C. Duncan Lucas, from Scenes
from Factory London
average person has little idea of the immensity
of London's Factory-land or of the vast
number of people who find employment there.
In its busy hives hundreds of thousands of
workers are engaged day by day in performing
some essential service to the British race;
and it is not too much to say that if its
factories were to disappear this big, ever-growing
city would be bereft of half its strength.
Let us visit that huge place opposite, the
yard of which is stacked with timber. A regiment
of bright-looking women and girls arrayed
in many colours have just trooped in. They
are match-makers, and the factory belongs
to Messrs. R. Bell and Co., of Bromley-by-Bow.
Picture to yourself a gigantic room, clean
and airy. To the right a couple of drums
in charge of women are revolving, and on
these drums are strands of cotton — a
hundred of them, and each one 2,500 yards
in length. On its way from one drum to the
other the cotton is drawn through a pan of
>> note 1 until
its coating of wax is of the required thickness. It is then put aside, and
when it is sufficiently firm it is given over to the young woman on our left.
She is a fine-looking girl. Quietly dressed
and with an air of responsibility about her,
she is a young mother. Her husband is employed
at the soap works hard by, and though some
one has to tend the babies during the day
she is happy — happy because there
are two incomes to maintain the bairns
>> note 2 in
plenty. Her daily output is 2,500,000 match stems. Watch her. She has a cutting
machine all to herself, and as the strands of wax flow into the frame she
presses her thumbs at a certain spot, and behold a hundred stems are cut.
Her thumbs never weary. The stems ready, up they go to the roof to be dipped.
A man stands at a slab on which is spread the composition — a thick
paste. He takes a frame and presses it on to the slab, and in ten seconds
you have 10,000 finished matches. If any one should suffer from the deadly "phossy
>> note 3 this
man should, for he has been dipping matches for a quarter of a century, but
he breathes the air of Heaven — the kindly proprietors, who do not
look upon their employees merely as so many machines, lay stress on this — and
as a further precaution fans are kept going throughout the day to drive away
No one is idle here. Big strapping girls
are making wooden boxes at the rate of 120
gross a day: others are filling the boxes
with matches at a speed that beggars description;
while over the way men are cutting timber
for wooden "lights" with knives
as sharp as razors.
If time did not press there would be much
more to see, but we are due at Hackney Wick
to witness 2,000 men and women making sweets.
The factory of Messrs. Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs
supplies the sweet-toothed brigade of Great
Britain with 2,000 varieties of sweets, and
so agreeable is the stuff that in the course
of twelve months from fifteen to twenty tons
of it are consumed by the employees themselves.
Step into this building by the railway where
the workers are a hundred strong. Some are
boiling sugar in great pans, some are kneading
a thick, jellylike, transparent substance
that we have never seen before. It is sugar
and water. One woman is especially vigorous,
and we admire her biceps. Presently she flings
her jelly on to an iron peg and proceeds
to pull it about with the strength of a Sandow.
>> note 4 In
two or three minutes it resembles a beautiful
skein of silk. Later on it will go through
a rolling machine, from which it will emerge
a delicious sweetmeat.
There are few more curious sights than those
that are presented at a sweet factory. On
our tour of inspection we drop into the fondant
>> note 5 room.
It is full of grey-headed women. But they
are not aged. Their greyness is merely
starch. Wash away the starch and you have
pretty young Englishwomen. These grey-faced
damsels make the starch moulds into which
the fondant material in its liquid state
is dropped to be properly shaped. Walk
upstairs and you have a contrast. An apartment
is reserved for the exertions of half a
dozen girls whose complexions are of a
rich coffee colour. Brown as a berry, we
put them down as thorough-bred Africans:
But they are Cockneys, and brown only because
they dabble in coffee and cocoa beans.
They are experts in chocolate.
What an industry this is! Men and women,
old and young, scrupulously clean, 2,000
of them, are working for dear life. Literally
tons of sweets are in the process of making.
Suddenly a bell clangs. It is the dinner
hour. Labour ceases on the instant, and 700
women troop into the great dining-hall, where
penny, twopenny, and threepenny meals are
in readiness. There is some chaffing
>> note 6 going
on to-day, and on inquiry we learn that
a chocolate specialist is about to be married.
As she has been making sweets for five
years, the good-natured firm will present
her with a five-pound note on her wedding
now at our photographic picture of a corner
of a department in the great tobacco factory
belonging to Messrs. Salmon and Gluckstein,
Clarence Works, City Road. In this room are
employed some 250 persons — Englishmen,
Scotsmen, Welshmen, Irishmen, Frenchmen,
Germans, Scandinavians, Dutchmen, Belgians,
Poles, and others — and they make cigars
all day long, from two to three hundred per
day apiece. There is no busier spot in the
universe than a tobacco factory. Scrutinize
these men; read their faces. Doggedness is
written all over them; their fingers are
never idle; their backs never ache. As soon
as a man has finished his hundred cigars
away he rushes to get enough leaf to produce
another hundred. He earns on an average from £2
10s. to £3 a week. In the next room
women are just as busy. These are stripping
the stalks from the leaves; those are sorting
the leaves for quality; to the right, men
are employed in preparing the leaf for the
cigar maker. In other rooms you find girls
busily engaged in banding, bundling, and
boxing cigars, which are then passed on for
maturing. In an adjoining department cigarette
making is in progress on a colossal scale,
and many machines are here running at a high
rate of speed, producing huge quantities
of cigarettes hourly. Apart from these machines,
very large numbers of men and women are engaged
in making cigarettes by hand.
The whole factory is a beehive of activity.
Yet despite the feverish movements, which
form the chief characteristic of this splendidly
equipped establishment, there is a pleasant
sense of comfort about the place. Of stuffiness
there is none; every room is well lighted
and ventilated, and both men and women are
not only interested but happy in their work.
Perfection of organization and consideration
for the welfare and health of the employees
are apparent throughout this huge and up-to-date