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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 81

Chapter V. — The Message from Bradford.—Social Problems and Industry.—Municipal Enterprise in Evolution.—the Busy Black Worstedopolis

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Chapter V.

The Message from Bradford.—Social Problems and Industry.—Municipal Enterprise in Evolution.—the Busy Black Worstedopolis.

The long street dips into the valley where the city is gathered in the twilight blurred and faint beneath the smoke. The western skies gleam with infinite tenderness and soar above to the first few stars that slip shyly into the dusk. Tall, slender shafts, looming up from the valley, soften with pinnacle and spire into shadowland. The night descends into dreamy splendour and all the world grows dark and still.

But the street is full of murmurs—the city awakes to the turmoil of the Saturday night. Electric moons flash and shiver with uncertain fire a moment ere they burst into the full blood of brilliance. The streets burn with exultant glitter from end to end and over pavement and roadway, busy throngs of people swarm. Penny squeakers and hoarse, gruff voices strike a dominant note of discord over the harmony of endless feet pattering softly on the cobbles. The markets are filled to overflowing and from street to street of the historic city of Bradford, through all the highways of the "Worstedopolis of the globe," the crowd stream, bright faced, eager and strenuous. The city is ablaze with light and laughter. These full-throated, hearty people of the North know well how to laugh; mirth, shrill and deep, rollicks through the street. But with the buoyant spirit, the gay dresses, comes a contrast that makes one pause—the contrast of grey figures in shawls gliding by in the shadows, knots of labourers drunken and dirty on the street corner where the glasses clink, and everywhere husky, ragged imps, speaking for a generation of the great unwashed. None the less there is a certain sturdy spirit, a marked individuality about these big burly Bradford men. There is frightful dirt, congestion and often disease amongst the people; there are the elements associated with human strife and sweat for existence in the life of a big manufacturing centre; but there are, too, the character and resoluteness stamped in many a face that has kept Bradford with one hand on the fleece and the other on the world.

The city proper is crowded into a valley reaching out on all sides to steep slopes that have gradually been built on as the residential areas spread. The modern conception of laying out a city to secure broad and convenient arteries for its traffic, air spaces, lighting and picturesque effect, had not been evolved when Bradford was expanding under its industrial impulse. The extension and laying out of streets was a matter entirely for private enterprise. There was no adequate supervision of plans, no scheme that had regard for the whole city. Building by-laws were, for all intents and purposes, a dead letter. The consequence was an extraordinary maze of dirty narrow streets straggling outwards, crowded on all sides with the maximum of building by individual landlords. Factories of all description were wedged in amongst the residential areas and with them came innumerable tall shafts plumed with smoke, so that to-day there is hardly an acre in the whole city where industry does not reign.

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"By-Law Road."

"By-Law Road."

The effect of a cast-iron system of by-laws. A road one chain wide, with forty houses to the acre

[See Chapter IX.

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One might come and go thus through all the striking array Bradford offers, from slum and dreary areas of workers, homes to factories, from black public edifices to the suburban freshness on the hills, and without having regard to its antecedents, speak of it as many do—"a dreadful place."

The impression is as superficial as it is misleading. Bradford, in fact, is the most progressive Municipality in England. It has done more and fought hard for that progress, the genesis of which it was so intimately associated with. It had much the same legacy in horrible overcrowded areas, narrow streets and vested interests left to it as was the case with Leeds. Its early records of death, disease, pauperism and public indifference to the welfare of the masses were just as potent. Its early public services were mostly in the hands of private companies, whose first consideration was necessarily profit-making. The Tecord of child labour in its mills and those in the immediate vicinity, the story of its pre-legislative days in the matter of excessively long hours of workers, of poorly paid wages, and revolting conditions of labour were all much the record of industrial England ere Parliament became bold enough to interfere and override, step by step, the uncontrolled power of the individual to exploit the mass.

The industrial people of Bradford, as a class, were too restless and keen a body to submit to the conditions under which they came to work and exist, notwithstanding that many of them were necessarily oblivious to anything better. They emphasised in their lives that resolution, energy and independence for which Yorkshire people are noted. Nowhere did the opposition to the introduction of machinery in early days take a more violent form than in Bradford, was those inherited characteristics of [unclear: are] people which were responsible for such insubordination, that in turn brought about the movement for municipal and industrial reform—the movement that resulted in Bradford securing a magnificent water supply, efficient sewerage, municipally owned markets, a remarkable revenue producing electric tramway service, complete with a parcels delivery department, its own electric lighting and service of power for industrial purposes, a splendid system of public baths and washhouses, the opening of parks, art galleries, free libraries, a complete technical college, efficient public schools, the feeding of and the medical inspection of children, a municipal police, the destruction of overcrowded areas, the widening of its main throughfares, the creation of a municipal milk depot and other things making for public welfare and industrial efficiency. The story of all this development and expansion of the collective possibilities of the community is fraught with strife, bitterness, greed, enthusiasm, sacrifice and determination. It is one of the most instructive things in grappling with social problems to realise how reform, at any period, has been obstructed and held back by a certain section of the people. The reason is that reform is invariably ahead of the time, and it has to gather such strength in its adversity that it will not only sweep away opposition, but secure its hold strong enough to be proof against reaction. This has been Bradford's experience.

The feeding of the school children by the Municipality received the authority of Parliament in 1906. Bradford availed itself with alacrity of the provisions of the new act under which the cost of feeding can be recovered from the parents, or, with the permission of the Board of Education, borne by the local authority up to a rate of ½d in the £ (annual value). In England, the under-feeding of children is not a local or temporary evil page 40 to be met by spasmodic efforts of public or private charity. It is one of those frightful evils that are directly traceable to the economic and social conditions under which the parents exist. It threatens the stamina of the whole race. In London alone, up to December last, when the L.C.C. decided to undertake the feeding of children, there were 120,000 little folks went to school every day without breakfast and were underfed. This melancholy fact was the rule and not the exception for all the populous centres in England. In Bradford, the question had been a burning one for years. The Cinderella Club, associated with the names of Robert Blatchford and Margaret McMillan, had been feeding and clothing the children in the slums for several winters, and their efforts woke Bradford up to the tragedy of child-life in its midst. The meetings were thronged by authors, philanthropists, politicians, parsons, teachers, soap-box orators and the movement spread through all classes. The result was that Bradford began with 808 children and now something like 2000 are being fed. The food is distributed from a central kitchen to thirteen dining halls in the poorer parts of the city. Reports show that there are 6000 children in Bradford underfed, so the work of the Educational Committee goes on steadily increasing. The Council has already exceeded the limit of expenditure imposed by Parliament. On asking one of the City Councillors what would happen when the Government Auditor came along, he put it to me this way: "Well, the auditor will send in his report and a demand will be made upon the Councillors personally to refund the illegal expenditure. The Councillors will all naturally refuse to pay. Then there will be reams and reams of correspondence with the Local Government Board lasting for six months, after which we will probably get our own way. The matter will come under the notice of Parliament, and Parliament will be forced to extend its niggardly restrictions. That is the history of most Municipal reforms in England."

It was a remarkable sight to see hundreds of children line up to the tables in one of the large dining halls for the mid-day meal. They get two courses—usually a stew with vegetables and a plain pudding. The teachers of the different schools take it in turn each week to control the serving of the meals and the children themselves undertake the waiting. I made a note of several children, who devoured two full soup plates of stew and then repeated the process with pudding. "That is their first meal to-day," said the superindendent. "These children," he added, indicating a group of pale unhealthy-looking mites, "have just been in a week, those over there have been fed for six weeks." The contrast in appearance between the two groups spoke volumes.

The results of the feeding of school children were very carefully noted by the Medical Officer of Health. The cost of the meals worked out at 1½ d per head. The most remarkable effect noted was that for the first three or four days the majority of the children showed no appetite. The reason for this was that they had from the moment of birth been systematically underfed, and the experience of an appetite was almost unknown. It did not take long, however, for Nature to assert herself. The children were soon eating prodigiously. It was found that each child on an average increased forty-nine ounces in weight every week, whilst the average gain of the ordinary home fed child was only twenty ounces. An interesting fact adduced was that during a fortnight's holiday, when the school children received no meals, they lost on an average 1lb, thus showing immediately the Municipality ceased its

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"Town Planning Road."

"Town Planning Road."

The road itself is about forty-five feet wide, instead of being made out to the full width, thus obviating unnecessary expense in estate development. Note the distance the houses are set back from the frontage and the tree-planted avenue.

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work the children reverted back to the old condition of semi-starvation.

"We hardly know the children," said one of the Infant Mistresses. "They have put on flesh and filled out, whilst the effect on the child's intelligence is indisputable. Summer and winter we used to have children falling off their seats, fainting for the want of food. It was just heart-breaking to try and teach them. The most backward children were invariably those that were underfed." All through Bradford, so far as it is possible for a visitor to discover, there is a remarkable optimism prevailing in regard to the children. The doctrine that feeding would undermine parental responsibility received a rude shock when the Educational Committee showed that it had had scores of letters from parents expressing the utmost gratitude for what has been done, and readily giving payment for the meals supplied. "The question has a much deeper aspect than is commonly realised," said one of the officials in charge. "Nine-tenths of the people do not know how to feed their children. They have not got the means of knowing. When the father and the mother work in the mills, as is usually the case, what hope is there for the child? It therefore devolves upon the Municipality to undertake the work, and with the help of medical science and the specialised knowledge of foods that exist to-day, the Municipality can do it better, cheaper, cleaner and altogether more efficiently than the parents. This feeding of the school children is one of the greatest hopes we have for breaking into the darkness and misery that surround so many of the homes in this city."

Those were the thoughts I found common to the progressive minds in Bradford, and to those who have been down amongst the slums and seen the widespread horror eating its way into the heart of the race, the feeding of the children seems to be the keynote to a great truth, and to those possibilities of the future that have hovered over the dawn of each century of time.

The educational work in Bradford is full of life and vigour. Attached to one of the largest schools in Bradford is a cottage home completely furnished throughout with bedroom, sitting-room, dining-room, kitchen, laundry, etc. Every month squads of girls are taken from the school and educated there in all the duties that belong to the household. The syllabus secures the highest domestic efficiency with the greatest economy. The mistress put the need of such an institution in an anecdote: "I once had a party of thirteen girls enter here direct from their homes. Their first examination question was, "If you had 11d to get father a Sunday dinner, what would you give him? Two of the girls replied 'roast pork,' and the remainder 'fish and chips.' That is, I have found often, the limit of culinary knowledge in hundreds of homes."

Another interesting branch of Bradford's enterprise is the Municipal Milk Depot. Notwithstanding the inspection of the milk supplied by private vendors and other machinery to ensue purity of supply, commercial competition is such as to defeat these ends. A section of the Council was anxious to try the effect of a supply of absolutely pure and humanised milk upon the infants in pauper districts. The experiment was much on the same lines as that described at Leeds. To get pure milk, the borough had to secure its own farm and dairy herds, the reason being that there is virtually no Statt veterinary inspection of cows in England from which the public milk is drawn.

The milk secured from the farm is divided as follows:—Humanising for page 42 consumption by infants up to nine months of age, the feeding of the school children, and the fever hospitals. Some 145 gallons of sterilised milk are, in addition, sold in the city by agents for public consumption every week, and it is supplied in air-tight glass bottles to secure it against contamination. The demand for Municipal milk increase; every year. The Health Committee, who control the Depot are, however, restricted by the Council in so far that anything in the nature of competition with private enterprise is not approved. But the thought that was taking shape through Bradford favoured the progress of the Municipal supply.

In course of conversation with Mr. Arthur Priestman, chairman of the Bradford Labour party, and owner of one of the large textile mills in Bradford, I gathered that the supply of milk to the people was held to be as vital a part of the Municipal work as water supply. "Everyone knows," he said, "how necessary it is to have an absolutely pure water supply. The history of epidemics only too painfully illustrates that. It is being realised now that indisputable as this necessity is in regard to water, it is even more important when it applies to milk. Milk is much more liable to infection than water. When the water supplies in England were in private hands, they were frequently more or less contaminated. It was only when the Municipality asserted its right to control its own services that we got pure water. The same thing applies to milk. Commercial competition and individual control do not permit of a guarantee of pure supply." These views have wide currency in the city. Doctors, merchants, manufacturers, and the various public men one meets in a tour of investigation were ardently possessed with the same train of thought. When Bradford starts thinking, it is not long before something is done. That seems to be a characteristic of these big, bluff and intensely individualistic Yorkshire men.

A Municipal Tramways Parcel Delivery Department is one of Bradford's most successful ventures. It is impossible in a brief space to deal with the various aspects that such an innovation opens up, but the fact remains Bradford has utilised its street car service to inaugurate a system of collection and delivery of parcels on a scale eclipsing any previous private venture. The parcels are carried on the platform of the car on which the driver stands. There is a complete system of depots for the collection and receiving. The Department is a model of organisation and efficiency. There was a capital expenditure at the inauguration of about £1,600. The first year's balance-sheet showed a net profit of £520, the second year £970, and the third year (March 31st, 1908) £1,500. The charge to the public for carrying a 281b. parcel and delivering same within half-a-mile of any tramway route or terminus works out 1½d. per parcel. There is no delay to the service, and during the quiet parts of the day the cans are enabled to increase the receipts per car mile.

There are many other aspects of the busy textile centre that offer absorbing topics. It offers cases of individual employers in the great woollen industry who have, by example, sought to show that a modern factory should not be a dirty, over-crowded mass of men, women, children, and machines, struggling ten to twelve hours a day in a hot, steamy atmosphere, for comparatively poor wages. The Municipality cannot deal with the factories. But its labours are concerned with the lives and surroundings of the 58,000 people who page 43 make up Bradford textile workers. It is the frightful domestic conditions under which the majority of these people exist and have existed for years that is the real stimulus to the Municipal activities of Bradford. It is towards raising; the moral and intellectual standard of these armies of ill-paid, ill-clad, underfed men, women, and children; towards the elimination of piles of crowded roofs, the dreary vista of narrow brick-walled streets, the smoke, the dirty, and the all-pervading misery that those activities are directed. Whilst Leeds has been tardy in accepting the reforms of the last fifty years in England, Bradford has gone to work to unearth causes, to effect cures, and make, if possible, the prevention of it evils certain. Unto those ends, its enlightened men inspired by humanitarian ideals are working to-day.