Henry Harrisse.

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

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we have -now almost reached the end of its

Let us suppose, however, that it is one
of the elegant embroidered mouchoirs so
highly esteemed by the ladies of high society;
then back again it goes from the city factory
to revisit once more the scenes of rural bliss.
Week by week to the factor}- come hundreds
of women youthful, middle-aged, and old
to fetch handkerchiefs, tea-cloths, etc., which
require to be embroidered or have lace in
serted, shirts, collars, and cuffs to be button
holed. Next week they will return them
with the necessary buttonholing or em
broidering completed, when the farmer s cart
their own or that of a kindly neighbour
is coming to Belfast market. So our hand
kerchief has now returned to the factor} ,
beautifully embroidered by its country jaunt.

The handkerchief looks a little bit limp
and crushed after its embroidering operation.
But the fatigue is only temporary. Up in
the washing department a white-aproned

maid receives it carefully. So into the bath
it goes, and no bath attendant could be more
scrupulously careful in looking after her

Out of the bath into the drying closet
it progresses ; and then, to assume the stiff
ness of pride befitting the dignity of an
embroidered handkerchief of the distinguished
Belfast house, enters the ironing department.
Surely never handkerchief ever underwent
such toilette as this. But the end is almost
in view.

Away high up, near the roof, tasteful hands
have prepared a dainty morocco travelling
casket which will just accommodate our hand
kerchief and five companions, as like each
other as can be. A blue ribbon gives the
finishing touch, and to-morrow the soul of
the pretty blue-flowered flax plant we saw
growing in an Ulster field is on its way to
far Japan or down-under Melbourne.

We might have traced the history of a
collar, a serviette, or a tablecloth, for that
matter. Their development is akin to that of
the handkerchief. This is the work which
goes on ever}- day in the vicinity of Belfast
that the world may have its linen cloth ; and
though other countries try hard to rob Ireland
of the honour of being the chief linen centre
of the earth, not one of its competitors
can turn out linen so well, so cheaply, and
so beautiful.






- Sop-with, Esq., C.E.


OAL has
m u c h
evil, polluting 1
the atmosphere
of our great
cities ; yet the
gleam of fire
light on the
hearth, the
amber a n cl
sapphire flame
of the furnace,
and the red
g 1 o w of the
engine fire on
liner and on
the raihvay

track, tell of home comfort, trade enterprise,
and quick travel.

There are three extensive coalfields in the
kingdom : the northern, embracing the beds
of Fife, Stirling, Ayr, Cumberland, Newcastle,
and Durham ; the midland, comprising the
great coalfields of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and
Staffordshire, as well as Shropshire, Flint, and
Denbigh ; and the
southern, which in
cludes the rich steam
coal deposits of South
Wales, and the seams
in the Forest of Dean,
and at Bristol and
Dover. Roughly, the
seams, producing coal
of infinite variety, vary
in thickness from two
hundred feet in
Lanarkshire, which
give more than half of
the Scotch supply, to
one hundred feet in
Lancashire and forty-
seven feet in Northum
berland and Durham.
The yearly output
from these scams is

enormous, bulking to 225,000,000 tons, of the
value of nearly .{,125,000,000 sterling.

The most pessimistic experts admit that
though the demand for household, manu
facturing, export, and coal station purposes is
still increasing, the available coal supply of
the kingdom will not be entirely exhausted till
three hundred years hence. Even then the
population will have scarcely any cause for
panic. They may have to tolerate the im
portation of foreign coal ; but the chances are
that long before the coal-beds of Great Britain
give out, science will have wrested an alto
gether new fuel out of the elements. Mean
time, coal production has developed into an
enormous industry.

In the past half-century the output has
increased fourfold, and the getting, filling,
hauling, and moving of the coal from the
pit banks means the employment of nearly
cSoo,ooo colliers and other hands who toil in
or about the pits. Nor does this number of
workers give any idea of the vast amount of
work that the coal output makes possible.
The pitman, ever tussling with the forces of
Nature and with the capitalist, is almost


strthnr S. f-.i-ith. l- sij., C.K.



unconsciously belligerent. Anyhow, he is
self-reliant and resolute. He is the autocrat
of industry. If, as occasionally happens,
he conies out on strike there is not only
a flutter among the coalowners, but con
sternation in workshop and factory, and
on steamboat and railway, for he is "the
pri ne factor in our industrial system,"
and the trade of the country is paralysed
without him.

However early coal was found in England,
Scotland, or Wales, the miner has always
risen early to delve it, even when he laboured
in crude workings with antiquated iron pick


and wooden shovel. Now at dawn, with his
"snap" (his food) in his jacket pocket, and his
tea-can slung on his belt, he quits his humble
cottage in the colliery village, and joins his
mates on their long or short tramp to the
pit bank. The bell rings. There is a shuffle
of feet, and the cage, crowded with miners,
descends the shaft, the return cage gliding,
phantom-like, high above them.

At the pit bottom, shallow or deep, the
men get their safety-lamps, and go on foot, or
are conveyed in corves, drawn by ponies, or
steel haulage, or electric cable, along the main
road to the nearest point to their working
places. If the mine is very gaseous they give
a careful look to their lamps as they start
along the narrow subterranean way to the
coal face, note the warning on the heavy
ventilation door or clinging brattice cloth :

" There s fire in Simpson s gull}-." In one
pit in South Yorkshire, to which the writer
once penetrated in the guise of a collier,
there is a curious fault. The coal-seam has
been split by volcanic action. The lower
part of it is workable on the level near the
main road ; but the upper part of it, lifted
many yards high, has to be reached either
through a subsidiary shaft, cut through the
shale and sandstone, or by a rusty ladder
flung over the face of the fault, hereabouts
covered with lather coating or mud.

There are many curious ways to the
workings in various mines ; but none too
crooked or tortuous to
outwit the miner, who is
nothing if not dogged and
undemonstrative, though
he may have to trudge
and crawl for an hour
u n d e r g r o u n d before he
reaches his working place.
Here, as seen in the illus
tration, he strips to the
waist, tightens his belt, and
begins his task of coal-
hewing. His safety-lamp,
possibly an improved
Clanny, hangs from its
hook on the nearest prop,
and by its light he holes,
picks beneath the face of
the coal, till what the house
wife familiarly speaks of
as nuts, cobbles, and slack heap about him,
and the filler loads the corve, which, im
pelled by its own weight when filled, clatters
down the side track to the corve train on
the main road for transit to the pit bottom.
By-ancl-by, after the use of lever, or explosive,
the mass of coal beneath which the collier
has holed comes down with a crash, in mighty
slabs, and the wedger, with his vast strength
and heavy, long-handled hammer, reduces the
huge pieces to handling size, for transit to
the corve ; and so the work of getting and
filling goes on till " snap " time, unless toil is
sharply checked by the cracking of prop, the
move of roof, the deadly fall of bind, or the
explosion that riots through the mine with
fiery breath.

There are two chief methods of working
the coal. In the north of England partiality



(Tholos by permission i<f the H ifan Coal ami Iron Company. Ltd.)




is given to pillar working, narrow ways
being cut this way and that in the scam,
leaving solid blocks of coal to be worked out.
The long-wall system, in vogue in most other
pits, consists of the making of tram roads to
the face, and working out the coal along its
whole length of the seam, or so much of it
as has been roofed and propped to facilitate
excavation. The " iron man " the collier s
name for the coal - cutting machine is
gradually coming into more extensive use in
some pits. It is in the pit what the "Tearing
Devil," or steam navvy, is in railway cutting.
It works without comment about pay and
hours of labour, and has been found useful
wherever tried. In the Scotch pits the coal-
cutting machine has become a valuable adjunct
in production, and it will, as time elapses and
the thick seams get worked out, prove of the
greatest utility in cutting thin seams, not
only in Great Britain but in many other
parts of the world.

The collier is better paid than formerly for
his day s toil, which lasts from six o clock in
the morning, with his interval for "snap," till
about two o clock in the afternoon. He also
works under more improved and safer con
ditions than he did sixty years ago. Then the
ventilation was bad and the tone of the mine
depraved. It is singular to note to-day, when

women are show
ing a disposition to
quit the fireside to
compete with men
in various profes
sions and trades,
that in the forties
the English and
Scotch pits con
tained girl and
women workers.
They were in the
main an ignorant
set, and their toil
debased them. The
conditions of life
in the pit were so
barbarous that the
attention of the
Government was
directed to the
scandalous incid
ents of the mine.
Women were, immediately after the Govern
ment inquiry, prohibited from working in
coal-pits ; but they were permitted to continue
their toil as " pit-brow lassies " in unloading,
screening, and sorting the coal on the pit
banks. They have, to use the language of
the Legislature, become a " noble and fine
class of women " ; and there is no more
striking picture in English industrial life
than a \Vigan pit-brow lass, clad in close-
fitting pitman s cap, rough jacket, short
skirt, well-patched moleskin trousers, and
Lancashire clogs, twirling a laden corve.

The miner has, by organisation and labour
leader, made himself heard not only in
the conference of coal-owners but in Par
liament, and he consequently works under
superior conditions as to pay and environ
ment. The ventilation is as perfect as known
system of up-cast and down-cast shaft, and
pumping, fanning, and the sprinkling of
coal-dust can make it. The main road and
the working place are maintained in better
repair, and special attention is about to be
given to timbering, with the object of pre
venting, as far as possible, the falls of bind
that the miner dreads almost as much as
the more disastrous but rarer explosion.
There has been improvement in safety-
lamp, in pit lighting by electricity, and in



haulage; but perhaps the greatest revolution
with regard to the coal industry has been
in the transit of the commodity itself.

The transit of coal from the pit bank to
house and distant market is practically a
separate business from the industry of coal-
getting. The cost of carriage nearly doubles
the price of coal to the consumer ; and
there has, since the coaching days, been
innumerable attempts made to reduce the
outlay in transit. George Stevenson s first
engine, which heralded the development
of the railway system, was constructed for
the purpose of conveying coal from Killing-
worth pit. Cart and waggon, the latter
now drawn by traction engine, are still seen
coal-laden on highway ; but, except for local
deliver}*, the railway has become the great
carrying agent of the coal-owner and the
dealer. Now and again the demand for
coal was so great that the railway was al
together unable to cope with it. The canal
as a coal-carrier lapsed into disfavour with
the impatient consumer, and fifty years ago
there was a block of five miles of coal trains
on the line between RuLfbv and London.

The metropolis had overcome its prejudice
against coal, and was clamouring at every
terminus for fuel. Glasgow, Manchester,
Leeds, Sheffield, and Birmingham are gigantic
consumers ; but London is absolutely
ravenous, and draws her huge supply from
the gigantic coal .sidings that spread fan-
like on the borders of the great city, and
are fed by the three or four trunk lines
that are in touch, by numerous rail-tracks,
with the pits of Staffordshire, Derbyshire,
Yorkshire, Lancashire, and other coal-pro
ducing districts.

Every railway, wherever possible, has
cultivated the coal-carrying trade, because
it is profitable, especially on long-distance
runs. The Midland, with its main line
striking through the heart of the Derby
shire coalfield, and with tentacles all around,
has the premier coal traffic, and needs
thirty thousand waggons to handle it. But
the North- Western, the Great Northern, the
North-Eastern, and the Great Eastern do not
lose a chance, and lately the Great Central,
weary of acting simply as the cross-country
jackal to the other companies, has forced



its way to London, handles the coal through
from the pits on its system, and is striving
to get a profit.

There is nothing particularly interesting in
the transit and use of coal by rail except the
marshalling of the \vaggons by gravitation, the
language of the merchant or dealer if his
trucks have not arrived in time to meet the
demand, and the more indignant tirade of
the railway shareholder against what he calls
the Company s gross extravagance in accept
ing locomotive coal contracts at exorbitant


prices. But in coal
shipment for export
there is much ingenuity
apparent, for the docks

for use abroad, the consumption of fuel on
board our steamers is, as every traveller is
aware, enormous. The engineers and stokers
on a modern liner are the despots of a
tropical kingdom. "The Lncania" says
the Cunard agent, strolling along the Hus-
kisson Dock at Liverpool ; " well, I should
not go aboard to-day she s coaling!"
There is no doubt about it. She is stripped
of her finer}- for the purpose, and a myriad of
men, with the latest appliances, are loading
her capacious bunkers with fuel to drive her
across "The Ferry."
Her commander is the
mental force necessary
to her safe guidance ;

are equipped not only with jetty lines, but
hydraulic cranes, swinging cradles, hoists,
shoots, and other appliances deftly contrived
to load the smallest or the largest vessel.
The shipment at Tyneside, at Hull, or at
Cardiff, the latter the port of largest coal
export, is a sight to see that is, if you can
see it, for there is a significant warning in
the Welsh harbour : " Keep off the quays,
as the coal-dust, especially in calm weather,
makes the water look like land."

Apart from the vast quantity of coal shipped

but the men in the
engine-room and the
stoke-hole dominate

the ocean traffic, and the collier, wielding
his pick in the lonely recess of the mine,
is the chief factor, the initial impulse, of
the wondrous maritime enterprise.

The Oceanic is berthed close by. There is
a glittering film of coal-dust on her great black
hull, and the shed that spans the dock-side
is thronged with a procession of grim} men
who have just completed the coaling of the
leviathan. The floating palace, over seven
hundred feet in length, has no fewer than
ninety furnaces, and thirteen boilers, to drive
the engines of twenty-eight thousand horse
power, and she consumes seven hundred tons
of coal daily, when on the move, utilising
nearly five thousand tons on each voyage


across the Atlantic. Charles Dickens would
no doubt have found the English language
altogether inadequate for his criticism of her
funnels. There are only two of these drab-
painted orifices ; but they are as lofty as
large ship-masts, so wide that two tramcars
could run through them abreast, and when
the great fires are banked up as hot as the
stokers can make them, yet the ship is skil
fully safeguarded against their fiery breath.

Carlyle said society is founded on cloth ;
rather is it established on coal. The world
would be a cold and cheerless, and also
a stagnant place, without its heat-giving, or
other equivalent ; and the only objectionable
feature about the fuel is its high price.
Not even the poorest householder begrudges
the miner his wage, for he gets it with
incessant toil and at imminent risk from
outburst of gas, insidious after-damp, and
inflow of water. He is a bread-winning hero,
who never shouts about his valour, though
his courage and daring in saving life cannot
be surpassed. He does not rake in much
profit, or do everything to keep the price
high. Nor does the coal-owner always come
" best side out " on the year s working,

considering his outlay of capital and the
fluctuation of the market.

The carrier, and the merchant or dealer,
have often a better chance of aggran
disement. Kven in Lancashire, in the
midst of a rich coalfield, where the carry
ing charges should be light, house fire
coal, of good quality, is not delivered at
the back-yard door at less than a sovereign
a ton, while the man with the barrow and
the shovel makes his bargain with all the
diplomacy of a big contractor, and demands
eighteenpence or two shillings per cart-load
as the pi ice of placing it in the cellar. The
coal agent and the coal heaver are doggedly
of opinion that a good thing is worth pay
ing for ; and however hardly the London,
Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham,
or other citizen may think he is treated by
the coal trader, he has the melancholy satis
faction of knowing that in the seventeenth
century the price of coal in England was
much higher, Pepys stating, in his Diary, that
such was the dearth of coal, and so great the
despair of any supply owing to the vigilance
of the enemy, that the fuel, when it could be
got, realised the famine price of 5 per ton !



in various parts
the Continent.

THI-; cultivation of the tobacco plant finds
no place in a list of the industries of
the United Kingdom, not because it
is forbidden by nature, but because it is sup
pressed by law. In the year in which Queen
Elizabeth ascended the throne of England,
one Jean Xicot, ambassador of France to the
Court of Lisbon, learned of the arrival for the
first time in Europe of
the seeds of a plant
which was destined
henceforth to bear his
name. He sent some
of these seeds to
Catherine dei Medici,
and it was not long
before the plant
began to spring up

the middle of the
seventeenth century
tobacco was already
being raised in Eng
land, but the new crop
was forbidden by
Charles II., who de
sired to encourage
the produce of the
Virginian plantations.
The plant was grown
fitfully for a century
and more, but tobacco

cultivation was again firmly suppressed a
year or two after the declaration of the
independence of the American colonies, not
out of regard to their interests, but because
of the necessities of the exchequer. Another
century passed by, and in i8<S6 the revenue
officers again permitted experimental culti
vation to be pursued for a season or two,
with the rdsult that the ability of English
farmers to produce a paying crop was again
demonstrated. But the difficulty of adjust
ing the tax so as not to interfere with the
gold mine derived from the tobacco duties
was declared to be insuperable^ and that is

the reason why the tobacco industry in this
country is limited to the preparation of the
cured leaf, imported from all parts of the

Of the fifty species of tobacco the chief is
known to botanists as Nicotiana Tabacuin.
In the broad-leaved variety it furnishes the
famous tobaccos of Maryland, Cuba and the
Philippines ; the nar
row - leaved form is
that grown in the
plantations of Vir
ginia. It is usual to
regard the oak-cured
leaf of Eatakia as
another variety of the
same predominant
species. Turkish to
bacco is the produce
of a smaller, more
delicate plant, N. rus
tics, or green tobacco ;
and there are other
cultivated species
such as the mild,
innocuous leaf of the
dreamy Persian. But
whatever the variety,
all tobacco reaches
this country in pack
ages which may not
be less than 80 Ib.
By this means the

labours of the Customs officers in the
prevention of smuggling are lightened.

The Virginian leaf, which is the foundation
of most kinds of pipe tobacco, is imported
in hogsheads weighing not less than 950 Ib.
There is nowadays a great demand for mild
blends, and one of the first duties of the
manufacturer is to produce such a mixture
of leaf of various kinds as shall produce the
result aimed at in the smoking mixtures to
which his customers have become accus
tomed. This task falls to the manufacturer,
who obtains from the bonded warehouses
a 4-lb. sample drawn from each of the




hogsheads which he has purchased
through his broker. He takes a
pipeful or two, just as a tea buyer
brews for himself a sample cup of
tea, and his experience enables him
to write out a formula, which is
passed on to the foreman of the first

After the payment of the duty the
tobacco is removed from the bonded
warehouse, the hogshead is broken
open, the contents removed in wedge-
shaped slabs, and the leaves are
rapidly separated from this com
pressed mass by workpeople of either
sex, who are known as strippers.
The leaves, which are very dry and
brittle, and demand careful handling,
are now heaped upon the damping
floor, thoroughly blended, and dis
creetly " liquored " by means of a
watering-can, or by the application
of a sprayer set upon a tripod. The amount
of moisture in the tobacco is determined by
the simple device of weighing out a small
portion before and after baking in an oven,
and it is permitted by law to increase the
proportion of moisture already present in
the imported leaf up to 30 per cent. The
moistened bulk is left overnight, and on the
following day the leaves are found to have


absorbed the water, and to be in a flaccid
condition, which renders their manipulation
easy. Those leaves which possess a stout
midrib are skilfully stripped, the stalk being
reserved for grinding into snuff, unless the
object of the manager is to produce " bird s-
eye," for which purpose the stalk is left in
the leaf, and the sections of it impart to the
mixture when cut the peculiar appearance

which gives its name
to that variety of
the "weed." If
" shag " be the order
of the day, the
stripped leaves are
now placed in a
frame, compressed
to about a third of
their height when
loosely heaped, and
passed beneath a
g u i 1 1 o tine k n i f e ,
worked by hand or
steam. B y this
means the mass is
cut into ^hose fine
shreds which, from
their resemblance to
a " shaeev " beard, have derived the name

i >

given to all finely cut tobacco in the





The cut heap is no\v transferred to a
canvas frame, through which steam is gently
driven, with the object of securing an even
distribution of the moisture, being thence
placed upon a hot plate that drives off the
excess of moisture, and brings out the full
aroma of the leaf. The final process consists
in the removal of the shag to another canvas
rack, through which a current of air passes,
and the tobacco is then read}- for the packers.

The cutting and drying processes are
highly paid. The wage often reaches 45s.
a week, and the work demands a good deal
of experience and deftness. Some power
cutters get through nearly a ton of tobacco
per diem, but the highest grades of tobacco
are sometimes " hand-cut," in order to pre
serve the finer qualities of fragrance in the

Much tobacco is nowadays packed into
tins, but there is a large industry concerned
with the packeting of pipe tobacco in papers

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 4 of 39)