Evidences, 1882: Mr. W. Gilbert

Pages 168-174

City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.

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Wednesday, 17th May 1882.


The Right Honourable the EARL of DERBY, Chairman.

His Grace the Duke of Bedford, K.G.

The Right Hon. Viscount Sherbrooke.

The Right Hon. Sir Richard Assheton Cross, G.C.B., M.P.

Sir Nathaniel M. de Rothschild, Bart., M.P.

Sir Sydney H. Waterlow, Bart., M.P.

Mr. Alderman Cotton, M.P.

Mr. Walter H. James, M.P.

Mr. Joseph Firth, M.P.

Mr. Thomas Burt, M.P.

Mr. H. D. Warr, Secretary.

Mr. William Gilbert was called in and examined as follows:—

Mr. W. Gilbert. 17 May 1882.

1472. (Chairman.) I think I need hardly ask you whether you have given much attention to matters relating to the city companies and the charities ?—I have given a good deal of attention with regard to the city generally, including the Corporation, the companies, and the charities, but not especially the companies.

1473. But you have considered the question of the function of the companies in connexion with your inquiries into the general condition of the city administration ?—Yes.

1474. You have published a book, I think, within the last few years upon the subject ?—Yes; but I begun before that. It was, I think, about 20 years ago that I was asked by some of the guardians in one of the poorer parishes in the city to write a pamphlet. They were getting up an agitation with regard to the poor rates difficulty. After I had done that I wrote some articles, one in the Contemporary Review, another in the Fortnightly, another in the Nineteenth Century, and a couple of books upon the question.

1475. I think I am right in supposing that you have formed and expressed a strong opinion as to the action of the city companies in connexion with the poorer population of the city?—Yes, particularly so.

1476. Perhaps you will state, in your own terms, what you consider has to be complained of in that respect ?—What is complained of took place after the equalisation of the poor rates in the city. Before that it was the custom for the owners of house property in the city, especially the city guilds, to drive the poor out of their districts into the poorer parishes; but when they all had to pay equally, then they were all equally interested in getting rid of the poor, and the result has been that the poor have been almost entirely driven out of the city of London. But that is not the principal point I wish to bring under your Lordship's notice. In London, whenever a house is destroyed and a new one erected, in almost every case, especially with regard to those of the city companies, a clause is inserted that no person shall be allowed to sleep upon the premises, thereby totally prohibiting the poorer classes from returning. In Paris, on the contrary, wherever an alteration or improvement was made, it was not allowed to be commenced until equal or a greater amount of provision for the industrial classes who were to be removed by it was provided.

1477. Do I understand you to say that the city companies especially have taken action in this way, or that they have only followed the general practice of house owners in the city ?—They have followed the general policy of the house owners in the city; but holding the enormous amount of property they do in the city, their action has been most prejudicial to the comfort and well-being of the working and industrial classes generally. By industrial classes I mean such as clerks and others whose incomes would be under 200l. or 300l. a year.

1478. Do you put it in this way: that you consider an obligation lies upon them which does not equally lie upon private owners of land or houses, to use their own property for the special benefit of the working classes. Am I right in putting that interpretation upon what you say ?—Hardly. I want merely to say this, that when the enormous amount of property in such a small area as the city is held by the livery companies, and they prohibit the return of the working classes there after driving them away, it is a very great injustice, because it drives them from the centre of their work and puts great labour upon them as well as a greater amount of taxation.

1479. Do you know what proportion of the area of the city is owned by the city companies ?—I am unable to state exactly, but I should mention that I look upon it in this way,—that all the Corporation properties of the city belong to different guilds, therefore I am unable to separate the two. I know they are separated, but where the line of demarcation between them lies I do not know.

1480. As I understand you, your complaint is, that the land owned by the city companies is used in such a manner as to make it impossible for working men to reside upon that land ?— (fn. 1) Precisely. By an example I think I shall be better able to explain what I mean. In Coleman Street there is a clock in front of one of the houses; underneath that clock is a passage into Basinghall Street. This is the property of the Merchant Taylors' Company. Ten years ago the whole of it was let for 750l. a year; the lease fell in; they renewed it at 2,300l. a year under the condition that the whole of the building should be pulled down and about 200,000l. expended upon it in chambers; but with a strict clause in the lease that no one should be allowed to sleep upon the premises.

1481. If that had been done by a private person I presume you would not have thought it a matter of complaint, would you ?—I would not state that. I think that the working classes and the poorer classes have a right to be taken into consideration by the civic authorities in the same way as they are by Parisian authorities, and even in Russia as well. There they have taken them into consideration and provided that the poor shall have some provision made for them, and no injustice done them.

1482. The injustice that you complain of is that in consequence of the owners of house property not finding it lucrative to provide lodgings for the working classes, those classes are not able to find accommodation within the area of the city ?—Granted; and yet not precisely so. When they were driven from the city they went over into Blackfriars, or between Blackfriars Road and Southwark Road. The Corporation and the Board of Works then formed a line of buildings which are at present called Southwark Street, passing through the most densely populated portion of the locality, thus driving away an enormous number of the inhabitants; but no dwelling-houses have been built there, with the exception of one block of Peabody Dwellings, although an enormous number of the working classes are employed upon the banks of the river.

1483. Are you speaking of the land that has been cleared on the two sides of the street ?—The land that has been cleared on the two sides of the street; that will be the work of the Corporation, and as I hold, the Corporation comprises the members of the city guilds, or the greatest portion of them—the majority.

1484. Do I understand you that the greater part of that land is owned by the city companies ?—No, it was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and there was no opposition to it in any manner whatever, because in the precincts of Southwark the city itself had a considerable amount of interest.

1485. In that case all that you complain of is, that the city companies did not interfere with the manner in which the Metropolitan Board of Works dealt with the land ?—The city companies owned the laud; they drove the working classes out in a north-easterly direction. This especially told upon St. Bartholomew's Hospital, which was the great centre of medical relief for the city. I took the returns some time ago from St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and I found that the average distance every out-patient had to go was about a mile and a half, and a mile and a half to return.

1486. Does it not come to this, that the central area of London has become enormously valuable as a site for business premises, and that therefore dwellings for the working classes erected there, if they are to be made to pay and if the fair commercial price is given for the sites upon which they are built, will cost the working man much more in rents than they will at a greater distance from the centre ?—That it has increased enormously in value there is no doubt; but still, for all that, they have built houses that cannot let, whereas they might have built houses that might have been let; for example, if you take from Holborn to the Minories, at the present time there are 2,000 sets of offices vacant that they cannot find tenants for. There is one house near the Blackfriars Railway Station, the value of which is 2,000l. a year, and there they have been able to let only one set of offices for 60l. a year; the whole of the rest is lying idle, and the ratepayers of the metropolis are taxed for it. There are a great number of other cases of the same kind in the city. In the case of the Merchant Taylors that I was speaking of, not one half of the offices are now let.

1487. In that case, will not the evil cure itself; if the building of offices has been overdone, will it not be discontinued?—In a great measure. Frequently the city companies and the Corporation will keep land idle that may be productive rather than let it in such a way that the working classes or the poorer classes may benefit by it. If you will allow me, I will give you an example. Some years ago Lady Augusta Stanley wanted to start a school for nurses, and the Westminster Hospital agreed to train her nurses. She asked me to come upon her committee, and I was also asked to look out for a piece of land as a site for their home. I looked at a piece of land within about 100 yards or 150 yards of the house in which this Commission is sitting. I asked the agent how much frontage it had. He told me about 900 feet, and asked how much I wanted; I said about 80 feet. The price he asked and the price we paid for it was 10 guineas per lineal inch. I said to him, "this land has been lying idle, to my certain knowledge, for the last 25 years." "Yes," he said, "for about that time." "To whom does it belong," I asked; he replied, "It belongs to a charity school, and the Corporation of the city of London have an interest in that charity school." I asked whether they were interested in any other land near it, and he told me there was a great deal more, and gave me an instance within 100 yards of this house. It appears from this that about 17,000l. charitable endowments have been lying idle and wasted for 25 years. I then went down to the school board, and asked them what would be the expense of educating the whole of the inhabitants of the city of Westminster under the school board. They gave me a memorandum, which is in my hand at the present moment, and the amount represents 7,864l., including stationery. That is to say that the whole of the poorer inhabitants of the city of Westminster might be educated gratuitously, without taxing the parents or the ratepayers for a single farthing, merely with the value of the land that is at the present time lying idle within 150 yards of this house.

1488. I presume you do not pretend that the ratepayers or the inhabitants of Westminster have any more right to gratuitous education than the inhabitants of any other part of the country ?—Certainly not; but if they have inherited the endowments they have as much right to them as the wealthier class to their endowments.

1489. What do you call the inheritance?—I mean to say if left for endowment the poor have as much right to profit by it as the rich by their endowments.

1490. In this case you are speaking of land specially left for educational purposes ?—For educational purposes alone.

1491. Take the case you have put as to the alleged exclusion of the working classes from the area of the city. I do not understand you to contend that there is any special intention of driving them out on the part of the companies, but merely that they, like other proprietors, let their land in a manner which they consider the most profitable ?—It is the most profitable to themselves, because if they get the working classes out of the city they escape the inhabited house duty upon their new buildings.

1492. That, I presume, is the meaning of the rule of which you spoke just now, that no one is allowed to sleep on the premises ?—Precisely.

1493. But in point of fact they have simply acted, as I understand you, like all other proprietors?—In other countries there would be a law against that altogether, not only in France, but in Italy and Germany, and other places where they are always taken into consideration, and it is not allowed to be considered an act of good management simply to drive them away. I will take particularly the ejection—eviction will perhaps be a better term—of the inhabitants of the city of London in the north-eastern districts of the metropolis. The centre of their medical relief will be St. Bartholomew's Hospital, but they are completely driven away from that, and as they have been driven away from it the value of the land belonging to St. Bartholomew's Hospital has increased enormously in value, and the benefit intended for the poorer classes has not been given to them.

1494. Do I understand you to put it in this way, that if I or any one of us owns a piece of land in the city on which a certain number of working men have lived, you think that we ought to be bound to continue that land in the occupation of workmen, and not to apply it to any other purpose ?—I do not mean that at all; but if 40 or 50 gentlemen join together and claim that it shall not be done, I say it looks very much like a conspiracy against the well-being of the industrial classes.

1495. You do not object to any individual doing it ? —No.

1496. But you do object to a number of individuals doing it ?—Certainly.

1497. Even although they may each of them be acting independently upon the same principle and without any combination among themselves?—It is merely one common interest actuating the whole.

1498. Then to sum it up in one word, you think that the owner of building land in the city is in this position: that he is morally bound, and ought to be legally obliged, to let his land or a great part of it, for the use of the working classes, although that is not the most profitable use to which it could be put? No, certainly not, in any manner whatever; but 50 or a 100 persons joined together in a city guild for that purpose, is a very different point. I do not mean to say that I am right, but I can state that in every other country in Europe it would be held so; and I cannot understand why it should not be so in England.

1499. What is it that you would think it right to prohibit? You say you would not prohibit any individual or any single owner from letting his land as he thought best ?—Allowing that to be the case; if the individual drives the poor away from the place to which the charities intended for the poor is limited he deprives them of the benefit of those charities by his action, and I say that the sympathies of most rightminded men are with those poor people, and if that state of things can be altered, it ought to be altered.

1500. Is there not an alternative remedy for that, namely, to extend the area within which the charities may be distributed?—Certainly; that is the very point I was coming to. That is precisely the principal reason why I asked to be examined.

1501. You do not contend that the companies should be bound to build lodging-houses in localities where offices or warehouses would be more profitable ? —No, I do not care about that, provided that the inheritance of the poor (that is to say, their charities and endowments and things of that kind) follows them where they go.

1502. But in that case is it not easier to bring the charities to the poor rather than to keep the poor within the original area of the charities ?—Certainly in the present instance it is so, in the commencement it might have been different.

1503. I understand also, you think that there ought to be a closer connexion than at present exists between the trades and the companies' charities ?—Most certainly.

1504. Do you consider that the charities should in the main be appropriated to benefit the trades whose names the companies bear ?—I think that first of all their duties in relation to the trades ought to be taken into consideration, for example, I hold that certain portions of each livery companies special charity funds, such, for example, as that mentioned in the Goldsmiths' first charter for the relief of their blind operatives, should be applied to their original uses.

1505. For instance, a proportion of the Merchant Taylors' funds should be applied for the benefit of the tailors generally, you mean ?—Yes, and that used to be the case. If you look in Machyn's and Stowe's diaries you will find they give a description of a dinner at the Merchant Taylors' Company, and also describes the Merchant Taylors' School, in which there was not a boy in the school that was not the son of a tailor.

1506. What date was that ?—It would be about the time of Elizabeth or that and James the First.

1507. You say there was not a boy in the school that was not the son of a tailor ?—That was not the son of a tailor. In 1812 there were but 12 boys who were the sons of tailors.

1508. You are aware that at the present time the freedom of the company can be obtained by patrimony, and that therefore a large number of freemen, probably the greater majority are not in any way connected with the trade ?—I am perfectly well aware that it is so. With the Mercers' and with many others also it used to be the same, yet they now state that since the time of Charles II. it was not the case. In 1701 Sir William Gore was chief magistrate of London. He belonged to the Mercers' Company, and he boasted that there was not a man upon the company who was not a mercer, while other companies had admitted strangers. Beyond that, again, in D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, mention is made of a song that was used on the procession on Lord Mayor's day, in which the words were to the effect that the mercers had kept their company to the trade to which they belonged, and yet the Mercers' insist in the present day that it was not the case; that it was by patrimony, and that there were no mercers belonging to them. However, with regard to these companies, you will find in several of the Camden Society's publications many statements as to the close affinities existing between the trades and the companies.

1509. How do you reconcile that close connexion between the companies and the trades, with the fact that the son of any member of the company had a right to become a member of the company himself, although he might not follow the trade represented by the name of the company ?—That was not so at the commencement. I am merely speaking as a man of science and a literary man; I am no lawyer.

1510. Have you considered the question at all of the manner in which the companies administer their affairs?—Yes, and certainly it seems to me almost inexplicable. If you look at the original charter of the Goldsmiths' Company you will find a great portion of their funds was distinctly for trade purposes and charitable purposes. At the present time I think they subscribe 600l. a year to some benefit associations among the operative goldsmiths, and that is all. The value of the clerk's appointment compared to the money they give in charity is simply perfectly absurd.

1511. Do you consider that all the members of certain trades in London have a right to be members of the company ?—I consider that upon paying a certain entrance fee, they have a right to be elected members of the company, and that they should make the fees paid a sort of benefit funds plus the original endowment, but not the whole of the funds. I think the greater portion of the funds should go to benefit the metropolis at large, and the poorer classes in greater proportion than any other.

1512. Take, for instance, the case of the Merchant Taylors', you think that all the tailors of London would have a right on payment of some moderate fee to enter that company ?—I do.

1513. Would you extend that beyond London ?—I forget to what distance round London the powers of the Merchant Taylors' Company extend, but the powers vary, I think, from three miles to eight miles round London.

1514. You have considered the matter a good deal; if you had to deal with the question of re-organising the companies, what would be your proposition; in the first place, would you re-organise them, or would you abolish them ?—I would rather wish, provided the benefit funds could he given to the members of the trades, to abolish them; but, as I have stated before, I have merely paid attention to the abuses that exist, leaving it to those who are wiser than myself to form such regulations as shall place them to better uses than they are placed at present.

1515. The chief abuse about which you have told us as yet is the driving of the working classes away from the city?—Yes; but will you allow me also to state this, that the English practice in this respect is directly contrary to the usage prevailing in all the capitals of Europe besides our own; you cannot find anywhere evictions carried out to the same extent as in London (and the precincts thereof).

1516. Carried out in consequence of any special legislation do you mean, or merely by the ordinary operation of the law which enables every house owner to choose his own tenant ?—A great deal by legislation; that is to say, if a street is required it is invariably required through that portion of the place where the densest population is to be found.

1517. Is that because the land is got cheapest there, or what is it due to ?—They quote that as one reason; but it looks also as if it were intended to get rid of the tenants. That is the appearance it bears.

1518. Have you considered the question as to the halls of the companies. We have heard it stated here that they were assessed below their proper value; is that your opinion ?—I am hardly capable of forming an opinion as to that. I have followed Mr. Beal's authority upon that point. He is much more up in the subject than I am.

1519. (Mr. James.) You have stated in your proof that the income of the clerk of the Goldsmiths' Company is 5,000l. a year ?—Pardon me, I think it was 4,000l. a year. I stated that it was equal to, or that his incomes were equal to, at least 5,000l. a year. I think I made my calculation on the basis that it was equal to the emoluments of the head clerks of the Inland Revenue, the Charity Commissioners, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners put together.

1520. Upon what information was that statement made? (fn. 2) —He had, I think, 1,800l. a year for his own salary; his son to assist him in his manifold duties had 780l. a year more; he has a very magnificent house and offices in the hall itself. Beyond that again he was secretary to the Assam Tea Company, which he was the principal man in getting up, and besides his salary he has a gratuity of 2,000l.; I think it was for his great labours. He was also one of the leading men of the New River Company, and I believe of one or two other things as well.

1521. Do you think that the clerk of one of the city companies ought to be strictly limited to the discharge of a particular duty?—Judging from what the duties, for example, of the Postmaster General and a few others are, I think he ought to be limited to the amount that he would receive for his duties. For his son's and his own and his law duties he would receive the income of the Postmaster General to begin with, and those I think would be sufficient for any man to occupy himself with.

1522. Supposing his other duties were efficiently discharged, do you see any objection to his discharging official duties in connexion with other bodies?—No, but I think if he has so much time on his hands in which to perform other duties as well, the income he receives from the Goldsmiths' Company is somewhat in excess; it is in excess of what it used to be formerly, at any rate.

1523. And disproportionate to the duties you think it likely he has to discharge?—I do not know what the duties are that could make them so onerous.

1524. I want to ask you one or two questions with regard to your statement as to the exclusion of the working classes from the city. Always with great public improvements a large proportion of the industrial population is displaced; but with these public improvements in a large metropolis, and a large town, they contribute to the general wealth. To what extent do you think that the interests of a particular class ought to be made superior to those of the general community, and of the general wealth?—If the necessity really exists, but from the number of empty chambers in the city at the present time, I maintain it does not exist. I think if they are driven away three or four miles or anything of that kind, the charities ought, or some portion of them ought, to be sent where the poor people may profit by them. For example, as I said before with regard to the sick, and the position of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, that is the occasion of very great hardship. I should like very much, if you will allow me, to give you a case in point. About five months ago a woman was, one Sunday evening, going in a tramway car from Shoreditch up to Clerkenwell, where she lived. The conductor was not there, and as she was getting out of the car she was thrown down and struck her head against a stone. She was taken to the house of a Dr. Powell, by a policeman and one or two other people; he asked whether she was sober, they smelt her breath and found no taint whatever of drink; the doctor then said, "Take her to St. Bartholomew's Hospital," which was about a mile off; "tell them I have examined very closely into the case, and the woman is not intoxicated." She was insensible and was carried to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. She was there kept for some time, and they attempted to bring her round. They galvanized her, and used several other means of restoration, and then said "The woman is only drunk; take her away." The policeman said, " I was told by Dr. Powell to tell you that the woman is not drunk." The answer was, "Take her away." She was carried from there up to the bottom of Gray's Inn Lane, where she was placed in a police cell. The Inspector, hearing her moan, said there must be something wrong with the woman, and then she was carried a whole mile up the Gray's Inn Lane to the parish infirmary, where she was taken in, and died that night. A coroner's inquest was held, and for some time the jury would not give a verdict. However, the coroner insisted upon it, and they brought it in—Accidental Death. Afterwards the police found cut who the woman was. She had been employed for 19 years in the firm of Kellys, publishers of the Post Office Directory, and a more respectable, sober, or honourable woman never breathed. She had put by 8l. in the Savings' Bank so that she might be attended in her own room in case of being taken ill, and in case she died that she should not be buried by the parish. If it had not been found out who she was, that woman's body would have been given for dissection in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and it is in England alone that such a case could have occurred.

1525. How does this affect the case of the companies?—In every other part of Europe there would have been a place where within 10 minutes that woman would have been taken in and kept until she had recovered her senses, or died.

1526. Do you think that it is in consequence of neglect on the part of the city companies that places have not been provided?—I maintain that if the companies drive the population away, they should see that some of the charitable funds left for their welfare are sent after them. I could give you a dozen instances quite equal to that which I have stated of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

1527. You object to some of the uses I see to which the property of the city companies is put. You consider that the Mercers' Company are not justified in leasing their cellar under the Royal Exchange as a drinking bar?—I believe the license was refused. I understood that they did ask 14,000l. a year for half the cellar, and let it out for a drinking bar under the Exchange. I have been told since that the license was refused them, and now I am informed that it never took place.

1528. (Mr. Burt.) In speaking of the removal of the poor from the boundaries of the city, do they cease to be eligible, in addition to other inconveniences, with regard to any claims they may have upon the charities?—They cease to be eligible if they are not parishioners, and upon the guilds themselves; they cease to be eligible for this reason, that the amounts required to be paid in order to become members of the guilds at this present time are so great, that it is impossible for the working classes to join them. In fact they place an insuperable impediment in the way of the working man, and then invite him to surmount it.

1529. So that practically the working classes are really deprived of any claims they might have upon the charities?—Precisely.

1530. (Mr. Firth.) Have you formed any estimate of the number of people that have been driven out of the city area by the process you have been speaking of?—If you mean the city proper, I calculate that the population will be about 120,000 fewer now than it was in the year 1801.

1531. How much of that do you ascribe to this process of driving the poor out?—The whole of it.

1532. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) When you speak of the poor being driven out of the city of London, do you include the artizan and labourer in that class, or do you mean the really poor?—I allude to the artizan, the labourer, the really poor, and the industrial classes. I mean by that, all whose earnings are under 200l. per year.

1533. Then you would include the labourer and the artizan with the very poor?—I would include that class because of the different educational endowments (I would hardly call them charities) that they are deprived of the benefit of, by that means. For example, if you take St. Paul's School, the Stationers' Company's Schools, and other schools of that description, the people are deprived of the opportunity of profiting by them by being driven away.

1534. In that class you would include messengers and housekeepers, and persons who really do now live within the city; that is to say, they live over the offices of those who employ them?—They are merely caretakers; they are called caretakers, that is all.

1535. But they sleep upon the premises in very large numbers? I forget what it was in the statistics of the city centre, but some thousands of what you call poor really sleep within the city now?—I do not understand that to be so.

1536. For example, you see a great many children going to the different ward schools, and they would be the children of those people in very large numbers?—Allow me to give you an example to the contrary. St. Paul's School has an endowment of about 15,000l. or 16,000l. a year. The Stationers' Company's School has an endowment of 300l. a year. In the Stationers' Company's School the education is as good or better than in St. Paul's School. If St. Paul's School transacted their business with the economy and efficiency that the Stationers' Company's School do, they ought to educate 2,000 boys gratuitously, but they confine the number to 153 under the plea that St. Peter caught 153 fish in his net, and out of deference to the wishes of the pious founder they decline to teach more.

1537. When you give us figures have you really looked into the facts; and do you know your figures to be correct?—Yes, I know my figures to be correct. With regard to the Stationers' Company's School especially, I went there to minutely examine it myself; and found that the School Endowment Commissioners stated that it was so admirable that they could not suggest an improvement, and the whole cost of each boy's education there is not above 7l. 10s. or 8l. a year.

1538. You put it at 300l. a year?—That was three or four years ago when I got my information from the head master, Mr. Isbister.

1539. You are aware that a few years ago the Artizans' Dwellings Act was passed?—Yes.

1540. And that it was done with the intention of getting rid of courts and alleys and other places that were a disgrace to the poor to live in?—Certainly.

1541. Then the Act, of course, called upon the city and the whole of the metropolis to remove those places; you are aware of that?—Yes.

1542. That, of course, would displace a great many people during the rebuilding or replacing. What you would call the poor or the inhabitants of those places, ould it not?—Yes.

1543. So that really the Act of Parliament called for this action, whether on the part of the companies or any one else, did it not?—Certainly, but then in France they oblige sufficient house accommodation for the poor to be built before the others are destroyed. Here it is not so.

1544. You know it would be utterly impossible to build before you destroy because the surrounding properties are very valuable?—Granted that they are enormously valuable, but during the time that value remains idle it should be borne in mind that it pays neither rates nor taxes and others have to make it up. All the community have to suffer by the increased rates.

1545. Do you know that the ejected tenants were or were not provided with homes?—The houses were not built, and they could not be provided with homes.

1546. Do you think it advisable that a man should travel from the city one or two miles to get a more comfortable home than he can enjoy within the walls? —As the lowest value of labour will be about 6d. per hour, the taking of two hours to go backwards and forwards seems something like 1s. a day tax on that labour.

1547. The whole of the labour of the artizan is not in the city of London; he has to go to other parts to work?—Granted. I will take one class alone who are worthy of great commiseration. I allude to those who are working in the newspaper offices in Fleet Street and the neighbourhood of the city. Any man accustomed to the fearful atmosphere of the rooms in which they work may imagine what, on a cold winter's night, must be the effect of their coming out of one of those rooms and walking a mile or a mile and a half to his home afterwards.

1548. You would not provide beds and apartments in the houses in which they work?—Certainly not.

1549. Therefore they must go somewhere?—Still there is a great deal more room than is at present made use of, and the model houses might be made use of to very great advantage.

1550. You will admit that the apartments a man would take or the lodgings he would take, he would have to pay for, and that he could only obtain those which he could pay for, and which were within his means. He could not occupy city properties as lodgings, could be?—I do not exactly see the reason of it. I think you will find that the value of the land on which the block of model lodging-houses have been built by the Peabody Dwellings' Trustees, down by Southwark Bridge Station, was quite as great as the greater part of that within the city.

1551. That is out of the city?—It belongs to the city, it is within the Borough precincts of the city.

1552. That is out of the city proper; still the model dwellings are of a very great assistance to the poor, but those who walk perhaps from Fleet Street have to go half or three quarters of a mile to get to them?— Yes, but they would not let land in Blackfriars for those houses to be built.

1553. You blame, I think, the Metropolitan Board of Works quite as much as the city for putting the artizan and labourer out?—Certainly.

1554. You think that they ought to have interfered?—They ought to have interfered.

1555. As I understand you, you almost exonerate the companies from being a party to turning the artizan and labourer out of the city?—If the companies on their ground have at this present time a 1,000 or 2,000 sets of chambers lying empty, it is clear proof that they might have built rooms for the working classes for a 1,000 or 2,000 families, because they cannot let those offices.

1556. In what way would you call upon the companies to do it?—I do not say that you can do so; but in cases where they have charities for the benefit of the working classes, a portion of those charities ought to be placed in the localities where the working classes are, and where they can benefit by them, and not simply the charities but the endowments as well.

1557. You assume that a great many of the offices that are empty in the city belong to the companies?— I am certain of it.

1558. You think it would have been better for them to have built artizans' dwellings rather than offices? —Something of that kind to show they had some sympathies with the trades they represent.

1559. You know as a fact that the companies do assist the poor to a very great extent in the way of pensions and donations and gifts of various kinds, do you not?—I must say, though it is possibly from the want of going sufficiently deep into the matter, that I have not found very many instances of that.

1560. Perhaps you will look into it and you will find that it is so?—I will certainly look into it.

1561. And also gifts to hospitals and infirmaries and places of that kind?—With regard to hospitals allow me to mention one point. In the north-eastern and south-eastern districts of the metropolis, there is in each a population of about 700,000 souls without a single general hospital; whereas to the honour of civilisation in all Europe, even including Russia, you cannot find such an injustice as that.

1562. You object to the payment of court fees as I understand to the members of the courts of the city guilds?—As far as that goes I think considering that they have nothing whatever, or the greatest portion of them to do with the trades, it is very capital pay for very little work. If I were upon a guild I should very likely take a different view from that which I do from the outside.

1563. You would not like to give your time from 12 to 1, 2, 3, or 4 o'clock in the day?—I cannot say that I should.

1564. That is what the court fees are given for; and you object also to a small box of bonbons being given to a departing guest after an entertainment?— I do not know in what manner that should be taken. Formerly, before forks were used, beside each guest's chair there was a void basket, into which the broken food was thrown for the debtors' prisons and other things. This has been abolished by way of teaching the poor the benefit of thrift, but they give a bonbon box worth 1l. or 30s. to the guests to take home to their friends to encourage brotherly love, and so on.

1565. Is not the remainder of a dinner generally set on one side for the poor?—I did not know that that was generally done. I have been at one or two.

1566. You object to the hospitality of the companies as being far too splendid. You do not object to their being hospitable?—Certainly not.

1567. Only that they do it in a little too splendid a manner?—Allow me to give you an example of what I mean. Some time ago an invitation to a Dyers' Company's dinner at Richmond was given, and the member of the court that gave the invitation told the lady and gentlemen who were invited that they could go down there, have a capital dinner (they paid 3l. 3s. for the dinner), and besides they would have a guinea a piece to pay their railway fare. I do not call that thrift.

1568. You would call it hospitality?—I will not go contrary to you upon the point, but it is not exactly the definition that I should give to hospitality.

1569. (The Duke of Bedford.) Did I understand you to say that 10 guineas an inch was asked for land in this neighbourhood?—Yes; 10 guineas a lineal inch of direct line of frontage; and allow me to say it was paid also.

1570. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) Do I understand you to impute any blame to the livery companies for the dispersion of the poor from the city of London?— Certainly.

1571. How are they responsible? (fn. 3) —I gave one example of the destruction of one block of houses alone of the Merchant Taylors' Company for the purpose of erecting 220 sets of chambers, and nobody was allowed to sleep on the premises; they would not grant the leases until that was agreed to, and there are many other similar cases.

1572. Can you speak from personal knowledge when you say that there was any covenant in the lease so granted, to the effect that no person was to be allowed to sleep on the buildings erected on the land in question?—I can speak from my own personal experience. I am a director of one of the large Assam Tea Companies; we have our offices there, and are specially bound down not to let anyone sleep upon the premises.

1573. Is not that a binding down by the building owner, and not the freeholder?—No; the freeholder would not grant it except upon that condition.

1574. Did you see the ground lease?—No, but I was informed by the surveyor himself.

1575. Of course if you speak from personal knowledge I can only say that I do not remember a freeholder ever making any such covenant. You say that the poor are deprived of the benefits of such hospitals as St. Bartholomew's Hospital by being driven out of the city. Do I understand you to say that?—Yes; I say that they are injured to a very considerable extent, and in the case of St. Thomas's as well, because they were both held alike.

1576. St. Thomas's was removed by an Act of Parliament, and I presume the companies are not responsible for that, are they?—They are responsible; because when the Corporation of the city of London were most earnest that it should not be put there, but down Rotherhithe way, where the poor were, there were many members of the city guilds who proposed that it should be sent to the more genteel neighbourhood opposite the House of Commons.

1577. Surely you do not mean to imply any blame or discredit to the livery companies, as companies, for that, do you?—Certainly not.

1578. Individual members of the livery companies may have taken their own course of action?—Certainly, but the companies were neutral upon that action.

1579. With regard to St. Bartholomew's and the 700 a year, do you know whether there has been an increase or decrease in the number of poor received into that hospital during the last seven or ten years?— I will tell you what the number of beds is, because I have been making inquiry about it. The number of beds at the present time in St. Bartholomew's Hospital I think is about 600 or 700.

1580. Six hundred and seventy; and there has been no change in the number of beds for the last 10 years? —I believe there has been a convalescent hospital added to it, but the number of beds added has been by no means in preportion to the increased value of their estates.

1581. That is a question as regards the hospital; but with regard to the poor, would you be surprised to know that nearly double the number of poor people were relieved last year as compared with 15 years ago?—Are you speaking of in- or out-patients?

1582. In-patients and out-patients altogether?— With regard to the in-patients I can offer no opinion; with regard to the out-patients I can say, on the authority of Dr. Bridges, the assistant physician, that the time given to each out-patient is a fraction under a minute, and the value of the medicine a fraction under 1d.

1583. The number of persons relieved is vastly in excess of 15 years ago, is it not?—For all that they have a mile and a half to go for it and a mile and a half to go back.

1584. Did I understand you to tell the Commission that the workmen connected with trades can get no benefit now through the companies because of the large payment required?—By no means equal in proportion to what they used to do when their income was considerably smaller than it is now.

1585. Is the payment made by freemen larger than it was 40 years ago?—I am not able to tell you what it was 40 years ago, because I did not then take any interest in the question, and therefore I have not gone so far back as that; but in taking the different records up to the time of Charles II. and about that time, I state distinctly that the cost is far in excess of what it used to be formerly.

1586. But you cannot speak from personal knowledge?—Of course not.

1587. Have you looked at the return sent in by the company?—I have seen the returns sent by all the companies. I have taken information also from Herbert's City Companies from the Camden Society's Papers, and several works of the kind.

1588. Should you be surprised to hear from a return now before me that the companies allow freemen to any number belonging to the trades to subscribe 6d. a week and to be entitled to all the privileges of freemen?—I was not certainly aware of that in any manner whatever.

1589. You have given to the Commission the opinion that the workmen connected with the companies cannot get any benefit from the companies. I give you now the case of one company in which 24s. per annum is the payment required to be made by a freeman which entitles him to the benefit from all the charities in case of poverty, and education for his sons at the school. I am now reading from a return on the table?—But first of all, what will be the expenditure of the company's hall, their dinners, their servants, and the mere working expenses before that is allowed, because that will diminish the value to a very considerable extent of what the poor are entitled to and the number that might be supplied.

1590. Apart from the question of how the funds are spent, do you think a sum of less than 6d. a week should be charged as a fee to freemen?—Certainly not.

1591. If so small a sum is charged does it not show that the working classes connected with the trade can get the benefits of the company if they choose to subscribe?—May I ask what company it is that you refer to.

1592. That is the Stationers' Company?—I am very glad you mention that, because I have gone very deeply into the question of the Stationers' Company, and although there might be some improvement in it, that company is certainly very admirably managed.

1593. Are there any other companies where the fee for freemen is very low and the benefits large, in comparison to the amount paid?—I do not know of any.

1594. Would you be astonished to hear that in several of the large companies freemen can be admitted in any number belonging to the trade?—Do you include the Mercers' and the Goldsmiths'?

1595. I cannot speak for the Mercers', but I can for the Clothworkers'. I think you told the Commission that in France when the poor were removed, houses were built for them before the others were pulled down; are you speaking of Paris?—I am speaking of Paris.

1596. Can you tell me where in Paris there are any large blocks of houses at all commensurate with the enormous improvements that have been made in London?—I will take the Boulevard Sebastopol.

1597. Do you call those workmen's houses?—No; but I mean that in many of the top apartments of those houses the working classes live, and before one stone was placed to build the Boulevard Sebastopol that law was passed and insisted upon by the municipality of Paris.

1598. Can you tell me whether the rooms in the Boulevard Sebastopol or any other part of Paris are not far dearer than in London?—It is so long since I was a pupil in Paris that I am not able to say.

1599. I think you said the Dyers' Company not only entertained their guests but gave them money to pay the cost of their journey; can you speak of that from personal knowledge?—Yes.

Adjourned to Wednesday next at 4 o'clock.


  • 1. See the Memorandum of the Merchant Taylor's Company (infra, p. 265.)
  • 2. See the Memorial of the Goldsmiths' Company, p. 304.
  • 3. See the Memorandum of the Merchant Taylors' Company, p. 265, infra.