement will be readily apparent, the
sweets thus reaching the consumer uncon-
taminated by exposure. Butter-scotch, toffee,
peppermints, almond cream, " Fendean," all
share the same cleanly fate. Here we may
see the manufacture of a popular variety
of toffee known as " Soutouma." The in
gredients, brown sugar and butter, are first
of all weighed into white enamelled dishes
in a cool recess of the boiling-room, and
white-garbed cooks preside at neat stoves.
The boiled mixture is poured on to slabs
kept cool by pipes of cold water passing



beneath them, cut into the desired sizes,
and then left for a small army of girls to
come and envelope piece by piece. Messrs.
Mackenzie were responsible for the intro
duction into this country of the milk-
chocolate made by Peter, of Swiss renown.

Our account of the manufacture
of sweets would not be complete
without a brief reference to the
making of chocolate bon-bons and


similar dainties for which Messrs.

Fuller are responsible. The cream

middle part is made first, in the

same way as fondants, but the

critical part of the process comes

with the covering, each little lump

of " cream " having to be dipped

by hand that is to say, lying on

a two-pronged fork held in the hand into Then, having gained its overcoat, each

a bath of liquid chocolate : so it is a slow cream must be laid carefully down on a

process, especially as unless the chocolate tray, not too near its neighbour, and the

be kept at just the right temperature it tray when full must stand for several days

refuses to set, or, having set, to attain the in an atmosphere of just the right degree

correct amount of gloss on its surface, of cold. T JJ R QOKE ALDER




28 I


INNOCENT enough arc the ingredients
of gunpowder saltpetre, charcoal, and
sulphur. Everyone knows them and
everyone can obtain them. Even school
boys purchase them, mix them together,
and have accidents ! Many a man is going
about to-day bearing the marks in the

to the charge and lit it, expecting to have
rabbit broth for dinner that day. It was
his own face, however, that was nearly
cooked. Another time a small box of
gunpowder in pound canvas bags was put
in a wash-house out of the way. A cat
upset the box during the night, and part


shape, it may be, of an absent finger, or
indeed an absent hand, or damaged eyes,
or something worse of some youthful frolic
with these simple and everyday substances.
If schoolboys will have gunpowder to play
with, they will be well advised if they
altogether cease to make it themselves ;
they will, however, be still better advised
if they abolish it entirely from the category
of their playthings.

Grown people as well as boys are often
guilty of under-estimating the danger attach
ing to the use of gunpowder. Not long
ago a man put about a couple of pounds
of powder into a hole that he had just
seen a rabbit enter. He attached a fuse

of the gunpowder was spilt among some
coal lying on the floor. Next morning the
servant lit the copper fire, and an explosion
occurred ; she was seriously burnt, and died
three days afterwards. She had shovelled
up with the coal the spilt powder. \Yhere-
cvcr there is gunpowder there is danger
a fact that those into whose hands it
comes do not always seem to appreciate.

If the general public are thus thoughtless,
fortunately those engaged in the manufacture
of the explosive are not. Ever present in
their mind is a sense of the danger that
lurks around them, and everything they do
is done subject to the observance of all
the precautionary rules that knowledge and





experience can suggest. Yet the

making of gunpowder, on account

of the continual agitation the ex
plosive is submitted to and the

liability of machinery to break

down, must per sc be a more

perilous operation than any of the

simple and well-understood purposes

to which it is applied. Accidents,

however, are said to happen under

the best regulations, and terrible

havoc has been wrought in the

teeth of every human provision to

the contrary. Let us, however,

gain a general idea of a powder

factory and the processes of making


Take the factory of Messrs. John Hall and Son,

Limited, the oldest and biggest, and, according to

expert opinion, among the best arranged we have.

It occupies that low and retired corner of Kent

between Faversham and the Swale. To the passing

observer it resembles a game preserve, so well fenced

in, thickly wooded, and noiseless are the grounds.

Yet within there are 150 different buildings, many with

machinery at work day and night, and hundreds of em
ployees go daily in and out of the gates. The buildings, THE MILL.


are one-storeyed, for the most part lie
in hollows and wide apart, the rising
ground around them confining the lateral
effects of possible explosions, and the
distance between them preventing an ex
plosion in one from being communicated
in any way to another. Similarly separated,
in groups of t\vo, or seldom more than
three, are the operatives, so that in the
case of any untoward event the number
of victims is limited. These arrange
ments, made with a due sense of the
liability of accidents to happen, are simply
to confine their destructive effects. The
arrangements to prevent accidents are
endless. An elaborate network of canals
intersects the works, and is used as far
as possible for conveying the powder in
the different stages of its manufacture.

Water is also used wherever practicable

as the motive power instead of steam.
Most of the finished powder, too, is taken
away by barge to the Mariner powder
magazine anchored below Gravesend.
ixcoKi -OKATING MILLS. Buckets filled with water surround every



building, and the ground all round the against accidents at the works ; they are

clanger buildings is kept moist.

The danger buildings themselves are so
constructed that not a nail-head or iron in

sufficient, however, to show how lively
must be the sense of danger. Men in
powder houses usual 1}- have an arranged

any shape is exposed, and the roofs are plan of escape in their minds, and at the

made slight so as to give easy vent to least unexpected noise have not hesitated

explosions. The garments of the workers to plunge into the canal.
are pocketless, so that they cannot carry The component parts of gunpowder have

knives or matches, or indeed anything, and already been mentioned saltpetre, charcoal,

are made of non-inflammable material, and sulphur. They are mixed in different

Even the buttons must not be of metal.
No one is allowed to go about with trousers
turned up at bottom, because grit is collected
in that way, and
the merest hard
speck of foreign
matter in a charge
of gunpowder is
fraught w i t h
danger. The en
trances to danger
buildings are pro
tected by boards
placed edgeways,
so that when the
door is open
n o thing in the
shape of dirt can
work in. This also
serves as a check


proportions, but at Messrs. Hall s works
the Government standard is followed, \ \ /..
75 per cent, of saltpetre, 15 of charcoal,

and IO of sulphur.
The saltpetre
comes chiefly from
Bengal in j ute
bags, the sulphur
from Sicily, and
the charcoal is
made on the works
and mainly from
the wood grown
in the grounds.
The saltpetre and
sulphur go through
various processes,
such as boiling
steaming, distil
ling, with a view

to anyone who might thoughtlessly proceed to remove all impurities, not only for the
to enter without having first removed his sake of improving the quality of the powder,
boots and put on the overalls that are kept but also to keep out any foreign substances

just inside the door. Doors are made to
open outwards, so as to enable the men
to escape the more readily ; and on the
approach of a thunderstorm the works are
stopped and the operatives repair to the
different watch-houses scattered over the 300
acres covered by these extensive works.

that might cause friction in subsequent
operations and lead to accidents. After this,
the sulphur and charcoal being ground, the
three ingredients meet for the first time in
the mixing house. They are put into a
gun-metal or copper drum which revolves
in one direction, while arms or fliers, fixed

Every week the machinery is inspected, on a spindle inside, revolve at a different

and the reports as to its condition are
printed and filed. In the case of a danger

rate in the other direction. Five minutes
of this agitation is enough for 60 Ib. of the

building needing to be repaired, it must mixture, the maximum quantity allowed by

Act of Parliament to be milled in one charge.
After mixing, the product is known as

first be washed out before a hammer or
other iron tool is admitted to it. When

artificial light is required, as in working "green charge."

at night or in dull weather, the lights are At the mixing-house we come into the

kept outside, being placed on the window presence of danger, and learn that there

ledges. In the case of the works magazine, are two kinds of floors in powder factories

which is surrounded with water, no light " clean " and " dirty." The office floor

of any kind is ever permitted near it. may have just been scrubbed and be

These are only a few of the precautions perfectly clean in the ordinary sense; still



at the factor}- it would be described as a
"dirty" floor because anyone may walk on
it in their ordinary boots. The " clean "
floors, on the contrary, are usually as black
as coal. They are, at any rate, as black
as powder can make them, but none dare
tread them except in the regulation slippers.
Formerly the mixing-house was not regarded
as a danger building, and its floor was
consequently not decreed to be " clean."
Now, however, it is so by reason of an
explosion that occurred in a mixing-house
whereby four men lost their lives. The


cause of the accident is unknown, as are
the causes of most such accidents, those
alone able to tell being usually killed. One
witness of the explosion was about thirty
yards away. He felt a concussion of the
air behind him and his hat was blo\vn off
as by a strong wind. On recovering his

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 28 of 39)