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Title: Round about a Pound a Week
Author: Reeves, Maud Pember
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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                               ROUND ABOUT
                             A POUND A WEEK

                           MRS. PEMBER REEVES



                         G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.




I am glad to take this opportunity to acknowledge the use I have made
of a manuscript written by Mrs. Charlotte Wilson, Hon. Secretary of the
Fabian Women’s Group. The manuscript was founded on a lecture, entitled
“The Economic Disintegration of the Family,” delivered by Mrs. Wilson
to the Fabian Society in June, 1909. Not only ideas contained in the
lecture, but also some of the wording of the manuscript, have been used
in the last two chapters.

I wish also to thank Dr. Ethel Bentham for the invaluable professional
service rendered by her during the five years of the investigation.

                                                            M. S. REEVES.


  CHAPTER                                                PAGE

     I. THE DISTRICT                                        1

    II. THE PEOPLE                                          8

   III. HOUSING                                            21

          FOR COOKING AND BATHING                          46

     V. THRIFT                                             66

    VI. BUDGETS                                            75

   VII. FOOD: CHIEF ARTICLES OF DIET                        94


          FAMILIES                                         113

          WEEK, PER DAY                                    132

    XI. THE POOR AND MARRIAGE                              146

   XII. MOTHERS’ DAYS                                      159

  XIII. THE CHILDREN                                       176

   XIV. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE OUT OF WORK                     195

    XV. THE STANDARD OF COMFORT                            211

   XVI. THE STATE AS GUARDIAN                              223




Take a tram from Victoria to Vauxhall Station. Get out under the railway
arch which faces Vauxhall Bridge, and there you will find Kennington
Lane. The railway arch roofs in a din which reduces the roar of trains
continually passing overhead to a vibrating, muffled rumble. From either
end of the arch comes a close procession of trams, motor-buses, brewers’
drays, coal-lorries, carts filled with unspeakable material for glue
factory and tannery, motor-cars, coster-barrows, and people. It is a
stopping-place for tramcars and motor-buses; therefore little knots of
agitated persons continually collect on both pathways, and dive between
the vehicles and descending passengers in order to board the particular
bus or tram they desire. At rhythmic intervals all traffic through the
arch is suspended to allow a flood of trams, buses, drays, and vans, to
surge and rattle and bang across the opening of the archway which faces
the river.

At the opposite end there is no cross-current. The trams slide away to
the right towards the Oval. In front is Kennington Lane, and to the left,
at right angles, a narrow street connects with Vauxhall Walk, leading
farther on into Lambeth Walk, both locally better known as The Walk. Such
is the western gateway to the district stretching north to Lambeth Road,
south to Lansdowne Road, and east to Walworth Road, where live the people
whose lives form the subject of this book.

They are not the poorest people of the district. Far from it! They are,
putting aside the tradesmen whose shops line the big thoroughfares such
as Kennington Road or Kennington Park Road, some of the more enviable and
settled inhabitants of this part of the world. The poorest people—the
river-side casual, the workhouse in-and-out, the bar-room loafer—are
anxiously ignored by these respectable persons whose work is permanent,
as permanency goes in Lambeth, and whose wages range from 18s. to 30s. a

They generally are somebody’s labourer, mate, or handyman. Painters’
labourers, plumbers’ labourers, builders’ handymen, dustmen’s mates,
printers’ labourers, potters’ labourers, trouncers for carmen, are
common amongst them. Or they may be fish-fryers, tailors’ pressers,
feather-cleaners’ assistants, railway-carriage washers, employees of
dust contractors, carmen for Borough Council contractors, or packers
of various descriptions. They are respectable men in full work, at a
more or less top wage, young, with families still increasing, and they
will be lucky if they are never worse off than they now are. Their
wives are quiet, decent, “keep themselves-to-themselves” kind of women,
and the children are the most punctual and regular scholars, the most
clean-headed children of the poorer schools in Kennington and Lambeth.

The streets they live in are monotonously and drearily decent, lying
back from the main arteries, and with little traffic other than a stray
barrel-organ, a coal-lorry selling by the hundredweight sack, or a
taxi-cab going to or from its driver’s dinner at home. At certain hours
in the day—before morning school, at midday, and after four o’clock—these
narrow streets become full of screaming, running, shouting children.
Early in the morning men come from every door and pass out of sight. At
different times during the evening the same men straggle home again.
At all other hours the street is quiet and desperately dull. Less
ultra-respectable neighbourhoods may have a certain picturesqueness, or
give a sense of community of interest or of careless comradeship, with
their untidy women chatting in the doorways and their unoccupied men
lounging at the street corners; but in these superior streets a kind of
dull aloofness seems to be the order of the day.

The inhabitants keep themselves to themselves, and watch the doings of
the other people from behind window curtains, knowing perfectly that
every incoming and outgoing of their own is also jealously recorded by
critical eyes up and down the street. A sympathetic stranger walking the
length of one of these thoroughfares feels the atmosphere of criticism.
The rent-collector, the insurance agent, the coalman, may pass the time
of day with worn women in the doorways, but a friendly smile from the
stranger receives no response. A weekly caller becomes the abashed object
of intense interest on the part of everybody in the street, from the
curious glances of the greengrocer’s lady at the corner to the appraising
stare of the fat little baker who always manages to be on his doorstep
across the road. And everywhere along the street is the visitor conscious
of eyes which disappear from behind veiled windows. This consciousness
accentuates the dispiriting outlook.

The houses are outwardly decent—two stories of grimy brick. The roadway
is narrow, but on the whole well kept, and on the pavement outside
many doors there is to be noticed, in a greater or less condition of
freshness, a semicircle of hearthstone, which has for its radius the
length of the housewife’s arm as she kneels on the step. In some streets
little paved alley-ways lead behind the front row of houses, and twist
and turn among still smaller dwellings at the back—dwellings where
the front door leads downwards into a room instead of upwards into a
passage. Districts of this kind cover dreary acres—the same little
two-story house, with or without an inconceivably drearier basement,
with the same kind of baker’s shop at the corner faced by the same kind
of greengrocer’s shop opposite. The ugly, constantly-recurring school
buildings are a relief to the spirit oppressed by the awful monotony.

The people who live in these places are not really more like one another
than the people who live in Belgrave Square or South Kensington.
But there is no mixture of rich and poor, no startling contrast, no
crossing-sweeper and no super-taxpayer, and the first impression is that
of uniformity. As a matter of fact, the characteristics of Mrs. Smith of
Kennington and the characteristics of Mrs. Brown who lives next door are
more easily to be differentiated by a stranger in the street than are the
characteristics of Mrs. Smythe of Bayswater from those of Mrs. Browne who
occupies the house next to her.

Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Brown, though they may never be seen by the
passer-by, are able to imprint their personality on the street because
their ways are open, and meant to be open, to all whom it may concern.
Mrs. Smith likes red ochre at her door, in spite of the children’s boots
messing it all over the floor. Moreover, she likes to cover the big
flagstone in front of the door, and two lesser stones, one on each side;
she makes the edges coincide with the cracks, and produces a two-winged
effect of deep importance. It is likely that Mrs. Smith’s mother lived
in a village where not to do your doorstep thus was a social sin, where
perhaps there was but one flagstone, and Mrs. Smith in her childhood was
accustomed to square edges.

Mrs. Brown “can’t abide that nasty stuff,” and uses good hearthstone, as
her mother taught her to do. Mrs. Brown prefers also the semi-circular
sweep of the arm which secures the rounded edge and curved effect which
satisfy her sense of propriety and usualness.

Mrs. Smith has a geranium in a pot in her front window, and the lace
curtains which shield her privacy behind it are starched and blued
according to some severe precedent ignored by the other ladies of the

Mrs. Brown goes in for a scheme of window decoration which shows the dirt
less. She has a row of red and yellow cocoa tins to make a bright effect.

The merest outsider calling for the first time on Mrs. Smith knows her
beforehand for the decent, cleanly soul she is, and only wonders whether
the struggle of life has worn her temper to fiddle-strings or whether
some optimistic strain in her nature still allows her to hope on. The
same outsider looking at Mrs. Brown’s front door and window would realize
her to be one who puts a good face on things, and, if it happened to
be the right time of a day which was not washing-day, probably would
expect, after the proper ceremonial had been gone through, to be asked in
to sit behind the cocoa tins.

Who could tell anything half so interesting from the front doors of Mrs.
Smythe and Mrs. Browne of Bayswater? Who could tell, on meeting each of
these ladies face to face, more than her official age and the probable
state of her husband’s purse?

The children of the street are equally different from one another both
in character and appearance, and are often startlingly good-looking.
They have shrill voices, clumsy clothes, the look of being small for
their age, and they are liable to be comfortably dirty, but there the
characteristics they have in common cease. They may be wonderfully
fair, with delicate skins and pale hair; they may have red hair, with
snub-nosed, freckled faces; or they may be dark and intense, with long,
thick eyelashes and slender, lithe bodies. Some are apathetic, some are
restless. They are often intelligent; but while some are able to bring
their intelligence to bear on their daily life, others seem quite unable
to do so. They are abnormally noisy. Had they been well housed, well fed,
well clothed, and well tended, from birth, what kind of raw material
would they have shown themselves to be?



It was this question which started an investigation which has been
carried on for four years by a committee of the Fabian Women’s Group.
A sum of money was placed at the disposal of this committee in order
to enable them to study the effect on mother and child of sufficient
nourishment before and after birth. Access was obtained to the list of
out-patients of a well-known lying in hospital; names and addresses of
expectant mothers were taken from the list, and a couple of visitors were
instructed to undertake the weekly task of seeing each woman in her own
home, supplying the nourishment, and noting the effects. From as long as
three months before birth, if possible, till the child was a year old,
the visits were to continue. The committee decided that the wives of
men receiving over 26s. a week were likely to have already sufficient
nourishment, while the wives of men out of work or receiving less than
18s. a week were likely to be living in a state of such misery that the
temptation to let the rest of the family share in the mother’s and baby’s
nourishment would be too great. They therefore only dealt with cases
where the wages ranged between 18s. and 26s. a week. After two years’
experience they raised the higher limit to 30s.

For the convenience of visiting it was necessary to select an area. The
district described in the previous chapter was chosen because it is
within reach of the weighing centre, where each infant could be brought
once a fortnight to see the doctor and have its weight recorded. A member
of the committee who is a doctor interviewed each woman before the visits
began, in order to ascertain if her health and her family history were
such that a normal baby might be expected. It was at first proposed to
rule out disease, but pulmonary and respiratory disease were found to be
so common that to rule them out would be to refuse about half the cases.
It was therefore decided to regard such a condition of health as normal,
and to refuse only such cases of active or malignant disease in the
parents as might, in the doctor’s opinion, completely wreck the child’s
chance of a healthy life.

Drink, on the other hand, the committee had expected to find a normal
condition, and had proposed the acceptance of moderate drinking.
Experience, however, went to prove that married men in full work who keep
their job on such a wage do not and cannot drink. The 1s. 6d. or 2s.
which they keep for themselves has to pay for their own clothes, perhaps
fares to and from work, smoking and drinking. It does not allow much
margin for drunkenness. A man whose wife declared him to be “spiteful” on
Saturday nights was certainly the worse for drink on Saturday nights; but
never once during sixteen months of weekly visiting did he omit to bring
his wife her full allowance. He had kept his job for many years, and the
explanation is that he was given tips at the theatre for which he worked.
The tips he, not unnaturally, considered to be peculiarly his own.

One other man, who could make fair wages when in work, turned out
thoroughly unsatisfactory. He was not a drunkard, but he would have been
if he could have afforded it. Otherwise the record is fairly clear.
Men who earned overtime money or who received tips might spend some of
it on beer, but the regular wage was too close a fit to allow of much
indulgence. Many of the men were teetotallers, and some did not even

It was found to be necessary, in order to secure the success of the
investigation, to inaugurate a system of accurate accounts. In no case
were these accounts already in being, and it was therefore the task
of the visitors to teach each woman in turn to keep a record of her
expenditure for the week. As the greater part of this volume is to do
with these weekly budgets, this is a good opportunity to explain why they
are credible evidence of real conditions.

A working man’s wife in receipt of a regular allowance divides it as
follows: Rent; burial insurance; coal and light; cleaning materials;
clothing; food. A short experience in helping her to sort her items
on paper shows the investigator how to prove their accuracy. Rent is
easy. There is always the rent-book if the family deals direct with the
landlord; and if the rooms are sublet from the real tenant, the woman who
sublets them is only too anxious to explain either that rent is owing or
that it is paid regularly, and how much a week it is. Burial insurance
is easy. The insurance-book tells the whole story. With regard to such
items as coal, gas, soap, and food, experience enables an intelligent
investigator to compare accounts of women who do not know of one
another’s existence in such a manner as to know, almost before the woman
has spoken, what she is likely to be spending. If a woman says that she
is buying 1 cwt. of coal a week in the winter, and paying 1s. 6d. for it,
dozens of other accounts of which she knows nothing corroborate her. If
she says she is burning 1¾ cwt. in the winter, and spending 2s. 7½d., the
price is known to be correct; it only remains to question the quantity.
In one case the reason is that the rooms are basement rooms, very damp
and very dark. In another there are eight children, with a very large
copper fire to be kept going on washing-days. In a third no gas is laid
on, and all the cooking has to be done by the stove. All these conditions
are there to be seen. With regard to food the same test applies. Is
the budget peculiar, or does it bear out thirty others, allowing, of
course, for difference in size of family and in size of income? If it
is peculiar, why? The explanation is generally simple and obvious. In
cases where there is no explanation—of which there have been two only—the
family is not visited any further. As a matter of fact, the budgets have
borne out each other in the most striking manner. There seems to be so
little choice in the manner of keeping a family on 20s. a week.

The women were with one consent appalled at the idea of keeping accounts.
Not that they did not “know it in their heads,” as they anxiously
explained; but the clumsy writing and the difficult spelling, and the
huge figures which refused to keep within any appointed bounds, and
wandered at will about the page, thoroughly daunted them.

Eight women were found who could neither read nor write. They said that
it was not thought of much consequence when they were girls; but they
evidently found it extremely humiliating now, from the difficulty with
which the acknowledgment of their disability was pumped out of them. Of
these eight, three had husbands who undertook the task for them. The
men’s handwriting was excellent, the figures and spelling clear and
correct, but at first details were lamentably absent. “Groceries,” even
“sundries,” were common entries, and, as the scribe was always away at
work, the visitor was left to the mercy of bursts of memory on the part
of the mother, whose anxious efforts to please at any cost might land
everybody concerned in further difficulties. The only method in such
cases was to make her sit down and shut her eyes, pretend the visitor was
her “young man” (generic term for husband), and think it out all over
again. Pencil in hand, the eager listener caught and made accounts out
of such recollections as these: “’E give me twenty-two bob a Satterday.
After I put Ernie ter bed I went shoppin’ in the Walk.” Long pause.
“I know I got ’arf a shoulder er mutton at 1s. 9d., an’ 3 pounds er
pertaters, and they was 1½d., an’ a cabbage w’ich ’e said was as fresh as
a daisy, but it turned out to be all fainty like w’en I come to cook it.”
When the record is taken down in proper form, it is compared with the
masculine accounts. If the two agree, jubilation; if not, why not? And we
begin all over again. After a few weeks of such experiences the husband
always reformed.

Other illiterate women employed an eldest child of perhaps ten or eleven
years of age. In these cases a certain kind of painstaking accuracy could
be relied upon, but, far from resorting to masculine short-cuts, these
little secretaries usually went to the other extreme, and gave way to a
prolix style, founded, doubtless, on the maternal manner of recollecting.
One account, kept in large copybook hand by Emma, aged eleven, began as
follows: “Mr G’s wages was 19 bob out of that e took thruppons for es
diner witch is not mutch e bein sutch a arty man. The rent was six and
Mrs G payed fower an six because Bobby’s boots was off is feet and his
knew ones was one an six witch makes six and that leaves 12 an 9 and out
of that,” etc. It took four pages of painstaking manuscript in a school
exercise-book to complete one week. This serial story had to be reduced,
though with regret, to the limits of ordinary accounts.

Other young scribes had special tricks, such as turning their fractions
upside down or running two or more words into one. “Leggerbeef” and
“dryaddick” recurred week after week in one book, and “lberpeces” in
another. The first two only had to be pronounced to solve their own
riddle, but the third had to be worried through recollection after
recollection till it turned out to mean “1 lb. of pieces,” or 1 lb. of
scraps of meat.

The women who kept their accounts for themselves were found to be better
arithmeticians than they were writers. Their addition had a disconcerting
way of being correct, even when the visitor seemed to get a different
total. But, then, the spelling was sometimes beyond the sharpened wits
of the most experienced Fabian women to comprehend. Great care had to
be taken not to hurt their feelings as they sat anxiously watching the
visitor wrestling with the ungainly collection of words and figures.
“Coull” did not mean coal, which appeared as “coles” quite clearly lower
down. It was Lambeth for cow-heel. “Earrins too d” meant “herrings, 2d.”
“Sewuitt” is simple, more so than “suit,” a common form of “suet”; but
“wudanole” and “curince” gave some trouble. They stood for “wood and oil”
and “currants.” Seeing the visitor hesitate over the item “yearn 1d.,”
the offended mother wrote next week “yearn is for mending sokes.”

Some of the women—in fact, the majority—wrote a good hand and spelled
fairly well. Those who had before marriage been in work where anything of
the kind was expected of them—such as that of a tea-shop waitress or of
a superior domestic servant—quickly turned into interested and competent
accountants. But the older women, and those who had had no reason to
use a pencil after leaving school, had completely lost the power of
connecting knowledge which might be in their minds with marks made by
their hand on a piece of paper. These women were curiously efficient in a
kind of mental arithmetic, though utterly at sea directly pencil touched
paper. On the whole, accounts came into being sooner than at first sight
seemed possible.

The women were suspicious and reserved. They were all legally married
women, because the hospital from whose lists their names had been taken
dealt only with married women. They conquered their reserve in most
cases, but not in all. Some were grateful; some were critical. At the
beginning of each case the woman seemed to steel herself to sit patiently
and bear it while the expected questions or teaching of something should
follow. She generally appeared to be conscious that the strange lady
would probably like to sit in a draught, and, if complimented on her
knowledge of the value of fresh air and open windows, she might repeat
in a weary manner commonplaces on the subject which had obviously been
picked up from nurse, doctor, or sanitary inspector.

They spoke well of their husbands when they spoke of them at all, but it
is the children chiefly who fill their lives. The woman who said, “My
young man’s that good ter me I feel as if somethink nice ’ad ’appened
every time ’e comes in,” was obviously speaking the simple truth, and she
was more articulate than most of the others, whose “’E’s all right” might
mean as much. Another woman introduced the subject as follows: “’E’s a
good ’usbin. ’E ain’t never kep’ back me twenty-three bob, but ’e’s that
spiteful Satterday nights I ’as ter keep the children from ’im.” “And
what do _you_ do?” asked the interested visitor. “Oh, me? That’s all
right. I’m cookin’ ’is supper,” she explained, as though to a child.

On the whole they seemed to expect judgment to be passed on the absent
man according to the amount he allowed them. Many were the anxious
explanations when the sum was less than 20s.—that it was “all ’e got,” or
that “’e only keeps one and six, an’ ’e buys ’is cloes ’isself, an’ ’e’s
teetotler an’ don’t ’ardly smoke at all.” The idea among them, roughly
speaking, seemed to be that if he allowed less than 20s. explanations
were required; if 20s., nothing need be said beyond “It ain’t much, but
you can’t grumble.” If over 20s., it was rather splendid, and deserved
a word of notice about once in six weeks, when it would be good manners
for the visitor to say, “I see Mr. A. never fails to bring you your
twenty-two,” and Mrs. A. would probably answer, “’E’s all right,” but
would look gratified.

The homes are kept in widely different states of order, as is to be
expected. There is the rigidly clean and tidy, the fairly clean and
tidy, the moderately clean but very untidy. The difference depends on
many factors: the number of children, the amount of money to spend, the
number of rooms, the personality of the husband and the personality of
the wife. Six or eight children give a great deal of work, and leave
very little time in which to do it. In a family of that number there is
nearly certain, besides the baby, to be an ex-baby, and even perhaps an
ex-ex-baby, all at home to be looked after all day long and to create
fresh disorder every minute. The amount of money to spend affects
cleanliness very closely. It decides the number of rooms; it decides
the amount of soap and of other cleaning materials and utensils; and it
probably decides the question of water laid on or water to be carried up
from the backyard, and, when used, down again. A family of four children
in one room is a problem. Two may be at school part of the day, but two
will be at home all the time, and there will be no moment when the mother
can put them to sleep in another room and get rid of them while she
washes and cleans. Her chance of peace or method is small with the always
recurring work of the dinner to cook and the utensils to wash, with the
children ever present in the same room.

But the personality of the parents is, of course, the chief cause of
order or disorder. A man who loves order has a great influence for
order, and a man who likes to go to bed in his boots and spit on the
floor has an almost overwhelming influence in the other direction. He
may be an equally good fellow in all other respects, but his wife, if
she has a tidy nature, may quarrel bitterly with him; whereas if she
is more easy-going she may remain his good friend, through not feeling
constant irritation and insult because of his ways. It is a fact that a
woman the law of whose being is cleanliness and order at all costs may,
to a slovenly man, make a most tiresome wife. Her little home may be
shining and spotless—as far as anything can be shining and spotless in
Lambeth—at the cost of all her vitality and all her temper. She herself
may, as a result of her desperate battle with dirt and discouragement,
be a scold and an unreasonable being. She cannot be got away from in
two rooms where a light and fire can only be afforded in one, and she
may be the greatest trial in an always difficult life. In such homes as
£1 a week can buy in London, the women who do not insist upon doing the
impossible, and fretting themselves and everybody else because it is
impossible, often arrive at better results—with regard at least to the
human beings about them—than the women who put furniture first and the
peace of the family second. And this even if the rooms in their charge do
look as though their dark places would not bear inspection. The mother
who is not disturbed by a little mud on the floor has vitality left to
deal with more important matters.

To manage a husband and six children in three rooms on round about £1 a
week needs, first and foremost, wisdom and loving-kindness, and after
that as much cleanliness and order as can be squeezed in. The case where
the man loves order and the woman is careless may also be prolific of
strained relations between the parents. But a steady woman who is not as
tidy as her husband might wish has many ways of producing a semblance of
order which makes for peace while he is there, and the friction is less
likely to be intense. Of course, if both parents are orderly by nature
all is well. The home will be clean, and the children will be brought up
in tidy ways, much to their advantage. But if there are to be constant
and bitter recriminations over the state of the house, better, for the
man’s sake, the children’s sake, and the woman’s sake, a dingy room where
peace and quiet are than a spotless abode where no love is.



How does a working man’s wife bring up a family on 20s. a week? Assuming
that there are four children, and that it costs 4s. a week to feed a
child, there would be but 4s. left on which to feed both parents, and
nothing at all for coal, gas, clothes, insurance, soap, or rent. Four
shillings is the amount allowed the foster-mother for food in the case
of a child boarded out by some Boards of Guardians; therefore it would
seem to be a justifiable figure to reckon upon. But for a woman with 20s.
a week to spend it is evidently ridiculously high. If the calculation
were to be made upon half this sum, would it be possible? The food for
the children in that case would amount to 8s. To allow the same amount
to each parent as to each child would not be an extravagance, and we
should on that basis arrive at the sum of 12s. a week for the food of
six people. That would leave 8s. for all other expenses. But rent alone
may come to 6s. or 7s., and how could the woman on 20s. a week manage
with 1s., or perhaps 2s., for coal, gas, insurance, clothes, cleaning
materials, and thrift?

The usual answer to a question of this kind is that the poor are very
extravagant. It is no answer. It does not fit the question. But what
matter if only it saves people from thinking? Another answer sometimes
given is that everything in districts where people are poor is cheaper,
because the people are poor, than it would be in districts where people
are rich. Now, is that so? If it were, it might in some degree help to
solve the problem.

To take the item of rent:—a single room in Lambeth, 15 feet by 12 feet,
upstairs, with two windows—a good room—costs a poor man 4s. a week. A
house containing eighteen rooms in South Kensington, for rent, rates, and
taxes, may cost a rich man £250 a year. If the rich man were to pay 4s.
a week for every 20 square yards of his floor space, he would pay, not
£250 a year, but £285. If he were to pay 4s. a week for the same amount
of cubic space for which the Lambeth man is paying his 4s., he would pay,
not £250 a year, but £500. Added to which he gets an elaborate system
of water laid on (hot and cold), baths, waste pipes and sinks from top
to bottom of the house. He also gets an amount of coal-cellarage which
enables him to buy his coal cheap, and he gets good air and light and
space round his house, so that he can keep his doctor’s bills down. He
certainly has a better bargain for his £250 a year than the poor man has
for his 4s. a week. Therefore it is not true to say that a family can be
brought up on 20s. a week in Lambeth because a poor man can make a better
bargain over his rent than can a rich man. As a matter of fact, we see
that he actually pays more per cubic foot of space than the rich man does.

A comparison might be made in something like the following way:

    A middle-class well-to-do man with income of £2,000 might pay
    in rent, rates, and taxes, £250—a proportion of his income
    which is equal to _one-eighth_.

    A middle-class comfortable man, with income of £500 might pay
    in rent, rates, and taxes, £85—a proportion of his income which
    is equal to about _one-sixth_.

    A poor man with 24s. a week, or £62 8s. a year, might pay
    in rent, rates, and taxes, 8s. a week, or £20 16s. a year—a
    proportion of his income which is equal to _one-third_.

If the man with £2,000 a year paid one-third of his income in rent,
rates, and taxes, he would pay £666 a year, while the man with £500 a
year would pay £166, and they would both be better able to afford these
sums than the poor man is able to afford his £20 16s. Allowing that each
of them has a wife and four children to maintain, there would at least
be enough left in both families to give sufficient nourishment to every
member. Fewer servants might be kept, there might be less travelling,
plainer clothes, and less saving, but enough to eat there would be. But
the poor man, having no expenditure other than food which can be cut
down, is obliged, in order to pay one-third of his income in rent, to cut
down food.

The chief item in every poor budget is rent, and on the whole and roughly
speaking it is safe to say that a family with three or more children is
likely to be spending between 7s. and 8s. a week on rent alone. Why do
they spend so much when, as we see, it must mean cutting down such a
primary necessary as food?

To find the answer to this question, an analysis was made of the
conditions of thirty-one families with three or more children who
happened to come within the scope of the investigation. The analysis
took the form of a comparison of the death-rate in those families as
related to the number of children in each, the household allowance of
each, and the amount paid in rent by each. Household allowance was chosen
rather than wage, as being necessarily in closer touch with household
expenditure than is the actual wage, from which a varying amount of
pocket-money for the man is generally taken.

Amount paid in rent was chosen rather than number of rooms, because
low rent, though often meaning fewer rooms, may quite as likely mean
basement rooms, or unusually small rooms, or rooms in a very old cottage
below the level of an alley-way. One good upstairs room may cost as
much as a couple of dark and damp basement rooms, and, though that one
room may mean horrible overcrowding for a family of five or six persons,
it may nevertheless be a wiser and healthier home than the two-roomed
basement, where the overcrowding would nominally be less. As a matter
of fact, owing to insufficient beds and bedding, the whole family would
probably sleep in one of the two basement rooms, and therefore the air
space at night would be no more adequate than in one room upstairs, while
bronchitis and rheumatism would be added to the dangers of overcrowding.

The percentages given in the little table on p. 26 are calculated
approximately to the nearest whole number below.

It is interesting to note that, while the death-rate increases from
nothing in the case of families with only three children to 40 per
cent. and over in the case of families with ten or eleven children, the
intermediate percentages do not follow in numerical order. Families with
five children have a worse death-rate than families with six, seven, or

In the same way, if you compare death-rates according to household
allowances, the death-rate of families with between 20s. and 22s. a week
is actually higher than that of families with less than 20s.


Total of 186 children; 46 dead; death-rate, 24·7.

_Arranged according to Number in Family._

  |Number born in| Number of | Number Dead.| Approximate |
  | Each Family. | Families. |             | Death-rate. |
  |              |           |             |  Per Cent.  |
  |              |           |             |             |
  |    3         |     2     |      0      |      0      |
  |    4         |     9     |      6      |     16      |
  |    5         |     3     |      4      |     26      |
  |    6         |     5     |      6      |     20      |
  |    7         |     4     |      6      |     21      |
  |    8         |     5     |     10      |     25      |
  |   10         |     2     |      8      |     40      |
  |   11         |     1     |      6      |     54      |

_Arranged according to Household Allowance._

  |                |  Number  | Number of |        |             |
  |  Allowance.    |    of    | Children  | Number | Approximate |
  |                | Families.|   born.   | Dead.  | Death-rate. |
  |                |          |           |        |  Per Cent.  |
  |                |          |           |        |             |
  |Over 22/0 a week|    11    |    73     |   11   |     15      |
  |20/0 to 22/0    |     9    |    59     |   19   |     32      |
  |Less than 20/0  |    11    |    54     |   16   |     29      |

_Arranged according to Rent._

  |             |  Number  | Number of |        | Approximate |
  |    Rent.    |    of    | Children  | Number | Death-rate. |
  |             | Families.|   born.   |  Dead. |             |
  |             |          |           |        |  Per Cent.  |
  |             |          |           |        |             |
  |Over 6/6     |    12    |     72    |    9   |     12      |
  |6/0 to 6/6   |     7    |     39    |    7   |     17      |
  |Less than 6/0|    12    |     75    |   30   |     40      |

(See Appendix A, p. 42.)

When, however, the amount paid in rent is the basis of the arrangement,
the death-rate rises from 12 per cent. to 40 per cent. as the rent gets

It is hardly necessary to point out that the death-rate is a
rough-and-ready test, and not to be considered as a close indication. If
it were practicable to use the general health of those alive as well as
the death-rate, it would be far better. Also, of course, no one of the
three arrangements is independent of the other two. Moreover, the numbers
are few. The results of the analysis, however, though proving nothing,
were considered interesting enough to encourage the making of the same
analysis of thirty-nine cases of families with three or more children,
taken from the records of the weighing-room at Moffat’s Institute (see p.
28). The two lists were kept separate, as the cases at Moffat’s Institute
had been passed by no doctor, and hereditary disease may be considered to
be more rampant among them. Added to this the wages are, on the whole,
lower than the wages of families within the limits of the investigation.

It is curious that the death-rate in the second table for families
paying under 6s. rent is much the same as it is in the first. The great
difference between the two tables lies in the far larger death-rate in
families paying over 6s. rent shown in the second table, where disease
and insecurity and poverty were certainly greater factors.


Total of 223 children; 70 dead; death-rate, 31·3.

_Arranged according to Number in Family._

  |Number born in| Number of | Number Dead.| Approximate |
  | Each Family. |  Families.|             |  Death-rate.|
  |              |           |             |   Per Cent. |
  |     3        |     7     |        2    |      9      |
  |     4        |     7     |        4    |     14      |
  |     5        |     6     |       15    |     50      |
  |     6        |     7     |       11    |     26      |
  |     7        |     4     |        8    |     28      |
  |     8        |     2     |        2    |     12      |
  |     9        |     4     |       21    |     58      |
  |    11        |     2     |        7    |     31      |

_Arranged according to Household Allowance._

  |    Allowance.     |Number     | Number of| Number| Approximate |
  |                   | of        |  Children|  Dead.|  Death-rate.|
  |                   |Families.  |   born.  |       |             |
  |                   |           |          |       |  Per Cent.  |
  |Over 22/0 a week   |      8    |    60    |   20  |     33      |
  |20/0 to 22/0       |     20    |   111    |   34  |     30      |
  |Less than 20/0     |     11    |    52    |   16  |     30      |

_Arranged according to Rent._

  |Rent.            | Number  | Number of| Number| Approximate |
  |                 |   of    |  Children|  Dead.|  Death-rate.|
  |                 |Families.|   born.  |       |             |
  |                 |         |          |       |             |
  |                 |         |          |       |  Per Cent.  |
  |Over 6/6         |   15    |    105   |   26  |     24      |
  |6/0 to 6/6       |   14    |     71   |   26  |     36      |
  |Less than 6/0    |   10    |     47   |   18  |     38      |

(See Appendix B, p. 44.)

It is not pretended that the two tables do more than indicate that decent
housing has as much influence on children’s health as, given a certain
minimum, the quality and quantity of their food. That is to say, it is as
important for a young child to have light, air, warmth, and freedom from
damp, as it is for it to have sufficient and proper food.

The kind of dwelling to be had for 7s. or 8s. a week varies in several
ways. If it be light, dry, and free from bugs, if it be central in
position, and if it contain three rooms, it will be eagerly sought
for and hard to find. Such places exist in some blocks of workmen’s
dwellings, and applications for them are waiting long before a vacancy
occurs, provided, of course, that they are in a convenient district.
There are even sets of three very small rooms at a rental of 5s. 6d. in
one or two large buildings. These are few in number, snapped up, and tend
to go to the man with not too large a family and in a recognised and
permanent position.

Perhaps the next best bargain after such rooms in blocks of workmen’s
dwellings is a portion of a small house. These small houses are let
at rents varying from 10s. to 15s., according to size, condition, and
position. They are let to a tenant who is responsible to the landlord for
the whole rent, and who sublets such rooms as she can do without in order
to get enough money for the rent-collector. She is often a woman with
five or six children, who would not, on account of her large family,
be an acceptable subtenant. If she is a good woman of business, it is
sometimes possible for her to let her rooms advantageously, and stand
in herself at a low rental—as rents go in Lambeth. But there is always
a serious risk attached to the taking of a whole house—the risk of not
being able to sublet, or, if there are tenants, of being unable to make
them pay. Many a woman who nominally stands at a rent of 6s. or 6s. 6d.
for the rooms which she keeps for her own use is actually paying 11s. to
15s. a week, or is running into debt at the rate of 5s. to 10s. a week
because of default on the part of her lodgers.

The ordinary housing for 8s. a week consists generally of three rooms out
of a four-roomed house where the responsible tenant pays 10s. or 11s.
for the whole, and sublets one small room for 2s. to 3s., or of three
or four rooms out of a five- or six-roomed house where the whole rent
might be 14s. or 15s., and a couple of rooms may be sublet at 6s. or 7s.
Some of the older four-roomed houses are built on a terrible plan. The
passage from the front door runs along one side of the house straight
out at the back. Two tiny rooms open off it, a front one and a back one.
Between these two rooms, at right angles to the passage, ascends a steep
flight of stairs. Because of the narrowness of the house the stairs have
no landing at the top, but continue as stairs until they meet the wall.
Where the landing should be, but is not, two doors leading into a front
bedroom and a back stand opposite one another, and open directly on to
the steps themselves. Coming out of a bedroom with a child in their arms,
obscuring their own light from the door behind them, many a man and woman
in Lambeth has trodden on the edge of a step and fallen down the stairs
to the ground below. There is no hand-rail, nothing but the smooth wall
on each side.

Of the four little rooms contained in such a house, perhaps not one will
measure more than 12 feet the longer way, and there may be a copper
wedged into the tiny kitchen. A family of eight persons using three rooms
in a house of this kind might let off the lower front room to an aunt
or a mother at a rent of 2s. 6d. a week, live in the kitchen, and sleep
in the two upstairs rooms. The advantage of such a way of living is its
privacy. The single lodger, even if not a relative, is less disturbing
than would be another family sharing another house. When the lodger is
a relative, a further advantage is that a child is often taken into its
grandmother’s or aunt’s room at night, and the terrible overcrowding is
relieved just to that extent.

In some districts four rooms may be had for 8s. a week—on the further
side of Kennington Park, for instance. Here the plan of the house is
more modern. The stairs face the front door, have a hand-rail and any
light which the passage affords. The front room may be 12 feet square,
and the kitchen, cut into by the stairs, 10 feet square. There is a tiny
scullery at the back, which is of enormous value, as the 10 feet square
kitchen is the living-room of the family—sure to be a fairly large one
or it would not take four rooms. Upstairs are three rooms. Two at the
back will be very small, and the front one, extending the whole breadth
of the house, perhaps 15 feet by 12 feet. A family of ten persons, now
living in a house like this, lets off one of the small back bedrooms at a
rental of 2s., and occupies the four remaining rooms at a cost of 8s. a
week. The copper belongs to the woman renting the house, who makes what
arrangements she pleases with her lodger in regard to its use.

There are four-roomed cottages in Lambeth where there is no passage at
all. The front door opens into the front room. The room behind opens out
of the front room. The stairs lead out of the room behind, and twist up
so as to serve two communicating rooms above. Here the upstairs tenants
are forced to pass through both the rooms of the lower tenants every time
they enter or leave the house. The inconvenience and annoyance of this is
intense. Both exasperated families live on the edge of bitter feud.

There are two-roomed cottages reached by alley-ways, where both tiny
rooms are below the level of the pathetic garden at the door. Here one
sanitary convenience serves for two cottages. Here the death-rate would
be high, but not so high as the death-rate in the dismal basements.

Where two families share a six-roomed house, the landlady of the two
probably chooses the ground-floor, with command over the yard and washing
arrangements. The upstairs people contract with her for the use of the
copper and yard on one day of the week. The downstairs woman hates having
the upstairs woman washing in her scullery, and the upstairs woman hates
washing there. Differences which result in “not speaking” often begin
over the copper. Three rooms upstairs and three rooms downstairs would
be the rule in such a house, the downstairs woman being answerable to
the landlord for 13s. a week, and the upstairs woman paying her 6s. Each
woman scrubs the stairs in turn—another fruitful source of difficulty.
Some of these houses are frankly arranged for two families, although the
landlord only recognises one tenant. In such cases, though there is but
one copper, there will be a stove in an upstairs room. In some houses the
upstairs people have to manage with an open grate and a hob, and nearly
all of them have to carry water upstairs and carry it down again when

On the whole, the healthiest accommodation is usually to be found in
well-managed large blocks of workmen’s dwellings. This may be as dear as
three rooms for 9s., or it may be as cheap as three very small rooms for
5s. 6d. The great advantages are freedom from damp, freedom from bugs,
light and air on the upper floors, water laid on, sometimes a yard where
the children can play, safe from the traffic of the street. But there are
disadvantages. The want of privacy, which is very great in the cheaper
buildings, the tendency to take infection from other families, the noise
on the stairs, the inability to keep a perambulator, are some of them.
Then there is no such thing as keeping the landlord waiting. The rent
must be paid or the tenant must quit. The management of most buildings
exacts one or two weeks’ rent in advance in order to be on the safe side.
A tenant thus has one week up her sleeve, as it were, but gets notice
directly she enters on that week. In some buildings the other people,
kindly souls, will lend the rent to a steady family in misfortune. A
carter’s wife—one of the cases in the investigation—had her rent paid for
ten weeks, while her husband was out of work and bringing in odd sums
far below his usual wage, by the kindness of the neighbours, who saw her
through. She was in good buildings, paying a low rent, and as she said,
“If I’d a-got out of this I’d never a-got in agen.” She paid off the
money when her husband was in work again at the rate of 3s. 6d. a week.

The three-quarters of a small house or the half of a larger house are
likely to be less healthy than “buildings,” because houses are less
well-built, often damp, often infested with bugs which defy the cleanest
woman, have as a rule no water above the ground-floor, and may have
fearful draughts and no proper fireplace. Their advantages are the
superior privacy and possibly superior quiet, their accessibility from
the street, and, above all, the elasticity with regard to rent. On the
whole, the actual landlord is by no means the monster he is popularly
represented to be. He will wait rather than change a good tenant. He will
make no fuss if the back rent is paid ever so slowly. To many respectable
folk, keeping the home together on perhaps 22s. a week, this is an
inestimable boon. It is wonderful how, among these steady people, rent is
made a first charge on income, though naturally, given enough pressure,
rent must wait while such income as there is goes to buy food.

Rents of less than 6s. a week are generally danger-signals, unless the
amount is for a single room. Two rooms for 5s. 6d. are likely to be
basement rooms or very small ground-floor rooms, through one of which,
perhaps, all the other people in the house have to pass. One of two such
rooms visited for fifteen months measured 8 feet by 12 feet, had doors
in three sides of it, and was the only means of exit at the back of the

Two sets of basement rooms at 5s. 6d. visited during the investigation
were extremely dark and damp. In both cases the amount of coal burned
was unusually large, as was also the amount of gas. One of these
basements was reached by stairs from within the house, the other from a
deep area without. The former was warmer, but more airless, while the
latter was impossible to warm in any way. The airlessness of basement
dwellings is much enhanced by the police regulations, which insist on
shut windows at night on account of the danger of burglary! Both the
women in these two homes were languid and pale, and suffered from anæmia.
The first had lost three children out of seven; the second, one out of

Four and six paid for two rooms meant two tiny rooms below the level of
the alley-way outside—rooms which measured each about 12 feet square. A
family of six persons lived in them. Four children were living, and five
had died.

The question of vermin is a very pressing one in all the small houses. No
woman, however clean, can cope with it. Before their confinements some
women go to the trouble of having the room they are to lie in fumigated.
In spite of such precautions, bugs have dropped on to the pillow of the
sick woman before the visitor’s eyes. One woman complained that they
dropped into her ears at night. Another woman, when the visitor cheerily
alluded to the lovely weather, answered in a voice of deepest gloom:
“Lovely fer you, miss, but it brings out the bugs somethink ’orrible.”
The mothers accept the pest as part of their dreadful lives, but they do
not grow reconciled to it. Re-papering and fumigation are as far as any
landlord goes in dealing with the difficulty, and it hardly needs saying
that the effects of such treatment are temporary only. On suggesting
distemper rather than a new paper in a stuffy little room, the visitor
was met with the instant protest: “But it wouldn’t keep the bugs out a
minute.” It would seem as though the burning down of such properties were
the only cure.

The fault is not entirely that either of the sanitary authorities or
of the immediate landlords. Nor is the blame to be given to the people
living in these houses. In spite of being absurdly costly, they are too
unhealthy for human habitation. Sanitation has improved vastly in the
last dozen years, though there is still a great need for more qualified,
authoritative women sanitary inspectors. But no inspection and no
subsequent tinkering can make a fundamentally unhealthy house a proper
home for young children. The sanitary standard is still deplorably low.
That is simply because it has to be low if some of these houses are to be
considered habitable at all, and if others are to be inhabited by two,
and often by three, families at the same time.

The landlords might use a different system with advantage to the great
majority of their tenants. To insist on letting a whole house to tenants
who are invariably unable to afford the rent of it is to contract out of
half the landlord’s risks, and to leave them on the shoulders of people
far less able to bear them. A woman who can barely stagger under a rent
of 6s., 7s., or 8s., may at any moment find herself confronted with a
rent of 10s. 6d. or 15s., because, in her desperate desire to let at all,
she is forced to accept an unsatisfactory tenant. Turned into a landlord
in her own person, she is wonderfully long-suffering and patient, but at
the cost of the food of her family. If ejectment has to be enforced, she,
not the real landlord, has to enforce it. She goes through great stress
rather than resort to it. Houses intended for the use of more than one
family should, I consider, be definitely let off to more than one family.
Each tenant should deal direct with the landlord.

The tenants might do more for themselves if they understood and could use
their rights—if they expected to be more comfortable than they are. They
put up with broken and defective grates which burn twice the coal for
half the heat; they accept plagues of rats or of vermin as acts of God;
they deplore a stopped-up drain without making an effective complaint,
because they are afraid of being told to find new quarters if they make
too much fuss. If they could or would take concerted action, they could
right a great many of the smaller grievances. But, when all is said and
done, these reforms could do very little as long as most of the present
buildings exist at all, or as long as a family of eight persons can only
afford two, or at most three, small rooms to live in. The rent is too
dear; the houses are too old or too badly built, or both; the streets are
too narrow; the rooms are too small; and there are far too many people to
sleep in them.

The question is often asked why the people live where they do. Why do
they not live in a district where rents are cheaper, and spend more
on tram fares? The reason is that these overburdened women have no
knowledge, no enterprise, no time, and no cash, to enable them to visit
distant suburbs along the tram routes, even if, in their opinion, the
saving of money in rent would be sufficient to pay the extra outlay on
tram fares. Moreover—strange as it may seem to those whose bi-weekly
visit to Lambeth is like a bi-weekly plunge into Hades—the people to
whom Lambeth is home want to stay in Lambeth. They do not expect to be
any better off elsewhere, and meantime they are in surroundings they
know, and among people who know and respect them. Probably they have
relatives near by who would not see them come to grief without making
great efforts to help them. Should the man go into hospital or into the
workhouse infirmary, extraordinary kindness to the wife and children will
be shown by the most stand-off neighbours, in order to keep the little
household together until he is well again. A family who have lived for
years in one street are recognised up and down the length of that street
as people to be helped in time of trouble. These respectable but very
poor people live over a morass of such intolerable poverty that they
unite instinctively to save those known to them from falling into it.
A family which moves two miles away is completely lost to view. They
never write, and there is no time and no money for visiting. Neighbours
forget them. It was not mere personal liking which united them; it was
a kind of mutual respect in the face of trouble. Even relatives cease
to be actively interested in their fate. A fish-fryer lost his job in
Lambeth owing to the business being sold and the new owner bringing in
his own fryer. The man had been getting 26s. a week, and owed nothing.
His wife’s brothers and parents, who lived near by, combined to feed
three of the four children; a certain amount of coal was sent in; the
rent was allowed to stand over by a sympathetic landlady to whom the
woman had been kind in her confinement; and at last, after nine weeks,
the man got work at Finsbury Park at 24s. a week. Nearly £3 was owing in
rent, but otherwise there was no debt. The family stayed on in the same
rooms, paying 3s. a week extra as back rent, and the man walked daily
from south of Kennington Park to Finsbury Park and back. He started at
five in the morning, arrived at eight, and worked till noon, when he had
four hours off and a meal. He was allowed to lie down and sleep till 4
p.m. Then he worked again till 10 p.m., afterwards walking home, arriving
there at about one in the morning. A year of this life knocked him up,
and he left his place at Finsbury Park to find one in a fish-shop in
Westminster at a still slightly lower wage. The back rent is long ago
paid off, and the family, now with five children, is still in the same
rooms, though in reduced circumstances. When questioned as to why he had
remained in Kennington instead of moving after his work, the man pointed
out that the back rent would seem almost impossible to pay off at a
distance. Then there was no one who knew them at Finsbury, where, should
misfortune overtake them again, instead of being helped through a period
of unemployment, they would have nothing before them but the “house.”

It is obvious that, in London at any rate, the wretched housing, which
is at the same time more than they can afford, has as bad an influence
on the health of the poor as any other of their miserable conditions.
If poverty did not mean wretched housing, it would be shorn of half its
dangers. The London poor are driven to pay one-third of their income
for dark, damp rooms which are too small and too few in houses which
are ill-built and overcrowded. And above the overcrowding of the house
and of the room comes the overcrowding of the bed—equally the result of
poverty, and equally dangerous to health. Even if the food which can be
provided out of 22s. a week, after 7s. or 8s. has been taken for rent,
were of first-rate quality and sufficient in quantity, the night spent in
such beds in such rooms in such houses would devitalise the children.
It would take away their appetites, and render them more liable to any
infection at home or at school. Taken in conjunction with the food
they do get, it is no wonder that the health of London school-children
exercises the mind of the medical officials of the London County Council.



  |                        | Allowance | Children |       |       |
  |                        |  to Wife. |  born.   | Dead. | Rent. |
  |                        |           |          |       |       |
  |Printer’s warehouseman  |   20/0    |     4    |   0   |  8/0  |
  |Printer’s labourer      |   28/0    |     8    |   0   |  8/0  |
  |Dustman                 |   25/0    |     4    |   0   |  7/0  |
  |Policeman               |   27/0    |     8    |   1   |  8/6  |
  |Bus conductor           |   18/0    |     5    |   0   |  9/0  |
  |Coal carter             |   22/0    |     4    |   1   |  7/0  |
  |Plumber’s mate          |   24/0    |    10    |   3   |  8/0  |
  |Horse-keeper            |   22/0    |     8    |   2   |  7/6  |
  |Printer’s labourer      |   21/9    |     7    |   1   |  8/0  |
  |Railway-carriage washer |   19/6    |     3    |   0   |  7/0  |
  |Packer of pottery       |   23/0    |     6    |   0   |  7/3  |
  |Carman’s trouncer       |   24/0    |     5    |   1   |  8/0  |
  |Horse-keeper            |   23/0    |     3    |   0   |  6/6  |
  |Plumber’s labourer      |   18/0    |     6    |   3   |  6/6  |
  |Potter’s labourer       |   20/0    |     4    |   0   |  6/0  |
  |Carter                  |   19/0    |     4    |   1   |  6/0  |
  |Builder’s handyman      |   22/6    |     7    |   1   |  6/6  |
  |Postal-van driver       |   23/0    |     8    |   1   |  6/6  |
  |Labourer                |   22/6    |     7    |   1   |  6/0  |
  |Carter                  |   15/0 to |     6    |   1   |  5/0* |
  |                        |   20/0    |          |       |       |
  |Pugilist                |   Very    |     8    |   6   |  5/0  |
  |                        | irregular;|          |       |       |
  |                        |  average  |          |       |       |
  |                        |   below   |          |       |       |
  |                        |   20/0    |          |       |       |
  |Builder’s labourer      | Irregular;|     6    |   1   |  3/0  |
  |                        |  average  |          |       |       |
  |                        |   below   |          |       |       |
  |                        |   20/0    |          |       |       |
  |Fish-fryer              |   23/0    |     7    |   3   |  5/6  |
  |Carter for vestry       |   19/0    |     4    |   0   |  4/6* |
  |  contractor            |           |          |       |       |
  |Motor-car washer        | Irregular;|     4    |   1   |  3/3  |
  |                        |   below   |          |       |       |
  |                        |   20/0    |          |       |       |
  |Butcher’s assistant     | Irregular;|     4    |   1   |  5/6  |
  |                        |   below   |          |       |       |
  |                        |   20/0    |          |       |       |
  |Scene-shifter           |   22/0    |    11    |   6   |  5/0  |
  |Carman                  |   Below   |     4    |   2   |  4/6  |
  |                        |   20/0    |          |       |       |
  |Carter                  |   20/0    |    10    |   5   |  4/6  |
  |Feather-cleaner’s       |   20/0    |     5    |   3   |  5/0  |
  |  assistant             |           |          |       |       |
  |Borough Council         |   21/0    |     6    |   1   |  5/6  |
  |  street-sweeper        |           |          |       |       |

  * These rooms are in buildings, upstairs and sanitary.



  |                         |Allowance |Children|        |       |
  |                         | to Wife. |  born. |  Dead. |  Rent.|
  |Bricklayer’s labourer    |   25/0   |    9   |    4   |  8/0  |
  |Music-seller’s assistant |   18/0   |    3   |    0   |  9/0  |
  |  in West-End shop       |          |        |        |       |
  |Carman                   |   24/0   |    8   |    1   |  7/3  |
  |Postman                  |   23/6   |    4   |    0   |  7/6  |
  |Baker’s van-man          |   22/0   |    7   |    1   |  7/6  |
  |Stonemason               |   20/0   |    8   |    1   |  8/0  |
  |Carman                   |   20/0   |    4   |    0   |  7/0  |
  |Sawmill labourer         |   20/0   |    5   |    1   |  6/0  |
  |Carman                   |   22/0   |    4   |    1   |  6/6  |
  |House-decorator’s        |Irregular;|    6   |    2   |  7/6  |
  |  labourer               | average  |        |        |       |
  |                         |less than |        |        |       |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Labourer                 |Less than |    3   |    1   |  4/0  |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Painter’s labourer       |Less than |    3   |    0   |  6/6  |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Builder’s labourer       |Less than |    6   |    0   |  8/0  |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Carman                   |   18/0   |    4   |    1   |  6/0  |
  |Waterside labourer       |Less than |    5   |    3   |  4/0  |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Brass-foundry core-maker |   24/0   |    3   |    1   |  6/6  |
  |Labourer                 |   22/0   |    4   |    1   |  6/0  |
  |Shop-assistant           |   20/0   |    4   |    1   |  6/0  |
  |Carman                   |   20/0   |    6   |    4   |  6/6  |
  |Painter’s labourer       |   20/0   |    7   |    3   |  7/6  |
  |Carman                   |   20/0   |    3   |    0   |  4/6  |
  |Carman                   |   18/6   |    7   |    3   |  4/0  |
  |Stone-grinder            |   20/0   |    3   |    0   |  5/6  |
  |Goods porter             |   25/0   |    5   |    2   |  7/0  |
  |Cleaner for L.G.B.       |   22/0   |    3   |    0   |  6/6  |
  |Carman                   |   20/0   |    6   |    1   |  6/6  |
  |Stoker                   |   24/0   |   11   |    3   |  8/0  |
  |Carman                   |   22/0   |    9   |    4   |  7/6  |
  |Potter’s labourer        |Less than |    5   |    4   |  5/0  |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Labourer                 |Less than |    4   |    0   |  4/0  |
  |                         |   20/0   |        |        |       |
  |Painter’s labourer       |   21/0   |    5   |    2   |  6/0  |
  |Gas-worker               |   20/0   |    6   |    0   |  6/0  |
  |Blacksmith’s labourer    |   18/0   |    6   |    2   |  4/9  |
  |Carman                   |   24/0   |    9   |    5   |  6/0  |
  |Labourer in timber-yard  |   20/0   |    5   |    3   |  5/6  |
  |Carman for brewery       |   20/0   |    6   |    2   |  5/0  |
  |Tin-plate worker         |   24/0   |   11   |    4   |  8/0  |
  |Van-washer               |   20/0   |    9   |    8   |  6/0  |
  |Carman                   |   20/0   |    7   |    1   |  8/0  |



It is difficult to say whether more furniture or less furniture would be
the better plan in a home consisting of three rooms. Supposing the family
to consist of eight persons, most people would be inclined to prescribe
four beds. As a matter of fact, there will probably be two. In a double
bed in one room will sleep father, mother, baby, and ex-baby, while in
another bed in another room will sleep the four elder children. Sometimes
the lodger granny will take a child into her bed, or the lodger uncle
will take a boy into his; but the four in a bed arrangement is common
enough to need attention. It must be remembered again that these people
are respectable, hard-working, sober, and serious. They keep their jobs,
and they stay on in the same rooms. They are not slum people. They pay
their rent with wonderful regularity, and are trusted by the landlord
when for any reason they are obliged to hold it back. But, all the same,
they have to sleep four in a bed, and suffer the consequences. It is not
an elastic arrangement; in case of illness it goes on just the same.
When a child has a sore throat or a rash it sleeps with the others as
usual. By the time a medical authority has pronounced the illness to be
diphtheria or scarlet fever, and the child is taken away, perhaps another
child is infected. Measles and whooping-cough just go round the bed as a
matter of course. When a new baby is born, the mother does not get her
bed to herself. There is nowhere for the others to go, so they sleep in
their accustomed places. This is not a fact which obtrudes itself on the
notice of a visitor as a rule. She arrives to find the mother and child
alone in the bed, with the exception, perhaps, of a two-year-old having
its daily nap at the foot. But in a case where there was but one room,
and where the man was a night-worker, the visitor of the sick woman
found him asleep beside her. This discovery led to questions being put
to the other women, who explained at once that of course their husbands
and children sleep with them at night. Where else is there for the
unfortunate people to sleep? Moreover, the husband is probably needed to
act as monthly nurse at night for the first week. It is an arrangement
which does not allow of real rest for any of them, but it has to be put
up with.

The rooms are small, and herein lies the open-window difficulty far more
than in the ignorance of the women. Poor people dread cold. Their one
idea in clothing their children is to keep them warm. To this end they
put on petticoat over ragged petticoat till the children are fettered
by the number of garments. It is not the best method, but it is the
best method they know of. The best, of course, would be so to feed the
children that their bodies would generate enough heat to keep them warm
from within without unnecessary clothing. A second-best method might be
to clothe the badly-nourished bodies warmly and lightly from without.
The best they can do is to load the children with any kind of clothing
they can procure, be it light and warm or cold and heavy. The best is too
expensive; the second-best is too expensive; and so they have recourse
to the third. It is all they can do with the means at their disposal. So
with sleeping and fresh air. The best arrangement is a large room, a bed
to oneself, plenty of bedclothes, and an open window. The second-best
is a small room, a bed for every two persons, plenty of bedclothes, and
an open window. The only arrangement actually possible is a tiny room,
one bed for four people, one blanket or two very thin ones, with the bed
close under the window. In wet or very cold weather the four people in
the bed sleep with the window shut. What else can they do? Here are some
cases each visited for over a year during the investigation:

1. Man, wife, and three children; one room, 12 feet by 10 feet; one bed,
one banana-crate cot. Man a night-worker. Wages varying from 16s. to 20s.
Bed, in which woman and two children slept all night, and man most of
the day, with its head half across the window; cot right under the window.

2. Man, wife, and four children; one room, 12 feet by 14 feet; one bed,
one cot, one banana-crate cot. Wage from 19s. to 22s. The bed and small
cot stood alongside the window; the other cot stood across it.

3. Man, wife, and six children; four rooms; two beds, one sofa, one
banana-crate cot. Wage 22s. One double bed for four people in very small
room, crossing the window; cot in corner by bed. One single bed for two
people (girls aged thirteen and ten years) in smaller room, 8 feet by 10
feet, with head under the window. One sofa for boy aged eleven years in
front downstairs room, where police will not allow window to be open at
night. The kitchen, which is at the back, has the copper in it, and is
too small for a bed, or even a sofa to stand anywhere.

4. Man, wife, and five children; two rooms; one bed, one sofa, one
perambulator. Wage 22s. One bed for four persons across window in tiny
room; perambulator for baby by bed; one sofa for two boys in kitchen,
also tiny.

5. Man, wife, and four children; two basement rooms; one bed, one baby’s
cot, one sofa. One bed for four, with baby’s cot by it, in one room; sofa
for child of nine in the other. In front room the police will not allow
the window open at night.

6. Man, wife, and five children; three small rooms upstairs; two beds,
one cot; one double bed for three persons, with head to window, cot
beside it, in one room; one wide single bed for three persons across
window in other room.

7. Man, wife, and five children; two rooms upstairs; one wide single bed,
one narrow single bed, one cot. Wife sleeps with two children in wide
single bed, baby in cot by her side. Two children under window in tiny
back room in narrow single bed. The man works at night, and gets home
about four in the morning. He sits up on a chair till six o’clock, when
his wife gets up and makes up the children’s bed in the back room for him.

There are plenty more of such cases. Those above have been taken at
random from an alphabetical list. In one a woman and five children sleep
in one room, but, as it is large enough to have two windows, they can
keep one open, and are better off than many parties of four in smaller
rooms, where the bed perforce comes under the only window.

It may be noticed that in some of the cases given, as in some which I
have no space to give, a third or fourth room, which is generally the
living-room, has no one sleeping in it at night. The women, when asked
why they do not relieve the pressure in the family bedroom by putting a
child or two in the kitchen, explain that they have no more beds and no
more bedclothes. Each fresh bed needs blankets and mattress. They look
round the tiny room, and ask, “Where’d I put it if I ’ad it?” Besides, to
put a couple of children to bed in the one living-room makes it both a
bad bedroom and a bad sitting-room, even if the initial difficulty of bed
and bedding could be overcome.

It will be noticed, too, that in the list given a cot of some sort
was always provided for the little baby. Unfortunately, this is not a
universal rule. It appears here because the investigation insisted on
the new baby having a cot to itself. Otherwise it would have taken its
chance in the family bed. In winter the mothers find it very difficult to
believe that a new-born baby can be warm enough in a cot of its own. And
when one looks at the cotton cot blankets, about 30 inches long, which
are all their wildest dreams aspire to, one understands their disbelief.
The cost of a cot at its cheapest runs as follows: Banana-crate with
sacking bottom, 1s.; bag filled with chaff for mattress, 2d.; blankets,
1s. 6d. bought wholesale and sold at cost price. This mounts up to 2s.
8d., and, for a woman who has to buy blankets at an ordinary shop, a
quality good enough for the purpose would cost her more. She would have
to spend something like 3s. 6d. over the child’s cot—a sum which is
beyond the reach of most women with a 20s. budget. As a rule it would be
safe to say that the new baby does take its share of the risks of the
family bed, legislation to the contrary notwithstanding.

The rest of the furniture is both as insufficient and crowded as is the
sleeping accommodation. There are not enough chairs, though too many for
the room. There is not enough table space, though too much for the room.
There is no wardrobe accommodation other than the hook behind the door,
and possibly a chest of drawers, which may partly act as a larder, and
has in the visitor’s experience been used as a place in which to put a
dead child.

To take an actual case of a one-room tenement. There are four children,
all living. The man is a dusky, friendly soul who usually addresses an
elderly visitor as “mate.” On first making his acquaintance, the visitor
was so much struck by the brilliance of his teeth shining from his grimy
face, that she ventured to express her admiration. “Yes, mate, an’ I
tell yer why: ’cause I cleans ’em,” he answered delightedly, and after a
short pause added, “once a week.” On one occasion the visitor, noticing
that a slight pressure was needed on a certain part of the baby’s person,
looked for a penny in her purse, found none, but was supplied by the
interested father. The penny was quickly stitched into a bandage, and
tied firmly over the required place. The next week saw the family in dire
need of a penny to put in the gas-meter in order to save the dinner from
being uncooked. At the moment of crisis a flash of genius inspired the
father; the baby was undressed, the penny disinterred, and the dinner
saved. The visitor, arriving in the middle of the scene, could but accept
the position, sacrifice a leaden weight which kept the tail of her coat
hanging as it should, and rebandage the baby.

The single room inhabited by this family is large—15 feet by 13 feet—and
has two windows. Under the window facing the door is the large bed, in
which sleep mother, father, and two children. A perambulator by the
bedside accommodates the baby, and in the further corner is a small cot
for the remaining child. The second window can be, and is, left partly
open at night. At the foot of the bed which crosses the window is a
small square table. Three wooden chairs and a chest of drawers complete
the furniture, with the exception of a treadle machine purchased by
the mother before her marriage on the time-payment system. The small
fireplace has no oven, and open shelves go up each side of it. There are
two saucepans, both burnt. There is no larder. On the floor lies a loose
piece of linoleum, and over the fireplace is an overmantel with brackets
and a cracked looking-glass. On the brackets are shells and ornaments.
Tiny home-made window-boxes with plants in them decorate each window.
The whole aspect of the room is cheerful. It is not stuffy, because the
second window really is always open. The overmantel was saved for penny
by penny before marriage, and is much valued. It gives the room an air,
as its mistress proudly says.

Another family with eight children, all living, rent four rooms—two
downstairs and two up. Downstairs is a sitting-room 10 feet by 12 feet.
In it are a sofa, a table, four chairs, and the perambulator. A kitchen
10 feet by 10 feet contains a tiny table and six chairs. The cupboard
beside the stove has mice in it. A gas-stove stands in the washhouse
beside the copper. By it there is room for a cupboard for food, but it
is a very hot cupboard in the summer. One bedroom with two windows,
upstairs, has a large bed away from the window, in which sleep mother and
three children. The baby sleeps in a cot beside the bed, and in a small
cot under one window sleeps a fifth child. One chair and a table complete
the furniture. In another bedroom, 10 feet by 8 feet, sleep two children
in a single bed by night, and the father, who is a night-worker, and any
child taking its morning rest, by day. The remaining child sleeps on the
sofa downstairs, where the window has to be shut at night.

Another family with six children rent three rooms. The kitchen has the
copper in it, and measures 12 feet by 10 feet. A table of 4 feet by 2
feet under the window, three chairs, a mantel-shelf, and a cupboard high
up on the wall, complete the furniture. Food can be kept in a perforated
box next the dust-hole by the back door. The room has a tiny recess
under the stairs beside the stove, where stands the perambulator in the
daytime, though it goes upstairs to form the baby’s bed at night. In one
bedroom, 12 feet by 10 feet, is a big bed near the window, in which sleep
father, mother, and one child, with the baby by the bedside. In another
smaller room sleep four children under the window, in one bed. No other

It will be noticed that in none of the bedrooms are any washing
arrangements. The daily ablutions, as a rule, are confined to face and
hands when each person comes downstairs, with the exception of the little
baby, who generally has some sort of wash over every day. Once a week,
however, most of the children get a bath. In the family of eight children
mentioned above, the baby has a daily bath in the washing-up basin. On
Friday evenings two boys and a girl under five years of age are bathed,
all in the same water, in a washing-tub before the kitchen fire. On
Saturday nights two boys under eleven bathe in one water, which is then
changed, and two girls of nine and twelve take their turn, the mother
also washing their hair. The mother manages to bathe herself once a
fortnight in the daytime when the five elder children are at school, and
the father goes to public baths when he can find time and afford twopence.

A woman with six children under thirteen gives them all a bath with two
waters between them on Saturday morning in the washing-tub. She generally
has a bath herself on Sunday evening when her husband is out. All the
water has to be carried upstairs, heated in her kettle, and carried down
again when dirty. Her husband bathes, when he can afford twopence, at the
public baths.

In another family, where there are four children in one room and only a
very small washtub, the children get a bath on Saturday or Sunday. The
mother manages to get hers when the two elder children are at school.
The father, who can never afford a twopenny bath, gets a “wash-down”
sometimes after the children have gone to sleep at night. “A bath it
ain’t, not fer grown-up people,” explained his wife; “it’s just a bit
at a time like.” Some families use the copper when it is built in the
kitchen or in a well-built scullery. But it is more trouble to empty,
and often belongs to the other people’s part of the house. All of these
bathing arrangements imply a great deal of hard work for the mother of
the family. Where the rooms are upstairs and water is not laid on, which
is the case in a great many first-floor tenements, the work is excessive.

The equipment for cooking is as unsatisfactory as are the arrangements
for sleeping or bathing. One kettle, one frying-pan, and two saucepans,
both burnt, are often the complete outfit. The woman with 22s. a week
upon which to rear a family may not be a professed cook and may not
understand food values—she would probably be a still more discouraged
woman than she is if she were and if she did—but she knows the weak
points of her old saucepans, and the number of pennies she can afford
to spend on coal and gas, and the amount of time she can allow herself
in which to do her cooking. She is forced to give more weight to
the consideration of possible time and possible money than to the
considerations of excellence of cooking or extra food value. Also she
must cook for her husband food which he likes rather than food which she
may consider of greater scientific value, which he may dislike.

The visitors in this investigation hoped to carry with them a gospel of
porridge to the hard-worked mothers of families in Lambeth. The women of
Lambeth listened patiently, according to their way, agreed to all that
was said, and did not begin to feed their families on porridge. Being
there to watch and note rather than to teach and preach, the visitors
waited to hear, when and how they could, what the objection was. It was
not one reason, but many. Porridge needs long cooking; if on the gas,
that means expense; if on an open fire, constant stirring and watching
just when the mother is most busy getting the children up. Moreover, the
fire is often not lit before breakfast. It was pointed out that porridge
is a food which will keep when made. It could be cooked when the children
are at school, and merely warmed up in the morning. The women agreed
again, but still no porridge. It seemed, after further patient waiting on
the part of the visitors, that the husbands and children could not abide
porridge—to use the expressive language of the district, “they ’eaved at

Why? Well cooked the day before, and eaten with milk and sugar, all
children liked porridge. But the mothers held up their hands. Milk! Who
could give milk—or sugar either, for that matter? Of course, if you could
give them milk and sugar, no wonder! They might eat it then, even if it
was a bit burnt. Porridge was an awful thing to burn in old pots if you
left it a minute; and if you set the pot flat on its bottom instead of
holding it all to one side to keep the burnt place away from the flame,
it would “ketch” at once. An’ then if you’d happened to cook fish or
“stoo” in the pot for dinner, there was a kind of taste come out in
the porridge. It was more than they could bear to see children who was
’ungry, mind you, pushin’ their food away or ’eavin’ at it. So it usually
ended in a slice of “bread and marge” all round, and a drink of tea,
which was the breakfast they were accustomed to. One woman wound up a
long and patient explanation of why she did not give her husband porridge
with: “An’, besides, my young man ’e say, Ef you gives me that stinkin’
mess, I’ll throw it at yer.” Those were the reasons. It is true that to
make porridge a good pot which is not burnt, and which is not used for
“fish or stoo,” is needed. It is also true that to eat porridge with
the best results milk is needed. If neither of these necessaries can be
obtained, porridge is apt to be burnt or half cooked, and is in either
case very unpalatable. Children do not thrive on food they loathe, and
men who are starting for a hard day’s work refuse even to consider the
question. What is the mother to do? Of course, she gives them food they
do like and can eat—bread and margarine or bread and jam, with a drop of
hot weak tea. The women are very fond of Quaker oats when they can afford
the luxury, and if milk is provided to drink with it. They can cook a
little portion in a tin enamelled cup, and so escape the family saucepan.

Another difficulty which dogs the path of the Lambeth housekeeper is,
either that there is no oven or only a gas oven which requires a good
deal of gas, or that the stove oven needs much fuel to heat it. Once a
week, for the Sunday dinner, the plunge is taken. Homes where there is
no oven send out to the bakehouse on that occasion. The rest of the week
is managed on cold food, or the hard-worked saucepan and frying-pan are
brought into play. The certainty of an economical stove or fireplace is
out of the reach of the poor. They are often obliged to use old-fashioned
and broken ranges and grates which devour coal with as little benefit to
the user as possible. They are driven to cook by gas, which ought to be
an excellent way of cooking, but under the penny-in-the-slot system it is
a way which tends to underdone food.

Table appointments are never sufficient. The children hardly sit down to
any meal but dinner, and even then they sometimes stand round the table
for lack of chairs. Some women have a piece of oilcloth on the table;
some spread a newspaper. So many plates are put round, each containing
a dinner. The eating takes no time at all. A drink of water out of a
tea-cup which is filled for each child in turn finishes the repast.

Equipment for cleaning is one of the elastic items in a budget. A Lambeth
mother would like to spend 5d. on soap, 1d. on soda, 1d. on blue and
starch. She is obliged in many cases to compress the expenditure to
3d. or 5d. all told. She sometimes has to make 2d. do. There is the
remains of a broom sometimes. Generally there is only a bucket and a
cloth, which latter, probably, is the quite hopelessly worn-out shirt
or pinafore of a member of the family. One woman heard of soda which
could be bought in The Walk for less than the traditional 7 pounds for
3d., and, in her great economy, supplied her house with this inferior
kind. She scrubbed and washed and cleaned with it till her poor arms
lost all their skin, and she was taken into the workhouse infirmary with
dangerous blood-poisoning. There she stayed for many weeks, while sisters
and sisters-in-law took care of her children at a slight charge for
mere food, and the husband, who was earning steady wages, looked after
himself. He said it was more expensive without her than with her, and
never rested till he got her home again.

The cleaning of the house is mostly done in the afternoons, when dinner
is disposed of. Scrubbing, grate-cleaning, bed-making, are attended to
after the return to school and to work of the children and husband. The
baby and ex-baby are persuaded to sleep then, if possible, while the
mother, with due regard to economy of soap, cleans out her little world.
She has hardly finished before the children are back for tea, and after
tea the washing up.

Two pennyworth of soap may have to wash the clothes, scrub the floors,
and wash the people of a family, for a week. It is difficult to realise
the soap famine in such a household. Soda, being cheap, is made to do a
great deal. It sometimes appears in the children’s weekly bath; it often
washes their hair. A woman who had been using her one piece of soap to
scrub the floor next brought it into play when she bathed the baby, with
the unfortunate result of a long scratch on the baby from a cinder in
the soap. She sighed when the visitor noticed the scratch, and said: “I
sometimes think I’d like a little oven best, but now it do seem as if I’d
rather ’ave two bits of soap.” The visitor helpfully suggested cutting
the one piece in two, but the mother shook her experienced head, and
said: “It wouldn’t last not ’arf as long.”

Clothing is, frankly, a mystery. In the budgets of some women 6d. a
week is set down opposite the item “clothing club” or “calico club.”
This seems meant to provide for underclothing—chiefly flannelette.
One shilling is down, perhaps, against “boot club.” Other provision
in the most thrifty family there seems to be none. A patient visitor
may extract information, perhaps, that the father gets overtime pay at
Christmas, and applies some of it to the children’s clothes, or that he
is in a paying-out club which produces anything from 13s. to 26s., or
thereabouts, at the end of the year. But in the great number of cases
there is no extra money at Christmas, or at any other time, to depend
upon. In the poorer budgets items for clothes appear at extraordinary
distant intervals, when, it is to be supposed, they can no longer be
done without. “Boots mended” in the weekly budget means less food for
that week, while any clothes which are bought seem to be not only
second-hand, but in many instances fourth- or fifth-hand. In the course
of fifteen months’ visiting, one family on 23s. a week spent £3 5s. 5½d.
on clothes for the mother and six children. Half the sum was spent on
boots, so that the clothes other than boots of seven people cost 32s.
9d. in fifteen months—an average of 4s. 8d. a head. Another family spent
9d. a week on boots and 9d. a week on clothes in general. There were
four children. Some families, again, only buy clothes when summer comes
and less is needed for fuel. The clubs to which extra careful women,
or women with more money for housekeeping, subscribe, are generally
run by a small local tradesman. Whether they work for the benefit of
their clients, or whether, as seems far more likely, they are run
entirely in the interests of the proprietors, has not been a subject of
research for the investigation. They fill a want. That is evident. Women
bringing up a family on 20s. or even more a week need to have a definite
expenditure in order to know where they are. They like to buy the same
things week after week, because then they can calculate to a nicety how
the money will last. They like to do their saving in the same way. So
much a week regularly paid has a great attraction for them. If the club
will, in addition to small regular payments, send someone to call for
the amount, the transaction leaves nothing to be desired. A woman who
can see her way towards the money by any possibility agrees at once.
Payment by instalment fascinates the poor for the same reason. It is a
regular amount which they can understand and grasp, and the awful risk,
if misfortune occurs of losing the precious article, together with such
payments as have already been made, does not inflame their imaginations.
If people living on £1 a week had lively imaginations, their lives, and
perhaps the face of England, would be different.

Boots form by far the larger part of clothing expenses in a family of
poor children. Most fathers in Lambeth can sole a little boot with some
sort of skill. One man, a printer’s handyman, spends some time every
day over the boots of his children. He is a steady, intelligent man,
and he says it takes him all his spare time. As soon as he has gone
round the family the first pair is ready again. The women seldom get new
clothes; boots they often are entirely without. The men go to work and
must be supplied, the children must be decent at school, but the mother
has no need to appear in the light of day. If very badly equipped, she
can shop in the evening in The Walk, and no one will notice under her
jacket and rather long skirt what she is wearing on her feet. Most of
them have a hat, a jacket, and a “best” skirt, to wear in the street.
In the house a blouse and a patched skirt under a sacking apron is the
universal wear. Some of the women miraculously manage to look clean and
tidy; some do not. The astonishing difference made by a new pink blouse,
becomingly-done hair, and a well-made skirt, on one drab-looking woman
who seemed to be about forty was too startling to forget. She suddenly
looked thirty (her age was twenty-six), and she had a complexion and
quite pretty hair—features never noticed before. These women who look to
be in the dull middle of middle age are young; it comes as a shock when
the mind grasps it.

In connection with clothing comes the vexed question of flannelette. To
a mother, they all use it. It is warm, soft, and cheap. The skirts for
two children’s petticoats can be bought for 4d.—the bodies, too, if the
children are tiny and skill is used. What else can the women buy that
will serve its purpose as well? It is inflammable—the mothers know that,
but they hope to escape accident—and it is cheap enough to buy. Better,
they think, a garment of flannelette than no garment at all! They would
use material which is not inflammable if there were any they could afford
which is as warm and soft and unshrinkable as flannelette. The shops to
which their calico clubs belong stock flannelettes of all the most cheap
and useful and inflammable kinds. Flannel, merino, cashmere, woollen
material of any kind, are dear in comparison. Enough unshrinkable stuff
to make a child a new warm, soft dress can be bought for 6d. A woman with
6d. to spend will buy that stuff rather than let her child go without the
dress. It is what we should all do in her place. A child must be dressed.
Give any London magistrate 6d. a week on which to dress four children;
give him a great deal of cooking, scrubbing, and housework, to do; put a
flannelette shop round the corner: in exactly four weeks each of those
children would be clothed in flannelette.

The difficulty of keeping windows open at night; the impossibility—with
the best will in the world—of bathing children more than once a week; the
hasty and inadequate cooking in worn-out and cheap utensils; the clumsy,
hampering, and ill-arranged clothing—all these things, combined with the
housing conditions described in the previous chapter, show how difficult
is the path of the woman entrusted, on a few shillings a week, with the
health and lives of a number of future citizens.



It is just that a short chapter should be devoted to the thrift of such
a class of wage-earners and their wives as are described here. It is a
common idea that there is no thrift among them. It would be better for
their children if this were true. As a matter of fact, sums varying
from 6d. a week to 1s. 6d., 1s. 8d., or even 2s., go out from incomes
which are so small that these sums represent, perhaps, from 2½ to 10
per cent. of the whole household allowance. The object of this thrift
is, unfortunately, not of the slightest benefit to the children of the
families concerned. The money is spent or saved or invested, whichever is
the proper term, on burial insurance. No living child is better fed or
better clothed because its parents, decent folk, scrape up a penny a week
to pay the insurance collector on its account. Rather is it less well fed
and less well clothed to the extent of 1d. a week—an appreciable amount
when it is, perhaps, one of eight persons living on £1 a week.

One of the criticisms levelled at these respectable, hard-working,
independent people is that they do like to squander money on funerals.
It is a view held by everyone who does not know the real circumstances.
It is also held by many who do know them, but who confuse the fact that
poor people show a great interest in one another’s funerals with the
erroneous idea that they could bury their dead for half the amount if
they liked. Sometimes, in the case of adult men, this may be so. When
alive, the man, perhaps, was a member of a society for burial benefit,
and at his death the club or society bury him with much pomp and
ceremony. In the case of the young children of people living on from 18s.
to 30s. a week, the parents do not squander money on funerals which might
be undertaken for half the price.

A working man and his wife who have a family are confronted with the
problem of burial at once. They are likely to lose one or more of their
children. The poorer they are, the more likely are they to lose them.
Shall they run the risk of burial by the parish, or shall they take Time
by the forelock and insure each child as it is born, at the rate of a
penny a week? If they decide not to insure, and they lose a child, the
question resolves itself into one of borrowing the sum necessary to pay
the funeral expenses, or of undergoing the disgrace of a pauper funeral.
The pauper funeral carries with it the pauperization of the father of
the child—a humiliation which adds disgrace to the natural grief of
the parents. More than that, they declare that the pauper funeral is
wanting in dignity and in respect to their dead. One woman expressed the
feeling of many more when she said she would as soon have the dust-cart
call for the body of her child as that “there Black Mariar.” This may
be sheer prejudice on the part of poor parents, but it is a prejudice
which richer parents—even the most educated and highly born of them—if
confronted with the same problem when burying their own children, would
fully share. Refusing, then, if uninsured, to accept the pauper burial,
with its consequent political and social degradation of a perfectly
respectable family, the parents try to borrow the money needed. Up and
down the street sums are collected in pence and sixpences, until the
price of a child’s funeral on the cheapest scale is secured. Funerals are
not run on credit; but the neighbours, who may be absolute strangers,
will contribute rather than suffer the degradation to pauperism of one
of themselves. For months afterwards the mother and remaining children
will eat less in order to pay back the money borrowed. The father of the
family cannot eat less. He is already eating as little as will enable
him to earn the family wage. To starve him would be bad economy. He must
fare as usual. The rest of the family can eat less without bothering
anybody—and do.

What is the sum necessary to stand between a working man and pauperdom
should he suffer the loss of a child? Inquiry among undertakers in
Lambeth and Kennington resulted in the discovery that a very young baby
could be buried by one undertaker for 18s., and by a dozen others for
20s. To this must be added the fee of 10s. to the cemetery paid by the
undertaker, which brought his charges up to 28s. or 30s. No firm could
be discovered who would do it for less. When a child’s body is too long
to go under the box-seat of the driver, the price of the funeral goes
up. A sort of age scale is roughly in action, which makes a funeral of a
child of three more expensive than that of a child of six months. Thirty
shillings, then, is the lowest sum to be faced by the grieving parents.
But how is a man whose whole weekly income may be but two-thirds of that
amount to produce at sight 30s. or more? Of course he cannot. Sheer dread
of the horrible problem drives his wife to pay out 10d., 11d., or 1s., a
week year after year—money which, as far as the welfare of the children
themselves go, might as well be thrown into the sea.

A penny a week paid from birth just barely pays the funeral expenses as
the child grows older. It does not completely pay them in early infancy.
Thirteen weekly pennies must be paid before any benefit is due, and the
first sum due is not sufficient; but it is a help. As each child must
be insured separately, the money paid for the child who does not die
is no relief when a death occurs. Insurance, whether State or other
insurance, is always a gamble, and people on £1 a week cannot afford a
gamble. A peculiar hardship attaches to burial insurance. A man may have
paid regularly for years, may fall out of work through illness or other
misfortune, and may lose all benefit. When out of work his children are
more likely to die, and he may have to suffer the disgrace of a pauper
funeral after five years or more of regular payment for burial insurance.

Great numbers of premature confinements occur among women who live the
lives these wives and mothers do. A premature confinement, if the child
breathes, means an uninsured funeral. True, an undertaker will sometimes
provide a coffin which he slips into another funeral, evade the cemetery
fee, and only charge 10s.; but even 10s. is a terrible sum to produce at
the moment. Great is the anxiety on the part of the mother to be able to
prove that her child was stillborn.

The three-year-old daughter of a carter out of work died of tuberculosis.
The father, whose policies had lapsed, borrowed the sum of £2 5s.
necessary to bury the child. The mother was four months paying the debt
off by reducing the food of herself and of the five other children. The
funeral cortège consisted of one vehicle, in which the little coffin went
under the driver’s seat. The parents and a neighbour sat in the back part
of the vehicle. They saw the child buried in a common grave with twelve
other coffins of all sizes. “We ’ad to keep a sharp eye out for Edie,”
they said; “she were so little she were almost ’id.”

The following is an account kept of the funeral of a child of six months
who died of infantile cholera in the deadly month of August, 1911. The
parents had insured her for 2d. a week, being unusually careful people.
The sum received was £2.

                           £   s. d.
  Funeral                  1  12  0
  Death certificate        0   1  3
  Gravediggers             0   2  0
  Hearse attendants        0   2  0
  Woman to lay her out     0   2  0
  Insurance agent          0   1  0
  Flowers                  0   0  6
  Black tie for father     0   1  0
                           2   1  9

The child was buried in a common grave with three others. There is no
display and no extravagance in this list. The tips to the gravediggers,
hearse attendants, and insurance agent, were all urgently applied for,
though not in every case by the person who received the money. The cost
of the child’s illness had amounted to 10s., chiefly spent on special
food. The survivors lived on reduced rations for two weeks in order to
get square again. The father’s wage was 24s., every penny of which he
always handed over to his wife.

The usual amount paid for burial insurance is 1d. a week for each child,
2d. for the mother, and 3d. for the father, making 11d. a week for a
family with six children, though some over-cautious women make the sum

Another form of thrift is some sort of paying-out club. Usually
payments of this kind come out of the father’s pocket-money, but a few
instances where the women made them came within the experience of the
investigators. One club was named a “didly club.” Its method seemed
to consist in each member paying a certain woman ¼d. the first week,
½d. the next week, ¾d. the next week, and so on, always adding ¼d. to
the previous payment. The money was to be divided at Christmas. It
was a mere way of saving, as no interest of any kind was to be paid.
Needless to relate, about October the woman to whom the money had been
paid disappeared. Stocking clubs, crockery clubs, and Christmas dinner
clubs, make short appearances in the budgets. They usually entail a
weekly payment of 3d. or 4d., and when the object—the children’s winter
stockings, the new plates, or the Christmas dinner—has been attained, the
payments cease.

One form of money transaction which is hardly regarded as justifiable
when poor people resort to it, but which at the same time is the
ordinary, laudable, business custom of rich men—namely, borrowing—is
carried on by the poor under very distressing conditions. When no friend
or friends can be found to help at a crisis, many a woman has been
driven—perhaps to pay the rent—to go to what she calls a lender. A few
shillings are borrowed—perhaps five or six. The terms are a penny a week
on every shilling borrowed, with, it may be, a kind of tip of half a
crown at the end when all the principle and interest has been paid off.
A woman borrowing 6s. pays 6d. a week in sheer interest—that is, £1 6s.
a year—without reducing her debt a penny. She is paying 433 per cent. on
her loan. She does not know the law, and she could not afford to invoke
its aid if she did know it. She goes on being bled because it is the
local accepted rate of a “lender.” Only one of the women whose budgets
appear in these pages has had recourse to this kind of borrowing, but the
custom is well known by them all.

Such is the passion for weekly regular payments among these women that,
had the Post Office initiated regular collection of pennies instead of
the industrial insurance companies doing so, either the Post Office
would now be in possession of the enormous accumulated capital of these
companies, or the people on 20s. a week would have been much better off.
The great bulk of the pennies so urgently needed for other purposes, and
paid for burial insurance, is never returned in any form whatsoever to
the people who pay them. The small proportion which does come to them is
swallowed up in a burial, and no one but the undertaker is the better
for it. As a form of thrift which shall help the future, or be a standby
if misfortune should befall, burial insurance is a calamitous blunder.
Yet the respectable poor man is forced to resort to it unless he is to
run the risk of being made a pauper by any bereavement which may happen
to him. It is a terrible object lesson in how not to manage. If the sum
of £11,000,000 a year stated to be paid in weekly pennies by the poor
to the industrial burial insurance companies were to be spent on better
house room and better food—if, in fact, the one great universal thrift of
the poor were not for death, but were for life—we should have a stronger
nation. The only real solution of this horrible problem would seem to be
the making of decent burial a free and honourable public service.



Perhaps it will be as well here to reiterate the statement that these
chapters are descriptive of the lives and conditions of families where
the wage of the father is continuous, where he is a sober, steady man
in full work, earning from 18s. to 30s. a week, and allowing a regular
definite sum to his wife for all expenses other than his own clothes,
fares, and pocket-money. Experience shows how fatally easy it is for
people to label all poverty as the result of drink, extravagance, or
laziness. It is done every day in the year by writers and speakers and
preachers, as well as by hundreds of well-meaning folk with uneasy
consciences. They see, or more often hear of, people whose economy is
different from their own. Without trying to find out whether their
own ideas of economy are practicable for the people in question, they
dismiss their poverty as “the result of extravagance” or drink. Then
they turn away with relief at the easy explanation. Or they see or hear
of something which seems to them bad management. It may be, not good
management, but the only management under the circumstances. But, as
the circumstances are unknown, the description serves, and middle-class
minds, only too anxious to be set at rest, are set at rest. Drink is an
accusation fatally easy to throw about. By suggesting it you account
for every difficulty, every sorrow. A man who suffers from poverty is
supposed to drink. That he has 18s. or 20s. a week, and a family to bring
up upon that income, is not considered evidence of want. People who
have never spent less than £4 a week on themselves alone will declare
that a clever managing woman can make 18s. or 20s. a week go as far as
an ordinary woman, not a good manager, will make 30s. They argue as
though the patent fact that 30s. misspent may reduce its value to 18s.
could make 18s. a week enough to rear a family upon. It is not necessary
to invoke the agency of drink to make 20s. a week too small a sum for
the maintenance of four, five, six, or more, persons. That some men in
possession of this wage may drink does not make it a sufficient wage for
the families of men who do not drink.

It is now possible to begin calculations as to the expenditure of
families of various sizes on a given wage or household allowance. For a
family with six children the rent is likely to be 8s., 8s. 6d., or even
9s., for three or four rooms. A woman with one or two children sometimes
manages, by becoming landlady, to make advantageous arrangements with
lodgers, and so reduce her payments, though not her risk, to considerably
less than the usual market price of one or two fairly good rooms. But
women with large families are not able to do this. A family with four or
five children may manage in two rooms at a rental of 6s. to 7s., while
a family with one, two, three or even occasionally four, children will
take one room, paying from 3s. 6d. up to 5s., according to size. It is
safe to assume that a man with a wife and six children and a wage of
24s. a week will allow 22s. for all outgoings other than his own clothes
and pocket-money, and that his wife will pay for three, or perhaps four,
rooms the sum of 8s. a week.

The budget may begin thus:

                                              s. d.
  Rent (four rooms: two upstairs, two down)   8  0
  Clothing club                               0  6
  Boot club                                   1  0
  Soap, soda, etc.                            0  5
  Burial insurance                            0 11

The other regular items in such a woman’s budget, apart from food,
would be heating and lighting, comprising coal, wood, matches, gas or
oil, and candles. The irregular items include doctor’s visits to a sick
child, which may cost 6d. a visit, or 1s. a visit, including medicine,
and renewals which may be provided for by “crockery club, 4d.,” or may
appear as “teapot, 6d.,” or “jug, 3¾d.,” at rare intervals.

Coal is another necessary for which the poor pay a larger price than
the well-to-do. The Lambeth woman is compelled to buy her coal by the
hundredweight for two reasons, the chief of which is that she is never in
possession of a sum of ready money sufficient to buy it by the ton or by
the half-ton. A few women, in their passion for regular weekly payments,
make an arrangement with the coalman to leave 1 cwt. of coal every week
throughout the year, for which they pay a settled price. In the summer
the coal, if they are lucky enough to have room to keep it, accumulates.
One such woman came through the coal strike without paying anything
extra. She used only ½ cwt. a week from the coalman, and depended for the
rest upon her store. But not all have the power to do this, because they
have nowhere to keep their coal but a box on the landing or a cupboard
beside the fireplace. They therefore pay in an ordinary winter 1s. 6d. a
cwt., except for any specially cold spell, when they may pay 1s. 7d. or
1s. 8d. for a short time; and in the summer they probably pay 8d. or 8½d.
for ½ cwt. a week. In districts of London where the inhabitants are rich
enough to buy coal by the ton, the same quality as is used in Lambeth
can be bought in an ordinary winter—even now, when the price is higher
than it used to be—for 22s. 6d. a ton, with occasional short rises to
23s. 6d. in very cold weather. Householders who have a large cellar space
have been able to buy the same quality of coal which the Lambeth people
burn, in truck loads, at the cheap time of year, at a price of about 20s.
a ton. The Lambeth woman who buys by the hundredweight deems herself
lucky. Only those in regular work can always do that. Some people, poorer
still, are driven to buy it by the 14 lbs. in bags which they fetch home
themselves. For this they pay a higher proportionate price still. While,
therefore, it has been in the power of the rich man to buy cheap coal at
£1 a ton, the poor man has paid 30s. a ton in winter, and almost 27s. in
summer—a price for which the rich man could and did get his best quality

Wood may cost 2d. a week, or in very parsimonious hands 1d. is made to
do. Gas, by the penny-in-the-slot system, is used rather more for cooking
than lighting. The expense in such a family as that under consideration
would be about 1s.

The budget now may run:

                             s. d.
  Rent                       8  0
  Clothing club              0  6
  Boot club                  1  0
  Burial insurance           0 11
  Coal                       1  6
  Gas                        1  0
  Wood                       0  1
  Cleaning materials         0  5
                            13  5

The whole amount of the household allowance was supposed to be 22s.
The amount left for food therefore would be 8s. 7d. in a week when no
irregular and therefore extra expense, such as a doctor’s visit or a new
teapot, is incurred. This reasoned calculation of expenses other than
food has been built up from the actual personal knowledge of the visitors
in the investigation—from the study of rent-books and of insurance-books,
from the sellers of coal, from the amount taken by the gasman from the
meter, from the amount paid in clothing clubs and boot clubs, down to the
price of soap and soda and wood at the local shop. It does not depend
upon the budget or _bona fides_ of any one woman. It is therefore given
in order to show how closely it bears out budget after budget of woman
after woman now to be given.

Mr. P., printer’s labourer. Average wage 24s. Allows 20s. to 22s. Six

November 23, 1910, allowed 20s.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  0
  Burial insurance (2d. each child, 3d.
    wife, 5d. husband; unusually heavy)  1  8
  Boot club                              1  0
  Soap, soda, blue                       0  4½
  Wood                                   0  3
  Gas                                    0  8
  Coal                                   1  0
                                        12 11½

  Left for food 7s. 0½d.

November 30, allowed 20s.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  0
  Burial insurance                       1  8
  Boot club                              1  0
  Soap, soda, blue, starch               0  5
  Gas                                    0  8
  Coal                                   1  0
                                        12  9

  Left for food 7s. 3d.

December 7, allowed 20s.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  0
  Burial insurance                       1  8
  Coal                                   1  6
  Boot club                              1  0
  Soap, soda, etc.                       0  5
  Wood                                   0  3
  Gas                                    1  0
  Hearthstone and blacklead              0  1
  Blacking                               0  1
  Cotton and tapes                       0  3
                                        14  3

  Left for food 5s. 9d.

A note in margin of this budget explains that no meat was bought that
week owing to a present of a pair of rabbits. Meat generally cost 2s. 6d.

The next week Mr. P. was ill and earned only 19s. He allowed 18s. 1d.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  0
  Burial insurance (stood over)           --
  Boot club                              1  0
  Coal                                   0  6
  Liquorice-powder                       0  1
  Wood                                   0  2
  Gas                                    0  9
                                        10  6

  Left for food 7s. 7d.

This family spent extraordinarily little upon coal, and less than the
usual amount on gas. Their great extravagance was in burial insurance.
The extra penny on each child was not to bring a larger payment at death,
but to provide a small sum at the age of fourteen with which to start the
child in life. A regular provision of 6d. for other clothing than boots
was made when the household allowance rose to 21s. 9d. on January 6, 1911.

Mr. B., printer’s warehouseman, jobbing hand. Average wage 23s. Allows
20s. Four children.

August 18, 1910, allowed 20s.

                                                   s. d.
  Rent                                             8  0
  Burial insurance                                 1  0
  Coal (regular sum paid all through the year)     1  6
  Oil and wood                                     0  4½
  Soap, soda, etc.                                 0  5½
                                                  11  4

  Left for food 8s. 8d.

August 25, work slack, allowed 18s.

                                                   s. d.
  Rent                                             8  0
  Coal                                             1  6
  Burial insurance (left over)                      --
  Oil and wood                                     0  4½
  Soap, soda, etc.                                 0  5½
                                                  10  4

  Left for food 7s. 8d.

September 1, allowed 20s.

                                                   s. d.
  Rent                                             8  0
  Burial insurance (partly back payment)           1  6
  Coal                                             1  6
  Soap and soda                                    0  4½
  Wood and oil                                     0  4½
                                                  11  9

  Left for food 8s. 3d.

September 8, allowed 20s.

                                                   s. d.
  Rent                                             8  0
  Burial insurance                                 1  0
  Coal                                             1  6
  Doctor (sick child)                              1  0
  Soap, soda, etc.                                 0  4½
  Stamps                                           0  3
  Oil and wood (extra light at night for illness)  0  6
                                                  12  7½

  Left for food 7s. 4½d.

This family make no regular provision for clothing of any kind. Overtime
work solves the problem partly, and throughout the year the budgets show
scattered items of clothing.

Mr. K., labourer. Wage 24s. Allows 22s. 6d. Six children.

March 23, 1911, allowed 22s. 6d.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  6
  Burial insurance                       1  0
  Oil and candles                        0  8
  Coal                                   1  6
  Clothing club                          0  6
  Soap, soda                             0  5
  Blacking and blacklead                 0  1½
                                        12  8½

  Left for food 9s. 9½d.

March 30, allowed 22s. 6d.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  6
  Burial insurance                       1  0
  Oil and candles                        0  8
  Clothing club                          0  6
  Soap, soda, etc.                       0  5
  Coal                                   1  6
  Wood                                   0  3
                                        12 10

  Left for food 9s. 8d.

April 6, allowed 21s.

                                         s. d.
  Rent                                   8  6
  Burial insurance                       1  0
  Coal                                   1  6
  Clothing club (left over)               --
  Oil and candles                        0  8
  Soap, soda, etc.                       0  5
                                        12  1

  Left for food 8s. 11d.

No gas was laid on in the house. The item for coal, therefore, is
moderate, as most women pay 1s. 6d. for 1 cwt. of coal a week in cold
weather, besides paying 10d. or 1s. for gas. Boots are paid for when
required. A note against the budget for April 13 says: “Sole old pram for
3s. it was to litle. Bourt boots for Siddy for 2s. 11½d. Made a apeny.”

Mr. L., builder’s handyman. Wage 23s. Allows 19s. to 20s. Six children

July 10, 1912, allowed 19s. 6d.

                                             s. d.
  Rent (two upstairs rooms; lost one child)  6  6
  Burial insurance                           1  0
  ½ cwt. of coal                             0  8½
  Wood                                       0  2
  Gas                                        0  6
  Soap, soda, etc.                           0  4
  Blacking                                   0  1
  Boracic powder                             0  1
                                             9  4½

  Left for food 10s. 1½d.

July 17, allowed 19s. 6d.

                                             s. d.
  Rent                                       6  6
  Burial insurance                           1  0
  ½ cwt. of coal                             0  8½
  Gas                                        0  6
  Wood                                       0  2
  Soap, soda                                 0  4
                                             9  2½

  Left for food 10s. 3½d.

July 24, allowed 19s.

                                             s. d.
  Rent                                       6  6
  Burial insurance                           1  0
  ½ cwt. of coal                             0  8½
  Wood                                       0  2
  Gas                                        0  6
  Soap, soda                                 0  4
                                             9  2½

  Left for food 9s. 9½d.

This family squeezes six children into two rooms, thereby saving from 1s.
6d. to 2s. a week, and makes no regular provision for clothing. Clothes
are partly paid for by extra money earned by Mr. L. in summer, when work
is good.

Mr. S., scene-shifter. Wage 24s. Allows 22s. Six children alive.

October 12, 1911, allowed 22s.

                                          s. d.
  Rent (two very bad rooms, ground-floor;
    lost five children)                   5  0
  Burial insurance                        2  0
  ½ cwt. of coal                          0  8
  Wood                                    0  2
  Gas                                     0  6
  Mr. T.’s bus fares                      1  0
  Newspaper                               0  2
  Soap, soda, etc.                        0  5½
  Boracic ointment                        0  2
  Gold-beater’s skin                      0  1
  Collar                                  0  3
  Pair of socks                           0  4½
  Boy’s suit (made at home)               1  2
                                         12  0

  Left for food 10s.

October 19, allowed 22s.

                                          s. d.
  Rent                                    5  0
  Burial insurance                        2  0
  ¾ cwt. of coal                          1  0
  Wood                                    0  2
  Gas                                     0  8
  Soap, soda                              0  4
  Bus fares                               1  0
  Newspaper                               0  2
  Children’s Band of Hope (two weeks)     0  6
  Mending boots                           0  6
  Material for dress                      0  4½
  Cotton and tape                         0  3
                                         11 11½

  Left for food 10s. 0½d.

October 26, allowed 22s.

                                          s. d.
  Rent                                    5  0
  Burial insurance                        2  0
  ½ cwt. of coal                          0  8
  Wood                                    0  1
  Gas                                     0  3
  Soap, soda                              0  4½
  Lamp oil                                0  2
  Matches                                 0  1
  Bus fares                               1  0
  Newspaper                               0  2
  Children’s Band of Hope                 0  3
  Mending boots                           1  0
  Print                                   0  6
  Pair of stockings                       0  4½
  Boy’s coat (made at home)               0  9
                                         12  8

  Left for food 9s. 4d.

In this family there is no regular provision for clothes, which are
paid for as they must be bought. No extra money is at any time of the
year forthcoming. Mr. S. clothes himself, but extracts from his wife
his newspaper as well as his fares. The latter are usually paid by the
men. The mother is an excellent needlewoman, and makes nearly all the
children’s clothes. She is also a wonderful manager, and her two rooms
are as clean as a new pin. This had not prevented her from losing five
children when these particular budgets were taken. She soon after lost a
sixth. The rent is far too low for healthy rooms. Though she pays for the
same number of rooms as Mrs. L., she pays 1s. 6d. less a week for them,
and they are wretchedly inferior. Her burial insurance is extremely
high. Her record shows that she thought herself wise to make the sum so
liberal. Even then she had to borrow 10s. to help to pay the 30s. for
the funeral of her last child, because the burial insurance money only
amounted to £1.

All the women, with the exception of Mrs. K., are notable managers, and
all but Mrs. K. and Mrs. P. are extremely tidy and clean. Mrs. K., who
has five sons and a daughter, is more happy-go-lucky than the others, as,
fortunately for her, her husband “can’t abide ter see the ’ouse bein’
cleaned,” and when it is clean “likes to mess it all up agen.” Mrs. K.
doesn’t go in for worryin’ the boys, either. Her eldest child is Louie,
the only girl, who is thirteen, and rather good at school, but doesn’t
do much to help at home, as Mrs. K. likes to see her happy. With all
her casual ways, Mrs. K. has a delicate mind, and flushes deeply if the
visitor alludes to anything which shocks her. Louie’s bed is shared by
only one small brother; Louie’s clothes are tidy, though Mr. and Mrs. K.
seem to sleep among a herd of boys, and Mrs. K.’s skirt looks as though
rats had been at it, and her blouse is never where it should be at the

Mrs. P. is under thirty, and, when she has time to look it, rather
pretty. Her eldest child is only ten. The tightest economy reigns in
that little house, partly because Mr. P. is a careful man and very
delicate, and partly because Mrs. P. is terrified of debt. It was she
who discovered the plan of buying seven cracked eggs for 3d. As she said,
it might lose you a little of the egg, but you could smell it first,
which was a convenience. She is clean, but untidy, very gentle in her
manner, and as easily shocked as Mrs. K. Her mother rents one of her
rooms, and, much beloved, is always there to advise in an unscientific,
inarticulate, but soothing way when there is a difficulty. The children
are fair and delicate, and are kept clean by their tired little mother,
who plaintively declared that she preferred boys to girls, because you
could cut their hair off and keep their heads clean without trouble, and
also because their nether garments were less easily torn. When in the
visitor’s presence the little P.’s have swallowed a hasty dinner, which
may consist of a plateful of “stoo,” or perhaps of suet pudding and
treacle, taken standing, they never omit to close their eyes and say,
“Thang Gord fer me good dinner—good afternoon, Mrs. R.” before they go.
Mrs. P. would call them all back if they did not say that.

Mrs. B. is a manager who could be roused at any moment in the night and
inform the inquirer exactly what money she had in her purse, and how many
teaspoonfuls of tea were left, before she properly opened her eyes. She
likes to spend exactly the same sum on exactly the same article, and the
same amount of it, every week. Her menus are deplorably monotonous—never
a flight into jam, when the cheapest “marge” goes farther! Never an
exciting sausage, but always stew of “pieces” on Wednesday and stew
warmed up on Thursday. When bread goes up it upsets her very much. It
gives her quite a headache trying to take the exact number of farthings
out of other items of expenditure without upsetting her balance. She
loved keeping accounts. It was a scheme which fell in with the bent of
her mind, and, though she is no longer visited, she is believed to keep
rigorous accounts still. She and all her family are delicate. Her height
is about 5 feet, and when the visitor first saw her, and asked if Mr. B.
were a big man, she replied, “Very big, miss—’e’s bigger than me.” She
was gentle with children, and liked to explain to a third person their
constant and mysterious symptoms. She dressed tidily, if drably, and
always wore a little grey tippet or a man’s cap on her head.

Mrs. L. is older and larger and more gaunt—a very silent woman. Mr. L.
talks immensely, and takes liberties with her which she does not seem to
notice. She is gentle and always tidy, always clean, and very depressed
in manner. When her baby nearly died with double pneumonia, she sat up
night after night, nursed him and did all the work of the house by day,
but all she ever said on the subject was, “I’d not like ter lose ’im
now.” She looked more gaunt as the days went on, but everything was done
as usual. When the baby recovered she made no sign. Before marriage she
had been a domestic servant in a West-End club, receiving 14s. a week and
all found. Her savings furnished the home and bought clothes for some

Mrs. S. could tell you a little about Mr. S. if you pressed her. He was
a “good ’usbin’,” but not desirable on Saturday nights. She was a worn,
thin woman with a dull, slow face, but an extraordinary knack of keeping
things clean and getting things cheap. All her bread was fetched by her
eldest boy of thirteen from the back door of a big restaurant once a
week. It lived in a large bag hung on a nail behind the door, and got
very stale towards the end of the week; but it was good bread. She could
get about 100 broken rolls for 1s. 9d. When she lost her children she
cried a very little, but went about much as usual, saying, if spoken to
on the subject, “I done all I could.’ E ’ad everythink done fer ’im,”
which was perfectly true as far as she was concerned, and in so far as
her means went. She loved her family in a patient, suffering, loyal sort
of way which cannot have been very exhilarating for them.

All of these women, with, perhaps, the exception of Mrs. K., seemed to
have lost any spark of humour or desire for different surroundings. The
same surroundings with a little more money, a little more security, and
a little less to do, was about the best their imaginations could grasp.
They knew nothing of any other way of living if you were married. Mrs. K.
liked being read to. Her husband, hearing that she had had “Little Lord
Fauntleroy” read aloud to her at her mothers’ meeting, took her to the
gallery of a theatre, where she saw acted some version, or what she took
for some version, of this story. It roused her imagination in a way which
was astonishing. She questioned, she believed, she accepted. There were
people like that! How real and how thrilling! It seemed to take something
of the burden of the five boys and the girl from her shoulders. Did the
visitor think theatres wrong? No, the visitor liked theatres. Well,
Mrs. K. would like to go again if it could possibly be afforded, but of
course it could not. At the mothers’ meeting they were now having a book
read to them called “Dom Quick Sotty.” It was interesting, but not so
interesting as “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” though, of course, that would be
Mrs. K.’s own fault most probably. Mrs. K.’s criticism on “Mrs. Wiggs of
the Cabbage Patch,” later, was that it was a book about a queer sort of

The children of these five families were, on the whole, well brought
up as regards manners and cleanliness and behaviour. All of them were
kindly and patiently treated by their mothers. Mrs. P., who was only
twenty-eight, was a little plaintive with her brood of six. Mrs. K.,
as has been explained, was unruffled and placid. The other three were
punctual, clean, and gentle, if a trifle depressing. Want of the joy of
life was the most salient feature of the children as they grew older.
They too readily accepted limitations and qualifications imposed upon
them, without that irrational hoping against impossibility and belief
in favourable miracles which carry more fortunate children through many
disappointments. These children never rebel against disappointment. It
is their lot. They more or less expect it. The children of Mrs. K. were
the most vital and noisy and troublesome, and those of Mrs. B. the most
obedient and quiet, and what the women themselves called “old-fashioned.”
All the children were nice creatures, and not one of them was a
“first-class life” or gave promise of health and strength.

    NOTE.—In dissecting budgets in this and following chapters
    the writer has not reckoned in the extra nourishment which
    was provided for mother and child. It is obvious that general
    calculations based upon such temporary and unusual assistance
    would be misleading with regard to the whole class of low-paid



We now come to food. Two questions, besides that of the amount of money
to be spent, bear upon food. What are the chief articles of diet? Where
are they bought? Without doubt, the chief article of diet in a 20s.
budget is bread. A long way after bread come potatoes, meat, and fish.
Bread is bought from one of the abundance of bakers in the neighbourhood,
and is not as a rule very different in price and quality from bread in
other parts of London. Meat is generally bargained for on street stalls
on Saturday night or even Sunday morning. It may be cheaper than meat
purchased in the West End, but is as certainly worse in original quality
as well as less fresh and less clean in condition. Potatoes are generally
2 lbs. for 1d., unless they are “new” potatoes. Then they are dearer.
When, at certain seasons in the year, they are “old” potatoes, they are
cheaper; but then they do not “cut up” well, owing to the sprouting eyes.
They are usually bought from an itinerant barrow. Bread in Lambeth is
bought in the shop, because the baker is bound, when selling over the
counter, to give legal weight. In other words, when he is paid for a
quartern he must sell a quartern. He therefore weighs two “half-quartern”
loaves, and makes up with pieces of bread cut from loaves he keeps by
him for the purpose until the weight is correct. In different districts
bakers sell a quartern for slightly different prices. The price at one
moment south of Kennington Park may be 5d., while up in Lambeth proper it
may be 5½d. In Kensington at the same moment delivered bread is perhaps
being sold at 6d. a quartern. The difference in price, therefore, at a
given moment might amount to as much as 7d. a week in the case of a large
family, and 3d. in the case of a small family.

When a weekly income is decreased for any cause, the one item of food
which seldom varies—or at any rate is the last to vary—is bread. Meat
is affected at once. Meat may sink from 4s. a week to 6d. owing to a
fluctuation in income. But the amount of bread bought when the full
allowance was paid is, if possible, still bought when meat may have
almost decreased to nothing. The amount of bread eaten in an ordinary
middle-class, well-to-do, but economically managed household of thirteen
persons is 18 quarterns, or 36 loaves, a week—something not far short
of 3 loaves a head a week. This takes no heed of innumerable cakes and
sweet puddings consumed by these thirteen persons, who at the same time
are consuming an ample supply of meat, fish, bacon, fruit, vegetables,
butter, and milk.

In Lambeth, the amounts spent on bread and meat respectively by the wives
of four men in regular work are given below:

    Mrs. D.: Allowance, 28s.; ten persons to feed; 10½ quartern at
             5½d.; meat, 4s. 2d.

    Mrs. C.: Allowance, 21s.; eight persons to feed; 8½ quartern at
             5½d.; meat, 3s. 2½d.

    Mrs. J.: Allowance, 22s.; five persons to feed; 7 quartern at
             5½d.; meat, 2s. 11d.

    Mrs. G.: Allowance, 19s. 6d.; five persons to feed; 5½ quartern
             at 5½d.; meat, 2s. 2d.

It will be seen that a quartern a head a week is the least amount
taken in these four cases. On the whole, it would be a fairly correct
calculation to allow this quantity as the amount aimed at as a minimum in
most lower working-class families. The sum spent on meat may perhaps be
greater than the sum spent on bread. But meat goes by the board before
bread is seriously diminished, should the income suffer. This the three
cases given here will show:

    Mrs. W.: Allowance, 23s.; eight persons to feed; 9½ quartern;
             meat, 3s. 9½d.

             Allowance reduced to 17s.; eight persons to feed;
             8½ quartern; meat, 1s. 6d.

             Allowance reduced to 10s. (rent unpaid); eight persons
             to feed; 6 quartern; meat, 6d.

    Mrs. S.: Allowance, 21s.; eight persons to feed; 7 quartern;
             meat, 2s. 6d.

             Allowance reduced to 18s.; eight persons to feed;
             7 quartern; meat, 1s. 2d.

    Mrs. M.: Allowance, 20s.; six persons to feed; 7 quartern;
             meat, 2s. 10d.

             Allowance reduced to 18s.; six persons to feed; 7
             quartern; meat, 2s.

It is difficult to arrive at the quantity of meat, as it is often
bargained for and sold by the piece without weighing. The experienced
housewife offers so much, while the ticket on the meat is offering it for
so much more. A compromise is arrived at and the commodity changes hands.
“Pieces” are sold by weight, but are of various qualities and prices.
Good “pieces” may be 6d. per lb., fair “pieces” are sold for 4½d., which
is the most common price paid for them, but inferior “pieces” can be had
for 3d. on occasions. They are usually gristle and sinew at that price.

Meat is bought for the men, and the chief expenditure is made in
preparation for Sunday’s dinner, when the man is at home. It is eaten
cold by him the next day. The children get a pound of pieces stewed for
them during the week, and with plenty of potatoes they make great show
with the gravy.

Bread, however, is their chief food. It is cheap; they like it; it comes
into the house ready cooked; it is always at hand, and needs no plate and
spoon. Spread with a scraping of butter, jam, or margarine, according to
the length of purse of the mother, they never tire of it as long as they
are in their ordinary state of health. They receive it into their hands,
and can please themselves as to where and how they eat it. It makes the
sole article in the menu for two meals in the day. Dinner may consist of
anything, from the joint on Sunday to boiled rice on Friday. Potatoes
will play a great part, as a rule, at dinner, but breakfast and tea will
be bread.

Potatoes are not an expensive item in the 20s. budget. They may cost
1s. 3d. a week in a family of ten persons, and 4d. a week in a family
of three. But they are an invariable item. Greens may go, butter may
go, meat may diminish almost to the vanishing-point, before potatoes
are affected. When potatoes do not appear for dinner, their place will
be taken by suet pudding, which will mean that there is no gravy or
dripping to eat with them. Treacle, or—as the shop round the corner calls
it—“golden syrup,” will probably be eaten with the pudding, and the two
together will form a midday meal for the mother and children in a working
man’s family. All these are good—bread, potatoes, suet pudding; but
children need other food as well.

First and foremost children need milk. All children need milk, not only
infants in arms. When a mother weans her child, she ought to be able to
give it plenty of milk or food made with milk. The writer well remembers
a course of eloquent and striking lectures delivered by an able medical
man to an audience of West-End charitable ladies. He ended his course by
telling his audience that, if they wished to do good to the children of
the poor, they would do more towards effecting their purpose if they were
to walk through East End streets with placards bearing the legend “MILK
is the proper food for infants,” than by taking any other action he
could think of. His audience was deeply interested and utterly believing.
The fact that the children of the poor never taste milk once they cease
to be nursed by their mothers was well known to the lecturer through his
hospital experience, and hence his earnest appeal to have the mothers
of those children taught what was the proper food to give them. He was,
however, wrong in his idea that poor women do not realize that milk is
the proper food for infants. The reason why the infants do not get milk
is the reason why they do not get good housing or comfortable clothing—it
is too expensive. Milk costs the same, 4d. a quart, in Lambeth that it
costs in Mayfair. A healthy child ought to be able to use a quart of milk
a day, which means a weekly milk bill for that child of 2s. 4d.—quite
an impossible amount when the food of the whole family may have to be
supplied out of 8s. or 9s. a week. Even a pint a day means 1s. 2d. a
week, so that is out of the question, though a pint a day would not
suffice for a child of a year old, who would need his or her full share
of potatoes and gravy and bread as well. As it is, the only milk the
children of the labourer get is the separated tinned milk, sold in 1d.,
2d., 3d., and 4d. tins, according to size. These tins bear upon them in
large red letters the legend, “This milk is not recommended as food for
infants.” The children do not get too much even of such milk. Families of
ten persons would take two tins at 3½d. in the week. Families of five,
six, or seven, would probably take one such tin. It is used to put in
tea, which, as it is extremely sweet, it furnishes with sugar as well as
with milk. Sometimes it is spread on the breakfast slice of bread instead
of butter or jam. An inexperienced visitor probably suggests that it
would make a good milk pudding, but is silenced by hearing that it would
take half a tin to make one pudding, and then there is no richness in it.
Some people have suggested skim milk as a way round this very terrible
deprivation of the hard-working poor. But skim milk does not take the
place of whole milk as a food for infants. Parents who are comfortably
off would never dream of starving their infants upon it. Even supposing
that the children of the poor could magically flourish upon skim milk
alone, there is not enough of it on the market to allow its use to be
regarded as a universal panacea for hungry babies. In fact, it is worth
a moment’s speculation as to whether the whole milk-supply of England
is sufficient to insure a quart a day to each English child under five
years of age. It is more than likely that, unless the milk-supply were
enormously increased, adults would have to go entirely without milk
should the nation suddenly awake to its duty towards its children.

The purpose of this book is not to inquire as to whether this mother or
that mother might not do a little better than she does if she bought
some skim milk, or trained her children to enjoy burned porridge. It
is to inquire whether, under the same conditions and with the same
means at their command, any body of men or women could efficiently and
sufficiently lodge and feed the same number of children.

A boys’ home which maintains some thirty children between the ages of six
and fifteen feeds, clothes, and lodges, each boy on an average of 6s. a
week. This does not sound an extravagant sum. It is the outcome of much
study, great knowledge of the subject, and untiring zeal. The working
man’s wife whose husband out of a 22s. or 23s. wage allows her 20s., and
who has that convenient family of three children which is permitted by
experts on the subject to be a becoming number in a working-class family,
has only 4s. a head on which to feed, lodge, and clothe, the family.

Milk depots have been in existence in Lambeth for some years, and have
undoubtedly done splendid service to babies under one year of age whose
mothers cannot nurse them, but can afford to pay the growing amount of
9d. to 3s. a week for their children. The milk has to be called for,
which limits the area in which it can be supplied; but it is sent out in
sealed vessels, and is mixed in the exact proportions suitable to the age
of the infant. So, when it can be afforded, its results are excellent.
Unfortunately, the nursing mother is not helped by this, and it is she
who requires milk for the needs of the baby she is nursing. Moreover,
the price is, in the case of the 20s. budget, quite out of the question
should the children number more than one, or at the most two.

As things are, once weaned, the child of a labouring man gets its share
of the family diet. It gets its share of the 4d. tin of separated milk,
its share of gravy and potatoes, a sip of the cocoa on which 3d. or
4d. a week may be spent for the use of everyone, and, if its father be
particularly partial to it, a mouthful of fat bacon once or twice a week,
spared from the not too generous “relish to his tea.” Besides these
extras it gets bread.

Women in the poorer working-class districts nurse their babies, as a
rule, far longer than they should. It is not unusual for a mother to
say that she always nurses until they are a year old. In many cases
where a better-off mother would recognize that she is unable to satisfy
her child’s hunger, and would wean it at once, the poor mother goes
hopelessly on because it is cheaper to nurse. It is less trouble to
nurse, and it is held among them to be a safeguard against pregnancy. For
those three reasons it is difficult to persuade a Lambeth woman to wean
her child. In most of these cases milk or palatable food supplied to the
mother would save the situation, and contrive a double debt to pay—the
welfare of both mother and child. But the mother, who is by nature a poor
nurse, usually finds, when she “gets about again,” that her milk deserts
her, and the grave difficulty of rearing the baby is met by her with a
weekly 5d. tin of milk of a brand which has not been separated, but which
is a very inadequate quantity for an infant.

The articles of diet other than bread, meat, potatoes (with occasional
suet puddings and tinned milk), are fish, of which a shilling’s worth
may be bought a week, and of which quite half will go to provide the
bread-winner with “relishes,” while the other half may be eaten by the
mother and children; bacon, which will be entirely consumed by the man;
and an occasional egg. The tiny amounts of tea, dripping, butter, jam,
sugar, and greens, may be regarded rather in the light of condiments than
of food.

The diet where there are several children is obviously chosen for its
cheapness, and is of the filling, stodgy kind. There is not enough of
anything but bread. There is no variety. Nothing is considered but money.



The place where food is bought is important. How it is bought and when
are also important questions. The usual plan for a Lambeth housekeeper
is to make her great purchase on Saturday evening when she gets her
allowance. She probably buys the soap, wood, oil, tea, sugar, margarine,
tinned milk, and perhaps jam, for the week. To these she adds the Sunday
dinner, which means a joint or part of a joint, greens, and potatoes. The
bread she gets daily, also the rasher, fish, or other relish, for her
husband’s special use. Further purchases of meat are made, if they are
made, about Wednesday, while potatoes and pot herbs, as well as fish,
often come round on barrows, and are usually bought as required. When she
has put aside the rent, the insurance, the boot club money, and spent
the Saturday night’s five or six shillings, she keeps the pennies for
the gas-meter and the money for the little extras in some kind of purse
or private receptacle which lives within reach of her hand. A woman,
during the time she is laid up at her confinement, will sleep with her
purse in her hand or under the pillow, and during the daytime she doles
out with an anxious heart the pennies for gas or the two-pences for
father’s relish. She generally complains bitterly that the neighbour who
is “doing” for her has a heavy hand with the margarine, and no conscience
with the tea or sugar.

The regular shopping is monotonous. The order at the grocer’s shop is
nearly always the same, as is also that at the oilman’s. The Sunday
dinner requires thought, but tends to repeat itself with the more
methodical housewife, who has perhaps a leaning towards neck of mutton as
the most interesting of the cheaper joints, or towards a half-shoulder
as cutting to better advantage. It is often the same dinner week after
week—one course of meat with greens and potatoes. Some women indulge in
flights of fancy, and treat the family to a few pounds of fat bacon at
6d. per pound, a quality which is not to be recommended, or even to the
extravagance of a rabbit and onions for a change. These women would be
likely to vary the vegetables too; and in their accounts tomatoes, when
tomatoes are cheap, may appear. It is only in the budgets of the very
small family, however, that such extravagant luxuries would creep in.

In households where there is but one room there may be no storage space
at all. Coal may be kept in the one cupboard on the floor beside the
fireplace; or there may be such hoards of mice in the walls that no place
is safe for food but a basin with a plate over it. One woman when lying
in bed early in the morning unravelled a mystery which had puzzled her
for weeks. She had not been able to find out how the food she kept on a
high shelf of the dresser was being got at by mice. On the morning in
question her eye was caught by movements which appeared to her to be
in the air above her head. To her surprise, she realized that a long
procession of mice was making use of her clothes-line to cross the room
and climb down the loose end on to the high dresser shelf. They would,
when satisfied, doubtless have returned by the same route had she not
roused her husband. “But ’e ony terrified ’em,” she said sadly, “’e never
caught one.” In such cases it is necessary for the housekeeper to buy
all provisions other than tinned milk, perhaps, day by day. She probably
finds this more extravagant—even to the extent of paying more for the
article. Tea, butter, and sugar, by the ounce may actually cost more, and
they seldom go so far.

Another reason for buying all necessaries daily is that many men, though
in a perfectly regular job (such as some kinds of carting), are paid
daily, as though they were casuals. The amounts vary, moreover. One day
they bring home 4s. 6d., another 3s. The housewife is never sure what
she will have to spend, and as the family needs are, so must she supply
necessaries out of the irregular daily sum handed to her.

The daily purchases of the wife of a dustsorter are given below. The
husband was paid 3s. a day in cash, which he brought regularly to his
wife. He collected out of the material he sorted, which came from the
dustbins of Westminster, enough broken bread to sell as pig-food for a
sum which paid both the rent and the burial insurance. He also collected
and brought home each evening enough coal and cinders to supply the
family needs, and, curiously enough, he collected and brought home a
sufficiency of soap. After paying 5s. for rent and 1s. for insurance,
he had enough left from these extra sources of income for his own
pocket-money. With rent, insurance, coal, and soap, provided, the
housekeeper would have been well off indeed, as Lambeth goes, could she
have laid out her money to better advantage. She never had more than 3s.
at a time, and was accustomed to buy everything day by day. There was but
one room. There were four children, who looked stronger than they were.
The mother suffered from anæmia, and was not a particularly good manager,
though she fed her children fairly well and seemed to be a moderately
good cook. She had no oven. An account of how she laid out her 18s. is
given on pp. 108, 109.

It is obvious that this is an extravagant way of buying. Not only is the
woman charged more for some items, such as sugar and butter, which she
prefers to margarine even at the extra price, but the daily purchase
leads to larger amounts being used. Her husband is a teetotaller, but
likes strong tea, and that very sweet. Hence 12 ozs. of tea, 3 lbs. of
sugar, and 3 tins of milk. The baby was very young and the mother anæmic,
and the 8d. for a girl to take it out is money usefully spent. Otherwise
the infant would hardly ever have left the room, as her mother does the
daily marketing when the baby is asleep. Since this account was made out
the authorities have advised the family to take two rooms at an advanced
rental of 2s., of which the father and mother each pay half. So the
weekly list of purchases has now to be made out of 17s. The baby is six
months old instead of five weeks, and the mother’s milk has completely
failed her. Thus the expenses increase, while the housekeeping allowance
is less.

                                                        s. d.
  _Monday_, 3s.:

  2 ozs. tea, 2d.; ½ lb. sugar, 1½d.; 4 ozs. butter,
    3½d.; bread, 3d.                                    0 10
  Potatoes, 2d.; onions, carrots, greens, 2½d.          0  4½
  Gas                                                   0  2
                                                        1  4½
  In hand                                               1  7½

  _Tuesday_, 3s.:

  2 ozs. tea, 2d.; ½ lb. sugar, 1½d.; 4 ozs. butter,
    3½d.; bread, 3d.                                    0 10
  One tin of milk, 3½d.; relish for husband’s tea, 2d.  0  5½
  Potatoes, 2d.; greens and pot herbs, 3½d.; meat, 7d.  1  0½
  Gas                                                   0  2
                                                        2  6
  In hand                                               2  1½

  _Wednesday_, 3s.:

  2 ozs. tea, 2d.; ½ lb. sugar, 1½d.; 4 ozs. butter,
    3½d.; bread, 3d.                                    0 10
  1 lb. pieces, 4½d.; potatoes, 2d.; vegetables,
    1½d.; rice, ½d.                                     0  8½
  Clothing club                                         1  0
  Gas                                                   0  1
                                                        2  7½
  In hand                                               2  6

  _Thursday_, 3s.:

  ½ lb. sugar, 1½d.; 4 ozs. butter, 3½d.; bread, 3d     0  8
  One tin of milk, 3½d.; meat, 6d.; potatoes, 2d;
    Quaker oats, 2½d.; rice, ½d.                        1  2½
  Boot club                                             1  0
  Gas                                                   0  1
                                                        2 11½
  In hand                                               2  6½

  _Friday_, 3s.:

  2 ozs. tea, 2d.; ½ lb. sugar, 1½d.; 4 ozs. butter,
    3½d.; bread, 3d.                                    0 10
  Suet, 2d.; flour, 2½d.; treacle, 1½d.                 0  6
  Gas                                                   0  2
  Five days’ pay for neighbour’s girl to take
    out the baby                                        0  6
                                                        2  0
  In hand                                               3  6½

  _Saturday_, 3s. + 3s. 6½d. = 6s. 6½d.:

  2 ozs. tea, 2d.; ½ lb. sugar, 1½d.; 4 ozs. butter,
    3½d.; bread, 6d.                                    1  1
  One tin of milk, 3½d.; bacon, 6d.; eggs, 2d.;
    potatoes, 2d.; greens, 2d.                          1  3½
  Gas                                                   0  1
  Sunday’s joint                                        2  0
  Bakehouse                                             0  2
  Blacklead, hearthstone, matches, soda                 0  4
  Husband’s shirt                                       1  0
  Baby’s birth certificate                              0  3
  Girl to mind baby                                     0  2
                                                        6  6½

In the case of women who handle the whole week’s wage at once, there is
generally great need of more cupboard space. Occasionally a scullery
helps to solve the problem, and there is often a very shallow cupboard
beside the chimney, high enough from the floor to be clear of mice and
beetles, and out of reach of children. A kitchen with the copper in it is
a bad place for keeping food; a kitchen infested with any kind of vermin
is also a bad place to keep food; a kitchen which is plagued with flies
is equally impossible. The women whose lives are passed in such kitchens
may feel that, in spite of the extra expense and waste, daily buying of
perishable food is a necessity.

A woman with a sick child—one of six—living in one room, was allowed milk
for the use of the child, who was extremely ill. The only place where she
could keep the milk was a basin with an old piece of wet rag thrown over
it. The visitor found seven flies in the milk, and many others crawling
on the inner side of the rag. The weather was stifling. The room, though
untidy, was tolerably clean. But over the senseless child on the one bed
in the room hovered a great cloud of flies. The mother stood hour after
hour brushing them away. On the advice of the visitor the sick child
was carried off there and then to the infirmary, where it ultimately
recovered. Once the child was removed, the flies ceased to swarm into the

Cooking, which has already been mentioned in connection with old and
burnt saucepans and utensils, is necessarily very perfunctory and
rudimentary. To boil a neck with pot herbs on Sunday, and make a stew
of “pieces” on Wednesday, often finishes all that has to be done with
meat. The intermediate dinners will ring the changes on cold neck, suet
pudding, perhaps fried fish or cheap sausages, and rice or potatoes.
Breakfast and tea, with the exception of the husband’s relishes, consist
of tea, and bread spread with butter, jam, or margarine. In houses where
no gas is laid on, the gas-stove cannot take the place of a missing
oven, and it is extraordinary how many one-roomed dwellings are without
an oven. Two pots, both burned, a frying-pan, and a kettle, do not make
an equipment with which it is easy to manage the delicacies of cooking.
Boiling can be done in a burnt saucepan, provided there is water enough
in the can which stands behind the door to fill the pot sufficiently.
Frying is held to be easy, but fat is not plentiful, and frying in
Lambeth usually means frizzling in a very tiny amount of half-boiling
grease. The great panful of fat which would be used by a good cook is
impossible of attainment. To stand by and watch the cooking is difficult
when so many things have to be done at once. The pot, once placed on
the fire or the gas-stove, has to look after itself, while the mother
nurses a baby, or does a bit of washing, or tidies the room and gets out
the few plates which she calls “laying the dinner.” The children all
come trooping in from school before she has finished, and have to be
scolded a little and told to get out of the way, and when she has got
them arranged sitting or standing round the table she helps each one as
quickly and fairly as she can. If her husband is not there, she may put
aside his portion to be warmed up and eaten later. She does not attempt
to eat with the family. She is server and provider, and her work is to
see that everyone gets a fair share, according to his or her deserts and
the merits of the case. She may or may not sit down, but perhaps with the
baby in her arms she feeds the youngest but one with potato and gravy
or suet pudding, whichever is the dinner of the day, for fear it shall
waste its food and spoil its clothes. When the family have finished what
she sets before them, she sees to washing of hands where the age of the
washer is tender, and thankfully packs them all off again to afternoon
school, having as likely as not called back the one who banged the door
to tell him to go out again and “do it prop’ly.” The husband may not
like his dinner put aside for him, in which case a second cooking is
necessary. So much has to be done each day. The Lambeth woman has no joy
in cooking for its own sake.



The following is a week’s menu taken from Mrs. X., the wife of a carter.
His wages vary between 19s. and 23s. 6d., according to hours worked. In
a Bank Holiday week they went down to 15s. He usually keeps 1s. a week,
and has his dinners at home. There are four children, all under five.
The rent is 4s. 6d. for one room. They do not insure, and are slightly
in debt. Mrs. X. is a good manager. This menu was taken from a week when
Mrs. X. had 22s. 6d. given her by her husband:

_Sunday._—Breakfast: One loaf, 1 oz. butter, ½ oz. tea, a
farthing’s-worth of tinned milk, a halfpennyworth of sugar. Kippers extra
for Mr. X. Dinner: Hashed beef, batter pudding, greens, and potatoes.
Tea: Same as breakfast, but Mr. X. has shrimps instead of kippers.

_Monday._—Breakfast: Same as Sunday. Mr. X. has a little cold meat.
Dinner: Sunday’s dinner cold, with pickles, or warmed up with greens and
potatoes. Tea: One loaf, marmalade, and tea. Mr. X. has two eggs.

_Tuesday._—Breakfast: One loaf, 1 oz. butter, two pennyworth of cocoa.
Bloaters for Mr. X. Dinner: Bread and dripping, with cheese and tomatoes.
Tea: One loaf, marmalade, and tea. Fish and fried potatoes for Mr. X.

_Wednesday._—Breakfast: One loaf, 1 oz. butter, tea. Corned beef for
Mr. X. Dinner: Boiled bacon, beans, and potatoes. Tea: One loaf, 1 oz.
butter, and tea. Cold bacon for Mr. X.

_Thursday._—Breakfast: One loaf, jam, and tea. Dinner: Mutton chops,
greens, and potatoes. Tea: One loaf, 1 oz. butter, and tea.

_Friday._—Breakfast: One loaf, 1 oz. butter, and tea. Dinner: Sausages
and potatoes. Tea: One loaf, jam, and tea.

_Saturday._—Breakfast: One loaf, 1 oz. butter, two pennyworth of cocoa.
Dinner: Pudding of “pieces,” greens, and potatoes. Tea: One loaf, 1 oz.
butter, and tea. Fish and fried potatoes for Mr. X.

These children look fairly well and seem vigorous. The baby is being
nursed. The other three live chiefly on bread, with potatoes and greens
and a tiny portion of meat at dinner.

The budget of the whole expenses of this family for a week, though not
necessarily for the same week as that of the menu, is given on p. 115.

                        s. d.
  Rent                  4  6
  1½ cwt. coal          2  0
  Gas                   1  6
  Soap, soda, blue      0  2
  Clothing club         0  6
  Paid off debt         1  0
                        9  8

                        s. d.
  12 loaves             2  9
  1 lb. butter          1  2
  8 ozs. tea            0  8
  4 lbs. sugar          0  8
  1 tin of milk         0  4
  ¼ lb. cocoa           0  4
  6 lbs. meat           2  6
  12 lbs. potatoes      0  6
  Greens and pot herbs  0  5
  1 lb. currants        0  3
  1 quartern flour      0  6
  Suet                  0  2
  1 lb. bacon           0  8
  Jam                   0  4
  Fish                  0  6
  Sausages              0  7
  Dripping              0  4
  Cheese                0  2
                       12 10

Mr. Y. is a builder’s handyman, whose wages average about 25s. a week.
He allows as a rule 22s. 6d. to his wife, out of which she gives him
back 3s. a week for his dinners when at work. There are six children
under thirteen. The rent for two rooms upstairs is 6s. 6d., and burial
insurance is 1s.

_Sunday._—Breakfast: One loaf, jam, and tea. Bloater for him. Dinner:
Half shoulder of mutton, greens, potatoes, and suet pudding, for all.
Tea: Bread, butter, and tea.

_Monday._—Breakfast: Bread, dripping, and tea. Cold meat from Sunday for
him. Dinner for mother and children: Cold meat and potatoes over from
Sunday. Tea: Bread, jam, and tea.

_Tuesday._—Breakfast: Bread, dripping, and tea, for all. Dinner for
mother and children: Hashed meat over from Monday and potatoes. Tea:
Bread, radishes, and tea.

_Wednesday._—Breakfast: Bread, dripping, and tea. Dinner for mother and
children: Dumplings in yesterday’s gravy. Tea: Bread, jam, and tea, for

_Thursday._—Breakfast: Bread, dripping, and tea. Dinner for mother and
children: Rice and treacle. Tea: Bread, jam, and tea.

_Friday._—Breakfast: Bread, jam, and tea. Dinner for mother and children:
Barley broth and potatoes. Tea: Bread, dripping, and tea.

_Saturday._—Breakfast: Bread, dripping, and tea. Dinner for mother and
children: ¾ lb. sausages and potatoes. Tea: Bread, jam, and tea.

One of Mrs. T.’s weekly budgets is here given:

                             s. d.
  Rent                       6  6
  Insurance                  1  0
  Gas                        0  6
  ½ cwt. coal                0  8½
  Wood                       0  2
  Soap, soda, blue, starch   0  5
  Boracic powder             0  1
  Baby’s soap                0  2
                             9  6½

                             s. d.
  Husband’s dinners          3  0
  14 loaves                  3  4½
  1 lb. dripping             0  6
  12 ozs. butter             0  9
  8 ozs. tea                 0  8
  2 tins of milk             0  6
  Meat                       2  3
  6 lbs. potatoes            0  3
  Vegetables                 0  6
  ½ quartern flour           0  3
  Bloaters                   0  3
  Suet                       0  2
  3 lbs. sugar               0  6
                            12 11½

It will be noticed in this menu that Mr. T. gets no relish for either
tea or breakfast throughout the week, with the exception of his Sunday
treat. His 6d. dinner cannot be of a heavy nature, and his share of the
family breakfasts and teas would in no way make up for a scanty dinner.
He is not, therefore, too well fed. His wife and six children, who manage
upon the dinners given in the menu, obviously do not get sufficient
nourishment. This woman is an excellent cook, but her equipment is poor.
She keeps her two rooms as clean as a new pin, and is punctual and
methodical to a fault. But she is worn and tired, and unable to take in
new ideas. The children are fairly well, but nervous and restless. They
are not up to the normal size for their age, nor are they intelligent
for their years. They are docile and give no trouble at school, and are
considered “well brought up” by all who come into contact with them.

The following menu is that of the woman whose daily expenditure of
3s. a day is given in a previous chapter. Her husband, it will be
remembered, pays rent and insurance, and brings home from his dust-heaps
a sufficiency of fuel and soap. It is, unfortunately, not the menu of the
week of which the expenditure is given. Mr. Z. allows his wife 3s. a day.
There are four children under six. The rent of the one room is 5s. 6d.

_Sunday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea. Dinner: Roast
mutton, potatoes, and greens (5d.). Tea: Half a loaf of bread, butter,
and tea; 2d. cake for him.

_Monday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, rolled oats with tinned milk.
Dinner: Cold meat cooked up with onions, carrots, greens, and potatoes.
Tea: Half a loaf of bread, jam, and tea.

_Tuesday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, jam, and tea. Dinner: Mutton
chops, potatoes, and greens. Tea: Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea;
fish for him.

_Wednesday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, butter, and cocoa. Dinner:
Stew 1 lb. pieces (4½d.), with rice, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Tea:
Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea; fish for him.

_Thursday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, tea, rolled oats and tinned
milk. Dinner: Boiled neck, with potatoes, onions, rice, and greens. Tea:
Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea; fish for him.

_Friday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea. Dinner: Suet
pudding and treacle. Tea: Half a loaf of bread, jam, and tea.

_Saturday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea. Dinner:
Eggs (5d.) and bacon (3d.). Tea: Half a loaf of bread, butter, and tea.

It has already been admitted that Mrs. Z. is not such a good manager
as most of the women dealt with in this investigation. She had two
special difficulties to struggle with. Her husband’s trade caused him
to return home with clothes and skin almost equally black. He had no
chance of a bath in the one room, and her instincts in the direction of
cleanliness—whatever they may once have been—had evidently wilted in an
unsympathetic atmosphere. Moreover, his hours were very irregular, and
he was often a great deal at home in the afternoon. The daily payments
were another stumbling-block, and there was no absolute certainty that
the sum received would be 3s. Occasionally it was 2s., and sometimes it
was only 1s. 6d. On one never-to-be-forgotten occasion when the visitor
was present it was nothing at all, owing to his having arrived at work
too late. These two influences certainly caused Mrs. Z. to be somewhat
of a sloven; as she said: “It was rather funny gettin’ accustomed ter
sleepin’ with ’im—all black like that.” And all the time Mr. Z. is a most
excellent husband, with a great admiration for his nice-looking wife. Mr.
Z. never seemed to ail. He was a small man, and very muscular for his
height. Mrs. Z., though anæmic, was a well-made, upright young woman, who
was rather proud of her pretty figure. The four children were big and
fat and fairly intelligent. They seemed thoroughly satisfactory until
the eldest boy started “wastin’”—a process Lambeth children are given to
embarking upon. He “wasted” and grew visibly thinner, to the complete
bewilderment, according to Mrs. Z., of the “mission” doctor and the
hospital doctor, to whom she took him. Both parents were overcome with
alarm and sorrow, and the day that Ernie turned and took his food again
was a day of great rejoicing. He never seemed to be so strong again,
however, and the obstinate continuance of a bad form of eczema upon all
the other three children, in spite of every kind of treatment by doctor
and district nurse, points to a worse state of health than seemed at
first to obtain amongst them. Mrs. Z. was a very affectionate mother, and
prided herself on the fact that her four children were “a sight bigger
for their age” than all the others in the street.

The next menu is that of Mrs. O., whose husband is a printer’s labourer.
He earns 30s. a week, and at Christmas he works overtime, which enables
him, by working very long hours, to earn an irregular amount of extra
money. Out of this he buys the children, of whom there are eight, their
boots for the year, and some part of their clothing.

_Sunday._—Breakfast: Fish all round, loaf of bread, margarine, 2
teaspoonfuls of tea, 4½ teaspoonfuls of tinned milk, small spoonful of
sugar each. Dinner: 3½ lbs. meat (1s. 9d.), greens, and potatoes; very
occasionally a suet pudding. Tea: Tea, bread, margarine, and watercress

_Monday._—Breakfast: Tea, bread, and margarine; rasher for him. Dinner:
Cold meat and vegetables left from Sunday. Tea is bread and margarine
every day in the week.

_Tuesday._—Breakfast: Tea, bread, and margarine; haddock for him. Dinner:
Baked breast of mutton (7½d.), greens, and potatoes.

_Wednesday._—Breakfast: Tea, bread, and margarine; rasher for him.
Dinner: Stew of “pieces,” pot herbs, and potatoes.

_Thursday._—Breakfast: Tea, bread, and margarine; fish for him (2d.).
Dinner: 1 lb. sausages (5d.) and potatoes; ½ lb. “skirt” of beef for him.

_Friday._—Breakfast: Tea, bread, and margarine; rasher for him (2d.).
Dinner: Fried strips of breast of mutton (4½d.) and potatoes; two chops
for him (5d.).

_Saturday._—Breakfast: Tea, bread, and margarine; fish for him (2d.).
Dinner: 1 lb. pork chops (9½d.), four to a pound; he has one. Other
three divided among seven children, with potatoes. She has an egg later.
Supper: 6 ozs. cold meat from cookshop, with a lettuce for him. If any
over she has some.

The mother here is a tall, well-made woman, and the father, who has
been a soldier and went all through the South African War, is also of
decent proportions. The children, however, are stunted, particularly the
younger ones. They are sharp and intelligent, and very well behaved.
They are not often ill, except for the usual visitations of measles and
whooping-cough, but their eyes need close attention, which their mother
religiously and painstakingly gives them daily. Two of them have been
operated on for adenoids, and the third youngest, who is three, is no
larger than a baby of one year, owing to a feeble and ailing babyhood.
Both parents are specially attached to this child, who gave the mother
bad nights for two years, and has needed incessant care and attention
ever since her birth. The two boy babies, of two years and six months
respectively, both terribly undersized, are far less noticed and petted
than this delicate little girl of three whose life has always hung on a

An interesting menu and budget is that of the Q.’s. He is a
feather-cleaner’s assistant, and his wages are 25s., out of which
he allows 20s. to his wife, and keeps 5s. for himself. There are
two children. They pay 6s. for the rent of two rooms. Mrs. Q. is a
hard-working woman, a good manager, and extremely intelligent. The chief
interest in this menu is that Mrs. Q. shows the way in which the little
income is divided. Besides keeping 5s. a week for his own clothing and
pocket-money, Mr. Q. has 6½d. a day allowed him by his wife for his
dinners on six days a week when he is at work. Moreover, he demands 1s.
1d. to be spent weekly on himself alone for relishes at breakfast or tea.
The income works out as given on p. 123.

The menu runs thus: Throughout the week every breakfast for mother and
children consists of their shares in half a loaf of bread, with a touch
from the weekly six pennyworth of margarine. This is accompanied by tea
made from the 4 ozs. which has to last for seven days. The 2d. tin of
milk and the 2 lbs. of sugar, which also have to do seven days’ duty,
furnish the tea with milk and sugar. The husband’s relish at breakfast
usually takes the shape of an egg.

_Sunday._—Dinner is roast mutton, greens, and potatoes. Tea is tea, made
as above, and toast. All the week-day teas for mother and children are a
repetition of breakfast. Mr. Q. has fish or a rasher added.

The week-day dinners run thus:

_Monday._—Cold mutton left from Sunday.

_Tuesday._—Cold mutton left from Monday.

_Wednesday._—Stew of ½ lb. “pieces” (2¼d.) and potatoes.

_Thursday._—Meat pudding from other ½ lb. of “pieces” (2¼d.) and potatoes.

_Friday._—Liver (3d.), one rasher (1½d.), and potatoes.

_Saturday._—Two herrings (3d.).

  _Mr. Q.’s Expenses._

                                s. d.
  Kept by Mr. Q.                5  0
  His week-day dinners          3  3
  Relishes                      1  1
                                9  4

  _General Food shared by Mr. Q._

                                s. d.
  Bread                         2  1½
  1 lb. margarine               0  6
  4 ozs. tea                    0  4
  1 tin of milk                 0  2
  2 lbs. sugar                  0  5
  Sunday potatoes               0  2
  Sunday greens                 0  2
  Suet                          0  1
  Sunday joint                  1  0
                                4 11½

  _General Expenses._

                                s. d.
  Rent                          6  0
  Coal                          1  8
  Gas                           1  0
  Soap, etc.                    0  4½
  Insurance                     0  6
                                9  6½

  _Food not shared by Mr. Q.—Week-day Dinners of Mrs. Q. and Children._

                                s. d.
  Meat                          1  0
  Potatoes                      0  2
                                1  2

The sad part of these menus is that, though on paper it looks very
selfish of Mr. Q., in practice his share of the half-loaf, even
though accompanied by an egg, does not seem a very satisfactory or
over-luxurious breakfast for a working man. His daily dinner at 6½d.
cannot be an oppressive meal, whilst his tea cannot be much more
satisfying than his breakfast. And yet, in order to feed him as well as
this, his wife has to make about a third of the amount do for herself.
It is not usual to find the accounts kept in this manner, but Mrs. Q.
chose to show how the money went. As a matter of fact, except for the 5s.
which Mr. Q. keeps for himself—a sum greater than that which is usually
retained by the husband—the arrangements of the menu are quite ordinary.

The next menu is that of Mrs. U., whose husband drives a mail-van at
night. His wages are 25s. a week, and he allows his wife 21s. Out of the
4s. kept by him, the usual 4d. goes in National Health Insurance, 6d.
in a sick club, 1d. to the hospital, 1d. to the mess-room, and 6d. to
his trade union. He is fed entirely at home. Mrs. U. has a daughter of
fourteen, who goes out to daily work and is fed at home. She earns 4s. a
week, and brings it home regularly to her mother. Thus the housekeeping
allowance is 25s. a week. Mrs. U. bakes at home in the gas-oven, at the
cost in gas of about 6d. a week, and for flour and yeast of 4s. 7d. The
item for bread is therefore high, but so also is the quality of the
bread. There are six children.

Most breakfasts and teas in the week consist of bread, margarine, tea,
cocoa, or coffee, or occasionally of porridge and treacle.

_Sunday._—Dinner: Target of mutton (10d.), potatoes, greens, suet
pudding, and haricot beans.

_Monday._—Dinner: Boiled neck (4d.), potatoes, and dumplings.

_Tuesday._—Dinner: Stew of “pieces” (4d.) with pot herbs and potatoes.

_Wednesday._—Dinner: Brown hash (4d.) and dumplings.

_Thursday._—Dinner: Meat pudding of shin of beef (4d.), greens, and

_Friday._—Dinner: Fish (1 lb., 4d.), parsley sauce, and potatoes.

_Saturday._—Dinner: Liver (4d.), bacon (2d.), greens, and potatoes.

A week’s budget of Mrs. U. is given on p. 126.

Mrs. U. is an excellent manager, and certainly tries to feed her family
well. But her plans are sadly interfered with when one of the children
needs new boots, and, with six children, one or other of them is always
needing something new. There are two courses which are taken according
to the merits of the case. One is to pawn the mother’s boots, thus
rendering her a prisoner in the two tiny rooms until the money to release
her belongings can be raised, and the other is to save the amount out
of food. She makes all the clothes that can be made at home, and is an
expert needlewoman. She was a professed cook earning £1 a week before she
married. No burial insurance is paid in this family.

                     s. d.
  Rent               7  0
  Gas                1  6
  1½ cwt. coal       2  1½
  Soap, soda         0  2
                    10  9½

                     s. d.
  Flour and yeast    4  7
  Meat               2  6
  Suet               0  3
  Potatoes           1  0
  Vegetables         0  6
  2 lbs. margarine   1  0
  3 lbs. sugar       0  7
  Bacon              0  2
  6 ozs. tea         0  6
  Cocoa              0  3
  Coffee             0  3
  Fish               0  4
  Rice               0  2
  Split peas         0  2½
  Currants           0  2
  Lard               0  4
  Oatmeal            0  2½
  Treacle            0  1½
  Salt and pepper    0  2
  Cow’s milk         0  8
  Eggs               0  3
                    14  2½

We now come to the week’s menu of a couple of families where the man
was temporarily out of work, and took anything he could get. Mr. T. was
carman for a large firm that employed all its enormous number of carmen
by the day. The inner ring of men were given a day’s work every day, and
earned 3s. 6d., which they were paid on leaving work each night. The less
fortunate outer ring were given a couple or three days’ work in the week.
No notice was taken or given on either side. A day’s work might mean at
Christmas time a day of twenty hours, and no meal-time allowed. It might
mean a much shorter day, but usually ran about twelve hours. Mr. T. had
two days’ work a week, but he washed down another man’s van every day
for 1s. 6d. a week. Occasionally he was lucky enough to have two vans to
wash, when his money would amount to 10s. He allowed his wife 8s. 6d.
There was one child. The rent for the single room was 3s. 6d., and there
was no insurance.

_Sunday._—Breakfast: Bloater for father, 1 teaspoonful of tea between
them, 1 teaspoonful of milk from tin each, 1 small spoonful of sugar
each, two slices of bread and margarine. Dinner: Six pennyworth of neck
of mutton, greens and potatoes given by mother. Tea: Two slices of bread,
margarine, and tea.

_Monday._—Breakfast: Two slices of bread and butter, with tea, for every
breakfast in the week. Dinner: Cold meat and vegetables left from Sunday.
Tea: Two slices of bread and butter, with tea, for every tea in the week.

_Tuesday._—Dinner: Fresh herring each, bread and butter (one slice).

_Wednesday._—Dinner: ½ lb. “pieces” (3d.) stewed with potatoes, which
were given by mother.

_Thursday._—Dinner: What is left of stew and potatoes.

_Friday._—Dinner: ½ lb. rashers (3d.), with potatoes given by mother.

_Saturday._—Dinner: The other ½ lb. rashers, with potatoes given by

A week’s budget runs thus:

                          s. d.
  Rent                    3  6
  Gas                     0  5
  Newspaper               0  1
  Candle                  0  0¼
  Soap, 1d.; soda, ½d.    0  1½
  Blacklead               0  0½
  Paid off cradle         0  6
                          4  8¼

                          s. d.
  9 loaves                2  0¾
  4 ozs. tea              0  4
  1 lb. sugar             0  2
  1 tin of milk           0  3
  4 ozs. butter           0  3½
  1½ lbs. meat            0  9
                          3 10¼

It will be noticed that no coal appears. The time of year was summer, and
the fire was never lighted during the thirteen weeks of their life on 8s.
6d. a week. The five pennyworth of gas was used entirely for cooking, and
light was supplied by the farthing candle. The newspaper was their Sunday
treat, and was read solemnly through from first column to last by both
young people. It chronicled more murders and multiple births than any
paper the visitor had ever seen. Mrs. T. would say in course of polite
conversation: “Have you seen the news—five at a birth?” Then she would
produce a picture of three nurses and two doctors, each holding a baby,
and would murmur regretfully: “They’re most of ’em dead.”

The next case is that of a Mrs. X., a deserted wife, with three children
under eight. Mrs. X. had “taken the law of” Mr. X., and there was “an
order out against him” for 7s. a week. But as she was never able to make
him pay it or any part of it, she had to exist with the three children
on her earnings as an office cleaner in a large bank in the city, where
she was paid 12s. a week. Unfortunately the bank was very far from her
home, and she spent 2s. a week on fares, which sounds very extravagant,
but it must be remembered that she went to her work twice a day. Her
hours were six to nine in the mornings, and six in the evenings until
finished. She rented a small room for 2s. 6d. a week until the sanitary
authorities found her out, and obliged her to move into two smaller rooms
at a rent of 4s. 6d. Owing to her lack of beds and bedding she and her
three children were forced to sleep all in one bed in one of the two
smaller rooms exactly as they did when she had but the one larger room.
To mind the baby of two while she was at work morning and evening she
paid a neighbour 1s. a week. Added to her regular wage of 12s. as office
cleaner, she occasionally had a job on Saturdays, which brought her in
1s. more, so that her income sometimes amounted to 13s. a week.

Her menu ran as follows:

_Sunday._—Breakfast: Half a loaf, margarine, and tea. Dinner: Sausages, 1
lb. (4d.), or “pieces” (4d.), potatoes, sometimes pot herbs, sometimes
greens. Tea: Half a loaf, margarine, and tea.

Every breakfast and every tea in the week is half a loaf, dripping or
margarine, and tea.

_Monday._—Dinner: Remains of sausages and potatoes.

_Tuesday._—Dinner: Flour pancakes, with sugar.

_Wednesday._—Dinner: ¼ lb. bacon, half a loaf of bread.

_Thursday._—Dinner: halfpennyworth of fish for Lulu, and halfpennyworth
of potatoes. Landlord downstairs gave Mrs. X. some meat pie and potatoes.

_Friday._—Dinner: Bread, margarine, and tea.

_Saturday._—Dinner: Bread and three bloaters.

The following is a week’s budget:

                      s. d.
  Rent                4  6
  Baby minded         1  0
  Fares               2  0
  Coal                0  6¾
  Lamp oil            0  2
  Wood                0  2
  Matches             0  0¼
  Soap, soda, blue    0  2¼
  Sickness insurance  0  3
  Burial insurance    0  3
                      9  1¼

                      s. d.
  6 loaves            1 10
  2 lb. sugar         0  4
  1 tin of milk       0  2
  4 lbs. potatoes     0  2
  Flour               0  2
  Meat and fish       0  4
  4 ozs. tea          0  4
  Dripping            0  3
  Margarine           0  0¾
  Oatmeal             0  3
                      3 10¾

The eldest boy of seven has dinners at school five days in the week in
term-time. The girl is three and a half, and is fed at home. The baby
is two years old. All the children are extremely delicate. Since this
menu was taken Mrs. X. has been lucky enough to get help from some kind
people. They have seen her elder boy through an attack of rheumatic
fever, and have clothed the three children in warm and decent garments.
Without such timely help she would in all probability have lost her boy.

There are those who, if they happen to read these weekly menus, will
criticise with deep feeling the selection of the materials from which
they are composed. It is not necessary to pretend that they are the
absolute best that could be done, even upon that money. It is quite
likely that someone who had strength, wisdom, and vitality, who did not
live that life in those tiny, crowded rooms, in that lack of light and
air, who was not bowed down with worry, but was herself economically
independent of the man who earned the money, could lay out his few
shillings with a better eye to scientific food value. It is quite as
likely, however, that the man who earned the money would entirely refuse
the scientific food, and demand his old tasty kippers and meat. It is
he who has to be satisfied in the long-run, and if he desires pickles,
pickles there will be. The fact that there is not enough money to buy
good, healthy house-room means that appetites are jaded, and that food
which would be nutritious and valuable, and would be greedily eaten by
people who lived in the open air, seems tasteless and sickly to those who
have slept four in a bed in a room 10 feet by 12 feet.



The remarkable thing about these budgets is the small amount left for
food after all other necessaries have been paid for. When it comes to a
pinch, food is the elastic item. Rent is occasionally not paid at all
during a crisis, but the knowledge that it is mounting up, and that
eventually it must be paid keeps these steady folk from that expedient
save at the very last resource. A little less food all round, though a
disagreeable experience, leaves no bill in shillings and pence to be
paid afterwards. Down to a certain low minimum, therefore, food may
sink before leaving the rent unpaid, or before pawning begins. That
low minimum differs in different families. It is a question of the
standard to which each has been accustomed, but that it is possible to be
accustomed to an extraordinarily low standard these budgets amply prove.

The following are a number of weekly budgets taken at random:

Mr. A., whose house was visited from January, 1911, to February, 1912,
was a railway-carriage washer, and was paid 18s. for a six days’ week,
alternately with 21s. for a seven days’ week. His wife was a good
manager, but was in delicate health. He was an extraordinarily good
husband, and brought home to her his entire wage. There were three
children born, and three alive.

  _A 21/0 Week._

                                    s. d.
  Rent                              7  0
  Clothing club (for two weeks)     1  2
  Burial insurance (for two weeks)  1  6
  Coal and wood                     1  7
  Coke                              0  3
  Gas                               0 10
  Soap, soda                        0  5
  Matches                           0  1
  Blacklead, blacking               0  1
                                   12 11

  _Left for Food, 8/1._

                                    s. d.
  11 loaves                         2  7
  1 quartern flour                  0  5½
  Meat                              1 10
  Potatoes and greens               0  9½
  ½ lb. butter                      0  6
  1 lb. jam                         0  3
  6 ozs. tea                        0  6
  2 lb. sugar                       0  4
  1 tin of milk                     0  4
  Cocoa                             0  4
  Suet                              0  2
                                    8  1

Average per head for food all round the family, 1s. 7½d. a week, or less
than 3d. a day. But a working man cannot do on less than 6d. a day, or
3s. 6d. a week. This reduces the mother and children to 1s. 1¾d. a week,
or less than 2d. a day.

Mr. B., whose house was visited from July, 1911, till September, 1912,
was a printer’s labourer, whose wages ranged between 20s. and 26s. a
week. He usually allowed 20s. for household. There were six children
born, and six alive.

  _November 23, 1911._

                                    s. d.
  Rent                              8  0
  Burial insurance                  1  8
  Boot club                         1  0
  Coal                              1  0
  Gas                               0  8
  Wood                              0  3
  Soap, soda                        0  4½
                                   12 11½

  _Left for Food, 7/0½._

                                    s. d.
  14 loaves                         3  2½
  Meat                              0 10
  Suet                              0  2
  Dripping                          0  6
  3 ozs. tea                        0  3
  2 lb. sugar                       0  4
  2 tins of milk                    0  6
  1 quartern flour                  0  5
  Potatoes                          0  6
  Greens                            0  4
                                    7  0½

Average per head for food all round the family, 10½d. a week, or 1½d. a

About December, 1911, the household allowance was raised to 21s. 9d.,
with occasional grants of 1s. towards clothes.

Mr. C., whose house was visited from November, 1910, to July, 1911,
worked in a pottery. His wages were 22s. He allowed 20s. There were four
children born, and four alive.

  _February 15, 1911._

                                    s. d.
  Rent                              6  0
  Burial insurance                  1  2
  Coal                              1  3
  Gas                               1  2
  Soap, soda, etc.                  0  5½
  Wood                              0  2
                                   10  2½

  _Left for Food, 9/9½._

                                    s. d.
  14 loaves                         2 11
  Meat                              2  9
  3 lb. sugar                       0  6
  8 ozs. tea                        0  8
  Butter                            0 10
  17 lbs. potatoes                  0 10½
  1 tin of milk                     0  3
  Pot herbs and greens              0  4
  1 lb. jam                         0  4
  2 haddocks                        0  4
                                    9  9½

Average per head for food all round the family, 1s. 7½d. a week, or 2¾d.
a day. Putting the father’s 3s. 6d. on one side, the mother and children
average 1s. 5d. a week, or 2½d. a day.

Mr. D., whose house was visited from June, 1910, till July, 1911, was
a pottery packer, making 25s. a week. He allowed 23s. There were six
children born, and six alive.

  _November 7, 1910._

                                    s. d.
  Rent                              7  3
  Burial insurance                  1  3½
  Boot club                         0  6
  Slate club                        0  7
  Gas                               0  8
  Coal                              1  5
  Soap, soda                        0  5
  Wood                              0  1
  Coke                              0  2
  Lamp oil                          0  0½
  Blacking                          0  0½
                                   12  5½

  _Left for Food, 10/6½_

                                    s. d.
  14 loaves                         2 11
  Meat                              2  8
  20 lbs. potatoes                  0 10
  6 ozs. tea                        0  6
  Sugar                             0  5¼
  Butter                            0  6
  Jam                               0  4
  Vegetables                        0  8
  Suet and lard                     0  2½
  Vinegar, pepper, and salt         0  1¾
  1 tin of milk                     0  3
  Flour                             0  5
  Cheese                            0  4
  Haddock                           0  4
                                   10  6½

Average per head for food all round the family, 1s. 3¾d. a week, or 2¼d.
a day.

Putting the father’s 3s. 6d. on one side, the mother and children average
1s. a week, or 1-5/7d. a day.

Mr. E., whose house was visited from June, 1910, to October, 1912, was
a painter’s labourer, who never would tell his wife what he made. She
had 22s. a week in summer-time, and what he could give her in winter;
never less than 20s. when in work. The eldest girl had just got into a
soda-water factory, and was allowing 4s. a week. Owing to a period of
almost entire unemployment in the previous winter £3 4s. was still owing
for rent when the visits began. There were seven children alive, three
dead. One son had left home.

  _December 7, 1910._

                                    s. d.
  Rent (of which 2s. is back
    payment)                       10  0
  Boot club                         0  6
  Burial insurance                  0  7
  Mangling                          0  2
  Coal                              1  4
  Gas                               0  9
  Wood                              0  1
  Soap, soda                        0  4
  Linseed meal                      0  1
  Pinafore and bonnet               0  8
                                   14  6

  _Left for Food, 11/6._

                                    s. d.
  20 loaves                         4  2
  Meat                              2 10½
  2 tins of milk                    0  6
  Sugar                             0  4
  Margarine                         1  0
  Potatoes                          0  9
  Tea                               0  8
  Fish                              0  4½
  Vegetables                        0  6
  Pepper, salt                      0  1
  Jam                               0  3
                                   11  6

Average per head for food all round the family, 1s. 3¾d. a week, or 2¼d.
a day. Putting the father’s 3s. 6d. on one side, the mother and children
average 1s. 1¾d. a week, or nearly 2d. a day.

To take now groups of men in the same trade without giving the budget of
each in detail will give a more general idea. Eight carmen form the first
group. Their wages are extraordinarily dissimilar. They, at the time
their budgets passed into the hands of the investigation, were working
for private firms, for L.C.C. contractors, and Post-Office contractors
on every kind of terms. Paid by the day or by the week, they were on
night work or day work, driving one horse or two, continuously at work,
or with long stretches of waiting in a yard with no shelter. One Postal
van driver, who was a night worker, drove all Derby Day in between two
of his nights, and got 1s. 6d. overtime for it. The case of the carman
in a big West End private firm who got two days a week has been already

The cases are as follows:

1. Wage, 26s. Allowance, 23s. 6d. 6 children; none dead.

    Rent, 5s. 6d.—2 tiny rooms. Clothing as wanted. No burial

    Average left for food on 6 weeks’ full pay—14s. 5d., or 1s.
    9½d. per head a week, 3d. a day: man, 3s. 6d.; mother and
    children, 1s. 6¾d. a week, or 2¾d. a day.

    The week that 4s. had to be spent on new boots these figures
    became for mother and children 11¾d. a week, or 1¾d. a day.

2. Wage, 25s. Allowance, 21s.; girl’s wage, 4s.; total, 25s. 7 children
alive, 1 dead, 1 away.

    Rent, 7s.—2 rooms. Clothing as wanted. No burial insurance.

    Average left for food, 12s. 4½d., or 1s. 6½d. per head a week:
    man, 3s. 6d.; mother and children, 1s. 3¼d. a week, or 2-5/7d.
    a day.

3. Wage, 24s. Allowance, 22s. 3 children alive, 1 dead.

    Rent for 3 rooms, 7s. Clothing, 6d. Burial insurance, 8d.

    Left for food, 9s. 4d., or 1s. 10½d. per head a week, 3¼d. a
    day: man, 3s. 6d. a week; mother and children, 1s. 5½d. a week,
    or 2½d. a day.

4. Wage, 24s. 9d. Allowance, 24s. 4 children alive, 1 dead.

    Rent, 8s. Clothing, 2s. 2d. Burial insurance, 10d.

    Average left for food, 10s. 2¾d., or 1s. 8½d. per head a week,
    or almost 3d. a day: man, 3s. 6d.; mother and children nearly
    1s. 4d. a week, or 2¼d. a day.

5. Wage, 20s. Allowance, 19s. 4 children; none dead.

    Rent, 4s. 6d. for one room. No regular clothing. Burial
    insurance, 3½d.

    Average left for food, 9s. 11¼d., or 1s. 7¾d. per head a week,
    less than 3d. a day: man, 3s. 6d.; mother and children, nearly
    1s. 4d. a week, or 2¼d. a day.

6. Wage, 20s. Allowance, 18s. 4 children alive; 5 dead.

    Rent (2 rooms), 4s. 6d. Clothing, 1s. 6d. Burial insurance, 8½d.

    Average left for food—8s. 9d., or 1s. 5½d. per head a week,
    2½d. a day: man, 3s. 6d.; mother and children, 1s. 0⅗d. per
    head a week, less than 2d. a day.

Two cases where the weekly wage was less than 18s., owing to the men
taking temporary work in unemployment:

7. Wage, 15s. Allowance, 12s. 6d. 2 children alive, 2 dead.

    Rent, 3s. 9d. (1 room). No regular clothing. No burial
    insurance. Has since insured.

    Average left for food—4s. 9d., or 1s. 2½d. per head a week,
    2d. a day: man could not have his 3s. 6d. a week here, as that
    would leave only 1s. 3d. a week between mother and children.
    He probably manages on 2s., leaving 2s. 9d. for mother and two

8. Wage, 10s. Allowance, 8s. 6d. 1 child.

    Rent, 3s. 6d. (1 room). No regular clothing. No burial
    insurance. Has since insured.

    Average left for food—3s. 10d., or 1s. 3⅓d. per head a week,
    2¼d. a day: here again the man cannot take his 3s. 6d. a week,
    but probably manages on about 2s., leaving 1s. 10d. a week for
    nursing mother.

The general average for the 8 women and 30 living children is 1s. 2⅗d.
per head a week, or 2d. a day. Ten children have died, and 1 has left
home, making the total of children born 41.

Another group is 3 printers’ labourers, where the average for 3 women and
18 living children is 10¼d. a week, or 1½d. a day. Only 2 children have
died in this group, making the total 20.

The average for the families of 2 horse-keepers is 1s. 4d. per week, or
2¼d. a day. There are 9 children living, 2 have died.

Three plumbers’ and painters’ labourers form another group, where 3 women
and 15 living children average 1s. 1½d. a week, or almost 2d. a day. In
this group 7 children have died, making a total of 22.

In the families of 2 potters’ labourers, out of 10 children none have
died. The 2 women and 10 children average 1s. 1½d. per week, or nearly
2d. a day.

Two theatre hands out of 14 children have lost 6, and the 2 women and 8
living children average 1s. 3½d. a week, or 2¼d. a day.

The average for all the women and children within the investigation is
1s. 5½d. per head a week, or 2½d. per head a day.

This average is worked out under the supposition that the man has a
uniform expenditure on his food of 3s. 6d. a week, or 6d. a day, except
in about six cases, where the total amount left for food was so small
that it was obvious that the man had to share more or less with the
others, or they could not have lived at all. An average of six weeks was
taken in each case, as the amount spent on food varied very much from
week to week in some families. When clothes or sickness made an inroad on
the budget down went the food.

Here is a case in point:

Mr. M.: Wage, 25s. Allowed 23s. Three children.

  _April 29, 1910._

                                    s. d.
  Rent                              6  6
  Coal                              0  9
  Wood and oil                      0  6½
  Club                              0  3
  Soap, soda                        0  4½
  Boy’s knickers                    0  8¾
  Burial insurance                  0 10
                                    9 11¾

  _Left for food_, 13/0¼, which means 9/6¼ between the mother and
  children, or 2/4½ per week, or 4d. a day.

  _May 5, 1910._

                                    s. d.
  Rent                              6  6
  Coal                              0  9
  Doctor                            1  0
  Nurse                             5  0
  Club                              0  3
  Burial insurance                  0 10
  Soap, soda                        0  4½
                                   14  8½

  _Left for food_, 8/3½, which means 4/9½ between the mother and
  children, or 1/2¼ per week, or 2d. a day.

Another way than that of reducing the food of hungry children is to pawn
clothing when some expense must be met.

Mr. R.: Wage, 25s.; allows 21s.; six children. Daughter (partially fed at
service): Wage, 4s.; allows 4s. Total income, 29s. Total allowance, 25s.

The daughter was told by her mistress where she was in daily service
that she must come in better boots. The average amount left for food
was 11s. 3d. for the whole family of man, wife, and the five children
fed at home, which means 1s. 7½d. per head a week all round the family.
Taking the usual 3s. 6d. for the man’s food, there is left 7s. 9d. for
the mother and children, which means 1s. 3½d. each per week, or 2¼d. per
day. The food allowance being already as low as seemed safe to go, rent
being payable to a personal friend who was in difficulties herself, the
pawnshop was chosen as the way out.

The statement of income given above was altered as follows:

                            s. d.
  Mr. R.                   21  0
  S.                        4  0
  Made a parcel own boots   2  0
  Tommy’s boots             2  6
                           29  6

While expenses other than food ran:

                            s. d.
  Rent                      7  0
  Gas                       1  6
  Coal                      2  1½
  Soap, soda                0  2
  Boots for S.              6  6
                           17  3½

Which leaves for food all round the family, 12s. 2½d., or an average of
nearly 1s. 9d. per head a week. The average for mother and children is
almost 1s. 5½d., or 2½d. a day. The sum of 4s. 6d. which was received
for the boots appears later as “4s. 8d. for boots out of pawn” in the
expenditure of maternity benefit.

The sum of 3s. 6d. which is deducted for the bread-winner’s food before
calculating the average for mother and children is in many instances well
below the actual sum spent on the man’s food. This amount has been chosen
as the very least the women feel themselves justified in spending. The
cases where men take 3s. or 3s. 3d. for week-day dinners are those in
point. The sum of 4s. 6d. or 5s. would be nearer the mark by the end
of the week, when the man has had his share of the Sunday joint, and
his share, with or without “relishes,” of the teas and breakfasts. In
no single instance did the man seem to be having more than enough or
even enough. It was evident, however, that in order to keep one person
almost sufficiently fed all the rest in nearly every case had to live
permanently on less than 3d. a day.

It must be remembered by those who are convinced that the working man
can live well and easily on 3d. a day, because middle-class people have
tried the experiment and found it possible, that the well-to-do man who
may spend no more than 1s. 9d. a week on food for a month or more has
not also all his other expenses cut down to their very lowest limit. The
well-to-do man sleeps in a quiet, airy room, with sufficient and sanitary
bedding. He has every facility for luxurious bathing and personal
cleanliness. He has light and hygienic clothing; he has warmth in the
winter and change of air in the summer. He can rest when he is in; he has
good cooking at his command, with a sufficiency of storage, utensils, and
fuel. Above all he can always stop living on 3d. a day if it does not
suit him, or if his family get anxious. When his daughter needs a pair of
6s. 6d. boots he does not have to arrange an overdraft with his banker in
order to meet the crisis, as the poor man does with his pawnbroker. He
does not feel that all his family, well or ill, warm or cold, overworked
or not, are also bound to live on 3d. a day, and are only too thankful if
it does not drop to 2½d. or 2d., or even less, should under-employment
or no employment come his way. It is impossible to compare the living
on 3d. a day of a person all of whose other requirements are amply and
sufficiently satisfied, with the living of people whose every need is
thwarted and starved. Food is only half the problem. Air, light, warmth,
freedom from damp, sufficient space—these, for adults—go to make up the
other half, and these for young children are even of greater importance
than sufficient diet.

In the households of well-to-do people two kinds of diet can be used—one
for adults, the other for children. In the household which spends 10s.
or even less on food, only one kind of diet is possible, and that is the
man’s diet. The children have what is left over. There must be a Sunday
joint, or, if that be not possible, at least a Sunday dish of meat, in
order to satisfy the father’s desire for the kind of food he relishes,
and most naturally therefore intends to have. With that will go potatoes
and greens. The children share the meat, if old enough, or have potatoes
and gravy. For those children too young for cold meat there may be suet
pudding; but probably there is only bread and dripping, and so on and so
on, not only through the week, but through the months and years. Nursery
food is unknown for the children of the poor, who get only the remains of
adult food.

It was reckoned by a young mother of the writer’s acquaintance that the
cost of _special_ food used for two children in her nursery was 10s. a
week—mostly spent on milk, cream, and fruit, items of diet hardly ever
seen by children of the poor.

That the diet of the poorer London children is insufficient,
unscientific, and utterly unsatisfactory is horribly true. But that the
real cause of this state of things is the ignorance and indifference of
their mothers is untrue. What person or body of people, however educated
and expert, could maintain a working man in physical efficiency and rear
healthy children on the amount of money which is all these same mothers
have to deal with? It would be an impossible problem if set to trained
and expert people. How much more an impossible problem when set to the
saddened, weakened, overburdened wives of London labourers?



So many strictures are made on the improvident marriages of the poor that
it is necessary to look at the matter from the point of view of the poor

If the poor were not improvident, they would hardly dare to live their
lives at all. There is no security for them. Any work which they do
may stop at a week’s notice. Much work may be, and is, stopped with no
notice of any kind. The man is paid daily, and one evening he is paid as
usual, but told that he will not be needed again. Such a system breeds
improvidence; and if casual labour and daily paid labour are necessary
to society, then society must excuse the faults which are the obvious
outcome of such a system.

In the case of marriage, as things now are, the moment a man’s money
approaches a figure which seems to him a possible one he marries. For
the first year or even two years he may have less ready money but more
comfort. The wife keeps their one room clean and pleasant, and cooks,
none too well perhaps, but possibly with more attention to his special
needs than his former landlady did, or than his mother did, who had her
own husband as well as her other children to cater for. The wage may be
£1 a week. He gives the wife 18s. and retains 2s. for himself. The result
of her management may closely approach the following budget of two actual
young people who came within the investigation.

Mr. W., aged twenty, a toy-packer in City warehouse—wages 20s.; allows
18s. He has been married eighteen months, and when this budget was drawn
up a baby was expected any day. His wages were raised from 18s. a year
ago. His wife before marriage was a machinist on piece-work, and could
earn 10s. a week. She worked for six months after marriage, and paid for
most of the furniture in their one room; also she provided the coming
baby’s clothes. She is clean and thrifty, writes a good hand, and keeps
excellent accounts. She is nineteen.

Out of the 2s. retained by the husband, he pays 6d. a week into a
clothing club, and of course his 4d. is deducted for State Insurance.
With the rest “he does what he likes.” Sometimes he likes to give the
wife an extra penny for her housekeeping. The menu, from the list of
food purchases given on next page, appears to consist of a sufficiency
of bread, of meat, of potatoes, and perhaps of greens, as the husband’s
dinners eaten away from home probably include greens for him. Some cold
meat, with bread and butter and tea, would be provided for the evening
meal; bread, butter, and tea would be the invariable breakfast.

Date of budget, January 16, 1913:

                                        s. d.
  Rent (one good room upstairs; two
    windows)                            5  0
  Burial insurance                      0  3
  Boot club                             0  6
  Coal (1 cwt. stove coal for foreign
    stove, which stands out into the
    room, and will be very dangerous
    when the baby begins to crawl)      1  3
  Gas                                   0  8
  Soap                                  0  3
  Oil                                   0  2
  Matches                               0  1½
                                        8  2½

  Left for food 9s. 9½d.

                                        s. d.
  Six loaves                            1  4½
  Husband’s dinners (he is given 6d.
    daily by his wife for his dinner,
    which he eats away from home)       3  0
  Meat                                  3  2½
  ½ lb. butter                          0  6
  1 lb. flour                           0  1½
  1 tin of milk                         0  4
  4 ozs. tea                            0  4
  1 lb. moist sugar                     0  2
  ½ lb. dripping                        0  3
  8 lbs. potatoes                       0  4
  4 lbs. greens                         0  2
                                        9  9½

  An average per head of 4s. 10¾d. a week for food.

If the wages never rise, and if the family grows larger, the amounts
spent on burial insurance, soap, coal, gas, and, later on, rent will
increase, leaving less and less for food, with more people to feed on the
less amount. Extra bedding will eventually have to be bought, though the
parents will naturally put off that moment as long as possible. Should
the wage rise gradually to 24s., or even 25s., it would not all go upon
the general living. The man would naturally take a larger amount of
pocket-money, and out of the extra sum which he might allow the wife, he
would certainly expect better living. A “relish to his tea,” costing 2d.
a day, mounts up to 1s. a week, and a “rasher to his breakfast” costs
the same. So an increase of 2s. might be completely swallowed up in
extra food for the worker. And it would be really needed by him, as his
proportion of the money spent would tend to diminish with more mouths to

Another instance of a young couple starting on £1 a week is that of Mr.
H., who is twenty-two, and works in a brewery. Every third week he has
night work. He allows his wife his whole wage. There is one child of
six months. The wife is twenty. She worked in a polish factory until
marriage, when she was dismissed, with a small bonus, as the firm does
not employ married women. With the bonus she helped to furnish. She is an
excellent housewife, and keeps her room comfortable.

Date of budget, January 16, 1913 (see p. 150).

                                        s. d.
  Rent (one room, small; one window,
    upstairs)                           3  6
  Husband’s fares                       1  0
  Husband’s pocket-money                1  0
  State sickness insurance              0  4
  Four weeks’ burial insurance (Mr. H.
    had been ill on half pay, and
    burial insurance had stood over)    1  0
  Soap, soda                            0  3½
  1 cwt. coal                           1  6
  Gas                                   0  6
  Wood                                  0  2
  Newspaper                             0  1
  Boracic powder                        0  1
  Cotton                                0  2
  Needles                               0  0½
  Buttons                               0  1
  Paid off loan (5s. borrowed from a
    brother during husband’s illness)   1  0
                                       10  9

  This leaves for food, 9s. 3d. between three people, or an
  average of 3s. 1d. a head.

                                        s. d.
  9 loaves                              1 10½
  8 ozs. tea                            0  8
  2 lbs. moist sugar                    0  4
  1 tin of milk (a smaller tin than
    Mrs. W.’s)                          0  3½
  ½ lb. butter (slightly better
    than Mrs. W.’s)                     0  7
  2 lbs. flour                          0  3
  8 lbs. potatoes                       0  4
  Vegetables                            0  7
  Salt, mustard, sauce                  0  2½
  Fruit                                 0  6
  Fish                                  1  0
  Bacon                                 0  4½
  Mineral water (recommended by doctor
    for Mr. H. during his illness)      0  3
  Meat                                  2  0
                                        9  3

Owing to Mr. H. getting home to his meals, there is more elasticity in
this menu. Much less meat is eaten, and fish and bacon appear instead.
More bread, more tea, more vegetables are eaten, and fruit is added. The
usual breakfast is bread, butter, and tea; the dinner a small amount of
meat, with potatoes and vegetables; the evening meal, fish or bacon,
with potatoes, as well as the eternal bread, butter, and tea. All these
four young people are steady and intelligent. They have enough to eat,
but they are put to it for proper clothing already. The H.’s will have
to move sooner than the W.’s if their family increases, as their room,
though a pleasant one, is not above half the size of the other.

It is obvious that with both these young men marriage is, so far, both
pleasant and successful. It is worth the sacrifice in pocket-money which
it must entail upon them. Their working life is much the same as it was
during their bachelorhood, while their free time is more comfortable
and more interesting. Should they have waited to marry until later in
life, they would probably have lived no cheaper as bachelors, though the
money would have been spent differently, and they would have been less
wholesomely comfortable.

The young women’s lives are far more changed. They tell you that,
though they are a bit lonely at times, and miss the companionship of
the factory life and the money of their own to spend, and are rather
frightened at the swift approach of motherhood, “You get accustomed to
it,” and “It won’t be so lonely when the baby comes,” and “He’s very
handy when he’s at home.” The first baby is a source of great interest
and pleasure to both parents, especially if it is well managed and
does not cry at night, though one young father who was accustomed to
a restless baby said he “missed it ter’ble at night” when it was away
in hospital. It is different when the children multiply and the room
becomes crowded and food is less plentiful. Then the case of the man is
hard and unattractive; the amount of self-sacrifice demanded of him, if
he be at all tender-hearted towards his family, is outrageous. He must
never smoke, he must never take a glass of ale; he must walk to and from
his work in all weathers; he must have no recreations but the continual
mending of his children’s boots; he must neither read nor go to picture
palaces nor take holidays, if he is to do all that social reformers
expect of him when they theoretically parcel out his tiny income.
Needless to say, the poorly paid man is not so immeasurably superior to
the middle-class man in the matter of self-denial and self-control as he
seems expected to be. He does smoke, he does sometimes take a glass of
ale; he does, in fact, appropriate a proportion of the money he earns
to his own pleasure. It is not a large proportion as a rule, but it
upsets the nice calculations which are based upon the supposition that a
man earning 25s. a week spends every penny of it in the support of his
family. He is, most probably, a hard-working, steady, sober man; but he
may spend perhaps 2d. a day on beer, 1d. a day on tobacco, and 2d. a
day on tram fares, and that without being a monster of selfishness, or
wishing to deprive his children of their food. In most budgets he keeps
from 2s. to 2s. 6d. for himself, in some 5s. or 6s., and in some nothing.
He varies as his brethren vary in other classes. Sometimes he walks to
and from work; sometimes he pays his fares out of the money he keeps; and
sometimes he gets them paid out of the money with which he supplies his

Though fond of the children when they are there, this life of stress
and strain makes the women dread nothing so much as the conviction that
there is to be still another baby with its inevitable consequences—more
crowding, more illness, more worry, more work, and less food, less
strength, less time to manage with.

There are people who argue that marriage should be put off by the poor
until they have saved up enough to secure their economic independence,
and that it would not hurt young men on £1 a week to put off marriage
till they are thirty, they, meantime, saving hard during those ten years.
Should the poorly paid workman overcome his young impulse to marry the
moment his wage reaches £1 a week, and should he remain a bachelor until
thirty, it is quite certain that he would not marry at all. This may be
a good thing or a bad thing, but it would be so. A man who for ten years
had had the spending of 20s. a week—and it is a sum which is soon spent
without providing luxuries—would not, at thirty, when perhaps cold
reason would direct his impulse, feel inclined to share his £1 a week
with an uncertain number of other people. His present bent is towards
married life. It provides him for the first year or two with attention
to his comfort and with privacy and freedom for his personality, as well
as satisfying his natural craving for sex-relationship. Should he thwart
that impulse, he, being an average, normal man, will have to find other
ways of dealing with these desires of his. He is not likely to starve
every instinct for ten years in order, perhaps, to save a sum which might
bring in an income of a couple of shillings a week to add to his weekly
wage. He would know, by the time he was thirty, that even 22s. a week
does not guarantee a family against misery and want. The self-sacrifice
demanded of the father of even a small family on such an income would
appal him.

The young couple who marry and live contentedly on 20s. a week are
usually members of families of at least four or five persons, and have
struggled through their childhood on their share of an income which may
have been anything from 20s. to 25s. or 26s. a week. Their standard of
comfort is disastrously low, and they do not for the first year or two
realise that even two or three children will develop into a burden which
is too great for their strength. It is not the greater number of children
alone: it is the greater cost of accommodating, feeding, and clothing
boys and girls as they get older which increases the strain. Moreover,
the separation of interests soon begins to show itself. The husband goes
to the same work—hard, long, and monotonous—but at least a change from
the growing discomfort of the home. He gets accustomed to seeing his
wife slave, and she gets accustomed to seeing him appear and disappear
on his daily round of work, which gradually appeals less and less to her
imagination, till, at thirty, she hardly knows what his duties are—so
overwhelmed is she in the flood of her own most absorbing duties and
economies. Her economies interfere with his comfort, and are irksome to
him; so he gets out of touch with her point of view. He cannot see why
the cooking should be less satisfactory than it used to be, and says so.
She knows she needs a new saucepan, but cannot possibly afford to buy
one, and says so. He makes his wife the same allowance, and expects the
same amount of food. She has more mouths to fill, and grows impatient
because he does not understand that, though their first baby did not
seem to make much difference, a boy of three, plus a baby, makes the old
problem into quite a new one.

One of her questions is the balance between rent and food, which is of
enormous importance. Yet she never can feel certain that she has found
the right solution. Shall they all live in one room? Or shall they take
two basement rooms at an equally low rent, but spend more on gas and
coal, and suffer more from damp and cold? Or shall they take two rooms
above stairs and take the extra rent out of the food? Her own appetite
may not be very large, so she decides perhaps on the two better rooms
upstairs. She may decide wisely, as we think, but the sacrifice in food
is not to be ignored in its results on the health of the children.

Another of her problems is, How is she to keep her husband, the
bread-winner, in full efficiency out of the few shillings she can spend
on food, and at the same time satisfy the appetites of the children? She
decides to feed him sufficiently and to make what is over do for herself
and the children. This is not considered and thought-out self-sacrifice
on her part. It is the pressure of circumstances. The wage-earner must
be fed. The arrangement made between husband and wife in cases where the
man’s work is at a distance—that 6d. a day, or 3s. a week, should be
allowed by her for his dinners—may have begun, as in the case already
quoted, before any children had appeared, and may continue when there
are six children. Even if the wage has increased, and if, instead of
20s., the worker is getting 23s. or 24s., he probably keeps an extra
shilling for himself. Instead of allowing his wife 18s. a week, he
allows her 20s. or 21s. If she has several children, the father’s weekly
3s. for dinner is far harder to compass than when she managed for two
only on 18s. Rent, instead of being from 3s. 6d. to 5s. for one “good”
upstairs room, amounts to from 6s. to 7s. for two upstairs rooms, or,
if house-room be sacrificed to food, rent may be 5s. 6d. for two deadly
basement rooms. Insurance has mounted from 3d. a week to 9d. a week.
Gas which was 6d. is now 1s., on account of the extra cooking. Soap and
other cleaning materials have increased in quantity, and therefore in
expense from 2d. to 5½d. Clothing is a problem for which very few weekly
figures are available. It must be covered by payments to clothing and
boot clubs, or each article must be bought when needed. In any case the
expense is greater and the amount of money available for food grows
less. The unvarying amount paid for the bread-winner’s necessary daily
food becomes a greater proportion of the food bill, and leaves all the
increasing deficit to be met out of the food of the mother and children.
It is unavoidable that it should be so; nobody wastes time thinking about
it; but the fact that it is so forces the mother to take a different
point of view from that of the father. So each of them gradually grows to
understand the other less.

Both parents are probably devoted to the children. The husband, who is
sick of his wife’s complaints, and can’t be bothered with her story of
how she has no boots to wear, listens with sympathy and understanding
to her tale of woe about Tommy having no boots to his feet. The boy who
cannot speak at three years of age, or the girl who is deficient in
weight, in height, and in wits, often is the father’s special pet, for
whom he will sacrifice both food and sleep, while the mother’s whole life
is spent in a dreary effort to do her best for them all round.

Much has been said and written, and much more will be said and written,
on the question of the poor and large families. We wrangle as to whether
their numerous children are an improvidence and an insult to the
community, or whether, on the contrary, the poorest class is the only
class which, in that respect, does its duty to the nation. One thing is
quite certain, and it is that it would be as unthinkable as impossible to
bring compulsion to bear on the poor because they are poor. For those who
deplore large families in the case of poor people, it must be a comfort
to remember a fact which experience shews us, that as poverty decreases,
and as the standard of comfort rises, so does the size of the family
diminish. Should we be able to conquer the problem of poverty, we should
automatically solve the problem of the excessively large family.



In a previous chapter some description was given of the way in which the
women arrange their work. It is the province of this chapter to describe
in greater detail the “days” of several of the women—mounting up, as
they do gradually from the day of the young mother of one baby to that
of the worn woman of thirty-eight with eight children under thirteen.
Washing-day was not considered fair by the mothers. They said, “You’d
expeck ter be a bit done-like washin’-day;” so an ordinary day was
chosen in every case. They anxiously explained that the time-table form
in which the visitor took the day wasn’t fair either because, “You jest
as likely as not get a bit be’ind if ’indered.” But the subject was so
richly interesting, and led up to such absorbing anecdotes when left to
the mothers’ taste in method, that the time-table form had to be used in
self-protection by the visitor. The following is a specimen of a mother’s
way of telling it:

“Me young man ’as ter be up abart five. E’s a fair whale at sleep. If I
didn’t wake ’im ’e’d be late all the days in the year: _I_ tell yer. E’
come ’ome abart six, ’n soon’s ’e’s ’ad ’is tea ’e’s that sleepy agen
you’d ’ardly get a word off ’im.” Gently reminded here that it is her own
day that is required, she continues: “Oh, me? Well, I tells yer I wakes
’im at five. I ’as ter give ’im a good thump, an’ ’e gets up quiet-like
if ’e can; but ’e generly can’t, an’ then the kids begin talkin’, an’ I
’as a fair job ter keep ’em in bed. See that one with red ’air—’e’s a
fair treat in the mornin’s,” etc.

The first day given is that of a young mother aged twenty, with her first
baby—a fat, round morsel who may be called well cared for after the
initial disadvantage of living with its parents in one small and dismal
room has been recognised. The young mother owns a large sewing-machine,
of which she is intolerably proud. As Lambeth mothers’ days go, hers is a
very easy one.

6.0.—Get up and light fire.

6.15.—Wake husband, who has to be off by seven; get his breakfast.

6.30.—Give him his breakfast, and while he eats it, nurse baby.

7.0.—When he has gone, put baby down and eat breakfast.

7.30.—Wash up; do a little washing every day for baby; air bed; carry
down dirty water; bring fresh up from yard (second floor).

8.30.—Baby wakes; give her a bath and dress her; nurse her; let her lie
and kick while sweeping room and blacking grate and scrubbing stairs;
make bed; carry baby out, and do shopping for dinner.

11.0.—Come in and nurse baby; get dinner ready.

12.15.—Husband comes in; give him dinner. He leaves a few minutes to one

1.0.—Wash up, and nurse baby; take her out for a walk, if fine, for as
long as can bear it. She is heavy. Come in when time to nurse her again,
and sit down to sew. Make all her clothes and most of own, and mend

4.30.—Get tea ready and cook relish.

5.0.—Husband comes in; give him tea, and help him clean himself in warm
water; wash up and carry down dirty water, and bring up clean water.

6.0.—Nurse baby and get her to bed; husband not strong, and likes to go
to bed early; sit and sew till time to nurse baby at nine o’clock. Get
everything ready for morning.

9.30.—Go to bed.

One week in every three the husband works at night, instead of the day.
The wife finds this less convenient for her, and is certain that it
over-strains him, as he cannot sleep properly in the day, though she
tries to be as quiet as ever she can. But the baby is bound to disturb
him, as the room is very small. During this week, dinner is whenever
he gets up, and all the cleaning and washing has to be squeezed in

The next case is that of Mrs. O., who has but two children alive, both
very young. Two rooms have to be looked after, and extremely well looked
after, for Mr. O. is the gentleman who keeps 5s. a week out of 25s.,
and expects 4s. 4d. a week spent on his own extra food. He likes the
place nice, and cannot see that his wife need ever go out except for
the purpose of buying the family food. He believes that women are prone
to extravagance in dress, and does not encourage Mrs. O. in any such
nonsense. When it was necessary that she should come once a fortnight to
the weighing centre, to have the baby weighed, the price of a pair of
boots had to be saved out of several weeks’ food, much to the annoyance
of Mr. O., who could not understand why any of his family should ever
leave the two rooms where they live.

Her day runs as follows:

7.0.—Get up and get husband’s breakfast; nurse baby while he has it.

7.30.—He goes to work. Get little girl dressed, get her breakfast, and
have it with her.

8.0.—Wash up.

8.30.—Get baby’s bath and wash and dress him.

9.0.—Nurse him and put him to sleep.

9.30.—Do beds and sweep bedroom, and carry up water (first floor).

11.0.—Start to make little girl a frock till baby wakes; nurse him when
he does.

12.15.—Get dinner for self and child ready (husband has dinner away from

1.0.—Have dinner.

1.30.—Nurse baby and clear away and wash up dinner things. Sweep and
scrub floor and passage, clean grate; every other week do stairs.

2.30.—Wash myself and little girl, and take children out till four.

4.0.—Get tea and nurse baby.

4.30.—Clear away, and get husband’s tea; wait for him till he comes in;
very uncertain, between five and seven o’clock; go on making frock till
he does.

6.0.—Put children to bed.

6.30.—Wash up husband’s tea things, if he has finished. As soon as he has
finished, he changes and goes out.

8.0.—Go up The Walk for shopping for next day, leaving children in bed.

9.0.—Mend husband’s clothes, and go on with frock till ten.

10.0.—Nurse baby and make both children comfortable for the night.

11.0.—If husband has come in, go to bed.

This is not a hard day as things go in Lambeth. The noticeable thing
about it is its loneliness. Mrs. O. knows nothing of her neighbours, and,
until the visitor insisted on the children’s getting out every afternoon,
and agitated for the boots, Mrs. O. never took them out. She did her
shopping at night in order that her old slippers might not be seen. She
sat indoors and mended and made clothes in her neat room, while her pale
little girl amused herself as best she could and the baby lay on the
bed. The husband merely ate and slept at home. He was a particularly
respectable and steady man, who kept his clothes neat and his person
scrupulously clean. His wife ministered to him in every way she could,
but saw nothing of him. He took no interest in the little daughter, but
was proud of the boy, and it was by means of the boy’s need of fresh air
that he was persuaded to allow his wife to save for her boots. For her he
did not consider them necessary, as he was in favour of women staying at
home and minding the house.

The next day is that of a woman who lives in one room in buildings,
with her husband and four children. She is rather self-assertive and
talkative, very clean, rougher in her manner of speaking to her children
than most of the mothers, but very affectionate to both children and
husband. Her old mother, whom she partially feeds, is a great deal with
her, and helps in the household work. Her day is rather an easy one for
Lambeth. The eldest child is eight years old, and the baby is a few
months. As the room is in “buildings,” she has water on the same level,
so has not to carry it up or down stairs.

4.30.—Wake husband, who has to be at work about five o’clock. He is
carman for an L.C.C. contractor. Get him off if possible without waking
the four children. He has a cup of tea before going, but breakfasts away
from home. If baby wakes, nurse him.

7.0.—Nurse baby.

7.15.—Get up and light fire, wake children, wash two eldest ones. Get
breakfast for self and children.


8.30.—Tidy two children for school and start them off at 8.45.

9.0.—Clear away and wash up; wash and dress boy of three; bathe and dress

10.0.—Nurse baby and put him to bed.

10.30.—Turn down beds, clean grate, scrub floor.

11.30.—Make beds.

12.0.—Mother, who has done the marketing, brings in the food; begin to
cook dinner.

12.15.—Children all in, lay dinner, and, with mother’s help, tidy
children for it.

1.0.—Dinner, which mother serves while Mrs. G. nurses baby who wakes
about then.

1.30.—Tidy children for school again.

1.45.—Start them off and sit down with mother to their own dinner; wash
up, tidy room, clean themselves.

3.0.—Go out, if it is not washing-day or day for doing the stairs, with
baby and boy of three.

3.45.—Come in and get tea for children. Put boy of three to sleep, nurse

4.15.—Children come in.

4.30.—Give children tea.

5.0.—Wash up and tidy room. Tidy children and self.

6.0.—Take up boy of three and go out for a “blow in the street” with all
four children.

7.0.—Come in and put children to bed. Nurse baby.

7.30.—Husband returns; get his supper.

8.0.—Sit down and have supper with him.

8.30.—Clear away and wash up. Sew while husband goes to bed. “Talk wile
’e’s doin’ it.”

9.0.—Send mother off. Get everything ready for the morning. Mend
husband’s clothes as soon as he gets them off.

10.0.—Nurse baby and go to bed.

We now come to the day of a mother of six children, with two rooms to
keep. Mrs. T., whose menu has already been given, is the wife of a
builder’s handyman on 25s. a week. The two rooms are upstairs in a small
house, and, as there is no water above the ground floor, Mrs. T. has a
good deal of carrying of heavy pails of water both upstairs and down.
She is gentle and big and slow, never lifts her voice or gets angry,
but seems always tired and dragged. She is very clean and orderly. Her
husband is away all day; but he dislikes the noise of a family meal, and
insists on having both breakfast and tea cooked specially for himself,
and eats alone.

6.0.—Nurses baby.

6.30.—Gets up, calls five children, puts kettle on, washes “necks” and
“backs” of all the children, dresses the little ones, does hair of three

7.30.—Gets husband’s breakfast, cooks bloater, and makes tea.

8.0.—Gives him breakfast alone, nurses baby while he has it, and cuts
slices of bread and dripping for children.

8.30.—He goes, gives children breakfast, sends them off to school at
8.50, and has her own.

9.0.—Clears away and washes up breakfast things.

9.30.—Carries down slops, and carries up water from the yard; makes beds.

10.0.—Washes and dresses baby, nurses him, and puts him to bed.

11.0.—Sweeps out bedroom, scrubs stairs and passage.

12.0.—Goes out and buys food for the day. Children home at 12.15.

12.30.—Cooks dinner; lays it.

1.0.—Gives children dinner and nurses baby.

1.45.—Washes hands and faces, and sees children off to school.

2.0.—Washes up dinner things, scrubs out kitchen, cleans grate, empties
dirty water, and fetches more clean from yard.

3.0.—Nurses baby.

3.30.—Cleans herself and begins to mend clothes.

4.15.—Children all back.

4.30.—Gives them tea.

5.0.—Clears away and washes up, nurses the baby, and mends clothes till

6.30.—Cooks husband’s tea.

7.0.—Gives husband tea alone.

7.30.—Puts younger children to bed.

8.0.—Tidies up, washes husband’s tea things, sweeps kitchen, and mends
clothes, nurses baby, puts elder children to bed.

8.45.—Gets husband’s supper; mends clothes.

10.0.—Nurses baby, and makes him comfortable for the night.

10.30.—Goes to bed.

The last “day” is that of the woman who has eight children under
thirteen. The fact that her husband works at night enables the family to
sleep seven in one room—the mother and five children by night and the
husband by day; in the other bedroom three older children sleep in a
single bed. This woman is tall and would be good-looking if her figure
were not much misshapen. She has quantities of well-washed hair, and good
teeth; but her face is that of a woman of fifty. She is thirty-eight.
She can stand very little advice or argument, and simply does not listen
when either are offered to her. She seems always to be hearing a baby
wake, or correcting a child of two, or attending to the soiled face of
the little girl of three and a half, who is so much smaller than her
younger brother. She once went for a fortnight’s change to the seaside.
The visitor asked her, when she came back, what she had most enjoyed. She
thought for a considerable time, and then made the following statement:
“I on’y ’ad two babies along of me, an’ wen I come in me dinner was
cooked for me.”

There is no doubt that if Mrs. B. were stronger she would not need to
nurse her baby quite so often. He is small and hungry, and will soon
need to be weaned if his mother is to work as hard as she does on
ordinary days; with extra exertion on washing-days, and extra noise and
interruption in holiday-time.

Mr. B., printer’s labourer; wage 30s.; allows 28s.; night worker. Eight
children; eldest, a girl of twelve years; youngest, three months.

6.45.—Nurses baby.

7.0.—Rises, calls children, lights fire and puts on kettle, washes and
dresses elder four children. Girl of twelve can do for herself. Boy of
ten can do all but his ears.

8.0.—Gets breakfast; bread and butter and tea for children.

8.15.—Gives children breakfast; gets them off to school by 8.45.

8.45.—Nurses baby.

9.0.—Fetches down the three babies, washes and dresses them; gives the
two bigger their breakfast.

9.30.—Husband comes home; cooks him rasher or haddock.

10.0.—Gives him his breakfast, and goes upstairs to tidy her room for
husband to sleep in; makes her bed for him, which has been airing since
seven o’clock. Turns out and airs beds in other room, taking two elder
babies with her.

10.30.—Clears away and washes up all the breakfast things.

11.0.—Nurses baby and puts all three to sleep.

11.15.—Goes out to buy dinner.

11.30.—Prepares dinner.

12.10.—Children all home again; goes on with dinner.

1.0.—Lays and serves dinner.

1.30.—Washes hands and faces of five children, and sends them off to

1.45.—Nurses baby, and sits down till 2.30.

2.30.—Washes up and begins cleaning. Sweeps kitchen, scullery, and
passage, scrubs them, cleans grate; three babies to mind all the time.

4.10.—Children all home again; gets their tea, nurses baby.

4.30.—Clears away, and begins to cook husband’s dinner.

5.0.—Husband wakes; gives him dinner; sits down while she cuts his food
for him to take to work, keeping babies and children as quiet as she can.

6.0.—Nurses baby.

6.30.—He starts for work. She makes children’s beds, turns out his, airs
his room, and makes his bed up for herself and three children to sleep in
at night. All water used in bedrooms has to be carried upstairs, and when
used, carried down.

7.30—Washes and puts to bed two babies.

8.0.—Nurses baby.

8.15.—Washes and puts to bed elder children.

8.45.—Mends clothes.

10.0.—Nurses baby and puts him to bed.

10.30.—Goes to bed; nurses baby twice in the night.

There is no room for the “day” of the mother who bakes her own bread.
Her husband, who works for a Post-Office contractor, is on night-duty,
and spends most of the day at home. He is an old soldier, as are an
appreciable proportion of these low-wage men. He helps his wife in the
housework and the cooking, and their home is one of the most spotless
the visitor has seen. When his wife was sent to the seaside for two
weeks, he managed entirely for himself and the five children. His “day”
would have been very valuable could the visitor have persuaded him to
make it out for those two weeks. He apologised to her for not making the
money go as far as “mother” did, for buying loaves and not baking the
bread, for scrubbing without soap, which he had forgotten to buy; but a
detailed account of his day he could not give. He was a guardsman when
in the army, and stands six feet in his socks. He weighs eleven stone at
thirty-six—a stone less than when he was serving. Here are the accounts
for his two weeks, alongside a budget of his wife’s, with which to
compare (see p. 173). He sent them with the following letter:

    “MRS. R.,—

    “Unfortunately I had Rachel at home on the Friday as Mother
    went away on the Thursday. I could not do on the money; I had
    as you will see to borrow 5s. as well as putting the whole of
    my money in the house. The last week I managed better, but had
    to miss my club. I should have sent the list down to you each
    week but Mother forgot to ask me to do so.”

The reference to Rachel is that she lost her situation just as his wife
left home. He had her food to get as well as the other children’s during
his fortnight. She is an excellent worker, and got another place as soon
as her mother came back.

  _Mrs. H., June 18._

                             s. d.

  Mr. H.                    21  0
  Rachel                     4  0
  Bread sold                 0  9
                            25  9

  Rent                       6  6
  Gas                        2  0
  Coal                       0  8½
  Soap, soda, etc.           0  7¼
  Blacklead, hearthstone     0  1½
  Matches                    0  1½
  Stockings                  0  4¾
  Cottons                    0  3
  Knickers (two boys)        1  4
  Flour and yeast            5  5
  Meat                       2  6
  Margarine                  1  6
  Sugar                      0  7
  Tea                        0  6
  Cocoa, coffee              0  6
  Potatoes                   1  0
  Vegetables                 0  7
  Cow’s milk                 0  7
  Oatmeal                    0  5
  Salt                       0  1½
                            25  9

  _Mr. H., June 25._

                             s. d.

  Mr. H., whole wage        25  0
  Borrowed                   5  0
                            30  0

  Rent                       6  6
  Gas                        2  3
  Coal                       0  8½
  Soap                       0  5
  Blacklead, etc.             --
  Matches                    0  1½
  Washing                    1  6
  Slate club                 1  2
  National insurance         0  4
  Hospital                   0  1
  Tobacco                    1  3¾
  Ink, pen, nibs             0  2¾
  Stationery                 0  1
  Stamps                     0  4
  Bread                      5  0
  Meat                       3  0
  Margarine                  3  6
  Sugar                      0  8
  Tea                        0  6
  Cocoa, coffee               --
  Potatoes                   1  0
  Vegetables                 0  6
  Cow’s milk                 0  5½
  Rice                       0  2
  Salt, pepper               0  2
                            30  0

  _Mr. H., July 2._

                             s. d.

  Mr. H.                    25  0

  Rent                       6  6
  Gas                        1  6
  Coal                        --
  Soap, soda                  --
  Blacklead, etc.             --
  Matches                     --
  Washing                    1  0
  Boots (Tommy)              2  0
  Club                        --
  National insurance         0  4
  Hospital                   0  1
  Tobacco                    1  1½
  Boot polish                0  1½
  Stamps                     0  3½
  Tram fares                 0  3
  Bread                      4  2
  Meat                       2  0
  Margarine                  3  0
  Sugar                      0  8
  Tea                        0  6
  Cocoa, coffee               --
  Potatoes                   1  0
  Vegetables                  --
  Cow’s milk                 0  5½
  Oatmeal, rice               --
                            25  0

The items “ink, pen, nibs, stationery, and stamps” directly mother went
away are rather touching. The enormous consumption of margarine—3s. 6d.
as against 1s. 6d.—is an instance of the way in which the father is
kept in ignorance of the privations which are undergone by his family.
Directly he was left in charge, this father allowed margarine all round
on the same scale as he had always used it himself, with the result of
more than doubling the amount spent on it. The item in his first week
of 2s. 3d. for gas when there was no baking to be done, as against his
wife’s 2s. when there was, shows that the ½ cwt. of coal did not suffice
him, and that he cooked by gas. The savings he made in his second week
are most entertaining. No soap or cleaning material of any kind, no coal,
no matches; and yet the grate did not look bad nor the floor either when
the visitor saw them at the end of his strenuous time. The amount spent
on tobacco, his one luxury, is interesting, as it is the sole instance in
which this item is accounted for in the budgets. He was obliged to put
every penny of his wage into the general fund during those two weeks.
The penny for the hospital is a very common payment in Lambeth—one which
always comes out of the man’s private purse. Incidentally, we are able to
construct his own private budget of 4s. pocket-money out of this budget
of his. It must run something like this:

                                   s. d.
  National insurance               0  4
  Slate club                       1  2
  Hospital                         0  1
  Tobacco                          1  6
  Fares, etc.                      0 11
                                   4  0

That the children of the poor suffer from insufficient attention
and care is not because the mother is lazy and indifferent to her
children’s well-being. It is because she has but one pair of hands and
but one overburdened brain. She can just get through her day if she
does everything she has to do inefficiently. Give her six children,
and between the bearing of them and the rearing of them she has little
extra vitality left for scientific cooking, even if she could afford the
necessary time and appliances. In fact, one woman is not equal to the
bearing and efficient, proper care of six children. She can make one bed
for four of them; but if she had to make four beds; if she even had to
separate the boys from the girls, and keep two rooms clean instead of
one; if she had to make proper clothing and keep those clothes properly
washed and ironed and mended; if she had to give each child a daily bath,
and had to attend thoroughly to teeth, noses, ears, and eyes; if she had
to cook really nourishing food, with adequate utensils and dishes, and
had to wash up these utensils and dishes after every meal—she would need
not only far more money, but far more help. The children of the poor
suffer from want of room, want of light, want of air, want of warmth,
want of sufficient and proper food, and want of clothes, because there
is not enough to pay for these necessaries. They also suffer from want
of cleanliness, want of attention to health, want of peace and quiet,
because the strength of their mothers is not enough to provide these
necessary conditions.



In this investigation forty-two families have been visited. Of these,
eight, owing to various reasons, were visited but for a short time.
Three were given up after several weeks, because the husbands objected
to the household accounts being shown to the visitor; and here it would
be interesting to mention that in three other cases, not reckoned in the
investigation, the husbands refused after the first week for the same
reason as soon as they thoroughly realised the scope of the inquiry. In
four cases the babies were born too soon, and lived but a few hours.
The investigation was primarily on infantile mortality, so that it
automatically ceased with the child’s death. One family moved out of
London before the child’s birth. There remain, therefore, thirty-four
babies who were watched and studied by the visitors for many months. In
every case but one these children were normal, and thriving at birth.
Only one weighed less than 6 lbs.; four more weighed less than 7 lbs.;
fifteen more weighed less than 8 lbs.; ten more weighed less than 9 lbs.;
and four weighed over 9 lbs. The average weight at birth for the whole
number was 7 lbs. 10 ozs. The child which weighed 5 lbs. 12 ozs. at birth
was always sickly, and died of diarrhœa and sickness during the hot
August of 1911 at the age of six months. Her mother was a delicate woman,
and had come through a time of dire stress when her husband was out of
work for four months before this child was born. A baby born since,
which does not appear in this investigation, is now about five months
old. Not one of the others seemed otherwise than sound and healthy, and
able to thrive on the nourishment which was provided for their special
benefit by the investigation. One child, however, a beautiful boy of
five months, who weighed 7 lbs. 12 ozs. at birth, and 14 lbs. 14 ozs. at
twenty weeks, died suddenly of bronchitis in December, 1910. His mother’s
health record was bad. He was the sixth child she had lost out of eleven.
She was an extraordinarily tidy, clean woman, and an excellent manager;
but her father had died of consumption, and she was one of those mothers
who economised in rent in order to feed her flock more adequately. She
paid 5s. a week for very dark ground-floor rooms. The death of the child
was so sudden and unexpected that an inquest was held. The mother was
horrified and bewildered at the entrance of police officers into her
home. She wrung her hands and repeated over and over, “I done all I
could!” and never shook off the impression that some disgrace attached
to her. The burial insurance money paid by the company was £1. Five
shillings specially earned by the mother and 5s. lent by a friend brought
up the amount to the necessary 30s., and the humble funeral took place.
The child was buried in a common grave with seven other coffins of all

With these two exceptions, the babies all lived to be over a year. They
usually did fairly well, unless some infection from the elder children
gave them a bad cold, or measles, or whooping-cough, when some of them
had a hard struggle to live, and their convalescence was much retarded
by the close air and overcrowding of their unhygienic surroundings.
Compared with babies who were fighting such surroundings without special
nourishment, they did well, but compared with the children of well-to-do
people they did badly indeed!

The ex-baby, where such a person existed, was nearly always undersized,
delicate, and peevish. Apart from such causes as insufficient and
improper food, crowded sleeping quarters, and wretched clothing, this
member of the family specially suffered from want of fresh air. Too
young to go out alone, with no one to carry it now the baby had come,
it lived in the kitchen, dragging at its mother’s skirts, much on its
legs, but never in the open air. One of the conveniences most needed by
poor mothers is a perambulator which will hold, if possible, her two
youngest children. With such a vehicle, there would be some sort of
chance of open air and change of scene so desperately necessary for the
three house-bound members of the family. As it is, the ex-baby is often
imprisoned in a high chair, where it cannot fall into the fire, or pull
over the water-can, or shut its finger in the crack of the door, or get
at the food. But here it is deprived of exercise and freedom of limb, and
develops a fretful, thwarted character, which renders it even more open
to disease than the rest of the family, though they share with it all the
other bad conditions.

There is no doubt that the healthy infant at birth is less healthy at
three months, less healthy still at a year, and often by the time it
is old enough to go to school it has developed rickets or lung trouble
through entirely preventible causes.

To take several families individually, and go through their history, may
serve as illustration of the way in which children who begin well are
worn down by the conditions round them:

Mr. A., whose house was visited all the year of 1909, was originally
a footman in one of the houses of a large public school. He seemed
at the time of visiting to be fairly strong and wiry. He was about 5
feet 8 inches in height, well educated, and very steady. His wife had
been a lady’s-maid, who had saved a little money, which she sank in
a boarding-house kept by herself and her sister. The boarding-house
did not pay, and when Mrs. A. married, the sister went back into the
service of the lady with whom she had been before. Mr. A. left his
position as footman, and became a bus conductor in one of the old
horse-bus companies. When visited in 1909 he had been fifteen years in
his position, but owing to the coming of motor traffic, his employers
gradually ran fewer buses, and his work became more casual. He was paid
4s. a day, and got four days’ work a week, with an occasional fifth day.
He had to present himself every morning, and wait a certain time before
he knew whether he would be employed or not. All that he made he brought
home. His wife, who by the time the visits began was worn and delicate,
was a well-educated woman, and an excellent manager. She saved on all the
20s. weeks in order to have a little extra for the 16s. weeks. Her sister
in service often came to the rescue when extra trouble, such as illness
or complete unemployment, visited the household. There were five children
after the baby of the investigation arrived. The eldest, a girl, was
consumptive; the next, a boy, was short in one leg, and wore a surgical
boot; the next, a girl, was the airless ex-baby, and suffered with its
eyes; and only the new-born child, weighing 9 lbs., seemed to be thriving
and strong. The average per week for food was 1s. a head for man, woman,
and children. Presently the conductor’s work stopped altogether. No more
horse-buses were run on that particular route, and motor-buses did not
come that way. Mr. A. was out of work. He used to bring in odd sums of
money earned in all sorts of ways between tramping after a new job. The
eldest girl was put into a factory, where she earned 6s. a week; the
eldest boy got up early one morning, and offered himself to a dairyman
as a boy to leave milk, and got the job, which meant work from 6 a.m.
till 8 a.m., and two hours after school in the evening. Several hours on
Saturday and Sunday completed the week’s work, for which he was paid 2s.
6d. His parents were averse to his doing this, but the boy persisted.
The family moved to basement rooms at a cheaper rent, and then the
gradual pulling down of the baby began. The mother applied to the school
authorities to have the two boys given dinner, and after some difficulty
succeeded. The elder boy made no complaint, but the short-legged one
could not eat the meals supplied. He said they were greasy, and made him
feel sick. He used to come home and ask for a slice of the family bread
and dripping. The father’s earnings ranged between 5s. and 10s., which
brought the family income up to anything from 13s. 6d. to 18s. 6d. The
food allowance went often as low as 8d. a week. A strain was put upon the
health of each child, which reduced its vitality, and gave free play to
disease tendencies. The eyes, which had been a weak point in every child,
grew worse all round. The consumptive girl was constantly at home through
illness, the boy had heavy colds, and the younger children ailed. Work
was at last found by the father at a steady rate of 20s. a week. He took
the consumptive girl from her work, and sent her into the country, where
she remained in the cottage of a grandparent earning nothing. The boy was
induced to give up his work, and the family, when last seen, were living
on a food allowance of 1s. 6d. per head all round the family. The baby
was the usual feeble child of her age, the children were no longer fed at
school, and the parents were congratulating themselves on their wonderful
good fortune.

Mr. B., whose home was visited part of 1911 and all 1912, was a printer’s
labourer, and brought his wife 28s. a week every week during the
investigation. He had been in the army, and fought all through the South
African War. He seemed to be a strong man. His wife was one of the few
fairly tall women that were visited. She had been strong, but was worn
out and very dreary. There were eight children, all undersized, and
increasingly so as they went down the family. The ex-baby was a shrimp
of a boy, only eleven months old when the baby—another boy—was born. The
third youngest was a girl, and was so delicate that neither parent had
expected to rear her. She weighed less than many a child of a year old
when she was two and a half. The chief characteristics of these three
youngest children were restlessness, diminutiveness, and a kind of elfin
quickness. The baby, which was a normal child weighing 7 lbs. at birth,
caught the inevitable measles and whooping-cough at four months and
six months, and at a year weighed just 15 lbs. He could say words and
scramble about in an extremely active way—so much so that his harassed
mother had to tie him into the high chair at an earlier age than most
children of his class. The eyes of all the children in this family needed
daily attention, and showed great weakness. The eldest girl was supplied
with spectacles at school, for the payment of which 2d. a week appeared
for months in the mother’s budgets. There was no specific disease. The
children were stunted by sheer force of circumstances, not, so far as
could be ascertained, by heredity. The sleeping was extremely crowded,
and the food allowance averaged 1s. 2½d. a week, or 2d. a day for the
mother and children.

A third family is interesting for the reason that the mother firmly
believed in enough to eat, and, being a particularly hard-working, clean
woman, she could not bear to take dark underground rooms or to squeeze
her family of seven children into a couple of rooms. She solved her
problem by becoming a tenant of the Duchy of Cornwall estate. She got
four tiny rooms for 8s., and kept them spotless. Her husband, who was a
painter’s labourer and a devoted gardener, kept the tiny strip of yard
gay with flowers, and kept the interior of the damp, ill-contrived little
house fresh with “licks of paint” of motley colours and patches and
odds and ends of a medley of papers. When work was slack, Mrs. C. simply
did not pay the rent at all. As she said: “The Prince er Wales, ’e don’t
want our little bits of sticks, and ’e won’t sell us up if we keeps the
place a credit to ’im.” She seemed to be right, for they owed a great
deal of rent, and were never threatened with ejection. She explained the
principle on which she worked as follows: “Me and my young man we keeps
the place nice, and wen ’e’s in work we pays the rent. Wen ’e’s out er
work in the winter I gets twenty loaves and 2 lbs. er sixpenny fer the
children, and a snack er meat fer ’im, and then I begins ter think about
payin’ th’ agent out er anythink I ’as left. I’d be tellin’ a lie if I
said I didn’t owe a bit in the rent-book, and now and agen th’ agent
gets a shillin’ er two extra fer back money, but ’e carn’t ’elp seein’
’ow creditable the place is. That piece er blue paper looks a fair treat
through the winder, so ’e don’t make no fuss.” The house they lived in,
and many like it, have been demolished, and a number of well-built houses
are appearing in their stead. The Lambeth people declare that the rents
have gone up, however, and that the displaced tenants will not be able
to return, but this rumour has not been inquired into. What happened
to the C.’s overdraft when they were obliged to turn out is not known.
The children of this family were short and stumpy, but of solid build,
and certainly had more vigour and staying-power than those of the two
other families already mentioned in this chapter. The baby flourished.
She weighed 7 lbs. at birth, and at one year she weighed 18 lbs. 10 ozs.
She could drag herself up by a chair, and say many words. The system of
feeding first and paying rent afterwards seemed to be justified as far as
the children were concerned.

Another woman who lived in “the Duchy,” as they all call it, and whose
house has since been demolished, had not the temperament which had the
courage to owe. She paid her 8s. for rent with clockwork regularity, and
fed her husband and four children and herself on a weekly average of 8s.
6d. a week. The average for herself and the children worked out at 1s. a
week, or less than 2d. a day. All four children were very delicate. The
baby, who weighed 8½ lbs. at birth, weighed 16 lbs. 8 ozs. at one year.
The ex-baby suffered from consumption of the bowels, and was constantly
in and out of hospital. The two elder children were tuberculous. The
father was a printer’s labourer, and appeared to be fairly strong, though
a small man. The mother was delicate and worn, but seemed to have no
specific disease.

Some of the children in the different families had strong individuality.
Emma, aged ten, stood about 4 feet 6 inches in her socks. Four years
later, when she began to earn by carrying men’s dinners backwards and
forwards to them at work, she measured 4 feet 10 inches. At ten she was
a queer little figure, the eldest of six, with a baby always in her arms
out of school-hours. She was not highly intelligent, but had a soothing
way with children. Her short neck and large face gave the impression of
something dwarf-like. But she was sturdy and tough to all appearance, and
could scrub a floor or wring out a tubful of clothes in a masterly way.
She had a dog-like devotion for a half deaf, half blind little mother,
who nevertheless managed to keep two rooms, a husband, and six children
in a state of extraordinary order, considering all things. When Emma’s
school shoes were worn out, her mother took them over and wore them till
there was no sole left, and Emma was provided with a “new” fifth-hand
pair, which were generally twice too big. Emma’s mother found her a great
comfort, and very reluctantly sent her to work in a factory at the age of
fifteen. There she earned 6s. a week, and became the family bread-winner
during the frequent illnesses of her father.

Lulu was ex-baby to the deserted wife, and was three years old when her
mother was visited. She was a lovely child with brilliant dark eyes
and an olive skin. She had round cheeks, which never seemed to lose
their contour, though their poor little owner spent many weary weeks
in hospital after four different operations for a disease which the
visitor only knew by the name of “intersections,” pronounced by Lulu’s
mother with awe and respect. Lulu would be playing, and suddenly she
would be seized with violent pain and be hurried off in her mother’s
arms to the hospital. The visitor was present on one of these occasions,
when it seemed as though the whole street knew exactly what to do. One
neighbour accompanied the mother and child, one took over the baby,
another arranged with a nod and a word to take the mother’s place at work
that afternoon, and in two minutes everything was settled. Lulu came
out of hospital four weeks later, with pale but still round cheeks and
a questioning look in her eyes which gave a pathetic touch to the baby
face. She still lives—the very idol of her mother—to whom the two boys
are as nothing in comparison.

Dorothy, a person of two and another ex-baby, was devoured with a desire
to accompany her elder brothers and sisters to school. She was a fair,
thin child, with bright blue-grey eyes and straight, wispy tow-coloured
hair. Her tiny body was seething with restlessness and activity. She
spent her days in a high chair, from which place she twice a day shrieked
and wailed a protest when the elder, happier ones started for school.
She was quick as a needle, and could spend hours “writing pictures” on a
piece of paper with a hard, scratchy lead pencil. She had no appetite,
and had to be coaxed to eat by promises, rarely fulfilled, of taking her
for a walk as soon as mother’s work was done. She slept in the chair
during the day, as her mother declared it was not safe to have her up
stairs on the bed or she would be out the window or down the stairs
directly she woke. She simply hated the baby, another girl, which had
condemned her to second place and comparative neglect. At three, she
was kindly allowed a place in a school near by, and her health visibly
improved from that moment. She became almost pretty.

’Erbie was of an inquiring turn, and during fifteen months’ visiting had
at different times managed to mangle his thumb, fall into the mud of the
river at low tide, and get lost for ten hours, and be returned by the
police. He was excessively sorry for himself, on each occasion, while his
diminutive mother took the catastrophies with infinite calm. He was eight
years old and a “good scholar.” Physically he was a small nondescript
person, thin, and fair, and colourless, with neat features and a shrill
voice, which penetrated into the core of the brain.

Joey had a tragedy attached to him, which clouded a portion of his days.
He was guilty of telling a “boomer” to his parents. He said that he had
been moved out of the infant school into the boys’ school when he hadn’t.
One day his mother accompanied him to the school gate because it was
raining, and she was protecting him with the family umbrella. Then the
horrid truth was discovered, as the entrance for boys is in a different
street to that for infants. Joey urgently declared that he had only been
“kidding” his parents, and that when they were so wildly delighted and
took his news so seriously he had not had the courage to tell them it was
“kidding.” The net result was gloom and disgrace, which floated round
Joey’s miserable head for many days. In the middle of this awful time
he _was_ moved, and the strained atmosphere was consequently relieved.
He distinguished himself in his new class, however, by his answer to
a question his teacher put to him as to the origin of Christmas Day.
“You get a bigger bit of meat on yer plate than ever you seen before,”
he replied, and after a pause he added, “and w’en ’E dies you gets a
bun.” The teacher had called round to complain of this way of looking at
things, and Joey was in deep disgrace again. He was a nice, chubby thing,
with earnest ways and some imagination. His “boomer” preyed on him, and
made him thin and anxious till the climax was over. The second offence
worried him not at all. He was the pride and delight of two very simple
and devoted parents. His two little sisters, both younger than himself,
were extremely attached to him.

Benny was twelve and very, very serious. He was the boy who, without
telling a soul of his plan, offered himself to the milkman as a boy who
would leave milk on doorsteps. He earned 2s. 6d. a week for the job, and
faithfully performed the duties for some weeks, till a man who kept a
vegetable shop offered him the same money for hours which suited him
better, and he changed his trade. He was a very small boy for his age,
and had a grave, thin face with inflamed eyes. An overcoat, presented
because the visitor could not bear to think of his doing his round in the
rain and sitting all day at school afterwards in his wet clothes gave
him the keenest flash of pleasure he had ever felt. He turned scarlet
and then went white. He had a resolute mouth and a quiet voice and no

There is one little picture which must be described, though the child
and its mother were unknown. The visitor in Lambeth Walk met a thin,
decent woman carrying a pot of mignonette. By her side, a boy about seven
years old was hopping along with a crutch under one arm. His other arm
encircled a pot in which was a lovely blooming fuchsia, whose flowers
swung to his movements. The woman was looking straight ahead with grave,
preoccupied eyes, not heeding the child. His whole expression was one of
such glorified beatitude that the onlooker, arrested by it, could only
feel a pang of sharpest envy. They went on their way with their flowers,
and round the next corner the visitor had to struggle through a deeply
interested crowd, who were watching a man being taken to prison.

Questions are often asked as to how these children amuse themselves.
They are popularly supposed to spend their time at picture palaces.
As far as close observation could discover, they seemed to spend their
play-time—the boys shrilly shouting and running in the streets, and the
girls minding the baby and looking on. They played a kind of hop-scotch
marked out in chalk, which reminded the visitor of a game much beloved
by her in extreme youth. Boys whose parents were able to afford the
luxury seemed to spend hours on one roller skate, and seemed to do
positive marvels when the nature of the roadway and the nature of the
skate are considered. Girls sometimes pooled their babies and did a
little skipping, shouting severe orders as they did so to the unhappy
infants. One party of soldiers, whose uniform was a piece of white tape
round the arm and a piece of stick held over the shoulder as a weapon,
marched up and down a narrow street for hours on the first day of the
August holidays, making such a noise of battle and sudden death that the
long-suffering mothers inside the houses occasionally left their work
to scream to them to be quiet. The pathways were full of hatless girls
and babies, who looked on with interest and envy. Needless to state, no
notice was taken of the mothers’ remonstrance. The best game of all is an
ambulance, but that needs properties, which take some finding. A box on
wheels, primarily intended for a baby’s perambulator, and with the baby
inside, makes a wonderful sort of toboggan along the paved path. The boy
sits on one corner and holds with both hands on to the edges, the baby
occupies the centre, and off they go, propelled by vigorous kicks.

In holiday-time elder brothers or sisters sometimes organise a party to
Kennington Park or one of the open spaces near by, and the grass becomes
a shrieking mass of children, from twelve or thirteen years of age
downwards. The weary mother gives them bread and margarine in a piece of
newspaper, and there is always a fountain from which they can drink. When
they come home in the evening, something more solid is added to their
usual tea. On Bank Holiday these children are taken by their parents to
the nearest park. The father strolls off, the mother and children sit on
the grass. Nobody talks. There is scolding and crying and laughing and
shouting, and there is dreary staring silence—never conversation.

Indoors there are no amusements. There are no books and no games, nor any
place to play the games should they exist. Wet holidays mean quarrelling
and mischief, and a distracted mother. Every woman sighs when holidays
begin. Boys and girls who earn money probably spend some of it on picture
palaces; but the dependent children of parents in steady work at a low
wage are not able to visit these fascinating places—much as they would
like to. Two instances of “picktur show, 2d.” appeared in the budgets.
One was that of a young, newly married couple. The visitor smilingly
hoped that they had enjoyed themselves. “’E treated me,” said the young
wife proudly. “Then why does it come in your budget?” asked the visitor.
The girl stared. “Oh, I _paid_,” she explained; “he let me take ’im.” The
other case was that of two middle-aged people, of about thirty, where
there were four children. A sister-in-law minded the children, they
took the baby with them, and earnestly enjoyed the representation of a
motor-car touring through the stars, and of the chase and capture of a
murderer by a most intelligent boy, “not bigger than Alfie.” Here again
the wife paid.

The outstanding fact about the children was not their stupidity nor
their lack of beauty—they were neither stupid nor ugly—it was their puny
size and damaged health. On the whole, the health of those who lived
upstairs was less bad than that of those who lived on the ground-floor,
and decidedly less bad than that of those who lived in basements.
Overcrowding in a first-floor room did not seem as deadly as overcrowding
on the floor below. It is difficult to separate causes. Whether the
superior health enjoyed by a first baby is due to more food, or to
less overcrowding, or to less exposure to infection, is impossible to
determine; perhaps it would be safe to say that it is due to all three,
but whatever the exact causes are which produce in each case the sickly
children so common in these households, the all-embracing one is poverty.
The proportion of the infantile death-rate of Hampstead to that of
Hoxton—something like 18 to 140—proves this to be a fact. The 42 families
already investigated in this inquiry have had altogether 201 children,
but 18 of these were either born dead or died within a few hours. Of the
remaining 183 children of all ages, ranging from a week up to sixteen or
seventeen years, 39 had died, or over one-fifth. Out of the 144 survivors
5 were actually deficient, while many were slow in intellect or unduly
excitable. Those among them who were born during the investigation were,
with one exception, normal, cosy, healthy babies, with good appetites,
who slept and fed in the usual way. They did not, however, in spite of
special efforts made on their behalf, fulfil their first promise. At one
year of age their environment had put its mark upon them. Though superior
to babies of their class, who had not had special nourishment and care,
they were vastly inferior to children of a better class who, though no
finer or healthier at birth, had enjoyed proper conditions, and could
therefore develop on sound and hygienic lines.



There is a large class of people who get less than 18s. a week, because
they get irregular work. There is also a class of people who get a
regular wage which does not rise above 18s. They get 14s., or 15s., and
are generally supposed to be doing a boy’s job. Men sometimes answer an
advertisement for a boy’s place and take it rather then go unemployed
altogether. The firms who pay by the day often have men receiving 3s. or
3s. 6d. a day and doing three days a week. In many ways it is possible
for a man to get less than 18s. a week. He need not be a drunkard or a
slacker. He may have been ill and lost his regular job. His employer may
have sold the business. The works on which he was employed may suddenly
finish. He finds himself out of work and, having no money in hand, he is
forced to take anything he can get in order to keep his children from
the workhouse. It has been possible to follow the fortunes of a certain
number of cases who, for one or other of these reasons, fell out of
work. Their subsequent struggles afford material with which to probe the
mystery of how such people manage.

Mr. Q., a carter out of work through illness, got an odd job once or
twice in the week. His wages had been 24s. Six children were born, of
whom five were alive.

  _July 7, 1910, had earned 5s. 5d._

                      s. d.
  Rent         goes unpaid
  Insurance         lapsed
  Coal                0  2
  Soap, soda          0  4
  Gas                 0  6
  Matches             0  1
  Blacklead           0  0½
                      1  1½

  _Leaving for Food, 4s. 3½d._

                      s. d.
  9 loaves            2  0¾
  Meat                0  9
  Potatoes            0  3
  Vegetables          0  1
  Margarine           0  1¾
  3 ozs. tea          0  3
  Tinned milk         none
  1½ lbs. sugar       0  3
  Dripping            0  6
                      4  3½

Or an average per head for food of 7¼d. a week, or 1d. a day.

  _July 14, had earned 15s. 10d._

                      s. d.
  Rent (two weeks)   11  0
  Insurance          lapsed
  Coal                0  2
  Gas                 0  5
  Soap, soda, blue    0  4½
  Wood                0  0½
                     12  0

  _Leaving for Food, 3s. 10d._

                      s. d.
  7 loaves            1  7¼
  Meat                0  6
  Potatoes            0  3½
  Vegetables          0  1
  Margarine            --
  4 ozs. tea          0  4
  Tinned milk          --
  1½ lbs. sugar       0  3
  Dripping            0  6
  1 lb. jam           0  3¼
                      3 10

Or an average per head for food of 6½d. a week, or less than 1d. a day.

Mr. I., bottle washer, out of work through illness, wife earned what she
could. Wages 18s. when in work. One child born, one alive.

August 10, 1910, Mrs. I. had earned 2s. 6d.

  Rent         Went unpaid.
  Insurance    Lapsed.
  Coal           --
  Lamp oil       --
  Soap, soda     --

Mrs. I. was told by infirmary doctor to feed her husband up.

                      s. d.
  3 loaves            0  8¼
  Meat                1  1
  Potatoes            0  3
  Vegetables          0  0¾
  3 ozs. tea          0  3
  1 lb. sugar         0  2
                      2  6

Average per head for food 10d., or 1½d. a day.

August 17, Mrs. I. had earned 3s. 6d.

                      s. d.
  Rent             Went unpaid.
  Insurance            --
  Coal                0  4
  Lamp oil            0  2
  Soap                0  2
  Firewood            0  1
                      0  9

Mrs. I. still feeding her husband up.

                      s. d.
  4 loaves            0 11
  Meat                1  0
  Potatoes            0  2
  Vegetables          0  1
  1 oz. tea           0  1
  1½ lbs. sugar       0  3
  Margarine           0  3
                      2  9

Average per head for food 11d., or 1-4/7d. per day.

When Mr. I. could earn again, his back rent amounted to 15s. He found
work in the north of London, he living south of Kennington Park. He
walked to and from his work every day, refusing to move because he and
his wife were known in Kennington, and rather than see them go into the
“house,” their friends would help them through a bad spell.

Mr. J., carter out of work through illness, took out an organ when well
enough to push it. Wages 18s. when in work. Six children born, six alive.

    January 26, 1910, Mr. and Mrs. J. had earned between them 9s.

    February 2, 1910, Mr. and Mrs. J. had earned between them 7s.

    February 9, 1910, Mr. and Mrs. J. had earned between them 8s.

    February 16, 1910, Mr. and Mrs. J. had earned between them 9s.

    February 23, 1910, Mr. and Mrs. J. had earned between them 7s.

  |                |Jan. 26.| Feb. 2.| Feb. 9.| Feb. 16.| Feb. 23. |
  |                | s. d.  |  s. d. |  s. d. |  s. d.  |  s. d.   |
  |Rent            | 5  6   |  3  0  |  5  6  |  5  6   |  3  6    |
  |Coal            | 0  6   |  0  6  |  0  4  |  0  6   |  0  6    |
  |Wood            | 0  1   |  0  1  |  0  1  |  0  1   |  0  1½   |
  |Lamp oil        | 0  1   |  0  1  |  0  1  |  0  1   |  0  1½   |
  |Soap, soda      | 0  2   |  0  2  |  0  2  |  0  2   |  0  4    |
  |                | -----  |  ----- |  ----- |  -----  |  -----   |
  |                | 6  4   |  3 10  |  6  2  |  6  4   |  4  7    |
  |Leaving for food| 2  8   |  3  2  |  2  8  |  2  8   |  2 11    |
  |Average for food|        |        |        |         |          |
  | per head a week|        | almost |        |         |          |
  | in holidays    | 0  4   |   5d.  |  0  4  |  0  4   |  0  4½   |

Those children who were of school age in these three families were fed
once a day for five days a week during term-time. None of the children
were earning. The three women were extremely clean, and, as far as their
wretched means would allow, were good managers. It is impossible to lay
out to advantage money which comes in spasmodically and belated, so that
some urgent need must be attended to with each penny as it is earned.
After a certain point of starvation food must come first, though before
that point is reached it is extraordinary how often rent seems to be made
a first charge on wages.

Mr. V. worked for a relative who was in business in a very small way.
For driving a little one-horse cart his usual wage was only 18s., and
when the business fell off Mr. V. found himself getting three days a
week instead of six. Later on he got half days and odd days, which only
produced a few shillings all told. He tried on off days to get odd jobs
of any sort. Four children had been born, of whom two were living.

January 12, 1910, to January 19, he earned 8s. 2½d.

                                                 s. d.
  Rent (one room at a weekly rental of 3s. 9d.)  2  9
  Coal                                           1  4
  Wood                                           0  1
  Lamp oil                                       0  3
  Soap, soda                                     0  2
                                                 4  7

Leaving 3s. 7½d. for food, which is nearly 11d. a head per week, or 1½d.
a day all round the family.

Between January 19 and 26 Mr. V. earned 4s. 8d.

                                                 s. d.
  Rent                                           2  3
  Coal                                           0  6
  Wood                                           0  1
  Lamp oil                                       0  1½
  Soap, soda                                     0  1½
                                                 3  1

  Leaving 1s. 7d. for food.

Friendly neighbours gave a little bread and Mr. V. had some meals at a
cabman’s shelter in return for calling drivers when fares wanted them.

On January 27 he opened the cab-door for a lady, who gave him 2d. The
police were watching him and he was arrested for begging. The visitor was
enabled to see the charge sheet and speak in his favour. He was a week on
remand, and three days in prison. His wife borrowed 5s. from sympathetic

                                                 s. d.

  Rent (of which 2s. 6d. was back rent)          3  9
  Wood                                           0  1
  Coal                                           0  4
                                                 4  2

Leaving 10d. for food for three people. Again neighbours came to the
rescue, and Mrs. V. received broken bread and several cups of tea. She
spent the 10d. thus:

                                                 s. d.
  Bread                                          0  7¾
  Sugar                                          0  1
  Butter                                         0  1
  2 potatoes                                     0  0¼
                                                 0 10

When Mr. V. came out of prison he managed to earn 7s. 10½d.

                                                 s. d.
  Rent                                           3  0
  Coal                                           1  4
  Lamp oil                                       0  3
  Wood                                           0  1
  Soap                                           0  1½
                                                 4  9½

Leaving for food 3s. 1d., which gives an average of 9¼d. per head a week,
or between 1¼d. and 1½d. a day.

The following four weeks the money earned was 8s. 1d., 7s. 1½d., 6s. 9d.,
and 10s. 7d. The averages per head a week for food were 9¼d., 8d., 7d.,
and 1s. 2½d. respectively. The rent had fallen 4s. into arrears, and Mrs.
V. still owed the 5s. borrowed when her husband went to prison.

Mr. O., a carpenter working in a theatre and earning 30s., lost his job
because his foreman quarrelled with the management and went out, taking
all his men. Mr. O. got taken on as extra hand in another theatre and was
paid 2s. a performance. Out of his 14s. he allowed his wife 13s. Mrs. O.,
being landlady of their house, was responsible for 16s. a week in rent.
Two lodgers paid 6s. and 4s. for two rooms and one room respectively.
Three children had been born, of whom two were alive.

January 25, 1911.

                                   s. d.
  Rent                             6  0
  Coal (very cold weather)         0  8½
  Burial insurance                 0  7
  Gas                              0  6
  Wood and matches                 0  3
                                   8  0½

Leaving for food 4s. 11½d. Mr. O. had to manage on 2s. 6d. a week for
food, which left his wife and the two boys just under 2s. 6d. between
them, or 10d. a week each.

February 1.

                                   s. d.
  Rent                             6  0
  Coal                             0  8½
  Burial insurance                 0  7
  Gas                              0  9
  Soap, soda                       0  2
  Coke                             0  2
                                   8  4½

Leaving for food 4s. 7½d., which meant 2s. 1½d. for the wife and
children, an average for them of 8½d. a week per head, or 1¼d. a day.

February 8.

                                   s. d.
  Rent                             6  0
  Coal                             0  8½
  Burial insurance                 0  7
  Gas                              1  0
  Wood, matches                    0  2
  Soap, soda                       0  3½
                                   8  9

Leaving for food 4s. 3d. This week Mrs. O. was prematurely confined of
twins. Both died, and the case was automatically concluded. When Mrs. O.
recovered she found a place as assistant “dresser” in a theatre. Her two
boys were taken care of by their grandmother, and the household struggled
back to something like its previous income.

Mr. U., who lost his work because his employer wound up the business,
was a steady, well-educated man. He was obliged to do odd jobs between
long tramps to find a fresh billet. There were five children born, all
living, but very delicate. Mrs. U. had managed by dint of extraordinary
and penurious thrift to save £1 19s. 8¼d. when the crash came.

July 6, 1910, money earned 23s. 7d.

                                  s. d.
  Rent                            7  6
  Burial insurance                0  7
  Coal                            0  7½
  Gas                             1  0
  Soap, soda                      0  4¼
  Boots repaired                  2  6
  Hat                             1  0¾
                                 13  7½

Mrs. U. managed to do on 22s. 9¾d., whereby she saved 9¼d. and spent 9s.
2¼d. upon food, which means an average all round the family of 1s. 3¾d.
per week, or 2¼d. a day. Mr. U. took no fixed sum for his food. His wife
did the best she could for him and thought it cost her about 4d. a day,
but was not sure.

The savings had now mounted to £2 0s. 5½d., but the next week the amount
brought in was only 12s. 7d.

July 13.

                                  s. d.
  Rent                            7  6
  Burial insurance                0  7
  Soap, soda                      0  3½
  Blacking                        0  0½
  Gas (no coal)                   1  0
                                  9  5

Mrs. U. managed on 17s. 6¾d. for the week, which left 8s. 1¾d. for food,
or a weekly average all round the family of almost 1s. 2d., or 2d. a day,
and depleted the savings to the amount of 4s. 11¾d. The reserve fund now
stood at £1 15s. 5¾d.

Next week Mr. U. made 19s. 7d., but one of the children won a prize of
2s., which gives 21s. 7d.

July 20.

                                  s. d.
  Rent                            7  6
  Burial insurance                0  7
  Soap, soda                      0  3
  Gas (still no coal)             1  0
  Boy’s boots                     2  6½
                                 11 10½

Mrs. U. managed on £1 0s. 9d., which allowed 8s. 10½d. for food, an
average all round of almost 1s. 3¼d., or just over 2d. a day. Tenpence
was saved and the reserve fund went up to £1 16s. 3¾d.

July 27, 15s. 7d. was earned, and 18s. 3¼d. was spent, of which 8s. 11d.
went on food, an average all round of 1s. 3¼d., or slightly over 2d. a
day. The fund went down to £1 13s. 7½d.

August 3rd, 17s. 1d. was earned, and 18s. 2½d. was spent, of which 8s.
9¼d. was spent on food, an average all round of 1s. 3d., or just over 2d.
a day. The fund sank to £1 12s. 6d.

August 10, only 8s. 7d. was earned and 16s. 11¾d. was spent, of which 7s.
1¼d. went on food, an average all round of 1s. 0¼d. or 1¾d. a day. The
fund was reduced to £1 4s. 1¼d.

August 17, 13s. 7d. was earned, and 16s. 0½d. was spent, of which 6s.
9½d. was spent on food, an average all round of between 11½d. and 11¾d.,
or less than 1¾d. a day. The fund sank to £1 1s. 7¾d.

August 24, the food average all round was 10¾d., or 1½d. a day, and the
fund sank to 19s. 6d.

August 31. The food average all round was just under 1s., or 1¾d. a day,
and the fund sank to 17s. 11½d.

Terror of using up the fund completely kept Mrs. U. spending an average,
all round the family, of under 1s. a week for many weeks, though the
earnings increased again slowly, and the fund mounted by pennies and
sixpences to £1 6s. 0d. Then the baby was a year old, and the case came
to an end. Mr. U. eventually got work again at a very low but regular
wage. During this time of unemployment two of the three children of
school age were fed at school for one term. The care committee of the
school to which the other child went did not consider the case bad
enough, and the two who did get fed were only received after weeks of
application. The mother’s very virtues told against her. Her rooms were
spotless, the decent furniture, the tidy clothes of better days inclined
the school visitor to believe that food could be forthcoming did the
mother choose.

Mrs. X., a deserted wife with three children, fell out of work owing
to a dangerous illness after the birth of her baby. When she recovered
sufficiently to work again, the parish relief, which she had been
receiving in kind during her illness, stopped. She took in sewing and did
days’ washing and cleaned doorsteps.

October 11, 1911, received 5s. 6d.

  Rent (4s. a week)                    Went unpaid.
                                       s. d.
  Coal                                 0  5½
  Gas                                  0  3
  Fares to work                        0  1
  Soap, soda, blue (she supplied her
    own blue and soap when she did
    washing)                           0  4
                                       1  1½


  5 loaves                             1  0½
  Meat                                 0 11½
  Margarine                            0  4
  Potatoes                             0  3½
  Greens                               0  1
  Sugar                                0  2¾
  Quaker oats                          0  7½
  Tea                                  0  3
  Fish                                 0  4½
  1 tin milk                           0  2
  Salt                                 0  0¼
                                       4  4½

The baby was receiving six quarts of milk a week from friends, so we have
4s. 4½d. left to feed three persons—an average of 1s. 5½d., or 2½d. a day.

October 18, amount received 7s. 6d.

                                       s. d.
  Rent                                 4  0
  Gas                                  0  3
  Coal                                 0  7
  Matches                              0  0½
  Soap, soda, etc.                     0  3
  Camphorated oil (child with a cough) 0  2
                                       5  3½


  4 loaves                             0 10
  Sugar                                0  2¾
  Dripping                             0  2
  Meat                                 0  4
  Potatoes                             0  3
  Fish                                 0  1¾
  Tea                                  0  1
  1 tin milk                           0  2
                                       2  2½

We have here 2s. 2½d. left between three persons—an average of 8¾d. a
week or 1¼d. a day.

November 1, 10s. was received. The rent was one week behind.

                                       s. d.
  Rent (two weeks; the landlady
    downstairs was pressing)           8  0
  Hat and socks                        0  2
  Soap, soda, etc.                     0  2½
                                       8  4½

No coal, no gas. The great bargain of hat and socks for 2d. could not be
passed by.

                                       s. d.
  3 loaves                             0  7½
  1 tin of milk                        0  1
  Potatoes                             0  2
  Dripping                             0  3
  Tea                                  0  1
  Meat                                 0  4
  Fish                                 0  2
  Onions                               0  2
  Sugar                                0  2
  Salt and pepper                      0  1
                                       2  1½

In this instance we have 2s. 1½d. to divide between three persons—an
average of 8½d. a week, or 1¼d. a day.

This woman eventually became an office cleaner at 12s. a week, and her
case is referred to in a previous chapter.

However steady a man may be, however good a worker, he is never exempt
from the fear of losing his job from ill-health or from other causes
which are out of his control. His difficulty in getting into new work
is often very great, because new work in his own trade requires time
and patience to find. He may have to tramp from one place of business
to another day after day, and week after week. His trouble is that if
he spends the whole of his time doing this no money is coming in, and
he and his must live. He is therefore forced to take odd jobs which
bring in something, but which spoil his chances of regular work. Numbers
of men who have a trade lose it, because they cannot afford the time
necessary to find a new job of the same kind as the one they have lost.
They are forced to take anything that turns up in order to keep afloat
at all. So the friendly foreman who says, “You turn up every morning at
seven o’clock, and I’ll call for you when I want a hand,” finds when
he does call several days later that the man is not there. No amount
of explaining next day that in order to keep his family he did a day’s
work unloading a barge or sweeping snow is of avail against the fact
that another man has got the job. Meantime, his clothes and his very
muscles are depreciating, and work in his own trade becomes almost an
impossibility to find. In some employments, where it is a common custom
to give a man two, or three, or four days’ work a week and pay him by
the day, it is demanded that he should turn up every day of the week and
wait for his work, or lose the few days he has the chance of getting. The
carters in certain well-known West End firms are employed on these terms.
In many employments there are a number of extra men who take duty when
the regular man has a holiday or fails to appear. These extra men live
a life of great poverty and great uncertainty. The work they do may be
skilled, and they are bound to keep their hand in, and bound to appear
daily in order to secure a few days a week for a wage which would be
barely sufficient did they get six full days. The lives of the children
of the poor are shortened, and the bodies of the children of the poor are
stunted and starved on a low wage. And to the insufficiency of a low wage
is added the horror that it is never secure.



In his book, “The Living Wage,” published in 1912, Mr. Philip Snowden
devotes the third chapter to an estimation of the number of adult men,
employed in the principal trades of the United Kingdom, who are getting
less than 25s. a week. He quotes Professor Bowley, who in 1911 announced
that 2,500,000 adult men were getting less than 25s. a week when working
full time. This number, he explains, would be considerably increased
were the figures based on actual earnings, as in almost every trade men
occasionally, or even habitually, work short weeks, and get short pay
during some part of the year.

Mr. Snowden, moreover, considers that Professor Bowley had
under-estimated the number of adult men who, at full rates of pay, were
earning less than 25s. a week. He takes Board of Trade returns, which
show that in the cotton industry, which is one of the best paid of our
great trades, 40 per cent. of adult men earned less than 25s. a week;
that in the wool-combing industry the average wage for adult men on full
time was 17s. 6d. a week; that in the linen industry 44 per cent. of the
adult men earned less than 20s. a week, and 36 per cent. earned between
20s. and 30s.; that in the jute industry 49 per cent. of the adult men
earned less than 20s. a week, and 36 per cent. earned between 20s. and
30s.; that in the silk industry 19 per cent. of the adult men earned less
than 20s. a week, and 54 per cent. earned between 20s. and 30s.; and he
took also a summary of the _actual_ earnings of the adult men in the
textile trades of the United Kingdom, which shows that for one week of
September, 1906, 48 per cent. earned less than 25s. a week.

For other occupations, Mr. Snowden, still quoting Board of Trade figures,
says that in the clothing trade 7 per cent. of adult men earned less than
20s. a week, and 27 per cent. between 20s. and 30s.

    Of bricklayers’ labourers 55.9 per cent. earned under 25s. a

    Of masons’ labourers 67 per cent. earned under 25s. a week.

    Of plumbers’ labourers 54 per cent. earned under 25s. a week.

    Of painters’ labourers 33 per cent. earned under 25s. a week.

    Of builders’ labourers 51 per cent. earned under 25s. a week.

A still later return of the Board of Trade gives information as to the
wages of railway men in 1911. The figures show that 63 per cent. of
the adult men got less than 25s. a week. The earnings of agricultural
labourers, as given by the Board of Trade, for 1907 were 15s. 2d. a week
in cash, or 18s. 4d. a week, counting all allowances. Mr. Snowden sums up
the clearly set out facts given in his chapter thus:

“The facts cited in this chapter show that on the average something like
one-half of the adult men, most of whom have a family dependent upon
their earnings, do not earn 25s. 9d. a week, and that of this half,
a very considerable proportion receive very much less than a pound a
week. When we have considered the cost of living, it will be seen how
wholly inadequate these wages are, and how inevitable it is that the
consequences of this insufficiency should show themselves in the physical
and social conditions of the wage-earning classes.”

In his estimate, Professor Bowley calculated that about 8,000,000 adult
men were employed in regular occupations in the United Kingdom, and that
of these 32 per cent., or nearly one-third, were earning, at full-time
work, less than 25s. a week. As we see, Mr. Snowden comes to a different
conclusion, and reckons that 50 per cent. of the adult men in regular
employment are getting less than 25s. a week. If we take the smaller
of these two estimates and reckon that one-fifth of the adult men are
unmarried, we get something like 2,000,000 families living on a wage
which is under 25s. a week. Again, to quote from Mr. Snowden, “Sir Robert
Giffen estimated twenty years ago that there were 2,000,000 families
where the total income did not exceed a pound a week.” Allowing that the
average family consists of a man and his wife and two children, we get
8,000,000 persons who are living more or less as are the people whose
daily life has been described in the previous chapters of this book,
while, if we take Mr. Snowden’s own estimate, the number is far greater.
That means that the great bulk of this enormous mass of people are
under-fed, under-housed, and insufficiently clothed. The children among
them suffer more than the adults. Their growth is stunted, their mental
powers are cramped, their health is undermined.

A hundred years ago their fathers would have regarded these children
as economic assets, and the family income would have been produced by
every member who was over a very tender age. During the last century
the State prohibited the employment of children under a certain age—an
age which, as wisdom grows, tends to become higher and higher. By this
necessary action the State formally invested itself with the ultimate
responsibility for the lives and welfare of its children, and the
guardianship thus exercised has continually been enlarged in scope until
it has assumed supreme control of the nurture and training of the youth
of the nation. A birth now means that a new human being must be fed,
clothed, and housed in a manner which the State as guardian considers
sufficient, for a period which we now hope to raise to sixteen years.
If a man in these days sets his young children to earn money, or, if
they be not fed, clothed, cared for, and sent regularly to school, he
can be put in prison. If the children’s mother be a wage-earner, she can
also be sent to prison if her children are not sufficiently cared for.
Even the non-earning mother who has only what her husband chooses to
give her can be imprisoned if a magistrate decide that any child-neglect
is chargeable to her. It would seem reasonable to expect that when the
ultimate responsibility for their welfare is undertaken by a rich and
powerful State, children should at least be in receipt of sufficient
food, shelter, warmth, and clothing.

Instead, however, of co-operating with parents and seeing to it that
its wards are supplied with such primary necessaries, this masculine
State, representing only male voters, and, until lately, chiefly those
of the richer classes, has been crude and unwise in its relations with
all parents guilty of the crime of poverty. With the best intentions it
has piled upon them responsibilities which it has left them to cope with
unaided. We still have the children of sober, industrious men and women
living lives which maim and stunt them and make of them a handicap for
the very State of which they are part. And we have parents whose wages
are insufficient for their own needs spending themselves to perform
the impossible, and, while they fail, the State—their partner in
responsibility—looks the other way.

The first remedy for this state of things which springs to the mind of
the social reformer is a legal minimum wage. The discussion of a minimum
wage, which is at the same time to be a family wage, is exceedingly
difficult. We realise that wages are not now paid on a family basis. If
they were we should not have 2,500,000 adult men receiving for full-time
work a sum which the writer has no hesitation in saying is less than
sufficient for the proper maintenance, and that on the lowest scale, of
one adult person. To pay wages in future, on an adequate family basis, to
every adult worker who could possibly have helpless children dependent
upon him or her would be a startlingly new departure. There are none,
in fact, who advocate it. And yet if we are really attempting to solve
the problem of hungry children by minimum wage legislation, we ought to
aim at no less. Of course, what usually is advocated is the paying of a
family wage to all adult men, while paying women an individual wage—the
assumption being that women never maintain families. But we know this
assumption to be untrue. Many thousands of women do maintain families,
and if, through the medium of the minimum wage, their children also are
to be kept in decency and comfort, the wages of women must also be on the
family basis. Another difficulty in dealing with a family wage is the
question of what sized family? There is no standard either in numbers or
in age. If the wage be calculated upon a wife and two children, it will
not support a wife and six children. Nor if it be calculated upon three
children under four will it support in equal efficiency three children
of ten, eleven and thirteen. Further, if a law which would keep children
at school until the age of sixteen should happily come into force, the
difficulty of reckoning a minimum wage which would suit everybody would
be still greater.

A third difficulty is the fact that money paid as wage for work done
must, in the nature of things, belong wholly and entirely to the person
who performs the work. He or she is free to devote such money to any
purpose they think best, and cases are not unknown of children who do
not receive even such nurture as their parents’ means could allow. Many
people solve these knotty points by dropping women bread-winners out of
the problem, by arranging that the family consists of five persons—a man,
his wife, and three children—and by assuming that every parent thinks
more of his or her children’s welfare than of self. By doing this, they
deal with theories instead of facts.

The two sums that have been seriously discussed by such various
authorities as Mr. Rowntree, Mr. Charles Booth, and the Labour party
are 25s. a week and 30s. a week. Neither sum is really enough in some
localities should there be more than three children, who are to be
properly housed as well as properly dressed and fed. And neither sum
as a hard and fast minimum, even for men only, is considered practical
politics by anybody. Scientific minimum wage schemes must consider and
give weight to the conditions of each trade and locality. Many decisions
in the worst paid trades will follow the example of the decisions under
the Trades Boards Act, and when a minimum has been arrived at it will
be—though an advance on present wages—insufficient perhaps to keep in
real efficiency and comfort a single adult.

Moreover, to keep the children of the nation in health and strength
is too important and vital a responsibility to be placed entirely on
the shoulders of one section of the community—namely, the employers of
labour. It is a responsibility which should be undertaken by the only
authority which is always equal to its complete fulfilment—the State.

Therefore, although any minimum wage scheme which proposes to raise
the bottom wages in any trade or trades, or for any group or groups
of workers, is a necessary part of legislation, and must be urgently
insisted upon in any plan for social reform, no minimum wage legislation
now proposed, or likely to be proposed, will deal adequately with the
question of all the children of the working poor. Yet unless we do deal
with all of them, and deal adequately, the problem of the nation’s
children goes unsolved.

Two theories are sometimes seriously brought forward as means by which
the problem of hungry children could be dealt with. One is that if
only the poor could be induced to cut down their families to fit their
incomes there would be no problem. The other is, that if only the woman
with 20s. a week knew how to spend it she could feed, lodge, and clothe
her family with perfect ease. The first of these two ideas—if it ever
possibly could be put into practice—would find a cure for poverty by the
dying out of all the poor people. The man with 20s. and less could not
even marry; the man with 25s. might perhaps marry, but could have no
children; the man with 30s. might have one or two children—one is tempted
to say “and so on.” But the people with incomes over the income-tax level
do not nowadays as a rule err on the side of too large families. Many
people with the comparatively enormous sum of £10 a week hesitate to
have more than one or two children. It is obvious that were the children
of the poor limited according to wage there would be no corresponding
advance in the size of the families of the rich. It is not only that the
nation would shrink, but the wage-earner would automatically cease to
reproduce himself. It seems an heroic way of curing his difficulties.
Obviously as a palliative in individual cases the plan of limiting the
family according to wage appeals with great force to the well-fed and
more fortunate observer, but as a national measure to deal with poverty
it fails to convince. That a man with 24s. a week is unwise to have six
children is perfectly true. But, then, what sized family would he be wise
to have? If he were really prudent and careful of his future he would,
on such a wage, neither marry nor have children at all. He could in that
case live economically on 20s. a week and save the 4s. towards his old
age. But we cannot expect Professor Bowley’s 2,500,000 adult men to act
on those lines. The fact is they want to marry and they want to have
children. As either of these courses is unwise on 24s. a week, they are
in for a life of imprudence anyhow. The very facts of their poverty—close
quarters and lack of mental interest and amusement, and, above all,
lack of money—help to make the limitation of their family almost an
impossibility to them.

The other suggestion has been already dealt with in previous chapters.
It is always worth while, of course, to teach an improvident and stupid
woman to be careful and clever—if you can. But to put down all the
miseries and crying wants of the children of the poor to the ignorance
and improvidence of their mothers is merely to salve an uneasy conscience
by blaming someone else. It is almost better to face the position and
say, “The poor should not be allowed to have children,” than to pretend
that they could house, clothe, and feed them very well on the money at
their disposal if they chose.

In Schedule A in the First Report of the Departmental Committee, with
respect to the Poor Law Orders, a diet for a child of over two and under
eight years is given, of which one day in any workhouse might be as

_Breakfast._—Bread, 5 ounces; fresh milk, ½ pint.

_Dinner._—Roast beef, 1½ ounces; potatoes or other vegetables, 4 ounces;
fresh fruit-pudding, 6 ounces.

_Supper._—Seed-cake, 4 ounces; cocoa (half milk), ½ pint.

No mother on 20s. a week could secure such food for her children. It is
not supposed that the Departmental Committee appointed by the President
of the Local Government Board would prescribe an extravagant diet, and
it seems terrible that the children of the hard-working honest poor
should be fed on a diet which is about half that prescribed as the most
economical and very least that a healthy workhouse child should have. In
this report it has been decreed that the workhouse child needs milk. Half
of its evening and morning meals are to be of bread and milk. Further,
“milk” is specially notified as meaning “new milk, whole and undiluted.”
If the workhouse child needs about a pint of whole and undiluted new
milk a day, as well as other food such as vegetables, fruit, bread, and
cocoa, so does the child outside the workhouse. No scheme of porridge and
lentils will do for a child without milk, and milk is expensive. When the
mother has fed the bread-winner in accordance with his tastes and with
some semblance of efficiency, she has no chance of being able to afford
even a half-ration of milk for her children. When she has balanced the
problem of housing against that of feeding, and has decided on the wisest
course open to her, she has still to put her children three and four in
a bed. She cannot separate the infectious from the healthy, nor the boys
from the girls. She can never choose a sanitary and healthful life. She
can only choose the less of two great evils.

No teacher of domestic science, however capable, can instruct girls
scientifically and in detail how adequately to house, clothe, clean,
warm, light, insure, and feed a family of four or five persons on 20s. a
week in London. The excellent instruction given by the L.C.C. teachers
is based on budgets of £3, 35s., or of 28s. for a family of six persons.
It was realised that to teach girls how to manage inadequately would be
false teaching. If the scientific and trained teacher cannot solve the
problem, the untrained, overburdened mother should not be criticised
because she also fails. The work which she is expected to do is of
supreme importance. It would be enlightened wisdom to enable her to do



From a leading article in _The Times_, October 7, 1913:

    “They (women) are resolved, we may take it, that laws and
    customs which do not recognise that their children are the
    children of the nation are behind the times and must be
    altered. Because they are the children of the nation, the
    nation owes them all the care that a mother owes to her own
    child. Because they are the future nation, the nation can only
    neglect them to its own hurt and undoing. That is a law of life
    which is proved up to the hilt by the bitter and humiliating
    experience of a large proportion of the disease and mortality
    and crime in our homes and hospitals and asylums and prisons.
    But it is a law of life which also carries with it this further
    truth—that the nation’s children are the nation’s opportunity.”

What is needed is the true fulfilment of human parenthood which is a
natural unforced and unforceable relation of the spirit as well as of
the flesh. Money, and the efficient, skilled service it procures, can
be provided from any source. But that close, personal affection and
watchfulness essential to children which no other guardianship can
replace can only be given by parents. Yet even parents can be thwarted
and embittered by crushing toil and slavish drudgery until their natural
affection is destroyed. The nation needs the active and free co-operation
of fathers and mothers in the upbringing of its children, and it must
enable them to do their share of the work.

At the present moment the nation, as super-guardian of its children,
acts, in the case of the children of the poor, in a manner so baffling,
so harassing, so contradictory, that the only feelings it induces in the
minds of parents whose lives are passed in incessant toil and incessant
want are exasperation, fear, and resentment.

Some painful cases show the way in which the State, as guardian of its
children, uses its great power merely to punish the parent and not
to protect the child. Where either father or mother is convicted and
sentenced for cruelty, the child is often left helpless in the hands of
a still more brutalised parent when he or she comes out of gaol. Cases
exist in which a father, sentenced to hard labour for criminal assault on
his own child, can again be given custody of that child on his return to
work at the completion of his sentence. Punishment of the parent may be a
terrible necessity; but the main object of reasoned public action should
be permanently to protect and deliver the child.

A wife may be granted in public court separation from her husband for
cruelty or desertion, with an order that he should pay her a weekly
allowance for the support of the children of the marriage. By spending on
summonses money she can ill afford, she may find it possible to get her
husband sent to prison for non-payment of the allowance. But the court
contents itself with punishing the father, and takes no steps to ensure
the welfare of the children by enforcing payment.

A mother, the bread-winner for three young children, earned 12s. a week
for work which took her from home in the early morning and again in the
evening. During two daily absences, which cost her 2s. weekly in fares,
she was obliged to leave her baby lying in its perambulator. The illness
of an elder child brought an education officer to investigate his absence
from school. The officer discovered the boy in bed with rheumatic fever,
and the baby unattended. Meeting the hurrying mother as she came back
from her morning’s work, he indignantly informed her that it was against
the law to leave a baby as hers had been left. She must in future pay
a neighbour to care for it in her daily absences, or the police would
interfere. She pleaded with him; in her ignorance of the ideals and
methods of our English law, she explained her circumstances. He was, of
course, sorry about it, but the upshot of their conversation was that by
the direct action of Public Authority the mother was forced to pay a
neighbour to care for the baby, and the 10s. a week on which four persons
were living was further diminished. Such a woman may be potentially a
good parent had she any means by which she could make her good parenthood
effective. But her experience of State guardianship of her children
may be that Public Authority, without troubling as to whether or not
fulfilment be in her power, forces further duties and responsibilities
on to her shoulders in respect of those children—through the threatened
medium of the police, with all the horrors of prison in the background.

Suppose the State, as co-guardian of the child, stripped off, when
dealing with parents, the uniform of a police-constable with a warrant
in his pocket. Suppose it approached them in some such spirit as
that displayed by the Public Trustee when dealing with testators and
executors. He offers advice, security, a free hand in carrying out any
legal purpose, and he acts with or without other executors, as the case
may require. Why should not the nation place all the information, all the
security, all the help at its command at the service of its co-guardians,
the fathers and mothers? Why should it not act frankly with them in the
national interest, and help them to see that the needs of the child are

The final responsibility for the child’s welfare, the paramount authority
in securing it, belong to the State. Why not recognise the national
responsibility by the definite appointment of a public Guardian who would
enter upon the relation of co-guardian with the parents of every child at
the registration of its birth?

Even now fundamental parental obligations are supposed to be the same
in all classes, but the well-to-do can fulfil them after a fashion
without the assistance of the State, though often with much insecurity
and strain. Were there a department of Public Guardianship upon which
every parent might rely for counsel and effective help, very many whose
difficulty is not the actual housing and feeding of their children would
be only too glad to take advantage of its advice. And even amongst the
well-to-do, fathers and mothers die or lose their faculties, or are
unfit, and the nation’s children are the sufferers.

The appointment of a Public Guardian to cooperate with parents in all
ranks of society is the only effective method, not only of preventing
the national disgrace of “waste children,” but of doing away with the
hardships, the distrusts, the fears and the resentments caused amongst
the workers by the present harsh and ill-defined exercise of national

It is to the collective interest of a nation that its children should
flourish. They are the future nation. To them the State will be
entrusted. To them the work, the duty, the scheme of things will be
handed on. Suppose children were recognised to be more important than
wealth—suppose they were really put first—what machinery have we which
already deals with their lives, their health, and their comfort? We have
a national system of education which we propose to extend and elaborate,
and to which we have recently attached medical inspection, and we have
the time-honoured machinery of the home. The children of the poor pass
their lives within the limits of these two institutions, and behind
both stands the State, which entirely regulates one and is constantly
modifying the other.

To equip the home for the vital responsibility committed to its care,
the new administrative agency must have the power to go further than
the offering of advice and information to its fellow-guardians, the
parents. It must endow every child who needs it with a grant sufficient
to secure it a minimum of health and comfort. Maintenance grants from the
State are no new thing. Inadequate grants are now made to the parents
of free scholars in secondary schools. What is wanted is the extension
and development of the idea. Based on the need of the child and limited
thereby, the grant would not become a weapon to keep down wages. Men and
women whose children are secure are free to combine, to strike, to take
risks. Men and women who have the entire burden of a family on their
shoulders are not really free to do so.

The State’s guarantee of the necessaries of life to every child could
be fulfilled through various channels—some of them, as the feeding of
school-children, already in existence. This is no suggestion for class
differentiation. The scholars on the foundation of many of the great
public schools, such as Eton and Winchester, are fed, as well as housed
and educated, from the funds of old endowments. National school feeding,
endowed from national wealth, would be an enlargement and amalgamation of
systems already in being. There should be no such thing as an underfed
school child: an underfed child is a disgrace and a danger to the State.

The medical inspection of school-children, extended to children of all
classes, should lead to a universal system of school clinics, where
the children would not only be examined, but treated. Baby clinics
should be within the reach of every mother, and should be centres where
doctors and nurses, at intervals to be dictated by them, would weigh
and examine every child born within their district. At this moment any
weighing centre, school for mothers, or baby clinic which does exist is
fighting the results of bad housing, insufficient food, and miserable
clothing—evils which no medical treatment can cure. Such evils would be
put an end to by the State grant.

Nor would an intolerable system of inspection be necessary in order to
see that the co-trustees of the State—the parents—should faithfully
perform their part of the great work they are undertaking. At every baby
clinic the compulsory attendances of a well-dressed, well-nourished,
well-cared-for child would be marked as satisfactory. No inspection
needed. An unsatisfactory child would perhaps be obliged to attend more
often, or its condition might require the help and guidance of a health
visitor in the home. In this way a merely less efficient home would
easily be distinguished from one which was impossible. The somewhat
inefficient home might be helped, improved, and kept together, while, if
the home conditions were hopelessly bad, the public guardian would in the
last resort exercise its power of making fresh provision for the ward of
the nation in some better home.

As things now are, we have machinery by which the State in its capacity
of co-guardian coerces the parents and urges on them duties which,
unaided, they cannot perform. Parents are to feed, clothe, and house
their children decently, or they can be dealt with by law. But when,
as a matter of fact, it is publicly demonstrated that millions of
parents cannot do this, and that the children are neither fed, clothed,
nor housed decently, the State, which is guardian-in-chief, finds it
convenient to look the other way, shirking its own responsibility, but
falling foul, in special instances, of parents who have failed to comply
with the law.

The law which is supposed to exist for the purpose of protecting
children, seems to exist for the purpose of punishing parents, while
doing nothing, or next to nothing, for the children. The idea still
prevails among some care committees and school authorities that a “bad”
parent must not be “encouraged” by feeding his children at school, and
cases are known to exist where, in order to punish the parent, a hungry
child is not fed. The one mistake an authority which considered the
children first would not make would be that of punishing the child to
spite the parent. Between Boards of Guardians, Care Committees, School
Authorities, and Police, parents who are poor are baffled and puzzled and
disheartened. It would be well for them to have a central authority whose
first thought was the real welfare of the children of the State, and who
blamed and punished parents only when it was clear that they deserved
blame and punishment. That would be real, not false, “relief” of the poor.



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