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Richard Cobden
The Rother Valley
West Sussex, England

Heyshott
The Hungry Forties

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THE HUNGRY FORTIES
 
Cobden and Free Trade Literature.
 
THE STANDARD BIOGRAPHY.
THE LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN.
 
By the Right Hon. John Morley, MP. With Photogravure Portrait from
the Original Drawing by Lowes Dickinson.
This page incorporates the bulk of this book. The software used to copy the pages, unfortunately, does not always accurately transcribe the text. I am slowly as time allows, making the necessary corrections. In the meantime these articles make a fascinating insight into the hard life suffered by many in the mid 1800s until the arrival of Richard Cobden.
Heyshott index
 
George Pollard, Labourer, Heyshott
David Miles, Labourer, Heyshott
William Tiller, Woodman, Heyshott
Thomas Wrapson, Wood-sawyer, Heyshott
Charles Astridge, ex-Postman for Midhurst and district
Charles Robinson - Woodman, Heyshott
Charles Tiller, Foreman Carpenter, Heyshott
Mr. and Mrs. Jenner, Heyshott Village
John Goff, Carter, Heyshott Village
 
 



JUBILEE EDITION. 2 vols. 7/- the set. 

POPULAR EDITION. 1 vol. 2/6 net. 

ABRIDGED EDITION. Paper Covers. 6d. 

THE POLITICAL WRITINGS OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

A New Edition. With Preface by Lord Welby and Introductions by 
Sir Louis Mallet and William" Cullen Bryant, and a Bibliography. 
With Frontispiece. 2 vols. Uniform with the Jubilee Edition of Morley's 
" Life of Cobden." Crown 8vo, 7/- the set. 

BRITISH INDUSTRIES UNDER FREE TRADE. 

Essays by leading Business Men. Edited by HAROLD COX, late Secretary 
of the Cobden Club. Large crown 8vo, 6/-. 

LABOUR AND PROTECTION. 

Essays by John Burns, G. J. Holyoake, Seebohm Rowntree, and others. 
Edited by H. W. Massingham. Large crown 8vo, 6/-. 

THE OPPORTUNITY OF LIBERALISM. 

By Brougham Villiers. Paper covers, 1/- net. 

FISCAL REFORM SIXTY YEARS AGO. 

Extracts from the Speeches of the Right Hon. Charles Pelham Villiers. 
Selected by Wilbraham Villiers Cooper. Paper cover, 1/-. 

CORN LAW RHYMES, and other Verses. 

By Ebenezer Elliott. Cloth, 6d. Paper covers, 2cl. 

MR. BALFOUR'S PAMPHLET: A REPLY. 

By Harold Cox, late Secretary of the Cobden Club. Price 2d. net. 

THE POLICY OF FREE IMPORTS. 

A Paper read at Liverpool on i6th Eeliruary, 1903, to the New Century 
Society. By Harold Cox. Paper covers, 6d. net and 1d. 

COBDEN'S WORK AND OPINIONS. 

By Lord Welby and Sir Louis Mallet. Cloth, 3d. 

FREE FOOD AND FREE TRADE. 

By Daniel Grant, ex-RLP. for Marylebone. Paper covers, 2d. 



T. FISHER UNWIN, PATERNOSTER SQUARE, LONDON. 



FREE TRADERS. 



P R O T E C T I O N I S T S



THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

LIFE UNDER THE BREAD TAX 



DESCRIPTIVE LETTERS AND 
OTHER TESTIMONIES FROM 
CONTEMPORARY WITNESSES 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION 
BY MRS. COBDEN UNWIN 



ILLUSTRATED 



LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN 
PATERNOSTER SQUARE. 1904 



TO THOSE WHO IN HIS NATIVE VILLAGE OF HEYSHOTT 

HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED RICHARD COBDEN 

THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

INTRODUCTION. . . . . I 

CHAPTER I. 

PROTECTION IN THE MIDLANDS . . -55 

Begging a Crust — Low Wages — Sixpence a Day — 
"Swedes" and Bacon — A Centenarian's Evidence 
— Meat a Luxury — A Herring Dinner — Riding for 
Flour — Gleaning Bad Corn — The Quality of Food — 
News in the Village — Protection Mutton — Scanty 
Employment — Cottage Furniture — A True Leader 
Wanted — Crime and Poverty — Wages in Various 
Trades — A Striking Comparison — A Family Servant. 



CHAPTER n. 

PROTECTION IN EAST ANGLIA . . -85 

"Semi-starvation and Slavery" — How Wages were 
Determined — " Bread Three Half-pence a Mouthful " 
— Bran Dumplings— Pigs' Meat for Men— Old-world 
Morals — Bad Farming — A Character — A Sunday- 
school Treat — Matrimony on Eight Shillings a 
Week — An Eager Volunteer — A Diet of Parsnips — 



CONTENTS 

Saved from the Workhouse — Cheap Meat, Dear 
Bread — Landlord and Parson — Truck System and 
Debt— "Life a Fearful Thing"— Stolen Turnips- 
No Work and Emigration — Bad Rye Bread — 
Clothing Then and Now— A Dinner of Smoke— The 
Beau of the Village — Rich Landlords and Poor 
Farmers. 



CHAPTER III. 

PROTECTION IN SOUTH-EASTERN ENGLAND . . I29 

To Work at Seven Years— Bread Prices— A Wet 
Season and Bad Bread— Greater Purchasing Power 
of Money — Riot and Rick-burning — Power of the 
Farmer — Dear Bread and Bad Bread — Undressed 
Wheat Meal— A Pound of Pork for Six— A Farthing 
an Hour — A Righteous Judgment — "Taters and 
Shake-over "—Swedes Again— Begging Old Tea- 
leaves — Roast Beef Once a Month. 



CHAPTER IV. 

WESSEX UNDER PROTECTION . . . -157 

Barley-cake Tea — A Rector's Story — Working off a 
Debt — Supperless Children — Bread like Putty — An 
Unhappy Childhood — Details of Indoor Farmwork 
— Sixpence a Day — Postal Arrangements — Black 
Bread and Onions — Sheep-stealing — Overworked 
Women — Unprofitable Farming — Bread Riots — An 
Old Man's Testimony — Memories of Old Struggles — 
Fire a Luxury — Wages in Various Trades — Dinner- 
less Children. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER V. 

PAGE 

PROTECTION IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND . -193 

A Brutal Master — A Sunday Task — Riots in Lanca- 
shire — Destitution in Lancashire — Bad and Good 
Harvests — Taxes on Everything — A Comparison of 
Prices — Wages Compared — A Strong Free Trader 
— " Hands off the Workman's Loaf " — Efficiency, 
Not Protection — More Wages and Prices Compared 
— A Brave Woman — Expedients of Poverty — Rioters 
Disturbed. 



CHAPTER VI. 



PROTECTION IN OTHER DISTRICTS 



"The Husks that the Swine Did Eat"— The Argu- 
ment of Hunger — Trade Improves When Free — 
Gladstone's Tory Days — Life in a Bakery — Wages 
in Aberdeen — Survivals of Mediaevalism — Threats of 
Rebellion — The Poverty of Ireland — A Recipe for 
Broth — " High Living" under Protection. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE ENGLAND OF THE LETTERS. By Brougliam Villiers . . . . . .251 

Anarchy of the Time — Mutual Aid Absent — A Family 
Budget — Cobbett's Opinion — Turnip Stealing — The 
Market for Textiles — Women under Protection — 
Dear Bread and the People — Carlylc as a Sociologist 
— The Silent Millions. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

THE FAIRY WHEATSHEAF . . . Frontspiece 

{From an old Print}

PAGE 

THE BIG LOAF AND THE LITTLE LOAF . -14 

FACSIMILE OF LETTER FROM RICHARD COBDEN 
IN THE FORTIES. 



INTRODUCTION 



" If I was to tell yer all the trouble in me life 
this room wouldn't hold it," said Widow Sanders 
in reply to the question, "Do you remember 
the old days of Protection, and the dear bread, 
Mrs. Sanders ? "Remember them! law bless 
yer, yes, my dear," was her reply. " Me and 
me husband and eight children to bring up on 
nine shillun' a week, and bread 1s. 2d. a loaf! 
Remember it ! — why, many's the night I've gone 
to bed hungry, so the children might get me 
bit o' bread between 'em. Sorry the threshin'- 
machine makes that 'ummin' noise just this 
time o' year? Ye wish we 'ad the stroke o' 
the old flail back agin, do ye say .- Ah ! Many
a time I listened for them strokes in the barn 
be'ind our cottage, afear'd they'd stop, and I 
know'd me husband 'ad dropped from the 
ard work and the empty belly. No, I'd rather 
'ave the hum of that 'ere thresher, that I 
would." 


This little talk with my old friend, 
now at rest under the rose-trees in the peaceful 
Cocking churchyard, set me thinking, and 
gave me confidence — when the bread tax was 
imposed, now nearly two years ago — that 
rural England would have none of it. And 
recent events have, I think, proved that agri- 
cultural England prefers better clothing and 
better feeding to all the imaginary benefits 
to be derived from a policy of Retaliation, 
Preference, or Protection. 
And it was experience and knowledge of country life, 
coupled with Lord Rosebery's remarks, that 
suggested the issue of the following letter, 
which appeared in many newspapers in town 
and country : — 




Sir, — Some time since I read in the press a letter 
from Lord Rosebery suggesting that those who re- 
membered the miseries of Protection should lose no 
opportunity of telling their fellow-countrymen their 
experiences. He went on to say that in his judgment 
it was a clear duty they all owed their country, and 
their testimony would be of far more avail than the 
speeches, however eloquent and persuasive, of a 
younger generation, and that if they would stand on 
platforms and testify with regard to the facts of 
Protection, they would render an inestimable service 
at the present time. 

I trust that many have carried out his suggestion 
on the public platform, but it occurs to me that there 
must be many who are in possession of private docu- 
ments and diaries, illustrative of the bad old times, or 
who, from age and experience, might prefer rather to 
write down in simple language their recollections and 
experiences. Tradesmen's bills and private house- 
keeping accounts of the " Hungry Forties " would 
also be of interest and useful for comparative study. 
Some interesting documents of the kind have already 
appeared in the public press, and, as I am making 
a collection of such documents, I should esteem it 
a great favour if any of your readers would contribute 
any they may possess. I can promise that if I receive 
a good response to this suggestion I will publish the 
results in volume form in the interests of the cause of 
Free Trade, which all your readers, I feel confident, 
have much at heart. Let me add that any documents 
addressed to my care will be copied and returned if 
desired. — I am, sir, yours truly, 

T. Fisher Unwin. 

II, Paternoster-buildings, London, E.G., 
February, 1904. 



20 INTRODUCTION 

In response a large number of replies have 
been received in the shape of letters, diaries 
and statements written by men and women 
who, for the most part, have lived in rural 
England prior to the abolition of the Corn Laws. 

To this material has been added a selection 
of letters which have appeared in the public 
press during the last year, the writers of which 
may feel confident that they have contributed 
a part to turn back the tide of Protection. 

It has been felt that the contributions should 
be printed as they were originally received; 
they have not been edited except to remove 
to a small extent portions not relevant to the 
work in hand. These letters, veritable human 
documents — " the short and simple annals of 
the poor " — speak for themselves, and bear 
indelible proof of their sincerity. 

In Chapter III. communications from the 
south of England are printed, and it will be 
noted that comparatively few have come 
from the county of Sussex and from this 
part of England. 

This may be partly attributed to the fact 
that the letter above quoted did not widely 
appear in the southern press — and to the fact 
that the feelings of the people in these districts 
have not been roused by stirring bye-elections. 

The following conversations with village 
friends may somewhat help to fill the gap. 
They are simple, unvarnished stories as 
related by neighbours, and their personal 
characteristics will add interest and give 
Sussex colouring to this chapter. 





Charles Robinson, Woodman, Heyshott Village. 

• I was 83 years old only last week. 
My father came into this cottage to live when 
I was seven year old, and I was born in the 
village, and my parents before me. In my 
younger days the wage was not more than 9s. 
a week for work in the fields parish work was 
only 7s. Sometimes when we could get work 
in the woods, then we made as much as 14s. a 
week, but that was working by piece. 
" You ask what sort of food we had. 
Well, crammings was common. It was made 
of what was left after the flour and the bran 
was taken away, and what was left, mixed 
with a little bread flour, we called crammings, 
but more often we made a sort of pudding with 
it. At that time, in the forties, in these parts 
we paid 1s. 2d. for a 'alf-gallon loaf, equal 
to two quarts, 7s. a bushel, again, was the 
price for flour. This is about what we earned 
and what we 'ad to pay when I was married, 
away back in 1847. Some one said to me, 
* If you can marry on that, then you will 
always be able to keep her.' 

"You ask 'ow the people did get on. Well, 
they got into debt, and then again they lived 
on ' taters ' and kept pigs, but butcher's meat 
we never 'eard of, never saw it except in the 
shops. Salt was 21s. a bushel, and when we 
killed a pig we 'ad to sell 'alf of it to buy 
the salt to salt down what was left. Then I 
remember my father would go out and up 
on to the common of a night to see if any 
fires was about. That was because the people 
burnt the ricks and barns in those days. But 
that was all a long time ago, 

"Yes, I ave worked at Dunford, the only bit 
of work I did for Mr. Cobden, and I 'elped to 
make the new road by Hackett Gate, and I 
worked for ten weeks. 

" You ask about cloes. Well, when I 
was a young man working people never did 
'ave coats on, they are much better now. In 
those times they wore smocks, now you don't 
see them except amongst the Gypos people. 
They are the only people now that wear a 
smock, but I did see one at Oatscroft at 
a meeting there on the 3rd of June. Yes, 
people are better off now than in those days. 
I don't think we shall go back to them, and if 
they do they won't trouble me much at my age." 

And then his daughter broke in and remarked 
that even when she was a young girl, 
forty years ago, sugar was 8d. a pound. Tea, 
well the mother used to buy 2 oz. for 6d., which 
had to last a week for six people, and then to 
make it last out she would burn bread and 
mix the black crusts with the tea. 


David Miles, Labourer, Heyshott Village. 

" Ay, I reklects the early forties afore the 
Corn Laws wor repealed. 'Taters was what 
folks lived on then, an' the Tories' ud 'ave it that 
a red 'errin' and a 'tater wor good enuff for any 
workin'man. When I wor just on 12 the 
'taters failed, an' never shall I forgit 'ow the 
folks went a-wanderin' about, peerin' at the 
'taters, and tryin' to find out what wor wrong 
wi' 'em. It wor awful bad for the low class 
many on 'em were nigh starvin'. If 'ee complained 
to the masters, they on'y said, quite 
indiffrent, ' 'Ee can go; we don't want 'ee.' 
An' if 'ee went to the vestry, which they wor 
every blessed one on 'em farmers, and said as 
'ow 'ee wanted work, they'd ask, ' Who've 'ee 
bin a-workin' for ? ' an' when 'ee answered, 
oh Mr. So-an'-so,' up the farmer 'd get and 
declare 'ee was dissatisfied, and then ne'er a 
one 'ud have anythin' more to do with 'ee. 

'Twas ne'er a bit o' good leavin' the parish 
they'd ask 'ee where did 'ee be come from
and when 'ee said, ' Heyshott,' they'd say 
as 'ow they didn't want no furriners, and 
that there ud be the end o't. It worn't no 
manner o' good a-tryin' to raise yerself, 'ee wor 
just a slave, and that's the truth. Them what 
cudn't get work 'ad to go on the parish or 
starve. Nowadays there's a many what ain't 
got no manner o' notion what Protection is 
and think they'd like to 'ave a taste o't, but 
we old 'uns, we knows — lor' bless 'ee ! we knows. 
Folks call 'em the good old times that's just 
their ignorance I call 'em the bad old times I 
do, when a few got fat and 'unnerds starved. 
If Mr. Cobden 'adn't got 'em Corn Laws 
repealed there'd 'ave bin a reg'lar Civil War in 
this yer country years ago. 
Folks used to put up a little 'ill o' taters for 
the winter, not two rods from their winders, but 
people 'ud come by night and steal 'em. A 'ungry 
belly makes a man desprit. They'd steal a'most 
anything, even bees and brocli from the garden. 
When a man 'ad a large family, they were 
pretty nigh starvin' mostly as for meat, a look 
in at the butcher's shop was all their share o'that. 

The oomen ud cut off the black crust 
from the loafs and put it in the teapot and 
pour water on it instid o' tea it looked pretty 
much the same colour, d'ye see or else they'd 
beg the tea-leaves from the big houses. 

" Ten hours a day is what we worked, 
a-threshin' corn in the barn. 'Twas hard, 
wearin' work two o' us 'ud do it together 
and 'ee 'ad to keep in turn, I can tell 'ee, 
or 'ee got a taste o' your neighbour's flail 
on the side o' yer face many a one's got 
a black eye for threshin' out o' turn. Them 
that cudn't get work 'ud sometimes fire the 
barn. I got a job once six an' a 'alf mile 
away, and that seemed a fair step, I can tell 
'ee, when I come 'ome tired of an evenin' but 
I used to pass a 'ooman on the way what 'ad 
to dig up turmuts wid white frost on 'em, and 
I wouldn't 'a 'ad 'er job, bless 'ee, for a 
pound a week, that I wouldn't. 'Oomen used 
to 'ave to go a-weedin' in the corn in them days. 

" When Mr. Cobden come 'ere Tiller and 
fifteen more wor a-breakin' stones on the road 
for eightpence a day, that's just all they cud 
get but Mr. Cobden 'e altered all that. I and 
some other youngsters 'ud meet 'im sometimes 
when we wor a-goin' to school 'e didn't take 
much notice o' we 'e allus seemed in a deep 
study. I've thought since that 'e wor just 
a-plannin' some good for 'is fellow-creatures. 
I reklects when I an' my brother wor a-goin' 
to school 'ow we'd see the big loaf for 
Free Trade and the small loaf for Protection 
stuck up in one o' the winders, and my brother 
'e sez, ' Well,' he sez, ' the big loaf's the best.


Vintage trail | Heyshott Index | page top



Charles Astridge, ex-Postman for 
midhurst and district. 

" For nearly fifty years I was postman in 
Midhurst and the district. For twelve year I 
walked eight mile a day, out to one of the 
farms, and got three-and-sixpence a week. 
There worn't many letters in those days. 
Then another farmer, he offered me sixpence a 
week if I'd go on a bit further and take his 
letters and then another, he offered me three 
guineas a year to do the like, and I took all I 
could get, yer know, for 'twas hard livin' in those 
times. We had to pay yd. for a half-quartern 
loaf; and many a time I remember lookin' 
in at the butcher's shop at the shoulders of 
mutton, but I never 'ad the money to buy 
'em. The farmers in these parts used to pay 
their men 9s. a week. I remember meetin' 
a man named William Denyer one day what 
worked for Mr. Sadler, a farmer at Bepton, 
an' I said to him, ' I want to ask 'ee somethin' 
and 'ee needn't answer if 'ee don't want to ' 
and he said, 'What is it?' and I said, ' I've 
heard as 'ee've been seen sittin' under 
the hedge with never a thing but bread an' 
apple for dinner'; an' he said, 'It's true, 
every word of it, s'elp me God ! ' Often on 
a Saturday I'd see Jonathan Heath, what was 
the son of a wheelwright who lived in the 
Petersfield Road an' had a large family, 
comin' along with a penny bag of crammin's — 
that's what they give the pigs nowadays — to 
make the Sunday puddin' with. We mostly 
lived on bread, but 'twasn't bread like 'ee get 
now 'twas that heavy and doughy 'ee could 
pull long strings of it out of your mouth. They 
called it growy bread. But 'twas fine com- 
pared with the porridge we made out of bruised 
beans that made your inside feel as if 'twas on 
fire, an' sort of choked 'ee. In those days 
'ee'd see children from Duck Lane come out 
in the streets of Midhurst an' pick up a bit of 
bread, and even potato peelings y'ee'd 
see them do that. We can laugh at these 
things now, but it was no laughin' matter then. 
I can remember some twenty years ago carry- 
in letters for the Midhurst auctioneer round 
by Graffham and neighbourin' villages. And 
comin' round home by Heyshott church-
yard that night I seemed somehow to hear the 
groans of them lying there in the churchyard 
who had suffered so much in their lives 
from privation. 

But things altered after Mr. Cobden come, and 
never shall I forget the day, about a week after
the Corn Laws had been repealed, seein' Mr. Hall, 
the baker from Chichester, comin' along the village 
street with a cart full of half-quartern loaves, 
which he sold for fourpence each he didn't take many
back with him to Chichester, I warr'nt you. I can 
see him now in his black hat and white round 
frock — cow-gowns we used to call 'em. 

" I often saw Mr. Cobden, sometimes a-walkin', 
sometimes in his old basket chaise, as 'e 
called it, and sometimes ridin' with one of 'is 
daughters. I never heard him speak but once, 
and that was at the Angel, for the Lancashire 
Relief Fund. Mr. Mitford 'e was there too, 
what was M.P. for Midhurst. Mr. Cobden 'e 
spoke first 'e just raised his hand and rested 
it on the table and said, ' Gendemen, I've no 
doubt many of you 'ere think I'm come 'ere 
to talk politics to you, but I'm not goin' to do 
anythin' of the kind. When I come down 'ere 
I feel just like one of Barclay and Perkins's 
dray-horses out to grass, and want to kick up 
my heels and sniff the fresh air.' It made us 
laugh, I can tell you. Mr. Cobden 'e did a lot 
for us, and 'e did a lot for others 'e was just 
the greatest hero what there ever was in the 
world, and that's my firm belief." 



Thomas Wrapson, Wood-sawyer, Heyshott Village. 

" I call meself a wood-sawyer, but lor' bless 
my soul, I've bin In all sorts o' trades anythin' 
that'll bring in a little money. It's a lot better 
now than it wor when I wor a boy 'twor 'ard 
then for every one, an' that's the truth — nothin' 
but the truth. I've bin through the hoop 
meself; I'd more sense than some, but I've bin 
through the hoop. I don't want to see such 
times agen. We 'ud go out i' the fields an' 
sneak turmuts, an' 'ave 'em for supper wi' a 
bit o' bread. Of course I caant speak for out- 
landish places, but 'twor like that 'ere when I 
wor a boy. My father, 'e sez, ' If yer get 
snitched, yer'll get the birch rod.' I'd very 
little schoolin', an' when I fust went out to 
work I'd do a lot for a penny. I'd get a penny 
for carryin' water; many an' many a pail o' 
water I've carried up the hill for a penny, ay 
an' even a 'a'penny. Sometimes I wor in luck, 
an' got the use of a barrel an' a wheelbarrer, 
an' then I'd get tuppence. Time an' agen I'd
walk to Singleton an' back for a penny or 
two, to fetch medicine-stuff from Dr. Turner, 
the parish doctor, an' that's a matter o' more'n 
eight mile. One time I got work up in the 
old medder where the owls builds I worked 
there for threppence a day, spreadin' the 
manure and pickin' stones and arterwards, I 
did swede cuttin'. Then there wor the leasin'. 
We daren't go in the field afore they blew the 
horn, then we got what we could. If 'twor 
only a little, we rubbed it out an' threshed 
it out ourselfs as well as may be, an' put it 
in a pot with a pennorth o' milk and a slice 
or two o' turmut an' boiled it up, an' then we 
each ud take a spoon and help ourselfs. If 
we got as much as a bushel o' leasins' we took 
it to the mill to be ground, an' made it into 
bread. When we got a 'errin' once an' agen 
we thought ourselves mighty lucky. I minded 
the sheep sometimes, an' got threppence and 
fourpence a day for it. Dear, oh dear ! wages 
wor terrible low in them old days. 

" One farmer never gave more'n a shillun a 
week to 'is carter, and 'e'd oot three or four
'orses to mind, a shillun a week an' their 
board, and some farmers they give eighteen- 
pence and their board, that's what many a one 
got, an' the farmers thought they wor well paid. 

" The best thing in them days was the 
'lotments. There wor a field o' old Lord 
Leconfield what wor let out in 'lotments o' 
half-acre and quarter-acre pieces, an' folks ud 
have so many rods for corn and so many for 
'taters. They had to pay 3s. 9d. for a quarter 
of a' acre. Some folk ud keep pigs, an' the 
missus ud go round sellin' the lean meat to 
get money enough for the 'alf bushel o' salt 
to salt the pig down wi'. Lor' bless me, I 
remember it as if 'twas yesterday. Old Lady 
Egmont would give 'em a bit o' fish or puddin' 
or summit when they wor a-payin' the wages. 
She'd 'ave a pleeceman to keep off the 
childern, but that worn't much good, for she 
made 'em worse by throwin' 'a'pence for 'em 
to scramble arter. Yus, wages wor low then, 
but few 'ad the 'eart to leave Heyshott 
they was afeard of them outlandish parts.

Young girls ud go out leasin' with ne'er a 
stockin' on their feet, splotch, splotch along 
with plenty o' water goin' into their shoes 
an' plenty o' water runnin' out, an' an old 
bit o' white string instid o' laces, an' their 
petticuts half-way up their knees. When they 
took the censhum they found there wor about 
three 'undred people in Heyshott in them 
days I blieve there be about four 'undred 
now. What we mostly cared about wor to 
keep off the parish. But things changed, I 
can tell 'ee, when Mr. Cobden come. I wor 
a-workin' then at Bex mill, for tenpence a day, 
an' Mr. Richard Cobden, who'd often be 
passin', 'ud say, ' Well, young Wrapson, why 
don't 'ee get somethin' better to do ? ' an' I 
didn't know what to answer an' then Mr. 
Cobden 'e took me on an' paid me two shillun 
a day, 'e did. Wages was riz all round 
them that used to work for 7s. a week, Mr. 
Cobden he give 12s. an' 15s. a week to, an' o' 
course the farmers ad to riz their wages 
too, or they'd 'a found themselves wi'out any 
men. Lord bless my soul, it made a sight
o' difference, it did. I never stole no turmuts 
arter that, though I'd never been persecuted 
for't. Mr. Richard Cobden e paid the 
wages. I often saw Mr. Cobden about, an' 
sometimes 'e'd speak to me, but more often 
than not 'e'd be sunk that deep in study 
that 'e never noticed nobody 'e seemed allus 
a-plannin' something. 

" Do I recollect that young chap what 
they called Dani'l the Prophet? Why, o' 
course I do. We married 'is father by 'scrip- 
tion. When a young 'ooman got into trouble 
in them days, instid o' sendin' 'er to the poor- 
ouse, they married 'er by 'scription. Some on 
us give tuppence and some on us thruppence, 
just what we could aford, an' paid the fees, an' 
got some bread an' cheese and beer for the 
weddin' feast an' when 'twas over the new 
missus she took an' tied up what wor left o' 
the bread an' cheese an' took it 'ome for to 
have on the morrer, an' when that wor gone 
I 'spect they 'ad to dig for turmuts. They 
lived in a little hut at the back o' the village, 
but they couldn't pay no rent, an' it 'ad to
come out o' the rates. But Mr. Cobden 'e 
took 'e on, an' then they wor all right,  
many a cold mornin' they'd 'a' 'ad if it 'a'n't 
a been for 'e. 

" The sayin' goes that 'ee should help the 
lame and the lazy, but that's not what I think, 
nor more it ain't what Mr. Cobden did 
there's them that'll stand at their doors all day 
from nine o'clock till noon, an' put their finger 
in their eye an' play poverty, an' I'm not sayin' 
as how I wouldn't help 'em, if so be they 'ad 
no supper, but what I sez is, help 'em what 
does their best, an' them 'twas what Mr. 
Cobden 'elped, though I'm not denyin' that 
'e had a soft place in 'is 'eart for them that 
be lame an' maybe lazy." 


George Pollard, Labourer, Heyshott Village. 

" Yus, m'm, I'm pretty well, thank you I 
can get about, an' the more people get about 
the better they be, seems to me. I b'lieve 
I wor born at Graffham, but I can't 'zactly
reklect what year 'twas. Mr. Manning [Car- 
dinal Manning] wor the minister there when I 
wor a boy 'e wor a nice sort of man. All 
the schoolin' that ever I got was at Graffham 
school. Connor wor the name o' the teacher 
'e'd been a bit o' a woodman or steward to 
the Bishop [Wilberforce], but 'e give it up 
an' took to the teachin'. I come back to 
Heyshott in my young days. I've done all 
sorts o' work in my time, movin' about from 
place to place, just where I could get most. 
I used to go cow-mindin' an' bird-mindin' at 
thruppence a day, or one an' sixpence a week. 
Sometimes I even went as far as Lunnon, 
grass-mowin', to Wandsworth and Wimble- 
don. That was afore the machines come in. 
Another time I used to go a-diggin' stones 
on Heyshott Hill that wor when I wor 
married an' 'ad three chillun' I wor workin' 
for the parish then, an' all they 'lowed me to 
earn wor 5s. a week. I could have done more 
easy, but they wouldn't pay for 't. Those 
wor hard days. My wife she 'ud go out in 
the fields a-weedin' an' a-stone-pickin' at ten-
pence a day or she'd go leasin' in harvest time 
and pick up p'raps a bushel o' corn, an' take it 
to the mill an' they 'ud change it for a little 
flour then she 'ud mix it wi' crammin's an' 
make it into bread. Most o' the cottages 'ad 
their own ooven but we wor nigh starved 
sometimes, an' if 'twan't for the hares runnin' 
about the hills, an' a rabbit now an' agen, 
I dunno where we'd 'a bin. No, we didn't 
see much tay in them days we couldn't 
aford it 'twas thruppence an ounce what 
we did was to toast a bit o' bread at the 
fire until it wor as black as that coal, an' put 
it in the taypot an' pour water on't, an' that 
wor' all the tay we got. 'Taters was what 
most folks lived on in them days and 
what did we do when there wor no 'taters ? 
Well, m'm, we "ad to do wi'out 'em. 'Twor 
rare an' difficult to get cloes thenadays, an' 
many an' many a time we 'ad to go ragged. 
Boots was worst yer can get two or three 
pair now for what yer could get one then 
pilted 'an 'eeled they cost from eighteen 
shillun to a pound. There 'ad to be a little 
conjurin', I can tell ee, before we could get a 
pair. We had to save our pence for weeks 
an' weeks. Harvest wor the best time. I 
could make as much as fifteen shillun or six- 
teen shillun a week then but sometimes I 
'ad to walk a terr'ble way to get there. 
Time an' agen when I wor a-bringin' up me 
faamly, I had to take the chillun on my back 
an' carry 'em all the way to Singleton an' 
Pagham, an' down below Chichester, an' we 
all 'ad to sleep o' nights in the barn. That 
wor afore the railroads wor made. Another 
time I'd go timber-cuttin' at Arundel, an' once 
I went right down to the coast an' worked at 
the sea-wall, what kep' the sea out an' that 
wor rare an' well paid for, that wor. Forty 
year an' more I lived up in Hoyle Lane. 
I reklects the time when they worked iron 
in this county, and the old foundry up by 
Foundry Pond. They'd melt the old iron 
there, but I never 'eard tell what 'twor 
made into. 

" Things began to look up when Mr. Cobden 
come to this 'ere place wages riz right up 
e giv' more money an' so the farmers ad to 
give more too, or all the men ud have gone to 
'e 'e giv' 'em plenty o' work. A rare 
sight of grubbin' 'e had done at the lower end 
of the farm w'ere all the trees wor. Many a 
tree I grubbed up there, an' planted t'other 
side o' the garden. I digged the drain along 
the road there, an' Mr. Cobden u'd come past 
an' arst me how I wor a-gettin' on, an' 'is 
little boy Richard along o' 'im times an' agen. 
A rare game 'un the little chap wor up to 
anythin'. I never saw the like. He 'ud go 
choppin' at the trees, choppin' some o' 'em 
right off, but nobody said nothin' to 'e, 'e 
only larfed an' said 'twor good for trade. I 
wor a-workin' up in the holler when Mr. 
Cobden died. I never caught a sight o' the 
funeral. Gadd know'd I'd be out o' work, so 
he told me to come up to 'is place, an' I 
caught ne'er a sight o' nothin'. Folks was 
rare sorry when Mr. Cobden died 'e did a 
power for Heyshott, 'e did 'e wor the best 
man what ever come here. We aven't never 
had such bad times since. 

" Yus, I wear a cow-frock still, but I dunno 
as any o' the neighbours wear 'em p'raps 
they've forgotten how to make 'm. My 
missus she made mine some cost about six 
shillun. I've wore it year in an' year out I 
dunno how long. My old missus she died 
four year ago come last March. She wor a 
good partner, she wor. I don't suppose I 
shall ever want another frock this'll last my 
time, I reckon." 


William Tiller, Woodman, Heyshott Village. 

" Well, well, Heyshott's another place from 
what it wor afore Mr. Cobden come 'ere, an' 
Dunford too why, all the ground round was 
nothin' but a quagmire a man 'ad to walk a 
long way round them days, if so be 'e wanted 
to get into Heyshott. But when Mr. Cobden 
bought the place 'e didn't rest wi' it like that, 
not 'ee. 'E just went an' arsked 'ow many 
men there wor on the parish. I dunno now 
whether 'twas twelve or thirteen, but which-
ever 'twas they all had to go down to 'e the 
very next marnin' an' 'e set 'em all to work 
right orf to make a road twelve shillun a 
week 'e paid 'em, an' rose 'em too on that 
'em what 'adn't bin gettin' more'n eightpence 
a day a-breakin' stones on the road. Nine or 
ten of 'em 'e had a-workin' all the winter. 
Long afore 'twor finished Mr. Cobden 'e 'ad 
to be off somewheres, lecturin' I do beleeve, 
an' the night afore 'e went, Quinnell, 'is man, 
what 'ad bin gettin' a bit onaisy like, 'e sez to 
'e, 'e sez, ' What about them men what's 
a-workin' on the road ? ' 'e sez. ' Well,' sez 
Mr. Cobden, ' they've got to work on the road, 
an' get their wages reg'lar every Saturday 
night,' 'e sez. ' But,' sez Quinnell, ' 'sposin' it 
rains an' the work's stopped.' 'Well,' sez Mr. 
Cobden, ' they get their wages just the same,' 
'e sez, ' unless so be it starts a-rainin' for three 
weeks right off,' 'e sez, a-larfin'. I never in all 
my born days seed a better master than what 
Mr. Cobden wor never a hasty word — I never 
seed 'e out o' temper. If anything wor wrong 
'e'd just say, ' Don't let it occur again,' an 
never nothin' more. If there wor any trouble 
among the men 'e'd put it right. Charles Poat, 
what 'ad a big faam'ly, looked as if e never got 
enuff to eat, so Mr. Cobden just made 'e go 
round to Dunford every day to get some dinner, 
that's what e did. 'E never took nothin' in 
hand but what 'e made somethin' out o't. But 
the farmers didn't like 'e at first. Ay, for sure, 
Mr. Cobden reg'lar made this place. Wages 
went up an' food went down after 'e'd been 
'ere awhile, an' 'e would a-fared just like 'is 
workmen 'e would, for sure there never wor 
no pride about 'e, bless 'ee. Why, I 'members 
one day when 'e'd bin away a long time, in 
Ameriky I b'leeve' twas, 'e come down one 
day sudden-like I seed 'e a-comin' along the 
road where we wor a-workin', me' an' Quinnell 
an' when 'e got up to us 'e sez, ' What 'ave 'ee 
got for dinner.? an' Quinnell 'e sez, ' Not much, 
sir, just a bit o' bacon,' an' Mr. Cobden 'e 
sez, ' That's good enuff for me,' an' down 'e 
cum to the farm cottage an' 'ad 'is dinner 
along o' us there worn't no pride about 'e, 
bless 'ee." 







Charles Tiller, Foreman Carpenter, 

FORMERLY OF HEYSHOTT. 

"Oh, I remember Mr. Cobden well. 
When he first come down to Heyshott things 
were pretty bad, I can tell you. A half-gallon 
loaf cost one-an'-tuppence, and a gallon one 
two-an'-four and wages was low, terribly low. 
My brother, who had a wife an' ten children, 
on'y got nine shillins a week. 'Twas difficult 
for folks to live thenadays, I can tell you. 
They couldn't get proper bread for the 
children 'twas made mostly of crammings for 
the fowls, and not a bit of fresh meat from one 
year's end to the other. Many an' many a one 
only had potatoes, though some fam'lies could 
keep a pig an' feed him on acorns and such-like, 
an' when he got about thirty stone, they'd kill 
him an' salt him down, an' he'd last all the 
winter and pretty well all summer too. 

"Well, as I was a-saying, Mr. Cobden he come 
down, an' he went an' he looked over Dunford. 
It belonged to young Whitter then, and was as 
messy an old place as ever you see in your life. 

Young Whitter he laughed when he heard 
Mr. Cobden was wanting it he said, ' He 
ha 'n't got half enough money to buy it, but he 
can look over it,' he said. You see, nobody 
knew who Mr. Cobden was they'd never 
heard of him they never read what's in the 
papers why, you cudn't get a paper for less 
than threppence or fourpence. When he 
bought the place, folks began to talk and 
wonder who he was and what he was going 
to do; the farmers were terribly set against him 
when he first come. First thing he did was to 
dig a cellar, an' then he started right away and 
pulled down the house until there was on'y just 
a bit of it left, an' then he set to work an' built 
on a study and a dining-room and a parlour. 
He took me on as carpenter I put in two 
big cupboards and did odd jobs. When Mr. 
Cobden first took me on, he called me- into his 
room and he said, "Tiller,' he said, " there's one 
thing I want of you, and that is to be truthful 
and trustworthy,' he said. An' I said, ' Sir,' I 
said, solemn-like, ' you can depend on me,' 
and he smiled and said, ' That's all I want.' 

He paid me fifteen shillings a week, he did, 
as carpenter. That was tip-top wages, and 
the other men what he took on he paid 12s. 
and 14s. and 15s., according to what they 
could do. Oh, 'twas very diff rent, I can tell 
you, when Mr. Cobden come down. He was 
the best man that ever stepped in Heyshott, 
he was, an' nobody'll deny it. 'Twas he that 
made us all go to Night School. I was 'most 
twenty-seven then, and all the schooling that 
ever I had was at a dame school, Mrs. Baker 
was her name she lived up the common. She 
couldn't write her own name, but she could read 
a bit an' she taught us to read. The one that 
read the fastest he was the best scholar it 
didn't matter, lor' bless 'ee ! whether 'twas right 
or wrong. When I was risin' nine, my father 
said I'd had scholarship enough, an' set me to 
work at the sawing, an' I haven't bin out of 
work more than a day ever since. But Mr. 
Cobden he made us all go to Night School, 
in Midhurst. He was a wonderful one for 
wantin' folks to get on in the world. He'd 
get places for us time an' again. He got my 
brother a place at Mr. Thomas Bazley's, an' he 
worked there till they made him head gardener. 
Once he got a good place for a brother an' 
sister together, but lor bless you ! when the time 
come they were afraid to leave Heyshott 
they felt a sort of suspicious of other places. 
Times out of number he'd come an' have a 
word with me when I was a-workin' for him. 
He wanted me to go up to the great Exhibition 
(1851), but I'd never bin to London an' I said, 
'I'd rather not.' But a lot of 'em went, an' 
when they came back, they gave me what for, I 
can tell you. Mr. Cobden he used to say to us, 
' You young men ought to read the papers,' 
he said an' we'd say,  We haven't got money 
to buy 'em,' an he'd answer up quick, 'You 
could buy a paper instead of going to the public,' 
he'd say, ' an' then you'd see what is going on 
in the world, an' how you're put upon,' he'd 
say. An' if we answered that we couldn't 
read, ' Then get some one to read to you 
what can,' he'd say. Oh, he was a rare man 
for wanting folks to get on, Mr. Cobden was. 
When he was buildino- his house I said to him 
one day, I said, ' What may you be wanting a 
study for, sir?' 'To study in,' he said; an' 
then he turned on me and said, ' Ha'n't you 
begun to study yet ? ' said he, ' for,' said he, 
' if so be you hav'n't it's time you did,' he said. 
" It appeared to me as how Mr. Cobden 
was so busy thinking about the country that 
he had never no thought for his own concerns." 



Mr. and Mrs. Jenner, Heyshott Village. 

" The first ever we 'eard of Mr. Cobden 
was one day when I was a-sittin' near the front 
gate and three men come along over the hill 
they stopped when they saw me and arst me 
what was the name of the village, and when I 
said ' Heyshott ' they brightened up and said 
as 'ow they'd been a 'untin' for it for a long 
while they said they wanted Dunford, and I 
pointed 'em out the way and off they went 
and as I passed by Dunford, Mary Tiller came 
a-runnin' out to me, and sez she, * I wor just 
a-goin' up to Walker's to see Gran'ma and I 
see three strange men at Dunford, taking
a top brick off the chimley of each of the 
cottages to take back to Mr. Cobden ' — there 
wor three labourers' cottages there in those 
days and I sez, ' Mary, that's a sign some 
one's bought the place an' is comin' to live 
'ere you mark my words,' I sez. An' sure 
enough before many days were over we 'ad 
Mr. Cobden down. 

" Me 'usband 'ad a little cart in them days, 
drawn by two dogs, and 'e used to go into 
Chichester and buy fish and come back an' sell 
'em in Heyshott. I can 'ear 'im now a-callin out, 
' Fish, all alive-o ! ' He was a-walkin' it along 
one day when by came Mr. Frederick Cobden, 
and when 'e sees 'im 'e stopped an' 'e says, 
' Well, I never know'd 'ee could get such fine 
fish 'ere,' an' 'e bought pretty nye the whole 
barrowful. An' by comes Mr. Cobden an' 'e 
stopped too, to see what wor goin' on an' 'e 
sez to my husband, ' Yee're a strong, likely- 
lookin' man, can't yee get anything better to 
do than that? Come up to Dunford and I'll 
give yee something worth doin'.' Me 'usband 
'e were fairly taken aback an' just mumbled out,
' When'll I come ? ' an' Mr. Cobden answers 
up sharp, ' To-morrow mornin'.' Well, my 
husband 'e come 'ome though 'twas still 
early in the mornin', an' 'e threw down on 
the table the money what Mr. Cobden 'ad 
given 'im, and that startled me, yee may be 
sure, for sure 'tworn't like 'im to give me the 
money till night an' 'e give me the two fish 
what 'e had left an' 'e just says, ' Cook 'em 
for dinner, I'm goin' out,' an' out 'e went with 
never another word, leavin' me a-wonderin' 
what in the world 'ad 'appened. Just afore 
dinner 'e come back agen, and I 'eard my 
little girl a-cryin' out in the garden, ' Daddy's 
only got one dog. Daddy's only got one 
dog,' an' I run out, an' sure enough there 
was only one dog there, an' I sez to 'im, 
'Whatever 'ave yee been a-doin'?' and e sez, 
' I've sold me fish an' I've killed one of me 
dogs, an' now I am a-goin' to work like a man, 
praise God.' That was over fifty years ago. 
Me 'usband an' I 'adn't been married long 
then. I remember our weddin' day we'd only 
been six weeks a-courtin', an' on our weddin'
day me an' me husband, we reaped a whole 
acre of corn six shillun an acre was the price 
we was paid." 

"We found it pretty difficult to live in those 
days afore Mr. Cobden come. Bread was 
one-an-threppence a quarter loaf, an' an 
ounce o' tea was sixpence ha'penny, an' 
sugar eightpence a pound, an' then 'twas so 
damp yee 'ad to dig it out with a spoon. 

Mr. Cobden 'e bought what they called 
the Town land and set to work makin' a 
road, an' 'e put me on to it my first job 
was grubbin' up the roots of the timber in 
Walkers' Field eleven shillen a week 'e give 
me, an' time an' again 'e'd send me wife down 
half a crown or a rabbit or summat. Afore 
Mr. Cobden come boys would work for 
tuppence or threppence a day, or one-an'-six- 
pence a week, mendin' the roads. The bread 
what we got couldn't hardly be called bread at 
all 'twasn't made o' flour, but just o' what 
remained after the best part o' the flour 'ad 
been taken away, an' often it was that stodgy 
an' damp yee 'ad to dig it out o' the middle 
with a spoon. Sheep's 'eads is what we 
mostly lived on we could get one for sixpence 
and two 'ud last us a week, made into soup 
but 'tworn't great shakes, I can tell 'ee. But 
Mr. Cobden 'e altered all that e was a good 
friend to us in Heyshott, that 'e was." 



John Goff, Carter (aged 70), Heyshott Village. 

" Oh'a, I reelect the old days well enuff, 
I do — 'leven on us to starve on nine shillin' 
a week. Seven to five o' nights I work'd 
when I wor a lad, an' liv'd mostly on cram- 
min's. Many a day we 'ad o' work on a 
swede turmut a-boil'd down, I declare ! Yer'd 
give one shillin' an' sixpence a loaf o' bread 
we 'u'd in them days. An' no tay — bread 
yer'd bake and po'r 'ot water on't an' 
drink. We cudn't get nothin' more. 

" First I went a-work at a penny a day, 
an' they rose up to tuppence, an' up to six- 
pence at last when I wor ten year. When 
I got up to twelve year they giv' me one 
shillin' and fourpence a week then. An' 
then I got carter-boy an' they giv' me two 
shillin' a week. That wor for ever so long. 
Then it came to four shillin'. That wor 
w'en I got made a milk-boy. An' w'en 
I got four shillin' a week me faather thought 
that fine, an' 'e'd say as 'ow we could 'ave 
a extra loaf. I worked thirty-three year wid 
one farmer. 

"In them days there wor no butter as there 
be on the table there, nor cheese more nor 
once a week, for we cudn't get it with a 
piece o' bread we thought ourselfs in luck. 
I can get enuff to eat now, I can. Then 
many a night it were 'ard work a-gettin' 
home, I wor that hungry. Now people tell 
me we ain't no better off. Don't tell me ! " 

Then Mrs. Goff broke in, and told the 
same story how her mother, Widow Sanders, 
brought her and seven more up having, for her 
only stock-in-trade, a recipe for excellent 
catchup. 

"Ah, many's the day I've spent with 
mother a-lookin' for mushrooms by Hook's
Ways and the Devil's Jumps, round Harting 
way, till the prespration a-po'red from her. 
She was a good mother to us all." And 
then, after a hospitable cup of tea, to the 
accompaniment of fresh bread-and-butter, I 
left them to their comfortable evening meal, 
and in the twilight turned my steps homeward, 
pondering on the past and present lives of 
those old friends and neighbours in the 
little Sussex village under the " Dear South 
Downs." 



These statements tell the same story as do those from other counties in England, and will, I trust, prove to be of permanent historical and documentary value, giving as they do vivid pictures of the life of rural England in the first half of the nineteenth century. At the same time they will be practical and effective anti- dote to the raging, tearing campaign of those who would by legislation bring England back to the times of the Hungry Forties.
 
J. C. U.
 
HEYSHOTT, SUSSEX,
 
October, 1904.
 
PROTECTION IN THE MIDLANDS 



CHAPTER I 

PROTECTION IN THE MIDLANDS 

The letters in this chapter, coming as they do 
from the central counties of England, deal with 
a district in which the conditions under Pro- 
tection, as now, were naturally more varied than 
perhaps in any other. The district is neither 
so purely agricultural as eastern or western 
England, nor yet so completely manufacturing 
as the North. The proximity of large towns 
exercises a favourable influence on agricultural 
wages by offering the rural labourers an alter- 
native to field work. Hence, London and 
Birmingham being within reach of many of 
the counties with which we here deal, the 
poverty of the rural labourers was hardly quite 
so deplorable as that of which we have evidence 
in Devonshire and Dorset nor, considering its size 
and population, has the district been quite so eloquent.
 
Perhaps the following letter, with its quaint and 
picturesque detail, gives as good an idea of actual life 
conditions in " protected " England as any. The 
details it gives as to wages, & are particularly clear. 
The letter is dated February 12, 1904, from 14, Bouverie Street, Northampton : — 

" I, Joseph Boddington, was born on 
May 27, 1827. Our family consisted of 7 
brothers, 2 sisters, father and mother. I 
was the youngest but one. Father hedge- 
cutter and thatcher, and all hard work of any 
kind. I had to go to work with him at the age 
of six years old, weather hot or cold. My little 
hands would suffer very much with the frost 
and cold. We tried to live on barley-bread, 
but we could not do without mixing it with 
wheat-flour. I worked with my father until I 
was 12 years old. We had one of those 
large chimney fire-places — father on one side, 
mother on the other, room for 2 boys on 



BEGGING A CRUST 59 

each side I would get on mother side. We 
was not allowed free speech, so I would 
just pull mother's face when at meals, and 
then she would say, ' Boy, I cannot eat this 
crust ' and O ! the joy it would bring into my 
little heart. At night we would have a 3 leg 
iron pot and a good dose of small potatoes, and 
a little bit of fat to keep them from burning 
and O ! the eyes and ears that watched and 
listened to them as they were being roasted ! 
No fairy could have come down that big 
chimney to have taken one of them potatoes — 
we should have had her in a moment. At 12 
I went to a farm lodge out of the village, to 
work from 6 o'clock in the morning to 6 in the 
evening. My wages up to 16 years old were 
5d. per day — 2/6 per week. Then I went to 
another village, and set myself for 12 months 
for the sum of £2. I was taken on the 
next year £4. In my 19 year I set myself 
for £4 15 o. When I was in my 24 year a 
farmer came and offered me 7s per week. 
The same year I helped a farmer get his hay 
and harvest in, and then he said he could not 



6o THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

keep a single man on, so I went the next day 
and put the banns up in church, and then he 
sent for me and gave me the sum of 8s per 
week to get married on. I worked for 
him nearly 2 years. He gave me the sack 
because I asked the servant girl to go to 
chapel. I have seen 14 young, strong men 
stand in the village with nothing to do. One 
man said he had been three days at work, 
and they gave him 2/6 for the three days, the 
same time I worked 2 days for 2/6, and I 
told him I would have throwed it at him only 
I wanted it. The next day after he sacked 
me I got 2/- per day and never went back. I 
have now been a local preacher 50 years, but 
my work is nearly done but I can bless the 
good Lord at all times for His great love to 
me and mine. I have taken the Christian 
World almost from its commencement — it is 
from that I write to you. I might say, in 
conclusion, I have my third wife and she has 
her third husband. We have never claimed 
the Dunmow flitch of bacon, but I think we 
might have done. I do hope your book will 
be a very great success when sent out. I may 
subscribe myself as your unknown friend, 

"Joseph Boddington." 



TWOPENCE A DAY 6i 

Our next letter is from Mr. Wm. Prestidge, 
of 2S, Manor Road, Bishopston, Bristol : — 

" I was born in the parish of Meriden, near 
Coventry, Warwickshire, 76 years ago, and 
can well remember those 'good old times,' 
falsely so called, as they were anything but 
good times to my dear father and mother and 
us 5 children. His wages were but 9/- per 
week, with 2 pence per day that I got for 
frightening the crows off a farmer's wheat, 
making another iid. per week to keep seven 
of us, and father had to pay 6 pounds per year 
out of that for his house to live in, so you may 
guess how we lived with the 4-lb. loaf at i lid. 
tea from 5 to 8 shillings per lb., and vile sugar 
at 9 pence per lb. Then meat — mutton, beef, 
and poultry — I don't know how they were 
sold — we could only see those things. One 
ounce of tea and a pound of bacon a week, 
with a dish or two of swedes thrown in, if we 



62 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
could get them, as the potatoes were a great 
failure after the disease set in, which has con- 
tinued more or less ever since, and was the 
cause of thousands of deaths in Ireland. And 
from frightening the crows off the farm.er's 
wheat, when I got a bit older I used to help 
father thrash out the corn, with two heavy- 
sticks swinging over my head all day, on 
barley and wheat bread and small beer, in the 
farmer's barn and we used to have 'tea-kettle 
broth ' for breakfast. What would the young 
people think of such a breakfast as that to-day? 
I never had a day's schooling in my life, but 
was always brought up to behave myself lowly 
and reverently to all my betters. My dear 
father died at 43 years of age through hard 
work, bad living, and other terrible hardships 
and now Joseph Chamberlain wants to bring 
us back to those good old times again with his 
Fiscal Policy and Protection." 

Though usually included among the Eastern 
Counties, Hertfordshire, lying as it does be- 
tween them and the Midlands, is perhaps, 
for our purpose, more fitly included in our 



CENTENARIAN'S EVIDENCE 63 
present chapter. Substantially the conditions 
of life in Hertfordshire are more likely to 
resemble those of the neio^hbourinor inland 
rural district, which includes the Midland 
Counties of Bedfordshire and Bucks, than 
those of the low-lying maritime counties 
further east. For this reason we have classed 
Herts as a Midland County, our object being 
in the main to keep together those districts 
where the industrial and agricultural con- 
ditions were most alike. 

Interesting because of the venerable age of 
the writer was the following letter, sent by 
Mr. Richard Rigfg:, of Redbourne, to the 
agent for the Liberal Candidate during the 
Mid- Herts contest of 1904: — 

" I am an old man, in my hundredth year, 
and Protection or Free Trade will not injure 
or benefit me now, but I should like to tell 
you, in a few feeble words, of my experience 
under both laws. 

" I was born in Maresworth, Hertfordshire, 
in 1804, and worked early. I remember 
bread then beine is. 6d. a loaf. I worked 



64 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

as a plough-boy, with my mother's boots tied 
on to my feet with string. My first engage- 
ment was with a farmer, who, in return for 
my labour, gave me free food and no wages. 
When I was too ragged to be decent, my 
master applied to the parish for clothes for 
me. We used to wear sheepskin breeches, 
and when we got them wet through, we lay 
on them at night to dry them for morning. 
At sixteen years of age I worked for ^5 a 
year, and received board free. At eighteen 
years of age I was getting £8 a year. In 
1826 I married, and received 9s. a week 
wages, and as time went on my wife had 
four children, and we were half-starved, and 
my master reduced our wages to 8s. a week. 
However, I managed to get work on the first 
railway line being made, at Tring cutting, and 
left the farm work. I remember Lord John 
Russell's Reform Bill, and since then things 
improved. I can well remember Cobden and 
Bright agitating the country for Free Trade. 
"Working men, don't forget your half a 
crown will buy nearly twice as much to-day 
as it did then. If you had lived in those dark, 
cold days, you would appreciate your blessings 
of to-day brought about by Free Trade. I 
respect the Tories, but disapprove of their 
ways and actions, and consider myself a great 
sufferer through them. I wish the Liberals 
every success. I have been a Liberal all my 
life, and see no reason to alter my opinion 
now I am old." 





66 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 


A HERRING DINNER

The writer of our next letter, which ap- 
peared in the Daily Chronicle for the 24th 
of February, 1904, gives what we believe to 
be the true reason for the fact that while 
almost every other kind of food was dearer, 
meat was cheaper during Protection days than 
at present. The fact is that there was then 
practically only a middle and upper class 
demand for beef and mutton. Some pork 
was bought for Sundays by the poor, but 
otherwise meat was altogether beyond their 
means, with the inevitable result of a restricted 
market and low prices. 



" My personal recollections," says T. G. W., 
writing from Malvern, "go back to the time 
of the anti-Corn Law agitation. When I saw, 
at a meeting here this winter, the big loaf and 
the Httle loaf displayed, I recognised old 
friends, for I had seen them carried in pro- 
cession in the early forties. 

" The condition of things then existing can- 
not be realised by the present generation. 
Bread has long been so cheap that the years 
of famine are forgotten or unknown. Bread 
has almost taken its place alongside of air and 
water, as things we have no special reason 
to be thankful for. When I was a boy ten- 
pence was a minimum price for the 4-lb. loaf, 
and often it was a shilling, and even then 
generally of very poor quality. Other articles 
of ordinary consumption were correspondingly 
dear, sugar lod. per pound, and very common 
tea 4s. Only meat was cheap, because the 
working classes could not afford to buy it. 
When exceptionally bad harvests came, matters 
were worse. In the potato famine year, 1845, 
I remember our trying to make potato flour 
by grating the half-rotten potatoes into a large 
tub full of water. The white flour sank to the 
bottom and looked very nice, but I do not 
remember eating any of it. It was merely an 
interesting experiment for us, but the suffering 
amongst the working people was a very grim 
reality. Oatmeal in various forms and barley 
bread formed the staple food of the masses, 
and almost the only luxury they were able to 
indulge in was a red herring, the smell of 
which pervaded the air as you passed the 
workmen's cottages. 

" I have often heard my father tell the 
following story : In the year 1802 there was 
a very poor harvest. In the manufacturing- 
town in the South of Scotland where he lived 
the town crier went round one day to announce 
that there was wheat-flour for sale at a small 
flour mill a few miles off. Not to lose time, 
my grandfather, who was in comfortable cir- 
cumstances, and the chief magistrate of his 
native town, at once sent off a man on horse- 
back to secure a sack of this precious stuff. I 
cannot remember the price paid — it was some- 
thing enormous — but when the so-called flour 
arrived it was so full of grit and dirt that it 
could not be used. 



68 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

"In 1849 I entered the office in Liverpool 
of a merchant engaged in the China trade. 
One of my first tasks was to pay duty at the 
Custom House upon a chest of tea. The cost 
of the tea landed in Liverpool was under lod. 
per pound — say £2, odd per chest — and the 
duty was 2s. ijd. per pound, or £8 odd per 
chest. Did the ' heathen Chinee ' pay that 
duty ? Some people will say that he did ! 
Well, this world would be a very uninteresting 
place if there were no fools in it. 

" I was resident in America between the 
years 1884 and 1901, and on my return was 
quick to notice any apparent changes in our 
old country. Now, what has struck my wife 
and myself above everything else is the great 
improvement that has taken place in the 
apparent condition of the working classes. 
They are better dressed, have more and 
better food, and more leisure time than they 
used to have. It is surprising that this im- 
provement has taken place during the years 
that have convinced Mr. Chamberlain that 
Free Trade was the device of two schemers 
or dreamers, named Cobden and Bright, and 
that Protection is the panacea for all our ills." 
The following letter, which appeared in the 
Daily Neivs of February 5, 1904, gives 
interesting details as to prices and wages, 
which bear out other evidence in this 
work : — 

" Sir, — I wish to recall, for the benefit of 
the present generation, the bad times of Pro- 
/ tection. My father's wages were 1 5s. per 
^-week, which was 4s. per week above that of 
the average working man. Bread was lo^d. 
per 4-lb. loaf tea, 4s. 6d. per lb. very common 
sugar, 6^d., which was adulterated with sand 
and I may say all goods were very largely 
adulterated. Clothing was dear, and the 
workinof man had to dress in the coarsest 
of clothing. I can well remember having to 
turn into the fields at break of day gleaning, 
and my father, after a hard day's work, perhaps 
walking two miles to help to carry home our 
burden of corn, which was often sprouted at 
the end of harvest. This was sent to the 
mill and ground into flour. The bread which 





GLEANING BAD CORN 69 



was made from the flour was nearly black, 
and I am quite sure the working man of 
to-day would not eat it. In those days the 
working man did not leave work at 12.30 on 
Saturdays. Bricklayers' wages were 3d. per 
hour, and carpenters the same. I have no 
desire to go back to the days of Protection. 
Just imagine eggs, butter, meat, and all other 
things which we cannot do without, having a 
tax on them ! Will the working men of this 
country listen to such a proposal ? Why, sir, 
it will have just the opposite effect on trade 
if these things are dear, people will have to do 
with less consequently less trade. — Yours, &c., 

"W. H. Moss. 
" Bournbrook, near Birmingham." 

The next letter, from " A. J. M.," comes 
from Northampton. Unfortunately for our pur- 
pose the recollection of the writer, as he says, 
does not go back quite so far as those of most, 
for his account is remarkably complete as far 
as it extends. We print it practically entire, 
for the details of life given, even when not 



QUALITY OF FOOD 71 

the result of the fiscal heresy of the time, are 
interesting : — 

" My recollection takes me back into the 
gfties when, if bread was but slightly taxed, 
many other things were heavily burdened. 
Physically and intellectually we dwelt next 
door to destitution. The principal course at 
the morning meal would be a small basin of 
bread soaked in water, and seasoned with salt, 
occasionally a little skimmed milk added, and a 
small piece of bread tinged with lard in winter. 
During the summer season we might at rare 
intervals get some dripping from the Hall. For 
dinner we might get plain pudding — flour and 
water — or pork dumpling, sometimes both, 
with potatoes or onions added to fill the crust. 
The last course, except the dessert of potato 
soup, &c., might be potatoes and meat — pork — 
you should have seen the joint ! We might get 
2 lbs. per week. 'Tea,' such we called it, 
bread and potted butter. I never remember 
grumbling about this being sparingly spread, it 
was at times so rancid. ' Supper ? ' Well, 
sometimes I used to transgress by staying out 



72 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

late, so had to slip off without, or I might get 

something very much like a small piece of 

bread and a little piece of pork rubbed over 

it. Sunday was a high day, of course. We 

might get a penny black pudding ' for breakfast, 

suet pudding and a pig's foot for five of us to 

feast thereon. Beef.'* Yes, we might get a 

small piece at our feast and a bullock's heart at 

Xmas. We did occasionally get a pennyworth 

of bullock's liver if we happened to be going to 

town — about 3 miles — for the doctor during 

the week. Beverage ? Well, yes, we used to 

have as much as 4 oz. of tea and 2 of coffee 

for 3 weeks, i lb. of sugar per week. To 

illuminate our cottage in winter we would get 

half a pound of candles (lod.) and a rushlight 

for father to retire and rise with, as it did not 

consume so rapidly. As an additional drink 

we had mint-tea for summer, and we miofht ofet 

toast and water, especially when ailing, in 

winter. 

"Then as to the news of the world. Our 

' One between 4 or 5 of us, with a small piece of fryed 
pork. 



PROTECTION MUTTON ^z 

world extended to about 3 miles on either side. 
Father usually attended the town Chapel on 
Sunday mornings, and might get a scrap or 
two of information. Newspapers nil. Period- 
icals } About the same number. Books .^ 
Father and mother had a Bible and hymn-book 
and prayer-book. Such were some of the 
delights of those dear old days. Would that I 
could transport 'our Joe' and his jingo tribe 
where they could learn a common-sense lesson 
in the school of experience ! We used as lads 
to play a game when one was called upon to 
pick out his fellows who had assumed another 
name, and when failing he would be instructed 
thus : ' Old fool, go to school and learn better 
wit.' I think this would be hard to beat for 
applying to fiscal fanatics. As to matters in 
general, the wages of labouring men would be 
about I OS. in summer and 9s. in winter. Many 
families would have to go into debt, trusting to 
extra pay in harvest and the gleanings of the 
family to enable them to pay the shoemaker, 
&c. Some would purchase tailing corn, and if 
a sheep or other animal died would perhaps get 



74 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

a part or the whole of the carcass on the 
cheap. 

" Our dress for Sunday and week-day might 
be smock frock and corduroy. Small lads would 
set out to work some at 6, others might wait 
until 7 or 8, &c., and might get is. per week with 
the prospect of an annual rise of 3d. 1 did not 
commence until over 8, and had 3d. per day of 
12 hours. I am still classed at 12 hours. I 
have heard a town tradesman talk as foolishly 
as a duke who bears my county's name about 
the folly of having cheap articles and no money 
to buy them. Within my recollection there 
was scarely a trade cart came into the village to 
call on labourers. Two vehicles we did see. 
The relieving officer used to come once a week 
■ — bread was then served out — and a peculiar 
shaped hearse to bring from the infirmary or 
workhouse the remains of a former resident. 
Go into the same village to-day and you may 
have to be on the look-out not to be run down 
by the vehicles of tradesmen and others. Yet 
the inhabitants are, I believe, considerably less. 
Others as foolishly talk about the time of 



COTTAGE FURNITURE 75 

agricultural prosperity. Such expose them- 
selves more than they know. Labourers not 
only had to toil when they could get work, but 
to tramp thereto. I have known men to come 
from a village said to be 8 miles distant for a 
day's work at threshing. Most villagers might 
be employed during haytime and harvest before 
machinery was much used, but at other times 
many might walk miles for draining in winter 
and for other things in summer. Then as to 
' the cottage homes of England.' A poet's fancy 
would not harmonise with facts in many cases. 
My earliest recollection is of 4 cottages in a 
row, 5 over-head bedrooms, and representatives 
of 8 families, two 2, one 3, and one i. Then 
how were they furnished ? Many would have 
a few rush-bottomed chairs, a few stools, and a 
round deal table, some trenchers and wooden 
spoons to match, with the sun to tell the time 
of day, and ' Old Moore ' for those who could 
make out the time of the year. Some were, of 
course, a little farther advanced. We had two 
clocks, one with i hand, the other with two, 
and I could tell a tale respecting one of these, 



"je THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

how its loss filled me with sorrow but that is 
beside the mark. 

" Some are making much ado to-day about 
getting men back to the land. Know they 
what they say.'* In the village I reside in 
probably even more than | of the toilers have 
to g-o out of the villao^e to work, or are other- 
wise eno^aored than on the land. There are, of 
course, many comfortable cottages and gardens 
throughout the land, still the inhabitants may 
be so hedged in with restrictions that might 
remind one of a S.A. compound. A large 
number of others were probably built on waste 
by labourers, who might be glad to barter them 
for a shilling or two per week in old age, as 
they could get no parish pay while owning a 
house. Many of these stand to-day, no credit 
to our country or to those who claim them. 
In some cases cottages stand back to back, or 
there may be front doors both ways, or one 
front door for two cottages then in many 
places village rents are being raised. In many 
places, while there is ample room and protec- 
tion for game, the poor are huddled together. 



LEADER WANTED ^1 

Many are workless in the country as well as 
the town only yesterday a young bricklayer 
was digging an allotment for me. England 
needs something more than a politician on 
pilgrimage with promises as profuse as his 
pledges are worthless. It needs a lover of God 
to step forth as a leader of men, to wean us 
from or smash our golden gods, and show that 
only by serving our generation can we do the 
will of God. There is need of a radical revolu- 
tion the land should be the bedrock on which 
national burdens rest. Machinery used to 
lighten the labourers' lot rather than to super- 
sede. Why should one have to toil half his 
living hours, and another have to wander work- 
less, while a third reaps the reward.'^ In a 
word, we need a Co-operative Commonwealth, 
to fight for rather than against each other. If 
any part of the foregoing will be of service you 
are welcome thereto, only suppress name and 
whereabouts. — Yours respectfully, 

"A. J. M." 

The following excellent letter is from 



78 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
Leicestershire : " I was born in 1836. I 
was sent into the fields to scare crows, and 
when I had done a full week, 7 days, I had 
one shilling. I was such a small boy my 
father carried me on his back to work. The 
corn was 105s. per quarter, bread i/- per 
4-pound loaf. My first week's money bought 
I loaf. I have had a little conversation with 
Mr. Thos. Binney, late of Padby, farmer. 
He told me his father refused 105/-, and 
rather than sell he kept it till the rats nearly 
devoured it, and then he had to sell it for 
70/". The farmer 'as nev^er been the friend 
of the toiler. They are the most ignorant 
class of men in England. They have sup- 
ported the very men who have crushed them. 
Why don't they go in for Land Law Reform ? 
The are to thick-headed. This is just how 
they want to keep us, or why should they 
rob the people of public control ? Men, wake 
up! You can't find an Englishman, only 
through his belly. I am close on 70 years 
of age. I shall soon be gone, but I will try 
to make the paths of men more smooth than 



CRIME AND POVERTY 79 

what I found them. If every man done this, 
it would be a heaven instead of hell. In 
1844 the Chartists were led by Ernest 
Jones days I well remember. The farmer 
held the plough, the son drove, the daughter 
milked and assisted in the dairy. Do they 
do it now ? Do you see a farmer with 
a ragged coat, a pale face, without a 
cigar, without horse or trap ? No ! Are 
we to rise the price of bread for a few 1,000 
farmers and cause misery to 1,000,000? No ! 
In 1844 men was brought to justice for sheep- 
stealing, sent to Van Demon's Land for 14 
years. If you took a pheasant by night, 14 
years. Two men in this village had 14, Jack 
Burrell and Bill Devenport. In 1844 it was 
not safe to go out after dark if you had 
any money on you. Burgaly, highway 
robbery, fowl stealing because men were 
starving. Men would steal sheep to get 
sent away. They had there freedom when 
they got there. When we have to be sent 
away as convicts to get liberty, we quietly sit 
down at home slaves. Shame on working 



So THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
men ! But where are the sheep-stealers 
to-day ? The conditions of men is better — 
they have disappeared. But the men who 
made the men steal through Protection, hunger, 
and misery, and finding we had killed Pro- 
tection and buried it, he has had to turn 
thief himself. Where ? On the Stock 
Exchange. In '45 Bright and Cobden was 
agitating England through for repeal of Corn 
Laws. Rioting was in every large town, and 
shops were guted. Rows of men chained 
together. I see as late as '53 men marched 
through Northampton streets to the gaol 
from Nottingham — there prison was full. 
It was said Nottingham Castle was in flames. 
Do you want to see this again ? These poor 
men had no votes. They were better without 
it than thousands to-day are with it. They 
made the Government repeal the Corn Laws. 
In the litde borough I was born, Daventry, 
a gentleman the name of Jenkings every 
Monday would tell the town baker, named 
Kebble, to fill his oven as full as he could 
of small loaves. He would come at 6 in the 



VARIOUS WAGES 8i 

evening to distribute. I have se hundreds 
of people stand 2 hours for fear should not 
get one. Good old days ! I was the oldest 
of 7 children and when I was old enough 
I crept into the wood by the light of the 
moon, and brought out once 5 pheasants to help 
to keep my father, mother, brothers, and sisters 
from starving. In 1850 the corn went down. 
The Crimean War it come up again to ^5. 
The farmer was the jackal for landlord. He 
squeeze the labourer to 7/-, 8/-, 9/-, and 10/- 
a week. The farmers wore a white smock 
frock, the labourers a brown one — that was 
there dress-up! Bricklayers had 18/- a week, 
labourers 12/-, some 10/-, carpenters 18/-, 
painters 18/-, blacksmiths 16/-. There was 
no union it was according to supply and 
demand. I was among the shoes. I have 
seen the day in '46 when a man in the shoe 
trade would give 2/6 for every man he could 
get. To-day there are thousands would give 
5/- to get them a job. And what is the cause 
of this ? A surplus labour market. When 
I go home to Daventry I get and look at 



82 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

the farm I first worked on. There was 
15 men and wives and children, make no 
doubt 100 to-day there is one shepherd on 
that land. 

" If a man is only getting 6/- a week he is 
better off than any father would be 60 years 
ago with 23/-. I will prove it. In '45, before 
the repeal, bread, i/- 4 pound sugar, lump, 
9d. currants, 6d. Before the Boer War corn, 
16/- quarter, the lowest I ever knew, brown 
bread 3d. the 4-lb loaf, sugar 2d., currants 2d. 
Take the 6/- to-day, it would purchase what 
my father paid^i 3s. for. So much for Free 
Trade. If I live I am going to give an 
address on the days of Protection. I shall 
just be at home. I can speak, but I can't 
write. " J. Hawker. 

" 13, Cross Street, Padby." 

We should naturally have expected to be 
able to give a whole chapter to London. The 
great city has, however, been remarkably 
silent, and we are driven to treat London, for 
the purposes of this book, as if it were a 



STRIKING COMPARISON 83 

small city of the Midlands. The special 
conditions of the London poor are probably 
more like those of Birmingham or some other 
Midland town than those of the North. This 
is the solitary London letter sent in. It is from 
Mr. G. Carpenter (aged 69), who says : "As 
a boy in this parish (Homerton) I well remem- 
ber the early forties. I used to fetch the 4-lb. 
loaves of bread for my grandparents. The 
price was elevenpence halfpenny the 4-lb. loaf. 
Yesterday I saw at a bakers in the Chatsworth 
Road bread 4jd." 

Mrs. Margaret Evans, Llamaes House, 
Llantwit-Major, Glamorgan, from whom we 
gather by correspondence that Mr. William 
Shorthouse lived near Birmingham, says : — 

" My contribution to the recollections will 
be very meagre, but it will be a narrative of 
facts. Joseph Pugh was servant for 50 or 60 
years to my grandfather, William Shorthouse, 
and at his death, to my grandmother. My 
grandparents both kept excellent accounts, but 
alas ! the books have been destroyed. How- 
ever, I often put out the men's wages on a 
Saturday morning. Joseph Pugh had 10/- a 



84 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
week. He had a large family, and they were 
unhealthy. I believe buttermilk was given 
them, and my grandmother, who could not bear 
to see the children die one after another, 
relieved them from time to time with clothing. 
Joseph PzigJis wife mid daughters used to go 
early into the meadoivs and eat snails. Herb 
tea was in ordinary use, as tea, as we under- 
stand the word, was 5/- to 10/- per lb. 
Joseph Pugh was at work before 5 a.m., and 
left at 6 p.m. There were no holidays, but on 
occasions the men left early to go to some 
village fair. I used to hear Joseph Pugh 
churning before 6 a.m., the women servants 
helping. Very few of the children of the 
peasantry of Worcestershire had shoes, and 
those they had were in holes. 

" My recollections begin about 1836, and the 
figures I have given would hold good till about 
1847 or 8. Wages did not rise very materially 
till after Joseph Arch's agitation. Joseph 
Pugh's wages were raised before Joseph Arch's 
time — long before — but I do not believe he 
ever had more than 12/- a week." 



PROTECTION IN EAST ANGLIA 



CHAPTER II 

PROTECTION IN EAST ANGLIA 

The letters naturally emphasise the con- 
dition of child-life under Protection, for it is 
as children that our writers felt its evils. 
Rook-scaring is, of course, still a common 
employment of children, but compulsory edu- 
cation has prevented the employment of those 
as young as Mr. Tiddyment, at the time to 
which he alludes in our next letter. Com- 
paratively short as it is, it throws a side-light 
on the rural tyranny as well as poverty of the 
time : — 

" I remember distinctly before I was eight 
years old having to spend the bitter cold 
winter days in a large field scaring rooks, 
and as fast as my little legs could drag over 



S8 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the heavy clay field to one side, the rooks 
were on the other side and many a bitter 
tear I shed over my failure to scare them. 
I was brought up on a farm not far from 
Stanfield Hall, Norfolk. My father was a 
ploughman, and his wages seven shillings 
per week, a wife and three children to keep 
and pay rent. My mother used to go to 
the fields to glean, as she had a perfect right 
to do, to keep us alive and one day when 
thus engaged, the steward (the farmer's 
nephew) came riding into the field, and 
brutally beat my mother with his riding- 
whip, and shouted her out of the field. And 
here I must say when I got a big chap I 
would have liked to have met that steward 
and his whip. You would never guess the 
dainties my father's seven shillings provided 
for us, and it has been the mystery of my 
life how my mother eked it out. I have a 
very distinct recollection of dumplings made 
of barley meal, and it was with some diffi- 
culty I got my teeth through them. Then 
we had some potatoes, and sometimes we 



"SEMI-STARVATION" 89 

found a swede in the road, having fell off 
the farm cart. That was a treat indeed ! 
This was our usual weekday fare. But 
Sunday came, and with something extra for 
dinner. Meat.'* Oh no! A simple, herring 
between five of us constituted our Sunday 
dinner, and the tail, I remember, was my 
share as a rule. Ah ! and then we had tea 
— sugar we hardly knew the taste of. This 
tea was such a lovely brown colour and one 
day, being rather curious, I thought I would 
find out what it was made of, and, looking 
into the teapot, I found some burnt crusts 
of bread. This was our lot of semi-starva- 
tion and slavery. Is it any wonder my 
father made his escape to that goal of every 
countryman — London ? Here he obtained a 
situation which he held for thirty years — that 
is to say, as long as he was able to work. 
Having made my own way in the world, I 
have paid just three times the money my 
father received for the same kind of work 
on a farm in this county of Surrey. I am 
nearing the allotted span now, but I retain 



90 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the remembrance of some of the men who 
worked on the same farm as myself. One, 
whose name was Whiting, had a large family. 
He walked three or four miles night and 
morning to work. One day I was rather 
inquisitive as to what he had for dinner, and, 
boy-like, I inquired. He said, ' Ah, boy ! hot 
dinner to-day.' Having seen no dinner 
brought, nor any signs of fire anywhere, I 
had to wait, and presently out of his bag 
came a piece of dry crust and a good-sized 
onion. This was all the ' hot dinner ' con- 
sisted of, and I learned afterwards that this 
dinner was varied some days by a good- 
sized apple. Another case I remember, was 
a man named Cooper. He had a large and 
young family. The eldest boy used to 
work with his father, their united wages 
being sixteen shillings. They earned this 
extra by land drainage piece work and it 
will hardly be believed at this time that the 
bread bill came to fifteen shillings and four- 
pence weekly. They paid no rent, as the 
landlord gave them a cottage by a wood, on 



FIXING WAGES gi 

condition that his rabbits were protected 
from the poachers. These things will scarcely 
be believed in this twentieth century but I 
can give the names of every farm where 
these things occurred, the name of every 
farmer, and the great landlords of the same 
for these things were early engrained into 
my being. And these are the conditions 
that our rulers are moving heaven and earth 
to brin^ about a^ain ! 

The amount of evidence available from 
the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk is abun- 
dant. Very interesting is a communication 
from the Rev. A. Barnard, a Congregational 
minister, from which we take the following 
graphic details : — 

" The weekly wages paid to agricultural 
labourers in that day [circa 1840] were about 
eight shillings in ordinary times, with some- 
thing extra for the hay and harvest. The 
question which determined the rate of wages 
was not what the work done was worth, but 
what amount a man and his family could 
subsist on not what a man earned, but how 



92 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
many he had to keep. Often the wage 
received was not enough to buy bread 
for the family, and so a resort to the pur- 
chase of coarser stuff was necessitated to 
obtain more bulk to meet the wants and 
stay the cravings of hard-working, hungry 
men and growing children, such as barley 
meal, toppings, grey peas, potatoes, and 
swede turnips. A poor old labourer said to 
me one Monday, ' I had fine fare yesterday. 
I had roast, baked, and boiled.' ' Indeed,' said 
I, ' you were in luck. What did you have? 
Explain.' ' Well,' said he, ' I and my family 
had swede turnips, and nothing but swede 
turnips but we thought we would have as 
much variety as we could, so we had roasted 
turnips, and baked turnips, and boiled turnips.' 
" But when flour was at the dearest it 
was impossible, where there was a large 
family, for the parents by any expedients to 
procure a sufficiency of food. Questioning 
one day a good old man, who had been the 
father of a large family, and had been very 
hard hit in those 'good old times,' he said. 



PRICE OF BREAD 93 

' Sir, I remember I had to work all one 
winter for eioht shillino^s a week. I had a 
wife and six children to keep out of it, and 
Hour was twelve shillings a bushel. I could 
take nothing with me but a bare crust, and 
not enough of that, and then left my family 
at home, some days, almost foodless. Oh, 
sir, they were awful times.' And this poor 
man's wife, in her distress and distraction, 
said to him, ' Oh, Isaac, what shall we do ? 
Bread is three-halfpence a mouthful ! ' The 
best to do could take nothing with them but an 
onion with their crusts. To be able to get a 
red herring, and that to be shared by several, 
was counted a treat. What added to the 
wickedness of this state of things was that 
there was no need for it. One farmer can- 
didly said to one of his men who was being 
cruelly pressed, 'Joe, I could afford to pay 
you more, but I must not, or the other farmers 
would be down on me.' 

" Sometimes, too, after a wet or bad harvest, 
for example, the flour would not make bread 
at all and the poor people had to make 



94 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the stuff into ' peel ' or ' griddle ' cakes, 
that is cakes made without yeast, ' fleeted ' out, 
and quickly baked on a ' peel ' or ' griddle ' 
over the fire for when they attempted 
to make it into loaves, to bake in an oven, 
only an outside crust could be obtained of 
a firm consistency, the inside mass remained 
or became soft and pappy, and would, if 
thrown on a wall, bespatter it and stick like 
mud. A really good piece of bread, such 
as we now get always in abundance, was 
then a luxury and treat to the poor— greater 
than roast beef is to-day. As for meat, 
there were thousands of cottages into which 
a piece of fresh meat never entered during 
the year, and only occasionally, in small 
quantities, a bit of bacon or salt pork. I am 
speaking of the agricultural villages of the 
eastern counties but the state of things in 
the Midlands seems to have been very much 
the same. In proof of this I copy from the 
Leisure Hour on the ' good old times ' : 
'There is now living at Epperstone a blind 
man. He says, " When he was a child 



BRAN DUMPLINGS 95 

•white bread was considered a great luxury — 
so much so that when his father used to take 
his work to Nottingham, he would frequently 
promise to bring the children a penny white 
loaf on his return, and such was the eagerness 
of the little ones to possess this luxury, that 
they many times went three or four miles to 
meet their father that they might have it a 
little sooner, and this, too, in the depth of 
winter, in frost and snow." ' 

'* Many a mother, to appease the hunger 
and stop the crying of her children, made bran 
dumplings. A woman told me that her 
husband had gone many times to threshing 
without a bit of bread, and was obliged to 
relieve the gnawings of hunger by eating some 
of the pig pease and horse beans he was thresh- 
ing. If these failed, he was wont to buckle 
the strap he wore round his loins a hole 
tighter. Everything in social and national 
life was arranged in favour of the rich against 
the poor, on the side of the master against 
his men. There was one law for the rich 
and another for the poor. It was lawful for 



96 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the farmers to combine, but a crime for their 
men to do so. The labourers had really no 
constitutional rights, no vote, and no voice in 
anything, and no privileges and power of any 
kind. They were too ignorant and weak to 
proclaim their grievances and wrongs, and 
there was no press in those days to publish 
the state of things on the housetops and to 
whisper it in the ears of a sympathising 
public. Nobody seemed to care a straw about 
them. The avowed farmer's ideal of an 
agricultural labourer was one 'strong in the 
arm and weak in the head.' " 

Mr. Barnard is very decided about two 
things — the demoralising effect of the state 
of things obtaining under Protection on both 
farmers and labourers, and the tendency of 
monopoly to encourage bad farming. His 
description of the village life shows Hooligan- 
ism, now confined to the slum areas of the 
large cities, prevalent in rural East Anglia. 
He says : "The character of the sports and 
amusements of the people was very sottish 
and brutish. Boxino- and wrestling-, dog- 



OLD WORLD MORALS 97 

fiahtino^, cock-fiorhtlno^, bado^er-drawinor, and 
other barbarous sports were their delight. 
Hardly a week passed without a stern and 
tough * set-to ' between young pugilists and 
occasionally two or three quickly followed 
each other, each orrowin^ out of the one that 
went before. Many of these contests took 
place in village churchyards, over the graves 
of the dead. To fight and win was the great 
ambition of many young men, and wonder- 
fully proud they were of their achievements, 
and a victorious bruiser was held in great 
esteem and adored by his fellows. A fight 
in general was a very relishable show. No 
attempts were made to stop it, but every 
encouragement given the combatants to be 
'game,' and continue pegging away, till one 
dropped from sheer exhaustion or something- 
worse. 

"Sometimes the whole village of young men 
would pit themselves against those of another 
village, and create a civil war on a small 
scale, after the fashion of the gangs of young 
roughs which infest the lower parts of London 
7 



98 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
and other great towns at the present time. 
Animosities were engendered on both sides, 
and grudges were cherished on a parochial 
scale, so that it was unsafe for one or two 
young men to cross into the enemy's camp. 
They were sure to be set upon and beaten." 
This state of things was, no doubt, a 
survival of primitive manners. Protection did 
not create such disorders, though the poverty 
and despair induced by it may have delayed 
the dying out of barbarism. Mr. Barnard is 
more directly to the point for us when he 
shows the tendency of Protection to prevent 
progress in agriculture. " Let us see," he 
says, "what kind of farmers they were in the 
*good old times.' First, how did they treat 
their fields ? Many of them were very 
wretched tillers of the soil. Protection had 
destroyed the spirit of enterprise, and taken 
away necessity, one of the strongest stimulants 
to industry. The less they grew the better 
price they made of it, and to grow little was 
less trouble and expense than to grow much. 
In many cases they only cultivated a portion 



BAD FARMING 99 

of the field — the middle part — while acres of 
waste were left untouched by spade or plough, 
in the form of wide borders and large corners, 
overrun with weeds and bushes, and thickly- 
studded with pollard trees, the haunts of game 
and small birds. I well remember with what 
delight I, as a child, used to ramble about 
these uncultivated rings of fields in search of 
birds' nests and wild-flowers, or where ' hide 
and seek ' and other games were played. 
Other large spaces were given up to rushes 
and morass. Great ponds of stagnant water 
superabounded, and even the cultivated por- 
tion was not half drained. This condition of 
things was to be seen anywhere in the Eastern 
Counties. 

" The system of farming was crop and fallow, 
and often the preparation for the seed was 
only a poor apology for cultivation, not half 
done as compared with the present-day style 
of farming. One old farmer, I can remember, 
who lived near my childhood's home, a notori- 
ously profane old man. He had such a 
curious love for the fitness of thing-s that 



loo THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

when he was in a bad temper he clothed himself 
in shabby clothes, with a special preference 
for a battered hat. So when his labourers saw 
him with this old hat on, they said to each 
other, ' Here comes old Billy with his swear- 
ing hat on. Look out ! we shall catch it 
now.' This man was a petty tyrant to all 
he had to do with — to his men, his household, 
his cattle, his fields, and himself. One day he 
began to sow a field with peas. The soil 
was so utterly unprepared that one of his 
men remonstrated with him, telling him that 
land in such a state never could produce 

anything. ' D your eyes ! never mind,' 

was the reply, ' I don't care if they twin. 
Two for one will pay.' No wonder corn was 
scarce and starvation always at the door, with 
the foreign corn shut out, and the home-grown 
so insufficient and precarious. 

" Free Trade, however, revolutionised farm- 
ing methods. Worthy and capable farmers saw 
that their salvation lay in better farming, and 
that abundance must compensate for the loss 
of high prices. They earnestly set themselves 



MORE PRICES loi 

to make the land yield her full measure of 
increase. They broke up the fallow grounds, 
reclaimed the waste places, stubbed the wide 
hedgerows and the surrounding briars and 
bushes. They burned into useful ashes the 
refuse and the weed-choked soil." 

We may conclude our notices from Mr. 
Bernard's manuscript by giving the following 
invoice of food-stuffs for a children's Sunday- 
school treat in Protection times : — 





£ s. d. 


Two pecks fine flour, @ 6s. .. 


O 12 O 


6 lbs. currants, @ is 


... o 6 o 


6 lbs. sugar @ 8d 


. ...040 


I lb. caraway seeds @ is 


...010 


Salt and barm 


... 6 




^i 3 6 



The writer of the next letter is not quite 
so old as most of our correspondents, but his 
account of Suffolk life just after the Repeal 
of the Corn Laws is interesting. We have 
kept to our custom of altering the letter in 
no way but it will readily be seen by the 



I02 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

reader that though the writer shows the 
defects of his early education he is evidently 
a very thoughtful man. 

" I see from Rynoles's newspaper you 
solicit corespondence from persons who may 
have suffered under Protection in England. 
Although I cannot from personal experence 
discribe the condition of the poor previous to 
the Repeal of the Corn Laws, as I was born 
in that eventfull year, 1844, I con tell you 
my condition befor the benificial effects of Free 
Trade had time to devolope. My farther was 
an agricultural labaurer in the parish of 
Icklingham, in the county of Suffolk. My 
grandfarther, who was a widouer, lived with 
us almost a providential circumstance, as the 
sequence will show. I was the thrid child 
born out of a family of seven. My grand- 
fathr was born in the year 1780 he com- 
menced work when seven years of age, and 
ceased working for wages in 1854, and althow 
capable of doing all kinds of farm work with 
cridit to himself and his emplorer (except 
during harvest) his wages never exceeded 



MARRIED MEN'S WAGE 103 

eight shillings per week, and for many years 
of his married life his wages were seven 
shillings per week and I have heard him 
relate the terriable condition of himself and 
other in the village befor I was born. Barley 
bread was the stapel articul of food. My 
father was born in 18 14, and commenced work 
with his father at 8 years of age, who was 
a shepard for the esqure in the village. When 
in his teens he commenced general farm work, 
and his wage never rose higher than seven 
shillings per week till 1840, when he wooed 
and won my mother, than he obtained the 
extra shilling per week alowed to married 
men. With this magnificent sum my mother 
commenced housekeeping, out of which she 
was expected to find food, clothing, firing, 
and rent. As I was the thrid child boorn 
(in 1844) I con quit see her dificulties would 
soon begin. My first vived recollection of 
hunger commenced in Febuary. On returning 
from school with my eldest sister, we found 
the door of our cottage locked, and although 
we could not understand what was going on 



I04 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
inside the house, we could hear some one in, 
and we stood crying and knocking at the 
door, till a neighbour opened the door and 
bid us to brush off to school again. My 
sister, who had evidently done the same thing 
before, took me on to the cabbage bed and 
puled up some of the cabbage stalks, from 
which the cabbages and been cut, and peeled 
of the outer rine, and the centre we eate 
for our dinner, and many times after we did 
the same thing. On returnig hom at night 
we learned another littel sister had been 
found under the gooesberry bush, and by 
this I am enabled to fix the date as Febuary, 
1849. In October, 1852, I resolved to seek 
a job, and, keeping my intentions to myself, 
I visited all the farmers in the village without 
sucess no doubt from my diminitive statue 
and pinched looks they would conclude my 
sirvesus were not worth the current wage for 
starters, namely, one shilling per week. But 
on my way back home I saw two men taken 
up carrots for the village miller, and stoping 
to look at them I said ' Won't the tops have 



EAGER VOLUNTEER 105 

to be cut off befor they are carred home ? 
and one of the men replied, 'Yes.' 

" I out with my pocket-knife at once and 
commenced opperations, which seemed to be 
fun for the two men. When the miller came 
some time after he greeted me with, * Halo, 
boy, who set you on ? ' When one of the men 
said 'Why, he set hisself on,' to which the 
miller added, ' Go on, my boy one volinteer 
is worth ten press men.' On the Saturday 
night I called at his house for my pay. He 
was a stout, gruff man, and he shouted, ' How 
many days have you been my boy .'* ' I told 
him, ' And how much a day do you want ? ' 
I replied '2d.,' as I knew that was the regular 
price for boys starting to work. Looking 
steadly at me he said, ' And what made you 
commence to work without been set on ? ' I 
commenced to cry, and said I wanted to help 
mother. This evidently tuched his pocket as 
well as his heart, as he arose from his seat and 
patted me on the head, and said, ' Don't cry, my 
boy you have don nothing wrong. As you 
have worked so well I shall give you 3d. a 



io6 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
day,' and, handing me the coin, said, ' Now 
take that home to your mother, and keep a 
good boy, than you will grow a good man.' 
On arriveing home I showed my sisters my 
erenings they danced for joy, and father 
segested we should have a good super for 
once, as this was my first pay. My oldest 
sister was at once sent of to the village shope 
for a pound of salt pork with that and some 
boiled potatoes we regaled ourselves, and 
peace and happiness reigned in the household. 
With the winter intervening (1853) my father's 
wage, than 9s. per week, was the only suport 
we had for 5 sisters, myself, and father and 
mother, till the following summer, when the 
Esq. wife sought my servicous to look after 
her turkeys at the splendard renumation of one 
shilling per week of seven days and here 
let me add, once for all, that these wages 
were not suplemented by food or any other 
priviledges. How to exist and keep honist 
was the mistrey that confrunted my parents 
final result, it could not be done. My father, 
therefor, like otheres in the same perdicament. 



DIET OF PARSNIPS 107 

brought home from the farm potatoes, turnips, 
carrots, &c., in fact anything that was eatiable. 
But our condition up to this time was louxerous 
compared to what we suffered in the winter 
of 1854 and '55, when bread rose to famine 
prices. I supose for fear the whole villagers 
died from starvation, the Esq. rose the wages 
up to I2s. per week, and this was the high- 
water mark for wages in Suffolk till Joseph 
Arch formed the Labourers' Union. With 
the close of the Rusain War wages droped 
back to IS. 6d. per day, as before. The winter 
of 1854 and '55 was the worst time that I 
remember my father had 20 roods of alot- 
ment ground, for which he paid to the Esq. 
I OS. per annum, but through the insufficency 
of manure and constantly been croped with 
potatoes, they often proved a failir. So to 
give the land a change he decided to plant 
it with parsnips, intending to sell the parsnips 
and buy potatoes with the money. Poor man ! 
he never seemed to have asked himself the 
question, ' Who could buy them ? ' The result 
was they could be neither sold or exchanged 



io8 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

for potatoes we had, therefor, to eate them 
and, to add to our missery, owing to bad 
weather my father lost a great deal of work, 
so with scarcely any bread we practily lived on 
parnsnips — if fact, like Daniel's prayers, they 
came 3 times a day. After the harvest of 
1855 my father obtained work at the gravel 
pits, riddeling stones for the roads. The 
working of this gravel was let by the Esq. 
to a contractor, who emploied the men as 
this was peice work, the men sometimes made 
IIS. or I2S. per week. With this prospect in 
view we entered the winter of 1856 with bright 
prospects, till one Saturday night, just into the 
new year, when my father handed mother his 
week's wages he told her there was no more 
work at the gravel pits, as Bobey (the Esq.) 
had stoped the work. This news brought 
consternation into our littel camp, for this 
arbitary conduct on the part of the Esq., we 
afterwards learned, was because some of the 
gravel workers had been boasting at the 
village pub. that they were indipendent of 
Bobey and his farms. When this got to his 



CRYING FOR BREAD 109 

ears he at once gave orders that no more 
gravel had to be won. Of cours my father 
had to suffer with the reste. He now tramped 
from farm to farm, but no work could be 
obtained. Maddend by his non-sucess, he 
arrived home one evening and declared he 
would take us all to the workhouse. This 
declaration raised my mother's temper, and 
she said ' Never ! ' we would all die rather than 
go their. In vain he pleaded with her, and, 
young as I was, I put in my word, and said 
' Mother, Bill Capp said he got plenty of 
bread when he was in let us go ! ' This 
brought tears all round. My grandfather, who 
through old age and infirmity was receveing 
four shillings a week from a friendly society, said 
' No,' we should not go to the workhouse 
we should share with him. My father, dis- 
pareing of perswading my mother to take us 
to the workhouse, declared he would run away 
and leave us, as he could not stop and hear us 
crying for bread and, poor fellow ! he did 
go, we knew not wither. In fortnight's time 
he returned, all smiles he had suceeded in 



no THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

obtaining work in the neighbourhood of Ely, 
and by ruffing it in both lodging and food he 
was able to brincr home a few shillinors to 
mother. 

" Such, sir, were the conditions in which we 
lived in my young days, and there was littel, if 
any, improvement till I would endure it no 
longer, and in 1863, although only a small 
ladie, not more than 7 stone in weight, I left the 
dear old clay house and determond to fight life's 
battel under better conditions, if such were to 
be found. In conclusion, sir, I can safely say 
dureing the first 18 years of my life my belley 
had not been properly filled 18 time since I 
was weaned from my mother's breast. Scores 
and scores of times have I sat under the 
hed^hrows and cried, and told God how orood 
I would be if He only sent me bread. I had 
not then learned that God only help those 
who help themselves. Perhaps some will 
think my case was an exceptionaly one. To 
such I might say, ' No, by no means ours 
was better than many, as my father alwas 
brought his wages home, wereas some of the 



CHEAP MEAT, DEAR BREAD in 

men spent part of theirs at the village pub.' 

Now, sir, should you think well to publish 

the above, and they should be read by any 

who are asked by Mr. Chamberland to vote 

for Protection, to such I would say let their 

reply be ' Let us have all commodities free 

from taxes, but protect the people' — I am, sir, 

yours respectfully, 

"Edward Cook." 

G. Ruffel, The Avenue, Brightllngsea, 
Essex, sends a shrewd letter: "I am a 
native of Suffolk, and born September 7, 
1 816, at farmhouse previously held by my 
grandfather, under Squire Jennings, at a rent 
of 5/- per acre. At grandfather's death. Uncle 
John took it, and died there. About that 
time Esqr. Jennings died, and the estate fell 
into the hands of an earl, who employed a 
sharp agent, and he raised the rents to 25/- 
per acre when my father took It, as there had 
been great improvements made by father and 
son, and the protective duty on corn, &c., existed. 

"At that time wheat was about 10/- per 
bushel, pork 3d. lb., beef and mutton 3d. 



112 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
to 4d. per lb., eggs 30 for i shilling, butter 
yd. lb., cheese i^d. to 2d. (called 'Suffolk 
loaf), men's wages 7/- to 8/- per week, head 
horsemen 9/-. My father was tenant to about 
1830, and had about ^200 worth of hay, which 
he had to leave without id. compensation. 
(The farm had been in family 100 years.) 
Father took a farm in Essex, at a time the 
tythe was 2/6 per acre on the arable land, 
and nothing on the marshes. About 1836 
the tythe was assessed at 7s. per acre on 
the arable land, and 3s. 6d. per acre on the 
marshes (a fine plumb for the parsons). So 
much for the Tythe Commutation Act, which 
was simply a parsons' Act. 

" These observations are from my personal 
experience. About 1834 I was engaged on 
surveys of parishes in Mid-Suffolk for 
tythe commutation, and bread was is. id. 
to IS. 2d. per loaf of 4 lbs., and meat 3d. 
to 4d. per lb., coal is. 3d. per bushel, and 
but little wood for the labourers, wages 6s. 
per week for single men, and 7s. to 7s. 6d. do. 
formarried men, head horsemen 9s. per week. 



LANDLORD AND PARSON 113 

I told the farmers it was a parsons' Act, and 
he had six days out of the seven to study how 
he could best them, and they would not see 
it. I told them the parson could get from 
the men or their wives the quantity of corn 
they grew, and the papers would give them 
the price, and they would lay a balance-sheet 
before them, with labour a small item. I tried 
to advise them to pay their men £1 per week 
a^ once, before the assessment was made, as 
the men would spend 19s. per week for their 
produce, and benefit both. If not, they would 
have to pay three times more tythe than 
before, and the landlord, seeing this, would 
want more rent, but they would not hearken. 
There would be these ^wo to contend with, 
and the third would come if the labourers got a 
little education. They would tell you they 
could get more wages anywhere than you was 
paying them, and your answer must be, ' The 
parson have emptied one pocket and the land- 
lord the other, and left nothing for you, so 
you must go, and half the land will go out 

of cultivation.' 

8 



114 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

"About 1840 I paid a visit to an uncle at 
Dalham, Suffolk, who told me he had been 
talking with Sir James Affleck, of the Hall. 
Affleck said : ' All us masters will be ruined. 
They are going to take the duty off wool, 
which sells at 2s. 6d. per lb., and will come 
down to IS. 3d. if done.' 

" RuffelL ' And a good thing too ! Look at 
the price of mutton and if these poor men 
could get to work and had money, mutton 
would be 6d. per lb. direcdy. 

" Affleck. ' I had not seen it in that light 
before, and will vote for the duty to come off.' 

" RuffelL ' We have both our stores full of 
wool, and can only sell a few fleeces occasion- 
ally and I should be pleased to clear mine out 
at IS. 3d. per lb. It would be a great boon to 
the distressed manufacturers and their men.' " 

The Free Traders of Norfolk recently col- 
lected into an interesting pamphlet, the results 
of interviews with several old residents in the 
County. East Anglia being a purely rural 
district, with litde demand for labour outside 
farming, the condition of the agricultural 



TRUCK SYSTEM 115 

labourer has always been exceptionally hard. 
That in the days of Protection it was terrible 
is a fact of which these interviews give ample 
evidence. 

The first is with Mr. Harry Banham, 
of Caston, described as "a typical son of 
the soil." He has lived in the village of Cas- 
ton all his life, and married when he was 
twenty-one years old. He was then an agri- 
cultural labourer. His wife had seven chil- 
dren. He left the land to work in the mill. 

" For years," said Mr. Banham, " I never 
knew the colour of money. I worked in the mill, 
and was allowed a certain amount of flour each 
month in lieu of wages, and even then I did not 
get enough flour to meet the wants of my hungry 
family. I got into debt with the miller, but 
when my children grew up we were able to 
pay him everything. My wife, in spite of her 
big family, was forced to work in order to get 
a few of the necessities of life. Two or three 
times a week she used to fetch coal from 
Attleborough in a little donkey-cart, and by 
this means earned 4s. or 5s. a week. Meat in 



ii6 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

those days was the greatest luxury. Flour was 
3s. a stone." According to Mrs. Banham 
" The young people have no idea what a 
terrible struo-o-le we had then. We worked 
night and day just for existence. We de- 
pended upon harvest for rent money, and my 
husband has worked from the first break of 
day until dark mowing hay. Then we women 
used to sow the corn, but it was dreadfully 
hard work pegging away all day with bended 
backs. I would rather stand at the wash-tub 
all day long than do that work again. It 
was terrible. As the children grew up the 
burden lightened, and food beo;an to oret 
cheaper, the price of flour was reduced, and we 
began to get along better. If they raise the 
price of food again the larger labouring class 
families cannot possibly be properly fed. 
Where there are larger families now it takes 
them all their time. The old folks nowadays 
don't know what we old folks had to go 
through when we were young. They live 
pretty comfortably compared with the old 
times, and the labourers daughters dress quite 



"LIFE A FEARFUL THING" 117 
as well as the farmer's wives did years ago. 
You couldn't tell a farmer of those days from 
a labourer of to-day, although he got a bigger 
price for his wheat. I can remember when 
flour was 4s. 3d. a stone, and when the com- 
monest sugar, which we now get for i|d., was 
yd. a lb. I have known times when I have 
scarcely dared to pick up a loaf of bread for 
fear of cutting it up too quickly. Men used to 
wait until night to go and steal turnips with 
which to feed their children. But we never 
could do that. Life was a fearful thing in 
those days — we never knew what pleasure 
was then ! " 

Mrs. Fisher, of Scoulton, an old lady of 
eighty-eight years, but of remarkably alert in- 
telligence, said to the interviewers: " I remem- 
ber the time when labourers only got 9s. a 
week, when flour was 3s., and at one time 4s. 
a stone, when poor people lived on swedes 
and turnips, which they stole from the fields. 
I have heard my mother say that at one time, 
when pork was iis. a stone, it cost another 
5s. to salt the pig down. Boys who now get 



ii8 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
5s. and 6s. a week for crow-scaring would only 
get 9d. for a whole week in those days. 
Labouring men could only get half an ounce 
of tea a week then, now they buy at least a 
quarter of a pound. Why talk about those 
days being better that these ? Don't tell me 
about them! They were terrible." 

The interviewers got much valuable infor- 
mation from Mr. George Mimms, a Guardian, 
of Walton. He is in his eighty-sixth year. 
" I was one of thirteen children," he said, 
"and my father farmed about 100 acres of 
land. As a little farmer my father was hard 
up — immensely so in bringing up such a large 
family. We lived extremely hard, and as boys 
we used to sing the old rhyme — 



Barley cake as black as hake, 

Without a mite of butter for the barley cake.' 



"If my father had a wish for a piece of white 
bread, my mother had to sift the bran from the 
meal and make white flour. We thought as 
much of getting a piece of white bread in 



EMIGRATION 119 

those days as a poor man now does of getting 
a piece of cake. As to the poor men, they 
were poor indeed. I remember my father, 
with his Httle farm, was so troubled about his 
men, who had nothing to do, that he used to 
have acres of land dug by the spade to find 
work for the men. Shiploads of men were 
sent to America because there was nothing for 
them to do in rural England. Two of my 
brothers went to America because my father 
did not know what to do with them. The 
labourer's life was cruel. They were little 
more than serfs. A single labourer got is. a 
day, and a man with a family 9s. or los. a 
week. Flour was 2s. 6d. a stone, and more 
in the times of war. They were tremendous 
days. There were very, very poor people 
then. I have known men by chance get a 
little piece of bacon, and that was all. There 
is a tremendous difference between the scanty 
spread of the labourer's table in my boyhood 
and the provisions in a labourer's home to-day. 
Everything was dear when I was young. To 
take the town of Walton, I should say there 



I20 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
was ten times less spent than now. Walton 
then possessed about two little shops, now it is 
a thriving little commercial town with excel- 
lent shops, and it served the same district then 
as it does now. Our workhouses then were 
gross. I have been a guardian for upwards 
of thirty years, and I know the poor people 
are provided for a thousand times better now 
than they were in the dark days. In the old 
times I have known a red herring to be 
divided amongst three persons, who thought 
it was a lucky thing to get that." 

From the same authority we learn that Mr. 
Mark Moore, of Great Cremingham, a man 
apparently of eighty years of age, affirmed 
that : " The labouring classes did not live in 
those days — theirs was only a bare existence. 
Where there was a family the deficiency of 
income had to be supplied by parish relief. 
Of course bread was exceedingly dear. The 
staple food of the people was rye bread. 
Sometimes that was none too good, especially 
after a wet harvest. Then when the people 
put their bread into a basin of milk it would 



BAD RYE BREAD 121 

sink to the bottom like lead. I have known 
rye bread to be so doughy that the knife with 
which it was cut had to be cleaned at each 
slice taken. Sometimes it was so bad that they 
had to make little cakes of it. In this village 
the labouring classes half lived on swedes. 
The children used to have swedes for break- 
fast. They were really half-starved in the 
days of Protection. The people wore the 
coarsest of clothing made of strong materials. 
The women were very smart if they had an 
orange and blue cotton dress. That would 
not suit the young people now. The people 
did not really know anything about tea then 
— tea-drinking was out of the question. It 
was too dear. Sugar was 8d. lb., and the 
coarsest was yd. It is the duty of those of 
my generation to tell the present generation 
that during the days of Protection the country 
suffered terribly, and destitution was rife 
among the poor. Not even at the bidding 
of Mr. Chamberlain must we submit again 
to the taxation of the staple foods of the 
people." 



122 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

A very striking old couple, Mr. and Mrs. 
John Wilkins, of Northwold, gave an inte- 
resting account of their early struggles. The 
husband said : "I only earned 6s. a week 
when I was as good a man as ever laboured. 
That was in the days of dear food. I worked 
for 7s. a week when I was married and had 
got two children." Mrs. Wilkins, who is 
seventy-five, and her husband eighty-three, tells 
us : " My husband used to bring ^ lb. of pork 
home for Sundays, and I have seen him divide 
it up amongst his children and not take a piece 
for himself. He would eat bread and onions, 
and not make a word over it. I have known 
him take out bread in the morning and bring 
it home again at night so that his fellow-work- 
men should not see he was unable to get any. 
My children I have had to put supperless to 
bed many and many a time. We could not get 
enough food. They were dreadful times. I 
cannot tell you how we clothed our children. 
I have collected sticks and made a fire, bought 
a half-pennyworth of soap and washed the 
children's clothes on Saturday night and dried 



CLOTHIXG THEN AND NOW 123 
them ready for Sunday morning. Now the 
young people dress like ladies. In the old days 
farmers went to church in 'slops.' A young 
labourer wouldn't even go like that now — he 
must have his Sunday clothes. Ah ! times 
have altered. A little child now knows as 
much as we old folks. We had no schooling. 
We have had experience, though, and may 
God never permit them to go through the 
same." According to Mr. Wilkins, in his 
young days " We used to have rye bread. If 
you cut the crust off and threw the remainder 
at the wall it would stick there. Then we 
used to have sharps, which seemed to burn 
inside after we had eaten it. It was awful 
stuff. The pigs have it now. It is a shame 
to think of taxing the poor man's bread. Let 
him have a bellyful of bread, if nothing else. 
There were no drawing-rooms and no finery 
at farmhouses then." 

From other interviews we gather various 
matters. Mr. and Mrs. Abraham, of Denver, 
" could only buy h oz. of tea and half a pound 
of sugar a week they could not get anything 



124 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
but bread to eat, and not enough of that." 
Mrs. Mary Pell " had to boil rice and peas to 
mix with the flour to make sufficient bread, 
when her family was small." Another old lady 
remembered when she made " tea " of burnt 
crusts of bread. "They were really always in a 
state of hunger; they lived, and that was all." 
"When I got married," says one witness, 
"my wages were 7s. 6d., and flour was 3s. a 
stone and I worked from four till eight." 
Another had seen the children "run like pigs 
after an apple-core in the streets." " In the 
old days," says one lady, "of dear food, the 
women and girls had to turn out into the fields 
and work laboriously to make up the in- 
sufficiency in their family income. Really the 
poor people were half starved they never 
knew zvhat it ivas not to be htmgryy Mr. 
George Crowfoot, of Ashill, told the inter- 
viewer the following anecdote : " I remember 
on one occasion I had no bread to take with 
me to work, and when the other men sat 
down to eat what they had got for dinner, I 
found I had a little tobacco dust in my pipe. 



A DINNER OF SMOKE 125 

I looked about to see if master was near, and 
thought all was right so I lit my pipe to try 
and drive the hungry feeling away. Before a 
minute was up a shout came over the hedge, 
' Who's that smoking ? ' We all denied 
smoking, because they would not permit it 
on the farms. I owned up afterwards, and 
had to suffer for it. He gave me three days' 
holiday. Ah ! I can remember when my wife 
bought half a pound of bacon and made 
dumplings for the children, and rather than 
they should not have all, she has gone without. 
The people were half starved then." Another 
witness, who earned 9s. a week when flour 
was 4s. a stone, tells us that in those days 
"farmers went about in smock-frocks." John 
Goggles, of Swaffham, said that a labourer 
who wore a blue "slop " and a new handker- 
chief round his neck, soon became the beau of 
the village. He had seen a halfpenny herring 
divided between four persons ! Many state 
that bread and onions was their most ordinary 
dinner. For gravy one had the water in 
which dumplings had been boiled, with a little 



126 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

flour to thicken it. " The people," says one, 
" were almost starved into rebelHon." 

We will only give one more extract from 
this helpful collection of reminiscences. "Mr. 
William Smith, of Holme Hale, said : ' When I 
was a young man I got 5s. 6d., 4s. 6d., and 
sometimes only 4s. a week. Married men got 
IS. 6d. extra, so I, like a good many more, was 
silly enough to get married in order to get the 
IS. 6d. I got married on a Sunday so I 
should not lose any time, but when I went to 
work next morning my master said he didn't 
want me as a matter of fact he didn't want to 
give me the is. 6d. extra. He afterwards took 
me on again. When my wife was ill the 
parish paid for the nurse. It was impossible 
to have a doctor I had no money to pay him; 
we absolutely had to depend on parish relief 
when illness came. I can remember before 
I was married flour was 4s. a stone that was 
just before Free Trade was proclaimed — in 
the early forties. What did we eat with our 
bread ? Why, sometimes an onion, sometimes 
none. I have known as many as sixteen men 



RICH LANDLORDS 127 

running about the village playing marbles 
simply because they had got nothing to do, 
and the farmers did not want them. What 
was the reason why they would not employ the 
men, do you ask? Why, because the rent of 
the land was so high. The price of fairly 
good soil in the old days was £2 an acre to 
the farmer, and then he had to pay the tithe 
and rates and taxes, and find the labour and 
horses and implements. They got an extra 
price for their corn, but I reckon they were far 
worse off than they are now. There is land in 
this parish that used to let at £2 an acre and 
tithe, now lets at 7s. 6d., tithe free. But I 
must tell you this story it is true. A woman 
bought a pound of pork, out of which she 
made fourteen flour-and-water dumplings on 
consecutive days, and served two slices for 
Sunday dinner. She was indeed a clever 
woman ! It was something even to get the 
flavour of sausage in those days. Tea was 
then 4Jd. an oz., and brown coarse sugar 4d. 
We never had jam, and we used to look upon 
rice as a luxury. Eggs were cheaper then. 



128 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

and herrings were good, but we had no money 
to buy them. Coal was Qd. a bushel, but we 
used to burn turf. We used oat flights for 
beds. We used blankets when we were 
fortunate enough to get them given us by the 
parish." 



PROTECTION IN SOUTH-EASTERN 
ENGLAND 



CHAPTER III 

PROTECTION IN SOUTH-EASTERN ENGLAND 

The letters from South-eastern England are of 

a specially depressing character, owing perhaps 

to the purely agricultural nature of the country. 

We could have wished for more evidence as to 

the condition of the people in the hop-country 

when David Copperfield trudged through it to 

Dover but Kent says little. Perhaps in the 

immediate neighbourhood of the London 

labour market things may have been slightly 

better than in most parts of the county. 

But, if better, they can have been only 

slightly so : for even in London wages were 

low, and it was even less easy to find turnips 

and other substitutes for bread than farther 

afield. It will be seen that one of our letters 
131 



132 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
refers to both the counties of Hants and 
Wilts. Wiltshire does not of course belong to 
this chapter, but we have kept this particular 
letter among the others containing Hampshire 
evidence. 

" L. S." gives us some insight into social 
conditions and prices in the county of Essex. 
He says: "In answer to yours in the Christian 
World upon the question of Protection in the 
bad old times, I can tell you a litde. Born in 
the year 1830, in a country village in Essex, 
put to work at the age of 9 years — many of the 
children of the village at work before that — for 
the pay is. per week. No school in the village, 
only kept by an old dame no British or 
National schools at that time no Sunday 
Schools, only at the old Meeting, as then 
called, now the Congregational Church num- 
bers of children had no learning but what they 
got there lads from 12 to 15 years of age 
learning to spell small words, such as ' I can 
not see God, but God can see me,' the first 
lesson after learning the alphabet. 

"At the age of 16 years I was put to the 



CHILD LABOUR 133 

grocery business will give you some of the 
prices I have sold goods at. Bread, is. ojd. 
per quartern loaf; tea, 5s. per lb., numbers of 
the poor could buy but one ounce per week, 
4d. sugar, 6d. and 6Jd. per lb., one year it 
was 7 J per lb. loaf sugar, gd.; currants, lod. 
cotton and rush candles, 8d. soap, 6d. 
pepper, 2 oz. [" L. S." omits here to fill in 
the price] rice, 4d. and 6d. butter, 8d. to is. 
coals, IS. 8d. per cwt. these are only a few 
things. Labourers' wages, from 9s. to lis. 
per week. Well, there was families had but 
little besides a piece of bread at night their 
supper a few hot potatoes, little salt, and 
bread. Perhaps they might manage to get 
one pound of pork for the week. That was 
a treat. Many of the poor had to buy ' top- 
pings,' could not afford flour. Most of the 
women went into the fields to work in the 
summer for the sum of 8d. or lod. per day. 
They were glad for the litde boys and girls, 
7 or 8 years old, to go to work to bring in a 
little. The money the men got for harvest, 
and the women had their gleaning corn, had 



134 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
to go for rent and a few clothes. A good 
domestic servant's wages, five or six pounds 
per year, was considered very high. 

" From 1 846-1 87 2 I was in the grocery 
trade, and have seen some painful cases of 
want. I hope never to see Protection again. 
It is difficult now to make the young people 
understand it — if it comes they will be worse 
oft than the older generations. The present 
generation cannot manage as the former 
one. Every word I have written, sir, is 
true." 

It will be seen that *' L. S. " went into the 
grocery business in the year of repeal. The 
prices he gives doubtless refer to that year, 
and those of the bad harvests immediately 
following. 

We do not know in what district Mr. Jordan 
was living at the time of which he writes, but 
we include his letter here as he confirms 
" L. S." Like " L. S." he points out in effect 
that the poor of the present day, many of them, 
have not been accustomed to such dire poverty 
as their grandparents, and that this unfits them 



BREAD PRICES 135 

for resuming- a struggle which the latter 
managed to carry on somehow. 

" 94, Morton Road, W., 

" 18/2/04. 

" Sir, — In the Christian World I notice 
your desire for the experience of those who 
remember Protection in the forties — which 
I consider a good idea, and may have an 
enlio;-htenino^ effect on those who lack the 
knowledge. 

" I can assert that in those times employment 
was very scarce — uncertain, difficult to obtain 
and retain, in fact most casual — also badly paid 
for. Bread was thought cheap at gd. the 4-lb. 
loaf, I id. and is. was an ordinary price; 8d. 
was, I should say, the lowest. The misery of 
those time I remember most keenly, and do 
hope the people of these times will not return 
to them for my firm conviction is, that after 
so glad a time of Free Trade, a return would 
cause national trouble — the change would 
cause such discontent — the people having 
tasted the sweets, which was not the case 
formerly. — I am, yours truly, " G. Jordan," 



136 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

Mrs. Lucy Buckland, Clarence Villa, Hawlee 
Court Road, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex, writes : 
" I had the enclosed cutting given to 
me yesterday, and on reading it, decided to 
send you a few lines in reference to the 
' Chamberlain policy.' I certainly can do 
more in point of fact than he can, being twenty 
years his senior, and so being able to speak 
from my own personal experience, which, 
before the hated corn laws were repealed, was 
bad indeed. In reference to ordinary living, 
groceries of all kinds were double the price 
than at the present time. I had a young 
family, and had to pay i id. per loaf for bread — 
which, by the way, was any weight the baker 
liked to give. From the time that Free Trade 
was established, the price of all necessary 
things came down, making a way for poor 
people to have many things which previously 
it was not possible for them to procure. Jam, 
for instance, owing to the dearness of sugar, was 
an impossible luxury, being sold in very small 
gally-pots at sixpence each. Tea and sugar 
more than double what they are now, and the 



BAD BREAD 137 

working man's weekly wages on the average 
30s. per week. All these miseries for the 
toilers have now become so different that to go 
back to the former state of things must bring 
them to extreme poverty. Asking you to 
pardon this intrusion on your time, and to put 
the mistakes made in this communication to 
my nearly 88 years of age." 

Mr. Thomas Mitchell, 80, Gayville Road, 
Wandsworth, writes : "As a lad living in the 
year 1845-6, at Farnham, Surrey, I well 
remember a very wet summer. In con- 
sequence the corn was all sprouting, and there- 
fore unfit for food of man, only cattle but we 
had not then obtained the blessings of a cheap 
loaf, the labours of Bright, Cobden, and other 
friends of the people not having at that time 
been brought to bear on the question of Free 
Trade. In the autumn of year named the 
said growing corn, when ground in Hour, was 
purchased by myself and also brother at two 

' Presumably Mrs. Buckland means the average wage of 
working men now. This is about correct, for all trades, 
but is, of course, much higher than was then the case. 



138 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

shillings and tenpence a peck, for making- home- 
made bread and puddings. This price worked 
out at one shilling per quartern loaf (oh the 
good old times of Protection !). I well remember 
the starvation of those times. Puddings when 
made with this growing corn flour, when 
cooked, fell into a mass on the dish, really- 
uneatable. The bread came from the oven in 
flat cakes. Upon keeping one day, a slice 
when cut, if pulled apart, was as though cob- 
webby, the colour then black, and it stank. 
Now such bread would be condemned as unfit 
for food then, there was no remedy, that or 
none. To make matters worse, the potato 
crop was a failure. Meat, as a rule, obtainable 
in small doses butcher's meat once a week. 
Of course at that time there was no importa- 
tion of meat from any quarter, either the alive 
or frozen, therefore then the masses of poor 
people in this country were in a bad, desperate, 
and starving condition. Since the advent of 
Free Trade our people have lived better in 
every way — good flour and bread, plenty of 
meat of every kind to suit every purchaser's 



CHANGED CONDITIONS 139 

pocket, dried fruit of all kinds, apples, oranges, 
lemons, tea, coffee, all farinaceous foods at half 
the rate paid in those bad old times. Sugar, 
best Demerara, now 2^d., those days 6d. 
Innumerable other things might be quoted, but 
space fails. All this goes to show that the 
purchasing power of money is greatly increased, 
the food obtainable for same money being 
double to three times. The cottages and 
homes of the people have also greatly im- 
proved from the same causes. And now, after 
experiencing these advantages all these years, 
is the valuable education we have gained in 
these matters to be thrown away upon the 
advice of an unstable man, who has dangled 
great prizes before our eyes in the past and 
failed, and would again if he is entrusted with 
the chance ? " 

South-eastern England has been silent com- 
pared with other purely agricultural districts. 
We have, however, several very interesting 
letters from Hampshire. Hampshire is to a 
large extent a rural county, and is one which, 
perhaps, suffered more than its share during the 



I40 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
days of the bread tax. It is said that " Nothing 
that cannot walk should leave a Hampshire 
farm." This bit of local proverbial philosophy 
lets us see how much Hampshire would suffer 
in days when meat was cheap and bread dear. 
Pasture land was, no doubt, forced into corn 
bearing, and thus a double violence would 
be done to nature. We may presume that the 
land would not yield the same amount of pro- 
duce obtained in counties better suited to 
wheat, the farmers would be worse off, and the 
labourers probably even worse paid. The first 
of our letters, by a writer who adopts the 
pseudonym, " A Hampshire Hog," deals not 
only with his own county but also with the 
neighbouring county of Wilts. 

" So many extraordinary assertions have 
been made as to the prosperity in our country 
during the days of Protection, that I may be 
permitted to give a few unvarnished facts as 
witnessed by myself. My earliest impression 
of the unfortunate conditions of the farm 
labourers commenced about the year 1832, 
during which the agricultural riots occurred. 



RICK-BURNING 141 

The people, resenting the introduction of 
thrashing machines as likely to reduce their 
already scanty wages, commenced a raid, and 
smashed as many implements as they could 
lay their hands on. With the assistance of the 
military and yeomanry the disturbances were 
ended, and there began a series of rick- 
burnings, varied by an occasional homestead 
burning. 

" Many arrests were made, and severe sen- 
tences followed conviction, a few cases of 
hanging, and many transportations for life — the 
latter sometimes considered the more terrible. 
The long passage to Australia, and the treat- 
ment afterwards, where little or no supervision 
was possible, awaited the poor wretches. Of 
such things the men of to-day have no con- 
ception. 

" A learned judge, addressing the grand jury 
at the Winchester Assizes, declared the labour- 
ing population was 'vicious to a man,' and 
implored the country gentlemen to step in and 
stay the plague. Wages to the ordinary 
labourer ranging from 7s. to 8s. and 9s., accord- 



142 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
ing to the price of wheat shepherds and head 
carters usually is. above weekly pay, with 
cottage free, together with Michaelmas money, 
and fagots for the winter fuel. All this time 
every article of food and clothing was far above 
the prices of to-day. 

"In the month of February, 1841, I left my 
village home to be apprenticed to a firm of 
grocers in a large way of business in Wiltshire, 
and now I began to understand the privations 
of the poor. The wages were even a little 
below Hampshire, and the limited purchases of 
the country people astonished me, and their 
abject complaining was distressing to a degree. 
Women employed in rough field work, such as 
weeding or pulling turnips, earned 6d. per 
diem. At piece work the men did a little 
better. The price paid per acre was, as seen 
to-day, absurd, and, in fact, many of your 
readers would not believe it possible for 
body and soul to be kept together on such 
a scale. 

"There was a surplus of labour, and few 
oudets beyond the village of their birth. A 



POWER OF THE FARMER 143 
few drifted into the towns, and the recruiting 
sergeant periodically at fairs selected some of 
the best lads. The girls made excellent 
domestic servants, and many farmer's wives 
took pains to instruct them for situations, where 
higher wages were obtainable. The village 
school teaching in those days was rudimentary 
and of short duration. 

"The farmers in South Wilts were a fine 
race of men, and kindly in disposition for the 
most part. Some abused their power, which 
was almost absolute and when a farm was 
carried on on strictly commercial principles, 
devoid of any old associations, the law of 
supply and demand was terribly hard on 
Hodge. 

" In Protection days a bad harvest not only 
meant dear bread, but bad bread. There was 
no dry foreign wheat to fall back upon, and we 
had to put up with our own. Sifted barley 
meal made into bannocks fell to the lot of 
many extremely poor with large families. Of 
course potatoes were largely consumed until 
the disease appeared among them. In 



144 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the manufacturing district things were bad. 
Batches of men, women, and children wandered 
south in hopeless destitution, and, to use the 
words of an Oldham manufacturer, ' utter 
starvation prevailed.' " 

Mr. H. Cole, Hayling Island, Hants, writes: 
" I can tell you of my experience in the ' Hungry 
Forties,' as you term them, and well I know it. 
I was born on this island in the year 1834, and 
can well remember. I can say that I saw 
wheat ricks standing in the rick-yard when the 
wheat was at its highest price — at the time I 
am speaking I think about ^30 a load, or there- 
about — and the owner would not thresh it out, 
because he said that was not money enough. 
Well, them ricks stood there until the outer 
ears of the rick grew green all round. Then 
there was a fall in corn, when we got the Free 
Trade, and it fell, and then the farmer threshed 
his corn out, and tried to sell it. Some he 
took to market, and sold at about half the 
same sum. Some he brought back again, 
could not sell it for a long time. I can re- 
member bread was 2s. 2d. per gallon loaf, tea 



UNDRESSED WHEAT MEAL 145 

4s. to 5s. per pound, sugar 5d. and 6d. per 
pound. I know my father used to get a sack 
of wheat from the farmer, and take it to the 
mill, and ^et it around, and we would brin«- it 
home just as it was, without any dressing what- 
ever. Mother used to sieve it, and take out just 
the roughest of the bran, and then she would 
bake it for us. Of course we had an oven 
to bake our own bread, and the wages was low. 
There was 9 of us in family, and father and 
mother. As I said, I was born in '34, and one 
brother older than me, so we were all youngs 
It was hard times. Some poor I knew was 
glad to get what they termed 'sharps,' and 
make bread of it. I knew one man acquaint- 
ance of mine, with a large family of young 
girls, a labouring man, and I have known him 
to walk miles in the morning to his work with 
only bread to eat. I can vouch for the truth 
of that, as one of the girls is now my wife, so 
we both know the pinch of that time but we 
have now been married 42 years, and still in 
good health, thank God but I should not like 
to see such times again as that was. I think 



146 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
agricultural labourers used to get los. to iis. a 
week to keep themselves and family." 

Here is another pathetic letter which carries 
the same lesson as all the rest : "I was born 
in the year of our Lord, 1831. At that time 
my father was a hand-loom weaver of sail- 
cloth for the firm of Thompson & Co., of the 
town of Fordingbridge, Hants. I do not know 
how much he earned in the shape of wages at 
that time. He gave the weaving up some 
three years after I was born, and then went to 
work in the bleaching department, and his 
wages was 9s. per week. There was four 
children, and he paid is. 6d. for house rent, so 
that everything else and the cost of living had 
to be done out of 7s. 6d. per week, and the 
price of bread at that time was from tenpence to 
sixteenpence per gallon loaf and I have often 
known the time when there was not a morsel of 
food in the house, and had to go to bed hungry 
and I well reckolect some one gave my mother 
a little barley meal, and she sifted it and took 
out the coarse parts, and then made it into 
what was called barley bannicks. As to tea, 



A FARTHING AN HOUR 147 

sugar, and meat wee scarcely saw any. I 
reckolected mother getting- once a pound of 
bacon for dinner on Sunday but a pound 
divided amongst six was not much and for 
dinner on week-days at times was potatoes 
with one pennyworth of suet fried, and the 
fat poured over the potatoes after being 
mashed. My mother often cried to think that 
all she could get for my father's dinner was a 
penny bloater, and had to work 1 2 hours a day, 
and, of course, the children's dinner was only 
potatoes and salt. But for the whole of the 
time wee did not have half enough to eat. I 
had to go very early to work in the bleaching 
yard, and my wages was one farthing per hour, 
or threepence per day of 1 2 hours and I can 
assure you that when I think of those times a 
large lump rises in my throat, and yet to-day 
there are men doing all they can to bring back 
those days. If you think, sir, that this will 
help on the cause of Free Trade and free food, 
publish it by all means. By so doing you will 
greatly oblige. — Respectfully yours, 

" E. C. GOSNEY." 



148 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

Mr. Thomas Barker, Roseleigh, Littlehamp- 
ton, Sussex, writes : — 

" I was born in June, 1834, in the county of 
Bucks, so I am nearing the 70th mile-stone 
in the journey of Hfe. I was one of several 
children born to my parents within ten years, 
my father being a shoemaker. I cannot quote 
market prices for wheat, but I can remember 
well enough when the quartern loaf for some 
considerable time was is. id., and is. 2d. for a 
few weeks. At that time we children had two, 
by no means thick, slices of bread and lard — it 
wouldn't run to butter and no matter how 
keen our appetites these two slices had to 
suffice. Yet with this economical, sparing 
arrangement, the bread and flour bill for the 
week totalled up to close upon los. 

" I remember well enough hearing it said that 
certain farmers, wheat-growers, in that neigh- 
bourhood, were keeping their wheat ricks 
standing in the farmyard, waiting and hoping 
that the long prices then prevailing would 
become still longer and one notable instance 
engraved itself into my memory. This was a 



RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT 149 
case in which a farmer had kept a wheat rick 
standing so long as to require re-thatching, 
and when the men got up to the rick they 
suddenly disappeared, in consequence of the 
interior of the rick having been eaten away 
by rats and mice. In this way the avarice of 
the rick owner was righteously, as I think, 
requited. 

" At the time of which I am writing the farm 
labourer's wage was los. per week for six 
day work, and iis. for the cattle men, whose 
services were required on Sundays. In cases, 
of which there were many, where the labourer's 
family was numerous, his wages didn't more 
than cover his bread and flour bills and it 
goes without saying almost, that in very many 
instances much of the bread and flour had of 
the bakers was never paid for, and no wonder. 

" I can remember the pleasure with which we 
young folks learned that the Corn Laws had 
been abolished, and that the days were coming 
when we might have what we liked off" the loaf 
instead of being ' allowanced,' and made to put 
up with an insufficient quantity of the ' staff of 



I50 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
life.' I am more than amazed to know there 
are some, even now, who would hke a bread 
and flour tax reimposed but they never can 
have experienced, as we older men have, the 
rigour and hardship of the Protectionist period, 
happily of long ago. Since the times to which 
my letter pertains, nearly every article of home 
consumption has cheapened, and no amount of 
argument from Joseph Chamberlain, with the 
meek and mild assent of Jesse Collings, will 
ever shake my faith in and love for ' Free 
Trade,' which has brought untold blessings 
to the working men of the United Kingdom." 
One striking feature of the letters in this 
chapter is the recurring picture of a people 
angrily watching corn kept back from the 
market for a rise. Now that no such thing 
is possible except to great speculators like 
Mr. Leiter, this form of social friction is, 
happily, absent. Were the bread tax reinsti- 
tuted the occasion, and with it the hatred, 
would certainly revive. Protection is not only 
the cause of poverty, it is also a force making 
for social disintegration. 



"TATERS AND SHAKE-OVER" 151 

The following letter appeared in the Daily 
News towards the end of January, 1904 : — 

" Sir, — I, too, can remember the ' good old 
times ' that Sir Richard Tangye writes about. 
Wheaten bread was sellinof at an exorbitant 
price, and very little came to the share of the 
working classes. 

" Before the potato famine their food largely 
consisted of that diet it was known as ' taters 
and shake-over,' a little salt being shaken over 
the potatoes. 

" After the disease spread amongst the 
potatoes, barley meal was greatly used, horse 
beans and peas occasionally. Swede turnips, 
with a small piece of bread handed to each 
round the table, oftentimes constituting the 
dinner. How could it be otherwise ? Perhaps 
a labourer, his wife, and several children had 
to subsist on seven or eight shillings a 
week. 

" No wonder that men were riotous and 
clamorous no wonder that they were shot 
down in my own native county town in the 
West of England because they clamoured for 



152 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

bread for their wives and litde ones, who were 
starving. 

" The above facts are not what have been 
read in story books, but what have been seen 
and feh and known, and this is the state of 
things that Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, of 
Birmingham, and his Tariff Commissioners, 
with well-filled purses, wish to bring us back 
to. — Yours, &c., " G. Chambers. 

" Weybridge, February 2>'^d.'' 

Mr. Alfred Wilkens, of The Avenue, 
Southampton, sends a short communication, 
which he calls " Recollections of Protection." 
Though he writes from that address, his 
remarks apparently refer to Berkshire : — 

" The word Protection reminds me of the 
miserable undergarments and the long Holland 
pinafore overall of nearly all boys up to four- 
teen years of age, but most of all, the 3/- per 
gallon for the baker's loaf, the usual price 
being 2/6 per gallon. Brown sugar was 7id. 
per pound, and of loaf sugar it was quite a 
treat to get a lump, for it was i/- per pound 



BEGGING TEA-LEAVES 153 

tea 6/- per pound. Meat, poultry, butter, and 
cheese were never tasted more than once or 
twice a week. Poor people were glad of the 
tea-leaves from the houses of the rich, and it 
was thought a great privilege to be the lucky 
ones to get them. O ! the misery of it all ! Poor 
farm labourers in Berkshire, with 8/- or 9/- per 
week, and large families to keep, had to get up 
at five o'clock a.m. to fetch the family's water 
from the village well, some quarter of a mile 
away or more, as the case might be, with shoes 
heavy enough to tire them out before they 
started the day's work. I am almost ashamed 
to tell you what these poor creatures had to 
eat. I remember after the repeal of the Corn 
Laws, when bread was 8d. per gallon and 
butter 8d. per pound, I have been to the shop 
with a shilling and brought home half pound of 
butter and a gallon of bread for i/-, and I have 
paid 9d. for a quartern loaf in the old Protec- 
tion days. 

" I remember just before the Crimean War, 
when bread was at its cheapest, and farmers 
wanted 28/- a quarter for wheat, and if they 



154 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

had got it they would have wanted 30/- or 
32/-. The great trouble with them was, they 
were never satisfied. The largest consumers 
began to import wheat, and have continued to 
do so at a much cheaper price than we can 
produce it. I think it will be a great shame to 
put a tax on the poor man's principal food. If 
the farmers and the masses had not been 
neglected by the richest country in the world, 
but had had the advantages of other poorer 
countries in education, they would not be in 
the state they are to-day." 

From a letter which appeared in the Daily 
Neivs early in February, 1904, we take the 
following : — 

"At a gathering of Mid-Sussex Liberals 
the following interesting letter was read from 
a well-known farmer : — 

" ' I am one of a family of eleven, and six of 
us are farming at the present time. I well 
remember when my father was paying 50s. 
per acre for the land and los. per acre tithe. 
Wheat was then 50s. to 60s. per quarter. 
About 1856, in July and August, we did not 



BEEF ONCE A MONTH 155 

get two dry days for six weeks, and the whole 
of the hay was only fit for dung. The wages 
were very low, the working man only getting 
8s. to IIS. per week. 

'"Talk about ever tasting butcher's meat! 
It was out of the question. Cabbage and 
bacon all the year round, and sometimes very 
little of that. We children did most of the 
work on the farm, so were indulged with a 
taste of roast beef about once a month, on a 
Sunday, on which day we had a cup of tea. 
Other days we had broth and skim milk. 
When I read that Mr. Chamberlain's scheme 
was going to give more employment and more 
wages, it made me think of the days before 
we got the greatest blessing this country ever 
enjoyed — Free Trade. 

" ' We are asked to believe that a 2s. tax on 
corn will not raise the price of bread. I ask 
what benefit would a two or four shilling per 
quarter tax on corn benefit a farmer? I say 
none at all. Even a dairy farmer would have 
to pay much more for grains and everything 
else which he requires for the farm and his 
own household. 



156 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

" 'What farmers want is not Protection, but 
reduced rents. The land they are paying 20s. 
to 30s. per acre for can only keep them slaves 
all their lives. A lot of the land in Sussex is 
not worth more than 5s. per acre for a man to 
get a fair, honest living. Paying this last- 
named rent, he could afford to buy a bit of 
dung from London and elsewhere. That is 
what the average farmer cannot do, because 
he is compelled to sell what he ought to 
consume. What for? Why, to get the rent 
and taxes ready. I have two or three brothers 
farming now under Lord Boyne the land is 
let according to the value of it — from 5s. per 
acre to about 15s. What Sussex farmers want 
is more Lord Boynes, and then they could live 
where they now only exist.' " 



WESSEX UNDER PROTECTION 



CHAPTER IV 

WESSEX UNDER PROTECTION 

Miss Benjafield writes : — 

" In the quaint old town of Stalbridge, in 
Dorsetshire, which is situated on the borders 
of Thomas Hardy's Wessex, are still to be 
found old inhabitants who remember the bad 
old times of Protection. 

"One white-haired old woman whom I was 
talking to recently told me her tale of those 
days. Her father and mother, she said, 
brought up ten children. They all lived in 
a tiny cottage on a common. In this there 
was only one bedroom ! The father worked 
on a farm near, earning 7s. a week. 

" Barley flour was then los. a bushel tea, 
5s. 4d, a lb. green tea, 8s. sugar, 6d. or 



i6o THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

8d. a lb. Bacon, however, was 4d. a lb., and 
butter 8d. (Of course the rise in the price of 
butter and bacon is not the result of Free 
Trade but of the facility with which produce 
can now be transmitted to the large cities and 
towns, where higher prices can be demanded. 
With the advance of the locomotive the rise 
must have come, whether Free Trade or Pro- 
tection predominated. Therefore the labourer 
would have been even more destitute under 
continued Protection.) There was not much 
they could choose from. The family lived on 
flatcakes, about an inch thick, made of coarse 
barley flour, and baked in a little black iron 
crock with three legs, such as are now imitated 
in the construction of coal-scuttles, bowls, &c. 
These crocks, which cost from 8d. to 2s. or 3s., 
were hung on hooks over the fire, and in them 
everything that had to be cooked was cooked. 

" Treacle they used instead of sugar, as 
it was cheaper. Beef and mutton they were 
unable to purchase but on Sundays, perhaps, 
the father and mother would have a rasher or 
two of bacon, whilst the children looked on 



BARLEY-CAKE TEA t6i 

with longing eyes and whispered to each other 
(for they would not have dared to ask or make 
a complaint aloud parents, even in cottages, 
were sterner in those stern times) that when 
they 'grew up' they also would have their 
rasher ! But when they were men and women 
the time produced John Bright, and they fed 
on richer food than rashers. 

"Sometimes an ounce of tea was bought; but 
it would not always go round enough, and the 
old woman, then the little Elizabeth, can well 
recollect that at such a critical moment the 
inventive genius of her mother, urged on by 
necessity, showed itself. A little piece of 
barley-cake was put before the fire till it was 
baked black this was then crumbled and 
added to the scanty tea-pot — result, more 
tea ! — what matter if it was more barley tea 
than Chinese ? The children had some. 

" Some mornings the little ones would rise 
early and go out into the fields to pick Charlie 
(a field weed) or nettle tops these were boiled 
in the ' crock ' and eaten to savour the barley- 
cake. 



i62 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

" Children were not compelled to go to 
school, so that many grew up without the 
knowledge of reading. Indeed, an elderly- 
grocer told me that at one time the letters 
of the town were delivered by a post-woman 
who could not read! He used to take his 
own, and tell her which were for the next 
house. 

"In the time of the Crimean War the poor 
were in great distress. The authorities made 
a subscription, and with it bought sacks of 
dried peas these were served out by the pint 
to the people, and on these they subsisted. 

"An old farmer can remember the time when 
the price of the 4-lb. wheaten loaf was is. 6d. 
And he has seen the men on his father's farm, 
when they fed the pigs with barley-meal, take 
a little of the meal aside and, mixing it thicker, 
eat it to stay their hunger ! ' The husks that 
the swine did eat ' they ate truely in the time 
of Protection, yet Mr. Chamberlain advocates 
a second Protection period, and promises the 
working man, as a result, a fat pig ! The 
country must look at facts, not words. In 



A RECTOR'S STORY 163 

Stalbridge at that time the number of in- 
habitants averaged about 2,000. Yet the 
butcher only * killed ' half a cow a week — 
the other half going to a neighbouring town. 
Now, in the time of Free Trade, in spite of 
all the taxes caused by the war, &c., and 
though the population is reduced to 1,600 or 
1,700, the butchers kill two cows a week, 
besides sheep and pigs." 

From another interesting communication, 
contributed by the Rev. W. D. Sargeaunt, 
of Stoke Abbott Rectory, Dorset, we take 
the following : — 

" I am the vicar in a village of 1,300 inhabi- 
tants. Twenty years ago, when the village 
was much smaller, all worked on the land. 
Now there is a flourishing trade, and the agri- 
cultural labourer is a vara avis. A field of 
twenty acres, let out in allotments, forms part 
of the glebe. I am going to tell the story of 
one of my tenants, an old man of "j^i, who 
farms about four acres of the said field, and 
brings his rent to me regularly at the end of 
the half year. Just fifty years ago my hero, 



i64 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
then 23 years old, was a married man with one 
child, a girl not two years old. When the 
family got up in the morning there was nothing 
in the house but a crust of bread, and the 
bread-winner out of work. He started off 
early to look for work, and walked all day. 
He was not successful. Let me tell the story 
of that evening in his own words : ' I came in 
at night quite done for. I said to my wife, 
" Have you a bit of victual ? I think I shall 
die." "There's the bit of crust we left last 
night in the cupboard," she cried "we haven't 
touched a bit all day." So we got the crust 
out of the cupboard and crumbled it into a 
basin and poured some hot water over it, 
and we sat down opposite one another. My 
wife and I had a big spoon each, and we gave 
the child a small spoon and set her between us» 
But you see, she was too small to get hold of 
the spoon, so she threw it down and dashed 
her hand into the hot water again and again, 
and crammed the bread into her mouth as it 
might be a wild beast, she was so hungry. 
Then my wife and I threw down our spoons 



WORKING OFF DEBTS 165 

and sat and cried at one another like babies, 
and that's all we had that day. The child eat 
the bread, and my wife and I we drank the 
water.' Farm wag-es then were eioht shillincrs 
a week, and before lonQ- the man was working- 
for a butcher who farmed a bit of land. ' My 
master used to send me in a bit of meat every 
week, and I let it run on. When it had gone 
some time, I said to myself, " This won't do, 
I must pay up." So I said to my master, 
"Master," I said, "how do we stand?" 
" Stiffish," he said. " How much do I owe 
you.'*" I said. "Between four and five 
pounds," he said. "Well," said I, "I never 
owed nothing yet, and what's more, I won't 
owe you this." So from that time till I had 
paid off that account, me and mine never eat 
a bit of meat. We were just going to put in 
the wheat, and one day I put in ten acres of 
wheat. I thought I should have fallen on the 
ground. The time came round for putting in 
the barley. We put in the wheat in October 
and the barley in March and when we put in 
the barley I worked a whole day at that and 



i66 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
didn't have a bit of meat, and hadn't had since 
we put in the wheat so bit by bit I paid off 
that account' 'And how came it,' I asked, 
' that you had run up so large a bill ? ' ' Ah ! 
there you are,' he cried. * He kept sending 
me in more than I asked for. I said, " Send 
me about a couple of pounds," and he'd send 
in four. And there's many as do the same 
to-day if you let 'em. Ah! but I'm wrong. I 
did have a bit of meat once. One day my 
master sent me to the next village to fetch his 
children back from school — they were put out 
for their schooling, and I was sent to meet 'em 
and fetch 'em home. And that night, when I 
came in, my master gave me a bit of supper, 
and I had a bit of meat with it.' " 

Mr. Saro-eaunt's old friend, who manacled to 
pay off a debt of between^4 and ^5 out of a 
wage of 8s. a week, seems to have done very 
well when, later, wages in Dorset rose to iis., 
accompanied as the rise in wages was with the 
general fall in the price of food. He joined 
the Co-operative Society, and contrived to 
save money both in it and in the Savings 



SUPPERLESS CHILDREN 167 
Bank, and with his savings was enabled to 
lease the glebe allotment from Mr. Sargeaunt 's 
predecessor. The old man is still living, or 
was last February. 

Mr. Thomson, Round Hill Lodge, Hens- 
tridge, Blandford, Dorset, writes : — 

" I have been thinkinof, as you suo^grested the 
other day in Reynolds s, that we old men owe 
a duty to the younger generation, who know 
nothing about the old Protection days, and 
that we should let them know what we toilers 
had to endure during that period. I can speak 
from my own experience, having lived the first 
twenty years of my life when we had Protec- 
tion, and when it was a hard struggle for the 
poor to live at all. I well remember when I 
and my brothers and sisters had often to go to 
bed at night without any supper, and be con- 
tented by thinking, and sometimes dreaming, 
that we may be able to get a small bit of 
barley-cake in the morning for our breakfast. 
I was born at Stourton Caundle, a small 
village in North Dorset, in 1S26, My father 
was an agricultural laborer, and he worked on 



i68 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
one farm for more than thirty years, and was 
considered by his master to be a good work- 
man, as he could turn his hand to any kind 
of work that was required to be done on the 
farm and his pay was only seven shillings a 
week, and there were himself, our mother, and 
six children to live. All kinds of food was 
then very dear. It was barley-cake and 
potatoes from day to day, and not enough of 
that and, as for bread, we scarcely ever saw 
any, and meat was far beyond our reach. 
Moist sugar was 6d. per pound, tea 4d. per 
ounce wheaten flour was four shillings per 
peck of 14 lbs. Bread was sold at from 
9d. to i/- the 4-lb. loaf. Coal was i/io^ per 
cwt. Clothing was also very dear. Poor 
children were often seen running about the 
streets in rags and barefooted — a pitiable sight 
to see — and almost starving. There was no 
day-school in the parish, and not six agricul- 
tural labourers in the village who could read or 
write, where the population was about 400. I 
myself was sent out in the fields to work when 
only 8 years old, and got only one shilling for 



BREAD LIKE PUTTY 169 

seven days' work, keepinor the crows from the 
farmer's corn and doing other jobs, and had no 
more pay when I was ten years old. I trust 
all working men will be wise in time, and not 
be gulled by Joseph or any one else as to 
higher wages, &c., if their Protection scheme 
is carried out. They must know already that 
he has deceived them two or three times before 
by false promises. So they must now be on 
their guard and only vote for Free Traders." 

"J. S. B.," late of Axminster, Devon, gives 
us a clear little picture of his early life : — 

" My mother, more than sixty years ago, was 
left a widow with four young children in 
Axminster. In the course of business she was 
expected to take from farmers, who were her 
customers, corn, which she would have ground 
at the town mills, and make her home-made 
bread. I shall never forget a year, about 
sixty years ago, when, in consequence of a 
wet harvest, the wheat was grown out, and 
when made into bread it would stick to our 
teeth, or could be stretched out like putty. 
Such stuff, since the admission of foreign 



I/O THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

wheat, would, of course, be rejected for human 
food. 

" I also remember an old friend, about the 
same time, telling us he had, on the previous 
morning, seen a family breaking their fast 
with swedes fried in fat. I related this 20 
years ago at a public meeting in Axminster, 
when a man in the audience stood up and 
said, ' That had been his experience many 
times, and, what is more, we had to steal the 
swedes to have them or nothing.' " 

Next we have a truly tremendous picture 
of life in the early part of last century. The 
writer of it is Mr. S. L. Jacob, of North View, 
Warminster. Perhaps nowhere do we get a 
more realistic view of the times than in this 
letter : — 

" I perceive you are about to publish a book 
respecting the bad old times of Protection. 
I was born in Frankfort Street, Plymouth, in 
1826. When I was five years of age I had 
the typhoid fever. When I recovered the 
doctor ordered change of air. My parents 
took me to my uncle's, J. Besley, at Carth- 



AN UNHAPPY CHILDHOOD 171 
stone Farm, in the parish of Milverton, 
Somersetshire. I was allowed to run wild 
for a few months. At six years of age I was 
sent into the fields with the aprentice boys 
and girls of about the same age, to keep pigs, 
clean turnips, drive oxen and horses at plough, 
and various other field work. Sometimes 
the horses went away with heavy loads of corn 
and long distances, then we were called up at 
two or three o'clock to bring back the extra 
horse that helped the load a few miles over the 
hills. We had many bitter winters during the 
nine years I was with my uncle, and I have 
often been nearly frozen as well as the other 
poor little mortles. We had to force on our 
hard, hob-nailed boots (weighing from three to 
four pounds) over feet swolen with chilblains, 
and 'kebe heles,' that is, with a hole in them, 
with running matter. One winter my left foot 
was frost-bitten. 

" The delekit children were soon kiled, in 
fact one was knocked over the stones by my 
great-aunt, and her neck broken, and no notice 
was taken of it. My great-aunt was a very 



172 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

passionate woman. She used to lash us with 
her riding-whip for the least thing, and when 
my uncle came in she would not let him rest 
until he had thrashed us well. We used to 
have bread and skim milk for breakfast, and 
skimed milk cheese, like leather. We used to 
call the bread and milk ' Skie-blue and barley- 
sinkers.' Sunday mornings we had the cream 
aded to the milk that we might know the day. 
Our farm was about five hundred acres. We 
worked 35 horses and 24 bullocks, the farm 
being three parts tilege. Our nine men that 
were indoor hands slept in one room — all they 
had to cover them was a doules sheet and a 
coloured counterpain. In winter they put any 
amount of sacks under the quilt. They were 
not allowed any light to dress or undress. 
They had a rushlight to attend to the cattle. 
They had to strike a light with flint and 
steel. 

" We had breakfast at 7, and whatever the 
weather was, we did not return to have any 
dinner until we had ploughed our acer, that 
was the day's work. Then we had to fry our 



INDOOR FARMWORK 173 

bacon, rusty as a horseshoe, and potatoes, or 
whatever we could get, for ourselves. Our 
bread was mildued one half the time, for we 
baked only once in three weeks in summer, 
and every five weeks in winter. Then we 
boys had to scrape away the snow with our 
hands to pull the turnips, and wash them at 
the trough out of doors, as well as the 
potatoes, when the water would freaze then 
peal the potatoes in an open shed, and grate 
them to make starch. We used to do all the 
scouring with a ' wod ' of wet straw diped in 
wood-ashes — no polishing-paste then. If we 
had anything rusty to polish, such as bits and 
stirips, we put them in the tub where the new 
cider was made, for a few hours, then you 
could wipe off all the rust with your fingers 
and thumb. If at any time we wanted to 
black our boots, we weted the brush, and rubed 
it over the side of the great boiler the pork 
was boiled in, so the fat and sute did for 
blacking. 

" Our indoor men received from 2/- to 2/6 
per week. They wore a ' doulis ' shirt, bare 



174 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
breast, winter and summer. If they had a 
waistcoat it was generally made of lambskin 
or moleskin. They used to preserve the skins 
of moles. They caught a lot of them. Some 
of them wore long smock frocks, others any 
old coat they could pick up, cord trousers or 
briches, with yarn stockings, boots that 
weiyed from 6 to 7 lbs., which they washed 
and greased once a week in order to go to 
church. Very seldom any of them had any 
other clothing to ware to church, where they 
where bound to attend or stand the conse- 
quence. The farm-hands had to sit in an end 
galerey in church, and the man that had 
charge of them was armed with a long goard, 
such as we used to drive the bullocks at 
plough, and every now and then you would 
here the sound throughout the church of the 
strokes of the rod on some of their backs and 
if they rebeled they were put in the stocks 
just outside the church door for every one to 
gear at as they left the church. 

" Almost every six months we had a tailor 
come to repair the clothes and make for the 



SIXPENCE A DAY 175 

household. He would sit on an old table and 
stick from morning till night for 6d. per day, 
and food and logins. The sadler would come 
also for the same pay. There was no time 
for piano-playing in those days. The women 
had to milk the cows, feed the pigs, poultry, 
calves, and healp in the fields. They used to 
commence washing every Monday at 2 a.m. 
My great-aunt would get up and work with 
them all the day till late at night, and row 
them all the time. There was no soap powder 
or anything to make the work easey in those 
days, no coper, all the water had to be made 
boil over a wood fire on the harth. We never 
had a bit of coles in the house the nine years 
I was there. We had to go about one mile 
to post a letter. The letter was placed in a 
split goard with the money for postage — i/- 
if for Plymouth. The mail-coach passed 
Watenew, a village between Wiveliscome 
and Bampton. We handed the goard to the 
gard while the horses galloped on. If we 
expected a letter we had to go to Wivelis- 
come to fetch it, full three miles. 



176 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

"As for morality, there was just as much 
as with the dogs and cats, which reminds me 
of what my mother used to say, ' Where is a 
lot of men and women servants living together, 
they are alway scratching or kissing.' 

" I have given you a breefe sketch of in- 
doors, I will now give you a slight sketch of 
out. There being a large amount of tilleg on 
our farm, and all the work had to be done by 
hand, even the thrashing the corn. We had 
about 30 men at work that lived out of the 
house. They worked from daylight until dark 
in the winter, and from 6 a.m. until any time 
the master wanted them in the summer with- 
out any extra pay. In harvest time they often 
worked 18 hours, but then they had supper, 
for which we provided by killing any animal 
that was unsaleable, such as an old boar or 
ram, or a bullock to save its life, to keep it 
from dieing. Twenty-eight of these men had 
6/- per week and a quart of cider, one of them 
had 7/-, and the headman 8/-. Only two or 
three of them could read or write. How could 
they learn ? They had to go to work before 



BLACK BREAD AND ONIONS 177 
they where able to walk over a ploud field 
without falling over the bigest clods. The 
National school was 5 miles from our farm, 
that was Milverton and if it had been nearer 
the parents could not afford to send them. 
If the children did not learn at an early age, 
how was the family to be kept on 6/- a week ? 
Our labourers brought their breakfasts with 
them, which consisted, as a rule, of a piece of 
corse bread — you would call it black — and a 
bunch of garlic or some onions. Their wives 
(I might well call them their slaves), or their 
children (in fact, they were all slaves, and 
mostly brutes as well) brought their dinners, 
which generally consisted of mashed potatoes 
and turnips, with a scrap of ' must ' to moisten 
it. What they call ' must ' is lard, and many 
times they could not get the must. Fortunately 
there was no potato disease. Then they were 
perfect the crops were enormous, and they 
were sold in Plymouth, the 'lords' at 1/6 per 
bag, 140 lbs., the ' ladys ' at 1/3. If the 
potatoes had been as dear and as wastful as 
now, the familys must have starved with the 



178 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

flour at £a^ 4s. per sack. The turnips they 
drew principally from our fields. The wheate 
they bought was tailings, with all the seeds 
and grit in it that they took to the mill and 
had it ground fine, so as to use the whole of it 
in their bread. No wonder it was black, and 
in bad harvests it was milekey, so that you 
could eat with a spoon. 

" We had several bad harvests in the 
thirties. One in particular. It rained every 
day, more or less, for six weeks during harvest 
time. We had 375 acres in corn that year. 
We saved one field of wheat, 4 acres, which 
was very earley. All the rest of the corn 
grew out, so that was impossible to make 
bread of it so we bought some French barley, 
and that, when made into bread, was so gritte 
we did not know how to eat it. The distress 
that year was fearful. What our labourers 
had for supper was a conglomeration of 
vegetables stued. You may well suppose 
they stole whatever they could lay their hands 
on, and no wonder ! 

" I don't think there was a month whilst I 



OVERWORKED WOMEN 179 
was on the farm but one or more of our men 
was in Taunton lock-up and can you wonder 
at it ? They were Hke hungery wolves. Con- 
tinually we had sheep stolen. One December 
we had 21 fat turkeys stolen that we had 
been feeding for Tiverton Xmas market. 
Fowels we had to put under lock and key. 
A coper they used to boil barley in for the 
horses was taken out to be repaired. Before 
it could be put in again it was stolen. As for 
clothing, it was scarcely enough for desensey. 
The poor women ! Can you believe it ? I have 
known them confined one day, wash their 
clothes the next, the third day put the baby 
in an old box or basket, and take it with them 
into the fields to wead corn or pick stones, for 
which they received 6d. per day, and glad to 
get it to put a garment on their backs. 

"G. Nation had a wife and 7 children, 
all sons. They had a stone-floored kitchen, 
and one small bedroom. After struggling on 
in misery, some friends helped them to eme- 
grate and they all did well. 

"J. Street, a wife and 7 daughters, all 



i8o THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

sleeping in one small bedroom. This man 
was duble as well off as most of the others 
for he had is. per day pension. He was in 
the battle of Waterloo. 

"James Stone, a wife and 5 children, living 
and sleeping in one room over a cow-shed, on 
a bed of straw. 

"J. Roseter, wife and 3 children, sleeping in 
a downstair room, with a stone floor, a guttar 
of water running through the room. He had 
charge of our ferets and rat terriers. They 
were in the same room. He had a few fowels 
which roosted in the same. These he had 
stolen from some one, but was not trased. 

"J. Sayer and his wife lived over a tuckin 
mill. He was just married and lived with 
his father and mother and two grown-up 
daughters in two rooms. The daughters were 
prostitutes. 

" G. Jewel had a bed-riden wife. They lived 
and slept in one room. He was better off than 
many, for he was a marine and had a pension 
of lod. per day. He should have had is., 
but he had the small bone of his arm broken 



UNPROFITABLE FARMING i8i 
in boarding a French ship in the battle of 
Trefalger. He was sent below to the doctor, 
who wanted to take his arm off, because he 
had ^i IS. for every limb he took off, George 
said, ' You shall not take my arm off ! ' The 
doctor said, ' You dog, you shall not have a 
"smart!"' That was is. a day, so he only 
had lod., and the bone was never set; but he 
was able to work as well as any man. 

"J. Sayer was a very clever man. He went 
to Australia in '48 with my help, and made 
enough at the digins to retier. 

" You will suppose my uncle made his fortune 
owing to paying such low wages. Nothing of 
the kind. My uncle failed, as nearly half the 
farmers in the county at that time, owing to 
the high rent and bad harvests. His wife and 
only daughter died early and left him depen- 
dent upon relatives. If he had not taken that 
farm he had capital sufficient to keep himself 
and family in comfort. His three sons went 
to Australia and are weathy men. 

"When I was 15 I left my uncle, and 
my relations put me an apprentice to a 



i82 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

miller for three years, and paid him an ansum 
yearly premium. This miller went to that 
mill in 1836 with 7s. 6d. in cash, and an 
old spavin horse. He left about 12 years 
after with thousands, although he rarely came 
from market sober. He told me himself that 
all the flour he sent to Yap, a flour merchant 
at Plymouth, he had £1 is. a sack profit and 
Yap sold to the bakers at 3s. per sack profit, 
but the poor had to pay for it. 

" The reason he got such profit was, Lindon 
the corn merchant would say, ' Here, John, 
there will be more duty on the corn on such a 
date you take this cargo of wheat and pay 
when you can.' I use to say to him, ' But 
what about the poor starving women and 
children?' He would say, 'They can live 
on fish and potatoes.' I have said the 
potatoes were plentiful and cheap then, when 
there was no disease and you could buy more 
fish in Plymouth then for 2d. than now for is., 
when there was no rail to take it away. If 
the wretches are able to put the duty on 
corn now what will be the consequence } 



BREAD RIOTS 183 

Our farmers with the rent they have to pay 
cannot grow corn for less than 50s. per quarter. 
Nothing less than 12s. per quarter will do. 
You may think the miller named above would 
be generous to those he employed. Not a bit 
of it. When I went with him at 1 5, he dis- 
charged a man and I took his place, and I and 
another apprentice ran the mill day and night 
for months together. That will show if men 
give better wages when they are making large 
profits. From there I went to St. Austell, in 
Cornwall there I was when the bread riots 
brok out. After the destruction of a lot of 
property the soldiers arrived. Then they 
took 17 of the ringleaders and sent them to 
Bodmin, only for trying to get bread." 

The following letter illustrates the keen 
interest taken by the old people who have 
known Protection in the controversy. The 
writer, Mr, John Gill, of Penrhyn, Cornwall, 
is almost the oldest of all our correspondents. 

'* I had read to me from the New Age that 
you invite those who have passed through 
the old days of Protection to write to you on 



i84 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the subject. I am well qualified to do so, 
being over 92 years of age, and I have a 
keen memory of passing events from child- 
hood to the present time. I recollect events 
that transpired when very young, including the 
tolling of the church bell at the death of 
Princess Charlotte in 1817, before the late 
Queen's parents were married. 

" The present generation can have no con- 
ception of the state and condition of the 
labouring people when Protection was ram- 
pant. Every article that could be named 
for the use of man being taxed, their food, 
their clothing, their furniture, their mode of 
travelling, and many other habits and customs 
were totally different to those of the present 
time. The wages of agricultural labourers 
were from is. to is. 6d. per day, of trades 
from 2s. to 2S. 6d. per day. Their food 
consisted principally of barley bread and, 
in Cornwall, of potatoes and pilchards, and 
they had barely sufficient of these. The 
clothing was of the coarsest kind, consisting 
of swan-skin, corduroy and fustian — the latter 



OLD STRUGGLES 185 

on Sundays. Broadcloth was rarely to be 
seen on a working man's back. A letter from 
London cost a shilling-, taking three days to 
bring it. Women servants wore bed-gowns 
of the most ugly kind. This state of things 
did not apply to the rich and well-to-do, who 
could then ride in their carriages, and fare 
sumptuously, as they can now. It was the 
labouring classes who suffered by Protection, 
and it will bring certain ruin to them if they 
are so ignorant and foolish in their own 
interests to allow it to be introduced again. 
I well remember the years of 1 829-1 832, 
when the country was in a ferment, and on 
the verge of a civil war on the question of 
Catholic Emancipation, and on the Reform 
Bill before it passed in 1832. Then followed 
the great agitation on the Corn Laws, in which 
Villiers, Cobden and Bright were three of the 
most prominent pleaders, in which I took a 
great interest. In the years 1 840-1 I was 
appointed to the office of overseer in this 
town. For these years it was a painful task 
to go from street to street seeking rates, 



i86 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
where the inhabitants had neither work, 
money, nor bread, when the Corn Laws were 
in full force, and the agitation against them 
had become very keen. Sir Robert Peel's 
Government was formed to protect them but 
the Irish famine intervened and broke them 
down. The trade of the country then began 
to improve in all directions, and it would have 
done so much faster had it not been for the 
guilty promoters of the Crimean War, which 
was a curse to the country. 

" I cannot see to read, and I only know of 
present passing events by getting them read 
to me. I have written this letter by feeling 
my way, and I can just dimly see to read what 
I have written." 

The following is an extract from a letter 
contributed to the Westmmster Gazette of 
June 8, 1903, by Mr, Richard Robbins, of 
Upper Holloway. As will be seen, it also 
relates to Cornwall : — 

"At the date of my birth — x^ugust 3, 1817 — 
the Protectionist system was at its height 
and it was felt most keenly by the workers 



FIRE A LUXURY 187 

because of the way in which it kept up the price 
of bread. Parliament had just forbidden the 
importation of all foreign wheat, when the price 
was below 80/- a quarter and the labourers 
in my part of the country could scarcely have 
a wheaten loaf from one year's end to the 
other, having to put up with barley bread. 

" My home was the ancient borough of 
Launceston, in Cornwall, which at that time 
was an Assize town as well as a marketing 
centre for a larore agricultural district, and the 
home of an old-established woollen industry. 
It was, therefore, a favourable specimen of a 
country place, and yet when William Cobbett 
visited it at the time I was four years old — 
and my recollections begin in that year, 1821, 
when George IV. was crowned, for I was 
present at the local rejoicings — he was told by 
a tradesman (and the statement is to be found 
in his "Rural Rides") that the people in 
general there could not even afford to have a 
fire in ordinary, and that he himself had paid 
threepence for boiling a leg of mutton at 
another man's fire ! 



i88 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

" But if food and fuel were dear for a trades- 
man, how much dearer did they seem to the 
labourer and the artizan ! We are being told 
that if Protection is brought back to us wa^es 
will rise and the working man be better off. 
What was the case in my young days ? I will 
tell the working men of to-day, and let them 
judge for themselves, pledging myself not to 
make a single statement I cannot vouch for 
as having seen for myself the facts. 

"The wages of shoemakers at the time of 
which I am speaking were from 9/6 to 
10/6 a week and their hours of work were 
from six o'clock in the morning to eight at 
night from Lady Day to the first Monday after 
the 8th of September, and from eight in the 
morning to eight at night the rest of the year, 
with half an hour allowed for breakfast in the 
summer, an hour for dinner, and half an hour 
for tea — about twelve hours' daily work for an 
average of 10/- a week, and bread at the price 
it then was. They were given one whole 
holiday in the year, and that was Christmas 
Day, for they had to work all Good Friday 



WAGES 189 

but they had half a day off on Easter Monday, 
Whit Monday and Tuesday, and Mayor-choos- 
ing day, and the evening off on St. Crispin's 
Day. I myself knew a good workman at the 
leading boot-shop in the town whose average 
wage was never over 9/- weekly throughout his 
life, not even when bread was 2/- the quartern 
loaf. 

" Carpenters and masons were paid a little 
better, their wages ranging from 11/- to 12/- 
a week, and their hours of work being from six 
in the morning to six in the evening for eight 
months in the year, and from seven to five the 
other four months. The wages of tailors were 
from 10/- to 12/-; and they worked from six 
a.m. to eight p.m., except in November, 
December, January, and February, when the 
hours were from eight to eight and they were 
allowed an hour for dinner, but if they wanted 
tea it had to be brought to them as they sat 
on their shop boards. Woolstaplers and fell- 
mongers worked from six to six for from 9/- to 
10/6 per week, while day labourers were paid 
from 7/6 to 8/6 in the town, and 7/- to 8/- in 



I90 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

the country, the wages coming partly in the 
latter case out of the poor rate ! The custom 
when I was a boy was for able-bodied men to 
attend a vestry or parish meeting, and their 
services to be put up to the biggest bidder 
among the farmers present. Sometimes the 
price bid was no more than lod. a day, and 
this would be made up to 1/2 or 1/3 by the parish. 
What was the result ? The men, who would 
have been free and independent under a better 
system, were compelled to be paupers. 

" I do not say that there were no working 
men who were better paid than those I 
have mentioned. The curriers and hatters, for 
instance, were the aristocrats among the arti- 
sans of the town but they were the excep- 
tions, and, though they earned good money, the 
ropers and the woolstaplers and the basket 
makers had no more than from 8/- to 9/- a 
week." 

We close with a short letter from the other 
side of the Bristol Channel. Mr. E. Green, 
Rose Cottage, Brits Neuton, near Tewksbury, 
writes : — 



DINNERLESS CHILDREN 191 

" I see in the Methodist Times that you 
would like to hear somethink about the 
miseries of Protection. I'm sending you a few 
lines as I know to be true. I seen Lord 
Rosbery's letter in the paper. That started 
me writing. I sent the like of this to 4 
different papers. Seventy-two years ago, 
when I went to school at Upton-on-Severn, I 
knew several children who did not go home to 
dinner because they could not have any and 
when I began housekeeping, that was over 
fifty years ago, then bread was 5 lbs. for i/-, 
and 2\ lb. for 6d., sometimes dearer than that, 
brown sugar 5d. per lb., and lump from 6d. to 
8d. per lb., tea 4/- per lb., not so good as we 
get now for 1/6, salt 6d. per lb., and I knew 
farm labourers having 6s. a week, and ten 
being the highest. Clothes were dear. 
Working people could have nothing better 
than prints for the women, men codorroy and 
smock-frocks. As for meat, working people 
did not get a bit once a month. I'm a shoe- 
maker. When I worked journeyman in Pro- 
tection times, I only had 2/9 for making a pair 



192 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

of men's boots. I work for myself now. If I 

employ any one I have to give them 4/9. We 

believe in Free Trade. We don't want any 

Protection." 

A striking feature of these Wessex letters is 
their grim realism. Probably the district 
suffered as severely as any, and far more than 
some but that hardly accounts for the specially 
graphic character of the writing. West Country 
people must have long memories, and may, we 
may safely say, be trusted to remain staunch 
Free Traders till long after the last "protected" 
generation has passed away. 



PROTECTION IN THE NORTH OF 
ENGLAND 



13 



I 



CHAPTER V 

PROTECTION IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND 

How people fared in the county of Yorkshire 
the following interesting and pathetic letter 
will show. The immense power which the 
helplessness of the people placed in the hands 
of their employers is well illustrated in the 
writer's account of his treatment as a child. 
He is Mr. George Oldfield, St. Peter's Street, 
Norton Malton : — 

*• My father's native place was Honley, 
about 7 miles from Huddersfield. His parents 
were poor working people — so much so that 
they had to get rid of their children as best 
they could so my father was a town's aprentice 
to a farmer — he got his food but no wages 
at a village, Crosland Hill, his master finding 



\ 



196 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
him what clothing he thought useful, while 
he was of age. After his aprenticeship he 
went to work in the stone quarreys. In 
due time he got maryed, and there was a 
family of 3 children. I was the second, and 
had 2 sisters. Poor mother died when I was 
between 2 and 3. My eldest sister went to 
work in the factory very early. I soon 
had to follow, I think about 9 years of age. 
What with hunger and hard usage I bitterly 
got it burned into me — I believe it will stay 
while life shall last. We had to be up at 
5 in the morning to get to factory, ready to 
begin work at 6, then work while 8, when we 
stopped J an hour for breakfast, then work 
to 12 noon; for dinner we had i hour, then 
work while 4. We then had ^ an hour for 
tee, and tee if anything was left, then com- 
menced work again on to 8.30. If any time 
during the day had been lost, we had to 
work while 9 o'clock, and so on every night 
till it was all made up. Then we went to what 
was called home. Many times I have been 
asleep when I had taken my last spoonful 



A BRUTAL MASTER 197 

of porige — not even washed, we were so 
overworked and underfed. 1 used to curs 
the road we walked on. I was so weekley 
and feeble I used to think it was the road 
would not let me 00 alono- with the others. 
We had not always the kindest of masters. 

1 remember my master's strap, 5 or 6 feet 
long, about f in. broad, and J in. thick. He 
kept it hung on the ginney at his right 
hand, so we could not see when he took hould 
of it. But we could not mistake its lessons 
for he got hould of it nearly in the middle, and 
it would be a rare thing if we did not get 

2 cuts at one stroke. I have reason to believe 
on one occasion he was somewhat moved 
to compassion, for the end of his strap striped 
the skin of my neck about 3 in. long. When 
he saw the blood and cut, he actually stoped 
the machine, came and tied a handkerchief 
round my neck to cover it up. I have been 
fell'd to the floor many times by the ruler 
on the top of the carding, about 8 or 9 feet 
long, iron hoop at each end. This was done 
as a change for the strap. For a time I could 



198 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

not tell whether living or dead. At the 
Coronation of our late beloved Queen Victoria 
I was a scoller at the Buxton Road Wesleyan 
Sunday School, Huddersfield, before the 
present Wesleyan Chapel was built. So the 
Coronation day was fixed. I had neither 
shoes nor clogs to go in, but, like others, I was 
not to be bet that way, so I asked another 
lad, much biger than myself, to lend me his 
clogs for the day. He did lend them to me. 
They were verey much to big, quit down 
at the heels, and up at the frunt. I was 
not to be stoped by trifles, so I went to 
the grand affair — to me anyhow. I marched 
in the procession to the old market square 
at Huddersfield, and afterwards enjoyed a 
splendid tee. Shurely this was one of the 
brightest days of my life ! About this time, or 
soon afterwards, that Heaven-sent messenger, 
Lord Shaftesbury, got a Bill passed to shorten 
the hours in the factory. I read of his Lord- 
ship's houlding a meeting in Leeds, where 
some 200 children or more were at the 
meetino;, and not one of them but was a 



RIOTS IN LANCASHIRE 199 
cripple, as also where both my sister and 
myself were crippled for life. I do not know 
I ever had a new suit of cloths — I may 
have had odd things new. My clothing- 
generally was made out of old clothes. I 
remember right well my trouses being so 
bad that I had to perform some operation 
on them, and as Sunday was the onley day 
at liberty, I sat in bed that day. and completed 
the work by cutting the whole backside out, 
and fixing fresh pieces of cloth in to cover 
my back with. I am not fond of Sunday 
work. I wish nothing worse were don on 
this God-given day. So we children worked 
12J hours a day for 8d. or 4/- per week. 
If flower was not more than 3/6 per stone 
we thought it cheap but it was often 4/-, 
5/- and 5/6 per stone, and other things dear 
in proportion. It was about 1842. Things 
were simply appaling. There was disquiet 
in Lancashire, bread noting, and hundreds 
of people came down the 2 dales leading to 
Huddersfield, stoping mills from working by 
drawinu- the shutdes, letting off the water 



200 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

supply, knocking out steam plugs to put out the 
fires. Both men, youths, and girls, with handker- 
chief on their head, came into the market place at 
Huddersfield. The cavelery were called out. 
Some feind of a brute called a magistrait, after 
making the cavelery drunk, and gave the order 
to put the hungrey people between the devil 
and the deep sea— a work that required feinds 
to do, to their eternal shame. When corn was 
80/- per quarter, farmers kept it back to 
keep the price up, and went about as huxtors 
trying to sell to privat individuals, and the 
blood-succers, their landlords, took it out of 
them. 

"So as the Factory Act came in force we 
did not work so late at nights. I joined 
the evening mechanics' class at Huddersfield 
to improve myself a little. My father got 
to be foreman at the quarry, but he did 
not know a letter or a figure. He had a 
good memory, and after hearing an order 
read, he could work it out. I should question 
if he got 6d. per week more for being foreman. 
I used to keep his books, learnt him his 



POVERTY IN LANCASHIRE 201 
letters, and to read and make out his 
orders. After a time be sent me to a free 
school at Seed Hill, Huddersfield, to get 
polished in my schooling. Since then I have 
seen a good deal of the world. I have circled 
the globe, and rought with people of many 
nations, but never witnessed anything so 
wicked and degrading as the old degrading, 
dear-food times. The dearer it is the worse 
it is. May God prevent a return to such 
wickedness, and in His great mercy spare 
the nation such a trial. It shall be my daily 
prayer." 

Mr. A. S. Ashton, of Belmont Park, Leeds, 
gives several interesting facts about the 
state of trade in Lancashire and elsewhere 
in 1 84 1. He says: "There were 2,000 
houses empty in Preston in 1841, and in spite 
of the Corn Laws the farmers were badly 
off; the labourers were poor — so poor that 
they were driven to desperation, so that 
there were in one and a half years 300 to 
400 incendiary fires, destroying corn and 
hay ricks. In Leeds, in 1841, there were 



202 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

20,000 persons whose average earnings were 
under i/- a week. In Birmingham, one-fifth 
of the population were in receipt of parochial 
relief. In Birmingham many of the masters 
were near ruin. The state of Paisley was 
a source of alarm to Sir Robert Peel. In 
Manchester 12,000 families, after having" 
pawned every article of furniture and of 
dress with which they could possibly dispense, 
were supported by voluntary contributions. In 
the winter of 1842 the state of things in 
Bolton was terrible. As many as 1,500 houses 
in the borough were unoccupied. The 
earnings of 1,000 families averaged only 1/2 
per head per week more than half the beds 
in their possession were filled with straw, 
and they had among them 466 blankets — not 
quite one to every ten persons — whilst only 
one-half could boast the humble luxury of 
a change of linen." 

Mr. William Glazier, St. Edmond's, Worsley 
Road, Hampstead, sends an excellent article, 
from which we make the following lengthy 
extract Mr. Glazier's long experience, to- 



HARVESTS 203 

gether with the unique position he occupied 
for securing information, make his testimony- 
valuable. We infer that it mainly deals with 
Lancashire conditions, from which county Mr. 
Glazier only recently came to London : — 

"Born in 1825, the son of a provincial 
public baker and flour dealer, my recollections 
of industrial life, and of how working men 
lived, dates back to the year 1835, when on 
the death of my father I had to assist in my 
widowed mother's business. To the best of 
my recollection, at that period, there was not 
much complaining in our streets. In 1836 
there was an abundant harvest in this country, 
with consequent low prices for bread stuffs. It 
was in subsequent years that the pinch began, 
when the year of plenty was eaten up by years 
of scarcity. In the years 1840 and 1841, 
there was a succession of bad harvests, with 
the inevitable result that food was not only 
dear, but to a very large extent of a very 
indifferent quality — such that the meanest 
pauper in our land to-day would positively- 
refuse to eat. As my mother kept a public 



204 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
bakery, I can testify from my own knowledge 
that numbers of people at that period largely 
subsisted upon bread made from rye, and 
barley meal. In a vast number of cases, even 
that miserable diet was not forthcoming, 
potatoes taking its place. The suffering amongst 
the wages class was intense. Pauperism 
throughout the country w^as constantly and 
steadily on the increase. Not only that, but 
every kind of crime increased at the same 
rate. Arson or rick-burning, sheep-stealing or 
slaughtering, &c., by men rendered desperate 
or despairing through hunger and want, 
although sternly punished by a shameful and 
miserable death on the scaffold, prevailed to an 
extent of which men in these days have not 
the slightest conception. But it was not only 
that pauperism increased, and crime increased, 
but mortality also increased. Strong men and 
women were stricken down by it, and the aged 
and little children were its constant and 
numerous victims. These were some of the 
results of that cruel law which sternly forbade 
the free importation of corn into this country 



TAXES ON F.VRRYTHING 205 

fromabroad, until our own prices had risen to 
80/- per quarter. Not only was bread, the 
common food of the people, taxed, but there 
was hundreds of articles on which, by the law of 
England, taxes were levied when goods came 
into London, or Hull, or Liverpool, or Glasgow, 
or any other ports of the kingdom. Every- 
thing was taxed, and of course the retail price 
of everything which we had to obtain from 
abroad was increased in a corresponding if not 
an increased ratio. Indeed, I think that in 
all cases, the retail prices of imported articles 
of general consumption increase in a greater 
ratio than the amount of the tax itself. I 
may be wrong, but it has always appeared 
to me that when the prices of foreign 
commodities are artificially raised by means 
of a tax, on coming into this country, the 
dealers in such commodities must, as a pure 
matter of legitimate business, charge the con- 
sumer with something above and beyond the 
amount of the tax itself. If he does not do 
that, his one alternative is to supply his 
customer with goods of a lower grade or 



2o6 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

quality. Thus in either case the ultimate 
consumer, according to my view, has to pay 
not only the tax, but a more or less amount 
beyond that. As my purpose, however, is to 
relate facts rather than express opinions, I 
will quote some of the prices which we had to 
pay for articles of everyday use. I will con- 
fine myself to quoting some of the prices paid 
for articles of general consumption. The 
average price of flour was 3/- and 3/6 per 
stone of 14 lbs. Tea 6/- per lb., and in many 
cases 6d. per ounce was charged. Sugar jd. 
per lb., and very coarse at that. Raisins 7d. 
per lb., currants 9d., soap 6d., and so on in like 
proportion, upon the multitude of articles for 
everyday use. Contrast these prices with 
those that are paid to-day. It is perfectly true 
that some food stuffs are dearer under Free 
Trade than under Protection. Thus, I can 
remember butter being from sixpence to ten- 
pence per lb., according to the season. Shoulders 
of mutton, fivepence halfpenny and sixpence 
per lb. Now we have to pay not less than 
one shilling and one and twopence per lb. for 



PRICES CO^IPARED 207 

butter, and eightpence or ninepence per lb. for 
mutton and a few other articles in similar pro- 
portion. But making allowance for such 
exceptional cases, it is safe to say that the cost 
price of all kinds of food stuffs averaged fully 
25 per cent, more in those days than at the 
present time. Moreover, my memory carries 
me back to the days when the vast number of 
foreign-grown or foreign-produced commodities 
which are now regarded as almost indispens- 
able necessaries and comforts of life, were not 
even dreamt of by the commonalty. Tinned 
foods — ox-tongues from Argentina, salmon 
from British Columbia, luscious fruits, apricots, 
peaches, plums, pears, &c., from sunny Cali- 
fornia, pine-apples at a penny a slice, and 
bananas from the West Indies, and countless 
other articles, are all within the reach of a laree 
majority of the British working community. 
These, and the cheapening of the less luxurious 
necessaries — good wheaten flour at less than 
Jd. per lb., sugar 2d., tea 1/6 and 2/-, &c., 
&c., all indicate a vast change in the condition 
of the class with which I have been associated 



2o8 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

all my life — a change brought about without 
any violence, without wronging anybody. There 
is not a human being in England who has a 
loaf less, or a pound of sugar less, or any of 
these things less, by what was done in 1846 
and 1849. There was no violence, no insur- 
rection, no bloodshed, no disorder in bringing 
about this great improvement in the condition 
of the wages class. It has been done merely 
by Parliament becoming more intelligent, and 
statesmen more intelligent, and by merely tear- 
ing up two or three foolish Acts of Parliament, 
and allowing people their natural freedom to 
buy and sell where they could buy and sell to 
the o^reatest advantage. 

*' But there is still another change which 
we have to consider. I allude to the enor- 
mous difference in the wages rate received by 
the industrial classes under the old dispen- 
sation and the new. On this point I think 
that I can also fairly claim to speak with 
authority. In the year 1839 I was placed as 
an indoor apprentice to the building trade, 
and happening to be a somewhat better writer 



WAGES COMPARED 209 

than my master, I came in for a pretty fair 
share of book-keeping, making out wages Hsts, 
and similar clerical work. Thus I was not 
long in becoming well-acquainted with the 
wages paid, not only to the men in my own 
trade, but also to the various sections of 
handicraftsmen throughout the country, out- 
side the Metropolis. Up to, and for some 
time after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, 
the standard rate of wages for carpenters, 
joiners, cabinet-makers, masons, bricklayers, 
plasterers, plumbers, painters, wheelwrights, 
coopers, blacksmiths, &c., was eighteen shil- 
lings per week of sixty-four hours. (There was 
no Saturday half-holiday in those ' good ' (.'*) 
old times !) Now at three shillings per day, 
this works out at a fraction under 3fd. per 
hour. Think of stalwart men, after serving 
five, six, or seven years to learn a trade, 
paying, in a vast number of cases, a substan- 
tial premium in addition (my apprenticeship 
premium was ^30), and after all, as skilled 
workmen, receiving the magnificent wage of 
threepence three-farthings per hour! As for 
14 



2IO THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
the unskilled workers, their wages averaged 
ten shillings per week for agricultural labourers, 
and from twelve to fifteen shillings for those 
engaged in other occupations. 

" Such, according to my experience, was the 
rate of wages received by the skilled artisans 
and labourers of this country, in the years 
immediately preceding the abolition of the 
Corn Laws in 1846. Contrast the remuneration 
which such men receive in 1904. Broadly 
speaking, wages are certainly double, and in 
a vast number of cases more than double 
what they were in my younger days. Thus 
masons, bricklayers, plasterers, &c., receive 
from nine to tenpence, and tenpence half- 
penny per hour. Joiners, whose wages vary 
in different parts of the country, receive never 
less than sevenpence, sevenpence halfpenny 
and up to tenpence per hour. Whilst as to 
unskilled labour, although wages have prob- 
ably not advanced in the same proportion all 
round, they may still be assessed at five or 
sixpence per hour. Only the other day I saw 
in the Manchester City News that the excava- 



STRONG FREE TRADER 211 

tors, or ' navvy's,' employed in Derbyshire 
were being paid fivepence halfpenny per hour, 
a wage which, in the old Protectionist days, 
sixty years ago, was utterly beyond the 
imaginings of the most skilled artisans of that 
period. 

"These, then, are some of the changes, and 
marvellous changes they are, which have taken 
place in the social condition of the millions of 
workers in this land of ours during the genera- 
tion with which I have been associated for 
so many years, and I venture to say that there 
can scarcely be anything more worth a work- 
ing man's while at the present time, than 
examining and endeavouring to clearly com- 
prehend the cause or causes which has led to 
that vast increase in the comforts, the conveni- 
ences, and even the luxuries of life which we 
now enjoy, and which has made life more 
worth living than was the case under the 
Protectionist dispensation. For myself, I have 
a firm, an enduring belief that beyond all and 
everything else, these beneficent changes in 
the condition of the manual workers of Great 



212 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
Britain have been chiefly or mainly the result 
of, first and foremost, an Untaxed Loap^ and 
secondly, the establishment of free and open 
markets (except when required for revenue 
purposes) for the purchase of such imported 
commodities as are essential to the carrying 
on of our various industries. Hence I am a 
pronounced Free Trader, a thorough-going 
opponent of what I honestly believe to be the 
more than non-moral, the absolutely zwmoral 
fiscal policy which is being so strenuously 
engineered by our aggressive and loudly 
assertive countryman, the ex-Colonial Secre- 
tary. It is an immoral policy because it 
substitutes ' Do unto others as they do unio 
you,' for the Golden Rule, ' Do unto others 
as ye would they should do unto you.' The 
former policy embodies the spirit of irritation 
and revenge. The latter breathes of con- 
ciliation and good-will to all men. Mr. Cham- 
berlain declared at Birmingham in May last 
that one of the two objects of his life has been 
* the elevation of the masses of the people, the 
improvement especially of the condition of the 



"THE WORKMAN'S LOAF" 213 
very poor.' A very worthy object truly, one 
to which I, who during a more than ordinary 
lengthy life, have been more or less associated 
with the 'masses of the people,' knowing 
something of their sorrows, trials, difficulties 
and temptations, do most fervently wish a God- 
speed. But I utterly deny that this fiscal 
policy of the ex-Colonial Secretary will have 
any such effect. 

" For myself, I do not for one moment 
believe that the British workmen of to-day are 
desirous of a return to the worn-out fiscal 
policy of other days. They do not require 
any shuft^ing of the cards with regard to their 
daily bread. They have no faith in politicians 
of the juggling, thimble-rigging type. 'Hands 
OFF THE Workman's loaf ' is the burden of 
their cry. Nor do they clamour for a ten per 
cent, tax upon foreign manufactures. Some of 
us have a lively recollection of a notable states- 
man who, some seven or eight years ago, took 
occasion to ridicule the mildly pessimistic 
utterances of a political opponent, by publicly 
declaring, ' I do not sympathise with the great 



214 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

statesman who keeps awake in the silent 
watches of the night, in constant fear with a 
perpetual nightmare before him, lest German 
competition should overpower us. I am con- 
vinced that, in spite of all defects, we have 
power enough to hold the property which has 
come to us from our ancestors, and that we 
still have the ability to keep the trades that 
we have made and to hold them against all 
competitors.' Further on this gentleman went 
on to say, ' I believe firmly in National Educa- 
tion, but I believe more in National character, 
and as long as the English people maintain 
the qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race, so long 
I, for one, shall not sympathise with those who 
are constantly predicting evil.' Brave words 
truly. Yet who would imagine that he who 
uttered them was and is the same individual 
who is now engaged in franticly belittling his 
country and his country's industrial productions, 
proclaiming to the world that ' all is not well 
with British trade. . . . Our exports, the 
exports of our manufactures, the things that 
employ most labour to foreign countries — to 



EFFICIENCY 215 

countries that have tariffs, have been declin- 
ing and are still declining.' 

" Well, if that is the case, where is the 
' power ' and the ' ability ' to keep the trades 
that we have made against all competitors 
which we had eight years ago ? Is that ' power ' 
and ' ability ' of ours gone? If it is, then not 
all the legerdemain of Mr. Chamberlain and 
those who have been cozened by the glamour 
of his words to support him, can avail us to 
escape the fate of being beaten or worsted in 
the struCTorle for existence in the markets of 
the world. No skulking behind fiscal barriers, 
as these precious tariff reformers are en- 
deavouring to persuade us, will enable the 
British workman to hold his own against all 
competitors. The nation or community that 
can produce mantifacttired commodities the best, 
cheapest y and most in accordance with customers 
wishes a7id requirements, will assu7'edly win in 
the long run. Those who are purchasers of 
manufactured commodities, naturally seek to 
get the most and the best for their money. 
If our oroods are dearer, or inferior to those of 



2i6 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

our competitors, there is no ground compati- 
able with the sanity of the buyers, which can 
be alleged, why they should not prefer the 
latter. Now unless I am labouring under a 
very grave misapprehension, it is precisely 
here where our difficulty comes in. Here is 
one of the reasons why our trade is falling off 
to foreign countries, as alleged by Mr. Cham- 
berlain. Our goods are either dearer, or 
inferior, or not according to customers' require- 
ments. There is no mystery about it. Will 
the new — no, not new, but old, very old — pro- 
gramme, furbished up by our exceedingly force- 
ful ex-Colonial Secretary, avail for our salva- 
tion ? Will looking backwards beyond the 
years 1846 and 1849 give us a ray of hope? 
"No! a thousand times No! It is none of 
these things that will enable us to maintain 
our footing in the markets of the world. 
There is only one reason why our goods 
should be preferred to those of our rivals : 
custome7'S mtist find them equally as good or 
better at the price. To this end we must use 
not only more knowledge, industry, and skill, 



WAGES AND PRICES 217 

but above all and beyond everything else we 
must exercise more conscientiousness in our 
industrial and commercial life, being resolved 
at the same time that under no pretence, how- 
ever speciously maintained, will we assent to a 
reversal of that policy of free imports, both of 
food and other commercial products, which 
has contributed so materially to the happiness, 
the greatness, and commanding position of this 
country amongst the nations of the earth." 

A return of costs in building the house 
No. I, Rye Hill, Newcastle-on-Tyne, in the 
year 1828, has been sent to us by Mr. 
Frederick Shaw, of Forest Hall, Northumber- 
land. From it we gather that masons then 
received 3s. 8d. per day, and their labourers 
2s. 2d. This would no doubt be for a ten- 
hour day, and shows that Mr. Glazier's 
figures were true for Newcastle as well as for 
Lancashire. We include here a very striking 
comparison between the prices of groceries in 
1820 and 1903. Mr. L. H. Longman, of 
Bruton, lately published a leaflet comparing 
the prices charged by his predecessor in the 



2i8 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

same business in the former year and those 
actually then obtained by himself. Here is 
the comparison : — 

Under Protection, 1820. Under Free Trade, 1903. 



lbs. 


£ 


s. 


d. 


lbs. £ 


s. 


d. 


2 Lump @ i/- .. 





2 





2 Lump ... 





5 


2 Moist @ 9d. .. 





2 


3 


3 Moist ... 





6 


iTea@8/- .. 


. 


4 





1 Tea @ 1/8 





10 


I Yellow Soap . . 








10 


I Yellow Soap 





3 


I Currants 





I 


I 


I Currants ... 





4 


I Raisins 








10 


I Raisins ... 





5 


14 Salt 





4 


9 


14 Salt 





4 


3 Candles @ gd 





2 


3 


3 Candles ... 


I 


4 


iGrd. Coffee .. 


. 


I 


8 


* Coffee @ 1/6 





9 


I Starch 


. 





1 1 


I Starch ... 





4 


i Pepper 





I 





^ Pepper ... 




5 


5 




£2_ 


I 


7 


Ji 



An interesting pamphlet, published by 
Messrs. Sherratt & Hughes, gives a graphic 
idea of affairs in Lancashire on the days of 
Protection. Issued last year (1903) and called 
" Protection's ' Good Old Days,' " it consists 
of extracts from the life of John Mills. It 
describes how, in 1840, crowds of angry men 
wandered about drawing out boiler plugs and 



A BRAVE WOMAN 219 

thus stopping factories. " Starving and miser- 
able," we read, " they went about in gangs, 
forcing their way into houses by terrifying the 
inmates and emptying pantry and larder, but 
I never heard of the poor fellows harming or 
insulting child or woman." 

" Our brave little mother," the writer goes 
on, "had no fears. In the morning, when the 
men-folk had left for the foundry, the doors and 
windows were kept fast, we sometimes acting 
as scouts. So it came about that one day. 
running home, we cried, ' They are coming ! — 
lots of them!' Immediately all went in, and 
the doors were locked and barred but as 
about thirty half-starved, excited men came 
in at the gate, the mother, who had made her 
own plans, unfastened the door, ordering us 
to lock it behind her, and stood outside alone 
to meet and greet them. They stopped in 
surprise. Then, * Come on, lads we're noan 
boun' to be done ! ' Looking up at them she 
said, ' What's it all about ? What do you 
want ? ' ' We're clemming, missus ! ' ' Poor 
chaps! you look like it.' At that moment a 



220 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

side window opened, and there stood on a sill 
rows of pint pots filled with good steaming 
stew — not soup, but stew, thick with the gristle 
and meat of many shin-bones. ' Here ! take 
your fill'; 'and Tom,' pointing to our own 
workman skulking behind the others, ' please 
lift that clothes-basket through the window and 
put it down.' It was filled with thick hunches 
of bread. Again and again were the pots re- 
filled. Did they soften and express gratitude ? 
No not outwardly, anyway but they took all 
with rather a sullen air, as if baulked of some 
set purpose of taking by force rather than 
receiving of charity. The first plan would not 
have hurt their pride so much, for there is a 
heap of the ' stalk of carle hemp ' in a 
Lancashire lad." 

With this epic scene we couple another from 
the same source together they make a vivid 
and pathetic picture of poor life in Lancashire 
under Protection : " One morning a decent 
woman, whom we knew well, came, with her 
white-faced little boy, for some ' broth.' A 
quart of that, most likely all that she and her 



SHIFTS OF POVERTY 221 

four children would taste till next day. As 
to the fathers, one of the most pathetic and 
heart-breaking sights was to see in their drawn 
features evidence how they pinched themselves 
to let ' th' children an' th' missus have a sup.' 
A grown man's craving hunger defied for love's 
sake ! 

" Well, the can filled, she asked to speak to 
the missus. ' What is it. Anne ? ' 

" ' Please, ma'm, would you let 'em save the 
potatoe-peelings for me ? ' 

" 'Whatever for.'* You haven't got a pig?' 

" ' Eh no I wash 'em and chop 'em up, and 
boil 'em with a handful of meal and a pinch of 
salt, and th' childer like it well and please I'd 
be thankful for any apple-peelings too. I boil 
'em with a spoonful of treacle and a crust, if I 
have it.' With tears in her eyes my mother 
gave orders to ' save the peelings,' adding, 
' Jane, peel them thick.' The week's accumu- 
lation of coffee-grounds and tea-leaves were 
worth a long walk to fetch." 

A further quotation illustrates the subdued 
anarchy of the time. " I recollect," the writer 



222 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

says, " some one saying, ' B has gone off, 

had to fly for his Hfe.' B was a small 

corn-merchant, living in the country between 
Rochdale and Bury. In a barn by his house 
he kept sacks of corn and sold it retail to the 
country people, who took it to the flour-mill to 
be ground, every week running up the price, 
as ' he'd soon be sold out.' It leaked out that 

if B 's barn was empty he had his house, 

in the attic, under the roof, in the cellars, full 
of good corn, and, said one. ' Not such mixed 
rubbish as would hardly bake, but good, sound 
stuff.' One morning a lad rushed into the 
house, ' Master, run ! go hide ! they are coming 
to fetch you ! ' The scared man saw in the 
distance a black, moving mass, and heard a 
roar of angry voices. On came the mob. 

B had flown, but the corn was there. In 

a twinkling the doors were forced, and soon, 
dragged forth in triumph, sacks were piled 
high in the yard. Leaving them open, 
they poured out the contents, filling bags, 
aprons, hats, caps, pockets, even boots and 
shoes with the precious grain. Suddenly, 



in the midst of the noise and scramble, came 
the scouts' alarm, ' The sojers are coming ! ' 
Helter-skelter went the crowd, carrying off 
their spoil. When the soldiers arrived they 
found a wrecked house, a yard snowed over 
with corn, and a few sacks still unopened. 
Even then the grain had been so long kept 
and got damp, that it had to be mixed with 
a portion of sound flour to make it usable 
at all." 



PROTECTION IN OTHER DISTRICTS 



15 



CHAPTER VI 

PROTECTION IN OTHER DISTRICTS 

Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, together with 
certain counties of England, have sent us but 
few letters. These, together with one or 
two dealino" with o^eneral conditions without 
specifying any particular locality, we have 
grouped together by themselves in this 
chapter. There is enough in them to confirm, 
if confirmation were needed, the conviction 
that Protection produced very much the same 
evils in every locality and under all circum- 
stances. Several of them are exceedingly 
interesting, one letter from Aberdeen making 
us regret the o^eneral silence of Scotland. 

A reader of the Christian World, who, 
unfortunately, gives no dates or places, says : 



228 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

— " Families of growing sons and daughters 
never got a batch of good bread. Those 
were 'Protection times.' Talk of living ! It 
was more like a lingering death ! Sugar at 
that time was 6d. per lb., tea i/- per quarter, 
2 oz. having to serve a family a week 
should they be fortunate enough to run a 
cow on a common to get a little milk to 
improve the poor tea. No fiscal Joe's 3 
acres and a cow in those good old days. 
The potatoe disease, too, set in about these 
times, making matters much worse for the 
working classes. Can it be wondered at 
that swedes were stolen from the fields to be 
eaten for food, or a pot of small potatoes, 
which had been boiled for pigs, disappearing 
in the same manner, or a dish of boiled peas 
being stealthily devoured by several poor 
hungry lads from their aunt's pantry, done 
while playing at hide and seek. There were 
sometimes religious fast days, which were 
almost a treat, as on those days we were not 
obliged to eat the only kind of bread to 
be eot. 



THE PIG'S BAG 229 

" A few days ago I noticed a farmer feeding 
his geese and poultry with damaged corn 
and other refuse from the threshing-floor, 
and I remarked to the man that the stuff 
he was giving the fowls was the same sort 
our bread was made from when I was a boy. 

" At the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws, 
and soon after, we had to work from 4 a.m. 
until 6 and 8 p.m., lads for 4d. per day, and 
men, with wife and eight or nine children, 
for 9/- per week, and out of this meagre 
wage would be rent to pay and coal to buy. 
The wives had to wait up until a late hour 
on Saturday eve until father got home with 
the product of his week's labour, such as it 
was, consisting of a piece of fat bacon to boil. 
This was our only meat even for Sunday. 
The bread for the next week was frequently 
baked during the Sabbath day. If the batch 
did not hold out to the following Saturday 
or Sunday, then the pig's bag must be robbed 
(if there was one) of a little bran, sharps, or 
meal, or a little of each, which would serve 
in the shape of cakes when baked, and was 



230 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

in reality almost as good to eat as our bread, 
which, instead of ' rising ' in the oven in the 
usual way, had a serious tendency to run 
all together and form one flat cake of about 
3 or 4 inches in thickness, of a dark brown 
colour. Sometimes this would have to be 
cut out of the oven, or its top scooped out 
with the ladle. 

" The above particulars, i.e., long hours and 
small pay, reminds one of the following 
incident : ' As the master smith's apprentice 
was going to bed, his master reminded him 
not to forget to say his prayers. To make 
sure that the boy did this, the master listened 
on the stairs, and this was the prayer he 
heard the poor lad offer : " Our Father, which 
art in heaven. Oh ! " he exclaimed, " if Thou 
art in heaven, stay there, for there is nothing 
here but hammer and smite from 4 in the 
mornino^ till 8 at niorht." " 

Here is another letter, published in January, 
1904, by the Daily Neivs, in which, unfortu- 
nately, the writer gives no indication as to the 
particular part of the country referred to : — 



ARGUMENT OF HUNGER 231 

" Sir, — I saw the other day in your valuable 
and ever-welcome paper that Lord Rosebery 
advocated the evidence, either orally or by 
correspondence, of those who could remember 
the bad old days of Protection. Thinking 
possibly that my experience may bring con- 
viction to the class from which I sprung — the 
working class — with whom the final question 
of a return to Protection rests, although in my 
77th year, I will ask you, Mr. Editor, to insert 
this letter. 

" I went apprentice, in 1841, in a Tory news- 
paper office, although the son of a staunch 
Liberal and a subscriber to the ' Anti-Corn 
Law League Journal.' I therefore watched 
the whole course of the struggle until the 
final repeal of the odious Corn Laws. What 
I learnt at home and what I observed at the 
office confirmed me in my faith, and I found 
myself by and by combating the arguments of 
my fellow-apprentices. But there was a more 
potent adversary at home to hasten their con- 
version. The price of bread went up to 
IS. 2d. per loaf, and almost every article of 



232 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
food followed suit and of my own knowledge 
I knew that some of our apprentices tasted 
meat but once a week. The ready reader 
of this will say, ' Ah, that was on Sundays.' 
No, it was not. The family had to make their 
Sunday's dinner of hot vegetables the meat 
was consumed on Mondays — cold. 

"In our office the men's wages were 12s. 
and 14s. per week the boys began with 
IS. 6d. and finished with 6s. the seventh year. 
In 1845, I think, news was brought to the 
office that a farmer in our market had refused 
1 6s. a bushel for his wheat, adding, as he 
buttoned up his sample in his capacious 
pocket, ' Not likely it will be a guinea 
next week.' That night a raid was made 
upon his farm by the people, and but 
for the timely arrival of a company 
of the 3rd Light Dragoons his well-filled 
garner would have become smouldering ashes. 
In 1846 riots began, and the bakers' shops 
suffered persons (some of the better class) 
being sent to prison for espousing the cause 
of the poor. 



AFTER THE REPEAL 233 

" Much more could I write, but the above 
may be taken as a fair sample of what took 
place, not only in our city, but in the country 
as well. Then came the Repeal of the Corn 
Laws, and I became a journeyman. I vividly 
retain the recollection of an incident not with- 
out significance even to the Protectionist of 
to-day. After repeal prices of food went 
down, trade became brisk, money more plenti- 
ful, and joy prevailed where before all was 
gloom and care. Wages were rising, and on 
March 6, 1848, I visited my employer to 
announce the fact that I was a journeyman. 
'Well,' he said, 'you'll go on with the present 
rate of wages, of course ? ' I demurred, and 
hinted that wages all over the country were 
rising — Bristol was paying 26s. 'Ah,' he said, 
controversially, ' but, setting aside the part our 
paper took during the struggle, you can live 
now cheaper by 50 per cent, than you could 
then.' Verbuin sap. — Yours, &c., C. S." 

Mr. J. S. Baxter, of Burton Steps, Duke's 
Road, W.C., writes a letter illustrative of the 
condition of things in Lincolnshire : — 



234 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

" Born of Tory parents, in 1826, at the 
Spread Eagle Hotel, near the 'Stone Boar' 
at Lincoln, I must now be 78. My parents 
left there about 1830, and resided at Newark- 
on-Trent, where my school days were spent. 
At the age of fourteen I was apprenticed to 
a manufacturing ironmonger at Sleaford, in 
Lincolnshire, until the age of 21. It is during 
that interval I well remember tea 8/- per lb., 
and sugar at preserving time 1/6 per lb., bread 
8d., i/-, and 1/6 per quartern loaf; and 
although children of well-to-do parents, we 
were stinted as to our rations of bread, and 
not allowed sugar in our tea. The poor people 
used to come to us clamouring for the tea- 
leaves which had already done their duty well, 
and the spare, dry crusts of bread. Chartists 
and rioters came from Nottingham into 
Newark, parading the streets with penny 
loaves dipped in blood carried on pikes, crying 
' Bread or blood ! ' The four-horse coaches 
were being stopped and robbed continually, 
people being afraid to travel (my father was 
a proprietor in two coaches). When nearing 



GLADSTONE'S TORY DAYS 235 

my 2 1 St birthday wheat was 120/- per quarter. 
A relative of mine held his back, thinking it 
would reach 160/ and wheat-stacks Avere 
fired throughout Lincolnshire, people saying 
if they could not obtain bread the rich should 
not. Our prisons were being rapidly filled. 
Were these good times for the farmer ? No. 
The landlords raised the rents because they 
were doing so well. 

" I was then a good-looking, handsome, but 
conceited Conservative dandy, something like 
the present date, being educated in a hotbed 
of Toryism. I knew Mr. Gladstone in his 
early days, and have seen red herrings thrown 
in his and Duke of Newcastle's face when at 
the hustings — red was the Tory colour. 
Were it not for your space being valuable, I 
could relate some startling episodes. I will 
close with one. A tailor at Sleaford was 
cowardly killed by a superintendent of police. 
At the inquest a verdict of ' Justifiable homi- 
cide ' was returned. The case was taken up 
by Ernest Jones, whom I also well remember. 
It was this affair that turned my Toryism of 



236 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

Infancy into my Radicalism of manhood and 
old age." 

Comparatively little light has also been 
thrown on matters from Scotland, Ireland, 
and Wales. Mr. John Bruce, of 358, Great 
Western Road, Aberdeen, writes : " I was 
born in 18 16, and lived 4 years under George 
III., and remember when he died in 1820. I 
remember the Catholic Emancipation Bill in 
1829, passed by the late Duke of Wellington 
and Sir Robert Peel also the excitement and 
great demonstrations that took place over the 
kingdom when the Reform Bill was passed in 
1832. I was a journeyman baker (a youth of 
17) when the late Mr. Gladstone made his first 
speech in the House of Commons, its purport 
being in favour of slavery. 

" These were the days of cruel tyranny and 
small pay to the toiling mass. Every night 
the bakers had to begin work at 10 o'clock 
at night, and when the dough was made had 
a mouthful of supper and then lay down on 
the bare boards, with a sack above us, for an 
hour until the dough was ready, when we 



IN A BAKERY 237 

commenced and worked making bread and 
serving customers until seven or eight o'clock 
in the evening. No matter how short a time 
one had been in bed, they had to rise and 
begin work at 10 o'clock. Four of the 
journeymen, being married, were allowed to 
leave at 6 o'clock, and went home, returning 
at 10 o'clock. The bedroom that I and 
another young man had to sleep in being 
above the two ovens, the heat was simply 
suffocating in warm weather. The bed was 
full of bugs, that bit us so that on getting up 
our bodies were one mass of blisters, and so 
sick that we vomited for a considerable time, as 
the whole of the bakehouses in those days were 
underground. Some twenty years ago a doctor 
who was sanitary inspector of a certain district, 
raised an objection against these low bake- 
houses, and this having come under my notice, 
I at once wrote the Dr., and sent him a deal 
of information of the sort needed, and whose 
letters I yet retain expressing his gratitude, 
the result beinor that the whole of these under- 
ground bakehouses were dismantled. 



238 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

" Worn out with cruel toil and poor pay, I 
left London early in 1836 and returned to 
Aberdeen till 1838, as the single men received 
bed and board from their employer. My 
wages as foreman was 7/- per week, bread 
and milk for breakfast, skate or herring and 
potatoes for dinner, and ' pulp ' and bread for 
supper, and had to rise at 4 o'clock every 
morning and at 3 o'clock on Saturday. After 
I had been in business for some time, I pro- 
posed paying my men a money wage, allowing 
them to board where they chose. Other men, 
hearing of this, made a similar claim, and which 
the masters resented. It was won, however, 
and that work shouldn't begin till 5 o'clock 
instead of 4 o'clock. The four-pound loaf in 
those days ranged in price from 8d. to iid., 
and, if I remember rightly, cost the latter 
sum when ' Free Trade ' was won. I was a 
member of the Cobden Club, and attended 
every meeting when he visited Aberdeen, from 
its commencement to its termination, Joseph 
Chamberlain then being an advanced Radical 
and ardent Free Trader. Being- a warm 



WAGES IN ABERDEEN 239 

admirer of his, I retained a number of his 
speeches, particularly the one he delivered in 
Birmingham in 1884, while supporting the 
late John Bright at a Free Trade meeting. 
Having watched Chamberlain's conduct at 
the begfinninor of the war, I will ever maintain 
that but for him there would have been no 
war and now that the war is over he has once 
more thrown the nation into a state of tumult 
owing to his proposal to lay aside Free Trade, 
and to adopt Protection once more, that proved 
such a bane and a curse, while Free Trade 
has been found such a blessing to the nation. 
In Protection days the wages of farm servants, ^ 
foremen horsemen received ^4 for 6 months, 
second ditto ^3 los., and third ditto ^3, while 
females received 25/- to 30/- for the same time. 
Tea was 6/- to 7/6 per pound, while the 
cheapest sugar cost 8d. per pound, while loaf 
1/3, and whisky (not the sort maddening men 
to kill their wives as is common to-day) 2|d. 
per gill and to-day 8d. Aberdeen had two 

' Presumably Mr. Bruce means in the neighbourhood of 
Aberdeen. 



240 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

newspapers, the Journa/ {sind which still exists) 
and the Herald, now substituted by the Free 
Press, the one published on Wednesday and 
the other on Saturday, and cost 7d. each. A 
letter to Inverurie cost 5^d., and to London 
1/3^. To show the power exercised by the 
aristocracy in these dark days, they not only 
had their letters and correspondence passed 
through the Post Office free, but were granted 
the liberty of franking (as it was called) a 
letter or paper for any one, and which also 
passed through the Post Office free. To such 
an extent was this privilege abused that their 
women-folks were sending their lap dogs and 
fancy birds through the post free, when after 
a while a new postmaster put an end to it. 
Owing to work being scarce, low wages, and 
dear food, riots were continually taking place 
in all the big towns in the South, when the 
soldiers had to be called out. On one occasion 
the cavalry had to use their sabres ere peace 
could be restored. Chartism was rampant, and 
a report having been spread that a large 
number of them were coming to Aberdeen 



RESTRICTIONS 241 

from the South, a large number of citizens 
were sworn in (of which I was one) as special 
constables, and for three nights on end we had 
to tramp the streets. Nothing came of it, 
however. 

"In these hateful times the several guilds 
had the power to prevent any extranear (i.e., 
a stranger, or one not a Freeman, or that had 
not served a seven years' apprenticeship with 
a Freeman) to open a shop. I being one of 
these, was made to pay a fine on three occa- 
sions. I and a few others in a similar position 
determined that we should be free of this cruel 
tyranny, wrote the late Joseph Hume, M.P. 
for Montrose, explaining our position and 
asking his advice. He bade us correspond 
with all the other Royal boroughs of Scotland, 
get as many petitions numerously signed as 
possible, and send them to him not later than 
the 30th August, when the big folks would be 
leaving for their shootings. This we did, and 
shortly after the whole boroughs were thrown 
open. 

" Now in my 88 year, sight and memory 
16 



242 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

failing, and having written my long letter at 
different times, it is not only sadly disconnected, 
but full of many errors, which kindly forgive. 
Land and liquor are the two things that have 
long damned society, and never can society be 
improved until they are sternly grappled with." 

Irishmen must have suffered more than 
others under Protection. Indeed, it was the 
failure of the Irish potato crop that compelled 
Sir Robert Peel to remove the Corn Tax. 
The writer of the followinor letter miq-ht 
perhaps have given us more details of Irish 
life in the forties, but there are perhaps 
horrors enough in these letters without having 
details of the Irish famine. Admirers of Mr. 
Chamberlain should, however, remember that 
behind the England of our letters, with its 
poverty and hunger, there was a yet more 
miserable country than England. What Ire- 
land was like in the forties can hardly be 
imagined. 

" I am afraid there are few survivors of that 
period of over a half a century ago, who had 
ocular demonstration of the terrible scenes 



THREATS OF REBELLION 243 
witnessed in these islands, when the ports 
were blockaded by heavy tariffs, against the 
importation of cheap food for the people. 

" I, however, have lived through it and 
date my acquaintance from 1849, with the 
grim signs and dark forebodings that threat- 
ened a national and violent revolution. 

*' The great Chartist movement was nothing 
more than a fierce revolt ag-ainst low waa-es 
and dear food. The sweating and grinding 
of labour were a disgrace even to the lowest 
form of civilisation. 

" Those who are living to-day have not the 
remotest idea of the miserable conditions of 
life, and of the bitter suffering, to which the 
mass of the people were subjected, through 
the pangs of poverty and the wild struggle 
for existence. 

"How the toiling classes subsisted at all, 
under the shadow of a huge monopoly that 
crushed Free Trade and deprived them of 
the right of the natural expansion of their 
energies and their talents, is a problem that 
requires solving. The only thing that abso- 



244 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
lutely saved them occasionally from famine 
was the low rentals, that could not be otherwise 
under the hard and strange circumstances. In 
the cold winter, when the prevalence of frost 
and snow added to the terrors of the situa- 
tion, I have seen them in groups and gangs, 
parading the streets of London, with hunger 
written on their faces, objects of pity, appeal- 
ing for charity. Bad as they were, in the 
provincial towns they suffered more. The 
clamorous and silent victims of a criminal 
fiscal policy were everywhere. Riots were of 
daily occurrence, the military called out, 
and desperate encounters took place, always 
ending in bloodshed. 

"Such was the state of Merry England in 
the happy days of Protection. 

" But heartrending as the sights were in 

o o 

London and the towns, away in the rural 
districts the miseries endured by the peasantry 
were more pathetic and impressive. Subju- 
gated by the landlords, whose tyrranny was 
awfull, they bore, with depressing patience, the 
hard lot to which they were assigned. But 



POVERTY OF IRELAND 245 

the flow of that patience was often interupted, 
when hayricks were flaming and the game 
preserves of the gentry ravaged. With wheat 
at £2 15s. per quarter, and clover at £"] per 
ton, yet, although the prices of all farm 
produce ranged high in proportion, the un- 
fortunate serf, bound to the soil, was, on the 
average, receiving only seven shillings per 
week. The families were living in a state for 
which you find a comparison in the develop- 
ment of primitive man. Their diet was the 
meanest, and scanty, and barely sufficient to 
hold together body and soul, consisting of 
vegetables, bad brown bread, and inferior fat 
bacon, in small quantities and their dwellings 
were rotten structures in which whole genera- 
tions lived and died in squalid misery. 

" But of all the pictures of human woes and 
sorrows, Ireland, where I was born, in those 
eventful and unforgotten days, presented the 
darkest and most repulsive features. All the 
dreadful afflictions, in the shapes of famine, 
starvation, and plague, which made humanity 
shudder, could be directly traced to the insane 



246 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

and dangerous laws that fettered and paralysed 
the industries of the people, by maintaining 
wicked and cruel tariffs that robbed the 
brightest of mankind of the right to live. 

" But here I stop, as this letter is already 
too long. — Yours truly, " M. Greny, 

"25, Pearson Street, Kingsland Road, N.E. 

" I subjoin a few items respecting the prices 
of food and labour, taken from memory, and for 
the correctness of which I pledge myself, and 
which may be of some interest to you. 



Tea, per lb. 
Coffee, per lb. ... 
Sugar, brown, per lb. 
Sugar, loaf, per lb. 
Bread, 4-lb. loaf... 



s. d. 
4 o 
3 o 
o 6 
o 7 
o 10 



" All other articles of consumtion propor- 
tionately high. 

Skilled workman ... ... 28s. weekly. 

Unskilled workman 15s. „ 

Policeman i8s. „ 

Tailors, good hands, from los. to 20s. „ 
(From 12 to 16 hours a day.) 



RECIPE FOR BROTH 247 

" This rate ruled in London, but much lower 
in the provinces." 

This, from Mr. Samuel Nuttall, of Holywell, 
is our only letter from Wales : — 

"The writer is now in his 71st year, and 
well remembers what he states of that time, 
from 1846. He well remembers the price of 
sugar, sandy in colour, at gd. per lb., loaf sugar 
1/2 per lb., and the price of other commodities of 
food at very high and prohibitive prices for the 
poor. I was the son of a small farmer, and 
fared better than many a one, as we had plenty 
of food, as it was but we were very hard up 
many a time, although we fared well. Our 
rent was repeatedly risen, should there happen 
to be a fair crop on the land. Many a time I 
remember poor people — and nearly everybody 
was poor — coming to my home to beg a few 
turnips to make broth. And what a broth ! I 
give you a simple receipt. Perhaps I had 
better describe the bread. At the time it was 
barley bread, and that very sour as a rule. 
When the harvest happened to be bad, that 
bread could not be kneaded properly, and 



248 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
when baked the outer crust was very hard. 
The Inside was like clay, and smelt. In 
trying to cut it, it was sticking to the knife 
like glue. This was the kind of bread used for 
food. Now for the broth. The turnips were 
boiled, and when ready, the liquid, i.e., the 
water, was poured on the bread, then flavoured 
with salt and pepper — when it could be had 
not a morsel of meat or anything else in. 
Here is another kind of broth. A herring was 
placed on the potatoes when boiling, and the 
liquid of this also was a dainty that those 
gentlemen who now wish to put on taxes on 
the food of the poor should be fed with for a 
month or two. I remember myself having 
some of the bread I have described in broth 
or milk. It stuck to the roof of my mouth, and 
the only way to get it off was by taking the 
handle end of the spoon to loosen it from the 
roof. The only white or wheaten bread we 
had was a small loaf, the price of which was 
2d., for tea on Sunday, and that was cut very 
thin and placed between two slices of black 
bread, and we thought we had luxuries. The 



"HIGH LIVING" 249 

families that could afford 2 or 3 lbs. of fresh 
meat on Sunday were looked on as very 
high livers indeed. Children and women 
(mothers) were begging a little lard or dripping 
to put on the bread instead of butter, and a 
pound of sugar had to last for a week, and 
sometimes for a fortnight. Tea was bought by 
the J of an ounce, the price being about 6/- 
a pound. Bread and black treacle was the food 
of children, and, in many cases, of whole 
families. 

" Clothing was very scarce. The same clothes 
had to do for all the boys that happened to be 
of the same family and near the same size, 
wearing them alternately when going from 
home, or to church or chapel. Some were 
fairly fit, and others were much too large for 
the wearers, and some the other way some 
with trousers turned up, others too short by 
about 10 inches. The sleeves of the coats 
were similar, and to see grown-up people in 
these garments would astonish the food taxers, 
I presume. 

" The wages of the best farm servants 



250 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

(males) was 5/- per week and food, the lower 
ones was 6d. and yd. The men kept on large 
farms to thresh the corn earned from 5/- to 7/- 
per week. There were no threshing machines 
then, only human ones, and it was their work 
all round the year. The wages of lead miners — 
and there were a good many in these parts — was 
7/- to 9/- a week, and If a miner could get 10/- 
per week he was considered very lucky 
indeed. 

" The plight of mostly all the working classes 
was pitiful. The only mode of illumination at 
that time was by candles ! And what candles ! 
They were what was called "dips," and they 
were used very sparing — most of the nights 
were passed in the dark. The only light they 
had was that of a small fire, doing most of their 
work in the dark, some burning half a candle, 
others an inch or two. The parties that could 
have a candle to burn until bedtime were 
lucky. 

" I remember many other sad things of those 
hard times but perhaps it is as advisable that 
I should draw an end here." 



THE ENGLAND OF THE LETTERS 



CHAPTER VII 

THE ENGLAND OF THE LETTERS 

{By Brougham Villiers) 

The letters printed in the foregoing chapters 
read like the records of a besieged city. They 
describe a state of things enduring not for a few 
weeks, but for a full generation, in which the 
tragedy of poverty had become nearly universal, 
in which the "submerged tenth" of our own 
day was nearly co-extensive with the nation. 
Upon the whole, we are convinced, our country 
has never passed through so terrible a time 
before or since. Right through the Middle 
Ages sporadic famines occurred, and there 
were years of terrible dearth, due to defective 
harvests but so continuous a period of 
systematic underfeeding of the whole nation 



254 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
never before occurred. Sooth to say, there 
was some foundation for the plentiful beef and 
ale with which we, as a people, were once 
credited. Thorold Rogers and Professor 
Ashley alike insist that the England of the 
Middle Ages was well fed. The peasantry of 
early Plantagenet times, according to the latter, 
lived in a state of " rude plenty," while Rogers 
has extolled the fifteenth century as the 
" golden age " of the British working man. 

But from the time of the Reformation there 
had been a steady decline in the material well- 
beino- of the British working class. Their 

o o 

organisations had been broken up in the 
villages, and had become, in the towns, close 
corporations, to which the poor man had no 
access. He was left to face the difficulties 
of the Industrial Revolution with no trade or 
other organisations of his own, and with the 
machinery of the State in the hands of the 
class most hostile to him. The great war with 
France had raised corn to famine prices, and 
accustomed the landlords to enormous rent- 
rolls, which they desired to retain in time of 



ANARCHY OF THE TIME 255 
peace. This could only be done by some 
system reproducing the economic conditions 
which the termination of the war would other- 
wise have ended. In other words, the island, 
since it was not now besieged by its enemies, 
must be besieged by its rulers. Tariffs must 
undo the mischief wrought by the peace and 
make dear the produce of the land. 

The calamity which the Corn Laws inflicted 
on the people found them rather prepared to 
endure than to resist. On the one hand 
they had, as we have seen, no organisation 
nor political power. The protests of the 
working classes, as such, then, could only 
take a form essentially anarchic in character. 
There is no doubt that, from the first, they 
were bitterly opposed to the bread tax but 
their only means of resisting it were by bread 
riots and chronic law-breaking. But unfor- 
tunately, as we have said, if they had little 
power to resist, the working classes were better 
fitted than at any other time to endure. Pro- 
bably at no time in our history was the poor 
man of so little account as durin^ the seven- 



256 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

teenth and eighteenth centuries. With, as we 
have said, no organisations of his own, no 
institution in village or nation in the control 
of which his voice counted for anything, he 
was used to doing everything on the orders of 
his "betters," and had come to acquiesce in a 
view of life which virtually regarded him as 
outside the pale of civilisation. For him the 
" polite letters " of the eighteenth century did 
not exist. The philosophers regarded him as 
quite beneath the range of their ideas. 
Religions were all "to philosophers equally 
false, to the vulgar equally true, to Statesmen 
equally useful," i.e., to keep the people in their 
place. These words of Gibbon express the 
general attitude of the most advanced thought 
to the common people. The people them- 
selves had for several generations been driven 
to- solve the problem of living under, on the 
whole, harder and harder conditions. Their 
hours had become lons^er, and their wao-es, 
relatively to the price of food, lower and lower 
with each generation. A thoroughly vicious 
poor law had completed the work begun by the 



MUTUAL AID ABSENT 257 

destruction of their democratic organisations, 
and accustomed them to look for work and 
charity, not to themselves and their fellows, 
but to the contemptuous patronage of the 
squires. They had learnt much already of the 
expedients of penury they had lost almost the 
instinct and entirely the practice of mutual aid. 
They were, therefore, equally fitted to bear and 
unfitted to resist a new oppression and still 
sterner poverty. 

Of all this the letters bear abundant traces, 
however the changed conditions of their later 
lives may have altered the outlook of the 
writers. We get a vivid picture of the reality 
of the struggle with poverty. We see the 
pitiful expedients resorted to to obtain a sub- 
stitute for tea. Burnt crusts, dried herbs, or 
old tea-leaves, were beorored from the houses of 
well-to-do people. We hear of families buying 
J oz. of tea for a week, and these not among 
slum-dwellers, but among regularly employed, 
respectable work people. Tea, one of the 
commonest luxuries of the poor now, indeed 
the only luxury of many thousands, plays what 
17 



258 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

will appear to some readers an unduly pro- 
minent part in the correspondence. It is, as 
we have said, almost the only luxury of many 
poor people, and the time when tea could not 
be obtained seems to them almost as horrible 
to look back upon as the days of dear bread. 
As bread is the peasant woman's prime 
necessity, so tea is her chief comfort without 
the one life could not be, without the other it 
would be much more dreary than those who 
have many other luxuries imagine. Thus it is 
that there is a real pathos about these pitiful 
attempts we read of to provide a substitute, 
and that we so often find this comfort specified 
amonor those things of which but a little could 

o o 

be bought. 

The letters raise our curiosity as to what, 
xinder Protection, was really the staple food of 
the people. Cobbett feared that England 
would submit to be fed on the detested potato. 
In his time there was clearly a tendency to 
substitute for dear bread this cheaper food. 
Indeed, Cobbett hardly thinks of the potato as 
a vegetable, as it is used now, but as a possible 



A FAMILY BUDGET 259 

substitute for bread and bacon, the proper food, 
in his opinion, of the cottager. A quotation 
from a nearly contemporary pamphlet which 
has come into our hands states that "potatoes 
are almost the sole food of labouring poor, 
because the cheapest. No man can do a good 
day's work, or be kept in health and strength, 
under ten pounds during 24 hours." The 
writer then estimates the expenses of a 
labourer's family, where the man is constantly 
employed at 8s. a week, and has a wife and 
two children, as follows : — 

£ s. d. 

Potatoes 800 

Cottage or Lodgings 3 3 o 

Shoes and repairs for labourer, 12s.; 

for wife and family, 8s. ... ... i o o 

Various articles and clothing — labourer, 

£^2 5s. family, X"! los 315 o 

Fuel ...100 

^16 18 o 



" This leaves," he says, " a surplus of ^3 i8s. 
to furnish tools, candles, soap, and numerous 
little articles. It is to be recollected that the 



26o THE HUNGRY FORTIES 

above statement confines the diet of the 
labourer and family exclusively to potatoes and 
water, instead of allowing him the more expen- 
sive luxury of bread, and supposes him to be 
regularly employed during the whole year, 
when the fact is that this is not the happy lot 
of more than half the class ! " This family 
budget appears rather fanciful, as it seems 
rather much, even for a rural labourer, to eat 
ten pounds of potatoes in a day but it is clear 
that the tendency which Cobbett feared, to 
substitute potatoes for bread, had made some 
progress in the ten years between the publica- 
tion of " Cottage Economy " and this pamphlet. 
That the cheap potato played a much larger 
part in the feeding of the people than at present, 
is clear from many of the letters. There are 
many cases where the dinner of the family was 
confined to potatoes, with a little lard or 
dripping and it appears that when the coming 
of the potato disease and the repeal of the 
Corn Laws arrested the process, the English 
working classes were rapidly being driven to 
make their staple food of the potato. The 



COBBETT'S OPINION 261 

invective of Cobbett probably voiced a good 
deal of real popular feeling, but the point to 
note is that though he foresaw the danger, yet, 
as late as 1824, the substitution seems not to 
have proceeded anything like so far as it had 
even ten or twenty years later, otherwise he 
would have pointed out more clearly the extent 
of the abuse. He seems to have considered 
that the people mainly lived upon bread in 
spite of the encroachments of the hated root. 
Even when the people did get bread it was 
not always made from wheat. We see litde 
barley bread nowadays, and, to judge from our 
letters, this is not to be wondered at. It seems 
to have obtained a peculiarly evil reputation, 
not shared by apparendy coarser substitutes for 
wheat, like oats and rye. " You do not know 
what heartburn means till you have eaten 
barley bread," says one correspondent, and it 
is evident, from the manner in which it is 
usually spoken of, that the barley bread was 
hard to digest. Cobbett, on the other hand, 
advised it and as he is a sincere well-wisher 
of the cottager according to his lights — that is 



262 THE HUNGRY FORTIES 
to say he wished him to have plenty of solid 
food and country sports, with no fancy book- 
learning, theatres, or town fashions — we must 
suppose that it was not always so bad. 
Probably the truth is that barley bread, unless 
the grain has been well won, is worse than 
others, and that in the fiery hatred against it, 
of which the reader will find proof in the 
letters themselves, we have an echo of the bad 
harvests of the late thirties, at the beginning of 
Cobden's campaign. One thing is clear, it is 
a very bad thing to be driven back on English- 
grown barley for a staple food in view of the 
uncertainty of the national climate. These 
people who found barley bread so hard to 
digest are men and women, for the most part, 
of better than the average constitution, or else 
they would not have lived to contribute to the 
" Hungry Forties." If they remember the 
terrors of barley bread all these years, what 
must their more delicate brothers and sisters 
have suffered ? 

But there was a dancrer that the English 
people would be driven to yet lower kinds of 


"TURNIP STEALING" 263 

food than potatoes or barley bread. The 
prominent part that swede turnips played in 
the diet of the people will probably strike most 
readers with horror. Here, indeed, we come to 
a food basis on which it seems impossible that 
healthy life can be maintained. Even now 
turnips are not infrequently resorted to by the 
unfortunate dwellers in our city slums, who in 
this respect are even worse off than their 
forefathers. The turnip is the last refuge of 
desperate poverty, for as long as there is any 
money with which to buy food, it is almost 
certain to be spent on something better. But 
it is much easier, especially in the country, to 
steal a turnip for dinner than almost anything 
else. Only one big one need be taken at a 
time, and after it has been taken up, and the 
poor thief is off the field, it is impossible for 
any one to prove that it has not just been 
picked up off the road. Instances have come 
to our own knowledge where families in city 
slums have lived for several days on turnips 
stolen nighdy from the nearest fields. This 
manner of living appears to have been much 
more common during the forties, however, and 
there are many instances in the letters of 
famihes having turnips only for dinner. That 
they were sometimes, probably often, stolen is 
clear, but it does not, of course, follow that 
they were always so. There must have been 
a good deal of give-and-take charity in those 
days, and probably the hardest farmers would 
not refuse to give away a swede or two to any 
one who begged for them. 

How hard a struggle the people had to 
clothe themselves can well be imagined. It 
was here, indeed, that the Corn Laws hit the 
cotton and woollen manufacturers so hardly. 
After the people had bought enough of the 
coarsest food they hardly could have any 
money left for anything else. How they got 
clothed at all is a mystery. We read of lads 
sitting in bed on Sunday to patch a pair of 
trousers for the week of farmers going to 
church in clothes which the modern labourer 
would hardly appear in on a week-day, and of 
places where hardly any of the men had a 
waistcoat unless they had collected enough 
mole-skins to make one. It is here, in fact, 
that we first realise that our comparison of 
" Protected " England to a besieged city is not 
entirely adequate. A siege of moderate 
duration, however it may distress the people 
for food, does not necessarily raise in an acute 
form the problem of clothing. Old garments 
may be made to do till the siege ends, one way 
or other. But from the beginning of the 
French War until the repeal of the Corn Laws, 
a period of sixty years, this country was in a 
state of semi-siege. During the whole of that 
time an underfed people had to buy every 
article of clothing at the cost of further severe 
privation in feeding. Everything was bought 
at the expense of a hard sacrifice elsewhere. 
It is no wonder, then, that the manufacturers 
of Manchester and Leeds found the home 
market inelastic, and that when, through im- 
proved machinery, they had cheapened the 
price of textiles, they were not recouped by 
increased sales. 

Working-class women, heavily burdened as 
they are now, were terribly oppressed in 
Protection times. It must not be supposed 
that there is any one case in the letters of 
feminine overwork that could not too probably 
be paralleled in some cases now, but certainly 
things were much worse then. Our letters 
give instances of women going out to severe 
work in the fields at sixpence a day, within a 
few days of childbirth of a woman being 
brutally beaten by an estate bailiff, of another 
crying at the price of bread. The tragedy of 
a poor man's wife must have been very bitter 
in the forties. Even on the wages of a modern 
mechanic in full employ, the task of making 
both ends meet every week is one of which 
too few people realise the dreary difficulty. 
How it is done we confess we do not know 
and the fact that so many working women 
manage to rear families on even moderately 
good wages, like thirty or forty shillings a week, 
without getting into debt, is one that has 
always filled us with the deepest admiration 
and respect. Capacity for affairs can be as 
clearly shown on a small scale as on a great, 
and we consider this relatively common achieve- 
ment a striking proof of a capacity for manage- 
ment too rarely admitted. 

But if the balancing of the present working- 
class budget be a feat of management, what 
must it have been in the forties? Briefly, we 
think, one of the most terrible and heartbreak- 
ing tasks ever imposed on human-kind. What, 
we suspect, lightens the burden of ways and 
means to women, is the possibility of squeezing 
sixpence or a shilling out for some little extra, 
some treat in the food line, or a little to save 
towards buying a coveted ornamental or useful 
article for the house. But every such solace 
was denied to the poor woman who, with bread 
at IS. a quartern loaf, had to feed a family on a 
waoe of six or ei"ht shillings a week. Before 
her lay only the hope of avoiding starvation 
underfeeding to some extent was inevitable, 
having even a penny to spare to gratify any 
fancy of her own was out of the question. She 
had to manage her house, make a balance 
somehow, and work outside for dear life as 
well. It is no wonder, then, that the women 
play a prominent part in our letters. Their 
mental and bodily suffering must have been 
truly awful. One shudders to think of it. 

There are many pictures of startling pathos 
in the letters. Perhaps the most poignant is 
that of the Dorsetshire labourer and his wife 
"crying like babies" as their child eat their 
one crust, softened in hot water, with the eager- 
ness of a long day's fast. We have the case 
of the woman crying because she could get no 
more than a bloater for her overworked 
husband's dinner. But, indeed, these pages 
are wet with the tears of women and 
children, as they are lightened with many 
instances of devoted unselfishness on the part 
of parents. The letters bear witness to the 
deep, subdued anarchy of the time, of the riot- 
ing, rick-burning, poaching, and general lawless- 
ness of the starving people. Sometimes there 
are epic glimpses of primitive violence. The 
picture of the house-mother standing outside 
her door, and feeding with stew and bread a 
body of riotous Lancashire men, stands out as 
from the pages of some Iceland saga, and 
seems strangely out of place to those accustomed 
to the bourgeois order of the later 
nineteenth century. But unless we fix our 
eyes on the anarchic character of the period, 
we have not grasped the full horror of the 
Corn Tax. In spite of the long years interven- 
ing since their childhood, the writers echo the 
tone of the time when they were young. They 
bring to politics a spirit well-nigh dead, the 
spirit of moral indignation against oppression. 
The oppressions that exist now have a less 
obvious source they are either less widely 
diffused or caused by a less crude form of 
selfishness. The people suffer from them, but 
they do not trace so clearly their cause to an 
obvious source their privations seem rather 
due to the cruelty of nature than of law, and 
hence they do not arouse such a spirit of law- 
lessness. 

" He that withholdeth the corn, the people 
shall curse him but blessing shall be upon the 
head of him that selleth it." This proverb is 
the earliest instance, as we hope some of our 
letters are the last, of the long protest of the 
poor in history against those who make dear 
the bread of the people. 

 
 
 
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