Henry Harrisse.

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

. (page 36 of 39)
Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 36 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

in. A slow and deliberate process it seems
and, indeed, when one considers the si/e of
the average liner and the immense loss should
any accident occur, one understands
the reason for the care and watchful
ness. A tug leads the way for the liner,
and another hangs on astern ; and
the great ship is moved slowly in the
way it should go bv these tinv craft.

The observer notes with satisfaction that the
liner is being safely handled, but he is con
fused by the multiplicity of advisers ; the
captain, far aloft on the bridge, seems to have
least of aii\- to do with the movement of the
ship. Officials on the dock walls seem to be
the controllers, but really those mainly re
sponsible are the dock men. who have become
expert at the delicate work by reason of long
experience. At last the great ship is got
safely through the narrow gateways and into
the spacious Basin. There she is swung
gently round by the tugs, and once clear of
the entrance she proceeds under her own
steam to her anchorage in the river.

From the business in great waters to the
business in narrow waters is but a short step
here, for canals radiate throughout the
country, and this cheap and useful method
of distribution is largely employed. Certain
kinds of merchandise; before being despatched
to their destination, are stored in Liverpool,
and for these the accommodation is immense.
The principal article kept in store is cotton,
which is afterwards sent on to the spinning
centres as it is there required. Another in-
dustrv of great importance to a seaport is






cold storage, and Liverpool is not behind
in employing this means of preserving
perishable imports and of regulating the

Before concluding this survey of the Liver
pool Docks something must be said of the
dock labourer who, for all his humble station,
is so important a figure. The majority of the
Liverpool dockers are Irish or of Irish ex
traction, though there is, too, a strong Welsh
element, as might be expected in a city which
has been called the" Capital of the Principality."
The total number of dockers is about 18,000,
and, working at full pressure, the docks
supply labour for some 15,000 of these,
leaving a daily margin of 3,000 unemployed.
But busy though Liverpool be, it is not often
that the docks keep the full quota of men
working day after day. Rather must one
make a considerable allowance for slack time.
Thus is the docker often forced to lead a very
precarious life. He has to toil under singu
larly difficult, even demoralising conditions.
Two days a week he may be sweating
in a coal-bunker and for the rest of the
week be a moneyless idler. It may be that
a few hours yesterday, a few to-day, and
an all-night spell to-morrow constitute his
week s work. His occupation is of necessity
casual and fitful, and while- it lasts it is
physically severe. A slight improvement in
the regularity of the docker s employment has
been brought about by the bigger companies
dealing directly with the men, but the smaller
lines and the coasting shipowners still have

their loading and unloading done through
the master stevedores.

In this sketch of the greatness and of the"
work of the Mersey port, no attention has been
given to the picturesque aspect of the docks
and river. That, perhaps, can be readily
imagined. A place so closely in contact with
the far-off and wonderful parts of the world
must present main- curious and interesting-
scenes. But inost wonderful of all is the
grand crowded river. I ; rom the Landing-
Stage is witnessed a great panorama. There
is a never-ending rush of ferry-boats that
shoulder into the Stage, land their freight,
and in a few minutes are away again laden
deep with humanity. Tugs are darting hither
and thither, flats with big clumsy brown
sails crush along almost flush with the water,
and in mid-river is always some big steamer
anchored or moving cautiously to its berth ;
beside these, the hurrying of the smaller
craft resembles nothing so much as the skim
ming of flies on a quiet pool.

Altogether, docks and river must appeal
to the dullest mind. Than the former, man s
ingenuity and enterprise have few grander
monuments. At this day they are a lesson
in the history of our mercantile marine, on
which our national prosperity depends. They
exhibit the steps by which our shipping has
advanced ; and if the links with the past are
being rapidly removed, there remain yet
material for the imagination to picture what
has been the timid beginnings, and the slow
cautious, successful evolution.


no/a: Cassch & Co., Ltd.






X the little kingdom weaving is almost
as old an art as agriculture, and is only
second in importance to it. For centuries

the industrious and
produced quantities


die farmer was also the weaver. On winter
evenings, or when the weather was inclement
enough to drive even a Welshman from the
fields, the good Taffey, with his family and
farm hands, sat round the peat fire, winding
and twisting the yarn, or laboriously working
the hand-shuttle, to the rhythm of the folk
song and the whirr of the spinning wheel.

In this manner
ingenious peasantry
of cloth almost ex
actly like that the
Flemings of the
twelfth century
taught their ancestors
to in a k e, w h e n
Henry I., after offer
ing them an asylum
in England from the
inundations of their
own country, out of
compliment to Queen
Maud, daughter of
the Earl of Flanders,
finding his party
larger than he antici

pated, banished his guests to Pembrokeshire
that they might form a convenient buffer
against the turbulent Welsh. Here they
generously repaid his questionable hospitality
by developing the rude weavers of Wales
into the very corner-stone of the British
woollen manufacture.

For o\er four centuries the Welshmen held
the lead in the trade, selling their stuffs and
"whittles" at good prices to the " Shrewys-
burye men," who journeyed twice a year into
the woollen districts to buy it, or to the
eager merchants at the Chester fairs. But
the end of the eighteenth century brought
the great industrial revolution due to the
introduction of machinery, and domestic
manufacture was crippled bv the factory
svstem. The farmer-weaver was crowded
out of the market, and half the cottage
manufacturers drifted to the factories, while
the remainder, clinging to the methods of
their fathers, contented themselves with a
purely local custom.

So it happens that the domestic and
factory systems have ever since co-existed
in Wales, the latter constantly encroaching






on the former. Recently, however, partly
owing to the spread of education, but chiefly
to the efforts of the Welsh Industries
Association in bringing up the cottage
products to the requirements of to-day, in
regard to texture, pattern, and width, the
domestic weavers have more than held
their own ; they have, in fact, considerably
extended their market.
There is much in the
weaver s art that is
admittedly done better
b y h a n d t h a n b y
machine. The sympa
thetic fingers can help
a tender place in the
yarn where the machine
would break it, causing
a defect unnoticeable in
the " milled " cloth, but
very quickly discernible
when the fabric is in
use ; the hand - woven
material does not shrink,
because never stretched
to the unnatural tension
of the machine-made

goods, and the hand-" carded " wool has a
softer finish.

When motor power is desirable, the Welsh
weaver has an easily accessible and ideal
one in the many strong streams that intersect
his country, and provide also pure, soft water
for bleaching and other finishing operations,
and it is by a happy combination of hand
labour with water power that the cottage
cavers of this generation are succeeding.
These neighbourly currents were first em
ployed to work spinning and carding
machines, but their usefulness is being
rapidly extended to other processes.

You may still see in remote districts many
a lonely weaver working his antique hand-
loom in the laborious production of an
undeniably durable (for it does not show
wear under three generations), but other
wise unattractive material the same that
caused a traveller to complain that he found
it impossible to sleep in a room with a Welsh
petticoat! The wool is not properly cleansed,
and the natural oil, though rendering it water
proof, also renders it offensive. The designs
are conservatism incarnate, and the material
too narrow, close!} woven, and highly milled
for modern degenerates, who desire joy to
the eyes, and distrust stuff heirlooms.
However, these faults still endear it to
the country population, who regard every
thing not made by the Flemings receipt
as " shoddy." So the unambitious weaver
still earns a precarious livelihood by producing



two yards of narrow, stubborn, waterproof
flannel in sixteen toilsome hours. But he is
fast dyini; out. His children have made the
streams their servants, set up larger looms,
studied modern needs, and outgrown the
faults, while retaining the virtues, of the
fabric of their forefathers.

Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Pembroke
shire, Montgomeryshire, and Merionethshire
are the woollen centres of to-dav. Thev

Usually whole families are employed in
this industry. Homes are thus kept together
happily and profitably, and the depopulation
of the rural districts checked. The fact that
these workshops exist and increase in the
face of the enormous factory competition
seems to point to far larger possibilities.

Manx- of these little factories are but
the picturesquely thatched and whitewashed
cottages dear to the artist. The evening

show an increase of about 9 5 per cent, of
weavers during the last ten years, which,
Considering the total population of each of
these counties (excepting Carmarthenshire
has seriously declined during the same period,
is a more substantial one than at first

In Wales and Monmouthshire there are
now over 1,000 factories and workshops,
employing 1,842 men and 980 women, and
584 power-looms at work. The cottage
weaving machines vary from the first fix-
shuttle 22-inch loom to the latest improved
Jacquard extra double-width power-weaver.
But the hand-loom is very general!} used."
It produces about twenty yards of material
in a day of twelve or fourteen hours.

primroses and hollyhocks in the garden patch
are spread with bleaching stuffs, and the
gnarled apple trees roped from bough to
bough with drving varn. Behind the cottage
is the long, low weaving shed, where, perhaps,
as main as three busv looms are working.
Two of them will probably be hand-looms,
but the third, and pride of the weaving family,
is, in all likelihood, driven by the little stream
that rushes noisily down the hill through the
garden, and can earn as much in a day as
the other two in a week.

Above the weaving shed is a loft where
sacks and haycocks of wool are stored, and
giant balls of worsted yarn are laid ready
for the greed}- looms. On the other side of
the busy, littered yard is the wash-house, with



its row of huge coppers, and the wooden
scre\v-presses in \vhich the finished material
is " milled." Beyond this is a much dis
coloured plot of ground, scattered with the
ashes of many fires, broken pots, and
wooden spoons, where the dyeing is done
in huge cauldrons over earth ovens.

The winding machine and pattern board
are usually kept inside the cottage for the
leisure hours of the female workers. Often
every available space in the picturesque
kitchen is crowded with " prins," " spools,"
and skeined yarn. Sometimes they even
encroach, on the parlour, usually kept sacred
to "the Book," Sundays, and funerals, until
the busy housewife has time to store them
in the big wall cupboard by the settle, where
she keeps her patterns and order-books.

The wool is bought direct from the farmers,
the price paid being usually about ninepence
a pound. It is sorter! fine and coarse, and
carefully washed by the cottage weavers,
who then send it to a local factory to be
spun. Spinning factories are now usually
worked by water power, and are separate
from the weaving factories, though some
weavers own small yarning machines. The
picturesque spinning-wheel of old has de
generated into lumber, unless it has been
bought and promoted to the high estate of
a boudoir curio.

Carding, too, is often now performed

by machinery. Machines called
the " tucker," " scribbler," and
"carder" are in general use. But
for specially fine kinds of material
the wool is carded by hand, on
account of the softer
finish obtained. The
same friendly torrent
that moves the great
spinning machine does
the winding and
skein ing for the
cottage spinner, who
is also responsible for
the cleansing of the
yarn from the oil he
mixed with it in its
manufacture, and
sometimes for the
dyeing of it ; but the
superior dress goods
arc usually dyed after they are woven.

Spinners receive from threepence to four-
pcnce-halfpenny a pound for the spinning.
With a machine carder they can work ninety
or a hundred pounds of wool in two days, work
ing fifteen hours a day ; they thus earn ,2 to
T, a week, allowing for working expenses.

The dyeing is now the chief problem the
Welsh cottage weaver has to face. His looms
have been improved, and his taste in patterns
has been educatecl ; he has learned to
thoroughly wash the oil and grease from his
wool, to spin it so that it shall be light and
soft, as well as strong and durable, to apply
power where desirable while retaining the
excellence of his hand finish, and to admire
his product without that hard and shining-
surface from over "milling" that was so
dear to his ancestors ; but to obtain the
delicate, fashionable colours remains with
him a technical difficult}-, and he is often
obliged to send his dress materials to the
great dycworks of England and Scotland.
So far in this matter he has no sort of com
bination, and must pa}- for his dyeing, carriage,
etc., at the ordinary retail rate ; the natural
result being that, as he finds this class of
goods gives him more trouble and less profit
than flannels, tweeds, petticoats, and shawls,
he deserts it for them. Vet it is in the finer
hand-finished stuffs that he is so capable of


The Aberystwith College has already taken
action in this matter, and extension lectures
and technical schools are no\v being organised.
A little instruction and initial expense are
alone needed. The Welsh have always been
expert dyers of the old sort. There is the
famous secret black dye of Carmarthenshire,
the concoction of which is now known onlv
to one old spinner, who intends commu
nicating the receipt to his nephew on his
deathbed. It is a pity a less limited use
cannot be made of his knowledge, for the
black is perfect, and, however old or
maltreated the fabric that has once received
it may be, it is never rusty. The gener
ally known dyes are vegetable, and are
mostly collected by old women from the
woods and hedgerows. Ragwort, damson,
crottle, logwood, seaweed, and imported
indigo are stewed mysteriously in the witch-
like cauldrons. The range of colours pro
duced is, though small, pretty and absolutely
trustworthy in sun or rain.

The natural wools of Wales are particularly
good. There is a breed of black sheep from
whose coat a rich dark-brown cloth is pro
duced, and another of different ilk whose
winter wool becomes a pure blue-grey tweed,

while the white fleece of the mountain sheep
should easily rival the finest (ierman white
wool goods.

I ntil the technical difficulties of scientific
and artistic dyeing are mastered it must
be in the manufacture of these white and
natural goods that the cottage weavers
succeed. Their natural shirtings, flannels,
tweeds, breeches cloth, petticoats, and shawls,
in pattern, colour, and texture, compare
favourably with the best in the market,
while as the result of self-preservation
in the Welsh climate everything produced
on the cottage looms washes well, without
shrinkage; and the wearing-out of a Welsh
coat is still a matter of much time and

Welsh cottage weavers of to-day earn
about i a week. This means eighty
yards of flannel at the wholesale price
of fourpencc-halfpenny a yard, less one-
third for attendance of boys, shuttles,
looms, etc. Often his profits are further
docked by one-tenth, owing to his lack
of combination in selling, which necessitates
his trudging to the fairs and markets with
his produce, in the mediaeval manner of

his ancestors - MARY HAKHKK.

i photographs specially taken for ///< pttrptise. and me the

Oinpanyinff this article are j

,-iif>vri"ht of Cassell and Co.. Ltd.)





I^XGIXKKRIXG has a much wider scope work is infinite, and his invention and handi-

j to-day than it had two thousand years craft tend to decrease human slavery, and

ago, when Archimedes discovered the to make life less laborious, brighter, and

theory of the lever, the utility of the pump, and happier though to the end of time some

the lifting power of the derrick. The modern men seem destined to the inexorable fiat that

engineer alters the earth s surface, flings the) 7 must earn their bread by the sweat of

bridges over ravine and arm of the sea, their brow.

tunnels beneath mountain, climbs


There are many branches of engineering

slope, dives into mine, and burrows under civil, railway, mining, sanitary, milling,
great city. He makes land and ocean travel marine, naval, military, and electrical; and,
easy. He is the universal helper of industry, with the newer application of science to
The civil engineer has the highest social industry, the aerial engineer may soon put
position ; but the mechanical engineer has his brass plate on door of city office, though
a position of great usefulness, because his his working plane will inevitably be the


The engineer, civil or, mechanical,
is indispensable to the railway, for
it is on his capacity to design, con
struct, or equip that the line depends.
Tel ford, the builder of the Menai
Suspension Bridge, the maker of the
Caledonian Canal, and the delver of
St. Katharine s Docks, was the most
notable civil engineer of the opening
of the nineteenth century ; but George
Stephenson, the father of the English
railway system, was more versatile
he combined both civil and me
chanical engineering. In his career
mechanical engineering had the first
place, civil engineering was simply
SWING BRIDGE OVER THE WKAVKR. ;m accessory or an incident. His


AN ELECTRIC MOTOR WORKING ox A CONTINUOUS WIRE ROPE inventive gemus was concentrated on

(I- licit, kindly lent by Messrs. Mather & I la .t, l. d) tllC development of tllC



the track it ran on, the bridge it crossed,
or the tunnel it shrieked through, was merely
an industrial consequence of the engine s

But since his dav civil engineerin<r has

* *> o

reasserted itself as the brain power, in con
trast to the mere labour of construc
tion. Xo obstacle is great enough

to daunt the civil engineer ;
and his fight with and
control of Nature became
more dogged and complete
in the middle of the last
c e n t LI r y , w h e n R o b er t
Stephenson in the north and
Brunei in the south, both
civil engineers of eminence,
were rivals in the principle
of railway construction, and
particularly in width of gauge
and in bridge-building.

As a proof of Robert
Stephenson s shrewdness with
regard to width of track, the
Great Western Railway Company, after
clinging to the broad gauge for many years,
abolished it and adopted the narrow gauge
throughout their system ten years ago. The
use of the stationary engine has been revived
on electric tramway and railway, but the
moving locomotive has superseded it on
the steam-power railway ; and though the
suspension bridge has still its defenders, the

rigid bridge is in greater demand. The
Forth Bridge, engineered by Sir John Fowler
and Sir Benjamin Baker, a giant among
dwarfs in comparison with other bridges, is
formed of three enormous cantilevers, or
brackets, resting on three huge piers; or, t,,

give a more graphic
description, the piers
might be Herculean
men sitting in huge
chairs, and grasping
with each hand the
horizontal connecting
girders that uphold
the track. The ex
tension of railway
travel and of <roods


transit has led to the
establishment of an
engineers depart
ment on every great
railway, and the chief
engineer is really the
general servant of
the com pan\\
It is his duty to
determine the
route, to make
the plans, to get

idly sufftied fry .tfessrc. trtii. akfr Bros., /-/./., Hors orth, tifar />,,. ,.)

Parliamentary sanction for the line ; to
engineer the various works, sidings, stations,
viaducts, bridges, and tunnels; to be on the
alert for possible extensions ; to efficiently
maintain the permanent way ; and on some
systems to maintain canals, docks, and
landing stages.

Nevertheless, he is absolutely powerless
without the output of the mechanical engineer,

3 66



(Photo supplied by Messrt. Mather & Platt, Ltd.)

by whose industrial skill nearly everything
in use on the system, from the Bessemer rails
to the luxurious train and the signalling
apparatus, are produced. The works of the
Great Eastern, Great Northern, Great Central,
Midland, Great Western, and London and
North Western are striking examples of what
can be done in the direction of mechanical
engineering. They are all capable of turning
out a complete railway equipment, and excel
in locomotive making and building.

The London and North Western Railway
Company, sending upon their track a grand
type of locomotive that runs over a mile a
minute between Liverpool and London, are
not averse from the interchangeability of parts
in engine-building, particularly of cylinders,
valves, connecting-rods, axle-boxes, and other
fittings. They can, at their Crewe w r orks,
erect a locomotive in a month, in a fortnight,
or, in emergency, in a day ; but, however
quickly they build it, the engine when in
steam is a credit to the builders. It neither
leaks nor runs away, like some of the
American engines, with a fortune in coal.

Meantime, the pessimist who
croaks about the decadence of British
industry would do well to run
through the Sal ford Iron
works of Messrs. Mather and
Platt, Limited, at Manchester.
The whole place is alert to
keep abreast of the foreign
competitor, and that even
with the fairest and most
healthy conditions of employ
ment and the adoption of

the eight-hours clay. No labour-saving device
is neglected, either for the outside market or
for use in the works. There is the swish
of plane and the noise of hammer in the
pattern shop, the clang of toil in the
forge, the move of men in the foundry, and
the tinkling din of a thousand bits of brass
in the upper storey, in which valves and
all small fittings are fashioned by machine
and hand ; but the great shops, particularly
the erecting shop, are comparatively silent.
Nearly all the machinery is driven by electric
motors, and the machine tools, moving
automatically and doing their various tasks,
from the manipulation of the raw material
to the output of the finished article, give
one the notion that, instead of finely created
contrivances of iron and steel, they are
sentient beings ; though, like Galatea, they
are without the gift of speech, and do not
argue whatever burden of work they have to

In the mechanical engineering shops much
heavy machinery and appliances are in course
of making and building. The huge filters,
gravity and pressure, for filtering the water
from lake or river for town or village supply,
or for the purification of effluent water from
factories, look like iron-clad fortresses. The

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 36 of 39)