Hugh Reginald Haweis.

Arrows in the air online

. (page 16 of 24)
Online LibraryHugh Reginald HaweisArrows in the air → online text (page 16 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


cannot breathe, they cannot get away from each
other. They are huddled together like mites in
a cheese, they must fight ; they are broiled
out, they must drink. Home ? Home means
hell to them ; one, or at most two rooms, seven
or eight children^ mother sick, two children
down with fever, all squalling or quarrelling,
after school hours at least ; place reeking with
washing or unwashed rags, filthy boards. To
this the tired labourer comes home, and home
means hell to him. And where is heaven }
Why, the gin-shop round the corner. Out of
work, he goes there to drink; in work, he comes
back there to drink. No escape } Yes, that is
his escape.



Digitized by



Google



312 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE,

— - -

1 78. And from these streets and back alleys,
which line the whited sepulchres of the rich,
spreads the crime that weighs down the poor
rate, filling the prisons and workhouses, and
comes the disease that floats by contagion into
the open windows of the mansions of the rich,
untouched by the sufferings, but not untainted
by the fevers, of the poor. And thus the stern
justice of inexorable law is avenged. The
* rich, who in their comfort will not think or feel
or act or give the poor in their vicinity space,
air, health, suffer the plague which they might
stay. Fresh air means power to resist disease.
Fresh air means exercise and healthy occu-
pation and amusement Fresh air means
freedom from drink, and quarrelling, and
degradation. And this the wealthy, who have
it, will not give the poor, who have it not. Do
not- call me unpractical and hasty. Read to
the end, and I will state my case fully —
"nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in
malice." And the public in London shall de-
cide whether there is not much to be done
which the rich can do. The rich are often very
kind, very liberal, but thoughtless, hasty ; they
do not attend long enough to these things.



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 313

1 79. I know it will be said, Look at the Parks :
Hyde Park, 388 acres ; Kensington Gardens,
250; Regent's Park, 472; Finsbury Park, 120;
and besides these, Victoria, Battersea, and
Primrose Hill. On the other hand, look at the
map. Between Bayswater and Bow there is a
densely-thronged section, seven miles long and
in some places four miles broad, unbroken by a
single park or green space open to the public.
Consider the distance the parks lie from many
of the most crowded spots. Hence the adult
inhabitants, except on Sundays, seldom get
there for recreative purposes. You see in the
parks few men, hardly any women ; only
children. They are sent to play there, but not
in any proportion to their teeming numbers.

180. What, then, is wanted, is more small,
green, resting, breathing, exercising places, close
to the back streets and courts. London is
crowded in a way quite unexampled. Look in
your Murrays at continental cities. There the
houses have yards or gardens, planted boule-
vards, or at all events the escape to country air
is easier, from the smaller area of the town. In
London the rapacity of landlords has built over



Digitized by



Google



314 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE.

the natural courts at the backs of houses. It is
these small private areas which should be
restored by public open greeneries, occurring
as frequently as possible. There are such
throughout London. The stifled people are
asking you, who can, to let them breathe the
air of your railed-ofif churchyards, playgrounds,
and close squares; at all events sometimes^
and under some circumstances. Do not lose
patience with the scheme. I have nothing but
what is sane and practical to suggest; but I
should be a traitor to the best interests of the
rich and the poor if, having both the Pulpit and
the Press freely open to me, I did not use my
breath and pen to the utmost to expose one of
the most crying needs of London.

1 8 1. I do not advocate the conversion of open
and still used cemeteries into playgrounds ; the
solemn scenes of burial daily going on should
restrain the mirth and unrestricted use of these
by the living, although they should be en-
couraged to walk there soberly. Still, these
larger cemeteries are now too far from the
denser neighbourhoods. But all the intramural
churchyards have been closed and railed off



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 315

for years; and of these, dotted as they are
about the crowded metropolis, we have to ask,
How long are their dead to monopolise the
surface of earth they do not use, and the open
air which they cannot breathe, when both are
needed by the living?

182. You speak of reverence for the dead:
what is false and what is true sentiment about
this ? Put the case. Let me ask, as I have
asked before in the Pulpit and in the Press.
Do you personally wish to be railed away
from the living ? If some dull dream or con-
sciousness were possible to the dead in their
deep and narrow city graves, think you not
the impression, however dim,, would be sweet of
children getting health and pleasure, and the
worn and weary ones of earth looking at fresh
tender herbs and trees springing close above the
last resting-place, instead of having a wilderness
of rotting tombstones, fit only for a playground
for live cats or a mortuary for dead ones ? In
Norway, I am told that the churchyards are
the resort, and even favourite recreation grounds,
of the living; and they are kept so beautifully,
with trees and walks and flowers, that young



Digitized by



Google



3i6 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. .

and old respect and love them as their own
gardens. Give our people a chance, and they
would do the same : and something has already
been done — ^but how little, and how slow is the
movement ?

183. The small hemmed -in plot of Drury
Lane Churchyard was levelled and planted and
thrown open, at an expense of £\6o. So great
was the crowd, that some of the plants — most
injudiciously placed in the walks, and unpro-
tected — were destroyed, and the ground was
then closed again. But, as far as I can learn,
no wanton damage was done; and in a very
little time people learn how to enjoy, and feel
the pride of ownership in the protection of such
public plants. What harm do they do to the
park trees and flowers ? The Peace and War
rowdies, in moments of excitement, destroy
everything, even Mr. Gladstone's windows;
but not the people, as a rule. All the year
round the people, as a rule, no more trample
down public flower-beds than as a rule they
smash windows.

184. The other day I made a pilgrimage to



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 317

Bishopsgate, to inspect the little churchyard
planted and reformed by the Rev. W. Rogers,
rector. The stream of life flows unceasingly
through the bright resting-place, where the dead
now provide an oasis for the living. The young
trees on either side were budding ; the dazzling
hyacinths spotted the place with gold and crim-
son fire. On one side a paved surface provided
happy children with a swing and exercise poles ;
in the centre of the other stood a large fountain.
Troops of sparrows and pigeons were bathing
there, and gay foreign ducks disputed the spa-
cious basin with them. A little further off a
large cage of golden pheasants and a rockery
excited the admiration of the passers-by. A
worn man on crutches with a brightening smile
stood watching them. Even the busy clerk
paused, and the discontented face of a weary
mother with two children lost its chronic
wrinkles at the glee of the little ones over the
ducks. I need not say how the people care for
their churchyard pets, with a never failing
supply of bread and scraps, on which, I am
bound to say, sparrows and pigeons alike get
over fat.

I left the little crowd— arrested in passing out



Digitized by



Google



3i8 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE.

of the gloom on one side and into the gloom on
the other — standing in that bright God's acre,
full of sunshine and glory, let down into the
midst of the city, and shedding the light of
heaven upon all who crossed its radiance.

185. So I blessed the good rector of Bishops-
gate, and passed on to St. George's-in-the-East
The energy and enterprise of the Rev. Harry
Jones has converted this large burial-ground
into a perfect garden. This, owing to the dif-
ficulties surmounted, its large scale and excep-
tional position, is the general model; and the
Rev. Harry Jones, the rector, is the general
referee to whom London and the other large
towns should apply for advice. The Dissenting
ground was bought; a map of the ground,
showing the exact spot of all tombs, was made;
all inscriptions were entered in a book ; a few
stones are ranged still against the walls ; the
partition wall between the Dissenters and the
Church of England was thrown down, by
mutual consent, and the place laid out with
lawns, flower-beds, and a fountain. ^^ 1,200
was voted by the vestry, and ;^ 3,000 more
by the Metropolitan Board. Of course this was



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 319

exceptionally dear ; but the vestry, in their en-
thusiasm, did not scruple to vote 24,000 bulbs
in the spring. This is what a rector, who
knows his business, can do with his vestry ;
and this is what a vestry can do for its parish.
Let other rectors and vestries ponder these
things, and go and do likewise.

186. Waterloo Road burial-ground has been
similarly converted, at an expense of £2<^o, by
the energy of the Rev. Arthur Robinson. I be-
lieve that St. Giles's is preparing. St. Pancras, I
heard, was available, but it did seem to me open
in one sense, although fairly tidy. St. John's
Wood is a noble acreage, but dismal withal, and
not nearly open enough nor properly planted.
And what shall I say of Limehouse and Ber-
mondsey, and that great space on the Bays-
water Road, with its disused chapel, standing
back, and frowning at Hyde Park ? I refer to
the St. George's, Hanover Square, burial-
ground, where lies Laurence Sterne, among
others. The houses at the back of Connaught
Street have a full view of it, with its wide turf,
waving willows, and rotting tombs. The public,
I am told, have some occasional right of entry,



Digitized by



Google



320 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE.

a right which the public seem neither to know
nor to use. That old, useless chapel should be
razed, and the whole thrown open and separated
from Hyde Park only by the Bayswater Road.
What a new breadth of green, what a new
landscape garden, would London then boast of.
That St. George's burial-ground — never seen,
almost unknown — is a green space nearly a
quarter of a mile to walk round ! If the rector
and vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square,
could be memorialised or induced to take this
in hand, what a bright epoch in the parish
history would be that of the rectorate of the
Rev. Capel Cure !

187. But I must now plunge into deeper
shadows. Who are perfectly apathetic ? nay, who
actively withhold from the poor their breathing-
room ? The Quakers! In the densest neighbour-
hood they owned a burial-ground in Bunhill
Fields. I have seen crowds of workmen seated
at midday on the hot flags of the street pavement,
with their backs to the hot brick walls, at a
stone's - throw from what might have been a
green oasis. First the Quakers were urged by
Miss Octavia Hill to give this ground for the



Digitized by



Google



AIR ^OR THE PEOPLE. 321

poor ; then she offered to buy it. No ; they
would sell it to the highest bidder, to build more
houses. But no builder could be found to
build over the dead or to remove the bodies.
The religious speculators were equal to the
occasion. The scruples of mere worldly con-
tractors were not respected by the Quakers.
They hired workmen themselves, dug up 5,000
bodies, piled them in a heap, and treated them
with carbolic acid, and buried them in a hole
at the corner of the ground ; and then they sold
the ground! There are many worldly people
who do not hold with Quaker doctrines, and
fashionable people who do not adopt the Quaker
costume, but who, at least, have human hearts,
and would, I think, shrink from such speci-
mens of atrocity as I have described. I blush
for those Quakers. I believe this gross act to
be a gross injustice to their class. I call upon
them to repudiate it, and to show that they care
something for Christ's poor by yielding up (for
a fair equivalent) their remaining burial-grounds
for the people of Whitechapel and Bermondsey.

188. But I confess now, with deeper shame,
that the Quakers may turn round upon me and



Digitized by



Google



322 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE.

say, " Look at your own Church of England
burial-ground in Marylebone !" I did look at it
one Saturday. Out of H igh Street, up Paradise
Street, I went. The signs of Paradise were two
large public - houses, supplying with ample
poison about a hundred feet of dismal, dirty
houses. Through iron gates I entered Paradise.
** Surely," said I, **this large-railed and wired
rat-trap, full of rottenness and crumbled tombs,
is the Paradise of cats ; " and, true enough, the
first mem, I entered in my note-book was five
live cats — " at home " all the year round, and
happy. I will now transcribe from my notebook
what I met with in a hasty walk through that half
of Marylebone Churchyard through which there
is a thoroughfare. Orange-peel, rotten eggs,
cast-off hair- plaits, oyster-shells, crockery, news-
papers with bread and meat, dead cats. Amid
them I arrive at the grave of Elizabeth Smith,
who died February the 20th, 1832, and on her
grave, in the very centre of the churchyard,
behind the green sentry-box, what do I find ?
Twelve old kettles, two coal-scuttles, three old
hats, and an old umbrella. The parish church-
yard a mere scavenger's ground, full of fester-
ing filth in the midst of a teeming population ;



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 323

and when it is hinted that it might be laid out
with flowers, levelled, or even cleansed, we are
told that the feelings of the relatives of the dead
must be respected — their tombs may not be
touched. What, I should like to know, are the
feelings of Elizabeth Smith, who died February
20th, 1832, if she can still look down upon
those shocking hats and old kettles piled up
over her tomb ? ^

189. In each parish, where such a state of
things obtains, the right steps to be taken are
simple and obvious, and they have been taken
with good effect in more places than one.

The rector's leave must first be obtained,
then notice must be placed on the church door,
calling the vestry to consider the scheme. The

* These statements have been questioned, but numbers of
my own congregation repaired to the spot on the Sunday,
in the morning of which these words were spoken, and can
vouch for the literal truth of what is here set down. It is
due to the vestry however to state, firstly, that there were
real obstacles in the way of converting the disused ground
into a garden ; and secondly, that the vestry are actively at
work to remove those obstacles and carry out the required
reform. I need not observe that the appearance of the
ground now is no proof that it was not worse when I
described it in the spring of 1878.



Digitized by



Google



324 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE.

vestry meets, and orders notice to be given to
all those who have tombstones or property in
the churchyard, and after adjusting their claims,
a '' faculty " must be obtained to proceed ; then
a grant from the vestry must be supplemented
by one from the Metropolitan Board, if needful,
and the thing is done. For the present then
we will let the Quakers alone, and at least cast
the beam of that unsanctified old mortuary in
Marylebone out of our own eye.

Ratepayers of Marylebone, rich and well-to-
do people, yours it is to attend, to reflect, to
feel, to form a public opinion on this question.
Vestrymen of Marylebone, once the leading
vestrymen in London — foremost in intelligence,
enterprise, and wise reform — ^yours it is to act.

190. I have still to speak of the School Board
playgrounds and the London squares. The
School Board has fifty-seven acres of open play-
ground, acquired, as Mr. E. Hart has pointed
out in a weekly paper, at immense cost What
equivalent does the public get? What play,
what air and exercise, do these acres afford to
those who need them most ? They are less
than half as useful as they might be. They



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE, 325

are closed all Saturday and Sunday ; the other
five days they are but half used, and then only
by School Board children ; and they are bare,
stone yards, like prisons, but less favoured than
prison-yards, because left without caretakers or
superintendents ! Here I cull from Social Notes
a report of one of the largest in the East-end.
" At 4.30 a few boys were playing in a corner
of the playground. Sometimes more stop ;
this afternoon was not very fine. The play-
ground is supposed to be open till seven o'clock,
but the boys go out before that time, and the
door is closed. Last summer the schoolmaster
was authorised to appoint a man at ten shillings
a week to take charge at these hours. The
appointment was not made. There were no
appliances for games, and no one ever taught
the children how to play. I gathered generally
that the officials are thoroughly opposed to the
children remaining about. The caretaker has
to clean during these hours, and cannot watch
his property. The children have no sense that
the ground is for them, and feel that their re-
maining is rather an intrusion and defiance of
the authorities than otherwise." The National
Health Society obtained from the School Board



Digitized by



Google



326 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE,

an admission that the playgrounds should be
fitted with swings and gymnastic poles. The
School Board promised to fit out eighteen of
their grounds, but refused to appoint caretakers.
This was almost like giving the children school-
desks and benches without teachers. Direction
in play is only second in importance to direction
in study; for both, the School Board is re-
sponsible. The Health Society were asked to
provide caretakers for the playgrounds. They
told the School Board that such a proposal
hardly met the case, since the School Board, in
promising the fittings, had admitted that its
responsibilities extended to the play-hours. It
was thought that the intrusion upon Govern-
ment ground of National Health Society's
officers was not only an affi-ont to the Govern-
ment, but created a set of mixed and indeter-
minate functions impossible to maintain.

In this there is some truth, but it seems to
me that a friendly compromise would meet the
case. If it turns out that the School Board funds
are really strained, the general public might not
be unwilling to strengthen the hands of the
Health Society in co-operating for the further
utilisation of these playgrounds ; for on the face



Digitized by LjOOQIC



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 327

of it the School Board has as much more to do
with study than with health as the Health
Society has more to do with health than with
study. Still, I am far from denying that in a
very great degree the School Board has to do
with the health of its poor little charges. Let
us urge the people of London to attend to this
branch of the great open-air question, and when
the time comes to strengthen the hands both of
the School Board and Health Society, if need-
ful, let public opinion deal with these golden
fifty-seven acres.

191. Come we now to the London squares.
And here I will be no Don Quixote tilting at
windmills. Any attempt to trifle with the rights
of property — with the privileges which the rich
have bought — any suggestion to throw open
unreservedly the London squares, is absurd,
impracticable, and undesirable if possible. Rich
and poor children cannot mix in the squares ;
even in the parks there are dangers from such
casual contiguities. Still, I ask, "You have
bought the poor out of these large breathing
spaces : what use do you make of them your-
selves } " Think whether, to some extent, you



Digitized by



Google



328 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE,

who can get away, you who have pleasure-
grounds elsewhere, you who have ample breath-
ing room and need the squares least, you might
not contrive to let the people have some benefit
out of your close privileges — the people who
are shut out, and need the squares most. I will
not now allude to such vast greeneries as those
at the back of the Foundling, or the Charter-
house, or Gray's Inn; but look at Euston
Garden and Euston Square : who goes there ?
The gardener, that is all. I saw him wearily
weeding the gravel walk as I went my way.
Two hours afterwards I passed by again ; he
was leaning pensively on his hoe. He looked
at the passers-by, and the passers-by looked at
him. He had the privilege of entry, which he
valued not, whilst they who felt its value were
shut out.

192. Look at Finsbury Circus, which might be
full of people, and the houses all round scarcely
conscious of it, so broad are the streets be-
tween. Look at Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, an area
equal to that covered by the great Pyramid of
Cheops. Whoever goes in there ? The busy
lawyers? Nay, they never even so much as



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 329

look out of their high windows. Surely, under
regulations, such places might be at least as
partially public as the Temple Gardens.

193. I need not dwell on other dingy unused
squares in unfashionable but not unpopulous
quarters, such as Russell Square, Tavistock, Red
Lion, &c. ; but I go further, and call upon the
rich at the West-end to give, in their absence
at least, an occasional breath of air in the hot
days to the neighbouring poor. There are
weeks and months in the autumn when there is
not a soul in Belgrave Square, every house in
Eaton Square is closed, and so are their two
princely greeneries.

194. I will not plead for more than is right,
possible, practical — for more than what by actual
experiment has been proved harmless to the
rich and beneficial to the poor. Put it in this
way. Suppose that each square in London
once or twice a year had a gathering such as
we have seen in the Close at Westminster
under the Dean's supervision, or such as we
have seen in Manchester Square, under the
Hon. ahd Rev. Mr. Freemantle, of St. Mary's,



Digitized by



Google



330 AIR FOR THE PEOPLE.

Bryanston Square. Suppose, I say, each London
square had its spring and autumnal show of
flowers and fruits, admission free, a halfpenny,
or even by ticket. Remember how few, and
often how low, are the peoples pleasures.
Drink they love ; but they love other things be-
sides drink. Think what to them is the Lord
Mayor s Show, even a troop of Horse Guards,
even a band of Volunteers, even Punch and
Judy; and then think what delight, what in-
fluence, what exhilaration is implied in a
thousand fruit and flower shows per annum,
free and open all over London, where rich and
poor might to some extent mingle, where Vol-
unteer bands should play, where decency and
sobriety should be the only needful passports,
and joy and health and good- will the only con-
sequences of a day of pleasure. As I write,
the whole organisation rises ready to hand*
Each district is already parochially organised.
The Dissenters would yield their quantum of
helpers, and stimulate the curiosity of their
own people. A central tent, or row of stalls,
should be filled with flowers. The clergy of
all denominations should be charged to call
upon all the inhabitants of the square, and



Digitized by



Google



AIR FOR THE PEOPLE. 331

exhort them to send up from their sumptuous
greenhouses and flower-beds — where the roses
crowd and fall ungathered — flowers, fruits, and
standards.

Oh, rich people, what sacrifice would this be
to you ? What trouble, were you even per-
sonally to superintend the cutting of such
flowers, given, in the best sense, to God ?
What jealousies between rich and poor might
not sweetly be allayed as the people saw how
freely you could give what you have so freely
received ! And all these things remain undone,
and the barren, selfish, walled-up, railed-away
pleasures of the rich go on ; and the long
bloody sweat of a great city s agony distils
hard by, unheeded in the outer darkness, whilst
those who could watch lie asleep, and the poor
of Christ are betrayed into the hands of the
traitor Drink.




Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



II.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryHugh Reginald HaweisArrows in the air → online text (page 16 of 24)