ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS
29th November, 1862
LANCASHIRE DISTRESS AND RELIEF ORGANISATION.MANCHESTER.
(From our own Correspondent.)
I am now in a position to enter pretty fully into the organisation for the relief of the distressed operatives at Manchester. I will commence by stating what is being done by the guardians. Manchester, with a population of 332,000, is divided into three unions. The Township Union contains 190,000 people. The value of the property on which the rate is assessed is £850,000. The rate laid in June last for the whole year was 3s. 8d. in the pound, and it is expected that another rate of 1s. 6d. at least must be raised to carry the guardians through the year. Out of this population 12,311 cases are now in receipt of outdoor relief, representing 31,285 persons; 3443 received indoor relief: in all, 34,428. Without specifying in particular this union, I think I shall be correct in saying that, throughout the unions of Manchester and Salford, the relief granted by the guardians amounts to 1s. 6d. per head per week. The workhouses generally are full of those old stereotyped cases of pauperism for whom the picking of oakum is a worthy employment; but many of the better class are removed to Crumpsal, where some 1000 or 1200 may be seen reducing a farm of fifty acres to a state of Belgian tillage. The labour-test has for the most part, however, given way to public opinion. A different test is sought to be established. Several schools for adult recipients of relief have been established. In Jersey and Bengal streets two are to be found containing 1200 men, who receive relief on condition that they attend. Besides this, the guardians very properly recognise the schools established by masters in their mills, and are willing to regard attendances there as work done. I visited one school or sewing-class of this kind at the Phoenix Mill, St. Jude’s parish, where 160 women and girls above sixteen years of age received 2s. 6d. a week, the relief committee adding 1s. 2d., or at least so much as brought the sum total to 3s. 4d. With regard to the children, no advantage has been taken as yet of Denison’s Act. The school pence are paid by private individuals in many cases, but not by the guardians.
I now come to the operations of the Central, Executive, and Local Relief Committees. The two first particularly undertake to collect money, to receive money and clothing transmitted from various parts, and to see to the distribution of these to the local committees throughout the suffering districts of the county. Of the executive committee Lord Derby is chairman. Over the general committee the Mayor of Manchester presides, with J. W. Maclure, Eq., for hon. secretary. The total of the Manchester subscription amounts to about £75,000. The Cotton Districts Relief Committee grants £12,000 monthly; the Liverpool Operatives Relief Fund Committee grants £6000 monthly; while from other sources some £90,000 have flowed in to the fund administered at Manchester. It is also necessary to notice a collecting committee, recently appointed, to whose strenuous canvass a considerable amount of the increased supply of means is due. The general committee now meets in the warehouse lent by Earl Ducie. The ground floor is used for the reception and dispatch of parcels of clothing, which arrive in large quantities from all parts of the kingdom. These are carried to an upper floor, where they are opened, sorted, and repacked. Each bale contains an equal number of articles; and as the clothing is granted to the local committees in bales nothing remains but to take the number required from the heap in reply to an order. Some ninety packages arrive every day, and, as about 25 people are employed in packing and unpacking, the scene, as shown in last week’s Issue, is necessarily a busy one.
This general committee has nothing to do with individual relief. This is intrusted to local committees. So far as Manchester and Salford are concerned, advantage has been taken of the staff of the District Provident Society. From the report of this institution, which was established in 1833, I find that it had originally two functions:—First, that of an inquiry office, to which cases of mendicity were referred by its subscribers for investigation; secondly, it act as a penny bank. It rarely gave relief, but "sent back each case, with the ascertained facts, to the subscribers who had initiated the inquiry." As a banking establishment it took charge, at fifteen offices throughout the town, of the small savings of the poor. Here was a body of managers and a staff of visitors, with an energetic secretary in Mr. James Smith. The usual business having fallen off in consequence of the distress, the managers, "while not abandoning their annual subscription of £400 to £500," offered to undertake the distribution of any loan which might be intrusted to them. The result is that nearly the whole relief of Manchester is now administered by this body, which, without any canvassing, has received £15,000 to mitigate this distress, and about £10,000 additional from the central fund. The society professes now to have completed its organisation. A perfect network has been improvised. This large community is divided into seventeen districts, with their several committees, all acknowledging the headship of the committee of the Provident Society, under the presidency of the Bishop of Manchester. Some of its most influential members are J. Heywood, Esq., M.P.; Messrs. S. Fletcher, W. Langton, E. Lloyd, T. H. Birley, Oliver Heywood, and Herbert Philips. On the local committees are to be found one representative from each religious body, millowners, tradesmen, and mill-overlookers. The utmost catholicity is thus preserved. The work of visitation is intrusted to paid agents; but, deeming this insufficient, the committee visits as well. Millowners, clergymen of all denominations, all people of influence whatever throughout Manchester, are supplied with forms, to be filled in with the names of those who may apply for relief or be sought out and found to require it. These forms are forwarded to the office of the society in John Dalton-street. The secretary at once transmits the form concerning A. by special messenger to C., the committee of the district where A. resides. A. is looked up at once, and a relief-ticket is granted, bearing a specified number, and the original form containing all particulars with respect to A. is returned to the office, a like number being attached to it. When the turn for A.’s district to receive relief comes, he presents his ticket at the pay office, finds his relief already calculated according to scale, and receives coloured cards for the amount in meal, and bread, and soup. Suppose I give an example: —District A 1, E. W., aged fifty-two, washes, five children; total family, six; total earning, 4s. 6d.; parochial relief, 4s.; society’s relief, 3s. 4d. in tickets. Again: S. and J. C., age, thirty-five; number of children, four; total, six; guardians’ relief, 0; society’s relief, 3s. And, be it remembered, that the relief of the society in kind exceeds the nominal sum in value. In 3s. the recipients gain about 6d. Every recipient of relief also obtains, without application, a grant of coals, and, I believe, of clothing. On another page will be found the store or shop at which these poor people exchange their tickets for food. Upon these tickets the dealer, of course, claims repayment of the society. Last week were given views of the Friends’ Soup Kitchen to which the Provident Society commissions its devouring army, and full particulars were given concerning the quantities consumed. I may repeat, however, that it is sold below cost price. This society takes personal oversight of about 4000 families which do not come within these districts. For the purpose of dealing efficiently with these an old mill in Garden-lane was taken five months since, and there I found depot for clothing, the working offices of the committee, and sewing-schools. The appeal for clothes had been well responded to, but, on the day I visited the place not a remnant of the stock remained. Two days earlier, and I should have found the apartments full.
The committee had been clearing the warehouses of unsalable goods at cheap rates and obtaining gifts of blankets, &c., and such was the stock I saw. "This week," said the secretary to me, "we have expended £5000 in clothing, but it will all be gone in ten days." I wish I could stop to dwell on the distribution scene, but the pencil-picture of it on another other page is much more striking than any word-picture I could give. Fancy, however, must lend to the faces their careworn and grateful expression. The people are full of gratitude; and if I here say that one happy result of this calamity will be the blending of classes, and the lesson to the lower class concerning the affectionate regard entertained for them by the higher classes, the remark will not be out of place. The sewing-school here established contains 152 young women, who read, write, and work by turns. The needles are employed for the most part on the new material; but the inmates are also allowed to mend their own clothes. The ladies who manage the class have arranged to give the girls a meal at noon for 1d. The constituents of this potatoes; meat, onions, dripping, pepper and salt—cost (without fuel and plant) from 13s. to 14s. a day, so that it may be called a self-paying concern. The girls work five days a week, and receive 3s. 4d. This old mill may, therefore, be imagined a scene of constant activity, and deserves a fuller description than I can now pretend to give. Before I pass from the operations of this society, I must not omit to say that each district has its sewing-classes, giving employment to 500 or 700 girls, who receive 3s. 4d., a penny dinner, and some elementary teaching. A company of twelve is usually draughted out of each class for housework. They cook the noon meal and keep the apartments clean. Everything is thus done for the comfort of the girls, and for their instruction in arts of which they are so lamentably ignorant. These classes are generally held in the mills: they are perfectly unsectarian; the spirit that pervades them is excellent and the young women recognise with lively gratitude the efforts which are being made for their comfort and instruction. Several of them were visited by me. On questioning the inmates, I found that they had been accustomed to receive from 7s. to 12s. a week, and were doing their best to make the most of the present scanty pittance. It is difficult to say what numbers are thus being cared for, for this movement has not long begun and school and sewing-classes are daily rising up in all parts of the city and its suburbs.
This, then, is the agency for the relief of the Manchester poor. It is not perfect, for it is constantly expanding; but it is as complete as can be expected, and the public may well repose confidence in it. Some few parishes, however, have not made themselves amenable to the Provident Society. I introduce here the last weekly statement, to Nov. 17, of one of these—St. Jude’s—by way of example :—Heads of families relieved, 1143; individuals, 3438; sewing-class, 160 young women. Cost of provisions distributed—Bread, £43 2s. 5d.; groceries, £12 10s.; soap, £5; potatoes, £24; coal, £8; payments to staff, 16s.: total, £93 8s. 5d. Weekly collections—Firms within the parish £33; collected by members of the committee within the parish, £4; grant from central committee, £240; Lord Mayor’s committee, £150; other sources, £1: total, £428. Some parishes refuse to unite with the society because they prefer to uphold the sectarian spirit.
So far as I can understand, the religious bodies of Manchester are rather behind those of other places in devising means for the support of their own poor. Now, however, they are waking up and doing much to clothe and feed the destitute. Their appeals have been well responded to, and the help sent is, so far as I can learn, carefully expended. In justice to those most accustomed to rely on the voluntary principle, I must add that they not only know how to ask, but how to give. Amongst the most successful efforts to relieve distress is that made by a merchant’s clerk, a young gentlemen of the name of Birch. During the early part of this cotton famine Mr. Birch became the almoner of a nobleman. The sum intrusted to him was £40 a week, and in looking about for fitting recipients of it he seems to have been struck with the idea of sewing-schools as the best means of saving the over-tempted female mill-hands, and determinately threw himself with a simpler faith and without money into this service. I say without money, because he would not appropriate the £40 to it. He collected some fifty of his helpless clients at the Hulme Working Men’s Institute, engaged a matron, and set them to work. It was with difficulty he succeeded in begging the money to pay the 3s. 4d. each at the close of the first week. The hit was popular, his class was increased the following week to 107. A touching appeal in a Manchester print enabled him to discharge the duties of paymaster with honour, but the doors of the institute were besieged with applicants for admission. Numbers soon increased to 700; still he was supplied with money, and various church and chapel Sunday schoolrooms were placed at his disposal. In all, at the present time, there are thirteen schools thus occupied five days a week, and an aggregate of 2800 souls. Mr. Birch has raised £4107, his weekly expenditure is now £400, and at the close of the week ending Nov. 15, he had only a balance sufficient to pay for two days! This effort of a genuine faith has been encouraged from the Lord Mayor’s Fund, the Central Relief Fund, and is, I believe, receiving the support of the guardians. The class assembled in Dr. Munro’s school I visited: 344 young women were working there, while ladies were reading to them. Two-thirds of them were Roman Catholics, and consequently the books read were sectarian. The needles are employed upon old clothes and new material. The products of this industry are sold to pay wages. The sales last week amounted to £81. Success is written in the boldness of this dashing movement.
While speaking of Hulme, I must mention the institute for men, supported by the Township Relief Committee. An old mill with three floors has been lent for the purpose, where about 400 men are congregated to read and write from nine to six o’clock five days a week, under proper teachers. Two meals a day are provided for them on the foundation floor, while on the two others, supplied with tables and educational requisites, they polish their wits, and chat and smoke in leisure hours. The windows are festooned with coloured calico, the whole building is warmed and lighted, musical instruments are lent by gentlemen, lectures are delivered every evening, and one evening no even a week is given to music, songs, recitations, and drollery. These men are all in the receipt of relief. I mingled freely with them, and found the best spirit to pervade them. Their docility and respect is very touching. The old hard, insolent manner seems to be quite softened down. Their teachers are looked upon with great affection. I spoke with them as to the effect the affliction might have in opening their eyes to the possibility of finding delight in something besides a large tale of work and high wages, in giving them a taste for the refined pleasures of intellectual life, and my remarks met with much concurrence. There are other schools of this kind, but I mention this as the best I saw.
I have now noticed all that is being done in the cause of the distressed operatives of Manchester with means drawn from the public purse and set forth in subscription lists. In addition, private and hidden streams are flowing from the masters of silent mills to their suffering workpeople. Some correspondents have doubted whether instances of this sort of benevolence are numerous. I only know that it would be on easy matter for me to fill up the page with the recital of them, but this is impossible. There are plenty of cases in which, though the mill is stopped, the hands are receiving £20, £30, £40, and £50 a week, in kind or cash, and many where the whole mill staff is kept off the rates or the fund. The efforts put forth at the Chorlton and Sterling mills afford noble examples of this fact, and must on some other occasion receive more notice. The Reading-class in the latter is pictured on another page. These private acts do not reveal themselves; they spring from men who are doing only what they feel to be right, and who object on this ground to be held in the public eye. Several milliners have said to me, "You may come and see what I am doing, but only on condition that you mention no names." The fact that the workpeople are contented and grateful possesses a significance as yet imperfectly appreciated. That the operative class can rise at the cry of injustice is shown clearly enough by the late riot at Blackburn.
Considerable doubt is expressed lest relief, coming to the poor from so many independent sources, should be abused. The thorough-going, regular pauper is in clover; there can be no question about that, He looks with pleasure as rank upon rank from the industrious population fall to his level. Little chance is there, however, of families obtaining more than 2s. a head, so well are the cases investigated. The guardians set their faces very resolutely against one device which is employed to increase receipts—I mean the breaking up of families; the boys and girls going into lodgings so that they may claim separate relief. But in Manchester this is not found to be the great difficulty. The people, as a rule, had rather starve than ask relief, and they are in more danger of starving than of living riotously upon the proceeds of imposition. House-to-house visitation sets the sceptic right on this point in very quick time. I have made my observations on these families in all their stages, even to those where death was within a few steps waiting to close the hard but unsuccessful struggle for life. Such a morning’s work entails an empty pocket so surely as it is undertaken, for one cannot withstand the intense pleading of silent want. Halfpence will drop out into little famished hands, and shillings into the arms of mothers who weep over the sufferings of the children from whose cheeks the roses have fled long since. Yet I never once was asked for charity, and the district visitor must use the query cleverly if he will probe the wound. I will take two or three cases from my notebook, by the help of which the touching scenes portrayed by the artist will be better realised. One house I went into contained a family of seven. They had been accustomed to earn 27s. 6d., and now obtained from all sources less than 2s, a head, and they had 1s.6d. to pay for rent. They were occupying two rooms only, the bedding had all disappeared, and they lay on the bare bedstead at night, huddled together, without removing their ragged clothes. Again: a man and wife, with eight children. The husband’s parochial relief, 7s. 6d.; from the relief fund, 3s. 6d. and one cwt. of coal. Out of this 11s. a week 1s. 6d. should be paid for rent, and the remainder is left to support a family which has been accustomed to 45s. Again: a family of seven. The husband is sickly, two boys earn 5s., no parish relief, the relief fund affords 5s. They have been accustomed to 37s. weekly. The rent is 2s. 1d. The boys are hearty. "What is there," as the poor mother said, "on which they can exercise their appetites?" Again: a family of eleven; parish. relief, 8s. 6d.; from committee, 6s.; rent, 3s. They have been out of employ forty-one weeks, and have never received more than 16s. a week. I asked how they had managed to exist, and was told that the 65s. per week which they did earn formerly helped them to occupy a nice house, to stock it with new furniture, to lay up a little in the bank, and to buy a share in some co-operative concern. First the deposits were drawn front bank, then some of the superfluous furniture was sold, then the share so proudly held was relinquished, and after that the course had been one of rather rapid descent. Before this family came upon the ratepayers they had expended property of their own to maintain the policy of the country with regard to the American States amounting to £30. I might extend the catalogue, but there is no need for it. We may as well stop with this last instance, which affords so true a picture of the operative classes, and the losses they have personally sustained before they have allowed themselves to fall upon public charity. If we take the pressure of this great calamity upon the population of Manchester alone, and estimate its value in money, we may easily calculate that the rate which has been borne has not been simply one of 3s. 8d. in the pound, but one more nearly approaching 15s., and this at a time when the huge capital invested in the cotton manufacture has been lying idle. It may be that some millowners are not doing their duty and that cases of imposition occur, but we do not forbear to feed the fowls because the sparrows pick a few kernels of the handfuls we cast to them.