« PrejšnjaNaprej »
we are eating our hearts out with a querulous whimpering, instead of brimming over with thankfulness all day and every day-then you do us grievous wrong. What, sir! Do you take us for a couple of babies floundering in a tub, and puling for a cake of Pears' soap ? Arcady or Athens is much the same to us. Where our home must be, there are our hearts.
A MODEL FACTORY.
WE hear so often of the strained relations which are reported to exist between manufacturers and their so-called 'hands,' of the lack of personal knowledge of each other or of a mutual friendly interest, that it may be well to record an example which came under my notice some few years ago of the exact reverse of the above wretched condition of things.
Having been invited to speak at one of the Church Congresses, I was informed that a manufacturer of the town, although a stranger, had most kindly offered a hospitality to Lady Meath and me, which we gratefully accepted.
We found on arrival at our destination that this gentleman's house, instead of being situated, as is so commonly the case, far from the site of the factory whence he drew his wealth and around which his workpeople resided, was within a few minutes' walk of its entrance and close to the homes of those dependent on him.
It was a house with a history. Although situated in the heart of the town, and only separated from the main street by what the house agents designate as a sweep,' its appearance showed that it had formerly stood in the country, and that its builders had never anticipated that the time would arrive when a flood of bricks and mortar from the neighbouring town would overflow its ordinary limits, and surround with plebeian habitations that comfortable country residence. But such had been its fate. Its surroundings, however, far from detracting from its interest, only acted as a foil to its attractions, and as we drove inside the gates, and up to the door of the red brick mansion, we felt that we were about to enter one of those charming rambling houses, dating back to the commencement of the last century, which cannot lay claim to much outward architectural beauty, but whose quaintness possesses an indefinable charm. A slight fear came over me lest its present owner should have detracted from that charm by the incongruity of its modern fittings; but I soon found that my fears were unnecessary, and that my host and hostess had furnished the building with admirable taste, and in complete conformity with its character. We were welcomed with a warm hospitality which at once put us at our ease, and made us feel that we owed much to the good fortune which had thrown us
amongst such agreeable surroundings. The longer we stayed the more we were impressed with the courtesy, the refinement, and the thoughtfulness for others evinced by our kind entertainers; and when we received an invitation to visit the factory with which their name was connected, we felt proud to think that our host was a representative of one of the princely manufacturers of England, and felt convinced that we should find that he did not reserve all his kindly thought for those of his own station in life, but that much would be done for the benefit of the men and women who were fortunate enough to claim him as an employer. Nor were we deceived.
The works were approached by a gateway surmounted by a building somewhat in the shape of a Norman tower. Whilst we were wondering to what purpose these rooms above the entrance could be adapted, we were invited by the manager to mount a staircase on our right, which led us into a large apartment, the whole size of the tower. Here we found ourselves in a spacious club-room fitted with bagatelle boards, and tables covered with newspapers and magazines. This, we were told, was the club and recreation room, reserved for the use of the men employed in the factory. Here they were at liberty to spend their evenings and leisure time, and we were informed that they largely availed themselves of the privilege. The club was managed by a committee of working men members elected by themselves. Descending and turning to our left, we were shown a room on the ground-floor fitted up with a cooking range, and with tables and benches. Here two women were busily occupied cooking food. In answer to our inquiries, the manager told us that the women in the factory were permitted in turn to prepare each day the food of any of their companions who chose to provide them with the raw materials. The food thus cooked could be eaten in the room we had visited. This was a boon to many whose homes were distant from the factory or who possessed no relative or friend able or willing to cook for them, and who were thus obliged to visit the public-houses, and not only to pay for the preparation of their meals, but to order drink, which they often did not require, for the supposed 'good of the house. Thus there was no need for the workers to waste time in leaving the factory during the dinnerhour, nor their money in paying for unnecessary drinks.
Leaving this room, we were taken up a flight of steps to a large apartment in every respect like an ordinary factory workroom, except that it contained no machines, but in their places benches were ranged across its length, leaving a passage in the centre; and at the end was a table covered with a cloth and supporting a couple of books. Here every morning Divine service was performed by a chaplain attached to the factory. We were told that the service was made as simple and as undenominational as possible, so that Churchmen and Dissenters might be able to worship side by side; and one
who attended a week-day morning service informed me that there was a full attendance of both men and women, although no compulsion of any kind was exercised by the chaplain or factory officials. During the service the whole of the machinery in the adjacent rooms was continuously heard, reminding the worshippers that Christianity was a practical religion, which did not require that its adherents should withdraw themselves from the world, but live in it and yet not be of it. Laborare est orare might well have been inscribed over the entrance to this factory chapel.
Leaving this room we descended into a courtyard, which, although surrounded by ordinary factory buildings, would have done credit to a nobleman's château, so neat and well kept were the flower borders which surrounded the carefully rolled and gravelled space, in the centre of which was a raised bed of shrubs and flowers. Passing across this yard, and through a passage at the farther end, we emerged upon a second courtyard. This yard, however, instead of being gravelled, was asphalted throughout its entire space, and fitted with gymnastic apparatus intended for the use and enjoyment of the young men and lads employed in the factory. Continuing our course across this open-air gymnasium and passing through another passage, we found ourselves in a lovely garden, surrounding some long stonebordered ponds laid out in the shape of a cross, from the centre of which rose an island of rocks; and here the most peculiar sight met our eyes, for from the middle of these rocks rose to a height of some four or five feet a fountain or geyser of steaming hot water, which, pouring down the rocks, filled the basin and enabled some tropical water-lilies to expand in the tepid water, and to gladden our Northern eyes with beauties and glorious colouring normally only to be found in the countries of the sun.
This fountain was supplied by the refuse water from the factory boilers, which the ingenuity and thoughtfulness of my host did not permit, as so many employers would have done, to run to waste, but which was made to add beauty to the scene and to refresh the senses of the men and women who swarmed within the neighbouring buildings. Beyond these miniature lakes lay a smooth greensward in front of a semicircular covered pavilion, or long summerhouse, provided with seats. On this sward played on fine Saturday evenings in summer the factory band, composed of musically inclined volunteers recruited from amongst the factory hands, whilst the young men and maidens danced upon the green. As I write the above lines I feel that some of my readers will consider that the account of the scene sounds too idyllic to be a true description of a phase of factory life in money-making, prosaic England of the nineteenth century, and yet I can assure them that I am only stating plain, simple fact; or, should they believe me, they will probably say that this manufacturer must have been some un
businesslike, philanthropic enthusiast, who inherited a fortune, and chose to spend it in this way rather than in pictures, horses, or diamonds, but that it is quite impossible that this kind of way of carrying on business could have proved remunerative.
I can only assure such sceptics that the manager informed me that my host, who was a thorough man of business, and who looked most closely into his affairs, was persuaded that the money expended on the introduction of the above unusual amenities into factory life had been most profitably invested, and that it returned him a large interest, not only in the good feeling which existed between him and his workpeople, but in actual hard cash. He told me that my host, who employed hundreds of women and children, and who enjoyed the virtual monopoly of a particular manufacture in this country, always instituted the most rigorous inquiries into the character of every woman who applied to him for employment, and would never engage one whose character was not above suspicion, nor would he employ any child who did not attend some Sunday school. I discovered also that my hostess held classes for the young women and girls, and that both she and her husband, living close to the factory, were continually on the spot, and were personally acquainted with their employés. This constant communication between employer and employed I believe to have been in no small measure the cause of the happy relations which evidently existed between them, and it would be well if such personal knowledge of each other were more common than it is.
Every faithful man and woman in my host's service was sure of a pension when overtaken by age, infirmity, or accident; and when profits rose above a certain limit it was his custom to divide the surplus amongst those who had been instrumental in obtaining for him this additional income, but in consideration of these privileges he declined firmly to employ men belonging to a Trades Union. The result was that strikes were unknown within the walls of his factory; and whilst others were obliged to raise the price of their goods in order to guarantee themselves against loss from strikes, or even to refuse orders, he was able to accept confidently all orders, assured that under no circumstances would his employés desert him. The manager reminded me also that his employer gained in the greater efficiency of his workpeople, for as they never struck for higher wages, and were consequently never out of employment, their fingers did not lose their cunning, whilst other firms after a lengthened strike had to allow for bad work; moreover, the want of practice often resulted not only in inferior production, but in the destruction of delicate machinery and of costly plant. The kindly and thoughtful treatment instituted by my host towards his employés freed him from all apprehension of the heavy losses so often suffered by others, and enabled him not only to repay himself all that he