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Title: Life in a Railway Factory
Author: Williams, Alfred
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    _First Published 1915
    Published in the Readers’ Library 1920_

    _Printed in Great Britain
    by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh_



My object in penning “Life in a Railway Factory” was to take advantage
of the opportunities I have had as a workman, during twenty-three years’
continuous service in the sheds, of setting down what I have seen and
known for the interest and education of others, who might like to be
informed as to what is the actual life of the factory, but who have no
means of ascertaining it from the generality of literature published
upon the matter.

The book opens with a short survey of several causes of labour unrest
and suggestions as to its remedy. Then follows a brief description of
the stamping shed, which is the principal scene and theatre of the drama
of life exhibited in the pages, the central point from which our
observations were made and where the chief of our knowledge and
experience was acquired. After a glance into the interior we explore the
surroundings and pay a visit to the rolling mills, and watch the men
shingling and rolling the iron and forging wheels for the locomotives.
Continuing our perambulation of the yard we encounter the shunters,
watchmen, carriage finishers, painters, washers-down, and
cushion-beaters. The old canal claims a moment’s attention, then we pass
on to the ash-wheelers, bricklayers, road-waggon builders, and the
wheel-turning shed. Leaving them behind we come to the “field,” where
the old broad-gauge vehicles were broken up or converted, and proceed
thence into the din of the frame-building shed and study some portion
of its life. Next follows an exploration of the smithy and a
consideration of the smith at work and at home, his superior skill and
characteristics. From our study of the smiths we pass to that of the
fitters, forgemen, and boilermakers, and complete our tour of the
premises by visiting the foundry and viewing the operations of the

The early morning stir in the town and country around the sheds, the
preparations for work, the manner in which the toilers arrive at the
factory, and the composition of the crowd are next described, after
which we enter the stamping shed and witness the initial toils of the
forgemen and stampers, view the oil furnace and admire the prowess of
“Ajax” and his companions. The drop-hammers and their staff receive
proportionate attention; then follows a comparison of forging and
smithing, a study of several personalities, and an inspection of the
plant known as the Yankee Hammers. Chapter XI. is a description of the
first quarter at the forge expressed entirely by means of actual
conversations, ejaculations, commands, and repartees, overheard and
faithfully recorded. Following that is a first-hand account of how the
night shift is worked, giving one entire night at the forge and noting
the various physical phases through which the workman passes and
indicating the effects produced upon the body by the inversion of the
natural order of things. The remainder of the chapters is devoted to
the description and explanation of a variety of matters, including the
manner of putting on and discharging hands, methods of administration,
intimidating and terrorising, the interpretation of moods and feelings
during the passage of the day, week and year, holidays, the effects
of cold and heat, causes of sickness and accidents, the psychology of
fat and lean workmen, comedy, tragedy, short time and overtime, the
advantages--or disadvantages--of education and intelligence, ending up
with a review of the industrial situation as it was before the war and
remarks upon the future outlook. A table of wages paid at the works is
added as an appendix.

The site of the factory is the Wiltshire town of Swindon. This stands
at the extremity of the Upper Thames Valley, in the centre of a vast
agricultural tract, and is seventy-seven miles from London and about
forty from Bristol. Its population numbers approximately fifty thousand,
all largely dependent upon the railway sheds for subsistence. The
inhabitants generally are a heterogenous people. The majority of the
works’ officials, the clerical staff, journeymen, and the highly skilled
workers have been imported from other industrial centres; the labourers
and the less highly trained have been recruited wholesale from the
villages and hamlets surrounding the town. About twelve thousand men,
including clerks, are normally employed at the factory. A knowledge of
the composition of the inhabitants of the town is important, otherwise
one might be at a loss to account for the low rate of wages paid, the
lack of spirited effort and efficient organisation among the workers,
and other conditions peculiar to the place.

The book was never intended to be an expression of patriotism or
unpatriotism, for it was written before the commencement of the
European conflict. It consequently has nothing directly to do with
the war, nor with the manufacture of munitions, any more than it
incidentally discovers the nature of the toils, exertions, and
sacrifices demanded of those who must slave at furnace, mill,
steam-hammer, anvil, and lathe producing supplies for our armies
and for those of our Allies in the field. It is not a treatise on
economics, for I have never studied the science. If I had set out
with the intention of theoretically slaughtering every official
responsible for the administration of the factory I should have
failed signally. I never contemplated such a course. Instead I
wished to write out my own experiences and observations simply,
and from my own point of view, mistaken or otherwise, without fear
or favour to any. I have my failings and prejudices. What they are
is very well known to me, and I have no intention of disavowing
them. Whoever disagrees with me is fully entitled to his opinion.
I shall not question his judgment, though I shall not easily
surrender my own. I am not anxious to quarrel with any man; at
the same time I am not disposed to be fettered, smothered, gagged
or silenced, to cower and tremble, or to shrink from uttering what
I believe to be the truth in deference to the most formidable
despot living.

A. W.

_24th July 1915._

A portion of Chapter XIII. has appeared in the _English Review_. My
thanks are due to the Editor for his courteous permission to reproduce
it in the volume.



    LABOUR UNREST                                                      1


        ROLLS--THE SCRAP WAGGONS--WASTE                                9


        AND INNOVATIONS--DEPARTMENTAL RELATIONS                       25


        TURNERS--THE RUBBISH HEAP                                     44


        SHED--PROMOTION--RIVET BOYS--THE OVERSEER                     63


        --THE SMITHS’ FOREMAN                                         82


        BLAST FURNACE--MOULDERS                                      100


        STAFF                                                        120


        POWER--WHEEL-BURSTING                                        136


        “PUMP”--“SMAMER”--BOILERS--A NEAR SHAVE                      153




    FIRST QUARTER AT THE FORGE                                       187


        WEARINESS--THE RELEASE--HOME TO REST                         206




        MARRIED                                                      241


        MEANS--PRANKS--ALL FOOLS’ DAY--NEW YEAR’S EVE                258


        THE FORGE                                                    274


        OUTLOOK                                                      292


    TABLE OF WAGES PAID AT THE WORKS                                 309

    INDEX                                                            311




Someone once asked the Greek Thales how he might best bear misfortune
and he replied--“By seeing your enemy in a worse condition than
yourself.” He would have been as near the truth if he had said “friend”
instead of “enemy.” Everyone appears to desire to see every other one
worse off than himself. He is not content with doing well; he must do
better, and if his success happens to be at the expense of one less
fortunate he will be the more highly gratified. This lust of dominion
and possession dates from the very foundation of human society. It is a
feature of barbarism, and one that the wisest teaching and the most
civilising influences at work in the world have failed to remove or even
very materially to modify. The idea behind the _Sic vos non vobis_ of
Virgil has always been uppermost in the minds of the powerful. This it
was that doomed the captives of the Greeks and Romans to a life of
wretchedness and misery in the mines. This was responsible for the
subjugation of the English peasants, and their reduction to the order of
serfs in feudal times. And this is what would enslave the labouring
classes in mine, field, and factory to-day. It must not be permitted.
There is a way to defeat it. That is by law. Not a law made by the
depredators but by the workers themselves. They have the means at their
disposal. If they would summon up the courage to make use of them they
might shatter the power of the capitalist at a stroke and free
themselves from his domination for ever.

A principal cause of trouble everywhere between the employer and the
employed is the lack of recognition of the worker. I mean this in its
broadest sense. I do not mean merely that great and powerful
combinations do not want to recognise Trade Unions. We all know that. It
is a part of their policy and is dictated by pride and the spirit of
intolerance. But they make a much more serious and fatal mistake. They
refuse to recognise a man. All kinds of employers are guilty of this.
The mineowner, the trading syndicate, the railway or steamship company,
municipal authorities, the large and small manufacturer, the farmer and
shopkeeper are equally to blame. If they would recognise the man they
might be led to a consideration of his legitimate needs. They must first
admit him to be equally a member of the human family and then recognise
that, as such, he has claims as righteous and sacred as they. That is
where the representative of capital invariably fails. He will not admit
that the one under his authority has any rights of his own. To him the
worker is as much a slave as ever he was, only he is conscious that his
treatment of him must be subject to the limitations imposed by the
modern laws of the land. And as he flouts the individual so he contemns
the collective organisations of the men. He is determined not to
recognise them. He considers this to be a proof of his strength. In
reality it is a badge of his weakness. Sooner or later it will prove his

I will give an illustration. Several years ago, working in the same
shed as myself, was a grey-headed furnaceman. He was not an old man; he
could have been no more than fifty. One day he met with a serious
accident. While attending to his furnace, in a stooping position,
someone in passing accidentally pushed him. This caused him to lose his
balance and he slipped on the plate and fell head-first into a boshful
of boiling water underneath the fire hole. His head and shoulders were
severely scalded, and he was absent on the sick list for two months.
When he came in again he was not allowed to resume work at the furnace
but was put wheeling out ashes from the smiths’ fires. To my
steam-hammer an oil furnace had recently been attached and several
managers came daily to experiment with it. One morning, while they were
present, the ex-furnaceman came to wheel away the debris. Then a manager
turned to me and said--

“Who’s that? What’s he doing here?”

I explained who the man was and what he was doing.

“Pooh! What’s the good of _that thing_! He ought to be shifted outside,”
replied he.

In a short while afterwards the furnaceman was discharged.

There is something even worse than this and much more serious in effect.
That is a result of too great recognition. I am referring to the common
fault of interfering with and penalising men of superior mental and
intellectual powers. There is even a certain advantage in a man’s
ability to escape attention. Especially if he is of a courageous turn of
mind, has views and ideas of his own, and is able to influence others.
He will live the more easy for it. Left to himself he can work away
quietly, informing the minds and leavening the opinions of those round
about him. If he can escape recognition. But he cannot. He is soon
discovered, gagged, smothered, or got rid of. The safest way to
strengthen a flame is to fan it. And if you want to intensify a man’s
dissatisfaction with a thing attempt to prevent him by force from giving
expression to it. That is a sure means of provocation and will bear
fruit a hundredfold.

We hear a great deal about the “discontent” of the workers, and a degree
of censure and reproach is usually conveyed with the expression. It is
not half general enough. The average working man is too content. He is
often lazily apathetic. Is the mineowner, the manufacturer, or the
railway magnate content? Of course he is not. Strength is in action.
When I hear of a man’s being satisfied I know that he is done for. He
might as well be dead. I wish the workers were more discontented, though
I should in every case like to see their discontent rationally expressed
and all their efforts intelligently directed. They waste a fearful
amount of time and energy through irresolution and uncertainty of

The selfishness, cruelty, and arrogance of the capitalist and his agents
force the workers into rebellion. The swaggering pomposity and fantastic
ceremony of officials fill them with deserving contempt. Their impudence
is amazing. I have known a foreman of the shed to attack a man by reason
of the decent clothes he had on and forbid him to wear a bowler hat. Not
only in the workshop but even at home in his private life and dealings
he is under the eye of his employer. His liberty is tyrannically
restricted. In the town he is not allowed to supplement his earnings by
any activity except such as has the favour of the works’ officials. He
must not keep a coffee-shop or an inn, or be engaged in any trading
whatever. He may not even sell apples or gooseberries. And if he happens
to be the spokesman of a labourers’ union or to be connected with any
other independent organisation, woe betide him! The older established
association--such as that of the engineers--is not interfered with. It
is the unprotected unskilled workman that must chiefly be terrorised and

The worker is everywhere exploited. The speeding-up of late years has
been general and insistent. New machinery is continually being installed
in the sheds. This is driven at a high rate and the workman must keep
pace with it. The toil in many cases is painfully exacting. There may be
a less amount of violent physical exertion required here and there,
though much more concentration of mind and attention will be needed. The
output, in some instances, has been increased tenfold. I am not
exaggerating when I say that the actual exertions of the workman have
often been doubled or trebled, yet he receives scarcely anything more in
wages. In some cases he does not receive as much. He may have obtained a
couple of shillings more in day wages and at the same time have lost
double the amount in piecework balance. Occasionally, when the foreman
of the shed has mercilessly cut a man’s prices, he offers him a sop in
the shape of a rise of one or two shillings. On the hammers under my
charge during the last ten years the day wages of assistants--owing to
their being retained on the job up to a greater age--had doubled, and
the piecework prices had been cut by one half. As a result the gang lost
about £80 in a year. A mate of mine, whose prices had been cut to the
lowest fraction, though offered a rise, steadily refused it on the
ground that he would be worse off than before. Though slaving from
morning till night he could not earn his percentage of profit. In many
cases where the workman was formerly allowed to earn a profit of 33 per
cent. on his day wages he is now restricted to 25 per cent., and the
prices have been correspondingly reduced. Even now the foreman is not
satisfied. He will still contrive to keep the percentage earned below
the official figure in order to ingratiate himself with the managers and
to give them the impression that he is still engaged in paring the

At the same time, a marvellous lack of real initiative is discovered by
the factory staff. Things that have been so are so, and if any sharp and
enterprising workman sees the possibility of improvement anywhere and
makes a suggestion he is soundly snubbed for his pains. In their
particular anxiety to exact the last ounce from the workman in the
matter of labour the managers overlook multitudes of important details
connected with their own administration, but which the workman sees as
plainly as he does the nose on his face. They often spend pounds to
effect the saving of a few pence. They lavish vast sums on experiments
that the most ordinary man perceives have no possible chance of being
successful, or even useful if they should succeed. Men’s opinions upon a
point are rarely solicited; if offered, they are belittled and rejected.
Where an opinion is asked for it is usually intended as a bait for a
trap, the answer is carefully recorded and afterwards used to prove
something to the other’s disadvantage.

But those ideas which are most valuable, provided they are not complex
and the simple-minded official can readily grasp them--which is not
always the case--he secretly cherishes and stealthily develops and
afterwards parades them to his superior with swaggering pride as his own
inventions. It is thus Mr So-and-so becomes a smart man in the eyes of
the firm, while, as a matter of fact, he is a perfect blockhead and an
ignoramus. Meanwhile, the very workman whose idea has been purloined and
exploited is treated as a danger by the foreman; henceforth he must be
watched and kept well in subjection. The cowardly overseer sees in him a
possible rival, and is fearful for his own credit. This is one of the
worst ills of the manufacturing life, and has crushed many a brave, good
spirit, and smothered many a rising genius. The disadvantage is twofold.
There is a loss to manufacture in not being assisted with new and bright
ideas, and another to the individual, who is not only deprived of the
fruits of his inventive faculty but is systematically punished for the
possession of an original mind. In a word, officialism at the works is
continually straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel.

What means are to be adopted in order to do away with the anomaly? One
of the first things to do would be to recognise the individual. We want
a better understanding and a new feeling altogether. The worker does not
need a profusion of sentiment; he claims justice. He is willing to give
and take. He knows that enormous profits are made out of his efforts and
it is but natural that he should demand to receive a fair amount of
remuneration and equitable conditions. My companion of the next
steam-hammer, by means of a new process, in one week saved the railway
company £20 in the execution of a single order. He had to work doubly
hard to do it but he received not a penny extra himself. The piecework
system as it stands is grossly unfair. All the profits accrue to one
side and when the worker demands what is, after all, an insignificant
participation in them he is described as being unreasonable and
discontented. Where day wages have risen all round on piecework jobs the
prices should be increased in proportion, otherwise the workman is
simply paying himself for his additional efforts out of his own pocket.

Better wages and shorter hours are desired in every sphere of labour
and especially in factories. The worker is not greatly concerned as to
whether he is employed by the State or by a syndicate as long as he
obtains justice. It is no more trouble for Parliament to formulate a law
for a private concern than for a Government department. Forty-eight
hours a week is long enough for any man to work. I would have the
factory week completed in five turns. There is no need of the half-day
Saturdays. It is a waste of time. It is expensive for the employers and
unprofitable for the men. They can neither work nor play. If forty-eight
hours were divided out into five turns the expense of steaming for the
half-turn on Saturday would be saved. The amount of work produced would
not fall very far below that made at present, and the men would be
better satisfied. They would at least be able to have a clear rest and
come to work fresh and fit on the Monday. I would even go further and
suggest forty-five hours--that is, five turns of nine hours each--as a
working week for factories in the future. This is not so impossible nor
yet as unreasonable as it may appear. The proposal will doubtless strike
some as being amazing. Nevertheless, I recommend it to them for their
leisurely consideration. By aiming high we shall hit something. But
there are obstacles to remove and difficulties to overcome.



The Stamping Shop is square, or nearly so, each lateral corresponding to
a cardinal point of the compass--north, south, east, and west, the whole
comprising about an acre and a quarter. That is not an extensive
building for a railway manufactory. There are some shops with an area of
not less than five, six, and even seven acres--a prodigious size! They
are used for purposes of construction, for carriages, waggons,
locomotives, and also for repairs. The premises used for purely
manufacturing purposes, such as those I am now speaking of, are
generally much smaller in extent.

The workshop is modern in structure and has not stood for more than
fifteen years. Before that time the work proceeded on a much smaller
scale, and was carried on in a shed built almost entirely of wood and
corrugated iron--a dark, wretched place, without light or ventilation,
save for the broken windows and rents in the low, depressed roof. With
the development of the industry and general expansion of trade this
became altogether inadequate to cope with the requirements of the other
sheds, and a move had to be made to larger and more commodious premises.
Thereupon a site was chosen and a new shop erected about a quarter of a
mile distant. The walls of this are of brick, built with “piers” and
“panels,” thirty feet high, solid, massive, and substantial, with no
pretence to show of any kind. The roof is constructed in bays running
north and south, according to the disposition of the long walls, and
presents a serrated appearance, like the teeth of a huge saw. Of these
bays the slopes towards sunrise are filled in with stout panes of glass;
the opposite sides are of strong boards covered with slates, the whole
supported by massive sectional principals and a network of stout iron

The roof is studded with hundreds of wooden ventilators intended to
carry off the smoke and fumes from the forges. Above them tower numerous
furnace stacks and chimneys from the boilers, with the exhaust pipes of
the engines and steam-hammers. Towards summer, when the days lengthen
and the sun pours down interminable volumes of light and heat from a
cloudless sky, or when the air without is charged with electricity and
the thunder bellows and rolls over the hills and downs to the south, and
the forked lightning flashes reveal every corner of the dark smithy so
that the heat becomes almost unbearable, a large quantity of the glass
is removed to aid ventilation; the heat, assisted by the ground current,
rises and escapes through the roof. But when the rain comes and the
heavy showers, driven at an angle by the wind, beat furiously through
upon the half-naked workmen beneath, even this is not an unmixed
blessing. Or when the sun shoots his hot arrows down through the
openings upon the toilers at the steam-hammers and forges, as he always
does twice during the morning--once before breakfast, and again at about
eleven o’clock--it is productive of increased discomfort; the sweat
flows faster and the work flags. This does not last long, however.
Southward goes the sun, and shade succeeds.

The eastern and western ends of the shed are almost half taken up with
large sliding doors, that reach as high as to the roof. These rest on
wheels which are superimposed upon iron rails, so that a child might
push them backwards and forwards. Through several of the doors rails are
laid to permit of engines and waggons entering with loads of
material--iron and steel for the furnaces--and also for conveying away
the manufactures. A narrow bogie line runs round the shed and is used
for transferring materials from one part to another and to the various
hydraulic presses and forges. Here and there are fixed small turn-tables
to enable the bogies to negotiate the angles and move from track to

Southward the shed faces a yard of about ten acres in extent. This is
bounded on every side by other workshops and premises, all built of the
same dingy materials--brick, slate, and iron--blackened with smoke,
dust, and steam, surmounted with tall chimneys, innumerable ventilators,
and poles for the telephone wires, which effectually block out all
perspective. To view it from the interior is like looking around the
inner walls of a fortress. There is no escape for the eye; nothing but
bricks and mortar, iron and steel, smoke and steam arising. It is ugly;
and the sense of confinement within the prison-like walls of the factory
renders it still more dismal to those who have any thought of the hills
and fields beyond. Only in summer does it assume a brighter aspect. Then
the sun scalds down on the network of rails and ashen ground with deadly
intensity; the atmosphere quivers and trembles; the fine dust burns
under your feet, and the steel tracks glitter under the blinding rays.
The clouds of dazzling steam from the engines are no longer visible--the
air being too hot to admit of condensation--and the black smoke from
the furnaces and boilers hangs in the air, lifeless and motionless, like
a pall, for hours and hours together.

But when the summer is over, when the majesty of July and August is past
and gone and golden September gives place to rainy October, or, most of
all, when dull, gloomy November covers the skies with its impenetrable
veil of drab cloud and mist day after day and week after week, with
scarcely an hour of sunshine, the utter dismalness and ugliness of the
place are appalling. Then there is not a vestige of colour. The sky,
roofs, walls, the engines moving to and fro, the rolling stock, the
stacks of plates and ingots of iron and steel, the sleepers for the
rails, the ground beneath--everything is dark, sombre, and repellant.
Not a glint upon the steel lines! Not a refraction of light from the
slates on the roof! Everything is dingy, dirty, and drab. And drab is
the mind of the toiler all this time, drab as the skies above and the
walls beneath. Doomed to the confinement from which there is no escape,
he accepts the condition and is swallowed up in his environment.

There is one point, and only one, a few paces west of the shed, from
which an inspiriting view may be had. There, on a fine day, from between
two towering walls, in the little distance, blue almost as the sky and
yet distinct and well-defined, may be seen a great part of Liddington
Hill, crowned with the _castellum_, the scene of many a lively contest
in prehistoric days, and the holy of holies of Richard Jefferies, who
spent days and nights there trying to fathom the supreme mystery that
has baffled so many great and ardent souls. When the sky is clear and
the air free from mist and haze--especially as it appears sometimes in
the summer months, under a southern wind, or before or after rain--so
distinct does the sloping line of the hill show, with its broad front
towards you, that you may even perceive the common features and details
of it. Then you may plainly view the disposition of the stone walls
running from top to base, with the white chalk-pits gleaming like snow
in the distance, and tell the outer wall of the entrenchment. In short,
you might imagine yourself to be standing within the mound and looking
out over the magnificent valley--north, east, and west; towards Bristol,
over Cirencester, and beyond Witney and Oxford. But in the winter even
this is denied. Then the dark lowering clouds sweep along the downs and
shut them out of view, or grey mist fills the intervening valley, or the
rain, falling in torrents or driving in the furious south-west gale,
hides it completely; or if it is at all visible under the cold sky, it
seems so far removed and the distance so intensified as to lose all
resemblance to a hill and to look like a dim blue cloud faintly seen on
the horizon, and which is no more than a suggestion, a shape phantasmal.

Everywhere about the yard is evidence of industry and activity; there
all is suggestive of toil, labour, and power. On the right, stretching
for a quarter of a mile, are hundreds upon hundreds of wheels, tyres,
and axles for carriages and waggons, in every phase and degree of
fitness; some fresh from the rolling mills--from Sheffield and
Scotland--some turned and fitted in the lathe, huge jointless tyres
newly unladen waiting to take their turn in the operation of fitting
them to the wheels, and others finished, wheels, tyres, and axle
compact, dipped in tar--except the journals--to prevent them from
rusting, and all ready to be placed underneath the waggons. There are
wheels of solid steel, wheels with spokes, and wheels of oak, teak, and
even of paper composition, of many sorts and sizes, for smooth-running
carriages. One would think there were enough of them to stock the whole
railway system, but a few weeks of steady consumption would thin them
down, and the yard would soon be bare and empty if fresh consignments
were not every day arriving.

In front of the wheels, in rows and lines, are the huge cast-iron blocks
and dies used for punching and pressing by the hydraulic machines. They
are of all shapes and dimensions, puzzling to the eye of the stranger,
but easily identified by those who are accustomed to use them, and who
have been acquainted with them perhaps from boyhood. There are sets for
“joggling” and “up-setting,” and others for shaping and levelling. In
the midst of them stands a stout, three-legged machine called a “sheer
legs.” To this is attached strong pulley blocks for lifting the sets
from the ground--many of them weigh considerably more than a ton;
afterwards a stout bogie is run underneath and the blocks are lowered
and so carried off to the field of operations.

Many an accident has happened in the conveyance of blocks and dies to
and from their destination; many a bruised foot or broken limb has
resulted from a lack of carefulness and attention on the part of the
workmen. The slightest disregard may lead to injury. The bogie may slip,
or the block slide, and woe be to the individual who chances to be in
the way of the falling mass. Unassuming, and even valueless as this
collection of dies may appear to the uninitiated, it is really worth a
huge sum, for manufacturing tools are of a very expensive character.

Close on the left is a long line of waggons laden with coal fresh from
the Welsh pits, and near by is a large bunk into which it is emptied to
allow of the speedy return of the vehicles--an important item in railway
administration. Here the dark and grimy coal heavers, with faces as
black as the mineral they are handling, grunt and sweat, their eyes
obtaining peculiar prominence from being inset in a ground of ebony, and
their teeth glistening pearly white through the blackened lips,
appearing the more remarkable if they should smile at you. For even they
will brighten up sometimes. Hard and laborious as their toil is, they
will now and then relax into pleasantry and relieve the tedium of work
with a snatch of song and hilarity.

The coalies are not highly paid. Their day wages are eighteen shillings
or a pound a week, but, as all the work of the shed is done at the piece
rate, they are enabled to earn a few shillings above that sum. The
dullest men--those whose misfortune it is to have missed the right
education, or those who are naturally slow and awkward--are usually
selected for coal-heaving. Very often, however, shrewd and capable,
smart and intelligent men, who might be more profitably employed than in
shovelling coal from the truck to the bunk or wheel-barrow, are put at
the task. Perhaps this is the result of carelessness on the part of the
overseer, or it may be dearth of hands, and very likely it is
intentional. The man is out of favour and has been clapped there as a

Near the coal station stand piles upon piles of iron and steel, in
plates, bars, and ingots, some six and some ten feet high, in large
square stacks, and the long bars disposed between uprights to keep them
together and separate those of different lengths and sizes. The chief
part of this comes in from “abroad,” that is, from the midlands and the
north of England, for very little iron ore is now manufactured on the
premises. A small amount of pig iron is imported and worked up at the
local rolling mills, but the greater part of the metal is purchased of
the big firms and dealers away from the town.

The chief occupation of the factory rolling mills now is to receive the
iron scrap from the various workshops, such as clippings, shearings,
punchings, and drillings, with all the old iron proceeding from the
breaking up of worn-out engines and vehicles. This is first of all
reduced to convenient shape and then set up in “piles” on thin pieces of
wood to enable of its being placed in the furnace on the peels used for
the purpose. In the making of piles the flat pieces of metal are placed
around the outside, leaving a hollow within, which is filled up with
punchings and drillings, old rivets, nuts, bolts, and other similar
scrap. The pile is set in the furnace and heated, when it coalesces into
a mass; afterwards it is brought out to the heavy steam-hammer and
beaten into rough bars or slabs, several feet in length. This process is
called “shingling.” When the iron has become fairly solid and of
convenient length, the bars, still spluttering and fizzing--for they
have not been under the hammer for more than two or three minutes--are
hurried off to the rolls. There they are received by the men in charge,
who stand stripped to the waist, with tongs in hand, and dexterously
guide the rough ingots into the ponderous rollers that revolve at speeds
suited to the size and weight of the bars, and always with a loud
clanking noise.

As soon as the bar is rolled through--already drawn out to two or three
times its original length--the rolls stop and instantly revolve in the
other direction. The bar is again guided into the channel of the rollers
and emerges on the other side, longer and smoother. This process is
continued four or five times until the bars are finished; then other
small rollers in the floor are set in motion and the bars travel along
the ground to the steam saws, where they are cut up into the lengths
required. There they are loaded on iron bogies and carried off, or
rolled along as before to the weighing machines; everything is paid for
according to the weight of the finished material.

Punchings and drillings are also treated by the process known as
“puddling.” In this case, the furnaces will have a cavity in the floor,
into which the small scrap material is shovelled or tipped. The door is
now made fast and the heat applied, which must not be too fierce,
however, or the whole mass would soon be burned and spoiled. When the
drillings and chippings have cohered, the puddler, by an aperture
through the iron door, inserts a steel bar, curved at the end, and
prises the lump and turns it over and over. This is called “balling up.”
By and by, when the iron is thoroughly heated and fairly consistent, it
is brought to the “shingler,” who soon gives it shape and solidity. At
the first few blows a terrific shower of sparks shoots around, which
travel for a great distance, burning everything they meet. To protect
themselves against this the shinglers wear heavy iron jackboots,
reaching above the knees, with an iron veil over their eyes and faces.
As the steam-hammer block upon which the pounding is done is only a few
inches above the floor level and the sparks and splinters fly out with
the precision of shot from a gun barrel, the danger is confined to a
space within two feet of the floor.

When the heats come from the puddling furnaces they look soft and spongy
and soon become dull on the outer parts, so that a stranger might think
them not sufficiently hot to beat up, but after the first light blow or
two he will find himself mistaken. First of all the huge hammer--able to
strike a blow equal to a hundred tons pressure--is merely allowed to
squeeze the mass, without beating it. Then it rises gently and travels
up and down, scarcely touching the metal. Gradually the blows fall
harder and harder until the piece is fully consistent; then it is
rapidly drawn away to the rolls. Very rarely are the hammers required to
expend their full powers upon the melting slabs, unless they happen to
be of steel, which is very hard, even when whitehot. Then the blows fall
terrific. The steam spouts, roars, and hisses; the chains jingle and the
ground under your feet shakes as though in an earthquake.

When a better quality of iron is required the punchings, bolts, and
rivets are placed in a large drum which is afterwards set in motion and
continues to revolve for several hours. By this means all the rust,
paint, and dirt are removed from the metal, and when it is taken from
the cylinder it shines like silver. Special regard is had for this in
the furnaces. Care is taken to save it from over-heating and waste, and
when it finally emerges from the rolls it is set apart by itself and
labelled for its superior quality.

Various prices, ranging from 15s. to 50s. a ton, are paid for shingling
and forging. These depend upon the weight of the piece and the degree of
finish required. The shingler is clever and expert, and he is not highly
paid at the works, considering his usefulness, for he is a great
manufacturer. Thousands of tons of metal must pass through his hands in
the course of a year, and the work is very hot and laborious. By the age
of fifty the shinglers and forgemen are usually worn out and superseded
at the forge. When they can no longer perform their duties at the
steam-hammer they are removed from the manufacturing circle and
presented with a broom, shovel, and wheel-barrow. Their wages are cut
down to that of a common labourer, and thus they spend their few
remaining years of service. At an early age they drop off altogether,
and their places are filled by others who have gone through the same

The running of the iron from the furnace to the steam-hammer and back
again to the rolls is chiefly performed by boys and young men. The
majority of these come from the villages round about, for the town lads,
as a rule, are much too wideawake for the business; the work is too hard
for them. Living close to the factory they know by report which shops to
avoid, and if, by misadventure, they happen to get a start in such a
place they are very quickly out of it. Accordingly the more laborious
work usually falls upon those who dwell without the town. It is the same
with the men. Those who live in the borough nearly always obtain the
easier berths; John and George do the heavy lifting and heaving.

Accidents are frequent at the rolling mills. Burns are of common
occurrence, and they are sometimes very serious and occasionally fatal.
Great care is requisite in moving about amid so much fire and heated
material, for everything--the floors, principals, rollers, the bogie
handles, tools and all--is very hot. Some of the carrying is done with a
kind of wheel-barrow that requires a special balance. The least
obstruction will upset it, and a little awkwardness on the part of the
workman is sufficient to bring the weltering burden down to the ground.
Not long ago, as a youth was drawing a large, whitehot pile from the
furnace to the steam-hammer, he slipped on the iron floor and fell at
full length on his back upon the ground. As he fell the bogie inclined
forward and the huge pile slid down and lodged on his stomach,
inflicting frightful injuries. He was quickly rescued from his tortuous
position, but there was no hope of recovery from such an accident, and
he died a day or two afterwards. He, too, was of the neighbouring

You can always tell these young men of the steam-hammer or rolling
mills, whenever you meet them. They are usually lank and thin and their
faces are ghastly white. Their nostrils are distended; black and blue
rings encircle their eyes. Their gait is careless and shuffling, and
their dress, on a holiday, is a curious mixture of the rural and urban
styles. On week-days they are as black as sweeps, and the blacker they
are the better, in their opinion, for they take pride in parading the
badge of their profession and are not ashamed of it as are their
workmates who dwell in the town.

I have said that formerly much more iron was manufactured on the
premises than is the case at this time. Then the steam-hammer shed, in
which nothing but forging is done, was a flourishing place. All the
wheels for the engines and waggons, together with piston rods, driving
gear, axles, and cranks, were made there. These are obtained elsewhere
now, some in England and Scotland, and other parts from abroad. Steel
has superseded iron in a great degree, too, being harder, tougher,
stronger and cheaper. The combined skill of the chemist and scientist
has simplified the manufacture of it, and it is to be obtained in large
quantities. But steel rusts much more quickly than iron, and does not
last nearly as long in exposed positions on the vehicles.

Formerly all wheels were made of wrought iron and a great part of the
work was done by hand. First of all the sections were made under the
steam-hammer, in “=T=” pieces and boss ends, and shut in the middle.
These were for the spokes. Then the “=T=” ends were incurved and joined
together all round till the rim of the wheel was finished. After that,
there remained to form the centre and make the “boss” solid and compact.
As the boss sections were made to fit together in the middle, they only
required to be heated and welded. Accordingly they were placed on an
open forge, built round with damp coal-dust to contain and concentrate
the heat, the boss being exactly over the centre of the fire. Another
forge, close at hand, contained a large round iron washer, similarly
placed, to which was attached an iron bar for lifting it from the fire.
Both heats were prepared simultaneously. Then the wheel, lifted by a
crane, was quickly removed from the forge, turned upside down and placed
on the steam-hammer block. The washer was brought out at once and
clapped on smartly, and down came the heavy monkey. Half-a-dozen blows
were sufficient to make the weld. Then it was removed from the
steam-hammer and laid on an iron table and the smiths set about it with
their tools to finish it off, three or four men striking alternately on
one “flatter” or “fuller,” with perfect rhythm and precision, the chief
smith directing operations and working with the rest.

Those were the palmy days for the smithy. Wages were high and the prices
good, and the work made was solid and strong. Now all wheels are
manufactured of cast steel and with little hand labour. The molten metal
is simply poured into moulds, allowed to cool and afterwards annealed in
special furnaces. One can easily imagine the immense amount of labour
saved in the operation, though the wheels are not as elastic and

Situated near the piles of new material are the scrap bunks. These are
old waggons that have served their turn on the railway and, instead of
being broken up, have been lifted bodily from the sets of wheels and
deposited on the ground as receptacles for the large quantities of scrap
made in the workshop. What miles these old waggons have gone! What storm
and stress they have endured! What burdens they have borne! East and
west, north and south, over hills and bridges, through valleys, past
miles upon miles of cornfields and meadows, green and gold, red and
brown by turn, in rain and snow, winter frost and summer sunshine, by
day and night, year after year together.

These waggons, if they could speak, would tell you they have visited
every station and town on the system. They have crossed the Thames, the
Severn, the Kennet, the Upper and Lower Avon, the Wye, the Dee, the
Towy, the Parrot and the Tamar, times out of number. They have gone
through dark tunnels, over dizzy viaducts, past cathedral cities and
quaint old market-towns, villages, and hamlets, sleeping and waking, at
all hours of the day and night, drawn on, and on, and on by the tireless
iron steeds, piled up with all sorts of goods and commodities for the
use of man--stones to build him houses, iron to strengthen them, corn to
feed him and his family, and materials to clothe them. They would tell
you of many lovely woods and forests through which they have journeyed,
and seaside towns, with the strong blue ocean in view, sometimes running
perilously near the beach, at others hidden in deep cuttings, where the
banks are blue with violets, and yellow with the pale gold of the
cowslip, followed by the endless array of the ox-eyes, toadflax, and
sweet wild mignonette. And they would tell you of long, dark, winter
nights, when the tempest howled madly through the trees and bridges and
sang shrilly in the telegraph wires; when the rain fell in a deluge from
the inky sky, or the sleet and snow drove in blinding clouds and was
piled upon the weatherproof tarpaulins. Or again they would relate of
running smoothly on summer nights under the pale southern moon, or when
the stars glittered in the frosty heavens, or dense fog, so troublesome
and dangerous to the ever-watchful and valiant old driver, shut
everything out of view, signals and all, so that their very whereabouts
were only known and identified by paying close attention to the loud,
shot-like explosions of the detonators placed along the line by the

Now all these things are at an end. They have run their race, and grown
old in the service. They have fulfilled their period of usefulness on
the line and, like old veterans returned from the war, they have come
back to their native town to end their days. Being fairly sound of
constitution and having escaped the shocks of collision and accident,
they were adjudged too solid to be broken up yet, so, as a last use,
they were placed here to receive the punchings and trimmings from the
shears and presses, and ingloriously waste away in their old age,
exposed to all the inclemencies and caprices of the weather.

The scrap, made daily, soon amounts to hundreds of tons. It is of all
shapes and sizes. There is plate from an eighth of an inch to an inch
and a half thick from the presses, ends and trimmings of rods and bars
from the shears and steam-hammers, burs from the stamping plant and
scrag ends from the forgings. In addition to this there are scores of
tons of old iron and steel, brought from all over the system to be cut
up at the hydraulic shears--sole-bars of waggons, stanchions and
“diagonals,” “=T=”-iron plates, and hundreds of old draw-bars and
buffers. The iron and steel are carefully observed and kept separate and
huge piles soon accumulate, far more than the waggons can hold. The iron
refuse is by and by passed on to the rolling mills, while the steel
scrap awaits a purchaser. No attempt is made to utilise that on the
premises. There are secrets in the manufacture of steel which are never
betrayed to outsiders, and it would be a waste of time and money for
the local furnacemen and forgers to attempt to do anything with it.
However carefully the furnaceman tends it in the fire he cannot get it
to cohere well in the piles, and if it is at all over-heated it bursts
and scatters in all directions, brittle and glassy, as soon as the
steam-hammer touches it with a gentle blow.

There is, at the same time, enormous waste in the matter of scrap iron
and steel, which intelligent supervision would certainly lessen.
Material that might economically be used in the workshop is
indiscriminately passed out with the rubbish and sold away at a cheap
rate--at a fraction of its real value. Tons of metal--good solid iron,
often of the highest quality--which might be used for forging and
stamping, are rejected and scrapped because it would take a trifle
longer to handle. Other large scrap material might be slabbed and used
without sending it to the mill, and thus large profits would accrue to
the shed; for the rolling mills people will only purchase,
theoretically, at trade prices, that is, at about two pounds a ton for
scrap iron.



A short way off in the yard, in a small space clear of the confusing
network of lines that cross and recross here and there, running in every
direction and connecting the various workshops together, are two old
railway coaches dispossessed of their wheels and lodged upon baulks of
timber let into the ground. Like the old scrap waggons, they have had
their day in active service, and, coming home in fairly good condition,
though antiquated in style and useless for passenger traffic, have yet
been found convenient as occasional storehouses and shelters. They are
now used as cabins, one for the shunters, who conduct their operations
round about, and the other for watchmen, and they are fitted with stoves
for warming the men’s food, and for drying their clothes in wet weather.
The roofs and windows are intact, and some of the original seats still
remain. These are of bare wood and are not padded and upholstered in the
comfortable and luxurious style now required and expected by the railway

These old carriages are at this time very rarely met with and are nearly
extinct. For years after they disappeared from the general
traffic--superseded by more commodious and comfortable vehicles--the
best of them were kept stored up in sheds and yards in out-of-the-way
places to await the time of trippers and excursionists. Then they were
regularly hauled out to accommodate the multitude. The windows were
hastily wiped over and the interiors dusted out; they were ready to
receive the people. Goods engines of the old type were brought up to
draw them along. The trippers squeezed themselves inside, and, with the
shrieking of steam whistles and hooters and the playing of concertinas
and melodions, the trains started off and went jolting and jogging away
to their destinations. At the end of the tripping season the coaches
were again stored away in the yards and sidings, until they became too
crazy and dangerous to run on the main line, when they were either
utilised for storehouses and shelters, or broken up. The refuse wood
from the destruction of old worn-out rolling stock is sawn up and used
for lighting the fires in the furnaces and boilers, and is distributed
throughout the system. A large quantity is also sold to the workmen, who
use it both for firing and for the construction of outhouses.

The shunters of the yard are a hard-working body of men, and they are
exposed to many dangers. The hours are long and they must cover many
miles during the day by running up and down the lines. It is their duty
to transfer the carriages and waggons from road to road and from one
workshop to another, to dispose of the old ones brought in for repairs,
to lead out the new, and distribute the various stores--iron and steel,
coal, coke, and timber--at several points. Whatever the weather may be
they must be up and doing, or the traffic in the yard would soon be in
utter confusion. Rain or snow, cold or heat, sunshine or cloud, July
glow or December fog and gloom are all one to them. The busy swarm of
workmen comes and goes, the furnaces spout their dense black clouds of
smoke into the heavens; the dazzling steam, shot out from the engines
and steam-hammers, leaps up in an ascending pillar, the rapid wheels
spin round in the roof or under the wall, and the endless toil goes on,
all which must be catered for by the shunters.

Great care must be taken to prevent the sidings from becoming blocked by
crossing a wrong point. Where two or more engines are operating over a
complex siding this may easily be done, and a delay of several hours
will be the result. If an inexperienced shunter, mistaking the number of
his points, shifts his waggons on to the wrong track and, not perceiving
his error, at once proceeds to carry out several other manœuvres, he
may shut in the engines so completely and confusedly that he will want
all his wits about him to extricate them again; it will be like a
mathematical problem. Happily for the shunter’s credit, this is not a
common occurrence.

Strong, healthy men are selected for the shunter’s trade, to carry the
pole and whistle. By working in the open air, exposed to all kinds of
weather, they become hardy and seasoned and present a far different
appearance from that of those who are shut up within the walls of the
workshop, amid the smoke and fumes. Instead of becoming lean with the
constant running to and fro, they seem to thrive on the exercise, and
many of them assume substantial proportions. Their faces are bronzed
with the sun and wind, and they are a picture of health--strong,
stalwart, and of good physique. The shunters are not under as many
restrictions as are the factory workers proper, _i.e._, those within the
sheds. It is their privilege to smoke while on duty, or, at any rate, in
the intervals on the premises, an indulgence which is strictly forbidden
to all other employees. They remain always about the yard and never go
beyond the bounds prescribed for them, so that they really belong to the

The other cabin is used by the watchmen as an out-shelter--a kind of
half-way refuge. Their headquarter is at the main entrance, where there
are always one or two on duty to check the coming in and going out of
the workmen, to keep out intruders and to prevent any from passing out
before the regulation hour. They also act in the quality of police to
protect the property of the railway company, patrol the shops and yards,
and keep a sharp look-out for loiterers and any who should attempt to
smoke or read a newspaper on the sly.

Every workshop and building is provided with certain clock-like
instruments called “tell-tales,” which are fixed in many corners and
angles, and at frequent intervals along the high board fence that
encloses the factory grounds. The watchman appointed for the round is
furnished with a key that fits the instrument. It is his duty to visit
each of these every hour, or every two hours, according to the
time-table given him by his chief. When he comes to the tell-tale he
inserts the key and, after turning it round, withdraws it. This leaves a
record of his visit and certifies that he has gone his round regularly.
At intervals, unknown to the watchman, the tell-tales are removed and
privately examined, in order to see that everything is correct, and if
there has been any neglect of duty the offender is sought out and
punished. Occasionally it transpires that there has been wholesale
tampering with the instruments in order to escape going the rounds. The
watchmen, like all others at the works, agreed for the time, finally
come to loggerheads and play the tell-tale themselves. Someone or other
informs of his mate, this one retaliates and the scheme is laid bare.
Forthwith the whole staff of watchmen are summoned to appear before the
works’ manager, and are punished in various ways. Something new and
strange is adopted; the men’s time and rounds are altered, and they
patrol their beats the laughing-stock of the workmen whom it is their
duty to observe and supervise.

The watchmen, as a class, are surly and over-officious. Perhaps they
were chosen for some qualities they were thought to possess, fitting
them for the duties expected of them; they are not popular with the
workmen. The fact of their being placed in a supervisory position and of
being exempt from manual work induces them to have a higher opinion of
themselves than the actual circumstances warrant. They consider
themselves above the average at the works and cultivate the

When a new watchman is made it is noised abroad throughout the
department; his size, description, and all else that is known of him are
passed around the sheds for the benefit of the masses. Developments are
anticipated and the results eagerly awaited. Elated at his promotion and
great in his own conceit the newly initiated one, before he is
well-known and identified by the workmen, slips to and fro in the sheds,
eager for surprise captures. Immediately before the hooter sounds for
the men’s release at meal times he is to be found suddenly opening doors
and popping on the scene. If any of the workmen should happen to have on
their coats, or to have gathered near the door ready to rush out, they
scatter like wood-pigeons when a hawk has darted in the midst of them.
This forms the subject of a report to the shop foreman or to the
manager. Dire threats as to the consequences of loitering are launched
at the workmen; a few youths are suspended and forced to take a rest,
and so the matter is settled.

The watchman, however, is not forgotten or forgiven by the men. Some
nickname or other is coined for him on the spot. Perhaps he is hooted
for a sneak and teased in various ways, the boys especially enjoying a
joke at his expense. They set traps for him, and after racing about the
yard and dodging between the waggons and coaches, suddenly decamp and
make for the tunnels or entrances. Once a nickname becomes attached to a
watchman it seldom leaves him. One has borne the title of “Long Bill”
for a number of years; another is honoured with the appellation of
“Powerful”; this one is “Flat-foot,” that is “Rubber-heel,” and another
has earned for himself the ridiculous title of “Chesty.”

Theft is sometimes practised by the workmen, though it is much more
rarely committed now than it was formerly. Some of the schemes adopted
for getting the stolen materials outside the works have been quite
artistic, and others were ridiculously open and daring. Years ago loads
of timber and other valuables were regularly smuggled out in the middle
of the night, and especially on Saturday nights. They were piled upon
big trucks and bogies and got past the entrances with the watchman’s
consent and connivance. Probably he received a bribe for his silence--a
quart of ale at the club, or a share of the stolen goods. On at least
one occasion a brazen-faced fellow wheeled out a new wheel-barrow,
unchallenged, amid the crowd at a dinner-time and was never suspected.
At other times wheel-barrows and other tools have mysteriously
disappeared in the night, as though they had been swallowed up by an
earthquake. They were quietly lifted over the fence and received into
the neighbouring field and so got safely away.

Sometimes a workman will split on his mate whom he knows to be in the
habit of purloining things from the shed. Perhaps it is a little
firewood or a few screws or nails that were picked up in the yard.
Going privately to the watchman he acquaints him of the fact, and at
dinner-time, or night, a stand is made at the entrance, and the culprit
seized and searched. This invariably means dismissal, however small the
amount of the theft may be. Somehow or other, though, the informer is
discovered and for ever afterwards he is branded as a sneak and shunned
by his fellows. There is no forgiveness for this kind of thing among the
workmen. Honesty or not honesty, he is never tolerated but is looked
upon with the utmost disgust and contempt.

Occasionally, if you should stand at the entrance as the workmen are
leaving, you might see an abject-looking individual, with drawn
features, making his way painfully through the tunnel, limping, or
dragging a leg behind him. The casual observer would jump to the
conclusion that the man had met with an accident, or that he was
naturally lame or a cripple. But very likely, if the truth were known,
he has a staff of wood, or a rod of iron, four feet long, concealed in
the leg of his trousers and reaching up to the breast, and that is what
makes him walk with such great difficulty. Another plan is to bend a rod
of iron in the shape of a hoop and so fix it around the waist, or to
pack the contraband next to the skin, under the armpits and around the
stomach. This very often leads to detection. The watchman on duty at the
entrance has his suspicions aroused by the shape of the man. Accordingly
he steps out, calls him aside and feels the part, and the culprit is

It sometimes happens that a watchman gets on the track of an innocent
workman and makes himself appear ridiculous, for he is sure to be
noticed by the crowd and heartily jeered at for his interference. Not
long ago a young workman, on his way out from the shed one morning
after night duty, was challenged and stopped and required to disclose
the contents of his dinner-basket, which, to the watchman’s eye, seemed
unusually heavy. The young man, who was an enthusiastic Christian,
smilingly complied and, opening his basket, took out a big Bible, and
presented it to his challenger. That was more than the watchman had
bargained for, and he immediately shuffled off in considerable
confusion. A few nights ago a surly watchman stopped me and curtly
demanded to know what I was carrying “in the parcel under my arm.” It
was merely my daily newspaper.

It is not the rank and file alone that are guilty of taking things that
do not belong to them. Some of the principals of the staff have been
notoriously to blame in this respect, as is well-known at the works,
though their misdeeds are invariably screened and condoned. If one of
the managers has stolen materials worth hundreds of pounds he is
reprimanded and allowed to continue at his post, or at most, he is asked
to resign and is afterwards awarded a pension; but if the workman has
purloined an article of a few pence in value he is dismissed and
prosecuted. This is no general statement but a plain matter of fact.

Further over the yard, towards one of the sheds that form the boundary
on this side, stands a large water-closet, one of many about the
factory, built to meet the requirements of about five hundred workmen.
These buildings are of a uniform type and are disagreeable places,
lacking in sanitary arrangements. There is not the slightest approach to
privacy of any kind, no consideration whatever for those who happen to
be imbued with a sense of modesty or refinement of feeling. The
convenience consists of a long double row of seats, situate back to
back, partly divided by brick walls, the whole constructed above a
large pit that contains a foot of water which is changed once or twice a
day. The seats themselves are merely an iron rail built upon brickwork,
and there is no protection. Several times, I have known men to
overbalance and fall into the pit. Everything is bold, daring, and
unnatural. On entering, the naked persons of the men sitting may plainly
be seen, and the stench is overpowering. The whole concern is gross and
objectionable, filthy, disgusting, and degrading. No one that is chaste
and modest could bear to expose himself, sitting there with no more
decency than obtains among herds of cattle shut up in the winter pen.
Consequently, there are many who, though hard pressed by the exigences
of nature, never use the place. As a result they contract irregularities
and complaints of the stomach that remain with them all their lives, and
that might easily prove fatal to them. Perhaps this barbarous relic of
insanitation may in time be superseded by some system a little more
moral and more compatible with human sensibility and refinement.

Near this spot, in the open air, are stored hundreds of gallons of oil,
spirits and other liquids of a highly inflammable nature, used for
mixing paints for the carriages and waggons, together with chemicals
employed in the rapid cleansing of the exteriors of vehicles that come
in for repairs and washing-down. The rules of the factory strictly
forbid the storing of any of these liquids within the workshops and
outhouses. This precaution is taken in order to prevent damage by fire
in case of an outbreak and to render the flames more easy of control by
the firemen.

At every short distance there is a connection with the water-main and a
length of hose always fit and ready for any emergency. The works has its
own fire-engine--a powerful motor and pumps--and if by chance a call is
made the men are speedily on the spot. Here and there around the sheds
are deep pits, walled up and covered with cast-iron tops, to contain
water for the fire-engines, for they cannot well draw clear off the
main. To these pits, in the afternoon or evening, the engines and
firemen occasionally come for practice. Immediately the wells are filled
from the main, the hose is coupled up, and a perfect deluge is rained
over everything in the vicinity, as though a fire were really in
progress. After half an hour’s lusty exertion with the hose and the
scaling of walls and roofs, the firemen stow their apparatus and the
motor rushes off down the yard quickly out of sight.

Though fires at the works are not of common occurrence, there is now and
then an outbreak, and sometimes one of serious dimensions. They are
generally the result of great carelessness, or the want of ordinary
attention on the part of a workman or official. Perhaps a naked light is
left burning somewhere or other, or a portion of cotton-waste is
smouldering away unobserved. The roof may become ignited through contact
with the hot chimney; and very often the cause of the outbreak is not
ascertained at all. In several cases incendiarism has been suggested as
the cause of a fire, but, notwithstanding all the efforts of the works’
detectives to fix the guilt, proof of the crime has never been brought
home to any individual. When fires do happen they nearly always
originate in the night. One reason of this is that, with so many workmen
on the scene, during the day, the first sign of an outbreak would be
immediately detected and dealt with before it could become dangerous.
But at night it would develop rapidly and obtain a good hold on the
premises before being discovered by the watchmen.

When it is known in the works that a fire is raging round about--if it
should happen to be at night--the few workmen employed, without waiting
for instructions from the overseers, throw down their tools and rush off
to the scene of the accident. They are impelled to do this, in the first
place, by the strong natural desire every man has to be of service in
times of danger; secondly, by reason of the intense excitement which the
cry of “Fire!” always produces in the most phlegmatic individual, and,
last of all--if either of the two causes before-named are wanting--by a
natural and uncontrollable curiosity and fascination for the smoke and
flames. It is usually the first of these three causes that impels the
workmen to throw down their tools and run to help the men with the
fire-engines. At such times as these nothing is held sacred. Doors and
windows are forced open or smashed in, bolts and bars are wrenched from
their sockets, offices and storehouses are entered; the most private
recesses are made public. All thoughts of the midnight meal are set
aside and there is no returning to the worksheds until morning brings a
fresh supply of hands accompanied by the day officials.

Not many years ago the station buildings took fire, shortly after
midnight, and most of the men on night duty in the department nearest
the scene flocked out to help the station staff and the firemen. By and
by the refreshment rooms were involved and there was a wholesale removal
of the viands and liquors. Under such circumstances, drinking was
naturally indulged in, and more than one--officials, as well as the rank
and file--who came out to help returned the worse for liquor. Such
adventures as these live long in the memory of the workmen: it is not
often they have the opportunity of taking a drink at the company’s

Some time after the station fire a much more serious outbreak occurred
in an extensive shed used for the construction and storing of carriages.
There were in the place sufficient vehicles to compose twenty trains,
and the most of them were brand new, representing altogether a huge sum
of money. When the watchman passed through on his rounds at midnight
everything appeared safe; the place was dark, silent, and deserted. Half
an hour afterwards a workman employed in a shed some distance away saw a
dull glow above the roof and thought at first it was the moon rising. A
few minutes afterwards flames leapt into sight and discovered a fire of
some magnitude.

Quickly the signal was given, and every available man rushed on the
scene. The centre of the shed was like a raging furnace. The roof was on
fire and the flames leapt from coach to coach with great rapidity.
These, from their slightness of construction and from their being
thickly coated with paint and varnish, caught fire like matchwood and
burned furiously, while large sections of the roof fell in. Every now
and then, as a coach became consumed down to the framework, the gas
cylinders underneath burst with a terrific report, like that of a piece
of heavy artillery. The shattered iron and steel flew in all directions
and increased the danger to the firemen. Hundreds of people of the
neighbourhood, roused with the repeated shocks, left their beds and ran
out of doors to ascertain the cause of the explosions. Some thought it
was an earthquake and others feared it was the boilers exploding. Many
volunteered to help, but their offers were refused, and a strong cordon
of police was drawn around the shed to keep out all intruders. So fierce
was the heat within that the steel tyres of the wheels were buckled and
bent, the rails were warped and twisted into fantastic shapes and the
heavy iron girders of the roof were wrecked. The frames of the burnt
coaches were reduced to a pile of debris and were totally
unrecognisable. The damage to rolling stock and to the premises amounted
to many thousands of pounds, yet the fire was all over in two or three
hours. As to its origin, that remained a mystery, and completely baffled
the detectives. Examination of the tell-tales proved that the watchman
had gone his round all right, and though many experiments were made the
cause of the outbreak remained inexplicable.

A great part of the repairs to carriages--such as washing-down,
smudging, and especially the cleaning and re-fitting of interiors--is
done out of doors in the yard when the weather permits, for it would be
impossible to contain all the vehicles in the sheds. The whole of this
work, even to the most trivial detail, is now done at the piece rate.
Experienced examiners decide the amount of repairs to be executed, and
the prices are fixed according to their recommendation. It is generally
a matter of luck to the workman whether the repair job pays or not. Very
often the carrying out of repairs takes a much longer time than had been
anticipated. The renewing of one part often necessitates the remodelling
of another, or the fitting up of the new piece may prove to be a very
tedious process. In this case the workman may lose money on the job,
though, on the other hand, he may have finished altogether earlier than
he expected. It would be very nearly impossible to have a perfect
equation in the matter of repair prices, and this is recognised by all,
masters and men, too, at the factory. The workman is commonly told by
his chief that “what he loses on the swings he must pick up on the
roundabouts,” i.e., what he loses on one job he must gain on another,
and this axiom is universally accepted, at least by all those who do
repairs. On new work the labour is uniform and there is no need and no
excuse for inequality of prices.

Great consternation fell upon the carriage finishers, painters, and
pattern-makers, several years ago, when it became known that piece rates
were to be substituted for the old day-work system, especially as the
change was to be introduced at a very slack time. It was looked upon as
a catastrophe by the workmen, and such it very nearly proved to be. Many
journeymen were discharged, some were transferred to other grades of
work--that is, those who were willing to suffer reduction rather than to
be thrown quite out of employment--and the whole department was put on
short time, working only two or three days a week, while some of the men
were shut out for weeks at a stretch. Several who protested against the
change were dismissed, and others--workmen of the highest skill and of
long connection with the company--had their wages mercilessly cut down
for daring to interpose their opinion. The pace was forced and quickened
by degrees to the uttermost and then the new prices were fixed, the
managers themselves attending and timing operations and supervising the
prices. Feeling among the workmen ran high, but there was no help for
the situation and it had to be accepted. Few of the men belonged to a
trade union, or they might have opposed the terms and made a better
bargain; as it was they were completely at the mercy of the managers and

The carriage finishers and upholsterers are a class in themselves,
differing, by the very nature of their craft, from all others at the
factory. As great care and cleanliness are required for their work, they
are expected to be spruce and clean in their dress and appearance. This,
together with the fact that the finisher may have served an
apprenticeship in a high-class establishment and one far more genteel
than a railway department can hope to be, tends to create in him a sense
of refinement higher than is usually found in those who follow rougher
and more laborious occupations. His cloth suit, linen collar, spotless
white apron, clean shaven face, hair carefully combed, and bowler hat
are subjects of comment by the grimy toilers of other sheds. His
dwelling is situated in the cleanest part of the town and corresponds
with his personal appearance. In the evening he prosecutes his craft at
home and manufactures furniture and decorations for himself and family,
or earns money by doing it for others. Very often the whole contents of
his parlour and kitchen--with the exception of iron and other ware--were
made by his hands, so, since his wages are above the ordinary, provided
he is steady and temperate, he may be reasonably comfortable and

The painters are not quite as fortunate as are their comrades the
finishers. Their work, though in some respects of a high order and
important, is at the same time less artistic than is that of the
cabinetmakers and upholsterers. It is also much more wearisome and
unhealthy, and the wages are not as high. Very often, too, work for them
is extremely scarce, especially during the summer and autumn months,
when every available coach is required in traffic for the busy season,
and they are consequently often on short time. Their busiest periods are
the interval between autumn and Christmas and the time between the New
Year and Easter. The style of colouring and ornamentation for the
carriages has changed considerably of recent years and there is now not
nearly as much labour and pains expended upon the vehicles as in times
past. The brighter colours have been quite eliminated and have given
place to chocolates and browns, while the frames and ends of the
carriages are painted black. The arms of the company, together with
figures, letters, initials, and other designs, so conspicuous to the eye
of the traveller, are affixed by means of transfers and therefore are
not dependent upon the skill of the painters.

The washing-down of the coaches is done by labourers, some of whom live
in the town and others in the villages round about. Little skill is
required for this, and the operation is very dull and monotonous. The
men are supplied with long-handled brushes, soaps, and sponges, hot and
cold water and chemical preparations. Large gangs of them are
continually employed in removing the accretions of dust and filth
acquired by the coaches in their mad career over the railway line,
through tunnels and cuttings, smoky towns and cities. Sometimes the
vehicles are completely smothered with grease and mud thrown up by the
sleepers in bad weather, and every particle of this must be removed
before the painter can apply his brush to renovate the exterior.

The washers-down are generally raw youths and many of them are of the
shifty type--the kind that will not settle anywhere for long together.
The drabness of their employment forces them to seek some means of
breaking the monotony of it, and they often indulge in noise and
horseplay, singing and shouting at the top of their voices and slopping
the water over each other. This brings them into trouble with the
officials, and occasions them to take many a forced holiday, but they do
not care about that, and when they arrive back upon the scene they
practise their old games as boldly as before. Having no trade, and
receiving but a scant amount in wages, they do not feel to be bound down
hand and foot to the employment, and even if they should be discharged
altogether they will not have lost very much. Their youthfulness, too,
renders them buoyant and independent; all the world is open to them if
they decide to hand in their notices.

The cushion-beaters, formerly well known about the yard, have quite
disappeared now. At whatever time you were outside the shed, in fine
weather, you might have heard their rods beating on the cushions in
perfect rhythm and order. They were taken from the coaches and laid upon
stools in the open air, and the beater held a rod, usually of hazel, in
each hand. With them he alternately smote the cushion, keeping up the
effort for a long time, until every particle of dust was removed and
blown away. His dexterity in the use of the rods and the ability to
prolong the operation were a source of great interest to the youths; all
the small boys of the shed stole out at intervals to see him at work.
Now the dust is removed from the cushions and paddings by means of a
vacuum arrangement. This is in the form of a tube, with an aperture
several inches in diameter and having strong suctional powers created by
the exhaust steam from the engine in the shed. It is passed to and fro
over the surface of the cushion, and the dust is thereby extracted and
received into the apparatus. So strong is the suction within that it
will sometimes draw the buttons from the upholstering if they are loose
or frayed. The quantity of dust extracted from one carriage often
amounts to a pound in weight.

Old customs and systems die hard at the works and, whatever their own
opinion of the matter may be, the officials are not considered by the
workmen to be of a very progressive type. Many of the methods employed,
both in manufacture and administration, are extremely old-fashioned and
antiquated; an idea has to be old and hoary before it stands a chance of
being admitted and adopted here. Small private firms are usually a long
way ahead of railway companies in the matter of methods and processes,
and they pay better wages into the bargain. They have to face
competition and to cater for the markets, while railway companies, being
both the producers and consumers of their wares, can afford to choose
their own way of manufacturing them. In addition to this, the heads of
small firms usually have an interest in the concern whereas the managers
of railway works are otherwise placed; it makes no difference to them
what they spend or waste, and they are always able to cover up their
shortcomings. Their prodigality and mismanagement would ruin a hundred
small firms in as many months, though the outside world knows little or
nothing about it. But if the officials creep they urge the rank and file
along at a good rate and make a pretence of being smart and
business-like. The fact of a workman being engaged prosecuting a
worn-out method for the production of an article does not make the task
lighter or more congenial for him, rather the opposite. Real improvement
in manufacture not only expedites production, but also simplifies the
toil to the workman, and the newer methods are the better, generally

In everything, then, except in smart management and supervision, railway
sheds now resemble contract premises. Piecework prices are cut to the
lowest possible point; it is all push, drive, and hustle. No attempt is
made to regulate the amount of work to be done, and short time is
frequent and often of long duration. This is not arranged as it was
formerly, when the whole department, or none at all, was closed down.
Now even a solitary shed, a portion of it, or a mere gang is closed or
suspended if there is a slackness at any point. Consequently, one part
of the works is often running at break-neck speed, while another is
working but three or four days a week and the men are in a half-starved
condition. In one shed fresh hands are being put on, while from others
they are being discharged wholesale. Transfers from one shop to another
are seldom made, and never from department to department. One would
think that the various divisions of the works were owned by separate
firms, or people of different nationalities, such formidable barriers
appear to exist between them.

The chiefs of the departments are usually more or less rivals and are
often at loggerheads, each one trying to outdo the other in some
particular direction and to bring himself into the notice of the
directors. The same, with a little modification, may be said of the
foremen of the several divisions, while the workmen are about
indifferent in this respect. For them, all beyond their own sheds,
except a few personal friends or relations, are total strangers. Though
they may have been employed at the works for half a century, they have
never gone beyond the boundary of their own department, and perhaps not
as far as that, for trespassing from shed to shed is strictly forbidden
and sharply punished where detected. Thus, the workman’s sphere is very
narrow and limited. There is no freedom; nothing but the same coming and
going, the still monotonous journey to and fro and the old hours, month
after month, and year after year. It is no wonder that the factory
workmen come to lead a dull existence and to lose interest in all life
beyond their own smoky walls and dwellings. It would be a matter for
surprise if the reverse condition prevailed.



West of the workshop the yard is bounded by a canal that formerly
connected the railway town with the ancient borough town of Cricklade,
eight miles distant. But things are different now from what they were at
the time the cutting was made, for great changes have taken place during
the last half century in all matters pertaining to transport. Then the
long barges, drawn by horses, mules, and donkeys, and laden with corn,
stone, coal, timber, gravel, and other materials, proceeded regularly by
day and night, up and down the canal to their destinations--north to
Gloucester, west to Bristol, east to Abingdon, and thence to far-off
London. At that time, instead of being filled with mud, weeds, and
refuse, and overgrown with masses of rank vegetation--grasses, flags,
water-parsnip, and a score of other aquatic plants--the channel was
broad and free, and full of clear, limpid water. The cattle came to
drink in the meadows; there the clouds were mirrored, floating in fields
of azure. The fish leapt and played in the sunshine, making innumerable
rings on the surface, and the swallows skimmed swiftly along, dipping
now and then to snatch up a sweet mouthful to carry home to their young
in the nest under the eaves of the neighbouring cottage or shed.

Occasionally, too, a steamboat passed through the locks out beyond the
town and proceeded on its way to the Thames or Avon. The dredger plied
up and down to prevent the accumulation of mud and refuse, and the
towpaths and bridges were kept in good repair. The railway had not
everything its own way then. The fever of haste had not taken hold of
every part of the community, and a few, at least, could await the
arrival of the barges and so save a considerable sum in the conveyance
of their goods. But now all that is changed. Goods must be loaded,
whirled rapidly away and delivered in a few hours, for no one can wait.
The pace of the freight trains has been increased almost to express
speed. Every possible means that could be thought of have been devised
to facilitate transport, and the barges have disappeared from this
neighbourhood. Here and there at the wharves may still be seen a few
rotten old hulks, falling to pieces and embedded in the mud; the bridges
are shattered and dilapidated and the lock gates are broken. The
towpaths are overgrown with bushes and become almost impassable, and the
channel is blocked up.

The only person who benefits by the change is the botanist. He, from
time to time, may be seen busily engaged in grappling for rare specimens
of weeds and grasses, or the less learned student of wild flowers comes
to gather what treasures he may from the wilderness: the beautiful
flowering rush, golden iris, graceful water plantain, arrowhead, water
violet, figwort, skull-cap, gipsy wort, and celery-leaved crowfoot.
Formerly, too, the works derived a considerable quantity of water
through the canal, but that has long ceased to be. There is no water at
hand now, and supplies have had to be sought for among the Cotswold
Hills, at a great distance from the town. The engines at the old
pumping station, near the canal path, once so familiar a feature to
travellers that way, are silent now and will be heard there no more.
They, too, have become a thing of the past.

The factory premises extend along both banks of the canal and are
protected on the far side by a high wall, while that part nearest the
workshop is open to the water’s edge. On this side, first of all, is a
high platform, called the stage, which is used to load the ashes and
refuse, slag and clinkers from the furnaces and forges. This refuse is
wheeled out twice daily--at six in the morning and again in the evening
after the furnaces have been clinkered--by labourers, upon whom the duty
devolves. To remove the clinker properly and economically from the grate
of the furnace the fire must have been damped for a short while. This
allows the whitehot coals to cling together underneath, and they form a
kind of arch above the bars. When this has been accomplished the
furnaceman inserts a strong steel bar at the bottom, resting it upon the
“bridge,” and, with a heavy sledge, breaks the clinker, working along
from side to side. That is in a compact layer or mass, often six or
eight inches deep, considerably thicker in the corners, and it is very
tough while it is hot. After it has been thoroughly broken up, several
of the fire bars are removed together, beginning at one side, and the
heavy clinker drops through, spluttering and hissing, into the deep
boshes of water disposed underneath. If the fire has not been
sufficiently damped it is loose and hollow, and as soon as the bars are
removed the white-hot coals rush through into the water, raising clouds
of hot, blinding dust and dense volumes of steam.

Immediately the furnaceman, warned of the fall, springs backwards and
escapes from the pit, or, if he is tardy in his movements, he is caught
in the hot vapour and scalded severely. Sometimes the fall is very
sudden and he has no time to escape. Then his face and arms take the
full force of the rushing steam and he is certain to receive painful
injuries. When the operation of clinkering is over the men bring their
wheel-barrows and, with the aid of long-handled shovels, remove the
refuse from the pits and run it outside and upon the stage. This is hot
work, whenever it is performed; the men are always sure of a wet shirt
at the task. Whatever the weather may be, wet or fine, frost or snow,
they come to it stripped to the waist and quickly run their
wheel-barrows to and fro. If the rain should pelt in torrents it makes
little or no difference to them, they still go on with their work,
half-naked and bare-headed. Hardy and strong as they may be, this is
bound to affect their health, sooner or later. It is not an uncommon
thing to find one or other of them breaking down at an early age, a
physical wreck, unfit for further service.

The ash-wheelers belong to the same class as the coalies and are
sometimes identical with them. They are usually some of the strongest
men in the shed, new hands, perhaps, who have not yet earned for
themselves an installation into the ranks of the regular machine staff.
Sometimes, however, they have proved themselves smart with the shovel
and wheel-barrow and have been considered too serviceable to shift to
other employment, for, as it is well known that “the willing horse must
draw double,” so the workman who is willing to perform a hard duty
without murmuring and complaint is always imposed upon and forced to do
extra. The natural fool or the systematic skulker is pitied and
respected. Once his general conduct is understood he is taken for what
he is worth, and no more is expected of him. In time he is rewarded. He
may come to be a checker, a clerk, or an inspector; while the sterling
fellow, the hard worker, the “sticker,” as he is called, may stop and
work himself to death like a slave. Thus, deserving men, because they
have proved themselves adepts at the work, have been kept on the
ash-barrows for ten or twelve years, sweating their lives away for the
sum of eighteen shillings a week. Several, however, disgusted with the
business, have left the shed and gone back to work on the farms, in the
pure surroundings of the fields and villages. This branch of work has
recently been overhauled and estimated at the piece rate, and the wages
somewhat improved, though the amount of work to each man has been almost
doubled. The refuse and clinker from the furnaces are transported to
various parts and used for filling up hollows, and for the making of
banks and beds of yards and sidings.

Beyond the stage, lodged on the ground, are two old iron vans that were
formerly used in the goods traffic. They have no windows or lights of
any kind, merely a double door opening outwardly. These are the cabins
and stores of the bricklayers, and they contain cement, fireclay, and
firebricks for the furnaces and forges. A permanent staff of bricklayers
is kept in each department at the works to carry out whatever repairs
are necessary from time to time and to see to the construction and
renovation of the furnaces. If there is any building on a large scale
required, such as a new shed, stores, or offices, extra hands are put on
from the town and afterwards discharged when the work is done. This
procedure gives the officials an opportunity of selecting the best men,
so that it often happens that new hands, temporarily engaged, become
fixtures if they have shown exceptional skill at their trade and are
otherwise suitable. In that case some of the old hands must go, and it
needs not to be said that such an opportunity is welcomed by the
foreman, as it provides him with an excuse for removing undesirables
without being too much blamed himself.

The bricklayers are a distinct class and do not mingle well with the
other men at the works. Their having to do with bricks and mortar,
instead of with iron and steel, seems to exclude them from the general
hive, and the fact of their being dressed in canvas suits and overalls,
and smeared with cement and fireclay, instead of being blackened with
soot and oil, tends to emphasise the distinction. As with the rest of
the staff, they are recruited from all parts of the country, and some of
them have served a rural apprenticeship. In shrewdness and intelligence
they do not rank with the machinists; that is to say, they may be smart
at their trade, but they do not discover extraordinary faculties beyond
that. Perhaps the nature of their toil has something to do with it, for
that is at best a dull and uninspiring vocation. There is no magic
required in the setting together of bricks and mortar, and little
exertion of the intellect is needed in patching up old walls and
buildings. They are nevertheless very jealous of their craft, such as it
is, and deeply resent any intrusion into their ranks other than by the
gates of the usual apprenticeship. Occasionally it happens that a
bricklayer’s labourer, who has been for many years in attendance on his
mate, shows an aptitude for the work, so that the foreman, in a busy
period, is induced to equip him with the trowel. In that case he at once
becomes the subject of sneering criticism; whatever work he does is
condemned, and he is hated and shunned by his old mates and companions.
The foreman, too, takes advantage of his position and pays him less than
the trade rate of wages, so that, after all, he is really made to feel
that he is not a journeyman.

Very often, when there is no building to be done, the bricklayers must
turn their hands to other work, such as navvying, whitewashing,
painting, and so on, all which falls under their particular department.
Armed with pick and shovel, or pot and brush, they must dig foundations
and drains, or scale the walls and roof and cleanse or decorate the
shed. This is always productive of much grumbling and sarcastic comment,
but it is better than being suspended. On the whole the bricklayers have
a fairly comfortable billet at the works and they are not subject to
frequent loss of time through wet weather and other accidents, as are
their fellows of the town, though they do not receive as much in wages.

It is astonishing what a prodigious amount of work the labourers will
get through in a short time, and apparently with little exertion, when
they are digging out drains and foundations for new furnaces,
steam-hammers, or other machinery. These foundations are generally huge
pits, twelve or fifteen feet deep and double the size square. Stripped
to the waist in the heat of the workshop, and armed with the heavy graft
tool, with a stout iron plate fixed underneath their right foot, they
will dig for hours without resting and yet seem to be always fresh and
vigorous. Occasionally, as they throw up the solid clay, some workman of
the shed will steal along to examine the fossil remains, pebbles, and
flints, that were embedded in the earth, and slip back to his place at
the steam-hammer, preserving some relic or other for future examination.
The sturdy labourer, however, keeps digging out the clay and hurling it
up to the light. He knows nothing of geological data, theories and
opinions, and cares not to inquire. He is there to dig the pit and not
to trouble himself about the nature of soils and deposits, and though
you should talk to him ever so learnedly of old time submersions,
accretions, and formations, he only answers you with a blank stare or an
unsympathetic grin. His private opinion is that you are something of a

There is one among the bricklayers’ labourers that is remarkable. This
is the silent man, generally known as Herbert. The story goes that
Herbert was once in love and thought to take a wife. But the course of
true love did not run smooth in his case, and, in the end, the young
lady jilted Herbert. That is according to the story. It may or may not
have been true; perhaps Herbert could tell, but he is not at all
communicative. Whatever the circumstances were, they made a profound
impression upon Herbert’s mind and he has never been the same man since.
Now he does not speak to any except his near workmate, and only then to
answer the most necessary questions. It is useless for an outsider to
attempt to make him speak; he ignores all your attentions. To cause him
to smile would be akin to working a miracle. The set features never
relax. The eyes are vacant and expressionless, the mouth is firm and
stern, and the whole countenance rigid.

Yet Herbert is a fine-looking man. His features are regular--almost
classic--his face is bronzed with working out of doors, and he is a
picture of health. In height he is medium. His shoulders are broad and
square, his arms strong and muscular, and he has the endurance of an ox.
Would you tire Herbert? That is impossible. Whatever labour you set him
to do he performs it without a murmur. He does the work of three
ordinary men. Must he dig? He will dig, dig, dig, and throw up the huge
spits of heavy clay as high as his head, one might say for ever. Must he
wheel away the debris? He will pile up the wheel-barrow till it is
ready to break down under the weight, and trundle it off and up to the
stage without the slightest exertion and be back again in a breath. He
will lift enormous weights and strike tremendous blows with the sledge.
He is tireless in his use of the pick and shovel; in fact, whatever you
set Herbert to do he accomplishes it all in about a fifth of the time
ordinarily required for the purpose. He is the butt of his masters and
of his work-mates. Whatever uncommonly laborious task there is to be
done Herbert is the man to do it, and the more he does the more he must
do, though he does not know it, or if he does, he shows no indication of
the knowledge. Now and again the foreman stands by and watches him
approvingly, and this stimulates him to fresh efforts. He revels in the
work and, whatever he thinks about it all, he is still silent and

This sort of thing is all right from the point of view of the foreman,
but it is very inconvenient and unfair to the other labourers who are
sane in their minds and mortal in their bodies, for everything they do
is adjudged according to the standard of this indefatigable Hercules.
The overseer, used to seeing him slaving endlessly, thinks light of the
others’ efforts, and imagines that they are not doing their share of the
toil, so uneven is the comparison of their labours. In reality, such a
man as Herbert is a danger and an enemy of his kind, though as he is
quite unconscious of his conduct and does it all with the best
intentions he must be forgiven. Such a one is more to be pitied than

The foremen of the bricklayers are not bricklayers themselves, and never
have been, but were selected apparently without any consideration of
their specific abilities. This one was a shunter, another was a
carpenter, a third was a waggon-builder, and so on. Perhaps So-and-so
and So-and-so went to school together, or worked formerly in the same
shed; or consanguinity is the cause, for blood is thicker than water in
the factory, as elsewhere. Accordingly, it often comes about that the
most fitting person to take the responsible position is thrust aside at
the last moment for an utter stranger, one who has no knowledge whatever
of the work he is to supervise. With a certain amount of “pushfulness,”
however, and an extraordinary confidence in himself and his abilities,
the new man is able to make a pretence of knowledge and, somehow or
other, the work proceeds. Very often it would go on for months just as
well without the foreman to interfere, and in many cases even better,
for it is the chargemen and gangers who have the actual control of
operations and who possess the real and intimate knowledge of the work.

Should an aspirant to the post of foreman through his own merits be set
aside for a stranger--as is sometimes the case--there is bound to be
jealousy existing between the two for ever afterwards, which now and
again breaks out into heated scenes and may result in brawls and
dismissals. Of the workmen, some will take the one side, and some the
other; they are mutually distrustful, and have recourse to whispering
and tale-telling. If it has been proved that one workman is guilty of
getting another his discharge by any unfair means he is not forgiven by
his mates. The dismissed man, in such a case, will frequently wait for
his informer outside the gates, and will not be satisfied until he has
given him a good thrashing. Perhaps he will walk boldly in through the
entrance with the other men and take him unaware at his work and punish
him on the spot. It is superfluous to say that this is not tolerated by
the officials, and anyone who is so bold as to do it must be prepared to
stand the consequences and appear at the Borough Police Court.

Now and again a foreman, who has been guilty of some underhanded action,
is taken to task by the exasperated victim and treated to a little
surprise combat of fisticuffs. Perhaps the foreman is a sneak or a
bully, or both, and has carried his tyrannical behaviour too far for
human endurance; or private jealousy may have impelled him to some
cowardly turn or other, and the workman, driven to desperation, takes
the law into his own hands and gives him a thrashing. This--provided the
reprisal was merited--will be a source of huge delight to the other men
in the shed, and everyone will rejoice to see the offender “taken down a
notch,” as they say; but if it was merely an exhibition of unwarrantable
temper on the workman’s part, the overseer will be commiserated with and
defended. Whether right or wrong the pugnacious one is dismissed. His
services are no longer required at the shed; he must seek occupation

Running along for some distance near the canal is a shed in which the
road-waggons are made--trollies, vans, and cars for use in the goods
yards and stations about the line--and inside this, and parallel with
it, is the wheel shop, where the wheels, tyres, and axles are turned and
fitted up for the waggons and carriages. Besides the making of new work
in the first-named of these sheds, there is always a considerable amount
of repairs to be carried out. A great part of this is done outside, in
fine weather, in order to give increased room within doors.

The road-waggon builders are of a sturdy type. Many of them are inclined
to be old-fashioned and primitive in their methods, and they are solid
in character. This is accounted for by the fact that the greater part of
the older hands received their initial training in small yards, in
little country towns and villages, where they worked among farmers and
rustics. The work they did there was necessarily very solid and
strong--such as heavy carts and waggons for the farms--and everything
had to be done by hand, slowly and laboriously perhaps, but efficiently
and well. This taught them the practical side of their trade, as how to
be self-sufficing and independent of machinery, which are the most
valuable features of a good apprenticeship and are of great service to
the workman in after years. By and by, when the time came for them to
leave the scene of their apprentice days--for few masters will pay the
journeyman’s rate of wages to any who, at the end of their term, have
not gone further afield for new experience--they shifted out for
themselves. Some went one way and some another. This one went to London,
that one to Bristol, and others came to the railway town. Whatever
peculiarities of workmanship they acquired in their youth they brought
with them and practised in their new sphere, and so the individual style
is maintained in spite of totally different methods and processes.

At the present time--in large factories, at any rate--there is machinery
for everything, and this is highly destructive of the purely personal
faculty in manufacture. But in the case of the road-waggon builder,
though a great many, or perhaps all, of the parts have been shaped for
him by steam power, there yet remains the fitting up and building of the
vehicle, which is reasonably a task requiring considerable care and
skill. The iron frame of the locomotive or railway waggon may be clapped
together quite easily, for there is no very elaborate fitting or joining
to be done. Good strong rivets are the chief things required there. The
wooden bodies of the vans and cars, however, must be fitted and built
with the nicest precision and finish, or the materials would shrink away
and the parts would gape open, or fall to pieces. Thus, the road-waggon
builder, as well as the carriage body-maker, must be a craftsman of the
first order, and while some journeymen may be at liberty to sacrifice
their dearly gained experience and individual characteristics in the
face of newer methods and improved mechanical processes, it is well for
him to hold fast to what he has found useful and good in the past.

The workmen of every shed have their own particular tone and style
collectively as well as individually; different trades and atmospheres
apparently producing different characteristics and temperaments.
Accordingly, the men of one shed are well-known for one quality, while
those of another are noted for something quite different. These are
famed for steadiness, civility, and correct behaviour; those for noise,
rudeness, horseplay, and even ruffianism. The men of some sheds are
remarkable for their extreme docility and their almost childish
obedience to the slightest and most insignificant rules of the factory,
counting every official as a thing superhuman and nearly to be
worshipped. Others are notorious for ideas quite the reverse of this,
for riotous conduct within and without the shed, an utter contempt of
the laws of the factory, for thieving, fighting, and other propensities.
These characteristics are determined as much by the kind of work done in
the sheds and the quality of the overseer, as by the men’s own nature
and temperament. Most foremen are excessively autocratic and severe with
their men, denying them the slightest privilege or relaxation of the
iron laws of the factory. Others are of a wheedling, pseudo-fatherly
type, who, by a combination of professed paternal regard and a cunning
manipulation of the reins, contrive to make everything they do appear
just and reasonable and so hold their men in complete subjection. Some
foremen, again, are of the ceremonious order, who, from pure vanity,
will insist upon the complete observance of the most trivial detail and
drive their workmen half-way to distraction. A few, on the other hand,
are generous and humane. They hold the reins slack, and, without the
knowledge of their chiefs, grant a few small privileges and are rewarded
with the confidence of the workmen and a willingness to labour on their
part amounting to enthusiasm. For, as the horse that is tightly breeched
draws none too well, neither do those men work best who are rigidly kept
down under the iron rod of the overseer. Discipline there is bound to
be, as everyone knows, but there is no excuse for treating a man as
though he were a wild beast, or an infant just out of the cradle.
Whatever dissatisfaction exists about the works is chiefly owing to the
behaviour of the officials, for they force the workmen into rebellion.
If the directors of the company are anxious for the welfare of their
staff--as they profess to be--let them instruct their managers and
foremen to show themselves a little more tolerant and kindly disposed to
the men in the sheds. Actions speak louder than words, and kindness
shown to workmen is never forgotten.

The wheel shop is a large building, containing many rows of lathes for
the wheels, tyres, and axles, which are nearly all tended by boys. The
lines of shafting stretch in the roof, up and down from end to end of
the place, and the pulleys whirl round almost noiselessly overhead.
Everything is spotlessly clean, for there are no furnaces belching out
their smoke, dust, and flames. The temperature is low and the shed, even
in the hottest part of the summer, is cool in comparison with the other
premises round about. In the winter it is heated with steam from the
boilers and the exhaust from the shop engines. This prevents the boys
from catching cold. The heavy steel axles and tyres are exceedingly
chill in the winter, especially in frosty weather.

The boys come from all parts, from town and country alike, immediately
after leaving school, and go straight to the lathes. There are labourers
to fix the wheels and tyres in the machines, and the boys attend to the
tools, working carefully to the gauges provided. Coming to the work at a
time when their minds are in a receptive state, they soon master the
principal parts of the business and before long become highly skilled
and proficient. Their wages are no more than five or six shillings a
week for a start, with yearly rises of one or two shillings until they
reach a pound or twenty-two shillings. Upon arriving at this
stage--unless work is plentiful--they are usually removed from the lathe
and set labouring, or otherwise transferred or discharged as too
expensive for the work. Sometimes, after this, they migrate to other
towns and earn double or treble the wages they received before, for good
wheel- and axle-turners are in constant demand and a clever workman may
be sure of securing a high rate of remuneration.

The boys are an interesting group, and one that is well worthy of
consideration. They are of all sorts and sizes, of many grades and walks
in life. There is the country labourer’s lad, who formerly worked on the
land amid the horses and cattle; the town labourer’s lad, who has been
errand-boy or who sold newspapers on the street corner; the small
shopkeeper’s lad, the fitter’s lad, tall and pale, in clean blue
overalls, and the enginedriver’s lad, fresh from school, whose one
ambition is to emulate his father and, like him, drive an engine, only
one that is two or three times as big and powerful. There are tall and
short boys, boys fat and lean, pale and robust-looking, ragged and
well-kept, with sad and merry faces. And what pranks they play with one
another, and would play, if they were not curbed and checked with the
ever watchful eye of the shop foreman! They are always ready for some
game or other--football, hide-and-seek, or “ierky”--at any time of the
day, and whatever they do, it does not seem to tire them down; they are
still fresh and active, cheerful and vivacious.

Many of them begin the day well with running regularly to work, perhaps
for two or three miles. At five minutes past six in the morning they
commence at the lathe, and when breakfast-time comes they scamper off,
food in hand, and play about the yard, or in the recreation field
beyond. From nine till one their labour is continuous; there they stand,
bound as with chains to the machines they serve, for ever watchful, so
as not to spoil the cut and waste the axle, which would mean an enforced
holiday for them. When one o’clock comes, smothered with oil and with
faces like those of sweeps--often blackened purposely to give themselves
the appearance of having perspired much--they race off as before, and
play recklessly until it is time to return to the shed. And after the
day’s work is finished and they go home in the evening, they wash away
the grime and oil and play about the streets and lanes till bed-time,
utterly indifferent to the wearisome occupation awaiting them on the
morrow. Their sleep is sound and sweet, for their hearts are happy and
light. Of the cares of life they know nothing; the future is full of
hope for them; all the world is before them. Their chief concern is for
the holidays. All these are anticipated and awaited with great joy and
eagerness; it is by this alone that they discover the extreme tedium of
the daily drudgery of the workshop.

The boys’ foreman is an experienced official, shrewd, keen, and very
severe; a good judge of character, cautious, and careful, civil enough,
but unbending in a decision, a very good formative agent, one who will
exercise a healthy restraint upon the intractables and encourage the
timid, but who exploits them all for the good of the firm. His keen eyes
and sound judgment enable him to at once sum up a lad’s capabilities. He
takes the youth and sets him where he will show to the best advantage,
instructs him on many of the crucial points, advises him as to the best
means of getting on, and very often furnishes him with hints of a
personal nature which--whatever the lad may think of them at the
time--bear fruit in after life. If the youngster is inclined to be wild
and incorrigible he tries his best to reform him, and gives him sound
advice. He has also been known to administer a corrective cuff in the
ear and a vigorous boot in the posterior, but he usually succeeds in
bringing out the good points and suppressing, if not entirely
eradicating, the bad.

Whenever he walks up or down the shed the boys fix their attention more
firmly upon their machines, for they feel his keen, penetrating eyes
upon them, and they know that nothing ever escapes his notice. If there
is a slackness at any point the word is passed rapidly on--“Look out,
here’s J----y coming,” and the overseer is sometimes amused with the
various expedients resorted to in order to deceive him and cover up the
juvenile shortcomings. As to wages, prices, and systems, they are not
altogether his fault. It he could suit himself he might possibly be
willing to pay more, but he is always being pressed by the staff to
reduce prices and expenses, and, like the other foremen, he is not
prepared to offer effective resistance. Being an official of long
standing, however, he is secure in his place, and has no occasion to
betray his hands to the firm, as is too often the case with young
foremen, who wish to secure personal notice and advantage. That is one
of the most damning features of all, and is becoming more and more a
practice at the works. One young “under-strapper” I knew is in the habit
of standing over the boys at the lathe, watch in hand, for four hours
without once moving, and, by his manner and language, compelling them to
run at an excessive rate so as to cut their prices. Without doubt he is
deserving of the birch rod, though the managers, who allow it, are the
more to blame.

A short way from the canal, north of the road-waggon shed, is the
rubbish heap, at which most of the old wood refuse and lumber, with
hundreds of tons of sawdust, are brought to be burned. At one time all
this was consumed in the boiler furnaces, but since the amount of refuse
has enormously increased it has been found expedient to transport some
part of it there and so do away with it. One small furnace is used for
the purpose, and by far the greater part of it, especially the sawdust,
is burned in big heaps upon the ground. This is a slovenly, as well as a
dangerous method, and the inconvenience resulting to the men in the
sheds is considerable. If the wind is in the west the dense clouds of
smoke sweep along the ground and are blown straight in through the open
doors upon the stampers, and are a source of extreme discomfort and
disgust. There is always plenty of smother in the shed, arising from the
oil furnaces, without receiving any addition from outside. Once the
workshop is filled with the bluish vapour it takes hours to disperse,
for, though there are doors all round and hundreds of ventilators on the
roof, they do not carry off the nuisance. Very often the smoke will
travel from end to end of the shed, like a current of water, but just
as it reaches the doorway and you think it is going to pass outside, it
suddenly whirls round like a wheel and traverses the whole length of the
place, and so on, over and over again.

If the wind is in the north, then the road-waggon builders must suffer
the persecuting clouds of smoke and be tormented with smarting and
burning eyes at work; and if it should blow from over the town, across
the rolling downs from the south, the smother is carried high over the
fence and sweeps along the recreation field to the discomfort of small
boys and lovers, or of whoever happens to be passing that way. If the
nuisance arose from any other quarter complaints might be made and steps
taken towards the mitigation of it. As it is, no one, not even a member
of the local bodies and the Corporation, summons up the courage to make
a protest, for everyone bows down before the company’s officials and
representatives in the railway town and fears to raise objections to
anything that may be done by the people at the works.



On the north the factory yard is bounded by a high board fence that runs
along close behind the shed and divides the premises from the recreation
grounds, which are chiefly the haunt of juveniles during the summer
months and the resort of football players and athletes in the winter.
Here also the small children come after school and wander about the
field among the buttercups, or sit down amid the long grass in the
sunshine, or swing round the Maypole, under the very shadow of the black
walls, with only a thin fence to separate them from the busy factory.
The ground beneath their feet shakes with the ponderous blows of the
steam-hammers; the white clouds of steam from the exhaust pipes shoot
high into the air. Dense volumes of blackest smoke tower out of the
chimneys, whirling round and round and over and over, or roll lazily
away in a long line out beyond the town and fade into the distance.

The fence stretches away to the east for a quarter of a mile from the
shed and then turns again at right angles and continues the boundary on
that side as far as to the entrance by the railway. About half-way
across are several large shops and premises used for lifting, fitting,
and storing the carriages; beyond them is a wide, open space commonly
known as “the field.” As a matter of fact, the whole area of the yard
was really a series of fields until quite recently. Fifteen years ago,
although the space was enclosed, you might have walked among the
hedgerows and have been in the midst of rustic surroundings. Numerous
rabbits infested the place and retained their burrows till long after
the steel rails were laid along the ground. Hares, too, continued to
frequent the yard until the rapid extension of the premises and the
clearing away of the grass and bushes deprived them of cover. It was a
common thing to see them and the rabbits shooting in and out among the
old wheels and tyres that had been removed from the condemned vehicles.

If you should follow the fence along for a short distance you might even
now soon forget the factory and imagine yourself to be far away in some
remote village corner, surrounded with fresh green foliage and drinking
in the sweet breath of the open fields. One would not conceive that in
the very factory grounds, within sight of the hot, smoky workshops, and
but a stone’s throw from some of them, it would be possible to enjoy the
charm of rusticity, and to revel unseen in a profusion of flowers that
would be sought for in vain in many parts about the countryside. Yet
such is the pleasure to be derived from a visit to this little
frequented spot. The fence, to the end, runs parallel with the
recreation ground alongside a hedgerow that once parted the two fields
when the whole was in the occupation of the people at the old farmhouse
that has now disappeared. In the hedgerow, with their trunks close
against the board partition, still in their prime and in strong contrast
to the black smoky walls and roofs of the sheds opposite, stand
half-a-dozen stately elms that stretch their huge limbs far over the
yard and throw a deep shadow on the ground beneath. At this spot the
field gradually declines and, as the inner yard has been made up to a
level with the railway beyond, when you approach the angle you find
yourself out of sight, with the raised platform of cinders on the one
hand and, on the other, the high wooden fence and thick elms.

At the corner the steel tracks have had to make a long curve, and this
has left the ground there free to bring forth whatever it will. Here,
also, the trees are thickest, and, within the fence, a small portion of
the original site still remains. A streamlet--perhaps the last drain of
a once considerable brook--enters from the recreation ground underneath
the boards and is conducted along, now within its natural banks and now
through broken iron pipes, into the corner, where it is finally
swallowed up in a gully and lost to view. Stooping over it, as though to
protect it from further injury and insult, are several clumps of
hawthorn and the remains of an old hedge of wych elm. Standing on the
railway track of the bank are some frames of carriages that were burnt
out at the recent big fire. Near them are several crazy old waggons and
vans, that look as if they had stood in the same place for half a
century and add still further to the quiet of the scene.

It is alongside the fence, and especially about the corner, that the
wild flowers bloom. Prominent over all is the rosebay. This extends in a
belt nearly right along the fence, and climbs up the ash bank and runs
for a considerable distance among the metals, growing and thriving high
among the iron wheels and frames of the carriages and revelling in the
soft ashes and cinders of the track. Side by side with this, and
blooming contemporary with it, are the delicate toadflax, bright golden
ragwort, wild mignonette, yellow melilot, ox-eye daisies, mayweed, small
willow-herb, meadow-sweet, ladies’ bedstraw, tansy, yarrow, and
cinquefoil. The wild rose blooms to perfection and the bank is richly
draped with a vigorous growth of dewberry, laden with blossoms and

Beside the streamlet in the corner is a patch of cats’-tails, as high as
to the knees, and a magnificent mass of butter-bur. The deliciously
scented flowers of this are long since gone by, but the leaves have
grown to an extraordinary size. They testify to the presence of the
stream, for the butter-bur is seldom found but in close proximity to
water. Here also are to be found the greater willow-herb with its large
sweet pink blossoms and highly-scented leaves, the pale yellow
colt’s-foot, medick, purple woody night-shade, hedge stachys, spear
plume thistles, hogweed and garlick mustard, with many other plants,
flowering and otherwise, that have been imported with the ballast and
have now taken possession of the space between the lines and the fence.

The shade of the trees and beauty of the flowers and plants are
delightful in the summer when the sun looks down from a clear, cloudless
sky upon the steel rails and dry ashes of the yard, which attract and
contain the heat in a remarkable degree, making it painful even to walk
there in the hottest part of the day. Then the cool shade of the trees
is thrice welcome, especially after the stifling heat of the workshop,
the overpowering fumes of the oil furnaces and the blazing metal just
left behind; for it is impossible for any but workmen to enjoy the
pleasant retreat. No outsider ever gains admittance here, and though you
should often pace underneath the trees in the recreation ground you
would never dream of what the interior is like. Nor do even workmen--at
least, not more than one or two, and this at rare intervals in the
meal-hours--often come here, for if they did they would be noticed by
the watchmen and ordered away. Their presence here, even during
meal-hours, would be construed as prejudicial to the interests of the
company. They would be suspected of theft, or of some other evil
intention, or would at least be looked upon as trespassers and reported
to the managers. In times gone by men and youths have been known to
escape from the factory during working hours and while they were booked
at their machines, by climbing over the fence, and this has made the
officials cautious and severe in dealing with trespassers. It would not
be a difficult matter, even now--and especially in the winter afternoons
and evenings--to climb over the top of the fence and decamp.

This part of the factory yard is by far the most wholesome of the works’
premises. There is plenty of room and light, and happy were they who, in
the years ago, were told off for service in the field, breaking up the
old waggons, sorting out the timber, and running the wheels from one
place to another. At the time the old broad-gauge system of vehicles
was converted to the four-foot scale, large gangs in the yard were
regularly employed in cutting-down; that is, reducing the waggons to the
new shape. First of all the wood-work was removed; then both sides of
the iron frame--a foot each side--were cut completely away. Two new
“sole-bars” were affixed, and the whole frame was riveted up again. The
wheels, also, were taken out and the axles shortened and re-fitted. The
carpenters now replaced the floors and sides and all was fit for traffic
again. The locomotives, on the other hand, were condemned. The boilers
and machinery were built on too great a scale to be fitted to the
narrow-gauge frames. They were accordingly lifted out and the boilers
distributed all over the system, while the frames were cut up for scrap
and new ones built in place of them.

The old type of broad-gauge engine has never been beaten for speed on
the line. By reason of its occupying a greater space over the wheels and
axles the running was more even, and there was not so much rocking of
the coaches. The broad-gauge Flying Dutchman express was noted for its
magnificent speed and stately carriage, and for many years after the
abolition of the system stories of almost incredible runs were current
at the works. One old driver, very proud of his machine, was said to
have sworn to the officials that he would bring his engine and train
from London to the railway town, a distance of seventy-seven miles, in
an hour, dead time, with perfect safety, and he was only prevented from
accomplishing the feat by the strong stand made by the officials, who
threatened him with instant dismissal if he should exceed the limit of
speed prescribed in the time-tables.

At the same time, it is well known that the official time-table was
often ignored, and stirring tales might be told of flying journeys
performed in defiance of all written injunctions and authority. The
signalmen knew of these feats and were often astounded at them, but they
are only human, and they often did that they ought not to have done in
order to shield the driver. The passengers, too, are always delighted to
find themselves being whirled along at a high rate. There is an
intoxication in it not to be resisted, and when they leave the train at
the journey’s end, after an extraordinary run, they invariably go and
inspect the engine and admire the brave fellow who has rushed them over
the country at such an exciting speed.

When the broad-gauge was converted great numbers of men from all
quarters were put on at the works. Every village and hamlet for miles
around sent in its unemployed, and many of the farms were quite
deserted. These were engaged in “cutting-down” or in breaking up the
waggons and engines--little skill being necessary for that
operation--and when, after several years, the system was quite reduced
and slackness followed the busy period, the greater part of them were
discharged and were again distributed over the countryside round about.
It is impossible to go into any village within a radius of eight or ten
miles of the railway town without finding at least one or two men who
were employed on “the old broad-gauge,” as they still call it. After
their discharge the majority, by degrees, settled down to farm life.
Many, however, continued out of work for a long time, and some are
numbered among the “casuals” to this day.

The only tools, besides hammers, required by the cutters-down, were cold
sets to cut off the heads of the rivets and bolts, and punches to force
the stems and stays out of the holes. They were held by hazel rods, that
were supplied in bundles from the stores for the purpose. To bind them
round the steel tools they were first of all heated in the middle over
the fire. Then the cutter-out took hold of one end, and his mate held
the other, and the two together gave the wand several twists round.
After that the rod was wound twice about the set or punch and the two
ends were tied together with strong twine. This gave a good grip on the
tool, which would not be obtained with the use of an iron rod. The
repeated blows on the set from the sledge would soon jar the iron rod
loose and cause it to snap off, while the hazel rod grips it firmly and
springs with it under the blow.

Formerly all the repair riveting was done by hand. When the hot rivet
was inserted in the hole the “holder-up” kept it in position, either
with the “dolly” or with a heavy square-headed sledge. Then the riveters
knocked down the head of the rivet with long-nosed hammers, striking
alternately in rapid succession and making the neighbourhood resound
with the blows. Afterwards the chief mate held the “snap” upon it and
his mate plied the sledge until the new head was perfectly round and
smooth. The “snap” is a portion of steel bar, about ten inches long and
toughly tempered, with a die, the shape of the rivet head required,
infixed at one end. Now, however, pneumatic riveting machines are used
out of doors. These, being small and compact, can be employed anywhere
and with much fewer hands than were required by the old method. The air
is supplied from accumulators into which it is forced by the engine in
the shed, and it is conducted in pipes all round the factory yards.

The repair gangs are an off-shoot of the frame shed that is situated at
a distance of nearly half a mile from the field. There the steel frames
for the waggons and carriages and all iron-topped vehicles, such as
ballast trucks, brake and bullion vans, refrigerators and others are
constructed. That is essentially the shop of hard work, heavy lifting
and noise terrific. The din is quite inconceivable. First of all is the
machinery. On this side are rows of drills, saws, slotting and planing
machines; on that are the punches and shears, screeching and grinding,
snapping and groaning with the terrible labour imposed upon them. The
long lines of shafting and wheels whirl incessantly overhead, the cogs
clatter, the belts flap on the rapidly spinning pulleys, and the blast
from the fan roars loudly underground. All this, however, is nearly
drowned with the noise of the hammering. Hundreds of blows are being
struck, on “tops” and “bottoms,” steel rails and iron rails, sole-bars
and headstocks, middles, diagonals, stanchions, knees, straps and
girders. Every part of the frame is being subjected to the same
treatment--riveted, straightened, levelled, or squared, most
unmercifully used. Every tone and degree of sound is emitted, according
to the various qualities and thicknesses of the metal--sharps and flats,
alto, treble and bass. There is the sharp clear tone of the
highly-tempered steel in the tools used; the solid and defiant ring of
the sole-bar or headstock, strong and firm under the hammer of the
“puller-up,” the dull, flat sound of the floor plates, the loud hollow
noise of the “covered goods” sides and ends, and the deep heavy boom of
the roofs of the vans. Everyone seems to be striking as hard and as
quickly as he is able. All the blows fall at once, and yet everything is
in a jumble and tangle, loud, vicious, violent, confused and chaotic--a
veritable pandemonium. And then, to crown the whole, there are the
pneumatic tools, the chipping and riveting machines. It is dreadful; it
is overpowering; it is unearthly; but it has to be borne, day after day
and year after year.

Yet even the frame shed must yield to the boiler shop in the matter of
concentrated noise. The din produced by the pneumatic machines in
cutting out the many hundreds of rivets and stays inside a boiler is
quite appalling. There is nothing to be compared with it. The heaviest
artillery is feeble considered with it; thunder is a mere echo. What is
more, the noise of neither of these is continuous, while the operation
within the boiler lasts for a week or more. The boiler, in a great
degree, contains the sound, so that even if you were a short distance
away, though the noise there would be very great, you could have no idea
of the intensity of the sound within. Words could not express it;
language fails to give an adequate idea of the terrible detonation and
the staggering effect produced upon whosoever will venture to thrust his
head within the aperture of the boiler fire-box. Do you hear anything?
You hear nothing. Sound is swallowed up in sound. You are a hundred
times deaf. You are transfixed; your every sense is paralysed. In a
moment you seem to be encompassed with an unspeakable silence--a
deathlike vacuity of sound altogether. Though you shout at the top of
your voice you hear nothing--nothing at all. You are deaf and dumb, and
stupefied. You look at the operator; there he sits, stands or stoops.
You see his movements and the apparatus in his hands, but everything is
absolutely noiseless to you. It is like a dumb show, a dream, a
phantasm. So, for a little while after you withdraw your head from the
boiler, you can hear nothing. You do not know whether you are upon your
head or your heels, which is the floor and which is the roof. The ground
rises rapidly underneath you and you seem to be going up, up, up, you
know not where. Then, after a little while, when you have removed from
the immediate vicinity of the boiler, you feel to come to earth again.
Your senses rush upon you and you are suddenly made aware of the
terrific noise you have encountered. Even now, it will be some time
before the faculty of hearing is properly restored; the fearful noise
rings in your ears for hours and days afterwards.

And what of the men who have to perform the work? It is said that they
are used to it. That is plainly begging the question. They have to do
it, whether they are used to it or not. It is useless for them to
complain; into the boiler they must go, and face the music, for good or
ill. All the men very soon become more or less deaf, and it is
inconceivable but that other ailments must necessarily follow. The
complete nervous system must in time be shattered, or seriously
impaired, and the individual become something of a wreck. This is one of
the many ills resulting from progress in machinery and modern
manufacturing appliances.

The personnel of the frame shed is individual and distinct in a very
marked degree. Most of the men seem to have been chosen for their great
strength and fine physique, or to have developed these qualities after
their admission to the work. The very nature of the toil tends to
produce strong limbs and brawny muscles. It is certain that continual
exercise of the upper parts of the body by such means as the lifting of
heavy substances tends to improve the chest and shoulders, and many of
those who are engaged in lifting and carrying the plates and sole-bars
are very stout and square in this respect. There is a number of “heavy
weights,” and a few positive giants among them, though the majority of
the men are conspicuous, not so much by their bulk, as by their
squareness of limb and muscularity. A proof of the strength of the frame
shed men may be seen in the success of their tug-of-war teams. Wherever
they have competed--and they have gone throughout the entire south of
England--they have invariably beaten their opponents and carried off the

There was formerly a workman, an ex-Hussar, named Bryan, in the shed,
who could perform extraordinary feats of strength. He was nearly seven
feet in height and he was very erect. His arms and limbs were solid and
strong; he was a veritable Hercules, and his shoulders must have been as
broad as those of Atlas, who is fabled to have borne the world on his
back. It was striking to see him lift the heavy headstocks, that weighed
two hundredweights and a quarter, with perfect ease and carry them about
on his shoulder--a task that usually required the powers of two of the
strongest men. This he continued to do for many years, not out of
bravado, but because he knew it was within his natural powers to
perform. Notwithstanding his tremendous normal strength, however, he was
subject to attacks of ague, and you might have seen him sometimes
stretched out upon the ground quite helpless, groaning and foaming at
the mouth. If he had been working in the shed recently, since the
passing of the new Factory Acts, he would have been promptly discharged,
for no one is kept at the works now who is subject to any infirmity that
might incapacitate him in the shed among the machinery. Later on, when
work got slack, Bryan was turned adrift from the factory, a broken and a
ruined man. All his past services to the firm were forgotten, he was
cast off like an old shoe. However valuable and extraordinary a man may
have proved himself to be at his work, it counts for little or nothing
with the foremen and managers; the least thing puts him out of favour
and he must go.

The men of the frame shed are of a cosmopolitan order, though to a less
extent than is the case in some departments. The work being for the most
part rough and requiring no very great skill, there has consequently
been no need of apprenticeships, though there are a few who have served
their time as waggon-builders or boiler-smiths. They are not recognised
as journeymen here, however, and so must take their chance with the rank
and file. Promotion is supposed to be made according to merit, but there
are favourites everywhere who will somehow or other prevail. The normal
order of promotion is from labourer to “puller-up,” from puller-up to
riveter, and thence to the position of chargeman. Here he must be
content to stop, for foremen are only made about once or twice in a
generation, and when the odds on any man for the post are high, surprise
and disappointment always follow. The first is usually relegated to the
rear, and the least expected of all is brought forward to fill the
coveted position. It may be design, or it may be judgment, and perhaps
it is neither. It very often looks as though the matter had been
decided by the toss of a coin, or the drawing of lots, and that the lot
had fallen upon the least qualified, but there is no questioning the
decision. The old and tried chargeman, who knows the scale and
dimensions of everything that has been built or that is likely to be
built in the shed in his lifetime, must stand aside for the raw youth
who has not left school many months, but who, by some mysterious means
or other, has managed to secure the favour and indulgence of his
foreman, or other superior. Perhaps he is reckoned good at arithmetic,
or can scratch out a rough drawing, though more than likely his father
was gardener to someone, or cleaned the foreman’s boots and did odd jobs
in the scullery after factory hours.

Another reason for the selection of young and comparatively unknown men
for the post of foreman is that they will have a smaller circle of
personal mates in the shed, and, consequently, a less amount of human
kindness and sympathy in them. That is to say, they will be able to cut
and slash the piecework prices with less compunction, and so the better
serve the interests of the company. The young aspirant, moreover, will
be at the very foot of the ladder, hot and impetuous, while the elder
one will have passed the season of senseless and unscrupulous ambition.

A feature of the frame shed is the rivet boy. It is his duty to hot the
rivets in the forge for his mates and to perform sundry other small
offices, such as fetching water from the tap in the shed, or holding a
nail bag in front of the rivet head which is being cut away, in order to
keep it from flying and causing injury to any of the workmen. The forges
for hotting the rivets are fixtures and are supplied with air through
pipes laid beneath the ground from the fan under the wall. Several boys
usually work from one fire, and there is often a scramble for the most
advantageous position in the coals. An iron plate is used to facilitate
the heating. This has been perforated with holes at the punch to allow
its receiving as many rivets as are required. It is then placed over the
whitehot coke in the forge and the rivets inserted. Each boy has a
certain number of holes allotted to him and he must not trespass on his
mates’ territory.

It sometimes happens that one of the boys proves to be a bully and a
terror and plays ducks and drakes with the rights and privileges of the
others. This is always a matter of great concern to the juveniles, and
they will not be satisfied till the tyrant has been humbled and
punished. They have many minor differences and quarrels among
themselves, and challenges to fight are frequent. Honour looms big in
the eyes of the rivet boys, and they are quick to resent a taunt or
affront and to wipe off all aspersions. Perhaps a sneer has been
levelled at one by reason of his name, his father’s occupation, or the
name of the street or locality in which he lives. With true pluck the
matter is taken up. An hour and a place for the meeting are fixed: it is
generally--“Meet me in the Rec at dinner-time.” There they accordingly
assemble with their mates and supporters and fight the matter out. It is
usually a rough-and-tumble proceeding, but they do not desist till one
or the other has been worsted and honour satisfied. More than once it
has happened that they have been so intent on the match they have lost
count of the time and have all--a dozen or more--got locked out for the
afternoon. This requires some explanation, and the next day the whole
circumstance has to be related. Here the boys’ fathers might interfere
and administer a sound corrective lesson to each one of them.

Getting locked out is also very often the result of over-staying at
football, which is regularly practised by the youngsters in the
recreation field all the year round. The boys club together and buy a
ball and race out to play every dinner-time. There, for three-quarters
of an hour, they exert themselves to the utmost and are forced to run
back to the shed at the top of their speed, often returning in an
exhausted condition. A spell of five minutes puts them right, however,
and they go on with their work as though they had enjoyed an infinite
period of refreshment. In the evening they race home to tea and
afterwards go out again while it is daylight, never seeming too tired
for sport and play.

Many queer nicknames, such as “Bodger,” “Snowball,” “Granny,” “Chucky,”
and “Nanty Pecker,” are in vogue among the boys. These become fixtures
and remain with them for many years. It must not be thought that all the
rivet boys submit to become permanent hands in the shed. A good many of
them, as soon as they are sufficiently old and big, go to the recruiting
sergeant and try to enlist. Some enter the Army and others the Navy;
some go this way and some that. Very often boys who spent their early
days at rivet-hotting in the shed and enter the Service, return in after
years to obtain another start in the old quarters, and grow old amid the
scenes of their boyhood. Some never return at all, but die, either in
battle, of sickness, or other accident. More than one, too, has gone the
wrong way in life and ended in suicide.

The boys are much given to reading cheap literature of the “dreadful”
type, and they revel in the deeds of Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick, and
other well-known heroes of fiction. Sometimes a boy, unknown to his
parents, actually possesses a firearm--a pistol or revolver--and, with a
group of companions, scours the countryside round about in search of
“game.” Once, at least, mischief was done in the shape of bursting open
a letter-box with bullets, and at another time a poor calf received a
bullet-shot through the hedgerow. This last-named deed, however, was
purely accidental. Great fear fell upon the juveniles after this
untoward experience and the pistol was forthwith cast into the canal. At
another time a careless lad shot himself through the hand with a pistol
and inflicted a dangerous wound.

A great change has come over the frame shed during the last twelve
years. The old foreman has gone; a great many of the old hands have
disappeared also, and the methods of work have been revolutionised. The
prices have been cut again and again; a different spirit prevails
everywhere; it is no longer as it used to be. Considerable liberty and
many small privileges were allowed to the men by the governing staff in
those days, and the foreman, if he felt disposed, could do much to make
them comfortable and satisfied. Then the overseer was practically master
of his shed and could make his own terms with the workmen, though it is
only fair to remember that under those conditions he was sometimes
inclined to be summary and despotic.

The old foreman of the frame shed was an excellent example of this kind
of overseer. As an engineer he was clever, intelligent, sharp-sighted,
and energetic. In addition to this he was a good judge of character, a
natural leader of men, and one strongly sympathetic. If he was in want
of new hands he needed not to ask a dozen ridiculous questions, or to
stand upon any kind of ceremony; he came, saw, and decided at once. One
glance was sufficient for him; he had summed the man up in an instant.
In the shed he was free, easy and spontaneous, praising and blaming in
the same breath. At one moment he was livid with passion; the next he
was kind, conciliative, and condescending. His temper was hot and fiery.
When he frowned at you his expression was as black as a thunder-cloud,
but you knew that everything would soon be well again. His behaviour was
at least open and genuine, and whatever his attitude to his superiors
might have been, he was free from dissimulation with the workmen.
Nothing escaped his attention in the shed. As he walked his eagle eye
comprehended all. If a stanchion or girder was in the least out of
square he perceived it, and it had to be put right immediately.

He never made himself too cheap and common with the workmen, but held
himself in such a relation to them that he could always command respect.
He often came to the shed late and left early, but there was then no
rigid law compelling the foreman to be for ever at his post, and the
work usually proceeded the same. He was an inventor himself, and he was
always ready to encourage independent thought and action among his
workmen. He recognised merit and rewarded it. He was not jealous of his
workmen’s brains, and he was at all times willing to consider an opinion
and to act upon it if it seemed preferable to his own. He was a mixture
of the fatherly ruler and the despot, but he was very proud of his men
and he lauded them up to the skies to outsiders, whenever an opportunity
presented itself. There was nothing they could not make, and make well,
according to him. If he blamed them to themselves he stoutly defended
them against others, and he would not have dreamed of selling and
betraying them to the management, as is commonly done at this time.

Of the boys he was extremely fond, and especially of such as were
well-behaved and attentive, however ragged and rough their dress might
be, and he often stood and talked to them with his hand on their
shoulder, or gave them pennies or marbles. But if he saw one of the
“terribles” bullying a younger lad he ran up to him and gave him a sound
cuff, or a vigorous kick. Under his foremanship work was plentiful and
wages were high. The shed was nearly always on overtime, and money
flowed like water. The men bore the strain of the overtime complacently.
They worked without fear and turned out a hundred, or a hundred and
twenty waggon frames a week. Those were prosperous days for the frame
shed and many a one saved a little pile from his earnings.

Together with all this, however, the foreman discovered some remarkable
characteristics and he was possessed of the most amazing effrontery. If
strangers connected with other firms came in to inspect the plant and
process and to know the prices of things, he hoodwinked them in every
possible manner and told them astounding fables. He would take up an
article in his hand, describe it with pride, and tell them it was made
for a fifth of what it actually cost to produce. If the manager came
through and any awkward questions were asked, he skilfully turned the
point aside and motioned secretly to the men to support him if they
should be consulted. He hated all interference and would not stand
patronage even from his superiors, and where argument failed clever
manœuvring saved the situation.

Whatever he saw in the shape of machinery he coveted for his own shed.
More than once he was known actually to purloin a machine from the
neighbour foreman’s shop in the night and transfer it to his own
premises. Once a very large drilling machine, new from the maker and
labelled to another department at the works, came into the yard by
mistake, but it never reached its proper destination. Calling a gang of
men, he removed the drill from the truck, caused a foundation to be made
for it, fixed it up in a corner half out of sight, and had it working
the next morning. A hue and cry was raised up and down and around the
yard for the missing machine, but it was not discovered till a long time
afterwards. It still stands in the shed, a proof of one of the most
brazen and impudent thefts possible.

At another time three large drop-hammers were shunted near the shed, and
on seeing them he quickly had them unloaded, but he was not successful
in retaining them. On being discovered he made profuse apologies for his
“mistake” and there the matter ended. At last he fell into the disfavour
of someone and defiantly handed in his resignation. Now everything
proceeds upon formally approved lines, though many a one wishes the old
foreman were still in his place, grumbling and scolding, and pushing
things forward as in the days ago.



Adjoining the frame-building shed is the waggon smithy, where the
thousand and one details for brake systems for the carriages and
waggons, and other articles and uses are manufactured. Here, also, all
kinds of repairs are executed, and a great number of tools of every
description made for the permanent way men and for other workshops round
about. It is said that the forge is the longest in England, and this is
probably correct. It is slightly under two hundred yards in length, and
it contains one hundred fires. These are built at equal distances, on
each side of the shed, with crowns like large bee-hives, and the
chimneys are joined in with the walls. Every fire is supplied with a
boshful of water in which to cool the various tools, and there is also a
tap and a rubber pipe for damping the coals.

Behind the forge is a recess for the coke, which is crushed by machines
outside and wheeled in ready for use. Above this is a rack for the tongs
and tools, of which the smith possesses a considerable number. They are
of all sorts and sizes, capable of holding and shaping every conceivable
article. Of tongs there are flat-bits, hollow-bits, and claws large and
small, with sets and “set-tools,” “fullers,” flatters, punches,
“jogglers,” and many others with no specific title but conveniently
named by the brawny fellow who uses them. Standing in one corner, or
soaking in the water of the bosh, are large and small sledges and one or
two wooden mallets. Every fire has its sieve or “riddle,” as it is
called, for sifting the coke before it is put in the forge, for every
particle of dust must be removed from the fuel so as to obtain a clear,
bright heat. If there is welding to be done the coke will have to be
broken up small--about the size of a walnut--with the mallet, in order
to concentrate the heat, and to allow of the iron being easily moved in
the fire and well-covered with the fuel.

The task of making up the fire falls upon the smith’s mate or striker.
Perhaps, if the piece of work is of big dimensions, two fires are
needed; if it is small or moderate-sized, one will be sufficient. It is
the mate’s duty to get everything ready for the smith. First of all the
clinker is removed and the dust taken out from the centre of the fire
with an iron shovel. The live coals are now raked to the middle and the
blast applied. When this is performed the fresh coke is “riddled” up,
and carefully distributed in the forge. Every smith is very particular
as to the _shape_ of his fire. In general disposition it will be high at
the back with the corners--right and left--well filled, rather full in
front and even in the centre. If the weather is hot and the coke dry it
may receive a good watering--once before the smith begins his heat, and
several times during the operation. A good smith will be sparing of
water, however, for too much of it makes the fire burn too fiercely in
the centre, contracts the area of heat and causes the iron to be dirty
and slimy. The harder the coke, the better it is, and the more brilliant
the heat will be. Soft coke is soon consumed and completely reduced to
dust, while good, hard coke will last a considerable time in the fire.

It must not be assumed that the smith is idle while his mates are
employed in renovating the forge. He is busy preparing his tools and
taking dimensions of the job to be made, and pondering on the best means
of doing it. For this he usually has a large board whitened with chalk,
upon which he sketches out the article and by means of which he
determines the best method of forming his bends and angles. He may not
be much of an artist, but in his rude way he will make a very
commendable drawing of his job and will thus be enabled to determine
beforehand exactly what to do to effect it, just the time to begin his
tapers and angles, the direction of the bend, and the tools for doing
it. He never leaves the method undetermined till he has his iron on the
anvil, but takes pains to have everything settled and every phase of the
operation well in view before he begins it. It is the inferior or the
unintelligent workman alone that heats his iron and trusts to a chance
idea to complete the job.

Meanwhile the cloth cap has been removed from the head, and the
waistcoat and braces hung up behind the forge. The long leathern apron
is produced from the wooden tool-chest and tied around the waist, or
fastened with the belt, about three inches of the top of the trousers
being often turned down outside. The smith’s trousers are usually of
blue serge, and they are made very loose and baggy, so as to allow of
much stooping. The strikers more frequently use aprons made of canvas or
of old thin refuse leather that has been stripped from the worn-out
carriages and horse-boxes and consigned to the scrap-heap. While the
finishing touches are being put to the forge the burly smith takes his
can and goes to the tap for a drink of water. Arrived there he fills the
vessel, removes the quid of tobacco from his cheek--a great many smiths
chew tobacco--raises the can to his lips, rinses out his mouth once or
twice and spouts the water out again to a great distance. Then he takes
a long drink, fills the can again and carries it back to the forge,
where he hands it to his mates, or sets it down for future refreshment.

By this time the iron will have been placed in the forge and the blast
applied by the strikers. The sets also will have been ground, the shafts
of the hammers examined and the wedges tightened. The floor, too, will
be cleanly swept round about, for the smith is most particular in the
matter of neatness and will not have loose ashes and cinders, or other
rubbish, lying under his feet. A light, square table, sometimes of wood
and sometimes of iron plate, is set by the anvil, and of a height with
it, to contain the tools. A handful of birch, bound together after the
manner of a little besom, is placed conveniently upon the table. This is
used for brushing the heat when it comes from the coals, and for
removing the dust and scale from the anvil. As the blast rushes through
the pipe from underground and into the forge it roars loudly, sounding
in the coke like a strong wind among trees. Long, yellow flames rise and
leap high up the chimney, and the air around is filled with clouds of
dust and sulphur fumes from the burning coke. As the heat of the fire
increases this diminishes; in a short time the gaseous properties are
entirely consumed and there is no smell of any kind.

Our smith is a perfect giant in stature. In height he is well over six
feet, solid and erect, with tremendous shoulders and limbs. His head is
massive and square, with broad deep forehead and bushy brows. His grey
eyes, frank and fearless, are rather deeply inset. The nose is Roman and
slightly crooked; the mouth, with thick lips a little relaxed, is
pleasant and kind. He has a heavy, bronze moustache, a clean shaven chin
and plump, ruddy cheeks. The whole countenance is square, and exhibits
the marks of good-nature and honest character. His ponderous arms are
hard and brown, full of rigid bone and muscle, and his hands are large
and horny with continual holding of the tongs and hammer. His breast is
remarkably broad and hairy--his woollen shirt is always thrown open at
work; he has hips and belly like an ox, legs like those of an elephant,
and large flat feet, and he weighs more than eighteen stone. When he
walks his motion is rather slow and deliberate. He goes heavy on his
soles, and his shoulders rise and fall alternately at every step he

He is at all times steady and cool, and he seems never to be in a hurry.
At the anvil he gives one the same impression, so that a stranger might
even think him to be sluggish and dilatory, but he is in everything sure
and unerring, never too soon or too late. Every action is well-timed;
nothing is either over- or under-done. He performs all his beats with a
minimum amount of labour. Where a nervous or spasmodical person would
require forty or fifty blows to shape a piece of metal he will
accomplish it with about twenty-five. His masterly eye and calculating
brain are ever watchful and alert. He understands the effect of every
blow given, and while the less experienced smith is still engaged with
his piece nearly black-hot, his is finished, complete, with the metal
still yellow or bright red. He moves always at the same pace, and his
work is of a uniformly superlative character. When strangers are about,
watching him at his weld, he makes no difference whatever in his usual
methods of procedure, but behaves just as coolly and deliberately and
takes no notice of any man.

Some smiths and forgemen, on the other hand, hate to be watched at work
by strangers--“foreigners,” as they call them--and very quickly give
evidence of their dislike and irritation. They will every now and then
dart an angry look at the visitors, and, after using the tools, throw
them down roughly, muttering under their breath and telling the
strangers to “clear off,” though not sufficiently loud to be heard. By
and by the unoffending strikers will come in for a castigation; whatever
kind of blow they strike it will be wrong for their mate. At last he
shuts off the blast from the forge, and, laying down his hammer, turns
his back towards the “interlopers,” and waits till they have passed on
up the shed. After their departure he resumes his labour and quickly
makes up for the lost time.

Some smiths, again, though extremely nervous under the eye of a
stranger, do not object to being watched, while others positively like
the attention. Such as these are always anxious, under the
circumstances, to impress the stranger with their great skill and
dexterity in the use of tools and in twisting and turning the iron about
on the anvil. They are the “gallery men.” As soon as visitors appear
afar off they begin to prepare for an exhibition. The blast is steadied
down, or shut off, and the fire is cooled round. The tools are all most
conveniently disposed upon the anvil or table, and everything is made
ready for a “lightning” weld. The strikers are as well agreed as the
smith, and brace themselves up for an extra special effort. They wait
till the visitors are nearly opposite them and certain of viewing the
operation. Then on goes the blast, roaring loudly in the firebox, while
the smith, with the perspiration streaming down his brow and cheeks,
turns his heat over and over in the forge and glances quickly across to
take care that he is ready at the right moment. The visitors notice the
unusual activity of the men at the fire and stand still, waiting to see
the heat. This is the signal for the iron to leave the coals. With
exaggerated celerity the sections of metal are withdrawn from the forge
and brought to the anvil. The fused parts are clapped smartly together,
the striker throws down his tongs viciously, grips his hammer and,
following the directions of his mate, rains a shower of blows on the
spluttering iron. The sparks whizz out, and reach the visitors, singeing
the dresses of the ladies--if there happen to be any among them--and
causing them to cry out and step backwards a few paces, while the anvil
rings merrily under the blows. Now the smith lays down his own hammer
quickly and takes up the steel tool for finishing and squaring the heat.
His mate follows, striking rapidly, at all angles, heavy and light,
light and heavy, according to what is required, though the smith utters
not a word during the process, for the whole routine is known by heart.
Over and over the piece is jerked on the anvil--a fine flourish being
given to each movement--until it is finished. Upon its completion the
smith hands it to the striker, who receives it dexterously and places it
on the ground, or in the pile, the pair of them looking several times at
the visitors as much as to ask them if they do not think the job well
and quickly done, and begging a compliment. The visitors usually accord
them an admiring glance in recognition of their prowess and pass on up
the forge.

The gallery men are smart and quick by nature, and are fairly sure of
being successful in “exhibition” work. The slightest blunder would spoil
the whole act and make them appear ridiculous, consequently none but
those who are really skilful ever attempt the business. The average
smith, however, and especially the one we have in view, never breaks his
rule or goes out of his way to oblige visitors, but continues at a
steady, uniform rate. The workman who is showy and energetic before
visitors is often remiss when they have gone by; it is the continual
plodder that gets through the most work in the long run. The visitor,
moreover, if he is gifted with an ordinary amount of insight and
commonsense, may easily recognise the superior workman and discriminate
between the genuine and the superficial effort. Occasionally, when
strangers pass through, after such a performance as I have described,
the striker, more in jest than in earnest, throws his cap at the feet of
the visitors, suggesting that a tip would be welcomed. It is but fair to
say that the hint is seldom or never taken.

Though the striker, or inside mate, must perform the task of preparing
the fire for the smith, he is no longer responsible for it. Henceforth
the smith takes it under his care, and only hands it over to his mate
when the heat is finished and a stop has to be made to renew the forge.
If the job upon which he is engaged is of any dimensions and two fires
are needed, that will make it increasingly hard for the strikers. The
heaviest work is naturally more usually assigned to the strongest men,
though the rule of adaptability also holds here and the various jobs are
given to those who have proved themselves to be the most efficient at
them. Of the smiths, some are famed for their skill in one direction,
and some for their ability in another. This job requires strength, that
speed and cleverness, and another needs a combination of all those
qualities and is difficult to do at any time. Occasionally it transpires
that an inferior smith has been kept at one class of work for such a
long time that he gets out of touch with the other jobs in the shed, and
would shape awkwardly if he were suddenly called upon to undertake
something new and unusual to him. This is a mistake not often committed
by the foreman, however. He periodically changes and interchanges the
work and so gets the smiths accustomed to many and miscellaneous toils.

The skilled and clever smith will be at home anywhere and everywhere. He
will do anything, anyhow, and by any method you please, for he is a
complete master of the trade. He will make all kinds of tools with the
utmost ease and simplicity. He will also forge chains, wheels, joints,
and levers, work in iron or steel, in “=T=” stuff, or angle iron; every
conceivable shape and form of work is subject to his operation. If you
put him at the steam-hammer he is still at home; he will forge out an
ingot or bloom with the best man on the ground.

All the lightest work falls upon the young apprentices and the very old
men, who are too feeble to undertake heavy and trying tasks, but are yet
far too valuable to be dispensed with altogether. The apprentices
perform such work as simple setting and bending, the making of bolts and
eyes, rings and links for chains and so on. They usually come to the
work at the age of sixteen, and stay for five or six years, when they
voluntarily hand in their notices and migrate to other towns. There they
are received as improvers, or as journeymen, and are forthwith paid the
trade rate of wages. This varies considerably in many localities, and it
is to be noted that railway sheds almost always provide the very lowest
wages. Since the work is constant and sure, however, and is not subject
to the many fluctuations of the contract shop, the stability of
employment is counted a certain compensation for lower wages, and the
majority of smiths accept the conditions philosophically.

The young apprentices are strong and sturdy, and invariably of a sound
constitution; one never sees a sickly-looking youth taking up the
occupation of smithing. This accounts for the fine physique and often
big proportions of the senior smith; the reason being that the youths
chosen were hardy and suitable, and showed signs of physical
development. The sons of smiths usually choose the trade of their
fathers and follow in their footsteps. There is consequently often a
hereditary quality in the workman; they have been a family of smiths for

The smiths, provided they are strong and healthy, are usually retained
at the forge till they have reached the age of seventy when, under the
present rule, they are required to leave. Even this is a kind of
concession to them, for, generally speaking, the other workmen are
turned off long before they reach such an advanced age. The smith’s
usefulness, even in his age, is the cause of this; though feeble, he is
still able to do good work and to help with his knowledge and
experience. He is usually employed at tool-making, or at other light
occupations. His poor old hand, almost as hard as iron, shakes with the
weight of the hammer; his head trembles visibly, and his legs totter
beneath him. He comes in early in the morning, in order to avoid the
crush. He brings his meals with him and eats them in the forge, and he
is the last going out at night. In his decline he is forced to live near
the works--only a street or so from the entrance--and even then it takes
him a long time to hobble to and fro. In the evening and at week-ends he
usually stays at home to rest, or he may possibly look in to see a
friend, or to take a mug of ale at the neighbouring inn.

It is a sad day for him when he receives intelligence of his discharge.
Feeble as he is become, he has a real affection for the smithy, and is
never so happy as when he is at his forge and anvil. As long as he can
drag himself backwards and forwards, see the old faces, and snuff the
breath of the fires, he is content. His health, too, which has been
maintained by the constant exercise of his trade, is passable while he
can do a little work. When he is forced to lie idle, and to forego his
regular habit of early rising and the exertion of his muscles with the
hammer, that suffers as a matter of course. His joints forthwith become
stiff and set; his little store of strength, instead of increasing with
the change, wastes and declines. In a very short while he is dead, and
his old bones are haled away to the cemetery on top of the hill. A
number of his mates and fellow-smiths follow him to the grave and
witness the last rites, not for the sake of formality, but out of pure
friendship and respect. His name is certain to live long in the annals
of the smithy.

The oldest hand in the forge at the present time is aged sixty-eight,
though there were recently several above this age who have now been
placed on the retired list or superannuated by their societies. He has
led a hard life, and affords a very good example of the average type of
smith. He was apprenticed at Cheltenham and made a journeyman at
Gloucester. From that city he passed on to Worcester, and went thence to
Birmingham, working for about a year at each place. Afterwards he
migrated to Sheffield--the home of furnaces and forges--and shifted
thence in turn to Liverpool, Lancaster, Rotherham, Durham, and several
other manufacturing centres, settling finally in the railway town. He
has brought up a big family and seen them all established in life. Of
his sons several are smiths; one is in America, one in Africa, and one
at home in England. He has saved enough money to buy his house, and he
has a few pounds besides, so that he has no fear of being reduced to
want. He has worked hard and lived well, and he has always drunk his
glass of ale. He is associated with several bodies and committees, and
he has presented a bed to the local hospital out of his earnings, with
the natural condition that smiths have the first claim upon it. Though
his hand is a little unsteady with continual use of the tools, he can
still manage a fair day’s work. He is very proud of his trade and takes
great delight in telling you of his travels and adventures. Every summer
he passes the examination of old smiths made by the works’ manager to
see that they are fit for duty, and he still looks forward to years of
activity at the forge.

Nearly all the smiths live in the town and within easy reach of their
work. A few only of their number have had a rustic apprenticeship. The
great majority of those in the shed have learnt the rudiments of their
trade in factories, and have migrated from place to place. By living in
the midst of large towns and cities, they have become almost indifferent
to surroundings and are able to make themselves happy and comfortable in
the most crowded and uncongenial situations. For the beauties of
external nature they care but little; they appear to be wholly wrapt up
in and concerned with their own vocation. They nearly all belong to
unions and organisations, and are the most independent of men, though
they do not make a great parade of the fact. Their independence is born
of self-confidence--the knowledge of their own usefulness and worth, and
the strength of their position. If they should choose to leave one place
they are certain of getting employment elsewhere, for a good smith is
never out of work for long together. Other trades suffer considerably
through slackness of employment, but there is a constant demand for
smiths and hammermen. The fact is that fewer smiths and forgemen are
made, in proportion to their numbers, than is the case with some other
trades. The work is hard and laborious, and the life must be one of toil
and sacrifice.

Although some smiths drink an enormous quantity of cold water at the
forge there are others who seldom taste a drop of the liquid. If you ask
them the reason why, they will tell you that it is not a wise plan to
drink much cold water at work. They say that it causes cramp in the
stomach, colds, rash, and itching of the skin, and add that it makes
them sweat very much more than they would otherwise do. The more you
drink, they say, the more you want to drink, and it is but a habit
acquired. If you care to use yourself to it you may work in the greatest
heat and feel very few ill effects from it if you are abstemious in the
taking of liquids. At the same time, the majority of smiths do drink
water, and that copiously, and seem to thrive well upon it. Such as do
this, and are fat and well, when spoken to upon the matter, always smile
broadly and tell you it is the result of having a contented mind and of
drinking plenty of cold water.

It is certain that those who drink most perspire most, but that does not
appear to hurt them in the least, and you often hear it said by a
workman who is not addicted to perspiring freely that he feels very
“stuffy” and congested and that he should be better if he could sweat
more. A delightful feeling is experienced after a good sweating at work.
Every nerve and tissue seems to be aglow with intensest life; the blood
courses through the body and limbs freely and vigorously, and produces a
sense of unspeakable physical pleasure. Sweating as the result of
physical exercise has a powerful effect upon the mind, as well as upon
the body; it clears the vision and invigorates the brain, and is a
perfect medicine for many ailments, both mental and physical. If many of
the languid and indolent, who never do any work or indulge in sturdy
exercise, were suddenly to rouse themselves up and do sufficient
physical labour, either for themselves or for someone else, to procure a
good sweating at least twice a week, they would feel immeasurably better
for it. Life would have a new meaning for them. They would eat better,
rest better, and sleep better. They would feel fresher and stronger,
altogether more active and vigorous, more sympathetic and satisfied.
Though he is, as a rule, quite unaware of it, the workman derives
considerably more physical pleasure from life than do those persons,
mistakenly envied, who do nothing, for everything has a relish to him,
while to the others all is flat and insipid. Truly work is the salt of
life, and physical work at that, though there is a most passionate
desire in many quarters to be well rid of it.

The majority of the smiths, even though they do not drink much cold
water in the forge, are fond of a glass of ale; there are very few
teetotalers among them. No one would wish to imply by this that they are
“wettish customers.” The very nature of their work makes them thirsty,
and though they constrain their appetites while they are at the fires,
nevertheless when they come to the town they feel bound to go in
somewhere or other and “wet the whistle,” as they term it. After a hot
turn in the shed the foaming ale goes down with a delicious relish and
the smith feels that he is entitled to enjoy that pleasure, considering
how hard he has toiled all day in the heat and dust. There is also the
evening paper to be read, after which follows a chat with his mate, and
all the hard toil is for the moment forgotten. Rested and refreshed, the
man of the forge goes home to his wife and children and partakes of a
good tea, feeling very fit and on excellent terms with himself and

It is rather remarkable that smiths do not smoke very much tobacco. In
the use of the weed they are very moderate, though the strikers and
mates easily make up for the deficiency. Every day, after having their
meals in the smithy, they walk out into the town or stand under the
bridge to “have a draw” and read the morning newspaper, returning
leisurely about ten minutes before it is time to start work again.

To his mates and strikers, while at the forge, the smith is rather quiet
and reserved, often speaking very little and seldom discussing with them
matters apart from the work. This is not out of any undue feeling of
pride in himself or unsociableness, but because he is full of his work,
and disinclined to talk much. Neither is he given to the discussing of
political and social problems and continually seeking an opportunity for
holding an argument with this or that one. It is characteristic of him
to view everything calmly and soberly; he is imbued with the genuine
philosophical temperament. It is a certain and invariable rule that the
one who has the most ready tongue and is always ripe for an argument is
not the most energetic and proficient at his employment. If such a one
as this should desire to entangle the sturdy smith in a cobweb of
discussion he is bluntly and unceremoniously told to “clear out,” for he
has no time to listen to such “stuff.” Off the premises, however, he is
friendly and indulgent to his mates and strikers. When he meets them in
the town he stops and speaks to them and invites them to have a glass of
ale at his expense.

The religious beliefs of the smiths are not as well-known as are those
of some classes of workmen, for they are not in the habit of discovering
themselves to outsiders. Though he who has his forge in the village,
under the old elm or spreading chestnut, may go regularly to church,
there is no evidence to prove that those who dwell in the town imitate
him in that respect. Their Sundays appear to be spent chiefly at home in
rest and quietness, in company with their wives and families. A few,
plainly and simply dressed--for the smith heartily hates all foppishness
and superficial ornament--may be seen in the evening walking out towards
the fields. The majority, however, stay indoors and recuperate for the
coming week’s work, or merely go to see their friends who live a few
streets away. But if they do not go to church or chapel they are far
from being deficient in charitableness and true piety. They merely aim
to live the best life they can and to do good wherever possible. Their
religion is one of kindness to all; they are at once large-hearted and
broad-minded, honest, just, and liberal. Their sympathy for their
fellows arises largely from the fact that they are well acquainted with
hard toil; they know what it is to work and sweat, to be hot and
thirsty, beaten and tired. Theirs is no gentlemanly occupation, such as
is that of some other journeymen; not merely the theoretical exercise of
a craft, but one that requires good, solid exertion, such as brings out
all that is best in a man.

A proof of their utter good-nature and kindness to their fellows may be
seen in the fact of their having, for the last twenty years, made a
voluntary weekly offering of a halfpenny per man to the local Cottage
Hospital. This is taken once a fortnight, the condition being that it
must be unsolicited and a straight gift. In twenty years the sum
collected has amounted to over two hundred pounds. This is quite
independent of the annual collections made for charities, in which the
smiths again always head the list by a large margin. There is no other
example at the works of such spontaneous good-nature, and this will
show, more than any words, the true characteristics of the brawny men at
the forges.

The smiths’ foreman is the very personification of his class, and is a
highly interesting study. He is of great stature--he is over six feet in
height--with broad, square shoulders and large limbs; fleshy, but not
corpulent. His forehead is wide and steep; he has bushy brows, iron grey
hair and beard, and red cheeks. His eyes are frank and honest; his
voice deep and gruff, but not unkind; and when he speaks to you he looks
you full in the face. His whole figure is striking; he towers above the
majority of his workmen. His weight, as he tells you himself, with a
mixture of pride and modesty and the suspicion of a smile, is nineteen
stone six. After this he hastens to inform you that he is not the
heaviest at his house, for his good wife turns the scale at twenty-two
stone. He has been once married and is the father of a large
family--nineteen in all--twelve of whom are yet living. His age is well
over sixty, and he will soon have to retire from the forge, though he is
still hale and hearty, fond of a glass of good beer, and, as he
frequently and forcibly tells you, he is “a great eater of beef.”

As for scholarship and culture, he makes no claim to either, for he
never had the opportunity of much education, though he is a famous
smith, and is gifted with the rare faculty of getting his men into a
good humour and keeping them there. He is on good terms with all his
staff; is jealous of their interests, open and honest in his dealings
with them, and he has the satisfaction of being respected in return. He
is one of the old school, of a type that is nearly extinct now; a bold
defender of the rights of smiths, a hard and fast believer in the
hand-made article. Naturally, for him, he is suspicious of all modern
machinery that tends to do away with the trade of the smithy, and he
swears by the most unbreakable oaths that whatever is done by the newer
systems of forging and stamping he is able to equal it on the anvil,
both as regards strength and cheapness. When the managers recently
attempted to bring about sweeping reductions in the prices throughout
the smithy he opposed them at every point, swore that he was master in
his own shed, and that no one but he should be allowed to fix prices.
“When I am gone you can do just whatever you like, but I’m going to
have a say in things as long as I’m about here,” said he. On the
managers insisting to cut the prices, he unceremoniously took off his
coat, and, turning up his shirt-sleeves, presented the representative
with a pair of tongs and a hammer and challenged him to have a trial at
the game himself. “Here’s my fire, guvnor, and there’s yourn. Come on
with you and let’s see what you can do, and if you can make it at your
price I’ll give in to you, but you’ll never do it in the world.” Only
one or two prices fell in the whole shed. The managers abstained from
further interference and since that time the smiths have been but very
little molested.

No one could walk through the forge and observe the splendid physique
and bearing of the smiths, their skill and dexterity with the tools at
the fires and anvil, without a feeling of pride and genuine admiration
for them. They are a fine body of men, and their frankness and
good-nature, their freedom from ostentation, and general
straightforwardness impress one even more than do their physical
qualities, and help to fix them more deeply and truly in his regard and
esteem. They are not little and petty; they are not spiteful and
malicious. They are not jealous of each other’s skill and position; they
are no tale-bearers. They seldom quarrel about politics or religion, or
hold any other controversy in the shed or out of it. Their attitude to
each other is fair and unquestionable; they are natural and spontaneous,
very free and generous. If proof is needed of this you have but to come
into the smithy and see for yourselves. You will find it written in
their faces in unmistakable characters. You will discover it in a
greater degree if you converse with them. You will be completely
satisfied as to their genuineness and quite convinced of the justice of
these observations.



There are two large fitting sheds at the works--for engine- and
carriage-fitting. They differ in several respects but are on the whole
consimilar, both in the nature of the work done and in the composition
and individuality of the staffs employed. The duties of the fitters are
very well indicated by their denominative: they prepare and fit together
all the machinery parts for the locomotives and carriages as well as the
steam-brake details and other apparatus of a complicated nature. The
sheds also serve as centres for supplying the other shops with their
small staffs of fitters who superintend repairs to the local machinery,
attend to the steam-hammers, fix new shafting, and so on.

The fitting sheds are large buildings and are packed with machinery of
every conceivable shape and kind. Within them are lathes large and
small, machines for slotting, shaping and drilling, drills for boring
round and square holes, punches and shears, hydraulic tackle, and
various other curious appliances almost incapable of description. There
are hundreds of yards of steel shafting, pulleys and wheels innumerable,
and miles of beltage. The space between the roof and the floor seems to
be entirely occupied with swiftly-revolving wheels and belts. To view
the interior is like peering into a dense forest where all is tangled
and confused and everything is in a state of perpetual motion. At the
same time there is a minimum of noise. Here are no steam-hammers beating
on the stubborn masses of iron and steel and making the foundations of
the earth tremble beneath you, no riveters’ hammers battering on the
hollow plates of the frames and boilers, and no pneumatic tools ringing
out sharply and driving one to distraction with the unspeakable din. The
wheels revolve almost without sound; the shafting turns and spins
silently. The lathes are nearly noiseless in operation, and the drills
only creak a little now and then as a small portion of the detached
metal becomes blocked underneath the tool and runs round with it. The
greatest noise is made by those who are busily chipping at the benches;
otherwise there is comparative quiet when we remember the tremendous din
of the neighbouring workshops.

As there are no furnaces or forges in the fitting shed, and abundant
ventilation, the air is cool and free from smoke and fume. The work is
less laborious than is that of the smithy or frame shed, and the men are
not required to perspire much. Both the fitters and the machinemen wear
cloth suits, with a thin blue jacket or “slop” and overalls, and you
rarely see them stripped or with their shirt-sleeves turned up. This is
so much the rule that if they should be seen to take off their coats at
a job in either of the outlying sheds the circumstance will be noted as
of unusual occurrence by the rank and file. They will immediately raise
a good-natured laugh and jokingly tell them to “put their jackets on if
they don’t want to catch a cold.” One local fitter, by reason of his
great fondness for carrying a drawing with him wherever he goes and the
readiness and ease with which he has resort to it in order to explain
away the most trivial detail, has earned for himself the title of “The
Drawing King.” A second, as the result of his artificial activity with
the callipers, is styled “Calliper King,” while a third, by his
volubility, has secured the expressive nickname of “Fish-mouth.”

An amusing and true story is told of a chargeman of the fitting shed. He
was lying seriously ill and believed himself to be at the point of
death. While in that condition he was conscience-stricken at the thought
that he had had one or two very good prices for work in the shed. He
accordingly sent for his foreman to come and visit him. When he arrived
the sick man unburdened his soul and begged him to cut the prices
forthwith; he said he “could not die with it on his mind.” In due time
the prices were cut. The old fellow’s period had not yet come, however.
He got better and had the satisfaction of returning to the shed and
working at the reduced rates, the laughing-stock of his companions.

The fitters are usually looked upon as the men _par excellence_ of the
shed. Like the smiths, they have usually travelled far. Some have
visited every part of the kingdom, while others may have served
abroad--in America, at the Cape of Good Hope, in China, or Egypt. A few
have been artificers in the Navy or in the Mercantile Marine; here is
one, for instance, who, by reason of his nautical experiences, has
gained the nickname of “Deep Sea Joe.” It will commonly be found that
those who have gone furthest from home are not only the best workmen--as
having had a more varied and extensive experience--but they are also
more broad-minded and sympathetic towards their mates and labourers.

The majority of the fitters are members of Trades Unions, and of all
other classes at the works, perhaps, they take the greatest pains to
protect themselves and their interests. By contributing to the funds
of their organisations they are insured against accidents, strikes,
or dismissal, and are thus placed in a position of considerable
independence. They are required to serve an apprenticeship of five or
seven years’ duration before they are recognised as journeymen and they
are, by a common rule, compelled to go further afield in order to obtain
the standard rate of wages. Nearly all the foremen of the different
sheds are appointed from among the fitters; whatever qualities an
outsider may discover he stands but little chance of being preferred for
the post.

Before a fitter has been promoted to the position of foreman he is a
bold champion of the rights of Labour, one loud in the expression of his
sympathy with his fellowmen, a staunch believer in the liberty of the
individual and a hearty condemner of the factory system. If he has been
appointed overseer, however, there is a considerable change in his
manner and attitude towards all these and kindred subjects. A great
modification of his personal views and opinions soon follows; he begins
to look at things from the official standpoint. He is now fond of
telling you that “things are not as they used to be.” Possibly they are
not, as far as he himself is concerned, but there is another view of the
situation. At the same time, he will be fairly loyal to his old mates,
the journeyman fitters, and treat them with superior respect. To the
labourers, however, he will not be so well-disposed. He will ignore
their interests and rule them with a rod of iron.

I have said that steam-hammer forging is on the decline in the railway
town. The chief cause of this is the recent development of the process
of manufacturing malleable cast steel, which has largely taken the place
of wrought iron forging both in the locomotive and elsewhere. Formerly
all wheels were forged in sections and were afterwards welded up, and
the work provided constant employment for the steam-hammer men. Now they
are obtained elsewhere, more cheaply, it may be, though they are of an
inferior quality. Engine-cranks also, which at one time were made
exclusively on the premises, are nearly all bought away from the town,
and this was a second great loss to the shed. All that remains is the
manufacture of the less important details, such as connection rods and
levers, with a few special or repair cranks now and then.

The steam-hammer shed has thus been deprived of much of its importance.
The big machines, capable of striking a blow equivalent to a hundred or
two hundred tons’ pressure, have been removed and put on the scrap-heap,
and their places have been filled by other and less powerful plant. The
old forgemen, too, with their mates who worked the furnaces, are
missing. Of these, some are dead, some have been discharged, while
others have been reduced and are scattered about the yard. He who
formerly shouted out his orders at the steam-hammer and controlled the
mighty mass of iron or steel with the porter, turning it round and round
to receive the tremendous blow, is now hobbling about with a shovel and
wheel-barrow, cleaning up the refuse of the yard, in receipt of a
miserable pittance. Perhaps he is lame as the result of a blow, or he
has a withered arm through its having been “jumped up” with the driving
back of the porter, or he may have lost an eye. A portion of steel has
fled from the hammer rod, or from the “ram,” and struck him in the eye
and he is blind as a consequence.

Several years ago there was at the factory a splendid forger, a cool and
highly-skilful workman, and one possessed of fine physique. He was tall,
square and broad built, full of bone and muscle, solid and strong, and,
though of seventeen or eighteen stone in weight, he was very nimble and
of unerring judgment. One day he received the offer of a job in the
Midlands, at nearly double the wages he was getting in the railway town,
and he decided to accept the post. Accordingly he left the shed and took
over his new duties. He had not been away long, however, before he met
with a serious accident that quite incapacitated him from following his
occupation as a forgeman. A careless or unskilful hammer-driver had
struck a terrific blow out of time, and the porter-bar, driven out
suddenly, forced the forger’s hand and arm violently to the shoulder,
completely crippling him. A ruined man, he came back to the town and
gained a wretched livelihood by helping to serve the bricklayers and
masons with his one arm.

The steam-hammer forger is one of the most skilful and useful, as well
as the most interesting of men. He may possibly have learned his trade
in the town, or he may hail from Sheffield, Middlesborough, Scotland or
Wales. All these places are noted for extensive manufactures in iron and
steel and for the efficiency of their workmen, and especially of their
forgers and furnacemen. If any forger in the shed is reputed to have
come from the Midlands, the North, or the iron region of Wales, he is
sure to be considered something of a prodigy. He comes bearing with him
a part of the laurels of his township and all eyes will be upon him to
see how he acquits himself of the responsibility. Very often, however,
he quite fails to fulfil the expectations entertained of him and is
easily beaten by the local men. After all, it was but the name; he is no
better than many who have learned their trade in the shed. Perhaps he is
not even as efficient as they, though he did come from “Ironopolis” and
forged very many tons of steel ingots in an incredibly short space of
time, though this happened “years ago,” if you chance to press him at
all concerning the matter.

The forger is not always a man of big physical proportions. On the
contrary, he is more usually of a medium, or even of a diminutive type;
you seldom or never find one as stout and heavy as is the average smith.
The nature of the toil forbids this. The smith, at his work, is more or
less stationary. His forging, moreover, is not so heavy, nor is he
exposed to such great heat. The forgeman’s ingot may weigh four or five
tons, all blazing hot, with a porter-bar of thirty hundredweight or more
attached, and though this will be suspended from the crane and he will
have several mates to help him, it will yet require the whole of their
powers to remove it from the furnace to the hammer and to turn it over
or push it backwards and forwards to receive the ponderous blow. But if
the forgeman is inferior to the smith in the matter of stature and bulk,
he easily beats him in strength. He is a very lion in this respect.
Underneath his thin, shrunken cheeks and skinny arms are sinews almost
as tough as steel itself. In the most blinding and deadly heat of the
furnace, with three or four tons of dazzling metal exactly in front of
him and the sweat pouring out of the hollows of his grimy cheeks and
running down his nose and chin to drop in a continual stream on the
ground beneath, he still pushes, heaves, and shouts loudly to his mates,
and works and slaves quite unconcernedly. He is almost as fresh at the
end of the operation as he was at the beginning. Nothing seems to tire
him down; he is for ever active and vigorous.

The forgeman often proves to be a rather irritable individual, one sharp
and sour to his mates and hasty in his temper. His companions at the
hammer--with the exception of the furnaceman--are so many children to
him; he orders them here and there with the slightest ceremony and
shouts out his orders at the top of his voice. At every command he
utters they hasten to obey, fearing his testiness, and when he roars out
at them they shake in their boots. Perhaps they are slow in handing him
a tool, or they have applied the wrong gauge, or the hammer-driver has
struck too hard a blow. Whatever it is, the forgeman’s wrath is aroused
and they must suffer for it. In his anger he calls them many names that
could not be styled complimentary and withers them with looks. Then,
whatever kind of blow the hammerman strikes, it will be wrong. If it is
light, he wanted it heavy; if heavy, he required it light--the mere
suggestion of a blow. He will often, in the same breath, roar out at the
top of his voice--“Hit ’im! Hit ’im! Light! LIGHT! LIGHT!” and will
immediately explode with passion because his order was not acted upon to
the letter. By and by the exasperated hammer-driver will venture to
reply to his autocratic mate, and a smart battle of words ensues, in
which the forgeman, however, usually comes off best. The old furnaceman,
greyheaded, or totally bald with the heat, will fire away with his coals
and wink at the gaugeman now and then, but never a word will he utter.
He knows his mate thoroughly, and understands his temper perfectly.
Accordingly, he hears all and says nothing; it makes but little
difference to him which way the forging goes as long as he has performed
his heat properly. Perhaps, after this, things may run a little more
smoothly for a time, or matters may even become worse. I have known
mates to work at the same hammer and not speak to each other for a year,
not even to give the necessary instructions as to carrying out the

Though there could be no excuse for this foolish exhibition of
ill-nature, many apologies may yet be made for the nervous and irritable
forgeman. In the first place, his work is enormously hard and exacting;
and in the second, there is a great responsibility resting upon him
which is not shared by his workmates. The value of the forging in his
hands is often considerable, and the least error on the part of his
furnaceman or hammer-driver might completely spoil it. If the metal
should be in the slightest degree overheated it would burst all to
pieces at the first blow of the hammer, and if the hammer-driver should
happen to strike a heavy blow at a critical moment, he might spoil the
piece in that way, or otherwise necessitate a considerable amount of
labour to get it into shape again. All this is a matter of serious care
to the forgeman, and as his mates are very often raw hands or careless,
dull-headed fellows, it is not to be wondered at that he should now and
then discover some perverseness of temper.

It is interesting to note the style of working adopted by different
forgers. This, of course, will vary with the man’s capability for the
job, his gift, his skill acquired, and his natural temper. All forgers
are not possessed of a uniformity of skill and capacity, any more than
are all musicians and painters equal in their arts; wherever you go you
will find good, bad and indifferent workmen. It may at once be said,
however, that bad forgemen are not tolerated for any length of time. If
they cannot handle the porter and bring their ingot or bloom to a
successful finish they are quickly removed and better men put in place
of them, for iron and steel ingots are too valuable to be wasted with
impunity. As a rule, the quiet workman is the best; that is, he who
talks least to his mates, and who does not bawl out every order at the
top of his voice. Such a one will often remove his bloom from the
furnace, bring it to the hammer and complete it without speaking a word.
A nod of the head or a few motions of the hand will be sufficient; his
mates understand him perfectly and everything proceeds without a hitch.
The hammer-driver, encouraged to use his discretion, knows exactly what
kind of a blow to strike--heavy or light, light or heavy--when to stop
and when to begin. The grimy mate, usually styled the donkeyman, stands
by with the gauges; at each pause he fits them to the white-hot mass of
iron or steel and again the hammer descends, regularly and evenly. The
tremendous “monkey” goes high up, almost out of sight overhead, and
glides noiselessly downwards till it beats the metal, making the pulley
chains rattle and jingle and the whole shed to totter and tremble. I
have often sat on a gate, or under the trees in the fields on a still
evening, towards midnight, and counted the blows struck on an obstinate
forging in the shed five miles distant.

It is a pleasure to watch the skilful forgeman perform his heat and
shape the ponderous bloom under the steam-hammer. If you observe him
closely you will see that he scarcely moves his body. He stands in one
position, easily and naturally, all the time, in a slightly stooping
attitude, yet he has full power over the heavy weight in his hands. When
he shifts the porter, or turns the forging round, his arms are the
instruments; it is all performed deftly and simply, with a minimum of
exertion. There is a style in it the most casual observer must readily
perceive. He cannot help being struck with the extreme simplicity and
attractiveness of the whole operation, and he will at once recognise the
skilful forger from the unskilful, the gifted craftsman from the mere
amateur or improver.

The inferior forgeman will be full of excitement, noise and bustle. He
will peer into the furnace half-a-dozen times before he is satisfied as
to the heat of the bloom, and grumble and scold the furnaceman all the
while. Then, after darting to and fro, backwards and forwards, kicking
things out of his way and seeing to this and to that, he bawls out to
his mates to “pull up, and get on the pulley chain.” After a
considerable amount of pulling and shoving, grunting, sweating, twisting
and turning the ingot, he at last succeeds in bringing it to the hammer,
having lost a great part of the heat in the transit. Even now he is
undecided as to how to begin the shaping of the piece and has to
consider a moment or two before giving the word to start. At last he
shouts out to the driver, and the preliminary blows fall. A dozen times,
where there is no need of it, he stops the hammer and makes his mate try
the gauges. Then he goes on again, thump, thump, thump, now shouting out
“Light!” at the top of his voice, following up with a very loud “Whoa!”
If his mate happens to be in the way he gives him a rough push and tells
him to “get out,” takes up the gauges and fits them himself and
afterwards throws them down with violence, and repeats the performance
till the bloom is in some manner completed. When the porter-bar has been
lopped off and the forging placed on the ground he examines it several
times, going to the furnace and coming back to view his half-finished
labour and making as much fuss as though he had just forged a
battleship, till even the door-boy is disgusted and passes sarcastic
remarks upon his ceremonious chief. Considerably more slotting and
shaping will always be required on his piece than on that of the other
forgeman, and his work will be left till last in the machine shop. The
skilful forger will shape his bloom perfectly, so that there will be but
a very small amount of facing to do to it; his work will be sure to
receive praise, while the other’s will as certainly be execrated.

The men of the steam-hammer shed differ from the rest of the factory
hands in having to work a twelve-hour day. Very often the heats are
ready to draw out at meal-times, and it would be ruinous to leave them
to waste in the furnace while the men went home to breakfast and dinner.
Accordingly, the forger and his mates boil water in a can on the neck of
the furnace, or over a piece of hot metal, and make their own tea to
drink. Occasionally the mid-day meal is brought to the factory entrance
by the forgeman’s little son or daughter, or he may bring in a large
basin full of cooked meat and vegetables and warm it up himself. Perhaps
the fare is a rasher of bacon. This the workman brings in raw and either
roasts it over the furnace door, or on a lump of hot iron. Perhaps he
uses a roughly-made frying-pan; or he may place it in the furnaceman’s
shovel in order to cook it. If the furnaceman sees him, however, he will
certainly forbid this, for heating the shovel will spoil the temper of
the steel and cause it to warp. He will say, moreover, that coal charged
into the furnace with a shovel that has had “that mess” in it will never
heat the iron, and I have more than once seen the half-cooked food
unceremoniously turned out into the coal-dust. A common name for the
roughly-made frying-pan is a “rasher-waggon.”

At night, when the day’s work is over and everything has been left neat
and tidy for the succeeding shift, the forger stows his leathern apron,
cap and jackboots, rinses his hands in the bosh, and leaves the shed,
walking a little in advance of his mates and preserving the same temper
he has displayed at the toil. His mates, however, together with the
ingenuous and mischievous door-boy, are not so conventional in their
behaviour. Since they are free to go home and roam the streets or
trudge off into the country once more, they indulge in games and fun
before they leave, and sing and whistle to their heart’s content.
Meanwhile the old furnaceman has damped his fire and made everything
ready for the mate who succeeds him. Now he, too, swills his hands in
the bosh and gives his sweaty old face an extra special rub with the
wiper, puts the muffler around his neck, slips on his jacket, and,
taking his dinner-can under his arm, proceeds through the tunnel and out
into the town.

Very few of the forgemen were born in the town; they have nearly all
come in from the villages round about and become urbanised. After their
toils in the hot shed they do not want to have to journey far to their
homes. Their dwellings are consequently usually within easy distance of
the forge, though here and there is to be found one who has the courage
to continue in his native village. As their wages are above the average
paid at the works--though the rate is not nearly as high as it is at
most steam-hammer sheds--the forgers are enabled to indulge themselves
in the matter of living. Their food will accordingly be of the very best
quality, and when that has been paid for there is yet a fair supply of
pocket money remaining. Most forgemen are fond of a glass of ale; it is
a rare thing to find a teetotaler in their ranks. They are much given to
talking of their achievements at all times and in all places, and they
occupy long hours in telling of the famous jobs they have done on many
occasions--a special crank for this or that engine, a big piston-rod or
monkey for an outside firm, or a mighty anchor for an ocean-going

In point of real usefulness and importance the boilermakers stand second
to none at the works. Though they may not be as highly skilled as are
the fitters individually, collectively they form a much more imposing
and vigorous body, and one that is far more essential to the absolute
needs of the firm. To whatever extent the forger or fitter may be done
without, or unskilled men put in place of them, that is not possible in
the case of the boilersmith. His labour, as well as being very
important, is distinct from that of all others at the factory; his is an
exclusive profession. In the making of locomotives for the line the
boiler is by far the greatest item, and it is very difficult and
expensive to construct. The work must be performed with exquisite care
and everything must be conscientiously well done. There must be no
shoddy work in a boiler; no “nobbling over,” concealment of flaws, or
deception of any kind, or disastrous consequences would be inevitable.
The plates must all be admirably shaped and fitted, the bolts and stays
very strong and sound, and the whole most carefully adjusted and
riveted. The time required for the construction of a first-class boiler
for a locomotive is about six months, and the cost is near about a
thousand pounds. All the inner plates are of copper, which is used in
order to allow of regular expansion and contraction. The tubes are of
iron or steel, and number several hundreds. Tubing is a branch of work
distinct from boilermaking properly so-called, and is undertaken by
those less skilful than are required for the other processes.

Boilermakers are divided into two classes--the platers and the riveters.
Those of the first grade prepare the plates, perform the marking-off and
cutting-out, see to the drilling of the holes and afterwards bolt the
parts together. The riveters follow and make everything solid and
compact. Nearly all the riveting is done by hand; very little is left to
the chance work of the machine, which is often faulty and unreliable.
Rivets put in by hand are far more trustworthy than are those done by
the machine. The hammered heads will be tougher and more durable than
those that have been squeezed up by the hydraulic apparatus.

The two grades of boilermakers are kept separate and distinct. Every man
is provided with a card certifying to which class he belongs, whether to
the platers or riveters, and he can--as a general rule--only obtain a
job upon that kind of work specified by his ticket. Similarly, if he has
been employed on repair work for any length of time he will have great
difficulty in getting re-admittance into the ranks of those engaged on
the new boilers. The trade throughout is jealously guarded and
protected. The rules are well-defined and published far and wide; there
is no setting aside the regulations. Notwithstanding the division of
work on a boiler the efficient boilersmith is qualified to construct one
throughout, from the marking of the plates to the insertion of the
tubes. The valves and other fixings are usually attached by the fitters.

The din of the frame shed and the unearthly noise of the pneumatic
apparatus on the headstocks and plates is not to be compared with the
tremendous uproar of the boiler shop. Here are no less than two hundred
huge boilers, either new ones being made, or old ones undergoing repairs
and engaging the attentions of four or five hundred boilersmiths, to say
nothing of tubers and labourers hammering and battering away on the
shells and interiors. There are boilers in every stage of construction
and in every conceivable position on the stocks. Some are upright, some
are upside down, some are standing on end, some lying on their sides,
and others are scattered broadcast. The workmen swarm like ants
everywhere, crawling over the tops, inside and out, in the smoke-box
and fire-box, and lying on their backs underneath. Hundreds of tools are
in operation at once. Hundreds of hammers are falling, banging and
clanging perpetually, with an indescribable noise and confusion. If you
would be heard you must shout at the top of your voice and make yourself
hoarse in the attempt. The boilersmiths, who are used to the conditions,
do not try to address each other at their work; they have discovered an
expedient. Instead of straining their throats and lungs in the vain
effort to make themselves heard they simply motion with the head or
hands; their mates come to know what is required and obey the
telegraphic intimation, and so the work proceeds.

The boilermakers are a bold and hardy class, sturdy in their views and
outlook, and very independent. As in the case of the fitters, smiths,
and other journeymen, they have travelled far and wide and become
acquainted with many workshops and sets of conditions. Very often they
will have tramped the whole country, from end to end, in search of
employment, for though as a class they are indispensable their ranks are
often over-crowded, and when trade is slack the services of many of them
are dispensed with. As with the majority of other journeymen, if they
are thrown out of employment, though they may be idle for a long time
and reduced to dire straights, they seldom deign to do other work, but
shift from place to place and beg food along the highways and through
the villages. Though verging on starvation they cannot, even for a short
period, be prevailed upon to abandon the idea of their trade, but still
crowd around the factory doors and hope for a revival of the industry.

A short time ago a party of boilermen, who had been discharged from the
town, made weekly visits to the villages round about pretending that
they had walked from Sunderland and Newcastle--where a big strike had
been declared--and calling themselves a deputation empowered to collect
money for their mates at home in the North. The spokesman, a voluble and
impudent scoundrel, told impressive stories of hardships and suffering
and drew a great many coins from the credulous and sympathetic rustics.
By and by, however, a second party, with exactly the same story, came on
the scene and professed to be highly indignant on being told that they
had been anticipated in their office as collectors. The second batch of
visitors did not solicit money; they demanded it, and any who refused
were subjected to abuse and threatening language. At last the suspicions
of the villagers were aroused. They doubted the genuineness of the tales
of distress and of the long march from far-off Sunderland, and closed
their doors to the importunate strangers. Very soon trade in the railway
town revived; the majority of the men were reinstated and the
countryside knew them no more.

The iron foundry is but a few yards from the boiler shed; you may very
quickly be introduced to it, with the noise of the hammers and the
clatter of the pneumatic apparatus still ringing loudly in your ears.
After the din of the boiler shop the quietude of the foundry will be the
more remarkable. Here are no plates to be beaten, no rapidly revolving
pulleys and shafting, and no uproar. All that can be heard is the dull
roar of the blast furnace half-way up the shed, and the subdued noise of
the traversing table in the roof above you. The floor is of soft,
yielding sand, similar to that of which the moulds for the castings are
made, and it is noiseless under the feet. The men sit or kneel on the
ground, with their patterns beside them, and construct the duplicates to
receive the molten metal. As soon as the moulds are finished the dark,
grimy labourers bring the molten liquid, either carrying it in a thick
iron vessel lined with firebricks and having a spout on one side--as you
would carry a stretcher--or wheeling it along in a big cauldron that
swings like a pot, and pour it in through a small space left for that

The chief interest to the visitor centres in the furnace that contains
the molten fluid. This is a large, cylindrical structure, enclosed in a
steel frame, towering high into the roof and emitting a terrific heat
all around. Near the top is a large platform, reached by an iron
stairway, up which you are invited to mount by the grimy furnaceman,
more often in jest than in earnest, for the heat there is overpowering.
The handrail of the stairway seems nearly red-hot, and the air, puffed
out from the furnace, strikes you full in the face, so that you are
almost suffocated with it. On the platform is the feeding-place where
the fuel and metal are charged--coke to produce the heat and material
for the molten fluid, either old broken up castings, or bars of new pig
iron. Both iron and coke are thrown in and fused up together. The fluid
metal collects and flows out in front, while the debris of the
coke--what little remains after combustion--is ejected through a small
aperture at the rear. The iron, by its weight, sinks to the floor of the
furnace, while the filth and ashes of the coke remain floating on the
top--there is no fear of the two intermixing. An iron conduit, working
on a hinge, conveys the liquid metal into the pots for the moulds. When
the vessels are filled the shoot is raised, and this stops back the
metal that goes on accumulating till the next pot is in position.

There is a great attractiveness in the operation of filling the vessels
with the molten fluid that, yellowish-white in colour, flows like water
from the interior, sparkling and spluttering as it drops into the
receptacle beneath. The heat is very intense at all times, and the toil
continuous; hundreds of moulds are waiting to be filled from the
furnace. Having occasion to visit the shed recently I pushed a way
through the crowd of labourers waiting to have their pots filled and
stood beside the furnaceman as he was running out the metal. He took no
notice of my presence, but kept his eyes fixed upon the conduit.

“Very hot to-day!” I shouted.

“Yes, ’tis,” he replied, without turning round.

“How much metal does the furnace hold?”

“Don’ know.”

“What’s your heat?”

“Don’ know.”

“How many tons of metal do you run out in a day?”

“Don’ know.”

“You must have an idea.”

“Don’ know. Got no time. We’re busy.”

“Are you always on at this rate?”

“We kips on till us stops, same as the rest on ’em, an’ has a sleep in
between.” Then, turning round to one of the new arrivals he
shouted--“What! bist thee got back ’ere agyen, Charlie? Thee’t eff to
wait a bit. I got none for thee yet awhile.” Charlie nodded and grinned,
with the sweat streaming down his nose and chin; the whole company
smiled appreciatively. Perhaps Charlie was carrying metal for one of the
less important moulds, and was used to being put aside and made to wait
a few moments, or he may have been one of the day men, of whom there are
but a small number in the shed. Nearly everything is done at the piece
rate; a few special jobs alone are done according to the day work rule.
Under these circumstances Charlie might have no objection to waiting
five or ten minutes.

Most of the moulders dwell in the town, though many of the labourers
prefer to inhabit the region round about the borough, in those villages
of easy access to the railway centre. Some of the journeymen have served
their apprenticeship at small country towns and villages--perhaps in the
same county and district--at which agricultural machinery is
manufactured. Such as these will be sure to import local methods and
characteristics and they will always retain some part of their
individual style acquired during their term of apprenticeship. Though
the difference of method may not be very great, it will be productive of
good results; it is by a combination of several practices and systems
that perfection is ultimately attained. Very often, in the midst of a
teasing operation, a mate or passer-by may suddenly call to mind a
similar difficulty he had in some far-off village yard and thus he will
be able to supply the key to the situation. According to the theory of
the works’ officials, no difficulties should ever be encountered--they
should not even exist. In practice, however, difficulties will often be
met with, and when the workman is compelled, by the lowness of his
prices, to push ahead at a great speed he is sometimes apt to become
confused with a difficulty and to overlook a point that, to the leisured
overseer, will be quite obvious and simple.



At an early hour the whole neighbourhood within a radius of five or six
miles of the factory is astir; there is a general preparation for the
coming day’s work. The activity will first begin in the villages
furthest from the town. Soon after four o’clock, in the quiet hamlets
amidst the woods and lanes, the workmen will leave their beds and get
ready for the long tramp to the shed, or to the nearest station touched
by the trains proceeding to the railway town. Many of the younger men
have bicycles and will pedal their way to work. They will not be forced
to rise quite as early as the rest, unless they live at a very great
distance. A few workmen I know have, for the past twenty years, resided
at not less than twelve miles from the town and have made the journey
all through the year, wet and dry together. The only time at which they
cannot get backwards and forwards is when there are deep floods, or
after a heavy snowstorm. Then, if the fall has been severe and the water
or snow lies to any depth on the roads, they will be compelled to walk
or to lodge in the town. Sometimes the fall of snow has taken place in
the night and the workman, under these circumstances, will be forced to
take a holiday until it melts and he is able to journey along the road

I have heard many accounts, from workmen who had long distances to walk
to the factory, of the great and terrible blizzard of 1881, when the
drifts in many places along the highways were from sixteen to twenty
feet deep. One sturdy fellow took great pride in relating how he made
the journeys daily--of six miles each way--during the whole time the
snow lay on the ground, though many were frozen to death in the
locality. Another workman whom I knew walked regularly to and from the
village for fifty years, and at the end of that time bethought himself
to get a tricycle. It was amusing to see him, with snow-white hair and
the perspiration pouring down his weather-beaten old face, pedalling
home from work after a very hot and scorching day at the rolling mills.
What with the fatigue of the day’s work and the extraordinary exertions
required to propel the machine, he was very nearly exhausted by the time
he reached home. Everyone along the highway turned to have a second view
of the old man as he trundled his machine along, puffing and blowing
with the effort, his face red and fiery; but he was not to be deterred
from the innovation. It is probable that walking would have been the
easier way of getting backwards and forwards, for the machine was nearly
as heavy as a farm cart. There was a slight saving of time, however, and
it is a common saying among work-people of all sorts that “Third-class
riding is better than first-class walking.” After the old man’s death
the tricycle became the property of a band of farm boys who used it as a
training machine; it was for a long time a source of fun and amusement
to the villagers.

Very often, in the remote villages, where there is no access to the
stations at which the factory trains call, a party of workmen club
together and hire a conveyance to bring them daily to the town; or they
may subscribe the money and buy a horse and cart and contribute equally
towards the expense of keeping them. An arrangement is made with the
proprietor of a public-house in the town. The horse is stabled and the
vehicle stored for a small sum, and the men ride backwards and forwards,
comfortable and independent. It was the custom, years ago, during
haymaking and harvest-time for farmers to come in with conveyances from
the outlying villages and meet the men and drive them home. They went
straight from the factory to the farmyard or hayfield, and, after a
hearty tea in the open air, or a square meal of bread, cheese and ale,
turned in and helped the farmer, both enjoying the change of work and
earning a couple of shillings a night as additional wages. This practice
was very popular with the factory men, who never ceased to talk about it
to their town mates in the shed and rouse them to envy with the frequent
narration. Of late years, however, the custom has died out. Labour is
too cheap and machinery too plentiful for the farmer to have any
difficulty in getting his crops together nowadays.

The majority of the villagers, though compelled to leave home for the
town at such an early hour, will yet rise in time to partake of a light
breakfast before starting for the shed. The country mothers are far more
painstaking in the matter of providing meals than are many of those in
the town; they think nothing of rising at four a.m. in order to boil the
kettle and cook food for their husbands and sons. Though the goodman may
protest against it and declare that he would rather go without the food
than give his wife so much trouble, it makes no difference. Every
morning, at the usual hour, the smoke goes curling up from the chimney;
a cup of hot, refreshing tea is invariably awaiting him on the table
when he arrives downstairs. After the repast he starts off in abundant
time and takes his leisure on the road; one rarely sees a countryman
hurrying to work in the morning.

The boys, on the other hand, will not be as punctual in starting off to
work; they will usually be late in setting out, very often delaying till
the last moment. They will, moreover, often loiter on the way
bird’s-nesting or reading, or perhaps they may start into the farmer’s
orchard and carry off the rosy-cheeked apples to eat in the shed or to
divide out among their mates and companions. At one time there were
three brothers of one house in the village, all working in the factory,
though they never under any circumstances went to the town together. The
eldest of the three always led the way, the second following five
minutes later, and the youngest brought up the rear at a similar
interval. The return home at night was made in the same manner: it is
unusual to see the members of a family or household going to work

Very often the village resident will work for an hour in his garden or
attend to his pigs and domestic animals before leaving for the railway
shed. If the neighbouring farmer is busy, or happens to be a man short,
he may help him milk his cows or do a little mowing with the scythe and
still be fresh for his work in the factory. I have known those who,
during the summer months, went regularly to fishing in the big brook, or
practised a little amateur poaching with the ferrets, and never missed
going to gather mushrooms in the early mornings during autumn.

Several boys of the village, especially on the dark winter mornings,
used to watch for the freight-trains that sometimes stopped at the
signal station and steal a ride down to the works, hanging on to the
rails of the brake van, or clinging to the buffers. The practice was
attended with considerable risk, and the punishment, had they been
detected, would have been sharp and severe. It was difficult to see them
sitting in the shadow of the tail lamps, however, though once or twice
we were reported by the signalmen and chased by the goods guards. At one
time the train ran through the station without stopping, with three
youngsters clinging to the rails of the guard’s van, and it was only
checked by accident twelve miles higher up the line. A great chase
across fields in a drenching downpour of rain followed, but the goods
guard had to own himself beaten and returned to the van. One of the boys
was fond of lying down between the metals, and of allowing the trains to
thunder along above him--certainly a dangerous proceeding, though he did
not think so at that time. All these practices are well-nigh impossible
now. Greater care is taken to keep trespassers off the line and the
modern system of transverse sleepers for the track hardly permits of
lying down between the metals.

One morning, nearly dark, as a village lad was going to work down the
line, he was much frightened at seeing a man behaving in a mysterious
and suspicious manner underneath one of the bridges. He appeared to be
selecting a spot in which to lie across the rails, and as there was a
fast train approaching close at hand, the youngster soon became
considerably alarmed. To his relief, however, as the engine drew near,
the unknown one got off the track, ran up the bank and disappeared. At
the same spot, soon afterwards, a young man, suspected of a criminal
offence, threw himself in front of an express and was cut to pieces.
After that occurrence we boys shunned the line, for that winter at
least, and passed to work along the highway. We had many narrow escapes
from being knocked down by engines, trains and waggons in the station
yard at different times. One morning, being very late, I ran between
some waggons that were being shunted, when only a very narrow space
remained before the vehicles closed up. In spite of warning shouts, I
skipped through quickly, but as I cleared the rails an old shunter, who
was waiting on the other side, swung his arm round and struck me a
terrific blow behind the ear with his open hand, and loudly scolded me
for taking such risks. Half stunned with the blow, I ran off, and freely
forgave the old man for his well-meant chastisement. I often meet him
now in the town, many years after the escapade, and always remember the
incident, though he has doubtless forgotten it long ago.

By five o’clock the people of the inner circle of the radius without the
town are well awake, and twenty minutes later the dreaded hooter bellows
out, like the knell of doom to a great many. The sound travels to a
great distance, echoing and re-echoing along the hills and up the valley
seventeen or twenty miles away, if the wind is setting in that
direction. This is the first warning signal to the workman to bestir
himself, if he has not already done so; to awake from dreams to
realities, to shake off the warm, comfortable bed-clothes and don his
working attire. It is now the turn of the town dweller to stir. Very
soon, here and there, a thin spire of smoke arises from the chimney,
telling of the early cup of tea in preparation. The oldest hands, a good
many of them grey and feeble, are to be seen making their way towards
the entrances to the works. It will take some of them quite half an hour
to reach the shed, though that is no more than three-quarters of a mile
away. By and by others will come from their houses and join those who
are just arriving from the country. These are the town’s early risers.
Some time will elapse yet before the regular stream comes forth to fill
the street and make the pavements ring with their countless footsteps.
Although a few may prefer to come leisurely to work and perhaps wait in
the shed some ten minutes before it is time to start at the machines,
the great majority loiter till the very last minute and spend not a
second of time, more than they are absolutely bound, upon the company’s

At ten minutes to six the hooter sounds a second time, then again at
five minutes, and finally at six o’clock. This time it makes a double
report, in order that the men may be sure that it is the last hooter.
Five minutes’ grace--from six till six-five--is allowed in the morning;
after that everyone except clerks must lose time. As soon as the
ten-minutes hooter sounds the men come teeming out of the various parts
of the town in great numbers, and by five minutes to six the streets
leading to the entrances are packed with a dense crowd of men and boys,
old and young, bearded and beardless, some firm and upright, others bent
and stooping, pale and haggard-looking, all off to the same daily toil
and fully intent on the labour before them. It is a mystery where they
all come from. Ten thousand workmen! They are like an army pressing
forward to battle. Tramp! tramp! tramp! Still they pour down the
streets, with the regularity of trained soldiers, quickening in pace as
the time advances, until they come very nearly to the double and finally
disappear through the entrances. Some of the young men’s faces are
ghastly white, very thin and emaciated, telling a story of
ill-health--consumption, very likely--while others are fresh and
healthy-looking--there are fat and lean among them. Some there are still
bearing traces of yesterday’s toil--large black rings around the eyes,
or sharp lines underneath the chin and continued round the back of the
neck. A little more soap and water would have removed them, but in all
probability the youngster was extra tired, or in a great hurry to get
off to play, or go a-fishing, and so could not endure a tedious toilet.
Others, again, come blundering along with eyes only half open--having
obviously missed the morning swill--with their shirt unbuttoned at the
neck, their boots not laced up, untidy and unkempt, and in a desperate
hurry. This one is bare-headed, that one carries his hat in his hand,
and another wears his hind before. Many have had no time even to look
for their working clothes, but have clapped on the first that met their
eyes on arising from bed; you often see one enter the shed dressed in
odd garments, and sometimes wearing a shoe of a sort.

The boys and youths are usually the last. They always experience greater
difficulty in leaving the comfortable bed, and the _pater familias_ will
often have had trouble in inducing them finally to wake up and think
about work. They do not realise the seriousness of the business as he
does, and are very careless on first awaking. By and by, however, the
truth dawns upon them; up they scramble, dress, and run out of doors and
up the street, and very often do not stop till they come to the shed. I
have many a time, as a boy, run from the village to the factory, four
miles distant, in thirty-five minutes, as the result of oversleeping.
When the youngsters reach the shed, after a long run, they will require
a spell of a few minutes before they can start work, and the forgers and
hammermen will often have to shout at them several times before they are
sufficiently rested to begin.

A great many of the crowd bring their breakfast and dinner with them,
either to eat it in the shed, or in the mess-rooms provided for the
purpose. Some of the men carry it in a canteen, held under the arm or
slung with a string over the shoulder and back. Others bring it tied up
in red handkerchiefs, and very many, especially of the town dwellers,
wrap it up in old newspapers. The country workmen are more particular
over their food than are their mates of the town. Though their fare will
be plainer and simpler--seldom amounting to anything more tasty than
bread and butter, cheese or cold boiled bacon--they will be at great
pains to see that it is very fresh and clean.

That which strikes one most forcibly about the morning crowd is the
extraordinary quiet and soberness, both of the men and the juveniles.
They seldom speak to each other as they hurry along through the streets
and tunnels towards their several destinations--not even those who toil
side by side at the same forge or machine, however much they may talk
later on in the day. They do not--except in somewhat rare
instances--even wish each other “Good morning.” If they happen to speak
at all it will usually be no more than to utter a curt “Mornin’,” which
is often responded to with a very impolite and often positively churlish
“’Ow do!” And as for a smile! A morning smile on the way to work is
indeed a rarity. Now and then the careless-hearted lads may indulge in a
little playful banter, though even this is not common, but the men never
smile in the early morning. There is the day’s work to be faced, the
smoke and heat, the long stand at the machine, the tedious confinement,
the hard word and bitter speech, the daily anxiety, the unnatural combat
for the necessaries of life, and it all looms big on the horizon. By and
by, as the day advances and the hands of the clock slowly but surely
record the death and burial of the hours, the set features will relax,
and the tongue will regain its office. The fire of human sympathy will
be rekindled and man and boy will be themselves again. But this will be
not yet. For the present everyone is concerned with his own necessity.
He is marching to battle, the issue of which is doubtful and uncertain.
When the first victory has been won, which is at dinner-time for him, he
will dissolve and be natural and genial, but not now. It is noteworthy
that the country workmen will prove to be more sympathetic than those of
the town. Many of them will bid “Good morning” to everyone they meet,
whether they know them or not. They do not stand upon any kind of
formality; answered or not they persist in the salutation, and always
add the christian name of the individual where it is known to them.

In the street, near the entrances, are coffee stalls, where, for the
modest sum of a halfpenny, the workmen may obtain a cup of the steaming
beverage, which is usually of a weak quality and not at all likely to
derange the stomach of the individual who swallows it. Another halfpenny
will purchase a bun or scone, a slice of “lardy” or currant cake, if
anyone shall desire it, so that there is no need for any who can afford
a copper each morning to go hungry to work. Some workmen bring food from
home in their hand and eat it standing by the stall, where they have
stopped to partake of a cup of tea or coffee.

It is pathetic, especially on cold, wintry mornings, to note the rivet
boys and others of the poorest class as they approach the entrance by
the coffee stalls. Their eyes are fixed longingly on the steaming urns
and piled-up plates of buns; they would like to gulp down a good big cup
of the liquid and munch several of the cakes. But such luxuries are not
for them. They have not a halfpenny in the world, so they content
themselves with a covetous look and pass on to the labour. Now and then
a father, with his little son, will stop to share a cup of coffee, or
they may have one apiece, but this is not a common occurrence. All the
money is needed elsewhere--for clothes, boots, and household
requirements. The better class of work-people--journeymen and such
like--never drink tea or coffee at the stalls. That is beneath their
dignity. They do not like to be seen breaking their fast in public, and
they speak of the beverages as “messes” and “slops.” A few of the
workmen will loiter about the street till six o’clock, by which time
some of the public-houses will be opened. They will require a mug of ale
or a little spirit to put them in order; perhaps they were drunk
overnight and want a “livener” before starting in the morning.

At about three minutes past six a smart rush for the entrance is made,
and those bringing up the rear will be forced to put on a good spurt in
order to gain the shed in time. They have either dawdled about at home,
or were late in rising; whatever the reason may be, every morning finds
them in the same predicament. The same workmen are always first or last;
year in and year out there is little variation in the individual
time-table. What a man is this morning he will be to-morrow morning;
there is no change week after week or month after month. Moreover, he
that is late at the first beginning of the day’s work will most
certainly be in the same position at breakfast-time and dinner-time,
too. He will come to be noted for that characteristic; he is bound to be
late in any case. Such men always parcel out their time with exquisite
nicety, so that when the hooter begins to sound they have about twenty
yards to run in order to reach the check-box. Immediately after the
rear part of the crowd has disappeared within the entrance the
ponderous doors are closed with a loud bang, and the town without looks
to be deserted. The men inside the yard scatter, some this way and some
that, and are soon out of sight in the different sheds. All that can be
seen now are a few clerks sauntering along, usually wearing a flower in
their button-hole, and glancing at the morning newspaper.

Every workman is provided with a brass check or “ticket,” round in shape
like a penny, or oblong, with a number stamped upon it, corresponding to
his name in the register. This has to be placed in the check-box each
time the man enters the shed, and it is the only accepted proof of his
attendance at work or absence from it. If he loses or mislays the ticket
he will be fined a sum equal to half an hour’s wages, whether he likes
it or not, and he will consequently often be forced to pay fourpence or
fivepence for a portion of metal that is worth no more than a farthing.
This will be the price of having his name registered, or, if he is
dissatisfied with the arrangement, he can return home and wait till
after the next meal-time. Similarly, in the morning, after the five
minutes’ grace, whoever is late is charged quarter of an hour for the
first five minutes, and half an hour for the next, _i.e._, till
six-fifteen, though there is no reason whatever why a workman should be
fined so heavily. A fairer thing to do would be to fine all latecomers a
quarter of an hour’s wages and allow them to check till quarter-past
six. This is the latest time for checking the first thing in the
morning. No workman is admitted later than that hour, but must wait till
the re-start after breakfast.

The country workmen will be among the first arrivals at the shed, though
they are not usually the earliest comers of all. Some of the townsmen
are early risers, and come regularly to the premises half an hour
before it is time to begin work. It is remarkable that those who are
addicted to very early rising, that is, earlier than is really
necessary, will most certainly be found to be deficient in brains and
intellect. You will invariably find such ones to be dull-witted, and
lower in the mental scale than are many who hurry and come late to
business. The old adage--

    “Early to bed and early to rise,
     Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,”

may be true enough in all three particulars, but it does not necessarily
follow that a strict observance of the rule will also endue him with a
plentiful supply of brains and intellectual keenness. Healthy it will
certainly make him. The application of a little common-sense will easily
demonstrate that one reason of his retiring early is the fact that he
has no mental pursuits, nothing in which to interest himself outside his
daily occupation, so that he is already deficient, and must perforce
betake himself to bed. Being free from mental worry and not troubling
about intellectual hobbies, he will sleep soundly, enjoy the maximum
amount of rest, and wake up fully refreshed and vigorous in the morning.
All that such men as these think of is their day’s work, their food and
sleep; they have no other object or ambition in life.

As to the entire wisdom of the rule, that is another matter. It was
counted sufficiently wise formerly, but we of this day are made of
sterner material. Horses and oxen work hard, rest well, enjoy very good
health, and appear to be satisfied, if not actually happy, but one man
is of more value than many horses or oxen. Work and sacrifice are the
only things that will raise a man in the estimation of the world and set
him up as a worthy example to his fellows. To those who are content
merely to live, and not to shine, may be addressed the words of the Ant
spoken to the Fly in the Fable: _Nihil laboras; ideo nil habes_--“You do
nothing, and consequently you have nothing.” At the same time it must be
admitted that those who retire early and rise early nearly always prove
to be the strongest workmen; they will be capable of great physical
exertions and staying powers. But when all has been said, such men are
rather to be pitied than envied. They are little more than mere tools
and the slaves of their employers--the prodigal squanderers of their
powers and lives.

It is a privilege of the shop clerks to arrive a little later than the
workmen, and to leave a little in advance of them at meal-times and in
the evening. The members of the principal office staff enjoy a still
greater dispensation, for they do not begin work at all before nine
o’clock in the morning and finish at five-thirty in the afternoon. The
clerks are the most numerous of all the trained classes at the factory.
With the draughtsmen they form an imposing body, yet though they rank
next the foremen and heads of departments, they are not taken very
seriously by the rank and file, except when they appear in the shed with
the cashbox to pay the weekly wages.

For the sake of distinction the shop clerks are called the “weekly
staff,” and the managers and other clerks, with the draughtsmen, are
denominated the “monthly staff.” The first-named of these are paid
weekly with the workmen; the others receive their salary once a month.
The shop clerks are chiefly recruited from the personnel of the sheds,
while those of the monthly staff are chosen from over a wider area. In
the case of them considerably more training and experience will be
required. They must be possessed of specific abilities, and have gone
through classes and taken examinations in order to qualify for the
positions. It is usual for the more intelligent lads at the higher
elementary schools of the town to be recommended to the chiefs of the
factory offices. If their qualifications are considered satisfactory,
they are started in one or other of the clerical departments and
instructed in the several duties. By entering the offices young, and
passing from point to point, they have every opportunity of becoming
proficient, and are in course of time promoted according to their

The clerks of the sheds naturally enjoy the confidence of the overseers.
They know everything pertaining to piecework prices and output, and are
consequently able to furnish the chief with whatever information he
desires upon any point. In addition to the clerk there is a checker, who
books every article made and supervises the piecework outside the
office, and, as if that were not sufficient, a piecework “inspector,”
who is commissioned with the power to report upon any price on the spot
and to make any reduction he thinks fit. All these co-operate and
together supply particulars of the workman and his job, how much he
makes on a shift, the precise time it takes him to finish an article;
and if it is necessary one or the other stays behind after working hours
and computes the number of forgings, or other uses made, and is a
perfect spy upon his less fortunate mates of the shed.

An unscrupulous clerk may thus work incalculable mischief among the men.
He often influences the foreman in a very high degree, or he even
dictates to him, so that you sometimes hear the clerk spoken of as the
“boss” and the foreman himself styled the “bummer.” Under such
circumstances it will not be wondered at that the clerk is sometimes an
unpopular figure in the shed and is looked upon with disfavour, though
very often unjustly so. A great deal depends upon the temper and
honesty, or dishonesty, of the overseer, for the clerk, in most cases,
will take the cue from him. If he is honourable and “above board,” he
will not tolerate any covert dealings and tale-bearing. If, on the other
hand, he is shifty and cunning, he will encourage all kinds of slimness
and questionable proceedings on the part of his clerks.

The members of the monthly staff and draughtsmen occupy quarters grouped
around the managers’ offices, and do not often appear in the workshops.
When they do so it will be on account of some extraordinary business, or
they may come in with the foreman to take a look round and view the
machinery. They usually bring a book or drawing in their hand, or under
the arm, so as to have some kind of excuse in case they should be
challenged by a superior, for even they are not allowed to go wherever
they will. I have known draughtsmen to come regularly to the shed
provided with a tape-measure, books, and plans, and take the dimensions
of a machine again and again. No doubt they were in need of a little
exercise and anxious to see the stampers and forgers at work.

Very few clerks, in spite of their leisure and opportunities, are
bookish or endowed with a taste for literature; out of over a thousand
at the factory less than twenty are connected with the Literary Society
at the Works’ Institute. The students and premiums have their debating
classes on matters connected with engineering. They meet and read papers
on technical subjects, but have little interest in anything natural or



Arrived in the shed the workmen remove their coats and hang them up
under the wall, or behind the forges. If any shall be seen wearing them
by the foreman when he enters they will be noticed and marked: it is a
common rule, winter and summer, to take them off on coming into the
workshop, except in places where there are no fires. A terrible din,
that could be heard in the yard long before you came to the doors of the
shed, is already awaiting. Here ten gigantic boilers, which for several
hours have been steadily accumulating steam for the hammers and engines,
packed with terrific high pressure, are roaring off their surplus energy
with indescribable noise and fury, making the earth and roof tremble and
quiver around you, as though they were in the grip of an iron-handed
monster. The white steam fills the shed with a dense, humid cloud like a
thick fog, and the heat is already overpowering. The blast roars loudly
underground and in the boxes of the forges, and the wheels and shafting
whirl round in the roof and under the wall. The huge engines, that
supply the hydraulic machines with pressure, are chu-chu-ing above the
roof outside; everything is in a state of the utmost animation. If you
were not fully awake before and sensible of what the day had in store
for you, you are no longer in any doubt about the matter. All
sluggishness, both of the mind and body, is quickly dispelled by the
great activity everywhere displayed around you. The very air, hot and
heavy, and thickly charged with dust as it is, seems to have an
electrical effect upon you. You immediately feel excited to begin work;
the noise of the steam, the engines, the roar of the blast, and the
whirling wheels compel you to it.

At the same time the morning freshness, the bloom, vigour, the hopeful
spirit, the whole natural man will be entirely quelled and subdued after
the first few moments in this living pandemonium. Wife and children,
friends and home, town and village, green fields and blue skies, the
whole outside world will have been left far behind. There is no
opportunity to think of anything but iron and steel, furnaces and
hammers, the coming race and battle for existence. Moreover, as
everything is done at the piece rate, the men will be anxious to make an
early start, before the day gets hot. It is especially true of the
stampers and hammermen that “A bird in the hand’s worth two in the
bush,” and a good heat performed before breakfast is far better than
depending upon exertions to be made at a later part of the day.

So, before you can well look around you, before the foreman can reach
the shed, in fact, the workmen are up and at it. Those who are earliest
on the place usually make the first start. They, and especially the
furnacemen and forgemen, often begin before the regulation hour, and
make haste to get their fires in a fit condition to receive the metal.
First of all, the coal furnaces have to be clinkered. A large steel bar
and a heavy sledge break the clinker; the fire-bars are withdrawn, and
down plunges the white-hot mass into the “bosh” of water beneath. When
this is performed new fuel is laid on, light at first, and sloping
gently to the rear wall. The corners are well filled; the floor of the
furnace, recently levelled with fresh sand, is firmly beaten down with
the heavy paddle, and all is ready to receive the ingots or blooms.

Immediately the forger and his mates swarm round with the metal, either
using the crane and pulley, or charging it in upon the peel. The
chargeman grunts and scolds and the furnace door is raised, lighting up
the dark corners behind the forges. Now the hammer-driver winds the
wheel that opens the valve, and fills his cylinder with the raucous
vapour; the heavy monkey travels noiselessly up and down, preparing to
beat the iron into the shape required. Little by little, as the steam is
absorbed by the engines and hammers, the din of the boilers subsides.
The tremendous amount of power required to drive the various machines
soon reduces the pent-up energy, and by and by the priming ceases
altogether. The steam will continue gradually to diminish until the
first meal-hour, when it will have reached a low figure, as indicated by
the pressure gauge. During the interval, however, it will have risen
again, and long before it is time to recommence work the boilers will be
roaring off their superfluous energy with the same indescribable din and

To obviate the noise of the simultaneous priming of the boilers an
escape valve was recently constructed, and a pipe affixed to carry it
through the roof. Owing to the incapacity of the tube, however, the
noise, instead of being diminished, was considerably intensified. People
heard it in every quarter of the town and thought it was an explosion.
No one in the vicinity of the shed could sleep at night, so at last
complaints were made to the manager, and the use of the valve was

Now the oil furnaces will have been lit up and the smiths’ forges
kindled. The two foremen will have arrived and made their first
perambulation of the shed, and everything will be in a state of bustle
and confusion. Certainly the sparks will not be flying, nor the anvils
ringing yet. It will take fully twenty minutes to get everything into
order and to produce the first heat. But there is a deadly earnestness
evident all round. It will not be long before the busy Titans are
stripped to the waist, turning the ponderous ingots and blooms over and
over, and raining the blows upon the yielding metal.

The oil forge hails from the other side of the Atlantic, and is an
innovation at the shed. It is attached to machinery of the American
type, and is well suited for the game of hustle. It is not very large,
and occupies but a small space anywhere, but it has this advantage, that
it may be moved to any position; it is not a fixture, as are the other
furnaces. It is oblong in shape, with an arched roof; and the heating
space is not more than several cubic feet. The front is of brick, with
as many apertures as are required for the bars of metal, and the back
and ends are enclosed in a stout iron frame. The oil--derived from
water-gas and tar--is contained in a tank as high as the roof, fixed
outside the shed, and is conducted through pipes to the furnace. A
current of air from the fan blows past the oil-cock and drives the fluid
into the furnace. The heat generated from combustion of the oil is
regular and intense; the whole contrivance is speedy and simple.

This is so, however, only when the oil is good and clear. Then there
will be scarcely any smoke or fume. The slight flame emitted from the
vent-hole on top will be of a copperish colour, and the interior will
glitter like a star. The furnace will go right merrily; there will be
no need for the workman to wait a moment. But when the oil is cheap and
inferior, or absolutely worthless--as it often is at the shed--the
system is a most foul and abominable nuisance. As soon as the forger
attempts to light up in the morning, tremendous clouds of black, filthy
smoke pour out of every little crack and hole and mount into the roof.
After striking against the boards and rafters this beats down to the
ground again and rolls away up the shed, filling the place from end to
end, half suffocating the workmen with the sickening, disgusting stench,
and making their eyes smart and burn. Several times during the operation
of lighting up, by reason of the irregular flow through the feeder, the
oil in the furnace will explode with a loud bang, shooting out the
flames and smoke to a great distance, and frequently blowing the whole
front of the forge to pieces, to the great danger of the stampers and
the amusement of the other workmen and smiths--for the oil system of
heating is not at all popular with the men of the shed.

The stampers’ furnaces, to the number of five or six, are behaving in
the same manner, and as there are no chimneys to carry off the smoke the
whole smother is poured out into the shed. This will very soon be more
than the average man can stand. With loud shouts and curses, down go
hammers and tools; the blast is shut off from the fires and a rush is
made for the open air until the nuisance is somewhat abated. The
overseer walks round and round, viewing the scene with great ill-temper,
defending the oil and the furnaces, and blaming the lighters-up for
everything, at the same time darting angry looks at those who, half
suffocated, have sought refuge outside. So, no matter what the time of
year may be, whether summer or the dead of winter, when the chilling
winds drive through upon the stampers shivering at their fires, he has
every door and window thrown open, and often does it himself and stands
like a sentinel in the doorway, that no one shall close them up till he
is quite satisfied. If he moves away and the half-frozen workmen steal
along and adjust the doors, he returns, closes them entirely, and forces
the stampers to endure the whole smother, because they dared to meddle
with the doors when he had opened them.

By and by, as the heat in the furnaces increases, the smoke will
diminish somewhat, though as long as the oil is inferior they will
continue to emit a dirty cloud accompanied with deadly fumes and intense
volumes of heat, which are forced out by the blast to a distance of
several yards, making it impossible for the youth to get near enough to
attend to his bars without having his arms and face scorched and burnt.
The roof and walls, for a great distance around, are blackened with the
soot. There is no mistaking the cause of it, though it is a favourite
recommendation of the oil furnaces that they consume every particle of
their vapour. When the oil is of a sufficiently good quality this
actually happens; it is only when the fuel is cheap and bad that
considerable unpleasantness arises.

Our entry to the shed was made through the large door in the north-west
corner, near which the first oil furnace is situated. This furnace is
attached to a new kind of forging machine conveniently named the “Ajax,”
by reason of its great strength. Ajax was the name of two of the mighty
ones who fought before Troy, but the manufacturer does not inform us
whether the machine is named after Ajax, the son of Telamon, or he that
was the son of Oileus, though perhaps the latter is intended. Standing
alongside the oil furnace is the first of the drop-stamper’s forges, and
next to that, in a line, are the three drop-stamps themselves. Opposite
the Ajax is the foreman’s office--a two-storied building--and a little
to one side, straight from the door, is a coal furnace, upon which is
superimposed a large “loco” boiler. This reflects a tremendous heat all
round, and, together with the furnaces and forges, makes that part of
the shed, though near to the door, almost unbearably hot, so that it has
come to be called “Hell Corner” by the workmen.

The line of hammers and furnaces is continued up the workshop to the far
end under the wall. There also, fixed to the masonry, are the main
shafting and pulleys, whirled round at a tremendous rate by the engine
in the “lean-to” outside. At the end of the line stand the heavy
steam-hammers and, under the wall outside, the blower house, containing
machinery for forcing the air for the smiths’ fires. A huge stack of
coal and coke is visible through the door at the other end. A small
single fan is attached to the oil furnace with the Ajax in order to
supply it with air. This travels at a high rate of speed and makes a
loud roar, thereby adding to the confused din of the hammers and other
machinery. Standing further out in the shed is a second row of smaller
steam-hammers and forges with drills, saws, shears, pneumatic apparatus,
other oil furnaces, and the American stamping-hammers with their
trimmers and appliances. Beyond them is an open space reserved for
future arrivals in the shape of manufacturing plant, and towards the
south wall are two lines of powerful hydraulic machines and presses with
furnaces and boilers attached for heating the plates of metal for
punching and welding.

The Ajax machine operates by up-setting. It is worked by youths, one of
whom heats the rods of metal, while the other sets them in the dies and
presses the treadle that brings the machine head forward. As soon as
the furnace is sufficiently hot fifteen or twenty bars are thrust
through the brickwork in front of the forge, the lubricators are filled,
the belt pulled over, and the work begins. The belts flap up and down on
the pulleys with a loud noise, the cog-wheels rattle and clank, the
“ram” travels backwards and forwards incessantly, clicking against the
self-act, the furnace roars and the smoke and flames shoot out. When the
bars are white-hot the assistant hands them along; his mate grips them
and inserts them in the dies, then presses the treadle with his foot.
Immediately the steel tools close up and the ram shoots forward; in
about two seconds the operation is complete. Very often the water,
running continually over the tools to keep them cool, becomes confined
in the dies as they close. The heat of the iron converts it into steam,
and, as the ram collects and forces the material, it explodes with a
loud report, almost like that of a cannon. Showers of sparks and hot
scale are blown in all directions, and if the operator is not careful to
stand somewhat aside, his face and arms will be riddled with the tiny
particles of shot-like metal ejected by the explosion. It is not
uncommon to see his flesh covered with drops of blood from the accident.
The bits of metal will adhere tightly underneath the skin, and must be
removed with a needle, or otherwise remain till they work out of their
own accord.

Both youths of the Ajax dwell in the town, and are known about the
corner by the names of Harry and Sammy. Harry’s father was an
infantryman, and Sammy’s parent served in the Navy. There is a little of
the roving spirit about both of them--each possesses a share of the
paternal characteristic. Harry’s father, however, is an invalid, and he
is forced to stay at home and help keep him and his mother, otherwise
he would long ago have bidden farewell to the shed, Ajax and all. Sammy,
on the other hand, is free and unfettered, but though he has made many
attempts to enter the Navy, they were all in vain. First, he was not
sufficiently tall or broad in the chest, and later, when, after a course
of exercises with dumb-bells, he was able to pass the examinations, he
was refused on account of his teeth, which were badly decayed. This was
a great disappointment to Samuel. He sulked about for several days
afterwards, quarrelled and fought with his mate, and was generally
inconsolable. The boys’ chargeman had to intervene as peacemaker and he
comforted Sammy, who shed a few tears and finally became reconciled to
the forge again, though he often defiantly affirmed that he would not be
beaten, not he! He would go to Bristol and get a job aboard ship; he
would not stop there in that hole all his life!

Both Sammy and Harry dress much alike, and they resemble each other in
their habits. They are both nimble and strong, active, energetic, and
high spirited. Both have commendable appetites, and they are especially
fond of drinking tea. They have a passionate regard for sports,
including boxing and football, but, over and above all this, they are
hard workers; every day they are sure of a good sweating at the furnace
and Ajax. Both wear football shirts--Sammy a green one and Harry a red
and white--in the forge, and they have football boots on their feet. If
you should turn out Sammy’s pockets you would be sure to find, among
other things, half a packet of cigarettes, a pack of cards, a mouth
organ, a knife, a comb, and a small portion of looking-glass. A great
many of the town boys and young men carry a small mirror in their
pockets, by the aid of which they comb and part their hair and study
their physiognomies. At meal-times, as soon as the hooter sounds, they
hasten to the nearest water-tap, give their faces a rough swill and,
with the aid of a portion of looking-glass, examine them to make sure
that they are free from the dust and soil of the smoky furnace.

Though the companions of Ajax work hard and perspire much they do not
become very tired, apparently, for after the most severe exertions they
are still ready to indulge in some sport or other, and run and play or
wrestle and struggle with each other on their way down the yard. Arrived
home they have their tea, wash and change, and come back to the crowded
parts of the town to see and be seen and be moved on by the policeman,
returning late home to bed. In the morning they will often be sullen and
short-tempered. This invariably wears off as the day advances, however,
and they will soon be up to the usual games, singing popular songs and
imitating the comic actors at the theatre, where they delight to go once
or twice a week.

Close behind the oil furnace, in a recess of the wall, is the fan that
drives the blast for this part of the shed, supplying four forges
altogether. The fan itself is of iron, enclosed in a stout cast-iron
shell or case, and is driven from a countershaft half-way up to the main
shafting. Multiplication takes place through this from the top pulley,
and whereas the main shaft will make but one hundred and twenty
revolutions a minute, the fan below will, in that space, spin round two
thousand times. As the engine is running day and night, for more than
twenty hours out of the twenty-four, the number of revolutions made by
the fan will be over two millions daily. Although, viewed on paper,
these figures appear high, yet, if you should stand near and watch the
fan itself, it would seem incredible to you that it would require such
a long time in which to complete them. The speed is terrific, and this
you may know by the sound, without troubling to look at the gear. The
rate of the belts, from the pulleys on to the countershaft, is a further
proof of the tremendous velocity of the machine. Although strained very
tight on the wheels they make a loud noise, flapping sharply all the
while; one may easily gauge the speed of an engine by the sound of the
belts alone. The fan itself, at normal times, emits a loud humming
noise, like that of a threshing-machine, but when the speed of the
engine increases through the relaxation of some other machinery, or the
sudden rise of steam pressure in the boilers, it seems to swell with a
dreadful fury, and assails the ear with a vicious and continuous
_hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, HOO-HOO-HOO-HOO-HOO_, like some savage beast
ravenous for its prey. The oscillation of the fan is imparted to
everything around. The very ground under your feet trembles, and if you
should place your hand upon the outer shell, or on the wooden guard
around it, you would experience something like an electric shock,
strangely pleasant at first, but very soon necessitating the removal of
your hand from the vicinity.

It is dangerous to meddle with the fan while it is in motion. A stout
wooden guard is erected around it to prevent any object from coming into
contact with the wheels or the interior. If a nut or rivet head should
happen to fly and be caught in it, the shell would immediately burst.
Very often excessive speed alone will cause a fan to explode. The effect
is similar to that of a steam or gas explosion; the heavy cast-iron
frame will be shattered to bits, and hurled to a great distance. I
remember one in the smithy that exploded and blew up through the roof,
making a huge rent. For safety’s sake the fans are often constructed
underground in order to lessen the danger of explosion, if one should

It is remarkable that while the pulley on the countershaft is travelling
at a tremendous speed, so that the spokes are generally invisible, and
there appears to be nothing but the rim and centre whirling round, if
you look up quickly you will see one spoke quite plainly as it flies
over, then it will be entirely lost to view with the rest. The space of
time during which it is visible is exceedingly short--it could be no
more than a fraction of a second--yet in that brief period the eye
perceives it clearly and distinctly: it is something similar to taking a
snapshot with a camera.

Formerly, when all the belts were of leather and thickly studded with
large broad-headed copper rivets, the boys used to draw near to them and
take small lessons in electricity. This could only be done in the case
of belts that travelled at a very high rate of speed, such as the one on
the fan or the circular saw. Standing dangerously near the wheels they
held a finger, or a knuckle, very close to the belt in motion, and were
rewarded with seeing a small stream of electric sparks, about as large
in volume as the stem of a needle, issuing from the finger-tip or
knuckle, accompanied with a slight pain like that produced by the prick
of a pin. The velocity of the belt, with the copper, attracted the
electricity within the body and drew it out in a tiny visible stream
from the flesh. All the belts for high speed work at this time, however,
are made of another material, _i.e._, a preparation of compressed
canvas, without rivets. Instead of being laced together they are fitted
with a steel-wire arrangement for connection. The ends are inserted, as
you would bend the fingers of both hands and thrust them one between the
other, and a piece of whalebone is pushed through. Slight as this may
seem to be, it is yet capable of withstanding a great strain, and the
whole runs much more smoothly than did the old-fashioned leather belts.

A man is specially kept to attend to everything pertaining to the belts.
He is known to all and sundry as the “strappie.” Directly anything goes
wrong with the connections he appears on the scene smothered in oil from
head to foot, and looking very cloudy and serious. He is usually in a
great hurry and is not over-polite to anyone. First of all he gives the
signal to have the engine stopped. As soon as the shafting is still,
armed with a very sharp knife, he climbs up the wall, in and out among
the wheels, and unceremoniously cuts away the defective belt. Arrived on
the ground again, he draws out the belt, motions “right away” to the
engineman, then rolls it up and disappears. In a short while he comes
back with it strongly repaired, or brings a new one in place of it. The
shafting is stopped again, and up he mounts as before. When he has
placed it over the shaft and connected the ends, he pulls it half-way on
the wheels and ties it loosely in that position with a piece of cord. As
the engine starts the belt assumes its position on the wheel
automatically; the piece of cord breaks, or becomes untied, and falls to
the ground, and everything goes spinning and whirling away as before. If
a belt is merely loose the strappie brings a potful of a substance he
calls “jam,” very resinous and gluey, some of which he pours on the
wheel and belt while in motion. This makes the belt “bite,” or grip
well, and brings the machine up to its maximum speed with the shafting.

Sometimes, if the shafting has not been oiled punctually, it will run
hot, or perhaps a small particle of dust will obstruct the oil in the
lubricator and produce friction. News of this is soon published abroad
by a loud creaking noise that everyone can hear. The workmen take up
the cry and shout “Oil, oil,” at the top of their voice; then the
engine-driver comes forth with his can and stops the screeching.
Occasionally the spindle of the fan will run hot, and especially so if
the belt happens to be well tight. This, by reason of its great speed,
will soon generate a fierce heat; I recently ran to attend to it and
found the spindle of the fan a bright red-hot. Thanks to the warning of
the belt, which was slipping owing to the greater exertion required
through tightening of the bearings by expansion, I was just in time to
prevent an accident. In another moment the fan might have been a total

Through a doorway in the wall, in an extension of the shed, stand
several boilers used as auxiliaries, and, near to them, are two powerful
pumping engines and their accumulators, which obtain the pressure for
the whole hydraulic plant of the department. The engines are of a
hundred and twenty horse-power each, and are fitted with heavy
fly-wheels that make forty revolutions a minute at top speed. These draw
the water from a neighbouring tank and force it into the accumulators,
from which the pressure is finally derived. The accumulators are
constructed in deep pits that are bricked round and guarded with iron
fencing. They are large weights of fifty tons each--there was originally
one of a hundred tons--and are built about a central column of iron or
steel standing fifteen or twenty feet above the floor level. Contained
in the lower part of the weight is a cylinder; into this the water is
forced by the engines and the pressure obtained. The power of the water,
when a sufficient volume has accumulated, raises the weights high into
the roof and keeps them there, with a little rising and falling,
corresponding to the action of the presses in the shed. When the weights
have risen to a certain point they operate a self-act, and the engines
stop. Similarly, when they sink below the point they displace a second
small lever that communicates with the engine valves and re-starts the
pumps. The pressure put on the water is enormous; it often amounts to
two thousand pounds per square inch. Since the operation of water is
much slower than that of steam, however, the power is not nearly as
effective. It would be impossible by its agency to drive machinery at a
high rate without the use of gear, though for punching, pressing, and
welding some kinds of work the system is admirable and unsurpassed.

The engine that drives the lesser machinery of the shop stands in a
“lean-to” and is not nearly as powerful as are those that operate the
pumps. A little higher up, in another small lean-to, is a donkey engine
that drives the “blower,” which produces blast for the forges and fires.
This machine is vastly superior to the old-fashioned fan, and the speed
of it is quite low; there is no danger of explosion or other rupture. It
is a pleasure, since so much manufacturing plant is introduced to us
from foreign countries--America, France and Germany--to reflect that the
idea of the blower is English. There is a considerable amount of
American-made machinery at the works, and the percentage of it increases
every year, though it is often far from being successful. At the same
time, it must be conceded that our kinsmen over the sea are very clever
in the designing and manufacture of tools and plant, and many of their
ideas are particularly brilliant. The English maker of manufacturing
tools follows at some little distance with his wares. These, though not
actually as smart as the others, are yet good, honest value, the very
expression of the Englishman’s character. The chief features of American
machinery are--smartness of detail, the maximum usefulness of parts,
capacity for high speed and flimsiness, styled “economy,” of structure:
everything of theirs is made to “go the pace.” English machinery, on the
other hand, is at the same time more primitive and cumbersome, more
conservative in design and slower in operation, though it is trustworthy
and durable; it usually proves to be the cheaper investment in the long
run. One often sees American tackle broken all to pieces after several
years’ use, while the British-made machine runs almost _ad infinitum_.
At a manufactory in Birmingham is an old beam engine that has been in
use for more than a century and a half, and it is almost as good now as
when it was new. The same may be said with regard to English-made
agricultural machinery. A modern American mower will seldom last longer
than four or five years, but I know of English machines that have been
in use for nearly thirty years and are as good as ever, generally

One man attends to the engines that drive the shop machinery and the
“blower.” It is his duty to see that the shafting is kept clean and the
bearings well oiled, to watch over the belts and to notify the strappie
when one becomes loose or slips off the wheel. Dressed in a suit of blue
overalls, and equipped with ladder and oil-can, he remains in constant
attendance upon his engines and shafts. He will also be required to keep
a watchful eye upon the valves, to regulate the steam to the cylinders,
and to maintain a uniform rate of speed for the lathes and drills.
Occasionally, if the pressure of steam in the boilers should rise very
suddenly--which sometimes happens, as the result of a variable quality
of coal and the diversity of heats required by the furnacemen--the
engine, in spite of the regulators, will rapidly gain speed and “run
away,” as it is called. This may also result from the disconnecting a
particular machine engaged on heavy, dragging work, such as the saw, or
fan, both of which require great power to drive them at their high rate
of speed.

Considerable danger attaches to the running away of an engine,
especially where it is provided with a heavy fly-wheel. This, if it is
whirled round at an excessive speed, is liable to burst, and the
consequences, in a crowded quarter, would be disastrous. The danger of
bursting lies in the tremendous throwing-off power generated from the
hub of the wheel, about the shaft; as the sections forming the circle of
the wheel are brought rapidly over there is a strong tendency for them
to be cast off in the same manner as a stone is thrown from a sling. If
the wheel is exactly balanced, however, and every part of precisely the
same weight, so as to ensure perfectly even running on the shaft, the
danger of bursting will be small. Grindstones burst much more commonly
than do metal wheels. There is not the same consistency in stone as in
iron; moreover, there may be a flaw somewhere that has escaped the eye
of the fitter or overseer. Consequently, if the speed of the engine
driving the stone should be immoderately increased, it will not be able
to withstand the throw-off, and will fly to pieces, inflicting death, or
very severe injuries upon all those in the vicinity.



The drop-stamps stand in the corner, close under the wall. They are
supplied by three coke forges, and by the coal furnace before mentioned.
A drop-stamp, or drop-hammer, is a machine used for stamping out all
kinds of details and uses in wrought iron or steel, from an ounce to
several hundredweights. It differs from a steam-hammer properly so
called in that while it is raised by steam power it falls by gravity,
striking the metal in the dies by its own impetus, whereas the
steam-hammer head is driven down by a piston. Three hands are employed
at each machine. They are--the stamper, his hotter, and the small boy
who drives the hammer. A similar number compose the night shift; the
machines are in constant use by night and day. All the work is done at
the piece rate, and the prices are low; the men have to be very nimble
to earn sufficient money to pay them for the turn.

The hands employed on the drop-hammers are of a fairly uniform type,
though there are several distinguished above the others by reason of
their individual features and characteristics. Chief among them are the
two young hammer boys, Algy and Cecil, Paul the furnaceman, and a youth
who rejoices in the preposterous nickname of “Pump.” Algy drives the end
drop-stamp for the chargeman and Cecil the next one to it, larger and
heavier. Algy has several nicknames, one of which, from his diminutive
stature, being “Teddy Bear,” and the other, carrying with it a certain
amount of sarcasm, is plain “Jim.” Sometimes, also, he is called “Dolly”
or “Midget.” Cecil boasts of a string of christian names, the correct
list being Cecil Oswald Clarence. Questioned concerning the other
members of the family he informs you that his brother is named Reginald
Cuthbert, his schoolgirl sister May Alberta, and his baby sister Ena
Merle. From some cause or other he himself has not obtained a regular
nickname; he is rather summarily addressed by his surname. No one in the
shed ever deigns to call him by his christian name, it is too unusual
and high-sounding, too aristocratic and superb. Bob or Jack would have
been preferable; scarcely anyone at the works goes beyond a monosyllable
in the matter of names.

The boys are of the same age--fifteen or thereabout--but they are
dissimilar in stature and in almost every other respect. Algy is short
and small, plump and sturdy, while Cecil is inclined to run. He is tall
for his age, and very thin. His body is as flat as a man’s hand; he has
no more substance than a herring. Algy’s features are round, regular,
and pleasant; he is quite a handsome boy. His forehead slopes a little,
his nose is perfect in shape. He has frank, grey eyes sparkling with fun
and good-nature, a girlish mouth, and small, pretty teeth. Cecil, on the
other hand, is not what one would style handsome. He has thin, hollow
cheeks and small, hard features. His forehead is narrow, and his eyes
are rather large and searching--expressing strength and keenness. His
mouth is stern, and his lips pout a little: they are best represented by
the French _s’allonger--les lèvres s’allongent_, as Monsieur Jourdain’s
did in Molière, when he pronounced the vowel sound of u. He has a
particularly fine set of teeth, and he has a way of grizzing them
together and showing them when in the act of making a special exertion
that gives him a savage expression.

Both boys are pale. Algy’s face, when it is clean, shines like a glass
bottle; Cecil’s skin is inclined to be yellow. Both have dark rings
around the eyes, especially Cecil, who is the more delicate of the
two--they are neither very robust-looking. Their hair is very long, and
it stands out well from underneath their cloth caps and stretches down
the cheeks before the ears. They are consequently often assailed with
the cry--“Get yer ’air cut,” or--“You be robbin’ the barber of
tuppence,“ or--”Tell yer mother to use the basin,” suggesting that the
boys’ hair is cut at home. It is a common charge to lay to small boys in
the shed that their mothers used to put a basin over their heads and cut
the hair around the outside of it. Both boys wax indignant at being
taunted about the basin, and reply to the other remark with, “You gi’ me
the tuppence, then, an’ I’ll have it cut.” Occasionally, more by way of
being sarcastic than out of any desire to show good-nature, the stampers
will make a collection towards defraying the barber’s expenses, and the
next morning the boys will turn up at the shed nearly bald: they have
had their hair cut this time with a vengeance.

Several times Algy has come to the shed wearing a pair of wooden clogs,
but, as everyone teased him and called him “Cloggy,” he cast them aside
and would not wear them any more. Clogs belong rather to the Midlands
and the North of England, and are very rarely seen in the railway town.
The least respectable of all the boys’ clothing are their shirts. They
are usually full of big rents, being split from top to bottom, or torn
quite across the back, the lower part falling down and exposing the
naked flesh for a space of a foot, and they are of an inscrutable
colour. One day an entire sleeve of Algy’s shirt dropped clean away, and
Cecil’s was rent completely up one side so that his entire flank and
shoulder were visible. Though the stampers laugh at Cecil and sometimes
grip hold of whole handfuls of his flesh, where the shirt is torn, he is
not very much disconcerted. Algernon blushed considerably, however, when
his mate quietly told him one day that he could see his naked posterior
through a rent in his trousers.

Although the boys’ clothing is untidy and dilapidated they are not kept
short of food, and their appetites are truly enormous. They bring large
parcels of provisions to the shed--thick chunks of bread and butter,
rashers of raw bacon, an egg to boil or fry, and sometimes a couple of
polonies or succulent sausages. The whole is tied up in a red
dinner-handkerchief or wrapped in a newspaper; you would often have a
difficulty in getting it into an ordinary-sized bucket. The youngsters
have to stand a great deal of chaff over their parcels of provisions.
The men often take them in their hands and weigh them up and down,
showing them about the shed, and asking each other if they do not want
to buy a pair of old boots. At breakfast- or dinner-time the lads obtain
a roughly-made frying-pan, or take the coke shovel, and, after rubbing
it out with a piece of paper, cook their food, usually frying it
together and dipping their bread in the fat alternately. Then, if it is
fine, still stripped of their waistcoats, they go out in the yard and
sit down, or crouch by the furnace door and clear up the food to the
last morsel; they will often not have finished when the hooter sounds
the first time to warn the men to come back to the shed. When the meal
is over, if there is yet time, Algy will produce from his pocket some
literature of the Buffalo Bill type, or a school story, of which he is
fond, and read it. Cecil will not deign to look at “such stuff,” as he
calls it, but will borrow a newspaper, or some part of one, from his
mates, and greedily devour the contents of that.

Though neither of them has left school for more than a year, or, at the
outside, fifteen months, they have forgotten almost everything they
learned, even to the very rudiments in many cases. Their knowledge of
grammar, arithmetic, poetry, geography, and history has entirely lapsed,
or, if they remember anything at all, it will be but a smattering of
each. To test their memory and knowledge of these matters the boys’
chargeman occasionally offers them prizes, and enters them into
competition with other lads of the shed, some of whom have not been away
from school for more than five or six months, but one and all show a
deplorable lack of the faculty of retention. Whether it is the result of
too much cramming by the teacher, or whether it is that the rising
generation is really deficient in mental capacity, they are quite
incapable of answering the most simple and elementary questions. The
chargeman’s plan is to offer them pennies for the names of half-a-dozen
capitals of foreign countries, half-a-dozen foreign rivers, six names of
British kings or British rivers, the capitals of six English counties,
or the names of the counties themselves, six fish of English rivers, six
wild birds, half-a-dozen names of wild flowers, the capitals of British
colonies, the names of six English poets, or a few elementary points of
grammar, and so on.

The answers, when any are vouchsafed, are often ludicrous and amazing:
the intellectual capacity of the boys is certainly not very brilliant.
During these tests the chargeman was astonished to learn that Salisbury
is a county, Ceylon is the capital of China, and that Paris stands on
the banks of the river Liffey. As for the preterite tense, not one had
ever heard of it. Only one out of six could give the names of the six
counties and kings complete, though another of the lads had strong
impressions concerning a monarch he called the “ginger-headed” one, but
he could not think of his name. Not one could furnish the requisite list
of fish, fowl, and natural wild flowers, but little Jim, struck with a
sudden inspiration, shouted out “jack and perch,” for he had recently
been fishing in the clay-pits with his brother. The others frankly
confessed they did not know anything about the matter; if they had ever
learned it at school they had forgotten it now. Anyway, it was not of
much use to one, they said, though it was all right to know about it.
Not one of the half-dozen, though all were born in the town, could give
the name of a single Wiltshire river.

Paul is not permanently attached to the furnace in the corner, but came
to fill the place of one who had met with an accident. As a matter of
fact, Paul is everybody’s man; he is here, there, and everywhere. He can
turn his hand to almost anything in the second degree, and is a very
useful stop-gap. Forge he cannot, stamp he cannot, though he is a
capital heater of iron, and makes a good furnaceman; he is a fair
all-round, inside man. But somehow or other, everyone persists in making
fun of Paul, and contrives to play pranks and practical jokes upon him.
Whatever job he is engaged upon his mates address ridiculous remarks to
him; they will never take him seriously. Some one or other, in passing
by, will knock off his hat; this one gravely takes him by the wrist and
feels his pulse, and that one will give him a rough push. Another puts
water over him from the pipe, pretending it was by accident; whatever
reply he makes his mates only laugh at him. As a rule, Paul takes it
all in good part, though sometimes he will lose his temper and retaliate
with a lump of coal, or any other missile upon which he can lay his

Paul would be the tallest man in the shed if it were not that he stoops
slightly as the result of having had rheumatics. As it is, he is quite
six feet in height, bony, but not fleshy, with broad shoulders and large
limbs. As he walks his head is thrown forward; he goes heavily upon his
feet. His features are regular and pleasant; he has grey eyes and bushy
brows. His skin is dark with the heat and grime of the furnace; his
expression is one of marked good-nature. In appearance he is a perfect
rustic; there is no need to look at him the second time to know that he
dwells without the municipal border. It is this air of rusticity,
combined with his simplicity of character and behaviour, that makes Paul
the butt of the other workmen. They would not think of practising their
clownish tricks upon others, for there are many upon whom it would be
very inadvisable to attempt a jest without being prepared for a sudden
and violent reprisal.

Paul’s home is in the village, about three miles from the town. There he
passes his leisure in comparative quiet, and, in his spare time from the
shed, cultivates a large plot of land and keeps pigs. This finds him
employment all the year round, so that he has no time to go to the
public-house or the football match, though he sometimes plays in the
local cricket eleven. He takes great interest in his roots and crops,
and almost worships his forty perch of garden. During the summer and
autumn he brings the choicest specimens of his produce in his pocket and
shows them to his mates in the shed; he usually manages to beat all
comers with his potatoes and onions.

In spite of Paul’s simplicity of behaviour, one cannot help being
attracted to him by reason of his frankness and open-heartedness; he
would not think of doing anything that is not strictly above board.
Though rough and rude, blunt and unpolished, he is yet very honest and
conscientious. Certainly he is not as sharp and intelligent as are many
of the town workmen, but he is a better mate than most of them, and when
it comes to work he will stand by you to the last; he is not one to back
out at the slightest difficulty.

How Pump came to be Pump is a mystery; no one knows the origin of the
nickname. “They called I Pump a long time ago,” says he. Very likely it
was given to him extemporaneously, with no particular relation to
anything; someone or other said “Pump,” and the name stuck there at
once. Pump is just under eighteen years of age. He drives the heavy
drop-stamp on the day-shift, and, owing to certain characteristics of
which he is possessed, he always attracts attention. He is very loud and
noisy, full of strong words and forcible language, though he is
extraordinarily cheerful and good-natured. He is short in stature, very
strong and much given to sweating; in the least heat his face will be
very red and covered with great drops of perspiration. His forehead is
broad and sloping, he has immense blue eyes, tapered nose, bronze
complexion, a solid, square countenance, and a tremendous shock of hair.
In driving the hammer he has acquired the unusual habit of following the
heavy monkey up and down with his eyes, and the expression on his face,
as he peers up into the roof, induces many to stop and take a peep at
him as they pass by. To all such Pump addresses certain phrases much
more forcible than polite, and warns them to “clear out” without delay
if they do not “want something.” They usually respond with an
extra-special grimace, or work their arms up and down as though they
were manipulating the engine from which he derives his nickname.

As a mate Pump is variable. With the men of one shift he can agree very
well, but with the others he is nearly always at loggerheads. The fact
is that Pump’s stamper on one shift does not like him, and will not try
to like him, either. He quite misunderstands his driver’s
characteristics, and will not see his good qualities underneath a
certain rugged exterior. Accordingly, they quarrel and call each other
evil names all day. Very often the stamper will throw down his tongs and
walk off. Thereupon Pump lowers the hammer defiantly, folds his arms,
and tosses his head with disgust, while the furnaceman, waiting with his
heat, calls to them to “come on.” Now the stamper picks up his tongs
quickly, shouts loudly to Pump, “Hammer up, there!” and on they go
again, the stamper snorting and muttering to himself, and glaring
fiercely from side to side, while Pump bursts into song, with a broad
grin on his countenance. Sometimes the stamper, in a towering fury, will
come to the chargeman and swear that he will not hit another stroke with
“that thing there,” and demand another mate forthwith, but with a little
tact and the happy application of a spice of good-humour, the situation
will be saved, and everything will go on right merrily, though the old
trouble will certainly recur. Pump confides all his troubles to the
chargeman and sheds a few tears now and then. He is full of good
intentions and tries to do his level best to please, but he cannot avoid
friction with his fiery and short-tempered mates of the fortnightly

He has one very special and ardent desire, which is to go on night
duty; he is for ever counting up the days and weeks that must pass
before his birthday will arrive, and so raise him to the age necessary
for undertaking the shift. In common with most other youths, he looks
upon the night turn as something “devoutly to be wished,” but I very
much fear that a few weeks of the change will modify his opinion of the
matter, if it does not entirely disillusion him. Notwithstanding a
certain amount of novelty attaching to the working on the night-shift,
it is attended with many hardships and inconveniences. The greater part
of those who have to perform it would willingly exchange it for the day

There was at one time another highly distinctive “character” attached to
the drop-stamps. He revelled in the nickname of “Smamer.” Where he
obtained the pseudonym is unknown, though it is notable that the word
has an intelligible derivative. Smamer is undoubtedly derived from the
Greek verb σμᾶν = sman, meaning _to smear_, and, afterwards, from
σμᾶμα[1] = soap, so that the nickname is meant to designate a smearer.
As there are many who are in the habit of smearing their faces with
soap, the nickname would seem to have a very wide and universal
application. Be that as it may, our Smamer was a smearer of the first
order; he usually stopped at that and did not care to prosecute the
matter further. His face daily bore traces of the initial process of
washing, and that only; it was a genuine smear and little besides.
Whoever first honoured him with the appellation was a person of
discernment, though he might not have been aware of the origin of the
word. You often hear a workman say that So-and-so is “all smamed up”
with oil or some other greasy substance.

    [1] Classical, σμῆν, σμῆμα

Smamer was one of the forge hands and heated iron for the middle
drop-stamp. His home was in the country, several miles from the town;
winter and summer he tramped to and from the shed. For several years
after his father and mother died he lived in the cottage by himself,
tilled his own garden, prepared his food, performed his housework, made
his bed, and did his own washing, though he was no more than nineteen
years of age. He was noted for his eccentric mode of living. Whatever
the weather might be he scarcely ever wore an overcoat. He often came to
work wet through to the skin, and reached home at night in the same
condition, where he received no welcome of any sort, but had to light
his own fire before he could dry his clothing or prepare his meal. To
every inquiry as to whether he was wet or not he made one reply; he was
“just a little bit damp about the knees,” that was all.

In manner he was quiet and rather sullen; he was never very
sweet-tempered, though he was a quick and clever heater of iron and a
very good mate. About his native village he was rough and noisy, fond of
fighting and disturbance. He was frequently in conflict with the police,
and often on the point of being summoned before the Bench for some
offence or other, but he usually scraped out of the difficulty at the
last moment, either by means of apologies, or by making some kind of
restitution to the injured party. At week-ends, with a band of
associates, he paid visits to the neighbouring villages and fought with
the young men, until the whole of them became so well-known to the
police that wherever they went they were recognised and promptly hustled
off in the direction of their native place.

During the autumn months Smamer visited all the orchards along the road
on the way to work, and came to the shed with his pockets crammed full
of apples. These he used to divide out among his mates, who ate them
with little or no compunction; there is small searching of conscience
among the boys of the factory, especially when the contraband happens to
be sweet, juicy apples plucked from the farmer’s trees. Very soon,
however, the habit of the life began to tell upon him. His continually
getting wet, and the having no one to provide him with any kind of
comfort, ruined his constitution; in a few months he wasted away and
died. A small party of mates from the shed attended the funeral at the
little village churchyard: that was the end of Smamer. His place at the
forge was soon filled; he was not missed very much. Everyone said he had
but himself to blame; there was no sympathy meted out to him. His
brother, who also worked on the drop-stamps, had been killed by a blow
on the head with a piece of metal from the die only a short while
before. They lay side by side in the little walled enclosure, for ever
oblivious of the noise and din of the thunderous hammers and the
grinding wheels of the factory.

There are several others, distinguished with titles of an expressive
kind, working on the drop-stamps. Of these one answers to the nickname
of “Bovril,” one is “Kekky Flapper,” one is “Aeroplane Joe,” one
“Blubber,” and another is known about the shed as “Wormy.” How they came
to possess such inglorious appellatives cannot with certainty be told; a
very little will suffice to brand you with an epithet in the work-shed.
In addition to these, in the vicinity of the drop-stamps in the corner
are an ex-groom, a grocer, a musical freak, a comedian, a photographer,
a boy scout, a territorial, a jockey, a cowman, a pianoforte maker, and
a local preacher.

Situated over the coal furnace that feeds the big drop-stamps is a
boiler of the “loco” pattern, one of those responsible for the
tremendous din that is raised every day at meal-times when the steam is
not required for the engines and hammers. These boilers have all served
their time on the line--in passenger or goods traffic--and, after their
removal from the engine frames, they have become distributed over the
company’s system and throughout the factories. The distance a boiler is
required to travel under steam on the railway is about thirty thousand
miles; after completing this it is superseded and removed from the
active list on the permanent way. By the time the boiler and engine have
travelled together so many miles they will be half worn out. The wheels,
by reason of the frequent application of the brakes and “skidding” on
the rails, will be grooved and cut about, and the machinery will require
new fittings and bearings. After the boilers have been removed from the
frames they are overhauled and tested and then sold out to the different
sheds and stations, wherever they may happen to be wanted.

The method of transacting business between the different sheds and
departments at the works is exactly like that employed by outside firms
and tradesmen. Bills and accounts are rendered, and the whole formula of
hire and purchase is entered into by the different parties; everything;
in fact, except the actual payment of money, is duly carried out. The
sheds are required to show a balance on the right side at the end of
each year; percentages are charged for working expenses, and all the
rest is profit. Thus, some sheds will show profits of many thousands of
pounds annually, though upon paper only; the surpluses do not exist in

Although the new boiler costs £1,000 it is sold to the shed second-hand
for £200, so that the cost of ten for the workshop was only £2,000. The
charge for setting, and fitting, and also for repairs and cleaning,
however, is very great; a big sum is needed to keep them in a fit
condition for work. After they have been erected above the furnaces they
are covered with a thick jacket of a compound of magnesia and fibre, to
enable them to retain the heat, and they are afterwards painted black,
so as to harmonise with the general environment. The steam pressure of
the repaired boiler is usually fixed at about a hundred and twenty-five
pounds per square inch. The capacity of each boiler is very great, and
the composite power of the whole set formidable; if one of them should
happen to explode the result would indeed be disastrous. A small staff
of men superintends them by day and night, and greater care is taken of
them than was the case formerly. I can remember when the shed was
several times within a hair’s breadth of being blown up and forty or
fifty men hurled to perdition.

A few years ago, instead of trustworthy men being appointed to
superintend the boilers, they were consigned to the charge of several
youths, who were very careless and negligent in their work, and who
seemed to have no idea whatever of the tremendous responsibility resting
upon them for the safety and welfare of the life in the shed. Provided
with mouth-organs and bones, or Jew’s harps, they would play and skylark
about for a long time and leave their boilers unattended at considerable
risk. I have often known them to be away from their posts for an hour at
a stretch, and to allow the water in the boilers to become almost
entirely evaporated before they returned to fill them up again, which,
as everyone knows, is an exceedingly dangerous practice. By the common
regulation attaching to boilers, the water should never be permitted to
fall below that point when it is visible in the gauge-glass. If it is
allowed to do so the position becomes dangerous immediately, and, to
obviate accident, the bars of the furnace fire should be withdrawn and
no cold water admitted.

Once a youth--a wild, reckless fellow--was absent from the boiler an
unusually long time in the middle of the morning before dinner. The
stampers watched the water in the gauge-glass drop little by little and
finally vanish, and still no one came to attend to it. Being a little
anxious about it I sent several men and boys to try and find the
boilerman, but without avail. His mates were nowhere to be found either,
and the foreman was away from the shed at the time. From being anxious I
soon felt alarmed. The matter was becoming serious, and we were not
allowed, under any circumstances, to meddle with the injectors

As I was warning all men in the locality of the danger the boilerman
arrived, a little frightened, but in a desperate mood. I advised him to
take the usual course in such a case, to have the fire withdrawn from
the furnace and allow the boiler to burn, but as this would have meant
certain dismissal for him he decided to risk everything and fill up the
boiler or explode it. As he was determined in his foolhardy resolution
we collected our mates and left the shed, retiring to a safe distance.
By good fortune, however--by pure luck, and nothing else--the boiler
received the water safely, though with a great deal of shuddering, and
the danger was past. To make the best--or the worst--of it, there were
three men on the back of the boiler at the time, laying on the coat of
magnesia, for it had not been erected many days. Although we gave them
warning of the danger they took not the slightest notice, but kept
working away, in a hurry to get the job done, for it was piecework. If
the boiler had exploded, packed as it was with terrific pressure and
priming furiously, they would have been blown to atoms.

The bold and daring of the shed indulge in many jeers and
uncomplimentary remarks, if some others, in the face of real danger,
should adopt precautionary measures and take heed of their safety, but
experience has taught me that it is better to be apprehensive and
cautious and to take pains to safeguard oneself than to score a cheap
victory by bravado and carelessness. When danger threatens in the
factory, the best course is to stand quite clear at all costs; it is
then no shame to put into practice the words of the old proverb,
slightly amended: “He that works and runs away will live to work another
day.” By far the greater proportion of the accidents that happen daily
at the works are the direct result of inattention, of not taking notice
of warnings uttered by others, and the failure to exercise the instinct
of self-preservation natural to each individual. It is not that the men
are absolutely careless of themselves; it is rather that the care they
do take is not considerable or sufficient.



The drop-stamps and forgers, together with the plant known as the Yankee
hammers--so called by reason of their having been introduced from the
other side of the Atlantic--are the life and soul of the shed. The
hydraulic machines, through their noiseless and almost tedious operation
and the considerably less skill required on the part of the workmen in
carrying out the various processes, are dull and tame in comparison with
them. The steam-hammers, both by their noise, speed, and visible power
and by the alertness and dexterity of the stampers and forgers, are
certain to compel attention. There is a great fascination, too, in
standing near the furnace and watching the sparkling, hissing mass of
metal being withdrawn by the crane, or seeing the heated bars removed
from the oil forge and clapped quickly on the steel dies to be beaten
into shape. No one can withstand the attraction of the steam-hammers;
even those who have spent a lifetime in the shed like to stand and watch
the stampers and forgers at work.

Forging and smithing are, without doubt, the most interesting of all
crafts in the factory; other machinery, however unique it may be, will
not claim nearly as much attention. Visitors will pass by the most
elaborate plant to stand near the steam-hammers, or to watch the smith
weld a piece of iron on the anvil. The small boy who has just been
initiated into the shed, the youth, the grown-up man, and the
grey-haired veteran are bound to be attracted by the flashing of the
furnace and the white-hot metal newly brought out. They are greatly
delighted, too, with the long, swinging blow of the forging hammers, or
the short, sharp stroke of the stampers; to watch the metal being
transposed and conforming to the pressure of the dies, to see the sparks
shooting out in white showers, and the men sweating; to feel the earth
shaking, and to hear the chains jingling, the steam hissing and roaring
and the blows echoing like thunder all the time. To stand in the midst
of it and view the whole scene when everything is in active operation is
a wonderful experience, thrilling and impressive. You see the lines of
furnaces and steam-hammers--there are fifteen altogether--with the
monkeys travelling up and down continually and beating on the metal one
against the other in utter disorder and confusion, the blazing white
light cast out from the furnace door or the duller glow of the
half-finished forging, the flames leaping and shooting from the oil
forges, the clouds of yellow cinders blown out from the smiths’ fires,
the whirling wheels of the shafting and machinery between the lines and
the half-naked workmen, black and bare-headed, in every conceivable
attitude, full of quick life and exertion and all in a desperate hurry,
as though they had but a few more minutes to live. And what a terrific
din is maintained! You hear the loud explosion of the oil and water
applied for removing the scale and excrescence from the iron, the ring
of the metal under the blows of the stampers or of the anvil under the
sledge of the smiths, the simultaneous priming of the boilers, the
horrible prolonged screeching of the steam-saw slowly cutting its way
through the half-heated rail, the roaring blast, the bellowing furnace,
the bumping Ajax, the clanking cogwheels, the groaning shears, and a
hundred other sounds and noises intermingled. There is the striker’s
hammer whirling round, this one pulling and heaving, the forgeman
running out with his staff, the stamper twisting his bar over, the
furnaceman charging in his fuel, the white slag running out in streams
sparkling, spluttering, and crackling, the steam blown down from the
roof through the open door, the thick dust, the almost visible heat, the
black gloom of the roof and the clouds of smoke drifting slowly about,
or hanging quite stationary like a pall, completely blotting out the
other half of the shed, all which form a scene never to be forgotten by
those who shall happen to have once viewed it.

The hydraulic work, on the other hand, though interesting, is not
engrossing. There is a lack of life and animation in it; it is not
stirring or dramatic. The huge “rams” of the presses, though capable of
exerting a pressure equal to two hundred tons weight, descend very
slowly; the quick, alert steam-hammer could strike at least ten or a
dozen blows while the ram is once operating. So rapid is the blow of the
steam-hammer that the pressure raised in the metal by the impact of the
dies is often still unspent when the hammer rebounds, so that, as the
dies separate, if the metal is very hot, it explodes and flies asunder.
The speed of the rebound may be gauged by the fact that the stamper can
actually see the flow of metal in the dies from the blow after the
hammer has left it. The metal, as the result of this, will frequently
overflow the edge of the bottom die, and when the hammer descends again
the top die will have to shear away a quarter, or half an inch.

It is instructive to note the effect of the blows on the hot metal.
Continual beating it will quickly raise the temperature of the iron or
steel; I have many times raised the heat of a piece in operation from a
dull yellow to a brilliant welding pitch during the delivery of three or
four blows. Hammers have recently been invented that, with continually
beating on cold metal, will make it sufficiently hot to allow of drawing
and shaping; but though such machinery is interesting, it is not of much
use for serious manufacture. Compressed air, directed on metal of a dull
yellow heat, will soon considerably increase its temperature; you may
easily burn a hole quite through a six-inch steel bloom by the method.

The flying of sparks through the air will greatly intensify their heat;
after travelling a few yards they will become very dazzling and
brilliant and explode like fireworks. Sometimes a piece of this
superfluous metal, an ounce or more in weight, forced out from the die
with the blow, will shear off and fly to a great distance--often as much
as sixty or seventy yards. This, at the moment of leaving the die, may
be no more than a dull yellow, but by the time it falls to the ground it
will be intensely hot and will throw off a shower of hissing sparks. The
shearing-off of the bur is a source of great danger to the workmen. I
have several times been struck with pieces and been brought to the
ground in consequence; the effect is almost as though you had been
struck with a bullet from a gun.

Nothing of this kind is ever possible with the hydraulic machines. If a
weld is to be made it must be performed with one stroke of the ram;
after the top die leaves the metal it will be too cool to receive any
benefit from a second application of the power. Welding by hand or steam
power is always preferable to that performed by hydraulic action; a
joint that is made with six or ten small quick blows will be far more
effective and durable than where the iron has been simply squeezed
together by one operation of the ram. As soon as the hydraulic dies meet
the metal is considerably chilled. Instead of intensifying the heat, as
in the case of the steam-hammer, the cold tools greatly lessen it. The
weld, when made, will most certainly be short and brittle.

Some portion of the personnel of the shed has already been given, but of
the hundred and fifty comprising the permanent staff of the place
several are conspicuous among the rest for strangeness of habit, queer
characteristics, or strong personality. The men are a mixture of many
sorts and of several nationalities--English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish.
There is the shaggy-browed, fierce-looking son of Erin; the canny Scot
from Motherwell over the border; the gruff and short-tempered old
furnaceman from Dowlais; the doughty forger from Middlesborough; the
cultured cockney with his superb nasal twang; the Lancastrian with his
picturesque brogue; a representative of distant Penzance; an ex-seaman,
nicknamed “The Jersey Lily,” from the Channel Islands, and those hailing
from nearly every county in the Midlands and south of England, from
“Brummagem Bill” to “Southampton Charlie.” There are ex-soldiers and
sailors with arms and breasts tattooed with birds, flowers, serpents,
fair women and other emblems, and who have seen service in the East and
West Indies, China, Egypt, or the Transvaal; those who constantly pride
themselves on having once been in gentlemen’s service--though they do
not tell you how they came to leave it! butchers and bakers,
professional football players, conjurers, bandsmen, and cheap-jacks.

“Baltimore” works the middle drop-stamp, about halfway up the shed, and,
in the line of smaller steam-hammers opposite to him, toils a mulatto
known to everyone about the place as “Black Sam,” or “Sambo.” They are
old hands, having both come to the premises as boys, where they have
since been, except for the time when “Balty” was absent for the annual
training in the local Militia. It is not explained how he came to
receive the nickname. Black Sam is so called from his very dark
complexion, his short, black, curly hair and large, dark eyes. Baltimore
is rather ordinary in appearance. His forehead is low, his cheek-bones
high and his nose irregular. His lips are thick, he has a pointed chin
and lantern jaws. He is of medium height, square and broad shouldered.
As he walks his shoulders sway to and fro and up and down, keeping time
with his footsteps; he is exceedingly unmilitary both in physique and

It was by reason of these characteristics that Baltimore obtained the
attention of his shopmates. They all laughed rudely to see him in the
old-time Militia uniform--scarlet tunic much too big, with regulation
white belt, baggy trousers too long in the legs, heavy bluchers on the
feet and, instead of the swagger headgear worn in the Service to-day,
the old Scotch cap with long streamers behind and a little swishing cane
in the hand or under the arm. It is carefully handed down and passed
from one to the other that when Balty was at home on furlough all the
small boys of the street would gather round him, sniggering and jeering,
and making fun of his cut and appearance, and it is said furthermore
that he used very unceremoniously to drive them away with his cane
crying--“Get out, you young varmints! ’Aven’t you never seen a sojer
before?” In the shed and at the furnace he continued to attract
attention and be the subject of jocular remarks made by his workmates.
They never would take him seriously, not even though he came in time to
work one of the biggest drop-stamps and be reckoned among the honourable
company of forgers.

To all the superfluous attentions and mock regard of his fellow-mates
Baltimore preserves a good-natured and even an indulgent attitude; he is
not at all disconcerted with their wit and sarcasm. Though not one of
the most skilful of workmen, he is very shrewd and painstaking; his
whole heart and soul are in the business. From morning till night he is
toiling and sweating over his blooms and forgings, and when he is off
the premises he is still concerned with his occupations at the hammer.
He will sometimes tell one of his mates how he lay awake the greater
part of a night working out in his mind some problem connected with a
difficult piece of forging and then came in the next morning and
triumphantly finished the job.

Sambo’s father was an army veteran, a sergeant, who took for his wife an
Indian woman and became the parent of a family, of whom Samuel is the
eldest. He is of medium height, thin, but very erect, with low shoulders
and long neck. The forehead is sloping, the nose rather thick. He has
large dark eyes with tremendous whites, short woolly hair, high
cheekbones, skin very dark and sallow. The whole countenance is long and
the head angular; he has the clear characteristics of the half-cast. The
general opinion is that Sambo is out of place in the shed. He ought
rather to have been trained for a life on the stage; without doubt he
would have made a good pantomimist. Both his appearance and manner are
comical; he causes everyone to smile by reason of his ludicrous
expressions and grotesque facial contortions.

Sambo is quite aware of his own funniosity and readily lends himself to
the amusement of the small fry that sometimes come to gaze upon him.
Snatching up a shovel, he claps it to his shoulder as though it were the
traditional nigger’s instrument and, rolling his eyes and turning up the
whites of them, pretends to be fingering the banjo while he sings a few
lines of the “Swanee River” or other coon song. Sambo has always been
the butt of the rougher section in the shed and has been forced to
suffer many indignities. It was a common thing for the bullies of the
place to throw him on the ground and disgrace him. This they continued
to do long after he had married and become the father of children.

Working just beyond Sambo, at the next furnace, is the very shadow of a
man--a mere frame, a skeleton, which a good puff of wind might very
likely throw down. He is stripped to the waist and hatless. His hair is
long and it stands upright. His flannel shirt is thrown open; his
trousers merely hang on him, and he is as black as a sweep with the
smoke and grime of the furnace. This is “Strawberry,” sometimes also
known as “Gooseberry.” His features are remarkably small and fine, and
his neck is no bigger round than a span. He does not appear strong
enough to do any work, but, for all that, he is very tough and wiry.
Many a one laughs at him and tells him that he is melting away “like a
tallow candle,” but he answers them all boldly and tells them, with a
merry twinkle in his tiny dark eyes, that he is all right. “You look
after yourself, mate, and don’t fret about me,” says he.

Strawberry was at one time a cobbler, and used to get his living by the
patching up and renovation of old soles. Long after he entered the shed
he kept up the employment in his spare time, but by and by he
discontinued the work and betook himself to the more genteel though less
lucrative pursuits of flute-playing and photography. For a time he
donned uniform and played in the local band, and then, after a while,
that had to be discontinued. Now all his thought and care is to take
photographs and make models of steam-engines, magic lanterns and
cinematographic instruments. Mounted on a cycle, and provided with a
camera, he scours the country round at week-ends for customers and comes
home and does the developing and printing on Sundays. He is thoroughly
versed in time exposures and the various mysteries of photographic
development. Wherever he goes he carries a book of instructions in his
pocket, and if you stop to speak with him for a moment he is sure to
tell you of some new lens or snap-shot arrangement he has lately made,
or wearies you nearly to death with an attempted explanation of the
compounds in his home-made developers--“Hypo-tassum” something or other,
and the rest of it.

Another of Strawberry’s hobbies is the blind poring over fusty books,
several hundreds of years old, bought at auctions and usually fit for
nothing but the fire or dust-heap. These he treasures with great care,
and he is frequently trying to expound the contents of them to his
workmates, and to any others who will suffer to listen to him for a few
moments. His latest passion is to seek out old caves, ruins and
legendary sites; he is musician, artist, engineer, archæologist and
antiquarian combined. What he will become ultimately no one knows. I
much fear, however, that he will suffer the furnaceman’s fate in the end
and perish of the smoke and heat of the fires.

Strawberry succeeded Gustavus, who died under very sad circumstances.
Poor Gus was most unfortunate, though such cases as his are not of
uncommon occurrence. He had been through the war in South Africa, and
had fought there for his country. He had not been long on the furnace.
His health was not good at the best of times. If regard for a man’s
health were had at the time of putting him on a job Gus would never have
gone to the fires, but there is a ruthless, and very often a sinister,
disregard of a man’s physical condition when he is wanted to fill a
difficult post. About a year before Gus’s wife contracted milk fever,
after confinement. This affected her reason and she had to be removed;
her case was pronounced hopeless--absolutely hopeless. This came as a
great shock to Gus; there were five little children, all babies, one of
them new-born. He had no friends to come and take care of them and he
was poor--very poor. Accordingly, with a little assistance from the
neighbour, he determined to look after them himself. The oldest boy
prepared the meals by day; Gus saw to the general needs at night and did
the washing Sundays. Very soon one of the mites fell ill and had to go
to the workhouse hospital. All the others but one suffered sickness, and
Gus very soon followed suit. Worn out with the day’s work at the furnace
and obliged to toil and watch half the night over his infants, he soon
fell a prey to ill-health, and was compelled to stop at home from work.

Then the little stinging insects of the shed began to cavil and sneer.
“He’s oni shammin’. Ther’s nothin’ the matter wi’ he. He’s as well as I
be. He oni wants to shirk the furnace. Kip un to’t when a comes in.” By
and by Gus started work again, but not till the overseer had played a
treacherous trick upon him and tried to have him rejected at the medical
examination through an innocent and incautious remark he had chanced to
let fall concerning himself. The fact of the matter was, Gus was a
broken, ruined man. His general health was gone. His sight was failing;
his constitution was wrecked. For several weeks he dragged himself to
work, in a last desperate effort to keep a home for his babes and supply
them with food, though anyone might have seen that he was in positive
torture all the while. At last he could bear up no longer. He came to
work the fore part of the week, then stopped at home; in three days he
was dead. His little boys and girls went to the workhouse, or to
charities. One has to die before his mates in the shed think there is
anything the matter with him. Then, in nine cases out of ten--especially
if he happens to be one of the poorest and most unfortunate--he is
mercilessly sneered over. Probably that was his own fault. They even
blame him for dying; in three days he is almost totally forgotten. Cruel
hearts and feelings are bred in the atmosphere of the factory.

There is one “Fire King” and only one; all the others are mere
apprentices--nobodies. He comes from “The Noth,” from Middlesborough, of
great iron fame. Without doubt he is a marvel. He is always talking
about the “haats” they used to draw “way up there.” It was prodigious.
There is nothing like it down south. “Wales! I tell you Wales is a
dung-hill; they can’t do it for nuts.” He looks at you with
inexpressible scorn. Then he plunges the bar into the furnace hole and
stirs up the coals, “stops up” again, peers through the iron door and
comes back mopping his face with the wiper. “I tell you tha be a lot o’
cow-bangers about here. Tha never sin a furnace nor a haat afore. When I
was at Sunderland”--here he gives an especially knowing wink, and
scratches one side of his nose with his forefinger, drawing his head
near to your ear and speaking in an undertone--“when I was at
Sunderland, though I says it myself, there wasn’t a man on the ground
as could hold a candle to Phil Clegg. The manager allus used to stop and
talk to me about the haats, and slip a crown piece into mi hand for a
drink. ‘Clegg,’ says he, ‘I’ve learned from you what I never knew
before.’” All this is accepted with reserve in the shed. It may or may
not have been true; one is not compelled to believe all the
extraordinary reports circulated by the forgers and furnacemen.

Some years ago the doughty one was set to do some initial forging in
steel blooms and spoiled three parts of the material by overheating.
“Bad steel! damn bad steel! ’Twunt stand a bit o’ haat,” said he. The
matter was accordingly reported to the managers, and word was sent to
the firm that had manufactured the blooms--“Bad steel! Bad steel!”
passed all along the line. Then the manufacturers’ representative came
to inspect the process and to report upon the quality of the metal. The
Fire King scraped his leg and scratched his nose and talked much of
“kimicals,” winking at his mates and getting his metal to a fizzing
heat. “Too hot, too hot,” said the representative. “Aye! man, but we
must get it so hot or the hammer wunt bate it down,” the Fire King
replied. “Get a heavier hammer,” said the inspector, touching the spot
immediately, and walking off in disgust. The steel was all right, it was
merely overheated. Thereafter the Fire King’s prestige visibly
diminished. He became the scorn of the furnaces; he was humbled and
disgraced for ever. He was subsequently put in charge of the damping-up
of the furnaces, and he styled himself foreman of the night shift there,
which was one, besides himself.

After all, “Tubby” is the best furnaceman. He hails from Wales, “the
true old country, where the men comes from,” according to him. Tubby is
short, fat and round, about the size of a thirty-six barrel, and he is
extremely short-legged. His head is quite bald and shines well. His
features are regular and well-formed. He has an aristocratic nose, thick
neck, and shoulders shapeless with fat. At the fire he strips off his
outer shirt and only retains his flannel vest. The sleeves of this are
cut short to the shoulders and it is fastened at the neck by means of
strings threaded with a bodkin. He drinks an enormous quantity of cold
water, and it is singular that he never uses a cup but swallows it from
the large two-gallon pot. To this habit he attributes his uncommonly
good health and fine proportions.

He is a genius at the fire. Whether the furnace be in a good or bad
condition he will soon have it as radiant as a star, and he is
marvellously cool at it. His speech has a strongly Welsh accent and he
talks with great rapidity, especially when he happens to become excited.
At such times it is difficult to understand him; he pours out his words
and sentences like a cataract.

Notwithstanding the old furnaceman’s skill and general inoffensiveness,
he could not escape a little practical joking at the hands of the
youths. In the shed was an iron bogie, in the shape of a box, just big
enough to contain his Falstaffian body. When he was on night duty he
always seized upon this as a sleeping bunk for meal hours. Resting it
upon the handles forward he sat in it, with his head at the back and his
feet hanging over the front, and slept profoundly, with his arms folded
and a coat drawn over his face. When he had fallen asleep several
hard-hearted youths came up quietly and attached a strong rope to each
handle of the bogie. They then raced off with it as fast as they could
travel, going out of the shed and returning by a roundabout route to the
furnace over bricks and stones, steel rails, and anything else that
happened to be in the way. The jolting was terrific, but the bogie was
drawn at such a rate that poor Tubby dared not attempt to get out and
was forced to endure it as best he could. Arrived back at the furnace
the youths speedily decamped and Tubby never knew for certain who had
perpetrated the joke upon him in the darkness.

_Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo. Domine sanctorum._ The old
ash-wheeler leans on his shovel and thus addresses you with profound
gravity, as though he were the reverend Father himself ministering to
his flock in the church. Boland is an Irishman and hails from far
Tipperary. He brought his old mother over to England many years ago and
has since dwelt in the railway town. He is a typical Hibernian. He is
square-set and distinctive in feature, with heavy brows, thickish nose,
strong eyes, and firm, expressive mouth. Notwithstanding the fact that
he is slighted by the critical of the shed he has a good many virtues;
underneath his rough exterior is concealed a wealth of kindness and
good-nature. In common with the bulk of his race he is a Catholic in
religion. If you should approach him on the subject you would be
surprised at his interest in and affection for his Church and doctrine:
he is immovable in his simple and childlike faith. In speaking of any
matters connected with it his voice will be solemn and hushed; he is
filled with reverence and awe. Though not a very constant church-goer he
yet manages to attend at festival times and pays considerable attention
to the sermon. He will always tell you the text, and in summing up the
Father’s oratorical abilities he tells you, as a climax, that he can “go
back in history two hundred years.”

The last and most important of all to be dealt with is Pinnell, of the
Yankee Plant. He is by far the hardest working man in the stamping shed.
In the first place he cannot help being a hard worker, for it is his
nature so to be. Rest and he are most inveterate enemies. He _must_
find something or other to do; he could not be idle though he tried
never so hard. In the second place he is bound to work hard. The job
requires it, or, at any rate, the “super” requires it, which is a
slightly different matter. Pinnell used to work one of the small
drop-stamps and was always remarkable for his conscientiousness and
dogged perseverance. He was the first to start work and the last to
finish. He would never take a moment’s spell. If there had been no work
he would promptly have made some, and have kept plodding away at his
forge and stamp. Accordingly, when the miraculous tools from the other
side of the Atlantic--which, in the opinion of the Yankee innovator,
were going to smash up the other section altogether and displace half
the men in the shed--were introduced, Pinnell was the man selected to
start the process and lead the way for others. He had to demonstrate
what the machines were capable of doing, and upon his output would be
based the standard of prices for those to follow after or work beside

The introduction of the Yankee hammers and the oil furnaces for heating
was the beginning of hustle in the shed. Everything was designed for the
man to start as early as possible, to keep on mechanically to and from
the furnace and hammer with not the slightest pause, except for meals,
and to run till the very last moment. His prices were fixed accordingly.
Every operation was correctly timed. The manager and overseer stood
together, watches in hand. It was so and so a minute; that would amount
to so much in an hour, and so much total for the day. If Pinnell flagged
a little--it is dreadful to have to keep hammering away for hours in an
exhausted condition, with never a moment’s pause--if he flagged a
little, or checked the oil somewhat in the forge, the overseer promptly
set it going again and pricked him on to greater effort, answering his
words--if he ever dared utter any--with a wheedling and plausible
excuse, and telling him it was not at all hard; “Just a busy little
job,” and so forth. If nature required that he should leave the forge
and walk across the shed, that was the subject of a note--“One minute
and three-quarters gone.” Did he think he could beat the records of all
the other men at the stamps? The manager hoped he would try hard to do
so, he wanted the machine to be quite first in output. The prices were
weighed, chiselled, and pared with great exactness, even to the
splitting of a farthing: “A halfpenny is too much for this job; I shall
give you three-eighths.” Moreover, the overseers only timed him in the
morning, after breakfast, which is the most active part of every day,
and when all are fresh and fit for work, or never, so that the prices
were fixed at a time when everything was going at its best. It is
impossible to maintain the same speed in the afternoon, or even during
the latter part of the morning towards dinner-time, that one is capable
of after breakfast.

So Pinnell was little by little broken in to the new conditions.
Whatever protests he made were of no avail. If the acute manager
happened to make a slight misjudgment and give him a fair price for a
job, one or other of the shed overseers--though always very flip with
him to his face--rushed off privately and informed about it, and had it
cut down to the dead level. Very often the overseers competed with each
other to see which could make the lowest quotation in order to get into
favour with the managers. Once, after playing an underhanded game in the
fixing of prices, the foreman even induced Pinnell to leave his hammer
and forge and go and protest to the manager himself, though he knew
very well the matter was nothing but a farce. When the deluded one
arrived at the office he was received with studied courtesy. A little
arithmetic was entered into, and it was proved beyond all doubt that the
job was well, and even generously, paid for. Accordingly, feeling rather
foolish at his boldness in going to the manager and his failure to
succeed in the matter, Pinnell returned to his work, while the overseer
stood in hiding and watched him back to his hammer, laughing at his

When at last he found that there was no escape for him, he settled down
in despair, and decided to bury himself at the toil. So exacting is the
labour it admits of no interest whatever in anything else. It is a body-
and soul-racking business, just that which keeps the whole man in a
crushed and subdued state, and makes him a very part of the machinery he
operates. It was nothing but the man’s natural zeal for work and grit
that kept him at the task. Night after night he went home to his wife
and children as tired as a dog, too tired even to read the newspaper, or
write a letter. He simply sat in the chair or lay on the couch till
bed-time, completely worn out with the terrible exertions.

Very soon the abject misery of his condition found expression in words
to his workmates. He was continually wishing himself dead. He said he
should like to die out of it. Life was nothing but a heavy burden, and
there was nothing better in sight in the future; only the same killing
toil day after day. He often wondered _when_ he should die. He had heart
enough for anything, but somehow he felt he could never keep it up, and
everyone told him he was “going home sharp.” At the same time, nothing
would prevent him from turning up at the hammer day after day; ill or
well he was sure to be at his post. Sometimes, when his wife exhorted
him to stay at home and recuperate and locked the doors against him, in
the early morning he escaped to work through the window. There was no
detaining him at all; he felt bound to come to the shed and endure the
daily punishment. To intensify his sufferings everyone told him it was
his own fault. He had no one to blame but himself; he should not have
been such a fool as to lend himself so easily to it, they said.

So, eternally tired with the work--he has two forges to attend to, he
heats all his own bars, drives his own hammer with the foot and operates
the heavy trimmer by the side of it in the same manner--half-choked and
blinded with the reeking smoke and fumes of the oil, sore-footed with
using the treadle, his arms blistered and burnt with the scale and hot
water from the glands and valves--they are very often in bandages--his
hands cut and torn with the sharp ends of the bars, or burned with the
hot ones that sometimes shoot out from the die and slip white-hot
through his palm and fingers, beaten and distressed with the heat, the
gazing-stock of everyone that passes through the shed and who look upon
him as a freak and a marvel, he keeps plodding away, a much be-fooled
and over-worked individual, the utter victim of a cruel and callous




“What’s up?”

“Wake up!”

“What’s the matter?”

“Get up!”

“Go to hell!”

“You-u-u! Tell me to go to hell, will you? I’ll smash you.

“Come on, then! Try it on! I’m not afraid of you! You’re nobody!”

“Well, wake up! and jump about when I tell you.”

“Wake up yourself, whitegut!”

“Who are you calling whitegut, eh? Who are you calling whitegut?”

“Who shot the sheep and had to pay for it?”

“Blast you! I’ve had enough of your jaw. I’ll put your head in that
bucket of oil.”

“_Will_ ya? You got to spell able first.”

Scuffle, in which the younger is thrown down to the ground, after which
he gets up and runs away, crying:


“I’ll give you ‘Baa-a-a!’ Wait till I get hold of you!”

“Baa-a-a! Baa-a-a!”

“Take that! you-u-u!” throwing a lump of coal that misses him and goes
flying through the office window.

“Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

    ‘Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it;
      Everybody’s doing it now.’”

“Yes, and you’ll be doing it directly! ’Tis all your fault. If you was
to look after your work instead of acting about so much that wouldn’t
have happened. Blasted well light that fire up!”

“Here’s the gaffer comin’.”

“A good job too! I don’t trouble.”

“What the hell’s up this end? Ya on a’ready this mornin’? I’ll send the
pair of you home directly.”

“’Tis my mate here. He’s the cause of everything. He’s no good to me. He
won’t do nothing.”

“D’ye hear this?”

“I allus does mi whack.”

“Don’t talk to me. Hello! What’s this ’ere? Who bin smashin’ the window?
Ther’ll be hell to pop over this. If I reports ya you’ll be done for,
both on ya.”

“Please, sir, I kicked a piece of coke and it went through the pane.”


“The hammer fled off the shaft and went through the window.”

“Why the devil don’t you look after the shaft then, and keep the wedges
tight. You’ll knock somebody’s head off presently. I daresay you was at
that blasted football again. The first I ketches at it I’ll sack. Have
un clean off the ground. I’ll give un football!”

“Light that fire up, Laudy!”

“Got a job on over ’ere, gaffer.”

“Wha’s the trouble?”

“Top cylinder busted, ram cracked, and the crown of the furnace fell

“How did that happen?”

“Night chaps, I s’pose. ’Twas done when we got here this mornin’.”

“You’re out for the rest o’ the wik then. Set yer mind at rest on that.
Damn it! Everything happens on nights. This blasted night work’s a
nuisance. Go and tell Deep Sea and fetch the brickies, and get they on
to’t. Wher’s yer mates?”

“Waitin’ instructions.”

“They can go home, and stop ther’ if tha likes. Got nothin’ for ’em to
do. Go and tell ’em.”

“Sign this order, sir.”

“Come on then, quick! No time to mess about with you. Hello! Bailey’s
Best! Wha’s this for?”

“Leg irons.”

“You don’t want best for them. Cable’s good enough for they. What ya
thinkin’ about?”

“Have a look at this ’ere die, guvnor?”

“Wha’s up wi’ he?”

“Wants dressin’ out, or else re-cuttin’.”

“Spit in him, and get yer iron hot!”

“Wanted on the telephone, quick! Number fifteen shop.”

“Got no coke out at the hip, gaffer!”

“The water tank’s half empty.”

“The glass on the boiler’s smashed.”

“Please, sir, the chargeman’s out, and he got the key of the box.”

“And my mate bin an’ squished the top of his finger half off.”

“Damn good job, too! How many more on ya?”

“Are you coming to answer number fifteen?”

“Oh, be God!”

“Another day doin’ nothin’. You can never start till the middle o’ the

“Steady on with that oil, Laudy! Steady on, I tell you! He’ll go off


“There! What did I tell you!”

“Oh, Christ! My eyes got it.”

“Serves you damn well right! I told you on it. You got the front half
out now. Get some oily waste.”

“There’s plenty here.”

“You haven’t got the back stopped up yet. Get some wet sand and stop
that hole up. Now then! Be quick with you!”

“Steady on a bit, then! I don’t want to get burned to death.”

“Serve you right if you was to!”

“Steady on, I say! Damn well do it yourself then! I’m not going to get
myself burned.”

“I shut him off. Make haste with you. Ya ready?”



“What a blasted smoke! Shut some of that oil off.”

“Let it alone! That won’t hurt. We wants to get on.”

“It gets down my inside. I shall spew in a minute.”

“That’ll do you good.”

“Shut some of it off.”

“Let it alone, I tell you!”

“I’m not going to be pizened.”

“’Tis no worse for you than ’tis for me.”

“I can’t see two yards.”

“Hello! Hello! What the hell’s on there?”

“’Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!”

“Steady on with that oil, mate! We gets all the smoke here.”

“I can’t help it.”

“Yes you can help it, too! Shut some of that oil off.”

“That won’t make no difference.”

“Wind off, mate! and hammer down. This is a bit too thick. Hey! Gaffer!
Are we expected to work in this?”

“That’ll kill the worms in yer guts.”

“I can’t stand this. My head aches splittin’. I’m half-smothered.”

“We don’t care a damn about the smoke, mate, as long as we can get the
iron hot. ’Tis no worse for you than ’tis for the rest. If you don’t
like it you can stop out. There’s plenty more to take yer place.”

“That’s all you get for your trouble! Wants the inspector in here. It’s
worse than bein’ up the chimmuck. Go on, mate! Hammer up, Jim.”

“He’ll be all right directly, old man. He ain’t got hot yet.”

“Hot, be hanged! He ought to be dropped in the middle of the sea, and
you along with him! The pair of you ought to be down with the

“Don’t talk wet!”

“Come on, Laudy! and put some pieces in the fire.”

“I ain’t filled the lubricators yet.”

“Ain’t filled the lubricators! What ya bin at this half-hour?”

“God! Give us a chance.”

“’Twill be breakfast-time before we makes a start.”

“I wish ’tood be! I wants mine.”

“What the hell a’ ya talkin’ about?”


“Now then! You knows what I told you! Get and put some pieces in the

“Can’t find my tongs now.”

“Where did you leave ’em last night?”

“Chucked ’em down.”

“What’s this here?”

“That en’ them.”

“Damn well go and look for ’em then. You’ll lose your head directly.”

“Strike a light, mate! That key’s in there tight.”

“Look out! Hold that bar up.”

“I wants the tongs first.”

“I shan’t hit you.”

“I don’ know so much.”

“Come on! A couple o’ blows’ll do the trick.”

“Not in these trousers!”

“Old Ernie’s thinkin’ about the Tango.”

“The tangle, more likely.”

“Don’t you worry, mate!”

“Ya got him?”


_Slap, slap, slap._

“Whoa! Wait a minute. That hammer’s comin’ off.”

“Hold him up.”

“Is he shifted?”

“He’s gone a bit, I think.”

“Hold your hand the other side, and feel him.”

“Now go on. Steady, mate!”

_Slap, slap._

“Ho! Hooray!”

“What did I tell you?”

“Everybody’s doin’ it, doin’ it, doin’ it.”

“Our mate’s strong this mornin’. He bin eatin’ onions.”

“Give us a bit of that packing. That thin piece! Now get the pinch bar,
and prise the monkey up.”

“How’s that?”

“A bit higher. Right! That’ll do.”

“Key in?”

“Ah! Slap him in.”

“Give us the sledge.”

“Get that big un.”

“Shaft’s broke in two.”

“Get the furnace one, then.”

“How about packing?”

“Same as before.”

“Look out, then!”

“Blow up, mate?”

“Right away with you.”

“How tight do you want him?”

“As tight as you can get him. Slip him in. That’ll do now.”

“Hey-yup! Hammer up. He’s burned a bit, mate.”

“Be hanged! You only got half a piece.”

“Can’t help it. That was stoppin’ to get the key out.”

“Go on. Hit him!”

_Bang, bang, bang._

“Whoa! That’ll do.”

“What’s the dies like, chum?”

“All right now.”

“Blow up?”

“Ah! Let’s have you.”

“Tool up, mate!”

“The chain’s twisted.”

“Can’t you see it’s upside down! D’you want to smash the bounder? Now go


“Light again.”


“That’ll do. Oil up.”

[2]“Pi, Pi, Balli! Let’s have you! whack ’em along there!”

    [2] παῖ, παῖ, βάλλε = Boy! boy! whack ’em along.



“As quick as you like, mate! We’ve got to move to-day. Hit him, there!”

_Bang, bang, bang._

“Whoa! Tool up, quick! Light, now!”


“One more. Light!”


“That got him.”

“Pi, Pi, Balli! All hot! All hot! Let’s have you!”



“Not much afore breakfast, but look out aater!”

“Wormy’s makin’ some scrap on the next fire. Look at ’im!”

“Rat, O! Rat, O! Get that rat out o’ the fire, old man.”

“Don’t burn ’em! Don’t burn ’em!”

“Another snider, O!”

“The blasted jumper won’t work.”

“Oil they tongs a bit.”

“Pizen that rat in the fire.”

“Go to the boneyard and dig Smamer up, and fetch he back.”

“What the hell are ya talking about? Don’t you never spile one?”

“Hair off! Hair off!”

“Don’t get your bracers twisted.”

“Tell him off, kid.”

“I’ll put my hand in your mouth directly.”

“You’re the finest worm I’ve ever seen.”

“Come on here, and not so much of your old buck!”

“Get out of the road, and let Pep have a try.”

“Damn well get away from here! Who the hell can hot iron with you about?
Your face is enough to spoil anything.”

“Get ’em hot! Get ’em hot!”

“Get hold of that lever, you reptile!”

“I’ve seen better things than you crawling on cabbages.”

“How’s that? Will that do for you?”

_Whizz. Slap._

“Get that muck out o’ your fire.”

“Hit him hard! Right up.”

_Bang, bang, bang. Knock._

“Keep off the top!”

“You said right up.”

“Shut some of that steam off.”

“Steam’s all right.”

“Shut it off, I tell you!”

“Shut it off yourself! Mind the tongs, or you’ll get it.”

_Bang, bang, bang, bang._

“Don’t answer me back or I’ll flatten you out.”

“Nothing’s never right for you. You ought to be in a bigger town.”

“Tool up, there!”

“Rope’s off the wheel, mate!”

“Shut the blasted wind off.”

“He’s cut all to pieces.”

“Tha’s knockin’ the top. I told you of it. I shall ast the gaffer for
another mate. This’ll take us till dinner-time. Go and get the spanners,
and ast Sid for a new rope, and look sharp about it!”

“Now, Laudy! Wake up with you! We shan’t earn damn salt.”

“I don’t trouble. I can’t help it.”

“Well! Come on, then.”

“Tongs won’t hold ’em.”

“Get another pair.”

“Which uns?”

“There’s plenty more about.”

“I’m sick o’ this job.”

“You don’t like work.”

“’Cause you’re so fond of it!”

“Don’t waste them ends off. They won’t fill up as it is.”

“I reckon the fella as started work ought to come back and finish it.”




“Don’t burn the damn things! Look at that! All over me.”

“My clothes is afire.”

“What’s yer little game there, eh? Med as well kill a fella as frighten
him to death.”

“Oo! My grub got it!”

“Get these others out first.”

“What O! I’m not goin’ to see _my_ grub burn. What do _you_ think?”

“All the damn lot’ll be spoiled.”

“I don’t care a cuss! I got some tiger in there.”

“Steady that oil a bit.”

“God! Doan it stink!”

“Shut some of it off, I tell you. It’s running all over the place.”

“Half on it’s water.”

“That second one there, and keep to the top row.”



“Why don’t you be careful?”

_Snap. Bump._

“Back tool’s jammed now.”

“The safety bolt’s broke.”

“Shut the belt off.”

“Look out, then!”

“Stop the oil, and pull them others out.”

“Let ’em alone! We shan’t be a minute.”

“Well! Jump about then.”

“Here’s Calliper King comin’!”

“Tell him to clear off. We can do very well without him. That fellow
makes me mad.”

“If you was to put the spanner on the nuts sometimes you wouldn’t get
half the trouble.”

“All right, mate! There’s no damage done. We can’t think of everything.”

“Your bearings are hot.”

“They’ll get cold directly.”

“You might get them seized.”

“Damn good job! Shove some oil into ’em, kid!”

“Who are you calling kid?”

“Look out, there!”

“I shall report you, mind!”

“You can please yourself. ’Twon’t be the first time. If you’ll only keep
out o’ the road we shall be all right. Blow up, Laudy!”


“Pull the belt over.”


“I’m ready.”

“Take him, then.”


_Click, clack. Bump._

“How’s that?”

“That got him. Now we shan’t be long!”

“Yip ho! All new uns!”

“I got that pistol in my pocket.”

“Is he any good?”

“Kill at hundred and twenty.”

“What? Inches?”

“Inches be damned! Yards, man!”

“You never killed anything with him.”

“Ain’t he, though? I know he have.”

“What have you killed? A dead cat?”

“Dead cat! You’re afraid to let me try him on you.”

“You couldn’t hit a barn door.”

“I tell you what I done.”

“What’s that? Oh! I know. Who shot the sheep? Baa-a-a!”

“Shut your blasted head!”

“Pride o’ the Prairie! Got any cartridges?”

“Half a boxful.”

“Slugs or bullets?”


“Let’s have a look!”

“Get this work done first. ’Twill be breakfast-time directly.”

“Hey-up! He’s slightly wasted.”

“I should blasted well think so.”



“Hello! There’s another snider!”


“Keep him there! We don’t want your scrap.”

“Pi, Pi, Balli! Tha’s a good heat, mate!”

“We haven’t done anything yet.”

“What! Tell somebody else that yarn! Hear that, Jim?”

“Wha’s up?”

“Chargeman says we ain’t done nothin’ yet.”

“More we ain’t, have us?”

“Have us not! Tha’s only a rumour.”

“I didn’t think we had.”

“You bin asleep an’ only just woke up. All good uns, too.”

“We shall want ’em, bi what I can see on it.”

“What d’ya mean?”

“Look at the next hammer! They won’t start to-day.”

“How’s that, mate?”


“Mind my toe.”

“Good shot, that!”

“Cool your tongs out.”

“Have a drink.”

“Put it on the anvil.”

_Bang, bang, bang._

“Whoa! Tool.”

“Ain’t he slippy!”

“Light blow.”


“That takes a bit of doing, one hand!”

“Come on, Lightning!”

“Unknown swank!”

“All hot! All hot!”

“You’ll get the price cut directly.”

“Come and see the boys!”

“I’m a-lookin’ at ya!”

“Ain’t a burned one yet.”

“Don’t make a song about it.”

“You got a good mate on the hammer.”

“Fifty without stoppin’ the wind. All new uns!”

“See who you are!”

“Stand back, and mind the mallet! There’s one for you, Wormy!”

“Take a couple, mate?”

“Come on with ’em.”

_Slap, slap._

_Bang, bang, bang._

_Bang, bang, bang._

“Fire’s gettin’ low. Wants some more coke up.”

“Wher’ d’ye want thase few pieces, Willums!”

“Tip ’em up anywhere, Mat!”

“All you’ll get to-day.”

“You’re talking wet. They won’t last five minutes.”

“You’ll hef to see gaffer, then. We got to change knives.”

“Get out of the road, or you’ll get your whiskers singed.”

“Dossent thee fret thy kidneys. This is too damn hot for me. You got no
room to mauve.”

“Somebody got to do a bit.”

“Thee dossent do’t all.”

“You’d have to go home if I did.”

“Top hammer’s stopped now. Middle un’s ready.”

“What’s up a-top? Going to start, there? See that rope’s all right! Have
the sharp edges took off the wheel.”

“We be done for.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Top block broke. Only had forty more to do.”

“Ram up, and get your dies out. Give a hand there, mates.”

“’Tis all bad luck this mornin’, ain’ it?”

“’Tis the chaps as make the luck. What do you think? We get on all

“Here’s the bummer in a tear.”

“Why the hell don’t you be careful! You’ll break all the tackle in
creation. First one thing and then another. Ropes and wheels and dies.
You wants to go home for a month. That ’ood teach ’e a lesson. You don’t
trouble a damn for nothing.”

“I asked the fitters to see to it, and they wouldn’t come.”

“That block was never strong enough for the job.”

“Go an’ fetch Moses. What ya goin’ to put in next?”

“Pull-rod levers. Die seventy-two.”

“Don’ want them. Put in hunderd an’ one.”

“Chargeman says levers. Wanted urgent. Chaps bin up after ’em.”

“Let ’em wait. I’m the foreman. You knows that.”

“All right. Don’ make no difference to me.”

“Did you send for me?”

“I did. Get on wi’ new blocks for piston rods.”

“Any alterations?”

“Not as I knows on.”

“We’ve had complaints about the others.”

“I don’t care. Let ’em file ’em. The devils be never satisfied.”

“Better have ’em a bit stiffer?”

“They’m stiff enough. They wasn’t set level.”

“They was as level as a billiard table, gaffer!”

“I could a’ shoved my finger underneath ’em.”

“I had ’em packed tight everywhere.”

“Then you didn’t have yer iron hot. ’Tis no good to arg’ the point. Take
care wi’ the next lot, mind!”

“Let him go to hell! He’d make anybody a damn liar. Key out. Hang on to
that spanner. Damp up, and shut the blower off. Fetch the iron trucks.
We shall want some help to get these out o’ the way.”

    “Billy, sing that song,
    That good old song to me!”

“Now, Jacko! Give us a hand here.”

“I can’t. My leg’s bad.”

“That won’t hurt your leg, will it? I wants your hand, not your leg.
’Tis all in the gang.”

“I got one stuck on the jumper.”

“All right. Blind you! We’ll do it ourselves. This _is_ a show! Come on,
mates! Keep the handles down, and mind he don’t tip.”

“Give him a blow on that bar to get him off the jumper, can’t ya; and
don’t stick up there doin’ nothin’. You ain’t heard our mate’s new
nickname, have you, Wormy?”

“No. What’s that?”

“Flannel. Know why that is?”


“Cos water allus makes him shrink. Look at him! The only curly-headed
boy in the family!”

“You hump-backed, monkey-faced baa-boon! You broke loose from the Zoo,
you did. I won’t hit another stroke for nobody, now, damn if I do!”

“Get out! I’ll spiflicate you!”

“I’ll bash the tongs across your head.”

“What ya goin’ to do? Take that! _Now_ what ya goin’ to do? I’ve had
enough of your jaw.”

“Let the kid alone, can’t you!”

“I’ll get my own back on him, before night, see if I don’t. I’ll drop
the hammer on his head.”

“Fetch him out, Wormy!”



“Keep that hammer still, will ya! Hit him if you dares! Now go on.

_Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang._

“Whoa! whoa! steady! steady! Light when I tell ya!”

_Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang._

“Blast you! What a’ you doin’? You smashed him all to pieces.”

“I told you I’d do it.”

“Workin’ your breakfast-time, there?”

“Goin’ to keep on all day?”

“Ain’t you goin’ to chuck up?”

“How’s the balance?”

“What! only just started?”

“Whack ’em along!”

“How many more?”

“Work ’em out!”

“What time is it?”

“’Ere’s old Sid with the checks!”

“What’s up, Flannigan?”

“Only wants two minutes!”

“Flatfoot’s gone by.”

“You’re on late, mate!”

“What’s going to happen?”

“Got a book-ful?”

“Tool up, there!”

“Put him up yourself!”

“Put that tool up, Wormy, and catch hold o’ that lever.”

“Light blow!”


“Whoa! That’ll do.”

“What cheer, Sid!”

“Stand back, here, and let’s get by.”

“Wants a lot o’ room for a little un, don’t ya?”

“Not so much as you. Not so much as you. My time’s precious, not like
yourn. We got summat to do, we have.”

“Ah! Sit on your backside an’ count they checks out, that’s all.”

“Goin’ to have your bit o’ brass when I offers it to you?”

“Put him on the anvil.”

“Shan’t! Take him in your hand. Lose him, and then blame me.”

“My hand’s oiley!”

“Don’ matter! Wipe him in your breeches, can’t you? Come on, kidney

“Little fat maggot!”

“Go on, bones!”

“Pimple on a cabbage!”



“_Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit!_”


“Lend my father your wheelbarrow!”

“Using your knife breakfast-time, kid?”

“No! I got bread and scrape.”

“Who got the frying-pan?”

“You can have him for a fag.”

“I got a bit o’ dead dog, I have.”

“What d’ya call it? Looks like a bit of Irish.”

“That never died a natural death!”

“That drove many a man up a tree!”

“Lend us that catalogue of firearms, Dick!”

“He’s underneath the bucket.”

“How much longer ya going to keep on?”

“I wants to get my blocks right afore breakfast.”

“Laudy! You left that rotten stinking oil on.”

“No, I didn’t!”

“Yes you did! Stop it off, and put that board in the hole!”

“I tell you it’s shut off. That’s only the stink you can smell.”

“It makes me feel rotten. I shan’t want any grub.”

“Ain’t it damn hot! We shall be dead afore night.”

“Hit him, Wormy!”

_Bang, bang, bang._


“What’s the die like?”

“Wants to go over a bit yet.”

“Chuck it up!”

“Lie down, can’t you!”

“Mind your own business!”

“Put him through the tool.”

“Got the coke ready for after breakfast, Jim?”


“I’m going to put you through your facings, by and by.”

“I don’t trouble! I ben’ a-goin’ to work no harder for nobody.”

“Look out for Ratty! He’s peepin’ about. He’s going to report the first
one as puts his coat on afore the hooter goes.”

“He’s worse than old Wanky!”

“’Tis all damn watchmen here!”

“How’s the minutes?”

“It’s quarter past.”

“There’s the buzzer!”

“There he goes!”

“Tools down, mates!”

“Whack ’em down!”






Whatever the trials of the day shift at the forge may be, those of the
night turn are sure to be far greater. For the daytime is the natural
period of both physical and mental activity. The strong workman, after a
good night’s rest and sleep, comes to the task fresh, keen, vigorous,
and courageous. Though the day before him be painfully long--almost
endless in his eyes--he feels fit to do battle with it, for he has a
reserve of energy. In the early morning, before breakfast, he is not at
his best. He has not yet “got into his stride,” he tells you. His full
strength does not come upon him suddenly, it develops gradually. He can
spend and spend and spend, but cannot exhaust. Nature’s great battery
continues to yield fresh power until the turn of the afternoon. Then the
rigid muscles relax, and the flesh shows loose and flabby. The eyes are
dull, the features drawn; the whole body is tired and languid.

But this is with the day shift, working in the natural order of things.
A great change is to be observed in the case of the night turn. There
nature is inverted; the whole scheme is reversed. The workman, unless he
is well seasoned to it, cannot summon up any energy at all, and he
cannot conquer habit, not after months, or even years of the change.
When, by the rule of nature, he should be at his strongest and the
exigencies of the night shift require that he should sleep, that
strength, bubbling up, keeps him awake, dead tired though he be, and
when he requires to be active and vigorous just the reverse obtains. The
energy has subsided, the sap has gone down from the tree. Nature has
retired, and all the coaxing in the world will not induce her to come
forth until such time as the day dawns and she steals back upon him of
her own free will. That is what, most of all, distinguishes the night
from the day shift, and makes it so wearisome for the pale-faced

There is a poignancy in preparing for the night shift, the feeling is
really one of tragedy. This is where the unnaturalness begins. Everyone
but you is going home to rest, to revel in the sweet society of wife and
children, or parents, to enjoy the greatest pleasure of the workers’
day--the evening meal, the happy fireside, a few short hours of simple
pleasure or recreation and, afterwards, the honey-dew of slumber. As you
walk along the lane or street towards the factory you meet the toilers
in single file, or two abreast, or marching like an army, in compact
squads and groups, or straggling here and there. The boys and youths
move smartly and quickly, laughing and talking; the men proceed more
soberly, some upright with firm step and cheerful countenance, others
bent and stooping, dragging their weary limbs along in silence like
tired warriors retreating after the hard-fought battle.

There is also the inward sense and knowledge of evening, for, however
much you may deceive your external self, you cannot deceive Nature.
Forget yourself as much as you please, she always remembers the hour and
the minute; she is far more painstaking and punctual than we are. The
time of day fills you with a sweet sadness. The summer sun entering
into the broad, gold-flooded west, the soft, autumn twilight, or the
gathering shades of the winter evening, all tell the same story. It is
drawing towards night; night that was made for man, when very nature
reposes; night for pleasure and rest, for peace, joy, and compensations,
while you--here are you off to sweat and slave for twelve dreary hours
in a modern inferno, in the Cyclops’ den, with the everlasting wheels,
the smoke and steam, the flaring furnace and piles of blazing hot metal
all around you.

Within the entrance the place seems almost deserted. The huge sheds have
poured out their swarms of workmen. The black-looking crowds have
disappeared, and the great, iron-bound doors are closed up and locked.
The watchmen, who have been patrolling the yard and supervising the
exodus of the toilers, are returning to their quarters. Only the rooks
are to be seen scavenging up the fragments of bread and waste victuals
which the men have thrown out of their pockets for them.

Arrived at the shed you are greeted with the familiar and dreadful din
of the boilers priming, the loud roar of the blast and the whirl of the
wheels. The rush of hot air almost overpowers you. You feel nearly
suffocated already, and half stagger through the smoke and steam to
reach your fire and machine standing under the dark, sooty wall. As you
thread your way in and out between the furnaces and among the piles of
iron and steel you receive a severe dig in the ribs with the long handle
of the man’s shovel who is cleaning out the cinders and clinker from
beneath the furnaces, or the ash-wheeler, stripped to the waist and
dripping with perspiration, runs against you roughly with his
wheel-barrow and utters a loud “Hey-up!” or otherwise assails you with
“Hout o’ the road, else I’ll knock tha down,” and hurries off up the
stage to deposit his load and then comes down again to get in a stock of
coal from the waggon for the furnaces. Here the smith is preparing his
fire, while his mate breaks up the coke with the heavy mallet; the
yellow flames and cinders are leaping up from the open forge by the
steam saw. The oil furnaces are puffing away and spitting out their
densest clouds of pitchy smoke, filling the shed, while the stamper
fixes his dies and oils round, or half runs to the shears in the corner
and demands his stock of iron bars to be brought forthwith. The old
furnaceman, sweating from the operation of clinkering, shovels in the
coal and disposes it with the ravel. The forging hammers glide up and
down, clicking against the self-act, while the forger and his mates
manipulate the crane and ingot, or charge in the blooms or piles.
Everyone is in a desperate hurry, eager to start on with the work and
get ahead of Nature, before she flags too much. It is useless to wait
till midnight, or count upon efforts to be made in the hours of the

All this is during your entry to the shed and often before the official
hour for starting work. On coming to your post you, too, strip off hat,
coat, and vest, and hang them up in the shadow of the forge, then bind
the leathern apron about your waist, see to your own fire and
tools--tongs, sets, flatters, and sledges--obtain water from the tap by
the wall, shout “Hammer up!” to your mate, and prepare to thump away
with the rest. The heat of the shed in the evening, from six o’clock
till ten o’clock, is terrific in the summer months. For hours and hours
the furnaces and boilers have been raging, fuming, and pouring out their
interminable volumes of invisible vapour; the sun without, and the fires
within have made it almost unbearable. The floor plates, the iron
principals, the machine frames, the uprights of the hammers--everything
is full of heat; the water in the feed-pipes is so hot as to startle
you. As the hour draws on, towards nine or ten o’clock, this diminishes
somewhat. The cool night air envelops the shed and enters in through the
doors, restoring the normal temperature, though, if the night be muggy,
there will be scarcely any diminution of the punishment till the early
morning, when there is always a cooling down of the atmosphere.

Now the general toil commences in every corner of the smithy. The brawny
forger pulls, tugs, or pushes the heavy porter; the stamper runs out
with his white-hot bar, spluttering and hissing, and poises one foot on
the treadle while he adjusts it over the die, then _Pum-tchu, pom-tchu,
ping-tchu, ping-tchu_, goes the hammer, and over he turns it deftly,
blows away the scale and excrescence with the compressed air, and
_pom-tchu, ping-tchu_, again replies the hammer. Here he claps the
forging in the trimmer, click goes the self-act, and down comes the
tool. The finished article drops through on to the ground; the stamper
thrusts the bar into the furnace, turns on more oil and off he goes
again. The sparks swish and fly everywhere, travelling to the furthest
wall; he wipes away the sweat with the blistered back of his hand,
looking half-asleep, and rolls the quid of tobacco in his cheek.

Hard by the smith is busy with his forge and tools. His mate is ghastly
pale and thin in the yellow firelight, though he himself looks fat and
well. He sets the blast on gently till the iron is nearly fit, then
applies the whole volume, to put on the finishing touch and make the
iron soft and “mellow.” This lifts up the white cinders in clouds and
blows them out of the front also, so that now and then they lodge on the
blacksmith’s arms and in his hair, but he shakes them off and takes
little notice of them. He jerks the jumper up and down once or twice,
turns the heat round quickly, then shuts off the blast, and with a
lion-like grip of the tongs, brings it to the anvil and lays on with his
hand-hammer, while his mate plies the sledge. Presently he throws down
his hammer, grips the “set tool” or “flatter,” and his mate continues to
strike upon it till the work is completed. If the striker is not
proficient and misses once or twice, he jerks out, in a friendly
tone--“On the top, or go home,” or, “Go and get some chalk”--_i.e._, to
whiten the tool--or, “Follow the tool, follow the tool, you okkerd
fella.” Once, when a smith had a strange mate--a raw hand--with him, and
bade him to “Follow the tool,” when he put that down the striker
continued to go for it till it flew up and nearly knocked out the
smith’s eye, but he excused himself on the ground that he thought he had
to “follow the tool.”

Here is a skinny, half-naked fellow, striving with all his might to draw
a heavy bogie piled up with new blooms, half a ton or more in weight.
His head is thrown far forward, about a yard from the ground. His arms,
thin and small, are strained like rods of iron behind his back; only his
toes grip the ground. He shouts out to someone near for help.

“Hey! Gi’ us a shove a minute.”

“Gi’ thee tha itch! Ast the gaffer for a mate. I got mi own work to do,”
the other replies, and keeps hammering away.

Next is a belated stamper in want of tools. “Hast got a per o’ tongs to
len’ us a minute, ole pal?”

“Shove off wi’ thee and make a pair, or else buy some, like I got to.
Nobody never lends I nothin’,” is the answer he receives.

This one wants a blow. “Come an’ gi’ I a blow yer.”

“Gi’ thee a blow on the head. I got no time to mess about wi’ thee.”

Another is concerned as to the hour--there are those whose thoughts are
always of the clock, anxiously awaiting the next stop. “What time is it,

“Aw! time thee wast better,” or “Same as ’twas last night at this time.
Thee hasn’t bin yer five minutes it.”

Perhaps the steam pressure is low. “Wha’s bin at wi’ the steam, matey?
We chaps can’t hit a stroke.”

“Got twisted in the pipes, I ’spect. Go an’ put thi blower on, an’ fire
up a bit, an’ run that slag out.”

This one cannot obtain his supply of bars from the shears. “Now Matty!
Hasn’t got that iron cut? I can’t wait about for thee.”

“Dwunt thee be in sich a caddle. Thee ootn’t get it none the zooner.
Other people got to live as well as thee, dost naa!”

“All right! I shall go and see _he_,” (the overseer).

“Thee cast go an’ do jest whatever thee bist a-mine to. ’Twunt make a
’appoth o’ difference.”

By and by the overseer comes up and shouts--“Hey! Can’t you let these
chaps on, Matthews?”

“No, I caan’t! Tha’ll hef to woite a bit. Ther’s some as bin a-woitin’
all night, ver nigh. ’Tis no good to plag’ I, else ya wunt get nothin’
done at all.”

Here is the forger bellowing at his driver. “Go on! Go on! Hit him! Hit
him! Hit him! Light, ther’! Light! ’Old on! ’Old on! Whoa, then! Castn’t
stop when I tells tha? Dost want to spile the jilly thing? Gi’ us up
they gauges. A’s too thick now. Up a bit, ther! Hit un agyen! Light now!
Light! Light! That’ll do! Whoa! Take ’old o’ this bar, an’ gi’ us that
cutter. Now, Strawberry! turn ’e over in the fire, an’ don’ stand ther’
a-gappatin’. ’Aaf thi ’ed ’ll drop off in a minute. Ther’s a lot to do
yet, else ya won’ get no balance. Hout o’ the road, oot!”

“Haw-w-right. Kip yer wool on. ’Tis a long time to mornin’ it. Thee bist
allus in a caddle,” the other answers.

“Shet thi ’ed, an’ mind thi own business, else I’ll fetch the gaffer to
thee! Pull up ther’, an’ le’s ’ev un out on’t. We be all be’ind agyen!
Everybody else ull a done afore we begins! Hang on to that chayn, Fodgy!
Now then! ALL together! UGH!”

So the ingot is brought out with shouts and cries, the rattling and
jingling of chains and the loud roaring of steam in the roof outside.
The blaze of the furnace and the spluttering, white-hot metal make it as
light as day in the shed. The forger and his mates stagger under the
weight of the ingot and porter-bar and incline their heads to escape the
fierce heat. Their faces and necks are burnt red and purple--of the
colour of blood-poisoning. Their shirt sleeves are hanging loose to
protect their arms; they wear thin, round calico caps on their heads and
leathern aprons about their waists. At the first blow or two the sparks
shriek around, and especially if the ingot is of steel and happens to be
well-heated. The smiths yell out at the top of their voice and rush to
save their clothes hanging up beside the forge. The men’s faces look
transfigured in the bright light. Their shadows, huge, weird, and
fantastic, reach high up the wall, even to the roof. The smallest object
is thrown into relief and the shafts of the sledges cast a shadow as
sharp and clear as from the sun at mid-day. As the mighty steel monkey
descends, half covering the white mass, the shadow falls on the roof,
walls, and machinery around, and rises as the smooth, shapely piston
glides upward into the cylinder; up and down, up and down it goes, like
the rising and falling of a curtain. This continues till the heat of
the forging diminishes and the rays of the metal are no longer capable
of overpowering the light cast out from the fire-holes and the smoky,
sleepy-looking gas-jets hanging in lines adown the smithy.

As the iron becomes cooler the hammer beats harder and harder. The
oscillation is very great and the sound nearly approaches a ring. The
steam roars overhead and leaks and hisses through the joints of the
pipes and glands. The oil in the stamper’s dies explodes with a
cannon-like report. The huge hydraulic engines _tchu-tchu_ outside; the
wheels whirr and hum away in the roof, and the smith’s tools clang out
or ring sharply on the anvil. Without, through the open doors, the night
shows inky black; the smoke and steam beat down and are blown in with
the wind, or the fog is sucked in quickly by the currents. Now the rain
beats hard on the roof and runs through in streams, while the wind
clatters between the stacks and ventilators overhead with a noise like
thunder; or, if it is mid-winter, the light, feathery snowflakes are
wafted in from above and sway to and fro and round and round, uncertain
where to lodge, until they are dissolved with the heat and finally
descend in small drops like dew upon the faces and arms of the forgers.

At the end of every hour the watchman with his lamp passes through, like
a policeman on his beat, and stands a moment before the furnace to warm
himself or to watch the shaping of the ingot. The old furnaceman views
him askance, or ventures to address him with a “How do?” or “Rough night
out,” to which the other responds with a nod, or a “Yes; ’Tis!” and
takes his departure into the blackness outside. At frequent intervals
the overseer walks round and takes his stand here and there, with his
hands behind him, or twisting his fingers in front, or with his thumbs
thrust into the arm-holes of his waistcoat, and glares at the men,
spitting out the tobacco juice upon the ground or on the red-hot
forging. Presently he shouts:--“Ain’t ya done that thing yet? How much
longer ya going to be? He’ll want a bit o’ salt directly. Wher’s
Michael? Ain’t he in to-night? Wha’s up wi’ he?”

“He’s a-twhum along o’ the owl’ dooman to-night,” someone answers. The
grimy toilers curse him under their breath and wish he would soon clear
off, which he presently does, slipping quickly away into the shadows or
climbing up the wooden stairway into the well-lit office.

The first spell is at ten o’clock--that is, after four hours of terrific
hammering and sweating. This is the supper-hour. Here the engines cease
and the wheels stop their grinding. The roar of the blast has ceased,
too; there is not a flicker from the coke fires. The old furnaceman is
still shovelling away, for the forger was on till the last moment. Now
he “stops up,” lays a little coal dust along the furnace door, shuts off
his blower, puts down the damper, and proceeds to rinse his hands in the
water bosh. All the while he was attending to his fire he had the wiper
about his neck and held one corner of it in his mouth. After drying his
hands with it he gives his grimy face a good rub, goes to his clothes
hanging up by the wall, slips on his waistcoat, stirs his tea in the can
with the blade of his pocket-knife, takes his food from the peg and
comes and sits down near the furnace, or in the sand-bunk. The one in
charge of the steam walks from boiler to boiler, setting on the
injectors. They admit the cool water with a murmurous, sleepy
sound--there is no priming yet. The furnace fire glitters through the
chinks of the door or grate like the stars on a frosty night. The old
furnaceman does not eat much. He tastes a little and bites here and
there, then he wraps the whole up again.

“What! Bistn’t agwain to hae thi zupper, then?” some one enquires.

“No-o! Can’t zim to get on wi’t to-night,” he answers.

“Well! Chock it out for they owld rats, they’ll be glad on’t. Yellacks
is a girt un ther’ now, in atween they piles!”

Try how you will you cannot enjoy your food on the night shift. I have
carried mine home again morning after morning, or thrown it out for the
birds in the yard. I have seen men--and especially youths--go to sleep
with the food in their mouths. You are too languid to eat much, and what
you do eat has no savour. It is remarkable, also, that while you
continue working you do not feel the fatigue so much, but as soon as you
sit down you are assailed with increased weariness; you feel powerless
and exhausted and have no strength or energy left. Many, in order to
keep awake and fresh, go out into the town, deserted at that hour. Some
walk outside in the yard and bruise their shins against this or that
obstruction in the darkness. Others, again, after partaking of a few
mouthfuls of food, go on making up their fires, not only to keep
themselves awake, but also to help the work forward and earn their money
for the shift. I have many times worked all night--through both
meal-hours--in the attempt to earn my wages, and then have been

Here and there a small party will sit together and chat the meal-time
away, or a few will endeavour to read. Very soon, however, the newspaper
or book slips from the fingers. The tiredness and heat together prevail;
the eyes close and the mouth opens--the toiler is fast asleep. Presently
someone comes on the scene with a loud shout: “Hey-yup! What! bist thee
vly-ketchin’ agyen? Get up and check, else tha’t be locked out,” or
another staggers round with half-closed eyes and bawls out, “’Ow beest
bi tiself, Bill?“ the reply to which usually is, ”Thee get an’ laay
down,” or “None the better for thy astin’.” Occasionally several will
start singing a song, or hymn, and be immediately assailed with loud
cries of “Lay down, oot!” or “Yeow! Yeow! Kennul! Kennul!” or a large
lump of coal is thrown against the roof to break and fall in dust upon
the choristers. Some spread rivet bags in front of the furnace and lie
upon them and others lie down upon the bare bricks or iron of the floor.
A few minutes before eleven o’clock the stragglers arrive back from the
town. The old furnaceman bestirs himself, lifts the damper, sets on the
blower, routs the coals of the fire and shouts, “Come on, yer,” to his
mates. The steam-hammer man opens the valve and raises the monkey,
making it glide up and down to work the water out of the cylinder, the
forgemen and smiths bustle about again and the terrific din recommences.

So the furious toil proceeds hour by hour. _Bang, bang, bang. Pum-tchu,
pum-tchu, ping-tchu, ping-tchu. Cling-clang, cling-clang. Boom, boom,
boom. Flip-flap, flip-flap. Hoo-oo-oo-oo-oo. Rattle, rattle, rattle.
Click, click, click. Bump, bump. Scrir-r-r-r-r-r-r. Hiss-s-s-s-s-s-s.
Tchi-tchu, tchi-tchu, tchi-tchu. Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank._ The
noises of the steam and machinery drown everything else. You see the
workmen standing or stooping, pulling, tugging, heaving, dragging to and
fro, or staggering about as though they were intoxicated, but there is
no other sound beyond the occasional shouting of the forger and the
jerking or droning of the injectors. It is a weird living picture, stern
and realistic, such as no painter could faithfully reproduce. If the
oil in the stampers’ forges is worse than usual the dense clouds of
nauseating smoke hang over you like a pall so thickly that you cannot
see your fellows a few paces away, making it intensely difficult to
breathe and adding a horrible disgust to the unspeakable weariness. Then
the bright flashing metal and the white gas-jets show a dull red. Even
the sound seems deadened by the smoke and stench, but this is merely the
action of the impurity upon the sense organs; they are so much impaired
with the grossness of the atmosphere as to fail in their functions. By
and by, when the air has cleared a little, it all rushes back upon you
with increased intensity. Everything is swinging and whirling round, and
you seem to be whirled round with it, with not a thought of yourself,
who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, but keep toiling
mechanically away. Ofttimes you would be quite lost, but the revolutions
of the machine, the automatic strokes of the hammer, and the _habit_ of
the job control you. And if this should fail, your mate, half asleep,
whacks his heat along and casts it upon your toe, or sears you with the
hot tongs, or he misses the top of the tool at the anvil and strikes
your thumb instead. There are many things to keep you alive, and always
the fear of not earning your money for the turn and having to be jeered
at and bullied by the chargeman or overseer and so have your life made
miserable. The faces and fronts of the smiths and forgers, as they stand
at the fires or stoop over the metal, are brilliantly lit up--yellow and
orange. Here are the piles of finished forgings and stampings upon the
ground--white, yellow, bright red, dull red, and almost black hot; the
long tongues of fire leap up from the coke forges, and every now and
then a livid sheet of flame bursts out from the stamper’s dies. There is
plenty of colour, as well as animation, in the picture, which obtains
greater intensity through contrast with the blackness outside.

The greatest weariness assails you about midnight, and continues to
possess you till towards three o’clock. Then Nature struggles violently,
demanding her rights, twitching, clutching, and tugging at your eyelids
and striving in a thousand ways to bring you into submission and force
her rule upon you, but the iron laws of necessity, circumstance, and
system prevail; you must battle the power within you and repel the sweet
soother, struggling on in the unnatural combat. The keen eye of the
overseer is upon you, who is always whipping you to your task, or the
watchman is striving to take you loitering and so bring himself into
notice; it is useless to give way. Necessity urges; the body must be
clothed and fed. There are the wife and children at home, and you must
live. I have felt it, and I know what it is. There, in the smoke and
stench, the heat and cold, draught and damp of midnight I have slaved
with the rest, not harder or with greater pains than they, though
perhaps I have noted the feelings whereas they have not. The eyes ache,
the ears ache, the teeth ache, the temples ache, the shoulders ache, the
arms ache, the legs ache, the feet ache, and the heart aches. I have
many times wished, in those dark, awful hours, that the hammer would
smash my head; that I might be suddenly caught and hurled into eternity,
and I have heard others express the same wish openly and sincerely.
Sometimes I have stolen out of the great doors to stand for a moment in
the open in the cold dark or starry night, and looked out towards the
hills, or away over the town with the whirl of the shed behind me. There
was the great red moon showing through the clouds low down, or the
fiercely glittering Mars setting in the west, or inky blackness above,
with a few tiny lights twinkling in the far-off streets of the town and
a silence as deep as death out beyond. If I could but have heard the old
barn owl hooting in the farmyard, the cow lowing in the meadow or stall,
the fox yelping in the little wood, or even the bark of a dog, I should
have been strengthened and relieved, but there was never a sound of
them--nothing but the black outlines of the sheds around, the small
distant lights of the town and the great white blaze and crash of noises
within. Even to pause there is but to intensify the torture and the cold
air soon chills you to the bone. The only course open is to keep toiling
away with the rest and wear the night out.

The second stop is at two o’clock and is of brief duration--twenty
minutes or half an hour at the outside. It is merely a break in order to
have a mouthful of food, a something, so that it shall not be said that
the men have to toil for seven consecutive hours in that unspeakable
weariness. Here the huge engines become silent again and the heavy
pounding stops. The wheels and machinery under the wall look as inert
and innocent as though they had never moved; it would be difficult to
imagine that they were capable of such noise and uproar if you had not
heard it yourself but a few minutes before. The boilers, relieved of the
strain upon their resources, begin to prime again with a continued
crashing, shattering sound which the boilerman tries in vain to subdue
with cold water through the injectors. The furnace glitters and the oil
forges smoke. The air is laden with the peculiarly nauseous fumes of the
water-gas that make the toilers feel sick and ill and destroy the

This time the men are unusually silent and mopish. Each selects a place
for himself and sits, or lies down, apart from the others. Only the
tough, wiry forgeman, the strong smith, or the hardy coalies and
ash-wheelers can attack the food. The rest usually go to their jackets,
open their handkerchiefs, look at the contents, eat a little perhaps,
half-heartedly, and wrap them up again. The constitution of the forgeman
is almost like iron itself. He and the smith can usually manage their
meal, and the coal-wheelers, from being constantly out in the fresh air,
are not quite as weary as are the others, and so can relish the food
better. On Friday nights--when the men are more than usually drowsy--the
food may be a little more tempting and tasty. At six o’clock the wages
were paid, and at supper-time a few, at least, will have gone or sent
out into the town for an appetizing morsel: some sausages, rashers, a
mutton chop, a pound of tripe, a bloater, or a packet of fried fish and
chipped potatoes--the youth’s favourite dainty. Then, in the early
hours, amid the din of the boilers, the black frying-pan or coal shovel
is produced and the savoury odour is wafted abroad. The greatest
pleasure, however, is usually in the anticipation of the meal. The food
itself is seldom eaten--or no more than a small part of it, at
least--the other is cast out for the rats and rooks. Years ago, in the
autumn, we boys used to gather mushrooms in the fields on our way to
work and cook them for “dinner” in the early morning and suffer severely
for it afterwards. Nature, disorganized with the exigences of the night
shift, refused the proffered dainties. It is difficult to digest even
ordinary food taken in the unwholesome air of the shed at such an
unearthly hour.

Punctually to the moment, if not before time, the engines begin to throb
again; the piston rods, gliding slowly at first, soon attain a rapid
speed. The huge crank, flashing in the bright gas-light, leaps over and
over. The big belt strains and creaks as though it would avoid its
labour and the turning of the shaft overhead, but the heavy fly-wheel
spins round, and the little pulleys and cogs go with it; they must all
obey the urging of the mighty steam wizard lurking in the green-painted
cylinder. The donkey engines, forcing the blast, are coughing and
spitting out the white vapour and labouring painfully under the wall in
the lean-to outside. Within the fires are flashing and the flames
leaping, and the toil goes on as before.

About three o’clock, or soon after, the weariness begins to diminish
somewhat, and the old habit of the body reasserts itself. The natural
hour of repose is passing, and the fountain of energy begins to bubble
up within you; you feel to be approaching the normal condition again.
The fatigue now gives place to a feeling of unreality and stupidity; you
seem to be dazed and irritable, as though you had been aroused from
sleep before the accustomed time. Now you experience deep pains in the
chest, resulting from loss of sleep. The head aches as though it would
burst and the eyes are very painful and “gritty,” but you feel cheered,
nevertheless, with the thought of daylight, the coming cessation from
toil, and the opportunity of obtaining a breath of fresh, pure air
again. The overseer slips to and fro quickly about this time in order to
keep the men well on the move, pricking here and prodding there, and
visiting those whom he knows will tell him all the news of the night’s
work--such as may have escaped him. The toilers pay him but little
attention, however, and keep plodding languidly away.

Steadily, as the day dawns, the light within increases, red, white, or
golden, stealing through the thick glass of the roof or by the wide open
doors, and soon after one appears with a long staff and turns off all
the gas. It is really day once more, and there is not much longer to
go. At twenty minutes past five the hooter sounds loudly, calling up the
men of the day shift, and the pace flags visibly. A few, however, who
have not done any too well in the middle hours of the night, hammer away
with increased energy right up to the last, for they know the day
overseers and the chargemen will go round and feel the forgings to see
how late the others were toiling. If the iron is cool they know that
their mates have been dilatory and the tale is told around.

A few minutes before six o’clock the engines slow down and stop and the
roar of the blast ceases. The steam-hammers are lowered with a loud thud
and the furnace fires are banked up; the mighty toil is over, for this
turn, at any rate. Now the forgers and stampers unbind their aprons and
roll them up; the smiths stow their tools, placing these in the iron box
and those in the boshes of water to soak the shafts and tighten the
handles of the sledges. After that they swill their hands at the tap,
put on muffler, jacket, or great-coat, and file out of the shed--dirty,
dusty, tired and sleepy-looking. Not for them the joy of morning, the
vigour, freshness and bloom, the keen delight in the open air, the happy
heart and elevated spirit. They slouch away through the living stream of
the day toilers now arriving as black as sweeps, half-blinded with the
bright daylight, blinking and sighing, feeling unutterably and
unnaturally tired, out of sorts and out of place, too, and crawl home,
like rats to their holes, to snatch a little rest, and recuperate for
new efforts to be made on the following turn.

Few of the men’s wives or parents in the town will be up to welcome them
at that early hour and provide them with warm tea and a breakfast.
Accordingly, some go home and straight to bed without food at all, a few
walk about the streets or out towards the country for an hour or so
till the home fire is lit, while others go home and get the breakfast
themselves. Perhaps, if trade in the shed is brisk, they will be
required to work overtime till eight or nine o’clock. I have done this
for months at a stretch and afterwards walked home to the village,
ofttimes sitting down on the roadside to rest, reaching home at about
ten o’clock and getting to bed an hour before noon, to be awakened by
every slight noise without the house. At one time I was aroused by the
old church clock striking, at another by the sound of the school bell,
or the children at play underneath the window, or by the farm waggon. At
four in the afternoon, rested or not, you must rise again, wash and
dress, snatch a hasty meal, and plod off to the town, four miles
distant, forgetful of everything behind you--the gentle peace of the
village, the long line of dreamy-looking hills, the haymakers in the
field, the sweetly sorrowful sound of the threshing machine by the ricks
in the farmyard, the eternal pageantry of the heavens, the whole natural
life and scenery of the world. The knowledge of the loss lies like lead
at the heart and fills one with a keen regret, a poignant sense of the
cruelty of the industrial system and your own weakness with it; yet one
must live. But there is real tragedy in working the night shift at the



The work produced on the night turn is greatly inferior to that made by
the men of the day shift. It is impossible to do good work when you are
tired and weary. One has not then the keenness of sense, the nerve, nor
the energy to take the requisite pains. You are not then the master of
your machinery and tools, but are subject to them; even where the work
is with dies and performed mechanically, there will be depreciation.
Perhaps the stamper’s tools have shifted a little. The keys want
removing, the dies re-setting and then to be rammed up tight again. But
he is too weary to do much with the sledge, so he keeps dragging along
with his dies a-twist and makes that do, whereas, if he were working by
day he would rectify them immediately and bang away at top speed.

It is the same with the forger. He, too, tough as he is, cannot maintain
the precision he would exercise by day. The pile or ingot on the
porter-bar seems to him to have doubled in weight. The flash of the
blazing metal half blinds him. He cannot stand the heat so well; it is
all against turning out good work. Unless the bloom is kept exactly
square under the stroke of the hammer it lops over on one side and
obtains an ugly shape, which it will be impossible to rectify; there is
nothing more unsightly to the eye of the careful smith or hammerman than
a shabby piece of forging. Very often, too, a portion of slag or sand
from the bed of the furnace has adhered to the pile and, falling away,
has left a hole in the metal. Although, in the uncertain light, the
forger may think that he has hammered it quite out, when he views the
piece by daylight he finds it rough and untidy and perhaps worthless. It
may be too small now; there is not enough metal to clean up under the
tools of the slotting- or shaping-machine.

Then there is the smith’s weld or bend to be considered. In the first
place, the smith is liable to mistake the heat of his parts by gaslight,
for then they appear brighter and hotter than they really are, and when
he brings them out to the anvil, the metal, instead of shutting up well,
will be hard and glassy under the tools. It will, consequently, go
together badly and leave a mark or “scarf,” which is not at all
desirable, though the weld may be strong enough inside. In such a case
resort will be had to “nobbling”; that is, covering up and concealing
the scarf with the small round ball of the hand-hammer. This must be
done secretly, for no foreman would tolerate much of it. It is looked
upon as a mark of bad workmanship, though the bluff old overseer of the
regular smiths’ shed may condone it in a few cases with: “Hello! You be
at it agen then! But ther’, you be no good if you can’t do’t. I allus
said any fool can be a smith but it takes a good man to nobble.” The
smiths, under ordinary circumstances, are not allowed to use a file.
They must finish their job manfully with the sledge and tools, otherwise
they might fake up a bad forging, with nobbling and filing, and make it
look as strong as the best.

There are more cases of ill-health among men of the night than of the
day shift, but the reason of this will be obvious to any. It is evident
that the unnatural conditions of all-night toil must weaken and wear
down the body and render it unfit to bear the strain put upon it, and
especially to withstand the cold draughts from the doors and roof, which
are the most fruitful source of sickness among the workmen--a large
number is always absent with chills and influenza. Small regard for a
man’s health is had at any time in the factory. It is nothing to the
officials that he is out on the sick list, unless he happens to be
drawing compensation for an injury. I remember once, when work was slack
in the shed, the day overseer left orders for the night boss to send the
men outside in the yard and keep them there for two or three hours
shifting scrap iron, in order that they might “catch cold and stop at
home, and give the others a chance.”

Accidents, too, are frequent on the night shift; the greater part of the
more serious ones happen on that turn. Then the men, by reason of the
fatigue and dulness, are unable to take sufficient care of themselves;
they lack the quick presentiment of danger common to those of the day
shift. There is also the matter of defective light and carelessness in
the use of tools, and, very often, the mad hurry to get on in the first
part of the night--the wild rush and tear of the piecework system. It
was not long ago that “Smamer’s” brother was killed at the drop-stamps
with a blow on the head, shortly after starting work. A jagged piece of
steel, ten or twelve pounds in weight, flew from the die and struck him
between the eye and ear knocking out half his brains. As things go, no
one was to blame. The men were all hurrying together to get the work
forward, but he was murdered, all the same, done to death by the system
that is responsible for the rash haste and frenzy such as is common on
the night shift.

Nearly all whitewashing and painting out the interiors of the sheds is
done by night, when the machinery is still. This is performed by
unskilled hands--youths, for the most part; from one year’s end to
another they are employed at it, taking the workshops by turn. The work
is very unhealthy and extremely dangerous. The men construct a little
scaffolding and work upon single, narrow planks, or crawl like flies
along the network of girders in and out among the shafting, with a
single gas-jet to afford them light. One false step or overbalancing
would bring them down to the ground, thirty feet below, amid the
machinery; death would be swift and certain for them if they should miss
their footing on the planks. Their wages, considering the risks they
take, are very low; 18s. or 19s. a week is the amount they commonly
receive. Several of the men, whom I know personally--steady fellows and
good time-keepers--had been getting 18s. a week for twenty years till
recently; then, after persistent applications for an advance, they were
granted the substantial rise of 1s. a week! One sturdy fellow, braver
than the rest, on meeting the manager one day, complained to him of the
low wages, but was unsuccessful. His overseer, upon hearing of it,
promptly told him to clear out, which he afterwards did, and went to
Canada and saved £150 in less than a year. When the small boys asked
Bill Richards, the old smiths’ foreman, for a rise, he used jokingly to
tell them to “Get up a-top o’ the anvul.”

The running expenses of much of the “labour-saving” plant is truly
enormous and very often so great as entirely to counteract the much
boasted profit-making capacity of the machine, but the managers do not
mind that in the least as long as they can show a reduction of hands.
If, by any means at all, they can get one man to do what formerly
required the services of two or three, they do not trouble about
machinery or fuel expenses; the losses incurred by these they make good
by speeding up the workman and getting a bigger share out of him. They
would rather pay fabulous sums for plant and running expenses than allow
the workman to get a few shillings more in wages.

The wholesale waste of material, fuel, and energy, in many of the sheds,
is appalling; many thousands of pounds are annually thrown away in this
direction. Walk where he will the keen observer will detect waste; no
one seems to trouble about the real economy. I have seen it daily for
years and have made numerous suggestions, but to no purpose; the
overseers are too stupid and ignorant, or too haughty and jealous, to
carry out ideas, and the managers are no better. They squander thousands
of pounds in experiments and easily cover up their short-comings, but if
the machineman happens to break a new tool, or spoil metal of a few
pence in value, he is suspended and put on the “black list.”

If a workman sees a way to make improvements in processes and the like,
he immediately falls into disfavour with the overseers. Some years ago
I, as chief stamper, was anxious to improve the process of making a
forging, and also the forging itself, and waited on the overseer with a
view to having the alteration made, but I could not obtain his sanction
for a long time. At last, as new dies were to be made, I succeeded,
after some difficulty, in obtaining his consent for the improvement.
Happening to enter the die shed while the job was in the lathe I was
told by the machineman that no alteration had been authorised. Grasping
the situation, I took a bold course, carried out the suggested
alteration myself, and set the dies in the steam-hammer. The improvement
was a complete success. I was cursed and abused by the overseer, and he
was highly congratulated by the staff in my own presence and hearing.
The improvement was not to be permanent, however. Shortly afterwards the
dies were re-cut, and made in the old way again. At another time, when I
had assisted the overseer with an idea, he would not speak to me for a

Many times after that I stood for improvements, and was rewarded with
the cutting of my prices and the threat of dismissal, and I had the
mortification of being “hooted” by my shop-mates into the bargain. The
fact of the matter is, workmen and overseers, too, want to run along in
the same old grooves, at any rate, as far as processes are concerned.
The foreman and manager think they have done enough if they merely cut a
price; they are too blind to see that improvements in the process of
manufacture is the first great essential. There are many jobs in the
sheds which have been done in the same old way for half a century. It is
painful to contemplate the ignorance, stupidity, and prejudice of the
staff in charge of operations.

Every shed has an institution called “The Black List.” This list is
filed in the foreman’s office and contains the names of those who have
been found guilty of any indiscretion, those who may have made a little
bad work, indifferent time-keepers, and, naturally, those who have
fallen into disfavour with the overseer on any other account, and
perhaps the names have been added for no offence at all. When it is
intended to include a workman in the list, he is sent for to the office,
bullied by the overseer before the clerks and office-boy, and warned as
to the future. “I’ve put you on the black list. You know what that
means. The next time, mind, and you’re out of it. I give you one more

Not long ago an apprentice--a fine, smart, intellectual youth--was asked
by a junior mate to advise him as to a piece of work in the lathe and
went to give the required assistance. While thus engaged he was sent for
to the office and charged with idling by the overseer. He tried to
explain that he was helping his mate, but the foreman would not listen
to it. “Put him on the black list,” he roared to the clerk. The lad’s
father, enraged at the treatment meted out to his son, promptly removed
him from the works, and sacrificed four or five years of patient and
studious toil at his trade. It is useless to continue in the shed when
you have been stigmatised with the “black list.” You will never make any
satisfactory progress; you had better seek out another place and make a
fresh start[3] in life.

    [3] I am told that the “Black List” has now been abolished. It
        certainly existed down to several years ago.

A favourite plan of the overseer’s is to catch a man in a weak state and
force him to undergo a strict medical test. As a matter of fact, the
“medical test” is a farce; it is merely an examination by one of the
staff. Even if the workman passes the test satisfactorily it is recorded
and tells against him. Quite recently one of the forgers came to work
with a black eye, as the result of a private encounter, and the
overseer, after jesting with him concerning it, communicated with the
examiner and hustled him off to pass the “medical test.”

“What have you been at with the hammer?” said I to little Jim one day,
finding the lever working very stiffly.

“I dunno. The luminator’s broke,” answered he.

“The what broke?” I inquired.

“That there yu-bricator, the thing what you puts the oil in,” he

Most of the articles stamped seemed to suggest something or other to
Jim’s childish mind. One job, made three at a time, looked like “little
bridges”; something else resembled great butterflies. This was like an
air-gun, and that “just like little pistols.” Jim’s opinion of factory
work is interesting--he is a little over fifteen years of age. Coming up
to me one day, cap, waistcoat, everything cast aside, his shirt
unbuttoned, his face soot black, and with the sweat streaming down his
nose and chin, he said naively--“This is what I calls a weary life. This
place is more like a prison than anything else.” After that he wished to
know if I had any apples in my garden, or, failing that, would I bring
him along some crabs in my pocket?

“Double Stoppage Charlie” was well-known at the works. He first of all
used to keep his wife short of cash, telling her each pay-day it was
“double stoppage this week.” He often figured in a public place, too,
and invariably made the same excuse. It was always “double stoppage
week“ with him, so he came to be honoured with the nickname of ”Double
Stoppage Charlie.” There was also “Southampton Charlie,” who had seen
service with the Marines, and who was for ever talking about the
“gossoons” and telling monstrous yarns of things--chiefly of bloody
fights and shipwrecks. He took pride in informing you that he had been
told he would have made a capital speaker of French, by reason of his
wonderful powers of “pronounciation.”

Jimmy Eustace--better known as “Jimmy Useless”--was full of poaching
adventures and midnight tussles with the gamekeepers and police. He was
delighted to tell you of how they dodged the men in blue and waded half
a mile, up to their necks in water, along the canal in the dark hours in
order to keep out of their clutches. This happened in his young days, in
the neighbourhood of Uffington. He was always somewhat of a rake, though
he was a very clever constructor of all kinds of iron work. Everyone
called him “an old fool,” however, when Queen Victoria’s new Royal Train
was made, and the workmen went out in the yard to see it. “He go to see
that thing? Not he! He could make a better one than that standing on his
head, any day.” His long grey hair hung down as straight as candles and
his grey beard had the true lunar curve. He chewed half an ounce of
tobacco at a time, and spat great mouthfuls of the juice about

A little humour is occasionally in evidence in the life that is lived by
the grimy pack of toilers in the factory sheds. There is, for instance,
the story of the young man engaged to be married to a smart lass, and
who gave himself certain unjustifiable airs, representing himself as
holding a position in the drawing office. After the wedding took place,
at the end of the first week, he took home 18s. in wages and was
severely taken to task by his spouse and mother-in-law. It transpired
that he was employed pulling a heavy truck about; that was the only
“drawing office” to which he was attached.

One young fellow was subjected to the ridicule of his mates by reason of
an accident that befell him on his wedding-day. He lived far out in the
country, and, on the morning of the ceremony, just before the appointed
hour, happening to give an extra specially good yawn, he dislocated his
jaw and had to be driven twelve miles to a doctor. Another artless
youth, newly brought into the shed, when he was put to withdraw the
white-hot plates from a vast furnace, finding the iron rake much too
short, tied a piece of tar-cord on the end in order to lengthen it!

The riveter and his mates occasionally practise the ludicrous. One day,
when “Dobbin,” the “holder-up,” who was short-sighted, was sitting
underneath the floor of the waggon with his head against the plate,
dozing perhaps, the riveter began to beat on the floor with his
hand-hammer and severely hurt his mate’s cranium. Shortly afterwards
Dobbin unconsciously took his revenge. It is usual to “drift” the holes
with a steel tool in order to make them clear to admit the rivet, and on
this particular occasion the riveter thrust his finger through instead
and Dobbin, seeing it in the dim light and thinking it was the drift,
gave it a mighty ram upwards with the dolly and smashed it.

Then there is “Budget,” who works one of the oil furnaces, with only
half a shirt to his back and hair six or seven inches long and as
straight as gunbarrels; whose face, long before breakfast-time, is as
black as a sweep’s; who slaves like a Cyclops at the forge and is
frequently quoting some portions of the speeches of Antonio and Shylock
in the “Merchant of Venice,” which he learnt at school and has not yet
forgotten. He sprang out of bed in a great fright, seized his food and
ran at top speed, and only partly dressed, half through the town in the
darkness to discover finally that it wanted an hour to midnight: he had
only gone to bed at ten o’clock. His father is a platelayer on the
railway receiving the magnificent sum of 16s. a week in wages, and his
mother, after suffering five operations, was lately sent home from the
hospital as incurable; it is a struggle to make both ends meet and to
keep the home respectable. It is no wonder that Budget’s shirt is always
out of repair and that he himself is racked with colds and influenza.

There is romance in every walk of life, and legends of ghosts and
spirits that frequent desolate ruins and dark places, but few would
think to find such a thing as a haunted forge or coke heap, though they
were believed to exist by the credulous among the night-men at the
factory. “Sammy,” the cokewheeler, had a mortal dread of the cokeheap at
midnight, by reason of strange, weird noises he had heard there in the
lone, dark hours, and the men at the fires often had to wait for fuel,
or go and get it in for themselves. Accordingly, certain among them
determined to frighten the old man still further. For several nights in
succession, at about twelve o’clock, someone scaled the big high heap at
the back and waited for Samuel’s return from the shed with his
wheel-barrow. When he arrived the hidden one set up a loud, moaning
noise and started to clamber down the pile. The coke gave way and fell
with a crash, and Sammy, stuttering and stammering with a childlike
simplicity and in a paroxysm of fear, rushed off and told how the
“ghost” had assailed him.

The haunted forge was in the smith’s shed, adjoining the steam-hammer
shop. There a simple fellow was by a waggish mate first of all beguiled
into the belief that a treasure was hidden beneath the floorplate and
anvil, and then induced to go alone during the supper-hour in the hope
of obtaining a clue from the “spirit” as to its exact whereabouts.
Accordingly he went fearfully in through the darkness and up to the
fire, while his mate, concealed in the roof, moaned and spoke to him in
a ghostly voice down the chimney, telling how, many years before, he had
been murdered on that spot and his body buried there together with the
treasure, and promising to discover it to the workman if he would come
secretly to the fire a fixed number of nights and not communicate the
matter to any outsiders. This went on for some time, until the unhappy
dupe was made ill, and driven half out of his mind with crazy fear, and
things began to get serious. Suddenly the noises stopped, and the
midnight visit to the forge was discontinued.

Cases have occurred in which a man has actually been driven out of his
mind by continual and systematic trading on his weakness, and by a
downright wicked and criminal prosecution of the unscrupulous game.
Teddy, the sweeper-up, who was a young married man, and highly
respectable, but who discovered a trifling weakness, was assailed and
befooled with disgusting buffoonery and drivelling nonsense to such an
extent that he became a perfect mental wreck, to the complete amusement
of the clique who had brought it about, and who indulged in hysterical
laughter at the unfortunate man’s antics and general condition. To such
a point was the foolery carried that Teddy had to be detained, and he
fell seriously ill. In a fortnight he died, and those who had been the
chief cause of his collapse went jesting to his funeral. It was nothing
to them that they had been instrumental in his death; a man’s life and
soul are held at a cheap rate by his mates about the factory.

Jim Cole is considerably out of place in the factory crowd; ill-health
and other misfortunes were the cause of his migration to the railway
town. He is a Londoner by birth, and was first of all a valet in good
service; afterwards he bought a cab and plied with it about the streets
of the metropolis. As a valet he lived with a sister of John Bright, and
was often in attendance upon the famous statesman and orator. John
Bright’s faith in the Book of Books is well nigh proverbial; the old
valet says whenever he went to his room in the morning he was always
sitting up in bed reading the Bible.

As a cabman Jim was brought into contact with many celebrities, and it
is interesting to learn in what light great men appear to those who are
at their service about the thoroughfares. He knew Tennyson well by
sight. The famous poet was never a favourite with the “men in the
street.” His testiness of manner and severity were well-known to them;
to use Jim Cole’s words: “They hated the sight of him.” “There goes the
miserable old d----l,” they would say to each other.

Carlyle was not a favourite with the cabmen either. They said he was
“hoggish,” and “too miserable to live.” Everyone was in his way, and
everything had to be set aside for him. His brilliant literary fame was
no recommendation in the face of his stern personal characteristics.

Oscar Wilde was “a very nice man.” There was not a bit of pride in him;
he would talk to anyone. He would not walk a dozen yards if he could
help it, but must ride everywhere. He often gave cabby a shilling to
post a letter for him. One day Jim Cole was driving him, and they met
Mrs. Langtry in her carriage. Thereupon Oscar Wilde stopped the cab, got
out, and stood with one foot on the step of the popular actress’s
carriage, remaining in conversation with her for nearly an hour. At the
end of the journey Oscar stoutly denied the time, declared he was not
talking to Mrs Langtry for more than ten minutes, and refused to hand
over the fare demanded. Ultimately, however, he admitted he might have
been mistaken, and so came to terms and paid the extras.

Once James was engaged to drive the celebrated Whistler and Mrs Whistler
to Hammersmith, and came very near meeting with disaster. That night he
was driving a young mare of great spirit, and she took fright at
something on the way and bolted. Poor Jim was in great suspense,
fearing an accident at every crossing. The mare flew along at a terrific
speed, but the hour was favourable and the traffic thin; there was a
fair, open road all the way. He strained every nerve to subdue the
animal and slacken the pace, but for over two miles he had not the
slightest control of the vehicle. Whistler was quiet and apparently well
content within; he had not the faintest idea that anything was wrong. At
last, after a great race up Hammersmith Broadway, the pace began to
flag; by the time they reached their destination Jim was able to “pull
her up” successfully. Whistler was delighted with the journey and waxed
enthusiastic about it. He clapped and patted the animal fondly on the
neck, several times exclaiming--“You splendid little mare!” Whistler was
a great favourite with the cabmen and he often chatted with them, and
made them feel quite at their ease.

Mr Justin M̒̒̒̒̒̒̒̔‘Carthy and his son were other celebrated fares. They were
very quiet and unassuming and earned the great respect of the cabmen.
Ill-health dogged the old-time valet. He is now forced to do the work of
a menial, lost and swallowed up in the crowd of grimy toilers at the

There is one in every shed who stands at the ticket-box and checks in
the workmen at the beginning of each spell; _i.e._, at six A.M., at nine
o’clock, and two in the afternoon. It is his duty also to carry off the
box to the time office and bring back the tickets to the men before they
leave the shed. At the time office the metal tickets are sorted out and
placed on a numbered board; this the checker receives and carries round
to all the men and hands them their brasses. It is a favourite plan of
the man on the check-box to allow the workmen to drag a little by
degrees until they get slightly behind the official moment, and then to
close the box sharp and shut out forty or fifty. This causes the men to
lose half an hour, or they may possibly be compelled to go home for the
rest of the morning or afternoon. For some time afterwards they are very
punctual at the box, but by and by they are allowed to drag again and
the act of shutting out is repeated. The checker, as well as officiating
at the ticket-box, acts as a kind of shop watchman, and supplies the
overseer with information upon such points as may have escaped his

Besides the checker, there is the regular shed detective, who locks up
the doors and cleans the office windows, and his supernumerary who
guards the doors at hooter-time and completes the custody of the place:
there is little fear of anything transpiring without its becoming known
to the foreman. As those selected to watch the rest are invariably the
lazy or the incompetent they are sure to be heartily contemned by the
busy toilers; there is nothing the skilful and generous workman detests
more than to have a worthless fellow told off to spy upon him.

The storekeeper is another who, by reason of his extreme officiousness
and parsimonious manner in dealing out the stores, is not beloved of the
toilers in the shed. He treats every applicant for stores with fantastic
ceremony, examining the foreman’s slip half-a-dozen times or more, and
turning it round and round and over and over until the exasperated
workman can stand it no longer, and sets about him with, “Come on, mate!
Ya goin’ to mess about all day? We got some work to do, we ’ev.
Anybody’d think thee’st got to buy it out o’ thi own pocket!” If the
applicant wants a can of oil the vessel is about half-filled; if a
hammer is needed the storekeeper searches through the whole stock to
find out the worst, if nails, screws, or rivets are required they are
counted out with critical exactness, and if the foreman is not at hand
to sign the order--no matter how urgent the need is--the workman must
wait, perhaps for an hour, till he returns to initial the slip. The time
necessary for an order to reach the shed after it has been issued from
the general stores, fifty yards away, is usually a week, and the workmen
are forbidden to begin a job until they have actually received the
official form.

The political views of the men in the shed are known to the overseer and
are--in some cases, at any rate--communicated by him to the manager;
there is no such thing as individual liberty about the works. He whose
opinions are most nearly in agreement with those of the foreman always
thrives best, obtains the highest piecework prices and the greatest day
wages, too, while the other is certain to be put under the ban. In
brief, the average overseer dislikes you if you are a tip-top workman,
if you have a good carriage and are well-dressed, if you are clever and
cultivated, if you have friends above the average and are
well-connected, if you are religious or independent, manly, and
courageous; and he tolerates you if you creep about, are rough, ragged,
and round-shouldered, a born fool, a toady, a liar, a tale-bearer, an
indifferent workman--no matter what you are as long as you say “sir” to
him, are servile and abject, see and hear nothing, and hold with him in
everything he says and does: that is the way to get on in the factory.



Sickness and accidents are of frequent occurrence in the shed. The
first-named may be attributed to the foul air prevailing--the dense
smoke and fumes from the oil forges, and the thick, sharp dust and ashes
from the coke fires. The tremendous noise of the hammers and machinery
and the priming of the boilers have a most injurious effect upon the
body as well as upon the nervous system; it is all intensely painful and
wearisome to the workmen. The most common forms of sickness among the
men of the shed are complaints of the stomach and head, with
constipation. These are the direct result of the gross impurity of the
air. Colds are exceptionally common, and are another result of the bad
atmospheric conditions; as soon as you enter into the smoke and fume you
are sure to begin sniffing and sneezing. The black dust and filth is
being breathed into the chest and lungs every moment. At the weekend one
is continually spitting off the accretion; it will take several days to
remove it from the body. As a matter of fact, the workmen are never
clean, except at holiday times. However often they may wash and bathe
themselves, an absence from the shed of several consecutive days will be
necessary in order to effect an evacuation of the filth from all parts
of the system. Even the eyes contain it. No matter how carefully you
wash them at night, in the morning they will be surrounded with dark
rings--fine, black dust which has come from them as you lay asleep.

A short while ago I was passing through a village near the town, and,
seeing a canvas tent erected in a cottage garden I made it my business
to inquire into the cause of it and to ask who might be the occupant.
Thereupon I was told that the tent was put up to accommodate a
consumptive lad who slept in it by night and worked in the factory by
day. On asking what were the lad’s duties I was informed that he _worked
on the oil furnaces_. The agonies he must have suffered in that
loathsome, murderous atmosphere may easily be imagined. Strong men curse
the filthy smoke and stench from morning till night, and to a person in
consumption it must be a still more exquisite torture. Reading the
Medical Report for the county of Wilts recently I noticed it was said
that greater supervision is exercised over the workshops now than was
the case formerly. From my own knowledge and point of view I should say
there is no such supervision of the factory shops at all; during the
twenty odd years I have worked there I have never once heard of a
factory inspector coming through the shed, unless it were one of the
company’s own confidential officials.

The percentage of sickness and accidents is higher at the stamping shed
than in any other workshop in the factory. The accidents are of many
kinds, though they are chiefly scalds and burns, broken and crushed
limbs, and injuries to the eyes. It is remarkable how so many accidents
happen; they are usually very simply caused and received. A great number
of them are due, directly and indirectly, to the unhealthy air about the
place. When the workman is not feeling well he is liable to meet with an
accident at any moment. He has not then the keen sense of danger
necessary under such conditions, or, if he has this, he has not the
power in himself to guard against it. He has a vague idea that he is
running risks, but he is too dazed or too ill fully to realise it, and
very often he does not even care to protect himself. He is thus often
guilty of great self-neglect, amounting to madness, though he is
ignorant of it at the time. When he is away from the shed he remembers
the danger he was in, and is amazed at his weakness, and vows
resolutions of taking greater pains in the future, but on coming back to
the work the old conditions prevail, and he is confronted with the same
inability to take sufficient precautions for his safety and well-being.
Where the air is good, or even moderately pure, the workmen will be more
keen and sensible of danger. Both their physical and mental powers will
be active and alert and accidents will consequently be much more rare.

As soon as a serious accident happens to a workman a rush is made to the
spot by young and old alike--they cannot contain their eager curiosity
and excitement. Many are impelled by a strong desire to be of service to
the unfortunate individual who has been hurt, though, in nine cases out
of ten, instead of being a help they are a very great hindrance. If the
workman is injured very severely, or if he happens to be killed, it will
be impossible to keep the crowd back; in spite of commands and
exhortations they use their utmost powers to approach the spot and catch
a glimpse of the victim. The overseer shouts, curses, and waves his
hands frantically, and warns them all of what he will do, but the men
doggedly refuse to disperse until they have satisfied their curiosity
and abated their excitement.

Immediately a man is down one hurries off to the ambulance shed for the
stretcher, another hastens to the cupboard for lint and _sal volatile_;
this one fetches water from the tap, and the “first-aid men” are soon at
work patching up the wound. In a few moments the stretcher arrives and
the injured one is lifted upon it and carried or wheeled off to the
hospital. Some of the men inspect the spot at which the accident
occurred and loiter there for a moment; afterwards they go on with their
work as though nothing had happened.

If the injured man dies word is immediately sent into the shed. A notice
of the funeral is posted upon the wall and a collection is usually made
to buy a wreath, or the money is handed over to the widow or next-of-kin
to help meet the expenses. There are always a few to follow the old
comrade to the grave, and the bearers will usually be the deceased man’s
nearest workmates. Occasionally, if the funeral happens to be that of a
very old hand, and one who was a special favourite with the men, the
whole shed is closed for the event. Within two or three days afterwards,
however, the affair will be almost forgotten; it will be as though the
workman had never existed. Amid the hurry and noise of the shop there is
little time to think of the dead; one’s whole attention has to be
directed towards the living and to the earning of one’s own livelihood.
For a single post rendered vacant by the death of a workman, there are
sure to be several applicants; a new hand is soon brought forward to
fill the position. Though he does not wish to be unnatural towards his
predecessor, he thanks his lucky stars, all the same, that he has got
the appointment; it is nothing to him who or what the other man was. It
is an ill wind that blows nobody good, and that, for the most part, is
the philosophy of the men at the factory.

There is one other point worth remembering in connection with the matter
of pure or impure air in the shed, and that is, that the quality of the
work made will be considerably affected by it. The more fit a workman
feels, the better his work will be. If he is deficient in health it will
be unreasonable to expect that his forging will be of the highest
quality; there is bound to be a depreciation in it. The same may be said
of the workman’s relations with his employers--his satisfaction or
dissatisfaction with existing conditions. If he is treated honestly and
fairly the firm will gain greatly thereby, in many ways unknown to them.
The workman, in return, will be conscientious and will use his tools and
machinery with scrupulous care. But if he is being continually pricked
and goaded, and ground down by the overseer, he will naturally be less
inclined to study the interests of the company beyond what is his most
inevitable duty, and something or other will suffer. In any case it is
as well to remember that in such matters as these the interests of all
are identical; where there is mutual understanding and appreciation gain
is bound to accrue to each party. No general has ever won a battle with
an unhealthy or discontented army, and the conditions in a large
factory, with ten or twelve thousand workmen, are very similar; the
figure is reasonably applicable.

The year at the factory is divided into three general periods; _i.e._,
from Christmas till Easter, Easter till “Trip”--which is held in
July--and Trip till Christmas. There are furthermore the Bank Holidays
of Whitsuntide and August, though more than one day’s leave is seldom
granted in connection with either of them. Sometimes there will be no
cessation of labour at all, which gives satisfaction to many workmen,
for, notwithstanding the painfulness of the confinement within the dark
walls, they are, as a rule, indifferent to holidays. Many hundreds of
them would never have one at all if they were not forced to do so by
the constitution of the calendar and the natural order of things.

Very little travelling is done by the workmen during the Easter
holidays. Most of those who have a couple of square yards of land, a
small back-yard, or a box of earth on the window sill, prepare for the
task of husbandry--the general talk in spare moments now will be of
peas, beans, onions, and potatoes. The longest journeys from home are
made by the small boys of the shed, who set out in squads and troops to
go bird’s-nesting in the hedgerows, or plucking primroses and violets in
the woods and copses. Young Jim was very excited when Easter came with
the warm, sunny weather; it was pleasant to listen to his childish talk
as he told us about the long walks he had taken in search of primroses
and violets, going without his dinner and tea in order to collect a posy
of the precious flowers. Questioned as to the meaning of Good Friday, he
was puzzled for a few moments, and then told us it was because Jesus
Christ was born on that day. Though he was mistaken as to the origin and
signification of the Festival, there are hundreds of others older than
he at the works who would not be able to answer the question correctly.

At Whitsuntide the first outings are generally held. Then many of the
workmen--those who can afford it, who have no large gardens to care for,
and who are exempt from other business and anxieties--begin to make
short week-end trips by the trains. The privilege of a quarter-fare for
travel, granted by the railway companies to their employees, is valued
and appreciated, and widely patronised. By means of this very many have
trips and become acquainted with the world who otherwise would be unable
to do so.

When the men come back to work after the Whitsuntide holidays they
usually find the official noticeboard in the shed covered with posters
containing the preliminary announcements of the annual Trip, and, very
soon, on the plates of the forges and walls, and even outside in the
town, the words “Roll on, Trip,” or “Five weeks to Trip,” may be seen
scrawled in big letters. As the time for the holiday draws near the
spirits of the workmen--especially of the younger ones, who have no
domestic responsibilities--rise considerably. Whichever way one turns he
is greeted with the question--often asked in a jocular sense--“Wher’
gwain Trip?“ the reply to which usually is--”Same old place,“ or ”Up in
the smowk;” _i.e._, to London, or “Swindon by the Sea.” By the
last-named place Weymouth is intended. That is a favourite haunt of the
poorer workmen who have large families, and it is especially popular
with the day trippers. Every year five or six thousand are conveyed to
the Dorsetshire watering-place, the majority of whom return the same
evening. Given fine weather an enjoyable day will be spent about the
sands and upon the water, but if it happens to rain the outing will
prove a wretched fiasco. Sometimes the trippers have left home in fine
weather and found a deluge of rain setting in when they arrived at the
seaside town. Under such circumstances they were obliged to stay in the
trains all day for shelter, or implore the officials to send them home
again before the stipulated time.

“Trip Day” is the most important day in the calendar at the railway
town. For several months preceding it, fathers and mothers of families,
young unmarried men, and juveniles have been saving up for the outing.
Whatever new clothes are bought for the summer are usually worn for the
first time at “Trip”; the trade of the town is at its zenith during the
week before the holiday. Then the men don their new suits of shoddy, and
the pinched or portly dames deck themselves out in all the glory of
cheap, “fashionable” finery. The young girls are radiant with
colour--white, red, pink, and blue--and the children come dressed in
brand-new garments--all stiff from the warehouse--and equipped with
spade and bucket and bags full of thin paper, cut the size of pennies,
to throw out of the carriage windows as the train flies along. A general
exodus from the town takes place that day and quite twenty-five thousand
people will have been hurried off to all parts of the kingdom in the
early hours of the morning, before the ordinary traffic begins to get
thick on the line. About half the total number return the same night;
the others stop away till the expiration of the holiday, which is of
eight days’ duration.

The privilege of travelling free by the Trip trains is not granted to
all workmen, but only to those who are members of the local Railway
Institute and Library, and have contributed about six shillings per
annum to the general fund. Moreover, no part of the holiday is free, but
is counted as lost time. The prompt commencement of work after Trip is,
therefore, highly necessary; the great majority of the workmen are
reduced to a state of absolute penury. If they have been away and spent
all their money--and perhaps incurred debt at home for rent and
provisions beforehand in order to enjoy themselves the better on their
trip--it will take them a considerable time to get square again; they
will scarcely have done this before the Christmas holidays are

At the end of the first week after the Trip holiday there will be no
money to draw. When Friday comes round, bringing with it the usual hour
for receiving the weekly wages, the men file out of the sheds with long
faces. This is generally known at the works as “The Grand March Past,”
because the toilers march past the pay-table and receive nothing that
day. The living among the poorest of the workmen will be very meagre,
and a great many will not have enough to eat until the next Friday comes
round, bringing with it the first pay. The local tradesmen and
shopkeepers look upon the Trip as a great nuisance because, they say, it
takes money away from the town that ought to be spent in their
warehouses; they do not take into consideration the fact that the men
are confined like prisoners all the rest of the year.

Work in the sheds, for the first day or two after the Trip, goes very
hard and painful; everyone is yearning towards the blue sea or the fresh
open country, and thinking of friends and kindred left behind. This
feeling very soon wears off, however. Long before the week is over the
spirit of work will have taken possession of the men; they fall
naturally into their places and the Trip becomes a thing of the past--a
dream and a memory. Here and there you may see scrawled upon the wall
somewhere or other, with a touch of humour, “51 weeks to Trip”; that is
usually the last word in connection with it for another year.

There are three general moods and phases of feeling among the workmen,
corresponding to the three periods of the year as measured out by the
holidays. The period between Christmas and Easter is one of hope and
rising spirits, of eager looking forward to brighter days, the long
evening and the pleasant week-end. The dark and gloom of winter has
weighed heavily upon the toilers, but this has reached its worst point
by the end of December; after that the barometer begins to rise and a
more cheerful spirit prevails everywhere.

From Easter till Trip and August Bank Holiday--notwithstanding the
terrible trials of the summer weather in the case of those who work at
the furnaces--the feeling is one of comparative ease and satisfaction. A
series of little holidays is included in this period. The men are
encouraged to bear with the heat and fatigue through the knowledge that
it will not be for long; a holiday in sight goes far towards mitigating
the hard punishment of the work in the shed. The summer sunshine and
general bright weather, the occupations of gardening, and the prevalence
of herbs and salads, fresh, sweet vegetables, flowers, and fruits all
have a beneficial effect upon the workman and tend to distract his
attention from the drabness of his employment and make the weeks go by
more easily. The period is one of lightness. It is the time of
realization, the fulfilling of dreams dreamed through the long, dark

From August till Christmas the feeling is one almost of despair. Five
whole months have to be borne without a break in the monotony of the
labour. The time before the next holiday seems almost infinite; a
tremendous amount of work must be done in the interval. Accordingly, the
men settle down with grim faces and fixed determinations. The pleasures
of the year are thrust behind and forgotten; day by day the battle must
be fought and the ground gained inch by inch. The smoke towers up from
the stacks and chimneys, the hammers pound away on the obstinate metal,
the wheels whirl round and the din is incessant. Day after day the black
army files in and out of the entrances with the regularity of clockwork;
it is indeed the period of stern work--the great effort of the year.
Whatever money the workmen save must be put aside now or never; the
absence of holidays and lack of inducement to travel will provide them
with the opportunity. Now is the time for purchasing new clothing and
boots and for getting out of debt--if there is any desire to do that;
it is in every sense of the word the great productive period.

It is also interesting to note the various moods and feelings common to
the workmen during the passage of the week. Monday is always a flat,
stale day, and especially is this true of the morning, before
dinner-time. It might reasonably be supposed that the workmen, after an
absence of a day, or a day and a half, would return to the shed rested
and vigorous, and fit for new efforts, but this is far from being the
actual case. As a matter of fact, Monday is an extremely dull day in the
shed. Everyone seems surly and out of sorts, as though he had been
routed up from sleep before time and had “got out of bed on the wrong
side.” The foreman comes on the scene with a scowl; the chargeman is
“huffy” and irritable; the stampers and hammermen bend to their work in
stony silence, or snap at each other; even the youngsters are quiet and
mopish. Work seems to go particularly hard and against the grain. It is
as though everything were under a cloud; there is not a bit of life or
soul in it. This feeling is so general on the first day of the week that
the men have invented a term by which to express it; if you ask anyone
how he is on that day he will be sure to tell you that he feels “rough”
and “Monday-fied.” By dinner-time the cloud will have lifted somewhat,
though not till towards the end of the afternoon will there be anything
like real relief, with a degree of brightness. By that time the
tediousness of the first day will have worn off; the men’s faces
brighten up and a spirit of cheerfulness prevails. Now they speak to
each other, laugh, whistle and jest, perhaps; they have won the first
skirmish in the weekly battle.

Tuesday is the strong day, the day of vigorous activity, of tool- and
also of record-breaking. The men come to work like lions. All the
stiffness and sluggishness contracted at the week-end has vanished now.
There is a great change, both in the temper and the physical condition
of the men, visible about the place; they move more quickly, handle
their tools better, and appear to be in perfect trim. The work made on
Tuesdays is always the greatest in amount and usually the best in
quality. Everyone, from the foreman to the office-boy, seems brighter
and better, more fit, well, and energetic--great things are accomplished
on Tuesdays at the works.

Wednesday is very similar to Tuesday, though the men are not quite as
fresh and vigorous. The pace, though still smart and good, will fall a
little below that of the day previous. Three days’ toil begins to tell
on the muscles and reserve of the body, though this is counterbalanced
by the increase of mental satisfaction and expectation, the knowledge of
being in mid-week and of getting within sight of another pay-day and
cessation from work.

Thursday is the humdrum day. As much work will be done as on the day
preceding, but more effort will be required to perform it. An acute
observer will perceive a marked difference in the general behaviour of
the workmen and in the manner in which they manipulate the tools. They
will begin to look tired and haggard. When they leave the shed at
meal-times they do not rush headlong out, pushing and shouting, but file
away soberly and in comparative silence.

By Friday morning the barometer will have risen considerably.
Notwithstanding the tiredness of the individual, he is nerved to fresh
efforts and induced to make a final spurt towards the end of the weekly
race. His manner is altogether more cheerful, and he becomes quite
affable to his mates. If the manager or overseer passes through the shed
more frequently than usual and comes and times him at his work, he takes
but very little notice of him. Those who are by nature gruff and surly
melt a little and show a more genial disposition on the Friday. The
secret of all this lies in the fact that Friday is both the last whole
day to be worked at the shed, and it is pay-day, too. The men’s faces
brighten considerably at the approach of that happy and eagerly-awaited
hour. When they collect together around the pay-table they indulge in
jocular remarks with one another, and the majority bubble over with
good-nature. As they pass the table in single file they grab up the box
containing the money with commendable determination. If the pay is a
full one there will be a broad smile, or a grin, on the faces of most of
the men as they remove the cover and pocket the coin; that is about the
happiest and most triumphant moment of all for them.

To draw the wages each man is furnished with a metal check having a
number, corresponding with his name in the register, stamped upon it.
The check is issued to the men as they enter the shed after dinner, and
is a guarantee that they have wages to receive on that day. Each man’s
wages are put up in a tin box, which is also stamped with his number.
The foreman takes his position at the head, and two clerks stand behind
the table. Of these, one calls out the number upon the box and the other
takes it and claps it sharply on the table. The men are waiting ready
and take it as they walk past; two hundred may be paid in about five
minutes by this method. Extras for piecework are paid fortnightly.
Whatever stoppages and contributions are due for the local Sick and
Medical Fund, coal, wood, and other charges, are deducted on the normal
week, and this is called “stoppage week.” Accordingly, the day of great
good-humour comes fortnightly, and that week is known among the men as
“balance week.”

Saturday is the day of final victory, the closing up of the weekly
battle, though a great part of the eagerness evinced a day or two before
will have vanished now that the time to take the hebdomadal rest is
really at hand. It is strikingly true, even here, that expectation is
better than realization. Notwithstanding the fact that the men are tired
and worn out they do not appear to be as keen for the rest as might be
imagined; they now seem to have recovered their normal powers and work
away quite unconcernedly up to the last moment. The boys and youths,
however, will be restless; they whistle and sing and rush off like shots
from a gun as soon as the hooter sounds.

Sunday is the day of complete inactivity with most of the workmen, and
it is possibly the weakest and the least enjoyed of all. If the weather
is dull and wet a great number stay in bed till dinner-time, and
sometimes they remain there all day and night, till Monday morning
comes. This will not have done them much harm; they will feel all the
more refreshed and the better able to face the toil and battle of the
coming week.

Every day, as well as the year and week, has its divisions and a temper
and feeling on the part of the men corresponding with each of them. In
the morning, before breakfast, nearly everyone is sober and quiet, very
often surly, and even spitefully disposed. During that time the men in
the shed rarely speak to each other, but bend down to the labour in
silence. After breakfast the tone improves a little, and continues to do
so till dinner-time, when the tempers of the men will have become about
normal; they are restored to their natural humour and disposition. When
they return after dinner a still greater improvement is discernible, and
by five o’clock in the afternoon they are not like the same beings. In
the evening, after tea, greater good-fellowship than ever prevails, and
if a man meets his mate in the town he is quite cordial. By the next
morning, however, he is metamorphosed again; the old conditions obtain,
and so on day after day and month after month. The best work of the day
is always made in the morning, between the hours of nine and eleven.

If a workman oversleeps in the morning and is too late for admittance
before breakfast, he may start at nine o’clock. This is called “losing a
quarter.” There are those at the works who are noted for losing
quarters; they are usually absent from the shed before breakfast once or
twice a week. Such as these, by the frequency of their absence, are not
noticed very much, but if one who is habitually a good timekeeper
happens to be out unexpectedly before breakfast, means are taken to
celebrate the event. When he arrives there will be a little surprise
awaiting him. He will find an effigy of himself standing near the forge,
and will receive a salute composed of hammers knocking on steel plates,
and the rattling of any old pot that chances to be at hand. During the
meal-time the workmen obtain several coats, a hat, and a pair of boots,
and fix them on the handles of the mallets and broom, and then chalk out
the features of a man upon the coke shovel. Afterwards they assemble in
a gang and greet their comrade with an overpowering din. If he is wise
he will take it all in good part and join in with the fun, and the din
will soon cease; but if he loses his temper--as is sometimes the
case--he is assailed more loudly than ever, and driven half mad with the

A somewhat similar reception is given to a workman who has just been
married. As soon as it is known that the banns are published--and this
is certain to leak out and news of it be brought into the shed--he
becomes the object of very special attention. The men come to him from
all quarters and offer him their congratulations, sincere and otherwise,
very often accompanying them with advice of different kinds, sometimes
of a highly sarcastic nature. Many insist upon shaking hands with him
and, with mock ceremony, compliment him on his decision to join the “Big
Firm,” as they call it, assuring him, at the same time, that they shall
expect him to “stand his footing.” Occasionally, if their mate is poor,
the men of a gang will make a small collection and buy him a present--a
pair of pictures, a piece of furniture, or a set of ornaments. Perhaps
this may be carried out ridiculously, and the whole thing turned into a
joke, whereupon the prospective bridegroom loses his temper and soundly
lashes his mates for their unsolicited patronage.

If the workman divulges the time and place of the wedding there will
certainly be a few to witness it, in order to see how he behaves during
the ceremony. Very often they wait outside the church with missiles of
several kinds, such as old shoes and slippers, rice, barley, Indian
corn, and even potatoes, ready to pelt him. Occasionally, however, it
happens that the wily mate has deceived them with regard either to the
time or the place, and if they turn up at the church they will have to
wait in vain, the laughing-stock of all passers-by. When the newly
married man recommences work he is received with a loud uproar. This is
called “ringing him in.” A crowd of men and boys beat upon any loose
plate of metal that will return a loud clang--such as lids of
tool-chests, steel bars, anvils, and sides of coke bunks--and make as
much noise as possible. This is all over by the time the hooter sounds.
With the starting of the shop engine the men fall in to work, and the
marriage is forgotten by the crowd.



Two kinds of weather go hard with the toilers in the shed; they
are--extreme cold and extreme heat. When it is very cold in the winter
the men will be subjected to a considerable amount of draught from the
doors and roof; on one side they will be half-baked with the heat, and
on the other chilled nearly to the bone. The furnacemen and stampers
will be drenched with perspiration day after day, in the coldest
weather. When they leave the shed to go home at meal-times and at night
they will run great risks of taking cold; it is no wonder that cases of
rheumatism and lumbago are very common among those who toil at the
furnaces and forges. The workmen, for the most part, wear the same
clothes all the year round, winter and summer; they make no allowance
for cold and heat with warm or thin clothing.

Very few wear overcoats, or even mufflers, in the coldest weather,
unless it is wet. They are often numbed with the cold, for they feel it
severely, and they commonly run up the long yard in order to keep
themselves warm in frosty weather on their return to the shed after
meals. If you ask them why they do not wear a cravat or muffler they
tell you it is “no good to coddle yourself up too much, for the more
clothes you wear the more you will want to wear.” A great many--of the
town workmen especially--do not possess an overcoat of any kind.
Whatever the weather may be they journey backwards and forwards quite
unprotected. I have known men come to the shed drenched to the skin,
many a time, and be forced to work in that condition while the garments
were drying on their backs. Now and then, though not often, a bold and
hardy workman will remove his shirt or trousers and stand and dry them
at the furnace door. If he does this he is certain to be shied at and
made the target for various lumps of coke and coal. Amusement is
sometimes caused by the shirt taking fire; I have more than once seen a
workman reduced to the necessity of borrowing an overcoat to wrap around
him in lieu of upper garments. Sometimes the clothes of half the gang
are set alight with sparks from the hammers, and burnt to ashes.

The heat of the summer months, for those who toil at the furnaces and
forges, is far more painful to endure than are all the inconveniences of
cold weather. This is especially the case in close and stuffy sheds
where there is a defective system of ventilation, or where the workshop
is surrounded by other buildings. The interior of these places will be
like a hot oven; it will be impossible for the workmen to maintain any
degree of strength and vigour at their labour. In the early morning,
before eight o’clock, the air will be somewhat cooler, but by the time
of re-starting, after breakfast, the heat will be deadly and
overpowering; the temperature in front of the furnaces will be
considerably over 100 degrees. Where there is a motion of air the
workmen can stand a great amount of heat on all sides, but when that is
quite stagnant, and thick and heavy with the nauseous smoke and fumes
from the oil forges, it is positively torturous. The exigencies of
piecework will admit of no relaxation, however; approximately the same
amount of work must be made on the hottest day of summer as on the
coldest day of winter.

There is one inevitable result of all this--the work made under such
conditions will be inferior in quality, for the men cannot spend the
time they should over the hot metal. If you stand and watch the stampers
you will see, from their very movements, how wretchedly tired and
languid they are; one-half of them are scarcely able to drag their weary
limbs backwards and forwards--they are truly objects of misery. At the
same time, they do not complain, for that would be fruitless, and they
know it. Lost to everything but the sense of their own inexpressible
weariness, with grim necessity at their elbows, they spend their last
effort on the job, having no interest available for the work, only
longing for the next hooter to sound and give them a temporary rest.
Those who work out of doors in the extreme heat of the sun, though they
perspire much, yet have pure air to breathe, so that there will be a
minimum of fatigue resulting from it. In the dust and filth of the shed,
however, the perspiration costs very much more. It seems drawn from the
marrow of your bones; your very heart’s blood seems to ooze out with it.

The change from cold to heat, and also the shifting of the wind, is
immediately felt in the shed; there is no need of a weather-vane to
inform you of the wind’s direction. Even when there is air moving, only
one half of the place will benefit from it. Entering the shed at one
end, it will pile up all the smoke and fume at the other. This, instead
of passing out, will whirl round and round in an eddy, and tease and
torment the workmen, making them gasp for breath.

The toilers have resort to various methods in order to mitigate the heat
during the summer months. The furnacemen, stampers, and forgers usually
remove their shirts altogether, and discard their leathern aprons for
those made of light canvas, or old rivet bags. The amount of cold water
drunk at such times is enormous. It is useless to advise the men to take
it in moderation: “I don’t care, I must have it,” is the answer made.
Occasionally the officials issue oatmeal from the stores, to be taken
with the water. This removes the rawness from the liquid, and makes it
much more palatable, and less harmful to the stomach. The boys are
especially fond of the mixture; they would drink it by the bucketful,
and swallow grouts and all. They do not believe in wasting anything
obtained gratis from the company.

One plan, in very hot weather, is to wrap a wet towel or wiper about the
head, cooling it now and then with fresh water. Some hold their heads
and faces underneath the tap and let the cool water run upon them; and
others engage their mates to squirt it in their faces instead. Such as
do this tie an apron close around the neck under the chin, and receive
the volume of water full in the face. It is delicious, when you are
baked and half-choked with the heat in midsummer, to go to the big tap
under the wall and receive the cold water on the inside part of the arm,
just below the shoulder, allowing it to run down and flow off the finger
tips. This is very cooling and refreshing, and is a certain restorative.

Now and then, during the meal-hour, a hardy workman will strip himself
and bathe in the big bosh used for cooling the furnace tools. In the
evening, after a hard sweating at the fires, many of the young men will
pay a visit to the baths in the town. Little Jim and his mates, who have
no coppers to squander upon the luxury of a dip under cover, betake
themselves to the clay-pits in a neighbouring brick-field. There they
dive down among the fishes and forget about the punishment they have
suffered to-day, and which is certainly awaiting them on the morrow.

The majority of the workmen go out of the sheds to have their food. In
very many workshops they are not permitted, under any consideration, to
remain in to meals. On the score of health this is as it should be; it
forces the workman, whether he likes it or not, to breathe a little
fresh air. It also removes him from his surroundings for the time, and
affords him some refreshment in that way. The sheds in which the men are
allowed to have their meals unmolested are the smiths’ shops, the
steam-hammer shops, and the rolling mills shed. In all these places the
men perspire considerably, and they would be very liable to take a
chill, especially in the winter months, if they were forced to go out
into the cold air to meals. Mess-rooms are provided for the men of some
shops, and tea is brewed and food cooked for as many as like to repair
to them. Very many will not patronise them, however, because they do not
like eating their food in public; they say it is “like being among a lot
of cattle.” Such as these take their food in their hand and eat it as
they walk about, or perhaps they visit a coffee tavern or an inn of the
town. During fine weather a large number have their meals in the
recreation field underneath the trees. Their little sons or daughters
bring the food from home, with hot tea in a mug or bottle, and meet them
outside the entrances. Then they sit down together in the shade of the
elm-trees and enjoy the repast.

The forgers and furnacemen do not eat much food in the shed during the
summer months. The heat of the fires and the fumes from the oil furnaces
impair their appetites, and large quantities of bread and other
victuals are thrown out in the yard for the rats and birds. Rooks and
sparrows are the only regular feathered inhabitants of the yard, if,
indeed, the rooks can be so called, for they have their nests a long way
off. They merely obtain their food about the yard during the day and go
home to bed at night. The sparrows build their nests almost anywhere,
though their favourite place seems to be in the sockets made in the
walls for containing the lamp brackets. As the lamps are removed during
the summer months, the holes afford a convenient resting-place for the
ubiquitous _passeres_.

No starlings frequent the yard; they prefer a quieter and more natural
habitation. A robin, even, is an unusual visitor, while martins and
swallows never visit the precincts of the factory. The sweet
_chelidon_--the darling stranger from the far-off shores of the blue
Mediterranean--shuns the unearthly noise and smother of the factory
altogether; her delight is in places far removed from the whirling of
wheels and the chu-chuing of engines.

The rooks seem perfectly inured to the smoke and steam and the life of
the factory yard; at all hours of the day they may be seen scavenging
around the sheds, picking up any stray morsel that happens to be lying
about. Four of these frequent the yard regularly. Summer and winter they
are to be seen strutting up and down over the ashes of the track, or
perched upon the tops of the high lamps. Once, during a gale, I saw a
rook try to alight upon the summit of a lamp, eighty feet high--on the
small curved iron stay that crowns the whole like a bow. Although it
secured a footing on the top, it could not balance itself to rest there,
but was forced to keep its two wings entirely expanded in order to
maintain any equilibrium at all. This it did for nearly two minutes, but
the force of the wind was so great that it could not keep its balance
and was presently blown away. To view it there, with wings outstretched,
brought to mind a bird of a much nobler reputation than that of Master
Rook; it was worthy of the traditions of the eagle.

It is instructive to note the various types of men and to consider how
they compare with one another. Big, fat workmen invariably make better
mates than do small, thin ones. Their temper is certain to be more
genial, and they are usually more open and simple, hearty and free;
everything with them, to use a time-honoured phrase, seems to go “as
easy as an old cut shoe.” Even Cæsar, though very thin himself, wished
to have about him men who were fat and sleek--he was suspicious of the
lean and hungry-looking Cassius. Fat workmen, as a rule, seem incapable
of much worry. If anything goes amiss they look upon it with the
greatest unconcern and lightly brush it aside, while the thin, small
individual is forever fretting and grieving over some trivial thing or
other. It is noteworthy that hairy men, as well as being considerably
stronger, are usually better-tempered than are those who are lacking in
this respect. The little person is proverbially vain and conceited and
“thinks great things” of himself, as the Greeks would have said, while
the words of the old rhyme are uniformly true and applicable:--

    “Long and lazy,
       Black and proud,
     Fair and foolish,
       Little and loud.”

Small pride is discovered in the individual of sixteen or seventeen
stone weight. Nor are size and bulk in a workman always indicative of
the greatest prowess. Very many men of no more than five feet or less
in stature, and of correspondingly small proportions, are veritable
lions in strength.

Of all styles of workmen soever the dandy, or, as he is vulgarly called,
the “swanker,” is usually the least proficient at his trade. There is
another who would delight to stand with his hands behind him, or perhaps
to walk about like it: he is certain to be of the self-conscious type,
one not extra fond of making unnatural exertions. This one, whenever an
opportunity presents itself, would stand with his thumbs thrust in the
arm-holes of his waistcoat and complacently look upon all around him;
you may know him for one who would rather see you do a job than do it
himself. That one yonder is fond of standing with his arms folded, and
another would thrust his hands deep into his trousers pockets at every
stray opportunity. Such as these may come in time to draw as much wages
as the best workmen on the premises, or they may even obtain more, but
they will never be experts themselves; they are too choice, and too
dilatory. Your capital workman never adopts any of these attitudes.
Walking or standing, pausing, resting, or viewing any other operation,
his hands are down by his sides--free, and in the most advantageous
position for rendering assistance to himself, or to others, as the case
may be.

The men of one department or shed--except in the case of a fire--never
help those of another, no matter how great the difficulty may be, unless
they have been officially lent, and this is of extremely rare
occurrence. One might think that where two sheds stand side by side,
help would occasionally be given, when it was required, but such is the
condition of things, and so rigid is the system imposed at the works,
that this is completely out of the question. The men of two contingent
sheds, though they may have been working close together for twenty or
thirty years, are almost total strangers. They may see each other now
and then, and recognise one another by sight, but they do not think of
exchanging conversations.

There is one matter, however, in which, notwithstanding the many
facilities at hand for perfect equipment, the works resembles most other
establishments, and that is in the frequently defective supply of proper
tools for the workmen and the too great tendency to use anything that
may be lying about for a makeshift. When I came into the factory as a
boy I expected to find everything of this sort in perfect arrangement.
In the rough and ready trade of agriculture I had been accustomed to
making the best use of old, worn-out tools. The farmer, if he is not
blessed with abundant capital, is often forced to have recourse to crude
means and expedients in order to tide himself over a difficulty. He must
bind up this and patch that, and sometimes set his men to work with
tackle that is broken and antiquated. One looks for this, naturally, out
on the farm, and is surprised if he does not find it so. But in the
factory, thought I, there will be none of it. I supposed that all the
machinery would be in perfect trim, that tools would be very plentiful
and of the best description, and that everything would be ordered for
the men’s convenience in order to expedite the work.

A short acquaintance with matters in the shed soon dispelled this
illusion, however. I found that the same condition of things obtained in
the factory as was the case on the far away, deserted farm. There
something ailed the chaffcutter, the mowing- or reaping-machine, the
plough, the elevator, or the horse-rake. Some links were missing from
the traces and had to be replaced with stout wire; many things were in
use that were heavy, cumbersome, and primitive. Here something is wrong
with the steam-hammer, drill, lathe, or hydraulic machine. The
wheel-barrows are broken, the shovels are without handles, the besoms
are worn out; hammers and chisels, tongs, sets, and other tools are
almost as scarce as pound pieces. You seldom have any decent tools to
work with unless you can make them yourself, or pay the smith for doing
it out of your own pocket. Then, in nine cases out of ten, if the
machinery breaks down, the same means are resorted to as were adopted by
the farmer or haulier; any patching up will do until such time as
someone or other can make it convenient to carry out the necessary
repairs. As long as the parts hang together and the wheels go round,
that will be considered sufficient. This kind of procedure, in the case
of a farmer or other, who has no very great convenience for equipping
himself with every desirable apparatus, may be condoned, but in a large
and professedly up-to-date factory there is no excuse at all for it--it
is pure misdemeanour and slovenliness.

Many pranks are played upon one another by the workmen, though it is
significant of the times that skylarking and horse-play are not nearly
as common and frequent as they were formerly. The supervision of the
sheds is much more strict, and the prices are considerably lower than
they used to be; there is not now the time and opportunity, nor even the
inclination to indulge in practical jokes. Under the new discipline the
men are generally more sober and silent, though they are none the
happier, nevertheless. The increased efforts they are bound to make at
work and the higher speed of the machinery has caused them to become
gloomy and unnatural, and, very often, peevish and irritable. It is a
further illustration of the old adage--

    “All work and no play
     Makes Jack a dull boy.”

There is one matter for congratulation, however, and that is that the
youngsters are not to be deprived of their sports and amusements on any
pretext whatever. Though you set them to do almost impossible tasks they
will find the time and the means to exercise their natural propensity to

It is a bad sign when there is a total absence of play in the shed. It
is bad for the individual and for the men collectively; it indicates too
great a subjection to working conditions--the subjugation of inherent
nature. It is of far greater value and importance to mankind that spirit
and character should be cherished and maintained, than that the trifling
and petty rules of the factory should be scrupulously observed and
adhered to. At the same time, no sane person would recommend that an
unrestricted liberty be allowed the workmen. There is bound to be a
certain amount of law and order, but where everything is done at the
piece rate and the firm is not in a position to lose on the bargain, it
is stupid obstinately to insist upon the observance of every little rule
laid down. Piece-rated men seldom or never work at a perfectly uniform
speed; there are dull and intensely active periods depending sometimes
upon the physical condition of the workman and sometimes upon the
quality known as “luck” in operation. Give the workman his head and he
will fashion out his own time-table, he will speedily make up for any
losses he has incurred before. The feeling of fitness is bound to come;
he revels in the toil while it possesses him. There never was, and there
never will be, a truly mechanical man who shall work with the
systematical regularity of a clock or steam-engine; that is beyond all
hope and reason, beyond possibility and beyond nature. What is more, it
is absolutely unnecessary and undesirable.

One prank that used to be greatly in vogue in the shed was that of
inserting a brick in the sleeve of a workmate’s jacket as it was hanging
up underneath the wall or behind the forge. This was sometimes done for
pure sport, though occasionally there was more than a spice of malice in
the jest. Perhaps the owner of the garment had been guilty of an
offence, of tale-bearing, or something or other to the prejudice of his
fellow-mates, and this was the means adopted for his punishment.
Accordingly, a large brick was quietly dropped into the sleeve from
inside the shoulder and well shaken down to the cuff, and the jacket was
left hanging innocently in its position. At hooter time all those in the
secret congregated and waited for the victim of the joke to come for his
coat. Suddenly, as the hooter sounded, he rushed up in a great hurry,
seized his coat and discovered the impediment, while all the others
speedily decamped. He had considerable difficulty in dislodging the
brick from the sleeve. After trying in vain for ten minutes or more he
was usually forced to cut away the sleeve, or the lining, with his

Another favourite trick was to place some kind of seat under a wall in
order to entice the unwary, and to fix up above it a large tin full of
soot, so arranged as to work on a pivot, and operated by means of a
string. The soot was also sometimes mixed with water, and stirred up so
as to make an intensely black fluid. By and by an unsuspecting
workman--usually an interloper from the yard or elsewhere--would come
along and sit down upon the improvised seat. Very soon one of the gang
shouted out “Hey up!” sharply, and as the victim jumped up someone
pulled the string and down came soot, water, and very often the pot,
too, upon his head. If the joke was successful the dupe’s face was as
black as a sweep’s; a loud roar of laughter went up from the workmen
and the unhappy victim very quickly got outside. Sometimes, however, he
did not take it so quietly, and I have seen a free fight as the outcome
of this adventure.

The water-pipe plays a great part in practical joking in the shed,
though this is more usually the juvenile’s method of perpetrating a jest
or paying off an old score. There is also the water-squirt, which is
another juvenile weapon. It is sufficient to say that the use of this,
whenever it is detected, is rigidly put down by the workmen themselves;
it is universally looked upon as a nuisance. Great injuries to health
have been done, in some cases, by senseless practical joking with the
water-pipe. I have known instances in which a workman has thrust the
nose of a pipe up the trouser leg of another as he lay asleep on the
floor in the meal-hour, during night duty, and he has been awakened by
it to find himself quite drenched with the stream of water and most
wretchedly cold. One lad, who used to drive the steam-hammer for me, was
often treated to this by some roughs of the shed, and, as a consequence,
was afflicted with chronic rheumatism. Finally he had to stop away from
work altogether, and he lay as helpless as a child for nine years, with
all his joints stiff and set, and died of the torture.

There is a touch of humour in the situation sometimes, however, as when,
for instance, upon breaking up for the Christmas holidays, a group of
workmen were singing “Let some drops now fall on me,” and a wag, in the
middle of the hymn, shot a large volume of water over them from the
hose-pipe. Another trick is to fill a thin paper bag with water and
throw it from a distance. If it happens to strike its object the bag
bursts, and the individual forming the target receives a good wetting.

All Fools’ Day is sure to be the occasion for many jokes of a suitable
kind. A common one at this time is to take a coin and solder it to the
head of a nail, and then to drive the nail into the sill of a door, or
into the floor in a well-frequented spot where it is bound to be
noticed. As soon as it is spied efforts will certainly be made to detach
the coin, and, in the midst of it, the party of youths who prepared the
trap rush forward and bowl the other over on the floor, at the same time
greeting him with boisterous laughter and jeers. Even the chief manager
of the works’ department has been the victim of this jest. In this case
an old sixpence was strongly soldered to the nail, which was then well
driven into the floor. Presently the manager came along, saw the coin,
and made several attempts to pick it up. It needs not to be said that
the jest itself was witnessed in respectful silence; the bowling over a
chief might have been attended with certain undesirable consequences.

New Year’s Eve was always suitably observed and celebrated by those on
the night-shift. When the men came in to work they set about their toils
with extra special celerity, and the steam-hammers thumped away with all
possible power and speed. This effort was maintained till towards
midnight, and then everyone slowed down. At about one o’clock a general
cessation of hostilities took place. The steam-hammers were silenced,
the fires were damped, and the tools were thrown on one side. All that
could be heard was the continual “chu-chu” of the engine outside forcing
the hydraulic pumps, and the exhaust of the donkey engine whirling the
fan. In one corner of the shed a large coal fire was kindled on the
ground, and around it were placed seats for the company. Then an
inventive and musical-minded workman stretched a rope across from the
principals and came forward with two sets of steel rods, of various
lengths and thicknesses, and capable of emitting almost any note in the
scale. These were tied about with twine and suspended from the rope in a
graduated order, from the shortest to the longest. Someone else fetched
a big brass dome from a worn-out boiler, while others had brought
several old buffers from the scrap waggon. Two were trained to strike
the rods, and the others were instructed to beat on the dome and

Shortly before midnight, when the bells in the town and the far-off
villages began to peal out, the workmen commenced their carnival. Bells
were perfectly imitated by striking the bars of steel suspended from the
rope; the buffers contributed their sharp, clear notes, and the brass
dome sounded deeply and richly. This was called “Ringing the changes.”
When the noise had been continued for a sufficient length of time food
was brought out and the midnight meal partaken of. Although strictly
against the rules of the factory, someone or other would be sure to have
smuggled into the shed a bottle or jar of ale; this would be passed
round and healths drunk with great gusto. When supper was over a
melodeon or several mouth-organs were produced, and selections were
played for another hour. After that the majority had a nap; they seldom
started work any more that morning. The foremen and watchmen were
usually missing on New Year’s Eve, or if they should happen to arrive
upon the scene they never interfered. For once in their lives they, too,
became human, and accepted the situation, and perhaps the old watchman
sat down with the men and drank out of their bottle and afterwards
puffed away at his pipe. If the high officials at the works had only
known of what was going on at the time they would have sacked half the
men the next day, but even they, sharp as they are, do not get
intelligence of everything.

All this happened some twenty years ago and would not be possible
to-day. The shed in which it took place has been deserted by the forgers
and transformed into a storehouse for manufactures. The kindly disposed
old watchmen are dead, or have been superseded, and a new race of
foremen has sprung up. Of the workmen some are dead and others have
retired. A great number are missing, and many of those who remain have
altered to such an extent under the new conditions that I have sometimes
wondered whether they are really the same who worked the night shift and
jested with us in the years ago. So striking is the change that has
taken place, not only in the administration, but in the very life and
temper of the men of the factory during the last decade.


        THE FORGE

Formerly, when anyone was desirous of obtaining a start in the factory,
he tidied himself up and, arrayed in clean working costume, presented
himself at one or other of the main entrances immediately after
breakfast-time so as to meet the eyes of the foremen as they returned
from the meal. Morning after morning, when work was plentiful, you might
have seen a crowd of men and boys around the large doorways, or lining
the pavements as the black army filed in, all anxious to obtain a job
and looking wonderingly towards the opening of the dark tunnel through
which the men passed to arrive at the different sheds. The workmen eyed
the strangers curiously, and, very often, with contempt and displeasure:
it is singular that those who are safely established themselves dislike
to see new hands being put on. They look upon them as interlopers and
rivals, and think them to be a menace to their own position.

Those in want of a start were easily recognisable from the rest by
reason of their clean and fresh appearance. Many of them were clad in
white corduroy trousers, waistcoats of the same material, with cloth
jackets and well-shone boots, and they wore a plain red or white muffler
around the neck. Some of them were very modest and bashful, and quite
uneasy in face of the crowd; the boys especially were astonished to see
so many workmen at once passing by like an army.

As soon as the men had disappeared within the entrances the hooter
sounded and the great doors were shut. Shortly afterwards the staff
clerks came along, the foremen walking between them at the same time.
Very often the two classes were not to be distinguished; in such a case
the overseers passed by unchallenged. It usually happened, however, that
the foremen were known to one or other of the crowd. As they came up the
word was sent round and there was a rush to see who should be the first
to put the usual question--“Chance of a job, sir?” This was sometimes
accompanied with an obsequious bow, or the applicant merely raised his
forefinger to his forehead. If the foreman was not in need of hands, he
simply said “No” to each applicant and pushed by them all. If he
required any he asked them where they came from and what they had been
doing, and furthermore questioned them as to their age. If the answers
were satisfactory he merely said, “Come along with me,” and conducted
the men off, and they followed with alacrity.

The boys hardly ever had the courage to address the foremen. If they
could summon up the necessary resolution, however, they said, “Please,
sir, will you give me a job?” and if the reply was favourable they
followed off in high glee, wondering all the way at the strange
surroundings, the busy workmen, and the vast array of machinery. Boys
usually had but little difficulty in obtaining a start; they were soon
taken on and initiated into the mysteries of the sheds. When the foreman
saw them outside he went up to them and asked them if they wanted a job
and promptly told them to “Come along.”

When an applicant was taken in hand by the foreman he was conducted to
the shop office. From that place he was sent, in company with the
office-boy, to the manager’s department, where he had to submit to a
whole code of formal questions, and was also required to read the rules
of the factory and to subscribe his name to them, pledging himself to
their observance. After that he was required to undergo a strict medical
examination, though one not so severe as that now in vogue. If he was
successful in this he was told to present himself at the shed, and was
there informed when he might begin work. This might be at any hour of
the day, though it was usually fixed for the early morning--getting a
start commonly occupied one day entire. Sometimes it happened that a
man’s references were unsatisfactory; in that case, after working for
several days, he was discharged and another was brought forward to fill
the vacancy.

The boys were always frightened at the thought of one painful ordeal
which they were told they would have to undergo. They were seriously
informed by their new mates in the shed that they would have to be
branded on the back parts with a hot iron stamp containing the initials
of the railway company, and very many of the youngsters firmly believed
the tale and awaited the operation with dreadful suspense. As time went
on, however, and they were not sent for to the offices, they came to
discredit the story and smiled at their former credulity.

Different methods are now employed in engaging new hands. They are now
seldom taken up from the entrances, but must apply at the works’ Inquiry
Office and begin to pass through the official formula in that way, or
the foreman is supplied with names from private sources. This is another
indication of the times, a further development of system at the works.
By reason of it many good and deserving men and boys are precluded from
the chance of getting a start in the factory, and many less competent
ones are admitted; it affords an excellent opportunity for the exercise
of favouritism on the part of the overseer. Whoever now has a mate he
would like to introduce into the shed approaches the foreman. If he is a
favourite himself room will be made for his friend, somehow or other,
but if he is a commoner, and not reckoned among the “lambs,” he will be
met with a curt refusal, or his application will be put off
indefinitely. The officials do not gain anything by the method; they
will not be able to exercise as great a choice in the selection of
hands, but must have what is sent them.

Another tendency at the works is that to keep out all those who do not
live in the borough or within a certain area around the town, or, if
they are given the chance of a start, it is only upon condition that
they leave their homes and come and live under the shadow of the factory
walls. It is said that this rule was first introduced chiefly in
deference to the tradesmen and shopkeepers of the town, because they are
under the impression that all wages earned in the town should
necessarily be spent there, either in the payment of rent or the
purchase of provisions and clothes.

When a new hand enters the shed he attracts considerable attention; all
eyes are immediately fixed upon him. If he has worked in the factory
before he will go about his duties in a very unconcerned manner, but if
he is a total stranger to the place he will be shy and awkward, and will
need careful and sympathetic instruction; it will be some time before he
is entirely used to the new surroundings. If he is rustic in appearance,
or seems likely to lend himself to a practical joke, the wags of the
place soon single him out and play pranks upon him. It sometimes
chances, however, that they have mistaken their man; they may meet with
a sudden and unlooked for reprisal and be beaten with their own weapons.

The workmen who come from the villages are usually better-natured and
also better-tempered than are those who are strictly of the town, though
there are exceptions to the rule. On the whole, however, they make the
more congenial mates, and they work much harder and are more
conscientious. They dress much more roughly than do their confrères of
the town; the last-named would not think of wearing corduroys in the
shed. There is often a great temperamental difference between the two,
and they differ widely in their ideas of and adaptability for work in
the shed. The country workman is fresh and tractable, open to receive
new ideas and impressions of things. He brings what is practically a
virgin mind to the work; he is struck with the entire newness of it all
and enters heart and soul into the business. He is usually more active
and vigorous, both in brain and body, than is the other, and even where
he falls short in actual intelligence and knowledge of things, he more
than makes up for it with painstaking effort; he is very proud of his
new situation.

The town workman, on the other hand, is often superior, disdainful, and
over-dignified. There is little in his surroundings that is really new
and strange to him. He has always been accustomed to the crowds of
workmen, and if he has not laboured in the shed before he has heard all
about it from his friends or parents. His mind has often become so full
of the occupations and diversions of the town that it is incapable of
receiving new ideas; it is like a slate that has been fully written over
and is impossible of containing another sentence or word. Instead of
exhibiting shyness or reserve he immediately makes himself familiar and
causes his presence to be felt. Before he has been in the shed many days
he knows everything and can do everything, in his estimation, and if you
attempt to reason with him, or offer any advice as to how to proceed, he
will inform you that he “knows all about it without any of your

Many of the town workmen, and especially those of the more highly
skilled classes and journeymen, though village-born themselves, show
considerable contempt for the country hand newly arrived in the shed,
and even after he has worked there many years and proved himself to be
of exceptional ability. They consider him at all times as an interloper
and a “waster,” and make no secret of their dislike of and antipathy to
him. They often curse him to his face, and tell him that “if it was not
for the likes of him“ they would be getting better wages. ”If I could
have my way I’d sack every man of you, or make you come into the town to
live. All you blokes are fit for is cow-banging and cleaning out the
muck-yard; you ought to be made come here and work for ten shillings a
week,” they say. All this has but little effect upon the countryman,
however, and he seldom deigns to reply to it. Whether his coming to the
factory to work was really better for him or not, prudent or otherwise,
he does not attempt to argue. There is no law that prohibits a man from
changing his occupation and taking another place when he feels inclined
so to do.

When the average boy of the town first enters the shed he is not long in
finding his way about and taking stock of the other juveniles and men;
he is here, there, and everywhere in a few moments. With his
shirt-sleeves turned up to the elbow he walks round, whistling or
humming a tune, and greeting all indiscriminately with a wink or a nod,
and a “What cheer?” or “Pip! pip!” If the men beckon to him--with a sly
wink at their mates, intending to ask some ridiculous question or take a
rise out of him--the youngster shakes his hand at them and retires
straightway with a knowing nod and the expression, “I don’t think,”
laying great stress upon the don’t. By and by, however, as he becomes a
little more proficient and “cheeky,” the men get hold of him and treat
him to a little rough play. They will either twist his arm round till he
cries out with the pain, and nearly crush him in a vice-like grip, or
dip his head in the nearest bosh of water.

The country lad behaves in a manner quite the reverse of this. He
remains strictly near his machine or steam-hammer, and is usually too
bashful to speak, unless it be to his immediate mates. He is afraid of
strangers, and it will be some weeks before he ventures to walk to the
other end of the shed. Even when he does this it will be not to converse
with the other boys and men, but in order to watch the machines, the
furnaces, and steam-hammers. There he will stand with great attention
and view the several operations, and if anyone shouts out at him he will
move quietly away and watch something else with the same earnestness, or
go back to his own place. His conduct is altogether different from that
of the other, and he is often singular in turning up his shirt-sleeves
_inside_, and right up to the very shoulders. Before the town boy goes
home from the shed he is careful to wash off the black from his face,
comb his hair, and tidy himself up. The country boy, on the other hand,
wears his livery home with him; he likes everyone to see that he has
been engaged at a hot, black job. In a word, town boys are ashamed of
the badge of their work, while country boys are proud of it.

Perhaps, when the village boy starts in the shed, one or two kindly
disposed workmen will immediately take notice of him, and, calling him
to them, will ask him where he comes from, and upon what kind of work he
was before engaged, and all about himself, and so win him over with
their friendliness; no matter how long he remains in the shed he does
not forget their former kindness to him. In contradistinction to this
the wags of the shed make him a ready mark for their diversions, running
away with his cap, or sending him on many ridiculous errands and
confounding him with stupid questions and conundrums. One favourite jest
was to send him to the engine-house after a “bucket of blast,” and
another was to despatch him for the “toe punch.” The “toe punch”
consisted of a vigorous kick in the posterior, which the youngster, if
he obeyed the instructions given, was most certain to receive; but he
very soon came to know what was intended and sturdily refused to run any
more errands.

A great alteration, physically and morally, usually takes place in the
man or boy newly arrived from the country into the workshop. His fresh
complexion and generally healthy appearance soon disappear; his bearing,
style of dress and all undergo a complete change. In a few weeks’ time,
especially if his work is at the fires, he becomes thin and pale, or
blue and hollow-eyed. His appetite fails; he is always tired and weary.
For the first time in his life he must go to the surgery and obtain
medicine, or stay at home on the sick list. His firm carriage--unless he
is very careful of it--leaves him; he comes to stoop naturally and walks
with a slouching gait. His dress, from being clean, tidy, and
well-fitting, partakes of the colour of soot and grease and hangs on his
limbs; I know cases in which men have lost ten pounds in weight in a
fortnight and regained it all in a little more than a week’s absence
from the shed.

The change in character and morals is often as pronounced as is the
physical transformation; the newcomer, especially if he is a juvenile,
is speedily initiated into the vices prevalent in the factory and taught
the current slang phrases and expressions. Some of the workmen are
greatly to blame in respect of this, and are guilty of almost criminal
behaviour in their dealings with young boys. They use the most filthy
language in their presence, purposely teaching them to swear, and
sometimes also producing obscene pictures and books for their perusal.
The foremen are not free from blame and responsibility in this matter.
Many of them use the most foul language, and curse the men openly before
the youngsters upon the slightest provocation. There is a species of
Continental picture card that is far too popular in some of the offices;
where the example is set by superiors it is small wonder that the rank
and file are affected with the contagion. The managers themselves are
guilty of coarse language and vulgar expressions. Certain remarks of
theirs are frequently repeated and circulated in the sheds, and do not
tend to improve the morals of the workmen, or to increase respect for
those who made them.

Promotion among the workmen is very slow and tedious, unless there
happens to be an influence at work somewhere behind, which is often the
case. It is superfluous to say, moreover, that the cleverest man is not
the one usually advanced; that would be contrary to all precedent at the
factory. He is more usually the very individual to be kept under; the
foreman will be sure to keep him in the background and hide his light
underneath the bushel, or try his best to snuff it out altogether. The
only material advancement possible to a workman, besides being appointed
overseer, is that of being raised to the position of chargeman. A few
privileges attach to the post of chargeman, especially if there is a
big gang; his wages are higher, and he draws a sum called percentage,
equal to 10 per cent. of his own weekly wages, deducted out of the
“balance” earned by the gang.

The system of paying percentage is very unpopular with the rank and file
of the workmen; whether the chargeman’s behaviour is good or bad, he is
heartily hated by most of the men in consequence of it. Foremen they
must tolerate, but a chargeman they fully despise. They do not like to
think that any of their earnings go to pay for his supervision, although
in most cases he is quite a necessary individual. In times past the
chargeman used to pay the piecework “balance” to the men, having
received the money in a bulk from the company, and he was often guilty
of scandalous robbery and cheating. The chargeman could and did pay the
gang what amount he pleased, and kept several pounds a week extra for
himself. All that is past and done with now. The “balance” is paid to
the man with his day wages; no opportunity of cheating him is given to
the chargeman.

As soon as it becomes known that it is intended to discharge a number of
hands considerable anxiety is evidenced by the rank and file, and
especially by the unskilled of the shed. They begin to quake and tremble
and to be full of apprehension, for it is usually men of their class who
are chosen to go, together with any who may be old and feeble, those who
are subject to periodical attacks of illness, who have met with an
accident at some time or other, those who are awkward and clumsy,
dwellers in country places, and those whom the foreman owes a grudge. It
can generally be surmised beforehand by the men themselves who will be
in the number of unfortunates. Groups of workmen gather and discuss the
situation quietly; there is great suspense until the notices are
actually issued. Sometimes as many as a hundred men of the same shed
have received their notices of dismissal in one day. The notices are
written out upon special forms and the clerk of the shed, or the
office-boy, carries them round to the men; it is a dramatic moment.
Although fully expecting to receive the dreaded “bit of paper,” the men
hope against hope; they are quite dazed when the clerk approaches and
hands it to them, for they know full well what it means. The young men
may not care a scrap. To them all the world is open. They have plenty of
other opportunities; but to those who are subject to illness--contracted
on the premises--or who are getting on in life and are becoming old and
grey and unfit for further service, it is little less than tragedy. One
day’s notice is served out to the men; they are quickly removed from the
shed and are presently forgotten.

Of the number discharged a great many loiter about the town for several
weeks, unable to find any sort of employment. These scatter about among
the villages and try to obtain work on the farms; those are assisted by
their relatives and kindred in various parts of the country to leave the
locality altogether. Some find their way into the workhouse and end
their days there, and others develop into permanent loafers and outcasts
and beg their food from door to door, picking up stray coppers around
the station yard or in the market-place.

Great relief is felt in the shed when the discharging is over. A common
remark of the workman who is left is, “Ah well! ’Twill be better for we
as be left. ’Tis better to sack a few than to keep us all on short time
here.” That is invariably the view of the well-established in the
factory. Occasionally, when a workman knows he has been selected for
dismissal through spite, or personal malice, he may go to the overseer
and “have it out with him,” but there is no remedy. The foreman has had
the whole batch in his eye for some time past. Whatever little
indiscretion is committed he records it and the man is marked. The
overseer boasts openly that he shall “get his own back,” sooner or
later. “We don’t forget it, mate, you bet, not we! His time’ll come all
right, some day.” After the last great discharge of hands at the
factory, in the year 1909, when a thousand men were dismissed in order
to “reduce expenses,” it was reported that every manager at the works
was granted a substantial increase in salary. In less than a month, for
some inscrutable reason, a number of new hands, equivalent to those who
had been discharged, were put on again.

The speech of the workmen in the sheds necessarily varies according to
the country or locality which gave them birth or to the part in which
they were settled before coming to the railway town, and to the degrees
of culture existing among them. The majority, including foremen,
fitters, smiths, and other journeymen and labourers, speak a common
language, plain, direct, and homely; there is little pretence to fine
words and “swell” phrases. The average workman detests nothing more than
to be bound to a mate who is always giving himself airs, who lays stress
upon his claim to superior knowledge of grammar and other matters, and
who makes use of affected or artificial language and “jaw-breakers,” as
the men call them. Sometimes a new-comer to the shed may attempt to make
an impression with a magnificent style of diction, though he is only
mocked and ridiculed for his pains, and he soon conforms to the general
rule and habit of the workshop. Even if he really possesses culture, it
is soon effaced and swallowed up amid the unsympathetic environment of
the shed. Occasionally one meets with an individual--it may be a
workman or a clerk--who can never speak simply, but tries to express
everything in ridiculous and fantastic language, and who at all times
looks upon himself as a perfect hero. The blunt and matter-of-fact
workmen take an entirely different view of him and his jargon, however;
they look upon him as a perfect fool or an idiot.

One habit of speech is particularly noticeable amongst the men, that
is the adding the suffix “fied” to a number of words; you often hear
them make use of such expressions as “Monday-fied,” “sweaty-fied,”
“bossy-fied,” “silly-fied,” and so on. Another peculiarity is the adding
the letter y to a surname, usually a monosyllable, and especially to
those ending in dentals and labials, such as Webb-y, Smith-y, Legg-y,
Lane-y, Nash-y, Brooks-y; you never find the termination used with such
words as Fowler, Foster, Matthews, Jerrom, or Johnson. This is no more
than an extension of the rule which is responsible for such forms as
Tommy, Annie, Betty, Teddy, or Charlie.

If one workman asks another how he is feeling, he usually receives for
an answer--“Rough and ready, like a rat-catcher’s dog,” or “Passable,”
or “Among the Middlings,” or “In the pink, mate!” as the case may be,
with the common addition of “Ow’s you?” A few are still to be found, and
these among the town dwellers, too, who can neither read nor write. I
especially remember one youth, of a very respectable family, of good
appearance and fairly well-to-do, who could not write his name or read a
letter. Such cases as this are happily rare now. Where there is an
illiterate workman, if the cause of his deficiency be carefully sought
out, it will usually be found to have been entirely through his own

As for the fruits of education exhibited among the men in the sheds
generally, that is rather a difficult and delicate matter to touch upon.
One thing, however, is obvious to any who care to pay the slightest
attention to it: extremely little of those subjects taught with such
assiduity at school remains with the individual in after life--such
things as grammar, composition, history, geography, arithmetic, and
chemistry are universally forgotten. The boys of the town are especially
remarkable for shortness of memory and general forgetfulness; they have
few powers of mental retention, and are almost incapable of
concentrating upon a matter. You have often to instruct them upon each
trivial detail half-a-dozen times, and before you can turn round they
have forgotten it again. The least occurrence is sufficient to distract
their attention. Scolding will not help matters, it is really a natural
defect. When I have had occasion to reprove boys for apparent
carelessness and neglect they have more than once replied--“I can’t help
it. I forgot it.” There is great truth in the first of those sentences.

Sport and play, and especially football, claims the attention of the
juveniles. The love of the last-named pastime has come to be almost a
disease of late years--old and young, male and female, of every rank and
condition, are afflicted with it. Whatever leisure the youngsters have
is spent in kicking about something or other amid the dirt and dust;
from one week’s end to another they are brimful of the fortunes of the
local football team. Many a workman boasts that he has denied himself a
Sunday dinner in order to find the money necessary for him to attend
Saturday’s match. Politics, religion, the fates of empires and
governments, the interest of life and death itself must all yield to the
supreme fascination and excitement of football.

There is an almost total lack of spontaneous interest in anything--with
the exception of sport and politics--that happens in the world without
the factory walls and the immediate vicinity of the town. The great
business of life is entirely ignored; small inclination is
discoverable--even if there were opportunities--to pay attention to
anything but the ordinary duties and routine of the shed. The beauties
of wood and field, or hill and down, scarcely appeal to the average
working man. Though magnificent downlands and historical relics are
within easy reach of the town’s-people, few are tempted to walk so far
from the smoky atmosphere of the factory as to visit them; a great
indifference to the compelling attractions of Nature apparently exists.
Yet, on the other hand, if you should happen to enter the shed with a
handful of common wild flowers--willow-herb, rosebay, bell flower,
oxeye, and so on--you would immediately be surrounded by a crowd of
boys, and men, too, full of admiration for the lovely strangers, and all
eagerly inquiring after their names, thereby discovering an innate
passion for them, though lack of opportunity and other circumstances had
almost obliterated it. Every man, woman, and child, though they may not
be well aware of it, is a nature-lover at heart; they all have a fond
regard for the simple, natural things of the earth--birds, plants, and
flowers. The men of the shed are always eager to listen to and take part
in political discussions, but they are, as a rule, totally indifferent
to the interest of literature. At the same time, if you have anything to
tell them of birds, flowers, and animals, life on the farm, haymaking,
reaping, threshing, ploughing, and so on, they are full of attention:
they evidently derive great pleasure from the relation of these simple
matters and occupations.

As for general culture, it may at once be said that the educated man is
not wanted at the factory. What is more, the managers will not have him
if they can by any means avoid it; there is a great antipathy to him on
the part of the staff in and out of the shed. Where a workman is known
to possess any intellectual abilities above those commonly found and has
the courage to raise his voice in any matter or to interest himself in
things pertaining to the town, or if he has in any way access to the ear
of the public, he is certain to be marked for it; at the first
convenient opportunity he will be shifted off the premises. Every
workman who desires to improve himself in any direction other than in
that which tends to promote the interests of the company is looked upon
with suspicion; he is immediately included in the number of

Several years ago the manager of a department, who was at the time
Chairman of the local Educational Authority, sent for me in order to see
whether I might be of any use to him in his office. After a lengthy
interview he expressed his disappointment at being unable to offer me
any position, and took care to point out to me the folly of my ways. My
intellectual qualifications were beyond his consideration, said he. I
was so full of many matters as to be quite worthless to him. He must
have certificates. What was the use of my trying, anyhow? He would quote
two words to me--_Cui bono?_ The world was full of better men than I.
What was the good of literature? His advice to me was to go back to my
furnace, look after my wife and family, and trouble no more about it.

At the forge, however, the steady persistence of my efforts towards
self-improvement was not appreciated. Day after day the foreman of the
shed came or sent someone with oil or grease to obliterate the few words
of Latin or Greek which I had chalked upon the back of the sooty
furnace in order to memorise them. Even my tool-boxes and cupboard,
always considered more or less private and sacred, were periodically
smeared with fat and the operation was often carried out in a very
offensive manner. The plan was not successful, however, and I was often
more amused than annoyed, though it was most seriously intended by the
overseer, who always said he was acting under the manager’s orders. At
one time he had caused the furnace back to be tarred. Before the tar had
completely dried I innocently chalked upon it several words that figured
in my studies for the day. By the next morning the characters had become
permanent. The colour of the chalk had set, and as often as the overseer
or his agent came with the oil-pot and removed the dust and soot,
thinking to baffle me, he was confronted with the Horatian precept, _Nil
desperandum_, a quotation from the _Hecuba_, and Σταύρωσον αὐτόν (Crucify
him) from the New Testament. The one most appreciated at the works is he
who remains silent and slavishly obeys every order, who is willing to
cringe and fawn like a dog, to swear black is white and white is black
at the bidding of his chief, to fulfil every instruction without ever
questioning the wisdom or utility of it, to be, in a word, as clay in
the potter’s hand, a mere tool and a puppet.

Where the cultured person does exist in the shed he must generally
suffer exquisite tortures. There can be no culture without a higher
sensibility, and he will be thereby rendered less able to endure the
hardships of the toil, and the otherwise brutal and callous environments
of the place. As for the view, held in some quarters, that education
will make a man happier at work and better satisfied with his lot and
condition, that is pure myth and fallacy, and the sooner it is
dispensed with the better. On the other hand, it will most certainly
produce dissatisfaction, but such, perhaps, as will speedily wake him up
to his real needs and requirements--a larger freedom, and the attainment
of a fuller and better life. Any kind of education that tends to make
the workman at all subjective to his lot is worthless and retrograde; he
must be roused up to battle towards perfection of conditions and must
himself be prepared to make some sort of sacrifice towards the
accomplishment of that end, unless he is content to occupy the same
level for ever. Nor will it be sufficient for him to have obtained
higher wages and greater leisure if he does not attempt to derive
something more than a mere physical or material benefit from them.
Whatever advantage is gained in the future must be turned to sterling
account--to the acquisition of useful knowledge and the increase of
mental strength and fitness, otherwise the battle will have been fought
greatly in vain.



Frequent spells of short time occur at the works, which are most certain
to be followed by brisk and busy periods, as though the officials were
anxious to make up for every moment of the previously lost time. It
usually happens that the change is made direct from prosperity to
adversity and _vice versa_. One week the machinery in the sheds is
running day and night and every man is working unusual hours; the next,
everything is changed. Short time is declared; only half the output will
be needed and about half the time worked. Similarly, after a period of
short weeks, a full-time notice is posted, and by the next night all the
men are pell-mell on overtime, working as though they had but a few
hours to live. Whether it is necessary or not is never ascertained;
there is apparently an astounding want of order and foresight on the
part of the managing staff.

It is remarkable that, notwithstanding the terrific nature of the
hardships endured, the majority of the men at the factory do not show
themselves seriously averse to the working of overtime. There is even
satisfaction evinced at the prospect of putting in an extra day, or day
and a half, a week, and drawing a few shillings more in wages. The few
who dislike it from principle and on other grounds must swallow their
objections and join in with the rest; whether they like it or not they
are forced to follow the crowd. If a man refuses point-blank to work
after the usual hours he is punished either with suspension from the
shed or instant dismissal. Unfortunately for the good of the working
classes generally, those who are satisfied with the ordinary rate of
hours are insignificant in number. The highly-paid workmen and
journeymen are about as unreasonable in the matter as are the lowest
paid labourers. Very often they are the more insatiable of the two; they
will put in any number of hours provided an opportunity is given them
for so doing. The trade unionists are usually as well agreed as the
others to work extra time; there is but very little difference
discovered between them. No matter how loudly they declaim against the
system and advocate the abolition of overtime, should the order be
issued they commonly obey it with alacrity.

Occasionally, though not often, it is announced that the working of
overtime may be optional. In the extreme heat of summer, when overtime
at the fires is prevalent, the overseer may relax a little and cause it
to be known that any who wish it may go home at the ordinary hour, but
few take advantage of the offer. I have known those who were highly
paid, on the hottest days of summer, to be so severely punished with the
heat that they could scarcely stand at their posts, almost incapable of
further effort and exhausted with the toil, yet though it was free for
them to leave at the usual hour they would not go home. They cling to
the shed as long as they possibly can; they have an unnatural fondness
for the stench and smoke. Such as these are often teased and twitted and
told to “bring their beds” with them, or an outspoken workman will tell
them they ought to die and be buried on the premises.

A great part of the overtime, moreover, is not always genuinely
necessary, but is artificially engineered in order to please this or
that one and to provide someone or other with additional pocket-money. A
few chargemen in every shed systematically nurse the overseer and
entreat, or influence him, directly or otherwise, to allow them to work
a few quarters, a Saturday afternoon, or a Sunday.

Very often, too, some of the men live in houses owned by their foreman.
In that case a little overtime will expedite payment of the rent; it
will not then be amiss to allow them to work a few quarters. The putting
on a few new hands and the addition of a night shift would obviate much
overtime and give the unemployed a chance, but the daymen are offended
should that proposition be made. I have actually heard men volunteer to
work double-handed at the fires and promise to turn out considerably
increased quantities of work on their turn rather than for the foreman
to run a night shift and so prevent them from working overtime.

The men’s takings at such times as these are fairly high. Some of the
new hands are astonished when they receive their wages, with the
piecework “balance” added, on a full week. One of them, in the days of
the old foreman of the frame shed, was so aghast at the amount he had to
draw he could not believe it was all intended for him; he thought there
must be a mistake somewhere. Accordingly, holding the money in his hand,
he went back to the foreman, and, in front of all the other men
cried--“Be this all mine, sir?” The foreman, who happened to be in an
ill-temper, cursed him for an idiot and promptly told him to “clear

At another time, when the men were being paid on breaking up for
Christmas holidays, a good-natured country lad, whose earnings were
small, chanced by mistake to draw the wages of another, much more
highly rated than himself, and, thinking the extras were intended for a
Christmas-box, promptly went and laid out the money in presents for his
mother and dad. He was quickly called to account, however, and had to
refund the cash at once, and he furthermore received the imputation of
being a sly rogue and a thief. Without doubt money is plentiful during
overtime, though the extras are far from being all profit. It costs more
to live. The workman requires more to eat and drink, more clothes,
firing, light, and other sundries, to say nothing of the sacrifice of
freedom and life.

It is little real gain to the workman, even though he have a trifle
better food and clothing, a finer house and costlier furniture, while he
has to work excessively long hours in order to pay for it. The more
expensively he lives the more time he must spend in the smoke and stench
of the shed and the greater must be his dependence upon his employer. He
that lives simply in a modest cottage is much nearer to freedom than the
other can ever hope to be, for he is bound down to life-long servitude.
Every hour spent outside the factory walls is a precious addition to
life; whoever willingly throws away the opportunity of enjoying it is
guilty of the highest folly and negligence. He is the curtailer of his
dearest rights and liberties, the forger of fetters for himself and his
children after him, and the sooner the working classes can be brought to
see this the better it will be for them.

There is a great deal of talk, chiefly with a political bias, about the
sheds, of getting back to the land. Many of the men tell you they are
sick of town life and conditions and would like to see themselves
established upon a dozen acres of land far away from the noise of the
factory, but they never make the slightest effort towards the
consummation of the wish. The fact is that, notwithstanding all the
punishments and hardships endured in the workshop, they are still
strongly attached to it or to the life they are enabled to live by
reason of it. They have no intention whatever at heart of changing their
occupation. They are content to mix with the crowd, and are unable to
withstand the novelty and excitement of the town existence.

During the many years I have spent in the works I have known of but one
case in which a man left the shed to go back to the land as a small
working farmer. He had always been careful and thrifty, and seemed to be
well fitted for the agricultural life, but he could not succeed in it.
After five or six years of hard labour, trying in vain to prosper, he
returned to the shed, a disappointed and ruined man: he had spent his
savings and lost the whole of his small capital. He is still working in
the shed, and he has no intention of repeating the experiment. The wages
at the works, though low as compared with those obtainable at other
towns, are much higher than what the farm labourer receives. Youths of
eighteen years of age in the sheds often draw more than the carter or
cowman, who may have to maintain big families.

Consequently, while the cry of “Back to the land” is heard on all sides,
there is at the same time a most passionate desire to get away from it
and to come into the town to work and live; whoever is of the requisite
age will be certain to appear at the factory gates to try and obtain
admission there. The whole countryside, within a radius of six or eight
miles of the town, is almost destitute of good strong workmen. Only the
feeble and decrepit are left behind to work on the farms--those who
cannot pass the physical tests and those who formerly worked in the
factory and were discharged through old age or other causes of
unfitness. Once a man becomes settled in the factory he is very
reluctant to leave it. Notwithstanding the rigour of the system imposed,
he usually remains there till the end of his working days, unless he
happens to meet with an accident or dismissal. He soon loses his
self-confidence and independent spirit. The world is considerably
narrowed down in his view; he feels bound to the life with indissoluble

As for the work itself, men do that in the factory they would scorn to
do outside or upon the farm. They would not be seen milking or
“clod-hopping,” or carrying a yoke and pails, a truss of hay on their
head, or a little pig in their arms, or driving cattle to market. At the
same time they are not ashamed to scour down filthy roofs and windows,
to do white-washing, to clean black and greasy engines, to wheel coal
and ashes up or down the stage, to tar the axles and wheels of waggons
and vehicles, to stand at the furnace or machine all day in a
half-fainting condition choked with the smoke and dust of the shed; as
though it were not more wholesome to have to do with cattle and crops
than to be for ever penned up within four walls!

Although perhaps not as keen intellectually as are some of those who get
their living in the town, and not receiving as much in wages, the best
of the farm-hands are healthier, happier, and generally more well-to-do
than are the factory labourers. At the same time, it is but natural that
a man should desire to leave the country to come into the town. Though
the work is much sharper and infinitely more painful while it lasts, the
shorter hours and higher pay are powerful inducements for him to make
the change. He will be free on Saturday afternoons, and there is no
Sunday labour, while his wages will often be half as much again as what
he would get on the farm. It is idle to say that the desertion of the
countryside is a modern symptom; that has very little force, for it was
always the same among highly civilised communities. The Greek husbandman
left the soil and flocked to Athens to sit in the Agora, the Egyptians
thronged the streets of Alexandria, and the Italians deserted the plough
and sickle and crowded in Rome to see the circus games and other
diversions of the “_Urbs Terrarum_.”

Those who, most of all, use the cry of “Back to the land” are they that
obtain the highest wages in the sheds, and who are themselves the least
likely to set the example. Men with families enlarge upon the blessings
and privileges of agricultural life, but they take great care to get
their sons started in the shed at the very earliest opportunity. As soon
as they leave school they are brought along in knickerbockers and
presented to the overseer, with the earnest hope of a speedy admission
to work on the premises. I know of several cases in which workmen have
been offered financial help in order to instal them in small-holdings,
and they have refused point-blank. When I asked them the reason they
replied that they “would rather go home at half-past five, if it made no
difference,” and that is the crux of the whole matter. Not only this,
there is the football match, the railway “Trip,” the privilege fares,
the theatre, the cinematograph, the skating-rink, and the trams, all
which must be sacrificed if the workman determines in favour of the
simple life on the farm or small-holding. The class of men to secure for
the land is the pick of the agricultural labourers, those who are
uncontaminated with the life of the town; it is useless to think of
reclaiming those who have once entered the factory and become
established there.

Even very many of those who dwell outside the town are not content to
spend their leisure in the village; in the evening and at week-ends
they wash and dress and flock back to the street corners or parade up
and down the thoroughfares. Innovations such as the cinematograph and
the skating-rink, though harmless enough in some respects, are of little
real value to the workman; with all their claims to be “educational” and
“health-giving” the town could very well afford to dispense with them.
There is little that is really manly and vigorous in roller-skating, and
many of the cinematograph pictures serve only to indulge the craving for
the novel and sensational. Half the boys of the shed, and even the
infants of the town, can think of little but those ridiculously stupid
and often debasing entertainments, of blood and thunder, crime, and
mawkish love dramas; their minds are rendered quite incapable of
imbibing sound and useful knowledge.

Even the trams, useful as they are, prove in several ways detrimental to
the toiler and contribute to the restriction of his liberty. Scores of
workmen I know wait at their doors or at street corners for five, and
very often for ten minutes, in order to ride a distance of about a
quarter of a mile. I have nothing to say against the habit provided the
man can afford twopence or threepence a day for fares. At the same time,
considered from the point of view of health, walking the distance would
often be much better, and every copper needlessly spent by the worker
tends to make him more and more dependent upon the shed. Where a man is
engaged upon very hot and laborious work he is often too tired to walk
home. The wages of such a one ought to be sufficiently high to enable
him to make the journey in a taxicab, if he desired it.

Very different from this, however, is the lot of the small-holder. He
must rise early all the year round--in summer and winter, light or dark,
hot or cold weather. His work is not of five-and-a-half, but of six or
seven days. Where cattle are kept there can be no such thing as a day
off; dumb mouths must be fed and their needs ministered to. He has no
trams to take him to work, very often no shelter from the storms and
showers, no shade in summer and no steam-heated refuge in winter. His
leisure is short, his companions few, his whole life laborious. But he
is happy and strong, healthy, and vigorous in body and mind; he is in
many ways a better man than is his _confrère_ of the town. Considerably
more skill, knowledge, and human feeling are also required on the part
of the carter, cowman, and shepherd in dealing with their teams, flocks,
and herds, than in the case of those who merely superintend mechanical
processes and have to do with lifeless blocks of iron and steel, yet the
countrymen are more or less despised by the factory workers and are
greatly deficient in wages. Low wages are given on the farm simply
because it is the custom so to do; if the Government were to intervene
and fix a higher rate the extra money would be paid as a matter of
course. This is the only kind of reform that would really popularise
work on the land from the point of view of the poor man and help to
check the wholesale migration to the towns. Not until such improvements
have been made will the labourer be willing heartily to respond to the
cry of “Back to the land.”

One thing is especially to be deplored in the factory, and that is the
serious lack of recognition and appreciation of the skilful and
conscientious workman; there is very little inducement for anyone to
make efforts in order to obtain better results at the steam-hammer or
other machine. If a workman proves himself to be possessed of unusual
skill and originality, instead of being rewarded for it he is boycotted
and held in check. Even the managers are not above exhibiting the same
petty feeling where they find their ideas have been eclipsed by those of
less authority. It is their habit to think that anything they suggest is
the best possible of its kind.

Whatever inventions are produced by the workmen, whether in leisure time
or at the shed, become the property of the railway company; they claim
the right of free and unrestricted use of all patents applied for by
their employees. Consequently, if a workman discovers means by which he
might assist the firm with a new process he holds his peace and troubles
no more about it. He knows that he would not be thanked for the
information, and he is also aware that if the scheme were adopted his
prices would consequently be reduced. In more up to date sheds, and
particularly in America, bonuses are given for the best work made and
every man is induced, by all reasonable means, to think out new methods.
An “idea box” is kept on the premises; every “happy thought” is written
upon a form and slipped into this. The managers alone inspect the sheets
and any suggestion considered worthy of being adopted is paid for.[4]

    [4] Since these pages were penned the railway authorities
        have invited the workmen to submit to them any ideas they
        may have for the improvement of dies and plant, but,
        unfortunately, the local foreman still stands in the way
        and blocks progress. On the publication of the notice a
        workman of the shed put forward a brilliant and original
        idea in respect of a complex job upon which he was
        engaged, but the foreman promptly cut him short and told
        him he was a ---- fool, and there the matter ended.

Bonuses are paid to firemen and engine-drivers on the line for economy
in fuel. The same plan might profitably be adopted in the factory. It is
well-known that certain men invariably produce the best work. One
furnaceman will waste as much again fuel as another. One machineman
breaks no end of drills and tools. The work of this or that smith always
looks rough and shoddy. One stamper spoils more dies in a year than
another will in ten and often gets his work sent back, while the other
does never. If the best men were the most highly paid there would be no
just cause for complaint, but they are not. They are all classed the
same. The incompetent receives as much as the competent and is usually
held higher in esteem.

That great changes have taken place in regard to everything connected
with the factory of late years is not to be disputed. Different schemes
of work and other methods of dealing with the men have everywhere been
introduced. New machinery has revolutionised many branches of the labour
and it usually happens that where an appliance that saves 50 per cent.
to the firm is adopted the men are hustled into double activity; the
great delight of the managers is to boast of the large amount of work
produced by a machine, and to add that “one man does it all.” In
addition, prices all round are continually being sharpened; “balance” is
earned with greater difficulty and only by increased effort. The
officials declare openly that piecework balance is merely given to the
men when they earn it without strenuous efforts; they will not admit the
reasonableness of working with any degree of sanity and comfort.

As well as new machinery, which has revolutionised many branches of work
in the factory, there are such things as fresh laws and regulations
touching accidents and compensation for injuries, which have helped
considerably to modify the tone and character of the sheds. Only those
in perfect health are now admitted to the works; those possessed of
flaws of any kind are rejected. The tests are almost as severe as are
those used for recruiting for the Army and Navy, and young men are
refused on account of the most trivial ailments and infirmities.

When a man shows signs of being subject to recurrent spells of sickness
he is marked out as an undesirable; as soon as an opportunity comes he
will be quietly shifted off the premises. If a workman falls ill he must
not only satisfy the medical authorities at the works’ infirmary, and
notify his foreman of the fact, but, after passing the doctor’s
examination and clearing off the funds, he must present himself at one
of the manager’s offices and be further interrogated before he is
allowed to start again. This last-named examination is deeply resented
by the rank and file, and many, though ill, continue at work when they
ought to be at home because they do not like the irritating process of
passing the test and the certainty of having something or other recorded
against them.

In reality this is a system of espionage, a cowardly inquisition, but
one that is in high favour with the foreman because it gives him the
chance of getting rid of a man on so-called medical grounds without his
suspecting that he has been discharged for other reasons. By this means
the shed foreman may remove anyone against whom he has a grudge and he
cannot well be blamed himself; the victim is told that he is “medically
unfit,” and there is an end of it. The game is played by putting a
private pen mark upon the official slip to be presented at the office.
If the foreman desires to retain the workman he puts a private mark upon
the paper, and if he wants to get rid of him and has not the courage to
tell him so to his face the mark is omitted. This is so arranged in
order that if the workman suspects that the paper contains something to
his detriment and demands to see it, there shall be nothing that he can
cavil at. The damaging thing is in that there is no sign upon it.
Honest Mark Fell, who was one of the finest smiths that ever worked at a
forge, an excellent time-keeper, and who was possessed of a grand
character, died rather than go out on the sick list and be forced to
pass the dreaded inquisition. He was run down with over-work, and was
badly in need of a rest, but he did not like the idea of going to the
offices. Accordingly he kept coming to work day after day, and grew
weaker and weaker. When at last he did stay out it was too late; his
strength and vitality were gone and he died within a week or two

A decade and a half ago one could come to the shed fearlessly, and with
perfect complacence; work was a pleasure in comparison with what it is
now. It was not that the toil was easy, though, as a matter of fact, it
was not so exhausting as it is at present, but there was an entirely
different feeling prevalent. The workman was not watched and timed at
every little operation, and he knew that as the job had been one day so
it would be the next. Now, however, every day brings fresh troubles from
some quarter or other. The supervisory staff has been doubled or
trebled, and they must do something to justify their existence. Before
the workman can recover from one shock he is visited with another; he is
kept in a state of continual agitation and suspense which, in time,
operate on his mind and temper and transform his whole character.

At one time old and experienced hands were trusted and respected, both
by reason of their great knowledge of the work, acquired through many
years, and as a kind of tacit recognition of their long connection with
the firm, but now, when a man has been in the shed for twenty years,
however young he may be, he is no longer wanted. There is now a very
real desire to be rid of him. For one thing, his wages are high. In
addition to this, he knows too much; he is not pliable. It is time he
was shifted to make room for someone lower paid, more plastic and more
ignorant of the inner working of things.

If a workman has a grievance it is useless for him to complain to the
overseer, who is usually the cause of it, and if he takes it upon
himself to go and see the manager he gets no redress. The manager always
supports the foreman whether he has acted rightly or wrongly, and the
man is remembered and branded as a malcontent; he will be carefully
watched ever after. The safest way to quell a man is to keep him hard at
work. While his nose is firm upon the grindstone there is no danger of
his indulging in speculations of any kind; he could no more realise
himself than he could hope to see the stars at midday.

While the men are inside the walls of the factory, they are under the
most severe laws and restrictions, many of which are utterly ridiculous,
and out of all reason considering the general circumstances of the toil
and the conditions in vogue; they are indeed prisoners in every sense of
the term. In the midst of the busiest period of hay-making and
harvest-cart, ploughing or threshing, a short stop is always made for
refreshment, or the labourer takes a crust of bread and cheese from his
pocket and eats it at his work and is strengthened with it, but in the
factory one must not be seen to crack a nut, or eat an apple or biscuit,
much less to partake of any other food. If he should break the rule and
be seen eating, he will be marked for it and told to “get a pass out and
go home.” Four or five hours is a long time to keep up a strenuous pace
at the fires. A half-way relaxation of ten minutes would be good for
everyone; the workman would more than make up for it afterwards.

A regrettable dulness is discovered by very many of the men, which may
be bred of the labour itself and the extremely monotonous conditions of
the factory. There is little or no thought taken for the future, no
knowledge of the value of life, and not much desire to know, either. The
workmen do not think for themselves, and if you should be at the pains
of pointing out anything for their benefit they will tell you that you
are mad, or curse you for a Socialist. Anyone at the works who holds a
view different from that expressed by the crowd is called a Socialist,
rightly or wrongly; it would need an earthquake to rouse many of the men
out of their apathy and indifference. It is more than education at
fault. There is something wrong at the very roots of the tree. The whole
system of life requires overhauling and revolutionising; the national
character is become flat and stale.

I have already, in the first chapter, referred to labour unrest. That is
the perfectly natural outcome of modern conditions of labour, the long
spell of commercial prosperity, and of the spread of knowledge among the
working classes. It is not to be viewed with misgiving at all, at any
rate, not by those who can look intelligently into the future and brush
aside the paltry prejudices that are common everywhere to-day. The very
fact that working-men are rousing themselves and showing a masterly
interest in problems of the hour, and are prepared to fight fairly and
bravely for better conditions should be a source of satisfaction to
everyone. It proves, at least, that they are awake and alive; that they
have cast off torpor and stagnation and put on power and virility, and
that is surely a good omen both for the future of democracy and for the
nation at large. The extent of the riches of this country is so great as
to be inconceivable to the workers; if they knew how much wealth there
really is they would need to have no scruples in pressing with all their
might for a fairer share in the profits of their labours. Where the pace
is so much faster and the output considerably increased it is natural
that there should be a demand for higher wages and shorter hours. More
leisure and rest are absolutely indispensable in order properly to
recuperate for the increased demands made upon the workmen’s physical
powers. The difficulties of forming agreements with the men are not
nearly as great as they are represented to be. Drastic changes could be
made with but very little inconvenience or loss to the firm; the
transition would be almost imperceptible.

The idea that the general factory week should be completed in five
turns, the day shifts to finish working by Friday night, and the night
shifts to complete their toils by Saturday morning, has long been in my
mind. The having two clear days of leisure would give the worker an
opportunity of entirely shaking off the effects of confinement in the
shed at the week-end, and of starting work a new man on the Monday
morning. It is impossible for one to recuperate sufficiently in the
short space of time at present allowed; he is never free from the
effects of the hurry and speed of the machinery. There is, moreover, no
time to get away from the shadow and ugliness of the factory walls and
to make the acquaintance of other scenes in the country round about.
When the sheds are closed on Saturdays for short time, crowds of workers
either leave the town on foot and walk around the adjacent villages,
enjoying the fresh, pure air, or take short trips by the train and come
back strengthened with the change; you hear many a one say, during the
following week, that he feels extra fit and well.

If a week of forty-eight hours were divided out and completed in five
turns, instead of six, it would be both popular with the men and
economical for the employers. The fuel and light, the cost of steaming
up the boilers and the general wear and tear of machinery on the sixth
turn and for several hours a day besides would be saved, and there would
be about an equivalent amount of work produced. It is useless for
critics and calculators to come forward with figures and quotations to
disprove the statement and show its impossibility; I have worked in the
shed long enough to understand the true significance of things. What is
more, the workman is not, and never will be a mathematical machine; his
efforts and powers are not to be calculated by the set rules of

The whole trend of things in the industrial world is towards shorter
hours, better wages, and a greater proportion of liberty for the
workman; all the objections that can be raised and schemes devised will
not stop the progressive movement. Sooner or later the barriers must
give way, and the goal will have been reached; the wonder then will be
that the change was not effected earlier. I would bid all toilers and
moilers, in and out of factories, to be of good hope and cheer, to fight
on and press steadily forward; victory will be certain to follow. At the
same time, one must not expect to arrive at an utter immunity from
hardships, nor, perhaps, will the whole of the differences between
capital and labour ever be absolutely removed and every problem solved.
Many conditions, however, will most certainly have been bettered, many
disputes settled and evils overcome, and this, it will be confessed, is
worth living and hoping for.


Table of average day wages per week of fifty-four hours paid to men
employed at Swindon Railway Works, July 1914:--

    Foremen                    70s.
    Foremen, Assistant         50s.
    Draughtsmen                35s.
    Clerks, Monthly Staff      30s.
    Clerks, Shop               25s.
    Forgemen                   33s.
    Smiths                     33s.
    Rolling Mills Men          30s.
    Furnacemen                 28s.
    Stampers                   28s.
    Stampers’ Assistants       22s.
    Smiths’ Strikers           22s.
    Pattern-makers             35s.
    Boilermakers               34s.
    Fitters and Turners        34s.
    Fitters, Engine            34s.
    Fitters, Carriage          28s.
    Die-sinkers                34s.
    Coppersmiths               30s.
    Tinsmiths                  30s.
    Moulders                   26s.
    Wheel Turners              24s.
    Machinemen, General        24s.
    Carriage Body-makers       30s.
    Carriage Finishers         28s.
    Waggon-builders            28s.
    Road-Waggon Builders       28s.
    Carpenters                 28s.
    Painters                   26s.
    Saw Mills, Timber          24s.
    Riveters                   26s.
    Bricklayers                28s.
    Labourers, Skilled         22s.
    Labourers, Unskilled       20s.
    Labourers, Fitters’        21s.
    Storekeepers               23s.


    Abingdon, 44

    Accident, 14, 243

    Accumulators, 149

    Africa, 92

    Agora, 298

    “Ajax,” 141

    Alexandria, 298

    All Fools’ Day, 270

    America, 92, 102, 150, 301

    Annealed, 21

    Antiquated, 25

    Antonio, 234

    Apprentices (smiths), 90

    Aquatic plants, 44

    Archæologist, 177

    Army, 77, 302

    Ash-wheelers, 47

    Athens, 298

    Athletes, 63

    Atlantic, 139, 169

    Atlas, 73

    Avon, river, 22, 45

    Axles, 20

    “Back to the Land,” 296

    Balance, 283

    Balance-week, 254

    Balling-up, 17

    Bank Holidays, 245

    Battleship, 110

    Bays, 10

    Beam-engine, 151

    Beltage, 100

    Besom, 85

    Bible, 32

    “Big Firm,” 256

    Birmingham, 92, 151

    Bogies, 11

    Boilers, 136

    Boilersmiths, 74, 113

    Bonuses, 301

    Borough, 18

    Boss, 134

    “Black List,” 230

    Blast-furnace, 116

    Blood-poisoning, 213

    Bloom, 108

    “Blower,” 150

    Bricklayers, 48

    Bricklayers’ labourers, 49

    Bridge, of furnace, 46

    Bristol, 13, 44

    Broad-gauge, 67

    Broadway, Hammersmith, 238

    “Bucket of blast,” 281

    Buffalo Bill, 77, 156

    Buffer, 23

    Bullion van, 70

    “Bummer,” 134

    Burns, 19

    Burs, 23

    Cabin, 25

    Cæsar, Julius, 264

    Callipers, 102

    Canada, 228

    Canvas belts, 147

    Cape of Good Hope, 102

    Capitalist, 2

    Carlyle, Thomas, 237

    Carriage body-makers, 56

    Carriage finishers, 38

    Cassius, 264

    _Castellum_, 12

    Casuals, 69

    Catastrophe, 38

    Ceremonious, 57

    Ceylon, 157

    Chalk-pits, 13

    Channel Islands, 173

    Chargeman, 282

    Charities, 97

    Cheapjack, 173

    Check-box, 130

    _Chelidon_, 263

    Cheltenham, 92

    Chemicals, 33

    China, 102, 157, 173

    Cinematograph, 298

    Cirencester, 13

    Clay-pits, 262

    Clinkering, 46

    “Clod-hopping,” 297

    Coal-heavers, 14

    Coffee stalls, 129

    Compensation, 227

    Compressed air, 172

    Condensation, 11

    Consumption, 126

    Contraband, 31

    Corporation, 62

    Cotswold Hills, 45

    Cottage Hospital, 97

    Countershaft, 145

    Covered goods waggons, 71

    “Cow-banging,” 279

    Cramp, 94

    Cricklade, 44

    Cushion-beaters, 41

    Cutting-down, 68

    Cyclops, 208

    Cylinder, 18

    Deadwood Dick, 77

    Dee, river, 22

    Democracy, 294

    Detectives, 37

    Detonators, 23

    “Diagonals,” 23

    Dinner-can, 112

    “Discontent,” 4

    “Dolly,” 69

    Donkey-engine, 150

    Donkey-man, 109

    Door-boy, 110

    Dorsetshire, 247

    Double-handed, 306

    Dowlais, 173

    Draughtsmen, 133

    Dredger, 45

    Drop-stamp, 153

    Dumb-bells, 144

    Durham, 92

    Earthquake, 18

    Ebony, 15

    Educational Authority, 289

    Egypt, 173

    Egyptians, 298

    Electricity in belts, 147

    Engine-cranks, 104

    Entrenchment, 13

    Erin, 173

    Espionage, 303

    Examination, 93

    Excursionists, 26

    Exhaust of engines, 63

    Exhibition, 88

    Ex-Hussar, 73

    Explosions, 36

    Fable, 133

    Factory Acts, 74

    Factory system, 103

    Falstaffian, 181

    Fan, 145

    Feed-pipes, 210

    Feudal times, 1

    Fire-engine, 33

    Fires, 34

    First Aid Men, 244

    Fitters, 101

    “Flatter,” 21

    Flying Dutchman, 68

    Fogmen, 23

    “Foreigners,” 86

    Forgemen, 106

    Forging, 18

    Fortress, 11

    Foundry, 116

    France, 150

    Freight trains, 123

    “Fuller,” 21

    Gallery-men, 87

    Gauge-glass, 166

    Gazing-stock, 186

    Geological data, 50

    Germany, 20, 150

    Gloucester, 44, 92

    Government, 8, 300

    Greeks, 1, 289

    Grindstones, bursting of, 152

    Grossness of atmosphere, 249

    Gun barrel, 17

    Hammer-driver, 107

    Hammersmith, 237

    Heavy-weights, 73

    _Hecuba_, 290

    “Hell Corner,” 142

    Hercules, 52

    Hereditary, 91

    Hibernian, 182

    Historical relics, 288

    Holder-up, 69

    Hooter, 125

    Horatian, 290

    Horse-rake, 266

    Hustle, 183

    Hydraulic work, 171

    Idea-box, 301

    “Ierky,” 59

    Improvers, 90

    Incendiarism, 34

    Inferno, 208

    Injector, 215

    Inquiry office, 276

    Inquisition, 303

    Irishmen, 173

    “Ironopolis,” 105

    Italians, 298

    Jackboots, 17, 111

    Jam, 148

    “Jaw-breakers,” 285

    Jefferies, Richard, 12

    “Jersey Lily,” 173

    Jesus Christ, 246

    Jew’s harp, 166

    “Jogglers,” 82

    “Joggling,” 14

    John Bright, 236

    Journals, axle, 13

    Justin M‘Carthy, 238

    Kennet, river, 22

    Labour unrest, 1

    “Lambs,” 177

    Lancaster, 92

    Latin, 289

    Laughing-stock, 29

    Lean-to, 142

    Library, 248

    Liddington Hill, 12

    Lightning, 10

    Literary Society, 135

    Liverpool, 92

    “Loco” boiler, 164

    Loitering, 29

    London, 44, 45, 68

    Magnesia, 166

    Malcontent, 305

    Malleable steel, 103

    Mallet, 83

    Marines, 232

    Mark Fell, 304

    Mars, 219

    May-pole, 63

    Medical Report, 242

    Mediterranean, 263

    Merchant of Venice, 234

    Mess-rooms, 262

    Middlesborough, 105, 173

    Midlands, 105, 155

    Militia, 174

    Mines, 1

    Molière, 154

    “Monday-fied,” 257

    “Monkey,” of hammer, 109

    Monsieur Jourdain, 154

    Monthly staff, 133

    Motherwell, 173

    Moulders, 119

    Mrs Langtry, 237

    Mulatto, 174

    Municipalities, 2

    Mushrooms, 221

    Narrow-gauge, 67

    Navy, 77, 143, 302

    Newcastle, 116

    New Testament, 290

    New Year’s Eve, 271

    Nicknames, 77

    Night shift, 206

    “Nobbling,” 113

    Oatmeal, 261

    Obsequious, 275

    Officialism, 7

    Oileus, Ajax, 141

    Oil furnace, 3, 139

    Oscar Wilde, 237

    Output, 5

    Overalls, 101

    Overseer, 7

    Overtime, 292

    Oxford, 13

    Painters, 38

    Palmy days, 21

    Pandemonium, 71, 135

    Paris, 158

    Parliament, 8

    Parrot, river, 22

    _Passeres_, 263

    _Pater familias_, 127

    Pattern-makers, 38

    Pay-day, 253

    Pension, 32

    Percentage, 51, 283

    Piece-work inspector, 134

    Piers and panels, 10

    Pig iron, 117

    “Piles,” 16

    Platers, boiler, 113

    Pneumatic riveting machine, 70

    Police Court, 53

    Politics, 287

    Porter-bar, 105

    “Pride o’ the Prairie,” 198

    Provocation, 4

    “Puddling,” 17

    “Puller-up,” 71

    Pull-rod, 201

    Punishment, 15

    Pushfulness, 53

    Railway Institute, 248

    “Ram,” 104, 143

    “Rasher-waggon,” 111

    References, 276

    Refrigerator van, 70

    Repairs, 37

    “Riddle,” 83

    River Liffey, 155

    Rivet-boys, 75

    Road-waggon builder, 54

    Rolling mills, 15

    Romans, 1, 85

    Rome, 298

    Rooks, 263

    Rotherham, 92

    Royal train, 233

    Rubbish heap, 61

    Ruffianism, 56

    Salisbury, 157

    Sanitary, 32

    Scientist, 20

    Scotland, 13, 20, 105

    Scrap-waggons, 21

    Serfs, 1

    “Set-tool,” 82

    Severn, 22

    Shear-off (bur), 172

    Sheer-legs, 14

    Sheffield, 13, 92, 105

    Shingling, 16

    Shop clerks, 133

    Shunters, 25

    Shylock, 234

    Sick and Medical Fund, 253

    Signalmen, 68, 124

    Skating-rink, 298

    Skulker, 47

    Slag, 171

    Smithy, 82

    Smoke-box, 115

    Smoking, 27

    Smudging, 37

    “Snap” (rivet), 78

    Sneak, 31

    Snowstorm, 121

    Socialist, 36

    Sole-bar, 67

    Sop, 5

    Speeding-up, 5

    Stamping, 98

    State, 8

    Steam-saw, 16

    Steamship Company, 2

    Stoppage week, 254

    Storekeeper, 239

    “Strappie,” 148

    Sunderland, 116, 179

    Supper-hour, 215

    Surgery, 281

    “Swanker,” 265

    Tamar, river, 22

    Tarpaulin, 22

    Taxicab, 299

    Teak, 13

    Telamon, 141

    “Tell-tale,” 28

    Tennyson, 237

    Thales, 1

    Thames, river, 22, 45

    Theft, 30, 81

    Throw-off (wheels), 152

    “Ticket,” 131

    Tipperary, 182

    _Titanic_, 191

    Titans, 139

    “Toe-punch,” 281

    T pieces, 20

    Towy, river, 22

    Trades Union, 2, 102

    Trams, 299

    Transfer, 40, 43

    Transport, 44

    Transvaal, 173

    Traversing Table, 161

    Trespassers, 67

    Trimmer, 210

    “Trip,” 245

    Troy, 141

    Tubing (boilers), 113

    Tug-of-war, 73

    Tyres, 13

    Uffington, 233

    Ugliness, 12

    Under-strapper, 61

    “Undesirables,” 289

    Upholsterers, 38

    Up-setting, 142

    Vacuum arrangement, 41

    Ventilation, 10

    Viaduct, 22

    Virgil, 1

    Wages, 5

    Wales, 179, 181

    Washer, 21

    Washing-down, 37

    Waster, 279

    Watchmen, 25

    Water-closet, 32

    Water-gas, 220

    Water-pipe, 270

    Weather-vane, 260

    Weekly staff, 133

    Welsh pits, 14

    West Indies, 173

    Weymouth, 247

    Wheel shed, 57

    Whistler, the artist, 237

    Wiltshire, 158

    Witney, 13

    Worcester, 92

    Works’ Institute, 135

    Wye, river, 22

    Yankee hammers, 133




“We have found it a gentle and continuous delight. To the reader it can
hardly be anything but a joy to find the old village life, which perhaps
he himself remembers, set down so fairly and fully, with the charge of
monotony roundly dismissed and all the events and pleasures recorded....
Wonderful little descriptions. Here is a vivid portrait that will seem
to many like that of an old friend--Jemmy Boulton, the carter.... We
knew and loved him ever so many years ago. And it is because Mr Williams
knows and loves him, as he knows and loves the woods and waters, the
plants and the beasts, that he makes a country-side live for us again as
it still is here and there, as it will not be anywhere for

“Here is one who has never been drawn from his allegiance to the
country-side by the allurements of big cities. An extremely interesting
book, concerned not only with village life, but wandering far afield to
the advantage of the thoughtful reader. The beauty of his descriptions,
the quiet dignity of his well-considered inclusion of details, the
manner of introducing us to this ‘character’ and that, call for
appreciation, and the reader closes with reluctance a fascinatingly
discursive record which he has followed with genuine pleasure and
unabated interest.”--_Country Life._

“He brings to bear the same observation and love of nature which are the
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lore and wide knowledge of birds and animals. He has many good things to
say on this subject.”--_Evening Standard._

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written in strong simple English that it deserves a place of honour on
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_Crown 8vo, 305+xvi pages. 5s. net, postage 4d._





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Downside.”--_Manchester Guardian._

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mere story of their industries makes no small part of the charm of this
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“Especially has he been successful in his portraits of old characters
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sweetness, its fine balance, its sanity of outlook, its flashes of
rollicking humour, its informativeness, its warm sympathy and quick
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_Crown 8vo, 290+xvi pages. 5s. net, postage 4d._





“_Cor Cordium_ confirms Mr Alfred Williams’ remarkable position among
writers of contemporary verse. It has all his sincerity and clear
vision. We prefer his ecstatic reckless lyrics to the longer poems, in
which he gives us nineteenth-century philosophy in admirable eighteenth
century verse.”--_Manchester Guardian._

“Mr Alfred Williams’ position as a poet is fully established.”--_Times._

“That remarkable poet, Mr Alfred Williams, adds another triumph to his
list of volumes of verse.”--_Daily Citizen._

“Mr Williams is one of those writers whose books we often pull down from
their place when the town lies heavy on the heart.”--_Observer._

“Mr Williams is a simple and a genuine poet, simple because he is not
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lyrical impulse, and genuine because he breathes the utmost strength of
his spirit into every line and phrase. He is circumscribed neither in
the concentration nor the intensity of this impulse, but in its range.
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of a common sentiment.”--_The Nation._

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exotic piquancy. There are times when Mr Williams wears with grace the
mantle of the Jacobeans.”--_Spectator._

“His lyrics in strict form are often wonderful. We do not think that
such lovely lyric verse can fail to give its creator a high place among
the poets of to-day.”--_Poetry Review._

_Large 8vo, 82 pages. 3s. 6d. net, postage 3d._





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are the impulse of Mr Williams’ poems.”--_Edinburgh Review._

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Richard Jefferies.”--_Bookman._

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_Large 8vo, 90 pages. 3s. 6d. net, postage 3d._







    PERUGINO. By Edward Hutton.

    MILLET. By Romain Rolland.

    WATTEAU. By Camille Mauclair.


    WHISTLER. By Bernhard Sickert.


_With many illustrations in photogravure._

A series which gives in each volume a large number of examples
reproduced in _photogravure_ of the works of its subject. The first
series of books on art issued at a popular price to use this beautiful
method of reproduction.

The letterpress is the same as the volumes in the Popular Library of
Art, but it is reset, the size of the volumes being 8¾ ins. by 5¾ ins.
There are no less than 32 plates in each book. Bound in cloth with gold
on side, gold lettering on back: picture wrapper, 5_s._ _net_ a volume,
postage 5_d._

This is the first time that a number of _photogravure_ illustrations
have been given in a series published at a popular price. The process
having been very costly has been reserved for expensive volumes or
restricted to perhaps a frontispiece in the case of books issued at a
moderate price. A new departure in the art of printing has recently been
made with the machining of photogravures; the wonderfully clear detail
and beautifully soft effect of the photogravure reproductions being
obtained as effectively as by the old method. It is this great advance
in the printing of illustrations which makes it possible to produce this

The volumes are designed to give as much value as possible, and for the
time being are the last word in popular book production.

It would be difficult to conceive of more concise, suggestive, and
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The six volumes are:

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    G. F. WATTS. By G. K. Chesterton.

    LEONARDO DA VINCI. By Georg Gronau.

    HOLBEIN. By Ford Madox Hueffer.

    ROSSETTI. By Ford Madox Hueffer.


The books included in this series are standard copyright
works, issued in similar style at a uniform price, and are
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Transcriber’s Note

Spelling and word usage have been retained as they appear in the
original publication except as follows:

    Page  47 mumuring and complaint is always imposed _changed to_
             murmuring and complaint is always imposed

    Page  86 heats with a minimum amount of labour _changed to_
             beats with a minimum amount of labour

    Page  93 the knowledge of their own usefulnesss _changed to_
             the knowledge of their own usefulness

    Page 156 thick chunks of break and _changed to_
             thick chunks of bread and

    Page 170 for removing the scale and excresence _changed to_
             for removing the scale and excrescence

    Page 172 superflous metal, an ounce or more _changed to_
             superfluous metal, an ounce or more

    Page 197 makes me bad _changed to_
             makes me mad

    Page 200 got to channge knives _changed to_
             got to change knives

    Page 247 domestic rseponsibilities--rise _changed to_
             domestic responsibilities--rise

             A page is missing from the scans used to prepare this
             ebook and an alternative has not been located.

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