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Title: Glimpses into the Abyss
Author: Higgs, Mary
Language: English
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Author of "The Master", "How to deal with the Unemployed"



The author has conducted social research for a number of years on an
original plan.

Securing a lodging where a destitute woman could be accommodated, and
providing cleansing and dress, she has steadily taken in through a
period of six years every case of complete destitution that came to her,
willing to undergo remedial treatment. The work grew; accommodation for
four was provided, with two paid helpers. The small cottage used acts as
a social microscope, every case being personally investigated as to past
life, history, and present need, and dealt with accordingly. The writer,
as Secretary to the Ladies' Committee of Oldham Workhouse, next became
personally acquainted with the working of the Poor-law and studied it by
means of books also. By degrees the Rescue work came to cover
Police-court and Lodging-house work, and, as there was no other Shelter
in Oldham, cases of all sorts came under her notice. She thus studied
personally the microbes of social disorder.

By degrees she came to understand the existence of certain "classes"
(classifying them much as observation led her to classify objects
observed in physical studies). Also, she clearly perceived that causes
were at work leading to rapid degeneration, and was led to pre-suppose
currents working for social destruction.

She then commenced investigating remedial agencies and interrogating
social observers. She found among them a similar experience of great
waste and lack of salvage through defects not to be remedied by private

This led her more and more to consider national aspects of the question.
She visited personally Hadleigh Farm Colony, questioned experts at West
Ham, visited and interrogated Police, Prevention of Cruelty to Children
officers, Vigilance officers, and others; and by degrees obtained a
mass of information. But still the root problems of poverty remained
dark to her, and she became convinced that nothing but accurate and
scientific exploration of the depths would reveal the currents leading
to degradation.

After the idea dawned upon her, some months elapsed before she felt able
to arrange to face the ordeal, but during this time proofs accumulated
of the uselessness of any other methods. She reflected that exploration
was the method of science, and became herself an explorer of "Darkest
England." The results amply justified the experiment. She has now
carried through the following explorations, each time with increasing

(_a_) A tour through West Yorkshire, embracing one municipal, one common
lodging-house, two tramp wards, and a women's shelter.

(_b_) An investigation into a Lancashire tramp ward.

(_c_) Investigation of a Salvation Army Women's Shelter.

(_d_) An investigation into the lodging-house conditions in a
neighbouring town.

(_e_) An investigation into conditions in women's lodging-houses in a
Lancashire centre.

(_f_) Investigation into a London casual ward; also enquiry and
investigation as to women's lodging-houses in London.

These investigations have placed her in possession of facts which form
the basis of the introductory essay.

In addition, however, her possession of experience and knowledge have
opened to her many sources of information not available to the general
public. She has received much private information embodied in these
pages, and has had the privilege of attending and taking part in
official discussions. Also by visits to a common lodging-house she
obtained much light on the views of the class that occasionally find
themselves in the tramp ward. She has also collected information from
the Press, and studied the literature obtainable which threw light on
vagrancy legislation in other countries.

Recently she has visited Denmark and had the privilege of investigating
the working of the Poor-law system. The official view was obtained, and
workhouses, etc., visited, and the system seen in operation. But also by
a visit to Salvation Army Headquarters in Copenhagen, and from other
sources, she obtained as thorough an idea as possible of the actual
working of the nation's remedies for poverty. Also the connection of the
Poor Law with the Municipality was studied.

She also undertook a literary investigation into deterioration of human
personality, viewed from the psychological, medical, and religious
points of view, writing an essay which won the Gibson Prize at Girton

It seemed to be the necessary corollary to the acquisition of a wide
collection of facts to form some unitary theory capable of correlating

A very simple theory, which will be found to accord with Plato's
diagnosis of the degeneration of a State or an individual, with Meyer's
"Disintegrations of Personality," and with James' "Phenomena of
Religious Experience," therefore underlies this essay; but it is apart
from its objects to do more than state it. It is enunciated more fully
in an article in the _Contemporary Review_, now out, entitled "Mankind
in the Making." It is this:--

(_a_) The psychology of the individual retraces the path of the
psychology of the race.

(_b_) In any given individual the _whole_ path climbed by the foremost
classes or races may not be retraced. Therefore numbers of individuals
are permanently stranded on lower levels of evolution. _Society can
quicken evolution_ by right social arrangements, scientific in

(_c_) Granted that any individual attains a certain psychical evolution
in _normal_ development, either evolution or devolution lies before him.
Wrong social conditions lead to widespread devolution. The retrograde
unit retraces downwards the upward path of the race, and can only be
reclaimed along this path by wise social legislation, bringing steady
pressure to bear along the lines of evolution, (barring extraordinary
religious phenomena, which often reclaim individuals or communities).

(_d_) Society has now arrived at a point of development when these facts
must be recognised, and the whole question of the organisation of
humanity put on a scientific basis. It will then be possible to reduce
the sciences of sociology and psychology to scientific order, and our
national treatment of such questions as vagrancy will be no longer
purely empirical.[1]

      NOTE.--The Committee on Vagrancy, before which the author appeared
      as a witness (see Appendix IV.), was sitting during the months
      occupied in the writing of this book. Its conclusions, with which
      the author is in substantial agreement, are therefore added in the
      form of notes and appendices.

      This Preface was not originally written as such, but formed the
      introduction to the Gamble Prize Essay, in connection with which
      the essayist was required to furnish a history of personal
      research in connection with the subject chosen.


[1] See pp. 83-86.


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE

      I. Vagrancy as an underlying social factor, p. 1--II. Vagrancy
      from the commencement of the nineteenth century, p. 7--III.
      Special legislation for vagrancy, p. 11--IV. Examination of
      vagrancy as it exists at present: statistics, p. 17--V. Further
      (personal) investigations, p. 23--VI. Indictment of the tramp ward
      (correspondence with a working man), p. 33--VII. The common
      lodging-house, p. 46--VIII. Summary of results of investigation,
      p. 52--IX. Vagrancy legislation in other countries, p. 54--X.
      Tentative attempts in England, p. 64--XI. Reforms having reference
      to vagrancy, p. 71--XII. Conclusion, p. 82.


      I. A night in a municipal lodging-house--II. A night in a common
      lodging-house--III. First night in a workhouse tramp ward--IV.
      Second night in a workhouse tramp ward--V. Night in a woman's

  III. A NORTHERN TRAMP WARD                                         136

  IV. A NIGHT IN A SALVATION ARMY SHELTER                            175

  V. THREE NIGHTS IN WOMEN'S LODGING-HOUSES                          197

      I. First night--II. Second night--III. Third night.

  VI. COMMON LODGING-HOUSE LIFE                                      232

      I. In a northern town--II. In a northern city.

  VII. LONDON INVESTIGATIONS                                         255

      I. London lodgings--II. A London tramp ward.

  VIII. A SYMPOSIUM IN A COMMON LODGING-HOUSE                        269





  III. LABOUR COLONIES: SUMMARY                                      309

  IV. WOMEN: REPORT OF VAGRANCY COMMITTEE                            312

  V. EVILS OF SHORT SENTENCES                                        316

  AMONG TRAMPS"                                                      317


  VIII. COMMON LODGING-HOUSES _versus_ SHELTERS                      324

       *       *       *       *       *

  INDEX                                                              329




The word "vagrancy," from the Latin _vagare_, to wander, now implies a
crime against civilised society (Vagrancy Report, p. 3, footnote). Laws
to restrain or abolish it form part of the code of European and other
civilised States.

Nevertheless, the _fact_ of vagrancy is one deep rooted in human nature.
The tendency to it recurs both in the individual and in the race. In one
stage of development the child, unless restrained by watchful care, is
essentially a vagrant, and a "roaming fit" seizes many of us at times.
Before considering therefore historically, the legislation and remedies
applied to the _crime_ of vagrancy, it will be well to dwell briefly on
the underlying reasons for it.


If we take the history of any country we find that human life has
covered it at different times much as geological strata cover the face
of the earth. In Victoria Cave, Settle, for instance, human remains and
relics of the corresponding animal and social life were actually found
stratified. If you take the lowest stratum of society in any country the
aboriginal man was, and still is, in countries where aborigines survive,
a vagrant. The nomad is the foundation stone of human society. He is
therefore a _survival_, and should be treated as such.[2] So long as
mankind was nomad, the only way in which a man could be a vagrant in the
modern sense of the term would be by some crime that excluded him from
the companionship of his fellows like that of Cain. A man with his hand
against every man would be a vagrant. A whole tribe might become vagrant
relatively to other tribes, as the Bushmen of South Africa, or the
gipsies of all countries.

As civilization proceeded they remained as representatives of a prior
stratification of humanity.

As by degrees men became pastoral and acquired flocks and herds, the man
of no possessions would be relatively left behind as the unabsorbed
nomad. But the world was wide, the best land alone was appropriated, and
even when England had become largely agricultural there was plenty of
room for Robin Hood and his merry men, and doubtless countless others,
to lead the nomad life.

Though the great majority of the population was settled on the land,
there was an amount of authorised travelling that, relatively to the
facilities for travel, was considerable. Pilgrimages to shrines and
military expeditions and merchants' journeys led many on to the roads
with money in their pouch, and the less wealthy could make use of the
hospitality of abbeys. Fuller describes the old abbeys as "promiscuously
entertaining some who did not need and more who did not deserve it"
("Church History," ed. 1656, p. 298). Even the funds of the Church did
not suffice for the number of people roaming the country in idleness and
beggary, as by degrees the country became settled, land enclosed, and
the opportunity for sustenance by a vagrant life less and less

As far back as the reign of Richard II., in 1388, it became necessary
for the protection of society to legislate against vagrancy.[4] The
natural thing when society was almost wholly agricultural, and
stationary in villages or towns, was to legislate against and forbid
vagrancy. Beggars impotent to serve were to remain where the Act found
them, and be there maintained or sent back to their birthplace. This is
the germ of the law of settlement, by which every Englishman was
supposed to have a birthright in his native parish. The laws were made
stricter and stricter, yet vagrancy did not cease, even when the penalty
was whipping, loss of ears and hanging for the third offence.[5]

Even now society does not recognise that units squeezed out of true
social relationships _must_ become vagrants, as surely as soil trodden
on the highway becomes dust.

The amount of vagrancy, _i.e._ of those obliged to revert to primitive
conditions, depends as surely on the drying up of means of sustenance as
the highway dust on the absence of refreshing showers.

Any change in society that displaces a large number of units is sure to
result in increase of vagrancy. Of those forced out many cannot regain a
footing if they would.[6]

But as time went on another class was added to the nomad as akin to it,
and yet its origin is wholly different. The man unable to settle because
of his affinity to a roving life is one thing, the man _squeezed out_ of
the pastoral or agricultural life is another. The latter is akin to our
"unskilled labourer," a social unit unfitted for any but a primitive
kind of existence, unfitted for industrial development, but not
essentially nomad.[7]

As early as Henry VIII., 1531, we find a second class, that of the
"incapable," those who could not work, who were "licensed to beg."

The formation of this class was accelerated by the failure of the Church
to provide for the assistance of the poor, by suppression of abbeys,
etc., at the same time that the abolition of villeinage, which was still
recent, threw off from organised society dependents very unfit to live a
self-supporting life. (See Note 2.) Thus again the drying up of means
of subsistence created as it were another layer of easily drifting dust.

These two classes, that of the "poor, impotent, sick, and diseased,"
_i.e._ the incapable, and of the "lusty," form the foundation of our
Poor-law system.[8]

It is thus seen that changes in the social organisation left behind
another stratum to be provided for by legislation. So long as the
half-feudal, half-ecclesiastical framework of society existed, there was
nutriment for the individual who was left stranded. He was shepherded in
some way or other either by church or lord. But when social change left
him unshepherded the charge fell on _the nation as an organised unit_.
The Poor Law began. The necessity for it arose at once when "all parts
of England and Wales be presently with rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy
beggars exceedingly pestered, by means whereof daily happened in the
same realm horrible murders, thefts, and other great outrages."

Since, therefore, a transition period leaves behind such a layer of
social _débris_, it is only to be expected that we should find the third
great change that has passed over society, which is still recent,
namely, the change to the industrial epoch, to be productive of another
layer of social _débris_ or dust.


If society was profoundly affected by the change from agriculture to
sheep farming that took place in the Elizabethan period, and other
social changes that followed, how much more must we expect to find the
effects of such a tremendous change as the Industrial revolution! John
A. Hobson points out (in "Problems of Poverty," p. 24) that "the period
from 1790 to 1840 was the most miserable epoch in the history of the
English working classes." It is doubtful indeed whether we have really
recovered from the "sickness" of that period. The rise in wages has
largely been swallowed up by the enormous rise in rent, estimated by Sir
Robert Giffen at 150 per cent. in fifty years, which in city life is
felt most oppressively. "Classes" have, it is true, risen out of the
"masses," including the upper working class, but the poverty of large
populations is still extreme. It is a matter of grave moment for
civilized society that in London, for example, according to Charles
Booth's investigations, it can still be said that out of a population of
891,539, 111,000 might be swept out of existence and "no class nor any
industry would suffer in the least." For the origin of such a mass of
hopeless poverty, we must look to the miseries of the early factory
times, and the oppressive pressure of capital on labour, only slowly
being counteracted by legislation.

We have in fact added to the class of hereditary vagrants and those
driven from means of subsistence by incapacity and helplessness, a third
class which we may call "inefficient." The origin of this class is
directly due to the incoming of the factory system and the
specialisation of industry. As the demand for labour in towns grew,
numbers of poor were attracted. Of these some were capable of attaining
industrial skill, others were not. The latter became hangers-on to the
rising industries. It is not sufficiently recognised that the pressure
of the demands of capital on labour are continually increasing, and
that, therefore, many fall below the standard of efficiency _now_ who
originally would not have done so. For example, in cotton mills the
number of spindles per worker has greatly increased, and also the
"speeding" of the machinery. A man who could work at the old pace might
not be able to work at the new, and would therefore be rejected as
"inefficient," but he would only be _relatively_ "inefficient." Yet such
is the skill necessary in British industries, that "low-skilled labour"
is all that numbers of working lads can ever attain to, through defects
in physique or education. It will easily be seen that this mass of
"low-skilled" labour furnishes a third class from which vagrancy may
easily be recruited, by slight relative changes in the prosperity of the

Also there is another change, due to wide social differences in
organisation, between the preceding century and the nineteenth, which
has a direct bearing on the question of vagrancy, but has been little
noticed. It is evident that _facilities for migration_ must have some
relation to amount of migration. In the days when it was a formidable
journey to travel from London to Manchester, the fact affected all
grades of society. The coming of the steam engine has meant more than
industrial revolution, it spells social revolution. It has acted as a
disintegrating as well as an integrating force. On the one hand the
_community_ is more closely bound together by newspapers, common
customs, facilities for intercourse, and quick transit. On the other
hand family ties are loosened, and a vagrant habit of migration,
seasonal and otherwise, makes residence in a strange place no longer
formidable. As a social solvent the effect of the railway can hardly be
exaggerated. But an _individual_ separated from family or social ties
is easily loosened, if means of support fail, and quite a new form of
vagrancy arises from "inefficient" industrials migrating in search of

We must therefore consider next the attempt of the social organism to
provide for the vagrancy of the new era, the reasons for its
ineffectiveness, and the remedies most likely to succeed.

(1) The _attempt_ we shall find in the provision of the tramp ward.

(2) The reasons for its ineffectiveness will best be elucidated by an
examination of the actual conditions of things in respect to vagrancy at
present. This will be given largely as a result of research work done by
the writer, or of facts she has collected.

(3) It will then be necessary to examine first some remedies tried in
other countries.

After this some attention may be paid to tentative experiments in our
own country.

(4) It will then remain to sketch the lines of future development and if
possible elucidate scientific outlines of possible progress from the
collected facts.

The mass of these is so great that for the sake of brevity this historic
prelude has been made very short. A most interesting historical study
could be made of the relation of vagrancy to the ebb and flow of
national life.


With the disturbances due to a change of condition of the working
classes, and to the oncoming of a new epoch, arose an impulse towards
repression, similar to that which in Elizabeth's time led to the laws
against "sturdy beggars." The pressure of poverty, driving off
individuals into the unattached or "dust" condition, causes of course an
increase of beggary. This is resented by the upper classes, and if they
constitute the main proportion of government, the natural consequence is
sterner legislation with a view to putting down the evil. Thus, in 1824
was passed an Act, still in force, by which a beggar wandering alone, or
asking alms in public places, may be punished as an idle or disorderly
person with imprisonment for one month with hard labour. If already
sentenced, with three months' hard labour. If again sentenced, twelve
months' hard labour with whipping.[11] The severity of this law has been
mitigated by the magistrates' unwillingness to convict for "the first

But all legislation is unavailing to control vagrancy by _repression_ if
it springs from widespread social evils. The state of England under
heavy tariffs grew worse and worse. Rose in his "Rise of Democracy" says
that duties were imposed on 1,200 articles--"a system which was
disastrous to the nation's finance, and to the manufacturers and
operatives who formed the backbone of the nation. Manufacturers had
enormous stocks of unsaleable goods, operatives had the bitter
experience of an empty larder." "The state of society in England," wrote
Dr. Arnold to Carlyle in 1840, "was never yet paralleled in history."
"Alton Locke" and Cooper's "Autobiography" reveal something of the
prevailing wretchedness. Lord Rosebery (speaking at Manchester Chamber
of Commerce, November 1st, 1897) gave a picture of Manchester in 1839:
"118 mills and other works were standing idle; 681 shops and offices
were untenanted; 5,490 dwellings unoccupied. In one district there were
2,000 families without a bed among them; 8,000 people whose weekly
income was only 1_s_. 2-1/2_d_. In Stockport 72,314 people had received
relief whose average income was 9-1/5_d_." Wheat was at 65_s_. a
quarter. Strikes followed in 1842 and 1844.

Such a state of things must inevitably have led to the gradual breaking
down of numbers into vagrancy. The process is a slow one. Homes
successfully resist disintegration, often for a surprising length of
time, but if trade depression continues they yield. First the worst go,
and then better ones follow. This leads to pressure on public
accommodation, at first hardly noticed, but as it increases there arise
rumours of need for fresh legislation. This again is accompanied by
investigation, often lengthy, and tentative experiment also covers
ground, and so time passes.[12] It is not surprising, however, to learn
that by degrees workhouses came to be regarded as "poor men's hotels,"
that the roving vagrant population seriously increased, and that
pressure on accommodation led at last to legislation. In London
especially the number of "sleepers-out" increased so much that the
existence of a poor class practically outside the law of settlement and
requiring at any rate temporary accommodation was recognised.[13] It was
at first a _humane_ measure to supplement the old severe Vagrant Act, 5
Geo. IV. c. 5, of imprisonment for one month with hard labour for
wandering about, begging and neglecting family, or for three months,
with hard labour if previously convicted, or found in uninhabited
buildings, or if vagrants without visible means of subsistence. This was
supplemented by the Metropolitan Houseless Poor Acts, 1864 and 1865 (27
& 28 Vict. c. 116, and 28 & 29 Vict. c. 34), which provided for
destitute wayfarers and wanderers and foundlings shelter for the night.

But the creation of a new pauper class, _i.e._ CASUALS, needed a very
wise statesmanship. We shall see later that the same need in other
countries has led to much wiser measures.

In England, by the extension of this system to all workhouses, the
CASUAL WARD was created in 1871.[14] Legislation since has principally
been directed to making it deterrent and severe. It has never been a
_provision_ for migration such as the _German relief station_ affords.
It does not deal effectively with either vagrant, incapable, or the
special product of the industrial period, the ineffective. The charges
to be made against it must, however, be backed up by evidence. It will
be sufficient now briefly to sketch what can only be considered as a
national costly experiment which has failed in its purpose.[15] At first
only _shelter_ was provided, then _food_ to obviate beggary, but of the
most meagre description[16]: in many unions still only bread and water
and a small portion of cheese is given, even with hard labour,[17] At
first the casual was only detained till 11 A.M. or till completion of
task. But as the numbers were found to increase, by the Casual Poor Act
of 1882 (45 & 46 Vict. c. 36) it was ordered that the casual poor should
be detained till the second day and discharged at 9 A.M., after a full
day's task. There are still, however, many unions where this is not

A task of work in return for food was first demanded in 1842 after the
commencement of the tide of vagrancy of which I have spoken.

It will be seen what a tremendous national experiment thus gradually
arose under most unfavourable conditions. The nature of these adverse
conditions may be summarised thus:

(1) The legislation was at best "hand to mouth," not taking into account
the real causes at work.

(2) It was the result to a large extent of class prejudice, and all
homeless wanderers, from whatever cause, are lumped together as

(3) It was impossible for the Local Government Board, however much it
wished to do so, to secure a _uniform system throughout the country_. It
does not even yet exist.

(4) The system attempted to deal with a class without any effective
control over them. There is less control over vagrants than over

(5) Considerations of self-interest would obviously cause guardians to
attempt to keep down casuals, regardless of statistics of sleeping out
and beggary.

(6) Official opinion would hardly be in favour of a troublesome class,
and grave abuses might easily arise.

To show that the casual ward is ineffective and costly, and open to
grave abuse, evidence will now be given. It must be clearly noted that
_provision for migration_ is a new need of the Industrial age, and
should not be confused with repression of vagrancy. _Vagrancy proper_
was the _crime_ of individuals who dropped out of a settled, mainly
agricultural, society into the wandering life. _Vagrancy as induced by
modern conditions_ may be no crime. It is not a crime for a man who
cannot obtain work to migrate to find it, or for a man to return home on
foot from a distance. Yet, if there is no proper provision for
_migration_, a man may, by contact with vagrants proper and
degeneration, become incapable of settled existence. To prevent this
should be the aim of social legislation. This would be _true_ repression
of vagrancy.



It is very difficult at first sight to examine the phenomena of
vagrancy. Statistics covering the whole nation are comparatively
useless, except that a great _general_ rise, such as has recently taken
place, has grave significance. The policy of guardians in different
parts of the country changes. Severer tasks and harsher conditions
naturally reduce the number of candidates for the casual ward. Therefore
statistics of reductions in inmates may be most misleading.[19] Mr.
C. H. Fox, of Wellington, Somerset, has for a long time taken pains to
observe the tide of vagrancy flowing through his union, which receives
casuals journeying northward. The stringent order of the Local
Government Board, February 25, 1896, asking for the detention of casuals
for two nights instead of one, and advising the separate cell system,
had the following results: "The number of casuals applying for police
orders in Somerset from July, 1895, to July, 1896, twelve months before
the more stringent order, was 25,062; and the number from July, 1896,
seven months after the more stringent order, was 19,789. This shows a
diminution of 21 per cent., and the current saying was 'Behold the
success of their severity.' But, alas! during the latter period the
cases of begging in the country rose no less than 83 per cent. and
sleeping out 39 per cent., showing that severity only drove men to beg
and find lodging where there was no imprisonment." The same observer
shows how casual statistics depend upon statistics of unemployment by
the following observation:

      "He lived on one of the main arteries of nomadic travel from
      London and the north to Plymouth and the west, and had peculiar
      opportunities for observation, of which he freely availed himself.
      Casuals applying for police orders 1890-91 (years of fairly good
      trade), 2,109; casuals applying for police orders 1893-94 (years
      of depressed trade) 4,705. Certainly the additional 2,596 were not
      "professional tramps," but, as usual, unfortunate _inferior
      workmen who were the first to receive notice when trade was

That the same results are occurring now, namely, the crowding into the
tramp ward of unemployed workmen travelling in search of work, I have
ample evidence. A few facts will suffice to elucidate this point, but it
must also be remarked that in addition to _increase_ there is also an
actual _displacement_ of the ordinary vagrant by the unfortunate
ineffective or even effective workman out of work. The reason for this
is not far to seek. Times of general distress and unemployment are
_harvest times for the man who lives by preying on society_. He who is
not ashamed to beg can easily invent a "moving tale," and find his
harvest of charity ready. Consequently, he is seldom too hard up to get
a bed in the common lodging-house. "Mouchers" of all descriptions, both
infirm and otherwise, may be found enjoying themselves, getting usually
plenty of drink and food, while the "genuine working man" roams the
country with a sinking heart and empty stomach, sleeping in the open or
forced into the casual ward.[21]

This little-noticed fact is attested in various ways.

Here are the statistics of male casuals examined in Rochdale by an
expert workhouse official during the closing weeks of 1903: "Of 936
persons reported on, the majority were in the prime of life. There were
only 26 under the age of 21, and 34 over 66. Only 62 were married; 133
were widowers and 741 single. There were 391 skilled artisans, 555
'labourers,' 125 ex-soldiers and sailors (many with excellent conduct
records), and one was an ex-member of the Royal Irish Constabulary."

Thirty-nine admitted that they had lost their work through drink.
Doubtless there were others of whom the same could be said (Dr. Pinck,
the workhouse medical officer at Rochdale, is of opinion that a
comparatively small proportion of true vagrants owe their poverty to
intemperance.) Of all the 936 persons reported on, the workhouse master
said _he could not describe more than 33 as habitual vagrants_. Mr.
Leach himself, who has made a close study of the subject, is convinced
that a large proportion of the men on the road are tramping because they
want work and cannot find it at home. The report continues: "Upon these
the present regulations press with senseless severity."

A similar investigation, summarised in the "Toynbee Record" for
February, 1905, gives the result of two voluntary investigations in the
months of November and December, 1904, conducted at Whitechapel casual
ward. Of 250 men only 15 admitted marriage, 56 per cent. were between 30
and 50 years of age, 20 per cent. had been in the Army. Dockers and
labourers were numerous, but other occupations were represented by quite
a few members apiece. There was only one tailor. The investigators "were
surprised at the thoroughly decent appearance of a large proportion of
the men."[22]

Okehampton found (winter 1904-5) that "a large proportion of tramps were
discharged soldiers from the Army, 25 or 30 per cent."[23] At a
conference on vagrancy in Manchester (winter 1904-5), attended by
masters, matrons, relieving officers, and guardians, similar reports
were given, and a unanimous resolution was passed in favour of fresh
legislation, while the failure of the present system and its result as
_manufacturing_ vagrants was freely acknowledged. With regard to the
growth of vagrancy as a result of bad trade, the following investigation
may be of value. It will illustrate also the _irregularity_ of
treatment, and the natural tendency of wanderers to go where the
treatment is less harsh.

It is self-evident that large increases in vagrancy in consecutive years
cannot possibly be due to a _normal increase_ in vagrancy, but _must_ be
due to extraordinary pressure forcing individuals into it. Thus the
relation of vagrancy to unemployment is amply demonstrated. (See note

_Investigation into 54 Unions in Eastern Division by Lynn
Guardians._--43 replies; 4 had no vagrants; 37 show a striking increase
for September, 1904. September, 1903, 2,859 vagrants; September, 1904,
4,082; increase, 1,223. Decrease in 6 unions.


  In 16. Oakum picking,                Remainder. Sawing wood,
  4 lbs. unbeaten, 8 lbs. beaten       stone breaking, or working
  oakum.                               on the land.

  _Dietary:_       8 oz. of bread and water         ...       Breakfast.
                   8 oz. bread, 1-1/2 oz. cheese    ...       Dinner.
                   8 oz. bread and water            ...       Supper.

In a very few gruel.

_Smallburgh._--Task, 12 cwt. granite. September, 1903, none; September,
1904, 9. _This task is considered remedial, as by it the number of
vagrants was reduced from 173 (January to November, 1903) to 52 (1904)._

_Cosford._--50 per cent. increase.

_Henstead_, after introducing oakum picking, found "a remarkable falling
off." Year ending Lady Day, 1897, 2,337; Year ending Lady Day, 1904, 62.

_Docking Union._--Decrease. Task, pumping the well and working on the

_Freebridge Lynn._--September, 1904, only 4 men. Task, oakum picking. In
1893 the number of vagrants relieved was above 900, but "the tramp of
late has given the place a wide berth." Only 24 have been admitted.
"Probably the road-army came by another route than Docking and Gayton to
the 7-cwt. stone-breaking at Lynn, fighting shy of oakum-picking and
well-pumping." _But they come, and the decrease in these two unions has
resulted in an increase at Downham, Wisbech, and Lynn._

At _Thetford_ "the cells and stone-breaking have prevented any material
increase in the number of vagrants."

At _Halsted_, in spite of oakum-picking, there have been 41 vagrants,
compared with 9 in September, 1903.

At _Chelmsford_ there were 205, September, 1904, as against 126,
September, 1905.

At _Walsingham_ a slight decrease, owing to oakum picking being

So great is the pressure, however, that even oakum-picking or
stone-breaking and corn-grinding have not prevented a large increase in
Maldon, Ipswich, Saffron Walden, Norwich, Dunmow, Swaffham, and Wisbech.

_Downham_ increased from 64, September, 1903, to 167, September, 1904.
No task is imposed save gardening.


Investigations from the official point of view are interesting and
instructive, and, if conducted in a scientific spirit, would eventually
be of great value in solving social problems. But in the present
confused state of things there is also special value in the observations
of witnesses who, by descending into the abyss, explore its conditions,
and form an independent judgment. So far as my personal observation
goes, everyone who has done this expresses surprise at the result,
namely, that the impression that the vast majority of so-called
"vagrants" are "loafers," vanishes, and the inmates of the casual ward
are mostly found to be seekers for work. Little short of a revolution
may be made in preconceived opinion by actual experience.

We all know that a rise in pauperism has taken place. In the year ending
Lady Day, 1904, £587,131 was expended in poor relief in excess of the
corresponding period 1903; 869,128 received relief, as against 847,480
in 1903, on January 1st. But these increases in _actual_ pauperism
represent enormous increases in _potential_ pauperism. The hold of a
family or of an individual on sustenance gradually loosens, and the
least competent or more unfortunate are shaken off and drop into the
abyss. At a meeting of the City Council of Manchester in the winter of
1904 it was deliberately stated that "between 40,000 and 50,000 people
were on the verge of starvation." An investigation undertaken by the
Rev. A. H. Gray in an area between All Saints' and the Medlock, in
Ancoats by the University Settlement, and in Hulme by the Lancashire
College Settlement, revealed in 3,000 houses about 900 people without
employment, "of whom 442 were heads of families." In addition, numbers
were only partially employed. One man "trudged once every week to a
smaller town 18 miles off where one or two days' work have been

It will be seen, therefore, that changes in _averages_ of unemployment
must result in increase of vagrancy. The average of unemployed returned
by trade unions in January for 10 years (1894-1903) was 4.7 per cent.;
in January, 1903, it was 5.1 per cent., and in January, 1904, 6.6 per
cent. (See p. 76.) Of course, unskilled and unorganised industries are
still more affected.

Mr. Ensor, who tramped for a week, 150 miles, in the northern counties,
and whose experiences were given in the _Independent Review_, relates
that "where to obtain work" is a "burning question" among the inmates of
the vagrant ward. It can hardly be imagined how soon a destitute man is
forced of necessity to wander; in the absence of money, being even too
poor to buy a newspaper, he is dependent on vague information received
"on the road," and naturally is driven to seek food and shelter wherever
it is to be had. A slightly more humane treatment in any part of the
country may lead to an influx of these unfortunates.[24] Thus the
comparative comfort of Welsh workhouses led in the winter of 1904-5 to
an "incursion of tramps." Even the prisons were filled by tramps who
rebelled against regulations. "Two or three times a week batches of
tramps have to be removed from the prisons of Carnarvon and Ruthin to
Shrewsbury and Knutsford, and even to gaols in English towns." With
regard to this result of the present vagrancy regulations, there is much
to be said. A working man cannot sustain himself in a condition fit for
work on the tramp ward dietary.[25] I have personal experience of the
exhaustion consequent upon it. Unless supplemented by begging, a man
must inevitably lose strength if he tramps from ward to ward. Mr. Ensor
himself saw a young man throw up work and triumphantly march to prison
from sheer hunger. Tramp ward regulation rations (including gruel)
contain only 21-1/2 ounces of proteid as against 31-1/2 ounces _in the
lowest prison fare_. But this does not represent the real state of the
case. In many workhouses there is only dry bread with a small portion of
cheese, the gruel being omitted without substitute. (See note 16.) The
bread is often coarse, dry and crusty, leavings from the workhouse, and
most unappetising. Then dry bread _alone_ can scarcely be eaten, and
even water is not always to be obtained to wash it down. (Pp. 112, 124,
152.) The following are reports given by tramps themselves as to food to
the writer.

A man said he was too disturbed in mind to eat it, but if he could have
done so "he could not have lived upon it." This man "had been in two
situations over thirty years," and appeared clean and respectable. He
said the majority of men in with him at Bury were also working men out
of employment.

One man said he had been in a workhouse where the "skilly" was brought
in a bucket, and the men had to dip it out as best they could in

In this investigation, conducted personally by the writer, there was a
general consensus of opinion that prison was less hard.[26] (See also
Chap. VIII.)

The actual difference in legal dietary is appended:--

_Prison Dietary--Lowest Scale._

  Breakfast       ...       8 oz. bread, 1 pint gruel.
  Supper          ...       8 oz. bread, 1 pint gruel.
  Dinner          ...       3 days, 8 oz. bread, 1 pint porridge.
                            2 days, 8 oz. bread, 8 oz. potatoes.
                            2 days, 8 oz. bread, 8 oz. suet pudding.

_Daily Average_, 28-1/2 oz. solid, with 2-1/4 pints gruel, 1/2 pint

_Prisoners' Task_, 5 or 10 cwt. stones, 2 lbs. oakum.

_Legal Dietary for Casual Paupers._

  Breakfast    ...       6 oz. bread, 1 pint gruel.
  Supper       ...       6 oz. bread, 1 pint gruel.
  Dinner       ...       8 oz. bread, 1-1/2 oz. cheese.

_Daily Average_, 21-1/2 oz. solid, with 2 pints gruel.

_Casuals' Task_, 14 cwt. stones.

Evidence comes from all over the country of increase in prison
statistics through crimes due to a desire to escape from tramp ward
conditions and preference for prison fare.[27]

Such instances as this are continually occurring.

"What am I to do if I cannot get work?" asked John Rush, a tramp, when
brought before the King's Lynn magistrates on a charge of refusing to
break stones in the casual ward.

"You are to go to prison for twenty-one days," replied the magistrate.

Rush had been required to break 7 cwt. of stone. He asked to have it
weighed, as he was of opinion that it was 12 cwt. His request was
refused, and he declined to do the work.

A large number of tramps at Andover were sentenced to twenty-one days'
imprisonment for refusing to do their task.

"Seventeen vagrants were marched from the workhouse to the police-court
at Canarvon (_North Wales Chronicle_, 25th February, 1905), handcuffed.
Seventeen out of twenty-three inmates refused to work. They alleged that
they had been forced to sleep on a wet tiled floor and were 'almost
perishing.' They were sent to prison for a month with hard labour."

Such incidents come from all over the country and are backed up by
prison statistics. Prosecutions for offences of this kind rose in 1901
to 5,118, and have risen further. In one prison, Devizes, they doubled
the inmates.

It must be remembered that pressure on the tramp ward, as our country's
provision for destitution, has been much lightened by the rise of many
large shelters. These deal mostly, however, with the town unemployed. It
has not been sufficiently considered that owing to the massing of
population in towns, the destitute unemployed are sure to appear in the
tramp ward, but that our present system _forces_ them to migrate, at any
rate in a small circle, as after claiming the tramp ward they cannot
claim shelter again in the same place _for a month_, except under
penalty of four nights' detention. All masters of workhouses witness how
this tends to make a _forced migration in a limited circle_.[28]
Therefore to the town unemployed the shelter is a boon, as it enables
him to remain in one place and look for work, and the testimony of all
who are working shelters and labour bureaux is that numbers who avail
themselves of them _do_ obtain employment. But if they belong to the
"inefficient" class this employment cannot be permanent.[29] So much is
the tramp ward disliked, and so useless is it as a remedy for
destitution, since at best it affords only a night's shelter with poor
food and hard labour, that numbers prefer to "sleep out." The London
County Council's census of the homeless poor, Friday, 29th January,
1904, revealed 1,463 men, 116 women, 46 boys, and 4 girls walking the
streets, and 100 males and 68 females sleeping in doorways, etc., a
total of 1,797 homeless poor in a small area in London (from Hyde Park
in the west, to the east end of Whitechapel Road, from High Holborn, Old
Street and Bethnal Green, in the north, to the Thames, in the south). In
the winter 1903-4, no fewer than 300 people were known to be sleeping
out every night in Manchester.

The fate of many unfortunates is a career of gradual physical and moral
deterioration from which there is, humanly speaking, no escape.

A man may _begin_ a prison career accidentally. An incident related to
me is as follows:--A man went to a place where there was a local
merry-making, hoping to pick up a little. There was no room either in
tramp ward or lodging-house; he slept out, unfortunately for him, on
private grounds. For this he got three months' imprisonment. (See Chap.

The case of those who sleep out may end otherwise, but as tragically,
after long privation. Here are two examples:--"Alfred Mather, aged
about 33, no fixed home and no occupation, latterly on the tramp. Found
ill on a seat opposite Temple Gardens, and taken by the police to Bear
Yard Infirmary five days before death. Died from epilepsy accelerated by
exposure." "Jos. Lucas, no fixed abode, 'knocked up and down mostly,'
getting odd coppers when he could, found dead in yard of White Hart,
Royton." Such incidents might be multiplied, but the facts of disease
and death are masked, because people suffering from illness in the
street usually obtain pity. Recent statistics show that the percentage
of the death rate in common lodging-houses is appalling. (See Appendix
IX., Vagrancy Report.) No one who has been in a tramp ward can fail to
have been struck by the low vitality and even serious illness of
inmates, yet by common report it is difficult to obtain the services of
a doctor, and illness is constantly taken to be "malingering."

With regard to evidence as to actual tramp ward conditions, however, no
clearer account can be given than the following. The writer is
personally known to the author of this paper. He is extremely truthful,
and where investigation has followed, his statements have been fully
endorsed. They furnish most valuable evidence. He is himself a working
man of superior education, driven by misfortune into restless habits and
occasionally to the tramp ward. Let him speak for himself.



      "I was an interested listener to your address on casual wards and
      common lodging-houses. Your experience coincides with mine, with
      the exception of the casual wards. Your description was much too

      "I have been in several. This is an account of the last one I was
      in. After walking twenty miles with nothing to eat before I
      started or during the day, I was received, had a bath, and was put
      to bed. They gave me nothing to eat or drink; out next morning at
      six o'clock: for breakfast had a drink of water and a tinful of
      broken crusts, seven pieces in all, and I should say not more than
      six ounces. I suppose they had been left by the children or at the
      infirmaries. Same for dinner (six pieces), with a small piece of
      cheese; for supper, water and five crusts. On going out next
      morning, water and six crusts. I should put the value at one penny
      altogether, and that for cheese; the bread was simply waste.

      "This is what I did for the value I received, Sweep, wash, and
      scrub out twelve or fourteen cells; ditto eighty-seven square
      yards of cement flooring; ditto a flight of stone steps (about
      fifty), four feet wide with three landings; ditto one bath-room
      and two lavatories; clean bath and closet pans; and polish
      sixty-seven sets of brasses. I started at seven o'clock and had
      done at 4.30, and was then locked up in the cell. I forgot to say
      that I had twopence when I went in, which the porter annexed,
      which, as he said, 'would help pay expenses.'

      "I was free from vermin when I went in, but was not when I came
      out; and whatever the chairman may say about coming out of their
      place clean, I say it is impossible to do so.

      "I may say that I get my living on public works, and this as you
      know may take you across the country."


      "The remarks made by your chairman on stone-breaking were very
      misleading. He said, 'The stones required to be broken by a man
      were ten hundredweight. Why, he knew a man who could easily break
      two and a half yards in a day, and in each yard was twenty-two
      hundredweight, so that his hearers could see that the casual's
      task was not hard.'

      "He did not say that the stones his man broke were probably twice
      the size of those broken by the casual, and that he had no grid to
      put them through, which takes almost as long as the actual

      "With regard to entering the casual ward early, I myself when I am
      on the road always make a point of doing twenty miles a day. Is a
      man after doing twenty miles fit for work? Navvies and men
      working on public works like to get from one job to another
      without delay. Very often a man will start, we will say from
      Yorkshire to Devon: if he can pick up a day's work on the way he
      will do so; but his object is to get to Devon, and he is going to
      get there as soon as possible. He is pretty certain of work when
      he gets there because he is known either to the ganger or the
      agent, or some one in a position to start him, which is really the
      reason he goes such a distance. As a rule he sets himself twenty
      or twenty-five miles a day, and he does it unless it is very wet.
      He therefore wants a rest at the end of the journey, not work."

Replying that this was not the class for whom the casual ward was
intended, I received the following:--


      "I should suggest, for the benefit of the man looking for work,
      that in all casual wards there should be cells set apart for him
      at a charge, say of threepence per night. He should be taken in as
      early as six o'clock and let go next morning at six o'clock; if
      there is any work going he would stand a chance of getting it: you
      would not be pauperising him--he would be no charge on the rates,
      and your pauper returns would be greatly reduced. Very likely the
      argument would be that the guardians would be interfering with
      private rights, _i.e._ lodging-houses. In answer to this, I have
      to say that in a great many towns there are no lodgings of any
      kind, and in others they are so bad that no decent man will sleep
      in them. I have paid for a bed in such places as Birkenhead,
      Chester, Wrexham, and others, and after seeing what they were like
      have left them, not caring to sleep there. Also the lodging-house
      keepers, if they found the new system reducing their takings,
      would waken up to the fact that decent beds may bring them their
      trade back.

      "Many a man is spent up when he left a job to look for another,
      because if money is found on him in the workhouse he loses it.
      Give him the opportunity of paying and he will do so if he can get
      a _decent bed_.

      "As regards those on the road who can work but will not, the
      authorities would not be interfering with the liberty of the
      subject in taking them off the road and making them work for their
      keep, and in doing so he need not be classed as a pauper.

      "There are others who cannot work, old men and women and children;
      in all cases such as these I should have them sent to the place of
      birth, no matter how long they had left there they must go back.
      There would be a chance of reclaiming them when they knew they had
      to go back, and there would also be an inducement for their
      friends and relations to show what they are made of by helping to
      keep them. Of course there are numbers who do not know where they
      are born, also foreigners; these the Government should take in
      hand. It's the policy of the Government to let destitute
      foreigners land here, you must therefore make them responsible for

      "These suggestions could be easily worked out to the satisfaction
      of the people at large; you would rescue a great number from
      self-imposed misery; you would be clearing the roads of a disgrace
      to the country; and I have not the slightest doubt that you would
      do away with a great deal of disease and crime. I have noticed on
      more than one occasion that when small-pox has broken out in a
      part of the country it has been reported that the cause has been
      traced to tramps.

      "I remember going in at T ... when several of us were in the
      bath-room at one time, and of course one hot water for all. I
      noticed one man who had stripped was covered with sores, raw,
      festering sores. I did not object to his bathing, but of course
      refused to be bathed in the same water. After drawing the
      attention of the attendant to the man's state he was sent off
      without his bath; he was given the usual rugs, which of course
      were placed with the others next morning, and not stoved, because
      they have no stove there. This man had been going from place to
      place, and could not get to see a doctor, he told me himself, and
      I can well believe him. I have had occasion to ask for the doctor
      myself and have been refused.[30] Also on this night there were
      more tramps than they had room for, we had to sleep two in a cell,
      one on the board let down from the wall, and the other on the
      floor underneath. In the cell next me one of the men wanted to go
      to the w.c., but could get no answer to his repeated calls. Now
      under these circumstances if disease breaks out who is to blame?

      "I think that if the rules laid down by the L.G.B. were strictly
      carried out things would be better, but there is too much left to
      the discretion of the guardians, which means the workhouse master
      and his subordinates, with the result that they do pretty much as
      they please.

      "I think it is generally allowed by guardians that the most
      successful master is the one who can keep down the number of
      casuals. Why that is I do not know, because if a man is found
      sleeping out or begging he goes to prison. I have never been in a
      prison myself, but from what I hear I should say that he is better
      off than the man under the thumb of a workhouse master.[31]

      "It ought to be generally known that it is only by starvation and
      heavy tasks that a master can keep down his pauper returns. In
      passing I should like to say that I have found it a pretty general
      thing for several men to go through one lot of water."

       *       *       *       *       *

After travelling from Kent to Devon, finding employment very bad (winter
1904-5) correspondent came north. He travelled to East Yorkshire to a
harvest job where he was expected, but found the harvest short and only
got two days. He found that numbers of men who usually found harvest
employment could not obtain it, and that hard-working men were roaming
from place to place, and, being forced to take refuge in the tramp ward,
were fast losing heart. The following is his experience in a tramp ward,
where he was forced to take refuge one rainy day. Usually he slept in
the open.


      "On going in you have your bread, and before you have time to eat
      it you are taken to the room for undressing. This is not very
      large, only for nine or ten to sit down, and there were many that
      night. You will see that room was limited. There were two
      dirty-looking baths there, but how many made use of them I could
      not say. I did not. Your clothes are tied into a bundle and put
      all together into a heap in the room you undress in. Your clothes
      may be good and clean and free from vermin when you undress, but
      what will they be like in the morning?

      "You have a shirt and two rugs given you, and go to the sleeping
      room on the boards. Some have a board for their head. I had not.
      It is a large room, and it need be, for there were twenty-four of
      us in it. It is infested with bugs. The shirts and rugs, I should
      say, have not been washed for months, and are full of vermin. Mine
      was, and the complaint was general, so I suppose they were all
      alike. Sleep is impossible. You get up, have your bread and cold
      water, and are put on the pump, eight on and eight off, every
      half-hour. There are two pumps kept continually going all day, so
      it cannot be for the want of water that dirt reigns supreme.
      Cheese and bread for dinner, bread _and bread_ for supper, and
      then the awful night to go through again. Get up and have some
      bread and water. Then you are turned out. It was raining in
      torrents. I was soaked in twenty minutes after I had left."

Walking north in the vain search for work, my correspondent crossed to
Lancashire and encountered the following experience.


      "I was admitted at 8.10. They gave me coffee and bread, and sent
      me to a very nice large and well-ventilated room, a room large
      enough to sleep fifteen men in easily. There were three others
      there, and after waiting till nine o'clock, during which time nine
      more arrived, they started bathing us. There are four baths there,
      three for each bath, and how many more after used the same water I
      do not know. Given a shirt, you are sent to the cells. I noticed
      on going to mine that there were eleven cells on the right, and
      nine on the left. My cell was four from the top on the left. The
      right side was full, and the three on the left above mine also
      full. I noticed three pairs of boots outside each cell; a
      pleasant prospect. There were two men already in my cell. I made
      the third. That made forty-five men for the fifteen cells, then
      there were the eleven men I left in the bath-room, who would fill
      four others, that would make fifty-six men in nineteen cells. Now
      when I tell you that these cells are four feet six inches wide,
      and my two comrades were bigger men than me, and I am not a small
      one, you can fancy the situation. What I suffered from cramp alone
      was punishment enough for a lifetime. You have one rug each, not
      enough to keep you from coming in contact with the other men's
      flesh. As soon as you are in the door is closed and you are in
      black darkness, yet the gas is burning in the passage all night. I
      could see it by the crack in the door, and if they would cut a
      hole in the door it would serve both for ventilation and light.

      "I can safely say that I had never such a night in my life. Sleep
      was out of the question, even if you had not been disturbed by the
      groans and curses that were going on more or less all night, a
      sort of song you would fancy they sing in the Inferno.

      "One of my mates was an old man. He had been drinking. Some one
      had given him a couple of pints of 1-1/2_d_. beer, and I suppose
      he had had an empty stomach, anyway he said it upset him.
      'Diarrhoea,' he called it. Now the foul air arising from other
      causes was bad enough, but when I tell you."... Here follows a
      description of consequences. "The old man said it was useless to
      call to the attendant, he had been in before." When at 5.30 the
      door was opened it was only to fetch rugs and shirts. Permission
      to leave the cell or empty the vessel was refused by two
      attendants, and also to men in other cells. "It's a mercy I did
      not go off my head," my correspondent remarks concerning that
      horrible night.

      "The second attendant also brutally refusing to allow the vessel
      to be removed 'because it was against rules,' said 'it would do to
      go with the ham and eggs.'

      "'Ham and eggs' in the shape of coffee and bread appeared at seven
      o'clock, and those who could consume it had to do so in that
      atmosphere of horror. We were kept locked up until about 8.20, and
      then let out. I shall never forget the feeling in all my life.

      "I have noticed on more than one occasion that when small-pox has
      broken out in various parts of the country, that it has been taken
      there by tramps. Now supposing small-pox broke out in a place
      having such a tramp ward, who would be to blame?

      "The guardians cannot say they had not the room, there is the room
      I have mentioned. There were another row of cells I noticed, about
      twenty, that had the appearance of being unoccupied. There were
      certainly some of them empty; the doors of others were closed so I
      cannot say if all were, but that can easily be found out.

      "There were thirty-four men kept in, and about twenty of us were
      sent to the wood-yard. I had asked to see a doctor. I was too ill
      to work, but was told to go to the yard. I went but did nothing. I
      could not. I felt I had not the strength of a baby, and had a hard
      matter to keep on my feet.

      "At about ten o'clock the labour master came round. At least he
      was pointed out to me as the labour master, but as I did not see
      him again all day, I doubted it. Anyhow he asked me what I was
      doing; I told him I could do nothing, and wanted to see the
      doctor. He told me that I was a malingerer and that I should not
      see the doctor. 'Doctors are not for such as thou,' says he, and
      that I should have no dinner. I asked him to send me before a
      magistrate: I would have done a month gladly if I could have made
      this statement before a magistrate. I had forgotten to mention the
      state of the cell; it was very damp and coated with dirt and spit,
      quite enough to spread disease.

      "Although I was to have no dinner, I was given some, but gave it
      away, as I could eat nothing until I was coming out next morning.
      I did not work till the afternoon, when I felt a little better and
      very cold. I thought I would see what I could do, but I could not
      do much. At 4.30 o'clock work ceased and we had a roll each.
      Afterwards I noticed that a number of men crowded round the door
      leading to the cells. Thinking there was something in it, I got as
      near the door as possible. At 5.30 this door opened. The rush of
      boys on opening the doors of a penny gaff was not in it. It turned
      out that on the second night there are two rooms to be slept in,
      each containing nine bedsteads, hence the rush. The first eighteen
      would get them--I was the lucky eighteenth.

      "There were thirteen in the room I was in--four on the floor. I
      could not say if the remainder slept in the other room or not; I
      had a better night than the one previous. We were up at 5.30, and
      after having roll and coffee were let out at 7.30.

      "I see some of the northern counties are holding a conference,
      under the chairmanship of Sir John Hibbert, in order to study the
      vagrant problem, and he quoted the punishment of vagrants in Henry
      VIII.'s time. I think if Sir John had studied the matter he would
      have seen that at that time vagrants were favourably dealt with in
      comparison with their betters. There was many a better head than
      even Sir John's stuck on Temple Bar for only saying what they

      "One of the favourite complaints at this conference will be the
      burden to the ratepayers, and the cost of their maintenance will
      be supplied to them by the various union masters. Now, how does it
      work out?

      "The thirty-four men who were kept for the two nights and a day
      had 170 rolls, thirty-four portions of cheese, and 102 lots of
      coffee. This during a year would mean a considerable sum. For
      this the ratepayers think they would have to do a day's work--but
      do they? There were twenty-two men put to wood sawing, and here I
      assert, if the whole of the wood cut during the day had been
      equally divided between these men, and given to them as a task, it
      could have been done in two hours. Now, why were these men kept in
      their cells from 5.30 to 8.20?--why were they not sent to the
      labour yard at six o'clock and worked for this two hours, given
      their breakfast, and sent about their business? The ratepayer
      would have the same amount of work done, and have saved the price
      of 102 rolls and thirty-four lots of coffee, and thirty-four
      portions of cheese. To give an instance of the work done. There
      were two men nearest me who started to saw a sleeper with a
      cross-cut saw at nine o'clock, they had not finished at three
      o'clock, and the old man took one away, and I helped to finish it
      myself. This was the style of work all round, there is no task
      there; the old man in charge is an inmate and is laughed at, and
      they do what they like. The professionals dearly love a day's rest
      and an extra night's rest, and the working man is not going to do
      much for no pay if he can help it.

      "If you want to study the ratepayer, take a man in a night, turn
      him out after two hours' work, he will have earned his twopenny
      feed in that time, and it does not cost more. You will give the
      man looking for work a chance, you will reduce the number of
      casuals, for you will soon break the professional tramp's heart,
      and greatly relieve the ratepayer.

      "In conclusion, may I say that if you consulted half a dozen men
      who understood the game, you may be able to solve the tramp


Before we can pass in review the results of investigation into the
working of the tramp ward, it is necessary to correlate with it the
examination of the common lodging-house. It is not sufficient to look on
the tramp ward as a _deterrent from vagrancy_; it is evident from the
evidence already given that it most imperfectly fulfils another
function, namely, that of a _refuge for wayfarers in extremity_.

How is it that such a need has arisen? It has arisen from a
little-considered change in social customs, which has gradually led to
accumulating evils. In old times there was a double provision for
travelling, for rich and poor, the hospitality of the abbey and that of
"mine host" at the inn. When the abbey was suppressed, more must have
devolved on the inn. Accommodation there could be found both for rich
and poor, though that for the latter might be only a bed of straw.[32]
But by degrees, as travelling became common, the rich absorbed the
accommodation of the inn, which itself evolved from "hostel" into
"hotel," and catered for the rich only. A travelling poor man therefore
was put to it to find some other shelter. Hospitality is most freely
exercised still by the very poor. By degrees some individual became
known as willing to entertain strangers for a small charge, and so by
degrees also evolved the _common lodging-house_. A description of one
such formed by natural evolution will be found in Chap. II., pp. 97 _et
seq._ It was simply an old house, probably once a farmhouse, now
situated in a slum quarter of a northern town. The sanitary arrangements
for numerous lodgers were a sink in the common kitchen, and a w.c.,
perfectly dry, and in a dreadful condition. The house was kept by a
widow woman, who could exercise no effective control over the motley
inmates. Men, women and children were crowded in the dormitory,
separation of sexes being quite insufficient. Insect pests abounded, and
cleanliness was but of a surface character. Yet this, and one reputed to
be worse, constituted the only accommodation for working-class
travellers, men and _women_, in a fairly large town.

Investigation in another direction, on the main route from Manchester to
the south, revealed a similar state of things. The "best lodging-house
in the town" contained no separate sitting-room for women, and a small
sink without water laid on was all the accommodation for washing
purposes. This was in the common kitchen, and water had to be fetched
from the single men's room. The bed slept on was infested with
vermin.[33] A London investigation revealed that similar accommodation,
which in the north cost 4_d_., cost 6_d_. A description is given by a
male investigator of the state of such a lodging-house. The common
sitting-room was a half-cellar with a concrete floor, very dirty,
_débris_ of meals and dust were just swept under the tables. Spitting
was in evidence everywhere. In the dormitory of another a notice was
posted that "Gentlemen are requested not to go to bed in their boots!"
Nevertheless it was evidently not obeyed. The state of the beds was such
that my informant left without trying them. (See Chap. VII., p. 257.)[34]

It is true that a somewhat perfunctory "inspection" is supposed to
enforce sanitation. But inspection is insufficient where the
accommodation is not of the right kind to begin with, and it appears to
be easily evaded. The fact is that it is not to private interest to
provide anything but _minimum_ requirements. Nor is it likely that
there will be _sufficient_ accommodation for the maximum demand. It is
reckoned "lucky" to get into some lodging-houses if you apply even as
early as seven o'clock for a bed. It is quite possible to be crowded

Dr. Cooper, of the London County Council, said recently:

      "No civic community ought to allow what is going on at the present
      time. No man can afford to build really good lodging-houses,
      because the return for his money is so small. This is a public
      danger, both as regards the safety of the streets, and also the
      character of those who are unfortunately homeless." He thinks that
      "the whole of the outcasts should be absorbed into London County
      Council shelters."

The following is an account of the state of things at a lodging-house
_repeatedly warned_:--"The floors of the kitchens and bedrooms were in a
very dirty state. The beds and clothing were very dirty and
insufficient. The bedding was so filthy that on the lodging-house
keeper's attention being called to it he took the sheets off and put
them in the fireplace."[35] Defendant was fined £3 and costs, but the
lodging-house was not suppressed.

Such places as this breed disease, yet an honest working man travelling
with money in his pocket to pay for his bed cannot be _sure_ of a
cleanly place. Even in a _municipal_ lodging-house there may be only
"surface cleanliness." (See Chap. II., p. 33.) _Every one not sanitary
is a centre of contagion._

There exists even in the mind of such social adepts as Mr. John Burns, a
prejudice against "Rowton Houses," and other "poor men's hotels,"
possibly grounded on the supposition that they cater for and encourage
the life of vice and idleness. But the fact is one that cannot be
denied, that in the present precarious condition of things these masses
of homeless men exist. It would seem more sensible to bring them under
effective sanitary control, and by investigation of their needs remove,
if possible, obstacles to matrimony than to condemn them to
insanitation, disease, and death. The following account gives an inner
view of a Rowton House. It is not to be supposed that the majority of
inmates would _prefer_ such a life, if only they knew a way out.

      "It is possible to live there fairly comfortable on 10_s_. a week,
      and to exist on about 7_s_. Of course, there are all kinds of men
      there; some of them have known considerably better days. A lot are
      working men. A lot of men there seem to live by addressing
      envelopes; they have a nice warm room to sit in and work, but it
      is a heart-breaking job when all is said and done, for they only
      get 3_s_. per 1,000, and it will take a good man to do 1,000 a
      day. I made a good many enquiries about labour bureaux; they are
      to be avoided like poison, except the Polytechnic, the others keep
      you moving about the place, and you are lucky if you don't get
      charged heavily for doing so." The isolation and selfishness of
      the life impressed my informant. It was by no means one to be

It will at any rate be seen that the question of absolute destitution
and the question of provision for migration are bound up with the
question of proper sanitary lodging-house accommodation. Before a
travelling working man, even with money in his pocket, there lie at
present three alternatives:--

1. He can find a common lodging-house, which means too often dirt, or

2. He can enter the tramp ward. To do this he must make away with his
money or hide it. He will, it is _supposed_, get clean accommodation,
but endure hardship and degradation.

3. He may "sleep out." This is best; if he can find a cosy corner he can
"keep himself to himself," and sleep clean. But it is _illegal_. Numbers
of men are condemned all over England even in the depth of winter for
this offence.[36] Unauthorised promiscuous herding in the open, such as
occurs on Manchester brickfields, is a grave social evil. "A night on
the Thames Embankment" is hardly an "earthly paradise." But neither is a
night in a doss house or a tramp ward. It will be seen that there is
_real need_ for social provision of shelter for the homeless or
migrating poor.


We may summarise results as follows:

1. There exists at the bottom of society the hereditary vagabond or
"tramp" proper. He is the remains of a vagrant class squeezed out of
society and preying upon it. He may be "born" or "made." He knows how to
get his living, and is usually to be found in the "doss-house"; if he
frequents the tramp ward, it is for cleansing purposes or casual need.
These are estimated by experts to be only about ten thousand in all

2. There exists also a class of "incapables," _i.e._ those infirm, old,
blind, lame, epileptic, etc. These are supposed to be provided for by
our Poor-law system, and should be inside workhouses. But numbers of
them are allowed to wander in penury and beggary. They "earn" a
precarious livelihood, and often drift into tramp wards, but cannot as a
rule fulfil the labour conditions, which often are not demanded from
them. (See Chap. III., p. 148.)[38]

3. There exists a large class of "inefficients," the special product of
the Industrial revolution. It is not probable that they will disappear
as a factor in social evolution, save by means of wise social
arrangements, because:

      (1) They are continually renewed from the lower levels of the
      population, who breed quickly.

      (2) The standard of industrial requirements rises, and leaves many
      behind stranded.

      (3) Employment after middle age is difficult to obtain.

      (4) The shifting of industries and changes in employment leave
      units unprovided for.

It is evident therefore that the whole legislation of our country must
be remodelled, for _it is on the social organism as a whole_ that social
provision now devolves.

Green relates that the whole mass of Elizabethan poverty was absorbed
into healthy life by a wise poor law.

       *       *       *       *       *

It will be our next duty to examine how far other nations furnish us
already with an object lesson in this respect.

We may summarise the case against the tramp ward as follows:

1. It makes no attempt to classify.

2. It pauperises without relieving distress.

3. It is unequally and often unjustly or defectively administered.

4. It provides for destitution a worse treatment than that of prison for

5. It therefore exerts pressure towards vagrancy and crime instead of
acting as a true deterrent.

6. Its existence blinds the public to the fact of _the absence of public
provision for migrating_, and the evils of sleeping out and unsanitary
lodging-houses accumulate.


We have now to consider the treatment received by vagrants in other
countries. Have they been more successful than ourselves? If so, why?
Count Kropatkin shows in "Farms, Fields, and Factories," that the
Industrial revolution is not confined to England. Belgium for instance
is a country with large manufactures. It is also a small country, and it
is easier to examine the entire working of a Poor Law in a small country
than in a large one. A most interesting account is given in a pamphlet
printed by W. K. Martin, 290, High Street, Lincoln, of the Belgian
Labour Colonies, personally visited by H. J. Torr and R. A. Marriott,
Major, D.S.O., Governor of Lincoln Prison.

A vagrancy committee was appointed from Midsummer Sessions, Lincoln, in
consequence of the number of vagrants committed to Lincoln Prison and
the unsatisfactory nature of the prison treatment. They report "that
the present short sentences, especially in view of the improved prison
dietary, are a treatment of no deterrent value." They are of opinion
"that the present methods of dealing with offences under the Vagrancy
Acts are not satisfactory in their effect on the habitual vagrant,
whilst they make no provision for the man who, gradually slipping out of
employment through inefficiency, forms the readiest recruit for the
professional vagrant class." "Prison conditions indeed, to persons with
so low a standard of physical comfort as the average vagrant, must be
extremely comfortable and even attractive." (See note 25.)

They show that in Lindsey alone 722 vagrants were committed to prison
from January to July, 1903, while in Holland only 178 were admitted. The
number of vagrants in Lincoln Prison during six winter months increased
from 703 in 1901 to 1,002 in 1902.

The vagrancy returns from different unions likewise increased as

  1900       11,980
  1901       15,053
  1902       20,556

They gave cases of two men aged thirty and thirty-seven, against whom
there were twenty-two and thirty-one sentences, each one being short,
showing that the men entered prison almost as soon as out of it. The
cost _without subsistence_ for travelling expenses of prisoners and
escort amounted to £28 10_s_. for the two. They believe that "the
workman slipping out of employment" should be treated in a penal labour
colony as "a patient requiring care, not as a criminal requiring
punishment," and that his downward career should be checked before his
industrial skill is lost. "The large amount of highly-skilled labour
found at Merxplas, compared with the utter incapacity of the average
English prisoner committed for vagrancy, indicate, they believe, the
measure of the difference between the tramp at the commencement of his
career and the same man after any lengthened period of life on the
road." They point out that while this skill may not maintain the man
outside, in face of the drink difficulty, it may make him nearly
self-supporting inside, and forms a valuable national asset. The annual
cost per man in these colonies is smaller than that of prison or
workhouse.[39] It will be seen therefore that whereas we _manufacture_
vagrants, the Belgian labour colonies _arrest_ their development. It is
impossible to give a full account of the Belgian labour colonies. It
will be found in the Report referred to. There are five, two for women
and three for men. Those at Hoogstraeten and Wortel constitute a _Maison
de Refuge_, and that at Merxplas a _Depôt de Mendicité_. (See Appendix

Simple vagrancy, on first detention, would involve detention at Wortel
for one year or until the man had _earned_ fifteen francs. For the
second offence, and more serious ones, the man would be committed to
Merxplas for not less than two years or more than seven years. Laziness,
habitual drunkenness, or disorderly life as vagabonds, qualify for

Inside the colony there is a sixfold classification. The worst classes,
_i.e._ men sentenced for immorality or arson, men sentenced after
imprisonment, and men known to be dangerous, never mix with the others.
There is a _quartier cellulaire_ for the refractory. To these belonged
on September 3rd, 1903, only one hundred and forty-two men.

On, the other hand, the class of "vagabonds, mendicants and inebriates"
numbered three thousand and sixty-six.

Besides this there is a class for "infirm and incurable," who do light
work or none. The latter are allowed three centimes daily for small
luxuries, and may play games.

Those under twenty-one form another class and are given schooling. All
except the infirm work nine hours a day, receiving board and lodging and
from three to thirty centimes a day. They can spend it by means of
tokens, or it is banked for them until they leave the colony. There are
quite a number of trades. Very little machinery is used, so that more
men are employed. As far as possible materials used are grown on the
farm. The colonists themselves do all the work of every kind.

There is only a small staff. Control is mainly by means of transfer from
one class to another, and, in the last resort, summary punishment by the
Director, consisting of solitary confinement on bread and water. Escape
is easy and frequent, but men, if unable to support themselves, are soon
committed again.

The cost is under £10 per year _including_ cost of buildings, etc. (See
note 33.)

At Lincoln Workhouse it is £16 per year _exclusive_ of cost of
buildings, etc.

English prisons cost £22 11_s_. per year _exclusive_ of cost of
buildings, etc.

English convict prisons, £28 per year _exclusive_ of cost of buildings,

The writer has personally examined the _Danish_ system of penal poor
law. She is assured, however, that there are in Denmark _no vagrants
proper_. The penal workhouse in Copenhagen is about to be replaced by a
new one surrounded by a moat. The working of the system can however be
understood by the present arrangements. If a man fails to support
himself, his wife and family, or his illegitimate child, he can be
committed for six months, or a destitute man can claim admission. The
men in the lightest class of labour are sent out in gangs to sweep the
streets. Others are employed in breaking up stone to obtain crystals:
these sit at benches. This is comparatively light labour, and the task
is apportioned to the worker, not uniform; others carry on weaving,
spinning, wood chopping, etc., etc.

All these workers receive one kroner a month, which is saved up for
them. From the higher classes a man can go out if he has certain work.
The earnings of a defaulting husband are appropriated. The severer side
of the workhouse contains the refractory or dangerous; here also the
work is paid for, but on a lower scale. Solitary confinement and also
changes of rations are used for discipline. It is said that a law
authorising, in extreme cases, corporal punishment is likely to be
passed. A man can rise from grade to grade, or sink if "malingering."
Accommodation on the premises is provided for fourteen days for those
who become homeless; their furniture can be brought in, and the home
carried on. Meanwhile, by means of the municipal labour bureau, efforts
are made to find the man work and prevent the final breaking up of the
home. The commune will pay house rent for _three months_ for a genuine
case of unemployment. Thus no one need be destitute in Denmark, and the
consequent tightening up of the whole national life is evident even to
the casual visitor. Institutions exist for the proper care of the aged
(who also, if deserving, have old age pensions), for destitute women and
girls, for the feeble-minded, etc., while the relieving officer is _the
friend of the poor_. All poor-law relief is regarded as a debt to be
repaid to the State.

In _Germany_ again we have a national provision which cannot fail to
excite our admiration, though its working is not quite so perfect.

The example of Germany is chiefly valuable as showing us how to deal
with the problem of industrial migration. Throughout the land exist
numbers of Relief stations. These are places to which a man can go, and
by doing a certain task of work _earn_ tickets entitling him to bed,
supper and breakfast. In Germany, even more than in England, it is the
fashion for a workman to migrate. No young man's education is considered
complete unless he has been on _wanderschaft_, and thereby gained
experience of various workshops. Consequently all over the country
"Workmen's Homes" exist. At these a man can do a task of work in return
for food and lodging. They are said to be _superior_ to Rowton Houses at
_less_ cost. If a man is without money he can work his way from Relief
station to Relief station. The Relief stations are maintained by local
authorities, the _Herberge_ or lodging-house by a society. Each station
is practically a labour bureau. They are in telephonic communication all
over the country. Consequently a man can tell if he has a chance of
employment. He is given a "way-bill," and must pass along a certain
route. If he fails to get employment he is relegated to a labour colony.
The defect of Germany is the want of classification in the latter, but
this will probably be remedied.[40]

The following account of Berlin will show how the vagrant is treated
there: "Let a ragged man appear in any of the numerous open spaces and a
policeman is on him in a minute. 'Your papers!' If it is proved he has
slept in an asylum for the homeless more than a certain number of nights
he is conducted to the _workhouse_ and made to labour for his board and
lodging. Every person is known to the State, and also insured by it."
"Fall sick," says the State, "and we will nurse you back to vigour; drop
out of employment, and we will find you work; grow old, and we will
provide you with bread and butter; but become lazy and vagabond and we
will lock you up and make you work till you have paid the uttermost
farthing of your debt." (See note 27.)

Berlin has a huge building, like a factory, where the unemployed--whole
families--are received and provided for. But no one can use this
hospitality more than five times in three months. Otherwise they are
sent to the workhouse. Private enterprise has provided an asylum where
men can go five times in one month. "Dirty, ragged, unhappy wretches
dare not show themselves in the decent world as they do in London. They
slink into these asylums at five o'clock, have their clothes
disinfected, cleanse themselves under shower baths, eat bread and drink
soup, and go to bed at eight like prisoners in cells. Everybody feels it
is better to work than to fall into the hands of the law. There is a
central bureau for obtaining employment. The State placed out 50,000 men
in one year."

With regard to the labour colonies, which provide mainly for men weak in
character and physique, one interesting fact is the merely nominal
expertise at which they can be run. The Luhterheim Colony costs £3,200
per annum, but the average cost per man after _all_ expenses, including
interest on borrowed capital, have been paid, is only 2_s_. 7_d_. per
week. An error in the Board of Trade Report, 1893, describes the inmates
as mainly criminal. This is not the case. Of the 40 per cent. in German
colonies classified as criminal only 20 per cent. are criminal in the
English sense, the remainder being "casual warders," while 60 per cent.
are not _in any sense_ criminal. (See article by Percy Alden, _British
Friend_, October, 1904.)

Holland has also interesting colonies, "free" at Frederiksoord for the
deserving unemployed (chiefly deficient mentally or physically) and
"penal" also.[41]

Switzerland also has diminished mendicancy of late to an extraordinary
extent by the following measures:--

(1) Providing special facilities for men travelling in genuine search
for employment.

(2) Taking steps against the lazy.

(3) Adopting stringent police measures.

Forced labour institutions are the means employed. At the farm at
Witzwyl with 150 inmates, two officers are in charge of each group of
ten or twelve, and _work with them_. The men sleep and eat in cells and
have a liberal diet, and a fair chance when discharged of commencing
life afresh. At St. Johannsen the older and more hardened offenders are

In order to facilitate migration there is an Inter-Cantonal Union over
fourteen of the twenty-two cantons. The Union issues a "Traveller's
Relief Book," by means of which the workman may tramp all over the
country and be fed and lodged. He has not to work his way, but beggars
and drunkards and idlers fall into the hands of the police, for if work
is refused when provided, the man proved "work-shy" is sent for from
three months to two years to the "forced labour" institution. The loafer
may be sent _either_ to prison, for from two to six months, or to the
forced labour institution, for from six months to two years. Almost
every canton has its forced labour institution. In Canton Schwyz persons
giving alms are _fined_ up to ten francs![43]

A description could also be given of the Austrian Poor Law, which
appears to be very similar to the Danish. It will thus be seen that
there already exist in several Continental countries methods of dealing
with vagrancy far superior to English methods. In fact our present chaos
may be considered as the effect of gradually accumulating errors. Ten
years before we formed the tramp ward the Germans began the Relief
station. We can hardly overestimate the results that would have
followed, in toning up our national life, from the substitution of real
remedies for futile attempts at repression, adapted to a bygone age, but
not to present conditions. It is time we retraced our steps, as all such
evils are cumulative in their effects.[44]


It may first be stated that the stringent order of February 25th, 1896,
asking guardians to enforce the Casual Poor Act of 1882, not only has
not been universally obeyed, but also in some parts of England met with
opposition. The Poor-law Conference of the Western Counties felt that
while a stringent application of the Board's regulations would lessen
the number of vagrants applying at casual wards, "what would have
happened would be this, that those who would otherwise apply for legal
shelter would be driven to join the majority of 'sturdy rogues' who now
subsist in comfort by begging, who sleep in outhouses or pay for
lodgings, and never enter a casual ward with its restrictions and
taskwork." They considered that the only true way of dealing with the
question is to provide simple but sufficient food and a night's lodging,
demanding an equivalent of work for food, with no punitive detention,
"which is simply another expression for imprisonment for twenty-four
hours with hard labour." They recommend a mid-day dole to prevent

That such results as they mention _did_ follow the application of the
more stringent order is shown by careful statistics kept by Charles H.
Fox, at Wellington, Somerset, on the high road to the west. From August
to October, 1896, police orders to the casual wards were 536, those
sleeping in lodging-houses 1,152. Thus about two to one did not seek the
legal shelter, besides those "sleeping out." As the number of casuals
was decreased by the severity, the number in lodging-houses increased,
and also there was a large increase in the percentages of offences of
sleeping out and begging (as shown in a previous section, p. 18). It is
evident that the only result of the change of policy was that mentioned
by the Conference.

Opinions such as these were expressed also in a practical form by what
is known as "the Gloucestershire system." A valuable report as to the
working of this is given by Colonel Curtis Hayward. Quotations from it
run as follows:--

      "To prevent migration in times of great disturbance in the labour
      market--if desirable--is not possible; but we should take care
      that those who are driven by stress of circumstances to take to
      the road do not find it so pleasant or profitable as to induce
      them to take to it as an occupation, and join the ranks of
      professional vagrants.

      "We, in Gloucestershire, in normal times have reduced vagrancy
      within very narrow limits."

The principle proceeded on is to discourage _almsgiving_ by _providing_
for migration, and so respecting the feelings of the public. "Severity
never had a good effect."[46]

The system adopted in Dorsetshire of giving bread tickets to the public
to give to wayfarers failed because of defects in working.

The authorities in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire resolved to co-operate,
as Gloucestershire is a great thoroughfare. In 1879, 1880, 1881, the
annual average of casuals was 60,882.

The result of a memorial to quarter sessions was the adoption of what
was then known as the Berkshire system. It failed in Berkshire owing to
want of co-operation.

It is as follows: A wayfarer on entering Gloucestershire or Wilts
receives, on application to the relieving officer, a ticket, on which is
written his general description and the place he is bound for, viz., his
_final_ destination. With this he goes to the vagrant ward, where he is
fed night and morning, for which he has to do a certain task. On his
discharge the name of the union to which he is to be admitted the
following night--the direct route--is written on his ticket, also the
name of the intermediate station he passes on his road, where between
the hours of one and three he is supplied with his mid-day ration of
half a pound of bread by the constable on duty. Leaflets explaining the
system and requesting the public not to give to beggars are periodically
left at every house in the county. The cost of the rations is defrayed
by voluntary subscriptions.

It is claimed that this system during the first quarter reduced vagrancy
returns 50 per cent. Colonel Curtis Hayward does not think that
compulsory detention acts as a deterrent. In 1891 when trade was brisk,
in March quarter, this system reduced the numbers to 4,497 as against
13,313 in 1881, and on the whole year from 60,000 to 22,000, whereas
other counties tell a different tale, the numbers being stationary or
only slightly smaller for Bucks, Oxford, and Warwick.

Worcestershire gives bread tickets to "selected honest wayfarers," but
nearly double the amount was spent, namely, £65 3_s_. 5_d_., to that
spent in Gloucestershire without selection. Colonel Curtis Hayward
thinks discrimination impossible. Exact statistics for Worcestershire
are not obtainable, but in nine unions the figures are:--

   1881.       1891.        1894.
  10,392       6,349       12,935

so that this system does not appear to have affected the returns.

From the Chief Constable's office, Dorchester, I have obtained a
valuable report of the Dorset Mendicity Society. It has been established
thirty-four years and provides food for the wayfarer in exchange for
bread tickets. Posters displayed at police stations deter the public
from giving doles. A large increase of vagrancy is admitted, but it is
claimed that there has been no increase in vagrant crime. The
professional beggar is said to avoid the county or to hurry through

In this report W. P. Plummer says: "It is a generally accepted idea that
all wayfarers are worthless idlers, and the only proper way of dealing
with them is to make the regulations of casual wards so universally
severe that men will avoid them. I have no hesitation in saying that a
more erroneous idea could not exist. My experience is that when a _bonâ
fide_ working man finds himself out of employment he very naturally
commences to search for fresh employment in his own neighbourhood, but
when funds get low he finds he must go further afield to try his luck,
and the casual ward must be his hotel. For what reason should he be so
treated as to make him prefer the shelter of a barn or rick? Every
facility should be given him, but where is there an employer who will
start men in the middle of the day when discharged from casual wards?
What about a mid-day meal? _He must beg to live._ He follows it up for a
week or two of necessity and he finds it pay. In a few weeks you have a
_properly manufactured moucher_." He suggests that in place of casual
wards there should be in each municipal borough or urban district a
State common lodging-house with labour yard, used also as a labour
registry, and backed by labour colonies under control of the Prison
Commissioners.[48] In 1904, £176 2_s_. 9_d_. covered expenses of 38,998
bread tickets, and administration. He wishes the justices, if they
convict, to have no option but to commit for third offence in one year
(or on the sixth altogether) for begging, sleeping out, hawking without
licence, disorderly conduct, etc. Tramps should be identified by
finger-marks. The governor of the prison should on receipt of list of
previous convictions re-arrest and charge the man before justices as an
habitual vagrant, and the justices should commit to a penal labour

The various experiments of the Church Army, Salvation Army, Lingfield,
and other charitable agencies show the existence of a large class of men
willing to live under restraint and work for bare livelihood. All such
charitable agencies however are handicapped by the absence of
_compulsion_ at the bottom of our social system. Those on whom it is
most necessary to _enforce_ labour throw it up.[50] As experiments these
institutions are most valuable, but in the absence of definite State
provision they themselves often add to the confusion existing, by
providing merely temporary control for undesirable cases. A certain
amount of eligible deserving cases are rescued, the rest sink down after
considerable and disheartening expenditure of time and money.[51] It is
impossible for _private_ enterprise to tackle effectually what is the
duty of the community as a whole, or to undo the mischief wrought by a
radically wrong vagrancy system.

At the same time it is invaluable to know that numbers of men eagerly
desire to obtain employment, and that such an institution as the labour
house connected with Central Hall, Manchester,[52] can be made
practically self-supporting, after first cost, by wise management.
_Experiments_ must at first be costly, but pioneer work is necessary to
find out what suits English conditions. This is what makes each
attempted colony now most valuable. Lingfield appears to be especially
so, both as redeeming 40 per cent., as fitting them for emigration, and
also training helpers for social service. The capital cost was £160 per
head, the cost per man is £33. The inmates received are very
debilitated, and their work counts for _nil_ on arrival. Hollesley Bay
and Laindon have also been recently established.[53] We must now proceed
to consider the question from a national standpoint.


Having endeavoured to make it clear how essential to organised society
is a proper treatment of the vagrancy question, it remains to consider
what reforms are necessary in England. It must be remembered that we
cannot adopt wholesale the policy of any other nation. We must work out
our own salvation. It is not possible, if it were desirable, to have the
individual as much under Government surveillance as in Germany for
example. Individualism and liberty of the subject are deeply rooted in
English soil.

It will be well if we first outline the objects to be aimed at.

(1) There should be at the bottom of society a _provision for
destitution_ to be _earned_ by honest work, sufficient to deter from
beggary and crime. This provision should be meagre but not worse than
prison fare. (See note 23.)

(2) There should be provision, ample and sanitary, for migration.[54]

(3) For women there should be some provision more eligible than vice.
(Appendix IV.)

(4) It is a national mistake to recognise a tramp class of women.[55]

(5) Those willing to work should be sorted from those unwilling.[56]

(6) It should be so arranged that the public understand there is
_sufficient_ provision for destitution, and are themselves deterred from
promiscuous charity.[57]

(7) Some place of detention other than prison should be provided for
vagrants convicted.[58]

(8) It is desirable also to provide labour colonies for defective

In discussing the _method_ by which such reforms can be brought about we
must recognise that there are many "lions in the path." It is not
certain that the necessary reforms can or will be carried through by
Government. In other countries an example has been set by private
enterprise, and has afterwards been adopted or subsidised by
Government.[60] We must, however, recognise that our English problem is
a huge one, that we have to make up for years of neglect, and that evils
are accumulating.

The great majority of our population live in towns. Vagrancy is
therefore one of our town problems, closely woven with the unemployed
problem. But we have not the great advantage possessed by many
Continental towns, that the Poor Law is under the control of the
municipality. In Copenhagen, for instance, the four burgomasters control
education, poor law, charity, municipal labour bureau, and old age
pensions, as well as municipal organisation. This gives unity to city
life. The new legislation in connection with the unemployed gives power
to the _Municipality_ at present mainly permissive, yet the _Poor Law_
is still separate, also the magistracy often works against the poor law
by the extreme leniency of their sentences. A poor-law officer cannot be
sure of convictions.

If lodging-houses are provided this falls to the municipality also.
There seems to be great need for unification of authority, and a
thorough over-hauling of our poor-law system in view of modern
conditions. It is also to be feared that the old traditions with regard
to treatment of tramps are very deeply engrained in the minds of
poor-law officials. The labour yard also is very seldom run on true
business principles, and it would be difficult to create through the
length and breadth of the land a thorough reform of the tramp ward, as
difficult as it has been found already to secure uniformity.[61]
Nevertheless, to create entirely new machinery when expensive buildings
already exist seems foolish.[62] The imperative need for reform,
however, calls for Government action, and so urgent is the call for a
_universal_ system, and so large are the issues at stake, that it would
seem to be the best to recognise the whole matter as a cause for
Government interference. It might be best if both the migratory and the
unemployed questions were recognised as calling for a new Department of
Labour, and the tramp ward or its substitute placed under the new
authority.[63] In the case of the Poor Law Reform of 1834, Poor Law
Commissioners were given wide authority to work radical reforms and
unify the parishes for poor-law purposes. Something like this seems to
be again necessary, but with still wider national needs in view.

These, for instance, are some of the reforms necessary:--

(1) To arrange definite _national_ routes of travel, and settle the
migration stations along these routes, including ration stations (unless
mid-day ration is given on leaving a station).[64]

(2) To close _unnecessary_ tramp wards, and publicly notify the
available routes.[65]

(3) To arrange for centres of population some plan by which a man may
make use of the tramp ward for three or five nights, and search for

(4) To arrange a national system of Labour Bureaux.[67]

(5) To arrange the incidence of taxation for support of the stations.
The Poor-law Unions might be debited in proportion to percentage of
vagrants over last 10 years, and deficiency nationalised, or tramp
wards transferred to police.[68] (Appendix I.)

(6) To secure sufficient sanitary accommodation in every large centre
and on national routes, both for the destitute and for the _bonâ fide_
working man.

(7) To make uniform the supply of rations, the accommodation, and the
task of work, and see that the latter is on a proper business

(8) To arrange for public charity to flow into authorised channels, and
discourage promiscuous almsgiving.[70]

(9) To provide detention colonies for the confirmed idler, vagrant, and
habitual drunkard, if committed by the magistrate.[71]

(10) To arrange a system to distinguish between the idle and the
"willing to work" unemployed.[72]

In addition to this, the facts in relation to unemployment show, that
there are periods of good and bad trade, leading to wane and flux of

Thus the wave from 1886 to 1893 in skilled trades was as follows:--


It will be seen that unemployment almost disappeared in 1890. There are
also seasonal waves, summer and winter. It is for the equalisation of
such differences that some provision must be made, as well as for the
care of the "industrial invalid." In times of depression individuals are
thrust out who become a burden on the country all the rest of their
lives, either by idleness, beggary or crime. It must not be forgotten
that each of these _at present_ costs the community a far greater sum
than they would cost if provided with labour. Therefore:--

(11) Arrangements should be made whereby, by work specially arranged to
coincide with seasonal unemployment, the national cost of the incapable,
the inefficient, and the temporarily unemployed could be minimised. (See
"How to Deal with the Unemployed": Chap. V., "The Labour Market," by the
author.) (Brown, Langham & Co.)

(12) It would only be possible for _Government_ to carry out such large
schemes of afforestation or of reclamation of waste lands as would
effectually grapple with the whole problem.

There is, however, one question we must briefly deal with in considering
either private or public action.

It is said that if employment is found for the unemployed, if vagrant
and other colonies are formed, the result will only be to displace by
their products other workers. There is, it seems, a kind of vicious
circle, by which, for example, if prisoners made brushes, other
brushmakers are displaced, and so on.

It is forgotten that every day new and extensive businesses arise, and
their competition with others is not regarded as an evil. (These often
undersell, colonies need not.) But besides this it has been found by
investigation into the working of German labour colonies that their
products do not disturb the labour market. To a great extent the
colonists are engaged in supplying their _own_ need.[73] Kropatkin also
shows how the more careful cultivation of the land enables it to
maintain a larger population. To place the waste man on the waste land
seems to be true social economy. It must be remembered also that, to the
extent to which a pauper is made self-supporting, the money that before
supported him is set free. If, for instance, the cost of a pauper could
be reduced from £12 (English workhouse) to £5 (Belgian labour colony),
£7 would be set free for other expenditure. The weight of the Poor Law
is heavy upon us. In London alone indoor paupers rose from 29,458 in
1857 to 61,545 in 1891. Besides this, enormous sums are spent in
charity,[74] which forms as it were an additional tax on the
well-disposed. An effective law dealing with idleness would tone up our
whole population, and dispose many to work. The home market would
improve as taxation was lightened. We must go to the _root_ of social

The Continental system of providing an incentive to labour in the shape
of a very small wage is well worth consideration.[75] It makes
government easy and provides for sifting one class from another. It is
not sufficiently recognised that undesirables act as social microbes. If
they can be got to live under restraint, much evil is averted. The
modern organization of labour is such that it ought to be possible to
place our Poor Law on a sound economic basis, instead of the present
haphazard system. The cost of administration as it is, goes up by leaps
and bounds without adequate return.[76]

I have outlined above the _national_ reforms necessary. But we are slow
reformers, and it may be well to indicate reforms _immediately_
possible. These are outlined in a series of articles published last
March in the _Poor Law Officers' Journal_. They include changes in
administration of the tramp ward, such as the provision of a diet equal
to the lowest prison fare, suitable drink, and a mid-day ration, a
proper bed or hammock, absolute prevention of overcrowding, clean water
for the bath, and thorough carrying out of Local Government Board
precautions for cleanliness.[77] With regard to women, I strongly advise
admission to the workhouse proper, detention of children, and the
appointment of a lady protectress in connection with each workhouse,
whose duty it would be to investigate cases of need. Women should not be
allowed to tramp the country. A detention colony is badly needed, and
proper provision for the feeble-minded. In the case of women the moral
danger is a grave additional reason for prevention of vagrancy.[78]

I also recommend an _immediate_ modification of our tramp-ward system,
which would sort vagrants into two classes. By early admission and a
half-task of work, the wayfarer might be enabled to earn one night's bed
and board and go on his way, having a way-bill for his route. The
unemployed town-dweller might be given an identification note enabling
him to return for from two to three nights and to seek work meanwhile.
If he did not find it he could have a way-bill to another town. The idle
man who came late would be detained _two_ nights with double task.
Identification marks would be taken. If a man fell into the hands of the
police for offences against the law he would be deported to a vagrancy

These changes would only need:

(1) The formation of one experimental vagrancy colony.

(2) Local Government Orders modifying the present tramp ward

They are therefore _immediately_ possible, pending a further national
reform movement.[80]

As, however, even this would require a good deal of discussion and
delay, it would be well if the admirable suggestions made by Mr. J. H.
Jenner-Fust at the Conference on Vagrancy, held at Lancaster on Sept.
1st, 1905, could be carried forward. He suggests a combination of
unions, for relief of the casual poor, (under sect. 8, Poor Law Act,
1879). A joint committee holding office three years could be formed.
This committee would have power to acquire land and erect buildings,
and maintain inmates, etc. If a combination of several counties were
effected, a 1_d_. rate on No. 11 district and Cheshire would produce
£129,000. Such a committee could arrange to dispense with certain
workhouses and rent or lease others, to arrange for rules of travel,
uniform administration, keeping children from vagrancy, the way-ticket
system. Also for "test-houses" for the "work-shy" able-bodied. Perhaps
also for a labour colony, as experiments must be tried.

The Conference passed a resolution in favour of farm or labour colonies
under State control, or under control of the guardians of a county, for
detention of the habitual tramp, and also in favour of the provision of
a mid-day meal.

A committee was appointed to give effect to the resolutions, to consist
of representatives from each union in the conference district.


It remains now to place on a _scientific_ basis the facts related and
the reforms proposed.

Mankind has evolved from the nomad to the pastoral, from the pastoral to
the agricultural, from the agricultural to the industrial. These stages
represent also the development of the _individual_, and are expressions
of an underlying _psychical_ development.

The child is at first unable to fix his attention long on any one
object. He roves from one thing to another, and is essentially _nomad_.

By degrees certain objects become centres of consciousness with memories
attached. He cares for these, they are to him what flocks and herds are
to the _pastoral_, but he is still restless, unable to concentrate long
on one object. By degrees, as he unifies, some one object becomes
supreme, or rather he himself assumes the supremacy of his environment.
He arranges it so as to minister to his dominant passion. The girl
craves for the doll, the whole nursery ministers to the beloved object.
The child in this stage is essentially _agricultural_. In the next
stage, the _industrial_, he or she becomes plastic to educational
influences, and is "educed" or drawn out in the direction of natural
specialised ability.

This is the _normal_ development. But multitudes stay in one or other
stage. There are grown-up people incapable of concentration or of true
industrialism. Yet they may be efficient examples of "a lower type,"
_i.e._, capable of toil in a limited environment under direction.

Multitudes again are incapable of fixity of occupation continued over
long periods. Yet alternation of employment will keep them busy and

Others again cannot fix their attention any more than a child, only the
simplest of occupations is possible to them, yet they can be restrained
from evil.

It must be noted also that human nature _degenerates_ down this ladder.
The industrial highly skilled loses his trade. He is quite "at sea" out
of his usual environment. But at first he has no desire to rove. He
would cling to any environment that found him sustenance; and take eager
interest in a new trade. Thus in the Lancashire cotton famine many
industrials became skilled out-door workers. But if he cannot get
employment he roves to find it, and becomes "unsettled." It is hard then
for him to "settle down," he becomes fond of a day or two's work and a
day or two's play alternating. Finally, he becomes a true vagrant--a
nomad. It will be seen then that the arrest of vagrancy depends on the
application of scientific principles. Habitual and hereditary vagrancy
could soon be suppressed, or might even be neglected and allowed to die,
by gradual absorption of the _children_ of vagrants into the ranks of
the more developed population. It is the constant _recruiting_ of
vagrancy that is such an evil. It would seem as if the free leave given
in Germany for a man to enter and leave a colony, and then enter and
leave another, but at the same time to be under compulsion to earn his
living, is adapted to the "pastoral" class, who cannot easily settle yet
will intermittently work. To let them degenerate into "loafers" is

Then again the slum dweller clings to his environment, and it is useless
to _force_ him to wander, and so send him down the ladder. For such
populations as West Ham, work on the land in return for sustenance seems
to be the way out. They are essentially "agricultural" in attachment to
environment, and would no doubt be suitable subjects for schemes of Home

A fully developed industrial, on the other hand, is best employed _as_
an industrial. In connection with new developments, there will be need
for such industrials. Therefore, if, as in Belgium, the needs of the
colony were supplied by "industrial" inmates, but the more untrained
were kept to farm work, on some form of simple manual labour, it would
seem as if the right organisation would be arrived at.[81]

It is probable that in our towns many forms of social waste occur, and
that new industries might be developed in connection with Labour
Bureaux, for temporary employment over crises. Much lies in the power of
the municipality. An interesting _new_ industry for utilisation of old
tins (waste) has arisen in connection with Central Hall, Manchester. In
the cotton famine the laying out of building plots gave employment to
many Lancashire weavers, and was ultimately remunerative.

It will be seen that the Tramp Ward, though in itself apparently only a
minor provision in our complicated poor law, is really a foundation
stone for our national treatment of destitution. Unless we get back to
the sound principles that underlie organised society, that if a man will
not work he must be made to do so, and that to enforce honest toil is a
social duty, we shall see national evils accumulate to national
destruction. Let me now pass in review the personal investigations which
led me to these conclusions.


[2] "Low as is the standard of comfort of the ordinary vagrant, that of
the class of people who frequent the charitable shelters or habitually
'sleep out' in London and other large towns is still lower. The casual
pauper is at least clean, while the man who sleeps in his clothes at a
shelter, or passes the night on a staircase, is often verminous and
always filthy. These people seldom or never go to casual wards, and they
can only find a living in large towns" (Vagrancy Report, p. 26). These
town-dwellers are not, however, _hereditary_ vagrants as a rule.

[3] "No doubt the coming into existence of a pauper class was a new and
startling phenomenon of Tudor times; it is probable, too, that the
suppression of the monasteries led to a large increase of the vagrant
population" (Vagrancy Report, p. 6).

[4] This was, however, only a portion of the "Statute of Labourers" (7
Rich. II., ch. 5; Vagrancy Report, p. 3).

[5] The Vagrancy Report gives a full historical summary of this
repressive treatment (chap. 1, sections 8, 11), but points out (section
12) that all legislation was then harsh, and that some punishments, such
as branding, may have been intended for identification, as with lost
sheep. It questions the existence of a widespread social evil.

[6] Statistics of vagrancy (Vagrancy Report, section 74) estimate the
difference between the number "on the road" in a time of trade
depression as 70,000 or 80,000, as against 20,000 or 30,000 in times of
industrial activity (as in 1900). See also effect of South African War
(section 76).

[7] The Report points out that the term "vagrant" is elastic, including
gipsies, hawkers, pedlars, and those employed in hop-picking or
fruit-picking (section 78; see also sections 400, 401). It appears
(section 402) that arrangements for these seasonal migrations are
improving in the hop-picking and fruit-picking counties, owing to the
action of local sanitary authorities and philanthropic societies. The
"casual labourer," on the contrary, is a constant addition to the ranks
of vagrancy (see section 81). "The vagrant of this class is usually a
man who has been unable to keep his employment from idleness, want of
skill, drinking habits, or general incapacity, or perhaps from physical
disability. As time goes on, he succumbs to the influence of his
demoralising mode of life, and falls into the ranks of the habitual
vagrant." Lack of unskilled employment, which is mainly seasonal, is as
large a cause.

[8] "The penal laws against vagrants were enacted contemporaneously with
the establishment of poor relief for the aged and infirm, and with
repeated attempts to build up a system for the correction and
reformation of the vagrant" (section 11, Vagrancy Report; see also
sections 257-260).

[9] The Report on Vagrancy does not appear to the author to deal with
the origin of this class (see sections 82, 83). The presence of the
"work-shy" class is recognised, and in section 81 the additions to it
from the ranks of casual labour attributed to bad habits or incapacity.
But the fact that the existence of this class is a _necessary result of
rise in capacity_ of the artisan classes is not alluded to. It would be
interesting to investigate how many of the "unskilled" and "work-shy"
have worked and earned their living for years, but have found it
impossible to keep a foothold. As _capacity_ rises, the strata of
"inefficient" must be left behind.

[10] In section 79 the Report deals with the _bonâ fide_ working man
looking for work. The author believes that though the Committee regarded
such as only a small proportion, this does not represent the real facts.
If, as is stated, the number of "vagrants" doubles in times of
unemployment, it is evident that the 50 per cent. squeezed out were
previously employed in some way. Evidently the ranks of vagrancy are
largely recruited from "working men," though by those most inefficient.
Six weeks' tramp has been stated to the author as long enough to turn a
"working man" into a "loafer."

[11] See Vagrancy Report, section 20.

[12] It will be seen that in 1848 the increase of vagrancy called for
attention. The report given by the inspectors led to a minute of the
Poor Law Board, signed by Sir C. Buller, on "the growing evil of
vagrancy." The decrease in vagrancy was put down to more stringent
regulations, but may have coincided with better industrial conditions,
as in 1853 the numbers again rose (Vagrancy Report, sections 28, 29,

[13] It is not surprising that London should be the first to feel the
pressure of migratory destitution resulting in the Houseless Poor Acts,
1864, 1865 (see Vagrancy Report, section 33).

[14] See sections 38, 39 (Vagrancy Report).

[15] Mr. Curtis, clerk to the King's Norton Guardians, says: "In my
judgment the present measures have _totally failed to achieve their
object_" (Vagrancy Report, section 113).

[16] In 1866 a dietary was prescribed (Vagrancy Report, section 37).

[17] "In 374 unions the casual pauper gets only bread for breakfast and
supper ... for the mid-day meal 474 unions give only bread and cheese"
(Vagrancy Report, section 95).

[18] "The rule to detain vagrants two nights is but little observed"
(Vagrancy Report, section 94).

[19] See section 49, Vagrancy Report.

[20] "In the four years 1891 to 1895 the figures (for Jan. 1) rose from
4,960 to 8,810, an increase of 3,850; while the recent rise spread over
five years (1900 to 1905) was from 5,579 to 9,768, an increase of 4,189"
(Vagrancy Report, section 76).

[21] See section 70, Vagrancy Report, respecting vagrants in common
lodging-houses. It is surprising how many inmates are "without settled
home." I have personally interrogated many women who have been homeless
for years with their husbands, but have lived in lodging-houses. The
seasonal migration of the rich produces a reflex tide of migration of
"hangers on" of all kinds; there are also other seasonal migrations such
as that of the navvy (see section 33, Vagrancy Report).

[22] It is probable that a larger proportion of the inmates of casual
wards in London are of the "work-shy" class than in the north, because
London acts as a kind of national cesspool attracting the dregs, partly
by reason of its charities. The same may be said of a large centre like
Manchester. But if sufficient skilled observation had been given over
long periods, it would probably be found, as I have indicated, that
there are great changes in the _personnel_ of the tramp ward. It is
indicated in the Report (section 87) that the free shelters attract the
_lowest_ class. Hence the rise in the standard of cleanliness may mean
that the tramp ward now actually accommodates a higher social stratum
than formerly.

[23] See Chap. XV., Vagrancy Report. It is doubted that the percentage
is so high. It will vary in different localities.

[24] "Evidence before us shows that severity of discipline in one union
may merely cause the vagrants to frequent other unions."

[25] It is acknowledged that the present dietary is insufficient, not
only owing to absence of a mid-day meal (section 160), but also as a
minimum for "a fair day's work," which requires (section 307) at least
2,500 calories in heat-producing value and 55 grammes of proteid. The
proposed amended dietary is as follows:--

Breakfast: Bread, 8 oz.; margarine, 3/4 oz.; cocoa (made with cocoa
husk), 1 pint.

Dinner: Bread, 8 oz.; cheese, 1-1/2 oz.

Supper: Bread, 8 oz.; margarine, 3/4 oz.; potatoes (cooked), 6 oz. Salt,
1 oz. per five men daily.

This would provide 2,500 calories with 63 grammes of proteid.

[26] The superiority of the prison dietary is freely acknowledged in the
Report (see sections 203-206).

[27] See sections 197-201, Vagrancy Report. "Many tramps openly declare
that they prefer prison to the casual wards."... "Vagrants assigned as a
reason for refusing to work that they wished to lay up for a fortnight
during the winter in gaol." Window-breaking and tearing-up clothes are
freely resorted to in order to get into prison. On the 28th of February,
1905, 3,736 male prisoners out of 12,369 were reported by the prison
governors as persons with no fixed abode, and with no regular means of
subsistence (section 59). In London, in 1904, 1,167 casuals shirked work
or tore their clothes (section 107).

[28] See Vagrancy Report (section 41) with regard to the enforcement of
the four nights in London. In 1904, 16,060 cases were detained four
nights. A list has been made of 950 habitual tramps who live in London
tramp wards (section 110). A similar list might be made of tramps who
circle round in the towns in the Manchester district. In 1904, in
London, 21,367 people were _refused admission_ to tramp wards (Vagrancy
Report, section 104).

[29] The opinion of the Committee is very unfavourable as to shelters
(see sections 338-359). It does not, however, appear to be sufficiently
recognised that these shelters have arisen as a direct result of the
repressive policy of the tramp ward and the insufficient national
provision for destitution. The dregs of our social system must
congregate somewhere; they will naturally gravitate where conditions are
most favourable, and where existence can be maintained. It is impossible
to sustain existence on a tramp-ward dietary, and regulations will not
allow the homeless wanderer to settle there. Consequently he goes
elsewhere. Until a more effective national provision is made, the
shelter is at any rate a provision for the most destitute. Free
shelters, however, especially if in an insanitary condition, may
constitute a danger, being out of relation to the true national policy
of dealing with destitution. The care of this lowest class is better
understood abroad. If the State accepts the care of the destitute, some
provision must be made for those "past work." The Report is written as
if the state of these men was due to the "demoralising effect of the
shelters." Mr. Crooks, however, says: "The poor chaps have become
degenerate; they cannot work; they have got quite _past work_; they can
hardly beg; they go in and have a meal, good sound food, stop all night,
and come out in the morning. What do they do in the morning? All life is
objectless; they have nothing to do; they have simply to loaf away
another day without any object in life at all."

In his evidence he attributes this to "general break-up," due to the
absence of proper food and shelter. He shows that people of this
character "loafing and lurching with eyes like the eyes of a dead fish,"
were "improved out of all knowledge" at the Laindon farm colony.

A few nights' "sleeping out" may reduce a man to a most miserable
condition. It is a wonder that many survive. The writer has been
receiving for years _women_ reduced to the extremest destitution and
incapable of work without rest and food. The majority have passed on to
employment, but in the state received it would have been impossible for
them to obtain it.

[30] Repeatedly asserted by tramp ward inmates.

[31] Note 25.

[32] See section 15 as regards Shakespeare's "vagrom men."

[33] It is surprising how little is said in the Report about common
lodging-houses, though in the chapter on spread of disease by vagrants
useful recommendations are made as to stricter enforcement of existing
laws. As a rule, cleanliness in shelters (in spite of the use of the
"bunk" for sleeping) is far in advance of the common lodging-house.
Beds, especially flock beds, are often most insanitary for this class of
persons. Inspection is often merely perfunctory or too infrequent to act
as a check. Even in London inspection leaves much to be desired though
conditions are greatly improved.

[34] This lodging-house has since been removed or suppressed.

[35] This was a northern lodging-house.

[36] The average number _prosecuted_ in 1899-1903 reached 9,003. It
would be much greater but for the leniency of the police (Vagrancy
Report, section 379). On the 7th July, 1905, in Holborn district, 1,055
males and 176 females were found "principally on the Embankment, the
larger number of them on the seats."

[37] The Vagrancy Report gives very varying estimates (section 74),
varying from 25,000 to 80,000. But it is to be noted that these figures
include all persons "without settled home or visible means of
subsistence." The writer estimates at 10,000 those belonging to the
confirmed tramp class. A number of those estimated in the total are
included in "Vagrants Wandering to their own Hurt," see sections

[38] See "Vagrants Wandering to their own Hurt," Chap. XIV., Vagrancy

[39] An account of the labour colonies in Holland, Belgium, Germany, and
Switzerland is given in the Vagrancy Report, sections 228-256. In
Germany the average net cost is £6 per head per year. At Merxplas,
Belgium, it is £9. See also Appendix III.

[40] The German Relief System is described (sections 168-170), Vagrancy
Report. The adoption universally of the way-ticket and provision for
"seekers for work" would assimilate our system to this.

[41] See sections 228-230, Vagrancy Report.

[42] See sections 249-256, Vagrancy Report.

[43] See sections 171, 172, Vagrancy Report.

[44] "In view of the subsequent history of the law as to casual paupers,
it is matter for regret that Parliament should have thus abandoned the
older tradition by which county authorities were charged with a
responsibility for vagrants nearly akin to the responsibility falling on
parochial authorities in respect of ordinary paupers" (Vagrancy Report,
section 260).

[45] The way-ticket system appears likely to pass into legislation (see
sections 173-182, Vagrancy Report).

[46] The Gloucestershire way-ticket system is described in sections 160,
161, 176, Vagrancy Report.

[47] See section 164, Vagrancy Report.

[48] It will be seen that these recommendations are in substance adopted
by the Committee, Appendix II.

[49] This is also practically adopted in Report (see sections 221, 222,

[50] "The short period during which, on an average, a colonist stays at
Hadleigh, and the absence of any power of detention, militate against
the possibility of financial success" (Vagrancy Report, section 267).

[51] Only 158 remained in Hadleigh Colony more than six months of 523
persons received during the two years ending September, 1904. Sixty
"satisfactory" cases were readmitted later (Vagrancy Report, sections
263, 264).

[52] See "How to Deal with the Unemployed" (Brown, Langham & Co.), pp.

[53] See sections 268-271, Vagrancy Report, also Appendix III.

[54] The "way-ticket" system will partly meet this need, but it cannot
be properly met with without the provision of better lodging-houses,
well-regulated and sanitary.

[55] See sections 403-409, Vagrancy Report, Appendix IV. and VII.

[56] "We are strongly of opinion that some better provision should be
made to assist the man genuinely in search of work" (section 155).

[57] "It is most important to remove the excuse for casual almsgiving"
(section 155). (See also sections 385-388.)

[58] See evils of short sentences (Appendix V.).

[59] The comprehensive scheme for labour colonies is outlined in
sections 227-286, Vagrancy Report.

[60] "The general principle of a compulsory labour colony on habitual
vagrants may be borrowed from abroad, but the essential details must be
worked out at home." The proposal is to bring subsidised philanthropic
institutions to bear on the problem, but to form one State colony for
vagrants (Vagrancy Report, sections 277-305).

[61] The proposal to place the casual ward in charge of the police will
tend to this unification.

[62] See section 132, Vagrancy Report.

[63] The placing of the tramp ward under the police is a step in the
right direction, but further reforms are urgent in poor-law

[64] Section 179, Vagrancy Report.

[65] Section 130, Vagrancy Report.

[66] This need does not appear to be recognised in Vagrancy Report.

[67] Sections 184, 185, Vagrancy Report.

[68] Section 136, Vagrancy Report. The transfer of vagrancy charges to
police will greatly simplify the question of finance.

[69] Sections 95, 181, 308-10; sections 93, 148, 149, Vagrancy Report.

[70] Sections 345-388, Vagrancy Report.

[71] Sections 284, 285, 304, Vagrancy Report.

[72] Sections 178-182, Vagrancy Report.

[73] Section 300, Vagrancy Report.

[74] It is estimated that £100,000 is given away in London in a year to
street beggars (section 386, Vagrancy Report).

[75] "We believe that the best and simplest method of securing the
desired end (incentive to work) would be to allow the colonists to earn
by industry and good conduct small sums of money, a portion of which
would be retained till discharged and a portion handed over to them
weekly to spend, if they like, at the canteen of the colony." Vagrancy
Report, section 260.

[76] See enormous cost of casual wards, Vagrancy Report, Chap. IX.
Paddington cost £195, Poplar £219, and Hackney £346 _per head_. The
_average_ cost in the country is £60 and in London £150 per head. See
also "The Extravagance of the Poor Law," _Contemporary Review_, June,

[77] The proposed reforms go much further in the right direction. It is
to be hoped they will not be minimised in passing into law.

[78] See sections 403-409, Vagrancy Report. The Committee regard the
question of "female vagrants" as "comparatively unimportant." But it is
not sufficiently considered that the disparity in numbers of men and
women vagrants (887 females to 8,693 males on January 1st, 1905), and
the smaller numbers of women found "sleeping out," are due to the
existence of a possible method of livelihood for women by prostitution,
absent in the case of men, but exceedingly harmful to the State. The
temptation to prostitution through destitution should be as far as
possible removed. (See Chap. V.)

[79] See recommendations 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16, Appendix II.

[80] The one objection to the Report is the delay consequent on the
necessity for legislation. It is a pity that there is not a
recommendation to proceed at once by Local Government Board Order in the
direction of the finding of the Committee. Legislation may be postponed
till after the Poor Law Commission.

[81] The author has more fully developed the psychical principles
involved in right classification of the undeveloped in an article
published in the _Contemporary Review_, June, 1906.




Having gradually been brought to the conviction, by investigation of
numerous cases of destitution among women, that there were circumstances
in our social arrangements which fostered immorality, I resolved to make
a first-hand exploration, by that method of personal experiment, which
is the nearest road to accurate knowledge, of the conditions under which
destitute women were placed who sought the shelter of the common
lodging-house or the workhouse.

It was necessary to find a friend willing to share the possible perils
of such an experiment, and to arrange in such a way that it should be
unknown to all but a few. I was fortunate in finding a fellow-worker
willing to go with me, and as to the truth of the following story she is
a sufficient witness.

We dressed very shabbily, but were respectable and clean. We wore shawls
and carried hats, which we used if desirable, according to whether we
had sunshine or rain, or wished to look more or less respectable. We
carried soap, a towel, a change of stockings, and a few other small
articles, wrapped in an old shawl. My boots were in holes, and my
companion wore a grey tweed well-worn skirt. My hat was a certificate
for any tramp ward, and my shawl ragged, though clean. We had one
umbrella between us.

Our plan of campaign was to take train to a town some way from home,
arriving in the evening, and then to seek lodging. We had five nights to
spend, and were expected at a town some way off by friends who thought
we were on a "walking tour"! We cut ourselves off from civilisation on
Monday with 2_s_. 6_d_. in our pockets and a considerable distance
between us and home. We were expected on Saturday by our friends. We
thought that we should be able to sample only two workhouses after the
first night, expecting to be detained two nights at each.

Escaping observation by going to a country railway station, we took
train to a town about fifteen miles from home. We enquired of the police
and others, and found that there was a large municipal lodging-house, so
we bought a loaf and a quarter of a pound of butter, and applied for
beds. We were just in time to get a double bed in the married couples'
quarters, for which we paid sixpence. We were shown by a servant--a
young woman, about twenty-three apparently--into a large, lofty
kitchen, furnished with wooden tables and benches. There was a splendid
kitchen range, and all was clean and tidy; hot and cold water were laid
on to a sink, and boiling water for making tea could be drawn from a
tap. Pots and pans, and _basins_ to drink out of, were kept in a handy
cupboard. One roller towel, however, was all the convenience for
personal washing or for wiping pots. There was a dish-cloth, and we
preferred to wash our pots and put them away to dry rather than to wipe
them on the towel used by our fellow-lodgers.

Our first difficulty was as follows: We had bread and butter; we had,
also, in our bundle, some tea and sugar, the latter mixed with plasmon,
as we feared we might not keep our strength up till the week-end without
some such help. But we had neither spoon, knife, nor fork, so we could
not spread our butter nor stir our tea. A woman, with a girl of twelve,
whose language left much to be desired, told us we could have the three
necessary articles, and also a locker in which to keep our food, by
depositing one shilling. We accordingly did this, but were not given a
locker, as we were only staying one night. We had to put our provisions
in the corner of a cupboard used by others, but they were not touched.
Provided with the necessary implements, we proceeded to make tea, and to
cut our bread and butter receiving friendly hints from people who saw we
were novices, and studying our companions. We drank out of basins.
Besides the loud-voiced woman and child of twelve, there was a man and
his wife, and a very nagging woman, whose husband received a great deal
of abuse. The inmates appeared to know each other somewhat, and talked
about others who had lived there.

We made enquiries for the closet, and found that the key hung by the
fireside, and gave admission to a single water-closet, very small, in a
yard through which everyone passed to the kitchen. This appeared to do
duty for the single women also, as they used the same kitchen and
sitting-room as the married couples. There was a good flush of water
caused by a movable seat. There was no lavatory or any convenience for
washing except the sink in the kitchen used by all the lodgers, men and
women alike, but there was a notice up that "slipper baths" could be had
for twopence. This absence of any opportunity for personal cleanliness,
apart from extra payment, must lead to uncleanliness of person where
people are all living on the edge of poverty; it is, too, most desirable
that women should be able to wash apart from men.

After tea we found our way upstairs to a sitting-room, also furnished
with wooden tables and benches and fairly clean. Beyond it was a bedroom
for single females, separated by wooden partitions into cubicles. The
servant was in attendance, and was the only official we saw during our
stay, except when we purchased our bed at the office, and obtained and
returned our knife, fork and spoon. Being very tired, we asked for our
bed, and were shown a boarded-off cubicle, the door of which we could
bolt. It was lighted by a large window, and in the dim light looked
fairly clean, but the floor was dirty. The top sheet of the bed was
clean, the bottom one dirty, and the pillows filthy. We spread a clean
dress skirt over them and resigned ourselves. The bed was flock, and was
hot and uncomfortable; it smelt stale. We opened the window. There was
no furniture besides the bed; we hung our clothes on nails in the
partition. I killed a bug on the wall close to my head.

Compared, however, with our further experiences, this lodging-house was
fairly comfortable--indeed, one of our fellow-lodgers, who apparently
was a respectable working-man, said it was "a palace" compared to

We had a restless night, disturbed first by the coming to bed of several
married couples in adjacent cubicles. We could hear all the
conversations, and the nagging woman kept telling her husband, in a tone
of voice much louder than his own, to "Shut up!" Then sleep was
difficult in such strange surroundings: outside, trams went past till
after midnight; inside, many of our companions were audible by snores.
We got some uneasy sleep, but were awakened very early as some of the
men were called about five o'clock. Towards six o'clock we got up
ourselves, with a longing for fresh air. We dressed, but could find
nowhere to wash but the sink in the kitchen, with all our clothes on, as
a man was already in possession, and was washing up his pots when we
came down. We reflected that with only this poor lavatory accommodation,
however clean our fellow-lodgers looked, they _could_ not be personally
otherwise than dirty, if they stayed on here; unless, which is very
unlikely, they kept on spending twopence for "slipper baths"!

We got our breakfast in the same manner as tea, and were prepared to go,
but had to wait an hour before we could get our one shilling deposit
returned, the office not being open till eight o'clock. We sat in the
sitting-room, watching and talking to our fellow-lodgers. Their talk was
very free and often profane. Several women and the little girl were
sitting round a table, crocheting the articles which are hawked from
door to door. Men were reading papers. One by one the single women
lodgers came out of the inside room and went downstairs to wash and get
breakfast. The servant was sweeping the room. Her language was not
altogether clean; she smoked a pipe and mentioned a drink. It did not
seem altogether desirable that a young woman should practically be left
in charge. Her presence could be no guarantee for conduct or language,
and she might easily herself be tempted into immorality by men lodgers.
Her language showed that she was not much above the rest of the

The conversation turned first to the accommodation. We learned that we
had been fortunate in our cubicle, as some were infested with bugs. One
woman described how they harboured in the crevices between the woodwork
of the cubicles, which were not close fitting, and how she cleared them
out with a hatpin and exterminated them. The relative merits of various
cubicles in relation to the absence or presence of these insect pests
were discussed at length. The conversation naturally turned on the
accommodation at various lodging-houses, and we heard of horrors that
explained why this was called "a palace," and was so much appreciated,
that we were reckoned lucky to obtain a bed after seven o'clock at
night. We were told of a place where eight married couples slept in one
room, with _one bucket_ for all purposes. As the time went on the
conversation turned to visitors, and we learned that people came once a
week to sing and speak, and were much appreciated. "It was only what
they ought to do." We tried to get a little more information on this
subject, but the talk veered round to the Moat Farm murder. The
execution was due just at eight o'clock, and all eyes followed the
clock, and surmises as to the murderer's feelings were coupled with
references to the crime, with which all present seemed to be familiar.
We were glad when eight o'clock put an end to this topic and our
sojourn, as we could obtain our deposit and depart.


The morning was fairly fine, though grey, and we inquired our way to a
town on our route, about nine miles distant. We left the road for the
canal side, and sat down in the fields to rest a little, and then walked
on. We passed some men who were working in a barge; they shouted to us,
and invited us to come to them. We walked away and took no notice, but
repeatedly on our journey we were spoken to, and I could not help
contrasting the way in which men looked at us with the usual bearing of
a man towards a _well-dressed_ female. I had never realised before that
a lady's dress, or even that of a respectable working-woman, was a
_protection_. The bold, free look of a man at a destitute woman must be
felt to be realised. Being together, we were a guard to one another, so
we took no notice but walked on. I should not care to be a _solitary_
woman tramping the roads. A destitute woman once told me that if you
tramped, "you had to take up with a fellow." I can well believe it.
About mid-day we dined on our loaf and butter, as well as we could
without a knife. A woman, also tramping, came to sit by us; she was
going to seek her husband, she said, in the town to which we were also
going. She was accustomed to tramp, as he went to different towns in
search of work, and she was anxious to push on to get there early. As
she seemed to know the neighbourhood, we asked her about lodgings. We
had determined to sample a common lodging-house, as we were not yet
sufficiently destitute to claim the workhouse. She told us of two
lodging-houses where single women were taken, but one was "very rough,
and the beds so crowded that heads almost touched heels." She recommended
the other one "on t'hill" as a respectable lodging-house, suggesting
that we could get a married couple's furnished room for sixpence a
night. We decided, therefore, to make for this _respectable_

Towards one o'clock, after we resumed our route, it began to rain hard.
We found a path off the main road that led into a wood, and managed to
rest and shelter under the trees till the rain began to drop heavily
upon us. We then began to walk again, and found that outside the rain
had moderated. We were rather stiff and cold, so as soon as we came to
the houses we looked out for somewhere to get a cup of tea, and were
fortunate enough to find a coffee-shop, where we got a mug of hot tea
each for one penny, and ate some more of our loaf. We still had a good
walk, through outlying streets, before we reached the town, and by dint
of many enquiries we found the lodging-house. We first asked a postman
(after sending a post-card home, which we wrote at the post-office). We
gathered from his looks that, if respectable, our chosen lodging-house
was nothing very special; but it was "Hobson's choice" apparently, for a
man in charge of another lodging-house, where we made enquiries, said
it was the _only_ place where they took single women, the "rough" place
having given up taking them. So we found ourselves, between six and
seven o'clock, at the door of the house, which was not bad-looking
outside--an old-fashioned, roomy-looking, stone house, which might once
have been a farmhouse and seen better days. The landlady, a stout,
pleasant-faced woman, received us cheerfully. She told us that the
"furnished apartments" were not in order, but we could have a
boarded-off apartment and sleep together for eightpence the night. The
bed would be clean. This sounded just as good as we could expect, so we
paid her eightpence and turned in. I shall never forget this interior.
Fortunately it was getting dark, and not till morning did we fully
realise the state of the place. We found ourselves in a double room,
consisting, probably, of a kitchen and front room thrown into one, each
possessing a kitchen firegrate, and the back room a tiny sink. Round the
wall was a wooden seat, and wooden tables and benches completed the
furniture, except that the corner was occupied by a large cupboard.
Numerous articles of apparel were hanging from lines; saucepans,
tea-pots, etc., were to be found on the kitchen mantelpiece and over the
sink (all more or less dirty), and mugs, to be had for the asking. Two
perambulators partly stopped the large opening between the two rooms;
one belonged to a mother with children, the other to a blind man and
his wife, and contained their musical outfit and belongings. Two doors
led into this double apartment; one gave access to the entrance passage
and the landlady's rooms, the other to a small yard. In this was the
only sanitary convenience for at least forty people, the key of which
hung by the fireside--one small water-closet, _perfectly dry_. The
stench in it was enough to knock you down; one visit was enough to
sicken you. Yet some of the lodgers had been there _six weeks_. This and
the small sink by the fireside were the only provision we could discover
for sanitary purposes of all kinds.

Yet it was not the place itself, but its inhabitants, that are quite
unforgettable. We sat down on the wooden bench behind a table, and
immediately facing us was a huge negro with a _wicked_ face. By his side
a quiet-looking woman, who had a little girl and boy, was sitting
crocheting. An old woman, active and weather-beaten, was getting supper
ready for her husband, a blind beggar, who shortly afterwards came in
led by a black dog. A woman tramp was getting supper ready for the
negro; she wore a wedding ring, but I question if she was his wife.
Several young children, almost babies, were running about, or playing
with the perambulator. A young man on the seat near us was tossing about
a fat baby born "on the road," whose healthiness we duly admired. It was
not his own, but belonged to a worried-looking woman, who also had a
troublesome boy. The next room was full of people, whom we could hear
but not see distinctly. The little boy of two caused much conversation,
as he was always doing something he should not, and caused disgust by
his uncleanliness, freely commented on. His mother made raids on him at
intervals, but neither cleanliness nor discipline was possible in such
surroundings. The most striking character, next to the negro, was a
girl, apparently about twenty. She wore a wedding ring, and belonged to
some man in the company, but from the character of her conversation I
doubt if she was married. The negro told some story, and she capped it
with another; evidently she was noted for her conversation, as she was
laughingly offered a pint to keep her tongue still! Her face would have
been handsome, but for a crooked nose and evident dissipation. All the
stories were more or less foul, and all the conversation, on every side,
was filthy or profane. The negro told how he had outwitted a harlot who
tried to rob him. The whole story of his visit to her house was related
in the most shameless way, with circumstantial details, no one appearing
to think anything of it. He told how he discovered where she kept her
money--in a flower-pot--and hid _his_ money there, shammed sleep, and
watched her surprise when she found nothing in his pockets, coolly took
all her money in the morning, driving off in a hansom after a good
breakfast. He _said_ he bought new clothes, and danced with her the same
night, being taken for a "toff," and hearing the story of her wrongs,
but refusing her blandishments! The girl told, sitting on the table near
the negro, how she had got her nose broken by an admirer and made him
pay for it. A conversation sprang up about the treatment of wives, and
it was stated that a woman loved a man best _if he ill-treated her_.
This theory was illustrated by examples well known to the company. The
girl related that she had lived in the same house with a man who used to
beat his wife. If he came home singing a certain song his wife knew she
was in for it. She used to try to hide, but one day he caught her and
beat her severely with a red-hot poker. The police got him, but _she
refused to bear witness against him_. Similar instances were given both
by men and women. Such sentiments augured no very good treatment for
wives of this class--in fact, the position of a mistress seemed
preferable. All the conversation was unspeakably foul, and was delivered
with a kind of cross-shouting, each struggling to make his or her
observations heard. A man read--or tried to read--amid frequent
interruptions, replied to by oaths, the story of the execution of the
Moat Farm murderer that morning, and other interesting police news,
freely commented on. Little children were running about all the while,
and older ones listening. As time went on more and more came in,
including the landlady and her children, and a married daughter with a
baby. It could not be possible for a woman to exercise any effective
control under such circumstances, as it would be her interest to keep
on good terms with her lodgers. The strongest man might be needed as a
"chucker-out" if there was a row. All present that night were "down in
their luck." A gala day at the park near by had been very unsuccessful
owing to the wet, and there was but little drink going; otherwise we
might have seen and heard still worse. One could imagine how swiftly a
brawl would arise. A rascally-looking "cadger" came in from his rounds,
and proved to be the father of the troublesome boy and husband of the
worried mother. He and a companion had been doing a regular beggar's
round, but had missed each other. His luck was so bad that his wife had
to borrow his supper. All the company except a few appeared to be of
that sort that preys upon society. The black man had been on board ship;
he was powerfully made, and looked cruel and lustful. I avoided his eye,
he kept staring at us. His mistress was, however, kind to us; she
brought us a mug of their tea, which we drank for courtesy with
considerable difficulty, eating some of our food with it. I suppose the
company thought us very poor, for almost everyone had something tasty
for supper, and the smell of fried bacon, onions, potatoes, and
beefsteak, the steam of cooking and drying clothes, mixed with tobacco
smoke and the stench of unclean humanity, grew more and more unbearable
as the doors were shut and all gathered in for the night. The continual
shouting made one's head ache, and no one seemed to think of putting a
child to bed. At last, about nine o'clock, we decided that upstairs
would be preferable. I may say that no one interfered with us or
questioned us, except one old woman, who was satisfied when we told her
that we had spent the last night in a Model, and were going on tramp to
a neighbouring town. She saw we were new to "the road," and descanted on
the _healthiness_ of the life, pointing to the baby in proof of it, and
assuring us we should "soon get accustomed to it." She told us this was
a very decent lodging-house, and that there were "nice, clean beds." We
hoped so, and asked the landlady to show us upstairs. After we left the
fun waxed still more fast and furious. Just before we went upstairs a
man in the inner room propounded the question, "Who was Adam's father?"
The conversation on the subject seemed to cause great amusement.
Afterwards they began to sing, not untunefully, various songs; amongst
others several hymns. I wished almost that we had stayed below to
ascertain what led to the singing of "Jesu, Lover of my soul." It
sounded odd, sung lustily by lips so full of profanity; yet I could not
but thank God that there was _One_ who loved sinners, and lived among

Upstairs we found rooms full of beds, but we were to have a "cubicle."
Apparently it was the only one, and it was very imperfectly partitioned
off. The door fastened with a wooden button, but by the head of the bed
was an entrance, _without_ a door, to a compartment which held a bed
occupied by a man, this again being accessible by an entrance without a
door to the rest of the room. Anyone could therefore enter if so
disposed. Three beds, occupied by married couples and their children
(who shared the same bed), filled the room, and beyond was another
apartment crowded with beds, and, so far as we could see, without
partitions. The landlady told us not to mind the _man_ who slept in the
next bed, for he was blind! He slept there, and so did his dog. The
other occupants of the room, who came to bed later, we could not see,
but we could hear them plainly. From the conversation we think the
nigger and his mistress slept just outside, and next to them (no
partition) a married couple with a baby and a child. A third couple
would be round the corner. The room barely held the beds and partition,
with room to stand by the side; there was no ventilation but a chimney
close to our bed. We could hear someone continually scratching himself,
and the baby sucking frequently, and other sounds which shall be

When we first went to bed, however, we were in peace, except for the
noise from below. We found our sheets were clean, and fortunately could
see no more by the light of the candle, without candle-stick, which our
landlady gave us. For two hours the noise went on downstairs; comic
songs and Sankey's hymns alternately came floating up the stair. Then,
at about eleven o'clock, suddenly everyone came to bed with a _rush_. It
almost seemed as if they were coming _on top_ of us, so great was the
noise, and all was so near. The blind man stumbled in so close, and
half-a-dozen people, all talking, got to bed close by. My companion woke
frightened and clutched me. A candle flickering in the next compartment
revealed a huge bug walking on the ceiling, which suddenly _dropped_
over a neighbouring bed! By degrees, however, the noises subsided, and
my companion and I fell into an uneasy slumber. I woke in an hour or
two, in dim daylight, to feel _crawlers_. The rest of the night was
spent in hunting. I had quite a collection by the time my companion
woke. They were on the bed and on the partition. I watched them making
for our clothes; but there was no escape till morning was fully come.
Besides, my companion was resting through it all; so I slew each one as
it appeared. We found that the clean sheets concealed a _filthy_ bed and

About five o'clock two working men were roused by their wives'
admonitions, and got up to go to work. We rose at six o'clock, leaving
our neighbours still slumbering. We searched ourselves as well as we
could (with a sleeping man next door, audible if not visible). We could
see him if we stepped forward a pace.

We thankfully bundled up our things, including food, which we had
brought upstairs to be safe, and we crept downstairs, hoping for
cleanliness. The kitchen fire was lit--apparently it had never been
out--and a kettle was on the bar; a working man was getting his
breakfast ready; a girl, the landlady's daughter, apparently about 12,
was sweeping the floor. We could now _see_ the filth. The floor was
strewn with dirty paper, crumbs, and _débris_, and dirty sand. All the
cleaning it got was that it was swept and then freshly sanded by this
small child. It then _looked_ tidy. "Appearances" are proverbially
"deceitful." But what we were not prepared for was, that all the wooden
benches were occupied by _sleeping men_. The small child sweeping was at
first quite alone with them. There was no place to wash but the small
fireside sink: one man considerately cleared out from its neighbourhood,
and I thought we were alone in that half of the room till I looked and
saw a slumbering man on either side. They moved, as if uneasy on their
hard couches. Of course, it was utterly impossible to attempt
cleanliness, except hands and face. Yet our fellow-lodgers had some of
them lived there for weeks, and it was reckoned by their class a
_superior_ lodging-house. I can hardly describe the feeling of personal
contamination caused by even one night in such surroundings. Yet we
escaped well, finding afterwards only two live creatures on our clothes.
Cleanliness of person would be so _impossible_ under such circumstances
that it would soon cease to be _aimed_ at. Yet most of the inmates had
fairly clean hands and faces, and the tiny sink was used for washing
clothes, which were dried in the room, and were hanging overnight from
lines. Is it any wonder that such places are hot-beds of disease? How
can one of this class possibly avoid spreading contagion under such bad
sanitary conditions? It struck me that public money would be well spent
in providing lodging-house accommodation under good sanitation and
management, rather than in extending small-pox hospitals.

We did not feel inclined for breakfast, but the kettle was boiling, and
a working-man showed us where to find things. We carefully washed the
dirty-looking tea-pot and mugs, and borrowed a knife and spoon: no one
insulted or questioned us. If our stay had been longer, however,
doubtless we should have been obliged to get on friendly terms with our
fellow-lodgers. We ate our food at the table farthest from the sleeping
men, the sweeping still going on, and then we bundled up our things and
left without seeing our landlady again.

The fresh air was sweet. Nowhere inside _could_ be clean. Vermin might
harbour in the wooden seating, doubly used by day and night: the
imperfectly washed clothes, the _un_washed humanity, the crowding, the
absence of proper sanitation, would break down personal cleanliness in a
very short time if a respectable woman was forced to sleep in such a
place. Yet two shillings and fourpence a week, at fourpence a night,
should surely finance some better provision for the needs of a migatory
class. It must be considered that social conditions have entirely
altered since the days of railway travelling have loosened social ties
to particular neighbourhoods. Work is a fluctuating quantity, and men
and women have to travel.

My own experience had taught me that single women frequently get shaken
out of a home by bereavements or other causes, and drift, unable to
recover a stable position if once their clothing becomes dirty or
shabby. The question, To what circumstances and surroundings will a
respectable destitute woman drift if without employment? is one which
concerns society deeply, as immorality must be fostered by wrong


We were glad that the next ordeal before us would be the workhouse bath!
For we were now really "destitute"; after purchasing a little more food
we had only twopence left. We were so jaded by the imperfect sleep of
the two last nights that we decided not to leave the town, but to wait
about all day, and enter the workhouse at six o'clock. We had noticed a
reading room and a park: to the latter we found our way. The day was
gloomy and damp, but not actually wet, except for a slight drizzle at
intervals. In the park we found shelter, drinking water, and sanitary
convenience. We disturbed a sleeping man in a summer-house, and quickly
left him. We wandered into every nook in the park, and talked, rested,
or slept. The hours went very slowly, but we grew refreshed. Towards
mid-day we made a frugal meal on our remaining provisions, drinking from
a fountain. We still had a little sugar-plasmon left and a pinch of tea.
In the afternoon, growing cold and stiff, we went to the free library,
and stayed there reading an hour or two. Two or three ladies were there
reading, but they took no notice of us beyond a stare; we had put our
shawls over our heads, and might be taken for mill-hands. As soon as we
thought it was time we set off to find the workhouse. It was about two
miles, as near as we can guess, from the centre of the town, and on the
way to it we made the acquaintance of an old woman who was going there.
She was lame in one leg with rheumatism, and walked slowly, and she also
stopped to beg at houses _en route_. She got a cup of tea and a glass of
hot milk between the town and the workhouse. She was walking from P----
to H---- to find her brother, having been in the workhouse infirmary for
many months. She said she had received a letter from her brother,
offering her a home if she would come to him. She lost his address and
could not write, so she had no resource but to walk from workhouse to
workhouse till she reached her destination. She was very tired, and
groaned with pain during the night, and almost lost heart and turned
back, but in the morning she plucked up courage to go on. She had the
advantage of being too infirm to be made to work hard, and she evidently
knew how to beg food. She seemed a decent woman, and had reared a large
family of children, who were all married, and had "enough to do for
themselves." Her brother, she said, was in comfortable circumstances,
and she would be all right if she found him. Her clothing was well
mended, but not clean.

We arrived, alone, a few minutes before six, at the workhouse lodge,
which stood all by itself down a long lane which ended in iron gates.
This lodge was very small, and was occupied by a man, the workhouse
buildings being a little way off. There were a good many trees around,
and it was a pretty spot, but lonely. The man was a male pauper, and no
one else was in sight. We had to enter his hut to answer questions,
which he recorded in a book, and we were then out of sight of the house.
The nearest building was the tramp ward, the door of which stood open;
but there was no one in it, as we afterwards found. A single woman would
be completely at the mercy of this man. If our pilgrimage has had no
other result, I shall be glad to be able to expose the positive wrong of
allowing a male pauper, in a lonely office, to admit the female tramps.
When we first arrived at the gate he told us to wait a few minutes, as
we were before time. Some male tramps came up, and we saw him send away
one poor, utterly ragged man, who begged pitifully to be admitted. The
lodge-keeper told him he could not claim because he had been in that
workhouse within the month. So he limped away. He could not possibly
reach another workhouse that night. The man admitted three others, and
sent them on to the male quarters. He let us in at five minutes to six.
We thought this was kind, as he might have kept us waiting, and it had
begun to rain. He took my friend's name, occupation, age, where she came
from, and her destination, and then sent her on, rather imperatively, to
the tramp ward. She stood at the door, some way off, waiting for me. He
kept me inside his lodge, and began to take the details. He talked to me
in what I suppose he thought a very agreeable manner, telling me he
wished I had come alone earlier, and he would have given me a cup of
tea. I thanked him, wondering if this was usual, and then he took my
age, and finding I was a married woman (I must use his exact words), he
said, "Just the right age for a bit of funning; come down to me later in
the evening." I was too horror-struck to reply; besides, I was in his
power, with no one within call but my friend, and all the conditions
unknown and strange. Probably silence was best; he took it for consent,
and, as other tramps were coming, let me pass on. I made a mental vow to
expose him before I left the place. He took my bundle, and asked if I
had any money. I gave him my last penny. I received a wooden token for
the bundle. I then joined my friend, and told her she had better give up
her umbrella and her penny. She went to do so after some tramps had
passed, and though I stood and waited, and she was only gone a moment,
he tried to kiss her as she gave him the things!

When she joined me, very indignant, we went forward into an oblong room
containing six bedsteads with wire mattresses and filthy straw pillows.
A wooden table and bench and "Regulations for Tramps" were the remaining
articles of furniture. There were big, rather low, windows on three
sides; the bottom panes were frosted, except one, which had been broken
and mended with plain glass, and overlooked the yard where the male
tramps worked. Presently our wayfaring friend arrived, and we all three
sat and waited a considerable time. A solitary woman might have been at
the mercy of the man at the gate some time. No one was in sight, or came
near us, till at last a motherly-looking woman entered by a door leading
to a room beyond. She asked us if we were clean. Our fellow-traveller
(whose garments were at any rate _not_ clean) was let off, as she had
spent the last night in a workhouse tramp ward. We said _we_ should like
a bath, and were shown into a bath-room and allowed to bathe ourselves.
Our clothes were taken from us, and we were given blue nightgowns. These
looked fairly clean, but had been worn before. They were dirty round the
neck, and stained in places; we _hoped_ they had been stoved! The old
woman dressed in one without bathing. We found in the morning that both
blankets and nightgowns were folded up and put away on shelves, just as
we found them, apparently, and left for new comers. We were told that
the blankets were "often stoved," but I have since ascertained that they
are not stoved at all workhouses every day. All kinds of personal vermin
might be left in them by a tramp who went straight out of dirty clothes
to bed, and even a bath might leave them open to suspicion. We saw
several bugs on the ceiling in this ward. Perhaps the using of others'
dirty nightgowns was the most revolting feature in our tramp. At neither
workhouse were the garments handed to us _clean_. We found afterwards
that by Government regulation clean bath water and a clean garment can
be _demanded_, but this we did not know. It should be _supplied_. After
the bath we were each given four blankets and told to make our beds and
get into them. The art of bed-making on a wire mattress, without any
other mattress to cover it, is a difficult one, even with four blankets.
The regulation number is two, and with these I fancy the best plan would
be to roll yourself round and lie on the mattress. For the wire
abstracts heat from the body, and _one_ is an insufficient protection.
Even with one spread all over and another doubled under the body and two
above I woke many times cold. In winter the ward is warmed by hot-water
pipes, but the blankets are the same. A plank bed, such as is given in
some workhouses, would probably be warmer, though harder. Put to bed,
like babies, at about half-past six, the kind woman in charge brought us
our food. We felt rather more cheerful after our bath, with the large,
airy room, instead of the foul, common lodging-house; only one thing had
exercised my mind--"What did that pauper mean by my going to him later?"
However, I told the portress all about what he said. She was very
indignant, and said I must tell the superintendent of the tramp ward
next morning, that she had to leave us, but would take good care to lock
us in, and I need not be afraid, he could not get at us. We were _very_
hungry, having had nothing to eat since about twelve o'clock. Anything
eatable would be welcome, and we were also thirsty. We were given a
small lading-can three parts full of hot gruel and a thick crust of
bread. The latter we were _quite_ hungry enough to eat, but when we
tasted the gruel it was _perfectly saltless_. A salt-box on the table,
into which many fingers had been dipped was brought us; the old woman
said we were "lucky to get that." But we had no _spoons_; it was
impossible to mix the salt properly into the ocean of nauseous food. I
am fond of gruel, and in my hunger and thirst could easily have taken
it if fairly palatable. But I could only cast in a few grains of salt
and drink a little to moisten the dry bread; my companion could not
stomach it at all, and the old woman, being accustomed to workhouse
ways, had a little tea in her pocket, and got the kind attendant to pour
the gruel down the w.c. and infuse her tea with hot water from the bath
tap. We were then left locked in alone, at eight o'clock, when no more
tramps would be admitted. The bath-room, containing our clothes, was
locked; the closet was left unlocked; a pail was also given us for
sanitary purposes. We had no means of assuaging the thirst which grew
upon us as the night went on; for dry bread, even if washed down with
thin gruel, is very provocative of thirst. I no longer wonder that
tramps beg twopence for a drink and make for the nearest public-house.
Left alone, we could hear outside the voice of the porter. I wondered if
he expected us to open a window. However, we stayed quiet, but had one
"scare." Suddenly a door at the end of the room was unlocked, and a
_man_ put his head in! He only asked, "how many?" and when we answered
"Three," he locked us in speedily. I could not, however, get to sleep
for a long time after finding that a _man_ had the key of our room,
especially as our elderly friend had told us of another workhouse where
the portress left the care of the female tramps to a man almost
entirely, and she added that "he did what he liked with them." I
expressed horror at such a state of things, but she assured me it was
so, and warned us not on any account to go into that workhouse. She
said, however, that it was some time since she had been there, and
"things might be different."

At last my companions slept the sleep of weariness. Sounds outside had
ceased; within, my friend coughed and the old woman groaned and shifted.
The trees waved without the windows, and two bugs slowly crawled on the
ceiling. I measured distances with my eye. They would not drop on _my_
bed! I pity the tramp who has only two blankets on a wire mattress. I
could not get thoroughly warm with four; some part of me seemed
constantly to feel the cold wire meshes through the thin covering. The
floor would be preferable. I have been told since at one workhouse, with
considerable surprise on the part of the portress, that the male tramps
prefer the floor to their plank bed! I do not wonder. The pillow was too
dirty to put one's face on, so I covered it with a blanket.

In this workhouse the management was lax--too lax to ensure cleanliness;
clothes and towels appeared to have been used, and blankets were
probably unstoved. As our own clothes are taken away and locked up, it
would be impossible for a tramp to wash any article of personal
clothing. Consequently she must tramp on, growing day by day more dirty,
in spite of baths, especially as _really dirty_ work is required of her
in return for "board and lodging!" There was no comb for the hair;
fortunately we had one in our pocket.

In the morning we were roused about seven o'clock and told to dress. Our
clothes were in the bath-room. We had the luxury of a morning wash. Our
garments had been left on the floor just as we took them off, and so
were our companion's, which looked decidedly unclean by daylight. The
kind attendant said she had to go, but waited till I had told the
portress (who arrived to set us our task) the conduct of the man at the
gate, and I claimed her protection, as I should have to pass him when
going out. Both exclaimed when I told his words, and one said, "Plenty
of cups of tea I expect he's given, the villain!" The portress assured
me she would watch me out, and that I need not fear him, as he daren't
touch me when she was there, and she said that after I had gone she
should report him.

Before this happened, however, we had our breakfast given us, which was
exactly a repetition of supper--saltless gruel and dry bread. We ate as
much as we could and were very thirsty. I had drunk some water with my
hand from the bath-room tap as soon as I got up. We put what bread we
could not eat into our pocket as a supply for the day, and were told to
empty the rest of our gruel down the w.c. It thus disappeared; but what
waste! A mug of coffee or tea would at least have washed down the dry
bread; or a quarter of the quantity of gruel, properly made, would have
been acceptable, with a mug of cold water for a proper drink.

The following list shows how we had spent our money:--

  Lodging, first night       6_d_.
  Lodging, second night      8_d_.
  Loaf                       2-1/2_d_.
  Two cobs                   3_d_.
  1 brown cob                1-1/2_d_.
  1 tea-cake                 1_d_.
  1/4-lb. butter             4_d_.
  1/4-lb. cheese             2_d_.
  In hand                    2_d_.

We ate the cheese for dinner for two days. I do not think we could have
kept our strength up for five days' tramping if it had not been for the
plasmon mixed with our sugar, which we ate on our bread and butter or
drank in our tea. My companion was very exhausted before evening this
day, and her cough troubled her a great deal. Another week of this life
would have made us both thoroughly ill. It is not only exposure and poor
food, but _anxiety_ as to the next night's experience, that tells on the
mind. Yet we knew that in two nights we should be no longer friendless.
Pity the poor woman who has _no home_. Is it not almost inevitable that
she should sink?

As we had now no food, we were glad to appropriate the remainder of our
workhouse bread, putting it in our pocket. We should have nothing else
that day, for the portress told us when we had done our work we might
go out at eleven o'clock. We thanked her--we had expected to stay
another night, and perhaps pick oakum, but we should have almost starved
on the food, as our sugar was in our bundle, so we were relieved to find
we had only to clean the tramp ward and go. We were told to "_sweep_ the
ward and make all clean." We did not think of _scrubbing_ the room,
which, as it was large, would have been a big task, but the portress
afterwards scolded us for not doing so. It was not dirty, so we swept
it, cleaned the taps, bath, and wash-basins, washed up the pots, dusted,
and, having made all tidy (except that we could find nowhere to empty
our dust-pan, unless it was the w.c.), we waited for release. We sat on
the form, and when the portress came in and saw us sitting down she
spoke to us very sharply. I suppose she did not like to see us idle. We
told her we would have scrubbed the floor if we had known we ought; but
we did not know, as we had never been in a workhouse before. She was
somewhat mollified, and let us off with a mild scolding some time before
eleven o'clock. She stood at the door and watched us receive our things
from the male pauper and leave the gates. He hastened to give us them
without a word, and also restored our two pennies. We said farewell at
the end of the lane to our companion, who was going the opposite way,
and commenced our tramp. We expected the next workhouse to be about
four miles away, in a town which we knew lay between us and our final
destination. But it turned out that the Union we were leaving and the
Union on the outskirts of the town to which we were ultimately bound
absorbed all the paupers from the intervening places, though of
considerable size. So we had really a very long walk before us; but, not
knowing this, as it was very gloomy and inclined to rain heavily, we
thought we had better seek shelter. We bought some butter with a penny,
and walked on to find a quiet place to eat something, as it was some
hours since we had had breakfast. We could not find anywhere but a damp
stone wall in some fields. There we _feasted_ on bread and butter and
plasmon sugar; but we were _very_ thirsty, so we took courage to beg, as
we had a screw of tea left. I went to a cottage and asked for a drink.
There was a boiling kettle on the fire, so I said we had a little tea of
our own, and the kind young woman, who had a blind old father, made us
tea and sweetened and milked it for us. I knew the town to which we were
going well, so we talked about the changes in it of recent years, as I
was "returning to friends there." She did not know the distance of the
next workhouse, but told us about the intervening towns. We left
refreshed, but it was beginning to rain, so we walked on, looking for
shelter. We saw a church surrounded by trees standing all by itself,
with a large graveyard. This looked a hopeful spot, so we made for it,
though it was rather out of our route. There we stayed an hour or two,
sheltering under trees or in the porch, and eating the last of our
workhouse bread about one o'clock. Part of the time it rained very
heavily, and though it was summer time we felt cold. At last the rain
moderated, and we set off for a steady tramp.


The miles between us and our destination seemed to _grow_ as walked. The
replies we got varied from four miles to eight; we discovered that some
were directing us _back_ to the union we had come from. I do not know
what the distance really was, but if we added up the distances we were
told it must have been nearly eleven miles. I believe we went
considerably out of our direct route. We had come about two miles, and
after we began to tramp in earnest we only rested a short time once or
twice to dodge heavy showers. We were walking from about two o'clock
till nearly eight before we reached the workhouse, but my companion grew
so weary she could only crawl, and I pushed her up the long, long hills.
We seemed to go up and up, and always a long hill in front. We _had_ to
give up trying to dodge the rain, and walk steadily on through the wet,
which grew worse and worse. We were very wet indeed before we reached
the shelter of the Union, and only just in time to be admitted. I feared
we should have been left shelterless. The workhouse was in such an
out-of-the-way place that it was hard to find; we thought we should
never find it, and grew very discouraged, but could not walk faster. To
ease our minds we told each other the story of our lives from childhood,
taking turns as we got tired and out of breath. We had now had no food
for nearly seven hours. At last we came to a dirty lane, by the side of
a high stone embankment, leading to big gates. We plunged down it; our
feet by this time were soaked and our shawls nearly wet through. With
some difficulty we found the lodge, a large, substantial stone building,
with an office occupied by a single man. He looked more respectable than
the other one, and asked us the questions in a straightforward
matter-of-fact way that was a pleasant contrast. He told us to sit on a
seat and wait for the portress. We sat for quite a quarter of an hour in
our wet things. Two young men, who seemed to be related to officials and
familiar with the place, passed through; otherwise we were quite alone
with this man, and he began to talk in a familiar and most disagreeable
manner. He asked me where my husband was, and insinuated that I had been
leading an immoral life. He said a married woman needed to "sleep warm."
He told us he was a pauper and lived there, asked how we liked his
house, said if there was one woman "he often shared his breakfast with
her." He produced a screw of salt and gave it us as a favour. Being
_two_ we were protection to each other, and passed off the conversation
as well as we could, telling him that we were not of _that_ sort, that
we had only taken shelter, and were going to friends. He said he hoped
he should see us in the morning. _We_ hoped not. He told us the portress
often kept a single woman more than two days to do her cleaning, giving
her rather better food. We dared not offend him. What might happen to a
single woman alone with such men?

At last, to our great relief, the portress came. She was comparatively
young, dressed somewhat like a nurse, very quick and sharp, and
evidently she had many other duties, and this part of her work was
distasteful to her. She was very cross at being summoned so late, and
said at first we ought not to have been admitted, as it was past eight;
but the man told her we had been waiting. We should have been glad of a
little of "the milk of human kindness" in our wet, weary condition, but
we were "only tramps," and were ordered about sharply. She told us to
follow her to the bath-room. It was a stone-floored room at the end of a
stone passage, from which led out four stone cells. Each contained a
bed, and was imperfectly lighted by a square aperture, high up, leading
into the passage. The walls were stone, spotlessly whitewashed. She
asked what we had got in our pockets, but did not search us. She took
our bundles and asked how much money we had, but did not take our
solitary penny. She insisted on a bath, and watched us undress, telling
us to leave our clothes, and giving us nightdresses doubtfully clean.
(The necks were _dirty_.) We hurried for fear of offending her. She
asked if we would sleep together or alone, as the beds were double. We
were glad to be together. My friend said she should have cried all night
if shut up alone in one of these prison-like cells. I was ready first,
and was given four blankets. To walk on a stone floor straight from a
warm bath in a thin cotton night-dress and make your bed is not very
nice. But I have since seen nightdresses made of rough bathing flannel,
and as broad as they are short! I suppose "anything is good enough for
tramps." It is hardly realised that respectable destitute women might
have no other shelter. The conditions are such that probably few do
apply. The accommodation at this workhouse, which appeared to be a large
one--four cells, with beds for a possible eight--showed that few
probably applied at that Union, while the porter said that often there
was only one. Yet there are many destitute women, as Homes and Shelters
show. Are they forced into the common lodging-houses--or worse? The bed
was a most peculiar affair. In addition to the wire mattress it had a
_wire_ pillow, and _no other_. This was a flat, woven wire _shelf_
raised a few inches above the mattress. Its discomforts were still to be

I made this curious bed as well as I could, spreading one blanket over
it and the pillow, doubling another for our backs, and reserving two to
cover us. We got into bed and were given the regulation mugs of porridge
and thick slices of dry bread. We were then locked in and left. We had
one spoon between us. There was no light except from the aperture, but
it was not yet dark. We were prisoners indeed, and a plank bed would
have been more comfortable. The pillow was a cruel invention--it was
impossible to place one's head upon it; the edge cut the back of your
neck, even through a blanket, and the rough meshes hurt your face. We
could not spare a blanket to double up for a pillow, we were cold as it
was; the blankets underneath barely kept off the rough wires, and two
were little enough to cover in a cold stone cell. The pillow was a
torture; we finally put our heads _under_ it and lay flat, screwed up
into any position that gave ease. Over our heads was a framed motto and
verses about "Jesus only." I wondered whether _He_ would think this the
proper lodging for a "stranger!" We were thirsty and hungry--but alas!
when we tasted our gruel, our _only_ drink, it was sweetened to
nauseousness with treacle! It was, indeed, to all intents and purposes
"treacle posset." Anyone with a grain of common sense can realise the
effect on the system of taking this sort of stuff immediately after a
warm bath, following a wetting. In fact, the diet produced a peculiarly
loosened feeling in the skin, as if all the pores were open, which made
it very hard to work. I usually perspire little, but next morning,
while working, I was again and again in a profuse perspiration, and this
produced a feeling of weakness, and culminated in a sharp attack of
diarrhoea--fortunately after I had reached my friends. Anyone who
thinks will see that this would only be a natural result of the diet
with many people. We were terribly hungry, and ate our bread; this made
us still more thirsty, but there was nothing to quench our thirst but
the thick, sweet gruel--very good in quality, but most nauseous. The
thirst we suffered from that night can be imagined better than
described. "I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink," kept running through
my mind whenever I turned my eyes up to spell out the words of "Jesus
only." This was our worst night; we were very weary, but could get no
ease; we fell into restless slumber, to wake again and again from thirst
or cold or some pain caused by our uneasy couch. Long before we were
called we were wide awake, longing to get up. About six o'clock,
probably, our cell door was unlocked, and we were told to dress. We
hastened to the bath-room and drank eagerly at the tap. Our wet clothes
were lying just where we left them. They were still quite damp and our
boots wet through. Had we known, we might have left them in a rather
different position, on some hot pipes; but we thought they were sure to
be stoved, as the portress knew we had taken shelter from pouring rain.
We had told her we could not reach our friends in the neighbouring town
because of it. There was nothing to do but to put our wet things on and
set to work. A woman brought us a pair of men's boots, very damp, with
blacking and brushes, and told us to polish them for her before we had
our breakfast. We did this, which doubtless was extra, and were rewarded
with a mug of her coffee, with one mug of the same sort of gruel, and
two thick slices of bread. The coffee was such a treat. I have made some
enquiries since, and have found at least one workhouse where the gruel
is replaced by coffee, though this is contrary to regulations. The
reason given is that the tramps never eat the gruel, and frequently
_throw_ it about, and even at one another, making a great mess! Also,
being made in summer overnight, it turns sour, and "is not fit for
pigs!" Is any comment needed? How many tons of good oatmeal must be
wasted every year! It is _absolute_ waste, as we were again told to
empty our mugs of the night before down the w.c., and put them away
clean. So not even the pigs have the benefit of it!

There was no room to sit in, or seat, except a short form, just big
enough for two, in the bath-room. No table--and mugs and bread were put
on a window-sill. We sat on the form by a window, a few inches open,
that looked on some shrubs, and as we sat there a man--a pauper--passed
and stared in. We moved away. He went, and we again took our seats, but
presently he returned and stood staring in. We had fled to either side
when we saw him coming, but presently my friend _peeped_, and there he
was, standing staring in. She gave him some sharp words and ordered him
off; he disappeared, but evidently this was a means of communication
between men and women. The window, however, would not open wide, but
conversation would be easy. Presently the portress came, very brisk and
sharp. I was told to clean and stone a larder some distance off. We had
already done a little work while waiting. Knowing we should have to do
it, we folded our blankets, washed our pots, and cleaned the bath-room
taps. All was made clean and tidy when the portress came, but we were
not to get off so easily! My friend was told to stone the place
completely through, including the three cells not used (which looked
clean), to black-lead the hot-water pipes all down the passage, dust
everywhere thoroughly, and clean the step. Meanwhile I had first to do
some shelves and then stone a spiral stair and the floor of a small
larder, and then go on to other work. I think, probably, the work we did
would have taken the ordinary tramp a full day, and earned another bed
and breakfast. But we did not dawdle, but worked steadily on, and
pleased the portress so much that eventually she said we might go that
day. We could not finish our task by eleven, so she kindly gave us our
dinner and let us go after it, saying we should have time to reach our
friends. Evidently she saw we were above the usual tramp, and our work
pleased her. She asked us a few questions, but our answers, that we were
tramping from L---- to B----, having come short of money before we
reached our friends, satisfied her, being true. This portress came
backwards and forwards pretty frequently, and so did our acquaintance of
the previous night, who seemed to have numerous errands by the larder
where I was cleaning, but I neither looked at him nor spoke, so he did
not make any advances. It would have been easy to "carry on" with him in
the intervals between the times when the portress came. The woman pauper
who brought in the boots was, however, to be seen within call, in a room
near by, the door of which was open, so I felt protected. She was a
decent woman and kind to us. She said she "didn't do it for everyone,"
when she afterwards brought us part of her dinner. After finishing the
larder, the portress set me to turn out bundles, which were stacked in
compartments on either side of a long, high room, right up to the
ceiling. I had a high pair of steps, and was to take each bundle out and
dust it with a brush, sweep out the compartment, and replace it. Each
parcel, as a rule, was wrapped in rough linen wrappings, but a
considerable number of things were unparcelled, and some dirty and
foul-smelling--probably they had been only stoved and put away. All the
bundles which were not tightly tied were more or less moth-eaten. It
made my heart ache to see these clothes in such a state, remembering
that they were all that some poor people possessed. I had often noticed
the lack of care with regard to destitute women's clothing, having
fetched girls out of the workhouse whose clothes were so crumpled, even
when decent, that everyone stared at them--and had received from poor
people many complaints that their clothes were lost or spoiled. After
seeing the state of this store-room I can well believe it. Behind the
bundles were cobwebs simply festooned with moths. They had attacked the
bundles at every opening. The coverings kept them off, but some bundles
were rotten, and one sad thing was that if a bundle was rather more
respectable, and contained more clothes, it was not so tightly tied, and
was, therefore, more open to attack. Besides, not a few things were
quite unprotected and swarming. The place was heated with pipes. A
better breeding ground for moths could hardly be imagined. Yet a simple
expedient would have prevented _most_ of the mischief. If each bundle
had been provided with _two_ wrappers, and the second one tied over the
openings of the first, the moths could not get in. Besides this,
however, the whole should be examined more frequently. I turned out more
than a hundred bundles, and was then told to simply _dust down the
front_ of the remainder. Doubtless this had been done often, and all
_looked_ right. I showed the portress, however, so many moth-eaten
bundles that she said she must have them all stoved. She came and said
I might stone the floor and finish, my companion having finished about
the same time. We had rough aprons given us to work in; but I should
like to mention, as a subject for thought, that all this rough, hard
work naturally made our clothes dirty, and would soon wear them out. We
were, after only two nights in workhouse tramp wards, far more dirty and
disreputable in our clothing than when we left home. The sleeves of my
blouse were very dirty by this time. Yet in the workhouse, as bundles
are confiscated, there is no chance to change, and no opportunity to
wash a garment. One is "between Scylla and Charybdis!" In the common
lodging-house you can wash your clothes, but not yourself; in the
workhouse tramp ward you can wash yourself, but not your clothes!

We had bread and cheese given us for dinner; we had our bundles given
us, and mashed our last tea with water from the bath tap. The kind woman
brought us part of her dinner, telling us to return the plate and not
let the portress see it. We then got leave to go. The portress was in
the lodge, and we passed out without remark.

Once more we were free!--but very exhausted. We felt completely tired
out, and struggling up the dirty lane we found a reservoir and some
public seats. We took turns to rest, lying on a seat, for some men were
about, and kept walking backwards and forwards and laughing at us. The
ground was damp, so it was no use seeking a more sheltered place. We
rested an hour or two, till we began to grow cold.


We knew that three good miles lay between us and our friends, but we
were also a day beforehand, as we had expected to be detained two
nights. What to do for this last night considerably exercised us! Should
we give in, and go to our friends a day earlier? This would be to lose
an opportunity for research which might be long in recurring. Should we
go to another workhouse? This would be to risk detention over Sunday.
Should we try a night in the open? I knew the neighbourhood fairly well,
and it might be possible to find shelter; but the weather was gloomy and
damp, and it would hardly do to risk making an appearance in a police
court when I had been announced to speak publicly on Sunday evening. So
we determined to walk on, and, if we could not find any other
alternative, to pawn our spare shawl for a night's lodging. Only we
neither of us cared to face a common lodging-house; it would be hardly
fair to our friends to arrive at civilisation straight from such
surroundings. At any rate, we had the rest of the day for experiment,
some workhouse bread, some plasmon sugar, and _one penny_! We went to a
park, and spent part of the afternoon sheltering from rain, and then
pushed on for the town. I passed the houses of friends who would have
stared indeed to see me, but probably no one would have recognised us.
It got near tea-time, and we tried again and again to spend our last
penny on _butter_. No one would sell us a pennyworth, so finally we went
to the third-class waiting-room of the station and ate our bread with
plasmon sugar. Here our problem was solved! We saw by a notice that
there was a "Woman's Shelter": beds 3_d_., 4_d_. and 5_d_. Just the
thing! Here was a new and final experiment: we should not have to give
in! So we went out to search for the shelter and a pawnbroker's, and
easily found both; we changed our best shawl for the poor one that
covered our bundle, but would do as a substitute, and pawned the
shawl--which had cost 8_s_. 11_d_.--for 2_s_. 6_d_. We were then
"passing rich"! We enquired at the shelter, which had only just been
re-opened after the small-pox epidemic, and after engaging two fourpenny
beds we went to a coffee-house near by, and indulged in the luxury of
two half-pints of tea; my friend had some sausage and I a tea-cake
_buttered_. After this welcome meal we returned to the shelter. It was a
great relief to find ourselves once more in a decent place, and with
women only. I cannot too highly commend this shelter as being _just the
thing needed for the class it provides for_.[83] It was not a _charity_,
though doubtless not wholly self-supporting. We paid for what we
received, and were free to come and go unquestioned. Particulars were
entered similar to those in the workhouse (in addition, we were asked
the address to which we were going). Women could enter up to eleven at
night. The place was a converted mill. The basement consisted of a
large, comfortable kitchen, with a large stove, benches and tables and
shelves. There was also a well-appointed lavatory, deep basins, plenty
of hot and cold water, a wringing machine for clothes, and baths could
be had _free_. We easily begged a bucket to wash our tired feet. There
was _everything necessary for personal cleanliness_, and in the presence
of women only (especially as only one or two were in the lavatory),
changes of clothing could be made. The women were friendly and cheerful,
and appeared to appreciate their privileges. There was no _restraint_,
but a pleasant, elderly woman in charge sat in the kitchen and prevented
foul talk and brawls. Upstairs was a large, pleasant hall, with a piano.
Some women of a better class apparently preferred this, and sat working.
This also was easily supervised, without its being noticeable, by the
presence of someone in the adjoining office. We could go to bed at nine,
ten, or eleven, but not between, so that the bedrooms were only
disturbed at these hours. Three stories above contained bedrooms--large,
airy rooms, with beds at graded prices. The w.c.'s were in a yard out of
an upper story, and were clean and well flushed.

Altogether I was most thankful for this opportunity of seeing just the
sort of provision for migrating women which should exist in _every_
town. Even if some of the inmates were immoral, they were in no
temptation at least while there. One woman told another she knew she had
given way to drink, but was glad to get back to "the old place," and
there appeared to be some who lived there who tried as much as they
could to exercise a good influence. There was a "Sankey" on the piano,
and I played a few tunes as well as I could without spectacles; this was
warmly appreciated, and several joined in singing, my stumbling playing
suiting my condition of "having seen better days!" Some young ladies
passed through and said, "Who is she?" but made no further remark.

We went to bed at nine. My bed was clean, but my companion's was dirty,
and a very dirty woman slept next, who had had drink, and got out
frequently in the night, and _sat_ on my friend's bed. She saw some
vermin, but I saw none, and slept very fairly well. People came in at
ten, and at eleven a woman and some children came in, and settled down
rather noisily. Room-mates got out of bed at intervals, and early trams
ran outside, and some got up early, but on the whole we had a good night
compared with other experiences. The cleanliness of the floor left
something to be desired, and we were told to make our beds before we
went downstairs; so they would be left for the next comer, clean or
unclean. We heard several expressions of thankfulness for the place,
only one woman said, "They only did what they were paid for, and she
didn't see that it was much charity." We found our way downstairs for a
wash, and after sitting a little while in the kitchen we went to the
neighbouring coffee tavern for breakfast. After this we had still 1_s_.
1-1/2_d_. left out of our 2_s_. 6_d_., and some spare provision,
including some workhouse bread. The remainder we decided to spend on
making ourselves _respectable_. It may be thought that this would be
difficult, but by a little contrivance we managed to make ourselves
sufficiently presentable to elude scrutiny, and to pass for shabby
tourists on a "walking expedition." Our luggage had been sent on, and
supplies of money awaited us. Therefore the only problem was that of
changing from "tramps" to "tourists." Bad weather would account for
boots and untidiness. We found a cheap shop, and bought a hat and
trimmings, tie, and belt for a shilling. My friend put on a more
respectable underskirt of mine over her linsey petticoat. Her hat and
shawl would pass muster. My new hat, tie, and belt "converted" me into a
lady! We went to a park to trim the hat with pins, which we bought for a
halfpenny. There we remained till afternoon, dining on our remaining
bread, except what we gave to the swans. Immediately overlooking this
park friends lived who little guessed that one who was to visit them
shortly was dining under their windows as a "destitute woman!" Our
destitution was, however, at an end, and with hearts full of
thankfulness at the successful issue of our research expedition we found
our way at the appointed time to the house where we were expected by a
friend, who thought she quite understood our desire for a speedy change
of apparel after our "walking tour!"

These latter experiences of eluding questions caused us some amusement.
But _supposing_ we had had no friends, no cheerful welcome, no waiting
supplies. What could we have done? Before us would have stretched, in
grey monotony, the life of poverty, a possible search for uncertain
work, a gradual pawning of every available article for food, more
workhouses, more common lodging-houses. The last article gone,
cleanliness lost, clothing dilapidated or dirty--what then?

To wander helpless and homeless, driven to tramp, or to descend still
farther into vice. From such a life "_facilis descensus Averni_."[84]


[82] See Appendix VII.

[83] See p. 30.

[84] See Appendix VII.



Having, with a friend, spent five days and nights of the summer of 1903
as a "Tramp among Tramps,"[86] I was led to pursue social investigation
a little further. The reasons were many. It was suggested in several
quarters that our experiences might be exceptional, that they were the
result of specimening isolated workhouses, that mismanagement in detail
was possible. Abnormal conditions might prevail by accident. It might
also be that in the larger centres of population cleanliness and food
were both better managed. Also the time of year at which we went was one
when the tramp ward was empty; we did not come in contact with others
and learn their character. It was possible that conditions which pressed
hardly on us were easy to them. It seemed very desirable to ascertain
exactly the winter circumstances in some large centre of population.
There were reasons which made the one we chose exceptionally interesting
as an experiment. The story of our Tramp was a matter of public
knowledge; the personal assurance of Guardians had been given that the
evils mentioned did not exist. They had examined and convinced
themselves that, as regards the destitute poor, their workhouses were
free from blame. Not only so, but the workhouse tramp ward chosen had
been frequently mentioned in the public Press. A large "sleeping-out"
problem existed in the town. It was suggested that it might be desirable
to relax regulations so as to make it easier for destitute persons
staying there to go out in the morning to look for work. "It was thought
that in this way men who shunned the casual ward might be induced to
enter it in preference to sleeping out." So said the public Press. The
experiment of slightly relaxing the rules was tried. Very few availed
themselves of it.[87] The Guardians also opened the wards early, but
very few men came. The applicants were mostly men "tramping in search of
work," but all who applied had slept in the neighbourhood the night

The Clerk added that "the experiment made it clear to the public that
there was no necessity for the men to sleep in the brickfields."

Here evidently was an exceptional Board of Guardians, bent on meeting a
public need. With such a desire on their part, probably ideal conditions
would prevail. An ungrateful vagrant class, "men in search of work, but
who don't want to find it," nevertheless refused to flock to the
provision made for them. They obstinately preferred brickfields after
six weeks of relaxed conditions! Was it ignorance or prejudice on their
part? Or was it possible that the Guardians were mistaken in thinking
provision had been made? One thing only could test the matter: another
descent from respectability, and identification with the claimants for
relief. One night as a tramp might give insight into real conditions. It
is so surprisingly easy to become a tramp that it is strange it has not
occurred to Guardians personally to test conditions by sampling each
other's workhouses, or at any rate by sending into them some trustworthy

So my friend and I started on a well-planned tour of investigation. We
dropped out of civilisation in a town far enough away to tramp from, and
set our faces towards a place where friends were ready to receive us. We
told no lies. We were at 5.30 P.M. so penniless that through a partial
miscalculation we had only 3-1/2_d_. between us (besides two pennies
husbanded for after needs) wherewith to procure the substantial tea with
which we wished to fortify ourselves! Consequently we could not afford
2_d_. for a cup of tea, and our first surprise was to find that a 1_d_.
cup was hard to procure. It was only by searching in a poor
neighbourhood that our evident poverty procured us, as a favour, a cup
of tea each and four slices of bread and butter for our 3-1/2_d_. The
usual price was 2_d_. for a "pot of tea" in a small, poor, but clean,
shop, and bread and butter was 1/2_d_. a slice. When I asked the woman
to give us 1-1/2_d_. worth instead of a twopenny plateful, she gave us
two extra slices "free gratis for nothing." Evidently we were objects of
charity, poor and respectable, and we appreciated her kindness. But,
considering the real price of food, we paid for what we had. Cheap cups
of tea are a preventative of evils. Thirsty men and women must drink.
Surely a penny cup of tea easy to be obtained might keep many out of the
public-house. Of course, we were ignorant of where to go to obtain cheap
food, but so, maybe, are other wanderers who are not habitués.

Refreshed, but not satisfied, we began to search for S---- Street. No
one knew where it was, so we had to resort to the usual refuge and
"asked a bobby." He knew, and knew why we asked! After a moderate walk
through a very poor neighbourhood we easily identified the place by a
row of six men propped up against a wall waiting, and one woman hovering
near. We found, somewhat to our surprise, that the hour of admission was
one hour later than that which prevailed in the towns we knew. Seven
o'clock is late on a winter's night, and it may be you will suffer from
cold, snow, or sleet if you arrive as a stranger at six o'clock.
Besides, what about early admission? However, no one was being let in,
so we took a short walk and returned. All the loiterers had disappeared
inside, so we followed. We were, however, only admitted to further
waiting under cover in a curious ruinous shed. It was a very cold place,
the roof would let water in through holes in the skylight. It was,
however, a fine night, and only moderately cold. So we joined two women,
and saw the men, about fifteen by that time, arranged in a row against
the opposite wall. Two women were sitting on a step and one on the
handle of a wheelbarrow. We sat on the edge of a plank with our backs
against a hole that gave a view of a place we found afterwards was under
the tramp ward, apparently used for bricks. A married woman, somewhat
respectably dressed, came in with her husband. One by one men dropped
in. The women spoke little, but a buzz of conversation went on among the
men, whose numbers grew to over thirty. Two facts struck me. Hardly any
one was old, most were in the prime of life, and, with a few exceptions,
if you had met them in the street, you would say they were ordinary
working men. Some few, however, were evidently of the "moucher" type. We
waited, growing cold, for a full half-hour in this draughty place, and
then, as the hands of the office clock pointed to seven, we women were
told to crowd into a corner near the office window, "married people
first," and an official in uniform proceeded to take particulars.
Husband and wife, in the case of three couples, had to give name, age,
where they came from, and destination and occupation. Then began, as
each candidate came forward, a process which I can only describe as
"bully-ragging." If the unfortunate applicant stated the facts in a meek
and ordinary voice, this official asked, "Have you been here before?" If
the reply was "No," "See that you don't come here again," "Sponging upon
the rates!" and various other expressions not to be repeated were used
in a hectoring tone of voice. If the reply was "Yes," he became
threatening and violent in language. One married woman ventured the
reply, "Not since before Christmas." He flew out upon her and used
insulting language. This preyed on her mind so that in the course of the
next two days she frequently said to us, "I only said 'not since before
Christmas,' and he said I sauced him." One poor woman with a bandaged
head was summarily dismissed. "Get out with you, you ----!" "Off with
you ---- sharp!" Threats of five days' detainment or of "gaol" for
"impudence" were used, and he announced as a clincher, "All you women
will have to stay in two nights and pick three pounds of oakum."

My heart sank low. These must be desperate, well-known characters with
whom I was to associate, the very scum of the earth, to be treated so.
Even this habitual imposture hardly could justify the official's
language. He was evidently a "lion in the path," and not muzzled! But
_I_ was a decent, married woman rejoining my husband who was working in
a neighbouring town, too far from him to reach him that night, without
means to procure a bed, and seeking shelter simply in order not to be
on the streets at night, and to proceed as soon as permitted. I gave
particulars which were true, and in answer to the question, "Have you
been here before?" could truthfully say "No." But this was not enough.
"And what are you doing here?" "I am going on to my husband." "You've no
business to be here imposing on the rates. Do you know I could give you
three months for it? I've a good mind to send you off and make you tramp
to him to-night." I was so dumbfoundered, my friend says, I replied, "I
wish you would!" Then he proceeded to insinuate I was a woman of bad
character; my eyes fell and my face flushed, and I suppose gave colour
to his statement. Reply or justification was worse than useless. I grew
so confused I could not state correctly the number of my children, but
said I had "one or two." Evidently a bad character, leaving children up
and down the country. "See you don't come here again. I shall know your
face, and it will be worse for you if you do." I earnestly replied, "I
won't," and was allowed to pass on. I waited at the top of a flight of
stairs while he "bully-ragged" my friend for going about the country
with such a bad character. He made her cheeks flush by insinuating she
was no better. She said when she joined me, piteously, "Do I look like a

We entered together the tramp ward, a barn-like room, furnished with a
wooden table and three forms. We found afterwards that the whole ward
was the top storey of a converted mill. It was skylighted and divided
into several rooms--a very large dormitory, a bath room with w.c.'s, an
attendant's private sitting-room and store-room, and the day-room we
entered, which was approached by a flight of stairs from outside. The
room was very little heated, apparently by a steam pipe overhead. There
was no fire, and a very cold draught from outside, when, as frequently,
the door was left ajar. The table was so placed that the draught came to
those who sat there. We were told to hang up our shawls and sit down. A
very stately officer in spotless uniform received us and marshalled us
like soldiers, peremptorily, but not unkindly. We sat at table and were
given brilliantly polished tin mugs and spoons. Then each of us was
helped to gruel, very good in quality, almost thick enough to be called
porridge, and sufficiently salted not to be tasteless. A salt-box was on
the table. We each received also a thick slice of good bread. We fell to
with appetite after our slender tea and long waiting. Gruel was not so
bad--for the first time! The table and floor were spotlessly clean. So
far good. I did not at the time reflect that it is usually supposed to
be bad to have a bath immediately after a meal.[88] As soon as we had
finished eating it was, "Now, women, come to the bath, two of you." My
friend and I eagerly embraced the first turn, and were soon marshalled
each to a corner of the bath-room, searched (for pipe and tobacco!), and
told to get into the six inches of warm water, which a notice told us we
were entitled to, and carefully asked if it was too hot or cold. We had,
however, only soft soap to wash ourselves with, and were told to wash
our hair. This we had previously escaped. My friend had very long hair,
needing careful drying, and the prospect of wet heads was not cheering.
If you wish to frequent tramp wards it is desirable to have short hair.
However, there was no help for it, so with the officer standing by to
hand a clean towel and enforce haste--"Come, hurry up, women"--I hastily
bathed, dried my hair as well as I could, and got into the garments
provided--a modern substitute for a hair shirt--a coarse garment of dark
blue bathing flannel of most peculiar shape. It just covered the elbows
and barely came to the knees! The neck, of white calico, was dirty. I
had to perform an act of self-sacrifice in leaving my friend the
cleanest. Blankets and nightgowns are stoved every night, rendering
insect pests impossible, but, unless I am greatly mistaken, they are not
washed often. My friend, who afterwards folded the blankets, found they
made her hands filthy. It is not very nice to think of sleeping thus,
but it would, of course, be impossible to wash the blankets every time.
But it might be possible to give a person a clean nightgown, and the
same one for two consecutive nights. As it was, we knew the second night
we must be wearing some one else's. They were lumped and sent to be
stoved. With regard to the blankets, every night the regulations have to
be relaxed for one or two women unfit to be bathed. These sleep in their
own clothes. They cannot be clean. But in the morning all the blankets
were also lumped and stoved. Consequently, the next night you might be
sleeping in your neighbour's blankets. Two women on one night slept
without changing or bath. It would seem to be a simple precaution to
wash the blankets from these beds, and thus in rotation wash all.
However, these delights were yet to come. We folded our clothes and were
marched through the sitting-room in our scanty costume to fetch from the
store-room pillows and blankets. An American leather pillow, very low,
and a straw pillow with a white cover were allowed us, but the second
night only the American leather one was allowed. This was much too low
for comfort. One woman begged a white one, but we were stopped from
asking. It was only for women who had just washed their heads! It was a
special favour to her.

We were then marched into the large dormitory and told to let down a
wide board propped against the wall, one for each. A row of sleeping
women occupied similar "plank beds." There were a few straw beds on
bedsteads, but only for sick folks, and also some children's cribs. A
gas jet or two burned all night and revealed the gaunt rafters and
skylights. Now to test the delights of a plank bed! We were told to make
it "one blanket below and two above." So we meekly did so, and the
officer retired.

Now began, about 7.30, a night which I can only describe as one of
long-drawn-out misery.

The human body is not made to accommodate itself easily to a plank bed
even with "three good blankets." If you lie on your back your hips are
in an unnatural position unless the knees are raised; then the air comes
under the narrow doubled blankets. Try first one side and then another.
Your weight rests on hip and shoulder squeezed into flatness and
speedily sore. Add wet hair, a low pillow very hard, a garment that left
arms and legs uncovered and pricked you all over, and conditions are not
easy for sleep. Double a blanket under you four-fold, get another round
you, and place the third on top double. This is more tolerable, but
still cold. My back was sore after three nights in a soft bed. Do not
imagine either that we slept more uneasily than others. Everyone
complained of their hard couches, though some said even they were
preferable to wire mattresses, on which you "couldn't get warm." A
simple expedient would provide an efficient remedy. If a strong hammock
material was fastened in a frame bedstead by eyelets on pegs, this could
be removed and stoved, washed, if necessary, would give to the body,
and allow of easy sleep. But even on this uneasy couch sleep might have
been obtained but for a number of disturbances which made the night
prolonged torture. The end of the room was occupied by a large cistern.
At intervals, day and night, a flush of water was sent along a pipe for
sanitary reasons. A very good arrangement, but we happened to be at the
cistern end of the room. Anyone who knows how a cistern behaves can
imagine the peculiar noises that issued. It seemed possessed by a demon
bent on preventing sleep. It would s-s-siss for a few moments, then
gurgle, then hiss, then a rush would come, followed by a steady tap,
tap, tap that speedily became maddening. Water on the brain with a
vengeance! Wet hair and running water in combination! This proximity to
the cistern was, however, an accident carefully avoided the second
night, but several poor unfortunates would always have to suffer it. It
was, however, a minor evil compared with others. The beds were so close
they almost touched, quite unnecessarily, as the room was large, but so
we were ordered. Your neighbour breathed right in your face, and you had
all the twisting and turning of a sufferer on each side to add to your
own. Most of the women had bad colds, and you succumbed yourself under
the double influence of contagion and chilliness. Then your coughing and
sneezing added to the common misery. Only the women there for the second
night lay still--apparently, but not really, asleep. Later, I knew why:
sheer fatigue and exhaustion prevented restlessness. But all of us
newcomers turned and squirmed, some sighed and groaned; others gave vent
to exclamations of misery. "My God, what a hell hole of a place," said a
woman, roused from uneasy slumber for about the sixth time. Far the
worst thing of all, which made it a punishment fit for Tantalus, was the
interruption to slumber. Nominally, women could be admitted till 10
o'clock, but really, for one reason or another they were admitted till
past midnight, under protest. An officer was in charge, and in each case
her manner of procedure was as follows: She turned the handle of the
door with a loud noise, marched in the newcomer (after previous cistern
gurglings connected with bathing operations), ordered her in a loud tone
of voice to let down the plank bed. Down it came with a bang, startling
all sleepers. Then she administered some rebuke, mixed with orders, left
the new unfortunate, and shut the door sharply. One newcomer was a poor
old granny, very bad with rheumatism, whom she loudly accused of drink,
probably with truth. This old woman sighed, groaned, and moaned, "Oh!
deary me!" "Lord help us!" most of the night, and was in real pain. She
got out of bed twice with numerous sighs and groans, taking a quarter of
an hour at least each time. Bed after bed was let down and dragged
across the floor. A woman came in very late, could not settle, was moved
to a straw bed, was too frightened to sleep (perhaps _d.t._), finally
was allowed to go out in the middle of the night. No doubt the post of
this night watching officer was tiresome and onerous, but a little
thought might have brought about considerable improvement. If a number
of spare beds were placed ready overnight, and scoldings administered in
the day room, if doors were opened quietly, and orders given softly,
with some consideration for a room full of weary sisters, one would have
been thankful. As it was, people grew more and more restless; some one
was constantly wandering to the adjoining lavatory, or sitting up and
coughing or moving uneasily. It was nearly impossible to snatch more
than a few brief moments of restless slumber before, with early morning,
sheer weariness reduced us to quietude. Then at 5.30 we were roused by
the mandate, "Now then, women, all of you get up; be sharp now." A hasty
obedience, swift and unwavering, is enforced by several stern sanctions.
In the first place, before you lies a day of service, the conditions of
which can be made hard at will. Behind that is the possibility of being
detained four, or, if Sunday intervenes, five days, for "cheek" or
"impudence." No one could face such a prospect with equanimity. Yet for
very slight cause it was possible. We had an object lesson before us of
the tender mercies of officials. A poor woman, a silk weaver by trade,
who had been reduced to live by casual labour at charing or by selling
bootlaces, had entered the previous night. She was ignorant of the two
nights' detention, and had a cleaning place to go to. When she found she
was to be detained she begged and prayed to go, and the officer was
moved by her tears to take her to the matron and give her her liberty.
But this took time, and she reached her charing place too late. Work was
denied her, and she wandered about all day, and came back rather late to
claim her second night, having difficulty in re-finding the place, and
having nowhere to go. I have every reason to believe her story was true,
for she repeated it to us again and again, it fitted in with her
character and history, and she had no motive for deceiving us. But for
this offence of returning, after having asked off, she was condemned to
remain five days. Her story was not believed, though she begged with
tears to go out and seek work. One officer, indeed, spoke to almost all
in a most peremptory, and one might also add, insulting manner, casting
doubt on the truthfulness of what was told her. Reply was useless, as it
would only provoke penalty. She hurried people up and ordered them
about. One woman, an old hand, the second morning said, "Come, come, you
needn't be so knotty with us," but no one else ventured anything that
could be interpreted as disobedience or "impudence." She turned a deaf
ear to one poor, tired woman whose feet were swollen, and who wished to
remain another night, and tried her best to order poor old Granny out.
"You won't stay here," "You can walk right enough," "You won't come over
me with your tales." Fortunately for us, her régime was limited. We had
altogether dealings with three officers. One was careful and stately,
strict but kind, only not considerate in the matter of protecting our
sleep. This one was "knotty," and the third far more kind. Fortunately
her share of us fell at dinner time, but of that more anon.

I should remark that I felt considerable sympathy for these our task
mistresses. Even with a cosy sitting room, and stove, and sofa, it must
be an irksome and disagreeable task, and our "knotty" friend looked
weary. By the end of the time she had sufficiently differentiated us to
tell us before leaving "not to believe" the others. But I think she was
to a great extent harsh and wrong in her judgments; at any rate, the
assumption that all were liars was wrong. My friend and I are accustomed
to judge characters of this class, being engaged in Rescue work, and
having destitute women constantly in hand. You cannot live a whole two
nights and a day with women, under pressure of hard circumstances, in
fellowship, without eliciting confidence. The women who went out after
one night with us we did not know. They ate, or did not eat, a hasty
breakfast, and departed very early--about 6.30 probably--some of them to
join husbands. But the following may be taken as a truthful description
of our sisters who remained. The main impression on my mind is a double
wonder at their patience in affliction, and at the qualities revealed in
them, and a wonder whether, if I had selected a similar number of better
class friends and placed them in like circumstances, they would have
borne the test as well.

Our morning ablution had to be performed with cold water and soft soap.
Our clothes were restored to us mostly stoved (in which process some are
said to be ruined, becoming limp and creased). Breakfast, the same as
supper, was meted out to us. Gruel a second time, and dry bread is not
appetising. Oh for a drink! The room was cold, and only cold water from
the bath tap available; it tasted of metal polish or soft soap.

We sopped our bread in our porridge, and, knowing we had the day to
face, ate all we could. No one ate all their porridge and bread. We were
not exceptional, hardly anyone ate much. Some kept their bread and
munched it at intervals through the day. The porridge, including some
nearly full mugs, and what remained in the can, was simply thrown away.
Naturally enough, when the officer left us and we waited for the task
mistress, the conversation turned on food and treatment. Those who knew
other workhouses declared that this was "the worst they knew." In the
course of the day we heard the merits of most of the workhouses near,
and of some far away. It may be well to summarise as follows: The
comparative merits of a tramp ward depend first on drink; the women
feel dreadfully the need of drink, especially after hard work. Coffee or
tea makes all the difference to dry bread. Gruel is not drink. Some can
bring in a bit of tea and sugar, and as a favour beg hot water, but it
is often denied them. We procured it once, and it was once denied in our
hearing. We had but a screw of tea and sugar, and some had none.

The second requisite would seem to be food, but it seems as if only a
few can eat the gruel more than once a day. It is played with and left
by most. Hence dry bread and a morsel of cheese at dinner is the real
fare. As the quantity of food allowed is not even that which will
sustain life in an adult, semi-starvation is the result.[89] The tramp
men who brought back the stoved blankets, eagerly and hungrily hid under
their jackets the pieces of bread the women had left.

Now to commence, after a night of misery, with a freshly-caught cold, to
sit in a cold and draughty room with no fire, and feast on gruel and dry
bread, with a possible drink of water, is _punishment_, not charity, or
alleviation of misery.

The third merit or demerit of a tramp ward is the bed. Straw beds are a
luxury, wire mattresses disliked for cold, plank beds for hardness; the
floor is preferable, as there is more room.

The fourth and perhaps the most important item is the character of the
officers. Any who have even a drop of the milk of human kindness are
remembered with appreciation. But they seem rare. Not, I believe, that
there are many intentionally unkind. "They know not what they do." The
constant habit of dealing for so brief a period with individuals
prevents the formation of the customary links of human kindliness; the
worst characters return, the best stay so short a time and are lost to
sight; any act of kindness meets apparently no reward. Kindness for
kindness' sake is difficult, a peremptory official habit easily
acquired. There may be texts in an officer's sitting room, and yet the
Christian qualities fortitude and patience and self-sacrifice may be
better exhibited to one another by the tramps outside her door than by
the inmate in authority. Some workhouses are to be avoided like poison.
There positive cruelty and insult reign, but the slightest resentment
might be interpreted as "insubordination" and earn prison. A cast-iron
system administered in a cast-iron way may, without intentional
unkindness, be responsible for a vast sum of human misery.

The task mistress came and asked us if we could wash or clean. Three of
us were set to pick oakum. I could not volunteer to stand over the
wash-tub, and, besides, I wished to unravel the mysteries of oakum
picking, and learn the histories of my comrades in misfortune. So we
three sat on a wood bench in a cold room, and three pounds of oakum each
was solemnly weighed out to us. Do you know what oakum is? A number of
old ropes, some of them tarred, some knotted, are cut into lengths; you
have to untwist and unravel them inch by inch. We were all "'prentice
hands." One woman had once done a little; we had never done any! After
two hours I perhaps had done a quarter of a pound, and my fingers were
getting sore, while the pile before me seemed to diminish little. Then I
was asked if I could clean, and gladly escaped to a more congenial task.
One woman only picked oakum all day; she was the one who was penalised.
She had never done it before, and did not nearly finish her quota,
though I helped her a little later on. Fortunately it was not demanded,
but it might be at the will of an officer.

It will easily be perceived that long before this any dream I had of
ideal tramp ward conditions had vanished. I was instead filled with
amazement that any enlightened and Christian men and women could
consider this a refuge for destitution, and wonder at a preference for
brickfields and liberty. Prison treatment would be preferable, but my
wonder was still to grow.

For the prevailing idea in my class of society, which I to some extent
shared, was that tramps as a class were so incorrigible, and so
determined to lead a nomad existence, that the life had somehow a
mysterious charm for them, and the only thing was to severely penalise
vagrancy in order to deter men and women from it. Viewed in this light,
it might be desirable that the treatment in a tramp ward should be
equalised to that of a prison as a deterrent. A suspicion had been
gradually growing in my mind that there was a destitution that was not
voluntary vagrancy, and an actual forcing of lives into nomad existence.
But I had not realised the pressure our system exerts in the direction
of a wandering life.

Let me introduce you to my companions and assure you I shall ever regard
them with affection and respect.

There is first of all "Granny," a poor old body of seventy sorrowful
years. Once she had a little home of her own, and brought up a family of
five sons and daughters. But her "old man" died; still her son supported
her, and she led a precarious existence, much plagued by "rheumatics."
But one day, not long ago, the place where her son worked was burned
down, and she lost her stay and was turned adrift. She had mother-wit
enough to beg her way; people gave her tea and pence. She "paid her way"
in tramp wards, taking in a little tea and sugar and "tipping" officials
with a penny for hot water. She offered me a halfpenny for a screw of
sugar. She had begged unsuccessfully of a child at a door before coming
in; the mother stood behind and refused. "As if a spoonful of sugar
would have hurt her," Granny scornfully said. One thing remained to
her--liberty--but to keep this she was forced to walk from town to town,
sampling tramp wards. She had not done it long, but it was too much for
her. One arm was too painful to be touched; it was hard to put on her
tattered garments; she provoked the wrath of officials by dilatoriness.
Her legs were a study. Each leg was swathed in bandages, her feet
wrapped in old stocking legs and bandaged, and men's boots put over all,
a long--long process. Poor old soul! she wanted to end her wanderings,
and told us, I believe truthfully, that she had tried to get into two
workhouses, but had not succeeded. Knowing the reluctance of officials
to admit paupers out of their own parish, I can well believe it. She was
really ill when she came, besides possible complications of having been
"treated" to a drink of whisky. She could hardly stand, had a cough and
looked feverish, and only fit to lie down; we had to help her on her
feet several times. Perhaps her ailments bulked large--most old people's
do--but she did not after all groan so very much considering. She was
ordered out, but she said with truth that she might "fall down in the
street." It did seem likely she might just go wandering on "till she
dropped," so we all advised her to stay and see the doctor, who might
order her into the House. She seemed to have only a mazy idea of how to
go to work to get in, but she took our advice, saw the doctor, and was
allowed to stay another night, but not ordered in, as she could stand.
However, she might the next day, after being turned out, herself apply
for admission, and this we all united to advise her to do. The one
effect her wanderings had produced in her was a deadly hatred of
workhouse officials. In the afternoon, after singing a hymn, I comforted
her by telling that her wanderings might soon end in a better place. She
was not sure of going to "heaven," but she felt sure she should meet
many of these her tormentors in hell, and "then," she said, "I'll heave
bricks at 'em!" I couldn't help suggesting "hot bricks" as appropriate,
and then talked to her about "loving her enemies." "I can't help it,"
she said, "if it keeps me out of heaven, I hate 'em--I hate 'em all!"
Poor old soul, she lay on a form most of the day, obviously ill, worried
out of the bed on which, in the absence of an officer, she laid her poor
old bones. The officer next morning truly said that the workhouse, and
not the tramp ward, was the place for her; but she scoffed unbelievingly
at her story of having tried to get admission. Yet Granny continually
told us she longed to get in and have "a good bed," and one can imagine
a poor old body like that, with no one to speak for her, might have
difficulties with a relieving officer. But we had to leave her behind
us, though one longed to take her by the hand, and see her safely in. I
was not in a physical condition to stand the long hours of waiting from
6.30 A.M. till the office at which she would be admitted was opened. We
advised her to stay as long as she could, and then go there. Next in
order was a married woman, whom I would gladly own for my own relation.
Her husband was on the men's side. "That's my old man," she said, on
going out; "I know him by his cough." She had been well brought up and
had sisters in good circumstances comparatively. She was the "black
sheep of the family," and had drifted, probably through marriage, into
destitute circumstances. She and her "old man" were comfortably
ensconced in a workhouse where, as a good steady worker, she was
probably not unwelcome. But she heard her sister in a distant town was
dying, and they took their discharge and walked there and back, close on
seventy miles, arriving in time and staying for the funeral. She was
very, very weary with the long tramp, accomplished within a week. I
believe they were re-entering the workhouse. This woman had a pleasant
face and manner, and took several opportunities of doing small
kindnesses; she did not grumble, she only mildly complained of the task
set her. I think she had cause--she was set to scrub a very long and
wide corridor. She steadily scrubbed away for hours; she had no kneeling
pad, and it was "hard lines" on poor food and in a tired state. How many
of us would have walked seventy miles to see a dying sister, and, weary
and sorrowful, work without complaining, and with a cheerful face, and
an eye for others' sorrows?

A woman who interested me much was also a married woman. Once she had
been waitress in an hotel frequented by the gentry, a place I knew
well, and travelled with her wages in her pocket to buy clothes. She was
still better dressed, a shapely woman, with a face almost handsome,
graceful in her movements and a capital worker. Her husband did not look
a bad specimen of a working man. Her story was that they had had a
comfortable home; he was once a singer in a church choir. But his
particular branch of trade failed, and he had to seek a growingly
obsolete kind of work where it was to be found. They had tramped north
in vain to find it, and were now tramping back to their old
neighbourhood in the hope that things would be better. This woman also
did not complain, and behaved in a self-respecting manner, not a foul
word or reproach; she worked steadily, but was very weary and restless
at night. She had a heavy cold on her and grew worse instead of better.
I seem to see her sitting wearily up in bed, unable to get the needed
repose. They had walked long distances recently.

A more doubtful character was "Pollie," who apparently was well known to
the officials. She was left stranded, as her husband, one fine day,
being let out of a tramp ward before her, left her behind. She
complained bitterly that the men were let out so long before the women,
they had time to get "miles out of the road." If she caught him he would
"get three months." Meanwhile she intended to visit a sister who would
give her a few shillings, and then make tracks for another sister. Her
face was not unhandsome, but her nose betrayed the real reason of her
misfortunes, and her tongue was ready, and not too clean. She knew the
workhouses far and wide, and had had her tussles with the authorities.
She had thrown her bread and cheese at a matron who gave her it after
hard work, giving another woman a workhouse diet. She had been in prison
for "lip." She was, in fact, a tramp proper, and with a little drink and
boon companions probably foul-mouthed and violent. But she and Granny
were the only ones who used expressions not polite to give point to
their opinions, and that only occasionally. They were under no
restraint, unless our interior character insensibly sweetened the
atmosphere, for no one, not the most travelled, suspected us. We had
been "on the road," could refer to workhouse reminiscences, and "knew
the country" far and wide. We freely rewarded confidences by real bits
of history. As we sang in concert, probably that was thought to be our
"line of business." We were complimented on our voices--I, like the
husband above mentioned, had once "been in a choir." I felt sure we
should have got a good living "on the road." A tramp man who passed us
told us he thought we should have been "miles further by now." He
watched us, and made in the same direction. I twitted my companion on
the loss of a chance for life.

It might be thought our speech would betray us, but I do not know that
it was more educated than that of one at least of our companions. We
were with "all sorts and conditions of women" but not the worst.

There remains to be described a little Scotch woman, also married. She
had been a servant, and was a "neat-handed Phyllis." Born near Glasgow
she married south. Work failing, she and her husband had tramped the
weary miles to her friends in the hope of work. They had returned, _viâ_
Barrow, and were bound further south, so far seeking work and finding
none. They had become habituated to tramp wards on the long march, and
could tell the character of most, and the stages of the journey.

These were the only ones we got to know intimately; a sorrowful woman
with a sickly-looking child, who came overnight, were seeking admission
to the workhouse that morning.

If these were tramps, with one exception they were made so by

Shall I picture my brave little friend and companion, who worked on hour
after hour with a splitting headache caused by a sleepless night? She
had to clean the officer's room thoroughly, and to scrub tables, forms,
floor--everything in short, in the large day room and down the stairs, a
big piece of work. Meanwhile the two married women scrubbed the big
dormitory and the bath room. The Scotch woman was told off to wash, by
her own request, and related gleefully how she managed to wash and dry
some of her own clothing before the officer came and told her to "mind
and wash nothing of her own." We were meanwhile growing dirtier, and in
more need of a bath than the first night. One woman washed a pocket
handkerchief and dried it on the steam-pipe. Nothing else was possible.

I was taken away after two hours' oakum picking and set to clean. While
waiting for a bucket I saw a fire. Welcome sight. I dried my boots and
warmed my feet, wet from the previous days' tramp. I was provided with
materials, shown where to get water and set to clean, "Scrub, mind you,"
two lavatories, two w.c.'s, and a staircase with three landings and
three flights of stairs. I was also to clean the paint in the
lavatories, etc., and do the taps and the stair-rods. Of the latter
task, however, I was relieved by a pauper woman, who said her work, of
which she was thoroughly sick, was constantly to clean brasses. I like
cleaning, and set to work with a will, only one soon comes to the end of
one's strength after a restless night and an insufficient breakfast. I
found I must moderate my speed or I should not last the day out. Men
were doing a cistern in the downstairs lavatory, and kept passing and
re-passing with dirty boots as fast as I cleaned. My taskmistress, after
one inspection, left me alone to it. I fetched bucket after bucketful
and completed my task to my own satisfaction, and hers apparently, by
twelve o'clock. She was not unreasonable, but a little sharp. She sent
me back to dinner in the tramp ward, and "hunger sauce" enabled me to
finish the bread and cheese allotted, washed down by tea. We all brought
out our husbanded treasures, and the kinder official let us have boiling
water. The man in the office sneered at her and remonstrated, "You _are_
soft!" "_I can't help it_," she replied. May God bless her, for it can
hardly be imagined what a warm drink was to a thirsty soul, even without
milk and with little sugar. We gave Grannie some, and all ate our frugal
meal without repining and with thankful hearts. We were allowed an hour,
and resting my head on the table I snatched a few moments of most
badly-needed rest. Then it was time to work. I was taken to the House
and given a new task, to wash out an office, the little Scotch woman
dusted the board room and my room. All had to be ready before three. I
finished to satisfaction in good time, being once rebuked for sitting to
do the last piece of floor (I had been on my knees without a pad for
hours), and once for not saying there was no coal in the coal-box. But
these were gentle rebukes. I was now very tired and could hardly carry
my bucket. I slopped the water a little; perhaps my taskmistress saw I
was tired, at any rate, she laid on me nothing further, but sent me back
to the ward.

There my friend's task was by no means ended, she was on her knees
scrubbing painfully, a quarter of the floor yet to do. I tried my hand,
but was not quite "in the know," so I sang to her to cheer her and the
others. Even old Grannie cheered up to the sound of "When ye gang awa',
Jamie," an old favourite of her youth. It was easy without offence or
suspicion to pass to hymns that might leave some ray of comfort in
sorrowful hearts, and to get in a few words about the bourne "where the
wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." I could not help
considering that probably nowhere in the wide world were there souls
more dear to our suffering Saviour than such as these, who were sharing
the life He chose on earth. Grannie used to sing, "Oh, let us be joyful,
when we meet to part no more," and all were ready for the "Kindly light"
to lead them home. I have discovered that this and "Abide with me," with
"Jesus, Lover of my soul" are tramps' favourites. Could the deep-seated
religious sentiments of the human soul choose better expression?

The little Scotch woman loved some of the "songs of bonnie Scotland." In
spite of scrubbing, my friend chimed in, and the hours passed. I grew
rested in thought and body. Then our taskmistress appeared just as the
floor was finished; she had forgotten the store room, it was locked up
and not cleaned. She chose my poor weary friend, but I could not stand
it, and volunteered instead. I had watched till I knew how, so I set to
work with a will and acquired a new accomplishment, how to scrub a floor
with sand and soft soap! My performance "gave satisfaction." At last
all was finished, and we awaited the next meal, not with eagerness, for
the third time of gruel and dry bread "pays for all," but at any rate
with hunger. It was a long, long wait from twelve dinner to somewhere
about six. A slender breakfast at six, dinner at twelve, and hard work
left something lacking; the morning gruel was slightly sour also, and I
began to have uncomfortable feelings. Nevertheless, after a seemingly
long wait, during which we all grew quite "chummy," and I extracted much
information and confirmation of personal histories and social condition,
at last supper arrived, and I finished the gruel with appetite, but
could not, without a drink, eat dry bread.

Then another wait. We all grew tired to utter weariness. I longed even
for a plank bed. We sat in various listless attitudes, half starved,
cold, too weary to talk. There was nothing to see, skylighted as the
room was, nothing to do but to pick oakum, which still lay in measured
heaps on the floor, no literature save the "regulations for tramps" on
the walls.

This, then, was the kind of thing which left "no necessity for men to
sleep in the brickfields!" I questioned the married women, none of them
knew anything of any relaxation of rules. Evidently in their world it
was not a matter of public knowledge that a man might enter earlier and
go out after one night.[90]

At last it was bed time once more, we were "officered" to our uneasy
couches. We were allowed to remove our shawls to the room where we
slept--a great boon, as I smuggled mine into bed, covering my bare arms,
and securing a little more comfort. But I was sore from the night
before, and no position gave ease. Being near the week-end few came in,
as it meant an extra day's detention, but the same ordering and bumping
went on. I shall never forget my next door neighbour who came in rather
late and was near enough to touch. She was a respectable woman of the
barmaid class, slightly grey, and therefore rather old for employment.
She was well dressed. She was out of a place, and had applied at a
Shelter too late to be admitted, and was sent here. She had never been
in such a place before, and her astonishment at the conditions amounted
almost to horror. We told her how to make the most of her bed--none of
us near her were asleep. She twisted and turned her wet, grey head on
the hard pillow, sneezing with a commencing cold. She sat up and lay
down. "My God!" I heard her say, "one can't sleep in this place." And
with reason, for though the interruptions were not so numerous, they
were sufficient to effectually break sleep. Grannie did not groan so
much, but she got out of bed, was scolded, and had to be helped in.
"Don't be so soft," I heard the hard official say, as she gave an
involuntary small scream when one of her aching limbs was touched. It
was true she had given trouble, but she was old, feeble, and ailing. It
would not have been hard to be kind. I was myself by this time ill. The
last meal of gruel coming as a distasteful meal on a tired body had not
been digested. Sickness came upon me, and I had to be a disturber of the
peace by three times getting up, and parting with my hardly-earned
supper. Each time, paddling over great bare spaces in scanty attire, I
grew colder, but I was in terror of attracting the attention of the
officer, being considered ill and detained. Anything rather than another
day in such a place of torture. As on the night before, some slept the
sleep of utter weariness, most groaned and twisted, some lay awake. I
never understood so well the joy of the first dim daylight, the longing
of those who "wait for the morning." A woman sat up. "I'm dying of
hunger," she said. It was the poor woman condemned to stay five days.
What would she be at the end? I felt a mere wreck. Only two days ago I
was in full health and vigour. It was no absolute cruelty, only the
cruel system, the meagre and uneatable diet, the lack of sufficient
moisture to make up for loss by perspiration, two almost sleepless
nights, "hard labour" under the circumstances. Before me lay home and
friends, a loving welcome, good food, sympathy, and rest. What about my
poor sisters? "I have nobody, nobody in the wide world; I wish I had,"
said the poor soul next me, new to such treatment. A good-looking woman
beyond had never been in before. I shuddered for those I should leave
behind, new to such conditions.

Is this the treatment England gives in Christ's name to His destitute
poor? What if some are "sinners." He chose such, and "Inasmuch as ye did
it not to one of the least of these my brethren, yet did it not to me."
My heart burned within me. Thank God for every bit of suffering that I
may bring home the truth. A public newspaper states, "The guardians only
hear _ex-parte_ statements, those of the men themselves." Supposing they
speak _true_!

During the afternoon one poor woman had said, "If only the rich
guardians, and the heavy ratepayers, knew how their money was spent, and
how us poor things had to live, they wouldn't allow it." They felt
bitterly the irony of so many officials being paid to order them about,
and get the maximum of work out of them while they were practically
starved. The conclusion of the whole matter is, the more rigidly the
system is enforced in its entirety, the more hardly it presses on the
destitute poor, while it makes no provision for their need. It is not
even preventive, and it is costly.[91] Morning dawned slowly as I
pondered, and the welcome call came. My neighbour slept, her face drawn
in sleep as if with suffering, her profile and grey, tossed hair as she
lay on her back, as the easiest position, an appeal of sorrow to the
eye of the Watcher of men. She woke with a start and moan.

No help for it. "You women all get up, be quick now; be quick and hurry
up, Grannie." Short, sharp, decisive marching orders. Sick and
shivering, with aching head and body sore from head to foot, I did my
best to hide any sign of illness that might come between me and liberty.
My companion suffered also from violent headache, neuralgic pains, and
an aggravated cold.[92] Pollie's face was drawn and tired. No one
complained much. I heard only one grumble at having to wash an already
smarting face with soft soap. One produced a precious bit of white soap
and lent it--a kindly deed. Grannie got under weigh with many a groan,
very slowly. "Hurry up, women; three of you have not put your boards up.
Now then, Granny, don't be all day." We will pardon her, for she has
been on duty all night, and is also tired; but surely the woman who
said, "Come, now, you needn't be so knotty with us," spoke true. We had
little chance or time to speak much. It was only the early cold grey
dawn of a winter morning, but already the message had come up that
husbands were waiting. Gruel and bread for the fourth time. No one going
out did more than pretend to eat it, some pocketed the bread. Neither my
friend nor I could have touched it if you had offered us a
sovereign--my soul loathed it so I could hardly bear to look at it.

The poor woman condemned vainly hoped for release; she wept, but this
only hardened the officer. She was not to be "come over" this way.
"Don't you believe her." Grannie must swathe her poor old legs and go;
she had better get into the workhouse. We had to leave them to their
fate. I shall never forget the last few moments of waiting. A raging
passion for freedom took possession of me. I dare not ask to go a moment
before I was ordered to for fear lest it should be construed as
"impudence." May be I wrong the officer, but she interpreted so easily
any appeal as interference. Oh, to be free! Oh, to lie down anywhere
under God's free sky, to suffer cold and hunger at His hand. "It is
better to fall into the hand of God than the hand of man." We both
agreed we would face a common lodging-house and its pests, or even the
danger of prison for "sleeping out," rather than pass again through such
an experience.[93]

Do I exaggerate? It must be _felt_ to be realised.

At length we escaped with "Pollie," leaving Grannie and the victim with
the newcomers. It was very early, and about two hours lay between us and
succour; my friend was almost too tired to walk. But God's free air was
round us. Thank God for a fine morning! We are "on the road," and
nothing in front can be so bad as what lies behind. We are tramps and
"mouchers"; we can beg, for we need pity; sing for our living, sell
bootlaces, and turn over the money; even if we steal, prison only waits
us, and it cannot be worse--our companions, who have tried it, prefer
it.[94] One thing we could not do--we could not at this moment work for
an honest living. It is physically impossible. By hook or by crook one
or two restful nights must be put between us and the past. Strength to
work has gone. One might perhaps tramp, for the air is reviving, and
people are kind to a wayfarer. Do you wonder at our _national tramp

For this is what it amounts to. An obsolete system adapted to the times
when population was stationary, is supposed to meet the needs of a
population necessarily increasingly fluid.

Labour shifts from place to place where it is needed. Individuals drop
out or are thrust out. There is never, on any one night, in our great
centres of population, sufficient provision for this ebb and flow. The
houseless and the homeless are a great multitude, as sheep without a
shepherd. Day by day they make a moving procession.[95] The decent man
or woman who is stranded joins them, at first with the honest intention
of gaining a livelihood. If it cannot be obtained, what is he to do?
The common lodging-house can never be a sufficient provision for this
need. It would never pay the private owner to provide the maximum number
of beds required.[96] Our friend "Pollie" grumbled that in many
lodging-houses the price of a decent bed was 6_d_., and "then you could
not be sure it was clean."

What is needed may take away the breath of a conservative public. It is
nothing less than the entire sweeping away of the tramp ward, and the
substitution of municipal lodging-houses, coupled with strict
supervision of all private ones. The maximum need with regard to
sleeping accommodation on any one night in a great city must be met.
Shelters, sanitary and humane, not charitable institutions, but simply
well-managed "working people's hotels," must be run privately and
supplemented publicly, providing accommodation for everyone.[97] To meet
destitution, these should be supplemented by "relief stations" on the
German plan, where supper, bed, and breakfast can be earned. Freedom
need not be interfered with beyond demanding work sufficient to pay.[98]
Payment should be on the graduated ticket system. The tramp proper hates
work. If once a national system sufficient for destitution was
inaugurated, the man who will not work could be penalised. A labour
colony is his natural destination. The classification of workhouses and
their adaptation to various necessarily destitute classes, such as
epileptics, feeble minded and aged, might remove much destitution,
placing it under humane conditions. But the immediate and crying need is
for the abolition of an old, inhumane and insufficient provision for
suppression of vagrancy, in favour of adequate provision for the modern
fluidity of labour, coupled with honourable relief of destitution,
neither degrading nor charitable.[99]


[85] First published in _The Contemporary Review_ May, 1904, under title
"The Tramp Ward."

[86] See previous chapter.

[87] Probably it was not known. News filters from one to another slowly.
Besides, a man may not return to the tramp ward, after seeking work, for
another night.

[88] Official regulations say the bath should come first, "as soon as
possible after admission." This means giving food in bed, and is, no
doubt, often evaded.

[89] See p. 26.

[90] See p. 137.

[91] See p. 78.

[92] My companion was a "working woman," used to a hard day's work.

[93] See p. 51.

[94] See p. 28.

[95] See p. 30.

[96] See p. 49.

[97] See p. 50.

[98] See p. 75.

[99] See p. 64.



Having occasion to spend a week in a southern city, I determined to do
what I could to ascertain the condition of its common lodging-houses, in
order to find out whether the same problems existed as in the northern

I was willing to go into a women's lodging-house, but, not having my
fellow tramp, it was desirable to make enquiries. These enquiries
revealed a state of things so bad that I did not feel it was safe to
sample any of the common lodging-houses alone. Briefly, what had
happened in this old town was this: A certain quarter possessed houses,
which, having once been occupied by the better classes, would be fairly
roomy, but would, of course, only have the sanitary arrangements
intended for one family. These houses had courts at the back, which
perhaps had been long ago gardens, but were now built over, access being
through the house. A number of these houses had gradually become common
lodging-houses. So profitable is this trade, that the successful owner
of one, even if only of the same low class as frequent the houses, could
go on annexing others, till, as I was told, a whole street had fallen
into the possession of one person, who was quite unconcerned about
anything but private gain. The most speedy way of gaining wealth was to
let rooms, in connection with the lodging-house, "for married couples."
The buildings in the back courts could easily be so let, and the police
had no access. Therefore the whole of this district was honeycombed with
immorality, while even in the more respectable houses the conditions
must be filthy and insanitary.

But my surprise was greatest at finding that in H---- _there did not
exist a lodging-house for women only_ apart from the charitable
institutions. The only refuge for a destitute woman, therefore, was the
common lodging-house with men and women (ostensibly married). I felt
that to go alone into one of these would be like putting my head into a
lion's den, for I was told that one of the men had put his arm round the
waist of a lady visitor with the easy freedom born of sex relations
there prevailing. What must have been the conditions for women in a town
of this size before the erection of the Army Shelter some four years
ago? The common lodging-houses, poor as they were, afforded shelter, I
was assured, only for about seventy women, including those really
married. But _between_ service, or respectable occupation of any kind,
and the common lodging-house, existed in all its ramifications, like a
spider's web, "the life," as a way out of destitution. Only those who
fell out of this life through illness or from other causes, as a rule
descended to the "lowest depths," the common lodging-houses, which
therefore contained only the most abandoned women. Some efforts to reach
these were being made, but the helpers despaired of really raising them,
and with good cause. It is evident that though hope must not be
abandoned for anyone, a woman who has sunk into poverty even out of a
life of vice, and who still retains all her desire for it (which she
indulges in if it is obtainable) must be a woman out of whom womanhood
is perishing, love of drink taking hold in most instances. Yet God
forbid that we should judge these poor creatures, often capable of love
to one another, and of kindnesses which might make us blush. We do not
know what circumstances, for which we may be responsible in God's sight,
gave them the push downward.[100]

But, evidently, unless in this town there were charitable institutions
dealing with the problem of destitution among women, a life of vice
would be their only alternative, simply from the fact that a certain
degree of poverty would force them to lodge with those to whom it was
familiar, and they would naturally succumb.[101]

I had no means of ascertaining what other homes or remedial agencies
existed, except that I was told there did exist one other
semi-charitable refuge to which the police took girls found on the
streets. I gathered, however, that this was more of the nature of a home
than of a lodging-house. The municipality was building a large men's
lodging-house, but not one for women.

It appeared, therefore, that the only real attempt to tackle the problem
was that of the Salvation Army, and, thinking that I should probably
hear something from the women themselves about the lodging-houses, I
resolved to "try the Army," as so many poor destitute women have
done--not in vain.

I obtained the requisite clothing to be one of the poor, and set out,
about nine o'clock, to find the street where the Army Shelter was. One
thing was agitating my mind, which doubtless, though for a different
reason, weighs in the mind of many poor women against entering any kind
of charitable Shelter. What questions would they ask? I had determined,
if absolutely necessary, to reveal my real identity. But how much should
I be forced to tell? Would it be possible to escape personal
interrogation? The "bullying" in the Workhouse was fresh in my mind, and
in contrast with this the perfect freedom of the common lodging-house
has its attractions. You may come and go, and "mind your own business."
No one has any right to interfere with you as long as you "pay your
way." I did not, of course, expect anything but kindness, but I thought
I might be interrogated "personally," questioned as to my antecedents,
and possibly about my soul. It would then, of course, be impossible for
me to preserve my "incognito."

In thus thinking I was probably sharing the feelings of my poor sisters
(your feelings undergo a curious assimilation to those of the class you
represent). Many a woman may be deterred from entering a suitable Home
by fear of cross-questioning. Poor thing! The only thing that belongs to
her is her past.

However, my fears were needless. I only relate them to illustrate the
reasons why a woman may hold back from places where she might find

I asked several women the way to the Shelter, whom I met in the street.
One said it was "right enough," another said, "I should think it was
better than going into the common lodging-house among a lot of
'riff-raff;' you can put up with it for a night anyhow." A third, with a
child in her arms, said she had lived there some time, and "was very
comfortable." So encouraged, I found the place. It was a large,
clean-looking building, fronting the street, with apparently two doors.

While I was hesitating as to which was the right one, and as to whether
I must ring or enter, a man on the other side of the street came and
offered me a drink. I, of course, refused. But at the very door of
salvation a poor tempted woman might be lost.

There was a large notice, "Clean, comfortable beds," but not an open
door as in most common lodging-houses. I feel diffident in recommending
anything to the Army, their methods are so tried and proved, even to
minute particulars, but it struck me that it would be well to have an
inside and an outer door--the latter standing open, as a clear
indication of the place of entry. You can walk into a common
lodging-house as far as the deputy's room or office without ringing. It
is a small matter, but a timid woman might not have the courage to knock
or ring.

The door was opened by a pleasant-faced young woman in uniform, who
asked me in. One word went to my heart. She called me "my dear!" She
said in reply to my request for a bed, "Yes, my dear, we have twopenny
bunks, but I should recommend you to try the fourpenny beds with nice,
clean sheets."

I was glad to consent, for though I should have liked for some reasons
to "try the bunks," I had already seen them in London, and I wished to
ascertain what the Army was able to offer at the current price of
fourpence, and also whether the beds would bear inspection. But what a
contrast such a reception was to the workhouse! Nothing but my name was
asked, not even as in the Bradford Shelter, my destination, and where I
came from. There was no "heckling," no inquisition, nothing but
kindness. God bless the officer who said, "My dear" to a poor stranger
in Christ's name.

I was asked if I would like to go to bed, as it was already late. I
wanted, however, to see something of other inmates, so said, "No." The
officer took me into the fourpenny sitting room, which was pleasant and
beautifully clean, but had no fire lit. As it was lonely, the officer
asked me if I would like to sit with the "twopenny women" for company. I
gladly assented, and was shewn into another day-room in which was a
cheerful fire, by the side of which were shelves for pots and pans. It
was furnished with wooden tables and benches, and all was clean, except
for recent use. Two or three women were in possession. I asked them if I
could get anything on the premises to eat. They said I could get coffee
and bread and butter for a penny! It was the cheapest meal I ever had. I
asked the officer for them, and she fetched them herself--a good mug
full of thick brown coffee, with rather a peculiar taste, but similar to
some I got in Manchester at a cheap breakfast shop, only about half as
much again in quantity. It had sugar and milk in it, and was palatable.
With it were two thick slices of bread and butter, quite sufficient for
a meal, the butter tasted good.[102]

I sat and ate my supper and watched the other women. They had lived
there some time, and were evidently accustomed to "the ways of the
place." They said they were very comfortable, and that the beds were
good. One of them explained the scarcity of utensils. (So far as I could
see, one kettle, one saucepan, and one frying-pan seemed to be the
stock-in-trade.) She said people stole so, even taking cups and saucers,
and the sheets off the beds. The officers in consequence had to reduce
the supply and to keep a sharp look-out!

I sat and listened. A woman came in with a baby; the same woman I had
seen in the street. She exclaimed about the difficulty she had had in
getting money for the night. Apparently she had been begging, going
round to one and another whom she knew, and getting a penny or halfpenny
from each. She said the man who accosted me had given her a penny. Her
boy was a fine little fellow, very well nourished and contented. She was
very proud of his little fat legs! She undressed him to his shirt. One
bit of pride remained even in poverty. She said she "wouldn't let her
child sleep in a bunk!" She seemed to prefer being out all night, which
had, I believe, been her case recently, when she could not make her
bed-money.[103] She was a widow.

One of the other women had had a day's charing, and was congratulating
herself that she was "set up for a bit." It had been hard work, but well
paid. She was generous to those worse off.

An unsolicited testimonial to one of the officers was given. "Captain
is back to-day." "Is she, bless her; I do love that woman, _though she
never gave me anything_!"

It is much to the credit of the Army, and of the individual officers,
that in the free conversation I heard no real complaint. One of the
officers was alluded to as "a sharp 'un." No doubt a necessary quality
in dealing with some cases. One woman grumbled at the coffee, and
another "carried on" because she was stopped from talking in the
bedroom, where she was disturbing others, but the general feeling seemed
to be one of thankfulness. "Thank God I have got in to-night," came
involuntarily from several lips.

I resolved to go to bed, as it was ten o'clock. The officer who had
admitted me, when I went to her to ask, showed me upstairs into a large
light room. Apparently the building had once been a mill or warehouse.

The floor was beautifully clean, the beds not inconveniently crowded,
and the promise of "good, clean beds" was amply redeemed.[104] I can
hardly understand how they could be so clean, for when the women were
undressed (and, of course, like all their class they slept in their
day-garments, partially undressing), their under-garments were dirty and
ragged in almost all cases, even when their outside appearance was
respectable. Hardly one had a whole or clean garment, and among this
class a nightgown is unknown, or unused. One woman kept on a black
knitted jersey, though it was summer-time!

My bed was beautifully clean, and the others looked so. The most careful
arrangements were made to insure cleanliness. The wire mattress had a
piece of clean brown wrappering tied over it, which could be removed and
washed. The mattress, which was very comfortable, was covered, and under
the covering was a mackintosh. There were two thick dark blankets, not
divided. I suppose this would make it difficult to steal them. The
sheets were white, and so was the pillowslip. There was a good soft
flock pillow.

I noticed several wise precautions. The gases were too high to be
reached, and no taps were visible. The gas was turned on or off outside
the room. No one could light a pipe.

The crevices close to the wall were filled in with wood, so that insects
could not harbour. Each person had a well-scrubbed wooden box by the
bedside, on or in which to place their clothes. There was, in a lavatory
adjoining, a spacious sink, to which hot and cold water was laid on.
There was one roller-towel, but no soap. It is usual in lodging-houses
to find your own. There was a well-flushed w.c. Beyond were some
cubicles at sixpence a night.

Several women were in bed. One had had some drink, and was disturbing
others by talking. It was found out afterwards that she was in the
wrong room, having only paid twopence. She was a married woman, and her
husband had apparently deposited her in safety, but only paid twopence!
She was, or pretended to be, very wroth, and she was also foul-mouthed.
When it was discovered, the little Lieutenant really could not eject
her, and had to be satisfied with telling her she must pay the other
twopence next day!

It was a very interesting occupation to try for about an hour and a half
to gather from conversation some hints as to the character of the "waifs
and strays" who were temporarily my room-mates.

A young woman next me was a servant temporarily out of place. An amusing
scene took place. Another young woman came in and spoke to her before
going to her cubicle. Evidently there was some animosity between them,
for the only greeting she got was, "Shut up." Finding she could make no
impression, the newcomer began to insinuate.

"I wouldn't stand with the Army and then go into public-houses!"

The other girl at first made no reply, except, "Get out with you!"

But as the insinuation was repeated, she began to get wroth.

"Why don't you speak to me, Mary?"

She half sat up in bed.

"Get out with you, you----"

Then they began to slang one another in earnest:--

"It's all very well to go to an Army meeting and then take two men into
a pub!"

"Well, I never! What will she say next, I wonder!"

And so the conversation waxed louder and louder. At length the girl in
bed half sprang out.

"I shall go and tell the Lieutenant how you're talking. She'll put you

With that the offender moved off to her cubicle.

The other girl kept muttering, "Well, I never! Did ever you hear! Me
that has never been inside a pub! I'll tell the Lieutenant in the

It was fortunate that the offender had paid for a sixpenny bed, as at
one time they seemed almost coming to blows.

The noisy woman in a bed on the opposite side kept up a conversation
with herself, or with anyone who would speak to her. Finally, the
Lieutenant, who seemed to keep a sort of patrol, but was not round
frequently enough to preserve peace, caught her talking, though not at
her loudest. She was engaged in relating portions of her past life to a
woman who said it was the anniversary of her wedding-day. The story of
the courtship and marriage took some time to tell, but the crowning
incident was that, having been ill for some days, her friends encouraged
her to take "a small whisky," which apparently led to more, and she
became so "blind drunk" that she remembered nothing further.

Several women with children came in. Some on meeting congratulated each
other on having money enough to get in.

"Thank God I'm in to-night," said one.

It made me realise how many are living on the very edge of starvation,
for several had only lodging-money, not a halfpenny for food.[105]

The interruptions were a bar to sleep. I think the Bradford plan of
letting the women go up to the dormitory at the hour, and not between,
was a good one, and would make superintendence easier.

At length, past eleven, all grew sleepy, the little Lieutenant had, I
think, given place to a night watcher, who stole quietly in to turn the
gas down, and again to admit a late girl to the cubicles, and once or
twice during the night, when all were sleeping, to look at her
safely-folded sheep, going lovingly round the beds, apparently to notice
who was safe "under her wing."

I did not stir, or show I was awake, but I said mentally, "God bless
you, sister, and God bless the Army!"

For here, safely folded in peace and comfort were just those whose
presence on our streets is a disgrace to our civilisation, and a social
danger. It was abundantly evident that they were those who needed a
helping hand. Few realise how terribly hard the present conditions of
our social system press upon women. If a girl, a woman, or worse--a
mother and child--are forced to remain out all night, God pity
them.[106] Yet it is terribly hard for a woman, once down in the
friendless state, with no one to speak for her, with clothing getting
daily more dirty and ragged, to obtain any employment. What can the
widow do? What about the deserted wife? The cry of the widow and orphan,
the suffering of the friendless is daily before the eyes of the God
England professes to serve.

Only one who is daily receiving the stories of the manifold ways in
which women drop out or are forced out of homes, can understand the
silent disintegration of womanhood that is forced upon many. Sometimes
they are carefully reared, with a parent's love as protection, shielded
from any real knowledge of life's hardships. But the protector dies and
the struggle begins, a hard struggle for daily bread. No one is forced
to keep them, save the workhouse. This they shun, or in some cases have
extreme difficulty in gaining admission, the relieving officers having
to be "begged and prayed," sometimes unsuccessfully, to admit even a
starving woman, putting them off on one excuse or another.

Meanwhile, by degrees everything that can be turned into money goes for
food. What wonder that the poor soul, desperate at losing all that makes
life worth having, easily yields to the man ever ready to "treat" her?
Such men are everywhere.

"Come and get a drink," is the usual way of accosting a woman. Yet if a
solitary woman once acquires the drink habit, it is nearly impossible to
lift her up, the craving is too strong. In the temporary "elevation" of
drink she regains her past, forgets the poor bedraggled "low woman" she
has become, and dreams of "better days." Suppose she resists drink, at
any rate keeping apparently steady, and lives as a "charwoman," it is a
most precarious existence, varying with the "times." Such women are
taken "on" and sent "off" without compunction. It needs a "good
connection" to make a livelihood, at any rate it requires a capacity for
continuous hard work, which all do not possess. There are some few
trades for destitute women hardly worth calling "trades," yet in some
hand-to-mouth fashion thousands of solitary women exist, who are not
idle, but try hard to "keep out of the house," so retaining their last
possession--liberty! Is it not desirable that these our struggling
sisters should live under the conditions that will preserve for them
some sort of a "home" feeling?

The "pit" lies just beneath them, that terrible pit, where honour, love,
and womanhood are swallowed up. They cling to those who love them, and
many of them struggle, oh, so hard! just to keep afloat. God pity them!
Every night in this England of ours our sisters are driven by poverty to

"I _must_ get my lodging money and a bit of food," they say. Money, even
twopence, is not within the reach of every widow and orphan, and our
poor-law conditions are almost prohibitive. Save as a temporary
expedient, the casual ward, with its continual "move on," is no refuge.
To descend to the common lodging-house is the last stage, just above
utter homelessness. There the drink temptations are such that few women
can withstand them. In many towns there do not exist lodging-houses for
women only.

Yet above all, these women need to be protected, to live under good
sanitary conditions, if in poverty. Such a shelter, therefore, as I was
sleeping in, is a real social need. It would prevent countless women
from drifting into vice if there was somewhere for them to live out of
temptation during the night hours. As they grow old especially, their
state grows more and more pitiable. They end their days in the workhouse
usually, but stave off the evil day as long as they can. I do not
believe that even women from the higher ranks can well help drifting to
destitution if from any cause friends and foothold are lost. Most people
distrust a friendless woman. Yet in many cases it is a matter of

There is a theory that "a good worker is always worth her salt!" So she
may be, but if she looks down-trodden no one will give her the chance to
earn it! In spite of the constant dearth of servants it is not likely
that a woman will get employment unless she has character and clothes.
There are, besides, quantities of semi-"unemployable" women, women who
would--after a fashion--succeed in looking after their own home and
rearing children; but who, divorced from home, are not "worth their
salt." Besides these, preyed upon, alas! by human sharks, are the
defenceless "feeble-minded," and half-imbecile.

Meditating on the woes of womanhood I fell asleep. All my sisters
apparently slept soundly and well. Very early the officer in charge
stole in to call a sleeper. Every now and then someone, self-roused, got
up for toil. It was a contrast to the heavy sleep and utter absence of
any provision for going forth to toil which I had seen in a _private_
women's lodging-house, inhabited by girls and women evidently living by
sin.[107] There they were called at 9.30!

By 6.30 a considerable number had got up, and promptly the lieutenant
appeared with a whistle, which she playfully blew, not only for the
room, but also near each sleeper, calling them by name. "Now, Mary, get
up!" "Now, Jane, don't go to sleep again!"

So I also arose and found my way to the sitting-room, where a woman was
frying a chop (using a lot of unnecessary sticks). It was the woman who
was "in luck." She made a great can of tea, and shared with others,
especially with some of the mothers with children. Poor little things!
They looked sleepy, for most had not gone to bed much before eleven.

One by one women came in, hawkers, cleaners, widows, about whom one
wondered how they kept afloat. Some were evidently very dirty, insect
pests were in evidence on the person, and it was surprising that the
place was so clean. I learnt that you might remain till ten, and
re-enter at twelve. Probably the necessary cleansing of the day-rooms
was done in the interval. The kitchen filled. All seemed very poor; some
had no breakfast save a borrowed drink. I had some dry bread and sugar,
but no tea, so I asked if I could get a penny breakfast.

Yes! Early as it was, the officers were already in the kitchen, and at
seven o'clock breakfast could be obtained. I sat and waited. Three
mothers had children; one brought down in a shift was badly bitten. One
woman was to wash for "the Army" that day, and so was "in luck." There
was, I heard, a good laundry, and under certain regulations, inmates
could wash their clothes.

It would not have been a bad bit of investigation to stay a week and
learn the life of the inmates. But my time was brief. I made one of a
string of women standing at the kitchen door, waiting for the penny
breakfast, and received in my turn a good cup of tea (not a mug, but a
cup and saucer) and two thick slices of bread and butter. The eating
habits of my friends in the twopenny room were not very appetising, so I
sought the fourpenny room, a plain, clean, sitting-room with spotless
table and forms, by this time nearly filled.

The inmates of this room were, as might be expected, superior in dress
and manners; the personal appearance of most was clean, and they were
fairly well clothed, at least outwardly, but the night view had shewn me
that "appearances were deceitful."

One poor woman had a baby in arms, five months old. Her husband had
cruelly ill-used her; she had a black eye. He had been sent to prison
for a month, and she, with feeble health, and a babe in her arms, had
come to this refuge. How would she fare in a common lodging house?

Another mother, with a good face, but very poor, had a little boy, very
nicely mannered. She made him say grace before he took his food, and
reproved him for taking a bite first out of a piece of bread and butter,
given him by a kindly girl who had gone in for a whole pennyworth. This
woman looked as if the Army had claimed her life for God. She was going
to a day's cleaning, and said thankfully that she had a good place, and
more than she could eat, so she always brought something "home" for her
boy, "as she couldn't bear to think she was eating and he had none." I
suppose she would make some arrangement for him to be looked after. How
would he fare in a common lodging house?

As a contrast to her there was a rather loud-spoken girl, whom the
officer evidently knew. To judge by her face she knew sin and shame. She
was, however, very good-natured. She nursed the baby with evident
pleasure, and she shared her breakfast with others.

Several of the girls were quite young, and might be servants out of
place. One by one they went out to some occupation or other. It was
still early, but time for me to go. I returned my cup, saucer, and
plate, and passed out with no interrogation.

The streets were full of young women just going to business. In the free
life of to-day, when so many women earn their own living, often away
from their homes, how slight an accident may shipwreck a life! Is it not
evident that we should make provision for such a certain need? We make
charts of our coasts, we know each shoal, we bell-buoy our sand-banks,
we build warning lighthouses, and we make safe harbours. But probably
the lives lost on our coasts are not a tithe of the lives--the
souls--lost on our streets. A floating shipwrecked woman immersed in the
waves, in peril of death, would call for a host of rescuers. But in
many towns in England there is no Rescue home. Even where there are such
homes, they are usually _for those who have gone under_. We need some
provision for those who manage to keep themselves just above water, but
are in daily peril. Nothing is so effective as such _preventive_ work.
If we were about to build a harbour, we should entrust the work to a
firm that understood harbour-building.[108]

In the Salvation Army we have a branch of the Christian Army and Navy of
Salvation accustomed to harbour-building. Let us employ them. If Army
methods succeed, it is only common-sense to finance the firm that can do
the work!

Many of our refuges are but ill adapted for the needs of the class that
most needs help, the struggling, self-supporting woman, who may be kept
from falling further.

We must approximate, as the Army does, to the needs of the class we
cater for. We must have "Women's Hostels" for the needs of various
classes, under regulations that attract them. We need not bribe them
into what seems to be a species of imprisonment, and keep them
expensively for long terms. This may be _necessary_ for the fallen, but
not for _preventive_ work.

The Army succeeds better than most in making its shelters almost
self-supporting, when once initial expenses have been met. It has an
immense advantage in its system of training officers specially for such
work, which requires daily self-sacrifice.

It may also be that military discipline has its advantages where a
certain precision of detail, an invariable routine, similar to workhouse
regulations, but more free, is a _sine qua non_. In our workhouses large
bodies of people live under discipline, who, without it, would most of
them be a danger or a drag on the community. Could we induce the
"floating population" of men and women to live a less restricted life,
yet a sanitary and wholesome one, much would be accomplished in a
generation.[109] The policy of allowing the catering for the needs of
this class to drift in a "happy-go-lucky" way into the hands of anybody,
has resulted in many accumulated evils. To redress evil we must live the
self-sacrificing life, and we may think ourselves happy that there are
still men and women who will in a very real sense "lay down their lives"
to minister in Christ's name to His poor, who count nothing too trivial
to be well done for the Master, and who strive to unlock hearts by the
magic key of love.

Surely upon them rests the blessing, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto
one of these, my sisters, ye have done it unto Me."

Can we not have an Army Women's Shelter or its equivalent in every large


[100] See Appendix VII.

[101] See Chap. V.

[102] Contrast tramp ward fare, pp. 112, 124, 152.

[103] See Appendix VII.

[104] See p. 48, note.

[105] See Appendix VII.

[106] See p. 132.

[107] See Chap. V.

[108] See page 49. Lodging-houses for women do not exist in many towns,
there are only common lodging houses, worse still than the above. See
pp. 96-105, also Chap. VI.

[109] See pp, 45, 50.

[110] See Chap. II., pp. 130-135, also Appendix VII.




On a bright evening in May, when the trees were fresh with Nature's
tracery, and the sky glowed with colour, my friend and I found our way
by train and tram to a house, which was professedly a lodging-house for
all sorts and conditions of women. The building, a large, tall,
better-class dwelling-house, set back in a front garden, looked almost
too respectable for us, as we had donned our tramp's attire. Some
children were playing in the passage, and called "the missus," who made
no objection to our engaging two beds at sixpence each, warning us we
should have to share a room with strangers. She then showed us into a
small kitchen, clean and comfortable, but with little accommodation--two
short forms and a dresser were the furniture, with shelves in the wall
and a sink. A door gave access to a yard with sanitary convenience, and
there was a good fire and plenty of boiling water. We sat a little while
to rest, and to listen to one or two inmates--a woman who smelt of
liquor, an elderly woman who appeared to help the person in charge, and
a rather handsome dark girl, nicely dressed and clean, who told us she
had been married a few months, and was deserted by her husband. We
learnt afterwards that she had been in hotel and restaurant service. We
soon decided to go out and buy some provisions, and to have a walk
round. We had only expected the beds to be fourpence a night, so were
rather short of money. We laid out our scanty resources as follows: Tea
1_d_., sugar 1_d_., bread 3_d_., butter 2_d_. (and 1_d_. we paid for the
loan of a knife to be afterwards returned). With these we went back, but
not being hungry yet we decided to go to the common sitting-room. This
we found in possession of several women, mostly young. It was now
nearing 10 P.M., and they were all busy tidying themselves, rouging
their faces, blacking their eyelids, and preparing to go on the streets.
All this was done perfectly openly, and their hair was curled by the
fireside. It was wonderful how speedily they emerged from slatterns into
good-looking young women. Each then sallied forth, and, being left
alone, we returned to the kitchen and prepared to make tea and cut
ourselves some bread and butter. Meanwhile various women passed and
re-passed. Three cats were on the hearth--one, a tabby, was called
"Spot." A Scotch woman was rather genteel in appearance, about forty,
but who openly boasted she had been drunk every day for more than a
week; she came in and went out more than once. She sat on the form and
related _apropos_ of "Spot," that she got a situation as housekeeper,
"though she could not say she had not a spot on her character." A
widower with several grown-up sons wished to engage her as housekeeper.
He asked about her character, she said: "Without thinking, I replied, 'I
am afraid it will not bear too strict an investigation,' and, by Jove!
if he didn't engage me at once!" She said it was a good place, and she
might have been in it all the time but for "a bit of temper." "Yes, and
married the master!" added another. A considerable flurry was caused by
the advent in the corner of two or three huge black beetles, or
"blackjacks" as they were called, which made everybody draw up their
skirts. The form was removed to the middle of the room. The dark young
lady told us a good deal about her past; how she had an old mistress who
died in her chair and "looked heavenly," and how her daughter wished to
take her to London, and even sent her fare, but she would not go. She
sighed over it, and said, when we asked her if she was not sorry, that
she had wished many times she had gone; "but," she added, "I was young
and foolish, and had no one to advise me." A nice, bright-looking young
girl, who had come in looking very weary, and who had a bad cough,
interested us much. She had been out since eight, but obtained no money.
She said she had been out all one night, and so got her cough. Later we
learned her story. She had been out late one night when in service on a
gala day, and, having a strict mistress, she was afraid of returning to
her place. A companion persuaded her to take train to N----. The girls
had just enough money, and were landed as strangers in a strange town.
They walked about and found this lodging-house. They entered, and, being
destitute, fell at once into prostitution.[111]

By this time we thoroughly understood the character of the house. It may
be there were exceptions, but they would be but few. The inmates,
probably about sixty, young and old, were living a life of sin, and we
were told that the proprietor of this lodging-house owned fifteen
others. We learnt that a house could be taken for £2 11_s_. a week, and
8_s_. for a servant. We learnt that most of the girls came home very
late--many as late as two o'clock--and in such a state that they kept
the others awake, singing and talking, drunk or maudlin. The house was
open till two at any rate every night.

We stayed up till twelve o'clock to learn as much as we could; then, as
the proprietress seemed rather anxious for us to go to bed, we went
upstairs and were shown into a fair-sized room with seven beds, low iron
bedsteads with wire mattresses, and fairly clean mattress, sheets, and
pillows. A woman who had a terrible cold and cough and our Scotch friend
came to bed, the latter being comparatively sober, though she had had
many drinks that day. Later on the other beds were filled. One had had
over eleven shillings in the morning, but seemed to have "got without
it." The woman with a cold insisted on having the window closed, and the
room was very stifling, otherwise clean and comfortable (compared with
some of our experiences); but our companions, some of them, had on
filthy underclothing when seen by daylight.

The woman of the house called us about nine o'clock,[112] and we had to
get up "willy-nilly." There was a bath-room, with wash-basins and hot
and cold water, and we learnt there were some 1_s_. beds with separate
washing accommodation.

A woman whose hair was going grey ascribed it to constant dyeing. A
young girl had to go to see the doctor.

We found our way to the kitchen and prepared breakfast, securing our
knife once more which we had returned. We took our breakfast to the
dining-room, where a number of dissolute girls--some handsome, almost
all slatternly--were already collected. We saw our young acquaintance of
the night before, apparently breakfastless, and invited her to join us,
which she gladly did. We learnt that she had had no food the day before,
except a drink of tea and a little bread and butter, having had "no
luck." Evidently she was starved into prostitution, about which she was
still very shamefaced. She had been in several lodging-houses. The town
ones were "ten times worse." A private one she had been in one night had
had no lavatory accommodation; she had to go and wash at the station,
paying twopence. She was afraid to solicit in town; the "bobbies" kept a
sharp look-out, and sometimes were in plain clothes. One had stopped her
when she was only walking, told her she was on the streets, asked her
where she came from, and advised her to go home to her mother. He asked
why she was "on the town," and when she told him she had got no work, he
said, "You all say that." As she was afraid in the town, she was in the
habit of going out to the suburbs. Her friend had quarrelled with her,
and even struck her in the street. She was in another lodging-house, and
"doing well" on the town.

This forlorn girl had tried in vain to find a true friend among the
others. One had borrowed and not repaid, one had been friendly and cast
her off. We promised to try and help her.

Breakfast over, we sat and watched the scene, being three times moved to
make room at the tables. Round the fire was a group of girls far gone in
dissipation; good-looking girls most of them, but shameless; smoking
cigarettes, boasting of drinks, or drinking, using foul language,
singing music-hall songs, or talking vileness. The room grew full, and
breakfasts were about, onions, bacon, beefsteak, tea, etc., filling the
air with mingled odours. A girl called "Dot" and another danced "the
cake-walk" in the middle of the floor.

On this scene entered the girl who had to go to the doctor. She was
condemned to the Lock Hospital, and cried bitterly. An animated
conversation took place about the whereabouts and merits of various lock
wards or hospitals, and everyone tried to cheer her up. "Never mind,
Ivy, you'll soon be through with it!"

Later entered a distressed mother. Her girl was wrongly accused of
stealing. She had traced her to another lodging-house, but it was
closed. She spoke to say that "she was her child whatever she had done,
and she would see her through and take her home if she could find her,
as she was her best friend." "Tell her if you come across her that the
back door is always open, and she will be welcome." Several girls cried,
thinking of their mothers, and a woman offered to take her and search
for her daughter later on. This scene brought tears to the eyes of our
young friend, and I said, "That's what your mother will say." We had now
to leave her, under promise not to go out until we returned. We left our
tea and bread and solitary penny, and gladly escaped to the fresh air.

During the time these scenes had gone on several girls received notes.
One was packing up to go somewhere; one was told "the landlord wanted
her." A further visit gave further light.


Returning at 10 o'clock, we purchased, at the little shop which caters
for this lodging-house, a loaf of bread for 2-1/4_d_., two ounces of
boiled ham, a penny tin of condensed milk, and a pennyworth of sugar;
tea and butter we had with us. Armed with these, in the kitchen we
speedily obtained hot water and made our tea-supper. We took it into the
dining-room for coolness' sake, and established ourselves at a table.
This room had three long wooden tables and forms. It was an oblong room
with one fireplace, and out of it was another kitchen with fireplace and
gas stove.

There were hardly any girls in when we entered, and, to our great
disappointment, our acquaintance of the day before was out. She had gone
out at nine o'clock. She was not out long, but returned drunk; she had
been "in luck." She had had "two small whiskies and a soda," and they
had bowled her over. She had plenty of money now, and was talkative, and
staggering. We felt we could not do anything with her that night. She
came and talked to us a little, asking us our "luck," to which we
replied "that we had done very well," and were going on to another town
next day. I had improved my appearance, wearing hat, tie, and belt, so
this bore out my story.

The proprietress as we entered had told us not to mind a woman who was
"gone dotty" with drink. She also was in this room, properly maudlin.
She had a chemise, which she kept tucking into her breast, pulling up
her under-garments, and examining her stockings. She was taking more
drink still, brought in in a bottle, and though warned, I believe she
insisted presently on sallying forth, and would probably fall into the
hands of the police. The other women present humoured her to avoid a

By this time we felt quite "at home," knowing the faces of a good many
of the inmates. Most were out, but one and another we recollected came
dropping in, in some cases to go out again. Our dark friend came and
questioned us as to how we had got on. We told her we had done very
well. She said, "I suppose you have been round the town?" Evidently she
was fishing for our occupation, and I fear she would gather the wrong
impression from our affirmative reply; but we really had been about and
could not "give ourselves away." This little person seemed to keep from
drink, though she told us she had lost her last place through buying,
with her own money, bottles of stout, and so horrifying her mistress,
who, she said, was "a religious woman, but a regular pig." This mistress
took drink herself, but "would not own it," and "suffered from
indigestion." She had the doctor, and he recommended change, society,
etc., but she lazed about most of the day and drank. Little Dark Hair
said she could have stood it if the woman had been straight, if she had
told her she took drink and it wasn't good for her; but to call it
"indigestion," and dismiss her servant for buying in a few bottles of
stout out of her own money, it was too disgusting! She left, and didn't
feel like asking for a character, as what she said was regarded as
cheek! She was evidently very low-spirited, for she said she wished she
was "in a bandbox," and then explained she meant her coffin. She said
she would get out of this if she had a home; but she had no home, no
friends. She was soon to become a mother--she would soon have to go to
the workhouse. We gave her the address of a friend who would help her,
but could not ourselves do so because of our _incognito_.

There was a great difference in the characters and appearance of the
various women. One old woman apparently got her living by running
errands and doing odd jobs for the girls. I think one woman was a
pedlar. The former woman showed by her conversation that she had lived
an immoral life. There were several women about thirty or forty, who
behaved quietly and were dressed comparatively modestly and cleanly.
Some looked quite superior to their position, but I believe they had
only acquired the wisdom of reticence, as they dressed themselves up and
went out like the others, and one I thought particularly quiet, who
seemed to watch us a good deal, smoked like the others, after she had
been out. Some explanation of the probable life of these elder women was
afforded next morning by a woman, rather stout, and more talkative. She
had gone out overnight, setting off for her regular place, which was
apparently some way off in a suburb. A "toff" took her to have a drink,
and promised her money to go with him to an hotel. He afterwards gave
her the slip, leaving her penniless. Another girl, young and pretty,
said she was given in the dark two pennies silvered over! A dark girl
told her she "wasn't so soft; she always felt the edges of her money in
the dark and knew by that."

There were no old women, except the one or two who seemed to live on the
others, by cleaning or by sewing or running errands. One girl was said
to get her living by doing this, and "drank all she got." Most of the
younger ones seemed to get more or less drunk every day. They had to
drown thought, but drink and dissipation were fast playing havoc with
their good looks, and several had very severe coughs, due to exposure to
night air. A girl who did not gather lodging money might be out all
night, as our friend the runaway had been, and none were very warmly
clad. They had to take off underclothing and replace it after it was
washed, apparently being almost all improvident. One or two, notably
"Dot," a small dark girl, who kept herself clean, and was pretty, with a
kind of perky prettiness that hid vulgarity, seemed to be better fitted
up. She had a basket of clothes, and seemed to be going somewhere by
appointment. We heard it several times mentioned that Mr. S---- wanted
one and another, and that they must have "a note" from him, or "a
paper." He was "the landlord."

But I am anticipating the morning. We sat watching until we were weary,
between eleven and twelve, and then went to our bedroom. The same beds
were reserved, and one woman who was said to work for her living, and
had a very bad cough, was already in bed. We were speedily in bed also,
and for a while were quiet. The room was very stuffy, in spite of two
ventilators; the sheets not very clean, but still fairly so. The beds
were filled by degrees, all but one, that previously occupied by the
Scotch woman. One girl who came in late said she was not on the streets;
that she had begged money for her lodging, as she was out too late to
return to her place. It was holiday time, being Whit week.[113] One girl
who came in late, and had had drink, which made her talkative, said she
was a servant, and had just left a place where she had been ten months.
She said she had been to a pleasure resort all the night before with her
young man; that her mistress begged her not to come to this
lodging-house; she was very good to her, but she said she had had some
drink, and it got late, and she couldn't go anywhere else. She had no
money to buy breakfast, and had an appointment with her young man at
eight o'clock next morning. He promised to give her some money. She
meant to "enjoy herself" over the holiday and then go to service
again.[114] She did get up early, complaining she felt poorly, and she
went to her appointment, but I think he did not meet her. We offered her
some breakfast before she went, and she joyfully recognised us when she
returned without it, and we gave her the rest of our provisions.

One girl who had been in before grumbled that her bed had been slept in,
and was dirty; but her own underlinen was far from clean. No one seemed
to possess a nightgown; all slept in their underlinen.

We had the door a little ajar, and far into the night the door bell kept
ringing, and girls were admitted and laughter and conversation drifted
up the stairs. Our room settled down some time past midnight, but the
girl who was drunk several times tried to begin a conversation. At last
we all slept; two, however, had bad coughs. I woke at intervals through
the night, and finally, at 6.30, I woke longing for fresh air. I put on
a skirt and went down to enquire the time, and decided to get up and go
out for a quiet stroll. The bath-room was empty. The bath had old papers
in it, and did not look as if it was often used. There was a table with
looking-glass, and a good deal of rouge about. The w.c. had a good flush
of water. The washing basin was very small, and no soap was provided.
There was a roller towel for everybody. We had learned by experience to
take our own soap and towel, and we lent the soap several times.
Articles of clothing seemed to be frequently lent. We saw girls trying
on each other's hats, and there were complaints that they were also
stolen. Several locked boxes were in the bath-room, and some empty ones.
No convenience existed for keeping things privately except this. Some
women had a few things in drawers in the kitchen, but they were not
locked. The woman in charge had a sitting-room and a piano, and she kept
knives in her room. You paid a penny to have one, and it was returned to
you when you gave back the knife. Knives also were lent from one to
another. A girl whose head was questionably clean wanted to borrow my
friend's shawl to go an errand, but we made an excuse and did not lend

My friend got up more slowly, so I slipped out to the bright freshness
of a May morning, and walked in the direction of a park. There were
plenty astir, trams running, and people going holiday-making. The park
was not open, as it was not yet seven, but just outside I found a
resting-place. What a contrast the fresh budding life of the trees was
to that perversion and decay of budding womanhood I had left behind me!
A tree cut down in its prime to make way for building furnished me with
a parallel. What _artificial_ conditions of man's making are pressing on
those young lives, snapping them off from true use to rottenness and
decay? Why do they not grow healthily? A crowded bedroom, an uneasy
couch, a bare dining-room, wooden slats and tables, a precarious
livelihood--these are not things to draw a girl, and the excitement of
"the life" has to be covered by drink and degradation. Is it true, that
once _in_ it, it is too difficult to get out, and that a girl may be
trapped unawares and wound round and round as in a spider's web by a
multitude of threads of circumstance which prevent her escape? Is there
even at the back an _organised_ system, seeking victims and preying on
them? This much is certain, that there is room for an alliance of greed
and wickedness against defenceless and destitute womanhood. For if a
woman "cannot get work," where is she to go? What is she to do? Can all
our Homes and Shelters together prevent many from drifting "on the
streets"? Do we not need a national provision for migration and
temporary destitution among women?[115]

Musing thus, I returned to my friend, and we went out together and sat
about half an hour on some public seats. The open air refreshed us, and
once more we returned to get our breakfast. I found a cup and saucer
with difficulty, for by this time most were in requisition. Every one
had her own provisions, but they all seemed to live from hand to mouth;
there was nowhere to keep them, and there were complaints that they were
stolen. Bread and butter, tea, bacon, or ham, or an egg, were the staple
diet. There were no forks, only a very common blunt knife to be had for
the penny, and tin spoons rusty with use. The walls were bare, except
for a print of the infant Christ bearing a cross, over the kitchen
mantelpiece. "Oh, Christ!" was a favourite exclamation. The language was
often foul. The girls chatted together also about their previous night's
experiences, but mostly in groups of two or three exchanging
confidences. We asked A---- to join us, and she offered me an egg, and
went out and fetched herself some tea, butter, and crumpets. We were now
going to make a struggle for this girl's salvation, but it was very
difficult to do so without exciting suspicion. We tried to persuade her
to go to B----. I had written overnight to secure a place for her; but
she would not do this, or go home, fearing her father's wrath. She was
also wretched after her previous night's indulgence, and ashamed of
herself, and in a difficult irresolute state. Reference to her mother
made her weep, and this attracted attention. The woman of the house
came, without any apparent reason, and borrowed her shawl. We asked her
to go out with us, and her shawl was not returned, but a small grey one
was _lent_ her.

I spoke to the little dark young woman, and she gratefully received an
address to which she might apply for help after her confinement.

We succeeded in getting A---- to give us her mother's address, and
promised to write for her. With this, I think, we should have been
content, but she offered to go out with us after all a little way, and
we hoped to persuade her. We knew of a Shelter near by, and we actually
succeeded in getting her there; but she would not remain, and we had to
let her return, fearing that she would probably drink again to drown
recollection. We spent altogether nearly two hours in trying to get her
to some satisfactory resolution. Meanwhile the girls were talking,
laughing, singing, or dancing about the room. Two were particularly
playful; both handsome girls, but already dissipated in looks. Both had
an abundance of fair hair, apparently "all their own." One girl
sportively asked one of them to "lend her her hair." I thought she was
joking, but presently she crossed the room, and untwisted a lock of hair
from the head of one of them and twisted it up and fixed it on her own!
It was many shades fairer, and was speedily returned to its owner. These
two girls were constantly striking up bits of comic songs, or larking
with one another or dancing "the cake walk."

I fear in our endeavour to secure our young friend we lost other
opportunities. But it was a continually-changing scene. Most sat round
comparatively quiet; some, very weary, lay on the forms or lolled on one
another; some smoked cigarettes, some talked, and one or two were
washing their clothes in another room. One girl took off her stockings
to wash them. There were one or two strikingly handsome girls--one had a
face that reminded me of some painting I had seen--but the majority
were only good-looking when rouge and powder had effaced dissipation or
accentuated their good points; by morning light they looked flabby,
coarse, and unhealthy. One girl, Joy, with a pink-and-white complexion
that bore the light, had to go to the Lock Hospital. Apparently most of
these girls had outgrown the fear of this or of prison. "Bless you! they
don't mind being 'pinched,'" said one woman; "it gives them a rest."
Here, then, was womanhood devoid of fear! Social restraints had
vanished--as with the tramp, so with the harlot![116]

The only fear left was that of each other's opinion, and this had
sufficient force to draw back to "the life" the one we wished to rescue.
On her soul lay the knowledge of the _horror_ of respectable society
towards what she had become, and the _attraction_ of the fellowship of
those who would receive her freely. We succeeded in getting her to go
out with us in a small borrowed shawl, and we coaxed her to a place
where she would have received shelter till her friends were communicated
with. But it was no use--she must go to her _friends_. Persuasion was
useless. We would have taken her with us, but she would go back. All we
could do was to give her the address of a friend and take that of her
parents, in the _hope_ of a chance to save her.

It is, I believe, hardly possible to rescue a girl deep in harlotry,
though it might be possible to steer poor souls who have passed
disillusionment to some harbour of refuge where moral purity was to be
recovered. They must "get their living." Who would knowingly employ
them? The national recognition of the right of the individual to
employment and subsistence seems to me to be the remedy for the harlot
as for the tramp. The harlot is the _female tramp_, driven by hard
social conditions to primitive freedom of sex relationship.[117]


During the week that intervened before we could again visit, we
succeeded in finding out that there was a "welcome home" for the
wanderer. Armed with a letter from her mother, but with some misgivings
as to success, we went to the lodging-house, intending to see her
quietly; but when we reached the door the woman in charge stood there.
We asked for the girl by name. She said she was not there; that a letter
had come for her, but they had not been able to give it to her, as she
had left. We asked where she had gone. She did not know. Baffled, but
uncertain as to whether she was telling the truth, we stood hesitating,
when who should come to the door but the girl herself! The woman was so
nonplussed that she gave way and invited us in! We gave the girl her
mother's letter, and watched her read it. The girl's face changed,
softened. She cried, but she only said, "My sister has written it," when
an elderly woman came and began talking to us. As the girl was opposite
us we could no longer speak privately. After a while, however, she
changed her place so as to get near me, and we began talking, but a
young woman also came and asked if she were going out with her. We did
not wish to attract too much attention, so it was only by degrees we
could tell her we were ready to send her away next morning, having had
the money to do so given us.

She made difficulties about being ashamed to go home in dirty clothes.
We asked her to wash them. She said if she left them to dry overnight
they would be stolen. We told her to exchange them for others. She
wanted to go out and get money for some things, and go home well
dressed. We were not sure as to what might happen if she did this, and
urged her to give up "the life" for her mother's sake and meet us in the
morning. Fearing too much pressure would act in the wrong direction, we
decided to leave her, trusting to God to bring her to the right
decision. This He did, for she went out and had "bad luck," and received
only two halfpennies!

We set out once more to search for lodgings, intending to make straight
for a street we had heard of by name. We took a penny tram-ride to the
heart of the town, and asking directions of a woman, got a very bad
impression from her of the street whither we were bound, a mild
recommendation to one lodging-house, and a warm one, coupled with an
invitation, to the one whither she was going. However, we "preferred the
worst," and so with thanks we left her. When, however, after a long walk
we found the street, it was narrow and unsavoury, and the lodging-houses
were all small cottages. We looked through open doors at a few
interiors--and flinched! We knew what they would be like only too
well![118] Besides, as we wanted to see as much "life" as possible, we
preferred a larger one. We could be _sure_ of what these low-class ones
were, if a slightly better one was unsatisfactory. So we sought a street
near by, which we had also heard mentioned, and which, being a principal
thoroughfare, was flanked by houses of a larger type, once inhabited by
the well-to-do, but which now had descended to be lodging-houses.

A female lodging-house (next door to a men's lodging-house) looked clean
and respectable, although through the open door we caught a glimpse of a
girl who was dressing, and who attracted some attention from passers-by
by her condition of half-undress. We paid sixpence each, and secured two
beds in the same room. We then were "free of the house," which consisted
of a long passage leading to a small kitchen. Leading from the passage
was a front parlour occupied by the "deputy" and her husband, a larger
dining-room furnished as usual with tables and forms, and a door leading
to a yard with sanitary conveniences. A stairway with oak balustrading
led above; a door which could be locked had been placed at the bottom,
and no one was allowed upstairs till they went to bed--a good precaution
for cleanliness and decency.

In the kitchen there was a fire, and hot water in a boiler by the side.
A couple of tables and two forms, accommodating each about four people,
were the only furniture besides a rack in the wall and some shelves
filled with hats and other clothes. There was no room for more, as a
small sink with hot and cold water occupied the corner by the fire.
There were a few pots in much request, and two large tins. These formed
the only apparatus for washing of all kinds. We saw them used overnight
for bathing the feet, etc., one girl washing her feet in them; we knew
they were used for washing clothes, and we saw them full of dirty pots
in the morning. As we heard the state of one girl alluded to as
contagious, "but she won't go to hospital," it is easy to be imagined
that we could not bring ourselves to eat and drink there. Nor did we
consider it safe to use any sanitary convenience except upstairs, for it
was easy to see the character of the house. We sat on the form in the
kitchen for nearly an hour, while the girl we had seen made her
elaborate toilet. She had a most severe cough, and could hardly speak,
yet she sat, often in full view of the front door, in a low chemise and
skirt, both of good quality if they had only been _clean_, which they
were not. She had finished her washing process, but there were many
others. She powdered her face and breast, she rouged herself with great
care (being chaffed meanwhile by some of her companions), she burnt a
match and blackened her eyebrows, and then by slow degrees she did her
hair in numerous rolls, finishing up by curling the little ends and
putting a net over all. Then, after some discussion as to which hat
suited her (apparently hats, though they had owners, were common
property), she put on first a very thin muslin blouse with a hole at the
shoulder, then a clean skirt and a costume skirt and jacket (the latter
very open at the neck), and finally the selected hat. She looked, when
thus disguised, a handsome young woman, but her face was really thin and
wan, and it was almost death to her to go out, as she did, into the cold
night air with only a thin tie to protect her chest. She returned in the
morning, saying she had been at the C---- Hotel all night, and had been
drinking all the time, and had not slept at all. She looked very weary,
and rolled up some clothes and lay full length on a form to attempt to
sleep. She could not long survive such a life. One girl had died the
previous week there.

While her long toilet was taking place, a succession of girls entered,
most of them going out again after a brief rest. The first, who sat by
me and told her story, was not, as yet, on the streets.[119] She had
been sent when five years old to an orphanage, and from that to a
laundry home, where she had received a good education, and from which
she got a good situation. She was not strong, however, and, becoming
anæmic, was sent to hospital. There she was questioned as to her
parents, whom she had not seen for years, and sent, when discharged, to
the town where they lived to seek for them. She found her mother living
in sin with another man, by whom she had children. Her father was a
drunkard, who had been many times convicted; he lived with her sister in
lodgings. She clung to him as her own, and all the right feelings
cultured in her gave intensity to her affection for her long-lost
father. He kicked and ill-used her, but promised amendment. He broke out
again, and had that morning been sent down for a month. She had nowhere
to go. Her sister was cold to her and to her father; probably she took
after her mother, and had reason enough not to love her father, who had,
however, in his way looked after her. She was working and could support
herself, but this poor girl was stranded. Her one cry was that she
_must_ meet her father when he came from prison; she was sure he would
do better. She had no money, and feared she should have to walk the
streets. I paid her lodging, and one or two of the girls gave her a
little food. She said she intended next morning to seek work in a
laundry. We urged her, if she did not obtain it, to go to a relief
agency we knew, and she seemed quite willing to do so, and a woman
present also recommended it. She was in the same mind the next morning,
so I hoped she would do so, as she did not seem to wish to drift to
evil. Her father, bad as he was through drink, was not bad in that way.
Her mother was a thoroughly immoral woman. This girl, well intentioned
and well brought up, but feeble in health, ought never to have drifted
to such a place.

I have before had occasion to notice the harm done by hospital
authorities in sending friendless girls, without sufficient enquiry (or
even though knowing they are quite friendless), back to their native
town. Girls such as this should be passed on to some agency that would
"mother" them. It is easy to see how a little indecision, and the
pressure of hunger, might anchor a girl to sin.[120] For most of those
who entered were openly leading a life of shame. Girl after girl came
in, rested, and went out. We learnt their "by-names," and those of
others. "Red Jinny," distinguished from "Scotch Jinny" and other
Jinnies, was living with a companion in prostitution.

The pathetic history of a young woman who began her toilet by having a
foot-bath (in one of the tins), her legs being swollen with varicose
veins, will illustrate this life. She had a good home, a kind and strict
father. The way home was always open to her, for her parents had not the
slightest idea she was living in sin. They thought she was in service.
She had actually been home over the week-end, and thoroughly enjoyed
herself, going on Sunday to church and Sunday school. ("I wish I was as
good!" sighed one when she heard it.) Yet for two or three years she had
really led the life of a prostitute. Her history was a sad one. She kept
company five years, and then her young man betrayed her. She managed to
conceal this from her parents, and in order to maintain her baby she
went on the streets. For two and a half years she lived with a
prostitute friend, and worked and struggled for her little one, coming
home one day to find her scalded and her companion "blind drunk."
However, the child survived, only to perish of bronchitis and pneumonia.
Her mother had worked for her and clothed her with her own fingers,
making all her clothes herself. She was clever, for as she talked she
unpicked a hat and twisted and turned it to new account. After her child
died she left her companion--or was deserted by her--and now for some
months she had been living here, except for home visits. She found it
hard to get out of "the life," because she had kept up the deception
that she was entangled in. "Her father would die" if he knew she was in
such a place! But he must get to know in the long run unless she got out
of "the life." Already she had been twice in the hands of the
police--once for drink, and once for accosting. The second time she got
off for "first offence." She gave an assumed name and paid the fine, but
next time she would have to "go down." We got a good opportunity to
press her to go where we knew she would find friends, as she was the
only one in bed in our room by twelve o'clock. She did not go out
because of a superstitious feeling that "something was going to happen,"
which, she said, had also preceded her being taken up. She said she
wished she was at home in her own good bed, which was always kept for
her; that she was getting to drink and swear, and this life would soon
kill her. We placed before her as strongly as we could the path to
safety, and urged her to struggle free for the sake of father and child.
It made one long to go and _live_ continuously with these girls,
gradually acquiring influence, and being able to speak to them as a
Christian woman, and save them from the web in which they were
entangled. Such work would be difficult and delicate, for it would be
necessary to live quietly, maintaining oneself among them and acting by
character, not by profession.

But surely something more is possible. There should be large,
well-ventilated, well-provided women's lodging houses, open even to the
prostitute, but under the care of wise, motherly women. Here it was
impossible for a girl even to keep her own property; there was not a
locker or any place to put anything away. Girls slept with their hats on
their beds for security. Everything was "borrowed" or "made off with." A
little care would keep a decent girl steady and safe, and bring many a
wanderer back to goodness. Here everything tended to demoralisation. The
sanitary arrangements were deficient. I cannot defend the shameless
toilet in full view of an open door to the street, which we saw
repeated, even to half-nudity, several times over. But this kitchen was
the only place in which to wash and dress, and the door must needs be
open. The constant talk was filthy--not on the part of all, but on that
of many--and the life most were leading not in the least disguised. The
more successful girls were sometimes out all night. Two or three came in
very drunk and were piloted to bed by friends. Shameless expressions
which cannot be repeated were used with regard to actions which decency
conceals. Yet listening were other girls not so far gone in sin.

A young girl in a shawl, hardly more than a child, came in apparently on
an errand, and stayed some time. She was asked if she was going to "mash
for a quid." An old woman called "Old Mackintosh," from her wearing a
long mackintosh cloak, and also affectionately called "Ma," was
apparently the sport of the girls, and yet regarded with a sort of
affection. They teased her and stole her things, and even hit her. She
had a bad temper, and scolded, which afforded them amusement; but if
they went too far they made it up by embracing her. Poor woman! I fear
drink was her trouble. They said she had hardly anything under her
cloak. She seemed ravenously hungry, and how she got her living I don't
know. One or two elderly women were apparently not prostitutes, but
earned money by cleaning. It was, however, rather difficult to settle
how they lived. One woman was very coarse and fat, with an ugly scar on
her shoulder, which she exhibited in the morning when she indulged in
the luxury of "a good wash," but was not clean. She put on a ragged
bodice, the silk of which was hanging in shreds, and which had a big
hole under the arm showing a great patch of bare flesh; yet over all she
put a most respectable cloak, and a bonnet that would have done credit
to a Quaker. I was astonished to see her emerge as almost a lady!
Evidently the "clothes philosophy" is well understood in Slumdom, for
whatever purposes it is used. Indeed, it has given me somewhat of a
shock to realise that many of these, even if dwellers in actual filth
and disease, would not be distinguishable in any way from ordinary

Nothing was more noticeable in both lodging-houses than the existence
of at least three descriptions of prostitutes. There was the apparently
quiet, modest one, whom you would take to be a respectable girl. One of
these gave an account of how "her boy" had met her and spent an hour or
two trying to persuade her to go away and get work. He even cried! But
apparently he did not move her. She promised him as a put-off. This
quiet sort of girl is most to be dreaded; she may act as a tempter.

There was, in the second place, the good-natured girl, naturally
affectionate. "Everyone likes me wherever I go," said the girl who had a
home. This girl should have been a happy wife and mother. Her fate lies
at the door of him who wronged her. Once in "the life," the ties of
friendship and a vivacious, sociable disposition would draw her to it
again and again.

The third kind may be the second gone to ruin, or those who, having had
a worse bringing up, are naturally more shamelessly immoral. Drink has
fascinations for them. They go "on the town" to get drink. One such, who
was drunk over night, gave a long and involved history of her doings in
the morning. She had received money and drink from three soldiers, but
she declined to descend to the level of "Soldiers' Jinny," whose
unmentionable doings were related at length. She left them and got more
drink, piloted a couple to a "safe house" and was tipped for it, was
treated to "bottled stout"--much to her disgust, as she preferred other
drink--came along certain streets gloriously drunk, daring policemen,
and arrived home happy, just sufficiently quarrelsome to get a free
berth from everyone. She was a handsome dark girl of a low class. Her
language was unspeakably foul, every sentence being interspersed with
gory adjectives. She evidently expected admiration from her hearers for
a sort of dare-devilry.

It was pitiable, as the evening went on, to see the state of many. Two
elderly women in the other room carried on a maudlin conversation, just
on the edge of a quarrel, the substance of which was that they
"understood one another," and would not blab each other's secrets!

All the time this was going on a man, and sometimes other men, were in
the passage frequently. There was in this passage a locked door,
constantly unlocked, leading to the next door men's lodging-house.
Apparently the husband caretaker in our house was also caretaker in
this, hence comings and goings. I have no reason to suppose there was
any illicit communication as regards the house itself; but girls were
frequently asked for by name, and the presence of a man or men was not
desirable. The caretaker himself was familiarly addressed as "Pa."

The hours slowly wore away. One girl sat patiently for eleven o'clock to
strike. She "never went out till eleven," she said. She was a quiet
girl, not very good looking. About half-past eleven two girls in shawls
came in and had something to eat. From conversation between them (they
slept in our room), they seemed to be working girls who had been turned
out of home. One worked at a mackintosh warehouse, the other, I think,
at tin-plate. One at least intended to go to work in the morning, but
was not up when I came away.[121] And this was not wonderful, for with
the best intentions youth and sleepiness would make them lie long in the
morning; for at twelve, when I went to bed, only a few had gone
upstairs, and right on till two o'clock at least the interruptions were
far too numerous for rest.

Besides the usual comings and goings, locking and unlocking of doors,
drunken stumbling upstairs, and loud good-nights exchanged, a tragedy
that turned to a comedy was being enacted. A woman known as the "Mussel
Woman," who carried an empty basket on her arm--which those who knew her
called a "blind," as she hardly ever had anything to sell--came and
claimed a lodging, having nothing to pay. After a good deal of
"language," she was made to understand that she could not have it,
whereupon she said she should "keep shouting all night" if they did not
let her in. She was as good as her word for half an hour at least,
shouting at the top of her voice the most abusive personal language,
and banging the door at intervals. I do not know whether seasons of
quiet were due to police rounds, but she shouted and banged, and then
desisted at intervals, for quite two hours. No sooner was everything
quiet than she again appeared. Several angry colloquies took place with
the deputy. Once she was let in, saying "Jinny" would pay for her, and
came all round the beds looking for "Jinny" with the deputy. "Jinny" was
not found, and she was again ejected, I believe; but finally a policeman
intervened, said he could not have her in the street, and forced the
lodging-house keeper to accept her, money or no money. I should not like
the berth of a "deputy"; she could have had no rest till two at the
earliest, yet was up cleaning and sweeping before seven.

Our beds and bedroom could not be called _clean_, yet were not dirty; at
any rate in this respect, that we did not see any insects. That is a
great deal to be thankful for. I woke after a brief and broken slumber
at 6.30. All were young in my room save my companion and myself, and all
slept soundly. There was nothing to tell the time, so I dressed without
disturbing them, and on arriving downstairs found it was ten minutes
past seven. I washed my face at the sink with my own soap and flannel,
and sallied out in search of a clean and cheap breakfast. I succeeded
beyond my expectation, finding on enquiry a small shop where I got a cup
of coffee for 1/2_d_. and a good substantial 1/2_d_. bun. Thus
fortified I spent a pleasant hour looking at pictures in shop windows
and observing passers by, and returned about 8 o'clock to wake my
friend. She had gone to bed at 9.30 the previous night with a bad
headache, which was no better for a disturbed night, so we escaped as
quickly as possible to fresh air and a cup of coffee, and then by tram
to keep our appointment with the girl we wished to save.

We entered the house by the open door and sought the dining-room to look
for her, but were met by reproof on the part of the deputy. She said we
had no right in when we hadn't slept there. She had allowed it as a
favour the day before, but could not again permit it. To solve this
difficulty my friend paid for her bed for the night, and was then of
course free of the house. I had to leave her to wait to see the girl,
and if possible to send her to her mother; and I am glad to say that she
succeed in dispatching her safely to the far-distant home, where I trust
loving hearts may hold her too closely for return.

I have tried to tell a plain, unvarnished tale--in which nevertheless
much is left out that would not bear printing--of the way in which these
our young sisters live. The pity of it is that though some may from
sheer wickedness seek it, more--perhaps most--are drawn in by frivolity
and misfortune. It may be exceedingly difficult to rescue them when
contaminated, surrounded as they are by all those invisible ties of
friendship which chain a woman's heart. We make elaborate institutions
to _rescue_ them, which are often surrounded by such restrictions that
they defeat their own end.

Can we not do something to solve the problem by providing suitable and
sufficient women's lodging-houses under good management, where freedom
is not interfered with unduly, but influence for good is steady?

In Christian England a friendless girl should never want a friend and a
home. And to guard our girls is to preserve our nation from the worst of
evils--the corruption of a 'trade' based on greed and dishonour. Yet how
else can a destitute girl get her living without a friend?

_When all else is sold she sells herself to live!_[122]


[111] See p. 193.

[112] See p. 190.

[113] See p. 194 for contrast.

[114] See p. 194.

[115] See Appendix VII.

[116] See p. 28.

[117] See Appendix VII.

[118] See p. 97.

[119] See p, 193.

[120] See Appendix VII.

[121] See p. 190, and as a contrast p. 200.

[122] See Appendices VII. and VIII.




There are certain elementary considerations of decency with regard to
accommodation for women that we might expect would receive attention in
every town of considerable size, especially those along the main
thoroughfares by which travel takes place. To leave provision for a
certain need entirely in private hands is to ensure in the end great
public expense. It is not to private advantage to provide maximum but
minimum comfort. The margin of profit is small, and the class provided
for will put up with a great deal. Inspection may swoop down on flagrant
neglect, but does not avail to prevent a state of things most
undesirable from every point of view.[123]

Under the conviction that nothing but investigation into the actual
state of things will shed light on the nature of the reforms needed, my
friend and I set out once more on pilgrimage, our object being to
investigate the state of things in a town not twenty miles from
Manchester, on the line of constant travel, with regard to
accommodation for women.

Thinking it desirable to make some preliminary inquiries, we first
visited a friend who belonged to "the Army"; we could, however, get
little information, so we visited the Captain, hoping to learn something
useful. We found that "the Army" visited the men's lodging-houses, and
that there were frequent inquiries for a Shelter, but they did not
possess one in this town. Finally we learned that there was not in the
whole town a lodging-house for women only! Possibly there may be some
charitable institutions. But for a woman coming to the town not
absolutely destitute, able to beg or earn fourpence for a bed (which
means, it must be remembered, two-and-fourpence a week, without food),
there were only three places, and in each "married couples" were also

One was described to us as "full of gay girls," a second was small, and
the single men had to pass through the sitting-room to bed; we were
assured, however, that the proprietress did her best to prevent
"carryings on." The third being described as "the best in the town," we
decided to try it. But it is obvious that no town can be considered in a
satisfactory condition that makes no provision for homeless women, apart
from men. Widows and friendless girls are to be found everywhere, and it
is most important that a safe place of refuge should exist to arrest,
if possible, a downward career.[125]

We found a group of men outside the lodging-house, and one of them
kindly showed us the way to the office, a lighted room up a sort of
court. There was a movable square of glass in the window of this room,
and through this we paid our money, sixpence for a double bed. We were
told we should have to come through that room to bed and that we must go
"up a stair to the right," and with this our communication with our host
or hostess begun and ended, for there was no one in the room when we
passed through to bed, and when we came away there was only a child in
possession, half-dressed.

The room up the short stair, in which we found ourselves, was lofty and
airy and might have been pleasant,--if it had been clean. There was a
large fireplace with a fine range.[126] On the mantelpiece some wag had
drawn, upon a round piece of board, a clock face, with the hands
pointing to five-to-twelve, and the legend written underneath,

"No tick hear (_sic_) all stopped to-day."

Also a large frying-pan hanging on the wall bore the humorous
inscription, "Out of work."

The walls were painted light above and dark below, various shawls and
hats were hanging up, shelves by the side of the fire contained a
non-descript collection of food and other possessions, and there was the
usual stock-in-trade of frying-pans and saucepans, but no kettle. Hot
water for any purpose (and cold also) had to be fetched from the "single
men's" side of the building.

There was a small sink in one corner, but the water was cut off. There
was absolutely no convenience for washing of all kinds--personal,
family, or for culinary purposes--save this sink.[127] Men and women
alike must fetch water from the other room, even to wash the "pots." A
card on the wall informed the lodgers that they were expected to wash
their own. The "pots" were a few enamelled basins, soup-plates, and
tea-pots, some very much worse for wear. The sanitary conveniences were
out in the yard, and apparently common to both men and women.

We took our seat at one of the tables, which, with wooden forms, were
the only furniture, except what has been already alluded to. We then
began to take stock of our fellow-lodgers.

On the other side of our table, a man with dark hair (and plenty of it)
was employed in "cobbling" his wife's boots. It took him most of the
evening to fasten on pieces of leather with nails, and to knock the
nails down. His job was then pronounced "first-rate" by the men, but the
wife reserved her opinion till they had been tested by the next day's
march! He confided to us that she was "no walker" and "took an hour to
walk a mile" (this is the gist of his speech, which was much garnished).
She claimed to have walked five miles. I should not have liked to walk
in her shoes.

Meanwhile at another table several men and women were sitting, some
eating, some smoking (women as well as men). Also on the short forms by
the fire were several people and children, and there were two
perambulators, each with a sleeping child, against the wall in the

In a little while we were better able to disentangle the relationships
of the various groups. A young and rather good-looking woman was the
mother of three small children, one a babe at the breast, the next
hardly more than a baby, and the third about four, apparently quite able
to take care of herself and go to shop for the family! They were all
very healthy, and the baby was much admired; the father seemed kind, and
helped his wife to nurse. They did not seem destitute, but one wondered
how they lived, whether they were "on the road," or crowded out of a
home; the perambulator and the healthiness of the children favoured the
former hypothesis. Another pretty little child seemed almost
"unattached," but next day we identified her father; she was fair, and
had long golden curls and a black velvet dress, and thus dirt did not
show. It was most amusing to see this child, not more than six, take
possession of the only washing bowl, get water, and proceed in the most
business-like fashion to wash out three pocket handkerchiefs (one of
which had lace round the edge), they were then placed on the rack over
the fire to dry.

A man and woman were very busy making paper mats in a very quiet and
steady fashion; they also began again next morning, and had a small tin
box in which they kept their stock in trade. It was really curious to
see such fancy articles made in such a place, and kept clean. For the
dirt must not be left out of my description. The boarded floor was
sanded over, the walls were clean, as far as could be seen, but under
the tables and forms, and in every corner, there was a miscellaneous
collection of sweepings of all sorts. Remains of food, dirty papers,
filthy sand, dust and dirt, remained there unswept, and was still there
when we came away. No attempt had been made to clear them, and what
cleaning of pots and pans was done was expected of the lodgers, probably
the room received a clearing up once a week, possibly a sweeping later
in the day.

It is impossible for human beings to be or keep clean under such
circumstances, and clean they were not. Yet I think most of them were as
clean as they could be under these conditions, and, as will be seen
later, there were degrees of uncleanliness to which they were very

There were several working men who got into conversation about the
doings of the Manchester corporation:

"Taking on two or three hundred at stone-breaking out of thousands!"

"Breaking granite! It's not much as them as aren't accustomed to it will
make of that!"

"A man can't claim the Union unless he's resided two years."

"But I will say this, there's nowhere worse than Manchester for men
knocking about as doesn't belong to it."

Two of the men settled down into earnest conversation about the state of
employment, but, owing to the incessant knocking of the cobbler, I could
not catch what they said, even when I moved nearer. A pleasing interlude
from serious talk was afforded by the following humorous conversation (I
omit the various unsavory adjectives with which it was interlarded, as I
cannot do justice to them, and they were probably meaningless):

Enter the mother and baby.

"What's his name?"

"Oh! don't you know? he's Billy Bailey!"

"Bill Bailey? eh! There was a man as had a bicycle accident, fell off
and lay in the road. A chap came along. 'What's the matter?' 'Broken a
rib,' says he; 'can't move.' 'What's your name?' says the man. 'Bill
Bailey,' says he. 'Bill Bailey!' says the man, and goes off and leaves
him. He lies there half an hour, then another chap comes along. 'What's
up?' says he. 'Run and get me a doctor, for God's sake,' says the man.
'My name is Bill Bailey,' says he. So the chap runs off and tells the
nearest doctor that there's a man down the road wants him. 'What's his
name?' says the doctor. 'He says he's called Bill Bailey.' 'Bill
Bailey!' says the doctor. 'Get along with you!' says he. So he wouldn't
go. At last the man got a doctor to go who didn't ask the chap's name;
but the poor fellow lay there two hours with a broken rib, all because
his name was Bill Bailey."

"There were a chap that went into a beer-house," struck in another man;
"there was some glasses of beer called for, and a chap ordered one and
went in the yard; when he came back his glass were drunk. 'Who's done
this?' he says. 'Bill Bailey,' says someone. 'Where is he?' says he.
'Just gone out,' says the man. 'I'll be even with him,' says he; with
that he goes back in the yard, and, as luck would have it, there were a
chap there called Bill Bailey. 'Where's Bill Bailey?' he sings out,
''cause he's wanted.' 'What for?' says Bill Bailey. 'I'll give you what
for,' says the man; and with that he pitches into him, and gives him a
right-down good thrashing. And all the while the chap doesn't know what
it's all about!"

After these humorous incidents had raised a good laugh, the conversation
became general and hard to follow.

A woman, who was afterwards one of my room-mates, seemed to consider it
her duty to supply liquor to the company; she apparently had money given
her by the men, and went and fetched beer in a quart bottle. I counted
at least six times. But the liquor did not appear to take effect on such
"old stagers," except, perhaps, to loosen the tongues still more.

One man, who sent most frequently, had a nose that betrayed his
proclivities, and to him this woman paid considerable attention. By this
time the evening was growing late. Already there had been two loud
thumps at the door, accompanied by the shout, "Bed!"

Apparently this summons came at the hours, and then those who wished to
go cleared off. One or two went as early as eight o'clock, a few more at
nine--mostly, as it seemed, working men with their wives--politely
wishing us all "good night."

We went out to a little corner shop and got something to eat and a
pennyworth of tea and sugar, and made some tea.

None of the children had as yet gone to bed, but towards ten the mothers
undressed them, of course in public. One child had its face washed in
the soapy water that had been used for the handkerchiefs; this was all
the toilet we saw.

When we came away about nine in the morning, three of them were still
running about, unwashed and undressed, in the scanty garb of one
garment, shift or skirt. These little things, each pretty if only clean,
tried each in their own way to find amusement. One got three sticks and
tried to hammer them together as the cobbler was doing to the shoe! One
in the morning tied himself to a post with an old scarf, and went round
and round. It was almost pathetic to see the childish love of play
developing amidst such untoward surroundings. The baby was fed and
became sleepy. At last ten o'clock came and another summons. As only
about six were staying up, we decided to go ourselves.

We went through the sitting-room of the landlord, which was empty, and
stumbling up a narrow stair, found a young woman who was arranging the
lodgers and allotting beds.

We were shown into a small room, which we afterwards heard was the only
one for single women. It had two large double beds and a single bed. We
were given a very small candle-end, which was put to flare down on the

By the dim light the sheets looked fairly clean. Two women came to bed
at the same time, and one of them, a single woman apparently, explained
that she did not know who would be her bed-fellow; she hoped it would be
some one decent and clean; she had "a terror of a woman" the night
before--so bad, in fact, that "Jim" (who apparently was the
lodging-house keeper) had to turn her out; she didn't mind if it was a
decent body. Fortunately for our night's repose, she did not till
morning make to us any revelations concerning our bed. She said she had
been there six weeks.

She was not very communicative about herself. "Times were bad; she had
never seen them worse, but there were some good folks in the town." We
gathered that her "trade" was begging.

The candle-end went out before we were fairly in bed. It was not
possible to investigate, but we soon knew that the bed was not
untenanted! It is long drawn-out torment to lie in the dark and know
that you are being investigated by an uncertain number of "insect
pests"! The only comfort was that daylight would come some time, and
that the worse it proved to be, the more such a state of things needed
to be exposed. Is it not a shame that with all our boasted
"civilisation," a poor respectable woman cannot be sure of getting a
clean bed though she pays at the rate of two-and-fourpence a week?

We got what sleep we could. At eleven another woman came to bed: she
said she had been sitting downstairs, but would have come to bed if she
had known there was anyone in her room to talk to! We did not
particularly welcome her conversation at that hour. Next day I heard two
of the other women call her a "cheeky thing," who wanted to know "every
one's business," and then went and told the "missus." Various sounds of
"revelry by night" came up the stair, and "Move off" from a policeman

At last, towards half-past eleven or twelve, silence reigned. The long
night passed slowly. Both of us were "plagued" and restless. We feared
the worst, but hoped the best.

Morning dawned, and welcome daylight. No one called us, and we found our
room door was locked outside. It seems, however, that you might be
called "by request." At eight no one had stirred. One of our
fellow-lodgers said it was "all right if you were down by nine, and on
Sunday you could lie till further orders."[128]

This did not seem to us much of a boon, as we longed to escape from
torture, so about eight we began to dress, or rather to "slaughter"! I
am not enough of an entomologist to be able to name the animals we
found, as I had never before made the acquaintance of their species. Big
and little, all sorts and sizes! It took us fully half-an-hour to get
moderately free. While on this unpleasant subject, I must state
deliberately that I do not believe that a woman who slept in that bed
could possibly get free again under lodging-house conditions. Her
cleanliness would be effectually destroyed by that one night.

Without the advantages of a bath, carbolic soap, and privacy, such as is
unobtainable in a lodging-house, she _could not get free_.[129]

The woman in the next bed said it was a shame, she remarked to another
woman on what we had suffered. Evidently she appreciated cleanliness of
that sort. She told us that a very dirty woman with a bad leg had slept
for six weeks in our bed.

"Lizzie was not a bad sort," she said, "but she wouldn't keep herself
clean." She gave her a garment out of pity, as she had "nothing to
change into." She got her living by begging, and got lots of things
given her, but pawned them for drink. At last the lodging-house keeper
sent her away, for "she was not fit to stop."

Nevertheless, knowing the state this woman was in, the lodging-house
keeper put us into the bed, perfunctorily changing the sheets. The woman
said she was "terrified" to put her things on the bed, or to step on the
floor, and as "Lizzie" would sit on her bed, she "found things." She was
not very clean, but evidently her standard was miles above "Lizzie's."

But surely in view of the possibility, nay, the probability, of this
kind of lodger, there ought to be care exercised. The commonest
precautions were not in evidence. The floor was bare board, very dirty,
and under the beds was dirty oilcloth very dirty and frayed at the edge,
itself sufficient to harbour any amount of vermin. The bed was flock,
without a removable cover, and not clean. Surely, if the house was
managed in the interests of the lodgers and not solely in the interest
of the proprietor, it would seem right to do something to prevent such
a state of things. It is the folly of "laisser faire" that has allowed
the supply of a public need to be so entirely in private hands, that,
even in apparently well-managed lodging-houses, private profit
over-rides public convenience.[130] We "pay the piper" in small-pox
hospitals, workhouses and hospitals, for where the commonest matters of
cleanliness are neglected how can infection be avoided?

It seems the height of folly on the one hand to erect costly sanitary
apparatus,[131] and on the other by insufficient inspection, and by want
of enforcement of right conditions (even in "certified" houses) to
actually connive at sanitary conditions below that of the class which
most needs raising higher.

When one first enters a common lodging-house, one charitably hopes, in
the uncertain light, that it may be a particularly good specimen of its
class. Evening covers defects, but an experience of such a night
reveals, as nothing else can, the essentially uncleanly nature of the
arrangements. If men and women herd together in small space, with no
opportunity for proper ablution, with no privacy, with all the culinary
operations done in the one living room, and if, as a guarantee for care
you have only the selfish interest of a proprietor who stands in small
fear of the infrequent "inspection," how can things requisite for public
welfare be attended to. Practically the house is no cleaner than the
dirtiest person in it, and is a most ingeniously contrived hot-bed of

After such a night, to descend to the unswept "living-room," to see the
débris of yesterday, possibly of days, lying in unsavoury dusty heaps
under the tables, to watch your fellow-lodgers proceed, without washing,
to cook bacon in greasy pans, half washed at the only sink, to see the
clothes, worn perhaps day and night, in various stages of uncleanliness,
and above all to see little children growing up untutored, save in the
reverse of what we recognise as right, is to feel heart-broken for the
"evils to come" that must spring from such neglect of the "stranger
within our gates."

Hospitality, which has perished as a personal virtue to a large degree,
must now devolve on the community. It is not to its interest that it
should be neglected. Especially would I point out with all the strength
I possess, the folly of indiscriminate herding together of the sexes,
without the commonest precautions for decency and sanitation. If it does
not pay to have in every town a lodging-house for single women, under
sufficient control to secure decency, such a lodging-house should be
provided. To this the married women with children might with advantage
be admitted, for if a father cannot provide a decent home for his wife
and children, he ought not to drag them down with him, but to be glad if
they are a little better provided for. If women were accommodated apart
from men, proper sanitary provision for each sex would be easier to
arrange. It would be no hardship to insist on separating the sexes, for
a man can always, with a little extra exertion, obtain a furnished
apartment for himself and family, and though these also need careful
sanitary inspection and are open to many evils, they do, at any rate,
preserve a vestige of family life, and there is not that indiscriminate
herding together of the sexes, which is a cover for all sorts of
immorality, as well as a danger to sanitation.[133] I believe, from
personal investigation, extended to towns in different parts of England,
that it is exceptional to find a town that has any adequate provision
for lodging single women apart from men--except as a matter of charity
in more or less restricting institutions. Yet the preponderance of
single women, necessitated by the excess of one sex over the other,
implies, without widowhood and desertion, a floating population of women
who fall an easy prey to wrong conditions. If a woman is not the
carefully-guarded inmate of a sheltering home, on whom devolves the duty
of caring for her? Surely on the manhood of the nation. The community
that fails to shield its women to the utmost of its power will either be
roused to its duty by the trumpet call of flagrant wrong, or will perish
by decay of manhood and of the family.

There are not wanting signs that such decay is upon us. If side by side
with large aggregations of men, living under insanitary and unnatural
conditions, we allow the mixed common lodging-house--unclean in every
sense of the word, what can we expect?

I do not mean to imply that it is impossible to live, even as a single
woman, a moral life in a common lodging-house, or that many of the
proprietors do not do their best to secure morality. But if, in any
stratum of society, men and women herded together under such conditions,
it would be only exceptional characters that could stand the strain.
Young men and women can, and do, go and live together in common
lodging-houses. You may go in on Sunday afternoons and find crowds of
young people, not all inmates, but all imbibing the fatal atmosphere of
unrestrained vile talk. In some of these lodging-houses older women live
who make a practice of tempting in younger girls, who thus are lost. It
would be much more easy to control many public evils if lodging-houses
were provided, decent and sanitary, and the sexes kept distinct.[134] We
exercise control over the inn, but the lodging-house, which is the
hostel of the travelling working-man, is not even sanitary in many

We did not feel able to eat breakfast under such conditions. I waited
for my friend in the living-room, and an amusing incident occurred. One
of my room-mates came down in a skirt--forgetting her top skirt. But she
had not forgotten another adornment, namely, a huge pocket suspended
round her waist behind, which proclaimed her as a "moucher"! She

"Look what I've been and done! I've been over to the shop like this!
Good job a 'bobby' didn't see me!"

There was room enough in this capacious pocket to "pinch" any number of
articles, but we will write her down "beggar" not "thief"!

We left the children, undressed and unwashed, but some of them
breakfasting, at nine o'clock, and found our way to a cheap restaurant
where we got a good plain breakfast for fourpence each.

Then we returned home to sundry necessary ablutions, as prelude to a
civilised existence. Alas! for those who cannot escape, but must needs
drift. Whither?

It must be remembered that to a woman, for respectable existence,
cleanliness is an absolute necessity. An unemployed man may obtain work
at various occupations to which dirt is no hindrance. In fact, to some
occupations, respectability would be a bar. But a woman must "look
tidy," or no one will employ her. Therefore conditions destructive to
cleanliness are for her equivalent to forcing her down lower and lower
into beggary and vice. Once at a certain stage she cannot rise, "no one
would have me in their house," say, rightly enough, poor miserable
creatures "with scarcely a rag to their back." Those in this
lodging-house were not so badly off, but why? Because they had learned
to prey on society that rejected them. Each single woman was probably
supported by that foolish "charity" that acts as a salve to the
conscience of those who pity but do not bless the poor.


When shall we apply common sense to the daily matters of town life? Not
till we recognise that a community is a unit, composed of many parts,
but when one suffers, all suffer.

Having occasion to visit a northern city to address important gatherings
on social questions, I determined to devote one evening, previous to
speaking, to social investigation. I desired to find a woman, if
possible a lady, living in the district, willing to dress up and go with
me. As, however, my friends failed to find me one, I had to be content
to go alone, shadowed by a policeman in plain clothes. My object was to
find out where I should have to sleep if I arrived at night as a
stranger able to pay 6_d_. for my bed. The city is a very old one, and,
as usual, in the ancient parts houses are huddled together. I visited
some of the worst streets, and have never anywhere before seen such
closely packed humanity. Streets of houses back to back were huddled
under the shelter of a large flour mill working day and night, and
filling the air with dust. Some houses could never have daylight. Most
of the workers in the mills and factories came, I was told, from these
narrow streets, and some of the firms were very rich. It seemed to me
likely to be a hot-bed of consumption, to say nothing of vice and crime.
At the hour at which I went, between nine and ten, most of the houses
were closely shuttered, and few people were in the streets, except a few
lads and lasses who were courting at street corners. The friendly
"bobby" told me, however, of turbulent times and sudden brawls, making
this the worst quarter of the city. After public-house closing was
probably a lively time. He informed me that there were in the city but
two lodging-houses where women were taken at all. Both were common
lodging-houses, and very low places. It required a guide to find them.
One was in a court up an entry out of a narrow main street. I had to go
alone, for it would have roused suspicion had my guide accompanied me.
After knocking at one or two wrong doors I found it at last. The door
opened into a large kitchen packed full of men and women. I enquired
timidly if a bed was to be had. "No, we are quite full," shouted some
one. "Come in, you can have half my bed," shouted a man. This raised a
laugh. The company gazed curiously at me. I asked if there was anywhere
else where a woman could get a lodging, declining the proffered honour.
I was told a name previously heard from the policeman, and thanking the
informant turned away gladly. "You'd better share along of me," sang out
the man, and rather hurriedly I beat a retreat to my friendly "shadow."
The other house was still harder to find. I could not have retraced my
way through the maze of lanes and entries. My companion said he would
walk down the street in front of me to indicate the door, and then would
return and wait. A narrow dirty lane with houses on one side only, had
in it some of the smallest cottages I have ever seen. One of these had a
few sweets and eatables in the window, and was indicated as the place
where "the landlady" lived. Knocking, I was told to come in, and in the
minute room, shop and living room, lying on a wooden couch was a very
dirty woman with a still dirtier child. She was "the landlady"! She
looked at me and said she would take me in. I was to go two doors lower
down the street. I found I had to pay her 6_d_. for a bed. There was
only accommodation for five single women.

Going down the street to the house indicated, I found myself in a
moderate-sized kitchen such as you find in a house of the olden times,
low but fairly large. A sink was partitioned off in the corner. A man
was cutting up wood, and one or two women and children were there. They
were talking about a man who had gone away deserting his wife and
children. One asked if I had not my man with me. I said "No." They had
seen my "bobby" friend pass. They said a man had passed. I said "I
thought he was a bobby." They said, "Right you are," and appeared to
accept me. I got a tea-pot and made myself some tea, and cut (with a
borrowed knife) some bread and butter. Thus making myself at home I
could observe the place and company. It was fairly clean for such
places; the company, both in appearance and language was low, and I was
glad I was not going to stay the night. It would probably have proved
much the same as the lodging-house in which I spent the second night
when on five days' tramp.[135] Having used my eyes well, after about
half an hour, I said I was going out, and left not to return, joining my
policeman friend. He told me this was the only other accommodation in
all that large city for women. He added that there was, however, a
charitable home or shelter, and if they found friendless women on the
streets at night they usually sent them there.

It was the same old story, absence of decent sanitary self-respecting
accommodation for women. No "charity" can replace this. Rescue homes
pick up those who _have fallen_.

The policeman told me much about the general condition of the city. He
said a municipal lodging-house was much wanted; that there was no
accommodation for travellers save common lodgings, often dreadfully
crowded and unsanitary. "I will let you have a look round one," he said.
"I will introduce you, and you must have a good look to see if your
'man' is there!"

Accordingly he took me into an ordinary dwelling house at the corner of
a street. A boarded-off sanded passage led to a small room hardly as
large as in an ordinary dwelling house. The wooden seating round the
walls was filled with men, most smoking. They stood up and stared at me
and I at them. "You can't see your man," said the bobby. "No, he isn't
here," I replied. So I followed him elsewhere. He told me all the
lodging-houses were of this character, and insufficient in number. A
good lodging-house would be a boon, for in the holes and corners and
narrow lanes where those common lodging-houses are found, police
discipline is very difficult. By this time it was about 9.30 P.M., and
I returned to my friends for ablution and a change of raiment, able to
give point from personal experience to my remarks on the following day.


[123] See p. 49; also Appendix VIII.

[124] See p. 195.

[125] It is not sufficient to provide a refuge, there should be
accommodation not charitable, not for _rescue_ but for _prevention_, as
working women require to be free to come and go.

[126] Contrast, p. 257.

[127] See pp. 92, 104.

[128] See p. 200.

[129] A woman has, during the day, no access to a private room, where
search is possible, and the washing places are in the common kitchen
usually, or at any rate not private. Few lodging-houses have stoving
apparatus, it is too costly.

[130] See Appendix VIII.

[131] The contrast between the sanitary precautions of the tramp ward,
and the absence of common sanitation in the common lodging-house is

[132] See pp. 36, 47.

[133] These rooms, as they exist at present, are a grave social danger.
They also should be inspected and under municipal control See as to
Berlin arrangements, p. 21. These rooms are largely used for
prostitution. All places used as temporary dwelling places need most
careful and rigid supervision. Coroner's inquests often reveal sad
dangers to child-life, in such "holes and corners" as are now let at
exorbitant rents. A man can let _each room_ at a price that may cover
the house rent. 8_d_. per night is a usual charge in the north. Light
and fire to be found. See Appendix VIII.

[134] See Appendix VII., VIII.

[135] See p. 97.




I have been deterred from specimening women's lodgings in London by this
difficulty--that one could not be sure of emerging in a fit condition to
be received into the house of respectable friends.

Being anxious, however, to find out something about them, previous to
speaking at a public meeting, at about 8 P.M. one evening, I started
from near one of the principal stations, with my son to shadow me. He
was dressed as a working man, and I as a woman of the vagrant class,
fairly decent. I was supposed to have arrived in London and to be
seeking a night's shelter. I crossed the street to enquire of an old
applewoman where a bed was to be had. Her answer was not very
encouraging. "There is a lodging-house for women at ---- Street, but
it's a bad place. I wouldn't advise you to go there if you are
respectable. There is another in ---- Street, it's a charity place." We
determined to try to find both. We found the bad one with difficulty,
and were again warned by a neighbour. So I did not venture there. Some
low streets near appeared to be frequented by doubtful characters. We
sought the "charity place." It was respectable, but, for one who was an
investigator, not desirable. I might have tried it, but found on enquiry
the price was above my purse, 8_d_. a night! Hardly a "charity,"
therefore, though doubtless a boon to more wealthy women.

We determined next to find out (as after repeated enquiry we could hear
of no other lodging-house) whether if I had happened to be really
stranded in London, I could at that hour get into the tramp ward. I
passed down through a crowded street with booths and a market. "Poor
thing," said one woman, whom I asked for the "Spital." "Have you got to
go _there_." I escaped questioning, and further on asked again.

"Yes, you can get in,"--but again the look of pity. I thought it argued
badly for my treatment if I went in. I found the place, but did not
apply. I found I should have to walk a considerable distance to the
tramp ward. I could not on that day enter, not having time to spare for
two nights detention, but it was this tramp ward which I afterwards
specimened, and my experiences in it justified the pity.[136]

I rejoined my son; we had satisfied ourselves that respectable lodgings
for women at my price were at any rate not easily found. Time was
passing; we heard there were lodgings in the city. We had already spent
over an hour in search, so to save time, we did what a tramp would not,
took 'bus to the heart of London. There by the simple expedient of
"asking a bobby," I at once found what I wanted. Up a narrow entry from
one of London's well-known thoroughfares was a lodging-house for men,
side by side with a lodging-house for "women only." So far good. I need
not have my son with me. So about 10 P.M. I sent him for a walk to
return before 11 P.M., and entered the court alone. I found that to
secure a bed I must go into the _men's_ lodging-house and pay my
money--6_d_.--to a man who was playing cards with several others. No
rude language was used, the men eyed me, that was all. I paid and passed
in next door. Upstairs was a small room in which a number of women, all
with their hats on save one--the "deputy"--were sitting. Some passed in
and out, but being a stranger I was not welcome, and was told to "go
forward." This was downstairs; and I found myself, after some turns I
cannot remember, in a long low cellar room, with concrete floor, very
dirty looking. A window at one end was half underground. A fireplace on
the right had bars and hobs, but no oven or range or proper kitchen
convenience. This was, however, the living and cooking room. Plenty of
garments were hanging up to dry on strings. Under the tables were heaps
of dirt and _débris_. A number of women were present sitting on forms,
who seemed to be hawkers, or women gaining some scanty livelihood. The
general conditions were much the same as in northern lodging-houses,
where 4_d_. is charged for a bed, only the cooking facilities were
poorer and the price was higher. I learned that in London a bed was not
easily got under 6_d_. "It took a good bit of getting," one woman said.
The sanitary state was no better than in the north, and I was thankful I
had not to stay the night. Towards eleven the deputy came with a bunch
of keys, calling out "Anyone for bed." I thought it best to escape, and
making an excuse rejoined my son.

My remarks on this adventure at a subsequent meeting led to enquiry into
the state of this lodging-house. It was reported to be "regularly
inspected twice a week and nothing wrong with it." All I can say is that
either the visits of the inspector must be expected and prepared for,
_or_, as I have frequently remarked, inspection leads to purblindness.
"Anything is good enough for such inmates" comes to be the official

Wishing to satisfy myself that I had not been mistaken, and as I had
that time no fellow-workers, I got my son subsequently to enter the male
side of the same lodging-house. His account not only confirmed mine, but
he found things worse than I had stated. The men's side had the same low
half cellar, not properly lighted or ventilated, deficient cooking
accommodation, dirty floor and _débris_. In addition, the habit of
smoking and spitting rendered the place abominable. The deputy appeared
to have no control, indeed, he laughed at extra filthy jests as if they
were to be enjoyed. My son said he should have been afraid to specimen
the sleeping accommodation. He has visited other lodging-houses--one
where a notice is up "Gents are requested not to sleep in their
boots"!--a notice often disobeyed. He is acquainted with Rowton Houses.
He says this is a particularly bad specimen. So after all my judgment
does not appear to have been at fault. A low standard of inspection
prevails in many places besides London; but the place itself was unfit
for the purpose for which it was used.[138]


Towards six o'clock on a pleasant evening in March, my companion and I
found our way to the casual ward of a London workhouse, selected
because, on the testimony of Guardians, it was supposed to be
well-regulated and ideal. _Real_ beds and _porcelain_ baths, perfect
cleanliness and good management would surely afford comfortable
conditions. We did not go together, as I was announced to speak publicly
and known to take a companion, and it might therefore be difficult to
escape detection. But we were, as it happened, the only inmates, save a
woman going out in the morning.

The ward was spotlessly clean. The brown bread and gruel, at first
glance, not unappetising. Alas! the bread was sour. Food first, and hot
bath to follow, wet hair, though more time than usual to dry. Clean
nightgown, and actually a bed. So far good.

Locked in at about seven o'clock to solitary meditation, I rejoiced to
have found better conditions. Alas! I had not reckoned on the physical
effects of the unwholesome combination of the sour bread, followed by
hot bath, and backed up by imperfectly dried hair. Before long I was
violently sick, and every portion of my first meal returned. In the
darkness it was impossible to see if there was any means of
communication to beg a welcome drink of water. Presently my friend began
coughing and groaning. It seems the effect of the bath and wet head on
her was to produce a violent cold, headache, and sore throat. Then in
another cell a woman began retching and coughing badly. In the morning
we learned she also had been upset by the bath when she entered, but no
complaints were noticed. Her cough sounded like asthma or bronchitis,
and very bad. We asked her why she did not see a doctor. "No tramps were
allowed a doctor," she said.[140] She intended when out to try to get
into an infirmary. She had been in three days, and could not eat.

This information, received after we had got up at 5.30, was somewhat
disheartening, for we were both ill. Breakfast none of us touched. Our
fellow tramp played with hers, pointing at the thick scum on the
unappetising gruel (very salt), served in a worn enamel mug, with no
spoon. "God alone knows," she said. "They will have to answer for it."
She told us she was detained a third night because she had been in
another casual ward during the month, and the officer "spotted"
her.[141] She was evidently a regular casual. "They all have to do it"
(_i.e._, to go from ward to ward), she said, describing how other wards
were better and how harsh this one was--and no one came in who could
help it. We asked how it was she came in herself. She said she had had
"business" in that part of the town, and could not reach another ward.
She said she was quite clean, as she had "been down" the previous
week-end. She said the treatment had made her ill; at the time we hardly
believed her. Later we knew. Seven o'clock, and a summons to work. We
began cheerfully under charge of an old woman. But already some
conception that we were under a hard taskmistress was dawning upon us.
"Be sure you only do what you are told," said the woman. The ward was
apparently clean, but the whole must be scrubbed. My portion was to do
four cells and a long, long passage leading past eighteen cells (nine on
a side), and two bath-rooms, and a lavatory with two w.c.'s. Cloths,
bucket, and soda were provided, no aprons till later. I had a kneeling
pad, my friend none. She was told off to the bath-rooms.

It seems such a simple thing to tell that it is hard to convey the real
conditions. Presently our taskmistress came round. She was not unkind,
but one of those women to whom, in ordinary health, work is a joy in
itself, and the utmost scrupulosity of finicking cleanliness a thing to
be exacted as a matter of course. For every single detail a standard was
to be attained, at whatever cost to flesh and blood. For instance, all
blankets to be re-folded to an exact shape, and laid so--no otherwise.
To work hard, all day and every day, would probably be to her no task,
and the difference between working hard on a full and on a meagre diet
had never dawned upon her. Sickness was to be discredited--probably a
"dodge"--in any case, the fault of previous misdoings. Work was to be
exacted to the very last farthing. Faithfully she did her duty--as she
knew it. Nine hours' solid work (five in the morning, four in the
afternoon)--that was what the law exacted--and she got it.

Now, to work as a charwoman on a comfortable breakfast, with a pause for
lunch, and prospective dinner, and the opportunity to chat and "take
your own time" is one thing. To work for a taskmistress with prison in
prospect for the slightest shirking--with no pause and no food--is
quite another. The matron knew I had been very sick--her assistant told
her--and also that I had had no food. "That old tramp, whom she couldn't
bear," as she told my friend, "had been eating stale fish; that was what
made her sick. She could tell that sort, she always knew what people
were like." This was so humorous that it decidedly relieved the
situation! We compared notes as we refilled buckets, but did not dare to
loiter or show knowledge of one another. Walls had ears, or, at any
rate, keyholes were handy. So we worked steadily, my friend's fate being
worse, as she worked under the taskmistress's eye. She won prime favour,
but never, never, in all her working days, had she worked so hard.[142]
She cleaned the bath-rooms and a whole flight of stairs, and then was
put on the private sitting-room, to be done most particularly, not even
the old woman attendant could be trusted to do it, it was usually the
matron's own work; but she had been ill, and it had "got neglected." How
hard my friend laboured she alone can tell. Every inch was gone over
many times under the vigilant eyes. Meanwhile, the "old tramp" laboured
as diligently as possible--when the eyes were upon her! They detected
some signs of "scamping," when her back was turned, so doubtless I was
"an old hand!" The fact of the matter was, that without such careful
"scamping" I positively could not have sustained the long, long hours
of labour. Four bucketsful of water--one for each cell--seven for the
long passage, two for lavatory and w.c.'s, brasses to clean, paint to
dust. It seemed a Sisyphean task, no sooner ended than a new one was
exacted. I wondered if by carefully husbanding strength I could hold
out. At dinner-time, twelve o'clock, we stopped for an hour. I could not
touch food. My friend, though fresh from the tantalising smell of beef
steak and onions, managed to eat a small portion of bread and cheese,
washed down by cold water. Our tea and sugar had been confiscated.

Tired! That is no word for it! We had already done a charwoman's day's
work. My friend could hardly speak, and I had no strength save to lay my
head on the table and wonder how I should survive the afternoon.

One o'clock and hard labour. My friend, on finishing two bedrooms, was
put to clean the store-room. So weary was she, that towards the close
even her taskmistress saw that she had overrated her strength, and gave
a sign of grace by saying she would help her to finish. Meanwhile, the
"old tramp" must do the day-room--it only served her right for the way
she "tickled the boards!"

Five long and very ornamental forms and two long tables, to be scrubbed
on every inch of surface to immaculate whiteness with soap and water.
The floor to be scrubbed and every place dusted. Kneeling had become
such torture that the straining of the body up to scrub the
under-surface of the forms almost produced faintness. It must be
remembered that all this work was exacted without a particle of food.
The matron had come in at dinner-time and seen my food untasted. I told
her I could not touch it. She looked at it as if it was some rejected
dainty. "What a pity," she said--not at all as if it was a pity I could
not eat, but a pity to leave such good food!

Flesh and blood found it hard to bear the long four hours' labour; over
and over again I failed quite to please my taskmistress and tried her
patience. She confided to my friend that she should have to keep out of
the room or lose her temper. She did not recognise the arm growing
weary, the heart sick and faint. But she did recognise the work of my
friend, and rewarded it by a cup of tea and two slices of bread and
butter. To eat these she was shut up in the store-room, and was by no
means to tell "that tramp" how she had been favoured! She did, however,
manage to run in and give me a drink of tea, but such was my internal
state, that it made me immediately violently sick. This was when work
was over, fortunately. For one blessed three-quarters of an hour before
I finished the taskmistress was away. She was very suspicious as to how
I had done the work in her absence. It passed muster. I did not dare to
stop, but certainly "hurried." It was necessary to survive.

At last--five o'clock and respite. We both were more dead than alive. It
must be felt to be realised.

Again we could not touch the food, but my friend had had a little. Again
no notice was taken of any symptoms of illness on my part, but a lozenge
was given my friend for her throat, as she was "prime favourite."

At last 5.30, and we might seek bed. My friend was allowed to wear some
of her underlinen, as she had been very cold the previous night. The
"old tramp" must do as best as she could. What happened was another
night of long misery, desperate sickness on an empty stomach--no sounds
save the London sounds without, and the groaning and sighing of my
tortured friend within, close by in another cell.

Long, long hours; would God it were morning! The cross-bars of the
window faintly seen against the sky spoke of the cross that is never
absent, of the woes of men and of Him Who is crucified in the least of
these, His brethren. When will the long torture of the ages end, and men
care for the poor? At last the torment ended--6.30. It was possible to
rinse the mouth with water. Oh, what it is to know thirst and sickness

Every limb ached; my poor friend was no better; her knees were too sore
to touch. But soon there would be freedom. We ate no food, of
course,--but welcome liberty! To me the worst agony was the last
half-hour of patient waiting. No words can tell the passionate longing
that seized me to breathe free breaths. No such inward struggle may come
to those inured to hard conditions. Yet for them, also, the summer life
is free, and for freedom they sacrifice much. Who knows how a tramp
feels, save God? At last we are free; our money, tea, and sugar are
returned. Shelter and friends are near.

       *       *       *       *       *

But for them? At this hour a procession of women issues from our casual
wards--hundreds, perhaps thousands, all over our land. Their faces are
set in the grey dawn--whither? Not to the tramp ward again--not at
once--it cannot be borne immediately; later it may be again a necessity.
Now anything is preferable. Prison? It has lost its terrors--it cannot
be harder.[143] It is only an incident in life to "go down." Sin? What's
the odds? It may pay for a decent bed and food. The river? That is best
of all, if one could manage to face it. Silence, oblivion, and the mercy
of the God above Who knows. Yet life is sweet, and it is a pleasant
thing to behold the sun. To be a beggar is best--spring stirs
already--God opens hearts. Food and shelter may be begged as "charity."
It is best to fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of man. The
vagrant life is sweetest. This is how tramps are made.[144]


The severity of the treatment experienced in this tramp ward was such
that it brought on hæmorrhage, from which the author had not suffered
for years. She was obliged to remain in London ill, and to have medical
attendance. Dr. Jane Walker and Mrs. Percy Bunting can vouch for the
facts. Her fellow tramp was also ill and did not recover until she had
had a complete rest. It was a month before the author regained her
strength. If the effects of the treatment were such on those going in
with full health and strength (from a life in which food and rest had
continued till the last moment) able to return to good food and every
comfort, how must the destitute suffer under such treatment? They drift
and die, as the awful mortality from common lodging-houses proves.[145]


[136] See pages 259-267.

[137] See p. 49. This lodging-house is now suppressed.

[138] See Appendix VIII.

[139] Reprinted from _Daily News_ of April 18th, 1905.

[140] This is not true, but where a doctor is not in residence it
appears as if officials often will not take the trouble to detain tramps
to see him, and permission if asked for is often refused. See pp. 43,

[141] See p. 29.

[142] My friend was at one time accustomed to wash for a family of nine.

[143] See pp. 26, 213.

[144] See p. 171.

[145] See pp. 30, 49.




My friend and I have the rights of friendship in a lodging-house which
we frequently visit. The inmates of lodging-houses are often very dull
on Sundays. They cannot walk the streets, full of well-dressed people.
No one can have any idea who has not tried, how they welcome a friendly
visit, appreciate the gift of some magazines, and how often one or
another is in want of food, or even a few pence short of a bed. Few beg
on Sunday except from sheer necessity. This particular lodging-house
therefore, we tried to visit every Sunday, to sing for or with them, and
talk--not preach--to them. It was the "married and single quarters,"
which consisted of two long low rooms in an old building in very bad
repair. I do not know whether it has anything to do with our frequent
visits, but the place is a great deal cleaner and tidier than when first
we went. It has been painted and whitewashed, and the floor seems to be
kept cleaner. But this leaves much to be desired! The women's
sitting-room upstairs (which always contains as many men as women) is a
room with a coke fire, the fumes from which are often almost
overpowering. A bench round the room, and tables covered with metal for
protection constitute the only furniture. The claim to be a
"sitting-room" consists in the fact that no cooking is done there, but
plenty of eating. There is but one gas-jet, and you can hardly see in
the farthest corners. A stair out of the room leads upstairs, where, I
am assured there are "good clean beds," a room for single women, and
cubicles for married folk, who pay 6_d_., and 1_d_. for each child who
sleeps with them, the unmarried paying 4_d_.

Poor as it is, this room contains "the aristocracy," for though both
rooms appear to be free to all, you find above the regular residents who
are residing some time, though some of these even have a preference for
the democracy. Yet one can hardly understand why, for the room below
must be uncomfortable in the extreme. It is, to begin with, a half
cellar room approached by a stair, but leading out into the yard which
contains the sanitary arrangements. The roof is in such bad repair that
the laths of the ceiling are giving way, and water often drips from an
imperfect pipe. The position of the doors ensures a through draught when
they are opened, which is constantly happening. A dark entry with no
door gives access to a room containing the lavatory accommodation--a set
of wash-basins, above each of which is inscribed the motto, "Be just."
This room, which is quite open to everyone, is the sole lavatory
accommodation for both men and women. In the centre of the room is a
huge stove, the heat from which is terrific, and makes this part of the
room near the solitary gas-jet almost unbearable. Yet these two rooms
accommodate about sixty inmates, and I am assured that the cooking
arrangements are so deficient that they cannot get their food except in
turns, and dinner is often delayed till very late in the afternoon for
this reason. The place is, however, always full, for it is the cheapest
place in town, and the beds, I am told, are far better than many others
where the sitting room and lavatory accommodation is superior. There are
clean sheets once a week! A woman can keep herself respectable, as the
deputy and his wife endeavour to exclude prostitutes.

In these rooms are gathered every Sunday a motley assembly of men,
women, and usually a few children. The inmates change, but there are
always enough of the old to carry on the tradition of friendship, and
some few are permanent. There is a living to be had in a lodging-house
for a woman who can repair clothes, or earn a little by cleaning the
rooms, or do a little washing.

To this lodging-house I took one Sunday night a letter "On Tramps, by a
Tramp," which appeared in _The Daily News_, and reads as follows:--

      "SIR,--I am a tramp, a man without a habitat. No outcry uprose in
      winter while the East End sheltered the tramp. When he trudges
      west after waste food and a grassy couch, the press rises up in
      arms. Each one of these 'bundles of rags' on the grass has a
      history, some an interesting one. I have been despoiled of the
      fruitage of my labours; have acted the role of errand lad, shop
      assistant, clerk, traveller, market-man, barber, canvasser,
      entertainer, mummer, song-writer, and playwright. I have dwelt
      within workhouse, asylum, and prison-walls; have scrubbed the
      filthy, tonsured the imbecile, tended the aged, soothed the dying.
      A pedlar of toys, many a time I have enjoyed a night on a turfy
      bed, the stars my coverlet, the hedge fruit my morning meal, my
      bath the shallow stream. Nature suns the nomad as well as the
      traveller. Derelicts, wastrels, paupers, pests, vagrants, bundles
      of rags! dub us what men will, we are human. There are tramps and
      loafing tramps; ill-clad and well-tailored loafers. Make all work,
      west and east. Loafing is infectious.

  "Rowton House.
  "O. QUIZ."

We visited downstairs first, and, sitting on the table, as the cleanest
place, giving a view of the company, I read it in a tone of voice
calculated to reach the further corners of the room. It elicited great
admiration. "That chap knows what he's writing about"; "He's put it well
together." I joined in the praise, and told them I had come to get their
opinion on tramp wards. I wanted them to help me for a speech I was
going to give on vagrancy, and I had in my mind a good many things to
say, and wanted to know if they were all right. One man burst out about
detention. He wanted to know what chaps were to do if they were kept in
till eleven if they went for a night's shelter. He said a man couldn't
get work, and all he could do was to walk ten or fifteen miles to
another workhouse, and then he was no better off. I mentioned a
neighbouring workhouse where they were detained two nights, and let out
at an early hour. But they appeared to dislike two nights' detention
upon such poor diet, and said they had "no right" to keep a man more
than one night. One said that by favour he had got out at 5.30, and that
was much better; it gave a man a chance.

I next proposed discussion on the diet. One and all waxed eloquent on
this topic. They declared it was "starvation," bread and water, scalded
meal in some workhouses. "It wouldn't hurt them to give us a drink of
tea." Most of the gruel went to the pigs and there wasn't bread enough
to keep a man from being hungry. Prison fare was better. "What about the
tasks set?" I said. "Three sleepers to saw," said one man; "15 cwt. of
stone to break," said another. "It isn't good enough." One man reckoned
you could _earn_ 3_s_. 6_d_. for sawing that amount of wood (two saw
together). "How much do you reckon the bed and food is worth?" I said.
"Bed!" broke out one, "you gets two blankets and bare boards; sometimes
three in a cell. Twopence is all it's worth, and 3_d_. the food." "Then
you think they make something out of you?" "Yes," replied another, "you
could get 2_s_. 6_d_. in the roads for less stone-breaking. A chap goes
in tired and hungry, because he's nowhere to go, and they set him hard
work, and he comes out worse." "What about the bath?" "The bath's all
right, but they stove your clothes, and they come out all soft and
creased." "Then they can tell you've been in the workhouse?" I said.
"Yes, or in jail." "And that doesn't help a man to get work." "I should
think not!" was the response. One man waxed eloquent with indignation.
"I was passing a workhouse when the chaps was coming out," he said. "I
hadn't been in myself, but I seed one or two I knew and they had on good
clothes the day before, they were all crumpled" (here he took hold of
his trouser leg and creased it up), "and burnt in places. One man showed
me his shoes; they had even put _them_ in the oven, and the toes was
turned up with the heat; he couldn't get them on his feet and had to
walk barefoot." There was a chorus of indignation. The verdict was that
tramp wards were to be avoided. The open was better, but a "cold shop"
any night of the year, but a man could go on his way any time he

I then explained to them the German system of Relief Stations and
Workmen's Homes. They were much interested and thought it excellent.
They gave appreciative particulars of experiments in this direction in
Manchester, and of an "ex-convict" who "knowed what a chap's feelings
were," who had during the last winter opened a large room every night
and let in as many men as it would hold, and let them stay till morning.
I had not heard of this before. They said hundreds were turned away from
the Church Army Shelter, where they could chop wood for bed and board.

I then introduced the subject of Colonies to set a man on his feet.
Opinion seemed in favour, but not enthusiastic. Thanking them for their
frankness, we left them after singing "Abide with me," the tramp's
favourite hymn, and went upstairs.


We spent an hour over a lively discussion which would have done credit
to any debating society. I read the letter as before, and it was
received with admiration. "That chap's a champion writer." They told me
about one part of London that was "sleeping-out" quarters; one park went
by the significant name of "The Lousy Park." I wondered if its
frequenters by day knew this. I asked them why a man preferred to sleep
out to going to the tramp ward. A man got up and stood in the middle of
the room and waxed indignant. Food and detention, as below, came in for
scorn. "The Local Government Board will give you 2_s_. 6_d_. for
breaking 10 cwt. of stone, and _they_ gives you 15 cwt. and prison if
you don't do your task." "A man comes in who has walked fifteen miles,
and they give him bare boards to sleep on," broke in another. "How is a
fellow to get work when he's let out at eleven, I should like to know;
he can only tramp to another workhouse." "There was a councillor once,"
broke in another, "he met a chap in the road, and he says, 'Young man,
change clothes with me. I've got plenty of good clothes at home,' then
he changes clothes and goes in the tramp ward; he's quite upset by what
he sees, and when he's coming out he says, 'You can have my share, I'm
going to have a good breakfast.'" "Yes," said another, "that was
Councillor S---- of S----, and he did _give_ it to the guardians." "What
about prison fare?" I said. "Prison is better; you get good soup, better
food all round."[147] "And what about the work?" I said. "They don't
make you work harder than you're able. Hard work may be oakum picking."
"The worst of prison is the being kept in," broke in another. "You can
do with a week, but a fortnight is too much of it." Then it suddenly
seemed to occur to them that they had been "giving themselves away."
"We're a nice lot," he said, "prison and workhouse, but I've been in
prison more than once; I'm not ashamed to own it." Wishing to "save
their face," as the Chinese say, I suggested that it was not hard for a
man who was down to get into prison. "That's true for you," he replied.
"I got a month once for sleeping out.[148] I was going to N----, where
they keep a week at May day" [He is a cripple who gets his living by
singing] "and I went the night before. The workhouse was full and the
lodging-houses were full, so we had to sleep out. We goes to a heath
that was common ground, but there was a bit of private ground near it,
and we gets among the bushes. A bobby comes round. 'You might let us
stop,' I says; 'we can't get in.' 'Keep where you are and don't let any
other police see you,' he says. In about five minutes he comes back;
'Come along of me,' he says, and locks us up. I gets a month for that,
'trespassing and sleeping out.'" I remarked that in court the prisoner's
side was often not properly heard. "Yes," he said, waxing indignant.
"When they says, 'Any questions to ask the officer?' I says, 'Didn't you
tell me to stay where I was and not let the officers see me?' 'No, I did
not,' he says. 'Very well,' I said, but I knowed what he had been
after--he had been down to the police-station and told on us, and the
superintendent had told him to lock us up." We all agreed it was a mean
trick. "They'll kiss the book and swear themselves red in the face,"
said another. "I've seen 'em, they know they're not telling truth, but
it's 'We must believe an officer,' and if you say a word it's 'Wow, wow,
wow'"--and with a significant gesture he showed how the magistrates put
down a man who attempted self-defence, and all the room laughed in
sympathy. "Perhaps you've had a drop of drink," he said, "but you're
walking steady; an officer puts his hand on your shoulder and gives you
a shove, if you say anything he has you, 'Drunk and disorderly!' A
magistrate once saw an officer take a man who was quite quiet, and he
followed him. The man got let off."

I was able to cap their story by a true incident that had come under my
own observation. A quiet little man, devoted to his wife and children,
and decidedly henpecked and without vices, was taking a country walk one
Sunday and saw a knot of men in a quarry. Interested in their
proceedings he got on a hill and watched them. He and they were raided
in by the police; they were gambling and he was charged with "aiding and
abetting." The police swore he was signalling! As a matter of fact when
suddenly arrested he lifted his arms and said, "My God!" This was
interpreted as a "warning." It was only through the good character given
him by his parson that he got off. The room appreciated the story. "What
about relieving officers?" I said, feeling the way was open. A look of
unutterable disgust crept into their faces. A woman came forward and
began to relate how they treated an old man, but she was not allowed to
speak, for everyone had something at the tip of his tongue. "If the
public knew their carryings on and how they blackguards you," one summed
up, "there'd be a stop put to it, it's shameful." Evidently if a
policeman's reputation was bad, that of a poor law officer was worse.
"They've no right to do it," was the general verdict. Prison again came
in for preference. "You've nothing to do but walk up to an officer and
hit him in the ear-hole, and you'll get sent down for free lodgings.
Breaking plate-glass windows is the way they do it in London."[149]

I asked some questions about preference with regard to plank, chain, or
straw beds to change the subject, but all agreed that "they weren't
worth calling _beds_." "You do get a _shelter_," said one, raising his
hand and arching it to imply there was something over your head, "but
_beds_! You get the floor and two blankets, perhaps three in a cell if
they are full.[150] I think they ought to give you that free; it's not
worth 2_d_. The Salvation Army give you what they call a bunk--like a
coffin, and oilcloth to put over you--for 2_d_.! That's charity for you
and religion!"

I propounded the German Relief Station system as below. It was received
with great attention and warm appreciation. "It would be ever so much
better," they all agreed. "The Salvation Army has a metropole at
Leeds," one volunteered. Another referred appreciatively to Central
Hall, Manchester. "You can go in at 3.0 and work and get out in the
morning early." I mentioned earning tickets for food and shelter. "That
would do for us men," he said, "but not for women--they'd give anything
for drink." A chorus of protest and laughter greeted him. "You're very
hard on the ladies," I said. "You're wife won't thank you for a
character." "But it's true," he said. It was a warm subject, so I
changed it by asking about accommodation for women. I learnt in reply
some startling facts. It was stated that in some towns, notably Leeds,
women could not get sleeping accommodation. Lodging-houses had been
pulled down where women used to be taken, and they actually could not
get shelter. "It's harder on them than us; we can protect ourselves, but
a woman gets run in." Evidently here is a great social lack. Women's
lodging-houses--and what can be more needful for the morals of the
community? I asked about accommodation in this town. "They take women
everywhere," was the reply. "Not everywhere," said another; "there are
not so many that take women as there used to be." All agreed that
accommodation was short for women in many towns, and might be for men,
but of that they were not sure, only they knew numbers were taken up for
sleeping out. "Four men were taken up for sleeping in a hole near a
coal-pit the other day," they said. I suggested prices of beds might go
up, but this did not seem to have happened. 4_d_. a bed was the
standard, but 6_d_. for a married couple was not always accepted, and
children were charged for. "I have two children in an Industrial Home,"
said one.

I mentioned the Labour Colony, but though I sang its praises, it did not
seem to be very acceptable, though tolerable if a step to better things.
Regular tramps known by the name of "hedge sparrows" could always get a
living. Either "he" or "she" hawked or "did some'at" and got a living
for both. _They_ never went into the workhouse, they "knew better." It
was "us poor folks that was hard up had to go in."[151]

"How about the regular workhouse diet," I said. "No one gets fat on it."
"See them come out, they can hardly crawl." "The pigs get most of the
porridge." "Porridge and skim till we're sick of it." "They're very hard
on us young men." "'Marjery Jane'--that's what we calls it--and bread."
"Bread and cheese for your Sunday dinner." A chorus of disapprobation!
Evidently to be an inmate was not inviting. One told a legendary story
of a guardian who stood by when a man complained of his porridge and
argued with another guardian who wished to change his food. "What would
become of the pigs?" the guardian was reported to have said as a
clinching argument! The humane guardian was reported to have gone off
the Board in disgust! One woman began to relate that a workhouse existed
where they were allowed rations freely and it didn't cost the guardians
half so much, but she was promptly put down by two others, a man and a
woman. Such a thing was out of the question. _He_ had been in the union
she mentioned and it was no such thing. Finally she had to admit she had
"heard tell of it" but "had not been in herself." I thanked them for
their stories and information. I ventured to inquire into a practice I
knew existed in the workhouse of selling food.

"A man will do anything for baccy," said one; "if you've been used to
it, and are sitting with a roomful of men all smoking you fair crave for
it. I'll tell you what. I went into the workhouse for sickness, and all
I had was 3_d_. I laid it out 1-1/2_d_. on sugar, 1-1/2_d_. on tea, and
I kept selling a bit. I sold my cheese too, eating the dry bread, and
when I came out I had half a sovereign! It was cold and wet the day I
was going out, and knowing I had been ill the officer said, 'What are
you doing, going out such a day; you haven't got nothing to go with.'
'Look here! I've got that!' says I, and shows him the half-sovereign,
but he couldn't take it off me!"

Having myself been offered a halfpenny for a screw of sugar in the Tramp
Ward I could believe him. I thanked them again for their information,
and told them I should try to make a good use of it, and couldn't "give
them away," not knowing any names. We closed our interview by singing
"Light in the darkness, sailor," and I spoke a few words about my
sincere desire that some change in our country's laws should create a
better "life-boat" than the present Tramp Ward.


[146] See p. 51.

[147] See p. 26.

[148] See p. 31.

[149] See p. 29.

[150] See p. 41.

[151] See p. 19.



If you stand, in the clear fresh dawn of an early summer morning, on a
hill-top in the northern country where I live, and look towards the
dawn, you see outspread before you a wide stretch of bare green hills,
intersected by the dark stone lines of fields. Your eye follows
caressingly each dip and fold of the bosom of Mother Earth, beautiful in
bareness, the outline clear against the sky. In each nook and hollow lie
grey patches, clumps of stone houses, witnesses to human habitation, and
blue spires of smoke ascend revealing the hidden lights of homes. From
each group arises the tall spire of a mill chimney, not yet belching
smoke, and in the valley cluster the giant mills of to-day, each larger
than his brother. As the eye takes in each feature, the mind can by a
"bird's-eye view" reconstruct history. There far away is the hill top
whereon our Celtic forefathers worshipped when all the British were rude
dwellers on hills and in dales--_Short shrift to the vagrant of another
tribe in those days!_ There, over yonder hill, lies a Roman camp, to
which leads an old Roman road, civilisation was imposed on barbarism;
now roads intersect the landscape on every side. With communication
comes travel, and the vagrant becomes possible. But _vagrancy is not a
problem of unsettled and warlike times_.

On yonder hillsides, if the snow lay thinly on them, you could trace
even now by disused furrows the patches of arable land, amid fields for
pasture, lying round each little clump of houses, speaking of the day of
village communities and communal rights. Between the scattered hamlets
lay wide stretches of moor. There would then exist survivals of the past
savagery, nomads living a wild life like gipsies; or the marks of the
new era, pilgrims bound to shrines making use of the roads, roving
soldiers, travelling merchants, here and there a vagrant, made so
probably by crime, slipping out of his place in society, but _with all
the wide stretches of country between villages to choose from if he
would_. Such a man, an involuntary vagrant, was looked on with
suspicion, his hand against every man. Bands might gather and live in
the forests, like Robin Hood and his merry men.

But yet again, you may watch in thought the spread of those grey lines
which speak of ownership of the soil. The village sucks in the
surrounding country, the very moors become enclosed, _small space is
left for the nomad life_.

Watch! The clustering cottages develop into industrial communities,
yonder village bears a name borrowed from Holland, and there still stand
the loom cottages empty of looms. Now the landscape is crowded with
busy hives of industry, town and country go hand in hand, the farmer and
the weaver live side by side or combine the two occupations. Agriculture
gives place to pasture for sheep, as wool is needed. The displaced
husbandman, after a period of restlessness _in which the vagrant problem
first arose_, settles to weaving or kindred industry. None need now
wander save by choice, from hereditary nomad taste for liberty, and the
bold life of soldier, sailor, or smuggler lies open for such.

But again comes change. The small grey mill rises in the landscape, the
clustering village becomes the small town, houses thicken, land grows
scarce--what now is to become of the nomad? _He must "take to the road"
for nowhere else is left him._ Society no longer wants him, and barely
tolerates him. Hospitality, a virtue of scattered communities, dwindles
to--the Tramp Ward!! He must needs, if he would travel, turn to prey on
the communities who will not recognise him otherwise. He becomes hawker,
tinker, pedlar, beggar and thus in his turn acquires a trade. We might
let him survive as an interesting relic of the past, and die a natural
death, by the catching and cultivation of his children.

But hark! A sudden noise breaks the stillness of morning. A noise like
nothing else on earth, a whistle and a boom combined. It is the
"buzzer." The landscape has changed again, and there, the landmark of
_the Industrial Revolution_, stands the giant mill; and now comes a
rush of human life, clank, clank, clank, the stream of mill-hands in
clattering wooden clogs is hastening to work. It is the daily _migration
of labour_, the tide morning and night ebbs and flows. Yet no two days
will the stream be alike. Accident, sickness, misfortune, or fault, will
each day leave some units stranded, and others take their place, and if
you look you see another feature in the landscape, a long line of
railway stretches as a link for swift travel between town and town. Here
is something _altogether new_. These human units, divorced from native
communities, cannot be expected to be readily anchored, and accordingly
you see around each ancient community and interspersed with it, crowds
of workmen's cottages, _each a tent rather than a home_, taken to-day,
and left in a month or two. If you could uncover life and watch it as
you do an anthill, you would find that it had attained a new and fresh
activity. On every side Humanity is becoming organic. Huge
conglomerations which we call cities blacken whole stretches of country,
and the feature of the life of most men is _daily migration_. By train,
tram, or road, tides of humanity move to toil; every holiday sees crowds
covering green fields in pleasure parties, or transported by train. The
whole of life has grown _migratory_. Is it not evident that we have here
not the ancient problem of the _Tramp_, but the _modern_ problem of the
_Fluidity of labour_! To expect our Tramp Ward--the _repressive
provision of a stationary society_ for the sparse survivals of a
previous age--to cope with the needs of _Migration of Labour_ is about
as reasonable as it would be to expect the ancient windmill to grind
corn for our modern population!

Let us examine the new state of things in reference to that citadel of
national life--_the home_. I shall place before you the problem in a
startling light, if I ask you whether the present Vagrancy problem is
not to a large extent _the disintegration of the home_; and whether,
therefore, we are not face to face with the root problem on which the
very existence of our civilisation depends, since _by the preservation
or extinction of the home a nation stands or falls_.

Right down through all the changes but the last, you would have found
the population mainly stationary. Even now the existence of local names,
so widely spread that you may have fourteen or fifteen families in a
small district of the same surname, reveals the remains of the
stationary life. But for good or for evil it has gone. Examine any
family you like and it will be the exception to find it whole.
Individuals are scattered far and wide when up-grown, perhaps in
England, perhaps over the world. Only the stagnating slum population is
stationary. And this is not their virtue. If they had a little more
initiative they would not stagnate; they form a _pool_ of underfed and
ill-paid labour, and constitute by far the largest part of the modern
problem of the unemployed. The alert and well-trained workman is
_migratory_--at the news of a "better shop" he will be off to another
town, with or without wife and family. The young man will desert the
country side to try his luck in some great centre--the girl may go to
service. We no longer _expect_ families to stay whole. Greater freedom
has brought greater travel, and a relaxing of the bonds of parental
discipline. Our streets are crowded nightly by the young, on whom the
restless activity of our age has taken such effect that they cannot and
will not seek sleep till evening is far advanced. The very "day of rest"
is a day of travel.

What is the result of all this increase of migration? The old inn has
become the modern hotel, the occasional "apartment to let" has
multiplied a thousand-fold, the seaside resort has sprung up with
apparatus of pier and promenade, since we must move about even on a
holiday. The whole world is on wheels or on a walking tour. But what
about the destitute pedestrian? Is it fair to dub him a _tramp_? Travel
he must if he is to live, but truly he is between Scylla and Charybdis.
For, unmoored from home and friends, he has on the one side the tender
mercies of the Tramp Ward, which are often cruel, and on the other the
horrors of the common lodging-house. Society hustles him hither and
thither, throwing him a dole; or offering him a prison, if he ventures
to sleep out. He can hardly exist at all, unless he is clever enough to
prey on the community; he becomes a bundle of rags, fain to lie all
night in a London park, or sleep near a brick-kiln. It is "hard lines."
If he would die out quietly it would be all right for Society; he would
not be missed, no one wants him, and this he feels bitterly. But,
unfortunately, his class, in the absence of any provision of Society for
his needs, is constantly being recruited. _It is no longer a question of
the suppression of hereditary vagrancy._ The vagrant class is
microscopic by the side of the _stranded inefficient labourer_, who
recruits the necessarily migratory class of the "unemployed." Unless
Society will take into account this new factor, it will be the worse for
Society. For _every member of a community who is not living a wholesome
life is a danger to it_, and the increase and propagation of an
underfed, ill-bred, uneducated offspring is the menace of civilisation.

Let me sound the alarm note as loud as I can, for already evil has gone
far. While we have been elaborating costly tramp wards, erecting baths
and stoving apparatus, and frightening the genuine tramp away, common
lodging-houses have been increasing on every side. The following is the
testimony of the Rev. Arthur Dale, of Manchester, and it is not one whit
exaggerated:--"The men who habitually live there are almost universally
morally bad. Many are married, but have left their wives and families;
nearly all are the victims of drink. A few, but very few, are honest.
Some are idle, and profess their inability to get up early enough to go
to work. Some will work for a day or two and then 'slack.' There are
large numbers out of work simply for this cause. Fornication and
gambling are both practised largely."[152] Yet in every large town these
men are now counted by hundreds, sometimes by thousands, every night.
Has not the disintegration of the home proceeded very far? For, by
common experience, prosecutions for child maintenance and separation
orders as between husband and wife are granted daily, and with terrible
facility the marriage bond is practically annulled, and yet the
individual is not freed. What is the consequence? The man removes to
another town and lives in nominal celibacy. Vice and idleness may make
him a _tramp_. He can no longer have a home; for if he takes a partner
and rears children they have all the fatal taint of illegitimacy, they
will not respect or obey him. The whole of our lower working class is
thus becoming leavened with immorality. And what about the woman? The
life and death of our nation depends on an awakening to the gravity of
the menace that threatens the true home on every side. An unstable
society has brought about fear. People fear to fall out of employment
and be thrust down into the abyss, and hence the custom of _limitation
of family_, with all its consequences, is spreading to the upper stratum
of the working classes. I cannot recall any one of the many respectable
young couples I have known married during the last sixteen years with a
large family of living children. Fear has also _postponed marriage_,
except in the improvident. Many spend the flower of their youth in
gathering for a home. The improvident alone rush to marriage as boys and
girls, and rear an unhealthy offspring, to whom they can never teach

Hence to the _male_ vagrant problem is added the corresponding half, the
_female_. Since the balance of the sexes is in England already against
women, _what becomes of those who in our large towns correspond to the
hundreds or thousands of men who live in lodging-houses or lodgings,
homeless_? The answer has been becoming ever more plain to me, but it
has only been demonstrated by personal suffering. I could not have
believed had I not seen. Our streets contain an army of prostitutes, and
there has arisen over against the male problem a vast female problem
with which our increasing Homes and Refuges and Shelters are unable to
cope. _The correlative of the male wanderer is the female prostitute._ A
woman must "get her living," and she does it "on the streets." The man
who should support her honourably as a wife is himself a wanderer,
afraid to incur family ties, but bound by no wholesome home influence to
self-restraint. In 1904 I spent three nights in so-called respectable
female lodging-houses.[153] They contained between them close on a
hundred women, and, with few exceptions, they were all living by
prostitution. The hour when a decent woman retires found almost all
perambulating the streets. No rest was possible till the early morning,
as at all hours they were admitted, many of them drunk. Those not
admitted spent the night in hotels, or in some of those "furnished rooms
for married couples," which are multiplying in districts near common
lodging-houses with fatal rapidity.

Men and women are making fortunes out of this state of things. To my
knowledge, a man who was a barman is said now to own sixteen
_lodging-houses_, and a cobbler has risen to be proprietor of lodgings
for 600 and _two public-houses_. A man can rent a house at 4_s_., and
get a little furniture in, and can then let _each room_ for more than
the house-rent per week. To places like this drift many young men or
women who are stranded far away from home. A girl gets out of a
situation; she seeks a women's lodging-house, and if she enters one
where the management connives or winks at vice, in three weeks, or less,
she may be manufactured into a full-blown prostitute. This state of
things is such as should shock every right-thinking English man and
woman. In one street in a northern town a young man of eighteen, fresh
from home, who was with a companion who unfortunately "knew too much,"
passed in a short walk seventy-five prostitutes. With these problems on
our hands in such magnitude, can we stop to tinker at our Tramp Ward
and ask if we are to amend it by giving coffee instead of gruel? The
wonder is that any one seeks it; that it is used at all shows the stern
pressure of destitution more than anything else. For, as I have stated,
and must state repeatedly, the Tramp Ward is itself a factor in national
degradation, the mockery of a provision for need; meaning often
semi-starvation, weary toil and unrest. A man or woman _must_ emerge
from it more unfit for toil, and learn to avoid such a place if possible
in future. The tramp uses it as an occasional disinfectant; the genuine
working man or woman who is stranded may be forced into it temporarily
and learn to be a _tramp_. Mr. Long recently stated that not more than
25 per cent. of the vagrants of the country were in any way within reach
of the Local Government Board. The remainder were not paupers, for
somehow or other they got a living for themselves. I believe his
percentage is too high, owing to the number who simply _sample_ a Tramp
Ward and never again enter it. A recent census in Lancashire revealed
that out of 936 persons reported only thirty-three were habitual
vagrants.[154] Why should they go there? A man who "keeps" (?) a woman
can live in idleness on the produce of her industry or sin; a woman can
live "on the streets." This has a great deal to do with two features of
present-day life--the number of incorrigibly idle, worthless men, who
apparently can exist to loaf and drink, side by side with _the
deplorable increase of drunkenness among women_.

I am convinced that many of the lower public-houses simply play into the
hands of the harlot, and that the marked development of the public-house
is due to the homelessness of our people. Alderman Thompson has pointed
out in "The Housing Handbook" the existence of a universal house famine.
He says: "Putting the case in its simplest form, we find, in the first
place, that if every room, good and bad, occupied or unoccupied, in all
the workmen's dwellings in the country be reckoned as existing
accommodation, there are not enough _of any sort_ to house the working
population without unhealthy overcrowding.... In the second place, we
find that, so far from new rooms being built in sufficient quantities to
make up the deficiency, there is a distinct lessening in the rate of
increase" ("Housing Handbook," W. Thompson, pp. 1-2). This _total_
overcrowding accounts for the pressure on Shelters and common
lodging-houses and tramp wards. Numbers in London are _refused
admission_ to tramp wards; numbers sleep out.[155] Inevitably the class
that can pay least, or cannot pay at all, will be crowded out, if house
accommodation is scanty, and this will especially be the case with the
migrating "out-of-work" who has no particular claim on any one. Even if
he has money in his pocket, it is difficult to say whether he is not in
as grave danger, moral and sanitary, if forced to be a lodger in some
already overcrowded home, as if forced into the common lodging-house.
Like a sponge, a slum neighbourhood sucks up by overcrowding in winter
those who in summer obtain varied occupation far and wide. Is it any
wonder that the children of such overcrowded homes, deprived of the joys
of nature, succumb to the attractions of the brilliantly lighted street?
If the predatory female nightly angles there, in all the attraction of
her tawdry finery; if large numbers of men, divorced from home ties, are
there to be angled for, and money can freely be obtained, the customary
"drink" being proffered; what wonder if the home itself becomes insipid,
if the husband seeks the flaring and enticing public-house or not less
fatal club, and the wife seeks _him_--or some other man--in the same
places, while the children, never at home if they can help it (for home
means unpleasantness, or inconvenient toil), walk out with one another
in the dangerous thoroughfare, and learn in mere boyhood and girlhood
the fascination of passion without responsibility?

How must we face such grave national issues? _The home must be made the
centre of all our thought, the focus of national consciousness._ We must
educate each boy and girl to be primarily father and mother; we must
worship at the cradle of the child. The _community_ must assume
fatherhood and motherhood, and enforce a right conception of their
duties on its subsidiary units. To counteract the restlessness of modern
life we must make of our Fatherland a Home, where every man, woman and
child will be rightly cared for, disciplined if need be, but embraced in
the wide brotherhood of Humanity.

We cannot turn back the hour-glass of time and stay the new-born
activity, but we can utilise the new energy of Humanity as we have
learned to utilise steam and electricity. The units divorced from true
use in our social system may, nay must, become a desolating flood,
unless we dig channels and build reservoirs, and so direct the living
stream back to the formation of true homes, utilising the resources of
the smiling acres of our native land, spreading out our cities, and
afforesting our barren moors.

The Fluidity of Labour is a fact that has come to stay. Modern
subdivided employment depends on _the ready supply at particular places
of necessary workmen_. If a man is destitute through remaining too long
where work is not to be had, he must travel, and we need to
_facilitate_, not to hinder, his rapid transit to the right place, and
to furnish him with all information as to whither he should go. We need
to provide him, in fair return for a moderate task of work, with bed and
board on the journey. _Except in exchange for work we should give
neither State aid nor charity to the traveller_, since, if he cannot
work enough to find bed and board, he belongs to the _incapable_, for
whom a special provision is required, or the "_won't work_" for whom
compulsion is best. The universal provision of a proper remedy for
migrating destitution would soon avail to sort men into the three
classes of _refractory_, _incapable_, or simply "_unemployed_." The
Relief station method of Germany is the key to the situation.

But the Relief station alone will not cope with the evil _unless the
common lodging-house is reformed from top to bottom_. It is necessary to
recognise the existence not only of _destitute_ homelessness, but of
_migratory_ homelessness. It is necessary to get into safe and sanitary
surroundings the whole of the outcasts who sleep out, and to purify our
parks and streets. One thousand four hundred and sixty-three men walking
London streets in one night constitute a social danger. In addition to
this we have on the same night 21,058 single men under the undesirable
conditions of the common lodging-house. London common lodging-houses are
only required to find 240 cubic feet of air for each lodger, as against
300 cubic feet in the provinces, and 350 cubic feet in an ordinary
dwelling house. Alderman Thompson says (p. 22): "Anything less than 350
cubic feet per head ought to result in a conviction before the most
reactionary justices." Add the number crowded into London slums, what an
army of homelessness!

The one thing in the finding of the Vagrancy Committee with which the
author does not agree is the stricture on Shelters. The Shelter reveals
the magnitude of the problem that is upon us. It is the provision that
has arisen over against this grave national danger. It is insufficient,
it is not always well managed. But _it is seldom less sanitary and well
managed than the common lodging-house_. The dangers it replaces are
largely out of sight, but they are none the less real. It is true that
the lowest class gravitate to the Shelter. Let us be thankful that it is
so. "Out of sight is out of mind," but not out of existence. How real
and keen the competition for bed and board is, is demonstrated by the
pressure on prisons. It has come to something serious in our national
history when the last social deterrent to crime has been removed and
_men seek prison as their only home_. Even girls "do not mind being
pinched," it "gives them a rest."[156]

It is absolutely necessary that good and sufficient Workmen's Homes,
municipal or State, should supersede the common lodging-house. Glasgow
has been able to make its seven lodging-houses, accommodating 2,166 men
and 248 women, pay a reasonable interest on capital. London has only
one, and accommodates but 324.[157] The cost per head of 68_l_. per bed,
as against 39_l_. per bed in Glasgow, militates against financial
success, though the charge is 6_d_. per night as against 3-1/2_d_. and
4-1/2_d_. Nevertheless receipts appear to more than cover expenditure
(2,942_l_. against 2,844_l_.), and the benefit to the community must be
reckoned an asset. London has 611 common lodging-houses, Manchester 268.
In Glasgow the provision of municipal lodging-houses has reduced the
total to 81; most of the old insanitary ones have disappeared, and those
newly built are superior even to the municipal ones. Thus Glasgow has
demonstrated the way out. The Glasgow Women's Lodging-house pays 5 per
cent., is orderly, closes at a decent hour, and is well managed and
sanitary. The pressure on its accommodation shows that another is
required, as women are turned away for want of room. Where do they

It is not enough to receive destitute women into the workhouse. In every
town there is needed _some safe place for a working woman to sleep_, and
some provision of employment that will just earn bed and board to stand
between a struggling woman and vice. In every town there should be some
co-ordinating charitable institution, like the Citizens' Guild of Help,
or the Charity Organisation Society at its best, to link together the
benevolence of the district, to pass persons on to employment or to the
Poor-law authorities. _It is necessary to sound the depths of our
poverty problems, or our charity is unavailing._ It is necessary to
have compulsion at the bottom of our social system and apply it to the

For men we need at the back a graded system of colonies, such as is
described in Mr. Percy Alden's recent pamphlet on "Labour Colonies"
(price 1_d_., 1, Woburn Square, London, W.C.).

But the author is convinced that while such national reservoirs are
essential as a background, the real problems of poverty must be worked
out in connection with the _municipality_. Charity cannot cope with
accumulated national evil, neither can the State redress it. The State
can "way-bill" the migrating workman, can sift the mass of vagrancy and
apply "compulsion to work," can link labour bureaux, can reform the Poor
Law. But we possess, at present hardly tapped, a vast fund of local
patriotism. _It is to reconstructed civic life we must look for the
solution of civic problems_, the abolition of the slum, the education of
the child, the provision of "unemployed" capital to place "unemployed"
labour on "unemployed" land, and thereby convert "a trinity of waste
into a unity of production." A great step has been taken by the
Unemployed Act, however imperfect. The whole subject of unemployment the
author has dealt with in a book entitled "How to Deal with the
Unemployed" (Brown, Langham & Co.), and she regards the chapter on "The
Labour Market" as the key to the solution of the problem.

We shall have to recognise the maintenance of the home by the
recognition of the _droit au travail_--"the right to work"--in some form
or another. The streams of labour, which, if let loose in misery and
idleness, are destructive, can, if rightly husbanded, fertilise the

Grave as are the problems to be solved, menacing as is the danger if
reforms are neglected or delayed, I believe the Spirit of God which
created in the mind of our forefathers the ideal of the "_Commonwealth_"
will guide our national policy into right channels,

  "True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home."


[152] It must be remembered that the largest cities attract such, and
form, as it were, cesspools of degeneration. The honest traveller may be
in some lodging-houses in larger proportion, but he has to herd with the
worst, or sleep out. See pp. 35-37.

[153] See Chap. V.

[154] See p. 19.

[155] See Minutes of Evidence before Vagrancy Committee, 10,482-10,492.

[156] See p. 213.

[157] Rowton Houses, however, accommodate large numbers of working men



The placing of Casual Wards under police authority is a bold step, but
one of which the author thoroughly approves. The Report of the Committee
on Vagrancy was issued subsequently to the writing of this book. It is
in substantial agreement with the author's facts and opinions. The prime
necessity for a consistent and uniform national policy will be much
better met in the way proposed than by any mere _reform_ of the Tramp

The policeman, by his constant contact with life of all kinds and by his
opportunities for observation, is much more fitted than the isolated
Poor-law official for wise treatment of "all sorts and conditions of
men." If women were still considered vagrants, grave evils might arise
from transfer of casual wards to police authorities. But if all
destitute women can at once claim the protection of the Workhouse, there
is no reason why the police should not deal with vagrancy.

Theoretically a destitute woman can at present enter the Workhouse, but
practically there are difficulties. She cannot claim entrance unless she
has slept a night in the town and can give her address. If she gives a
lodging-house address she would be presumed to be only suitable for the
Tramp Ward, if lately come to the town. It is but little considered how
much the ancient right of "settlement" continues to hamper the
administration of the Poor-law as a provision for destitution. A case
in point is as follows: A woman visiting her husband, from whom she had
been parted for years, was given in charge for drunkenness and got a
week's imprisonment. She lost her work in a neighbouring town, and
returning to her birthplace, being unable to find shelter, took refuge
in the Tramp Ward. Next morning she applied for admission to the
Workhouse, being quite destitute. The Relieving Officer told her to
apply to the Guardians _the following Wednesday_. It was then Friday.
What was she to do meanwhile? I have selected this incident because it
is not implied that the woman was "deserving," and it is evident that
the Relieving Officer was justified in using caution in the present
state of the law. Nevertheless, it illustrates the fact that _immediate
shelter pending inquiry_ is, in the case of women, a prime necessity.
Delays in admission, coupled with the fact that re-admission to the
Tramp Ward is discouraged, must often, in the case of women, be _fatal_.

Undoubtedly difficulties will arise in the course of transfer, but it is
probable that our whole Poor Law system and its relation to the
Municipality will be largely modified before long.

The change from an agricultural England to an industrial England and the
massing of population in large towns, calls for unification of authority
in our great industrial centres for effectual dealing with problems of
poverty. The proposed change is therefore to be welcomed as one step in
the right direction.

It will also solve the knotty problem as to the incidence of local
charges and national charges.



429. The following is a summary of the principal recommendations made by
the Vagrancy Committee.


1. Wards to be placed under control of police authority (120-147).[158]
See Appendix I.

2. Existing buildings, where required, to be rented or purchased by
police authority (132-3). P. 74.

3. Superfluous wards to be discontinued (130, 133). P. 75.

4. Where practicable, existing officers of wards to be continued in
office (135).

5. Where wards adjoin or form part of the workhouse, arrangements to be
made with the guardians for supply of stores, heating, etc. (134).

6. Diet to be adequate, and provision to be made for mid-day meal on day
of discharge (95, 181, 308-10). Pp. 26, 75.

7. Task of work to be enforced, and to be a time task[159] (93, 148-9).
P. 76.

8. Detention to be for a minimum of two nights, except in case of men
with way-tickets (151-2, 180). P. 81.

9. Expenses of wards to be charged to the police fund (129, 136, 142).
Appendix I.


10. Tickets to be issued by the police to persons who are _bonâ fide_ in
search of work (178). P. 81.

11. The ticket to be for a definite route, and available only for a
month, with power to police to alter route if satisfied that this is
necessary (179, 182). P. 80.

12. The holder of a ticket to be entitled to lodging, supper and
breakfast at the casual ward, and to be able to leave as early as he
desires after performing a small task (179-80). Pp. 75, 80.

13. The holder of a ticket to have a ration of bread and cheese for
mid-day meal given him on leaving the casual ward in the morning (181).
P. 67.

14. Information as to work in the district to be kept at casual wards
and police stations for assistance of work-seekers (184-5). Pp. 75,


15. Short sentences to be discouraged. Where the sentence is for less
than fourteen days, it should be limited to one day, and the conviction
recorded (196, 224). Appendix V.

16. Habitual vagrants to be sent to certified labour colonies for
detention for not less than six months or more than three years (221-3,
286). P. 72.


17. Labour colonies for habitual vagrants to be certified by Secretary
of State and generally to be subject to regulations made by him (284-5,
304). P. 81.

18. Councils of counties and county boroughs to have power to establish
labour colonies, or to contribute to certified colonies established by
other councils or by philanthropic agencies (284-5, 287-8). P. 82.

19. Exchequer contribution to be made towards cost of maintenance of
persons sent to labour colonies (287-8). P. 75.

20. Subsistence dietary to be prescribed. Inmates to have power to earn
small sums of money by their work, and, by means of canteen, to
supplement their food allowance (290, 312-5). Pp. 59, 79.

21. Discharge before the conclusion of sentence to be allowed on certain
conditions (286). P. 59.

22. Industrial as well as agricultural work to be carried on (299-302).
See Appendix III.


23. Buildings for casual wards and in connection with labour colonies to
be erected cheaply (291-2, 317-23).


24. Common lodging-houses to be licensed annually by local authority
(326-7). Pp. 46-51.

25. Stricter supervision and control to be exercised by local authority
(326-7). P. 61.

26. Police to have right of entry (327). P. 61.


27. Shelters to be licensed and regulated by local authority (366-7). P.

28. Free food distribution to be subject to veto of local authority
(360). P. 76.


29. Necessity of stricter enforcement of existing law (375, 377). Pp.
37, 42, 49.

30. Notice to be given to neighbouring districts of small-pox occurring
in common lodging-houses or casual wards (377).


31. Sleeping out to be an offence whenever it takes place in buildings
or on enclosed premises, or is a danger or nuisance to the public (384).
P. 30.


32. Practice as to issue, renewal and endorsement of certificate to be
uniform (400).


33. Female vagrants to be received into the workhouse instead of the
casual wards (405-8). Appendix IV.


34. Children of persons dealt with as habitual vagrants to be sent to
industrial schools or other place of safety (428). P. 84.

35. Child vagrants to be received into the workhouse instead of the
casual wards (406, 428). Appendix IV.

36. Section 14 of the Industrial Schools Act, 1866, to apply to vagrant
children (418).


[158] References in parentheses are to sections in the Vagrancy Report.

[159] I do not agree as to time task. See p. 45. See pp. 181-184, "How
to Deal with the Unemployed."



The Report as to Labour Colonies may be summarised as follows:--

  HOLLAND.                              BELGIUM.

1818. Société de Benéficence established _Free Colonies_ (_i.e._,
_Fredericksoord_, _Willemsoord_, and _Willewminsoord_). Population
decreasing (1902, 1,460). Also _Beggar Colonies_, _Wortel_ and
_Merxplas_, handed over to Government in 1859.

In 1831 Holland and Belgium separated.

  HOLLAND now possesses:                BELGIUM now possesses:

  _Veenhuizen_ for men: 3,000           _Hoogstraeten_, _Wortel_,
  to 4,000 inmates. Committed           _"Maisons de Refuge,"_
  by magistrates, six months            voluntary colonies.
  to three years.

  _Hoorn_ for women: Vagrant            _Merxplas "Depôt de Mendicité":_
  class.                                5,110 inmates, 1905.

                                        Agricultural and industrial.

                                        Net annual cost per head, £9.

                                        Average detention, 16 months.

                                        Earnings per day, 1_d_. to 3_d_.

                                        Vagrant class.

  GERMANY.                              SWITZERLAND.

  _Labour Colonies_, 34:                _Labour Institutions_ in nearly
                                        every canton.

  About 4,000 inmates.                  Vagrants committed for two to
                                        six months.

  Admission voluntary.                  Examples:

  Example: _Wilhelmsdorf_,              _Witzwyl:_ About 200 inmates.
  founded 1882. Agricultural.           Agricultural and industrial.

  Small wage allowed.                   _Appenzell:_ Pays its way.

  Also _Workhouses_ (arbeits            _St. Johannsen:_ £6 per head.
  hauser), 24:

  Forced labour. Detention,             _Lucerne:_ £14 per head.
  one year. Accommodate
  14,836. Cost small, e.g.,
  _Westphalia_, cost £17 8_s_.,
  earnings £8 14_s_.; _Moritzburg_,
  cost £14 9_s_. 2_d_., earnings
  £11 10_s_. 8_d_.

  Mainly handicrafts.                   _Voluntary Colonies:_

                                        Example: _Herdern_, more
                                        expensive, £50 per

  HADLEIGH.                             LINGFIELD.

  _Salvation Army._                     _Christian Social Brotherhood._

  _Inmates:_ Paupers, men               _Inmates:_ Workhouse cases and
  from "Elevators,"                     inebriates; private cases.
  private cases.

  _Capital cost_, about £300 per        _Capital cost_, about £160 per
  head.                                 head.

  _Average annual cost_, nearly         _Average annual cost_, £33 per
  £34 per head.                         head.

  Agriculture and brick-making.         Training in farm and dairy work.

                                        Forty per cent. emigrate to

  HOLLESLEY BAY.                        LAINDON.

  _London County Council._              _Poplar Guardians._

  Established 1904-5.                   Established 1904.

  Principally "unemployed."             Able-bodied paupers.

  Cost of food per week,                Cost of food per week, 5_s_.
  6_s_. 3_d_. to 7_s_. 1_d_. per        8_d_. per head.

  Agriculture.                          Spade labour.

                                        Accommodates 150 inmates.


_Labour colonies_ on the lines of inebriate reformatories.

Compulsory detention for from six months to three years.

Also _State colony_.

Equal contributions from the State and local authority.

Small wage as incentive to work.

Simple subsistence diet, supplemented by canteen.

_Estimated cost, 1s. 6d. per week per head_ (section 315).

Industrial and agricultural.


[160] Chapter VII., Vagrancy Report.



_Extract from Report of Vagrancy Committee, pp. 111-112._

403. At present separate accommodation, under the charge of female
officers, is provided for women in the casual wards. The rules as to
their detention are the same as in the case of men, and their diet is
also the same, though less in quantity. The task of work which is
prescribed for them by the regulations is picking oakum (half the
quantity given to the men) or domestic work, such as washing, scrubbing,
cleaning, or needlework. Oakum picking as a task of work for females,
however, has been discouraged for some time by the Local Government
Board, but it is still in force in many unions.

The number of female vagrants is comparatively small. Out of 9,768
vagrants relieved in casual wards in England and Wales on the night of
1st January, 1905, only 887, or 9 per cent., were women. On the 1st
July, 1905, there were 813 female casual paupers out of a total of

404. We have proposed that casual wards should be continued for the
reception of male wayfarers, but we are strongly of opinion that women
should be provided for elsewhere. Mrs. Higgs said:--

"I should propose that single women should be received into the
workhouse proper. I would do away with the casual ward for women. The
reason of that would be three-fold. First of all, the woman, if she
were admitted into the workhouse proper, would receive the workhouse
clothes; therefore, she would not work in her own, and her own would not
be destroyed. She would go out in as good a state of cleanliness as
before. Besides that, I think it is altogether wrong to recognise a
class of vagrant women at all. I think it is a great evil to recognise
that a woman has the right to go about from place to place in that
unattached kind of way. I think she should be received at the workhouse
proper.... I think it is a great mistake for our country to educate any
women into vagrancy." And as regards women who are tramping with their
husbands, she said:--

"I think that women ought not to be allowed to travel about like that. I
think it would be better if they were taken into the workhouse, and the
husbands were made to pay for them. I think they could go out with their
husbands, if there was a reasonable presumption that the husband was a
working man travelling about for work, after the ordinary detention."

405. We entirely approve of this suggestion. At present the treatment
that female casuals receive is often unsatisfactory, and the complaints
that Mrs. Higgs made of her experience in certain wards cannot be
disregarded. But apart from this, we think it undesirable to encourage
the female tramp. No similar provision is made for this class in other
countries; and we feel that great advantage would ensue from the closing
of the casual wards to women in this country. We gather from experienced
officers that only a small percentage of the female tramps are with
their husbands; temporary alliances seem rather to be the rule of the
road. No doubt there may be exceptional cases, where a woman may have
satisfactory reasons for tramping, but in any such case, if she is a
decent person, she could hardly fail to prefer the accommodation of the
workhouse to that of the casual ward. To a woman who is an habitual
vagrant the workhouse would probably be a deterrent.

406. In many workhouses there are receiving wards where female vagrants
could well be lodged for a night or two; but in any case we do not think
that there need be any insuperable difficulty in arranging for their
reception. If they are able-bodied, their services will be useful in
many workhouses for domestic work, as there is often a difficulty in
getting sufficient help from the ordinary inmates. From the point of
view of the woman the change from the casual wards to the workhouse will
be of considerable benefit. In the workhouse she will be given other
clothes to work in, and will thus avoid the hardship of which Mrs. Higgs
complains. Moreover, she will receive better treatment generally, and,
in many cases, may be brought under reformatory influences which in the
casual wards she would escape. In the case of children, also, the
workhouse is obviously a more suitable place than the casual ward.

407. We suggest that admission should be on an order from a relieving
officer or assistant relieving officer,[161] or, in sudden or urgent
cases, on the authority of the master of the workhouse, and that
discharge should be subject to the notice which is now required in the
case of ordinary inmates of the workhouse. The possession of a way
ticket would entitle a woman to admission to the workhouses on her
route, and if she was tramping with her husband she should be allowed to
discharge herself on the morning after admission so as to join her
husband. It is not likely that such cases would be numerous.

408. The removal of women from the casual wards will be of material
assistance in connection with our proposal for placing the control of
the wards in the hands of the police. It will greatly simplify the
provision of the necessary casual wards, and there will be no need, as
now, for a female staff. We think, however, that in the case of some of
the larger casual wards now existing, where ample provision both in
accommodation and staff has been made for the reception of female
vagrants, it may be desirable, for some time after the transfer of the
wards to the police authority, to continue to receive females in them.
We do not contemplate that any such arrangement as this should be other
than temporary, and we trust that it will be found practicable
eventually to establish a uniform system throughout the country.

409. Apart from the reception of women into the workhouse, we do not
propose that their treatment should differ materially from that proposed
for men. The female habitual vagrant should, we think, be liable to be
sent to a labour colony, which, of course, should be one appropriated to
women only. We do not anticipate that there will be many cases which
will need to be sent to a labour colony, and probably one or two
institutions for the whole country would be sufficient. It seems to us
that there would be special advantage in these being provided--at any
rate, in the first instance--by private enterprise, and it is possible
that there are institutions at present in existence which might properly
be certified for this purpose. They should be subject, in so far as they
are used for the compulsory detention of vagrant women, to the
inspection and control of the Home Office.

410. We are inclined to accept the view that the question of female
vagrants is comparatively unimportant,[162] and that if the men are
removed, the women and children will soon disappear from the roads.
Without the men, the women will find it easy to maintain themselves, and
their case will present little difficulty.


[161] See Appendix I. Great care will be necessary to ensure admission
to _all really destitute_.

[162] See Appendix VII.



These evils may be summarised as follows:--

(1) Uneven administration of justice, as sentences frequently vary from
three to twenty-eight days for the same offences, _i.e._, refusing to
perform workhouse task or destroying clothing. The sentence of a
stipendiary often differs from that of a local magistrate in the same

The great majority of sentences (13,831 out of 16,626 for begging, and
5,198 out of 6,219 for sleeping out) are for less than fourteen and
probably for only seven days.

(2) Such short sentences are not deterrent, and are very costly. Two
vagrants cost in travelling expenses alone £12 and £16 10_s_. Hardly any
work can be exacted during a short sentence.

The committee recommend that a minimum sentence of one day should be
_recorded as a conviction_ for vagrancy. If again convicted the prisoner
could be then committed to a labour colony.



The narrative may be relied upon as true in every detail. The facts were
burned in upon the minds of the two pilgrims, and were put on paper at

Certain names are omitted for obvious reasons; they are known and can be

The lady whose courage and devotion first suggested this descent into
the Inferno, who took the lead in it and then recorded its results, was
inclined, when it came to printing them, to suppress certain revolting
particulars. At my express desire they were retained. They are essential
to her case. For, of course, the facts here revealed are a terrible
indictment of our present arrangements, and cry aloud for reform. In the
interests of morality alone, our Workhouse Tramp-wards and Municipal
Lodging-houses need far more careful supervision. It will be found also
that efficiency, common-sense, and kindliness would tend to economy and
prevent waste. As to the Common Lodging-house, it is a focus of moral
and physical mischief.

It is hoped that this pamphlet will stimulate local authorities; will
awaken the ratepayers to a livelier interest in the appointment of Poor
Law Guardians, and will quicken the conscience of many more women to
offer themselves for election.

  _Manchester, January, 1904._

      _N.B.--This Pamphlet was published by the Women Guardians and
      Local Government Association, 66, Barton Arcade, Manchester, and
      may still be had from them, price 1d._

      _Chapter III., "The Tramp Ward" price 2d., Chapter IV., "A Night
      in a Salvation Army Shelter," price 1d., Chapter V., "Three Nights
      in Women's Lodging-houses," price 1d., may be obtained in pamphlet
      form from the Author, post free._



The causes of immorality among women are deep-seated in modern life.
They are due to--(1) widespread changes in sex relationship, combined
with (2) changes in modes of life due to the industrial revolution, and
complicated by (3) psychic developments in humanity itself.

(1) Suppose we take the largest and most universal change first. In
modern civilisation the psychic relationships of man and woman are
changing. Intensity has come into sex relationships. It is reckoned
right, or at least pardonable, for men and women to do "for love" what
may be against the dictates of common sense. To a large extent this is
ephemeral, and belongs to the erotic age alone. But necessarily the
effect on the young of both sexes of the "novel" with its coloured
picture of life, must be great, and greatest on the most emotional sex.
Fictitious views of life influence minds just endeavouring to grasp life
as a whole. A woman may be placed in circumstances of destitution in
pursuit of the _ideal_ life. It matters little to evolution that
thousands of lives perish. The evolution of woman involves, like all
other evolutions, _sacrifice_.

(2) Let us now look at the second large factor--what is called the
Industrial Revolution. It has been pointed out by Mrs. Stetson, that
hitherto man has been the economic environment of woman. We are still
in a transition period, but largely in the middle and working classes,
women before marriage, and even after, are escaping to economic
independence. This change is so vast and far-reaching (involving an
adjustment of all our social institutions) that we can hardly yet
appreciate it. Once begun, it must go forward. But at present, as half
begun, it means in all directions the danger and sacrifice of individual
lives. Over against the problem of unemployed men, we now have
unemployed women also--women not dependent, but on their own economic

(3) Changes in sex relationship rapidly follow on changes in economic
status. The attainment of economic status as distinct from economic
value is imperceptibly modifying marriage and the family. Woman and man
are partners. While the child becomes more and more the centre on which
public interest focusses, at the same time the ties both of wifehood and
of parentage and of brotherhood and sisterhood are relaxed. Community
interest and life replaces by degrees parental restraint and
responsibility. Freedom has its blessings and also its penalties.

Let us trace a woman through her normal life and see what dangers of
destitution beset her.

As at first born, the home is her support and natural habitat. But
economic independence being possible at an early age, parental restraint
is lighter. I have known cases of girls even of fourteen and sixteen
leaving home, and with a companion or two, clubbing together and setting
up house. They were then free to invite young men, with what
consequences may be imagined. A girl in "lodgings" or "with friends" may
easily become destitute through changes in employment.

In addition to these wandering children, parents often cast off girls on
very slight grounds. To turn a child into the street, if the girl is out
of work or supposed to be idle or disorderly, is by no means uncommon.
It is so common that some provision for it should be made in every town.

Short of actually leaving home, our girls are now exposed to the
temptations of the free life of the street, of largely unrestricted
intercourse, often under wrong conditions, with the other sex. This
intercourse, however, cannot under modern circumstances, be prevented
except by exceptional parents. It should be under healthy conditions and
wise control. But at present it is a large factor in destitution, for
the lad and lass spend their earnings largely on sex attraction and are
penniless in emergencies sure to occur. Hasty and ill-considered
marriage may follow. A national education for motherhood is much to be
desired; it is perilous and unwise to keep up the old conventional ideas
as to "innocence" and "purity" being fostered by ignorance. Let us face
the question boldly, and encourage the teaching of right and pure and
true views of marriage. Forewarned is often forearmed. At any rate, at
this period in life, orphanhood, or some change in family relations,
stepfatherhood or motherhood being frequent, may throw the girl much on
her lover. There is no reserve of maidenly provision as in many
countries. The legislation of betrothal might even be a good thing, and
the State might require at least a little forethought. More and more the
State becomes the universal child-parent. It is time it studied its

Before our typical woman lie two paths. Into the usual one of marriage
the vast majority of industrial women are carried. The marriage state
still involves support, but also involves a change in economic
relationship which more and more galls. Curious partnerships result
where both are self-supporting, one or the other being predominant
partner. In middle-class life still, conventions largely rule; but in
industrial centres the marriage bond itself is much less binding than of
old. Separations become more and more common. The amount of support that
can be claimed by a wife is so insufficient that often they come
together again perhaps only to part. Both are often young. Before the
man lies a long celibate life, he is under no vow--self-restraint is
normally not attained. The large numbers of imperfectly-mated men
leading a life divorced from home ties constitute a grave social peril.
In every town a great number of middle-class and many working men live
free from social responsibility to support women, yet do partially
support some at any rate, either as lovers, as betrothed sweethearts, or
in less sacred relationships. Destitute and deserted wives are common,
cast-off sweethearts not a few; women derelicts abound; they are the
"unemployed," alas not unemployed in sin, but a source of moral
contagion in their easy life.

For the other career of womanhood is hard, and as yet a path not for the
many, and therefore all the harder. A woman may attain economic
independence; but she is sadly handicapped. Her wage is low, often
lowered by dress expense; and her woman nature, especially under modern
pressure of sentimental literature, demands satisfaction in husband and
child. What wonder if she gives up the hard struggle and strays from
this path. Society owes much to the women who toil on, cutting by
degrees the stairs of progress. If they succeed in self-support, how
often age overtakes them as toilers; women's physical disabilities
(created or complicated by a false civilisation) leave them stranded.
The middle-aged unemployed female is a most serious national problem at
present. It calls loudly for universal sisterhood. Drink too often
claims the unloved and unlovable spinster. She can no longer spin; she
must work under conditions in which she ages fast. Independence is
hardly to be won. Our workhouses are full of derelict womanhood. Nor is
the married woman always more fortunate. Industries often kill husbands
when still young. Widows abound. It is extremely difficult to make a
woman self-supporting with more than one, or at most with two children,
in such a way as to secure sufficient food and clothes for these
children. Into married destitution, if the husband lives, I need not
enter; it is part of the unemployed problem, and a serious one.

How can we face these problems? They are on every hand. We have no
effective State provision. The Tramp Ward is a mockery, a robbery and
insult to womanhood. The common lodging-house is a snare and a trap.
Surely _it belongs to womanhood to befriend womanhood_. It is little use
to multiply Rescue Homes while we leave untouched the causes that are
stranding more and more of our sisters.

What is needed is--in every town an industry for destitute women; in
every town a Shelter to pick up strays and guide them to self-support;
in every town Women's Hostels under kind, wise, but not restrictive
supervision; in every town provision for glad, free girl life, and
joined to this distinct, clear, national purity teaching. What is needed
is a pure, free, enlightened womanhood, ready to stand side by side with
man to mother the world.


      [_Read at Conference of Reformatory and Refuge Union and National
      Association of Certified Reformatory and Industrial Schools,
      Birmingham, June 21st, 1905._]



The laws of evolution apply to social phenomena. Tested by these we see
that _the Shelter_, the _Municipal Lodging-house_, and the _Rowton
House_ are replacing the _common lodging-house_. Is there any reason why
they should not, when for the rich the hotel has replaced the inn? It is
a question of national moment what provision should be made for the
floating population of men and _women_.

In smaller towns the common lodging-house is _disappearing_ (see Minutes
of Evidence before Vagrancy Committee, section 1752). In London the
accommodation is _decreasing_ (see _ibid._, section 5784). Is this to be
deplored or hastened? The poor must sleep _somewhere_. Let us first of
all distinguish between the _Free_ Charitable Shelter and _Free_ Meals,
and the question of provision of adequate housing accommodation for our
floating population.

The provision for _absolute destitution_ belongs to the _State_. Only
the State, or the State through the Municipality, can exercise
sufficient authority to sift the incapable and "won't-works" from the
simply "unemployed." The former should be in some State or
State-subsidised institution, unless supported by relatives. The
"won't-works" require coercion. Any form of charity that impedes right
State action is harmful. It has arisen because the State has shirked its
duty. The public should be satisfied that every _destitute_ man and
woman gets bed and board, with even-handed justice, in return for a
task, if capable, or with proper care if incapable. Then Free Shelters
and Free Meals would disappear.

But _provision_ of proper accommodation for those who are struggling to
earn their living is another matter. Hitherto it has grown up haphazard,
sanitary regulations have slowly been made, still more slowly enforced,
and are often a dead letter.

If the question of the common lodging-house were simply that of
enforcing on the proprietor of a certain house, by means of adequate
inspection, a certain standard of cleanliness and decency, there would
still be reasons why a Municipal lodging-house or charitable Shelter
would, if under strict supervision, be a better provision for the poor.
I will tabulate these.

                                        OR SHELTER.

  _Interested Management._              _Disinterested Management._

  Not to proprietary _interest_ to      Against interest to have
  put down vice and drunkenness,        disturbances, and therefore
  and to call in police.                desirable to prevent vice
  Interest to secure greatest           and drunkenness from
  number of lodgers.                    commencement.

  Interest to provide _minimum_         Interest to provide
  that will pass muster, _e.g._,        _maximum_ consistent with
  usually no stoving apparatus          cleanliness. Usually apparatus
  to prevent vermin,                    for stoving, and
  and no lockers to prevent             lockers for private property.

  Imperfect sanitary arrangements,      Sanitary arrangements considered
  deficient arrangements                in building.
  for cooking and                       Proper arrangements for
  washing.                              cooking and washing.

  Deputy (usually chosen from           Management removes at
  inmates) exercises little             once any warden suspected
  control.                              of ill conduct.

  Regulations if made, hard             Regulations being made by
  to enforce, as _interest_ is          management can be more
  retention of lodgers.                 easily enforced.

  Small number makes better             Larger number allows of
  provision not profitable.             better provision.

But it is not a question _merely_ of the state of the common
lodging-house. Bound up with this is the fact that around the common
lodging-houses in each large town is growing up silently a great evil, a
network of single "furnished rooms," which are the last refuge of
evicted householders, but also the home of immorality. The insufficient
provision of the common lodging-house is being silently largely
supplemented by these. These evils are flagrant. Yet they cannot be
_suppressed_. The homeless must have somewhere to go. The crowding of
slum areas by "lodgers" is as grave an evil.

The "way out" is to _provide_ in every town, under charge of the
Municipality, _well-regulated sanitary_ and _sufficient_ accommodation.
As a _national_ provision is required, Municipalities of smaller towns
might be encouraged by loans for building purposes on national credit,
Government in return exercising care as to expense. Glasgow has shown
that such enterprises

(1) Suppress the poor insufficient houses,

(2) Provide adequate return on capital,

(3) Lead to the rise of still better accommodation for working men.

A Municipal lodging-house should be linked to remedial agencies, and a
chain should exist on routes of travel.

Especially for _women_, municipal lodging-houses are a _necessity_. With
regard to the question of "bunks" _versus_ "beds," it is strange that
while on the one hand for sanitary reasons the Government allows plank
beds and wire mattresses, it is about to enforce _for a class
confessedly dirtier_ (see Vagrancy Report, 335) a universal bed. The
idea that "inspection" can keep beds clean without stoving is futile.
Some of the vermin most troublesome to get rid of are microscopic. Also
the idea that people undress to go to bed, and do not undress in a bunk,
is not correct. The class that possess only "what they stand up in"
possess no night garments. Women keep some of their garments on. Men may
undress (for _protection_ from vermin). All the garments not worn all
night are usually tucked into the bed for fear of thefts. I have seen
women undressing similarly in a bunk. The Salvation Army keeps its
shelters spotlessly clean and free from vermin. Unless cleansing of the
person is compelled by law, all that can be done for the lowest class of
all is to provide some easily cleansed resting-place (see p. 30).
Something must be done to prevent the scandal of "sleeping out" in our
wealthy cities.

The popularity of the Shelter shows it meets a social need. Also in
connection with public institutions, remedial action and sorting into
classes is possible, which is impossible in places provided for private
profit. We should aim at getting every individual into a safe and
sanitary shelter at night. How can a _destitute_ woman find 3_s_. 6_d_.
per week for bare shelter? If she pays this should not it entitle her to
a place which is clean, where she can keep herself clean, and can _keep
her self-respect_?


     Aboriginal Vagrant, 2

     Admission, Refusal of, 29

     Afforestation, 77

     Agricultural Vagrancy, 5, 83

     Appenzell, 310

     Beggars, 11, 19, 97-100

     Casual Ward, Admission to, 109, 120, 139-142, 295, 304, 312-315;
     Bath, 37, 39, 40, 80, 111, 121, 144, 260; Bed, 114, 122, 146, 167,
     279; Cleanliness, 34, 37, 39, 80, 111, 114, 144, 145; Cost of, 79;
     Defects of, 53, 54, 111, 113, 124, 125, 147-149, 168, 172, 274,
     294; Detention, 29, 81, 273; Drink, 113, 124, 129, 164, 260; Food,
     26, 27, 33, 40, 44, 75, 112, 115, 123, 125, 129, 143, 168, 260,
     305; Institution of, 14; Investigation of, 33; Overcrowding, 37,
     39, 41, 42, 44, 80; Task, 22, 28, 33, 34, 40, 45, 96, 117, 126-128,
     154, 162-165, 261, 264, 273

     Casuals, Statistics of, 17, 18, 19, 20, 65, 67, 68, 294

     Central Hall, Manchester, 71, 85, 280

     Charity, 58, 76

     Common Lodging-House, 35, 36, 47, 94-106, 175-177, 232-254,
     269-271, 307; Beds in, 48, 49, 101, 102; Cost in, 48; Cleanliness
     of, 47-49, 103-105, 237, 241, 242, 245, 246, 252, 270; Overcrowding
     in, 47, 104, 252, 254, 271, 298; _versus_ Shelter, 324-327

     Danish Poor Law, 58

     Department of Labour, 74

     Dietary, Tramp Ward, 26

     Doctor refused, 37, 43, 157

     Drink, 20, 139, 161, 186, 189

     Ensor, Research by, 25

     Forced Labour, 59, 61, 63

     Fuller on Vagrancy, 3

     Furnished Rooms, 176, 247

     German Relief Station, 14

     German Colonies, 62, 310

     Glasgow Municipal Lodging-Houses, 299-300

     Herdern, 310

     Hibbert, Sir John, 44

     Home, Disintegration of the, 12, 288-297, 321, 322

     Identification, 81

     Impotent, 6, 32, 36, 42

     Incapable, 5, 7, 32, 42, 150, 151, 156, 157, 298

     _Independent Review_, 25

     Inefficient, 8, 10, 20, 26, 53, 290

     Inspection, 48, 258

     Investigation, Value of, 23

     Investigation into Belgian Labour Colonies, 54

     Investigation into Manchester poverty, 12

     Labour Bureaux, 62, 75

     Labour Colonies, 82, 173, 271, 281, 301, 306-311; Cost in, 58, 62,
     76, 173, 309-310, 311; _English:_ Hadleigh, 310; Hollesley Bay, 71,
     311; Laindon, 71, 311; Lingfield, 71, 310; _Foreign:_ Belgian, 56,
     57, 309; Dutch, 62, 309; German, 62, 310; Swiss, 63, 310; Visit to,
     34; Wage in, 79

     Legislation against Vagrancy, 3, 4, 11-15, 53, 64, 81

     Legislation, Faults of, 15, 16

     Lodging-houses, 35, 36, 47-49, 76, 94-106, 173, 191, 197-231, 233,
     293, 299 (_see_ Shelters); German, 60; Municipal, 49, 74, 89-93,
     178, 299, 324-326; (Glasgow), 299; Rowton Houses, 50, 324; Women's,
     197-231. 255-259, 280

     London Lodging-houses, 48, 254-259, 298, 300; Tramp Ward, 259-268

     Low-skilled Labour, 8

     Lucerne, 310

     Luhterheim, 62

     Magistrates, 11, 69, 306, 316

     Merxplas, 56, 57, 309

     Migration, 9, 19, 29, 35, 38, 51, 66, 72, 287-290, 297

     Moritzburg, 310

     Municipality, 73, 301

     Nomad, 1

     Pastoral Vagrancy, 2

     Personality, Theory of, xxi.

     Police, 303-305

     Prison, 25, 28, 29, 31, 38, 55, 56, 172, 214, 276-279, 299; Cost,
     58; Food, 27, 276

     Prostitution, 200-203, 206-208, 212-216, 220, 222, 226, 231, 292,
     294, 296, 319-327

     Relief Station, 14, 60, 61, 63, 65, 173, 275, 279, 306

     Rose, "Rise of Democracy", 12

     Rosebery, Lord, 12

     Rowton Houses, 50

     Settlement, Law of, 4, 303

     Shelters, 29, 30, 48, 130-135, 173, 190, 195-196, 295, 299, 307,
     324-327; Beds in, 133; German, 61; Salvation Army, 175-196, 233;
     Beds in, 180, 183; Food in, 184, 192

     Sleeping Out, 13, 18, 30, 31, 38, 51, 65, 137, 166, 171, 275, 308

     Small-pox, 37, 42, 105, 245, 307

     Soldiers discharged, 21

     St. Johannsen, 63, 310

     Task of Work, 15, 33, 34

     Theory of Personality, xxi.

     Tramp Ward defects, 53, 54 _See_ Casual Ward.

     Unemployed, 20, 21, 24, 25, 29-32, 35, 36, 50, 51, 56, 69, 72, 84,
     137, 150, 162, 167, 188, 189, 215, 220

     Unemployment in England, 73, 76, 77, 301; in Denmark, 59; in
     Germany, 60-62

     Unions, Combination of, 81

     Unskilled Labour, 5, 9, 18, 20, 70

     Vagrancy Definition of, 1; in early England, 3, 284-285;
     Agricultural, 5, 11, 83, 85, 285; Industrial, 6, 83, 85, 286;
     Modern, 7, 16-23; in other countries, 54-64

     Vagrancy Committee, Recommendations of, 305-308

     Vagrancy Reform, 71-82

     Vagrants, Number of, 4, 5, 10, 17, 20, 21-23, 25, 43, 67, 261

     Veenhuizen, 209

     Way Tickets, 60, 63, 65-69, 80, 81, 306

     Westphalia, 310

     Wilhelmsdorf, 310

     Witzwyl, 63, 310

     Women, 312-315, 319-327; Dirty Clothing of, 129, 191, 244, 250;
     Lodging-Houses for, 93, 95, 176, 190, 191, 195, 196-231, 233, 247,
     248, 252-259, 280, 300; Sanitation for, 92, 93, 104-105, 235, 242,
     243, 257; Vagrants, 80, 114, 116, 135, 160-161, 188, 193, 211, 225,
     228, 237, 249, 267, 304, 308, 312-315

     Workhouse, Cost in, 58; Austrian, 64; Danish, 58, 59; German, 61

How to deal
with the

_Author of "Five Days and Five Nights as a Tramp among Tramps."_

A Contribution of Value towards
the Solution of Social Problems.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Crown 8vo, Paper, 6d. net._

       *       *       *       *       *

"The book is a genuine effort to solve the great problem of the
unemployed by scientific methods."--_To-day._

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